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Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Will the hon. Gentleman address his remarks to the amendments?

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Mr. Robathan: Indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The amendments cut to the heart of the Henry VIII powers in the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who is an expert on these matters, and on private Member's Bills in particular, described them as Henry VIII powers with knobs on. The amendments would improve the Bill without harming the effect that we want it to have because they would restrict the ability of a future Government or Minister to abuse those powers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson): I rise with pleasure to respond to the points that have been made, and I will endeavour to do so as briefly as possible.

I turn first to the point made by the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) about the balance to be struck in making legislation effective. I agree that there must be a balance, but I say to all hon. Members that we have to be very careful; we must enable the Government to make regulations that tackle the problem in an appropriate and measured way.

Mr. Forth: Will the Minister give way?

Miss Johnson: I have barely said anything, but I will give way.

Mr. Forth: On a point of clarification, the Minister said that the Government should make regulations, but surely the Government and Parliament together make regulations. That is the point at issue. Perhaps the Minister will clarify in her own mind whether she thinks that the Government have an absolute right to make regulations, or whether she thinks that there should be parliamentary involvement.

11 am

Miss Johnson: I stand corrected. It is clear that Parliament makes those regulations.

Amendment No. 40 is subject to affirmative resolution, despite the comments of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), and would allow full, detailed decisions to be made by Parliament under the affirmative procedure. However, it would also remove our ability to define fireworks or substitute a definition. We can compromise, but that may remove the House's ability in future to pass regulations and primary legislation to address an as yet unforeseen development in categorisation, such as something falling outside the definition of fireworks but nonetheless having the same sort of impact and effect. I hope that the hon. Member for Christchurch understands that that is why clause 1(2) was included in the Bill.

Mr. Chope: Can the Minister assure the House that that power would not be used to extend the category of fireworks to include things which the Bill's promoter assured us on Second Reading would not be included? Does she also accept that no Government or Parliament can legislate for all possible contingencies? Surely, if and when such contingencies arise, Parliament should then look at them. Something fundamental like the definition of fireworks is a matter for primary legislation.

Miss Johnson: That is why the provision is as close to primary legislation as possible, and will be subject to the

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affirmative resolution procedure. Debate and a positive decision by the House will be needed if such changes are to be made. I am not going to spend a long time debating this. I would like to respond to the points that have been made rather than keep taking interventions.

Mr. Robathan rose—

Miss Johnson: I will take one further intervention, but then I intend to make progress.

Mr. Robathan: I am grateful to the Minister. It is important that the Bill's provisions are clarified in debate. Is the Minister saying that clause 1(2) is currently subject to affirmative resolution?

Miss Johnson: To be absolutely clear, under clause 16(2), the matter raised in amendment No. 40 is subject to affirmative resolution. I am correcting the misinformation that the hon. Member for Christchurch gave the House. I am sure that that was not intentional, but his information was not correct. I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) about amendment No. 66. There is no intention to do anything about class 1 and class 2 fireworks.

Mr. Chope rose—

Miss Johnson: Can I just make some remarks, in the light of which the hon. Gentleman may wish to reconsider making an intervention?

Amendment No. 66 is perfectly acceptable to us, but I have some difficulties with amendment No. 40 for the reasons that I have given. However, I trust that the assurances that I have given the House will be sufficient for the Opposition Members who tabled that amendment. I do not remember the hon. Member for Christchurch commenting on his intentions, save for his belief that certain things needed to be clarified. I take at face value the comment of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) that he is not trying to kill the Bill. However, I have a cutting from the Grimsby Telegraph from 29 July 1998, in which a senior member of the Conservative party in the locality publicly bemoans the fact that he killed the Bill's predecessor.

We must all be careful to strike the right balance and make legislation that works effectively. I entirely agree with Opposition Members that we need to make sure that fireworks continue to be available for public use and can still be enjoyed by many people on different occasions, as they have been for decades if not centuries.

Mr. Leigh: I am grateful for the Minister's apparent acceptance of amendment No. 66—we are making progress. However, I do not want her to conclude without dealing with the decibel point, which is crucial to the whole industry.

Miss Johnson: I do not want to seem uncharitable by not giving way, but some Opposition Members are simply spending time urging me to discuss things that I have not yet had a chance to deal with.

However, as the hon. Member for Gainsborough has raised the question of noise, I shall address it now. We have been taking a further look at the work done by the

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Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In the spirit of consensus, which we all think is important, the Health and Safety Executive took a further look at its work on the 95 dB limit. However, the RSPCA's work on that limit appears to be flawed. Personally, I would have preferred to have evidence before me, but the Bill's progress should not be halted purely by the question of whether or not the House has an assurance today about a limit of 120 dB. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South in giving an assurance that we will stick to the 120 dB limit when implementing the Bill.

Some Opposition Members are pressing us to accept an amendment in another place, and I fear that I must address that directly. We would not be content to accept such an amendment for the simple reason that it would have to be considered further by the Commons, so the Bill would go back and forth between the two Houses. I warn the Opposition that if that were the case, there is a risk that the Bill, given its timetabled passage as a private Member's Bill, would be lost and would not reach the statute book. That is my only reason for objecting to an amendment being accepted in the other place.

Mr. Chope: Will the Minister accept an assurance from my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and me, as the Members who are concerned about this issue, that if such an amendment were accepted in the other place we would not impede the free passage of the Bill through the Commons? It is a pity that this issue was not addressed in Committee, as we could have finished dealing with it today. However, it is important that it should be included in the Bill, and I assure the hon. Lady that we will not block the Bill if it is.

Miss Johnson: I am content with the assurances that the hon. Gentleman gives on behalf of the hon. Member for Gainsborough and himself. Unfortunately, however, the Conservative ranks are clearly not united on these issues. There is always a possibility that other Members will do what the hon. Member for Christchurch assured me he will not do. If, after this debate, a concrete assurance was given and Government business managers were happy to accept it, that would be a matter for them and their Opposition counterparts. However, on the basis of this morning's debate, we are not confident that the Bill's passage will not be impeded.

The hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) sought an assurance about the Bill's compatibility with human rights legislation. I assure him that it is fully compatible with the requirements of such legislation—Ministers only sign off Bills when they are certain that they are. Finally, on the question of injuries, none of us should belittle the injuries that have occurred both this year and in previous years. However, I would like to point out that there has been a big drop in injuries over the past year. It is a welcome drop from a figure that was too high, but because we do not have the legislative means that the Bill would provide, we cannot do more than we are

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doing to tackle the matter of injuries. I trust that the House will speedily see the Bill through its remaining stages here this morning.


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