My amendment 104 to aid enforcement by OEP

Amendment 104 would enable penalties to be issued, taking into account a whole host of factors such as the gravity of the failure, any intention of negligence, and previous failures by the authority. The inclusion of the principles of effectiveness and proportionality makes my amendment wholly reasonable, and is necessary for ensuring that the ambition in this Bill is not trashed by poorly governed public authorities.

Amendment 104 would use these penalties to fund the NHS and local authorities to reduce the harms of air pollution and treat the associated illnesses, which very much affect children as well as adults.

Amendment 104

Moved by: Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb 

104: After Clause 36, insert the following new Clause—

“Penalty notices

(1) If the OEP is satisfied that a public authority has failed to comply with a decision notice, the OEP may by written notice (a “penalty notice”) require the public authority to pay to the OEP an amount in sterling specified in the notice.(2) A penalty notice may not be issued before the earlier of—(a) the end of the period within which the authority must respond to the decision notice in accordance with section 35(3), and(b) the date on which the OEP receives the authority’s response to that notice.(2) When deciding whether to give a penalty notice to a public authority and determining the amount of the penalty, the OEP must have regard to the matters listed in subsection (3).(3) Those matters are—(a) the nature, gravity and duration of the failure;(b) the intentional or negligent character of the failure;(c) any relevant previous failures by the public authority;(d) the degree of co-operation with the Commissioner, in order to remedy the failure and mitigate the possible adverse effects of the failure;(e) the manner in which the infringement became known to the OEP, including whether, and if so to what extent, the public authority notified the OEP of the failure;(f) the extent to which the public authority has complied with previous enforcement notices or penalty notices;(g) whether the penalty would be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.(4) Once collected, penalties must be distributed to the NHS, Mayors for combined authority areas and local authorities for the treatment and research of illnesses related to air pollution.(5) The Secretary of State must, by regulations, set the minimum and maximum amount of penalty.(6) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative procedure.”

It is my pleasure to open the debate on this group. It includes some amendments from some very esteemed noble Lords which I will no doubt comment on at the end. While all these amendments take different approaches, what is common is that we all recognise that this Bill will fall far short of what is needed without some significant changes to the enforcement mechanisms. I would not dare to disagree with a group of Lords that includes Lord Anderson of Ipswich, Lord Krebs and Lord Duncan of Springbank, and Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.

These amendments can meld into something extremely positive. For example, the proposals by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, will significantly improve the judicial process for environmental review. In particular, they remove from the Bill the absurd provision whereby an adverse ruling does not affect the validity of a government decision.

My amendment and Amendment 107A, tabled by Lady McIntosh of Pickering, take enforcement one step further. Our amendments recognise that there is a whole realm of conduct that goes further than a judge giving the Government a strong telling off, and which may require actual penalties to be issued. Amendment 104 would enable penalties to be issued, taking into account a whole host of factors such as the gravity of the failure, any intention of negligence, and previous failures by the authority. The inclusion of the principles of effectiveness and proportionality makes my amendment wholly reasonable, and is necessary for ensuring that the ambition in this Bill is not trashed by poorly governed public authorities.

Finally, my Amendment 104 would use these penalties to fund the NHS. This is an absolutely crucial point and, I have to admit, the issue of air pollution is one of my pet topics. Very few people seem to understand what a public health hazard it is. Here, I am saying we should fund the NHS and local authorities to reduce the harms of air pollution and treat the associated illnesses, which very much affect children as well as adults. I admit this is my pet project, but it is one of the gravest examples of where politicians are failing us. It has become more visible recently that air pollution is a killer and also reduces well-being in many people, particularly children of course. So I believe it is a worthwhile destination for these penalty fines. I beg to move.

Read the whole debate on Hansard