FSA Local Authority Letter (ENF/E/12/005), 13 February 2012
Local Authority colleagues will be aware of the recent media coverage about the passage of the ‘Freedoms’ Bill, and proposals that Environmental Health Officers (but not Trading Standards Officers) would cease to have power of entry to private premises.
These articles reflect amendments passed by the House of Lords to the Freedoms Bill. Please note that the Government does not support these amendments and Ministers have stated that they will seek to overturn the amendments, in the interests of public safety, when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.
The Protection of Freedoms Bill 2010-12, includes clauses relating to powers of entry (PoE) [Link to text in the Bill]. These provisions apply to England only for devolved matters such as food and feed. The Government’s intention with the PoE provisions is to ensure that there is a compelling case, and clear safeguards, before a state official has the right to demand entry into a person’s home or business premises. There should be an appropriate balance between the need to enforce the law and ensure public protection in addition to achieving sufficient safeguards in respect of the rights of the individual. To this end the Bill has a non-exhaustive list of possible safeguards. The precise safeguards for any particular PoE have yet to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Key features of the PoE section of the Bill are to provide statutory tools enabling the responsible Minister to:
There is also a requirement for the Home Secretary to produce a statutory Code of Practice on the exercise of PoE. Within two years of the Bill becoming law all pre-existing PoE will have to be reviewed and a report delivered to Parliament, following consultation with those regulators using these PoE. The FSA plans to undertake the review of all of the PoE within its remit and will ensure that Local Authority enforcement officers, and the professional bodies, will have the opportunity to contribute comments. Whilst it is not clear yet when the Bill will be passed, it is envisaged that the FSA review of PoE will start this spring.
Colleagues may also be interested to know that the Home Office has set up a Gateway system for approval of all new or amended PoE, and guidance can be found at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/aboutus/legislation/powers-entry/powers-entry-guidance.
The FSA recognises the importance of PoE to all Local Authority enforcement officers and will ensure that you are kept informed about any further significant developments in relation to this legislation.