Following an amendment to the Offensive Weapons Bill, trading standards now has powers to investigate underage sales of acid and the remote sale of restricted products.
A government amendment to the Bill (which was considered on February 6) gives trading standards specific investigatory powers to deal with underage sales of acids and online sales of restricted products; an opposition amendment (considered on January 30) would have given trading standards both investigatory powers and a statutory duty to undertake the work.
The government amendment has now passed, meaning that while trading standards now has powers to investigate, there is no statutory requirement to do so.
This has implications as to whether all trading standards services will provision for the Bill in staff training and allocation of investigations, and draws into question the consistency of enforcement.
CTSI said in a briefing released before the committee stage in the Lords:
“The government amendment omits making this a statutory duty on councils. While not critical to investigations into offences it would however hamper the consistent application of these powers across the country.
“When local authorities look at funding of various services, they look at legislation where there is a statutory duty, and without such a duty, they are increasingly unlikely to provide resources let alone resource training or recruitment of staff.
“Without a statutory duty on this bill services may not invest in training to be able to carry out potential investigations under this bill. Ultimately this may mean that enforcement of the legislation would be less likely, and inconsistent across the country.
“CTSI has in the past called for an avoidance of new duties on trading standards, noting that services are greatly stretched due to resource constraints. However, in this case we feel that the government should place this as a statutory duty so that councils have to consider whether their staff are trained to adequately protect the public.”
The CTSI briefing concludes: “The trading standards profession fully support the aim of the Offensive Weapons Bill to protect the public and support the government amendment to give officers the ability to investigate offenses. We hope that the government can place this as a statutory duty and resolve the technical issue that we have raised.”
This article was updated on February 7, 2019.