8. Enforcement and Implementation (Q 12)
8.1. The consultation paper stated the Government was considering giving local authorities the role of enforcing the proposed policy, with relevant powers and relevant offences created. The need for a new register for the policy was not anticipated given that under the EU Food Hygiene Legislation food businesses must already register with their local authority. The Government was also considering giving Ministers power to issue guidance to local authorities and publishing an industry guide to support implementation.
Question 12: Please comment on our proposals for enforcement and implementation outlined in section 8 [of the consultation paper].
8.2. In total 592 respondents gave a specific response to the question (i.e. excluding blanks, ‘no comment’ and ‘don’t know’ answers).
8.3. Although this was an open question (i.e. not a tick box question), written explanations were analysed to try to quantify what proportion indicated overall agreement and disagreement with the proposals for enforcement. It is important to note that a number of respondents gave no overall indication, but instead made a specific point or points in relation to the content of the proposals. Therefore, their overall stance (if indeed they had one) for this question is not known. The figures below therefore provide only a rough indication and should be interpreted with caution.
8.4. Over two-thirds of the organisation respondents gave a written explanation that indicated agreement with the proposals for enforcement. Nearly a quarter gave no overall indication and just under a tenth indicated disagreement.
8.5. Two-fifths of individual respondents indicated disagreement with the proposals for enforcement. Nearly a third indicated agreement, and almost as many gave no overall indication.
8.6. Breaking down the organisation respondents described above, over four-fifths of non-industry organisation respondents indicated agreement with the proposals for enforcement. Responses from industry organisation respondents were much more mixed, with over a third indicating agreement, over a fifth indicating disagreement, but the largest proportion – over two-fifths gave no overall indication.
Agreement with proposals for enforcement and implementation
8.7. Many of those indicating agreement with the proposals (across all respondent types) simply stated the fact without providing further detail on their reasoning. Some noted considerations explored in more detail below (see para 8.11 onwards).
8.8. Some of the organisation respondents that agreed with the approach, suggested enforcement sits best within currently established local authority environmental health teams because of established knowledge, legal status, experience and relationships with businesses, although two public sector respondents suggested enforcement may sit better within Trading Standards functions.
Disagreement with proposals for enforcement and implementation
8.9. More than half of the individual respondents that disagreed with the proposals for enforcement and implementation indicated that this was on the basis that they disagreed with the overall proposal of introducing mandatory restrictions and therefore by default disagree with proposals for enforcement and implementation.
8.10. Few of the individual respondent that disagreed with the proposals did so due to the belief that local authorities are already overstretched and should not have further burdens placed on them when they are struggling with existing priorities. Few felt that enforcement would be more appropriate in the hands of a different agency – mainly by a government department or a national agency. This was on the basis that this would encompass a greater level of expertise and would provide consistency that could not be achieved through local level enforcement. Few individual respondents felt that local authorities were not capable and therefore were an inappropriate choice for enforcement.
Considerations for enforcement and implementation
8.11. Among all respondents to the question, some (across all respondent types) raised concern about the burden that enforcement would place on the local authority teams in an already understaffed and stretched financial environment. Few respondents (few individuals, many non-industry organisations, few industry representative bodies) suggested that the work would require separate ring fenced funding and the training of personnel. It was suggested that the extra work could not be absorbed into existing workloads and that underfunding the work would lead to inconsistent or incorrect enforcement. Few respondent (few individuals, few non-industry and few industry organisations) specifically noted that clear and accessible policy and guidelines, created at a national level, would be required in order to facilitate consistent and fair enforcement actions across Scotland. Few organisation respondents suggested that local authorities and industry must be involved in drafting guidance to ensure that it is understandable and able to be implemented.
8.12. Few industry representative body respondents flagged that sufficient lead-in time would be needed to raise awareness and make the necessary changes. This included public education and communication, staff training, repackaging, rebranding and business remodeling. They also voiced concern that implementation would place significant cost and administration burdens on retailers, but they welcomed the development of a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment.
8.13. Few manufacturer respondents also noted the significant time and resources that would be needed for implementation. There was concern that small businesses may be more likely to be targeted for enforcement due to the perceived difficulty and cost of dealing with large companies.
8.14. Concern was expressed by few industry organisation respondents about the use of penalties as described and there was a preference for taking an education-led approach and creating an environment where retailers are self-policing in order for the approach to be successful. One industry representative body respondent suggested that there may be a financial incentive for local authorities to issue a fixed penalty notice instead of an education approach. However, support was expressed for fixed penalty notices by few public sector respondents on the basis that their use would make the approach effective, although one such respondent suggested that these should be proportionate to business size.