Clause 9 - Procedure

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 15th February 2001.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

Subsection (2) encourages people to send cash through the post as an acceptable form of payment. As the Post Office has always cautioned people that it is singularly unwise to mail cash, should such provision be made in legislation? There are obviously complications, because cash will be an acceptable form of payment, but the Post Office has spoken about the temptations open to their workers if money is sent by non-registered mail. The Bill does not say that such mail should be registered and I would be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary would explain that.

Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

The hon. Gentleman raised an interesting point and I suspect that he is right and that it would be wise for people not to send cash through the post. Equally, it would be unwise to preclude—in the Bill or elsewhere—anyone who does not have a bank account, lives far away from the court to which the money should be sent or does not want to pay the additional cost of a postal order, from paying a fine by cash through the post. In practical terms, such an individual could get proof of posting so as to be confident about proving that the letter had been sent.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point and I shall consider it, but the words in question are a standard form that has been used in many Bills dealing with similar topics and, to date, has not given rise to any problems.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

One used to regard it as standard that if a letter were posted first class one day, it would be delivered the next. Can the Parliamentary Secretary confirm that that remains his understanding? Will there be guidance that, if someone posts a letter first class and obtains a record of posting from a post office, it will be respected? Will he give the matter some thought and inform the Committee at a convenient moment?

Photo of Mr David Lock Mr David Lock Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department

As my hon. Friend the Minister of State has made clear, some latitude exists already in respect of how fines for fixed penalties, most of which are for motoring offences, are received. As long as the letter is posted in the prescribed period, even if it arrives two days late—obviously there are problems before Christmas, for example—that is generally treated as a proper satisfaction of the fixed penalty notice and no further action is taken.

Ordinarily, a first-class letter is expected to arrive the next day and a second-class letter within three days. In practice, however, I do not think that there will be a problem. Under the existing operation of fixed penalty notices, reasonable latitude is given to those who are clearly attempting to pay. I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) will accept my assurance that that is how the notices will work in practice.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 10 to 12 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I tried to catch your eye to speak on clause 12.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am sorry, but the question has been put and agreed to. Committee members must be faster on their feet.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

Forgive me, Mr. Gale. You were quite rightly making progress, but you were looking away from me. I was rising, but was unable to catch your eye.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am sorry. I do not wish to quarrel with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I have ruled on the subject. Clause 13 Interpretation