Clause 58 - Inquiry: supplemental

Part of Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 25th February 2003.

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Photo of John Spellar John Spellar Minister of State (Department for Transport) 3:30 pm, 25th February 2003

The hon. Lady rightly says that the level 3 fines and imprisonment imply fairly strong sanctions that are obviously aimed at getting people to attend in order to provide evidence. That does not necessarily apply only to the person being inquired into. The person could be a witness who is required to attend and therefore has to incur personal costs. It would not apply only to someone into whom there might be an inquiry because there might be a generic inquiry in which the person was an involved party. That mirrors section 34 of the Police Act 1997.

Subsection (3) states:

''A person commits an offence if without reasonable excuse he fails to comply with a summons . . . to co-operate with an inquiry''.

That entails quite a substantial fine, which I understand is a criminal fine and a term of imprisonment that is slightly longer than that in the 1996 Act. It has been altered to allow for changes in the Criminal Justice Bill.

The power of inquiry relates to how the force is run, so it is inappropriate for an inquiry to get hold of any title documents for land—in a private house, for example. Only land belonging to the authority is relevant, which I hope clarifies the issue.