Clause 5 - The special powers of a traffic officer

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 27th January 2004.

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Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 3:30 pm, 27th January 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 60, in

page 3, line 10, leave out '6' and insert

'(Powers to stop or direct traffic)'.

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 30, in

page 3, leave out line 11.

Amendment No. 6, in

page 3, line 24, leave out 'or near'.

Amendment No. 7, in

page 3, leave out line 25.

Amendment No. 8, in

page 3, line 28, leave out from '3;' to end of line 34.

Amendment No. 9, in

page 3, line 35, at end insert 'full'.

Clause stand part.

Amendment No. 92, in

clause 6, page 3, line 38, leave out from 'officer' to end of line.

Amendment No. 10, in

clause 6, page 3, line 42, after first 'vehicle', insert 'or cycle'.

Amendment No. 11, in

clause 6, page 4, line 5, after 'vehicle', insert 'or cycle'.

Amendment No. 32, in

clause 6, page 4, line 8, leave out '163(1) and (2)' and insert 'section 163'.

Clause 6 stand part.

Amendment No. 20, in

clause 10, page 5, line 28, after 'in', insert 'full'.

Government new clause 10—Powers to stop or direct traffic.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

This is a big group of amendments. We have become aware that the reference to section 163 in clause 6(3) is inconsistent with the reference in clause 6(4)(a). That error would inadvertently give traffic officers powers of arrest, as one of the earlier Conservative amendments would also have done. However, new clause 10 will address that issue by replacing clause 6, providing powers for traffic officers to stop or direct traffic. The new clause expressly sets out the powers and thus makes them more transparent. It sets out the appropriate textual amendments to the relevant statutory provisions, making it easier to see how those statutory provisions are affected and to understand their relationship to other provisions in road traffic statutes.

New clause 10 also removes from traffic officers the power of arrest in section 163(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which provides that any reference to a constable in section 163 of that Act includes a reference to a traffic officer in clause 6(4)(a). That inadvertently gave traffic officers the power of arrest granted to constables in subsection section 163(4). Amendment No. 60 is consequential.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for that clear exposition of why the Government have had to withdraw clause 6 and replace it with a new clause, and of amendment No. 60. Before I tabled a parliamentary question inquiring what powers of arrest traffic officers would have, the Government had not realised that they would have had powers of arrest that they did not wish them to have under the original draft of the Bill.

I have already indicated to you, Mr. Beard, and informally to the Minister that I will not be able to be present in Committee throughout this debate because an Adjournment debate that I called in Westminster Hall has been allocated the time between 4 o'clock and 4.30 pm, and if I am not there, I will not be able to argue about the problems of audiology services, particularly in my constituency. I hope that when I come back soon after 4.30 pm, the Minister will have been able to satisfy my hon. Friends in my absence

that the Government have thought through the contrast between the way that community support officers are being supported with a residual power of arrest that is not being given to traffic officers, even for a limited period in limited circumstances.

The Minister will know that community support officers have been given a power of arrest so that they can hold someone for up to half an hour pending the arrival of a police officer. A traffic officer might be the first on the scene of an incident on a motorway or trunk road and it might be obvious to him that somebody who has been driving a vehicle will not give his identity. Perhaps the officer suspects that he has stolen the vehicle or that he is an illegal immigrant; everyday occurrences, unfortunately, under the present Government. Is he really to stand idly by while the person concerned hops it over the motorway perimeter fence, pending the arrival of a police officer, or should he have the power, as a community support officer might do, to arrest somebody who does not give his name and address in circumstances in which the officer believes the person has committed an offence?

I put the question to the Minister because, unlike a town, city or village, a motorway is pretty inaccessible and police officers have to get access to the point at which the incident has taken place, which can take time. If the traffic officer were there already, would it not be sensible for him to have actual powers of arrest, albeit circumscribed? That is the main point that I wanted to get across in this group of amendments. The other amendments will be covered by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I am sure that when I return from having debated audiology services, an answer will be forthcoming from the Minister.

Photo of Mr Paul Marsden Mr Paul Marsden Shadow Minister, Transport 3:45 pm, 27th January 2004

Amendment No. 92 was intended, like some of the Tory amendments, to clarify what was turning out to be a bit of a dog's breakfast of a clause. I am more than happy to lend support to new clause 10, although I should like clarification from the Minister about this point; the original wording makes reference to the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 35(1) and (2). That has changed to subsection (3). Was that what the Minister was referring to in his opening remarks about powers of arrest, or was it a different subsection? If so, could he clarify why the reference has changed from (1) and (2) to (3)?

The other issue is that of powers. If we look at the layout of the Bill, there are special powers on top of powers such as those to stop and direct traffic. Later, we shall be talking about powers for temporary traffic signs and further special powers. It is mind-boggling to try to understand why the layout is so complicated.

Following earlier remarks about background checks during the recruitment process, what identification will the traffic officers have and in what circumstances will they be required to show that identification to the public or to a constable? Members of the public—particularly those involved in road traffic accidents or women alone at night awaiting recovery vehicles—will want to know who they are and whether they are using powers to which they are entitled.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

One thing that any Minister should hope for when he discovers that I am on a Standing Committee dealing with a Bill is that there are good programmes on the television. If there are not, I am prone to pick up a Bill and say to myself of an evening, ''I wonder what is wrong this time?'' It is the result of having bad television programmes recently that amendments Nos. 6 to 11 appear on the Order Paper, after one of those evenings when I thought that it would be useful to try to improve yet another piece of shoddy legislation. Let me try and explain what concerns me. Amendment 6 focuses attention on clause 5 (3) (d):

''preventing damage to, or to anything on or near, such a road''.

That is sloppy. Could the Minister tell us what near means? How far away from the highway they are authorised to look into are these traffic officers going to roam? Why do the Government believe that the power of looking after the road should extend to looking after things that are near it? What does ''anything'' cover, and why has it been deemed necessary to include off-road issues? If he can tell us how far near is, lawyers in the future will not have so much fun deciding whether, because it was not near enough to be near, it was an excessive use of power.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The mystery deepens when one looks at clause 5 (6), because:

''A traffic officer may not exercise his special powers when on a road unless he is in uniform.''

It does not mention when he is exercising his powers near a road.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

The prospect of an officer undressing before he leaps over the boundary of the road to deal with something else puzzles me, but the television cannot have been that bad, because I failed to spot that one. My right hon. Friend puts me to shame, because I missed it, and he is absolutely right.

Amendment No. 7 would delete, at the end of clause 5 (3):

''or for a purpose incidental to any of those purposes.''

What does the Minister see as incidental to any of those purposes? There has to be a reason for this broadening of the powers. I am always suspicious of giving officials power. First we say that they can do this; then, in case that is not enough, they can see if it is incidental.

We have ''near''; what does that mean? We have ''incidental'', which could mean anything. The lawyers could have a field day arguing whether or not something was ''incidental''. Perhaps we could get into Hansard the Minister's definition of the word incidental on that occasion.

Amendment 8 would delete clause 5 (4) (b) and (5):

''if the condition specified in subsection (5) is met, on or in relation to any other road in England and Wales.

(5) The condition is that the traffic officer is acting

(a) at the direction of the chief officer of police''.

At the time, that said to me that we were, yet again, extending powers. We were legislating where the officer can operate and who designates everything else; then, all of a sudden, we come across a bit of the

Bill that says it does not matter what was said just now. If a chief police officer says to do it anyway, it can be done. Why are we wasting our time if it can be done anyway? That is what I was driving at.

This amendment has become more relevant. When we check Hansard, we will find that the Minister responded to the very important point of order that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire made about students sitting down in Parliament square by saying that it was not relevant, because traffic officers would not have jurisdiction over a local road like Parliament square.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

The Minister is nodding; that is what he said. If we accept the subsection, the Minister is wrong. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis might have had these powers available to him and asked traffic officers who just happened to be near for help in clearing the students sitting in the road. Under the measure that I want to delete, if the commissioner had asked them, irrespective of their designation, they could have acted in Parliament square or ''any other road''

''at the direction of the chief officer of police''.

Will the Minister clarify whether his earlier comments were correct or whether I misunderstood?

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I am getting a little worried that this clause, seeking to stretch the powers to matters incidental, may be further indication that the Minister—who, sensibly, wants to get traffic on the move—still harbours the typical wish of the Government for these people to go into the glossy brochure industry and the business of motorists' information systems. Perhaps they will gang up with their friends in the quangos. The Government believe in giving us far more glossy brochures than we need or can afford. I am beginning to wonder whether these traffic officers are going to become glossy brochure merchants as well.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I had not thought of that, but I will reflect on it. If that is correct, I will wholeheartedly support my right hon. Friend.

What had occurred to me was the thought the Government are sneaking through yet another arrangement under which people can chivvy, hassle, annoy and direct us, and generally make our lives a misery anywhere in the country. I, for one, am heartily sick of a Government who keep making my life more unpleasant with petty officialdom at every turn.

The use of language such as, ''near'' a road, ''incidental'', and any road

''at the direction of the chief officer of police''

paints a picture of the nanny state of which the Minister is so proud; at least, I hope he is proud of it as he keeps voting for it. I think that it is appalling. If the glossy brochure state goes alongside the nanny state, I will certainly bracket the two together.

The items that would be deleted by amendment No. 8 are not necessary. If the Minister wants to oppose that amendment, I hope that he will tell us why. Do we need to give chief officers of police a

blanket power to get these people to do virtually anything anywhere?

Amendment No. 9 would insert the word ''full'' before the word ''uniform'' at the beginning of line 36, in clause 5(6) on page 3. Currently, it reads:

''A traffic officer may not exercise his special powers on a road''—

although, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire said, he could do it near a road—

''unless he is in uniform.''

We should clarify what is meant by uniform. If I remember rightly, many moons ago there was a loophole in some legislation, which meant that if a police officer did not have his hat on when he stopped people to breathalyse them, he was deemed not to be in uniform. There is a genuine purpose behind the amendment. For the avoidance of doubt, will the Minister confirm that where it says ''uniform'', it means full uniform, so that—before people try to exploit such a loophole in future—we have on record exactly what is meant by the wearing of uniform?

Uncharitable souls might think that amendment Nos. 10 and 11, with which I seek to add ''or cycle'' after the word ''vehicle'', are petty and pedantic. The only reason that I seek to do that is to put the Minister out of his misery. Clause 6(3) states:

''A traffic officer has powers of a constable under 163(1) and (2) of the 1988 Act (powers to stop vehicles and cycles on a road).''

So, in that clause, at the top of page 4, the wording is ''vehicles and cycles'', but at the bottom of page 3, it states that a traffic officer has powers to direct

''a person driving or propelling a vehicle to stop''.

As the Bill specifically says ''cycles'' later on, I imagine that it is will be a defence to say, ''I am riding a bicycle and under section 6(1)(a), you do not have the power to issue directions to somebody riding a cycle, because if you had intended it to apply to a cycle, you would not have specifically mentioned cycles at the top of page 4.'' I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, who is a lawyer, but I am always anxious to minimise the amount that lawyers can earn out of the stupidities of the Government when they cannot get their Bills right.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I rise to support all of the amendments that were so ably spoken to by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. He will be reassured to learn that I am always in favour of making legislation simpler and shorter, if we must have any legislation at all. I am pleased that all of those amendments move in that direction, with the exception of those inserting ''or cycle'', which are important to clarify traffic officers' powers.

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is no reason to extend traffic officers' powers to things ''near'' to ''such a road''. Their task should be to get traffic flowing on the road and to deal with vehicles using the road. They should not have powers to come and inspect my car in my garage well off the road, or my neighbour's in a similar position.

It is also sensible to delete the phrase at the end of 5(3):

''or for a purpose incidental to any of those purposes.''

Although the Minister's intentions may be honourable, sensible and narrow in pursuit of the objective of less congestion, others who come afterwards could take advantage of such a rather wide-ranging portmanteau phrase and add all sorts of duties for the traffic officers that we did not intend.

For the reasons outlined by my hon. Friend, I welcome the idea that we should delete subsection (4)(b) and subsection (5). The Bill would be slightly improved by withdrawing that added complexity. My hon. Friend has done the Committee a service by pointing out that cyclists sometimes appear and sometimes do not. The traffic officer clearly must be able to control cycles as well as other road vehicles, as they are often at the heart of a problem. Trying to mix cycles with larger and faster vehicles is often the cause of problems, particularly at junctions. I think that traffic officers would need that power to handle the problem. It is curious that the drafting sometimes gives express power over cycles, and other times not.

I agree with my hon. Friend that, for the avoidance of doubt, the Bill should always have both in if it means both. Otherwise some lawyer will earn an unreasonable crust for making an unreasonable point, and charge some poor victim for the privilege.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:00 pm, 27th January 2004

I thank the Minister for giving us advance warning of new clause 10, which is to replace clause 6. We make no criticism of him for that, and we are grateful for the early notice. One of the benefits of the move towards pre-legislative scrutiny is that Ministers feel less bound to defend a Bill, as if it were their baby, and are more willing to accept amendments. Ministers should be big enough to say that a Bill can be improved as suggested by other right hon. or hon. Members; and he should be willing to accept amendments. Similarly, it is incumbent on the Opposition not to criticise Ministers when they do not do so. We are in the business of making law—we are not a debating society—and any attempt to improve a Bill to which the Minister agrees should grasped by Members of all parties.

In that spirit, I highlight a few of the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham and my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. We would like to hear the Minister's view on whether amendment No. 9 should be added to the Bill. What is a uniform? If a traffic officer is wearing part of a uniform, is it still a uniform? That is where lawyers will start to make money. As my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne said, the breathalyser law—the Road Safety Act 1967, introduced by Barbara Castle—more than any other piece of legislation, gave rise to many court cases, a large number of which went to appeal. That certainly lined the pockets of many lawyers. Unlike my hon. Friend, I do not criticise the lawyers; I criticise those hon. Members who at the time, in my view, failed properly to scrutinise and tighten the loose wording of that legislation. For the avoidance of all doubt, I would like to see the word ''full'' in the Bill,

and amendment No. 9 accepted. I hope that the Minister is will to do that.

Why is that those drafting the Bill thought it necessary in subsection (6) to use the words ''on a road''? Are those words not superfluous? If a traffic officer is exercising his special powers, do we need those words? Subsection (3)(d) refers to him having the power to prevent damage

''to, or to anything on or near, such a road''.

A minefield of prospective challenges is being made more likely by that apparent discrepancy in the wording. If a traffic officer will be given the power to consider things on and near a road, why is there a reference to him having to be in uniform ''on a road'' in subsection (6)? It would be far better to leave out those three words. Why are they there? I hope that the Minister can answer that question.

My other question relates to subsection (5)(a), which refers to a traffic officer acting

''at the direction of the chief officer of police''.

Am I right to assume that if a traffic officer is told to do something by a constable and does it, that will be deemed to be acting in accordance with, or at the direction of, a chief officer of police?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

This has been quite a wide-ranging debate. The amendments cover a wide range of issues, and I shall try to do them justice.

The hon. Member for Christchurch opened the debate and apologised to the Committee. He told me beforehand that he was unable to be here now, just as the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East, is also involved in an Adjournment debate. However, I shall place on the record my response to the hon. Gentleman's point. He was trying to extend the role of traffic officers so that they were more in line with community support officers, but CSOs are accredited by the police and directly accountable to the police service. That is a very different role from that of traffic officers. To be able to arrest people and, one assumes, detain them, traffic officers would need special training and would need to be suitably equipped. I think that that would be an inappropriate role for the Highways Agency to undertake.

The hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) asked about identification of the officers. Highways Agency traffic officers will have a number on their shoulder, and an identification card with a photograph. Their name will be clearly visible. That is the type of uniform that they will wear, as will be apparent to anyone who sees them.

Amendment No. 30 would delete clause 8 and remove the power for the appropriate national authority to confer further special powers on traffic officers by statutory instrument. That would mean that any special powers required at a later date would have to be sought through primary legislation.

The introduction of traffic officers is a radical new approach to traffic management on our trunk roads and, as such, represents a significant change in the Highways Agency's culture and remit. As our operational experience develops, further powers may

be identified that could make the traffic officer service more effective and efficient. The Highways Agency is likely to learn important lessons during the early years of operation, and clause 8 provides the ability to turn those lessons into service improvements over a relatively short time by speeding up the legislative process. It does not give carte blanche for the national authority to do as it pleases.

An inability to confer additional powers would hamper the effectiveness and confidence of officers in operating on the road system, as inevitably there may be activities on the margins of the specifics set out in the clause that are nevertheless needed. Additional powers would be conferred only if they were relevant to traffic officers' duties. In England, the necessary instrument would be subject to a resolution in Parliament.

Amendment No. 8 would prevent traffic officers from operating on any roads other than those for which the appropriate national authority was the traffic authority. To answer the point made by the hon. Member for Spelthorne, I point out that in certain circumstances traffic officers could be called in by a police officer, but that would be on or near the national network. The remit of traffic officers is to operate on the national network, so if they were instructed to operate on local roads, that would be somewhere in close proximity. We have in mind a situation in which there has been a serious incident—on a motorway, say—and there are consequential jams on local roads that are nearby or leading off it. It would be appropriate for the traffic officer to be directed to go to those roads. Protocols would have to be worked up with local authorities and those protocols with the police would be clearly in place, so that everybody knew what they were doing.

I was for a moment attracted to amendment No. 6. It would remove the ability of traffic officers to exercise their special powers to prevent damage to anything near a road and within their jurisdiction—the point that the hon. Member for Spelthorne made—and we thought carefully about the matter. However, it could reduce the effectiveness of traffic officers in an emergency situation in which positive action is needed in circumstances that threaten to spill beyond the highway boundary. A good example was the incident at Selby—it might have been appropriate there for a traffic officer to operate beyond the bounds of the trunk road. Another might be an instance in which a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition careers through the barrier at the side of the road, perhaps into somebody's garden or on to a farmer's piece of land, where it presents a risk either to the environment or to human life. It would be absurd if the traffic officer were not allowed to step just beyond the narrow confines of the highway, because he could not operate ''near''. As in all such matters, if it were put to the test, the meaning of ''near'' would be decided by the courts, but reasonableness would have to be taken into consideration.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

I see the argument that the Minister is developing; common sense would suggest that in a Selby-type situation—God forbid that it should happen, but if it were to do so—there could well be

reasons for the traffic officer to help. However, I question whether a traffic officer needs to have powers in what amounts to a full-blown crisis. Police officers will have attended long since and both ambulance crew and fire officers, without any of those powers, will have done sensible things to minimise the risk of a further accident and to help to protect the public. Just because traffic officers do not have official powers to order people about, it does not mean that they cannot help. Why do they need all this statutory paraphernalia in order to do what anybody would do if they were there to lend the police a hand?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

The simple answer is that we can imagine a circumstance in which it might be appropriate for traffic officers, working with the emergency services, to bring in a heavy vehicle to remove vehicles that are near to the highway but not actually on it. We felt that it would be inappropriate to take that out of the Bill; rather, it should be left in in order to avoid any future challenge that traffic officers were operating beyond the scope of their responsibility.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 20 relate to references to a traffic officer's having to be in uniform to exercise certain powers. The uniform will not require a hat. It will normally be an identifiable protective yellow jacket and leggings with an appropriate jumper. The amendments propose that that be amended to ''full'' uniform. While I understand the intent of the amendments, they are unnecessary and undesirable. The drafting is consistent with the wording used in similar legislation—for example, section 95(7) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 in relation to traffic wardens and sections 37 and 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in relation to constables. In those examples, the expression, ''uniform'', not ''full uniform'' is used. To use alternative wording would be unnecessary and inconsistent with that approach.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne 4:15 pm, 27th January 2004

I follow the Minister's explanation. The fact that he has put on the record exactly what it means is probably sufficient, but he has not addressed the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, perhaps slightly tongue in cheek, about the need to be in uniform on a road but not off it. The Minister resisted an amendment that would leave in the expression ''near a road'', and we have had examples of why traffic officers with heavy lifting gear might need to operate off a road but near it. If he persists with that argument, surely he needs to address the question of wearing a uniform near the road? It is not just a debating point, because he has argued for the need to wear a uniform on a road and given reasons why traffic officers should have powers. The clause does say that they exercise powers and must be in uniform, but there are situations in which they need to be off the road but need not be in uniform, and the Government should consider those between now and Report.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

When the traffic officers are carrying out their duties, they will be duty bound and contractually bound to comply with a dress code for

working on the network. They will generally be working on the highway and wearing their uniform. They will also wear their uniform on the probably rare occasion when they are called in to work near the road.

Amendment No. 92 seems to be intended to avoid repetition of the wording that the powers referred to in clauses 6(1)(a) and (b) already include. Sections 35 and 37 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 use the same expression.

Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 relate to clause 6, which the Government tabled new clause 10 to replace. However, the principle of amendment No. 10 also applies to new clause 10, so it needs some comment. Amendment No. 10 proposes that the word ''cycle'' be included in clause 6(1)(a). Similarly, amendment No. 11 proposes that ''cycle'' be included in clause 6(2). Both amendments aim to ensure that the power of traffic officers to direct vehicles applies to cyclists, but they are probably unnecessary because clauses 6(1)(a) and 6(2) were drafted to give traffic officers the same power as constables in respect of sections 35(1) and (2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The word ''vehicle'' used in section 35 includes a cycle. That is the recognised interpretation of the word, and we do not want to depart from that approach in the case of traffic officers. To do so would be inconsistent with the interpretation of section 35 as it applies to constables, or to traffic wardens where legislation that relates to them also applies to section 35.

Members may be puzzled by our reason for using ''cycles'' in clause 6(3). That clause refers to section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which uses the expression ''mechanically propelled vehicles'' rather than ''vehicles''. That expression does not include cycles, although section 163 also expressly refers to cycles. I hope that that clarifies the apparent inconsistency in the use of the word ''cycles''. I see that that explanation has excited a comment from the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham.

Photo of Mr Paul Marsden Mr Paul Marsden Shadow Minister, Transport

Could I have an answer to my original question, which was why the original wording referred to sections 35(1) and (2) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, while new clause 10 refers to section 35(3).

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

We were minded to table an amendment to clause 6. However, when the lawyers examined the clause, it became more convoluted as we began to amend it further to take out the power of arrest that we had inadvertently given traffic officers. Therefore, the draftsman tore up the clause and started from scratch, resulting in new clause 10. As we are getting into legal niceties, perhaps I could drop the hon. Gentleman a line to clarify the situation for the lawyers' minds.

Amendment No. 32 would give traffic officers a power of arrest because section 163(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 confers such a power on constables. To give traffic officers the powers conferred on constables by the whole of section 163, rather than subsections (1) and (2), would give them the power of arrest.

We have had a useful debate, and we have covered several interesting points. I hope that we can now consider the rest of the clause.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I thank the Minister for his full explanation of many of the points raised during the wide-ranging debate. The Opposition were concerned that the powers were drawn too widely. However, what the Minister said about the need to react to situations as they unfold carried weight, particularly given the example of the Selby rail disaster, a terrible tragedy that occurred close to my constituency in which one of my constituents was killed. There is a delicate balance between allowing the responsible person on the scene flexibility to react in an unusual situation and powers being too wide or unchecked. In the light of what the Minister said, we will not force a Division on amendment No. 6.

May I refer the Minister to a point that he did not answer? It is not the subject of an amendment today, but it may be on Report unless we get an answer from him. The Minister has not convinced me why we need the words ''on a road'' in clause 5(6). Without those words, the subsection conveys the Minister's wish that a traffic officer should wear his uniform at work. As we have already accepted that a traffic officer may be near rather than on a road during his work, why do we need those words? Their deletion would improve the Bill. I hope that the Minister will reflect on that and give an answer before Report, or we may be minded to table an amendment.

The Minister's reply on clause 8 did not commend itself to me, and I hope that it did not do so to my hon. Friends. His reason for accepting clause 8 was that it would allow the speeding up of new powers that are deemed necessary. Dictators never have a problem acting with speed or obtaining new powers that they deem necessary. Democracy is a slowcoach, but that is surely preferable to allowing changes without proper scrutiny or wide consultation. The protection of liberty and allowing elected Members to have their say should override the Minister's desire for speed. The Bill will be far better without clause 8, and when we get to the clause 8 stand part debate, I shall urge the Committee to vote against it.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I shall not comment on clause 8 until we reach it, but the hon. Gentleman makes a point about clause 5(6), which refers to a traffic officer not exercising his powers on the road unless he is in uniform. Some traffic officers will operate in places other than the road, including in the control centre. When officers are specifically on the road and interfacing with the public, it is important that they should be in uniform, whereas in the control centre, they will be operating the signs on the road and enforcing speed limits the signs, but the public will not see them. It would not therefore be imperative for them to wear uniform there. I hope that that is helpful and will deter the hon. Gentleman from tabling another amendment on Report.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister and will reflect on what he has just said.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 5, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 disagreed to.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

Point of order, Mr. Beard. Can I make it absolutely clear, so that we can get it in to Hansard, that the Government have just voted against part of their own Bill?

Photo of Mr Nigel Beard Mr Nigel Beard Labour, Bexleyheath and Crayford

Yes, that is so.

Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.