I have a brief question. The second offence listed in this particular schedule relates to the failure of the owner of a skip to ensure that the skip is properly lit and marked. Could the Minister tell me whether there could be any circumstances whereby the owner of a skip could be under a higher duty than the owner of a car? In other words, if a motor vehicle is parked on a road, and does not need lights at night and the police will not bother with it, would that similarly apply to a skip, or is the owner of a skip under a more stringent duty with regard to this lighting provision?
As I understand it, under the existing licensing regime owners of skips are under precisely that higher duty. If there is a skip as an obstacle on the roadside it must, under current licensing regimes, be fully lit at night, in ways that stationed cars do not have to be. I will advise the right hon. Gentleman if the situation is not as I have stated, but as I understand it, as part of the licensing regime, certainly in London and I suspect outside, a skip must be lit at night to show to people that there is this stationary obstacle that is not as it should be. The skip should be properly lighted during the hours of darkness; whether with reflective or fluorescent material or otherwise, it is so marked. That is absolutely the case, apparently, according to clause 139 of something or other, which I will let the Committee know about in a moment.
The point made in response to my hon. Friend's question underlines our concern about the use of fixed penalty offences in cases where the offence may well be subject to mitigation. If one is responsible for a skip and has lit it, but the lights are removed, an absolute offence, subject to a fixed penalty, has been committed. In such circumstances, if there was a prosecution, there would have been a proper investigation and the prosecution probably would not have proceeded when it realised that it was not the fault of the owner because the lights had been removed. That is an example of the inflexibility that is introduced as soon as there are fixed-penalty offences.
Let me turn round the argument that the hon. Gentleman has been pursuing for the best part of the day. That duty has been in the Highways Act since 1980 and there is no substantial difference between what has prevailed in the last 24 years and what will prevail if a fixed penalty notice is added to it. If it has been a calamity to have such an oppressive measure for the past 24 years, that will not change just because of the introduction of a fixed penalty notice. If
that has not happened in the past 24 years, it will not happen because of the subsequent addition of fixed penalty offence status, rather than the status afforded by the relevant part of the principal Act, in this case the Highways Act 1980. I explained the position to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire in terms of the lighting on skips.
Question put, That this schedule be the fifth schedule to the Bill:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 3.