Clause 77 - Adjudicators

Traffic Management Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:10 pm on 5th February 2004.

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Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 4:10 pm, 5th February 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 67, in

page 46, line 32, leave out from beginning to 'and' in line 34.

Amendment No. 67 removes subsection 3(b), which would require the Lord Chancellor to make regulations to set out the procedure to be followed by authorities when appointing adjudicators. The Government recently announced their intention to create a new independent Judicial Appointments Commission, which will take over the Lord Chancellor's responsibility for the judicial appointments process. It is no longer appropriate for the Lord Chancellor to make such regulations; procedures for those responsibilities will be decided by the Judicial Appointments Commission. Events have overtaken us so we want to remove that part of the Bill.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

Events have not quite overtaken us. They are coming up rapidly behind us, but there is still a Lord Chancellor. Until such time as the position has been done away with and a judicial arrangement is in place, the status quo remains. If the Bill becomes an Act, and provides for a judicial quango to have responsibilities, what will happen if that quango does not exist?

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

I listened to what the hon. Gentleman said, and perhaps I should have said more. The requirement for the Lord Chancellor's consent on appointments, which will also transfer to the commission, will be sufficient guarantee of the probity of the appointment of civil enforcement adjudicators, because that consent will depend on the normal requirements of fairness, transparency and openness. It is not necessary to prescribe the detailed procedures in regulations. I understand that matters are in hand so the amendment will be effective.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

The Minister said that it would not matter if the amendment were made or not because one could fall back on reasonableness, or whatever word he used. If we agree to the Government amendment and the Lord Chancellor remains and a quango is not established, will the Government be able

to do what they like rather than having to refer matters to the Lord Chancellor? Is that what we are being asked to agree to? The only check and balance would be that someone behaved reasonably. The Government could do whatever they liked because there would be no sanctions in the Bill.

Photo of John Mann John Mann Labour, Bassetlaw

May I repeat my previous question about the definition of ''adjudicator''? Could that be defined as meaning magistrates court?

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

The simple answer is no. The magistrates court will deliberate over the issues in the case of police penalty charges, but the adjudicator will do so in the case that we are discussing. If the status quo outlined by the hon. Member for Spelthorne remains, the adjudicator would be appointed with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

This gets better and better. The Minister is now telling us that, having removed a reference to the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor would still be responsible. I hate excessively long legislation, and I wonder why the provision was included in the first place if the Lord Chancellor would act in any case.

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

Oh dear. The hon. Gentleman has rumbled us. What we are saying is that we will be covered in both circumstances with the amendment. What was in the Bill was perhaps a case of belt and braces.

Amendment agreed to,

Clause 77, as amended, agreed to.