Clause 78 - Enforcement of penalty charges

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

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

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

The clause gives the Minister the opportunity to bring us up to date on the Government's thinking about the mass of unenforced motoring and parking fines and about how the clause will work if it provides for a penalty to be enforced simply by a further penalty? The Home Secretary has said that under no circumstances can anyone who defiantly refuses to pay outstanding debts for motoring and other offences be sent to prison. How will justice be done, therefore, by those law-abiding people who fall foul of civil enforcement provisions but who know jolly well that many other people see them as just another part of the process to ignore and continue to act with impunity. Irrespective of what is set down in the legislation, enforcement often never occurs, particularly when the cost is greater than the amount recovered.

The Minister will know that the RAC Foundation has written to us, drawing attention to the fact that a speed camera can catch someone going a few miles an hour over the limit but that that does not deter the estimated 1.5 million in what it calls the motoring underclass. How will the clause tackle the problem of that lawless motoring underclass?

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne

The Minister said that I had rumbled him and he has spurred me on to look even more

carefully at the Bill. Why are there no Government amendments to the clause? Subsection (1) states:

''The Lord Chancellor may make regulations''.

However, subsection (3) states that the

''Lord Chancellor may by order make provision'',

and subsection (4) adds:

''Any such order may make such incidental and supplementary provision . . . as the Lord Chancellor considers appropriate''.

Where are the Government amendments removing the references to the Lord Chancellor? The Government were so keen to remove them before, but they are perfectly content to leave them now.

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

The simple answer is that the Lord Chancellor is still referred to in clause 77, and that is why he is still referred to in this clause.

The hon. Member for Christchurch made a good point about the important issue of enforcing fines, and the matter has exercised the Home Secretary. The hon. Gentleman asked what the clause would do about the ''motoring underclass'', but the issue is a bit beyond its scope, and it will do nothing about it. However, as he knows, we are doing many things, such as introducing continuous registration and clamping down on car tax dodgers, to crack down on the underclass of people who often commit other offences, such as not taxing and insuring their cars and speeding with impunity, probably because the log book has been lost and there is no proper record. There is therefore a need to improve records, which we are doing iteratively over time. Each action that we take squeezes out more and more people who believe that they can get away with it.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the system of enforcement, which takes us back to the 1991 Act. Bailiffs can be used, where appropriate, to collect unpaid penalty charges.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 78 ordered to stand part of the Bill.