Clause 2

Part of Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 20th January 2005.

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Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport 2:30 pm, 20th January 2005

Mr. Pike, I will not be drawn on that, lest we do further damage to the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and his party.

Just before the Committee adjourned this morning, when I was rudely interrupted, I was saying that clause 2 amends section 53 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to enable the Secretary of State by order to prescribe graduated penalties. The amount may vary, depending on the circumstances of the offence, which include, in particular, the nature of the offence, its severity, where it took place and whether the offender had committed other prescribed offences during a prescribed period. However, that is not an exclusive list of circumstances.

The measure provides wide scope to take account of key factors such as whether the offence was near a school. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) referred to collisions, which are covered by new subsection (2)(2)(b). Meteorological conditions and the presence of a particular number of vulnerable road users are harder to codify; in the latter case, I would be disinclined to try to formulate too complex a structure of penalties that took account of factors such as how many pedestrians were on the pavement or the road at a particular time.

Clause 3 amends section 28 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 so as to enable the Secretary of State by order to prescribe appropriate levels of penalty points in the case of a fixed penalty. The number of points may vary, depending on the circumstances of the offence. Amendments Nos. 16 to 21, which we will discuss under clause 2 although they apply to clause 3, would have an effect similar to amendments Nos. 6 to 11, which apply to clause 2. They are subject to the same difficulties and the Government cannot accept them.

I had not covered a couple of points, one of which was raised by the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) who, sadly, is not in his place. He asked about amendment No. 21 and any mitigating circumstances. It would be absurd if someone could start arguing about mitigating circumstances at the side of the road and a police officer had to take those circumstances into consideration. The police officer makes a judgment, but he cannot then hold a court at the side of the road. If someone wants to contest a judgment, they can go before the courts to seek redress.