Clause 4 - Giving of fixed penalty notices by vehicle examiners

Road Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 20th January 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

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

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

The clause introduces schedule 1, which will allow the vehicle examiners from the Vehicle and Operator Services AgencyVOSA—an agency of the Department for Transport, to issue fixed penalty notices in respect of those offences for which they have enforcement powers. The schedule will also empower VOSA to deal with other matters connected to the operation of the fixed-penalty system on behalf of the Secretary of State. The right of the recipient of a fixed penalty notice to request a court hearing would not be affected.

In addition, the amendments empower the Secretary of State to set up and administer a new system, similar to the one administered by the fixed-penalty clerks under part 3, to collect payment for fixed penalties and endorse driving licences, where the penalty includes endorsement. These new powers will be exercised through VOSA.

Sections 57 and 76 of the 1988 Act are amended to empower the Secretary of State to inspect and endorse the licences, without the involvement of the court—unless the points threshold for disqualification has been reached—of those drivers who have been issued with a fixed penalty notice for an endorsable offence. The driver to whom the fixed penalty is issued will be required to surrender their licence to the administration office of VOSA for endorsement action within a specified time.

Section 75 of the 1988 Act is amended to allow the VOSA examiners to issue conditional offers for those offences that are detected remotely, in line with existing police practice. It is also amended to allow for the different fixed penalty system in Scotland, whereby fixed penalty notices are substituted by conditional offers.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Assistant Chief Whip, Whips

For the sake of clarity, I wonder whether the Minister was straying into discussing clause 4 and schedule 1 at the same time. I do not want to say anything about schedule 1 at the moment, but I hope that we will not be precluded from having a separate debate on it.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

I will put the second Question separately, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to speak on it. We are speaking to clause 4.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Assistant Chief Whip, Whips

I am grateful to you, Mr. Pike. Although I have been in the House of Commons for a long time—some would say too long—I am still, as a layman, mystified by the process of legislation. I imagine Bills as determining something, as most clauses do. Clause 4 simply says

''Schedule 1 contains provision about the giving of fixed penalty notices''.

How riveting that is. What on earth do we need the clause for? It does not add anything to legislation or take anything away from it. It is self-evident that schedule 1 exists—I can find it. Do we really need signposts littered about legislation that say, ''If you look carefully, you will find schedule 1 further on''? In that case, why do we not have clauses that say, ''If you keep reading, you'll find clause 6 and schedule 9''?. It seems to me unnecessary.

The Minister is too nice and gentle a man to lecture me about being otiose, but his colleague in the Department is well used to using such abrasive language about anything that I suggest. Perhaps on   this occasion, if the Minister spoke to the Minister of State, he would find him also saying that the clause is unnecessary.

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

As I understand it, the point is that, because the schedule refers to this part of the Bill, we need the clause to refer to the schedule and demonstrate that it is there. The hon. Gentleman felt that that was otiose. I am not sure whether it is and I think that other Bills do exactly the same thing, and have done so for a long time. A clause often refers to a schedule. That is not a recent thing. It is true that, in other clauses, more issues are often referred to as well. However, I do not think that we should be surprised by the clause. I am sure that we can draw the clause to the attention of those who wrote the Bill and, if there is any way in which drafting can be improved, I would be the first to want to learn from that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.