Road Safety Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 3rd February 2005.

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[Mr. Peter Pike in the Chair]

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley 9:25 am, 3rd February 2005

Before I start the proceedings, may I point out that we have got quite a lot of new clauses today? All of them should be reached, but that is in the hands of the Committee. Both this morning and this afternoon's sittings are time limited. There is no flexibility on that whatever.

Photo of Charlotte Atkins Charlotte Atkins Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

On a point of order, Mr. Pike. In the course of our debate on driving instruction on Tuesday 1 February, I responded, in column 255 of Hansard, to a request from the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso) regarding possible loopholes relating to paid instruction. I would like to clarify that point.

Subsection (5) of the new section 123 contained in schedule 4 provides a definition of paid instruction, which covers payment other than in money and is largely based on some of the wording used in the existing section 123 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. We understand that some instructors have concerns about people offering driver training as part of selling other services such as car sales. I have no evidence of the scale of the problem, but the existing provisions in section 123(3) of the 1988 Act seek to prevent such a loophole. We have strengthened those provisions.

The provision in proposed new section 123(6) of schedule 4 allows for regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which instructions provided free of charge may be deemed to be paid instruction. That replaces the existing section 123 with a clearer provision and provides a mechanism to close any loopholes that may emerge.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

That was not really a point of order, but it was important to correct the record, so I accept it.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Pike. I was surprised and rather alarmed to notice on page 110 on Ceefax, the BBC teletext service, a page under the heading ''The Government is planning to create tougher punishments for people who cause death by driving''. The page went on to say:

''The new proposals follow a review of the current laws.'' 

You know, Mr. Pike, that Mr. Speaker has deprecated Ministers issuing press releases before statements are made to the House. To make matters worse, this news item has been spun by someone in the Government at a time when the House has set up a Committee—this Committee—specifically to look at those issues. Day after day we have had the opportunity to question the Minister, who has said not a word about the proposed new law. Is this not an insult to the House and a greater insult to the Committee, and should the Minister not be invited to apologise to us and make a full statement to explain precisely what on earth is going on?

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

Mr. Speaker has made his views on these issues known to the House and I endorse his view. I cannot comment on the particular point to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but the Minister heard what he said.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Pike. Any press release that may have been made has certainly not come from me or my Department. As we have explained during the Committee's proceedings, the Home Office has undertaken a review and is putting out a consultation paper on offences. I flagged that up and said last week that it would arrive during the next few days.

Perhaps the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) has seen reference to a consultation paper that is due to be published today by the Home Office, and I hope that we shall have copies of it in the Committee shortly. It relates not to the Bill in any way, but to entirely separate issues that I flagged up previously, which are being dealt with by the Home Office.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Further to that point of order, Mr. Pike. This is intolerable. When we discussed the amendment that I tabled on the penalties for careless driving, and the results of careless driving leading to death, the Minister said that the matter was being dealt with by the Halliday review. I asked him when the Halliday review was going to report. He said that he did not know and that I should table a parliamentary question. I did so, and on 1 February I received a holding reply from a Minister in the Home Office, thereby implying that she did not know when the Halliday report was going to be published. However, obviously it was known. So I was fobbed off, despite the fact that that was a material issue for the consideration of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

That is not a matter for the Committee. The hon. Gentleman has made a point and the Minister has responded. Any other matters relating to that are for the Floor of the House. We are even talking about a different Department. My responsibility is to see that the Bill makes progress.