Clause 131 - Power to seize etc. vehicles driven without insurance

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:15 pm on 20 January 2005.

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

Photo of Mrs Marion Roe Mrs Marion Roe Conservative, Broxbourne

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 15—Power to seize etc. vehicles driven without a valid licence—

'After section 164 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—

''164A Power of constables to seize vehicles driven without a valid licence

(1) Subsection (3) applies where—

(a) a contable in uniform requires, under section 164, a person to produce his licence for examination,

(b) the person fails to produce such a licence, and

(c) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being, or has been, driven in contravention of section 87.

(2) Subsection (3) also applies where—

(a) a constable in uniform requires, under section 163, a person driving a motor vehicle to stop the vehicle,

(b) the person fails to stop the vehicle, or to stop the vehicle long enough for the constable to make such lawful enquiries as he considers appropriate, and

(c) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being, or has been, driven in contravention of section 87.

(3) Where this subsection applies, the constable may—

(a) seize the vehicle in accordance with subsections (4) and (5) and remove it;

(b) enter, for the purpose of exercising a power falling within paragraph (a), any premises (other than a private dwelling house) on which he has reasonable grounds for believing the vehicle to be;

(c) use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of any power conferred by paragraph (a) or (b).

(4) Before seizing the motor vehicle, the constable must warn the person appearing to drive, or have driven, the vehicle in contravention of section 87 that he will seize it if the person does not provide him immediately with evidence that he holds a valid licence. 

But the constable is not required to give such a warning if the circumstances make it impracticable for him to do so.

(5) If the constable is unable to seize the vehicle immediately because the person driving the vehicle has failed to stop as requested or has driven off, he may seize it at any time within the period of 24 hours beginning with the time at which the conditions in subsection (1) or (2) are first met.

(6) The powers conferred on a constable by this section are exercisable only at a time when regulations under section 164B are in force.

(7) In this section—

(a) a reference to a motor vehicle does not include an invalid carriage;

(b) a reference to a licence is a reference to a document or other evidence within section 98;

(c) 'private dwelling house' does not include any garage or other structure occupied with the dwelling house, or any land appurtenant to the dwelling house.

164B Retention etc. of vehicles seized under section 164A

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provisions as to—

(a) the removal and retention of motor vehicles seized under section 164A; and

(b) the release and disposal of such motor vehicles.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may, in particular, make provision—

(a) for the giving of notice of the seizure of a motor vehicle under section 164A to a person who is the registered keeper, the owner or the driver of that vehicle;

(b) for the procedure by which a person who claims to be the registered keeper or the owner of a vehicle seized under section 164A may seek to have it released;

(c) for requiring the payment, by the registered keeper, owner or driver of the vehicle, of fees, charges or costs in relation to the removal and retention of such a motor vehicle and to any application for its release;

(d) as to the circumstances in which a motor vehicle seized under section 164A may be disposed of;

(e) as to the destination—

(i) of any fees or charges payable in accordance with the regulations;

(ii) of the proceeds (if any) arising from the disposal of a motor vehicle seized under section 164A;

(f) for the delivery to a local authority, in circumstances prescribed by or determined in accordance with the regulations, of any motor vehicle seized under section 164A.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide that a person who would otherwise be liable to pay any fee or charge under the regulations is not liable to pay it if—

(a) he was not driving the motor vehicle at the time in question, and

(b) he did not know that the vehicle was being driven at that time, had not consented to its being driven and could not, by the taking of reasonable steps, have prevented it from being driven.

(4) In this section—

'local authority'—

(a) in relation to England, means—

(i) a county council

(ii) the council of a district comprised in an area for which there is no county council,

(iii) a London borough council,

(iv) the Common Council of the City of London, or

(v) Transport for London;

(b) in relation to Wales, means the council of a county or county borough; and 

(c) in relation to Scotland, means a council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994;

'registered keeper', in relation to a motor vehicle, means the person in whose name the vehicle is registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.''.'.

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office)

The clause concerns the ability to seize cars being driven by people who are uninsured. I think it is self-explanatory, and I hope it meets with approval in all parts of the Committee. We have to clamp down on people who wilfully do not pay their insurance. It is ridiculous that, if they are stopped, they are allowed to carry on driving.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome will be delighted to know that I have a great deal of sympathy with new clause 15, which he tabled. Again, there is a real issue about those who are unlicensed to drive being stopped by a police officer and then being allowed to keep on driving. That means that someone who has never taken a test can potentially drive. There are some other issues as well. After a number of discussions in my Department, it has come to my attention that one can be insured and at the same time unlicensed. That sounds bizarre, but apparently there are rare occasions where that is the case.

I have also had extensive discussions about disqualified drivers who get stopped. If they are disqualified, they are breaching the terms and conditions of a procedure against them, and therefore they are committing an offence. However, just as with unlicensed drivers, there could be another potential loophole. There is an issue about whether I need to clarify whether a disqualified driver is defined in law as an unlicensed driver, because someone could just get points on their licence, leading to a six-month disqualification, although technically their licence is in abeyance; it is simply reactivated at the end of the disqualification period.

Without further ado, I ask the hon. Gentleman not to press the amendment at this stage, on the basis that I shall introduce an amendment that I think will meet his concerns, and I shall consider whether there are issues in connection with disqualified drivers.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:30, 20 January 2005

I am obviously delighted to hear that. The proposal was suggested by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and is eminently sensible. If the Minister returns with an amendment that not only does what I want her to do in the context of the new clause, but perhaps fills some other gaps too, I shall be extremely pleased, and I hope that she will give me appropriate credit on Report. On that basis, there is no reason for me to detain the Committee further on the new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 131 ordered to stand part of the Bill.