Clause 132 - Payments by Secretary of State to police authorities in relation to the prevention, detection and enforcement of certain traffic offences

Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 20 January 2005.

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

I beg to move amendment No. 196, in clause 132, page 98, line 18, at end insert—

'Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) section 25(5) (pedestrian crossing regulations)'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 195, in clause 132, page 98, line 22, at end insert—

'section 36(1) (drivers to comply with traffic signs)'.

Government amendment No. 36.

No. 200, in clause 133, page 99, line 15, at end insert—

'Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (c. 27) section 25(5) (pedestrian crossing regulations)'.

No. 199, in clause 133, page 99, line 19, at end insert—

'section 36(1) (drivers to comply with traffic signs)'.

Government amendment No. 37.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I hope that I have as much luck with this group of amendments, which are also designed to plug holes in the Bill without diverting in any way from the Government's intentions. The basic principle is to deal with drivers contravening advanced stop boxes for cyclists and other traffic signs in relation to the cost recovery scheme and, similarly, to allow fines for drivers failing to obey zebra and pelican crossing rules to be included in that scheme. That seems an eminently sensible suggestion and I commend it to the Minister.

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

Automatic number-plate recognition has given us an effective new tool to tackle serious traffic offences on our streets. I have had the opportunity to see it in action and I recommend that hon. Members look into it. It is a new development and we have only recently been expanding throughout the country the use of ANPR intercept teams at the roadside. A wide range of offences are covered, the most common being serious vehicle documentation and road safety offences—for example, using a mobile phone while driving. The new technology and the teams have significantly increased the detection of those and other offences.

This is about dedicated police intercept teams. An offence consistently detected by ANPR intercept teams is using a handheld mobile phone while driving. That was originally prosecuted under regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. However, the specific offence of breach of requirements to control a vehicle in relation to mobile phones and so on is to be included in the Road Safety Bill via an insertion in section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Through an oversight, that offence was omitted from the original list of offences in relation to which police ANPR intercept teams are able to hypothecate at clause 132(3), hence it is subject to a Government amendment. A similar amendment has been tabled in respect of the list of offences   applicable to Scotland at clause 133(3). The Government seek to ensure that the strict offence criteria are met before a police force can hypothecate fixed penalty revenue generated through ANPR.

I understand why the Liberal Democrats want to push additional offences, but I have had discussions with those involved in developing the policy on ANPR and I think that they feel that the offences that they currently target are appropriate, so at this stage we cannot accept the other offences being added to the list. ANPR is in its infancy and we want to ensure that the focus on the current group of offences is not diluted by widening the pool at this stage. Obviously, however, we keep these areas under review. Who knows? In future, as technology develops and perhaps the police carry out more of this work, we may return to the matter. It is proposed that the Secretary of State or, in Scotland, Scottish Ministers may by order amend the list of offences in subsection (3) to add, modify or omit any entries. Those will be closely scrutinised.

With that explanation, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Well, Dame Marion, you win some, you lose some. That is a shame, because I think that the Government will want to come back and add these offences to the list, and there are strong arguments for doing so. They make provision for the most vulnerable road users—pedestrians and cyclists—and would be a very appropriate use of the technology. They would allow us to be at least relatively certain that people will not commit offences in places where others are otherwise put in great danger—in places where they are trying to cross the road or use cyclist stop boxes, but where motorists may have scant regard for their safety. My prediction is that the Government will eventually want to add these offences to the list. I gave them the opportunity to do so, and I wish that they had taken it up, but they have not, so there we are. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: No. 36, in clause 132, page 98, line 26, leave out 'and 104' and insert ', 104 and 110'.—[Caroline Flint.]

Clause 132, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.