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

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) 6:30, 20 January 2005

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.