§ (1) Any Government Department or local authority having power to grant a licence on which an excise duty is payable may, if they think fit, grant the licence upon receipt of a cheque for the amount of the duty payable thereon.
§ (2) Where a licence is granted as aforesaid to any person and the cheque is subsequently dishonoured the licence shall be void as from the time when it was granted, and the department or authority who granted it shall send to that person, by registered letter addressed to him at the address given by him when applying for the licence, a notice requiring him to deliver up the licence to that department or authority within the period of seven days from the date when the notice was posted, and, if that person fails to comply with the requirement within that period, he shall be liable to an excise penalty of fifty pounds.—[Mr. Stanley.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Oliver Stanley)
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ This new Clause is drafted in general form. It is obviously to the convenience of the local authorities that they should be able to take cheques in payment for licences and particularly for motor licences. It would cause a great deal of congestion in their work if they had to wait for the clearing of the cheque before issuing the licence. It has been the practice of licensing authorities, when they thought fit, to accept cheques in payment for licences and to issue the licence immediately upon receipt of the cheque. The result has been in a small number of cases that the cheque has been returned marked with the mysterious letters "R.D." The only remedy of the licensing authority has been to sue the man who gave the cheque by ordinary process of law for the money; meanwhile, the licence which was issued for the unmet cheque has remained valid, and the man has been able to drive his car.1364
§ Under the new provisions the licence granted in respect of the cheque not met in due course becomes void ab initio and the licensing authority will be able not only to proceed, if they wish, against the man for the money but to demand the return of the licence. If the man fails to comply with that demand, they will be able to impose a penalty upon him. In addition, the licence will be void, and no one will be able to use it to drive a car, without incurring the penalty for driving a car without a licence. The number of cases of this kind which have occurred are not many, but it is an undesirable practice and may grow, and at the present time the licensing authorities are left without the appropriate remedy, which is included in this Clause.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
There are one or two points in regard to this provision which I think should be made clear. Are we to understand that during the seven days after the receipt of notice the licence will remain in force? Will the person be able to drive his car and to deliver up the licence on the 6th day or will he during that period be driving a car without a licence? It rather implies in the Clause that, provided he complies within the time stated, he will not be subject to any penalties. I think it ought to be made clear whether he will be out of order immediately upon getting the notice or upon the cheque being dishonoured. At what moment does he cease to be a private owner of a licence? Clearly, in the period between the application and the dishonouring of the cheque he will be in order. When the cheque is dishonoured, does he immediately cease to have a licence, or is that when he gets the notice, or on the day when the licence is delivered up?
What is the bearing of this upon insurance? Will it be made quite clear as to the period when the insurance will cease to cover the car, as regards third party risks? In most policies the car is only insured in so far as it is licensed, and it is therefore doubly necessary that it should be perfectly clear what the rights of third parties will be against the person whose car goes out on the streets, The licence to all appearances will be a perfectly regular one, and no policeman will be able to detect that the car is 1365 not duly licenced if the licence has not been handed in. I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman now or at some later stage will explain how these things will work.
§ 3.40 p.m.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN
May I also ask my hon. Friend a question? What would happen if the car was sold during these seven days? If a man had bought the car on the understanding that it was licensed, what would his position be?
§ Mr. STANLEY
I think the answer is that his position would be a very unfortunate one. With regard to the two questions put by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), the answer to the first one is quite plain. If the hon. and learned Gentleman reads Sub-section (2) of the Clause, he will see that it lays down that the licence shall be void as from the time when it was granted. The dishonouring of the cheque ipso facto makes the issue of the licence itself void, and an offence would be committed by anyone who drove the car during that period. With regard to the hon. and learned Gentleman's second question, I will certainly look into the point. As he will be aware, there has been a considerable amount of discussion, in the Committee which is considering the Road Traffic Bill, on the whole question of conditions attached to insurance policies, and I have made certain promises with regard to the Report Stage of that Bill, in connection with which I will certainly look into the point which the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised.
§ Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.