HC Deb 01 June 1960 vol 624 cc1509-12
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, to leave out from "offering" to the end of line 11 and insert: the option of payment of a fixed penalty under this section without prosecution for that offence; and no person shall then be liable to be convicted of that offence". I suggest that it might be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in page 2, line 15.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Renton

These two Amendments improve the drafting of the Clause without seriously altering its substance. They also remove doubts which were expressed in Committee about the consequences of the issue of a ticket.

As drafted, subsections (2) and (3) have the effect of limiting the consequences of serving a ticket to the person to whom the ticket is given whether or not he is the person liable for the offence. As was explained in Committee, the warden or constable will not normally even see anyone connected with the vehicle. He will simply stick the ticket to the vehicle. There will, however, be rare cases when the ticket is handed to the individual. On some of these occasions the warden or constable may be mistaken in believing that that is the person who has committed the offence. In such a case it is important that there should be no suggestion that the option offered by the ticket is confined to the person to whom it is handed. The Amendment makes it clear that the option is not so confined.

The second point with which the Amendments deal is this. There has been some confusion as to what might happen in a case in which there was more than one person liable in the same set of circumstances. An obvious example is where a person has parked a vehicle unlawfully. He would be a person liable. But so would be an owner of a vehicle who allowed a vehicle to remain parked unlawfully. We feel that we ought to cover that contingency.

Under the procedure proposed in the Bill, neither the police nor the justice's clerk who is required to receive the payment will be concerned with the identity of the person who pays. If the payment is received within the time allowed, the offence will be expiated, written off, and no inquiries will be made to discover who was liable. In practice, therefore, the payment of the fixed penalty will have the effect of exempting anybody who might be liable.

In view of the doubts that have arisen, it seemed desirable to make this plain in the Bill. The Amendments make it clear that once a ticket has been issued none of the people liable for an offence arising out of the circumstances specified on the ticket can be prosecuted during the period of option. It will also have the result that none of them can be convicted if the fixed penalty is paid. I hope that these slight changes of emphasis commend themselves to the House.

Mr. Benn

I should like to thank the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Amendments which, although I do not think are in discharge of a pledge to consider the matter again in Committee, definitely represent an improvement on the Bill as drafted. We recognise what a sacrifice it is for a practising lawyer to introduce an Amendment which removes doubt. We pay tribute to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that.

It is clear that very real difficulties could be created if three men were each partially responsible for a parking offence, as could happen. One man may own the car, the second man may leave it in a place where later in the day he becomes liable, and the third man who should have picked it up may leave it even longer and also be liable. In so far as the Amendment lifts a burden of anxiety from a larger number of Her Majesty's subjects, we accept it gratefully and with many thanks.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 15, leave out "him" and insert "any person for that offence".—[Mr. Renton.]

Mr. Renton

I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, to leave out from "option" to the end of line 21.

Subsection (3) as it stands precludes the police or local authority from taking proceedings for an offence in respect of a ticket issued during the period allowed for payment of the fixed penalty, subject to this qualification, that proceedings may be begun within that time if the person to whom the ticket was given or who received it eventually states that he does not intend to pay the fixed penalty. The effect of the Amendment is to remove the qualification and to put an absolute bar on proceedings during the period of the option.

As with the previous two Amendments, we found that this is desirable because of the rare occasion when the ticket is handed to a person instead of being fixed to a vehicle. The constable or warden may be mistaken in thinking that the person to whom he gives the ticket is the person liable for the offence. The present provision would be inappropriate if that person is not liable, and the purpose of the Amendment is to clarify the position.

Mr. Benn

We welcome the Amendment partly because it is a good Amendment and partly because it shortens the Bill. A very real problem could arise if a constable or traffic warden gave a man a ticket in the belief that he was liable when he was not, and the man became extremely angry and wrote to the justices saying that under no circumstances would he pay the penalty.

In those circumstances, proceedings might be begun prematurely against the wrong person. The Amendment provides as big a safeguard as we can reasonably hope for, that the right person will not be charged too soon because previously the wrong person had been charged too early.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Renton

I beg to move, in page 3, line 4, to leave out "that person" and to insert: the person liable for that offence". This is a drafting Amendment and is consequential on previous Amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 8, leave out from "person" to end of line and insert: liable for the offence in question".—[Mr. Renton.]