HC Deb 20 February 1967 vol 741 cc1294-6
Mr. Swingler

I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 19, line 19, to leave out from 'required' to first 'to' in line 21 and to insert: 'by regulations under section 8 or regulations or directions under section 10'. This is purely a drafting Amendment. The subsection as it stands talks of a requirement imposed by the plating certificate as regards the notification of alterations. Under Clause 8 (6,d) the plating certificate does not in fact impose any obligation to notify alterations. The certificate merely can be required, and in practice almost certainly will be required by regulations under Clause 8, to specify alterations the notification of which is required by regulations.

It is also necessary to amend the subsection to reflect the Amendments already proposed to Clause 10 by which the obligation to notify particular kinds of alterations to type-approved vehicles would be imposed by regulations or, in particular cases, by ad hoc directions.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Swingler

I beg to move Amendment No. 26, in page 19, line 22, at the end to insert: (7) In any proceedings for an offence under the last foregoing subsection, it shall be a defence to prove—

  1. (a) if the proceedings relate to an alteration required to be so notified by regulations under section 8 of this Act, that the alteration 1295 was not specified in the relevant plating certificate in accordance with regulations under that section;
  2. (b) if the proceedings relate to an alteration required to be so notified by regulations or directions under section 10 of this Act, that the regulations were not, or, as the case may be, the alteration was not, specified in the relevant manufacturer's certificate or Minister's approval certificate in accordance with regulations under section 10(4) of this Act.
This new subsection provides a good defence to a vehicle owner whose plating certificate issued by the Ministry, or whose certificate of conformity with type-approval issued by the manufacturer or by the Ministry, failed to meet the requirements of any regulations providing that the certificate in question should draw the owner's attention to the obligation to notify alterations. In the case of the plating certificate, such a provision would be made by the Minister by regulations under Clause 8 (6,d), and in the case of a manufacturer's certificate or Minister's approval certificate, the requirement for the certificate to draw the owner's attention to notifiable alterations will be made by regulation under the new Clause 10(4).

This good defence is a reasonable corollary of the requirements for specifying in the relevant documents the regulations or other conditions about notifying alterations which are applicable to a vehicle. One of the basic aims of the type-approval scheme is to simplify the performance and safety requirements for goods vehicles and so to make it easier for vehicle users to make sure that they are not in fact contravening the law.

It has to be borne in mind, moreover, that in the present legal framework the user who contravenes a vehicle construction requirement commits an absolute offence and has to be convicted, even though, if there are mitigating circumstances, he may get a light penalty or even a discharge.

Mr. Graham Page

This seems to show very little faith in the Department issuing the certificates. If I understand the Amendment aright, it means that, if the plating certificate does not say all that it ought to say, if someone has boobed in issuing the certificate, that is a defence to the action. For once, ignorance of the law is to be a defence, I presume. What is the position if the accused knows full well what the requirements are, if he has received the notice in writing from the Minister, if he knows the alterations that are required, if he knows what ought to be on the plating certificate? He still has a defence. I think that it is letting him off rather lightly. How could it be that the plating certificate would be issued without all the relevant information on it?

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Swingler

I admit straight away that it is a requirement to which we have agreed as a result of discussions, because we appreciate the complexities and difficulties that may concern certain manufacturers or those who are affected by these difficult provisions, and we want to make quite clear in the Bill what the obligations on the vehicle user or owner are, and where he may have a defence if errors are made.

As I said previously, we are setting out on a novel path in the making of regulations, some of which involve very complicated issues, and we feel that it is reasonable that this so-called good defence should be available.

Amendment agreed to.