HC Deb 23 July 1968 vol 769 cc480-2
Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

I beg to move Amendment No. 25, in page 6, line 8, at end insert 'or vessel'.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment, I have suggested that we take Amendment No. 26, in page 6, line 9, at end insert 'or vessel'.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

The parent of Clause 12 was Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which made it an offence to take or drive away a motor vehicle without the owner's consent. When that provision was introduced by the Labour Government of 1930, it was clearly understood by everybody, police and public alike. Two years ago, I was concerned about the taking away of yachts, boats and other vessels, and I introduced the Vessels Protection Bill which was on lines similar to those of Section 28 of the 1930 Act, but dealing with vessels instead of motor vehicles. It received the Royal Assent last year. That Act, too, was clearly understood by the public and the yachting fraternity generally. It was widely mentioned in the yachting Press and the police have said that it has been a useful and clear Measure.

Clause 12 makes it an offence to take away any conveyance, without any mention of vessels, yachts or boats, and this word "conveyance" may confuse the public who will not think that it covers a vessel. The public will only read that the Vessels Protection Act has been repealed by the Bill, and the word "conveyance" will not give the public the feeling that it covers a motor vehicle, or a vessel, or a hovercraft, or anything else. None of the 12 meanings of "conveyance" in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary mentions a vessel.

The Government, too, are extremely confused by the use of the word "conveyance". In Committee on the Hovercraft Bill, I tried to insert the word "conveyance" into the definition of a hovercraft, saying that the word was used in the Theft Bill and that we should bring the two Bills into line. However, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, the hon. Lady the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody) turned down my suggestion, among other reasons, because: If one were wishing to be facetious, one might inquire whether 'conveyance' is intended to refer to an instrument under seal transferring the title of real property. We must take the words as meaning what we believe them to mean in this context."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,Standing Committee D, 27th June, 1968; c. 109.] 2.0 a.m.

That is what the public probably do think the word "conveyance" means. I suggest that the word "vessel" should be put back into the Clause to clarify it and make it clear that it refers to yachts and boats as well as what the public means by the word "conveyance." Besides being a legal point this is a public relations point. Whatever may be the result of my Amendment the Home Secretary should, in his circulars and instructions to police, and in Press notices, make it clear that the word "conveyance" includes all kinds of conveyance, motor vehicles, hovercraft, vessels and all the rest of it.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

It is my contention that there is no substance in the argument that vessels are omitted from Clause 12. Subsection (7)(a) says that the offence under the Bill could apply to: … any conveyance constructed or adapted for the carriage of a person or persons whether by land, water or air. That point is clearly covered.

I would submit that the hon. Gentleman's second argument, about the felicity or otherwise of the use of the term "conveyance" in substitution for the word "vessel" has little merit. There can never be any real danger of misunderstanding or uncertainty in this direction, because the term is accompanied by its own specific and clear definition. It matters not whether the object referred to is called a "vehicle", "conveyance" or "X", because whatever its name, the category is clearly defined.

When the Road Traffic Act, 1930 was being drafted, and indeed the 1903 Road Traffic Act, from which the original term was taken, the range of vehicles was very small. Now we are in the age of the hovercraft, and perhaps in the next few decades all manner of different forms of vehicles and conveyances will be developed. It is very necessary to devise a term that will be an adequate description to encompass them all. The point about publicising that this applies to "conveyances" in the air, on land or on or beneath the sea I am prepared to consider sympathetically.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

In the light of the Under-Secretary's explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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