HC Deb 25 October 1988 vol 139 cc266-7

Order for Second Reading read.

10.13 pm
The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will Members not staying for the debate on the consolidation Bills please leave quietly?

The Solicitor-General

There are, in fact, three Bills relating to road traffic matters before the House, and with permission I shall speak to all three, as they should be considered as a unity.

The three Bills, taken together, amount to a consolidating measure. The principal subject matters are, first, the Road Traffic Act 1972—which, although itself a consolidation, has been considerably amended—secondly, part III of the Transport Act 1982, which set up the new procedure of fixed penalties for certain driving offences, and, thirdly, the provisions of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 relating to the prosecution and punishment of offenders.

Where this consolidation differs from previous measures is in its structure. The Road Traffic Bill follows the structure of the 1972 Act, but the opportunity has been taken to simplify its provisions where possible. All the provisions of the measures to be consolidated that relate to prosecution and punishment have been brought together in the second Bill, the Road. Traffic Offenders Bill. The third Bill is ancillary to the other two. It contains the necessary repeals and transitional provisions as well as provisions in existing legislation that have not yet been brought into force and that would have been misleading if included in the text of the main Bill.

Not only will the division into separate Bills make each of more manageable size: it should also prove of considerable assistance to the courts' practitioners and all of us affected by the law relating to road traffic. I hope that the House will agree that it is a helpful innovation in the statutory process.

In preparing the consolidation, the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission issued a report in which they made a number of recommendations for amending the existing legislation, and those amendments appear in the Bills. All three Bills were referred in the usual way to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills during their passage in another place. The Committee reported that the recommendations of the Law Commissions were necessary to produce a satisfactory consolidation of the law and that the three Bills, taken together, amounted to a single consolidation.

I should tell the House that a small number of further amendments will be brought forward. They will make minor corrections and deal with the commencement of the consolidated legislation. It is also hoped that they will bring into the consolidation the provision of the Penalty Points (Alteration) Order, if approved by Parliament in time for inclusion in the consolidation.

As always, our thanks are due to the Law Commissions and to the draftsmen for their excellent work in the process of keeping the statute book in modern and accessible form.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that it would be for the convenience of the House to take the three Bills together, although I shall put the Questions separately.

10.18 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I, too, congratulate the draftsmen on their energy and style. I cannot disagree that the Road Traffic (Consequential Provisions) Bill sits happily as a separate Bill. However, I think that many practitioners would have preferred the Road Traffic Bill and the Road Traffic Offenders Bill to have been together. In both prosecuting and defending offences, it is inevitable that one needs to look at both statutes during proceedings. I think that that must also be true for the police. The Bills are bound to be found together in "Stone's Justices' Manual" and other textbooks on the law. It might have been better to have had the two together. They will come fairly high up the league table, although not as high as some of the Revenue consolidations which find themselves in a single Bill.

With that reservation, we welcome the consolidation of the law, which makes it easier to follow and its understanding that much easier. I am therefore happy to welcome the Bills.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Fallon.]

Committee tomorrow.