HL Deb 27 April 1967 vol 282 cc649-73

4.58 p.m.

Report stage resumed.


My Lords, if we may now return to the Road Safety Bill, I should like to mention very briefly the consideration which led me to add my name to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. It is a consideration which has certainly not been emphasised in this debate so far, if, indeed, it has been mentioned. I believe that if we pass this Bill without this Amendment we shall be making a very great departure in principle from the present law with regard to what we call automatic disqualification. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is shaking his head, and if what I am now going to say is wrong I am sure I shall be put right, because the noble Lord has clearly studied this matter very carefully indeed.

I believe I am right in saying that up till now nobody has suffered what is called automatic disqualification without having known perfectly well that he was committing an offence. I mean that either his driving ability was impaired to such an extent that witnesses came forward and said he was behaving in a more or less drunken fashion, in which case he himself must have known that he was committing an offence; or, alternatively, of course, he may have already known that he was driving when disqualified. But here we have a situation where somebody with 85 mg. of alcohol in his blood may not know that his ability to drive is impaired. I think it is common ground that people with strong heads will not know, when they have 85 mg. of alcohol in the blood, that their ability to drive is impaired. I believe one can go a step further and say that it is agreed that a very few of them will not have their ability to drive impaired at all at 85 mg. It is true that my point applies to a very few people only; but it is there. The noble Lord the Chief Whip continues to shake his head, but I pursue this argument.


My Lords, the point is that it is entirely a matter of opinion, so far as the individual is concerned. There is no medical evidence or scientific method by which a person can say that his driving is not impaired at 100 mg., 150 mg., or 85 mg.; it is merely a question of personal opinion. There is no validity in it at all.


That does not detract from what I was saying: that there will be cases where a person is found to have 85 mg. of alcohol in the blood and will not have known, until the result of the test was made manifest, that his ability to drive was impaired. In my view, that is a fair point, and therefore this is a great departure from the law as we have it at present. Nobody so far has ever had his licence automatically forfeited without knowing that he was committing an offence. I will grant that in five years' time we may have a breath test gadget made available to us by mass production which it may be possible to buy over the chemist's counter or over the counter of a public-house for 9d. It will be a vest-pocket gadget into which a man can blow to find out whether he has an 80 mg. or an 85 mg. level of alcohol. When that time comes it may be fair even for the first offender to be automatically disqualified from driving; because he will have every means of knowing that his ability is impaired. But to introduce this provision now is a departure from the existing law, and I believe that we should not do it at this moment.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, surely it is a great mistake to discuss this matter as though it were an issue between an automatic penalty and one that is not automatic. The argument of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, was completely misleading. He took the stand—and I am sorry that he is not in his place—of a lawyer defending the freedom of the courts to exercise their discretion. That is not the issue. The issue is between the freedom of the courts to exercise their discretion within wider limits or to exercise it within considerably narrower limits. There is a penalty prescribed; but in each case, under the present law, there is a loophole. Under this Amendment there would be a much wider loophole. The question is not whether there should be any loophole or no loophole, but whether it should be a wide or a narrow one.

As my noble friend Lord Shepherd pointed out, under the present law a small number of persons whose driving is found to be impaired consequent upon their having taken alcohol are not, in fact, disqualified. The figures are of the order of about 3 per cent. in magistrates' courts, and about 5 per cent. in the higher courts. It is difficult to imagine, even in the case of first offenders, a much higher percentage than that being entitled to be free of disqualification if, in fact, they are driving with more than the prescribed level of alcohol in the blood. The whole issue turns upon the difference between "special reasons" and "mitigating circumstances". We have some experience of both. At present, "special reasons" apply in cases of drunken driving, and "special reasons" have been rigidly defined in the courts. The most outstanding point in the definition is that "special reasons" must apply to the offence and not to the offender.

The term "mitigating circumstances"—which this Amendment would substitute in the case of first offenders—is very much wider, and the formula "mitigating circumstances" occurs in the present law in what are known as the "totting-up cases"—that is, where an offender has committed three endorsable offences within a certain period and is automatically disqualified for six months unless there are mitigating circumstances—not special reasons, but mitigating circumstances. It is a fact that there is very great difficulty in the magistrates' courts in determining how widely "mitigating circumstances" should be interpreted, and in some courts there is a tendency to interpret this phrase so widely as almost to make nonsense of Parliament's intention that in the normal case anyone with three convictions of an endorsable nature should he disqualified for six months. The kind of thing magistrates are inclined to take into account in considering whether there are mitigating circumstances is whether an offender is a professional driver, someone who drives for a living. But this, surely, is quite irrelevant in the case of drink.

I think one can see the irrelevance if one asks what attitude one would take in the parallel case of, say, an air pilot Everyone would be sorry for the airline pilot who was intoxicated and was, in consequence, deprived of his licence to pilot an aeroplane; but nobody would say that it was a mitigating circumstance that his living depended on piloting aircraft. I am sure we must come to the stage when we see the responsibility of driving a car as very much like the responsibility of piloting an aeroplane. We have also to bear in mind that the professional driver is one who is constantly on the roads and therefore likely to be much more a danger to the public than somebody who is driving only occasionally. I should have thought that we should hesitate a great deal before opening the door to saying that because a man was a professional driver, therefore on the first occasion on which he is found to have more alcohol in his blood than the prescribed limit he might plead "mitigating circumstances" and be free from disqualification.

When we compare what has happened in the courts in the "totting-up" cases with what happens in the courts under the much stricter rule of "special reasons", which applies to drink cases, we see the danger of opening this door widely. The Magistrates' Association are much opposed to applying the formula "mitigating circumstances" to cases of drunken driving, largely because they are completely embarrassed by it. It gives them no secure guidance as to the circumstances in which they ought to waive disqualification. I am sure that we shall be much safer—and I am speaking literally—if we adhere to the present rule, which gives us a small loophole in the hard cases where there really are "special reasons", and do not open this door through which a great many cases may pass, the nature of which we cannot foresee, by using the formula "mitigating circumstances".


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, was about to speak but has decided not to. I feel that we have been deprived of a valuable contribution, which I regret. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for the great trouble he has taken in answering the case that I put to him, and I may say that perhaps the very interesting debate that we have had is justification for my having moved the Amendment again. I should like immediately to answer the last point of the noble Lord, when he said that in his opinion the Amendment would seriously weaken the Bill. I should like to make it plain that it is not my intention to weaken the Bill. He quoted with approval some observations of mine in another place in 1962, to the effect that disqualification should be awarded much more often than at present and that the holding of a driving licence was a privilege. Those are still my views; but I did not advocate then, nor do I now, that they should be applied in all cases. Disqualification should, I am sure, be the usual punishment in these cases, but I believe that the Bill will be more effective if courts are given some measure of discretion. If this penalty is automatic, some very hard cases will result, and they will seriously damage public confidence in the Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, argued most cogently the differences between special circumstances and mitigating circumstances; and of course they exist. Special circumstances apply only to the intrinsic merits of the case; mitigating circumstances apply to the offender. I quoted one case, and could quote many others. I feel that there will be some extremely hard cases if the full penalty of 12 months' disqualification is awarded. I am sure that benches of magistrates, and indeed courts of quarter session, would wish to have the latitude to take a more sympathetic course. No one could have said with greater

authority than my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne that the discretion of the courts is necessary, and, indeed, that without mercy justice is not justice. I profoundly believe this to be true. I believe—and this is why I moved this Amendment—that this Bill will be more effective if it has this measure of latitude in it.

There are two further points, one of which was put by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. This is a new offence and a big new lesson has to be learned before we can be sure that everyone will obey the new law. This is a big change in the lives of many people, and we have to make it effective. The second point is that in any event the level of 80 mg. has been rather tightly drawn. I accept the figure of 80 mg., and I accept the medical evidence, but I believe that the figure is rather lower than most people were expecting. For these reasons I think that acceptance of this Amendment would improve and strengthen, rather than weaken, the Bill and I feel that I should ask your Lordships to vote on it.

5.13 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 6) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 52; Not Contents, 70.

Aberdare, L. [Teller.] Effingham, E. Milverton, L.
Airedale, L. Foley, L. Monsell, V.
Alport, L. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Montague of Beaulieu, L.
Ampthill, L. Fraser of North Cape, L. Mottistone, L.
Arran, E. Gladwyn, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Ashbourne, L. Glasgow, E. Rea, L.
Audley, Bs. Grenfell, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Birdwood, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Sempill, Ly.
Blackford, L. Hawke, L. Sherfield, L.
Brooke of Cumnor, L. Hereford, V. Sinha, L.
Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Stamp, L.
Carrington, L. Ilford, L. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Chesham, L. Jellicoe, E. Strathcarron, L.
Daventry, V. Kinnoull, E. Teynham, L.
Denham, L. MacAndrew, L. Thurlow, L.
Dilhorne, V. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Tweedsmuir, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Merrivale, L. Vivian, L.
Dudley, L.
Addison, V. Bowles, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs.
Ailwyn, L. Brown, L. Faringdon, L.
Albemarle, E. Burton of Coventry, Bs. Gaitskell, Bs.
Amulree, L. Caccia, L. Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Archibald, L. Champion, L. Granville-West, L.
Auckland, L. Clwyd, L. Greenway, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Hacking, L.
Beswick, L. Crook, L. Haddington, E.
Blyton, L. Darwen, L. Hall, V.
Hankey, L. Pargiter, L. Shepherd, L.
Henley, L. Peddie, L. Sorensen, L.
Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.] Phillips, Bs. [Teller.] Stonham, L.
Hunt, L. Platt, L. Strabolgi, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Plummer, Bs. Summerskill, Bs.
Jackson of Burnley, L. Ritchie-Calder, L. Swanborough, Bs.
Jessel, L. Rowallan, L. Taylor, L.
Latham, L. Rowley, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Leatherland, L. Royle, L. Wedgwood, L.
Lindgren, L. Sainsbury, L. Williamson, L.
Lloyd of Hampstead, L. St. Davids, V. Willis, L.
Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Sandys, L. Winterbottom, L.
Maelor, L. Serota, Bs. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Mitchison, L. Shannon, E. Ypres, E.
Molson, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 8 [Extension of powers to regulate construction and use of goods vehicles]:

LORD WINTER BOTTOM moved to insert, after subsection (1), the following new subsection: (2) In framing regulations under the said section 64 prescribing a weight of any description which is not to be exceeded in the case of goods vehicles of a class for which a manufacturer's certificate or Minister's approval certificate may be issued under section 10 of this Act the Minister shall have regard to the design weight of the like description determined by virtue of the said section 10 for vehicles of that class and shall secure that the first-mentioned weight shall not exceed the design weight. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have to move a whole series of Amendments all of which, with the exception of Amendment No. 28, rotate round a single point; and since this Amendment is consequential upon a later Amendment, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if I explained the main reasons for this group of Amendments now.

As I said at an earlier stage of the Bill, Part II is designed in the main to give power to the Minister of Transport to make certain amendments to the Road Transport Act 1960 by regulation. I said then that these regulations would not be picked out of thin air, but would be drafted as a result of consultation with all sections of the road transport industry. This consultation is a continuing process. Between Committee stage and to-day it has become clear that there are certain problems arising out of Clause 10, which relates to type approval of new types of vehicles.

Type approval is a system of which there is as yet no practical experience in this country. Certain other countries have had experience of this, but we are feeling our way. It is therefore no more than common sense to provide in the Bill, where necessary, sufficient flexibility for a workable system to be threshed out in consultation with the interested organisations. These have already come up with the request that our original intention in Clause 10 should be modified. As the Bill stands at present, the Minister, when granting type approval, is required, under Clause 10(4), to specify the plated weights for a type vehicle and for vehicles conforming thereto. Similarly the manufacturer, when issuing a manufacturer's certificate for a conforming vehicle coming off his production line, is required to specify the plated weights and also to mark them on the vehicle.

The difficulty we found was that the plated weights to be allotted to an individual vehicle may not be known until it is known to what use that vehicle will be put by the ultimate purchaser. The articulated vehicle is an example that comes to mind. A prime mover may be entitled to operate at varying weights under existing Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations according to the braking capacity of the trailer. The same rule may apply in reverse to the trailer. There is also no single overall weight, under the existing C. and U. Regulations, for a given prime mover or trailer when in combination with either a towed or towing vehicle as the case may be. It depends on the partner to which the vehicle is attached. The pair together may be entitled to a higher or lower combined gross weight, depending on the total number of axles, their configuration and the total length of the combination. And one prime mover may operate a number of trailers or trailers made by different companies. Consequently, the Minister, who only sees the type vehicle, and the manufacturer, who may make no more than the chassis, may be able to specify in advance only the design weights of the vehicle—that is, the weights at which, regardless of factors such as the limitations of bridges and highways, to which current C. and U. Regulations are largely directed, the vehicle itself is technically capable of operating.

The interested organisations consulted are all agreed that, unless the maximum permissible operating weights for a vehicle are shown on its plate, plating is meaningless, because the object must be to indicate clearly to all concerned what are the weights which may not legally be exceeded. It is necessary therefore, first to indicate in Clause 10 that the Minister, when granting type approval, is concerned only with design weights, and to define what is meant by design weights; secondly, to leave open the option as to whether the manufacturer's certificate should specify the plated weights, that is maximum permissible weights, in addition to the design weights, or should only specify the latter; and, thirdly, to leave open the option as to whether the manufacturer should be required to mark the plated weights, or whether this should be arranged by the Minister, once there is a prospective purchaser who can provide the information on which the proposed use of the vehicle—and thus the appropriate plated weights—can be ascertained.

The proposed Amendments leave open the second and third options I have mentioned by giving the Minister power if necessary to require the manufacturer, by regulation, to specify the plated weights in his manufacturer's certificate and to mark those weights on the vehicle. In any other case the manufacturer's certificate will certify conformity with the type vehicle, but will specify only the design weights. The certificate will specify these even in a case such as that already mentioned, where the Minister has also required the specification of the plated weights. The manufacturer will not have to mark the vehicle with weights in this latter event. What will happen is that the dealer or purchaser will send the manufacturer's certificate to the Minister stating the proposed use of the vehicle and any other necessary information, and the Minister will return to him the manufacturer's certificate endorsed by the Minister with the plated weights, and a plate containing plated weights cor responding to those in the endorsed certificate. The user will have to fix this plate in a conspicuous, protected, and readily accessible position. Of course, the certificate and the plate at the end of the day will have the same information on them. That is the background of this complicated group of Amendments.

I now come to Amendment No. 7. As I said earlier, this Amendment is a prerequisite of the Amendments which the Government are proposing to Clause 10 of the Bill. The object of the Amendment is comparatively simple; that is, to make the type approval provisions of the Bill more flexible as regards who is to specify what is in the certificates to be issued to the owner of a vehicle subject to type approval, and who is to mark the plated weights on such a vehicle.

The present Amendment to Clause 8 has the effect of making it clear that a design weight (as defined by the proposed Amendment to Clause 10) is not necessarily the same as a plated weight. A plated weight, as defined in the existing Clause 8(2) is a weight required by regulations under Section 64 of the Road Traffic Act 1960. Such weights, when specified by the Ministry under the procedures in Clauses 9 and 10, will be the weights which, by regulation under Section 64 of the principal Act, or Clause 8(1) of this Bill, it will not be permissible to exceed when the vehicle is in operation in this country.

The plated weight and the design weight may correspond, but it is possible that, because of factors such as the limitations of bridges and highways, a lower plated weight may be determined—for example, a weight prescribed by the current Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations—than the weight at which the vehicle itself, on the basis of its design, is capable of operating. In order to make Clause 10 workable in practice, it is essential, for the reasons I have explained, to draw the distinction drawn by the present Amendment between design weights and plated weights. That is the intention lying behind Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 22, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for explaining to us so lucidly this highly complex set of Amendments. I confess that I shall have to study his words in print to-morrow before I fully digest them, but I think I get the general drift of what is intended to be done. I had prepared myself for the occasion by inquiring from the interested organisations whether he had consulted them; I found that he had, and that they are quite happy with these changes. I can well understand that moving into this field, in which Government Departments naturally have no experience, it is wise to make the arrangements as flexible as possible—as the noble Lord says, to keep all the options open—so that as experience shows the best way of handling this difficult problem of design weights and plated weights regulations can be drawn accordingly. I am sure that this is the right way to proceed, and I support the noble Lord in these Amendments.


My Lords, I confess that my mind is in an absolute whirl. From what the noble Lord has said I cannot understand whether design weight or plated weight means unladen weight, the weight which the vehicle is capable of carrying, or laden weight. To which does the noble Lord refer?


It is the weight which the vehicle is permitted to carry in two alternative circumstances. I was sticking closely to my brief because, as the noble Lord will realise, this subject is important. I hope that what I have said is clear to those who are professionally interested in the matter. In simple terms, a manufacturer designs a new type of prime mover, a short chassis job, which can pull any number of different trains. The manufacturer, when he designs this prime mover, knows what its prime capacity is. But on to the back of this prime mover can be tagged a whole series of trailers: tankers, gravel lorries or anything you like can be put on the back of this prime mover. Until it is known what the prime mover is going to tow, it is impossible to say what the plated weight or the permissible weight when loaded will be. It is in order to enable the ultimate user, the actual agent who sells the prime mover and trailer, or the individual who buys it, to settle exactly what the permissible loaded weight of this combination is that we have kept these options open. We have done so by giving the individual dealer, the manufacturer and the Minister power to decide what the actual permissible weight of this loaded combination will be. I hope that this makes the position clearer.


I am grateful to the noble Lord.

Clause 10:

Approval of design, construction, etc., of goods vehicles


(5) A manufacturer of a type vehicle in respect of which a type approval certificate is in force may issue, in respect of each goods vehicle manufactured by him which conforms with the type vehicle in such of the relevant aspects of design, construction, equipment and marking as are mentioned in the type approval certificate, a certificate (hereafter in this Act referred to as a "manufacturer's certificate") stating that it does so conform and specifying the plated weights for the vehicle and, where he issues such a certificate, shall mark those weights on the vehicle by means of a plate fixed to it.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to move Amendments Nos. 8 to 10 together. The purpose of these three Amendments is to define what is meant by "design weights". It may seem rather a complicated way of doing it, but each of the Amendments is consequential on Amendment No. 13, and all that we are trying to do is, having agreed a principle, to define what we mean by "design weights" under the new approach to the problem. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 12, leave out from ("which") to ("not") and insert ("in the opinion of the Minister should").—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, beg to move Amendment No. 9.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 14, leave out ("the following provisions of").—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 10.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 15, leave out from ("to") to ("references") in line 16 and insert ("design weights shall be construed as").—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, this is consequential on Amendments already moved. I beg to move Amendment No. 11.

Amendment moved— Page 13, leave out lines 23 and 24 and insert ("design weights for that vehicle").—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, Amendment No. 12 is a drafting Amendment which is intended to make clear that the job of the Minister in approving a type vehicle is to concern himself, in so far as weights go, only with the design weights. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 40, leave out ("plated") and insert ("design").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved, in subsection (5), to leave out from "specifying the" to the end of the subsection and to insert: design weights for the vehicle, and shall in such cases as may be prescribed specify in the certificate one or more of the plated weights for the vehicle. (6) Where a manufacturer issues a manufacturer's certificate for a vehicle, the Minister shall, on an application made by any person containing such information as he may require with respect to the proposed circumstances of operation of the vehicle and on production of that certificate, specify in the certificate any plated weights for the vehicle not so specified by the manufacturer. (7) Where a manufacturer issues a manufacturer's certificate for a vehicle then—

  1. (a) if he is required by subsection (5) of this section to specify any plated weights for the vehicle in the certificate, he shall mark those weights on the vehicle by means of a plate fixed to it;
  2. (b) in any other case the Minister shall on an application for the purpose secure that those weights are so marked."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is the most important Amendment in the series. It falls into three sections. The clause is Clause 10, subsection (5). In subsection (5) the last three lines are taken away, and the words on the Marshalled List are added. The first of the three Amendments to Clause 10(5) is a drafting Amendment designed to relieve the manufacturer from the need to specify in his certificate more than conformity with the type of vehicle and the design weights, unless the Minister by regulation imposes on him a requirement to include plated weights in the certificate as well.

May I try to make that a little clearer? The manufacturer may be making a prime mover to which a number of trailers can be attached, or, alternatively, he may be designing a vehicle which cannot be altered, in a case where the design weight and the plated weight are one and the same thing. Every vehicle that comes off the production line will conform with the design and the manufacturer at that moment can plate it. The actual salesman or buyer has not got to get a certificate from the Ministry of Transport for the total combination of vehicles. This is a drafting Amendment which clarifies the position of the manufacturer here.

The new subsection (6) is the one which empowers the Minister, on application of the purchaser of the vehicle, to endorse a manufacturer's certificate which shows only design weight. The Minister fills in the plated weight in a space provided, having been told by the purchaser or dealer the use that is intended for the vehicle. That is the new subsection (6).

If we take the new subsection (7), we find that this is the provision which leaves it open whether the manufacturer or the Minister is to arrange the actual marking of the vehicle by means of a plate. The Minister will be able to decide which alternative is to be used when the time comes, because of the regulation-making power given to him in line 8 of the page by this Amendment. That is to say, the first part of Amendment No. 13 is in fact carried into effect by the new subsections (6) and (7). I hope that is reasonably clear.

Amendment moved— Page 14, line 8, leave out from first ("the") to end of line 10 and insert the said words and subsections.—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, may I briefly thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for his further explanation? I think that all these Amendments are really consequential on acceptance of the general principle that there should be this greater flexibility in the type approval arrangements, so that there is provision for the design weight and type weight being two separate things. For myself, I should advise noble Lords to accept that as being a wise provision in the Bill. As I say, all these Amendments are really consequential upon it and a necessary part of the machinery.


My Lords, am I to understand that the noble Lord is suggesting that these Amendments should be put en bloc? If so, it would save a tremendous amount of time in the House; and, of course, it would save the Deputy Chairman a great deal of talking if they were put en bloc. I do not know whether that appears helpful.


My Lords, it is extremely helpful and courteous of noble Lords to accept this proposal. Amendments 14 to 21 are consequential.


My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 14 to 21 en bloc.

Amendments moved—

Page 14, line 15, after ("requirements") insert ("and the Minister has sufficient information to enable the plated weights to be ascertained for the vehicle")

Page 14, line 18, after ("its") insert ("design weights and")

Page 14, line 19, leave out ("those") and insert ("the plated")

Page 14, line 45, leave out ("plated") and insert ("design")

Page 14, line 46, leave out ("and (5)") and insert ("(5), (6) and (7)")

Page 15, line 1, leave out from ("certificate") to ("weights") in line 3 and insert ("under this section the design weights or plated weights for a vehicle or as requires the Minister or a manufacturer to mark or secure the marking of the plated")

Page 15, line 10, at beginning insert ("design weights and")

Page 15, line 10, leave out ("those") and insert ("the plated").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

Clause 11 [Supplemental provisions as to type approval and other certificates]:


My Lords, Amendments Nos. 22, 23 and 24 are again consequential and are purely drafting Amendments. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 16, line 2, leave out ("plated") and insert ("design")

Page 16, line 6, after ("marking") insert ("or any such aspect which affects the plated weight")

Page 16, line 30, leave out ("relating to") and insert ("specifying").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

Clause 12 [Appeals]:


My Lords, once again these Amendments, Nos. 25, 26 and 27, are consequential. They maintain the right of appeal to all persons who had that right in the Bill as originally drafted. I beg to move.

Amendments moved—

Page 17, line 2, at end insert ("a manufacturer's certificate")

Page 17, line 4, after ("to") insert ("design weights or")

Page 17, line 8, leave out ("such a certificate") and insert ("a type approval or a Minister's approval certificate or in respect of the plated weights to be included in a manufacturer's certificate").—(Lord Winterbotrom.)

Clause 18 [Operators' duty to inspect, and keep records of inspections of, goods vehicles]:

5.47 p.m.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved, in subsection (5), to leave out all words after "person and" down to and including "case means" and insert: in the said excepted case means a person of a class prescribed by regulations under this section in relation to any particular class of goods vehicles or, subject to any such regulations,".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 28 deals with a different matter. This is a rather interesting point. Since our previous debate on this matter the licensing authorities, who have some experience of what I believe are generally known as the "wide boys", have found a loophole in our proposals. Clause 18(5) defines the "operator" of a goods vehicle, for the purposes of the clause, as (a) the person to whom it belongs; or (b) the hirer under a hire-purchase agreement; or (c) a person hiring (other than by way of hire-purchase) or borrowing the vehicle, if that person has expressly agreed to keep it properly maintained. The reason why I have stressed the third alternative is that it is to protect the genuine short-term hirer or borrower in the event that a periodic inspection, under the provisions of regulations made under the clause, might fall due during the term of the hire or loan. It was felt that it would be unfair to make the short-term user liable unless he had expressly agreed to be so.

Further consideration of the drafting has, however, drawn attention to a possible loophole which could exist if, first, the person to whom the vehicles belonged formed a subsidiary company to own the vehicles, but not to operate them, and, secondly, hired back the vehicles from the subsidiary without expressly agreeing to keep them properly maintained. This seems a very elaborate way of getting round the law, but elaborate ways of getting round the law are frequently devised. The subsidiary would then remain the "operator" for the purposes of operator's liability to meet the maintenance requirements of Clause 18.

The disciplinary powers of a licensing authority—for example, revocation of licence—can be invoked against the "operator" who fails to comply with Clause 18. But in this case the powers could not bite on the subsidiary, because the subsidiary, not in practice being an operator for licensing purposes, would hold no carrier's licences. The person to whom the vehicles really belonged would be equally immune from disciplinary action by the licensing authority for a breach of the requirements of Clause 18. The purpose of the Amendment is to counter such possible action by giving the Minister power to define by regulations, notwithstanding the provisions of Clause 18(5), the person who is to be regarded as the "operator" for the purposes of the clause.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 5, leave out from ("and") to ("that") in line 7 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for explaining the purpose of this Amendment, and I think he has certainly taken "a stitch in time" to give the Minister power to prescribe by regulations the particular classes. As he says, he has to provide for the "wide boys". Of course, at the tail end of the motor business to-day are those picturesque folk who in our young day used to be called "horse capers"; they are now "car copers", and there are some pretty remarkable characters there who will find a way around most Acts of Parliament. I only hope the noble Lord has effectively sewn up all the openings. This is obviously a wise provision, to give the Minister power to define these classes by regulation, and I warmly support the Amendment.

Clause 25 [Miscellaneous Offences.]:


My Lords, as noble Lords will see, this is purely a drafting Amendment in order to alter the numbers of subsections in the final Bill. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 31, line 4, leave out ("or (6)") and insert (", (6), (8) or (11)").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

Clause 29 [Supplemental.]


My Lords, this, too, is purely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 39, leave out ("20") and insert ("22").—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, this is another drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 34, line 17, leave out ("and 20") and insert ("to 22").—(Lord Winterbottom.)

5.52 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved, after Clause 29, to insert the following new clause:

Arrest without warrant of persons driving while disqualified

" . A constable in uniform may arrest without warrant any person driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road whom he has reasonable cause to suspect of being disqualified for holding or obtaining a licence granted under Part II of the principal Act."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may remember that on Committee stage I moved an Amendment to give power to a police constable to arrest without warrant persons driving while disqualified. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, agreed to the Amendment in principle, but pointed out drafting deficiencies. The Amendment now on the Marshalled List in my name is the result of deliberation by Parliamentary Counsel and therefore can be assumed to be effective for the purposes intended.

The Amendment restricts the power to a constable in uniform. This is in line with Clause 2 of the Bill, which empowers only constables in uniform to require people to take roadside breath tests. Obviously it would be alarming for motorists to be unexpectedly stopped by persons in plain clothes, and it seems only right that this power should be exercised only by police officers in uniform. In this new clause disqualification is described as: disqualification for holding or obtaining a licence granted under Part II of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. This follows the wording of Section 5(8) of the Road Traffic Act, 1962, and it is obviously desirable that this should be so.

One effect which may not be immediately apparent is that, in addition to being able to arrest a person who has been disqualified by a court, the constable may arrest a person who is under age for the vehicle concerned—for example, a person under 21 years of age driving a heavy motor vehicle. Section 107 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, provides that in this case there is a disqualification for holding or obtaining the necessary licence. This is an important point which ought, I think, to be included. I should like to express my gratitude to the Government for accepting this Amendment in principle, and for having been good enough to draft the Amendment in a watertight form. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 29, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Molson.)


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply one question. This is obviously a necessary provision, but what about the person who is not disqualified and who could obtain a licence but just has not got one? In that event will the constable have the power to arrest?


My Lords, perhaps I may reply immediately to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. A person commits an offence if he drives without a road fund licence but he is not disqualified. This Amendment gives a constable the power to arrest without warrant a person whom he has reasonable cause to suspect is driving while disqualified. We are dealing only with that point at the moment, and not with the whole field of persons who may be driving without a licence, either because they have forgotten to obtain one or, alternatively, because they have not applied because they think they will not get one.

On behalf of the Government, I should like to express our thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, in the first place, for having raised this most important matter. This new power will be most helpful to the police when it is included in the Bill. I should also like to thank the noble Lord for having drawn attention to the fact that it applies only to constables in uniform, and also for having drawn attention to the extra provision in his Amendment; namely, the power residing in constables to arrest persons without warrant if they have reason to suspect that they are under age for the particular type of vehicle they are driving.

I should like to refer to another matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred in Committee, when he asked about power being taken to make it obligatory for drivers to carry their licences with them, as is the practice in some other countries. I gave an undertaking to consider that point. We have considered it, and we think that it would be contrary to the normal British practice of not making the citizen carry identifying documents. It would be necessary to make it an offence for a person not to have his licence with him when driving a motor vehicle on the road, but to penalise a driver simply because he had mislaid his licence might lose a certain amount of the general good will which will come from taking the power to arrest a person for driving a vehicle while apparently disqualified.

It is accepted that the general practice of carrying driving licences would not only assist the police but would be to the advantage of law-abiding drivers, since it would enable them to clear themselves with the police straight away. We have reached the conclusion, however, that it would be better at this stage not to create a new offence of not carrying the licence. However, the new power created by this Amendment will be watched carefully, and if experience shows that a good case exists for making it mandatory for drivers to have their driving licences with them, the Government will regard themselves as entirely free to introduce the necessary legislation in due course.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his reply to my noble friend, I should like to join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Molson on his admirable Amendment. But may I, on my own account, utter a word of warning about the idea of making it mandatory to carry one's driving licence? It seems to me that this proposition needs a great deal more thought, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will treat it with great caution.


My Lords, could not this matter be left to the discretion of the police? I hardly feel that a policeman would be likely to arrest without warrant anyone who, simply through carelessness, had not got his licence with him, or who perhaps had allowed it to run out because he had forgotten to renew it. The whole purpose of this Amendment is to arrest without warrant those who are driving while disqualified. I think the police have sufficient discretion to know when to arrest and when not to arrest.

6.0 p.m.

LORD MOLSON moved, after Clause 29, to insert the following new clause:

Revocation of power of court to suspend disqualification of convicted person pending appeal.

" . The power conferred by section 105(1) of the principal Act on the Court by or before whom a person was convicted to suspend his disqualification for holding or obtaining a licence pending his appeal is hereby revoked:

Provided that nothing in this section shall affect any such suspension granted by the court before the date of the coming into force of this section."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can put this point extremely briefly and simply. Under Section 105(1) of the principal Act it is provided that when a subordinate court has disqualified a person from driving it may, if it so wishes, suspend the effect of that disqualification pending an appeal to a higher court. No one wants to prevent a person who has been disqualified at a subordinate court from appealing to a superior court and having the matter determined by that court. What is not clear at all is why, if a subordinate court is of the opinion that a person should be disqualified, it should be so doubtful of its own opinion that when it hears that an appeal is to take place it should suspend the operation of the disqualification until the appeal has been heard. If the subordinate court really has great doubts as to whether a person should be disqualified, that subordinate court ought not to order the disqualification. If it is sure in its own mind, and is of the view that a person should be disqualified, he should be disqualified until the appeal has been heard and the disqualification has been quashed by the superior court. It is in order to do away with this anomalous provision that I move the insertion of this clause. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 29 insert the new clause.—(Lord Molson.)


My Lords, I hope the House will not accept this Amendment and that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, will agree to withdraw it. Under Section 105(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1960, the courts have discretion to suspend disqualification pending appeal. This provision has existed since the earliest days of traffic law. For instance, Section 6(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1930 provides for that discretion in words not too dissimilar from those of the 1960 Act, and during all this time the arrangements have, on the whole, worked well. The noble Lord's Amendment seeks to remove this discretion.

In an earlier speech this afternoon may have appeared to be attacking the courts for the way in which they have administered road traffic legislation. I think there is a good deal of evidence that they could have acted less leniently, and, whatever the view they may have taken on the previous Amendment I think most noble Lords would share that view. On the other hand, let us face it, magistrates have a difficult task, in that they have to use their own judgment without having a great deal of basis for comparison. As the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, has said, now that the training of magistrates is just coming into being it may well be that we shall see an improvement, and perhaps a greater degree of conformity throughout the country.

In the case of this legislation, there will be no doubt as to whether a man is guilty or not guilty, in the sense that we shall have the laboratory test, which in itself will be conclusive evidence as to the man's impairment. On the other hand, it may well be that the accused will feel that the lower court has not paid sufficient attention to the manner in which the initial blood tests were taken, or that the administration had not been conducted properly; or there might even be some doubt, as there was in Cardiff, as to whether the blood was that of the accused or of someone else. There is always a possibility of administrative difficulties, and therefore an accused might wish to appeal against the decision of the lower courts.

I would not take away the right of an individual to appeal against the decision of a lower court. I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, would agree with me. On the other hand, if a person has been convicted and some time elapses between the hearing in the lower court and the appeal, I think it would be rather hard on that individual if, taking all the circumstances into account, the court had no discretion to suspend the disqualification. If a person were successful on appeal, he having been disqualified and having lost his licence for that period, he may well appear in the public eye to be a victim of injustice, and public opinion in itself could well be affected.

I hope that the noble Lord would feel that the courts can use their discretion in this matter, on the basis of the knowledge that they will have of the case and of the individual, and of the circumstances of the individual before them. As I see it, on grounds of road safety there is no benefit in accepting this Amendment. Disqualification is designed to take the dangerous driver off the road. By removing the court's discretion the period of disqualification will not be increased. If the appeal is dis missed, then the disqualification will start from that time. In other words, lodging an appeal will not be a device to reduce the period of the disqualification.

I hope that the noble Lord will not pursue this Amendment to remove a discretion which, from all the information at my disposal—I think the noble Lord, Lord Molson, would agree that I have done a good deal of digging into the facts and figures of this Bill—is being used sensibly. It has been in practice for some 37 years, and I am not aware of any reasons why we should remove it. I think the matter really falls back on the element of justice. I think that in respect of nearly every offence—in the most severe cases, and even in criminal offences—when an appeal is lodged the courts have a discretion to release the accused on bail between the time of the hearing in the lower court and the appeal.

In those circumstances, I believe it would be wrong to take away the discretion of the court where there is an appeal in relation to a road offence, particularly if to remove it would be to the detriment of the accused. I hope that the noble Lord will see the justice of those words, and will withdraw his Amendment.


My Lords, I certainly shall not press my Amendment. I put it down rather in line with the speech I made earlier this afternoon on another Amendment, because I believe that although the general trend is to tighten up the administration of road safety legislation far more disqualification is desirable. I also criticised the courts for the excessive leniency which they have shown over many years, and I thought that the Amendment which I proposed was in general line with the course of legislation over the last 30 to 35 years. But I do not attach any great importance to it. The noble Lord has advanced strong arguments against it, and therefore I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 1 [Minor and consequential amendments]:


My Lords, this Amendment seeks to correct a technical error. The words which we propose to leave out are merely a redundant heading, which unfortunately was left behind by mistake. The paragraph to which the heading originally related was deleted by an Amendment during Report stage in the other place, but inadvertently the heading remained. The Amendment removes the unnecessary words. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 36, leave out lines 4 and 5.—(Lord Stonham.)

In the Title:

LORD MOLSON moved to add to the Title: and to empower constables to arrest persons suspected of driving or attempting to drive while disqualified ".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the fact that your Lordships accepted my new clause, which will be Clause 30, means that the Long Title of the Bill as drafted is not sufficiently extensive to cover that new clause. It was in order to move that Amendment, because it was within the scope of the Bill as defined by Erskine May, since the Bills deals with road safety; but the Long Title covered only persons driving or being in charge of motor vehicles after consuming alcohol or taking drugs and with respect of goods vehicles. It is therefore necessary to add to the Long Title words which would include the new Clause 30. My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Line 4, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Molson.)


My Lords, the Government agree with the noble Lord that the Amendment which he is now proposing is consequential upon the earlier Amendment which the Committee accepted empowering constables to arrest without warrant persons whom they suspect of driving whilst disqualified. Therefore I hope that it will be accepted.