HL Deb 02 July 1981 vol 422 cc352-96

Further considered on Report.

Schedule 3 [Powers of Associated British Ports]:

Viscount Simon moved Amendment No. 6: Page 34, leave out lines 16 to 18.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, Schedule 3, to which this is an amendment, deals with the powers of Associated British Ports, which is to be the successor to the British Transport Docks Board. The lines that I am proposing should be deleted read: Associated British Ports may carry on at its harbours the activities of a ship's agent". At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, moved an identical amendment. Noble Lords who were present at the time may remember that there was a rather diffuse discussion. It became involved and the noble Lord eventually withdrew the amendment, saying that he would seek to raise the matter later. He has evidently had slightly different thoughts because he has now put down Amendment No. 7 which is a modification of his original amendment. I think that his original amendment was the right one. I hope that I can persuade the House that this is so.

We have to consider what are the activities of a ship's agent. I suggest that a port authority is inappropriate to act in this capacity. The ship's agent has a great many duties to perform. I have been a ship's agent so I know something about it. For instance, they have to be able to arrange for the provision of stores for the ship; they have to arrange for repairs to be undertaken. There may be a sick seaman who has to be landed into hospital. There may even be trouble on board and the police or others concerned have to have access. Of course, a port authority could set up a department which could deal with these matters, but I should have thought it was quite inappropriate for them to do so.

There is the still more important issue, which is looking after the ship in port. In this respect, the ship's agent may well be in discussion and occasionally perhaps in argument with the port authority. The master may not think that the berth is safe; or the cargo requires to have three cranes to discharge it and the port have provided only two. If the port authority, as in some cases, is also the supplier of labour for handling the cargo, then the agent has to arrange with the supplier of that labour for the right number of gangs, at the right time, and so on.

I do not think it is at all reasonable for the port authority to act as agent and have to deal with itself. It could lead to considerable difficulties. I was hoping that some of our noble colleagues learned in the law might be present; but, as a layman, I suggest that there is a real difficulty about an agent who is also the person who is dealing with himself, so to speak. One can imagine circumstances where some difficulty has arisen. I would remind your Lordships that business of this kind is carried out on the telephone; it is not something about which people write long documents. Let us suppose that a difficulty arises and afterwards there is a mishap of some kind and quite a serious claim arises. We shall find that there is some uncertainty whether the action taken or not taken by the port authority was taken or not taken by the port authority in its capacity as a port authority or in its capacity as agent for the ship.

I can imagine tremendous legal difficulties arising from this confusion. This seems to me a positive objection to what these lines provide. I began by saying that I thought the duty of a ship's agent was inappropriate; but when we come to the point that I have just raised I think that it is undesirable. There is no real difficulty—I do not know what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is going to say—in finding a ship's agent. They do not have to be established at the port. This country is a fairly small country. The foreign owner, for example, probably has one principal agent that he knows, perhaps in London or in Liverpool. If the ship turns up at King's Lynn he can perfectly well arrange to send a person off to deal with it at King's Lynn. He does not have to be established there in order to do that.

The General Council of British Shipping have told me that they informed the Minister that they are quite happy about an assurance they have had as to the way the powers are to be used and no doubt the Minister will be telling us of that assurance. But, with great respect to the General Council, who are very old friends of mine, the foreign ship-owner is not represented there, and he perhaps has more interest in this matter than the British shipowner. There are also the interests of the chartered shipbrokers who are mentioned in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I suggest to the Government that they should look at this subject very seriously again between now and Third Reading. I do not think there is any real advantage to the Associated British Ports to have this power, and I cannot quite understand why they have asked for it. So far as I know, it is not a power that is exercised by any port authority, though there may be some case that could be quoted which I do not know about. Certainly it is not a normal business.

During the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, in replying to an amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and also one by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, spoke in the same breath about running road transport and acting as a ship's agent; but the two cases are completely different. If the port is running road transport, it is running it on behalf of the owners of the cargo and not on behalf of the ship, and it is the ship which has the contractual relationship with the port authority, not the owners of the cargo. So I think this provision is not only inappropriate but, for the reasons I have outlined, rather undesirable, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree to look at it again very seriously.

7.52 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, as the noble Viscount has pointed out, this is a similar amendment to the one that I put forward in Committee, and slightly different from the one I have now put down. I propose, if the Minister agrees, to speak in general terms to this amendment and to reserve the right to move my amendment if I am not happy about the outcome of this one.

The noble Viscount has given us a very graphic description of how a ship's agent operates. That in itself should give my noble friend cause to pause, because we did not previously have the benefit of the noble Viscount's contribution, and furthermore there was the confusion that existed over taking my amendment with another one. We did not have the benefit of his expert knowledge last time, and this might cause my noble friend to think that perhaps there is more to this matter than has appeared in the meantime. As the noble Viscount said, my concern is more for the chartered shipbroker. A ship's agent is a person distinct from a chartering agent. The latter is a professional person who requires skill, knowedge, training and practice; and the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers arranges training, examinations and qualifications. So they are different persons. As the noble Viscount said, a ship's agent is not in that sense a professional person.

I make this distinction because in the Journal of Commerce International, in its issue of 20th May 1981, the correspondent of that paper discussed the matter with a spokesman for the British Transport Docks Board. In questioning why this paragraph is in the Bill at all, and without my wishing to expand too greatly on this—the print is very small—the report says: Citing what he called a typical example"— that is, why the paragraph is necessary— the spokesman said: `In Ayr a customer exporting a special type of stone to South Wales wanted us to quote for a complete service, including the ship chartering. Because of the way the law stands at the moment we were unable to do this. Other ship agents in the port weren't able to help this customer either '.". To me that is very significant, because of course the other ship's agents in the port were not able to help because they were not qualified chartering agents. The passing of this particular paragraph within the Bill will not solve that problem. So, to start with, I would suggest to your Lordships that we have to get quite clear what we are talking about. change. We spoke earlier about good intentions but about people and situations changing. I acknowledge that to be so. However, this is a categorical statement. I hope your Lordships will share my confidence that ABP, controlled as it will be by private investors, will exercise its ship's agency power in a sensible and commercially effective manner and in the best interests of its customers. To delete the ship's agency power, as we are being asked to do, would restrict unnecessarily the freedom of manoeuvre of a private sector business. This is the cause for concern.

I was impressed, however, by some of the points which were made by the noble Viscount. I cannot accept his amendment nor, indeed, that of my noble friend Lord Mottistone. I listened very carefully to what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth had to say. He, too, has much knowledge in this area, so one has to listen carefully. Nevertheless, I cannot accept the amendments. The most I can do—I think noble Lords know from the not inconsiderable number of occasions when I have said this in the past that if I say it I will do it—is to talk to my colleagues about the subject, bring to their notice the points which all three speakers have made and find out whether they feel that in those circumstances we ought to do something different. If we so decide, there will be an opportunity to do something different. However, I cannot make any promise that we shall. It may well be that I shall have to disappoint the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and both of my noble friends, in which case they must make up their own minds as to what they want to do. While, therefore, I cannot accept the amendments, I undertake, with that caveat, to look carefully at what has been said.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I would point out that when he spoke about the categorical assurances which had been given he was speaking about the assurances which had been given by the employers, the British Transport Docks Board, as presently constituted. Would not my noble friend agree that were he able to bring before your Lordships an assurance couched in similar terms from the employees' side of the dock industry, a number of us might possibly be better satisfied? Is he able to say what kind of response the employees' side of the industry has made to these provisions?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, by leave of the House, for which I think I must ask at this stage, I cannot answer my noble friend on that point. However, I undertake to include consideration of it in the review to which I referred a few moments ago.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, again before my noble friend sits down, may I ask whether he is aware that his reply to the debate was most uncharacteristic of him and most inadequate? And is the noble Viscount aware that if he cares to test the feeling of the House I shall be delighted to support him?

Viscount Simon

My Lords, because of what the noble Lord the Minister has said I do not think that I want to make strictures of that sort. The Minister made a very sensible speech from his own point of view. He left the door open—"agar"my noble friend says—which is where I would propose to leave it. I do not think, however, that his answer was complete. He did not deal at all with what I regard as a very important point: the conflict between the agent and the port authority where they are the same people. I do not understand how that is going to work. The agent will try to do the best for the ship and the port authority, quite rightly, will try to do the best thing for the port authority. In business one gets conflicts of interests and I do not believe that they can be satisfactorily settled by having the same person, as it were, representing both parties.

Apart from that, when I stood up to speak originally my intention was not to press the amendment at this stage—and I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. This is a very important point and, with great respect, I do not believe that it is one that the Government understood—largely because discussion in Committee was curtailed in the way it was, for reasons which I understand. With your Lordships' permission, I would much rather withdraw this amendment in the hope that the Minister will take it back and consider it with the British Transport Docks Board and discuss whether it is worth inserting. I cannot believe that it is of any real value and it could give rise to difficulties.

As regards the memorandum and articles of association, I take the point that has been made. I fully understand that a statutory body must have specific powers. I was not arguing against that but against powers which I do not think the board should have—not the way in which the powers were expressed.

May I take this opportunity to apologise to the noble Lord the Minister. He wrote two very helpful letters to me on other matters, and I did not acknowledge them, but they did help me and in fact they helped the noble Lord the Minister because I dropped two points which otherwise I would have pursued.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 34, line 18, at end insert— ("Provided that the services of a chartered shipbroker are not available in that harbour.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not have to repeat my speech, but I do have to repeat my dissatisfaction with my noble friend's reply to the remarks which have been made. I do not agree a bit with the noble Viscount, and therefore I should like to press my amendment.

8.24 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 11, Not-Contents, 62.

Brougham and Vaux, L. Monson, L.
Cross, V. Mottistone, L. [Teller.]
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stamp, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Loudoun, C. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller.]
Auckland, L. Kemsley, V.
Avon, E. Killearn, L.
Aylestone, L. Kinnaird, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Bellwin, L. Long, V.
Belstead, L. Lyell, L.
Bessborough, E. McFadzean, L.
Boardman, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Marley, L.
Cathcart, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Cockfield, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Colwyn, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Craigavon, V. Noel-Buxton, L.
Croft, L. Portland, D.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Rankeillour, L.
de Clifford, L. Reigate, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Rochdale, V.
Drumalbyn, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Dundee, E. Selkirk, E.
Elibank, L. Sharples, B.
Ellenborough, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Elles, B. Stradbroke, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Strathcarron, L.
Ferrers, E. Strathclyde, L.
Fortescue, E. Swinfen, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Trenchard, V.
Greenway, L. Vaizey, L.
Gridley, L. Vivian, L.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Waldegrave, E.
Hylton-Foster, B. Ward of Witley, V.
Inglewood, L. Westbury, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 15 [Dissolution of National Ports Council]:

8.30 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 12, line 18, leave out ("and") and insert— ("( ) The powers and duties of the Council as defined in the Harbours Act 1964 shall pass to a National Ports Authority which shall be established and shall also keep under review the suitability and adequacy in relation to the trade of Great Britain, of the ports of Great Britain; review the discharge of their functions by the various ports authorities; consider how any port should be improved and what services and facilities should be provided at any port, and, as requested by the Secretary of State advise him, and at any time make recommendations to him, on any matter affecting the suitability, adequacy and efficiency of the ports. ( ) In accordance with the provisions of subsection (1) above ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to the one which we considered at the Committee stage, but on that occasion noble Lords will recall that we were debating it somewhere round about half past ten at night, so I hope your Lordships will pardon me if I deal with it at rather greater length than I had originally intended. Clause 15 abolishes the National Ports Council and I think everybody generally agrees that the council has been of great benefit to the industry and has been very helpful to successive governments. The 1980 Report of the council set out all its duties and functions. I will not go through them but noble Lords can take it from me—and I think the Minister will agree—that the National Ports Council had very extensive powers.

At the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, agreed that since its inception the National Ports Council had brought a major improvement in the organisation and efficiency of the ports industry. I then reminded noble Lords that only a few days earlier we had had the Ports (Financial Assistance) Bill whereby we all learned of the dire financial problems of the PLA and of Merseyside and we all know that there are severe financial problems in the Bristol docks.

In Committee I referred to what is known as the Rochdale Committee on the docks industry, which published its report in 1962, one complete chapter of which was devoted to the case for a National Ports Authority, and that is what this amendment proposes. Paragraph 52 of the Report recommended that a National Ports Authority should be established, with well-defined non-operational responsibilities. I will not weary the House by going through the whole of the 12 powers which the Rochdale Report suggested should be given to the National Ports Authority, although I have them listed if anyone should wish to have them. A number of these powers were given to the National Ports Council but that body is to be wound up under this Bill.

The points made in the amendment now before your Lordships are very much in line with the recommendation in the Rochdale Report for the powers of a National Ports Authority. The chairman of that committee was the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, from whom we heard in the Committee stage and in our debate today. The noble Viscount said that if I had moved this amendment 16 or 17 years ago he would readily have supported it, but he considered that there was no need for such an authority today. I respect very much what the noble Viscount, with his experience, has said, but since the Committee stage I have had the opportunity of re-reading the report to the Secretary of State for Transport on the ports industry, published in 1978.

It is a very interesting report. The Ports Council was asked to make a fundamental analysis of the state of the ports industry and to consider how plans for its strategic future should be developed. That was in 1978 and was many years after the Rochdale Committee had made its report. An introduction to the report states that the national objectives of the ports policy are to ensure that the ports are, and will be, adequate to handle the country's trade, that the ports make the best use of economic resources and that port undertakings individually are well organised and well managed. I suggest that those objectives require a body to carry out a continuing review of the industry.

Paragraph 32 of that report said that the local port organisations should be kept under review and there should be further measures of port grouping or port reconstitution where and when appropriate. If that view is held, it hardly fits in with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, that the industry should take as much responsibility as possible for its own affairs. Can one imagine that the industry itself would be liable to deal with port groupings or port reconstitution? It has always required an independent body to make such proposals. Paragraph 49 of the report says—and I must read this in full: Competition is a spur to efficiency but the extreme position of complete and absolute independence for all ports is wrong for a vital national service industry. Because of the special position of the ports there should generally be more co-operation and collaboration between them than there is today". That is a report of 1978. I continue to quote: The council have been attempting to achieve this but, particularly in recent years, they have been thwarted to some extent in doing things they believe to be necessary to help the efficiency of the industry because of the influential opposition from within the industry, even though the council work in great amity and in many areas and with very many ports. In the light of that criticism, made only in 1978, how can all this work be left to the industry itself to deal with? Paragraph 52 of the report refers to the need for action to be taken.

Then may I mention one final paragraph which dealt with the role of a central body. In paragraph 61 the report said—and I quote— The special nature of the industry and its responsibility to the nation makes it necessary to have a central and independent body such as the National Ports Council, with which it has been suggested the ports should be closely associated". It went on to list eight main functions, some of which are included in the amendment which I am moving.

I will not go over what I said at Committee stage, except to say that the managing director of the British Transport Docks Board, the board which is now to manage Associated British Ports, has expressed concern at the state of the ports industry only this year. If we ally that to this comprehensive report of 1978, surely this justifies the amendment calling for a National Ports Authority. I hope the Minister will appreciate that this report of 1978—exactly three years ago—must be even more valid today, in view of the facts that we have of the financial situation of some of the ports and in view of the observations which have been made by the managing director of the British Transport Docks Board. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will recall that we recently debated an identical amendment during the Committee stage of the Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in fact has basically repeated, although at a somewhat more civilised hour, the same arguments as to why he favours the creation of a strong centralised ports authority; but I have to say that nothing I have heard him say tonight convinces me that the Government's decision to abolish the National Ports Council is misconceived. I will not repeat all that I said during the Committee stage, but there are just one or two points that I think I should emphasise.

First, as I have said before, in our view it is essential that those who manage and operate the ports industry should be given as much responsibility as possible for their own affairs. The Government are firmly of the view that the future health of the industry depends upon this. Second, the ports themselves have welcomed our decision to abolish the National Ports Council and have indicated that they are willing, and able, to tackle the problems now facing the industry. This is why we are abolishing the National Ports Council. There are strong and competitive ports in this country which, if they are given the opportunity, are capable of dealing with, and finding solutions to their problems. We recognise, certainly, that there is a challenge facing the industry, but the British Ports Association is enlarging and strengthening its organisation to meet this challenge.

On the other hand, what would the creation of a strong, centralised National Ports Authority achieve? In the first instance it would simply take major decisions away from the very people who should be directly responsible for their own affairs. In particular, inherent in the idea of a national ports authority is the creation of some sort of national ports plan. I know the noble Lord has said on a previous occasion that such a plan forms no part of this amendment. But in practice this is what would inevitably result from a national ports authority which would be charged with considering …how any port should be improved and what services and facilities should be provided at any port". But the development of such a plan would seriously distort the ability of ports to operate in commercial competition with each other. Indeed, experience has proved that such a plan would not work in practice. Ports being a service industry must be able to react flexibly and quickly to changing commercial circumstances. As experience in other spheres has shown, this would be prevented by a national plan which would simply promote development at some ports while preventing it at others.

I mentioned the British Ports Association a few moments ago in another context. Two of the functions for which they are now responsible are research and training in the industry. My noble friend Lord Rochdale, so eminent in these matters, referred to these functions at Committee stage and expressed the hope that the association would carry them out very well. These are important functions, and I very much endorse my noble friend's views.

Lord Underhill's proposals for the future of the ports, in our view, offer no way for a commercial industry to operate. It is essential that the industry be given greater, not less, freedom to determine its affairs. I hope your Lordships will recognise that the creation of a national ports authority is not in the best interests of the industry, certainly as we see it. I say, in conclusion, that I understand the point the noble Lord makes. Indeed, I was interested in his reference to the 1978 report, which had not been quoted previously. But I still think on balance the strength of the argument lies in the one I have just put, and it is for that reason that we do not feel able to accept the amendment.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am very sorry that the Minister has disposed of the 1978 report so simply. When we discussed this at Committee stage I did not refer to the 1978 Report. At that stage, frankly, I had not re-read it; I re-read it after the Committee stage, and it is very illuminating. Can this be left solely to the industry? The National Ports Council in this report of 1978, which was a report to the Secretary of State at that time, made it quite clear that proposals they had been trying to make had been thwarted by influential elements within the industry. How then can we propose that the industry itself should tackle these matters. I will not weary the House, but I have a list here of about ten reviews, some Royal Commissions, on the docks industry over the last 100 years. It has always required an outside body to deal with the situation. The Government are obviously adamant about this. I do not feel disposed to divide the House at this stage, but it is an important issue on which I wish there had been a bigger attendance, because this is a vital issue for the future of the very important ports industry. I will not withdraw the amendment, but I will not press it to a Division.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I think it would be helpful to him if I were to say another brief word about the 1978 report. I understand that what happened was that that report was instituted by the then Secretary of State, who asked the council to carry out consultations on it. The noble Lord may or may not be aware that those consultations had not been completed by the time of the last general election. The council when it did make the report to my right honourable friend late in 1979 advised in much less centralising terms. The 1978 report was, in effect at least, withdrawn. Clearly, one can interpret that in the way one would want to do, but I thought I should make the point because I had not said a great deal on it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 12, line 29, at end insert— ("( ) The powers and duties of the Council as defined in the Harbours Act 1964 shall pass to the Secretary of State").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister's views upon this. Now that the National Ports Council is to be abolished, and now that the House has defeated a proposal for a national ports authority, I should like the Minister to inform the House what will happen to all the powers the council has at the moment. We know that research and training are to be taken over by the industry. One would like to feel that all the other powers of the council are going to be dealt with and not just allowed to lapse. In this amendment I have asked that the powers and duties of the council, as laid down in the Harbours Act 1964 which dealt with the inception of the National Ports Council, shall pass to the Secretary of State. It is important that these powers should not be allowed to lapse. The National Ports Council has emphasised that if all these powers are to be taken over it will be necessary for some well-informed extra personnel to be attached to the department. I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, added his comments to that at the Committee stage. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am glad to have an opportunity to refer to the future arrangements being made for the work which has been carried out in the past by the council. In the first place, I must emphasise that the amendment would run counter to our policy of making the industry more responsible for its own affairs. The fact is that almost all of the council's statutory functions are being abolished. In some cases this will mean that a function will no longer be carried out at all. For example, its duty to prepare a national ports plan. I have already explained that this has been a dead letter for many years and we think it would be wrong to perpetuate it. In other cases, for example, in research and training and in providing assistance to harbour authorities in the exercise of their functions, the responsibility has been taken over by the industry itself through the British Ports Association. In two specific cases the Secretary of State is to take over a function from the council, namely, the collection of certain port statistics and decisions on objections against ship, passenger and goods dues.

In addition, the Secretary of State is repealing or reducing the scope of some of his own more detailed specific functions in relation to the ports industry, so that in general there will be less need for the individual specialised advice previously given by the NPC. He will be concentrating his interest on long-term and structural matters, and will work where possible in collaboration with the industry itself.

But one of the main tasks of the council has been to advise the Secretary of State, either on particular issues of the day or as part of his own exercise of specific functions, and in many cases the Secretary of State has been required to consult the council before exercising his functions. Examples are the requirement to consult the council on applications for harbour development, and about applications from harbour authorities for statutory powers by means of a harbour revision order. The effect of the amendment in respect of these functions, if taken literally, would be to create a very odd situation whereby the Secretary of State would have to consult himself before taking decisions on certain issues.

I should make it clear that the Bill does not in any way remove from the Secretary of State his responsibility for overall ports policy, and the powers which Ministers need to carry out strategic functions are being retained. Perhaps I could also refer back at this point to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Rochdale at Committee stage, when he referred to the degree of expertise within my right honourable friend's department to deal with ports questions. The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill referred to about six additional civil servants, and we consider that this number of full-time staff should be sufficient. In view of the need to reduce the size of the Civil Service, the posts are being filled by redeployment within the department, but there is a wealth of specialist advice within the Department which can be called upon as needed. If we need a particular expertise from time to time which is not available within the department, we shall of course obtain it on a consultancy basis. This is likely to be the most efficient way to proceed. The additional staff is considerably less than the 20 which was suggested by the NPC itself, but I emphasise that we are determined to keep to the minimum the Government's involvement in the affairs of the ports.

I am convinced that the Government's proposals to free the ports industry from detailed ministerial control and to make it responsible for its own affairs provide the best way forward. We feel that this amendment would perpetuate detailed ministerial interference in the industry and would deny it the freedom and responsibility it needs to manage its diverse operations effectively and to respond quickly to changing circumstances. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will at least feel that I have tried to explain to him the situation and answer his point as to what will happen. I gladly do so.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, this was intentionally a probing amendment and I am grateful to the Minister for the very helpful information which he has given me. It is helpful from two standpoints. First, it is helpful to know the Government's viewpoint and, secondly, it is helpful to be able to check very carefully what the noble Lord has said and to compare it with the powers of the National Ports Council, and with the powers that we suggested for the Ports Authority and to see whether or not the position is clear and whether we need to come back to this matter on Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 6 [Amendments of the Harbours Act 1964]:

Lord Skelmersdale moved Amendments Nos. 10 and 11:

Page 58, line 7, after ("stating") insert ("in the case of an order to which paragraph 4B above does not apply")

Page 58, line 12, after ("stating") insert ("in the case of an order to which paragraph 8B above does not apply").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope that it will be to the convenience of the House if we take Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 together. These are very minor technical amendments to clarify the provisions dealing with the application of special parliamentary procedure to harbour revision and empowerment orders. I hope we can deal with them quite quickly.

As your Lordships will recall, under the provisions of amendments we debated in Committee, harbour revision and empowerment orders in respect of England and Wales are to be subject to special parliamentary procedure only it they are opposed when they are made, while orders for Scotland are to remain subject to special parliamentary procedure whether they are opposed or unopposed.

The purpose of the amendments is to clarify the application of paragraphs 4(3) and (6) of Schedule 6, which deal with the publication of notices when an order is made. In the case of English and Welsh orders the notice must state whether the order is opposed or unopposed; if the order is unopposed and therefore not subject to special parliamentary procedure, the notice must state when the order will come into operation. All Scottish orders, on the other hand, are to remain subject to special parliamentary procedure, and this already has its own commencement provisions under the Statutory Orders (Special Procedure) Act 1945. The amendments therefore provide that paragraphs 4(3) and (6) apply only to English and Welsh orders. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Viscount Simon moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 59, line 45, at end insert— ("(2A) A Minister, in deciding whether to make an order under this section, shall have regard to the desirability of maintaining the balance then existing between the various kinds of relevant knowledge and experience represented by the members of the harbour authority in question.").

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12. This amendment deals with the point which I mentioned in Committee when we were considering the Motion that Schedule 6 should be the sixth schedule to the Bill. The Minister—and I cannot now remember which noble Lord it was who answered me—was good enough to say that he did not think that there was very much in the point. I had to confess that I personally did not think that it was a matter of terrific importance, but I did say that I knew that the British Ports Association was still unhappy about it.

Since then I have had the benefit of some discussions with the British Ports Association as a result of which I have put down this amendment. The only question is: if the Minister—and this is rather complicated because it is either the Secretary of State or the Minister of Agriculture in the case of fishery harbours—decides that he does not wish to continue to nominate members to port authorities, there was the fear that the withdrawal of ministerial appointments might upset the balance in some authority or other.

I questioned the British Ports Association as to whether they knew of any cases where this might happen. I was told of two or three cases where it was thought that if the ministerial appointments were withdrawn it would upset the general balance. For that reason we have suggested what I hope the Minister may think is a quite harmless and perhaps useful amendment which is that, "A Minister"—that means either the Secretary of State or the Minister of Agriculture— in deciding whether to make an order under this section, shall have regard to the desirability of maintaining the balance then existing between the various kinds of relevant knowledge and experience represented by the members of the harbour authority in question". Just to remind your Lordships, because I mentioned this in Committee, if the Minister was making a harbour revision order and altering the constitution of the harbour, it would be subject to objections being made, and if objections were made there could be an inquiry. There is no provision for objections in this new paragraph of the schedule and that is why I am venturing to suggest that a Minister should bear this particular point of maintaining the balance of the various experiences represented on the port authority when deciding to exercise his power to cease to make appointments. I beg to move.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, for raising this matter again and I am very sorry that the provisions of paragraph 5 of Schedule 6 are still a cause for concern to the British Ports Association. We have given assurances, both in correspondence and during the Commons Committee stage, as to the limited extent of the power and how we propose to exercise it. I hope that I can satisfy the noble Viscount, the British Ports Association and your Lordships on this occasion.

We have already explained, during Committee stage in this House, the limited scope of this power. Subsection (2) of the new Section 15A excludes from its application those port authorities to which the Secretary of State appoints all the board members, excluding ex-officio or co-opted members. In practice this means that the Secretary of State's powers of appointment to the major public trust ports, such as Dover, London, Forth and Tyne, are unaffected by the new power. The Secretary of State recognizes the value of ministerial appointments to these ports where members are appointed, on an independent and unbiased basis, for their personal qualities and expertise rather than as representatives of particular interests. He will therefore continue to make appointments to the major commercial trust ports.

The appointments covered by the power are, on the other hand, almost entirely those of the smaller public trust ports to which the Secretary of State appoints only a small number of members out of a much larger board membership. The proportion of ministerial appointments varies from port to port, but in the ports covered by the power the maximum number of ministerial appointments is four, and the actual number is usually only one or two. The appointments made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales—an appointee who the noble Viscount did no mention—to a number of fishery harbours are also covered by the power. In these cases the kind of board member required is somebody with local knowledge of the area and harbour and in these circumstances the harbour authority themselves are in a much better position to identify suitable appointees.

It has been argued that ministerial appointments provide an essential means of ensuring a proper balance in the composition of authorities. We accept, as I have already said, that this is certainly true in the case of major public trust ports. But, in practice, the number of ministerial appointments to the smaller ports is, in our view, likely to be too small to have any significant balancing effect. For example, the Secretary of State appoints only two members to the Berwick Harbour Commision out of a total membership of 18 and only one member to the Cowes Harbour Commission out of a total membership of 19. It is only from these harbours, with more localised interests, that the Secretary of State proposes to consider withdrawing from making appointments in accordance with our policy of withdrawing wherever possible from unnecessary engagement in port affairs.

I recognise, of course, that this amendment does not seek to delete the new power from the Bill altogether, but instead requires Ministers to have regard to maintaining the existing balance of interests on the board. We will certainly pay due regard to the balance of a board in deciding whether to withdraw from making ministerial appointments, and in making any alternative arrangements in consequence of a withdrawal. But we consider that this amendment seeks to influence the outcome of the Minister's review in advance. It sets up a presumption in favour of leaving the existing balance of interests on the board unaltered. I am afraid that this would be inconsistent with the purpose of the new provision, which is precisely to enable Ministers to review the case for continued ministerial involvement in some of the smaller ports which are of local rather than national interest, and, in the event that they withdraw from this involvement, to make the alternative arrangements which appear to be appropriate in the particular local circumstances. Some of the existing constitutions are now very old. For example, that at Teignmouth dates back to 1924, while that at Cowes was established as long ago as 1897. I am sure that we all recognise that circumstances over this very long period of time are bound to change, and we believe it is right that such arrangements should be renewed.

None the less, I hope that I can give the noble Lord and the British Ports Association some reassurance. No decisions have yet been taken on the ports to which Ministers will cease to make appointments. Furthermore, the Bill requires the Minister to consult with the harbour authority and others affected, and full account will be taken of the views expressed. Thirdly, in view of the small proportion of members appointed by a Minister at the ports to which the power can apply, the scope for any action by the Minister to have a marked effect on the balance of interests represented on the board is bound to be small. The power will be limited to making alternative arrangements for those appointments made by a Minister. To take Cowes as an example again, my right honourable friend's power will be limited to either dropping the ministerial appointment and reducing the size of the commission by one, or else to providing for his one appointment to be made by someone else. He cannot reconstitute the whole commission.

Finally, may I stress that we shall not approach the matter with any preconceived ideas as to the right solution in any particular case. If, after full consultation with the port authority and others concerned, we are satisfied that a ministerial appointment remains an essential means of ensuring a proper balance, I can assure your Lordships that the Government will not seek change for change's sake. With these assurances I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, will be able to accept what I have said and withdraw his amendment.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Lord for what he has said. He mentioned Teignmouth, and curiously enough I think that Teignmouth is one of the ports which I am advised is concerned about the position—I beg your Lordships' pardon, it is not Teignmouth, but Falmouth. Anyway, I am very satisfied with what the Minister has said. The assurance that he has given will, I hope —because I cannot speak for them—be acceptable to the British Ports Association. I am sure that the Minister will appreciate the object of the amendment. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.5 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 13:

Page 63, leave out lines 13 to 19 and insert— ("(3) For section 31(1) (right of objection to ship, passenger and goods dues) there is substituted— (1) Subject to the following provisions of this Act charges to which this section applies are ship, passenger and goods dues and cargo handling charges. (1A) In this section "cargo handling charges" means charges for loading, unloading and handling goods where such services are supplied by a harbour authority or its agents or a subsidiary or associated body or person and there is no other supplier of such services at the dock quay or wharf at which the particular services are provided or no other supplier other than the harbour authority, its agent or a subsidiary or associated body or person. ( ) For references in section 31(2) to ship, passenger and goods dues there shall be substituted references to ship, passenger and goods dues and cargo handling charges.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall be as brief as I can in setting out the purpose of this amendment and its background. The Harbours Act 1964 makes provision for port users to object to charges for ship, passenger, and goods dues which are imposed by a harbour authority. At present there is appeal to the National Ports Council, but with the abolition of the council the appeal will now fall upon the Secretary of State.

At the Committee stage it was emphasised that the conditions that existed in 1964 no longer apply because in most ports at that time there were a number of employers who provided stevedoring and similar services in competition one with another. There have been considerable changes since then and there is general agreement that the position as it was in 1964 does not apply at this stage. Because of that situation it is suggested that in addition to the appeal against ship, passenger, and goods dues, there should be opportunity for port users to appeal against other charges imposed by a harbour authority. There is general agreement that in some ports the port authority is the sole employer of dock labour. I believe that this is accepted by the Under-Secretary for Transport, and the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, in the Committee stage agreed that that was the situation in some ports.

The National Waterways Transport Association, which is an independent body dealing with freight operators on our waterways, is very concerned about the monopolistic situation which is developing in some of the areas in which its freight operators on waterways operate, and some of the leading individual operators have expressed their concern about this. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, concluded his remarks at the Committee stage as follows: Were we satisfied that there was a monopoly I am sure we would look very carefully with regard to considering the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth ".—[Official Report, 8/6/81; col. 15.] That suggestion made by the noble Viscount was that provision should be made in the Bill for independent arbitration.

The amendment seeks to provide that there should be the right of appeal against cargo handling charges where the harbour authority is the sole provider of such services. Therefore, this amendment is considerably different from the one that was moved during the Committee stage. Where the harbour authority is the sole provider of these services, it must be recognised that, therefore, there is a monopoly in those particular areas, and it is in those circumstances only that we are now suggesting that there should be this right of appeal. It is so reasonable that I think it meets all sides, and I hope the noble Lord will feel that he can accept it.

The Countess of Loudoun

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. There is a good deal of concern about the increasing emergence of monopoly situations within the port industry. This amendment would extend the provisions of Section 8 of the 1964 Act so as to bring within it all charges raised by a port authority. It would, through the Secretary of State as successor to the National Ports Council, help to protect the interests of the private sector companies and the British Waterways Board, and thus help to allay some of the present fears. I hope that your Lordships will feel able to support it.

9.8 p.m.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and his noble friends have certainly gone some way to meet the objection which I ventured to raise to the amendment they proposed before by confining this to ports where there was a monopoly in the provision of cargo handling. I still think there is a substantial difference between this and the dues. It was indeed very well explained by the noble Lord the Minister on the last occasion.

The ship dues of course arise from the provision of facilities under a monopoly position. It may be that in certain ports the cargo handling is a monopoly at the present time of the port authority. But it is not a statutory monopoly, and consequently if the users think that the rates are too high they can always set up another business themselves to do the job. I speak subject to correction, but I think there is only one port that has a statutory monopoly and that is the Manchester Ship Canal Company, but I may be wrong.

Elsewhere I think it would be found that there is no statutory monopoly, and if the service provided by the port authority is too expensive everybody is at liberty to try to find somebody else to do it. The trouble these days is that it is such an unrewarding job trying to run cargo handling in any port that everybody is only too pleased when the port authority take it over.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, when I first looked at this amendment I thought that it was probably rather a fast serve coming low over the net to my backhand, but on reconsideration I accept that I was wrong and that it was perfectly properly put down, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, explained. As I am sure your Lordships will recall, we had a debate on this subject during the Committee stage. I had hoped on that occasion that I had persuaded the Opposition that there was no case for extending the existing right of appeal against ship, passenger and goods dues to cover cargo handling charges also. For the second time this evening, I will have another go.

The argument, as we have just heard, is that port authorities, subsidiaries or associates are now the main employers of dock workers, and in particular that they have a monopoly of the cargo handling services provided to port users at certain ports or wharves. It is certainly true that over the last 15 years or so port authorities have become the main employers of dock workers and at some ports there is effectively only one provider of cargo handling services. But there is simply no way in which such undertakers can exercise an effective monopoly. To take an example from the British Transport Docks Board, they are virtually the only dock employer at King's Lynn. But by no stretch of the imagination can this be regarded as a monopoly when there are ports from Yorkshire to Poole which are in competition for business with King's Lynn. This is the point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. That they are not in a monopoly situation taken as a whole, was I think the noble Viscount's point.

Among the competitors are alleged monopolists such as Ipswich and Great Yarmouth. With continually improving road communications to ports, users have an increasing choice of port facilities at their disposal and the ports are only too well aware that users can switch business from one port to another. To talk of a monopoly in this situation is, I would suggest, not to talk of the real world.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? I must disagree totally that you can switch ships from one port to another. If you do that, dock labour will black you and then you just cannot discharge your vessel. If you try to switch vessels from one port to another and the dock labour dig their heels in, you are landed with a vessel with no harbour to go to and a blacked cargo.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I was not suggesting that you should switch the vessel's point of arrival when it was on the high seas, but I was suggesting that since in advance you would know what the dues were going to be in any particular port, you would therefore be able to choose your port to take advantage of the dues and charges in a particular port.

There is also an important distinction between ship, passenger and goods dues, on the one hand, and cargo handling charges, on the other. Although I discussed this at some length during Committee stage the point is important and is, I think, worth emphasising again. The dues are levied on all port users in respect of the use of the basic or essential port and harbour facilities, and reflect the authority's costs in the provision of the harbour infrastructure and the maintenance of approach channels, lights, buoys and beacons, and so on. They are essentially in the nature of tax, an amount payable by a user but not necessarily directly related to the services he receives. Other port charges are, on the other hand, levied for specific services provided to users, for example for loading or unloading a ship or for the storage of goods, and they are related to the kind of services provided. But the same simply cannot be said of ship, passenger and goods dues and that is why we have decided to maintain the status quo and retain the right of objection to these dues.

I assure the House that the Government have given very serious consideration to the many requests to extend the existing right of appeal. We introduced one amendment on Report in another place, which is now Schedule 6(8), which places a clear responsibility on port authorities to specify their ship, passenger and goods dues element of a combined charge where the user requires them to do so. But we have received no evidence since the Bill was printed to suggest that an extension of the appeals procedure on the lines proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is either necessary or justified. We have also considered the possibility of transferring the appellate function under Section 31 of the Harbours Act to an independent body, a point that was raised during the debate in Committee, but we concluded that the function could not simply be carried out by a body which had no other responsibility for ports affairs. But whoever the appellate authority would be, an extension of the appeals procedure would still result in an unnecessary and unjustified extension of control over the ports' pricing policies. That is what we wish to avoid; it is not only a question of refusing to extend ministerial control. I hope that on this occasion I have explained to your Lordships' satisfaction the Government's reasons for not accepting the amendment, and that accordingly the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, as the Minister referred to my comments, perhaps I should inform him that I am afraid he did not correctly understand what I was trying to get at, which was no doubt my fault.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I assure the Minister that I clearly recognise the difference between the normal dues and the dock charges about which we are talking. The noble Lord said no evidence had been produced since Committee. I presume that he and his department receive the same pressures from the commercial operators—and I am talking about commercial operators—on British waterways, freight carriers, as we receive. They are very concerned with what they describe as a developing monopolistic situation, particularly in relation to Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation; they are very worried about Associated British Ports being taken over from the British Transport Docks Board in the area and they argue that a monopoly situation is developing. The commercial private operators have raised the matter. As we have the evidence, I assume the department has it.

The appeal we are suggesting would be to the Secretary of State, in the same way as the appeal will be against passenger, ship and goods dues. There would not be a great number of appeals, but in fairness, if commercial operators are worried about this, they should have the opportunity to appeal, and only where there is a monopoly situation of the harbour authority being the only employer. This seems so reasonable, and the Minister's reply so unreasonable, that I must press the matter to a Division.

9.18 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 13) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 68.

Ampthill, L. Loudoun, C.
Ardwick, L. Monson, L.
Bishopston, L. Mountevans, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Peart, L.
Collison, L. Phillips, B.
David, B. [Teller.] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stone, L.
Jeger, B. Underhill, L.
John-Mackie, L. White, B.
Kinloss, Ly. Young of Dartington, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]
Airey of Abingdon, B. Belstead, L.
Auckland, L. Bessborough, E.
Avon, E. Boardman, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Barrington, V. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Bellwin, L. Cathcart, E,
Cockfield, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Cork and Orrery, E. Marley, L.
Craigavon, V. Monk Bretton, L.
Croft, L. Mottistone, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Moyne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Noel-Buxton, L.
Dundee, E. Portland, D.
Ellenborough, L. Rankeillour, L.
Elles, B. Reigate, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Rochdale, V.
Ferrers, E. Sandford, L.
Fortescue, E. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Gardner of Parkes, B. Selkirk, E.
Gainford, L. Sharples, B.
Greenway, L. Simon, V.
Gridley, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Hooson, L. Stradbroke, E.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Strathcarron, L.
Inglewood, L. Strathclyde, L.
Kemsley, V. Trenchard, V.
Killearn, L. Vaizey, L.
Kinnaird, L. Vickers, B.
Long, V. Vivian, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Waldegrave, E.
Lyell, L. Ward of Witley, V.
McFadzean, L. Westbury, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Winstanley, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 19 [Disqualification for repeated offences]:

9.26 p.m.

The Lord Advocate (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)moved Amendment No. 14: Page 16, line 10, after ("3") insert ("penalty").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will remember the stirring address on the subject of penalty points that was delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, at Committee stage, with which the Government were very happy to agree. These amendments are consequential to the acceptance of the amendments put down by the noble Lord, and I invite your Lordships to agree with them. I am speaking to Amendment No. 14 as well as to Amendments Nos. 64 to 69, which are for the same purpose. I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I almost apologise for inflicting so many penalties upon your Lordships' patience.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Points to be endorsed]:

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendments Nos. 15 and 16:

Page 67, line 23, at end insert— ("7(4). Failing to provide specimen for breath test. 4.").

Page 67, line 24, column 2, at end insert ("for analysis").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House I should like to move Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 together, and to speak to Nos. 22 and 70 at the same time. Considerable concern has been expressed, both in the House at Committee stage and elsewhere, about those drivers who try to escape the breath test requirements. It was suggested, therefore, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, in the amendment that he put down at Committee stage, that such drivers should be disqualified as if they had committed one of the main drinking and driving offences. We have carefully considered this matter and have come to the conclusion that there is a need for a power to order disqualification if the circumstances of any particular case are serious enough to warrant this. Accordingly, we are proposing that this power should be introduced.

However, as all offences subject to discretionary disqualification must be endorsed on a licence, it is also necessary to allocate a number of penalty points to the offence. The amendment to Schedule 7, therefore, assigns four penalty points for the offence of failing to provide a specimen for a breath test. This is the equivalent to one-third of a disqualification, which is what it would be if the offence currently attracted discretionary disqualification. Consequential to that amendment it is necessary to clarify the wording in line 24 so that the failure to supply a specimen of breath for an "in charge" offence relates to the evidential breath specimen and not to the screening test.

The Government consider that this additional power of disqualification will be a helpful addition to the powers available to the court in tackling these irresponsible drivers who endeavour to evade the drink-drive laws. I therefore commend these amendments to your Lordships. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved amendment No. 17: Page 67, line 39, column 3, leave out ("5") and insert ("4–8 at the discretion of the court").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a similar amendment to one which was brought forward at Committee stage to deal with the question of a person causing a vehicle to be taken on the road uninsured and unsecured against third party risk. I think that all noble Lords will agree that this is a serious offence and one which deserves to have a higher number of penalty points than five. The amendment seeks to give a top rating of eight points but to have a range of from four to eight. When this question was brought up in Committee the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate said that it was obvious that the arguments put forward were arguments he would like to consider. On that basis the amendment was withdrawn. I hope that the noble and learned Lord has been able to consider them. I will move the amendment briefly in the hope that the Government see fit to accept it. May I ask leave to delete the words "discretion of the court" from the amendment since I am told that they are unnecessary?

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Ampthill)

My Lords, Amendment proposed: Page 67, line 39, column 3, leave out ("5") and insert ("4–8").

Earl Fortescue

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment which seeks to give courts some discretion as to the number of penalty points that they can impose for the offence of driving uninsured. In my own experience, which is limited to one court and that not a very large one, the penalties for this offence vary from a fine of several hundreds of pounds down to a fine of £5 and £10 and even, in certain somewhat unusual cases, to no fine at all but a conditional discharge. Another reason for supporting this amendment is that I know that the Magistrates' Association very much favour the idea of courts having some discretion as to the number of points awarded for this offence.

In another place the Government established a precedent for a range of points for the offences of failing to stop and failing to report an accident. At the Committee stage in this House it was agreed that a range of points should be available for the offence of careless driving.

Also the report of the interdepartmental working party (which was not available until after the Second Reading in this House) comes out, on page 55, in favour of a range of points. I think that the only argument against giving courts such a discretion is that it may take up more court time. I think that this argument can be exaggerated and, in any event, I feel sure that any extra court time is more than offset by better justice. I therefore very much hope that my noble and learned friend the Minister will be able to accept this amendment or, failing that, that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will press this amendment.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment as I did at Committee stage and for exactly the same reasons that I referred to at that time. I am a little sorry that my noble and learned friend has not been able to communicate the further thoughts until perhaps only a few hours ago. One might have expected the department to have come up with some suggestions following that Committee stage. The main objection which I still have is that we cannot allow for the sake of the convenience of the court the opportunity for justice to be swept into one penalty point number. I reiterate that I believe that the insurance companies themselves are to a very large extent to blame for some people failing to have insurance.

I do not want to labour this too much because I have said on other occasions that I am no great friend of the insurance companies. Small print is a very fine thing if you care to read it through. There are a great number of misunderstandings—I put it no higher than that—as between a client, a broker and a company. Frequently the cardinal point is: How much is the policy going to cost? It could be with the best will in the world that the broker says, "I can get it for £X", but fails to say the limitations. There could be certain limitations, particularly when one changes cars, drives a friend's car where there are limitations on the policy, and finds himself uninsured. So there are degrees.

On the other side is the point that insurance is increasingly expensive, and we are advised that premiums are likely to increase by another 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. later this year. There is the temptation to avoid taking out any policy at all. That is pretty serious. Notwithstanding the safety net arrangements with the bureau, I have to say that although the bureau say, "We have the money in the kitty, and if there is an accident committed by somebody uninsured, the bureau will pay out" there are numerous cases, now several years old, where the bureau have not paid out and it has not been contested, whereas a person who was properly insured could have had legal representatives who could have made a proper case of it. On the one hand there is the inadvertent and the misunderstanding, which is more a technical offence and should therefore qualify for a comparatively low number of points; on the other side of the coin there is the mischievous avoidance of the responsibility. That should be very heavily penalised.

I hope that my noble and learned friend is not going to advance the same argument—if he is going to advance any argument at all—against this amendment that the yardstick for the points system has been taken from the average of fines throughout the country. I do not find that to be a satisfactory yardstick. It may be a yardstick but Parliament have the opportunity of looking at the situation perhaps a little more dispassionately than the department who may be relying on certain satistics of average fines. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble friend on this side of the House, and others who spoke in Committee, believe this to be something of a more serious nature that should have a penalty point variation moving towards the higher end for the more serious offences. I hope that the noble Lord pursues this argument.

9.40 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, as I said at Committee stage, we undertook to look at this matter and we have indeed done so very carefully. I gave reasons at Committee stage as to why we were opposed to the extension of discretionary points to offences other than failure to stop and failure to report. Of course, I agree with my noble friend Lord Fortescue that we did accept that the circumstances of those offences were very special. The offence is on the increase and it is a very important and dangerous trend in the traffic scene. On the other hand, I do not propose to go over again the arguments which I advanced at Committee stage against the discretion.

There is one aspect of the matter that I think can be easily lost sight of. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth was inclined to advise me against advancing this argument, but unfortunately I have to say that on this occasion I cannot take his advice in total. It seems to me important that the present system is based on a fairly coherent analysis of the decisions of magistrates up and down the country as to the relative severity of these offences.

As I explained, the points system is based on that very considerable body of experience, which is not to be set aside lightly. Of course, I accept it is perfectly open to your Lordships to decide that the generality of magistrates have got the balance wrong and at some particular level it requires changing, but I would certainly suggest that we need pretty strong reasons to reach that view. Personally I do not feel convinced so far that the magistrates are so wrong in treating careless driving and insurances generally as of equal seriousness, as is suggested, by putting 2 to 5 points on careless driving, in accordance with your Lordships' decision in Committee, and 4 to 8 points, as in the present amendment.

I would also venture to suggest that an important aspect of justice as between individuals, particularly when so many cases are in issue, is the question of consistency. Each magistrates' court, applying its mind to this matter, reaches a view; and if they have a discretion on points then it is very natural that different magistrates' courts, applying their minds very much to the same circumstances, may reach different points of view. I think that anyone with experience of this matter will know that a great deal of ill-feeling is sometimes generated where apparently similar cases are treated very differently. That is not an argument against all discretion, but it is an argument that indicates that consistency in sentencing is an important aspect of justice, not to be overlooked.

I mentioned before, and I think it is important, that the more discretion that is given to the courts in this matter the more time each of these cases takes up; and when one thinks of the number of such cases and multiplies that time by the total number, it involves a quite considerable amount of court time. My noble friend says it is not right to put into the balance the convenience of the court, but that is not what I am thinking of; I am thinking about the total amount of resource that we are able to devote to the administration of justice. There are many calls on our national resources: we hear about this continually. It is a question of priorities, and the Government must have regard to what can be allocated properly to the administration of justice and take account of that in the powers that the courts are given—because this is an attempt to improve on the present totting-up system where there is no discretion in the allocation of the equivalent of points and because of the present system the offences that are subject to this procedure are all to be treated equally. This, even with fixed points, is a considerable refinement and improvement upon that.

However, in the light of all that your Lordships have said, and particularly in the light of what has been decided already in relation to careless driving, if your Lordships are disposed to press this amendment, then I would not feel disposed to press it to a Division.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am grateful for the last remarks of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate. He said that one should not set aside lightly the general view of justices on these offences, but neither should we set aside lightly the effect on the individual. Justice must apply not only to the person who is to be brought before the court, but to the individual who may be suffering from a very serious accident and whose life may be completely ruined. If a person takes a vehicle on the road without insurance, that is almost as serious as drinking and driving. That is something with which I think your Lordships will agree. In view of the encouraging remarks of the noble and learned Lord, I will press this amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.46 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 18: Page 68, line 16, column 3, leave out ("3") and insert ("2–3").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with this amendment we return to the question of speeding. I do not want to be at all difficult, but there are one or two points which I should like to put to my noble and learned friend. I was a little disturbed when he said, in effect, that we have to pay due regard to the amount of money that we can afford for the administration of justice. I am not trying to be at all clever, but is he telling us that justice has a price tag? If he is saying that, then this further amendment, altering the penalty points to be awarded for speeding offences, is fairly important.

There can be only one difference between this amendment and the previous one, which is that in the previous amendment there was no alternative charge, while in the case of a speeding offence there is a range of alternative or complementary charges. That can be the only defence for having a fixed penalty for a speeding offence. However, this amendment attempts to establish the fact that there are degrees of speeding.

The first degree is that of the technical offence of exceeding the speed limit. It might be through carelessness, misjudgment or a number of things, causing no great damage to anybody and not offending the sensibilities of people. It might be that, as a result of a number of excesses over a stretch of road, the police authorities decide to set up a trapping system and anybody who is a few miles over the odds when going to work in the morning gets caught in the net. That driver is penalised with precisely the same number of points as somebody who exceeds the speed limit without proper regard, though without necessarily being guilty of reckless or careless driving, in a different area and in different circumstances, in which case there should be a further penalty.

During the Committee stage, my noble friend asked, in effect, "After all, what are two or three points?"He will probably remember the occasion. I say that if you have nine points, due to a very serious misdemeanour nine or 12 months earlier, two or three points can be the difference between keeping your job and losing it. It is the difference between compulsory disqualification and teetering on the brink. It might be for what I described as a technical offence. It is for that reason that we ought to have this particular variation. It is understood that the police are unlikely to want to prosecute for the minor and the technical offence, and that it may be embraced at some time in the future—next year or possibly the year after—into a fixed penalty scheme. I quite accept that. So if one had at this stage a variation which, although only one penalty point apart, recognised two degrees of the same offence, surely it would ease the passage of the fixed penalty system.

Your Lordships may remember that, with one exception, all noble Lords who spoke to this amendment at the Committee stage gave it their general favour. It was because it was very late at night that I agreed to withdraw it and to consult my noble friends and other noble Lords. I have consulted many of them. They still believe, as I do, that a variation in the penalty points system is just in this instance. I beg to move.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I think that this amendment is a mistake. If there is a scale of penalty points, the more rule of thumb they are the better it is. We have begun to introduce into this scale grounds for argument on the bench as to whether it is a two or a three point offence, or as to where it comes between four and eight points. I doubt whether this is justified. If it makes any difference to the grand total as to whether a driver exceeding the speed limit has a score of two penalty points or three, it seems to me that he is a pretty bad man to be on the road, anyhow, and that probably he ought to have a higher penalty rather than a lower penalty against him. We know that the speed limit is widely disregarded. Walk outside this place at any hour of the day, but especially at a time when your Lordships are leaving, and see what is happening. Why we do not have more by-elections in Parliament is a miracle to me because of the way people go by this place at terrific speed. Motor cycles do not seem to think they come within the speed restrictions. And the more noise they make the less they think that they come within any curb that has been laid down by the Transport Act.

With great respect to the noble Lord who has moved this amendment, I should leave it alone. This is difficult, anyway, to enforce. There is no point in messing about in this fastidious way between two and three points. It probably ought to be five, so let us leave it where it is.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I could not disagree more with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I think that my noble friend has got a point. It sounds as though the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is essentially a pedestrian and has not had the bitter experience of being "had up" for speeding when he really has not been speeding, as opposed to being "had up" for speeding when he really has. I recognise the difference. I fully admit that it has happened to me. It is very good to have a discretion here. There are so many times when one can inadvertently drive too fast. The road is clear, you are not doing any harm to anybody, but technically you are going slightly too fast. I admit that there are other times when you are in a frightful hurry and when you hope desperately that there is no policeman near you, but sometimes there is. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is speaking very much from the point of view of the pedestrian. Therefore I ask my noble and learned friend to forget what he said and to turn back to the very excellent arguments of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I fully appreciate what my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby has said. I can understand the case he puts forward, but I supported the view expressed on this amendment at Second Reading and at the Committee stage, and I have no reason to change my support now. I do not happen to have a halo around my head because only once have I been caught for speeding. It was turned midnight, on a road with no traffic anywhere near me. Technically it was an offence. I could not have hurt anybody. On the other hand, you can get speeding offences which are extremely dangerous. That is why there is a case for a range of penalties. No doubt the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate will be replying to this debate, and I should like to congratulate him because I gather that today is his birthday. He is in such a happy mood that he agreed with the last amendment; I hope that he is still happy and will agree with this amendment.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I do not agree at all with points discretion per se, except in this particular case. I think there should be points discretion between speeding at 40 miles per hour on a road with a 30 miles per hour speed limit and speeding at 120 miles per hour on a motorway that has a 70 miles per hour speed limit, and I support my noble friend's amendment.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for his good wishes. So far as accepting views is concerned, I think I have shot my bolt in that respect. Not for the first time I am very grateful for the remarks which have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, because in my submission to the House this proposal is indeed attempting to introduce very fastidious discretion into this matter. There are some 300,000 such cases every year and, as one of the law officers who has a responsibility for the administration of justice, I certainly cannot be indifferent to the proposal, which would place considerable extra burdens on the courts at a time when there are already quite intolerable delays in dealing with very serious cases—as anyone who has any connection with the administration of justice knows.

It is not a question of justice having a price tag—not at all. However, it is extremely important that justice should not be held up by the kind of minute discretion which this particular amendment seeks to give. The points system, by its very nature, will have to be a broad brush system and, of course, offences may vary in seriousness. If one is going to differentiate too finely one would not stop at two points and three points but would go on to have 2.1 points, 2.2 points and so on, with no limit to the fineness of the discretion. I believe that, in practice, there must be a limit on the degree to which one can carry this kind of discretion. As I said before, if one tries to be too precise one will run into the opposite danger of inconsistency, and I believe that this is what would happen in relation to speeding.

I very much doubt whether magistrates—with all the conscientiousness they bring to discharging their difficult task—could develop a consistent criterion for differentiating between a two points case and a three points case. What is a technical offence? How far over the speed limit does one need to go? What time of night does it need to be? And so on. One can imagine almost interminable arguments on this matter. The amount of excess speed is not in itself a sufficiently reliable indicator because there are many other circumstances and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill referred to some of them. I believe that fine discretion of this kind would lead to a strong sense of grievance among many people who were subject to the system. It would be felt by someone who was penalised three points that they were no worse, given the time of night, the conditions and the speed at which they were travelling, than someone who was penalised two points in, perhaps, the same court or a neighbouring court.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, after the announcement made by Mr. Fowler not so long ago, which was in all the newspapers, the press reported that "on the spot" fines would be between £10 and £20. This is a variation. The tickets may be for £10.50, £11.50 or £11.75 and this would be a variation. If variation is to be introduced later in the value of "on the spot" fines, then why not introduce the differentiation now? I know this is something for the future but I believe it is something the noble and learned Lord should consider now.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, I am just coming to the question to the effect of this amendment on the fixed penalty system. The arguments that I have already developed in my submission apply very strongly to the speeding case because of the great number of such cases, but my noble friend's intervention came at an appropriate time because I was just about to pass to the relationship of this proposal with the possible extension of the fixed penalty system to the less serious endorsable moving traffic offences. When I raised this argument before I was accused, I think, of using it almost as a gambler's last desperate throw because I had not used it in relation to careless driving or insurance offences. However, the argument is not relevant to these offences because we are not proposing that the fixed penalty system should be extended to cover them. It is relevant to speeding offences which we would like to see included in an extended fixed penalty system.

I believe this would be a reform which would be widely welcomed. We believe that it is a reform which would have advantages for both the courts and the motorists. But I cannot see us being able to implement it in any satisfactory way unless we have fixed points for the offences concerned. In theory it may not be totally impossible to have a fixed penalty system with variable points but in practice the operational difficulties for the police would be so great that our in view the balance of advantage would be against making the change.

In all the matters that we have been considering there is a balance to be struck. In relation to the question asked by my noble friend, the fixed penalty system which we have in mind would be a system providing for fixed penalties for given offences. There would of course be different fixed penalities for different offences, and I think that was what my right honourable friend was referring to in the remarks to which my noble friend drew attention. In the operation of a fixed penalty system which is going to be reasonably efficient I think it is necessary to have fixed penalties for given offences and that is why I suggest that granting a discretion on the points aspect is not advisable.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate for clearing that matter up for me.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, the other matter that I should mention is that if the offence is entirely technical and there are special reasons for non-endorsement, of course the points do not arise at all, so there is a discretion in the court in these circumstances to impose no points at all because it is only when the endorsement is put on that the points arise. So there is an element of discretion already—nothing or the fixed number that we suggest.

In these circumstances, I strongly press your Lordships not to accept this amendment. Some of the arguments are used in relation to the earlier amendments, and the strength of the arguments varies according to the case, but this is an amendment which I would strongly press your Lordships not to accept.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend for his very long answer. I should like to say at the outset that I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, should have advanced his arguments. I think I am right in saying that earlier he declared that he was not a car driver and loathed all motor-cars, so I am not in the least surprised that he adopts the attitude he does. I am sorry for him because if he is not a driver and has not enjoyed some of the hazards and pleasures of modern-day motoring he does not know what he is missing—five points or three.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. This Bill is being made for motorists by motorists, and I happen not to be one of them.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, were it so, I am quite sure that all the noble Lords who are motorists would rewrite this particular schedule in very different terms; I believe that this Bill is not written for motorists by motorists. I believe it is a really genuine attempt, particularly in Part IV, after many years, to get to grips with some of the hazards and the dangers experienced on our roads. It is a road safety section, and I believe it goes quite a long way towards meeting a great number of the desires of those who do not motor as well as those who do. I am surprised again that expressions of support for this should have come from so many noble Lords. However, I do not want to make too much of an issue of it.

May I remind my noble and learned friend of paragraph 56 of the report of the inter-departmental working party, in which it is said: In the case of speeding offences it is a feature of several overseas systems to graduate the points values according to the amounts by which the limit is exceeded". So some people have managed to find a formula to adopt this and apparently they do not find too much difficulty, because the departmental working party do not condemn that. They say further: We were, however, concerned that this could lead to an increase in the number of cases contested in court, for the purpose of reducing the award of points, which at present would be simply disposed of on a guilty plea". I quite accept that about half the motoring offences which come before the courts—I understand it is about half the total number of offences that come before the courts—may take up a lot of time. I do not think that should greatly concern us. However, my noble and learned friend has said that there can be cases where a speeding offence is one which would not necessarily result in an endorsement and therefore would not involve any points. It is on that understanding, that there is this escape route in the system, that I am prepared to accept what he advises, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Provisional licences and driving tests]:

Lord Strathcarron moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 17, line 34, at end insert— ("Provided that such regulations may be suspended if unexpected circumstances have unduly extended the waiting period for driving test appointments.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to make it quite clear that I support the Government in their intention to stop provisional licence-holders riding motor-cycles for ever without taking a test and in many cases with no intention whatever of going for the test. I am not happy at all about a system whereby they should lose their licence for a year if they have not passed their test within two years, but I was encouraged at Committee stage to be told by Her Majesty's Government that the waiting list is now considerably less than it was and averages out at about three to four months, though it is longer in London; I hope that in London the time will be reduced. This lesser waiting time is a great advantage because it does mean that a motor-cyclist can have several attempts within the two years to pass his test. However, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made a very good point at Committee, when he mentioned the effects of very bad weather, or even an epidemic of influenza, which would prevent the motor-cyclist taking his test within the time limit, and this would be grossly unjust. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give me an assurance that the Government will be flexible in their approach to this matter and perhaps extend the two years to a longer period. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I want to thank my noble friend for giving us the opportunity briefly to discuss further this important issue, and hopefully to reassure both your Lordships' House and motor-cyclists about our intentions. At present we have a situation where only a small minority, some 15 per cent., of learner motor-cyclists take a course of training, and far too many continue to ride indefinitely without taking a test. Everyone would agree that this is unsatisfactory. It is in stark contrast to the position of learner car drivers. Ninety-five per cent. of them take professional tuition and they are only too keen to pass their test. Their inducement to do so is the fact that they have to be accompanied.

It would not be practicable to make a similar pro- vision for learner motor-cyclists and we have therefore had to seek alternative means of achieving our objective. Those we have chosen are the two-part test, part I of which can be taken with an approved training organisation, and a limit on the duration of provisional licences. We believe that this should induce the great majority of riders to take training in the early part of their riding career when they are most vulnerable and to go on to pass their test within a reasonable space of time.

Worries have, however, been expressed that the present length of the test queues will mean that riders will not be given a fair chance to pass the test under the new system. We understand these fears not least because they have been so well expressed and endorsed by my noble friend. I should make it clear that we want riders to have a fair chance. It is simply not in our interest to take large numbers of riders off the road at the end of whatever period is set. If that were to happen, it would show a failure on our part as much as on that of the riders themselves. The aim of this provision is, I repeat, solely to encourage riders to take training and pass their test.

If we are to achieve this aim, the length of the period and the waiting time for the test will both be very important. The period must be short enough to give riders a sufficiently powerful incentive to pass the test. It must also be long enough to give them a fair chance to pass in the time available. At present we have a period of two years in mind: we thought it right to give everyone an indication of our thinking at this stage.

As my noble friend so rightly said, it is encouraging that the waiting period has been considerably reduced, as I said when I spoke on this matter previously. We are hoping that in this way we shall be able to bring an element of flexibility for the future, which we agree is highly desirable. We have that flexibility because the duration of the provisional licence will be specified in regulations. Those regulations need not be laid until late February or early March of next year. So we shall be able to defer a final decision on the duration of the licence until then, when we shall be able to take into account the length of the test queues at that time and the anticipated demand for motor-cycle tests. I entirely take the point that my noble friend makes that flexibility is very much a key to the whole matter, and in assuring him that we are so cognizant of that fact I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask, having been approached since the Committee stage, whether I am right in thinking that it will be compulsory to pass two tests, or is it optional?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, to the best of my knowledge I do not know that it will be necessary to pass two tests. There are two parts. It is a question of how you define what is one or two tests. You can have one test in two parts or you can call it two tests. If my noble friend would like details I shall be glad to see that he gets them.

Lord Strathcarron

My Lords, as regards the two-part test you would first have to get a certificate for having passed the initial training and then you would have to take that certificate along to get your major test. So in actual fact it is two tests.

Lord Monson

My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, seems to be dismissing the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, a little too readily. I do not see what harm it could do for the Government to accept the amendment. It imposes no obligations on the Minister. It is merely permissive; it is not mandatory. It is a stop-gap, a safeguard if you like. Will the Government not consider accepting it? I do not see how it could possibly harm the basic intentions behind this part of the Bill.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I say that I do not think that there is a necessity for the amendment. My noble friend Lord Strathcarron is so eminent a person in this field and so knowledgeable. I know that he has discussed this matter with colleagues. We hope that he is satisfied on this point. He represents very much the interests of motor-cyclists and motor-cycling and in many ways he is one of our bench marks. He will probably be pleased to know that that is so. But it is right that it should be so. I do not think that I ought to go further on this point. If my noble friend Lord Strathcarron wishes to comment further, I should be glad to hear his comment. But I think we have it fairly right at this stage.

Lord Strathcarron

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for the assurance that he has given that there will, as necessary, be a degree of flexibility in the time period. Therefore, I am pleased to beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 20: Page 19, line 19, at end insert ("but no such regulations shall be made until the Secretary of State has received reports from all relevant local authorities estimating the number of learner motorcyclists who require training in their areas and listing the facilities made available, including training and testing sites, examiners and instructors, in accordance with their road safety and training obligations under section 8 of the Road Traffic Act 1974.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage I tabled what I said was a probing amendment to make provision for compulsory training before a motor-cyclist was able to take a cycle on the road. I put that amendment forward in Committee in order to ascertain from the Government precisely what were the details for facilities and for finances. I must say that the reply from the Minister was disappointing in those respects.

Since the debate the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who spoke on this matter in Committee, has kindly sent me a copy of a letter, which he has sent to other noble Lords, and again he has expressed the view that the Government are putting their faith in the two-part test being an inducement for riders to proceed to take the test within a reasonable time. In his letter, the noble Lord said: We must first ensure that adequate training and testing facilities are readily available across the country". But he added: We see no reason for increasing public expenditure by either central or local government. We expect the system to be entirely self-supporting". I am certain that all noble Lords agree that one of our first considerations is not so much the training of someone who has been riding a bike for a year, but the training of the novice who will be taking a motorcycle on the road for the first time.

Since the Committee stage, I have been given some information about facilities that have been available in Scotland. I am informed that in Scotland, the motor-cycle trade prepared a scheme for training in schools and at centres. This scheme penetrated literally every area of Scotland with training facilities for the novices, and it is surely the novice with whom we are concerned. Mr. Graham Chatham, who has given me leave to mention his name, tells me that his own company has decided on the policy of: No training, no bike; and there has been excellent co-operation from the police in making an analysis of training that has been carried out.

They have carried out an analysis for every trained rider, and in Lothian in 1979 nearly 10 per cent. of all motor-cyclists were involved in a fatal accident or a serious injury that was reported to the police. But in the case of novices, in the first few months of that year 20 per cent. were involved. Of the trained sample of novices, the figure was reduced to 4 per cent. So it was 20 per cent. for all novices and 4 per cent. for those who were trained. I am told that the 1980 figures are almost identical. It was a sample of 1,500, and therefore this cannot be ignored.

I am also informed that the novices trained in 1979 have been followed through into 1980 to see what has happened to them. In the first 10 months of 1980, which have been analysed, only 3½ per cent. of the novices trained as riders in 1979 have been involved in a serious accident. These figures must be available to the department and they are illuminating. They show what happens when there is training for novices, and it is surely the novices about whom we are worried.

In this amendment we are asking—again in the form of a probe—that the Government should not try to go through with the scheme unless they know exactly what training facilities will be available, and unless they know exactly what the call upon them will be for training. Merely to talk of exhortations and inducements is not sufficient. The figures that I have quoted—and I am certain that they are correct because they have the full confirmation of the Lothian police—are surely illuminating.

We are concerned with the first-time novice who takes a motor-cycle on the road, and that there is nothing in the Government's scheme that gives any encouragement about what is going to be achieved. I hope that the amendment will be supported because it is asking that no regulations should go ahead unless we have all the relevant information of facilities, finance, instructors, training centres, and so on. I beg to move.

Lord Strathcarron

My Lords, this training aspect is of the utmost importance, and it is essential that the training facilities are a ailable at the start. This affects the two-year period, because if a novice is unable to take his initial training that would come out of his two-year period. That would be to his disadvantage. I hope that my noble friend will be able to tell me that again this will come under the flexible approach to the matter; obviously if the training schemes are not available then you would have to delay the scheme.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, my noble friend hits it on the head. Of course it would be wrong to bring in the regulations prescribing the new two part motor-cycle test until we were satisfied that the sufficient training facilities for learner riders were available, together with training bodies authorised to conduct the "Part I" tests on their trainees. My right honourable and honourable friends have no intention of allowing their motor-cycle safety proposals in this Bill to fail because of inadequate facilities. They have proposed introducing the new motor-cycle test on 1st January 1982 because of the urgency they attach to acting to deal with the frightening level of motor-cycle accidents. But they will not bring in the new test until the necessary facilities are available.

The department are in the process of finding out what facilities are and will be available. They are consulting the training and other bodies concerned. They are approaching individual local authorities about the resources which they can and will deploy, bearing in mind their statutory duties in the field of road safety. I entirely take the points that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, made, but I hope that in view of these reassurances the noble Lord will not press his amendment. We are very sensitive to the concern which lies behind it, and I hope that be will take my assurances on the proposals that we have.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I readily accept the assurance of the noble Lord as regards the preparations that the department and the Government are making. It still does not deal with the important question of the first time novice. I hope we may have serious consideration from the Government on this issue, and that these consultations will include the experiment in Scotland, particularly in Lothian. These figures are so illuminating—and I am sure they are correct—and they show the necessity for something more to be done on the first time novice. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 [New provisions as to offences relating to alcohol and drugs]:

10.23 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 21:

Page 20, line 11, at end insert— ("(6) For the purpose of arresting a person under the power conferred by subsection (5) above a constable may enter (if need be by force) any place where that person is or where the constable, with reasonable cause, suspects him to be. (7) Subsection (6) above does not extend to Scotland and nothing in that subsection shall affect any rule of law in Scotland concerning the right of a constable to enter any premises for any purpose.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should like also to refer to Amendments Nos. 24 and 28 with which it is related. The purpose of these amendments, taken together, is to deal with the difficult question of whether, and if so to what extent, power should be given to the police to enter private property in order to exercise their powers under the law related to drinking and driving. We discussed this law so far as England and Wales were concerned at some length at Committee stage. I should like now to take the discussion forward from where we left it at Committee stage. The Government have carefully considered the situation, and I should like to express our gratitude for the very full consideration that noble Lords in the Committee stage gave to this matter, and the constructive speeches to which we were treated then.

As I informed the Committee at that time, the Government had provisionally come to the view that a driver's rights should be based on the concept of the home rather than that of trespass. This was because we recognised the special significance which is very widely attached to freedom from intrusion into one's own home, and agreed that there would not be nearly so much support for the view that drivers should be able to seek refuge in other property they might own, such as a shop or office.

However, on further examination we have found that the concept of protecting a motorist in his home produces its own serious problems. If the police are not to enter a person's home to breath test him, should they be able to enter the home of a friend to which he may have gone? If so, then it is surely illogical to allow entry, by force if need be, to the home of an entirely innocent person while denying it to the home of the suspect. If not, then the opportunity for seeking sanctuary is vastly increased.

The view of the Government now is—and as I say, the speeches of noble Lords in Committee have been very helpful in reaching this view—that it is indeed unsatisfactory to allow the present state of the law to be perpetuated and that a power of entry for the police is therefore required, but that such a power is not to be given lightly. The power to require a breath test is a very wide one and does not depend on the constable suspecting that any offence has been committed; he may do it, for example, simply on the suspicion that the driver has alcohol, however little, in his body. And, in the case of a requirement made after a moving traffic offence, although there clearly has to be an offence, it can be a very minor one, which would not itself justify entry onto private property.

The criterion, therefore, in our view, should be not the nature of the property in respect of which the power of entry should be given, but rather the gravity of the suspicion to which the driver's behaviour has given rise. So in these amendments we propose that the police should be empowered to enter any place, whether or not it is the driver's home, and by force if need be, but only in clearly specified circumstances. These would be that they have reasonable grounds to suspect either that a person in that place not merely had alcohol in his body, but had consumed so much alcohol or drugs that his conduct was an offence under Section 5 of the 1972 Act—that is, the offence of driving or being in charge while unfit to drive through drink or drugs—or, alternatively, that he had been involved in an accident in which someone else had suffered injury.

In this way, the power of entry will be confined, and in our view properly confined, to those cases in which the grounds for suspicion are so serious as fully to justify, in the general public interest, the exceptional step of allowing the police to enter a person's property against his will. Of course, a person arrested on suspicion of the Section 5 offence would be required to provide an evidential specimen at the police station and could be charged under either Section 5 or Section 6, according to the evidence.

I trust that noble Lords will feel that this solution represents a proper balance of the interests of the public and the individual on this difficult subject and will approve the amendment. Your Lordships will see that we have drawn on the ideas that were expressed in Committee and have tried to bring them together. I should say that if the amendments to which I referred are accepted, then the alternative suggestions in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the amendment to that proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would not be appropriate but, as I said, we have tried to take account of those in formulating our point of view. The criterion of "accident" which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, suggested, and which is modified in the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is in fact adopted in our proposal by reference to an accident which has caused personal injury to someone other than the driver.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, has asked me to speak on her behalf, as she is unable to be here today. She wrote on 30th June to my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate. I do not know whether he has had an opportunity to see her letter, but the substance of it—and it involved a question—was that she was satisfied that it was in effect bringing the law of England and Wales into line with the law of Scotland on the principle of entry by the police under certain circumstances.

The noble Lady goes on to say: However I am a little concerned as to the position should a constable forcibly enter premises which turned out to be the wrong premises, and I think this could happen accidentally at night in particular where he pursued a car to a street of houses and was not certain as to which house his quarry had entered, and forcibly entered the wrong house, which might be temporarily unoccupied". The noble Lady concludes by asking: Would the police be liable for damage? I think that it is an important point and if it is possible for my noble and learned friend to answer it now, well and good, but otherwise perhaps I may say on behalf of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, that she would be very keen to have an answer to the question.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I very much appreciate the consideration which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate has given to the discussions at the Committee stage, and from the three amendments which we have tabled it is fairly clear that the consideration has been very detailed. I am still very concerned about a point that was emphasised at the Committee stage and which the Government Ministers not only in this House but in the other place emphasised; namely, that the last thing that anybody would want would be that a constable, thinking that someone had been involved in an accident, should chase him to his home and immediately insist on breathalysing him. Now, under this amendment not only can the constable chase the man to his home but he can forcibly enter it. I am certain that this is a point which the Ministers have considered in depth, but there is a complete change here from the view-points expressed not only in this House, but also in the other place; I shall not weary the House by going into the speeches that were made.

I was hoping that in the consideration of this matter the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate might have been able to follow the line that he had mentioned, in order to achieve a balance between doing the right thing where a person is involved in drinking and driving and at the same time preserving the position regarding a person's home and the right of forcible entry by the police; and I am still very worried about that aspect.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord and to the Government for the consideration that they have given to this matter. I felt that the Bill as originally drafted was a little too lax. On the other hand, though sympathising with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, I felt that it was a little strong, bearing in mind that we must be extremely careful about giving the police the right to force entry into a person's home. As I understand it, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, as originally drafted, would have covered all accidents, including damage caused to a person's own car, for instance, by his hitting his gatepost, scraping the side of the car as he went into his own drive. That is why I drafted an amendment to the amendment.

While the Government's amendment refers to injury to a person or persons, it says nothing about damage to other people's property. What happens where a man, who has had too much to drink, drives down an entire road of parked cars, hitting each one, as often happens? There might be up to £100 worth of damage caused to six, seven or eight cars. This is quite a grave matter, and I wonder whether it ought to be taken into consideration, bearing in mind that people are likely to lose their no claims bonuses and be put to a vast amount of trouble and inconvenience.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I am sorry to have to tell my noble and learned friend that I do not like what he has come up with. I think that he has gone too far. One would be tempted to recall what the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said about being fastidious in trying to define this point too carefully. On the other hand, I do not think that we have defined it at all, since, if I understand my noble and learned friend correctly, we have now moved away from the particular place of sanctuary, because we cannot define it properly, and we have moved to the gravity of the suspicion. I do not think that that is quite good enough. I do not think that we can allow policemen to barge into people's homes, if necessary by force, because they have a grave suspicion that an offence might have been committed. I think he has got to have something more than suspicion before he goes barging into houses. I think that an accident, an injury, an offence of a serious nature, has got to have been committed, and observed by the police to have been committed, before he can go chasing people. In no way do I condone the behaviour of the man who ran away from the police to avoid being breathalysed, or whatever it was—the case that was widely reported.

I also recall that at the Committee stage my noble and learned friend said that the number of these cases was small, and it was the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, who asked, "What is small? Can you define it?" The noble and learned Lord said, no, he could not, but he thought it was perhaps 5 or 10 per cent. of cases; he thought that was small. If it is that small we need not go quite as far. I think that on balance I rather prefer the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, which goes some way towards meeting the requirement.

One might now say to my noble and learned friend, whether it is Lord Underhill's amendment or the Government's amendment: So the policeman gains entry. Goodness me! What is he going to do then? It is absolutely too easy for the alleged offender to have taken a glass of spirit while he was in that house while the policeman was attempting to gain entry, and the whole thing falls flat—or does it not? I do not know. I do not want to be mischievous, but those learned in the law will find all sorts of reasons for doing this, but those of us who have a more practical application can see a lot of difficulties. I must say that I am not too happy with what I have heard. I would much sooner have another look at this in the quiet light of day.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, so far as I understand the position, the amendment set down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, goes further in permitting entry than the Government's amendment on the question of entry into a person's house, because Lord Underhill's amendment would allow it in the case of any accident, I think, that was properly described as an accident at all, whereas our amendment would restrict it to an accident—

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way. Frankly, I would have been only too happy to accept the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, to put that right.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord, but my noble friend Lord Lucas was referring to Lord Underhill's amendment, and I just wanted to explain the relationship, that our amendment requires, based on the accident point, that the accident should be one involving personal injury to another. So far as the question of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is concerned, in the sort of case to which he has referred I would think that there was very likely reasonable cause to suspect that the person driving the car was guilty of an offence under subsection (5), and the first branch of our proposed amendment would apply to it.

If I may go back to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chtlworth, I think it is important to emphasise that it is "reasonable cause" for suspicion. In other words, there must be something more than just an idea in the policeman's head; there must be some circumstance to which the policeman can point which would entitle a reasonable person to suspect that the person concerned, the person who is being pursued, had been guilty of the offence in question.

As to my noble friend Lord Mottistone, speaking for Lady Saltoun, I think the situation is that so far as Scotland is concerned no change is being proposed because, as I said, it is in England and Wales that this problem has really arisen. The effect of the amendments is broadly to bring the two into line. I think in most circumstances to which the injury case applies the law of Scotland would also permit entry, but the way in which it is expressed in Scotland is much more flexible. It is a common law approach; and therefore I do not think it is quite right to say that they are absolutely in line in that respect.

So far as mistake is concerned, I think the answer to the question there would depend upon whether or not the mistake was a reasonable one. The constable, as far as our amendments are concerned for England and Wales, would be entitled to go into a particular house only if he had reasonable grounds to suspect that the person in question was in that house. I hope that that answers the questions.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 22:

Page 20, line 13, at end insert— ("(4) An offence under section 7(4) set out in Schedule 8 shall be included among the offences involving discretionary disqualification (within the meaning of Part III of the 1972 Act.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Provisions substituted for ss. 6 to 12 of the Road Traffic Act 1972]:

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 23: Page 69, line 36, at end insert ("the requirement is made under subsection (2) and").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this minor amendment corrects a small error in the Bill by which the power which the police now have to require a driver to provide a breath specimen at a police station after an accident is extended to other cases where a breath specimen can be required. The amendment restores the status quo. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 24: Page 69, line 38, leave out from ("constable") to end of line 42.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 25 to 27 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Clashfern moved Amendment No. 28:

Page 70, line 7, at end insert— ("(6) For the purpose of requiring a person to provide a specimen of breath under subsection (2) above in a case where he has reasonable cause to suspect that the accident involved injury to another person or of arresting him in such a case under subsection (5) above a constable may enter (if need be by force) any place where that person is or where the constable, with reasonable cause, suspects him to be. (7) Subsection (6) above does not extend to Scotland and nothing in that subsection shall affect any rule of law in Scotland concerning the right of a constable to enter any premises for any purpose.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, are we going on to the next amendment? It is a very important one and we might have to take some time on it.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I think it would be right to put the Question on Amendment No. 28 before deciding whether we go on from there.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and my noble and learned friend, have indicated that the next amendment will take a bit of time. I must say that I am a little disappointed with the progress. I had very much hoped that we would get to Amendment No. 33 today, so that we could start on the mass of seat belt amendments first time round on Wednesday. But, in view of the lateness of the hour and in view of the fact that we are going to have to sit tomorrow, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, might agree with me that it would be a good thing to postpone further consideration for the moment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, the noble Lord the Chief Whip is quite right in thinking that we have reached the point in our consideration of this Bill at which it would be appropriate to terminate our proceedings. I am sorry that we have not got as far as the noble Lord had hoped, but we have endeavoured to move as quickly as possible this evening. There are a number of intricate and difficult points which your Lordships have had to consider. I am sure that it was right and proper that we should have taken the time necessary to consider the various amendments which have been before us this evening. I am certain that when we resume the Report stage of these proceedings on the Transport Bill next week we shall endeavour to make sufficient progress so that we shall be able to complete the Report stage of the Bill then. I entirely agree with the noble Lord the Chief Whip that this would be an appropriate time to adjourn the proceedings this evening.

Consideration on Report adjourned.