HL Deb 09 July 1982 vol 432 cc1002-34

11.27 a.m.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Avon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Earl of LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 26 [Fixed penalty offences and fixed penalty notices]:

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 27, line 33, at end insert— ("() he has been informed that the constable intends to issue such a notice; and").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 24, I return your Lordships in some degree to the discussions that we had last Monday with regard to when a policeman examines a driving licence while considering the possibility of issuing a fixed penaity notice in relation to an alleged offence. The amendment is fairly simple. It is certainly not intended to confuse the Committee nor, indeed, to lead us into somewhat more complicated areas. The inclusion of the proposed wording in Clause 26 would mean that at the start of a conversation between a policeman and an offending motorist, the policeman must ensure that the offending motorist is informed that he (the constable) intends to issue a fixed penalty notice, before the other two provisions of the clause are taken care of. In effect, that means that any risk that the motorist might feel that examination of his licence has influenced the constable's decision would be removed, because the motorist then has the opportunity of proffering his licence, or not proffering it, having been warned that a fixed penalty notice may be issued.

This matter was discussed at some length in Committee in the other place, and at that time the Under-Secretary of State made it clear that the action which the amendment seeks to include in the Bill would in fact be recommended as standard procedure. However, that would be no more than a recommendation, and what I think the Under-Secretary agreed was desirable should be made binding by including it in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

May I say that as long as subsection (3) remains—and the Committee will recall that when we last met on this Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, proposed an amendment which was to delete subsection (3)—I consider this not only an acceptable amendment but one which is highly desirable.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

On these Benches, I support the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in relation to this amendment.

The Earl of Avon

In discussing this amendment, I would like to make it clear that it is our intention that an officer shall do exactly what my noble friend would like him to do. As he says, in another place the same issue was discussed and my honourable and learned friend said the same thing. As the Committee knows, there is no entitlement for the police to inspect a licence for points and no requirement on a member of the public to allow this. Therefore, in order to see the contents of the licence, the officer will have to explain to the driver why he needs to see it and therefore that he is thinking about offering a fixed penalty.

Thus, what the amendment requires him to do, the officer will have to do anyway. Therefore, what have we against it? In making law it is a general principle that one does not need to spell out every inevitable consequence of one's proposals, since this would fill the statute book with redundant clauses. There is also a danger that putting such a requirement on the statute book may lead—this is a real point in my argument—to technical defences. What would happen if a motorist were to claim that a constable did not tell him that he was intending to issue a fixed penalty notice before doing so?

The purpose of the amendment, as I understand it, is to ensure that a constable shall stick to his intention to issue a fixed penalty notice after seeing the licence, if the person is eligible. The amendment would go further and might subject the police to false claims that the offer was not made first, despite the fact that the fixed penalty was issued. There would then be claims that the fixed penalty was issued invalidly, and, for offences governed by Section 179 of the Road Traffic Act, the time allowed for warning of an ordinary prosecution would almost certainly have passed.

This is our problem. May I say that on Monday when we were about to come to this issue, I was given the opportunity to accept the amendment if pressed to do so; but since Monday counsel has looked at it again and has come back because of the technical offences and said that he would much prefer me not to make this offer to my noble friend, as he would find drafting the new form extremely difficult. In view of the support he has had around the Committee, perhaps my noble friend will offer to withdraw his amendment now and I will go back to counsel and say that the Committee wants this and that he will have to find some way around it.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to my noble friend for his response and I am grateful to the other noble Lords who gave their support to the amendment. I had rather expected that the legal people would make an objection along these lines to providing a loophole. However, I do not believe that this would be so; the analogy that might have been drawn between this offence and drink-and-driving offences—and this escape is what worries the legal profession—is not valid, since any motorist who is directly affected by the clause would, by definition, admit his guilt by accepting the fixed penalty notice, but he can refuse the penalty notice and go to court. In other words, the policeman says, "If you will not accept the penalty notice, I shall report this with a view to prosecution"—so that the normal process of law goes on. I do not think that the analogy is correct.

However, since my noble friend has made an offer to have a further look at this matter, and bearing in mind that it appears to be the wish of the Committee that this be included, I think it would be better to leave the matter today to see what the department and their legal advisers can come up with to meet the requirements of the Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.35 a.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 26:

Page 28, line 3, at end insert— ("() If a constable alleges that a speeding offence under the 1967 Act or other Acts has involved the exceeding of a prescribed speed limit by more than 15 m.p.h., the alleged offender shall be informed that the normal process of prosecution will be initiated. () No speeding offences under the 1967 Act and other Acts shall be offences involving obligatory endorsement unless a Court is satisfied that the circumstances of the offence caused or were likely to cause serious danger to other road users. () In Part II of Schedule 7 to the Transport Act 1981, delete:

"Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 s. 78A.
Exceeding a speed limit… …
and substitute:
"Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 s. 78A(1).
Speeding offences under the 1967 Act and other Acts excepting those dealt with by payment of a Fixed Penalty.

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 26, which inserts a new subsection in Clause 26, is essentially a probing amendment. We are trying with these three subsections to provide for a differentation between procedures to deal with speeding offences which cause or are likely to cause serious danger and offences of a less serious nature. The Committee will recall that we discussed this last year at some length. There was a general feeling at that time that there were, in terms of alleged speeding offences, those which were of a serious and dangerous nature and those which were of a technical nature.

This proposal is set down to facilitate a system which could be introduced whereby the more serious offences could continue to be dealt with by the courts with the likelihood or probability of much heavier penalties, and the less serious offences which might be dealt with rapidly by a fixed penalty system. This would meet the Government's desire to reduce the burden on the courts in respect of technical offences, and it would deal with the area which we have come to regard in road transport Bills as decriminalising some of the offences. It reduces certain offences to the category of technical and non-dangerous offences.

In the event, in regard to a speeding offence there is a provision for an alternative charge of reckless or dangerous driving, so the point of somebody being dangerous by virtue of speeding is looked after. In the amendment I have put down 15 mph over 70 mph—which is 85 mph, and on a motorway that is still reasonable; 15 mph on 50 mph takes amounts to 65 mph and this might be considered by the Committee to be unreasonable. If one could get the general view of the Committee with regard to dividing the speeding offences between the serious and the technical, that figure could be altered.

This is a probing amendment and if there is general sympathy for it it could lead to other motoring offences, which might be considered to be more of a technical nature than of a dangerous nature, being brought into the scheme, so simplifying the whole scheme.

Lord Underhill

May I first ask a technical question? Reference is made in the amendment to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 and Section 78. Looking at the particular Act, I am wondering whether there should be reference also to Section 13, dealing with speed limits on special roads. I put that point first in case the noble Earl has not got an answer and might get advice before the debate on this amendment closes. I would give general support to the principle behind the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has moved, but there are some points involved.

First, as he rightly said, the suggestion of 15 mph is purely arbitrary. I know that when I chortle along the motorway at 70 mph maximum and somebody passes me at 90, it is not the man doing 90 that I worry about: it is the innocent driver who is going along at 50 or 55 and who gets scared out of his wits when somebody goes past him at 90. Equally, it is a little annoying if somebody does 90 mph and nothing happens, and yet somebody doing 40 on a 30-mile limit road, perfectly safely, gets caught. That has only happened to me once in my lifetime and I was very annoyed. Also, it could be very dangerous for people who are driving well below the 50 mph limit, which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas suggests.

The intention is that with a 15 mph excess above the limit something more than the fixed penalty could apply. But some speeding offences of much lower magnitude than that might be treated in the same way. As the noble Lord said, when he put down an amendment to the 1981 Act to have a two-tier system for speeding offences, I gave support to that proposal. I still support the principle which is contained in Amendment No. 69, which is allied to No. 26. There are speeding offences which are purely technical. Somebody has broken the law and so there has to be a penalty; yet there has been complete safety, with no danger whatever. On the other hand, one may have speeding offences which are highly dangerous not only to the pedestrian but to the person in the vehicle itself and to other road users. Therefore to have the one common three-points penalty system seems to be wrong. Even if the wording of the two amendments is not regarded by the Minister as satisfactory, I hope the Government will accept the principle and perhaps come up with an amendment of their own at Report stage.

Lord Davies of Leek

As somebody who regularly uses the roads, may I say briefly that this is very difficult. Of course I support the idea but, for instance, I was driving through Banbury at 3 o'clock in the morning in a area that had an 40-mile limit. There was not a soul about but a couple of policemen happened to be lurking in an alleyway—and then blue lights were flashing and I thought, "My God! what have I done?" There was not a soul about. Tech- nically, although there was nobody around, I was driving at 10 mph faster than the limit; but I did not know—I was not looking at the car. It was a lovely night and I was enjoying driving. I could have been before the courts and had to pay a fine, while somebody driving at 90 mph and passing me on the highway might have got off very easily.

In other words, however we deal with this, in the last analysis we are dependent on the courtesy and understanding of the police officers concerned. Whether we like it or not we are in their hands, because how are we to ask a jury or a court to decide whether something that happened in Banbury, Oxford or Stoke-on-Trent was a danger to the public? In truth, of course, if we build up a little more courtesy on the road there could be less death and less ugliness in modern driving. I can see the difficulty in this but I support the idea.

The Earl of Avon

If I may first reply to the specific point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, Section 13 provides for the motoring speed limits and Section 13 (4) creates the offence. Therefore it should actually be included and I am sure my noble friend would have said that in his reply.

One of the main effects of my noble friend's amendment is the same as that of those introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, namely, that where a person is given a fixed penalty he should not be liable to penalty points. I have, therefore, some of the basic objections to this amendment as I had to the earlier ones. But my noble friend, with his customary intelligence, has produced a variant with subtle differences and I must therefore say something in addition.

The differences are really two-fold. First, the proposal is confined to speeding and not to the whole spectrum of endorsable offences in the extended fixed penalty system. This at least reduces the possible area of disagreement between us, even if it does not remove it. Secondly, he has made an attempt to produce some criteria for deciding whether a speeding offence should attract penalty points. If a person is exceeding the limit by less than 15 mph the police may give him a fixed penalty attracting no points. But they are not obliged to do so. They could still report him for prosecution. If a person is exceeding the limit by more than 15 mph they cannot give him a fixed penalty: they can only report him for prosecution. Where he is reported for prosecution he will be liable for points, but only if the court is satisfied that the offence was liable to cause serious danger to other road users.

I suppose some people might query my noble friend's decision to take 15 mph over the speed limit as a crucial dividing line, and the noble Lords, Lord Underhill and Lord Davies of Leek, have already done so. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, liked the principle as did the noble Lord, Lord Davies, in his compassionate speech describing his night flight through Banbury. Both, I think, agree with me that this is a very difficult area and one on which it is difficult to come to firm decisions. Therefore at the moment I do not want to query whether this is the right guideline, but rather to suggest that there are dangers in having any set guideline of this sort. It seems to me that if motorists realise that they can exceed the speed limit by 15 mph, or any other figure, and have the probability of getting away with no more than a fine, they are much more likely to drive up to that figure. If they do, and if we believe that existing speed limits have any justification at all, then the consequences for road safety can only be adverse. It is, of course, arguable that some speed limits are unrealistic. But if they are, the right course is surely the selective raising of limits rather than universally weakening their observance.

My second doubt about my noble friend's amendment relates to what happens if the motorist is taken to court. Whether he receives points will depend not merely as now on the objective test of whether or not he has exceeded the limit. It will also depend on the much more difficult to prove subjective test of whether he has committed an offence causing not merely danger but serious danger. And the onus of proof will be on the prosecution to show that danger was involved, rather than on the defendant to show that it was not.

I fear that the consequences of this would be that many more cases would be contested and that the prosecution would find it extremely difficult to get a conviction involving the award of penalty points. If more cases were contested this would, of course, negate our object of relieving the burden on the courts. And if the prosecution find it too difficult to get a conviction with penalty points, then we shall no longer have a sufficiently strong weapon to deter persistent offenders.

My overall feeling is that, in attempting to make a distinction between the various kinds of speeding offences, my noble friend has swung the odds too heavily in favour of the motorist. I should also make the point that if we introduce the concept of danger into proof of a speeding offence, it might well be difficult to resist introducing it into proof of other road traffic offences as well. Although this may seem attractive to those on the Committee who perhaps tend towards driving up to the limits, I believe it is a temptation that we should resist. I hope I have, as it were, answered my noble friend satisfactorily and have gone far enough to enable him to consider my remarks further.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

Before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether he could tell the Committee if in the past there has been written into an Act anything like the 15 mph limit, because I have felt that though it was generally accepted that 10 mph over the limit was a possibility, I do not think it was ever written into an Act. If it is going to be, I am afraid I would not agree with it. I do not think that either 10 or 15 should be written into an Act. Can my noble friend help?

The Earl of Avon

My advice is that it never has been in an Act.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am obliged to my noble friend for his not unexpected answer. I am, however, very glad to note that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, supports the general tenor of differentiated offences. If I may just make one quick comment to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, I can understand why, quite rightly, in the early hours on a deserted road in Banbury he was apprehended. If one looks at the convictions for motoring offences which have a drink involvement, they fall mostly during the hours which are implied in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, about the time when he was driving. I am not suggesting that the police would be lurking, but they would be on the watch-out during those hours of darkness, to stop a motorist who might be speeding—

Lord Davies of Leek

I asked the policeman, "Are you looking for 'alcos'?" I said that I had pretty well had nothing to drink all day and my word was taken for that. I think there is quite a possibility that, at that time of night, the police and others are looking for those who are driving dangerously and who are not aware of the fact, because they are under the influence of alcohol. I assure the noble Lord that I was not.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I need no assurance. Returning to this amendment, excluding all offences other than speeding it was put down for the purpose of finding out from the Government what was their general attitude. I do not accept my noble friend's view that, if we moved the limit five or 10 mph for the purpose of this amendment, motorists would purposefully meet the excessive amount, because I know of very few speedometers, certainly in the older motor cars, that are so calibrated and that can be observed so finely by the motorist that four or five mph can be seen. So I think that any excess is likely to be unintentional rather than purposeful, particularly if that excess was made in smaller numbers.

I do not believe, either, that we can move to a situation of changing unrealistic speed limits which are now obtaining on our roads, My noble friend Lord Howe has been trying to do this for years and years, but so many people believe that speed, and speed alone, is dangerous. The fact is that it is not, and that is borne out by a very careful study of accident statistics. If, as my noble friend suggests, the alleged offender is taken to court, and it then falls upon the prosecution to prove danger or serious danger, that has to be proved now in terms of the reckless driving offence and I do not believe that that is any great problem.

My noble friend also used a term which has crept into road traffic offences quite frequently in the last two years, and particularly during the course of this Bill in another place. He talked about the "persistent offender". There is no way that persistence in an offence can be determined until you go to court. The Committee will probably recall that in a motoring offence case, if the court finds the motorist guilty, it is after that decision has been made that the court asks of the police "Is anything known?" Then the whole sordid, or perhaps not sordid, history comes out and the degree of persistence is established. Certainly, standing by the side of the car in the roadway, unless the policeman has an exceptional memory, there can be no degree of persistence established at that time. So that the principle lying behind this amendment has nothing to do with weakening the law's attempts to punish a persistent offender.

Finally, my noble friend Lady Macleod said that she had always understood that there was a little bit of a leeway. I think that that depends very much on the attitude of the policeman and of the driver, and on the kind of circumstances that surround the alleged offence. As I said right at the outset, the figure that is in my amendment is not important. I really want to put a marker down for my noble friend and the department to give a good deal more serious consideration to the general question of differentiated offences. This whole part of this Bill is dealing with the motorist; it is a growing problem and is one which will not go away. It is a problem which provides opportunities for road traffic engineers and for parliamentarians to find better ways of dealing with it.

One of the better ways of dealing with the problem is to remove from the criminal aspect those technical, wretched offences which confuse and annoy everybody. That is what I want the Government to study. I do not expect an answer this Session; I do not really expect an answer next Session. But we must get down to it, and this gives us an opportunity of dealing with the motor car and the motorist in real terms, and not in terms of the days of the red flag. So much of our legislation dealing with motoring offences is almost of the red flag era. Having paid attention to what my noble friend has said, and bearing in mind that I am sure he will give me an assurance that he will consider all those points which various members of the Committee have made, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved.]

Clause 26 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Fixed penalty offences]:

[Amendments Nos. 28 to 32 not moved.]

11.58 a.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 33: Page 72, leave out lines 8 to 10.

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to remove the offence of leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position from the list of offences to which the fixed penalty procedure may apply. I am certain that the Committee will agree that this offence is a serious road safety infringement. It is anti-social and, I suggest, inappropriate for the fixed penalty procedure. It is not an unimportant issue. It raises the question of danger on the roads, and every noble Lord who drives a car will know how dangerous this offence of leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position can be.

In the Committee in the other place on 20th April, at col. 975 of the Official Report, the Under-Secretary said: It would be impossible to believe that there could be no circumstances involving parking to which the fixed penalty should rightly apply. That is not the question. The entry in Schedule 1 of the Bill does not relate to parking as such, but to leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position. The Minister also sought to minimise the offence by suggesting that if a vehicle is left in a dangerous position for only a short period then the fixed penalty could be applied instead of a prosecution going to the courts.

How does one reduce the seriousness of an offence merely because the offence happened for only a few minutes? That attitude can be justified only if there is no accident, but in those few minutes there could be a serious accident. Therefore time surely is not the important point but whether the vehicle is in a dangerous position, having regard to general road users. The 1972 Act provided that if this offence was committed twice, a sentence of three months' imprisonment would be given. That indicates how seriously Parliament regarded this offence when it passed the 1972 Act. Therefore the amendment which I move proposes that this should be taken out of the list in the schedule to which the fixed penalty procedure may apply. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Leek

Sometimes it is very difficult to say exactly what a dangerous place is. May I give a concrete example linked with this noble House. At night many of us drive out and have to wait and then shuffle into a stream of traffic, but parallel with the fences around our parking area taxis and cars are sometimes parked. So you have to creep out two or three yards into a positively dangerous position because you cannot see the oncoming traffic. To judge what a dangerous position is is not so easy as one would expect. I drive out of this place every night in the dark and it is a dangerous job to do so when there is a string of cars parked parallel with the bars which form the boundary to the car park. It is the same on corners of streets. If a car is parked just round the corner one can be in difficulty. The judging of a dangerous position is not always easy, particularly for someone who does not drive a car. Again it is left to the common sense of good people who drive cars to realise this. The Committee will have got my point and there is no need to give scores of examples.

Lord Mottistone

I sympathise greatly with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and absolutely agree that it would be much better if those cars were not there. One experiences just the same difficulty coming out of our car park when tourists are blocking one's vision. In a sense, they, too, are parked in a dangerous place. So where do you draw the line? You have to be just as careful, poking your nose out with cars parked there, as you do when you have to poke your nose out through the tourists. Therefore I should have thought that the noble Lords' example is one of those not very clear-cut cases.

The Earl of Avon

I think we are trespassing almost on Black Rod's territory; namely, how do we get out of the Houses of Parliament safely? If I may come to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, we feel there is little doubt that there may be circumstances where leaving a vehicle in a dangerous position proves such a hazard that the police officer will report the offence for prosecution. I am equally certain that there will be circumstances in which it will be entirely appropriate for the matter to be dealt with by fixed penalty. This is the extra thing we are now offering. That is the flexibility which the Government are trying to provide by giving the police this third option. I do not think it is possible in every case to say that this Offence will be so serious as to warrant prosecution. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, when Parliament first considered this offence in 1972 they believed that a second or subsequent conviction should carry a maximum penalty which included a term of three months' imprisonment. But only two years later, by 1974, this view had changed so that the maximum penalty for a first or subsequent conviction should carry a maximum penalty of a fine of £100. This is in line with a number of other offences we are proposing to include in the extended fixed penalty system.

It may also interest noble Lords to know that the average fine imposed in the last year for which we have figures was £19. The fixed penalty we are proposing for endorsable offences—of which this is one—is £20, so I do not think this can be said to be out of line with how the courts view the severity of the offence. I should also point out that being an endorsable offence a fixed penalty notice could only be issued if the driver is with the vehicle. If the driver is not there, the constable does not have that option and would then use his discretion to report for prosecution. But for cases where the driver is there, I believe it is sensible to retain the option of the fixed penalty for the circumstances where it would be the most appropriate option. With that explanation, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, would consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I shall certainly look very carefully at what he has said. It appears to me that this comes down to a question on a later amendment as to the guidance which chief officers may give to their police constables. In the circumstances, therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 34: Page 73, leave out lines 16 and 17.

The noble Lord said: This is a similar matter. We are seeking the deletion of one of the offences listed in Schedule 1 as those which could come under the fixed penalty procedure. It relates to the offence of failing to stop one's vehicle on being requested to do so by a constable in uniform. I am certain that the noble Earl will agree that this is a serious road safety infringement. At least one of the motoring organisations considers—I have no doubt the other might do likewise—that to be so, too. As with the last offence, I regard this as very much an anti-social offence and one which is inappropriate for the fixed penalty procedure. To put it within the fixed penalty procedure devalues the seriousness of the offence.

In Committee in the other place a large number of possible circumstances were put forward and debated. I do not propose to deal with them here, but noble Lords will appreciate that there could be a wide variety of possible circumstances and reasons why a motorist may refuse to stop. Put another way, it may not be in their interests to stop. During the Committee stage in the other place the Under-Secretary said that the fixed penalty notice can assist only in minor cases where a car fails to stop on the first occasion but is stopped quickly thereafter by another constable. The question is to determine when it is or is not a minor issue. The Under-Secretary agreed that the constable who eventually succeeds in stopping the motorist will have no more evidence than the constable who in the first place required the motorist to stop, when the motorist did not do so but went straight on. The constable has to decide on the spot which option to follow, yet he has not the o same information because he is the second constable. The decision as to the importance of the offence may be one which only a court can decide. It is on that ground that I ask the Committee to approve this amendment. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

This amendment differs from the other amendment in a slightly surprising way, in that this is a non-endorsable offence. We are proposing that it should be covered by the extended fixed penalty system because non-endorsable offences have been traditionally regarded as less serious.

It has been argued that failing to stop for a constable could be tantamount to resisting arrest—this is obviously a serious breach of the offence—but as with the offence which we were discussing previously there are clearly degrees of seriousness. I should perhaps say once again that the fixed penalty is a third option which in some circumstances will be more appropriate than a caution or report for prosecution. I am convinced that for non-endorsable offences, which this is, that option should be available.

Again, I think it is worth pointing out that the courts do not view this offence with quite the same gravity as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, clearly does, nor indeed did Parliament when considering the maximum penalty, which is a fine of £100, again in line with that for a number of other offences in Schedule l.

It may be of interest to the House to know that 3,000 cases of guilt came up in 1980. I do not share the view that in every case this offence should be the subject of a court process on the chance that there might be a more sinister reason for not stopping than was at first apparent. That may or may not be subsequently revealed in court proceedings. There could undoubtedly be a wide range of reasons why a car failed to stop. The fixed penalty provides the necessary flexibility to deal with this as an additional option. I might add that the police who will be operating the system are quite content that this offence should be among those eligible for fixed penalty treatment when the circumstances warrant. I hope that the Committee will reflect on this and that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will think over what I have said.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Avon could explain the figure of 3,000 cases? If there were 3,000 offences of failing to stop a vehicle when required to do so by a police constable in uniform, this sounds a 'rather large number. But ultimately were other offences contained in that figure of 3,000; in other words, was failing to stop the lesser or secondary charge that was brought? The other charges might be exceeding the speed limit, resisting arrest, drunk driving, robbery, failing to report an accident or hit and run. So as to the 3,000 cases, it could be that the seriousness of that very large number is somewhat diminished in that heavier penalties for more serious offences were in fact exacted.

The problem as I see it is exactly that which we have been talking about frequently; the danger that might be implied. I find it difficult to understand quite where the accent comes in road safety. It is upon committing an offence, certainly; but if the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is thinking in terms of a policeman waving one down because there was an accident a couple of hundred yards up the road, then we would have to examine the obligatory, mandatory and advisory notices which are put up. That leads us into a whole new realm of offences.

The Earl of Avon

I do not have the specific statistics for which my noble friend has asked, and in point of fact I rather doubt that they exist. If they do exist, I will certainly let the House know what the figures are. Perhaps I could just put the figure of 3,000 into context. We are talking, in round terms, of 800,000 offences a year, of which we are trying to get some 600,000 on to the fixed penalty system. In that context, the figure of 3,000 is not all that large.

Lord Underhill

I hope that the Committee will not take too much to heart the last point made by the noble Earl the Minister. So far as I am concerned, it would not matter if there were only 100 cases. We made it quite clear on Second Reading that, while we wished to see the system improve so that we can take many of these offences away from the courts, there must be no question of injustice. Neither must there be any question of there being persons who ought to be dealt with differently getting through the net merely to make things easier for the court procedures. Having said that, I will take careful note of what the noble Earl has said. The fact that an offence is non-endorsable does not necessarily mean that there are not many occasions when it could be very serious. The problem arises of the option the police constable has to choose when he is not the constable who actually waved down the motorist but is the constable further along the road. Yet he is in the position of having to make a decision on the option. There are points either way. I will read very carefully what the Minister has said, and now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

On Question, Whether Schedule 1 shall be the first schedule to the Bill?

12.15 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek

May I make a brief comment in passing? The charge in Schedule 1 relating to failure to comply with traffic direction signs is more difficult to avoid in country areas than people think, especially in the spring and in the summer time. Motorists who drive around the country districts of Britain will realise that traffic signs are sometimes covered by herbage or trees If the motorist is going to be stopped for not appreciating that he has passed a traffic sign, the local authorities and the police also should have a sense of responsibility to ensure that traffic signs are absolutely clear. I am sure that both experienced and learner drivers have come across this difficulty when driving along the roads in Britain. This is an appropriate place to call attention to the fact that, while there is a responsibility on us as motorists, there is also a responsibility on the police to report such instances and on local authorities to see that traffic signs are not obliterated, effaced or hidden by foliage or orther impedimenta.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, reminds us of something we have discussed on a number of occasions. One of the great difficulties which local authorities have, because of the financial constraints within which they are now working, is to do just what the noble Lord is suggesting. If one wished to be anecdotal, one could certainly trot out a number of occasions when one has been apprehended —for a speeding offence in particular.

It would seem to me that paint is a lot cheaper than cutting grass time and time again throughout a season. In those areas where there is a problem or is likely to be a problem, why could the appropriate warning sign not be painted on the road itself?

The Earl of Avon

These 'are all points slightly outside the scope of Schedule 1, but I will take note of them.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Fixed penalty notices given at a police station]:

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 36 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 37: Page 29, line 11, leave out ("the police station specified") and insert ("such a police station as may have been specified by him and recorded").

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may speak also to Amendment No. 40. It will be noted that there is an amendment, Amendment No. 38, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, which deals with the same matter. I shall be only too pleased to withdraw Amendment No. 37 when I have heard the explanation given by the Minister.

When this matter was considered in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said that the Government had followed as closely as possible the existing procedure requiring a licence to be produced for inspection under the Road Traffic Act 1972. The words which appear in Section 161(4) are: at such police station as may have been specified by him at the time". The words which appear on Form HOR T1, which is the form one is given to take to the police station with one's licence, also contain those actual words. Therefore, the real substance of my question is, is there any particular reason why it is considered necessary to change those words to the words which the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, is by his amendment proposing to put into the Bill?

I also have down Amendment No. 40, to which I have referred. I notice that the Government have not put down an amendment at that particular place in order to deal with the same point they wish to cover with Amendment No. 38; is there any special reason why that is so?

The Earl of Avon

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is entirely correct and he will be aware that the Government are entirely at one with him in what his amendment seeks to achieve. As he has mentioned it, he will by now have seen our Amendment No. 38. All I can say in answer to his question is that we prefer our brief wording, in that it is slightly more modern and stylish. They both endeavour to do exactly the same thing.

Lord Underhill

Can the Minister give any information about the reason why there is no amendment in the same place as my Amendment No. 40?

The Earl of Avon

We believe it is unnecessary. If I am wrong, I will come back to it.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

Is there an ambiguity in this amendment in the word "him"? Does it refer to the policeman or the motorist?

The Earl of Avon

It refers, of course, to the motorist.

Lord Underhill

Having heard the Minister's explanation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn,

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 38: Page 29, line 12, after ("notice") insert ("(being a police station chosen by the person concerned)").

The noble Earl said: I have already spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 39 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 41 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 42: Page 29, line 36, at end insert ("and a notice under this section may not specify a police station in Scotland").

The noble Earl said: This short amendment seeks to exclude Scotland entirely from the operation of Clause 27. As the Committee may be aware, the purpose of Clause 27 is to allow a driver to get a fixed penalty notice even though he is not carrying his driving licence. This is achieved for Scotland by Clause 40 Clause 27, therefore, does not apply to Scotland, as subsection (11) provides.

As the clause is drafted, it still has consequences for Scotland and in particular for the Scottish police. It would, for instance, be possible for a driver stopped by police in England or Wales to choose to nominate under Clause 27 a police station in Scotland at which he would present his driving licence and, all being well, get a fixed penalty notice. This however, would not fit in with the procedure of Clause 40 of the Bill. I beg to move.


I am not certain whether I heard the Minister correctly. Did he say that, if a person is apprehended in England and given a fixed penalty notice, and he has not got his licence, there is no procedure for him to present that licence in Scotland? If that is so, I wonder whether this is the appropriate time to ask another question. There are a number of amendments in this Bill relating to Scotland, many of which, frankly, not being a legal man, I just do not understand. I am wondering if, at some stage, it would not be helpful to the Committee—because the notes on clauses do not deal with this because all sorts of amendments come into the Bill—to have some indication as to the differences between the fixed penalty procedure proposed for England and Wales and that which will apply to Scotland. This is one point, and, having looked at a number of other amendments that I do not understand, there may be quite a number of other points.

Earl of Avon

My noble and learned friend, the Lord Advocate was going to take these amendments, but unfortunately he could not be here today. This point does arise again in connection with Clause 40, which will be taken when my noble and learned friend will be here next week. Perhaps, rather than that I should try rather amateurishly to answer these points, I may make sure that when we come to Clause 40 my noble and learned friend deals with Lord Underhill's questions.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

One always hesitates to interfere in anything to do with Scottish law, but there are problems here, as Lord Underhill says. It seems to me that the Scottish motorist will be penalised, notwithstanding the Clause 40 arrangement. The only way he can get away with a fixed penalty is to give an address south of the Border for the production of his driving licence. That will make the Border police fairly busy with people popping over backwards and forwards. If he cannot give an address of a police station in Scotland, and he cannot do that because the Scottish law provides rather differently in terms of the responsibilities of the Fiscal, then by definition the offending Scottish motorist has only two options; either to plead guilty and let the Fiscal make the penalty, or plead not guilty and go to court. All this arises because he cannot get his driving licence home again. It does give rise to a number of what appear to be anomalies as between English motoring law and Scottish motoring law.

I did look at this rather carefully, and I make the suggestion to my noble friend that Amendment No. 42 might be rather better were it to include the words, "except in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed in England and Wales". That I think would go some way towards meeting our Scottish motoring friends' requirements. There has to be in the United Kingdom a similarity of fairness as between offenders in one part of the country and another. I suspect as the Bill is now written there is a certain unfairness which is damaging to the interests of Scottish motorists. I do not invite my noble friend to make detailed comment on these remarks, but I hope that we can get further explanation when we get further into the Bill.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

May I express the hope that the Lord Advocate will be here next week to help us on these clauses, because it does seem that the United Kingdom is by no means united when we are discussing this Bill? It seems to me, having read these three clauses, Clauses 38, 39 and 40, that if one were on holiday in Scotland and one infringed a part of the Scottish law one would have to go back to England and come back to Scotland to hand in one's licence. I am very much hoping that the fog around these clauses will be clearer than a Scottish mist when the Lord Advocate comes next week.

Lord Underhill

If I may follow up the point made by the noble Baroness, I can see some problems. All being well, I shall be spending a holiday again in the north-west Highlands. God forbid that I should come up on any fixed penalty procedure. If I should and I am not allowed to present my licence at a police station in Scotland, and I have still quite a long period of my holiday left, what do I do—make a long joruney down to England and then a journey back again? I do not expect the noble Earl to answer now, because he may not have the information, but I want to put that on record so that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate can see it and give the answer at our next stage.

The Earl of Avon

Of course, the noble Lord will take his licence with him, will he not? I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, will have no problems. I know that my noble and learned friend will disperse the mist when he speaks next Wednesday. My noble friend Lord Lucas made an interesting point, which I will, of course, look into. Naturally, fairness is intended, but Scottish law is different and, to that extent, one has to make some arrangements.

With regard to this specific amendment we are discussing, the Scottish motorist driving in England or Wales will be unable to get a fixed penalty notice if he is not carrying his licence unless he is able to specify a police station in England or Wales. I doubt however, whether this will apply to many motorists. First of all, they must be Scottish drivers stopped by police in England and Wales for an endorsable road traffic offence. The constable must think the offence suitable for a fixed penalty, and the driver must be willing to accept it. He must, of course, not dispute his guilt, nor want to argue that for special reasons his driving licence should not be endorsed. If he does either of those things he will have to go to court in any event whether he is carrying his licence or not. Drivers who cannot get a fixed penalty will, however, be able to plead guilty by letter. Against that we have to set the cost of equipping and manning the Scottish police stations. This is a difficult subject and I have tried to explain it to the best of my ability.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 28 [Further provisions with respect to fixed penalty offences and notices]:

12.31 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 30, line 20, at end insert— ("() The Secretary of State may by order reduce the amounts specified in subsection (4) above provided that a fixed penalty shall he paid within 21 days of the date of the fixed penalty notice. The reduced amounts shall be—

  1. (a)£15 in the case of any offence involving obligatory endorsement; and
  2. (b)£7.50 in any other case.
This subsection shall extend only to such areas as the Secretary of State may by order specify").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 43 which provides for a discount penalty payment system. I should draw the Committee's attention to the report of the Inter-Departmental Working Party on Road Traffic Law. In that report there is suggested just this type of experiment It is, of course, only an experiment. There are precedents to suggest that we can have experiments in road traffic management and those matters relating to road traffic offences. We have done it on two occasions previously and as we advance further into the Bill we might even possibly agree to a further experiment in controlling motor cars.

In the foreword to the working party report, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Transport stated that the improvement of the existing fixed penalty system was much needed. The working party's recommendation, one of which is this experiment, would make the system more effective. The amendment, therefore, puts into effect the stated views of two senior Ministers. That is the "official" explanation, but what it boils down to is that if we have doubts as to whether the fixed penalty system will reduce some of the paperwork and some of the trouble that is now involved in dealing with motoring offences—the time of the court and so on by the issue of a penalty and the prompt payment of a penalty—my worry is that the penalty will not be paid properly. The monetary value of the penalties is not enormous—it is not crippling. But if any of your Lordships care to hand me that amount on a plate I would be delighted to accept it. It is of a certain substance and it is not something just to be swept aside.

One must recognise that the practicality of all this is that, particularly in London, particularly with parking offences, it is a company, a taxable company, that pays the fine. It pays the parking and it pays the fine. So it would be the individual offender who would be particularly hurt and not the offender who is supported by a company. In effect, all that the amendment does is to allow for an experiment to take place to offer a cash discount for prompt payment. I believe that it could be useful. It is certainly worth trying in certain areas where the number of offences are huge, to see whether one can cut down the backlog of payments. It would improve cash flow and so on. There is no obligation on the Government to continue it; the amendment merely allows the Secretary of State, at his discretion, at some time to try out an experiment in the payment of penalties if we should find that they are rather slow in coming in. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

I am not quite sure whether the point that I am going to make in one sentence should not, in fact, be made on the debate, "Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill". However, it may be convenient to make the point here very quickly. Your Lordships will appreciate, having heard me ad nauseum on the last occasion on the question of discretionary endorsements, that in this clause there is the power of the Secretary of State to add to the offences or to subtract from them in the future in regard to fixed penalties. The noble Minister may not want to deal with the point at this stage but perhaps later either at the Report stage or whenever he thinks convenient because, I know that he was going to write to me. However, it will be appreciated that the Secretary of State in this clause is not inhibited from adding to the list of offences anything that might be discretionally endorsable.

Lord Monson

I find this an interesting amendment and I think it could be extremely cost-effective and to everyone's benefit. I should like to put the following point to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, because he said something which rather surprised me. He claimed that, because so many people in London had company cars, fines could be set off against tax. I was under the impression that fines were not capable of being set-off for corporation tax purposes and perhaps the noble Lord can confirm that?

The Earl of Avon

I shall not enter into that particular exchange between the noble Lords. However, I should like to make my point. I am not altogether sure that I wanted taxable companies to get a discount for parking penalties anyway, but maybe that is just my own opinion. The idea of offering a discount on the amount of the fixed penalty payable if it is paid promptly is not a new one. It was first floated, I understand by the Joint Working Group on the Enforcement of Traffic Regulations in London. Then the Inter-Departmental Working Party on Road Traffic Law considered the idea in some detail and recommended that there should be enabling legislation to allow for an experiment with a discount scheme. It is, however, to be noted, my Lords, that the working party recognised that it could be over-elaborate to combine yet another tier on the fixed penalty structure with the procedures for enforcement that are now in this Bill, and that it would be difficult to find a suitable location for an experiment.

Our own consideration has led us to the conclusion that a discount scheme would be difficult to mount, would complicate the administration of fixed penalties and would thereby detract from the principal objective of this part of the Bill. It would be difficult to mount because the whole operation could not be confined to designated areas of the country. Enforcement of a fixed penalty, which is not paid by the due date and where no indication has been given that the recipient of a notice wishes to contest his case in court will in a good many instances be carried out by courts well outside the area in which the notice was issued. It will depend on where the driver lives, not where he commits the offence.

A discount scheme would add another dimension to the accounting arrangements in the courts. It would also lead to more disputes between court staff and the public as to which level of penalty was payable at a particular time. It is these difficulties which have been impressed upon us by the Justices' Clerks Society whose members would have to operate such a scheme and we feel that we should give them due weight. Under our proposals in the Bill there is a clear dividing line between the liability to pay the standard fixed penalty and that amount plus 50 per cent. of it has to he enforced as though it were a fine imposed on summary conviction. The amounts of £20 and £10 in subsection (4) of Clause 28 already carry the high probability that if the offender were prosecuted and convicted, he would have to pay more by way of a fine, particularly if court costs charged against him are taken into account. That, in itself, is an incentive to prompt payment while preserving a deterrent to the commission of offences. We do not want to burden the courts with yet another tier in the system. I am delighted at the ingenuity and persistence of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on behalf of the driver, especially the driver who has done something wrong; but many feel that the penalties are not high enough and I do not think that a discount for a penalty promptly paid is an acceptable step forward.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I should like to attempt to answer the noble Lord, Lord Monson. I shall wrap it into one parcel: 75 per cent. of private motor cars on the roads today are, in fact, supported in one way or another by companies, and the charges for operating those motorcars are deductible against tax. If the noble Lord, Lord Monson, wishes to know exactly how a good transport manager arrives at his tax deductible costs, I think that it would perhaps be better if I spoke with him outside your Lordships' Committee.

I rather thought that my noble friend the Minister would give a response of this kind. I am continually baffled, when we talk on transport matters, at the totally negative response. My noble friend says—and I shall quote just two remarks that he made—that this would be difficult and might conflict with the smooth running of the courts and, in any event, we have the negative aspect to prompt payment; that is, if you do not pay promptly, you get the half-plus fine. That seems to me to be a typical attitude of a Government department: "No, it is easier this way, and we do not want to know anything about that".

Then one hears that the Justices' Clerks' Society does not like it. There are some 29 million licence-holders in this country; there are 14 million motorcars, about 4 million trucks, and all increasing. Are not the interests of those millions of people— after all, they are taxpayers; they go Ito work and they do all the other things that the justices' clerks do—to be taken into account'? We are not saying that the Government or the justices shall do this; we are saying that the Secretary of State may do this. If, in a couple of years' time, we find these 600,000 offences, which it is hoped to remove from the courts, being dealt with by the penalty notice, but that 500,000 have not paid, what will we do about it?—send round a policeman and bring the whole panoply of the court procedure into play? Someone will suggest something else.

All I am suggesting now is that, should that situation arise or another, similar situation arise, here is, to quote my noble friend Lord Avon's own words, "another weapon in the armoury"—an expression that he has often used in terms of road safety. I use it in the reverse way. This is a weapon in the armoury of the motorist: "Be a good lad; pay up and get a discount". I can see nothing wrong with that at all.

The big disappointment is that Governments of all complexions want to hammer the motorist time and time again. It has always been my experience that if you give a little bit, you get a great deal back, and if you give a little bit here—a discount for prompt payment—you might get all this money in. As for the argument that it would be difficult to designate an area, because the man lives in one area and the offence was committed in a different area, and so on, to me that is just so much rubbish as hardly to warrant comment. If you want to get over that very minor problem, goodwill and ingenuity will help you.

I am bitterly disappointed at my noble friend's general attitude on this matter. Before I take this matter further, I would ask him to give me an assurance that at least a further and detailed consideration of this proposal might be made, and perhaps a report produced within the next six or eight or 12 months. Would my noble friend care to do that, so that we can examine?—otherwise I shall be obliged to seek the opinion of the Committee on this matter.

The Earl of Avon

Of course, I shall look into how recent the last report is and see whether it is time to look at this again. I think that this is very much a matter of approach. It is a matter of whether you want to give a discount for a penalty when you go to a court, which I should have thought would have been a very original and not a very nice step to take; or whether you want to encourage people to pay the fine because they have to pay more if they do not pay it. If they have done something wrong, I am not very keen to give them a discount.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

That is always the problem. If you do not, the penalty is bigger. That seems to me to be the negative or punitive way of trying to whip people into line. I prefer not so much stick, but a little bit of carrot. I beg leave to withdraw amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendments Nos. 44 and 45:

Page 30, line 25, leave out ("and").

Page 30, line 31, at end insert— (";and (c) shall, when it is given under section 26(1) of this Act in respect of an offence committed in Scotland, be in the prescribed form").

The noble Earl said: Perhaps I could move Amendments Nos. 44 and 45 en bloc. These amendments provide that the fixed penalty notices given in Scotland under Clause 26(1) of the Bill are to be in a prescribed form. The reason for the change is that the fixed penalty notice given in Scotland may come before the court trying the offence and have effect as a complaint. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

12.47 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 30, line 37, at end insert— ("(8) Chief Officers of police shall operate the provisions of this Part of this Act on the same basis and in respect of the same fixed penalty offences in accordance with written advice from the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland").

The noble Lord said: We regard this as a very important amendment. It seeks to provide that the system shall be uniform throughout the country for the same fixed penalty offences, and it should be with written advice from the Secretary of State for the Home Office, and the Secretary of State for Scotland. Under the Bill, a constable may issue a fixed penalty notice and it seems, therefore, that availability of the fixed system as an alternative to prosecution will remain a policy decision of individual police forces rather than be nationally implemented on a uniform basis. This will perpetuate the present unsatisfactory and confusing situation whereby in different parts of the country the fixed penalty is used to a differing extent for different offences. The problem will be accentuated by the considerable increase in the number of offences to come within the fixed penalty procedure under the Bill which is now before us.

Uniformed constables may stop motorists whom they consider to be guilty of road traffic offences and offer the option of a fixed penalty. How they do this will, to a great extent, be influenced by the attitude to the procedure adopted by the respective chief constables. We regard as inequitable that whether or not the offer of a fixed penalty is made an alternative to prosecution should be dependent upon the area where the offence took place rather than upon the actual nature of the offence.

The report of the Interdepartmental Working Party on Road Traffic Law supported this view and the view put forward in this amendment. I should like to quote from paragraph 50: We have acknowledged the reasons put forward by chief officers of police for the unevenness in the application of the existing fixed penalty system. The resource arguments in that connection would have little, if any, relevance to offences under the extended system since it is designed to reduce the work of the police in preparing and undertaking prosecutions, and we therefor consider that there should be uniformity in practice".

I have some figures, which I just want to refer to, which have been taken from the very useful Home Office booklet Offences Relating to Motor Vehicles in England and Wales. I regret that my figures are taken from the 1979 booklet, but I have no doubt that when I obtain the 1980 booklet, I shall find the same situation. For fixed penalty offences for the non-display of a vehicle excise licence, I find that Avon and Somerset in that year had 25, but neighbouring Wiltshire nearly 14,000. I am giving round figures. Leicestershire had 9,000, but neighbouring Derbyshire nil. Sussex and Surrey each nil, but neighbouring Hampshire nearly 6,000 Norfolk, 2,000, but neighbouring Suffolk nil South Yorkshire nearly 13,000, a similar metropolitan conurbation next door, four; 14,000 to four for the same offence

For the offence of disregarding prescribed route, 13 forces had no offences brought before the court, and others very few, but Cambridgeshire nearly 2,000 and Derbyshire nearly 1,500. We find the same disparity in the fixed penalty notices for the lighting offences; eight forces had nil, seven were below 5,000, and yet Derbyshire had 9,200. Those figures show a complete disparity, and I do not suppose the differences can be said just to be incidental. There must be some reason behind them.

A first step in simplification of motoring offence procedures must be that the fixed penalty system should be available on the same basis throughout Great Britain—that is why we are anxious to have the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate to deal with the position in Scotland—for the same motoring offences. The purpose of the amendment is to achieve his objective by providing that the chief officers of police shall operate the new fixed system on the same basis, and in respect of the same offences, in accordance with written advice from the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

This issue was raised in Committee in the other place by way of a different amendment. I have read all the Committee stage. The Minister appeared to be sympathetic to the principle, although he questioned the drafting of that particular amendment. A different amendment was presented at the Report stage of the other place. That was withdrawn with the expression of hope that when the Ministers concerned had considered the possibility of such advice being given in the form of guide notes, that they would see fit to accept the position that this type of guidance should be given. Therefore, it should be put into the Act, as we have in other Acts before your Lordships on various occasions where the reference to guide notes has been inserted, so that chief officers will realise that it is the intention of Parliament that the same procedure shall apply, and that motorists shall be treated the same in the North of England as in the South of England, and that it should not rely on how the chief officer considers he should exercise the fixed penalty procedure. I beg to move.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for drawing these figures to our attention. Uniformity is vital. As a magistrate, I know that throughout the country there is not uniformity of penalty for all sorts of motoring offences. This causes a lot of trouble to people who come before the court. If we could start by saying that the fixed penalty notice must be administered in exactly the same way throughout the country, I certainly agree with the noble Lord that that would be helpful.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I should like to give general support to Lord Underhill's amendment, and for the reasons he has outlined. I see, however, two dangers in this. First, the fixed penalty notice is a new arm of law enforcement. The offer of the fixed penalty will depend frequently on the situation, the circumstances and the two people involved. I can see no way where you can impose uniformity of view as between a policeman in one part of the country and another in another part. On the other hand, unless some strict notes of guidance are put down, we can have an unhappy situation recurring where certain police forces are well known to be hard on this, that or the other. There are, notwithstanding the figures the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, read out to us, two forces in the country which are quite notable for their harshness in dealing with motoring offences. This has always proved to be a thorn in the side of motorists, and indeed both the principal motoring organisations.

The trouble with total uniformity is that if one is not careful one finds oneself moving towards a situation of having one of two things happen. Either there is a separate motoring police force—a traffic police force—which Parliament, and indeed the police forces, have always thought to be totally undesirable, or you find that the influence of local authorities, the elected representatives, is such that police forces bow in that direction. I can see certain difficulties in accepting the amendment, the principle of which must be right. We cannot move around the country not knowing what will befall us as we cross over a county boundary.

12.56 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

First, I should apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that I did not respond to him when he spoke earlier. I shall answer him when I give the other answer on the specific point, which I did understand. I have rather an intriguing picture of those awful words "persistent offender" which my noble friend Lord Lucas tells me I must not use. One really has to look at the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to find out where he ought to live and which police forces he should dodge.

As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned the Committee ought to know that this was debated at considerable length in another place. May I, for the benefit of those who have not had the opportunity to read those debates, recap some of the arguments? It is fundamental to the Government's position on this amendment that we are sympathetic towards the ultimate aim; that is, we are as anxious as any noble Lord is to see consistent treatment of offences across the country. It is of course axiomatic that chief officers have the operational discretion over the treatment of offences in their force areas, and this is not something with which we would wish lightly to interfere.

I know that the Committee will feel reassured by the fact, however, that the Association of Chief Police Officers in England and Wales shares the concern of the Committee, and have said that they too would wish to see uniformity of practice. Further than this, we have now established, following a promise made in another place, that the Secretaries of State for the Home Department and Scotland would be willing to offer general guidance to the police with this objective in mind. This is an entirely different matter, however, to binding chief officers by statute as the amendment proposes. This is bad in principle, and could well cause practical difficulties.

For instance, guidelines contained in a circular to the effect that generally the fixed penalty system should be operated "on the same basis" everywhere would allow a degree of flexibility by leaving some room for chief officers to interpret the guidance sensibly, whereas, if the advice is backed by statute in the way suggested, that flexibility would be lost. What, after all, does "on the same basis mean? I take it that what is in the noble Lord's mind is a general consistency of practice, but this is not really what his amendment says. Any advice sent, it seems to me, would be bound to include the same words—this is, "on the same basis". It is obvious that different police areas will have different administrative systems and differing local priorities, and it is reasonable that these differences should be reflected in small ways in the operation of a fixed penalty system. For instance, we have already decided in this Bill not to prescribe the forms that the police would send out but merely the information that would go in them. This is partly to allow the language in them to be kept simple, or to be changed easily if need be, and partly to allow for compatibility with local computer systems.

If the amendment were accepted, could it not be argued by a driver that in sending to him a form which was not the exact fellow of a form in use in neighbouring police areas, the chief officer was not acting on the same basis as the rest of the country, that the form was not therefore validly served on him and that the case against him was null and void?

This brings me to the other main issue; whether every chief officer should operate the system for every offence for which it is available. As the House is aware, there is already variation between force areas as to which offences are dealt with by fixed penalty. More seriously, there is, as I have said, a general principle which allows chief officers to make their own decisions on the way to tackle offences, but even if we were to leave this argument to one side, there are some practical problems. The Bill makes major changes to the ways in which offences may be dealt with. We intend to ensure that the police have enough time to prepare for these changes, but nevertheless there will be some forces who may want to see how it runs, with just a few offences, before including all on the list, or others who may have resource difficulties in moving as fast as some of their colleagues.

If the system is required by statute to be operated on the same basis and for the same offences as the amendment proposes, the country could move to a fixed penalty system only at the pace of the slowest force, which could be a real problem. It seems far better to us to leave to chief officers their traditional—and it is traditional—freedom to make such decisions, to guide them in general terms through circulars, and to accept the assurance of the Association of Chief Police Officers that the police service is concerned to achieve the greatest possible consistency of practice across the country, especially with the more serious offences. The Committee will have gathered that I cannot welcome the amendment. I have explained what we see as the difficulties about it and how we hope to achieve its ultimate objective by other means, and I therefore hope the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, will wish to consider my remarks and withdraw the amendment, although I appreciate that he may wish to pursue it at a later stage.

Lord Mishcon

The Committee will be grateful to the noble Earl for the fair way in which he has tried to deal with the amendment, in the sense that he has at least argued it. With respect, however, I find his argument more than deficient as against the principle involved. There is a genuine grievance among motorists, who are not the persistent offenders, that whereas in one area—I appreciate that at the moment I am not dealing with the fixed penalty—they can expect in regard to some fairly minor offence, or an offence, which may not be minor but which is occasioned by rather difficult and special circumstances, to receive from the police a caution. In other areas it is well known that it is a complete waste of time to write in to the chief officer and to explain the extenuating circumstances because without any doubt, it is known that process will issue regardless of any submissions.

I feel that this is a moment for Parliament to make clear that that sort of differentiation in treatment must at least stop when we are dealing with the penalty notices, and it may therefore creep through in regard to other matters of process or no process and (to borrow the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, one which I, in a minor way share) also get over the problem of members of my profession having to beg of a clerk that they should go before Court No. 1 and not No. 2 in a certain court because Court No. 1 is known to be a very reasonable court—which is the way in which I think my profession would care to term it—whereas Court No. 2 will be extremely harsh and will scarcely listen to any submissions made in mitigation.

This is an opportunity to do something about that, but what does the Minister say is wrong with the amendment? He says it is wrong because a plea might be made that the use of, "on the same basis", may cover forms that have a different wording between different areas. That may be a technical point and I should be the last person to want to waste the time of the Committee, and I know he would be, to argue it. Of course we do not want to do that, and if it is a question of wording and if it has something to do with policy, then, as is stated in the amendment, whether penalty notices should or should not be issued must be subject to the advice of the Secretary of State; and that will get over the difficulty of the technicality in regard to the forms.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, is always very practical when he speaks and he saw a slight difficulty here which was echoed by the Minister; namely, that facts can be different, and of course they can be, so the facts must be examined on the spot. If we cannot have the amendment, I wish we could be told by the Minister that a document is being issued by the Secretary of State saying to chief officers, "We are glad that you are meeting as an association to try to have uniformity of policy. The view was expressed in Parliament, and the Secretary of State agrees with it, that there should be uniformity, and unless there are grounds under the following heads for refusing to issue a fixed penalty notice where it is possible under the Act, a fixed penalty notice should be issued". Those grounds could be, for all one knows, the conduct of the motorist towards the police officer. After all, if the motorist tells the police officer what he thinks he can do with any penalty notice, notebooks or anything else that he has at that moment, I do not think one can expect the courtesy from a police officer of the issue of a penalty notice regardless of that behaviour.

Obviously, too, if it is an exaggerated offence and the circumstances are such that it should go before the court. But at least there should be guidelines for uniformity coming from the Secretary of State, and if we are not to have an amendment like this for any technical reason, I hope that by Report we shall know that the Secretary of State is doing it and we shall be told the lines on which he intends to do it.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

Following those comments of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, may I ask my noble friend whether it is a fact that nowhere in the Bill is it laid down that the forms themselves shall be uniform throughout the country? If not, I feel very strongly that ensuring they are uniform must be part of the Bill.

Lord Airedale

On the question of uniformity, if the words "on the same basis" in the amendment are not appropriate for some technical reasons, perhaps "uniformly" would be the appropriate word to use.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whether he is aware that if one had guidelines issued which gave exclusions under certain heads, then should offences come before the courts which appeared to be contrary to those guidelines, the various protection societies—notably one thinks of the motoring organisations—could monitor those cases and then the will of Parliament could be seen to be being observed, and, if not, appropriate action could be taken? Would he agree that that could be the outcome of his suggestion?

Lord Mishcon

I am not anxious to chase that argument to its logical conclusion because it might lend weight to what the Minister was saying about the legal arguments which might be pursued in the event of an amendment of this kind being made. I should prefer to say that if a case were taken to court and the magistrates found the motorist guilty, I would hope that the advocate or the motorist himself, or the representative of the AA or RAC, would submit to the court that it surely was one of those cases which, under the guidelines, should have been followed not by process but by a fixed penalty notice, and therefore the magistrates should, if they agreed with the submission, have in mind mitigating the penalty.

The Earl of Avon

I think that this is a very broad subject that we have been discussing, and one in which I very much share the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. The question of uniform practice throughout the country obviously interests the Committee very much, but I wonder whether the fixed penalty clause which we are now considering is an appropriate juncture for consideration of this matter. Perhaps it should be considered in a wider context. I should like to turn to one or two of the specific points which have arisen during the debate. I should like to reiterate something that I said earlier, which I think will please the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. I said that following a promise made in another place, we have now established that the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland would be willing to offer general guidance to the police with the objective of uniform practices in mind. If it is possible to produce something further along those lines at Report stage, we shall do so.

In answer to my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve, I would point out that the Bill lays down the information that will be included in the forms. It does Not actually prescribe the form that the police will issue, but rather the information that will be contained in it. This is a technical subject, and I should like to read what has been said. I hope that for the moment we can rest on that.

Lord Underhill

I wish to thank those noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have supported the general principle of the amendment. I also wish to thank the Minister for his sympathetic approach to what we are seeking. The noble Earl mentioned that in the light of the figures I should consider where I ought to live. I have been considering, very briefly, where members of my family live, and I think that there is something in what the noble Earl has said. I see a great advantage in one regard, but not in another.

This is not a question of wishing to interfere in the way in which chief officers carry out day-to-day operations. Nobody can deny that the figures reflect something more than police constables deciding on particular options. The figures show that there must be a deliberate policy decision by some chief officers not to worry about fixed penalty offences. That might be because they do not have the staff, or because there are other things that they want to do. But it is unfortunate for the motorist in the particular area concerned, and this is something that we want to avoid.

I note what the Minister said about the views of the chief officers and about the establishment of a committee. I note in particular that the noble Earl will take a careful look to see whether something can be put in the Bill. In the meantime, a number of us can look at other statutes that have gone through your Lordships' House in recent months, in which provisions have been inserted about the issue of guidelines by a Minister. Something of that kind would be extremely helpful. This has been a very helpful debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Ampthill)

Is it your Lordships' pleasure that the amendment be withdrawn?

Lord Taylor of Blackburn


The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is, That the amendment be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"? To the contrary, "Not-Content"?—

Lord Mishcon

I rise on a point of order, and I stand to be corrected. As I understood it, the Question was put as to whether, with the leave of the Committee, the amendment should be withdrawn. There may have been one dissentient voice that was heard. In the circumstances, am I not right in asking whether the question of whether or not the leave of the Committee should be granted is the Question to be put?

Lord Sandy's

Yes, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is perfectly correct here, and—

Lord Airedale

If a single noble Lord indicates that he does not agree with giving leave for the withdrawal of an amendment, the amendment cannot be withdrawn, and the Question has to be put.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

Hear, hear!

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is that Amendment No. 47 be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"? To the contrary, "Not-Content"?

Several noble Lords


The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The "Not-Contents" have it.

On Question, amendment negatived.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees

The Question is that Clause 28, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"? To the contrary, "Not-Content"?

Lord Taylor of Blackburn


Several noble Lords


The Deputy Chairman of Committees

I think that the "Contents" have it. The "Contents" have it.

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 29 [Effect where fixed penalty notice is given to the alleged offender.]:

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Clause 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Effect where fixed penalty notice is affixed to the vehicle]:

[Amendment No. 49 not moved.]

Clause 30 agreed to.

Clause 31 agreed to.

Clause 32 [Payment of fixed penalties, effect of payment and supplementary provisions]:

[Amendment No. 50 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

1.15 p.m.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 51: Page 34, line 44, leave out ("unless the contrary is proved").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 51, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 73, 74, 75 and 76. These amendments correct a small defect in the Bill, in its references to the use of certain documents as evidence in criminal proceedings in England and Wales. The words "unless the contrary is proved" would give such documents much greater weight than is intended, to the point of their being conclusive evidence of the facts stated in them, unless proved to be false. The intention is that they should be no more than evidence that the court may take into consideration, while giving them what weight it sees fit to give them. The omission of the words indicated in the amendment will achieve that result. I beg to move.

Lord Mishcon

I am not quite sure that I am on a correct point, and since I was not on a correct point last time, it seems that I am setting a course of conduct. Will the noble Earl please explain in a little more particular why the words "unless the contrary is proved" should be omitted?—because I did not quite follow his explanation.

The Earl of Avon

I shall try to explain a little further. The words "unless the contrary is proved" would give documents much greater weight than is intended, to the point of their being conclusive evidence of the facts stated in them, unless proved to be false. The intention—with which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, would agree—is that they should be no more than evidence that the court may take into consideration, while giving them what weight it sees fit to give them. The term "sufficient evidence" has a special Scottish significance. For England and Wales the word "sufficient" needs to be omitted, as proposed.

Lord Mishcon

I am most grateful to the noble Earl. I was thinking in terms of something being mislaid in the post, giving rise to an unfair question for the driver. But clearly it would be open to him to state that point to the court. I am most grateful to the noble Earl.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 33 [Endorsement of licences without hearings]:

[Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 not moved.]

The Earl of Avon moved Amendments Nos. 53A and 53B:

Page 36, line 10, leave out from beginning to ("endorse") in line 11.

Page 36, line 12, at end insert ("—

  1. (a) if he is himself the clerk who registers that sum, on registration of that sum; and
  2. (b) in any other case, on being notified of the registration by the clerk who registers that sum.").

The noble Earl said: With the leave of the Committee, I should like to take Amendments Nos. 53A and 53B together. Clause 33(5) of the Bill deals with the endorsement of a licence where a fixed penalty has been registered for enforcement as a fine. These amendments are designed to provide for the case where the fixed penalty clerk concerned registers the penalty for enforcement in his own court. As originally drafted, the subsection appeared to envisage that endorsement by a fixed penalty clerk would invariably follow on registration by some other clerk. The amendments remove that defect. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 53A and 53B.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 33, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 34 [Licence receipts]:

[Amendments Nos. 54 and 55 not moved.]

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 56:

Page 37, line 26, after ("effect") insert—

  1. ("(a) if issued by a constable, on the expiration of the period of one month beginning with the date of issue or such longer period as may be prescribed; and
  2. 1031
  3. (b) if issued by the fixed penalty clerk, on such date as he may specify in the receipt;
or, if earlier.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is designed to reduce the scope for the abuse of receipts issued for driving licences that have been surrendered to the police. Clause 24(2) of the Bill currently provides that a receipt may be renewed by a fixed penalty clerk, but it does not specifically state the length of validity of the original receipt or the renewed receipt. The amendment seeks to remedy this omission. We have selected one month as the period for which the initial receipt should remain effective, as we think that in cases where the driver decides to pay the fixed penalty it will be feasible for the clerk to endorse and return the licence within that time. If experience proves us wrong, then the amendment as drafted will allow us to change the period for which the receipt remains effective. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 34, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35 [Registration of sums payable in default for enforcement of fines]:

The Earl of Avon moved Amendments Nos. 56A, 56B, 56C, 56D, 56E, 56F, and 56G:

Page 38, line 22, at beginning insert ("The following provisions of this section apply").

Page 38, line 24, leave out ("the") and insert ("a").

Page 38, line 27, leave out from ("fine") to end of line 35 and insert— ("(1A) Subject to subsection (1B) below, the chief officer of police may issue a certificate in respect of any sum payable in default stating that the sum is registrable under this section for enforcement against the defaulter as a fine (refererd to below in this section as a registration certificate). (1B) Subsection (1A) above shall not apply where the fixed penalty notice in question was given to the defaulter under section 26(1) of this Act in respect of an offence committed in Scotland; but in any such case the fixed penalty clerk—

  1. (a) if the defaulter appears to him to reside within the jurisdiction of the court of summary jurisdiction of which he is himself the clerk, shall register the sum payable in default for enforcement as a fine by that court;
  2. (b) in any other case, shall issue a registration certificate in respect of that sum.
(1C) Where the chief officer of police or the fixed penalty clerk issues a registration certificate under this section, he shall cause it to he sent—
  1. (a) if the defaulter appears to him to reside in England and Wales, to the clerk to the justices for the petty sessions area in which the defaulter appears to him to reside; and
  2. (b) if the defaulter appears to him to reside in Scotland, to the clerk of a court of summary jurisdiction for the area in which the defaulter appears to him to reside.
(2) A registration certificate issued under this section in respect of any sum payable in default shall—") Page 38, line 42, leave out from beginning to ("give") in line 1 on page 39 and insert— ("(2A) Subject to subsection (2B) below—
  1. (a) where the clerk to the justices for a petty sessions area receives a registration certificate issued under this section in respect of any sum payable in default, he shall register that sum for enforcement as a fine in that area by entering it in the register of a magistrates' court acting for that area;
  2. (b) where the clerk of a court of summary jurisdiction receives a registration certificate so issued he shall register the sum payable in default for enforcement as a fine by that court.
(2B) The clerk receiving a registration certificate so issued shall not be required by subsection (2A) above to register the sum payable in default if it appears to him that the defaulter does not reside in the petty sessions area or (as the case may be) within the jurisdiction of the court of summary jurisdiction in question; but in any such case he shall cause the certificate to be sent—
  1. (a) if the defaulter appears to him to reside in England and Wales, to the clerk to the justices for the petty sessions area in which the defaulter appears to him to reside; and
  2. (b) if the defaulter appears to him to reside in Scotland, to the clerk of a court of summary jurisdiction for the area in which the defaulter appears to him to reside;
and that subsection shall apply accordingly on receipt by that clerk of the certificate as it applies on receipt by the clerk to whom it was originally sent.
(3) Where the clerk to the justices for a petty sessions area or the clerk of a court of summary jurisdiction registers any sum under this section for enforcement as a fine, he shall thereupon")

Page 39, leave out lines 4 and 5 and insert ("registration certificate by virtue of subsection (2)(a) and (b) above or (in a case within subsection (1B)(a) above) the corresponding information.").

Page 39, line 31, leave out from second ("of") to ("the") in line 33.

Page 42, line 20, at end insert — ("() references to the relevant court are references—

  1. (i) in the case of a sum registered under section 35 of this Act for enforcement as a fine in a petty sessions area in England and Wales, to any magistrates' court acting for that area; and
  2. (ii) in the case of a sum registered under that section for enforcement as a fine by a court of summary jurisdiction in Scotland, to that court;
() references to the clerk of the relevant court, where that court is a magistrates' court, are references to a clerk to the justices for the petty sessions area for which that court is acting;").

The noble Earl said: If I may, I will move Amendments Nos. 56A to 56G en bloc and at the same time speak to Amendments Nos. 78A and 78B.

Clause 35 makes provision for the registration of unpaid fixed penalties for enforcement as fines. In this connection, the clause provides that notice may be given by the chief officer of police to the clerk of the court for the area in which the defaulter appears to him to reside, to the effect that a sum may be registered for enforcement against the defaulter as a fine. The amendments to Clause 35 serve several purposes. So far as England and Wales are concerned, the following consequences flow from the amendments. First, they make it clear that the notice (which would, by virtue of these amendments, be described as a "registration certificate") is to be sent to the clerk to the justices for the petty sessions area in which the defaulter appears to reside. As the clause currently stands, it is only necessary that the notice should be sent to the clerk of a magistrates' court within whose jurisdiction the defaulter appears to reside. The jurisdictional area of a magistrates' court could embrace more than one petty sessions area. This is the point that we are trying to cover here.

The amendments to this clause enable a clerk to the justices for a petty sessions area who receives a registration certificate in respect of a defaulter who, it turns out, does not reside in that area, to transmit the certificate to the clerk to the justices for the area in another place. I am sure we would all agree that this is a good step forward.

The position so far as fixed penalty offences committed in Scotland are concerned, will, as regards the registration of sums pursuant to Clause 35, differ in two principal respects in consequence of the amendments now put down. If I may move on to the amendments proposed to Clause 36, these are purely technical amendments. The amendments to Clause 48 are consequential. If the Committee requires further explanation, I shall be happy to provide it. I beg leave to move the amendments en bloc.

Lord Underhill

These are two pages of amendments here. I am grateful for the explanation, but the noble Earl will appreciate that when we read the explanation and have a careful look at the amendments, we may or may not want to come back on Report.

The Earl of Avon

I would say that I apologise. I, myself, have not seen them for long. If the noble Lord has any queries, perhaps he will let me know before Report stage.

Lord Mishcon

Perhaps I may give the noble Earl one query now. As usual, some extremely courteous assistance has just been given me when I raised the question, and I am obliged for that. It is still not quite clear that the Committee should know in regard to these amendments and their practical application that it is an offence for a driver to give wrong information to a police officer at the time when the particulars are being taken and the penalty notice issued. If a wrong address were given, obviously that would amount to a negation of these procedures where the matter of non-payment must go to the court in the area where the driver is supposed to be residing. As a result of that, if it were not laid down that it is an offence under the Bill to give the wrong information, there would be no sanction at all.

The helpful advice that I have received so far is that this may be covered by the 1972 Act; but it does not appear to be quite certain. I am sure that that is one of the points on which the noble Earl and the Committee would wish to have certain information before Report stage.

Clause 36, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 37 [Notification of Court and date of trial]:

The Earl of Avon moved Amendments Nos. 57 and 58:

Page 43, line 6, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("subsections (3A) and").

Page 43, line 27, at end insert— ("(3A) If, in a case within subsection (2) above, notice is served by or on behalf of the chief officer of police on the person who gave notice requesting a hearing stating that no proceedings are to be brought in respect of the offence concerned, that subsection shall not apply and no such proceedings may be brought against the person who gave notice requesting a hearing.").

The noble Earl said: If I may move Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 together, they remove a defect in the Bill as drafted. Clause 37 allows a person who is given a fixed penalty notice to be given at the same time a notice informing him of the court where and the date when his trial will take place if he subsequently decides to ask for a hearing in respect of the offence. As at present drafted, however, the clause requires a trial to take place. In other words, if left as it is it would remove from the chief officer of police in these cases the discretion he has in relation to the bringing of prosecutions. That is not the effect which we desire. I commend these amendments to the Committee and I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 37, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Denham

I think we have now reached a point in the Bill which is generally acceptable as the place at which to stop. I, therefore, beg to move that the House be now resumed.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.