HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1140-9

(".—(1) Section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (charges where works unreasonably prolonged) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (2) insert—

"(2A) The regulations may prescribe exemptions from the requirement to pay charges."

(3) In subsection (3)—

  1. (a) for "may submit to the authority" substitute "shall give to the authority, in such manner as may be prescribed, notice containing". and
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  3. (b) for "so submitted" substitute "contained in a notice given to an authority in such manner".

(4) In subsection (4), for "may submit" substitute "shall give to the authority, in such manner as may be prescribed, notice containing".

(5) After subsection (5) insert—

"(5A) The regulations may—

  1. (a) prescribe more than one rate of charge in respect of the same description of works, and
  2. (b) provide that charges are to be paid in respect of any works of that description at the rate which appears to the highway authority to be appropriate in relation to those works.

(5B) The regulations may make provision for the determination of the duration of works for the purposes of the regulations.

(5C) And they may, in particular, make provision for works to be treated as beginning or ending on the giving of, or as stated in, a notice given by the undertaker to the highway authority, in the prescribed manner, in accordance with a requirement imposed by the regulations."

(6) In subsection (7), for the words from "charge" to the end substitute—

  1. "(a) in any particular case,
  2. (b) in such classes of case as they may decide or as may be prescribed, or
  3. (c) in all cases or in all cases other than a particular case or such class of case as they may decide or as may be prescribed."

(7) After that subsection insert—

"(7A) The regulations may make provision as to—

  1. (a) the application by local highway authorities of sums paid by way of charges, and
  2. (b) the keeping of accounts, and the preparation and publication of statements of account, relating to sums paid by way of charges.

(7B) The regulations may create in respect of any failure to give a notice required by the regulations a criminal offence triable summarily and punishable with a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 297: Before Clause 253, insert the following new clause—

("Driver training and driving instructors


. In the Road Traffic Act 1988, after section 99 insert—

"Driver training

Compulsory driver training courses.

99ZA. Regulations may make provision about training in the driving of motor vehicles by means of courses provided in accordance with the regulations ("driver training courses").

Requirements to complete training courses.

99ZB.—(1) Regulations under section 99ZA of this Act may provide that persons who have not successfully completed a driver training course—

  1. (a) may not take a test of competence to drive motor vehicles of a prescribed class (or a prescribed part of such a test),
  2. (b) are not authorised to drive motor vehicles of a prescribed class (before having passed a test of competence to drive them) by a provisional licence (or by section 98(2) or 99A(5) of this Act),
  3. (c) are not granted a licence authorising the driving of motor vehicles of a prescribed class by virtue of regulations under section 89(6)(b) or (c) of this Act, or
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  5. (d) are not authorised to drive motor vehicles of a prescribed class in prescribed circumstances (despite having passed a test of competence to drive them).

(2) But a person is exempt from provision made by virtue of subsection (1)(b), (c) or (d) above if he is undergoing training on a driver training course and is driving a motor vehicle as part of the training.

(3) And regulations under section 99ZA of this Act may include provision exempting persons from any provision made by virtue of subsection (1) above in other circumstances; and regulations including such provision may (in particular)—

  1. (a) limit an exemption to persons in prescribed circumstances,
  2. (b) limit an exemption to a prescribed period or in respect of driving in a prescribed area,
  3. (c) attach conditions to an exemption, and
  4. (d) regulate applications for an exemption.

(4) Regulations under section 99ZA of this Act may include provision for the evidencing by a person of his being within—

  1. (a) the exemption specified in subsection (2) above, or
  2. (b) any exemption provided by virtue of subsection (3) above.

(5) Regulations under section 99ZA of this Act may provide that a driver training course is not to be taken into account for the purposes of the regulations if it was completed before such time as is prescribed.

Driver training courses: supplementary.

99ZC.—(1) Regulations under section 99ZA of this Act may include—

  1. (a) provision about the nature of driver training courses,
  2. (b) provision for the approval by the Secretary of State of persons providing such courses and the withdrawal of approvals (including provision for appeals against refusal and withdrawal of approvals) and provision for exemptions from any requirement of approval,
  3. (c) provision for the training or assessment, or the supervision of the training or assessment, of persons providing driver training courses,
  4. (d) provision setting the maximum amount of any charges payable by persons undergoing such courses, and
  5. (e) provision for the evidencing of the successful completion of such courses.

(2) Such regulations may include provision for the charging of reasonable fees in respect of the exercise of any function conferred or imposed on the Secretary of State by such regulations.

(3) Such regulations may make different provision—

  1. (a) for different classes of motor vehicles,
  2. (b) for different descriptions of persons, or
  3. (c) otherwise for different circumstances."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 297 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 298 to 301. These amendments deal with the subject of driver training and driver instruction.

The main purpose of the government amendments is two-fold; that is, to be able to prescribe compulsory driver training courses and to improve the supervision and appeal arrangements for approved driving instructors. Amendment No. 297 owes a lot to earlier amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, and we discussed those issues in Committee. It was useful for her to take that initiative and to address what is an important dimension of our road safety strategy; that is, the improvement of driver instruction and the conduct of approved driving instructors. Amendment No. 297 deals with issues that arose in relation to her earlier amendment to make it more compatible with road traffic legislation and much of this, therefore, arises at her initiative.

I shall deal first with driver training courses. As part of our efforts to raise driving standards, all of which were set out in our road safety strategy, we wish to be able to introduce training schemes for users of different classes of motor vehicle. In particular, we wish to ensure that those learning to drive lorries and buses complete a syllabus that covers the relevant core competencies.

Amendments Nos. 297 and paragraphs 2 to 6 of Amendment No. 301 replace the existing power that enables us to prescribe compulsory basic training courses for learner motorcyclists and moped riders. That power was introduced in 1990 and is generally agreed to have raised training standards and reduced road traffic accidents in that sector. We wish to be able to extend that approach to drivers of other types of motor vehicles.

The introduction of driver training schemes will be by regulations. Those regulations will set out in detail the content of training courses, the approval of the training bodies and the certification of individual instructors. We shall have flexibility when the training takes place within the testing and licensing process. Where, as in most cases, learners are subject to an accompanying driver rule, we envisage satisfactory completion of training as a condition of being eligible to take a driving test.

The power to make regulations under that head will enable us to prescribe training requirements for people who have a provisional licence and who have some road experience, but who need structured training before they take a test. Regulations under head (b) will re-enact the current provisions about compulsory basic training for learner motorcyclists to be introduced before a person can use another type of provisional licence.

Under head (c) we will deal with the situation in which a person passes a driving test in one type of vehicle and automatically obtains entitlement to drive another; for example, successfully passing a motor car test carries with it the right to a moped licence. There are road safety implications in that regard and we want to ensure that anybody using a moped on that entitlement first undertakes basic rider training.

Under head (d), the provisions prescribe a training obligation before a person can drive motor vehicles of a particular class in specific circumstances. We will be able to tailor courses to meet the needs of the different sectors.

In relation to the clauses dealing with approved driving instructors and related matters, we made it clear in our Road Safety Strategy that high quality driving instruction is a central aim. The amendments deliver key promises given in that strategy. At present, an applicant refused registration as an approved driving instructor or a person whose registration is revoked, may appeal to the Secretary of State and similar provisions apply in respect of licences issued to trainee instructors.

Appeals are currently considered by a panel who make recommendations to the Secretary of State. But he is responsible for the final decision. We decided that it would be more in tune with the European Convention on Human Rights if appeals were decided by an independent tribunal. Amendment No. 298 will provide for that; namely, it will transfer jurisdiction for appeals to the transport tribunal. In parallel, Amendment No. 299 is intended to improve the way the registrar's decisions come into effect to provide for more timely and effective enforcement.

These amendments move a considerable way towards providing a better and more robust system of training for driving instruction and for supervision and proper conduct of the driving instructor profession. Amendments Nos. 336, 341 and 343, which also come within this grouping, make minor consequential changes. I shall speak to other amendments in this group later. I beg to move.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's explanation of the amendments. I shall read carefully what he said. I have some amendments in this group but, before speaking to them, I remind your Lordships that I have an interest in that I am president of the Heavy Transport Association. In addition, I own and operate some preserved heavy vehicles which may be affected by some of the amendments and provisions of the Bill, in particular Amendment No. 307.

Some of the amendments today cover a lot of ground and the extent of my comments will have to be commensurate. Amendment No. 312 provides for compulsory retraining for errant drivers. I will not repeat my Committee stage speech, but I was concerned that the Minister seemed to consider retraining to be a punishment and a matter for a Home Office review of penalties. Quite apart from the Home Secretary's questionable motoring record, I believe that retraining should be seen as something separate and additional to any penalties in order to reduce accidents in the future. I hope therefore that the Minister will retain full control of these matters himself, particularly in your Lordships' House.

Amendment No. 320 is designed to allow the MoD's driving instructors to become civilian approved driving instructors, provided they qualified within the previous five years. In Committee the Minister was unsympathetic. In particular he referred to military discipline and unusual vehicles. Fierce military discipline and a fear culture are not conducive to the highly efficient driver training of the Defence School of Transport.

Courtesy of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, I recently visited the Defence School of Transport. The vehicles used for driver training appear to be perfectly ordinary trucks meeting the minimum test standards set by the Minister. It seemed to me that his resistance had much to do with retaining instructors in the MoD.

The Minister's amendments provide a mandatory training requirement for driving test candidates and rightly seek to raise the standard of instructors. I shall not oppose them but I am anxious that officials at the DSA may be quietly empire building. If we are not careful, the starting standard for driving instructors could eventually be a psychology degree!

My Amendments Nos. 329A and 329B seek to establish a league table so that students will be able to see how good their instructor is compared with others and have confidence in him. An additional advantage is that they will tend to reduce the number of hopeless or even dangerous attempts at the test. As drafted, my amendment does not compel a candidate to produce a certificate but it builds on the Minister's amendments.

5 p.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his kind comments in respect of my efforts to have improvement in driving instruction included in the Bill. He has been most generous because he has taken my original amendment further and I have gone through a sharp learning curve. One of the things I have learnt is that if you want to provide for Ministers to take action by way of regulations, you had better make certain you have a long list of specific actions which they may take by regulation, thereby excluding all the actions that they may not take by regulation. Therefore, you get through the various tests which are applied to legislation, particularly by your Lordships' committee.

I am grateful for the amendments which put on the face of the Bill an important part of the Government's road safety strategy. That was my original motivation in bringing the matter before the House. I have only one question to ask. One of my objectives was to ensure that all driver instructors, whether of motorbikes, HGVs or whatever, would be registered. However, I do not see where that is reflected in the amendments. I may simply have missed the point and, if so, I would welcome the Minister's reassurance. In all other respects, I believe that his amendments are an admirable substitute for my own early efforts.

I have some sympathy with the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on driver retraining. I look forward to hearing the Minister's explanation of why that remains in the hands of the Home Office rather than with the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, perhaps I may first respond to the comments made about my amendments and then comment on the noble Earl's amendments. The amendments previously tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, related to the registration of professional drivers for all types of motor vehicle. We have not explicitly included that within the amendments but the Government hope to be able to deal with the matter at a later stage. The complication of doing what the noble Baroness wanted in that regard proved to be too great for us, even in a complicated amendment such as ours. I am afraid that the timescale defeated us but we have dealt with the priority areas of her previous amendment.

As regards the respective powers and responsibilities of the Home Office and the DETR, mentioned by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl, my civil servants will always tell me that that is a matter for the Prime Minister and I that could not possibly comment. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of co-operation between my department and the Home Office on this matter. I hope that in this area, as in others, penalties are not simply a question of retribution, as the noble Earl seemed to understand, but also of improvement, education and retraining. There may be a better or more complementary form of treating an offence than the traditional form of penalty. Retraining and retesting will feature in the forthcoming Home Office consultation on Road Traffic Act penalties which will be published soon.

Amendment No. 312 falls within the process to which I have referred; namely, it will form part of the Home Office consultation paper. As regards Amendment No. 320, which deals with MoD drivers, the MoD has not sought the provision nor does it want to see it in place. Its wish is for greater integration with the general arrangements rather than seeking exemptions for its staff and former staff. That is evidenced by the MoD encouraging its staff to join the voluntary register of lorry driving instructors that is maintained by the DSA. That means that they will pass the same entrance exams. Obviously, the MoD has a major interest in driver training and we need better links between it and the DSA. Incidentally, the DSA has a significant role in achieving a greater professionalism among driver instructors. It benefits them as a profession, it benefits their clients and it benefits road safety. However, in taking on instructors it is important that the co-operation delivers instructors who can meet the same standards as others. It may be that in most cases the MoD instructors will waltz through the provision, but so they should.

Amendment No. 329 would prevent individuals being employed to ride motorcycles before they have passed the motorcycle test. That amendment is in the group, although the noble Earl did not refer to it specifically.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, if the Minister refers to the amendment I shall not move it later.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, that makes life easier. The amendment deals with the pizza delivery phenomenon when the people employed to ride "professionally" are on provisional licence. That happens frequently in relation to pizza delivery drivers but rarely in relation to couriers.

Rather than accept the noble Earl's amendment, with which I have some sympathy, we have set up a task force following the road safety strategy to examine all work-related road safety issues. This issue is being considered in that context.

Amendments Nos. 329A and 329B would have the effect of enabling instructors to certify that the candidates whom they present for the driving test are sufficiently trained to pass the test and that the certificates issued form the basis for collation of instructors' performance data. In a sense, that is transparency, but it is a delicate area. We have enabling powers for prescribing certification and we are committed to better informing the public and getting better information into the public domain about the quality of many different services.

I do not believe that it is necessary to take specific powers but, before I encourage the noble Earl too much, perhaps I may point out that there are data protection and confidentiality issues to be dealt with before we can issue league tables. I am not certain that we want to take the driving instructor profession with us in these reforms, but this would be the most sensible place to begin. Other measures of quality control by the profession and in conjunction with the DSA would be preferable. I therefore hope that the noble Earl will not pursue his amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Whitty moved Amendments Nos. 298 to 300: Before Clause 253, insert the following new clause—

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