§ Mr. Greg Knight
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to review the operation of the extended fixed penalty system introduced on 1 October 1986 under the provisions of part III of the Transport Act 1982, now part III of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Hurd
A working group comprising representatives of the Home Office, Department of Transport, the police service and the courts was formed early in 1988 to review the operation of the extended penalty system. I have received its report, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.401W
The report concludes that the new procedures are broadly meeting their objectives which were:
- (i) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of road traffic law enforcement;
- (ii) to improve police-public relations in road traffic encounters;
- (iii) to reduce the burden of prosecution for the police, the Crown prosecution service and the courts; and
- (iv) to improve the level of compliance as compared with the previous fixed penalty system.
The working group has, however, identified a number of areas where some "fine tuning" is required.
While the extension of the fixed penalty system to a far wider range of less serious road traffic offences has produced a substantial drop in the number of court proceedings, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of fixed penalty notices issued. This has placed a considerable burden on the courts and the police in registering and enforcing unpaid fixed penalties.
The new arrangements whereby unpaid fixed penalties are enhanced by 50 per cent. and registered and enforced as fines has led to some improvement in early payment rates, particularly in London where, under the previous system, the problem of unpaid fixed penalties was most acute. However, there is still scope for improvement and the working group has identified a number of administrative measures to reduce the number of cases reaching the fine enforcement stage and, for those which do, to ensure that fine recovery is achieved as effectively and efficiently as possible.
The working group recommends that the fixed penalty levels should be increased. The levels were set in 1986 at £12 for non-endorsable offences and £24 for endorsable offences. The report recommends that these should be increased to £15 and £30 respectively with effect from 1 January 1990. As required by section 88 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, I shall be consulting representative organisations about these proposed increases. I shall also be seeking views about those of the working group's other recommendations which would involve primary legislation.