Vehicles (Crime) Bill

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Mr. Chidgey: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I now turn to something completely different, as a well-known television show used to say. New clause 3 deals with the relief for small motor salvage operators from excessive expense. It arises from concerns that have arisen in clauses 1 to 15. We wish to discover how the Government propose to treat the type of salvage operators whom new clause 3 describes.

Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early in his presentation. He said what had motivated him. May I inquire through you, Mr. O'Brien, about the genesis of the clause in terms of advance consultation on it? The hon. Gentleman and I have listened with interest and respect to the representations made by outside organisations. Has the hon. Gentleman discussed the new clause with representatives of the motor salvage sector?

Mr. Chidgey: I give due credit to the help and advice that we have received from outside organisations. In particular, the British Motorcyclists Federation has been very helpful in advising me and my colleagues on the concerns that exist within this sector of the motor salvage operations industry. I was more than happy to introduce the new clause to see whether the Minister could respond to those concerns.

The reason for introducing the new clause is the concern that the Bill threatens to kill off a particular market of second-hand parts for old models of motor cycles and cars by imposing excessive paperwork and expense. As many hon. Members know, between the 1950s and 1970s, almost all British manufacturers of motor cycles ceased production, to our everlasting shame and concern. Parts for older models are therefore no longer produced and that has left many devoted owners of older vehicles in a very difficult situation.

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Against that background, a number of small companies, or even individuals, took up the manufacture or reconditioning of parts for the models in question. Famously, some national one-make clubs, such as the Vincent owners club, set up companies to supply spare parts. More recently, that demand for parts has caused a large increase in the number and spread of auto-jumbles. Auto-jumbles are similar to jumble sales or car boot sales.

Mr. Bob Russell: Excuse the pun.

Mr. Chidgey: Indeed.

At auto-jumbles people either exchange spare parts that they no longer need or sell spare parts as a commercial activity at pitches and stalls. The events can be independent, but they are usually part of larger motor cycle rallies or shows. A good example is the British Motorcyclists' Federation's annual show, which takes place at the east of England showground at Peterborough. No doubt, my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester finds time to inspect the wares at that show, which cannot be far from his home. He looks askance. I have always imagined my hon. Friend to be a keen enthusiast of two-wheeled transport, but perhaps of the bicycle rather than the motor cycle.

The original auto-jumbles were thought to be associated mainly with classic or vintage motorcycle events and so they featured only the spare parts of older models. Now, auto-jumbles are associated with almost every sort of motorcycle rally, so they feature a wider range of parts for many different models.

A similar network of small companies and individuals who sell spare parts for older models at auto-jumbles now also exists for motor cars. In Britain, there is now a range of suppliers of spare parts for old motor cycles and cars. The suppliers span the spectrum, from the private individual who sells spare parts that are surplus to his requirements, to the ordinary commercial operation.

That is the nub of the new clause. The Bill currently focuses on the commercial operations of motor salvage operators. That is right because it deals with vehicle crime within organised commercial activities. However, it is wrong that the flourishing activity of individuals who began exchanging parts that could no longer be bought from recognised suppliers and, through enthusiasm for their old motor bikes, invested energy and resources in creating companies to manufacture parts that would keep their machines on the road, should also be subject to the bureaucracy of clauses 1 to 15. It seems wrong that those at the lower end of the spectrum should be subject to legislation that is aimed at controlling illegal commercial activity. Many of the people in question run their business activities from home. Do the Government really intend that such people should be faced with the prospect of a policeman without a warrant knocking on the door of their home to search their back bedrooms for spare parts that have, allegedly, been criminally obtained?

The new clause has been drafted with the advice of the British Motorcyclists Federation in order to bring to Ministers' attention the danger that small suppliers of spare parts for old models of motor cycles and cars will be subject to disproportionate expense and bureaucracy. At this late stage, I ask the Ministers to give guidance about how this unique but small sector of the motor vehicle fraternity might be afforded appropriate relief.

Mr. Fabricant: I broadly support new clause 3, although I disagree with subsection (4), and I shall explain my reasons for that shortly.

I have already mentioned that I am a former motor cyclist. I used to own a Yamaha FJ 1200 that took me all around Europe, but in 1992, when my party had a diminishing majority in the House, I was advised by the Whips that it would be more responsible of me to revert to four wheels. That is what I have done ever since, although I think that, in my dotage, I might go back to two wheels.

Mr. Bercow: I was not aware of my hon. Friend's previous possession of a Yamaha, but it is relevant. The motor cycling community often imagines that Parliament does not have much close personal experience of, or empathy with, its concerns. In that context, is my hon. Friend aware that our hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) is the proud owner of a powerful motor cycle and that he was the only person in recorded history to be provided with a company motor bike while he was employed at 32 Smith square.

Mr. Fabricant: I certainly was not aware of that, but I do not have to remind the Committee that Michael Jopling, who is now in another—[Interruption.]

The Chairman: Order. I will not allow a conversation about which members of the Tory party own motor cycles. Please will hon. Members keep to new clause 3.

Mr. Fabricant: Mr. O'Brien, the mention of the former Chief Whip ensures that I will certainly keep to your recommendation that a history of the Conservative party and motor cycles is not appropriate.

I do not understand the motive for including subsection (4), which states:

    Where a person carries on the business of a motor salvage operator in whole or part on domestic premises, the right of a constable to enter and inspect premises under section 9(1) shall not extend to the domestic premises.

It is wholly wrong to include that subsection. Although I am sure that many people working from domestic premises, under the conditions foreseen by new clause 3, will be doing so lawfully—indeed, most salvage operators and licence plate manufacturers carry on their businesses lawfully—the point of the Bill is to limit crimes to those who are conducting their business unlawfully.

Mr. Chidgey: Is the hon. Gentleman comfortable with the prospect of police officers entering domestic premises without warrants?

Mr. Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman was not present last week when we discussed the issue at length. You were in the Chair, Mr. O'Brien, when we discussed

the North Yorkshire County Council Bill, the Kent County Council Bill and the Medway Council Bill, which contain similar provisions. Under those Bills, although constables would not need a warrant to enter registered premises, they would need a warrant to enter unregistered premises, where people were almost certainly committing crimes. I share that concern about entering premises.

Whether logically the argument should apply more to domestic premises is a moot point. I simply make the point that, if an offence is committed on domestic premises, the same provisions for a police officer to enter should apply to those premises as to business premises.

Mr. Chidgey: I am intrigued to hear that the hon. Gentleman has such a dispassionate view on the sanctity of domestic premises. Does he believe that police officers should have the same rights of entry to his home in Lichfield—without a warrant, for any reason—as they would to commercial premises as defined in the Bill?

Mr. Fabricant: First, I am not dispassionate. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Hansard report of last week's Committee sitting, he will know that I have strong opinions about the issue.

The answer to his main and substantive question is, yes, if I am carrying out commercial work at my home in Lichfield, police officers should have the same rights of entry as they would if I were carrying on business at some other premises. It would be illogical for a constable not to have those rights of entry. Of course, if I were not carrying out business at my home, constables would not have a right of entry. The Bill does not suggest that they would.

I appreciated the comments of the hon. Member for Eastleigh about vintage, veteran and older motor cycles. As he rightly pointed out in his introduction to the new clause, Britain has a fine history of motor cycle manufacture. Perhaps history is no longer history: Triumph is now successfully marketing its motor cycles, not just in the United Kingdom. Triumph motor bikes, which are made near Coventry, are exported to the United States, Australia and other countries.

People who own BSAs, older Triumph bikes, Bantams—if I knew enough about motor cycle history I could go on ad nauseam through a long list of manufacturers—have difficulty obtaining spare parts. They are certainly not available under normal commercial conditions. We previously discussed e-mail and other electronic communications. One can find on the internet websites of people who provide spare parts for older bikes in a semi-commercial, semi-hobby way. Those people should not be overly burdened by the Bill's registration provisions.

I welcome the broad principle of a sliding scale of charges. However, I would not welcome a complete exemption because illegal salvage work may still be done, although that would be unlikely in the case that I have described.

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