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Amendment made: No. 50, in page 101, line 22, at beginning insert
'Sections (Scottish sex offender orders) and (Sex offender orders made in England, Wales or Northern Ireland) and'[Mr. Denham.]
'Police authorities shall continue to appoint persons to discharge, in aid of the police, functions normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of, or enforcement of the law relating to, traffic or stationary vehicles unless
(a) notwithstanding regulations under Part VIII of the Road Traffic Regulations Act, the police authority passes a resolution by 1st January 2004 not to continue deploying traffic wardens; and
(b) that police authority informs the chief officer of police for that police force and the Secretary of State of its decision.'.
(14) Where a designation in this paragraph applies to any person that person shall have all the powers of traffic wardens under
(a) the Traffic Wardens Order 1970 (SI 1958);
(b) the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984;
(c) the Road Traffic Act 1991; and
(d) the Traffic Wardens Amendment Order 1993 (SI 1334).'.
Mr. Denham: I mentioned this group of amendments earlier. Under current legislation, only the police have a general power to stop vehicles and only the police and traffic wardensin this sense, traffic wardens means those employed by police authoritieshave a power to direct traffic. That means that police have to be employed for such purposes as stopping vehicles for emissions tests and escorting abnormal loads, even though their other powers are not required. That is not the best use of police time.
Traffic wardens already have a power to direct traffic. Clause 44 removes restrictions on their power to stop, which will enable them to undertake escorting duties. The amendments clarify the fact that their power to stop includes a power to stop vehicles for tests of their roadworthiness and compliance with construction and use regulations. We will also, by these amendments, give CSOs and accredited persons a limited power to stop vehicles and direct traffic. The power will be solely for the same escorting and testing purposes. The amendments will allow local authority traffic wardens to be given the power to stop traffic for those specific purposes. For the avoidance of doubt, I should emphasise that it will not be necessary to confer on any such local authority traffic wardens any of the other powers that may or may not be conferred on other accredited persons within the force area. They could be accredited and trained only in the use of the power to stop traffic.
The amendments will reduce the number of occasions on which the police have to be diverted from other important tasks to help other agencies and road hauliers, and to carry out work unrelated to crime and public order. That will also benefit the other agencies and hauliers, since they will no longer have to wait on the availability of police, who might then be withdrawn at short notice for more urgent operational duties. That is much less likely to happen with traffic wardens, CSOs and accredited persons. The accredited persons may in fact be the employees of another interested partyfor example, the Vehicle Inspectorateif they have been so accredited by
Amendment No. 100 would extend all traffic wardens' powers to CSOs. The Government amendments will give certain, tightly defined traffic powers to CSOs such as the power to stop vehicles to help other agencies in particular circumstances. That is not the same as giving all traffic wardens' powers to CSOs. However, if it were desirable locally to ensure that CSOs exercised the full powers of traffic wardens, that could be achieved without amendment No. 100, either by designating someone who is already a traffic warden as a CSO, or appointing a CSO as a traffic warden. We have preferred to add some limited specific powers for traffic wardens to those available to CSOs.
Mr. Hawkins: We think that it is sensible for the Government to provide the opportunity for such tasks as the escorting of exceptional loads to be performed by people other than the police. However, I hope that the Minister will be able to provide some reassurance about the level of extra training for those undertaking those tasks. We are conscious that those who perform the specialist role of traffic police, many of whom I have worked with in my previous career at the Bar, have particular experience. The issue has been raised on several occasions, especially in the other place by Earl Attlee, who has particular expertise on the matter, and I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something about the extra training that may be available.
With great respect to the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) and his colleagues, we agree with the Minister that the proposals in the Liberal Democrats' amendment can be achieved without amending the Bill. We would be slightly concerned by the suggestion that anybody who is appointed as a CSO will automatically have all the powers that are currently given to traffic wardens, because that might lead to a confusion of roles. We do not intend that the Bill should create a new category of traffic wardens, and while I understand the sensible motivation behind new clause 8 and amendment No. 100, it is not necessarily the right approach.
Norman Baker: Confusion is the issue, and we have tabled new clause 8 and amendment No. 100 to try to avoid it. The reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) can be found at paragraph 49 of the Government's response to the Select Committee report, which states:
I drew attention to that confusion on Second Reading, as that is what we want to avoid. Respect for this country's policing system requires that that system commands respect among the public. People must be clear about the powers of officers, and be able to recognise immediately what sort of officer a person is.
At the moment, there is a clear distinction between police officers and traffic wardens, but that clarity will be lost if many new categories of officer are introduced. That will lead to confusion, given that CSOs in different parts of the country will have different powers, if they have them at all. New clause 8 and amendment No. 100 would remove that uncertainty.
Furthermore, we must ensure that the people on our streets are deployed to maximum effect. The Government's intention is to ensure that police officers are not wasted, and that they are not called to deal with trivial matters that could be dealt with by others.
How could it be wrong for traffic wardens on the street to be able to deal with relatively low-grade matters that could be dealt with by a CSO? We suggest that traffic wardens ought to be able to deal with such matters as if they were CSOs. If they are not going to be able to deal with abandoned vehicles or youngsters with alcohol, for example, they will presumably have to call out a CSO. The Government have stated that they want to avoid that duplication of effort, which is a consequence of the proposals in the Bill.
New clause 8 and amendment No. 100 would allow police authorities to decide whether they wanted to rationalise the problem, or whether they wanted to make their employees more effective by giving them the same powers as CSOs. That would also ensure greater understanding of those powers among the public.
I suspect that the Minister will not accept new clause 8 and amendment No. 100. If so, he will be saying that he wants a plethora of people with different powers and that he wants duplication, with the result that people on the street will not be allowed to deal with offences with which they are capable of dealing. I hope that he will reflect on the matter.