Police Reform Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Denham: The amendment would protect a person who is unconscious after an accident by providing that a constable cannot ask for a blood specimen to be taken if the medical practitioner who has clinical care of the person objects. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman by saying that reflects the intention of the Bill. The amendment is not necessary. He had advantage over me by referring to a particular communication from the BMA, which I have not received.

I wish to make it clear, however, that the clause only empowers a medical practitioner to take a specimen. It does not require him to do so. It allows the individual practitioner at his discretion to refuse the police request, for example, if he thought that taking a specimen could be detrimental to the patient's health or if his ethical beliefs would not allow him to do so. It is worth saying, incidentally in relation to our earlier discussion, that the clause does not allow a nurse to take specimens in such cases. We have not extended the role to other registered health care professionals, which was a deliberate act in view of ethnical considerations and the likely medical condition of the patient. To reiterate, the amendments to the Road Traffic Act 1988 introduced under clause 50(1) make it lawful, but not compulsory, for a medical practitioner to take a specimen when requested, if he thinks fit.

Mr. Paice: I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation, but I am not yet convinced of his argument. Clause 50(2)(a) states that a request

    ''shall not be made to a medical practitioner who for the time being has any responsibility (apart from the request) for the clinical care of the person concerned''.

Although the hon. Gentleman said that the practitioner to whom the request was made may decline to do so, it seems self-evident that that person will be a different individual from the medical practitioner who is in clinical charge of the patient. He or she cannot be asked to take a sample, but somebody else can. The other person may decline to do it, but my point is that the person in charge of the patient should take the ultimate decision.

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Mr. Denham: Our intention is that if the practitioner who was responsible for the clinical care of the patient objected, it would not be fitting for another medical practitioner to say, none the less, ''I am overruling your judgment in this case.'' That could cause ethical problems. I do not believe that a sample would be taken under the Bill's provisions against the objections of the practitioner with clinical care. The intention behind the amendment has been addressed.

I do not have a copy of the specific BMA letter. I understood that the BMA was content with the Bill because we have held lengthy discussions with it about medical ethics. I give the hon. Gentleman an undertaking that I shall examine the matter again to decide whether it requires further clarification. I understand the distinction that he makes between a person with clinical care and a person to whom the request for a sample is addressed, but I am not sure that the problem that he raised exists. However, he has received representations that I have not, and in view of my understanding of the Bill, it might be better if I offer to examine the matter outside the Committee.

Mr. Paice: I am grateful to the Minister. I must admit that I had assumed that other hon. Members had received the letter. I shall provide the Minister with a copy and I am happy for him to read it. I did not intend to create an unnecessary dispute; I simply wanted reassurance.

While I am on my feet, I apologise to the Committee. I allowed my memory to serve me ill when I moved the amendment and referred to my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham. Of course, he raised a different issue that relates to the Bill.

I am happy to provide the Minister with the letter, and I look forward to his consideration of it. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 50 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 51

Use of specimens taken from persons incapable of consenting

Amendments made: No. 231, in page 46, line 20, leave out 'nurse' and insert 'health care professional'.

No. 232, in page 46, line 38, leave out ''section 16(1)'' and insert

    ''subsection (1) of section 16'.

No. 233, in page 46, line 39, at end insert—

    '(6) In subsection (2) of that section (documentary evidence as to consent), after the words ''medical practitioner'', in both places where they occur, there shall be inserted ''or a registered health care professional''.'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 51, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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Clause 52

Equivalent provision for offences connected with transport systems

Amendments made: No. 234, in page 47, line 8, leave out 'nurse' and insert 'health care professional'.

No. 235, in page 47, line 12, at end insert—

    '(2A) After subsection (9) of that section there shall be inserted—

    ''(9A) In this section ''health care professional'' means a person (other than a medical practitioner) who is—

    (a) a registered nurse; or

    (b) a registered member of a health care profession which is designated for the purposes of this paragraph by an order made by the Secretary of State.

    (9B) A health care profession is any profession mentioned in section 60(2) of the Health Act 1999 other than the profession of practising medicine and the profession of nursing.

    (9C) An order under subsection (9A)(b) shall be made by statutory instrument; and any such statutory instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.''

No. 236, in page 49, line 6, at end insert—

    '(7A) In section 35(3) of that Act (documentary evidence as to consent) after the words ''medical practitioner'', in both places where they occur, there shall be inserted ''or a registered health care professional''.

    (7B) After subsection (2) of section 38 of that Act (interpretation of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of that Act) there shall be inserted—

    ''(2A) In this Chapter ''registered health care professional'' means a person (other than a medical practitioner) who is—

    (a) a registered nurse; or

    (b) a registered member of a health care profession which is designated for the purposes of this paragraph by an order made by the Secretary of State.

    (2B) A health care profession is any profession mentioned in section 60(2) of the Health Act 1999 (c.8) other than the profession of practising medicine and the profession of nursing.

    (2C) An order under subsection (2A)(b) shall be made by statutory instrument; and any such statutory instrument shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.''

No. 237, in page 49, line 7, leave out

    'section 38 of that Act'

and insert 'that section'.

No. 238, in page 49, line 13, leave out 'nurse' and insert 'health care professional'.—[Mr. Denham.]

Clause 52, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 53

Vehicles used in manner causing alarm, distress or annoyance

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Norman Baker: I seek clarification from the Minister on the impact of the clause. I understand that if a constable identifies careless and inconsiderate driving that is likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance, under subsection (3) he will have the power to stop, seize and remove the motor vehicle. He must warn the driver—if that is possible—before he uses that power, and the vehicle's use must have continued after the

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warning. So far, so good. The purpose of the clause is, therefore, to prevent a public nuisance at a particular time, which nobody could disagree with.

I want to clarify the impact of subsection (2). It states that a constable shall also have the power to seize and remove a vehicle

    ''where he has reasonable grounds for believing that a motor vehicle has been used on any occasion in a manner falling within subsection (1).

Is that provision designed to identify a case in which a constable had warned someone that his driving was inconsiderate and causing alarm, and had been unable to apprehend the vehicle because the person had driven off, but had seized it subsequently? Is that the purpose of the provision? If so, it is different from preventing a public nuisance from occurring. Presumably, the public nuisance had ended because the person had driven off yet, under the Bill, a sharp-eyed constable may notice the vehicle—which may have been used, in his view, some months previously to cause disturbance—and can seize and retain it. That seems different from dealing with the public nuisance when it happened. Will the Minister confirm whether I have understood the clause correctly?

6 pm

Mr. Hawkins: I agree with the search for clarification carried out by the hon. Member for Lewes. I also want to explore a further issue. For a long time, there has been a substantial problem in my constituency with youths using and misusing motor bikes in an area that is a site of special scientific interest. When I read the reference to the prohibition of off-road driving under clause 53(1), it occurred to me that that might provide the powers about which I have been in extensive correspondence with the Minister's predecessors for some years.

Since 1997, I must have exchanged a dozen letters about the problem with Ministers at the Home Office and at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, as it then was. Is the provision intended specifically to be a response to such letters, because I know that other hon. Members have had problems of off-road driving in country areas? Equally, we must be aware that there are legitimate off-road drivers and some have permission to drive 4x4 vehicles on certain designated areas in my constituency, where they are not contravening the law. They are also anxious that their sport should not be prevented. Did the Home Office consult motoring and enthusiast organisations before the provisions were drafted?

 
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Prepared 25 June 2002