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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, perhaps I may put the record straight. The Minister has spoken to the second draft order. We should have been discussing the first draft order, but I am perfectly happy to take it in that order if that is permissible.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I apologise to the House. I have been guilty of an oversight. I was so excited by the successful completion of the Second Reading of the previous piece of substantial legislation that I reached for the wrong document in my folder.
It might be appropriate if I were to say a few words that are more relevant to the appropriate Motion on the Order Paper. Perhaps noble Lords may reflect that my words may have wider meaning when we discuss the provisions of the second important order.
The draft Deregulation (Motor Vehicles Tests) Order 1996 amends the provisions of Section 48 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in relation to MoT testing. The purpose of an MoT test is to confirm, once a year, that vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. Section 48 of the Act currently allows motorists to obtain MoT certificates up to one month before the expiry of an existing certificate without incurring any time penalty. In the case of public service vehicles, this concession is for two months. This means that the subsequent certificate can expire up to 13 months after its issue date (or 14 in the case of public service vehicles).
The concession does not exist in relation to the first MoT test certificate at the moment. A motorist may therefore be disadvantaged under the legislation as it stands if his vehicle is MoT tested before it needs to be, since the expiry date of the test certificate will be 12 months after it has been issued. Our objective in proposing the draft deregulation order is to extend the period of validity of the first certificate so that motorists would be able to take advantage of the existing concession which applies to subsequent tests.
We do not believe that the extension of the 13 month certificate concession would give cause for concern on either road safety or environmental protection grounds. We certainly have no evidence to suggest that it would. In our view there would be no significant risks in extending the concession as proposed, especially when it is considered that the vehicles which would be covered by our proposal are much newer than those which already benefit.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the draft order ends an anomaly which ought to have ended some time ago. I am glad that this draft order has been laid by the Government and I fully support it. I am sorry that the Minister got into some confusion but his sheer glee at getting a Second Reading on a Bill which was largely uncontested is understandable and has clearly led to his state of mind, which is unfortunate but curable.
I wish to address some of the points which were raised by the Select Committee in another place when dealing with these deregulation proposals. The main point relates to the period of consultation. I hope that this will not be taken as a precedent, certainly for more contentious issues. The consultation began on 7th February last year and finished on 27th February. That is on the whole a pretty short time--13 working days. The reason given by the department was that the proposal was likely to be uncontentious. However, the odd thing is that that short period of time was not reflected in the way in which the Government went about dealing with this proposal in terms of laying it before Parliament. It was nine months later that that occurred. I hope, therefore, that a greater period of consultation will be given in the main.
The committee paid a guarded tribute to the Department of Transport. It is right that the Department of Transport, which does not often receive tributes, should have that tribute underlined. It was stated that:
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the less I say the better after the earlier inexactitude. On the issue of the consultation process, the time was short. The noble Lord is correct in that regard. However, the arguments were well rehearsed. The industry knew exactly what we had in mind and there were no surprises to come. However, I take the point that the noble Lord makes.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the House will not be surprised to hear that I do not intend to engage in a great explanation of this measure because by some fortuitous circumstance I believe that the House is already quite well informed about it.
I wish to raise another factor. I paid the department a tribute previously. Here I do not. It must stop saying silly things. I refer to the report of the Deregulation Committee of another place. The department was taken to task about the issue in evidence at page viii of the report. The department stated:
One of the great virtues is that existing British standards will apply. I believe that that is one of the great safeguards. The other safeguard is that if a motorist, faced no doubt by an issue of principle, wishes to seek an acquittal from the court, he might be able to find some other ways of doing so. Having said that, I believe that the proposal is on the whole worthwhile, and we support it.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord demonstrates without a shadow of doubt his skill as a lawyer by putting to me some of the difficult objections to the matter and then giving me the answers as to why they should be immediately dismissed.
The noble Lord's first point referred to a possible objection concerning evidence, court procedures and so forth. I know that the noble Lord understands the working of the law in the courts far better than I do. However, the question was as regards what happens if a meter is faulty. To what extent is that evidence taken into account?
If the motorist believes that he has been charged for a parking offence on a meter that is faulty, he should first complain to the local authority. Local authorities are usually quick to check meters and to withdraw charges if they find the meter to be faulty. If that fails, the motorist can take the case to court. Indication given from a parking meter is prima facie evidence. If other evidence--for example, that the meter was faulty--were put forward, the court would consider it. The approval
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Bill, have consented to place their prerogatives and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.