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Viscount Astor: I make one brief point. There is, of course, a major difference between a motor cycle and a trailer in that a motor cycle has number plates and it is licensed. The point that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made about motor cycles deserves careful consideration on the part of the Government. However, it is an entirely different matter from trailers which are not licensed and do not have number plates.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: I may be entirely wrong but having listened to the Private Security Industry Bill from another place from where I am standing at the moment there seemed to be some relationship between the police and local authorities in that Bill. I wonder whether that could be reflected in this Bill.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, on his persistent representations on behalf of the leather-clad variant of commuting transport. He is certainly to be congratulated on the imaginative way in which he always introduces these matters at important stages of legislative consideration.
I pick up a point that is not immediately obvious; namely, that since the passing of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 there has been much closer co-operation at a local level between the police and local authorities. They work closely together. This legislation in part is designed to encourage that and to ensure that we have a war of attrition against vehicle crime. That is the background to the situation.
Amendment No. 8 as drafted reduces the flexibility of the Bill. It would require a local authority to notify the police of all applications for registration and renewal of registration of motor salvage operators. When considering applications we would expect local authorities to consult the police as a matter of routine as stakeholders, as it were, in the exercise of rooting out criminality in this area. It is our intention to have discussions with the Local Government Association so that we can include this measure in jointly agreed guidance on implementing the provisions of the Bill. As we see it, there is no justification for a statutory requirement.
Amendment No. 14 is not needed. It is not necessary to specify who should make representations. The local authority can receive representations from the police under the clause as it presently stands. Therefore, I think that the point is already covered. As we see it, there is no need to make further provision in that respect.
In response to another point which I believe the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, raised, I can tell him that motor cycles are covered under the definition of a motor vehicle under Clause 16(1). I think that that is probably understood. NCIS has a large project designed to tackle motor cycle crime which is an indication of how seriously we in the Government take the issue of motor cycle crime in general. In response
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I am a little disappointed but not surprised. It seems to me that if local authorities are to consult the police as a matter of routine, it would not do any harm to make that clear on the face of the Bill. However, I shall not press the point this evening. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In line with my earlier comments about strengthening Part 1 of the Bill, I have tabled Amendments Nos. 9 and 11. I refer to a situation where some kind of conviction might lead a local authority not to register an applicant. I believe that at the moment someone in that position could use an associate to make the application on his or her behalf. It is a case of people being "rung" rather than vehicles. I seek to prevent that.
My Amendment No. 13, which is grouped with the amendments to which I speak, seeks to ensure that particular categories of offence will be considered a bar to registration. The term "fit and proper" on the face of the Bill is rather vague and ill-defined. I understand that it will be left to the Secretary of State to define at a future date. I would prefer to be a little more specific on the face of the Bill and include a provision for people associated with an applicant to be included in the measure. I beg to move.
Lord Berkeley: I support the general tone of Amendments Nos. 9 to 13. Amendments Nos. 9 and 10, and Amendments Nos. 11 and 12, are very different. It is good to note that the Opposition parties cannot agree on the right wording. It is important to make the category of an applicant and any person employed as wide as possible to assist local authorities in their discussions with the police.
Should reference to work on motor vehicles, including bicycles, include the parts? It is important to include the parts in the definition. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, refers to "parts" in the second but not the first part of Amendment No. 13. I am not sure why. My noble friend will no doubt explain that the provision is unnecessary or the matter is covered elsewhere. However, it is important to make the powers as wide as possible to assist local authorities in their tasks.
The issue was discussed in great detail in the Commons Standing Committee. No doubt the Minister has studied the debate carefully. It will not help us to repeat the arguments. We are talking about the best way to achieve the principle underlying the amendments. The central point of our amendment is that the Bill allows employers to evade the new law by employing unsuitable people even though the employers may be judged suitable for registration by the authority. The Government need to take account of the issue.
During debates in Standing Committee, the Government did not satisfy our concerns. I am sure that the Minister has considered the issue during the passage of the Bill to this House. I look forward to the noble Lord's response.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, accepting this group of amendments would mean that local authorities would have to determine not only whether directors of companies or members of limited liability partnerships were fit and proper to operate in the motor salvage industry but also all their employees and business associates--an extensive exercise which we feel would be an almost impossible administrative task. If a fit and proper test had to be carried out on all employees and associates, it would create a huge burden on local authorities and businesses. For instance, what would happen when employees leave a company and new people start? Would it mean that local authorities would continually update their information?
We believe that it is necessary for directors of motor salvage companies and members of motor salvage limited liability partnerships to have a "fit and proper" test. There is evidence of criminal activity within this industry. That is why local authorities with local knowledge will set standards for the industry by operating a "fit and proper" test. But directors are responsible for the companies within their industry and not their employees or associates. The same applies to members of limited liability partnerships. The effect of the amendments would be to add criteria to which the local authority must have regard when applying the "fit and proper" test when deciding whether to register an applicant. We do not feel that this is necessary. Local authorities will not be operating alone when deciding whether someone is fit and proper. More importantly, we shall be developing joint guidance with the Local Government Association to help local authorities to decide what should be taken into account before registering an applicant.
Under normal administrative law principles they should already take into account all relevant offences and matters, whether or not expressly specified in the Bill. In addition, if during the consultation period following its enactment, it is decided that some particular offences should be taken into account in every case--that is, it is decided that they will always
Viscount Astor: Before the noble Baroness decides what to do in relation to Amendment No. 9, perhaps I may respond briefly on Amendment No. 10. I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the position. I shall study carefully what he said. I shall not move my amendments in this group.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: The purpose of the amendment was not to impose on local authorities the burden of having to check every employee, down to the person who makes the tea. If a local authority has information about one of the employees, my amendment seeks to provide that it should be able to take that into account when applying the "fit and proper" test.
The Minister has not accepted my other amendments. The amendments would be important with regard to working more closely with the police. If the police were aware that employees of a company had a record for vehicle theft, the local authority would then be able to take that into account. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.