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Viscount Astor: The Minister and I are moving in the same direction and perhaps towards the same goal. Clause 8 states:

The amendment seeks to add the words "or trailers". If one adds the words "or trailers" or perhaps "and/or trailers", that gives the Secretary of State the opportunity to include them in the future if he so desires if there is a sensible way of categorising them by weight or by some other factor. Presumably we have to come up with some mechanism in the Bill so that if in the future the Secretary of State wishes to include trailers he could do so. I believe I am right in saying that one would have to amend Clause 8 to include the words "and/or trailers" to allow the Secretary of State to do that. I do not want to press the point now but I hope that the Minister might consider it between now and Report and that we can debate the issue again.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: We shall consider the issue. I believe that it is covered. However, I shall certainly consider the issue. If I can help the noble Viscount before we reach Report I shall write to him.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister. We are thinking along the same lines and between us I believe that we have gone halfway to address the concerns raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Baroness. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Rights to enter and inspect premises]:

Viscount Simon moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 6, line 17, at end insert "; or

(c) any other premises that a constable has, with reasonable cause, to suspect to be used by a motor salvage operator in connection with motor salvage"

The noble Viscount said: It is perhaps pertinent to point out that the Bill as formulated deals with legally operated premises and allows a constable to enter and inspect registered premises. However, the Bill fails to deal with premises that, for whatever reason, are outside the system but still carry on the business of a motor salvage operator. It must be recognised that there will be those who choose to ignore the requirement to register. Yes, they can be reported for the offence, but why bother to register in the knowledge that any prosecution will take at least six months to be processed and that, in that time, the CPS can be convinced that the company has registered and will drop the case?

Therefore, all premises that are believed to be used for motor salvage must be subject to the same scrutiny, whether registered or not. Why should a police officer bother to visit the lawful premises when he cannot, with reasonable cause to suspect, visit the unlawful? This amendment therefore seeks to correct this anomaly. I beg to move.

Lord Brougham and Vaux: The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, makes a good point. I am content with his arguments.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The proposed amendment is already covered under subsections (3) and (4) of Clause 9. The subsections enable a constable, after obtaining a warrant, to enter premises suspected of carrying on business as a salvage operator. To confer the right of entry in order to carry out inspections without a warrant at premises suspected of carrying out business as a motor salvage operator would be heavy-handed and unacceptable.

To uncover evidence of involvement in the motor salvage trade may well involve a search of the premises. Unregistered or suspected businesses are entitled to the same protection as businesses in general. A general search of this nature should be undertaken only with the authority of a magistrate.

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We do not need the provision. We think that we are covered. We believe that the course proposed in the noble Viscount's amendment is unnecessarily savage. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Brougham and Vaux: While I am sure that many salvage companies are respectable, will there not be one or two rogues who might need a heavy hand? Are we still covered?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The degree of roguery is hardly the issue. I have argued that we are covered in these circumstances.

Viscount Simon: I question one word used by the Minister. Why is the provision "heavy handed". What does my noble friend propose as an alternative?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The clause already enables a constable to enter premises where there is a suspicion. We think that the noble Viscount's proposed course could well be described as heavy handed. However, the important point is that we are covered. That is the critical issue.

Viscount Simon: I am delighted to hear that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 [Offence of making false statements]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 25:

    Page 7, line 1, after "recklessly" insert "or negligently"

The noble Viscount said: The Minister knows that I am not a lawyer. However, I understand that there has been a considerable amount of litigation over the years on the definitions of "recklessly" and "negligently". The amendment is designed to promote a discussion about what the Government want to do with the legislation. "Recklessness" is usually defined in relation to a statement as,

    "a state of mind which does not care whether the statement is true or false".

I am advised that in Supply Stores v. Cloote and Regina v. Staines--I am sure that those cases will roll off the tip of the Minister's tongue--it was held that a deception, in order to be reckless within the meaning of the Theft Act 1968, had to be more than merely careless or negligent. There had to be indifference as to whether a statement was true or false. A negligent mis-statement of fact is by comparison one made honestly but carelessly. "Negligence" means generally the breach of an obligation imposed by law to take reasonable care or exercise a reasonable degree of skill, but not any stricter duty, in carrying out any particular task.

I believe that the proposed amendment would increase the scope of the legislation. Its purpose is to promote a debate on the legislation. It is a probing amendment. It is an area where there has been

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difficulty as regards interpretation. The Minister's comments during the passage of the Bill could help the courts to interpret it when it becomes law.

I hope that that is not too convoluted an explanation of my amendment. Neither the Minister nor I is a lawyer and we have struggled to understand all the aspects of the Bill, but the definition of "recklessly" is important. I shall listen closely to his response. I beg to move.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I recognise that I made an error this morning. Over tea and toast with my partner, who is a lawyer, I should have exchanged some observations about the meaning of "recklessly" as an alternative to "negligently". Next time I shall make sure that I bring Archbold or some other such legal volume.

The amendments would make it a criminal offence for a person negligently to make a statement that was false in a material particular when he applied for registration or renewal of registration as a motor salvage operator or as a registration plate supplier. That would be heavy-handed and inappropriate. That is why the provision applies only to knowingly or recklessly making a false statement.

The offence is aimed at deterring those applicants who deliberately or recklessly provide false information, not those who do so innocently, although negligently. That is the distinction. It is a question of an applicant being slightly wild in the way in which he provides information rather than doing so innocently but tending towards negligence.

I am not a lawyer and I have tried not to give a lawyer's explanation. Perhaps I should have sought legal advice earlier in the day.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. He has answered half the question. There was slightly more to the difference between negligence and recklessness, but I am sure that he might get his legal advisers to consider the issue. If there is something that he and I have missed out in our short exchange, perhaps they will be kind enough to write to me before Report. That would at least clear up the issue in my mind. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Notification requirements]:

Viscount Simon moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 7, line 27, leave out "level 3" and insert "the statutory maximum"

The noble Viscount said: This is purely a tidying amendment. I do not see why the penalty for false statements should be different from that in other statutes. In recent statutes, false statements have attracted a statutory maximum penalty. This Bill should be in line with other statutes and should not set the penalty at level 3. I beg to move.

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Lord Brougham and Vaux: The Explanatory Notes say:

    "Clause 11 requires the person registered or applying to be registered to notify the local authority of any changes affecting the accuracy of information provided. Failure to do so will be an offence, although there is a due diligence defence".

That seems to be in line with what the noble Viscount is asking.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The level is quite important. On the standard scale, the statutory maximum would be a fine of level 5 or £5,000. We believe that that is too draconian for failing to notify changes. Such a fine would put the offence on the same level as carrying on a business as a salvage operator while being unregistered. We believe that operating an unregistered business is the most serious offence. If we were not to tackle it, that would allow a person to carry on operating regardless of any regulations. That is why we have allocated such a high fine.

This amendment would also create an inconsistency in notification of changes under Part II of the Bill. Therefore, we need a proportionate response in order to induce and encourage and not one which we believe would be excessive. I invite my noble friend to consider that in those circumstances a fine of £5,000 would be excessive. I trust that he will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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