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Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill [HL]

3.28 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

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Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Baroness Turner of Camden) in the Chair.]

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 1:


    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause—

"Promotion of road safety

CODE OF PRACTICE FOR HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLES
After section 38 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) there shall be inserted the following section—
"38A CODE OF PRACTICE FOR HORSE-DRAWN VEHICLES
(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, the Secretary of State—
(a) shall make a Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles; and
(b) may from time to time revise such a Code of Practice by revoking, amending or adding to its provisions in such manner as he thinks fit.
(2) Before making or revising a Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles, the Secretary of State must consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit.
(3) Where the Secretary of State—
(a) has made a Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles; or
(b) has made any alterations in the provisions of such a Code (other than merely consequential on the passing, amendment or repeal of any statutory provision),
he must lay the alterations before both Houses of Parliament.
(4) A Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles, and any alterations to such a Code, laid in accordance with subsection (3), shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House before a period of forty days has expired beginning with the day on which the Code or alterations were so laid.
(5) The Secretary of State must cause any Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles to be printed and copies to be made available to the public either free of charge or at such price as he may determine.
(6) A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of a Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under this Act) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.
(7) Until a Code of Practice for Horse-drawn Vehicles is made under this section, the Code of Practice for Horse Drawn Vehicles published in 2000 by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions shall have effect as if it had been so made, and may be revised accordingly.
(8) Paragraphs (a) and (c) of section 38(9) apply for the purposes of subsections (3) and (4) as they apply for the purposes of section 38(3).""

The noble Lord said: Noble Lords will remember that this Bill was given a Second Reading. The Bill is designed to fill a gap in the law that resulted in accidents to people and which seemed to call for statutory reinforcement. It was received with reasonable approbation by the Back Benches and the

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Liberal Democrat Front Bench; with the usual reserve by the Government; and with slight criticism—surprising criticism—by the Conservative Front Bench. I say "surprising" because the Conservatives had been in favour of the legislation at an earlier stage. Perhaps they have thought better of it since Second Reading.

I apologise that the Bill needs to be amended—all the amendments are in my name. Obviously, some of the amendments could have been in the previous draft, but things do not always go as one plans. I shall do my best to put the case for the amendments as briefly as possible. Knowing that there is no major dispute about the worthiness of the cause that the Bill proposes, I hope that we need not detain noble Lords from their gardens or whatever any longer than is necessary.

Amendment No. 1 would add a new clause to the Bill. It is the biggest of the amendments. Its purpose is twofold. First, it would give transitional effect to the non-statutory Code of Practice for Horse-Drawn Vehicles, which was published by the DETR in 2000. Secondly, because it would be wrong to give continuing effect to a non-statutory document, the new clause goes on to provide for the code's replacement in the course of time by a statutory code.

The present code of practice, which is available from the DETR, sets out guidance for persons driving horse-drawn vehicles. It reflects a persuasive approach, is at best patchy in its effect and provides no sanction for those who choose to disregard its advice. Being a take-it-or-leave-it affair, it is less effective than if it had statutory backing.

Consequently, the clause would back up the code—and, in due course, its replacements—in two ways. First, subsection (6) provides that any failure of observance may, in proceedings for an offence,


    "be relied upon . . . to establish or negative any liability".

The second way involves the range of offences set out in the Bill.

Unlike the Highway Code, which provides guidance generally for road users, the code and its alteration or replacement will be subject to the negative resolution procedure rather than the affirmative one. Otherwise, the two would have an analogous effect.

It may be averred that the clause is unnecessary because its effect could well be achieved by incorporating the provisions of the horse-drawn vehicles code into the Highway Code. That is true, but we are faced with two separate documents, and it seems sensible to keep them that way instead of expanding the Highway Code—which is for the public at large and voluminous enough already—with provisions that would apply only to a relatively small number of road users.

My conviction is that the clause and the horse-drawn vehicles code would sit well together. A code with statutory backing in the proposed manner is likely to have a more marked deterrence than simply exhortatory advice without it. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Further amendment of the Road Traffic Act 1988]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 2:


    Page 4, line 8, leave out "of this Act"

The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are grouped together with Amendment No. 4, which is of slightly greater import. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are in keeping with contemporary drafting practice, whereby references to provisions of the Bill, as read with the Act it amends, do not require the words which are the subject of the amendments. Amendment No. 4 states that,


    "In this section 'owner', in relation to a vehicle which is the subject of a hiring agreement, includes each party to the agreement".

In seeking to expand the reference to "owner", the amendment is self-explanatory. It makes identical provision to that contained in subsection (3) of Clause 2, which in turn is modelled on Section 165(7) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendments Nos. 3 and 4:


    Page 4, line 15, leave out "of this Act"


    Page 4, line 46, at end insert—


"(6) In this section "owner", in relation to a vehicle which is the subject of a hiring agreement, includes each party to the agreement.""

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 9 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [Amendment of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 5:


    Page 7, line 6, after "(c. 52)," insert "in columns 1 to 4"

The noble Lord said: The amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 6 and 7. Schedule 1 to the Bill is almost entirely concerned with inserting new entries relating to the prosecution and punishment of offences created by the Bill into Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Given that Schedule 2 to that Act consists of seven columns, the purpose of the amendments is to make clear that the new entries are to be inserted in columns 1 to 4. Columns 5 to 7, which deal with disqualification, endorsement and penalty points, will not apply, as they relate entirely to the mis-driving of mechanically propelled vehicles. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 7:


    Page 8, line 4, after "Act" insert "in columns 1 to 4"


    Page 8, line 14, after "Act" insert "in columns 1 to 4"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

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Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Beaumont of Whitley moved Amendment No. 8:


    Page 8, line 34, at end insert—


"1A In paragraph 17 of Schedule 1A to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) (arrestable offences), after the words "section 170" there shall be inserted the words "or section 170A"."

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On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

        House adjourned at twenty minutes before four o'clock.


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