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Lord Borrie: I support my noble friend Lord Berkeley. When one has a legislative provision and powers are set out with several purposeshere there are four lettered purposesthose purposes are more likely to be interpreted as exclusive. My noble friend Lord Berkeley is very rightly concerned with the safety of those who are at a particular spot investigating an accident. Paragraph (c) refers to,
Viscount Simon: The safety of an individual investigating a crash or coning off the scene of a crash is very important. I took the police course in this particular respect about 18 months ago, and it is now being covered by and introduced into other constabularies. This is very important and I thoroughly support my noble friend's amendment.
Viscount Astor: I have a simple question for the Minister. I hope that he may be able to answer it, but if he does not perhaps he will write to me. As there will be a number of traffic officers patrolling motorways, as it were, it is quite likely that they could arrive at the scene of an accident before the police. Will they have any first aid training? Will they be able to help any persons involved in the accident? After all, the police have first aid training; they carry some medical supplies and they help. I am sure that the Minister and the Committee would not want a traffic officer to be prevented from being able to offer assistance to someone who had been involved in an accident. If the Minister cannot give me an answer now, I would be grateful if he would look into it for me.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: As we have heard, Amendment No. 18 seeks to assist accident investigations and those carrying out such investigations by enabling traffic officers to use their powers to stop and direct traffic to protect the scene of the incident. What has emerged from our brief discussion is the importance of traffic officers protecting the police who are carrying out the investigations. Traffic officers will have a critical and valuable role in protecting the scene of an incident during on-road investigations and the officers who are undertaking those investigations.
In circumstances where death, serious injury and/or criminality is involved, the police will take the lead and carry out an investigation with traffic officers providing support. Police will undertake their work at the scene of the incident, while traffic officers will undertake traffic
With additional resources for attending and dealing with incidents the police should be able to focus their efforts on the investigation, while traffic officers seek to minimise the disruption to trafficincluding the possibility of secondary incidents. In that way accident investigations should be more effective than they are now; safer for all other people involved and less disruptive.
Clause 5(3)(c) and (d) would allow traffic officers to use their special powers to avoid danger to persons on the road, or indeed traffic using the road, and to avoid damage to anything on the road; and those purposes would enable traffic officers to act in that way. The Government's view is that those provisions do provide the protection for investigating officers that noble Lords have been debating. Indeed the purposes in Clause 5(3)(a) and (b) would also be relevant, because traffic officers would be concerned to manage traffic driving to and past the investigation site with a view to minimising the impact that the investigation would have on traffic flow.
Regarding the point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, they will have training in emergency first aid and will be able to help in that area. I hope that, with those assurances, my noble friend will withdraw his amendment.
Lord Berkeley: I am grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. In doing so he has given us a strong justification of the needs of the traffic officers. It was very useful to hear how the Minister sees their role in relation to the police.
I would agree with him that one could possibly interpret paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) as covering my amendment, but I return to the helpful comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, who said that avoiding danger to "persons or other traffic", as I understood from his contribution, is to do with using the road as drivers and passengers. I shall read the comments of my noble friend in response and then consider whether my concerns have been covered, or whether we should have another go at the next stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Viscount said: This amendment also relates to Clause 5 and I am concerned about the word "incidental". I did consider whether the whole of line 25 should be removed from the Bill, because it seemed to me that it was otiose to the matter and it widened the clause unnecessarily. I looked up "incidental" in the dictionary, which gave the definition,
It seems to me that the provision in line 25 widens everything. Parliamentary draftsmen like to widen things as much as they can because they never like to be told that the powers might not be there in the future. Drafting is always all-encompassing, which one can appreciate. But it is the job of your Lordships' House, as a revising Chamber, to ensure that we do not give these wider powers to anybody. We should consider what those powers should be with care so that traffic officers can operate with the powers they need to do the job that Parliament gives them successfully. That is my concern.
Lord Berkeley: I cannot see the point of this amendment. The role of the traffic officer, as set out in the Bill, is extremely good. "Incidental" will widen the provision very nicely regarding incidents or even problems on roads which are not major trunk roads which are covered by this. I think the wording as it stands is necessary for the proper operation of these traffic officers whom I see as having a very important role. I oppose the amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I always rush to the defence of downtrodden, overworked, underpaid parliamentary counsel whenever I can, just in case I might be in need of them in the future. However, I rush even more to their defence if they are accused of doing something when their intent is diametrically opposite. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, says that of course they want as much breadth as possible and are always prone to this weakness when it comes to drafting legislation. Our interpretation of the word "incidental" is that it will in fact narrow the competence of the officers. The amendment would broaden the responsibilities in such a way as to cause a frisson of horror among parliamentary counsel.
The great danger at this stage is that we start dancing upon the point of the dictionary pin when it comes to interpreting words. The noble Viscount's preferred word, "connected", is quite wide in its associations. It is linked to the activity which would fall within traffic officers' competence. However, "incidental" indicates subordinate to or lesser than the other powers identified.
The noble Viscount shares the anxieties we all have of others appropriating to themselves powers they ought not to have unduly. But on this occasion, we are in favour of the restriction and he, mistakenly, is in favour of broadening it.
Viscount Astor: What a wonderfully robust defence of those who draft Bills. I am sure they appreciate it; indeed, I do, because I know they are doing their best to get it right. I must defer to them if their meaning of "incidental" is better than mine. If that is the case, I am grateful to the Minister because his answer solves one of my problems. I hope that he will see that I put down the amendment not to be mischievousthat is the last thing I would dobut to ensure that the clause meant what the Minister has clearly explained that it does mean. He has said that it narrows the provision, and I am extremely grateful for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.