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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The effect of this amendment would be to allow the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring all salvage operators to send their records to the DVLA. However, under the Bill, it will be the local authorities that will have the responsibility for maintaining registers of motor salvage operators, not the DVLA. As the noble Lord pointed out, the central objective of the Bill is to prevent the crime of ringing, whereby the identity of a stolen car is disguised with that of a legitimate vehicle. It is clear from the police and other bodies that ringing is a serious problem and that a significant level of crime is involved. Because of that criminal element, we have opted for a scheme that will be monitored and enforced locally.
Local authorities are in the best position to operate the scheme. If we adopted the amendment and the records had to be sent to the DVLA, that would in itself impose on both local authorities and the DVLA an administrative burden which we do not believe is necessary, since it would not help significantly to reduce crime. In order to combat ringing, the DVLA needs to know only about vehicles which have been destroyed. The other information--that which will be collected under Part 1--is of no direct assistance in that process. While it might be appropriate to inform the DVLA if the information would assist in fighting this crime, it is not appropriate to impose the requirement on local authorities and salvage operators.
I should also point out that at no point in our consultation did we consult business, local authorities or the DVLA on the prospect of the additional burden of supplying to the DVLA all the records kept by registered persons. I feel that this would bring in a new element which has not been discussed with the industry or the local authorities. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not pursue the amendment.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: Before my noble friend responds, the HPI has said that a small benefit would be that the DVLA could then pass this information to organisations such as HPI so that the public can be put on notice about the possible condition and ringing implications should they subsequently be offered an exchange vehicle for sale.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: Towards the end of his remarks, the Minister used one argument which is totally unacceptable. He stated that the Government have not consulted on this proposal and therefore it should not be pursued. With respect, that is not an acceptable argument in your Lordships' House, because practically every amendment put forward concerns a matter on which the Government have not consulted. If the amendment were accepted, it would only permit the Secretary of State to make regulations. Ample time would be available in which to consult on the content of those regulations. If, at the end of the consultation period, the Secretary of State felt that a great deal of objection had been registered, at that
However, the Minister's early remarks in response to the amendment went to the nub of the argument. In the light of his remarks, although I shall think a little further on it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: I declared my interest at Second Reading so I shall not declare it again tonight. However, I should tell the Committee that, in the 30 years that I have been in your Lordships' House, this is the first time that I have taken part in the Committee stage of a Bill. Furthermore, I have never proposed a Bill. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I make a boo-boo on my amendments.
In moving Amendment No. 21, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 23, 53 and 55. I can assure noble Lords that these are purely probing amendments. The reason for tabling this group of amendments is to invite the Government to offer guidelines to all the agencies that will be associated with the enforcement of the Bill. I doubt whether they will understand the text of the entire Bill. Indeed, I suspect that I, along with other noble Lords, am in the same position.
In Parts 1 and 2 of the Bill, offences are recognised and the scale of penalties recorded, but it is not, in my view, always clear who should be prosecuted. Will it be the company itself, the directors of the company or individuals who can be clearly implicated in a particular offence? By my reckoning, offences are recorded in 15 clauses. In all cases it would be helpful if the Government could respond to address my concern as outlined.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I have sympathy with the amendment. There is confusion in the Bill between what happens when an individual, a sole trader, a partnership or a group of individuals are to be registered under the Bill and when a company is to be registered. This point runs through several clauses, including Clause 13, on which we intended to raise similar concerns later. It is difficult to know who will be held responsible within a company for carrying out the obligations which will have to be carried out by
As to this clause, after dredging up what little legal education I had in the course of gaining my qualification as an accountant, I can say that in those days "person" clearly included "body corporate". I do not think that it is the precise amendment moved by my noble friend that is required but an explanation of how on earth one will deal with bodies corporate if they are thought to have committed an offence. Who will get into trouble?
Lord Whitty: The point raised by the noble Lords, Lord Cope and Lord Brougham and Vaux, goes somewhat wider than the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, the amendment simply explains that "person" includes "a body corporate". As the accountancy training of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, clearly taught him, "a body corporate" is included within the term "person". Were we to spell that out in the Bill, a different implication would be placed on a whole body of English law where "a person" actually subsumes the term "a body corporate".
As to the issue of directors' responsibilities when the body corporate is the "person" in question, under these clauses we would prosecute the company. In addition, Clause 39 allows for the prosecution of directors and officers of that company. The amendment relating to the spelling out of "including a body corporate" is contrary to legislative practice. It may be incomprehensible to lay persons--and even to such followers of legislation as the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux--but, nevertheless, that is the position. I suspect that the education in accountancy of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, pre-dated the Interpretation Act 1978, but Schedule 1 to that Act consolidates that position in legislation as guidance for us all. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, will not pursue his amendment.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: I said that it was a probing amendment and I shall not pursue it. However, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Cope for his remarks. I should also like to thank the Minister for putting on record what the term means so that people as ignorant as myself can understand it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
However, while I disagree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about his wide definition of "trailers", he made a reasonable point in relation to large trailers as opposed to small trailers, caravans and so on. The amendment allows the Secretary of State to make regulations with regard to the notification by registered persons of the destruction of trailers. The Government might consider that process. If they found a way of defining and identifying large trailers--which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was concerned about--they could make regulations at a future date with regard to the notification by registered persons of the destruction of trailers. I hope that the Minister will consider that. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: In replying to this debate I could use the same speaking notes as I used earlier. They look remarkably similar and therefore I shall not use them. The noble Viscount referred to registration plates and towing vehicles. The present arrangements are that the towed vehicle has the same registration plate as the vehicle that is towing it.
The point that the noble Viscount made does not come within the scope of the legislation. It is a matter to which we are giving careful consideration. There are plans to register testable--that is, large--trailers. This is currently being discussed. We shall not have the opportunity to deal with the matter under this legislation. However, the noble Viscount makes a good point. There are trailers and there are trailers. We are confident that by dealing with the issue in terms of weight we may come up with a workable solution. We may have to address that matter by introducing a register. My reply does not precisely meet the issue which the noble Viscount seeks to address but I believe that it meets it in most respects. I hope that he will accept that and feel able to withdraw his amendment.
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