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Lord Brougham and Vaux: My Lords, I have my name to this amendment. When the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, replied in Committee to a similar amendment, he said that he speculated that the matter was best dealt with in other ways but that he would think further about it. I wonder whether he has thought further. I look forward to his response.
Unfortunately, I shall not be here next week for Third Reading. However, I thank my noble friends on the Front Bench and Ministers on the Government Front Bench for all the work they have done on the Bill. It is not quite right but I think we shall get there. In the long run, it will achieve what the Government,
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords opposite for raising this issue again. My understanding of the amendment suggests that it allows for the making of regulations to notify a person presenting a vehicle for an identity check of serious damage to the vehicle. That would effectively involve making a very thorough inspection of a vehicle over and above simply checking its identity. We did not include such a provision because we did not consider that it would be justified to do so. In particular, there is no evidence to show that accident repair vehicles are a particular threat to road safety.
Lord Brougham and Vaux: My Lords, did I hear the Minister say that accident repair vehicles have no effect on road safety? It is well proven that two parts of a vehicle welded together have a tremendous effect on road safety.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said that there is a need to destroy a vehicle's identity when it is taken to a salvage yard if it is to be destroyed. That need is addressed by the Motor Conference code of practice for the disposal of motor vehicle salvage. That requires scrap dealers to remove number plates and vehicle identity number plates from vehicles at the time of scrapping. In addition, a scrap dealer is required to supply the DVLA with a notification of destruction when vehicles are destroyed, thereby providing an audit trail for each destroyed vehicle.
However, if a vehicle is taken to a salvage yard in a repairable condition, then it is necessary to keep the identity of the vehicle until and unless it is destroyed. If the vehicle is repaired, it will be subject to a vehicle identity check under Clause 33 before it is allowed back on the road to ensure that it is the vehicle it is purported to be. There is nothing in the Bill which relates specifically to when the identity of a vehicle should be eliminated.
We take the view that that does not necessarily result in a loophole for criminals to exploit. The Bill contains two measures which will reduce the criminal demand for stolen vehicle identities. First, under the provisions of the Bill, salvage dealers will need to be licensed and keep records. Secondly, as I have already indicated, written-off vehicles will need to have their identity corroborated before returning to the road after repair.
We believe that these two measures make the idea of controlling the date of destruction of a vehicle's identity unnecessarily burdensome on the industry and over-regulatory. That is an argument that I know noble Lords opposite have been particularly keen to follow and with which, in broad measure, they have agreed. For those reasons we do not believe that this
On a final legal point on the amendment, the noble Earl agreed that his previous effort in drafting this amendment was not technically correct and this one is also technically defective. It would empower the Secretary of State to notify but would not empower him to carry out the kind of thorough inspection that would be necessary in order to decide whether or not to give such a notification. I do not believe that the amendment achieves what the noble Earl seeks.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. At this time in the parliamentary calendar I understand his reluctance to accept any form of amendment. Does the Minister agree that it is easy to forge the VIN plate? Although the code of practice, to which he referred, mentions destruction of the VIN plate, does he agree that it is easy to forge, especially when one considers how much money can be made by cloning or ringing a vehicle? We are talking of thousands and thousands of pounds and it may cost only £100 to forge a VIN plate.
The Minister referred to the need for thorough inspection. Surely, the regulations to be made by the Secretary of State will state how thorough the inspection will need to be. It should be fairly obvious whether a vehicle is seriously damaged or whether the damage to a vehicle as a result of an accident is cosmetic. When a vehicle ends up in a vehicle salvage dealer's yard it has probably had some serious damage inflicted, otherwise the original owner of the vehicle would have had it repaired and would not dispose of it.
The Minister referred to notification of destruction of the vehicle. At what point does the Minister consider that the DVLA would be notified that the vehicle has been destroyed in the salvage yard? Perhaps the Minister could answer those points before I decide what to do with the amendment.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as to the noble Earl's first point, it is clear that, for whatever reason, he knows far more of such matters than I do. However, I do not agree with him entirely because, if I were to, it would suggest that measures currently in place and those that we anticipate putting in place would be wholly ineffective. I do not think that the noble Earl believes that to be the case.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, in that case, I venture to disagree with him firmly. I accept that it can happen, but I do not believe that it is something that happens regularly; nor do I believe with regard to the proposed legislation that that is likely to happen often. I accept that it is an issue, but this is not necessarily the best way to deal with it--a point on which the noble Earl may want to reflect. In any event, I believe that the amendment is technically deficient.
In answer to the second point raised by the noble Earl on when to notify the DVLA, we can certainly address the issue in guidance. I do not see why there should be any cause for delay in that matter at all. It is an issue that we can deal with fairly immediately. While I understand the sincerity and the well-meaning nature of the amendment, I do not believe that it achieves what the noble Earl seeks. As we can cover the DVLA issue in guidance, I urge the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment and to reflect on those points.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, it also makes me comfortable to know that the Minister's argument is defective. I am concerned that it is extremely easy to forge a VIN plate. Although the Bill has desirable objectives, I fear that a number of loopholes are left in relation to the way in which the Bill will operate. I suspect that it will not work as well as the Minister would like. Unfortunately, in view of the way things are, we shall not be able to improve it as much as your Lordships would like. I am not happy with the Minister's reply and I intend to return to the matter at a later stage with considerable vigour. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Earl Howe: My Lords, with some reluctance I intervene at this point to express our considerable dismay and disquiet at the fact that we are commencing today's Committee proceedings at this late hour. Yesterday when the Government offered us additional time in Committee for this evening, that offer was presented on the basis that we would be able to begin our proceedings at around 6 p.m. Although that would have been late in the day, nevertheless, it would have been acceptable to us because it would have given us up to five hours of debating time.
It is now after five past nine. In normal circumstances we would have told the Government to abandon any idea of beginning Committee proceedings so late. The only reason why we have not adopted that course is because it suits us to make some
This is a major Bill. It has 75 clauses over 91 pages. By the time we complete the Committee stage we shall not have had more than two-and-a-half days to debate in excess of 330 amendments. That is a ridiculously short time. Members of the Committee may recall that the Social Security Fraud Bill contained 22 clauses over 22 pages, which is one quarter of the length of the present Bill. Although it was relatively uncontroversial, it was nevertheless given two-and-a-half full days in Committee. We are led to believe that we shall not be allocated any more time for this Bill. That is highly regrettable and does no service to an extremely important measure.
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