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The noble Baroness said: We now turn to a very long part of the Bill, but one which is almost entirely uncontroversialcertainly to Members on these Benches. I refer to the issue of driving disqualifications and reciprocal recognition of those disqualifications. In moving this amendment, with the leave of the Committee, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 139.
The Bill states that the duty to inform foreign authorities of the disqualification of a non-UK resident does not apply in prescribed circumstances. I am attempting to ascertain what those circumstances are. Will the Minister explain how and when the regulations will be made? Will they be published; and, if so, under what conditions?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Under Article 6(2) of the EU convention, the state of residence may declare that it will always refuse to recognise a disqualification where the conduct involved does not constitute an offence in its legislation or where a disqualification would not be an applicable penalty for the offence. It may also refuse to act where the remaining period of disqualification to be enforced is less than one month.
The UK is not required under the EU convention to notify a disqualification to a member state which has declared that it will always apply conditions that would preclude the recognition of the disqualification.
We do not know at this stage how many member states will make a declaration in respect of Article 6.2. That will only become clear as and when other member states ratify the convention and we are able to conclude agreements with them to implement the convention on a bilateral basis. It is at that point that regulations will be made to detail clearly the circumstances in which the duty to notify a disqualification will not apply in respect of that state.
Regulations will be made on a bilateral basis with other member states to ratify the convention. It is probably widely known that, at present, only Spain has ratified the convention. We shall seek to begin negotiations with the Spanish to decide the terms of the regulations shortly after the Bill comes into force.
The noble Baroness asked what regulations would be made as regards other prescribed circumstances. They might cover such matters as the conduct for which the driving disqualification had been imposed; the remaining period of disqualification that might have to be enforced; and where disqualification was not a measure available under the legislation of the state of residence. I have probably not satisfied the noble Baroness on every point raised, but I hope that I have covered most.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. He has gone a long way towards satisfying me on these matters. I was certainly grateful to him for his comment on the bilateral basis on which implementation will take place. That is important and his response was very helpful. As the Minister will know, the Automobile Association, among others, has been very concerned about whether there will be reciprocal agreements and whether we shall jump the gun and put the provisions of this Bill into effect before there is a bilateral agreement.
I need to examine the Minister's remarks carefully. There remain other possible situations in which discretion might be applied. I do not think that I shall need to return to any major point, but further clarification may be required. I shall need to ensure that the Automobile Association is fully satisfied. Naturally, as we are in Grand Committee, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I shall refer specifically to Clause 55(5), but, first, I want to raise a general issue which I hope will warm the heart of my noble friend Lord Renton and strike a chord with other Members of the Committee. Ever since the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and myself entered Parliament, at about the same time, in 1964in fact, the noble Lord won his seat shortly after thatwe have heard every incoming government state, before taking office, that it is their intention to pass less legislation and to do it in a clearer and simpler form.
One has only to stand in the Library of either House and look at the expansion in the volumes of legislation that has occurred year by year, to see not only that governments have failed to pass less legislation, but that they have certainly not done it in shorter and simpler form. I am concerned about the complexity in the drafting of every Billso much so that it is almost impossible to follow what is being said.
In this Bill, we have an example, not of complexity leading to a failure to understand what is being said, but of unnecessary verbosity and repetition. Clauses 55 and 56 require that the appropriate Ministerin this case the Secretary of Stateshall give notice where an individual from another country has been convicted of a motoring offence in this country and has been disqualified.
If we start with the simple exercise of taking out subsection (5) and then apply the same consideration consistently to other clauses in the Bill and other Bills, perhaps we shall achieve shorter, simpler and easier to follow legislation.
Lord Renton: I support my noble friend Lord Carlisle. I confess that more than a quarter of a century ago I was made the chairman of the only official parliamentary committee since 1870 to advise on how Acts of Parliament should be drafted. In our report we tried to prevent over-zealousness in drafting, such as inserting unnecessary matters or entering into unnecessary detail. For the reasons that my noble friend Lord Carlisle has given, subsection (5) is not only unnecessary, but confusing.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Far be it for me to contradict both noble Lords who have spoken of their length of time in their Lordships' House and in another place, and who have knowledge and experience. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Renton, obviously occupied a special place when he reviewed how legislation should be written. My guess is that there are drafting conventions and that they change from time to time.
I am advised that subsection (5) is required because it makes clearperhaps not to the satisfaction of the noble Lords who have spokenthat strict time limits apply and that the Minister need not wait to see whether special leave is granted in special circumstances. That is its purpose.
The subsection may appear unnecessary and otiose to the noble Lords who spoke, but it is there for a specific purpose. Certainly, I shall reread it in relation to the rest of the clause, but that is the explanation. Perhaps when the noble Lords have reflected on what I have said and have reread the provision, they may also see the point being made.
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