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Mr. Fabricant: It is a shambles?

Mr. Chidgey: Yes.

Mr. Fabricant: Why?

Mr. Chidgey: I do not think that I will bother with that type of sedentary comment. The hon. Gentleman must be a little tired. He has been in the Chamber for most of the debate, unlike many of his colleagues. I think that we should make allowances for that.

We hope that, as amended, part II will go some way towards bringing order out of that particular chaos.

As for part III, the new laws on vehicle licensing and registration and on raising standards should provide a more effective way of tackling vehicle crime, particularly--as the Minister said on many occasions--in eliminating the ringing of stolen cars.

New clause 7, which is now clause 37, deals with a matter of great debate, concern and, sometimes, contention. Allowing fines from speed camera offences to fund the costs of extending the system and improving road safety is of course welcome. There is also clear evidence that reducing speed, particularly in dangerous locations, improves road safety. There is, however, a caveat. That funding should not be used as a way of proliferating speed cameras regardless of the need for, and benefit of, more cameras. If that happens, the effectiveness of speed cameras and their impact on improving safety will be reduced.

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The Ministers will recall that, in Committee, various issues were raised to which they offered to return, with amendments, on Report. I have not heard replies to those points in the Government's amendments, perhaps because we have had so little time for today's debates. I shall therefore mention two of them again, to which the Ministers can reply either now or later.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), will remember our discussion on what happens when salvage operators cease to trade. What happens to their records? Who is responsible for collecting and storing them? Those records are necessary if we are to maintain an audit trail, which is so important in tracing vehicles. In Committee, we accepted that it was unfair to expect the Minister to have an immediate reply on that point. However, he will remember that he recognised that it was an important point and said that he would return to it. I do not think the point has been dealt with in any of the amendments that we have debated today, although we have not debated all of them.

The Minister may also recall that, in Committee, we raised the issue of stolen cars that are covered only by third-party insurance. As such cars are not covered for theft and no claim is made when they are stolen, they do not become a part of the insurance companies' written-off trail and simply disappear. In Committee, I expressed very strong concerns about how we can close that loop and catch those who steal the vehicles. As I understand it, about one third of all damaged vehicles fall into that category. Perhaps the Government's amendment No. 22 has addressed the issue. However, as hon. Members will know, we have not had the opportunity to debate that amendment.

I look forward to the Minister's response.

9.54 pm

Mr. Forth: This measure tells us a lot more about Front Benchers in the House than it does necessarily about its specific provisions. It is a typical Labour response to a problem. The arrangement of clauses at the beginning of the Bill includes the tired litany of words and phrases such as "registration", "keeping of records", "right to enter and inspect premises", and so on. Unbelievably, the Bill suggests that local authorities should judge whether a company is fit and proper to conduct its business.

That is bad enough, but clause 32 says all that needs to be said about Labour's approach to a problem. In that one clause, 10 stages of bureaucracy, intervention and regulation can be identified. They are what the Government seem to believe will solve all the problems in this area. The clause mentions "notification", "issue of duplicates", "correction of errors", "payment of fees", "making of appeals", "carrying out of examinations", "courses of instruction"--

Mr. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): Is the right hon. Gentleman leading up to advocating the well-known Conservative approach of market testing? Under that regime, private firms could bid to provide the registration service that he describes. Perhaps Arthur Daley would be an appropriate person.

Mr. Forth: That is a very attractive suggestion. I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the great world of

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market economics, but my point is this: although I would expect from the Government the bureaucratic, regulatory and interventionist response to problems that this Bill contains, I am very disappointed to find that it has the support of hon. Members on my own party's Front Bench. I thought that I belonged to a party that believed in the operation of the market, in enterprise, in small businesses, and which was against the nanny state. The Bill is a monument to the nanny state, if I ever saw one, and I find it unbelievable and inexcusable that my hon. Friends have been prepared to accept it.

It appears that the official Opposition are increasingly prepared to accept measures such as this, for reasons that are unclear to me. Perhaps I shall have a word with my hon. Friends after the debate to see whether I can find out what on earth is going on.

Presumably, we shall have a chance to start opposing the Government's approach--perhaps not in connection with this Bill, but with some other. It is interesting that those who toiled through the Committee stage and who sat through Report spent a lot of time identifying weaknesses that remained in the Bill and in the Government's approach. The Government assert over and again that they want to support and encourage small business, but this measure, through the mountain of regulation that it proposes, can only damage new, small and struggling enterprises. The Government have not yet been able to resolve that apparent dilemma.

The Bill poses a challenge to the Government and to the Opposition. Have either thought through all the implications of the measures for which they so readily reach? The tired ideas of registration, endless record- keeping, inspections, examinations, tests, expenses, fees, charges and all the rest may or may not go some way towards resolving the problem that has been identified. However, I have heard nothing in our debates of the adverse and negative effects that the Bill is likely to have.

Bureaucracy will not suffer--the Bill will be yet another of the Government's job-creation schemes, creating even more bureaucrats, officials and inspectors. Whether there will be enough police officers to implement the Bill effectively is another matter, but it will certainly provide more bureaucrats. The one growth area that can be identified is officialdom--the Bill will fail in its adverse effect on small businesses.

This is a matter of regret to me. I wish that I could divide the House to oppose the Bill. Regrettably, on this occasion, I can only give vocal expression to my opposition to the Bill and hope that next time my right hon. and hon. Friends will do better.

Mr. Charles Clarke: With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I should like to respond to a couple of points.

First, I note that all Members who wished to speak in the time allocated to the Bill have been able to do so, thus fulfilling the proposition in the programme motion. Secondly, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will write to the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) on the points he has raised, because I do not have time to reply to them now. Thirdly, I simply make the observation that the deep division in the ranks of the official Opposition on whether to oppose the Bill shows their position.

It being Ten o'clock, Mr. Speaker put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

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Question agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

Question agreed to.


Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Motion made,

Line 37, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 46, before the word 'European' insert the words 'Environmental Audit Committee or with the'.
Line 48, at the end insert the words:--
'(4A) notwithstanding paragraphs (2) and (4) above, where more than two committees or sub-committees appointed under this order meet concurrently in accordance with paragraph (4)(e) above, the quorum of each such committee or sub-committee shall be two.'-- [Mr. Dowd.]

Hon. Members: Object.

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