Vehicles (Crime) Bill

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Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend sadly missed last week's proceedings and I think it would be optimistic and unreasonable to expect that he will yet have read the verbatim account. Perhaps he will take it from me that although I listened intently, interestedly and respectfully to the Minister responding on what might be called the 28-day point, it did not bring about understanding, and still less did it result in our support. What was said merely induced a certain fuzziness in the mind because no compelling argument appeared to be provided.

Mr. Fabricant: The Minister has already attempted to give me the URL of his website, although I am not sure if he was wholly successful in that. Remaining in a technological vein, I appreciate now that a new area of scientific endeavour is in fuzzy logic and perhaps that is what the Minister was presenting last week to my hon. Friend. Perhaps he can provide greater clarity this time; it is certainly needed for my benefit. I did not mean to be rude to the Minister when I made that earlier remark about the intellectual approach. I was merely trying to compliment my hon. Friend, although I may have inadvertently been rude to the Minister. I was rude enough to him earlier, and am determined to be nice from now on.

Mr. Bercow: We should not, of course, communicate by code and I apologise for my ignorance, but I think my hon. Friend referred to URL. Would he enlighten me on that?

Mr. Fabricant: As much as I would like to, I have to confess that while URL is the address line that one types to get to a website, such as , I do not know what it stands for. I wish that Ministers would also on occasion stand up and simply say, ``I don't know the answer but I will find out later and report it to the Committee or the House''. If you, Mr O'Brien, will allow me, I will inform the Committee this afternoon of exactly what URL stands for—but it is, in effect, the address line.

My point is that we have already established that many of these firms are small businesses. I can easily envisage situations in which a business may not trade for a consecutive period of 28 days. That is perfectly lawful—indeed, it is quite lawful for a business not to trade for 60 days. It is unreasonable if the Bill is going to penalise lawfully operating businesses by striking them off the register, simply because they are not present for 28 days. Without the exception provided for in amendment No. 70, the Government cannot even give a good cause or reason for that, which would seem draconian.

I also support amendment No. 74, for the very reason that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham has already pointed out. We have argued successfully, and the Minister has accepted the point, that there needs to be a penalty. If the application details that will appear on the register are made incorrectly, it surely stands to reason that any changes to the details on the register must be reported quickly. Any change to the register will arise from a change in the business. It stands to reason, therefore, that the business is trading and that the people are not away. There is, then, no conflict with the arguments that I have already given for extending the period from 28 to 60 days. The business is trading, and there are people present to make information known to the district. I believe that 14 days—two weeks—

It being One o'clock, the chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at half past Four o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Brien, Mr. Bill (Chairman)
Bercow, Mr.
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Fabricant, Mr.
Gilroy, Mrs.
Hill, Mr.
Jones, Helen
Kidney, Mr.
McIntosh, Miss
Miller, Mr.
Pope, Mr.
Russell, Mr. Bob
Shaw, Mr.
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.

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