Vehicles (Crime) Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Gentleman concedes that we have set a challenging target, but does he concede that we are achieving it?

Mr. Bercow: That was a particularly unfortunate intervention, because the answer is no. The Minister would not want me to revisit the portion of my Second Reading speech that dealt with the attack on car crime, for it was a substantial portion, but I made it clear that the Government were a very long way from achieving their target. There was a reduction in vehicle crime of 0.5 per cent. last year, but the Minister is proud of his record as a distinguished mathematician, and he will be aware that even considering the figures on a compound basis, as we would be obliged to do, a 0.5 per cent. cut a year over five years does not a 30 per cent. reduction make, even by the standards of, and allowing for the flexibility deployed by, new Labour.

I am sorry that the Minister made that intervention, and I believe that on reflection he will realise that it was not his finest hour. He can afford a few such slips, but not too many, as he aspires to be, and is likely to become, the leader of the Labour party, and we expect better from him. He is chewing on his spectacles; does he wish to intervene?

Mr. Clarke: I confess that I do not have the figures in front of me, and did not when I made the intervention. I did not intend to pursue a Second Reading point. The hon. Gentleman's figures are not correct, and the record is substantially better than he suggests. I shall return to the figures later, in, perhaps, a more entertaining exchange.

Mr. Bercow: I relish the possibility—indeed, the certain prospect, according to the Minister—of a joust about the figures. He will be advised by his army of bluestockings and other highbrows, and I shall depend for my intelligence on the figures that I used in the Second Reading debate. We shall see who emerges the stronger in consequence.

Our amendment would oblige the Secretary of State to make such regulations, thereby ensuring that the DVLA was notified when vehicles were no longer in use. We believe that that would be effective in tackling crime, compared with the non-specific provision that the Government want to introduce, which will, more likely than not, prove relatively ineffective. I believe that the case has been made, and I would welcome other contributions. As I always say on such occasions, I look forward to the Minister's response with eager anticipation, bated breath and beads of sweat on my brow.

Miss McIntosh: I am delighted to see you back in the Chair, Mr. Sayeed. I should like to make a substantial but swift point about the amendment, to which I am delighted to have lent my support. To what extent does clause 34, as currently drafted or as amended by the proposed amendment, relate to motor cycles? A recurrent theme throughout the Bill is that motor bikes should be treated like any other vehicle, and the matter is a source of great anxiety to myself and my hon. Friends.

Mr. Bercow: In making that important point, my hon. Friend will want to be aware that the Minister has displayed a whit of frailty. We do not hold that against him, as he is a human being, but it is clear, following her question, that he does not know the answer. He is browsing through the Bill—and now he is feverishly studying a useful piece of white paper that has wafted its way down to him. To the Minister's credit, even though he has great ambitions and a full diary, and we expect great things of him, he does not know everything and is willing to take advice. That is welcome.

Miss McIntosh: Frailty is, of course, a redeeming feature, and shows that the Minister, like the rest of us, is human.

Mr. Bercow: Steady on.

Miss McIntosh: The fact that the Minister does not know the answer reinforces my point. I promoted the cause of motor bikes and the motor bike industry in my previous life as a Member of the European Parliament who took a great interest in transport matters. It worries me that the Government are trying to meet the anxieties of individuals who may unwittingly buy a ``rung'' car, if that is the correct term—but only a car. If the Bill is to succeed as we wish, it must encompass the entire industry. I would therefore wish it to include motor bikes and spare parts for motor bikes.

Mr. Clarke: I can give the hon. Lady that assurance. Motor cycles are fully covered by the Bill, and the definition of motor vehicles throughout the Bill includes motor bikes. I was checking that—I thought that we had debated it previously—because, as always, as my advisers are of such high quality and so excellent, I prefer to give the Committee advised advice, rather than unadvised advice.

Mr. Bercow: What is unadvised advice?

Mr. Clarke: Unadvised advice is when I, as a Minister, advise the Committee, but have not been advised by my officials on the matter. Advised advice is when I advise the Committee having been advised by my officials. I prefer to give my advice advised rather than unadvised; all Ministers should prefer to do so.

10.15 am

Miss McIntosh: When we discussed the matter previously, did the Minister give us advised advice or unadvised advice?

Mr. Clarke: It was advised advice. As it was advised advice, when I advised the advisers to the hon. Lady—

Mr. Bercow: The Minister was well advised.

Mr. Clarke: I certainly felt well advised in what I was doing. That is why I was slightly uncertain, as I thought that we had discussed the matter previously, and I wanted to double check. I am glad to reassure the Committee on the matter.

The amendment would make the requirements in relation to scrap metal dealers inconsistent with those for salvage dealers. If the hon. Member for Buckingham looks at clause 8(1), he will see that the same terminology is used to maintain flexibility. His argument, which he is perfectly entitled to advance, is about whether that is right. Throughout the Bill, we have sought consistency in the approach to making regulations on such matters.

A more substantial reason is that we may not need such regulations. We need flexibility so that we can be sure that regulations made under the enacted Bill will dovetail—I hesitate to say this to the hon. Member for Buckingham, as it will set his hackles rising, although I know that his hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) will agree with us on the matter—with the requirements of the European Union directive on end-of-life vehicles, when it is implemented in 2002. The detail of the directive and how it is to be transposed into UK law has not yet been finalised, so we do not know for certain whether we will need a power to regulate in a different manner, or whether the directive will be sufficient. It is necessary to have the power—which is the reason for the word ``may''—although, depending on the final text of the EU directive, we will not necessarily use it.

Mr. Bercow: That is alarming. We are being held in suspended animation because of a purported directive from the European Union, the final details of which, and the obligations flowing from which, are as yet unknown to the Minister. On the basis of what I can only describe as cluttering around the room in the dark with all the lights off, not knowing where the switch is, we are expected to tailor our legislation to what might be prescribed, in due course, by people whom we do not elect and cannot remove. Will the Minister confirm that?

Mr. Clarke: I cannot confirm that, because I do not know the details of the theology of the hon. Gentleman's approach to the European Union. The fact is that we joined the European Union—the referendum in 1975 confirmed that. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman stands on membership of European Union. Does he think that we should withdraw from the EU? If not, we, as a member state, are bound, in many aspects of our law, by EU treaties. Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether he is explicitly in favour of this country withdrawing from the EU?

The Chairman: Order. I ask the hon. Member for Buckingham not to do that.

Mr. Clarke: The single market legislation of the early 1980s, which was passed by the Government of Baroness Thatcher, includes obligations to European institutions arising from decisions taken by the British Parliament. The directive that we are discussing is no different from any of the other directives on such matters, and for good reason, as consistency across the European Union on such issues is desirable.

Miss McIntosh: I find myself in the extraordinary position of speaking to assist the Minister. In a previous life, I practised European law in Brussels. A substantial amount of time has passed since I ceased to practise, and the article numbers of several treaties have been changed. Article 169 of the treaty states that under a directive, as opposed to a regulation, people involved in the national Administration—in this case, at the Department of Trade and Industry or the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions—are responsible for drafting the provisions. Those are the same people who are giving the Minister the excellent advice that he is able to pass on to the Committee.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham said about the end-of-life directive—[Laughter.] The end-of-life vehicle directive, I mean. Now that we know more or less what the end game will be in respect of that directive, officials in the Minister's Department—or, more appropriately, the DETR or the DTI—should be able to advise the Minister of the exact contents of the provisions. Unfortunately, we did not have a stand part debate on clause 15—or, if we did, it was so short that I missed it—

The Chairman: This is a rather long intervention.

Miss McIntosh: We are already allowing for prescribed regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. I find that extremely worrying.

Mr. Clarke: The hon. Lady is experienced in matters of European law. I was not aware of her law practice but, as a former Member of the European Parliament, she understands the procedures exceptionally well—probably better than any other member of the Committee. The processes by which directives are transposed into and implemented in UK law are continually negotiated and debated. That is why we require the power to be able to make regulations as necessary, dependent on how the processes evolve. That is also why we do not want to insert the word ``shall'', as the amendment would require. Ultimately, it may not be necessary to make regulations.

Previous Contents Continue

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries ordering index

©Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 January 2001