|Criminal Justice and Police Bill
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Mr. David Lock): I am concerned that the hon. Gentleman is dancing a series of angels on the head of a pin. He is right to refer to the rules. Is it not right that these matters are always sorted out in secondary legislation and in rules? He is asking my hon. Friend, the Minister of State, Home Office for details of precisely how the system will be structured. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that this is not the place for precise details? For the reasons that he has set out, the matter should be sorted out in rules. We should move on and consider only matters that it is proper to consider.
Mr. Heald: I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for making that point because I cannot find any provision in that part of the Bill that would allow for such rules to be made. Is the Minister able to identify where those rules are to be grounded?
Mr. Clarke: Clause 3(5).
Mr. Heald: That makes my point. That contains the power to make regulations about the prescription of the penalty notice. We are not talking about that now. We are talking about the way in which the notice in clause 3 is to be served. That is not listed as one of the provisions to be prescribed under clause 3(3), 3(5) or 3(6), unless the Minister is telling me I am wrong.
Mr. Clarke: At the risk of being repetitiveI have said this so many times clause 3(3)(g) states that one of the things on the penalty notice is to:
Mr. Heald: Yes, but the prescription is for the form of the penalty notice: I refer to clause 3(3)(a). The clause states what is to be within the notice, but the point that the Minister was making, as I understood it, was that there was an order-making power to deal with the issue of how to give the request. I do not see that, unless the Parliamentary Secretary would like to intervene again.
Mr. Lock: This is the last time that I will rise. Clause 4(3) states:
(a) in the manner specified in the penalty notice''.
Mr. Heald: The Parliamentary Secretary should not shake his head; this is an important point.
Sir Nicholas Lyell: With the help of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister, we are focusing on the point, which is that the Secretary of State must in his regulations explain how the rights may be exercised. We have been asking the Minister to tell us, but so far, apart from telling us that the Secretary of State must do so, he has gone no further. That is my worry; does my hon. Friend share it?
Mr. Heald: Yes. The provision says that the form will be prescribed; fine. Clause 3(3)(g) says that the notice must inform the person of the way in which his right may be exercised. Clause 4(3) says that the request must be made
Mr. Hughes: May I break the habit of a lifetime and say that on this issue I think that Ministers are right, although we have not had the answer to the question? It is clear to me that there is a power under secondary legislation to table regulations that deal with the procedure, and in the procedure the process will be explained. I think that is what Ministers are saying, and I share that interpretation. I hope that they will register that they owe me one later, because this is a rare occurrence.
However, there is a substantive issue, because we have not seen the guidance, so it would be helpful, earlier rather than later, to have the regulations, or at least the draft of themit would be helpful if Ministers would tell us whether they have, somewhere on their desks, in their brief or with their officials, all the bits and pieces: the annexes to the Bill; secondary legislation; guidance; and the rest. I think that that would deal with a lot of the obfuscation.
Sir Nicholas Lyell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman; he is my Member of Parliament in London and he was my late mother-in-law's Member of Parliament in London. I hope that he will agree that, in the context of parking, if we do not get things right to the letter, we are into a nightmare of correspondence. That is my experience when dealing with people who had friends and relations who were well capable of helping them, however frustrated they were. People being served with fixed penalty notices are often likely not to be terribly well educated, and if it is not clear
The Chairman: Order. I asked members of the Committee to make interventions brief and to the point, and not turn them into speeches. If they want to make contributions to the debate, they can do so.
Mr. Hughes: I accept the proposition of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I represent many hon. Members when they are in London, and many have come to me in the past year to ask for my help in taking up an issue that they have been unable to resolve. If people in this league are not able to sort out problems of administration with local or central Government, and have to come to their Member of Parliament, it does not hold out much hope for rest of the citizenry of the country who are in difficulty.
There are numerous Appeal Court decisions on the process surrounding the forms used for fixed penalties for parking and motoring offences. Hundreds of cases have ended up there, because people have argued about the breathalyser process or the parking ticket process.
I think that the Ministers are correct in their interpretation of clauses 3 and 4, but I would like them to tell us when we are to have sight of the process regulations and all the other things that are referred to as coming later in the Bill? We can barely contain our excitement.
Sir Nicholas Lyell: I shall be very brief, Mr. Hoodyour reproof was quite rightly made. The Minister has answered me as far as he can, in that he has pointed out that the Secretary of State will be under a statutory duty to make it crystal clear, pursuant to clause 3(3)(g), how the right to opt for trial may be exercised.
The Minister has suggested by waving some document from the Metropolitan police that there may be some precedent for the provisions. It would be very helpful if, perhaps at our next meeting on Thursday, he could come up with precedent to meet the case. I seek not to prolong our proceedings but to attain clarity in what I believe to be a matter of great importance.
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:
The Committee divided: Ayes 11, Noes 1.
Division No. 9]
Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 13 February 2001|