Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill

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Mr. Heath: I hear what the Minister says, but as the hon. Member for Beaconsfield says, the words sledgehammer and nut are not far from my mind. What was said does not hold water. I was asked whether I had any heritage buildings in my constituency outside which I would not want to see demonstrations. I have heritage buildings in my constituency, but none of them has been the country's Parliament for about 1,100 years. I feel that Parliament is different. It is where the nation's democratic decisions are made, and it is a proper place for people to demonstrate and to express their views, whether in support of or against what we decide here. It is rather different from the normal run of historic buildings.

I am glad that the Minister is reconsidering her 1km zone, but I bet that when we get the definitive map, it will not cover only parliamentary buildings. I bet that it goes up Whitehall. I shall be amazed if the Government do not wish also to protect the surroundings of 10 Downing street and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but we shall see. I give her the benefit of the doubt—for the moment.

When it comes to the rank of inspector, I find it quite mind-boggling, and it should not be. We are asked to believe that the power is not necessary to deal with people in a lawful procession who hinder access to the House. I presume that there are powers for a sergeant to take immediate action. So, in the time that it takes to assess that someone is

    ''spoiling the visual aspect, or otherwise spoiling the enjoyment by members of the public of any part of the designated area''

it seems that there will not be time to find a police officer of the rank of inspector to decide whether to apply an exclusion. It must be such an instant assessment that someone looks so untidy that a constable or a sergeant has to deal with it at that moment. That is nonsense, and I hope the Minister will reflect on just what nonsense she is perpetrating.

I am still utterly unconvinced by this clause. If Mr. Brian Haw reads the report of these proceedings, I hope he will realise that his best course of action is to join the allied and federated union of anti-war protesters and allied trades, because then he will be able to continue exactly what he is doing at the moment, without lawful impediment. I will withdraw my amendments today, but will seek to vote against clause stand part. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question put: That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes
Column Number: 441
9, Noes 2.

Division No. 12]

Baird, Vera
Blears, Ms Hazel
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Farrelly, Paul
Flint, Caroline
Griffiths, Jane
Heppell, Mr. John
Mann, John
Taylor, Ms Dari

Harris, Dr. Evan
Heath, Mr. David

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 123 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 124 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 129 and 130 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 131

Power to seize etc. vehicles driven without insurance

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 15—Power to seize etc. vehicles driven without a valid licence—

    'After section 164 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—

    ''164A Power of constables to seize vehicles driven without a valid licence

    (1) Subsection (3) applies where—

    (a) a contable in uniform requires, under section 164, a person to produce his licence for examination,

    (b) the person fails to produce such a licence, and

    (c) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being, or has been, driven in contravention of section 87.

    (2) Subsection (3) also applies where—

    (a) a constable in uniform requires, under section 163, a person driving a motor vehicle to stop the vehicle,

    (b) the person fails to stop the vehicle, or to stop the vehicle long enough for the constable to make such lawful enquiries as he considers appropriate, and

    (c) the constable has reasonable grounds for believing that the vehicle is being, or has been, driven in contravention of section 87.

    (3) Where this subsection applies, the constable may—

    (a) seize the vehicle in accordance with subsections (4) and (5) and remove it;

    (b) enter, for the purpose of exercising a power falling within paragraph (a), any premises (other than a private dwelling house) on which he has reasonable grounds for believing the vehicle to be;

    (c) use reasonable force, if necessary, in the exercise of any power conferred by paragraph (a) or (b).

    (4) Before seizing the motor vehicle, the constable must warn the person appearing to drive, or have driven, the vehicle in contravention of section 87 that he will seize it if the person does not provide him immediately with evidence that he holds a valid licence.

Column Number: 442

    But the constable is not required to give such a warning if the circumstances make it impracticable for him to do so.

    (5) If the constable is unable to seize the vehicle immediately because the person driving the vehicle has failed to stop as requested or has driven off, he may seize it at any time within the period of 24 hours beginning with the time at which the conditions in subsection (1) or (2) are first met.

    (6) The powers conferred on a constable by this section are exercisable only at a time when regulations under section 164B are in force.

    (7) In this section—

    (a) a reference to a motor vehicle does not include an invalid carriage;

    (b) a reference to a licence is a reference to a document or other evidence within section 98;

    (c) 'private dwelling house' does not include any garage or other structure occupied with the dwelling house, or any land appurtenant to the dwelling house.

    164B Retention etc. of vehicles seized under section 164A

    (1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provisions as to—

    (a) the removal and retention of motor vehicles seized under section 164A; and

    (b) the release and disposal of such motor vehicles.

    (2) Regulations under subsection (1) may, in particular, make provision—

    (a) for the giving of notice of the seizure of a motor vehicle under section 164A to a person who is the registered keeper, the owner or the driver of that vehicle;

    (b) for the procedure by which a person who claims to be the registered keeper or the owner of a vehicle seized under section 164A may seek to have it released;

    (c) for requiring the payment, by the registered keeper, owner or driver of the vehicle, of fees, charges or costs in relation to the removal and retention of such a motor vehicle and to any application for its release;

    (d) as to the circumstances in which a motor vehicle seized under section 164A may be disposed of;

    (e) as to the destination—

    (i) of any fees or charges payable in accordance with the regulations;

    (ii) of the proceeds (if any) arising from the disposal of a motor vehicle seized under section 164A;

    (f) for the delivery to a local authority, in circumstances prescribed by or determined in accordance with the regulations, of any motor vehicle seized under section 164A.

    (3) Regulations under subsection (1) must provide that a person who would otherwise be liable to pay any fee or charge under the regulations is not liable to pay it if—

    (a) he was not driving the motor vehicle at the time in question, and

    (b) he did not know that the vehicle was being driven at that time, had not consented to its being driven and could not, by the taking of reasonable steps, have prevented it from being driven.

    (4) In this section—

    'local authority'—

    (a) in relation to England, means—

    (i) a county council

    (ii) the council of a district comprised in an area for which there is no county council,

    (iii) a London borough council,

    (iv) the Common Council of the City of London, or

    (v) Transport for London;

    (b) in relation to Wales, means the council of a county or county borough; and

Column Number: 443

    (c) in relation to Scotland, means a council constituted under section 2 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994;

    'registered keeper', in relation to a motor vehicle, means the person in whose name the vehicle is registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.''.'.

Caroline Flint: The clause concerns the ability to seize cars being driven by people who are uninsured. I think it is self-explanatory, and I hope it meets with approval in all parts of the Committee. We have to clamp down on people who wilfully do not pay their insurance. It is ridiculous that, if they are stopped, they are allowed to carry on driving.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome will be delighted to know that I have a great deal of sympathy with new clause 15, which he tabled. Again, there is a real issue about those who are unlicensed to drive being stopped by a police officer and then being allowed to keep on driving. That means that someone who has never taken a test can potentially drive. There are some other issues as well. After a number of discussions in my Department, it has come to my attention that one can be insured and at the same time unlicensed. That sounds bizarre, but apparently there are rare occasions where that is the case.

I have also had extensive discussions about disqualified drivers who get stopped. If they are disqualified, they are breaching the terms and conditions of a procedure against them, and therefore they are committing an offence. However, just as with unlicensed drivers, there could be another potential loophole. There is an issue about whether I need to clarify whether a disqualified driver is defined in law as an unlicensed driver, because someone could just get points on their licence, leading to a six-month disqualification, although technically their licence is in abeyance; it is simply reactivated at the end of the disqualification period.

Without further ado, I ask the hon. Gentleman not to press the amendment at this stage, on the basis that I shall introduce an amendment that I think will meet his concerns, and I shall consider whether there are issues in connection with disqualified drivers.

6.30 pm
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