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Draft Lord Chancellor (Modification of Functions) Order 2007



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: Derek Conway
Baird, Vera (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
Baldry, Tony (Banbury) (Con)
Bellingham, Mr. Henry (North-West Norfolk) (Con)
Blackman, Liz (Erewash) (Lab)
Chaytor, Mr. David (Bury, North) (Lab)
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias (Bournemouth, East) (Con)
Field, Mr. Mark (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) (Lab)
Heath, Mr. David (Somerton and Frome) (LD)
Hollobone, Mr. Philip (Kettering) (Con)
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay (Chorley) (Lab)
Hughes, Simon (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD)
Jones, Helen (Warrington, North) (Lab)
Kaufman, Sir Gerald (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)
Linton, Martin (Battersea) (Lab)
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey (Coventry, North-West) (Lab)
Stuart, Ms Gisela (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab)
Eliot Wilson, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Tuesday 15 May 2007

[Derek Conway in the Chair]

Draft Lord Chancellor (Modification of Functions) Order 2007

4.30 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Vera Baird): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft Lord Chancellor (Modification of Functions) Order 2007.
It is delightful to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Conway, for what I anticipate will be a relatively brief debate.
The draft order is to be made under section 19(1)(d) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 to modify the Lord Chancellor’s existing function in making regulation under section 101B of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It will require that such regulations be subject to the affirmative parliamentary procedure and that they will be made by statutory instrument. It will further make consequential amendments that will achieve a consistency of approach between the 1984 Act and the Traffic Management Act 2004. The draft order has been prepared in consultation with the Department for Transport.
The Traffic Management Act 2004 inserted a new section 101B into the 1984 Act, which enabled the Lord Chancellor to make regulations relating to representations and appeals against charges for the removal and disposal of illegally parked vehicles found in areas that are civil enforcement areas for parking contraventions. At the time of the insertion of section 101B, the 1984 Act did not confer any power on the Lord Chancellor to make regulations. There was no reference to the Lord Chancellor in section 134 of that Act, which contained general provisions with regard to the making of regulations under the Act.
The consequence was that, as the legislation stands, if regulations were to be made under section 101B they would not be subject to any parliamentary scrutiny and they would not fall to be made by statutory instrument. That is undesirable and it was not the policy intention of the 2004 Act. A consequential amendment to the 1984 Act making this provision should have been made by the 2004 Act, but it was not. The draft order rectifies that oversight by making those consequential amendments and provides for the appropriate parliamentary procedure to be followed when regulations are made.
I shall take the amendments in the order in which they appear in the draft. Article 2 puts a new subsection (6) into section 101B of the 1984 Act, which enables regulations under that section to make different provision for Greater London from that made for the rest of England, to make different provision for Wales from that made for England and to contain incidental, consequential and transitional provisions. It does that by applying subsections (1) to (3) of section 89 of the 2004 Act, which make the same provision about the making of regulations for the purposes of part 6 of that Act. In other words, it brings the 1984 Act in that regard into a consistent position with the 2004 Act.
Article 3 of the order amends section 134 of the 1984 Act to make the consequential amendments that I have set out, so that regulations under section 101B will not be made unless a draft is laid before each House and approved by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. It further provides that regulations must be made by statutory instrument.
That is the short purpose of the draft order and I commend it to the Committee.
4.34 pm
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr. Conway. The Committee is always well managed and well chaired when you are in the Chair.
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. and learned Member for Redcar, for her clear explanation of the measure. I hope that our exchanges will be constructive and friendly, as most of them are.
As I understand it, the deficiency in the 2004 Act was simple. It conferred on the Lord Chancellor the power to make regulations about representations and appeals in respect of charges for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles, but it did not give Parliament the opportunity to debate those regulations; no affirmative procedure was in place. That 2004 legislation consolidated, updated and amended, and much of the updating and consolidation referred back to the 1984 Act. Will the Minister explain why a considerable error in the anticipation of what Parliament would expect was made at the time? How did that happen? We are here today because it did happen, however, and I welcome that.
We are talking about regulations on representations and appeals, not about new regulations on powers to remove vehicles or increase the penalties for illegally parked vehicles. Presumably, we are not talking about regulations on abandoned vehicles, which are often also burnt out so that the owner is difficult to trace. If the owner is traced and has been complicit in abandoning the vehicle, it is right that they should be fined. From time to time, tougher penalties should also be imposed. However, as I understand it, we are talking not about regulations on removal, storage or disposal, but simply about those relating to the representations and appeals that the public can make. What we are discussing is narrow in that respect. Will the Minister clarify that?
Obviously, we Conservatives support measures to ensure that abandoned vehicles are removed. We also support the powers of the relevant authorities to clamp or remove vehicles when they cause a traffic hazard. My hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster gets many representations from constituents who want their streets clearer and from those who are angry when their cars are clamped or towed away. We have all had such cases, but it is a question of the balance being struck.
4.38 pm
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I support the proposals. It is clearly right that there should be provision in appropriate cases for people to immobilise vehicles, remove them and store or dispose of them. However, it is also important that those concerned should be able to make representations and appeals. We all know how controversial such issues can be. I am sure that there is not an MP in the room who has not been asked by constituents to take up such cases.
It is also good that the regulations should be put before the House and that they should be agreed by the affirmative procedure. The correction of the legislation is good. Thirdly, it is good that under the provisions there can be different arrangements in Greater London, in the rest of England and in Wales. Such flexibility is good because there may be different horses for the different courses concerned.
4.39 pm
The hon. Gentleman asked me about the nature of the regulations for which we are providing a better procedure. They are indeed regulations about representations and appeals against charges for the removal and disposal of illegally parked vehicles where they are in civil enforcement areas, so it is, as he says, a relatively narrow area of activity.
I was grateful for the support of the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats on this matter. I agree that the differences that are made available in regulatory power between London and the rest of the country, and between Wales and England, are important because they require consistency across traffic policy, which already exists.
Consequently, this has been a short but most interesting debate, and I commend the order to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Committee rose at nineteen minutes to Five o’clock.
 
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