Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Road Safety (Financial Penalty Deposit) (appropriate amount) (amendment) order 2010


The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Andrew Turner 

Barclay, Stephen (North East Cambridgeshire) (Con) 

Barwell, Gavin (Croydon Central) (Con) 

Bottomley, Peter (Worthing West) (Con) 

Brine, Mr Steve (Winchester) (Con) 

Buckland, Mr Robert (South Swindon) (Con) 

Hilling, Julie (Bolton West) (Lab) 

Horwood, Martin (Cheltenham) (LD) 

McFadden, Mr Pat (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab) 

Mitchell, Austin (Great Grimsby) (Lab) 

Penning, Mike (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport)  

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey (Coventry North West) (Lab) 

Scott, Mr Lee (Ilford North) (Con) 

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Singh, Mr Marsha (Bradford West) (Lab) 

Smith, Angela (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab) 

Smith, Miss Chloe (Norwich North) (Con) 

Woodcock, John (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op) 

Wright, Simon (Norwich South) (LD) 

Mark Etherton, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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First Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 13 December 2010  

[Mr Andrew Turner in the Chair] 

Draft Road Safety (Financial Penalty Deposit) (Appropriate Amount) (Amendment) Order 2010 

4.30 pm 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning):  I beg to move, 

That the Committee has considered the draft Road Safety (Financial Penalty Deposit) (Appropriate Amount) (Amendment) Order 2010. 

It is privilege to serve under your chairmanship for the first time as a Minister of the Crown, Mr Turner. The order introduces small amendments to the financial penalty deposits for vehicles for which there is no satisfactory registration address in the UK. The fine for failing to have a number plate on a vehicle, or for having a number plate that is obscured, is now £60, so the amendment increases the deposit from £30 to £60 to bring it into line with the new fine. It is important that we have a level playing field on our highways so that everyone feels that natural justice is taking place. For vehicles that are registered overseas, and for drivers of vehicles who do not have a fixed abode that can be verified in the UK, a deposit is required so that it can be withheld should they break the law and fail to pay the relevant fine. 

There is also a small change that will correct an anomaly in the law. Currently, a motorcyclist with insufficient tread on their tyres would be fined £120, but the fine for an equivalent vehicle—a car—is £60. That is an unintended consequence of an amendment made in April 2009, so the order will bring that fine into line with the existing legislation for motor vehicles. It is not a particularly contentious amendment. 

Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) (Lab):  Is it not a cumbersome and fiddly procedure to have to pass periodic amendments to the level of fines imposed by a 2009 order? Surely it is a great waste of parliamentary time, so why must we do it periodically? 

Mike Penning:  As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, the existing legislation requires us to bring such amendments before the House. If we wish to change the levels of fines and deposits set out in current legislation, we have to come before the House and amend them. I would much rather be doing something else this afternoon, as I am sure would other members of the Committee, but the law requires us to attend and ensure that any anomalies are removed—the fine relating to insufficient tyre tread on motorcycles is one such anomaly—and that owners of vehicles that are registered abroad and owners or drivers who cannot prove that they have an abode in this country incur the same fines as others in this country. It is not a particularly contentious order,

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as it just tweaks the legislation to ensure that it fits with the existing legislation, and I hope that the Committee will agree. 

4.33 pm 

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op):  Notwithstanding the reasonable point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby, I have to say that there is nothing I would rather be doing than responding on behalf of the Opposition on this important issue. Fixed penalty notices have been successful and allow police officers and other traffic enforcement officers to crack down effectively on relatively minor, but none the less important, traffic offences. We are pleased that the new Administration, from the statutory instrument before us, seem to understand the value of the legislation that Labour introduced in government, and I hope that they will continue to build on and amend it where appropriate. It is right that the level of fixed penalty notices be reviewed from time to time so that they continue to serve as an appropriate deterrent, so we welcome the attempt to make amendments. 

We particularly support the decision to double the level of the fixed penalty notice that can be served on motorists who are in breach of regulations on seat belt use. In January 2008, my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), the then Minister, was able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the legislation on seat belts, which had been pioneered by the late Barbara Castle. It is estimated that 60,000 lives have been saved and 670,000 serious injuries prevented as a result of that legislation, so it is right that penalties are fixed at a level that sends a strong message about the importance we attach to adherence to the law, especially in respect of children. We therefore support the decision to increase the penalty to £60. 

The Opposition also support the decision to increase to £60 the fixed penalty for failure correctly to display registration numbers. The clear and accurate display of registration plates is essential for effective traffic enforcement, as well as the wider fight against crime. We believe that £60 is a proportionate level of fine. We fully accept the principle of differential levels of fines for motorbikes and other vehicles in respect of tyre tread offences, and support the amendment to reinstate that differential, which seems to have been lost as a result of previous misdrafting. 

The Opposition are happy to support the statutory instrument. The proposed changes seem to be fair and proportionate, and we are happy that the new Administration are building on the fixed penalty schemes that the Labour Government introduced. 

4.36 pm 

Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con):  I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness, and I congratulate him on his approach to the matter. I hope that whenever he speaks on future statutory instruments he will be as brief and as interesting as he has been today. 

I congratulate the Minister and his Department on spotting the anomaly. Motorcyclists would rightly say that motorbikes are not the same as commercial vehicles, although in practice having a roadworthy motorcycle is even more important to their bodies and lives, so their

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gain from obeying the regulations is far more important than the reduction of £60 and the possible deposit that they might have to pay if detected. 

That leads me to the wearing of seat belts by children and adults. The real gain is in the wearing of the restraint, not the penalties or the detection of offences. Many countries that legislated long before us had compliance rates of 50 to 60%. When we made the wearing of seat belts compulsory in front seats we moved from about 60 to 95% almost overnight. The confirmation of what people already knew made the big difference. We then had to move on to the responsibility of people inside a vehicle, unless someone was driving alone, to tell passengers, or passengers to tell drivers. “I wish you would wear the seat belt to protect me.” I shall give an anecdote. When I was a Minister in Northern Ireland, the two kind Royal Ulster Constabulary drivers who took me around said that they would not wear their seat belts because they would have to protect me if there was a crash. I said that they would be far more likely to be able to protect me if they had been wearing seat belts. 

We must remember that tragic crash in Paris when there were four people in the car, and the one who survived had been wearing a seat belt, but the three who did not survive had not been wearing seat belts. If world and European media coverage of that crash had given that information and the fact that it was likely—this was later confirmed—that the driver was way over the legal alcohol level, I suspect that the number of road deaths in Europe would have halved from 50,000 a year to 25,000 a year straightaway. The fact that it turned

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into a paparazzi story meant that we lost that chance of gaining at least some benefit from what was a ghastly family tragedy for all those concerned. 

I hope that the message goes out that the reason for children and adults wearing restraints in the front and the back of a vehicle, and the reason for having legal tyre tread depths, is not to save money, but to save bodies and lives. The same cannot necessarily be the direct consequence of having visible and proper number plates, but that is an issue that need not delay us now. Enforcement matters; example matters, but what matters most is people’s understanding of what is good for them and those they care for. 

4.39 pm 

Mike Penning:  I completely agree with my hon. Friend, especially as he was a health and safety Minister in a previous Administration, and I pay tribute to his work then. I am sorry to delay the Committee for a few more moments, but the order has nothing to do with seat belts. That matter is the subject of a negative procedure statutory instrument, and is being handled differently. We have had a good debate on seat belts, but the instrument before us deals with fines and fixed penalties. On that note, I hope we can agree that this provision brings the deposit for fixed penalties into line with fixed penalties legislation, and that we are amending some legislation that was wrongly implemented by the previous Administration—even though they did it, I am sure, with the best of intentions. 

Question put and agreed to.  

4.40 pm 

Committee rose.