Session 2010-11
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General Committee Debates
Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft Road Vehicles (Powers to Stop) Regulations 2011

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Philip Davies 

Burrowes, Mr David (Enfield, Southgate) (Con) 

Cruddas, Jon (Dagenham and Rainham) (Lab) 

Dobson, Frank (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab) 

Evans, Graham (Weaver Vale) (Con) 

Field, Mr Mark (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con) 

Halfon, Robert (Harlow) (Con) 

Hancock, Matthew (West Suffolk) (Con) 

Horwood, Martin (Cheltenham) (LD) 

James, Mrs Siân C. (Swansea East) (Lab) 

Mearns, Ian (Gateshead) (Lab) 

Murphy, Paul (Torfaen) (Lab) 

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

Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP) 

Smith, Angela (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab) 

Stevenson, John (Carlisle) (Con) 

Vara, Mr Shailesh (North West Cambridgeshire) (Con) 

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

Wright, Simon (Norwich South) (LD) 

Marek Kubala; Edward White, Committee Clerk s

† attended the Committee

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First Delegated Legislation Committee 

Monday 14 March 2011  

[Philip Davies in the Chair] 

Draft Road Vehicles (Powers to Stop) Regulations 2011 

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 Vehicles (Powers to Stop) Regulations 2011. 

It is a pleasure, Mr Davies, to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, either as a Minister of the Crown or in any other capacity. 

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency examiners already have the power to stop commercial vehicles to carry out limited compliance checks in England and Wales. However, to be able to do so, VOSA officers have to be individually accredited by chief officers of police. VOSA’s stopping powers to check vehicle and driver compliance do not extend to Scotland, and the police have to stop vehicles for them. We would all agree that that is not an efficient use of police resources. 

The purpose of the regulations is to provide VOSA with Britain-wide powers to be able to stop commercial vehicles at the roadside to conduct compliance checks. In practice, the regulations will remove the need for police assistance in Scotland, and greatly simplify the process of accrediting VOSA stopping officers in England and Wales. The regulations also include a minor amending provision, which will benefit the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Northern Ireland by clarifying the existing legislation and the extent of its powers. The new powers relate purely to commercial vehicles. 

The regulations will extend to Scotland the ability of VOSA officers to stop commercial vehicles to carry out roadside checks without having to rely on police to undertake the stopping procedure. The regulations will extend the scope of VOSA’s stopping powers so that they can not only stop vehicles to check on their roadworthiness, as they currently do in England and Wales, but check for compliance with maximum HGV weight limits, drivers’ hours rules, operator licensing and driver training—effectively, the stopping powers in respect of the statutory checks that they will be charged with carrying out. The regulations will simplify the process of accrediting VOSA stopping officers in Great Britain, so that they can be accredited by VOSA’s chief executive instead of chief officers of the police. The provisions also extend to Northern Ireland, to give DVA examiners the specific power to stop vehicles to check for Community authorisations for the international carriage of goods, and certificates of professional competence for drivers of certain commercial vehicles. 

On offence provisions, the regulations will deter criminal activity by making it an offence to impersonate a VOSA stopping officer when stopping a vehicle, or to impersonate a DVA examiner. The penalty on summary conviction

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will be a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. The other offence is to obstruct a VOSA stopping officer in his duties, where the fine will not exceed level 3 on the standard scale; on indictment, that would be imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month. In other words, after the fine, there could be an imprisonable offence, but it will not exceed one month. This tidying-up measure is warmly welcomed north of the border in Scotland. 

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con):  Will the civilian stopping officers help tackle the problem of foreign lorries not paying UK road tax, which hurts our distribution industry so badly? 

Mike Penning:  My hon. Friend is absolutely right. VOSA officers already have the right not only to impose on-the-spot fines or a penalty notice, but take a deposit in case a fine is not paid. 

The regulations will extend the powers in Scotland for VOSA officers to be able to stop a vehicle—the police are currently required to do so—and for the chief executive of VOSA to designate which officers can do so, rather than waiting for the police. 

Robert Halfon:  Following what my hon. Friend said about foreign lorries, will he ensure that the change will not lead to another stealth tax on domestic motorists, like the massive expansion in parking fines issued by local authorities? 

Mike Penning:  The offence is purely for commercial vehicles. It is a stopping provision to ensure that vehicles are legal and that drivers do not exceed their hours, or commit other such offences—parking offences are nothing to do with those. 

I commend the regulations to the Committee. 

4.35 pm 

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. You and other Members will be interested to hear, and will indeed welcome the fact, that I intend to be equally brief. The Opposition fully subscribe to the aims of the regulations, which are similar to regulations proposed last year by the previous Government, although, sadly, they did not see the light of day before the general election. 

VOSA performs an essential role in ensuring that commercial vehicles on British roads operate safely and within the law. We are all aware of the concerns of the general public and the British haulage industry about commercial vehicle operators, particularly those from overseas that seek to obtain commercial advantage by flouting UK regulations. 

As the Minister will know, the regulations build on the principles of the Police Reform Act 2002, which allowed for valuable front-line policing resources to be maximised by permitting civilians, including VOSA officers, to exercise selected policing powers. Those resources were needed then, and we absolutely need to build on them now, as police forces are increasingly stretched, given the cuts being imposed on them. 

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I particularly welcome the powers to stop vehicles so that compliance with provisions on drivers’ hours can be investigated. It is also right, as the Minister suggested, to ensure that powers to stop are made uniform across the UK. 

One response to the consultation raised concern that introducing the offence of failing to stop for a VOSA officer, which the Minister mentioned, makes it essential that such officers are easily identifiable at all times. That is a valid concern, and I would be grateful if the Minister could tell us how he will deal with it when the regulations are implemented. 

Nevertheless, the Opposition fully support the spirit and intention of the regulations, which build constructively on reforms introduced by the late, lamented Labour Government. 

4.37 pm 

Mike Penning:  I will touch on a couple of points raised by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness. The powers are already used in England and Wales, and we are implementing them in Scotland. VOSA in Scotland will use exactly the same methodology for stopping vehicles as it does in the UK. 

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VOSA officers are highly visible, and many motorists actually think they are policemen, even though they are not. I do not mind that if we are stopping people. Officers are visible, and safety is obviously paramount when we are trying to stop vehicles, especially heavy goods vehicles. 

The shadow Minister is absolutely right that a lot of these measures were on the table, but they were not implemented. We need the regulations so that we can ensure that road safety is adhered to, particularly by hauliers. That is especially true of some of the new measures relating to vehicle driving time. As someone who has driven HGVs, I know how easy it can be at times, particularly in inclement weather, for people to drive for longer than they should. It is for VOSA to make sure that the provisions are enforced and that our roads are safe for all users of our highways, whether they are foreign hauliers or British hauliers, and I know that the industry is keen to ensure that that happens. With that, I hope that the Committee will accept the regulations. 

Question put and agreed to.  

4.38 pm 

Committee rose.