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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I speak to our Amendments Nos. 426B and 426C which are part of this group. These amendments insert two clause into the Bill. Their purpose is to provide that all driving instructors are subject to a regime of testing, licensing, registration, regulation and supervision. They do so by amending the Road Traffic Act 1988. The better regulation of driving instruction, with the improved driving standards that should follow, was a main objective of the Government's Road Safety Strategy. I am grateful for the assistance of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and his officials in assisting me to achieve my ambition to help the Government further the objectives of their strategy which require legislation. I hope that these amendments meet with the approval of the parliamentary draftsman; if not, I am prepared to return at Report stage with a simple enabling amendment.

Amendment No. 426B substitutes "motor vehicles" for "motor bicycles and mopeds" in those provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988 which deal with the training requirements of instructors. Amendment No. 426C, which is a substantive amendment, amends Section 123 of the 1988 Act which currently regulates the licensing and registration of instructors of motor car drivers. The amendment gives the Secretary of State power to set up a register of all those who are permitted to be professional driving instructors. He may exempt certain people from the need to be on the register; he may restrict some instructors to certain types of vehicles; he may specify the tests and fees required for registration; and he may remove from the register incompetent instructors or those of insufficient financial standing.

The clause also provides for an appeal against removal from the register to the Transport Tribunal, which must determine the appeal within 90 days. Those on the existing register, and any who appear on a voluntary register maintained by the Driving Standards Agency, may be placed on the new register. That reflects the intention of the Government as expressed in the strategy to make a start with voluntary registers of some driving instructors. These amendments provide on the face of the Bill a detailed specification for the better regulation of driving instructors, which is precisely what the Government seek to achieve in the context of their Road Safety Strategy.

Earl Attlee: I shall enjoy reading the speech of the noble Baroness. However, can she say why an instructor must have appropriate financial standing?

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: Many instructors are self-employed and, therefore, should be able to support their businesses.

Lord Smith of Leigh: I rise to support Amendment No. 426C. Clearly, the quality of driver training affects

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road safety. The registration of instructors would be evidence of both their competence as instructors and the fact that they are fit and proper persons to carry out that task. Such a scheme must have two qualities. First, it needs to be relatively straightforward so that the cost of the scheme does not discourage people from using professional instructors and resorting to more informal methods of training, which would not improve road safety. Secondly, a real test of any scheme is whether it is accurate. A number of well publicised cases in the medical profession, where registration is probably more important, illustrate the difficulty of maintaining accurate registers. I believe that the principles of this amendment should be supported, and I hope that my noble friend will do so.

Lord Whitty: All of these amendments in part address the quality of driving instructors, with the exception of Amendment No. 424 which I believe the noble Earl said he did not intend to move. As to Amendment No. 426C spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, clearly that fits within our Road Safety Strategy. The key element is the need to improve the quality of driving instruction if we are to improve both the pass rate and the quality of drivers who pass the driving test. We set out in our strategy the need to move to a system of registration to enable more timely enforcement and create an appeals procedure independent of the Secretary of State to deal with some complaints relating to present instructors. On the financial aspect, as the noble Baroness said, a large number of driving instructors are self-employed and therefore there needs to be that provision when they are running as a separate business.

10 p.m.

Earl Attlee: While we are on that point, why does a driving instructor have to have appropriate financial standing but the holder of a restricted goods vehicle operators licence does not?

Lord Whitty: The holder of a restricted goods vehicle licence would be part of a bigger business and involved in the carriage of goods, but the carriage of goods is not the main business. Therefore the financial standing does not relate to the carriage of goods. A road haulage operator or, as in this example, driving instructors are by profession one-man businesses offering their services and clearly the financial standing is important as regards a consumer having some security in any contracted instruction courses being deliverable.

Amendment No. 426C tabled by the noble Baroness sets out many of the provisions we would wish to see in the area of Road Safety Strategy. Whether it would meet with the approval of parliamentary counsel, however, depends on its compatibility with Section 5 of the Road Traffic Act and we would need to look at that. With the permission of the noble Baroness, I shall take the amendment away to see whether it can be made compatible and whether, as she implies, that is the best approach. An answer will be given at a later stage.

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The same comment applies to Amendment No. 426B which fits its purpose but needs to be complemented by other provisions to which consideration will have to be given. We will come forward with that at a later stage so that we can meet the prescription of training courses and those who may provide them for all types of motor vehicles. That should make a major contribution to the improvement of the quality of training and therefore of road safety.

I turn to the amendments tabled by the noble Earl. Amendment No. 404 would have the effect of requiring all driving instructors who are currently unregulated to reregister in order to engage in their trade. I appreciate the purpose of that and our strategy would eventually require such a provision. However, the amendment as it stands would not allow a transitional period or any prioritisation and it could not be brought into effect in the way the amendment implies. I hope that the noble Earl will not press the amendment at this stage.

Amendment No. 417 would have the effect of specifically allowing an instructor at an MoD school of transport to be registered as a commercial car driving instructor without obtaining any qualifications. That is difficult. Clearly many MoD instructors would be appropriate but the MoD instructors as such operate within a specialised environment, often with quite unusual vehicles and with trainees who are subject to rather more discipline than perhaps trainees in the outside world. People with different training backgrounds who wish to pursue careers as car driving instructors teaching the general public to drive on public roads must be able to demonstrate competencies at least the equivalent to other approved driving instructors. Therefore, I could not accept a straight transfer from MoD instructor to registered ADI. I hope that the noble Lord will not insist on that amendment.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: I thank the Minister for his reply, which I think meant--perhaps he will confirm this--that the principles of what I was proposing are likely to reappear in some form or another in the Bill at a later stage. Do I see the Minister nodding his head? I would be disappointed if, after the efforts I have made, we did not achieve something which is so obviously desirable through the legislative process. That is required to take the matter forward, although the implementation of the clause may be delayed for some reason or other because of the processes which have to be gone through before it can be put into effect.

Earl Attlee: Clearly, my Amendment No. 404 is nowhere near as sophisticated as the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas. I was disappointed with the Minister's response to Amendment No. 417. It is not the right time to pursue it but I shall return to it at a later stage. I shall look closely at the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness when it appears in some guise and it is to be hoped that

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we can approve her approach to improving the quality of driving instructors. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 405 not moved.]

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 406:

    After Clause 256, insert the following new clause--


(" . In the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, after subsection (1) of section 104, there shall be inserted--
"(1A) When a person authorised under subsection (1B) below finds on private property a vehicle which has been permitted to remain at rest there in contravention of any warning signs, he may fix an immobilisation device to that vehicle if he is authorised to do so by the Secretary of State.
(1B) The Secretary of State may authorise a person to immobilise a vehicle in accordance with subsection (1A) above.
(1C) Before the Secretary of State authorises an applicant, he must be satisfied that the applicant fulfils the following requirements, namely--
(a) that he is of good repute, and
(b) that he is of the appropriate financial standing."").

The noble Earl said: In moving Amendment No. 406 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 421. Amendment No. 406 raises the issue of wheel clamping. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has since tabled a far more superior and carefully drafted amendment. My only question is, why is the Minister dithering so much?

I turn to Amendment No. 421. The Committee will be aware of a wide variation in the level of security offered by public car parks. Some are inherently secure while others are not. Presently, there is no indication on the standard road sign for a car park that it relates to a secure car park. However, there is some understanding about what standards are required. The public need to know whether they are being directed to a secure car park or one operated by Mr Arthur Daley. What is the Minister doing about it? I beg to move.

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