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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the memorandum of understanding involves the oil companies, and they signed up to it. One of the questions to be considered is whether there is a greater obligation on the oil companies in line with what is imposed on the utility companies to make certain that supplies get through.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, will my noble friend draw the attention of the task force to a report in today's Financial Times that the oil companies are poised to increase forecourt prices yet again, despite a 19 per cent reduction in the world market spot prices for oil over the past month?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the whole question of petrol prices and the pricing by oil companies clearly has to be a matter for them. However, everyone, including the Government, will be looking carefully to ensure that they do not exploit this situation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, the Government are satisfied that the use of enforcement cameras against speeding motorists is compatible with the convention rights.
The Earl of Shrewsbury: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. In the light of court cases in Scotland and more recently in England, are the Government confident that Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, which makes it an offence for a registered keeper to decline to name the driver at the time of an alleged offence, is compatible with the keeper's right under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights not to incriminate himself or herself?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there has been much misinformation and misreporting of those two cases. The case of Brown in the Scottish court was said to affect the use of cameras. That was not correct; no cameras were involved in the case. The judgment specifically excluded any application of the ruling to the use of Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act in camera cases.
The second case--that of Chauhan and Hollingsworth in Birmingham--did not involve the use of speed cameras either. The court did not conclude that Section 172 procedures for obtaining details of the driver were in breach of the convention.
I can also advise the House that there already exists well-established European case law going back to 1995; that of Tora Tolmos. It upheld the principle that owners of vehicles have obligations to identify the driver of a vehicle involved in an offence and that it is not in breach of the convention.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Does my noble friend agree that while we have a record of killing and maiming more children in our country in road accidents than any other country in Europe bar one we need every conceivable measure to ensure that drivers drive responsibly?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I completely accord with that view. For that reason, in March this year the Government published their road safety strategy. It has the desirable intention of reducing casualties by some 40 per cent by 2010. Furthermore, we could do without people making mischief around the use of this section of the Road Traffic Act. That is most important.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, as one of the promoters of the Human Rights Act, will the Minister accept that I and other promoters and supporters would regard it as a disaster if the Act were used in a highly legalistic way--
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am pleased to hear, by their laughter, that colleagues on the Conservative Benches apparently disagree with that. Will the Minister accept that we would regard it as a disaster if the fair balance inherent in the whole of the convention of the Human Rights Act between the rights of the individual and the interests of the general community were sacrificed? Does he agree that the European Court of Human Rights, much loved by the Conservative Party, has made it quite clear that the presumption of innocence is not to be used in order to hamper the effective detection and prosecution of crime and the conviction of criminals according to fair procedures?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it will come as no great shock or surprise if I entirely agree with the noble Lord's analysis. And would it not be rich, too, if in this argument there were the promotion of a get-out clause which ran in breach of Article 2, which protects the right to life?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, or her! I dare say that the noble Lord has a point and that it is embarrassing for some people to be caught out in that way. However, it is not for me to speculate on another jurisdiction.
Lord Lipsey: My Lords, as the party opposite has successively shown that it is in favour of petrol blockaders, yesterday that it favours illegality by demonstrators against GM foods, and today that it wants speeding motorists to get away with that, are not we on this side now the party of law and order and not the party opposite?
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, is completely wrong? No one on this side of the House has suggested that we are in favour of any kind of bad driving or do not like convictions against bad drivers.
We have raised the issue because we are extremely concerned about the cases which have taken place in Scotland and England because it appears that Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act has been set aside by the courts. If that is the case--that is what has been stated in the press and the cases are subject to appeal--what are the Government going to do about it? How will they ensure convictions unless the driver happens to be behind the wheel of the car at the time?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, one would hope that the driver might be behind the wheel at the time! I thought, or hoped in vain, that the noble Lord had heard my response. I made it clear to your Lordships' House that both cases had been widely misreported. I am completely driven by the belief that they should not be misinterpreted and misinformation spread as a product of them. The fact is that the Road Traffic Act has not led to the principle being undermined; the cases have not altered one jot the position as it has always been.
Lord McNally: My Lords, is the Minister aware that at the recent live electronics exhibition at Earls Court a stand advertised electronic devices which could be fitted to cars and motorcycles so as to give the drivers warnings of police speed traps and which were heavily labelled "Legal in the United Kingdom"? If I were selling devices which showed the position of burglar alarms I am sure that the police would be interested. Why should such devices, which enable drivers to break the law, be legal in the United Kingdom?
Viscount Simon: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that a possible way out of a Section 172 identification would be the use of infra-red or digital cameras which could take pictures only of the drivers? Following on the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, if the drivers had not been exceeding the speed limit in the first place they would not have been found out!
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.