|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: In his response to the amendments that would ensure that the offender could defend himself and get advice, the noble Lord said that all participating countries would have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, and, therefore, they would be bound to make such provision. Is he sure that that is the case? Have we been told that disqualification can result from actions that are not a criminal offence in some countries? If so, does the European Convention on Human Rights apply in those cases? I ask out of ignorance. It is important that we know.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I thought that I did. I explained that the amendment would be unduly restrictive. In some circumstances it would be helpful to include additional information that the Minister considers appropriate.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Does that mean that a disqualification cannot be imposed in any of those countries without the offender having had the possibility of speaking up for himself in court and having access to assistance?
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I thought that I had heard in previous discussions that some non-criminal offences result in disqualification, and, therefore, they might not be covered by the European Convention on Human Rights. I may be missing the point, but I thought that that was a gap in the Minister's argument.
Lord Monson: In resisting Amendment No. 139ZB, which would leave out subsection (3), the Minister said that he could think of circumstances in which it would be useful for the Minister to have the power to furnish additional information. Can the Minister give specific examples of occasions when that might be useful?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I provided examples as I ran through the amendments. I said, I think, that it might include information relating to the court proceedings themselves or to the period of disqualification already served in the United Kingdom, which must be taken into account by the driver's state of residence. Does that help the noble Lord?
My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour raised an important issue about the status of administrative proceedings that may cause a driving disqualification. In our earlier discussion on administrative proceedings, I understood that it might include such an eventuality. As that would not count as criminal proceedings, it would not come under the ECHR and provisions relating to fairness of access to legal advice. There may be some way of defining administrative proceedings that cover driving disqualifications so that they fall within the definition of criminal proceedings. That is not beyond the realms of
I have some problems with another issue, to which we may need to return on Report. I shall give the Minister notice of a couple of questions that may lie behind amendments to be tabled at that stage. If a non-UK national has not taken part in proceedings, we must give evidence that he was duly notified, as the Minister said. Thus, we come back to the question of what is good service?
Until I came to the House, I sat as a magistrate, as did my noble friend Lady Seccombe. I have not sat for five years, so I may be out of touch with changes in procedure or in the law. I accept that. However, I sat for 13 years or more on a Bench for an area in which 7 per cent of the local population werestill areItalian. Those people hold Italian citizenship, not British citizenship, and they and their visitors travel between this country and Italy with great regularity. A significant number of drivers on the roads of Woking hold foreign driving licences. It was not uncommon for our court in Wokingnorth-west Surreyto impose a disqualification on persons who had not taken part in proceedings.
Normally, as my noble friend Lady Seccombe reminds me, the first thing to be done if a magistrate thinks that he or she is going to impose a disqualification is to call the person to the court. Certainly, there were occasions on which we imposed disqualification on a person who did not attend, after we offered them goodness knows how many occasions to do so. There could be a lacuna. It could happen that someone who has been disqualified might not have received proper evidence of proceedings, even if we thought that such evidence had been provided. We must consider more carefully how the Bill will bite on such people. What is proper evidence that the document has been received?
The questions that we will ask next time around in the context of our amendments will be the following: what steps will the Government take to ensure that the evidence has been duly notified to somebody, what processes will the Government put in placethey do not exist now in the court systemand what negotiations are the Government having with our EU partners about what will be acceptable evidence, both ways? The Minister has already referred to Spain, which may be the first candidate. I am aware from personal experience that, when the Guardia Civil stop motorists on the roads in Spain, they do not necessarily follow proper procedure. It can be an interesting situation over there, so, if we have reciprocal arrangements, we must ensure that they work properly both ways.
They are, perhaps, the simplest of all the amendments. They are designed to get the Government to explain why they did not, for the sake of clarity, put into the Bill the annex to the convention on driving disqualifications. We go back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, on other issues. For the sake of clarity for those who will have to operate the Bill, it would be helpful if such a schedule were in the Bill. Why did not the Government decide to do it? I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The reason is as simple as the amendment. It would not add to or subtract from the effect of the clause. We specified that an offence fell within the terms of the clause if it was constituted by conduct that fell within any of the paragraphs of the annex to the convention.
There is no good reason for reproducing the annex to the convention in the Bill. The EU convention is a public document, and anyone who wants can access it and find out what is in the annex. That is consistent with the approach that we adopted elsewhere in the Bill. It would be unwieldy to replicate the text of EU provisions in the Bill, unless there were extremely compelling reasons to do so. Comments have already been made about the length and complexity of Bills; I am not sure that, if we did what the noble Baroness suggests, we would do much to keep the Bill as simple as we would like.
A close member of my family is epileptic. Paragraph 5 of the schedule to be inserted by Amendment No. 156ZB shows that the convention covers driving a vehicle while disqualified. Under the clauses that we are discussing, someone need not go anywhere near a court to be disqualified. I cannot find any reference to a duty on the appropriate Minister to notify a decision by the DVLA to disqualify to the General Secretariat. Surely, that is what should happen.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page