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Lord Renton: My noble friend and I have taken the view that there is such a thing as disqualification without the commission of an offence. The

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disqualification is simply imposed by the DVLA without the person coming before any court. That is relevant to the provisions that we are considering.

If the Government and their advisers have not contemplated such a situation, it would be right for the Minister to give an undertaking that, between now and Report, that situation will be considered. Either, it should be made subject to the same provisions as those relating to a conviction or some other arrangements should be made.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I confess that I was slightly thrown by the question. I think that the answer is that the situation that both noble Lords described is outside the scope of what we are considering today. The convention applies only to road traffic offences; as I understand it, it does not apply to what both noble Lords described as administrative circumstances. I might be wrong about that, as I am prepared to accept, at all times, that I can be wrong about such things. We need to investigate the points made by the noble Lords in more detail. I think that that is why the disqualification to which they refer is not covered by the convention in the way in which they think it might be.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: If I run into the back of a lorry in my car, am taken to court and am disqualified because I did it in such a monstrous way, that would be one thing. However, if my doctor advises me that I have become rather old and should stop driving and I hand my licence in, that is another thing. If I hang on to my licence and use it in another country, that would be wrong. However, that is not what we are talking about. Am I right?

There is a difference between being disqualified because one has an illness or because one is old or blind and committing a driving offence. Is that what the Minister is saying? That is what I was thinking.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I shall try to be helpful to the Minister. As I understand from having examined driving law, one is disqualified for driving by age, if one is too young, too old or has a disability. However, the offence does not occur until, having been disqualified for driving, one actually drives. That is the difference that the Government are trying to explain between what is in the proposed schedule and the circumstances described by my noble friends.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: We have got to the same point. We have agreement on that.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 [Recognition in United Kingdom of foreign driving disqualification]:

Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 139ZE:

    Page 38, line 21, leave out subsection (7).

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The noble Baroness said: I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 139ZH and 139ZK. I have tabled the amendments to ask the Government when these subsections will be used. The provisions give power to the Minister and the Secretary of State respectively to extend the time for appeals and the production of a licence. I seek clarification of when the Minister thinks that that power would be used. Are there any criteria that would automatically allow for an extension of time? Can the defendant ask for an extension, or is it merely a matter of executive decision? I beg to move.

5 p.m.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The decision to give effect to a foreign disqualification necessitates giving the offender notice that he is disqualified. Although the offender should have been aware of the proceedings in the state of the offence, the notice given under Clause 58 will be used to inform the driver of disqualification in the UK. We consider that a period of 21 days before the disqualification takes effect is reasonable, sensible and appropriate. As I understand it, the period follows on from the time period allowed in relation to domestic disqualifications and the decision of the magistrates' court. The noble Baroness will of course have more knowledge and insight into magistrates' courts than I could possibly have.

The power to prescribe a period longer than 21 days is needed because it would allow us to make adjustments in line with any changes to the appeal rules and also in the light of experience in the operation of the convention procedures. If experience shows that drivers consistently experience difficulties in complying with the requirements within the 21-day period, we can of course prescribe a longer period. The regulations would not prescribe different time limits for different circumstances. The time limits would be common to all cases. Nor would the regulations prescribe a period shorter than 21 days.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the Minister for that most helpful response. I should perhaps add that, in the light of our discussions a few moments ago on the receipt of proof of notice, I think it would be inappropriate for me to move Amendment No. 139ZG today. As I was not able to send a note to Members of the Committee to give them notice of that, I thought that I would inform the Committee now. I think that the questions I was going to ask in that debate would be more properly dealt with on Report, when we return to the issue of how one serves due notice. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 139ZE.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Notice under section 58]:

[Amendment No. 139ZF not moved.]

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [Appeal against disqualification]:

[Amendments Nos. 139ZG to 139ZJ not moved.]

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On Question, Whether Clause 60 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I should like to raise one general point. We move now to the right of appeal. As I understand it, if someone was convicted of a motoring offence in a court abroad and disqualified and the conditions of Clause 57 have been complied with, then, under Clause 58, the Minister would give the notice to the offender which effectively told him that he is disqualified for the equivalent period in this country. Clause 60 states:

    "A person who is disqualified by virtue of section 58"—

namely, because he has been disqualified by a court abroad and notified of that disqualification in accordance with the provisions of this legislation—

    "may, after giving notice to the appropriate Minister of his intention to do so, appeal to the appropriate court against that disqualification".

The appropriate court is said to be the appropriate magistrates' court.

To what is the appeal limited? Is it limited to the technical matters in Clause 58? Subsection (3) says that if the appropriate court is satisfied that Section 58 does not apply to the applicant's case, it must allow the appeal; otherwise it must dismiss the appeal. Or is it a full and wide right of appeal on the facts of the original conviction and the original disqualification?

Let us say that someone was convicted in France of the equivalent offence of dangerous driving. Does the clause say that he has the right to appeal against that conviction in this country? If he has the right to appeal on the facts, how will that appeal be heard? I suspect that the answer is that his appeal will be limited to merely technical matters, but I should be grateful if the Minister would clear that up.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I am grateful to the noble Lord for the question. As he surmised, the right of appeal does not extend to the circumstances of the original offence and conviction. However, it does allow a driver to appeal on the grounds of any of the criteria for recognising a foreign disqualification which are set out in Clause 57. For example, and as we have already discussed, an appeal could be brought where the offender considered that he had not been properly notified of the proceedings. An appeal could also be brought on the grounds that an appeal is outstanding in the state of the offence—the effect of which has consistently been considered in relation to the convention.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I thank the Minister for that answer.

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clauses 61 to 63 agreed to.

Clause 64 [Production of licence: Great Britain]:

[Amendment No. 139ZK not moved.]

Clause 64 agreed to.

Clauses 65 to 80 agreed to.

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns moved Amendment No. 139A:

    Before Clause 81, insert the following new clause—

(1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to facilitate the work of—
(a) police forces in Great Britain;
(b) the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
(c) the National Criminal Intelligence Service;
(d) the National Crime Squad;
in preventing the unlawful importation of firearms into the United Kingdom by ensuring effective international co-operation between those bodies and other foreign and international law enforcement agencies.
(2) When the Secretary of State is—
(a) preparing a National Policing Plan under section 36A of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16);
(b) determining objectives for the policing of the areas of all police authorities under section 37 of that Act;
(c) determining objectives for the National Criminal Intelligence Service under section 26 of the Police Act 1997;
(d) determining objectives for the National Crime Squad under section 71 of that Act;
he shall have regard to the desirability of ensuring effective co-operation with foreign and international law enforcement agencies to prevent the unlawful importation of firearms into the United Kingdom."

The noble Baroness said: This amendment would insert a new clause on international co-operation and the general duty of the Secretary of State in relation to firearms. The issue of firearms-related crime has been much in the press recently. It is an issue on which there is no division between the parties—it is not a party political matter at all.

We were all shocked by the events of New Year's Eve, when four teenagers—innocent bystanders—were caught up in a gangland shoot-out on our streets. On Monday evening this week, Tasawar Hussain was tragically killed in Bradford, in West Yorkshire. He was shot in cold blood in a city street in the early evening after giving chase to two armed robbers. It was another reminder, if one were needed, of how dangerous some of our streets have become for honest citizens. I am sure that, over the past few days, we have all thought about the families and how tragic the events have been for them.

The question is what we should do about gun crime. We very much look forward to the government proposals that will be coming before the House. I do not know whether we will see those proposals soon, and I do not want to enter the realms of testing the Government on when they will be presented. The proposals will, however, be given proper and due consideration when they are brought forward.

In considering the Bill, the Committee has looked very much at international co-operation on criminal matters. I have tried to link my proposals with that. In this amendment, I have looked at focusing on the work done by the Home Office and the law enforcement agencies in preventing the importation of firearms into the United Kingdom. I pay tribute to the work already

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being undertaken in this field by the men and women of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad, the police and other law enforcement agencies, not least Customs and Excise, which is at the front end of trying to find these items.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to facilitate the work of law enforcement agencies in this field by ensuring effective international co-operation between the police forces of the United Kingdom and the authorities in other countries. It would also require the Home Secretary to have regard to the desirability of ensuring such effective co-operation to prevent the importation of firearms when he is setting the priorities, plans and objectives for police forces under the legislation, which authorises him to set those priorities, plans and objectives.

Sadly, there is no shortage of foreign countries from which firearms can be illegally imported. In the Sunday Times of 6th January, an article entitled "Silenced by the rule of the gun" listed several sources. It stated:

    "Nobody knows the exact number of handguns illegally circulating in Britain: experts estimate the figure could be anything from 250,000 to 10 million".

It is a horrifying number. The article continued:

    "Many weapons have been smuggled into the country from places such as eastern Europe, the central Asian republics and the Balkans, sometimes traded for drugs by organised crime groups".

The National Criminal Intelligence Service's annual report entitled Threat Assessment of Serious and Organised Crime, published last July, stated at paragraph 7.16:

    "There have been recent recoveries in the UK of illegal firearms originating from Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Croatia and Switzerland, and especially the USA. There appears also to have been an increase in firearms traced to Central and Eastern European countries".

The report goes on to state that, as a result of the recent adoption of the United Nations Protocol Against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, foreign governments may rush to sell their surplus firearms stocks before the protocol is incorporated into law in the signatory countries and they are prevented from doing so. The report also reveals that there has been a recent seizure in this country of a consignment of firearms manufactured in the 1950s, unused and in their original packaging, believed to have come from the surplus stock of a foreign government. So that potential source of imported firearms must also be of concern.

I have proposed this new clause now to give the Government an opportunity to put on the record the approach that they intend to take to the problem of firearms which are already in the United Kingdom and the conversion of replica weapons and airguns. The amendment seeks to prompt an explanation from the Government of what work they and the law enforcement agencies are carrying out to stop guns coming into the United Kingdom from abroad. I think that that objective puts the provision very firmly within the scope of the Bill. It is also a call for the Government to address the issue of creating a long-term strategy to prevent firearms getting into this

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country and on to our streets. When the Government come forward with such a strategy, they will find support for it from these Benches. I beg to move.

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