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Viscount Goschen: I am not quite sure whether the Minister has finished his remarks, but could he answer the point raised by my noble friend Lord Lyell and myself: what if the person who is not disclosing the information is either someone who does not hold the driving licence or a body corporate? While he is about it—the noble Lord talks about the perverse incentive—what if the offence was someone driving 150 miles per hour along a motorway, for which a court would ban a driver automatically. Surely the six points then becomes too low. I am just concerned about where the six comes from.

Lord Davies of Oldham: We are entering into other areas of law, but the noble Lord will recognise that of course we have defences against a situation where somebody commits an offence of even greater severity than the one we are describing—six points—and the corporation says, "well we own the car, but we haven't the faintest who the driver was". For all sorts of reasons that would not be an acceptable position and corporations are expected to know who their drivers are and are likely to find themselves in difficulty if they maintain that they happen to employ 5,000 drivers and have little idea who is driving a vehicle they own. That clearly is not a situation that obtains in this country at the present time. No self-respecting organisation would dream of finding itself in that position and we have all sorts of ways of ensuring that that is so.

We are dealing here with the penalty points sent to the owner of the vehicle. It is quite clear that at the present time that person has the perverse incentive to get away with three points, when it is clear that the
 
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penalty for failing to provide the information must be consistent with the penalty that would have been incurred if the person had been identified.

7.15 pm

Viscount Goschen: The noble Lord makes a fine point, but it is not the one I raised. What if the person who declines to provide the information does not have a driving licence? Points cannot be applied to a person who does not have, or has never had, a driving licence. What if that person is a body corporate? How do you put points on the licence of BP or Shell? It must be to an individual. That is the point that I am making.

Viscount Simon: I wonder if I can help my noble friend. It is something that I have no knowledge of at all, but it may be relevant: if you have a body corporate with 5,000 cars or vehicles, would it not tend to concentrate the mind of the company secretary if he knew that he was going to have the points applied to his licence?

Lord Lyell: The chairman?

Viscount Simon: Yes, the chairman.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: When I was a magistrate we gave people penalty points even if they did not have a licence. Those points would all come into force if, or when, they ever applied for a licence. But if they never applied for a licence, then I agree with my noble friend that it is absolutely pointless giving them points.

Lord Davies of Oldham: That is so and that is an obvious situation. You cannot penalise by penalty points those who never intend to drive. But I can assure the noble Lord that we certainly do not have a situation where a company can present a defence in the courts saying, "it is impossible for us to reply to the question of who was driving that vehicle because we have not the faintest idea". Otherwise one would envisage that it would be the case that every business driver in the country would take advantage of the ability of his employers to get him out of this particular problem. That is clearly not the case. Companies act responsibly. They need to for insurance purposes—all sorts of things can happen to the vehicle—they certainly do need to know who is driving. It does not matter how large the company and how many vehicles they have—they know.

It is not companies that we are seeking to attack here. The problem is not that we have got thousands of these notices out and companies are tearing them up and throwing them in the bin because the chairman is not likely to incur any particular difficulty because the chauffeur always takes him to his place of work in any case and he does not drive. That is not the issue. We are dealing with a situation where somebody—the owner of the vehicle—has committed the offence themselves and can get a reduced sentence by not supplying the information where they only get three points but will get six if they supply the information.
 
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That is clearly something that needs to be remedied. If the noble Lord's amendment was sustained—whatever the arguments backing it—that is what would continue and I am sure that the House would recognise the folly of that course of action.

Lord Hanningfield: Without wishing to bring this one to an end, we have had a very interesting debate. I said right at the beginning that no one wanted to do anything to permit the award of the maximum number of points to anyone who had really committed an offence that deserved it. My noble friend Lord Lyell summed it up well when he said that when you put a mandatory six points, are we sure that we are not sometimes going to catch the innocent? That is something that this debate has been going around and around. I hope that the Minister will take advice and reflect on the matter. I repeat that no one—certainly on these Benches—wants to stop someone who actually breaks the law and deserves six points getting them. We want to make certain that there be no miscarriages of justice in any way by having the mandatory six points. I repeat that I hope that there can be some reflection on and discussion about our debate for the future. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Lord Davies of Oldham moved Amendment No. 100A:


"OFFENCE OF KEEPING VEHICLE WHICH DOES NOT MEET INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
(1) In the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52), after section 144 insert—
"144A OFFENCE OF KEEPING VEHICLE WHICH DOES NOT MEET INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
(1) If a motor vehicle registered under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 does not meet the insurance requirements, the person in whose name the vehicle is registered is guilty of an offence.
(2) For the purposes of this section a vehicle meets the insurance requirements if—
(a) it is covered by a such a policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third party risks as complies with the requirements of this Part of this Act, and
(b) either of the following conditions is satisfied.
(3) The first condition is that the policy or security, or the certificate of insurance or security which relates to it, identifies the vehicle by its registration mark as a vehicle which is covered by the policy or security.
(4) The second condition is that the vehicle is covered by the policy or security because—
(a) the policy or security covers any vehicle, or any vehicle of a particular description, the owner of which is a person named in the policy or security or in the certificate of insurance or security which relates to it, and
(b) the vehicle is owned by that person.
 
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(5) For the purposes of this section a vehicle is covered by a policy of insurance or security if the policy of insurance or security is in force in relation to the use of the vehicle.
144B EXCEPTIONS TO SECTION 144A OFFENCE
(1) A person ("the registered keeper") in whose name a vehicle which does not meet the insurance requirements is registered at any particular time ("the relevant time") does not commit an offence under section 144A of this Act at that time if any of the following conditions are satisfied.
(2) The first condition is that at the relevant time the vehicle is owned as described—
(a) in subsection (1) of section 144 of this Act, or
(b) in paragraph (a), (b), (da), (db), (dc) or (g) of subsection (2) of that section,
(whether or not at the relevant time it is being driven as described in that provision).
(3) The second condition is that at the relevant time the vehicle is owned with the intention that it should be used as described in paragraph (c), (d), (e) or (f) of section 144(2) of this Act.
(4) The third condition is that the registered keeper—
(a) is not at the relevant time the person keeping the vehicle, and
(b) if previously he was the person keeping the vehicle, he has by the relevant time complied with any requirements under subsection (7)(a) below that he is required to have complied with by the relevant or any earlier time.
(5) The fourth condition is that—
(a) the registered keeper is at the relevant time the person keeping the vehicle,
(b) at the relevant time the vehicle is not used on a road or other public place, and
(c) the registered keeper has by the relevant time complied with any requirements under subsection (7)(a) below that he is required to have complied with by the relevant or any earlier time.
(6) The fifth condition is that—
(a) the vehicle has been stolen before the relevant time,
(b) the vehicle has not been recovered by the relevant time, and
(c) any requirements under subsection (7)(b) below that, in connection with the theft, are required to have been complied with by the relevant or any earlier time have been complied with by the relevant time.
(7) Regulations may make provision—
(a) for the purposes of subsection (4)(b) and (5)(c) above, requiring a person in whose name a vehicle is registered to furnish such particulars and make such declarations as may be prescribed, and to do so at such times and in such manner as may be prescribed, and
(b) for the purposes of subsection (6)(c) above, as to the persons to whom, the times at which and the manner in which the theft of a vehicle is to be notified.
 
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(8) Regulations may make provision amending this section for the purpose of providing for further exceptions to section 144A of this Act (or varying or revoking any such further exceptions).
(9) A person accused of an offence under section 144A of this Act is not entitled to the benefit of an exception conferred by or under this section unless evidence is adduced that is sufficient to raise an issue with respect to that exception; but where evidence is so adduced it is for the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the exception does not apply.
144C FIXED PENALTY NOTICES
(1) Where on any occasion the Secretary of State has reason to believe that a person has committed an offence under section 144A of this Act, the Secretary of State may give the person a notice offering him the opportunity of discharging any liability to conviction for that offence by payment of a fixed penalty to the Secretary of State.
(2) Where a person is given a notice under this section in respect of an offence under section 144A of this Act—
(a) no proceedings may be instituted for that offence before the end of the period of 21 days following the date of the notice, and
(b) he may not be convicted of that offence if he pays the fixed penalty before the end of that period.
(3) A notice under this section must give such particulars of the circumstances alleged to constitute the offence as are necessary for giving reasonable information of the offence.
(4) A notice under this section must also state—
(a) the period during which, by virtue of subsection (2) above, proceedings will not be taken for the offence,
(b) the amount of the fixed penalty, and
(c) the person to whom and the address at which the fixed penalty may be paid.
(5) Without prejudice to payment by any other method, payment of the fixed penalty may be made by pre-paying and posting a letter containing the amount of the penalty (in cash or otherwise) to the person mentioned in subsection (4)(c) above at the address so mentioned.
(6) Where a letter is sent in accordance with subsection (5) above payment is to be regarded as having been made at the time at which that letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.
(7) Regulations may make provision as to any matter incidental to the operation of this section, and in particular—
(a) as to the form of a notice under this section,
(b) as to the information to be provided in such a notice by virtue of this section, and
(c) as to any further information to be provided in a such notice.
(8) The fixed penalty payable under this section is, subject to subsection (9) below, £100.
(9) Regulations may substitute a different amount for the amount for the time being specified in subsection (8) above.
(10) Regulations may make provision for treating a fixed penalty payable under this section as having been paid if a lesser amount is paid before the end of a prescribed period.
(11) In any proceedings a certificate which—
(a) purports to be signed by or on behalf of the Secretary of State, and
 
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(b) states that payment of a fixed penalty was or was not received by a date specified in the certificate,
is evidence of the facts stated.
144D SECTION 144A OFFENCE: SUPPLEMENTARY
(1) Schedule 2A makes provision about the immobilisation of vehicles as regards which it appears that an offence under section 144A of this Act is being committed and about their removal and disposal.
(2) A person authorised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection may on behalf of the Secretary of State conduct and appear in any proceedings by or against the Secretary of State in connection with the enforcement of an offence under section 144A of this Act or under regulations made under section 160 of this Act by virtue of Schedule 2A to this Act—
(a) in England and Wales, in a magistrates' court, and
(b) in Scotland, in any court other than the High Court of Justiciary or the Court of Session."
(2) Before section 160 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—
"159A DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION
(1) Regulations may make provision for and in connection with requiring MIIC to make information available to any prescribed person for the purposes of the exercise of any of that person's functions in connection with the enforcement of an offence under this Part of this Act or under regulations made under section 160 of this Act.
(2) In this section—
"MIIC" means the Motor Insurers' Information Centre (a company limited by guarantee and incorporated under the Companies Act 1985 on 8th December 1998), and
"information" means information held in any form."
(3) After Schedule 2 to that Act insert the Schedule 2A set out in Schedule (New Schedule 2A to the Road Traffic Act 1988) to this Act.
(4) In section 91(a) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (penalty for breach of regulations: application to regulations under Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52)) after "132" insert "or under section 160 by virtue of Schedule 2A".
(5) In Schedule 1 to that Act (offences to which certain sections apply), after the entry relating to section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) insert—

"RTA section 144AKeeping vehicle which does not meet insurance requirements.Sections 6, 11 and 12(1) of this Act."

(6) Part 1 of Schedule 2 to that Act (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts) is amended as follows.


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