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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Amendment No. 137 is not part of this group, but it should be because it is on exactly the same subject. As in the case of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Attlee, it has been superseded by the government amendment. For that reason, I shall not move it when we reach that point.
I welcome the government amendment because my amendment was intended to ensure some way of displaying proof that people were insured. It has weak points. As pointed out by my noble friend, people could cancel their insurance but they would still have something to show that it had been paid for. I believe that such weaknesses have been overcome in the government amendment.
I particularly like the Minister's point that the penalty could be up to £1,000. Until the penalty is significantly more than the cost of insurance, unreliable, dishonest people will not bother to insure. They will say that it is a bit of a gamble as the fine will be so small that it is not worth paying the insurance. That is the major driving force behind people failing to insure their vehicles. I welcome the fact that a solid amount is being proposed for persistent offenders. I hope that they will stop persisting and that everyone will have insurance. It is so unfair to other drivers as it pushes up all drivers' insurance costs. We all have to meet the costs through various insurance associations for accidents when no one is insured.
Lord Bradshaw: I very much welcome the amendment, but it has some weaknesses. When I was out with the police 10 days ago they told me, "Round here they are very quick at releasing clamped vehicleslike, in minutes". People have keys to release cars quickly. The police clamp vehicles and quickly remove them to a pound. It costs £200 and the production of a valid tax disc, insurance and MoT test certificate to get the vehicles back. Is a fixed penalty of £100 a realistic fee to charge if a vehicle needs clamping? It is likely that the vehicle driver will be guilty of other offences besides not being insured. We must have regard to the fact that it costs a lot both to detect vehicles and to take them to a pound, which is often quite a long way away. In all cases the fixed penalty and the fine system should ensure that the reasonable costs of the authorities shall be met for taking vehicles away. The only reason why the exercise in which I took part ended was that the cells were full, and we had already taken seven vehicles to the pound. We had to stop because there was no more room. That is the reality.
Many people driving untaxed and uninsured cars are young people on low incomes. One has to be careful that there is adequate public transport in those areas because there is the problem that people must get about. The cost of insurance for a young person is very
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high and often very much more than the cost of the car they buy. That is for the minimal insurance cover that people often have. I welcome what the Minister saidit is almost overduebut will he reflect on the amount of the penalties, and make some inquiries of the enforcement authorities of what their costs really are in dealing with those people to ensure that the penalty meets the crime, to paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan?
Viscount Simon: I am tickled pink by what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has just said. Removal to a pound almost immediately fits the bill. I would add that if a third party collects the vehicle he should have to prove that it is still insured, that he has a driving licence and that all the documents are in place.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful for all contributions to the debate. They recognise that the Government are intent on tackling a serious problem. We need to look further at one or two details. I want to reassure the Committee that fines can be varied by statutory instrument, so variations can be made as the scheme develops. As suggested in Amendment No. 169A, which was tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, we shall certainly look at the checks required to release vehicles as details of the scheme are developed. We recognise the point that the noble Earl was making. I am grateful also to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, for her contribution.
The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, deserves credit for having tabled his amendment in advance of the government amendment. It was of great help as it enabled us to take the thrust and intent of his amendment into account. If there are outstanding details, I shall be happy to discuss them with the noble Earl after the Committee stage. Broadly, the House recognises that this is long overdue. We need to tackle the problem, while bearing in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that in penalising the uninsured, a disproportionate number are likely to have bought inexpensive cars and will have great difficulty in meeting the costs of insurance. We all know the wider cost for society and for individuals within it caused by the problem of uninsured drivers. That is why we feel justified in introducing the scheme in this Bill. I am grateful for the support that it has been given.
Earl Attlee: I am not confident that the Minister has answered my point. I am concerned that it is currently possible to tax a vehicle even though a motorist does not have genuine documents. Will the Minister's new system combat that?
Lord Davies of Oldham: I emphasise that checks will be in place to ensure that vehicles on the road are insured. The checking mechanism will deal with the insurance issue, so we do not need an additional aspect. I recognise that in the past the noble Earl's point would have been entirely valid. We did not have the ability to check on insurance, and the issue of vehicle excise duty was the only occasion when such a document emerged. This scheme stands alone. I might
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add that through our new technology the authorities will be able to determine whether a vehicle has registered on the data bank for appropriate insurance. A check can be made on that basis.
"REQUIREMENT FOR ATTENDANCE ON COURSE
(1) The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) is amended as follows.
(2) After section 28 insert
"28A REQUIREMENT FOR ATTENDANCE ON COURSE
(1) This section applies where
(a) a person is convicted of a specified offence by or before a court,
(b) penalty points are to be attributed to the offence and the court does not order him to be disqualified, and
(c) at least three penalty points are to be taken into account on the occasion of the conviction.
(2) In this section "specified offence" means
(a) an offence under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (careless, and inconsiderate, driving),
(b) an offence under section 36 of that Act (failing to comply with traffic signs),
(c) an offence under section 17(4) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (use of special road contrary to scheme or regulations) or
(d) an offence under section 89(1) of that Act (exceeding speed limit).
(3) But the Secretary of State may by regulations amend subsection (2) above by adding other offences or removing offences.
(4) Where this section applies, the court may make an order that the offender be disqualified if, within the period of twelve months beginning with the date of the order, the offender does not complete an approved course specified in the order.
(5) In subsection (4) above "an approved course" means a course approved by the appropriate national authority for the purposes of this section in relation to the description of offence of which the offender is convicted.
(6) A court shall not make an order under this section in the case of an offender unless
(a) the offender holds a valid United Kingdom driving licence,
(b) the offender appears to the court to be of or over the age of 17,
(c) the court has informed the offender (orally or in writing and in ordinary language) of the effect of the order and of the amount of the fees which he is required to pay for the course and when he must pay them, and
(d) the offender has agreed that the order should be made.
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28B CERTIFICATES OF COMPLETION OF COURSES
(1) An offender shall be regarded for the purposes of section 28A of this Act as having completed a course satisfactorily if (and only if) a certificate that he has done so is received by the proper officer of the supervising court.
(2) A course provider must give a certificate under subsection (1) above to the offender not later than fourteen days after the date specified in the order as the latest date for the completion of the course unless the offender
(a) fails to make due payment of fees for the course,
(b) fails to attend the course in accordance with the course provider's reasonable instructions, or
(c) fails to comply with any other reasonable requirement of the course provider.
(3) A certificate under subsection (1) above is to be given by the course provider and shall be in such form, and contain such particulars, as may be prescribed by, or determined in accordance with, regulations made by the appropriate national authority.
(4) Where a course provider decides not to give a certificate under subsection (1) above to the offender, he shall give written notice of the decision to the offender as soon as possible, and in any event not later than fourteen days after the date specified in the order as the latest date for completion of the course.
(5) If fourteen days after the date specified in the order as the latest date for completion of the course the course provider has given neither the certificate under subsection (1) above nor a notice under subsection (4) above, the offender may, within such period as may be prescribed by rules of court, apply to the supervising court, or (if the supervising court is not the Crown Court, the High Court of Justiciary or the relevant local court) to either the supervising court or the relevant local court, for a declaration that the course provider is in default.
(6) If the court grants the application, section 28A of this Act shall have effect as if the certificate had been duly received by the proper officer of the supervising court.
(7) A notice under subsection (4) above shall specify the ground on which it is given; and the appropriate national authority may by regulations make provision as to the form of notices under that subsection and as to the circumstances in which they are to be treated as given.
(8) Where the proper office of a court receives a certificate under subsection (1) above, or a court grants an application under subsection (5) above, the proper officer or court must send notice of that fact to the Secretary of State; and the notice must be sent in such manner and to such address, and must contain such particulars, as the Secretary of State may determine.
28C APPROVAL OF COURSES
(1) If an application is made to the appropriate national authority for the approval of a course for the purposes of section 28A of this Act, the appropriate national authority must decide whether to grant or refuse the application.
(2) In reaching that decision the appropriate national authority must have regard to
(a) the nature of the course, and
(b) whether the course provider is an appropriate person to provide the course and administer its provision efficiently and effectively,
and may take into account any recommendations made by any persons appointed to consider the application.
(3) A course may be approved subject to conditions specified by the appropriate national authority.
(4) An approval of a course is for the period specified by the appropriate national authority (which must not exceed seven years), subject to withdrawal of approval.
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(5) Regulations made by the appropriate national authority may make provision in relation to the approval of courses and may, in particular, include provision
(a) in relation to the making of applications for approval,
(b) for the payment in respect of applications for approval, or of approvals, (or of both) of fees of such amounts as are prescribed by the regulations,
(c) specifying the maximum fees that a person may be required to pay for a course and by when they are to be paid,
(d) for the monitoring of courses and course providers,
(e) in relation to withdrawing approval,
(f) for an appeal to lie to the Transport Tribunal against a refusal of an application for approval, the imposition of conditions on the grant of such an application or the withdrawal of approval, and
(g) authorising the appropriate national authority to make available (with or without charge) information about courses and course providers.
28D PROVISIONS SUPPLEMENTARY TO SECTIONS 28A TO 28C
(1) The appropriate national authority may issue guidance to course providers, or to any category of course provider, as to the conduct of courses approved for the purposes of section 28A of this Act; and
(a) course providers shall have regard to any guidance given to them under this subsection, and
(b) in determining for the purposes of section 28B of this Act whether any instructions or requirements of a course provider were reasonable, a court shall have regard to any guidance given to him under this subsection.
(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision
(a) amending section 28A(1)(c) of this Act by substituting for the lower number of penalty points for the time being specified there a different number of penalty points.
(3) In sections 28A to 28C of this Act and this section
"appropriate national authority" means (as respects Wales) the National Assembly for Wales and (otherwise) the Secretary of State;
"course provider", in relation to a course, means the person by whom it is, or is to be, provided;
"proper officer" means
(a) in relation to a magistrates' court in England and Wales, the designated officer for the court, and
(b) otherwise, the clerk of the court;
"relevant local court", in relation to an order made under section 28A of this Act in the case of an offender, means
(a) in England and Wales, a magistrates' court acting for the local justice area in which the offender resides, and
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(b) in Scotland, the sheriff court for the district where the offender resides or, where the order is made by a stipendiary magistrate and the offender resides within his commission area, the district court for that area; and
"supervising court", in relation to an order under section 28A of this Act, means
(a) in England and Wales, if the Crown Court made the order the Crown Court and otherwise a magistrates' court acting for the same local justice area as the court which made the order, and
(b) in Scotland, the court which made the order.
(4) Any power to make regulations under section 28A, 28B or 28C of this Act or this section includes power to make different provision for different cases, and to make such incidental or supplementary provision as appears to the appropriate national authority to be necessary or appropriate.""
The noble Earl said: I am sure that the Committee accepts that most accidents and driving violations arise from a combination of poor driving skills and the wrong attitude to driving. My amendment would make compulsory retraining much more prevalent. It is important to understand that we are talking about retraining and not retesting. We want to improve the skills of relatively new or even experienced drivers. We do not want to train them just to pass a test.
Both poor driving skills and attitude can be corrected by driver training. Clause 24 makes some progress in that direction, but I do not believe that it goes far enough. Driver retraining works; if it did not, the Minister would not have made any provision for it in the Bill. Why it is that we religiously test our vehicles every year? We have medicals for older drivers, but we refuse to accept that there is room for improvement in everyone's driving skills. On the one hand, for example, training may educate a driver to realise that he cannot reduce his journey time by much by driving hard. On the other hand, a driver being retrained may, for example, be shown how to negotiate a roundabout without needing to stop at the give-way line every time. Not only would that new skill reduce journey times, but it would also improve comfort and would be safer.
Retraining schemes should be fun if the driver takes them seriously. One reason why it would be appropriate to have retraining in addition to penalty points and any fine is that retraining should stop repeat offending. However, I support the principle of being able to reduce the number of penalty points on a licence by undergoing retraining. I beg to move.
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