Schedule 2 - Endorsement: unlicensed and foreign drivers

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:45 am ar 23 Mawrth 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, that this schedule be the Second schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I understand that clause 9 will enact schedule 2. There has been much clarification from the Minister, for which I am grateful, but I have just a couple of questions. Paragraph 6 of the schedule   relates to people who will be disqualified if they have a fixed penalty notice served on them. Am I right in thinking that in all circumstances they would then be referred to the court and that there is no situation in which they could accept the fixed penalty notice, be disqualified and have their 12-month ban start then? Am I right in thinking that, in all circumstances, if people are served with a fixed penalty notice that takes them to 12 points under the totting up system, they would have to go to court?

Secondly, under proposed new section 84A, I should like to be reassured that the

“particulars as the Secretary of State may determine” are exactly those about which we sought reassurance in the stand part debate. Does the Minister anticipate any circumstances where those particulars might differ under this schedule?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I hope that I have understood the hon. Gentleman’s query correctly. The clause allows the police the same powers to check the driving record, when the record is the DVLA database, as they currently have to check the driving record from the counterpart. The schedule will remove all references to “counterpart” in existing legislation, because that will no longer be a legal necessity.

Incidentally, in my experience, when people receive a new driving licence—a plastic card and a counterpart—they almost always say, “Why do we have both things?” The answer in future, once the Bill is enacted, will be, “You don’t need both any more. The only thing that you will ever need to show a policeman is the little plastic card that comes with your driving licence. Anything else that the DVLA chooses to send with your licence will simply be a convenience and will have no legal standing.” That is the purpose of the schedule.

I understand that the officer will check the driving record first, and if a fixed penalty would lead to disqualification, the case will be referred to court. That is the same as the present situation. The hon. Gentleman has not had the experience, as my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Glasgow, South and I have had, of the police writing to us, saying that they caught us on their camera and that we have the opportunity to accept a fixed penalty or go to court and argue the case. If people decide to accept the fixed penalty, they send their licence and counterpart to the police so that the driving record can be checked. If the police see that a person has nine points, they do not issue a fixed penalty, but say that they have to go direct to court. In future, they will not need to do that; when the police write and tell them they have the fine and they reply, saying that they will take the fixed penalty rather than go to court, the police will just check the DVLA record, which will be the real driver’s record, so people will not need to send their licence to the police any more. That is the essential difference. However, people who have totted up sufficient points so that the next points that they receive mean a ban will still have to go to court and answer the case.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

Presumably, this change will not lead to any change in the practice in the courts. At present, once the points on a driver’s licence have expired, he can send it away for no other reason than to have them removed and a clean counterpart issued. Will the Minister confirm that when the courts are dealing with a defendant under the new system, although the clerk of the court will have access to the driving record, he will still be under a duty not to refer to points that are spent?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

That is correct. As I said earlier, although I have addressed my offending behaviour and now have a clean licence, my counterpart still has a record of my endorsements, which are now four years old. Although endorsements last only for three years, a person cannot apply for a clean licence for four years in case they appear in court between the third and fourth years, at which time the court would need to be able to look back to see that they had committed their fourth offence during the three years when they had nine points. After four years, the person can send the counterpart back, and they will be sent a clean piece of paper. That is what I intend to do in the very near future. Under the new arrangements, the convictions will simply be expunged automatically from the computer record when they are four years old, so the courts will have no knowledge of them if they look at the database.

Let us say that the courts looked at the database because a person happened to be in court for a fourth offence. The previous three offences were committed within three years, but the fourth was committed outside those three years. That could not lead to the person being disqualified; clearly, they would not have enough points to be disqualified if the latter offence was committed outside the three years. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman understands what I mean. Basically, the answer to his question is yes, the provision does not change current practice; it just changes how it will be administered.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee 10:00, 23 Mawrth 2006

I understand the Minister perfectly. I am well aware of why points stay on for four years: it is because the totting-up system runs from the date of conviction to the date of offence, and one could then appear in court in the fourth year, but for an offence committed in year three. I understand that. But when the Minister says “expunged”, does he mean expunged? I am thinking back to an earlier debate. If an insurance company had access to the record, it would not be right and proper if it could identify spent convictions that, although not referred to in court, were still on the record.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

The convictions are expunged. I asked that very question of my colleagues in the DVLA yesterday, with all the cynicism of a former computer systems designer who knows how lazy software and database designers are, and who knows their willingness to leave information on the record just in case it might be needed in future. I checked that   specific point and was assured that the convictions are deleted. They are not available to anybody after they are spent.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

My apologies, Mrs. Anderson; I had to leave the room briefly, and I am not sure whether the Minister is speaking or being intervened on. I am curious about this business. I can see the force of what the Minister says in relation to fixed penalties that come from outwith the court system, but not all penalty points are imposed in that way. A lot are imposed through courts. Surely they cannot just be removed from the driver record. Having that information available must be relevant to the court’s considerations.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I am equally confused as to whether I am making a statement or being intervened on, but as long as Mrs. Anderson is happy, I am happy.

I will check on the hon. Gentleman’s point. Clearly, if the court has imposed a sentence, it may have a record of it, but my understanding is that, as far as the driver record is concerned, the DVLA deletes any points that may exist on a driving licence. However, I will certainly check that for the hon. Gentleman.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.