Clause 25 - Using vehicle in dangerous condition etc.

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:15 pm ar 28 Mawrth 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:15, 28 Mawrth 2006

I beg to move amendment No. 66, in clause 25, page 31, line 33, at end add—

‘(3)Subsection (1) does not apply to an employee driving a vehicle owned by his employer in connection with his employment where he had no reasonable cause to suspect there was anything wrong with the vehicle.’.

We think that there is a flaw in the clause. We understand entirely what the Minister is seeking to achieve, but, as we said in debate in another place, we have concerns about the impact on employees who might be thoroughly professional and responsible drivers. Somebody let loose with a truck worth £100,000 or £150,000 plus its cargo, and who is a highly trained driver, is by data a responsible person. However, unbeknown to him, there might be something faulty with the vehicle. First, it might just be physically impossible to see the fault—it might be in the engine—and secondly, given the complexity of modern vehicles, he might not be technically competent to detect the fault in the first place.

I am concerned with the wording in line 17: “using vehicle”. Should the Minister not have been thinking about the person who is “responsible” for the vehicle? This is one of those grade II probing amendments, and if the Minister can come up with a good explanation for how the sort of person whom I am talking about will be excluded, I will happily withdraw it.

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

If the hon. Gentleman is talking up the seriousness with which he approaches the matter, I am concerned about the use of the word “owned” in the amendment. He will be aware that these days many companies do not own their vehicles—they lease them. To my mind, that is an obvious loophole in the amendment.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I think that the word that I used was “responsible”. I think that the hon. Gentleman gets the drift of where I am coming from. I am concerned about   employees being caught by the clause, and before we consider supporting the clause I would like the Minister to give a serious reply.

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

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. I agree with him entirely; in the circumstances that he described, it would be inappropriate for the individual to be held responsible. Section 48 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 provides for the following:

“Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 40A of the [1988 c. 52.] Road Traffic Act 1988 ... the court must not—

(a) order him to be disqualified, or

(b) order any particulars or penalty points to be endorsed on the counterpart of any licence held by him, if he proves that he did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect, that the use of the vehicle involved a danger of injury to any person.”

For example, if an employee is ordered to drive a vehicle, so long as he can demonstrate that he did not know, could not reasonably have known and had no grounds for suspecting, that the vehicle was dangerous, clearly, he would have a complete defence against prosecution.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Following that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 25 ordered to stand part of the Bill.