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Prohibitions Under Section 57 Of The 1972 Act

Volume 24: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1982

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I beg to move amendment No. 27, in page 19, leave out lines 34 and 35 and insert 'any person".'.

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 76 and 78.

The amendments improve the drafting of the provisions in the existing legislation on the imposition of prohibitions on dangerously defective vehicles. Clause 18(1), as drafted, amends section 57 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, which is about prohibitions on goods vehicles found to be unfit for service. Clause 18(1) alters the specification of the circumstances in which a goods vehicle shall be prohibited with immediate effect, so as to make that section consistent with the corresponding provision for public service vehicles, which is to be found in section 9 of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. The formula that clause 18(1) introduces—copied from the 1981 Act—provides that a prohibition shall take effect immediately if using the vehicle

"would involve danger to the driver, to other persons carried on the vehicle or to other members of the public."
In Committee, Opposition Members pointed out that the formula was unnecessarily long and complex. A reference to "danger to any person" would do just as well. Accordingly, we propose these amendments, which will amend both clause 18(1) and the model on which it was based—section 9 of the 1981 Act. The amendments have the rare virtue of shortening two pieces of legislation. I hope that that in itself will be enough to commend them to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

5.15 pm

I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 20, line 6, at beginning insert

`subject to subsection (9A) below'.

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.

The amendments extend the provisions in clause 18 to introduce what is known as a due diligence defence for a goods vehicle operator who is charged with causing or permitting a vehicle to be used in contravention of a prohibition. The amendments will provide him with a defence if he can prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to prevent an offence from being committed.

Clause 18 already contains provisions that give some protection to a driver who is charged with driving a goods vehicle in contravention of a prohibition, but who had no knowledge that the vehicle was prohibited. The amendment extends a corresponding protection to the vehicle operator. In both cases, we are bringing the law on goods vehicles into line with existing provisions for public service vehicles. The provisions in clause 18 are modelled on those in the 1981 Act about public service vehicles.

It is right and reasonable that such protection should be given to vehicle operators. If an operator can prove that he took all reasonable precautions, he should have a defence against conviction. I emphasise that that will in no way weaken the sanctions that are available against the careless or irresponsible operator. The burden of proof remains on the defendant. He will have to convince the court that he exercised all due diligence. The amendment involves protecting people who are in practice innocent of wrongdoing. It is a modest improvement to the law. I hope that it, too, will be welcomed by the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 29, in page 20, line 7, at end insert—

`and the following subsection shall be inserted after that subsection—
"(9A) It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (9)(aa) above to prove that he took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of any offence under that provision.".'.—[The Solicitor-General for Scotland.]