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Deregulation (Motor Vehicles Tests) Order 1996

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 7 May 1996

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8.11 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st April be approved [17th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the draft order amends the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to remove the requirement for parking equipment and devices used by local authorities to be approved by the Secretary of State.

This requirement for approval is a cost to the parking industry and a disincentive to innovation. For a supplier with ideas for a new type of parking meter or ticket machine, it is not enough to find a customer local authority; under present arrangements he or she must also obtain the approval of the Department of Transport. Although the approval process has been made as straightforward as possible, it is not always understood by outsiders, and can be a significant bureaucratic obstacle. The approval requirement also involves a small but significant administrative cost to central and local government.

When parking meters were first introduced some 30 years ago the requirement for approval gave motorists a degree of protection against being charged with an offence based upon faulty equipment. We believe this measure has now outlived its usefulness. A range of British Standards for parking equipment is now available, and local authorities have wide experience of parking control. Meters do go wrong from time to time, but faults usually arise from poor maintenance or vandalism, which the approval process cannot protect against. All things considered, we have concluded that the approval process is now redundant and can safely be removed. I commend the order to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 1st April be approved [ 17th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committed]— (Viscount Goschen.)

My Lords, perhaps I may put the record straight. The Minister has spoken to the second draft order. We should have been discussing the first draft order, but I am perfectly happy to take it in that order if that is permissible.

My Lords, if it is not permissible, the Minister should make another speech.

My Lords, I apologise to the House. I have been guilty of an oversight. I was so excited by the successful completion of the Second Reading of the previous piece of substantial legislation that I reached for the wrong document in my folder.

It might be appropriate if I were to say a few words that are more relevant to the appropriate Motion on the Order Paper. Perhaps noble Lords may reflect that my words may have wider meaning when we discuss the provisions of the second important order.

The draft Deregulation (Motor Vehicles Tests) Order 1996 amends the provisions of Section 48 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 in relation to MoT testing. The purpose of an MoT test is to confirm, once a year, that vehicles are in a roadworthy condition. Section 48 of the Act currently allows motorists to obtain MoT certificates up to one month before the expiry of an existing certificate without incurring any time penalty. In the case of public service vehicles, this concession is for two months. This means that the subsequent certificate can expire up to 13 months after its issue date (or 14 in the case of public service vehicles).

The concession does not exist in relation to the first MoT test certificate at the moment. A motorist may therefore be disadvantaged under the legislation as it stands if his vehicle is MoT tested before it needs to be, since the expiry date of the test certificate will be 12 months after it has been issued. Our objective in proposing the draft deregulation order is to extend the period of validity of the first certificate so that motorists would be able to take advantage of the existing concession which applies to subsequent tests.

We do not believe that the extension of the 13 month certificate concession would give cause for concern on either road safety or environmental protection grounds. We certainly have no evidence to suggest that it would. In our view there would be no significant risks in extending the concession as proposed, especially when it is considered that the vehicles which would be covered by our proposal are much newer than those which already benefit.

With further apologies to the House for my oversight, I cannot move this order now, but I can speak to it.

My Lords, the draft order ends an anomaly which ought to have ended some time ago. I am glad that this draft order has been laid by the Government and I fully support it. I am sorry that the Minister got into some confusion but his sheer glee at getting a Second Reading on a Bill which was largely uncontested is understandable and has clearly led to his state of mind, which is unfortunate but curable.

I wish to address some of the points which were raised by the Select Committee in another place when dealing with these deregulation proposals. The main point relates to the period of consultation. I hope that this will not be taken as a precedent, certainly for more contentious issues. The consultation began on 7th February last year and finished on 27th February. That is on the whole a pretty short time—13 working days. The reason given by the department was that the proposal was likely to be uncontentious. However, the odd thing is that that short period of time was not reflected in the way in which the Government went about dealing with this proposal in terms of laying it before Parliament. It was nine months later that that occurred. I hope, therefore, that a greater period of consultation will be given in the main.

The committee paid a guarded tribute to the Department of Transport. It is right that the Department of Transport, which does not often receive tributes, should have that tribute underlined. It was stated that:
"On this occasion we are glad to see that the Department of Transport used first class post".
That, apparently, is not the practice of the Home Office. I hope that the department continues to use first class post when it is engaged in consultations of this kind. Subject to the point about consultation—I hope that the Government will not use this short period as a precedent—we welcome the draft order.

My Lords, the less I say the better after the earlier inexactitude. On the issue of the consultation process, the time was short. The noble Lord is correct in that regard. However, the arguments were well rehearsed. The industry knew exactly what we had in mind and there were no surprises to come. However, I take the point that the noble Lord makes.

On Question, Motion agreed to.