HC Deb 26 July 1974 vol 877 cc1990-1

11.8 a.m.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

I beg to move Amendment No. 55, in page 3, line 33, at end insert: `and (d) subsequent death of the person alleged in the statutory statement of facts to be the driver of the vehicle at the relevant time shall discharge the liability of any other person for the offence specified in the notice'. The purpose of this probing amendment, which follows a short debate in the upper House when the Bill was debated there in the last Parliament, is to establish that no liability will fall on an innocent person through the demise of the real offender after signing a declaration that he or she was the driver of the vehicle concerned.

I am aware that there are difficulties about this matter, as there are other categories where similar problems could apply—for example, when someone has emigrated or been sent abroad on business after having signed such a declaration.

I should like an assurance from the Minister that in such cases the matter will not merely be left to the common sense of the police. I am not in any way decrying that common sense. However, I am anxious to ensure that there are sufficient safeguards and that there will be no basic unfairness on this point.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon)

The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry) asked for an assurance about the signature on the statement of facts by a man—who subsequently dies—that he was the driver of the car. That is the precondition of having a statement of facts under the Bill that we have introduced. This is a change from the Bill as it appeared in the last Parliament, because now, under Schedule 1, the alleged driver has to sign the statement of facts. In that case, it may be that the amendment is slightly defective, but I make no point about that.

The hon. Gentleman asks that if a person signs and is subsequently found to have died the police will not prosecute. I am bound to tell the hon. Gentleman that it is unlikely that they would ever do so in those circumstances. But if there were reason to think that there had been some collusion between the owner and the alleged driver to sign, clearly the police must have the power, if need be, to go ahead. Since, in the limited circumstances of that nature, the power would be required, it is better to leave it to the discretion of the police. The hon. Gentleman may be assured that in those circumstances no innocent owner would ever be prosecuted.

Mr. Fry

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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