HC Deb 03 April 1947 vol 435 cc2222-3
77. Mrs. Middleton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, imposes disqualification from driving for 12 months unless the Court for special reasons thinks fit to order otherwise; that magistrates have, for the last 17 years, been treating circumstances of great personal hardship as a special reason entitling them to order no disqualification; that, since the recent judgment of the Divisional Court in Whitthall v. Kirby, they cannot do this, even if disqualification will deprive a man of his livelihood; and whether, in these circumstances, he will consider introducing a short amending Bill to restore to the magistrates discretion in these cases.

Mr. Ede

I am not aware of any ground for the suggestion that all courts throughout the country have been adopting a different interpretation of the law from that which has now been authoritatively stated in the judgment to which my hon. Friend refers. Many courts have acted upon a correct view of the law. The question of amending the Road Traffic Acts is one for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and I understand that he sees no reason to consider amendment of the provisions which Parliament in the interest of road safety saw fit to enact in 1930.

Mrs. Middleton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is a discretion which everyone thought that magistrates had under the 1930 Act until quite recently; and will he do what Parliament in those days certainly intended should be done?

Mr. Ede

I was a Member of the House in 1930, and I am quite sure that, at that time, the House was appalled by the amount of death and injury which was caused on the roads by people who drove when they were under the influence of drink. In fact, a part of the difficulty was that under the previous requirement a man had to be drunk before he was convicted, and the doctors said that they did not know what "drunk" was. It was a colloquial term, and, therefore, the phrase in the Act was adopted to make quite certain that people should not be driving on the roads with these lethal weapons, when they were not to a fit state to control them.