HC Deb 12 December 1950 vol 482 cc958-9
11. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further action he proposes to take, in the public interest, to increase the penalty imposed on motorists who are found guilty of being under the influence of drink when in charge of a motor car.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

I have been asked to reply. The penalties for this offence provided in Section 15 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, are a fine not exceeding £50, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four months on summary conviction and, in the case of a second of subsequent summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £100, or imprisonment not exceeding four months, or both. On conviction on indictment the penalty is imprisonment not exceeding six months, or a fine, or both imprisonment and fine. The courts are required to disqualify the convicted person for driving for a period of at least 12 months unless they find special reasons for not doing so.

I think that these maximum penalties are adequate. The actual penalties imposed are a matter for the courts: but I am sure that I am correctly interpreting the views of this House in saying that every step should be taken to discourage this offence.

Mr. Rankin

While appreciating that answer, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that a great many people do not consider that these maximum penalties are adequate, and that it might be advisable if he would consider abolishing the optional penalty of the imposition of a fine?

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore

Would it not be easier these days, and certainly more sensible, to deprive these people of the drink?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend consider relating the penalties more closely to the actual damage done by the drunken motorists? Is he aware that there are cases in which a drunken motorist has not been made civilly liable for injuries caused by his drunkenness?

Mr. Barnes

My hon. and learned Friend ought to appreciate that I cannot determine the penalty for each individual offence. I must prescribe the maximum penalty and then allow for the discretion of the court. It is hardly for me to determine what penalty the courts should impose.

Lord John Hope

Surely there ought to be the power to disqualify for life?