HC Deb 27 January 1960 vol 616 cc161-2
28. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied that the existing legal penalties for serious road traffic offences are adequate; and, it view of the evidence in favour of heavier deterrent penalties, including disqualification in suitable cases, sent to him by the hon. Member for Islington, what steps he will take to secure an amendment of the law.

Mr. Marples

The whole range of penalties, including disqualification, for road traffic offences was reviewed by Parliament during the passage of the Road Traffic Act of 1956; for a number of offences the punishment was made more severe. In nearly all cases the penalties inflicted by the courts are well below the maxima, and I see no reason to suppose that an increase in those maxima would of itself increase their deterrent effect.

Mr. Fletcher

But does not the Minister agree that something must be done to stop this dreadful carnage on the roads? Cannot he do something to ensure that effect is given to the weighty recommendations of the Magistrates' Association that the most salutary method would be severer penalties?

Mr. Marples

I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that the slaughter on the roads is simply appalling; but the power to inflict the penalties is there, and the willingness to inflict them is a matter for the courts, the magistrates and juries. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's question will result in wider publicity being given to the recommendations which were made.

Mr. Page

Is there any consideration of greater use being made of compulsory disqualification in certain cases?

Mr. Marples

Nothing is excluded from the review now going on: nothing at all. I have tried a number of methods, and I have even tried the breathalyzer myself, but I can assure this House that something must be done to stop accidents on the roads.

Mr. Mellish

The right hon. Gentleman will know that on Friday we are, we hope, to debate the question of a Royal Commission on the whole question of accidents and so on. Will he now say in advance whether he favours such a commission? Has not the time come when some action should be taken by Parliament to ensure that severer action is taken against these offenders?

Mr. Marples

I can understand the hon. Gentleman's impatience, but if we are to have that debate on Friday, would it not be better that I should listen to the views of all Members before making a decision, rather than be dictatorial and announce it now?

Mr. Manuel

What about the Scottish delegation?