§ 8 and 9. Mr. C. Osborne
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he is aware that a motorist in England who fails to stop and report an accident can be fined only £20, and that, during 1958, the average fine imposed was 56s., whereas in New Zealand a similar case involving injury can be punished by a £500 fine or five years' imprisonment; if he will repeat the advice given by the then Lord Chancellor and circulated by his predecessor to magistrates after the passing of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, and urge magistrates to impose greater fines in such cases; if he will introduce legislation to increase the maximum penalties; and if he will make a statement;
(2) if he is aware that the average fine imposed in England in 1957 was £14 3s. 10d. for dangerous driving, whereas the maximum is £100 and, in 1958, it was under £14; if he will repeat the advice given by the then Lord Chancellor and circulated by his predecessor to magistrates after the passing of the Road Traffic Act, 1956, urging magistrates to impose the maximum fine more often; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
My noble Friend the Lord Chancellor suggested in the course of the debates on the Road Traffic Bill of 1956 that magistrates might be well advised to review the scale of the penalties which they customarily impose in motoring cases. He has since repeated this advice and I have no reason to think that magistrates are unaware of it or of the importance which Parliament attaches to this problem. I believe that courts have been reviewing their penalties and I understand that when figures for 1959 are available they will show some increase in average fines and in the use of disqualification.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has already made clear the Government's concern with the whole question of road safety, and I shall keep in close touch with him in the consideration which he is giving to it.
§ Mr. Osborne
In the first place, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be much better to impose heavy fines than to send men to prison for short sentences? Secondly, does he agree that the fines which have been imposed are rather footling? In view of the fact that the value of money has fallen so much since the maximum fine was imposed years ago, will he urge the magistrates' courts to make use of the maximum penalties now in their hands?
§ Mr. Butler
Yes, the Lord Chancellor is seized of these matters. This is why I referred in my Answer to his initiative. With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I cannot interfere with the administration of justice, but on the whole I would rather people did not go to prison.