HC Deb 04 December 1963 vol 685 cc1127-9
26. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Minister of Transport how many fatal accidents took place in the United Kingdom in 1961, 1962, and up to the latest date in 1963, respectively, involving drunken driving; and what new proposals he has to reverse this trend.

Mr. Marples

In 1961 56 drivers or riders of vehicles involved in fatal road accidents in Great Britain were charged with a drink offence or would have been so charged but for their death. There were 83 such cases in 1962 and 44 in the first nine months of 1963. The figures for 1963 show a reduction of one-third on those for the corresponding period of 1962. As regards the last part of the Question I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 15th May last.

Mr. Dempsey

The figures indicating reductions are welcome. But does not the Minister realise that it is a national scandal that so many good and innocent people should be cut down in this shocking fashion? Does not he realise that he should become a little tougher about the drunken driver? Would he consider brandishing the deterrent of being banned from driving for life in order to minimise, if not eliminate, this type of crime?

Mr. Marples

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am well aware of this menace—and "menace"is the only word I can use. For this reason I tried to introduce additional penalties into the Road Traffic Act, 1962. But I can only be as tough as Parliament will allow when getting a Measure through this House.

Sir C. Osborne

As a drunken driver is about as dangerous as a man with a loaded machine gun, will my right hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to see whether the courts can impose greater penalties for crimes arising from such circumstances?

Mr. Marples

I will bring that supplementary question to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Strauss

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the Opposition wanted him to go further than he did in respect of legislation imposing penalties, and is it not logical, therefore, to argue that his hon. Friends prevented him from going as far as he wanted while we on this side of the House would have supported any further action?.

Mr. Marples

I do not think that I shall enter into a discussion on that controversial point now.