HC Deb 15 May 1963 vol 677 cc1306-7
31. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he proposes to take to curb the increase in drunken driving; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marples

The Road Traffic Act, 1962, which received the Royal Assent last August, made important changes in the law relating to drink and driving. The main provisions were brought into operation on 20th December last year, but it is too early yet to judge how they will work out in practice. Until we can do so, it would be premature to consider further legislation. I can assure the hon. Member, however, that the Government will keep this matter under continuous review.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of the recent passing of the Act, within the last eight weeks chief constables have expressed very grave concern at the mounting toll of drunken driving convictions? Is he aware that one outstanding chief constable has called for drastic action to curb this menace on the road? Will he assure us that the penalties laid down in the Act will at least be enforced?

Mr. Marples

It is not only a matter of enforcing the penalties laid down in the Act. Parts of the Act have not yet been brought into operation. For example, Section 5(4) provides that for a second or subsequent conviction within ten years of a previous conviction for driving under the influence of drink or drugs the penalty shall be obligatory disqualification for not less than three years. This provision will be brought in on 29th May and it would be premature at this stage to prejudge it.

Mr. Awbery

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to suspend the licence of every man who is convicted of driving a car while under the influence of drink? Is he not aware that a fine is easily paid, but that a man will have to take heed if he knows that his licence will be suspended if he is had up for drunken driving?

Mr. Marples

It is not a question of the Minister of Transport making these regulations. They were made by the House of Commons and Parliament itself. All I can do is to act within the framework of the authority which the House has given me.

Mr. Strauss

Is it fair that the Minister should shelter behind the 1962 Act when he was responsible for it and resisted proposals from this side of the House which asked for much sterner measures against drunken drivers?

Mr. Marples

That is less than fair of the right hon. Gentleman. The 1962 Act was virtually a compromise Measure with all hon. Members acting individually. I am bound by the will of the House and I cannot alter it myself.

Sir K. Thompson

On a point of order. In relation to the Question before the last, may I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what has happened to the system whereby Ministers have the courtesy to inform hon. Members that they are to answer later Questions with an earlier Question?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot answer about that. I heard the Minister announcing the numbers of the Questions which he was proposing to answer together.