§ 22. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce legislation to increase the sentences imposed on drivers of vehicles found guilty of driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
§ Mr. Tom Fraser
I have no evidence that the maximum penalties provided by law for this offence are inadequate.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Is my right hon. Friend not conscious of the fact that educational or poster propaganda on this matter has failed up to now to reduce the number of accidents, many of them serious, resulting from drunken driving? Does he not recognise that the recently reduced prices of liquor will do nothing to help him in his campaigns in this regard, and will he consider these people as potential murderers and seek to punish them accordingly?
§ Mr. Fraser
The maximum penalties provided by the law for drunken driving are very high indeed. The minimum disqualification period, for example, for a first offence is one year and for a second offence three years. Very heavy fines may be imposed, and imprisonment of up to two years if the case is heard by a jury or four months for the first offence and six months for the second if it is tried by magistrates. It would be difficult for me to justify increasing the maximum penalties laid down under the law.
§ Mr. Grieve
Does the Minister not think that, while the penalties which may be imposed upon offenders are quite adequate, what is urgently needed is greater education of public opinion so that in proper cases juries are more disposed to convict?
§ Mr. Fraser
That may be so, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman can help me to educate public opinion I will be grateful to him.
§ Mr. John Hall
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of accidents is due to drunken driving or driving while under the influence of drugs?