HC Deb 03 March 1965 vol 707 cc1306-9
12. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Transport if he will now state the conclusions reached from the comprehensive analysis of Christmas and New Year road deaths, including the extent to which alcohol was a factor.

19. Mr. Henry Clark

asked the Minister of Transport what percentage of motor accidents in the Christmas period was partly or wholly attributable to drunken drivers.

58. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has yet concluded his study of the causes of road deaths last Christmas; to what extent these accidents were caused by the drinking of alcohol; and whether he will make a statement.

61. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the relationship between drinking and road accidents, based on the evidence derived from his study of the statistics over the last Christmas and New Year holidays.

64. Mr. Oakes

asked the Minister of Transport if he has yet completed his study of the causes of road accidents which occurred at Christmas 1964; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Tom Fraser

The final road accident figures for December, 1964, including the Christmas holiday, are being published today, but these do not reveal the factors involved. The Road Research Laboratory is still collecting and analysing detailed information about road accidents at Christmas and the New Year, including the rôle played by alcohol. I do not expect to receive its report until after Easter.

Mr. Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although the campaign against drinking while driving, which was initiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) and continued by the present Minister, has undoubtedly done good, nevertheless the vast majority of people now believe that a more stringent law is required on this subject? Does he agree on this, and, if so, when does he propose to bring forward legislation on the subject?

Mr. Fraser

I understand that there is a Private Member's Bill before the House at present dealing with this matter. If an opportunity is given to me to make my position clear on the Bill when it comes before the House, I think that would be the better way rather than answering off the cuff a question now.

Mr. Clark

No one in the House holds any brief for the drunken driver, or even the drinking driver, but does not the Minister think that the huge emphasis placed just before Christmas on drink as being the main cause for accidents may well have lulled non-drinkers into a sense of false security and increased the accident rate?

Mr. Fraser

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the fact that the Private Member's Bill which he mentioned is concerned with a breathalyzer—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is not."]—would my right hon. Friend consider introducing legislation to make it an offence for a person in charge of a vehicle to have a blood alcohol concentration above a certain figure, for instance 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres? Would he also consider introducing legislation making it possible for police officers to give an opinion as to the extent of a person's intoxication, as this might lead to more convictions?

Mr. Fraser

In the many pronouncements I made in the course of the campaign last Christmas, I made it clear that I was not against the introduction of legislation imposing an upper limit on the amount of alcohol in the blood permitted under the law to a person in charge of a motor car. On those occasions, however, I said that I would be obliged to await the report and the analysis made by the Road Research Laboratory on the check which they were making over the Christmas and New Year period. Since then the Bill to which I have referred has been very properly introduced, and I think that, before I carry the matter any further, it would be preferable to have an opportunity of discussing the Bill on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Oakes

When my right hon. Friend receives the figures of the Road Research Laboratory, will he ask them to differentiate between those drivers who drink regularly and those who do not normally drink throughout the year but have a drink at an office party or with their friends at Christmas? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the results of such analysis may provide some startling information?

Mr. Fraser

I think that the matter to which my hon. Friend has drawn my attention is probably much better considered by the medical authorities than by the Road Research Laboratory. As I expect a further report from them in the next two months, I think I had better not comment on this proposition.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the Minister aware that, when the statistics were collected about road accidents in December, 1963, we were promised that consideration would be given to legislation on this subject? Is it not true that there is a mass of data on this subject, not only from Britain but from the United States, Scandinavia and many other countries in the world? Why is he not in a position at least to make up his mind in principle today about introducing this legislation?

Mr. Fraser

I thought I had given a pretty broad hint to the House that I have accepted this thing. I think that public opinion is now ready for legislation of this kind, but I think that we have to have legislation which will stand up to criticism. Procedures which are accepted in other countries would not be readily accepted in this country. That is why I want to have enough time to consider the advice which I will get from the Road Research Laboratory as well as from the medical authorities.

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