HC Deb 20 December 1967 vol 756 cc1249-50
24. Mr. Murray

asked the Minister of Transport whether she can now give figures on road casualties in the period following the introduction of the new provisions on drink and driving.

Mr. John Morris

As my right hon. Friend said yesterday in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), road casualties in Great Britain during the period 9th to 31st October, 1967, showed a 12 per cent. reduction over the corresponding period in 1966.

The reduction was most marked in the evening and late at night. For October as a whole, fatal and serious casualties between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. were 36 per cent. less than last year.

Mr. Murray

Is my hon. Friend aware that the whole House welcomes these figures, which show a drastic reduction as a result of the use of the breathalyser? Does the Ministry intend to answer the misleading points made by the National Council of the retail liquor trade, including some wild allegations? Are the figures in any way due to a fall in traffic?

Mr. Morris

I am grateful for the remarks of my hon. Friend. Traffic volumes rose by 4.4 per cent. compared with a similar period in the previous year. In an endeavour to give my hon. Friend the actual times—say, between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.—it appears that a decrease has occurred in line with the general trend, but we do not have the figures for after 10 o'clock at night.

Miss Quennell

Is it now possible accurately to quantify the various factors in the global fall in road deaths?

Mr. Morris

It all depends on what the hon. Lady means by "accurately". These are the latest available figures. They are as accurate as we can get them in relation to what actually happened in October. However, I should warn the House of the danger of relying on one month's figures alone, because it is possible to have variations. I am merely saying that these figures give us ground for cautious optimism and that it appears that the law is working.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has the Minister no sympathy with the brewers and distillers, whose profits and dividends may go down? Has he no sympathy with hon. Gentlemen opposite who usually get so much from these sources?

Mr. Morris

The Act was not aimed at brewers, drinkers or motorists. It was aimed at the combination of people drinking and driving. I believe that we carried the whole House, Conservative and Labour hon. Members alike, on the major aim of the proposal.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

While the figures for October are, of course, satisfactory, has not the time arrived for the Minister now to encourage publicans to sell breathalysers so that the public may know whether or not they are safe to drive upon leaving public houses?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has no interest in the sale of breathalysers. I can give him the additional assurance that the early figures we have for November show a similar trend. As to the sale of breathalysers, I have explained to him before that certain dangers might arise in that people might be encouraged to drink up to the limit. It might well be that, when a person tests himself, he may catch himself on the rising curve, but half an hour later that curve may have caught up with him, whereupon he would find himself in very great difficulty and may blame the breathalyser.