Mr. Frank Hooky (Sheffield, Heeley)
I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 27, after 'may', to insert 'at any time'.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I suggest that it would be convenient for the House to discuss, at the same time the following Amendments: No. 4, in line 30, leave out from 'nearby' to end of line 33 and insert:'and for that purpose may, without prejudice to section 223 of the principal Act (power of police to stop vehicles on roads), require a person driving a motor vehicle on any such place to stop the vehicle'.
§ Amendment No. 5, in line 30, leave out from 'nearby' to end of line 33.
§ Mr. Hooley
That is satisfactory.
The purpose of this series of Amendments will be clear. It is to introduce the principle of random tests. This matter has been debated at length, both on Second Reading and in Committee. In general, I deprecate the practice of rehearsing on the Floor of the House matters that have been gone into at considerable length in Committee. On this occasion, however, I believe that the road casualties of Christmas, 1966, provide ample justification for my raising this matter again and urging my right hon. Friend to accept the principle of random tests. The appalling casualty rate at Christmas time outraged and shocked the entire nation and provoked comment in all responsible newspapers. That comment was, I believe, though I cannot 1189 quote chapter and verse, almost unanimous in condemning drink as a main cause of those casualties.
I do not want to quote at length from the various newspapers, but I should like to mention one piece of evidence from a man whose grisly task it was to cope with the results of this carnage at Christmas time. He was a doctor at the Birmingham Accident Hospital and was on duty over the Christmas holiday period. He said that there was no doubt about the serious effects of Christmas drinking. Friday and Christmas Eve had followed the same pattern: relatively quiet until 11 p.m.—the city's closing time; then very busy till 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve and till 5 a.m. on Christmas Day, with Christmas parties tending to go on rather longer on Christmas Eve than on the Friday. In London the busiest time for 999 calls was, as always, what the ambulance men call the "last party day"—this time it was the Friday, when office parties were in full swing. I have no doubt that hospitals and surgeons all over the country could provide evidence similar to that produced by the Birmingham Accident Hospital and the London hospitals.
If it is accepted, and I think that it is fairly generally accepted, that the drink is a serious contributory cause of accidents on the road, would it help to have random tests as part of this Bill? There is, after all, fairly strong scientific means of testing whether or not people have alcohol in their blood. Would it be of any additional use to make a random test possible under this legislation? Here I must call in evidence what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said in Committee. His words were:I would be the first to agree that the Bill will be less of a deterrent, even though a new substantive offence is created, without random checks."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, Standing Committee E; 29th November, 1966; c. 128.]We want a Bill that is not less but more of a deterrent, and such a provision would, on the evidence of the Government Front Bench itself, make this Measure a more deterrent and more effective piece of legislation.
One of the arguments that have been advanced against purely random tests is that they would cause great damage to relations between the general motoring 1190 public and the police. Referring to this point on Second Reading, the Minister was at pains to point out:There can … be no question of the police setting up traps just round the corner from a public house and waiting to pounce."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 987.]In other words, under this Bill it is not intended to give the police some sort of special right of persecution of motorists, but I suggest that the Bill as it stands is likely to be more damaging to relations with the police than would be the introduction of the principle of random tests.
What does the Bill say? The words are:… if the constable has reasonable cause to suspect him of having alcohol in his body …I defy any constable to decide, merely by seeing the car travelling along the road, whether its driver has any alcohol in his body—short of the very extreme case where the car is being driven all over the road. The only way in which a policeman can have reasonable cause to suspect that a driver has been consuming alcohol is to be somewhat near to a place where it is known that alcohol is consumed, and to watch the person driving away from that place. Since in a private house there may or may not be a party going on at any time, the only place where one can reasonably suspect that some motorist has been consuming alcohol is at a public house, and if a constable must have cause before being able to pull up a motorist and requiring him to take a test it seems to me that he is forced to be at a place on the highway at a time of day or night where and when it is reasonable to suppose that a motorist has been drinking.
If we adopt the random test principle there is no slur or stigma whatever on a motorist being pulled up and required to take a breath test. If it were known that the police had a perfectly random power to require this test to be taken it would be clear that perfectly innocent people could be asked to undergo the test, and this would in no way imply that the police had any cause at all to suspect that the driver had been consuming alcohol.
Let me put the matter in this way. In the past four weeks I have twice been stopped by the police, who were making a random check about stolen vehicles. 1191 They stopped me in my car and asked if I would be kind enough to produce some evidence that it was my car. This I did, and that was the end of the matter. I said "Good night", and we parted company. The police had no reason to suppose that I was driving a stolen vehicle—no reason at all; they were simply making a random anti-crime check, as they call it, of people travelling on that bit of road at that time of night. I might add that in one case I was stopped within a half-mile of this House, and on the other occasion it was near my own constituency. In neither case did I have any resentment about being pulled up. It was a routine check being made by the police, and no stigma attached to me. The police had no possible reason to suspect that I had committed any crime.
If we included in this Bill the principle of the random check there could be no slur or stigma on anyone pulled up, as it would be generally known that the police had this power and could exercise it at any reasonable time on any part of the highway. If we leave the Bill as it stands and I am stopped by the police, who say, "We want you to take a breath test," I suggest that there is an implied slur. The implication is that the constable has some cause—I do not know what cause it could be—to stop me to undergo a breath test; that he has some cause to suspect that I was drinking before setting out in my car.
Even though there may be no justification at all for it, the slur is there, and if some of my constituents chanced to see me pulled up by the police for this purpose, they might ask, "What reason have the police for supposing that he had been drinking before getting into his car? He is a man who says that he does not drink, but obviously the police have cause to suspect that he has been drinking"— and not only that but that I had been drinking and then driving. On the random test principle they could not say that. If the test were purely random, a complete teetotaller or a regular drinker can be tested and no stigma would attach to him.
I fail to see how a random test could impair relations between the motoring public and the police. Obviously the police will exercise this power with discretion, as they 1192 exercise their other powers. The mere fact that they had it would act as a deterrent to the irresponsible section of the motoring community who, at the moment, think that they can drive better when they have consumed five whiskies than anyone can drive when he is stone-cold sober.
My hon. Friends and I introduce this Amendment in no hostile or carping spirit. I am sure that my hon. Friends would wish me to congratulate the Minister on bringing this legislation forward into a heavy legislative programme. It is legislation which is long overdue. It should have been introduced 10, 15, perhaps 20 years ago. We welcome the legislation, but we believe that the principle of random tests would provide a stiffer deterrent and, so far from impairing relations with the police, would make them better than they will be under the present provisions.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
If the hon. Member's suggestion were adopted, where would we find all the police to do this work?
§ Mr. Hooley
I have already covered that point. Obviously the police would exercise the same discretion in making random tests as under the provisions whereby they are supposed to have some suspicion before they make a test. There would be no reason to make more or fewer tests.
I close my speech by quoting from a newspaper with whose political outlook I do not very much agree, but which I think has put its views on this matter very cogently. The Daily Mail said:Plans to allow random tests were abandoned because the motoring lobby claimed that it would be a gross infringement of individual freedom. Of course it would! It would attack the freedom of motorists to kill and injure innocent people through their own lack of thought.It would attack the freedom to roar off from the public-house in a spurious glow of confidence and speed fearlessly through a built-up area. It would attack the freedom to saturate the reactions with so much alcohol that all judgment, timing and driving skill is lost. Are these freedoms worth defending? … Random breath tests and stiffer penalties should bring home to every motorist what exhortation has so far failed to do—the fact that drunken driving is a risk not worth taking. The only people who need fear for their personal liberty are those who should not have been driving.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerry Fowler (The Wrekin)
There seem to be three occasions, by the terms of the Clause as at present drawn, when the police would require the administration of a test. The first is by the terms of paragraph (b) when the police have reason to suspect a motorist ofhaving committed a traffic offence while the vehicle was in motion".In those circumstances we should be closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. We would be saying that the test should be administered to a motorist when he has already committed an offence, perhaps already been involved in an accident or is on the point of being involved in an accident, and when it would be very likely that if he were left alone he would be involved in an accident. Of course we want the police to have the right to stop motorists and to administer a test in those circumstances, but that does not take us very much further forward.
In Committee an hon. Member said that in only 6 per cent. of accidents is it demonstrable that drink has been a contributory cause. So it is in the present state of the law, but very few would believe that in only 6 per cent. of accidents does a drink make a contribution. It may not be demonstrable, but there is a fair amount of evidence that drink affects people's driving even thought it cannot be said under the present state of the law to impair it. By paragraph (b) we shall be catching many of these offenders. We shall be able to demonstrate for the first time, as the law will then be, that drink was a contributory factor. That is fair enough, but it does not take us very much further.
We are left with paragraph (a) which tells us that the police can demand the administration of the test when they have cause to suspect a motoristof having alcohol in his body".The police would have reason to suspect a man of having alcohol in his body if he was coming out of a pub, for the simple reason that 99 per cent. of people who go into pubs have something to drink and there is alcohol in the drink. Some people go into a public house merely for a sandwich or a lemonade, but such people are few and far between.
1194 It is absurd to say that the police will not set up traps under the terms of this Bill. It is not a question of a trap if a policeman stands 100 yards away from a pub, sees a man go into the pub and get into his car half an hour later and then says that he has reason to believe that the man has alcohol in his body. He has a perfectly good reason to suspect that. We are wasting our time when we give assurances that the law will not be applied rigorously. It is inevitable that the police will stop motorists in those circumstances. I think it right and proper, and I hope that we shall not be told again today that the police will not stop people in those circumstances.
I said in Committee and I make no apology for repeating it that what worries me is that the Christmas statistics were terrifying and were not only the result of drinking in public houses but also partly of drinking at private parties. Although the police may stop people who have been drinking on licensed premises, under the terms of the Bill as at present drawn they will not stop them when they have been drinking privately, perhaps to a much greater degree—when they have been at a party or in a restaurant which has a licence, or when they are leaving this Palace. Anyone leaving this Palace might have been drinking, but the police would not have reasonable cause to suspect him.
Nor would the police have reasonable cause to suspect, if they saw two or three people coming out of a private house where they might have been at a party that they have been drinking. We are saying that we shall deliberately encourage a change in the social habits of this country away from drinking on public licensed premises towards the Swedish pattern of drinking in private. What evidence there is does not suggest that drinking in private—particularly if one looks at the Swedish evidence, of which there is a fair amount—is in any way preferable to drinking in public licensed premises and then driving.
Mr. J. T. Price
Whatever the Swedish experience may be, would not my hon. Friend agree that there is a good deal of evidence available about this matter in Canada? From coast to coast, social legislation about public drinking is so severe that people tend to over-drink in 1195 private, and instead of having a couple of drops of whisky for the journey, they buy a bottle and consume it before resuming the journey, because if they are caught carrying whisky on the journey they will be guilty of an offence. So Canadian experience is also valuable in this connection.
§ Mr. Fowler
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that remark. It seems to me inevitable that if the Bill is passed in the form in which it is we shall encourage people to drink heavily in private rather than in public.
The third occasion on which the police will be able to demand the administration of a test by the terms of this Bill is when they have already stopped a motorist for another reason. Here I would quote from what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris), said in the Standing Committee, thatalready under Section 223"—that is, of the principal Act of 1960—the police have wide powers to stop any vehicle. They use those powers in their general enforcement of the law; for example, when they are searching for stolen goods, checking up on people late at night on some of our great motorways, and checking up on law breaking generally. The police have very wide powers, and there is no change under the present Bill. But having stopped a vehicle a constable has power to ask a person to undergo a breath test only if he has reasonable cause to suspect that person of having alcohol in his body".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 29th November, 1966; c. 129.]That is, he smells his breath. I think that is the easiest way to put it. What we are saying is that the third occasion on which the police stop a man is because and merely because the police are doing a general check to find stolen vehicles or stolen goods, and so on, under their powers generally to stop a motorist, and that they can then take this test.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) that this will have the most serious effect on the relations between the police and the public. It seems to me arrant nonsense to suggest that there would be a greater deterioration if the Bill were redrafted to permit the police to impose purely random spot checks. I would resent it very much—and I think I speak 1196 for most hon. Members—if I were stopped merely because the police had decided that they would have a general check on licences in a certain area and while they were checking my licence they also said, "You have been drinking. Will you please breathe into this bag". Perhaps I would not have been drinking very much, but my resentment would be the greater than if I knew in advance that the police had powers to stop me at any time for that specific reason of imposing the breath test.
In the most perfect police force things are not always right, and we cannot expect them to be, and if the police should—I am not suggesting they will—but should be tempted to set up a check on licences, or a check for stolen vehicles, but with the motive of imposing what would be in effect random breath tests on motorists, there would be a very serious worsening in the relations between the police and the public in that area.
So my view of this is that we should introduce random tests, for the reasons that, firstly, the Clause, as drawn at the moment, does not go far enough; secondly, it changes our social habits in a way that I do not much desire, namely, by encouraging the habit of drinking in private rather than in public; and, thirdly, it would lead to a greater deterioration in the relations between the police and the public than would random tests.
§ Mr. Bessell
I must confess that I have been in extreme difficulty in trying to decide whether one should support or not support this Amendment. I recall that when this Bill first saw the light of day many people—and I was among them—felt that it was quite wrong that the police should have the right to stop any drivers without any cause whatsoever and require them to take a breath test to see whether they had consumed a quantity of alcohol likely to cause them to be dangerous drivers. I was very glad indeed when the right hon. Lady amended her Bill and that we now have a Clause which requires a constable to have "reasonable cause" to suspect that the driver has been drinking.
I believe that this is important because it preserves an essential part of the law of the land. I believe, too, that I am right in saying that there is no example 1197 of the police being allowed to search, or to require any individual to undergo any sort of test, unless the police have reasonable cause for suspecting that a person is committing an offence. It is a fact, for example, that the Customs and Excise officers have no right to search under the Customs and Excise Act unless they have reasonable cause to suppose that a person is smuggling.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
The police can only use the powers the hon. Member mentions when the offence is a serious one. At present, it must be a felony, and the abolishing of the difference between misdemeanours and felonies, as I understand it, means that those powers will still apply only to serious offences.
§ Mr. Bessell
I am grateful for that intervention. It supports the point I am trying to make, namely, that if the Bill had not been amended in this way it would have been a departure in law which, I feel, would have been a very serious one and certainly could not have been taken lightly.
This is not to say I am not concerned, as hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned, that this Bill should be effective, but I am not convinced that by rewording this Clause again in the way they suggest to the House it should be done would make it any more effective, because if the police have the right to stop a driver, or a person about to drive a car, whom they consider is likely to be suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, I am perfectly certain the police will use it scrupulously, and that it will result in many convictions which would not otherwise have taken place.
It is certainly necessary there should be tests of this sort; indeed, this is the whole purpose of the Clause; but what is the case for suspecting a person is intoxicated? I would suggest that, if someone staggers forth from a public house, or even, if I may say so with respect, an hon. Member staggers from the entrance to this House, in a condition in which he is clearly unfit to drive a car, or so that it appears that he is either very tired or possibly under the influence of alcohol, then it would be right for the police, assuming they can see external signs of this, to require him to take a breath test.
§ Mr. Fowler
Would the hon. Gentleman accept that the Clause as drafted says that if the constable hasreasonable cause to suspect him of having alcohol in his body"?It is not that he is intoxicated or impaired or unfit to drive.
§ Mr. Bessell
No. This is, I recognise, a point, but I think the reason why it is worded in this way is that it is so difficult to define what is a dangerous amount of alcohol, and, therefore, if the police officer smells a person's breath or sees him staggering a little, or sees some outward sign of intoxication, it is right the police should have this right, which the Bill provides, to require that person to undertake a test. If we say that anybody can be stopped, that we can set up a police block on any road, take any one driver in 10—I am using that figure of 1 in 10 merely as an example—it means that instead of the police pursuing actively cases which are obvious, they will be again and again stopping people who in the vast majority of cases will be found to be innocent. This would take the police away from the valuable and important task of trying to catch people about whom they have a reasonable suspicion.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Mapp
There are two points involved at this stage. I should like the opinion of the hon. Gentleman, who has legal knowledge. I am not legal. Take the case of two people going down a highway, one without a car and one with. As I understand the law, a policeman is entitled to stop me if I am a pedestrian and ask me preliminary questions in the pursuit of his duty. I should like to know whether the difference of the machine confers on the motorist now any different legal right in respect of being asked preliminary questions about his conduct.
Secondly, if a policeman stops me with a car, and my first half-dozen words or my attitude lead him to believe that I might have been drinking, what is wrong with that? If I have not been drinking what liberty have I lost in simply responding to the normal appeal of a police officer?
§ Mr. Bessell
Like other hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman has flattered me by suggesting that I am a lawyer. I am not. I have no knowledge of the 1199 law beyond that of a layman. However, I know that it is a fact that although one may be stopped by the police and asked many questions, there is absolutely no obligation on one to answer them. I believe that this is a distinction which has always been made in law, and that is why I object to the suggestion in the Amendment of a departure.
I hope that I have made my point clear. I believe that, while a great deal of sympathy must be expressed for the point of view which has been given to the House in these Amendments, and while I think that at a later stage, if the Bill does not prove to be effective in its present form, there could be a strong argument for introducing an Amendment on these lines, I am anxious that the police shall not be encumbered by the carrying out of random tests which are likely to involve a great many innocent people. I would prefer that the all too limited strength of the police should be concentrated upon the people whom they have cause to believe are likely to be a danger to the public and to the life and safety of other road users.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Healey (Mr. Hooley) I have no wish to go over old ground covered in Committee, but I hope that I can emphasise the point that he made, that after the Christmas disaster—"disaster" is the only word with which to describe the total of road accidents and casualties last Christmas—I trust that my right hon. Friend will, even at this late stage, return to her first love.
In moving the Second Reading of the Bill, my right hon. Friend made very clear that she favoured the random check in the first instance, and that she had been persuaded by evidence and representations put to her that that provision should go and that the Clause as it now stands should be substituted for it.
Like the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), I am not a lawyer, but I think that we take the general point that when the House introduces new laws we should be very careful that they are reasonable and are generally acceptable to the public. This is a very important point, which was made during the Second Reading, and we should take notice of it.
1200 But we must go on to ask: acceptable to whom? I have no doubt that various representations have been made, and we must look for evidence of feeling on the matter. If I wished, I could adduce evidence of the 1966 General Election. The noble Lord who was my predecessor in my constituency led the opposition to the first Bill as it was originally drafted. He made a number of speeches in the constituency about it, and I also made a few. This received a great deal of Press coverage. It may not be good evidence, but the fact remains that I won the constituency at the General Election.
One assumes that the main weight of evidence brought to bear in favour of the Bill as it now stands and against random checks must have come from the main motoring organisations. I declare an interest here because I am a member of one of the large national motoring organisations. I should like to say, in the kindest possible way, that there are at least one or two occasions each year when I determine very forcibly that I will never pay my subscription again. Unfortunately, the time of the year comes round when I realise the very considerable services that this motoring organisation provides for me, and I weaken when the time comes and pay.
However, I am very sorry that this kind of pressure has persuaded my right hon. Friend to emasculate what I believe was a first-class Bill. It seems to me to be illogical to say, as all responsible motorists and motoring organisations do, that one must not drink and drive, and yet, when it comes to the point of decision, also say that we must be careful that we do not introduce a form of checking and enforcement which will cause inconvenience to motorists. That is what it is all about.
There is no point in going over old ground again, but I have three questions to ask my right hon. Friend. The first was raised by the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) in an intervention on the question of the logistics. It is true that we are already short of police and that the Bill, as now drafted, will impose further burdens on them. But I wonder whether the burdens imposed by properly set up random checks would be any different from those which will presumably be imposed if the police, in their wisdom, decide to start a 1201 special series of checks of licences, stopping at white lines, or whatever the cause for stopping motorists may be.
In any case, can my right hon. Friend tell me whether all police vehicles will carry the testing equipment? I should have thought that if we were talking about costs and logistics, it might be argued that a limited number of random checks would cut the amount of equipment needed and that the equipment could then be used regularly and most economically. So I should like to know how the system will operate.
Secondly, I am worried about "reasonable cause". What is the position of a motorist who is stopped for some purpose by the police—perhaps the police are checking for stolen cars—and is asked to take a test and refuses? Under the provisions of the Bill, he has then committed an offence. I am worried about the position if the motorist happens to be wealthy enough to be able to employ a first-class barrister. In that situation there might be a very long legal argument in court. Might not general unfairness arise because one man is able to have such assistance and another not?
Thirdly, what instructions will be given to chief constables about the way in which they should operate the Clause? We have heard many different versions. We are told that we shall, in effect, have a kind of random check because this is the way that it will work. Are we to get random checks by the police when they say that they are checking for something else? That will immediately upset motorists. Are the police going to lie in wait and check on something else in order to make a check of this kind? If this is the case, does not my right hon. Friend think that it will cause even greater deterioration in the relations between motorists and police?
I have tried to find evidence of this strong feeling. I tried seriously during the Christmas Recess to find it among my fellow motorists, and, if I may say so, among my fellow drinkers. When the issues were put squarely to them—the choice between the position as set out in the Clause and random checks—everybody to whom I spoke agreed that it would be much better to have an objective, simply stated random test than all 1202 the suspicion which might arise as a result of the present one.
Like my hon. Friends, I welcome the Bill very much. I welcome the offence which is created and the provisions for enforcement which are already in the first part of the Bill. I make this plea to my right hon. Friend. We now have an opportunity to make it clear once and for all that we mean business on the question of drink and driving. If we cannot make this alteration now, I ask her to think about it and, when the Bill is in another place, to take that opportunity of making enforcement really effective.
§ Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
I go a long way with the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). During the time I have been in the House I have tried to do a small amount for road safety. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members opposite who are new to the House are taking up the question of road safety with such vigour and helpfulness, because this activity is saving lives and limbs.
When the original Bill was introduced in the last Parliament, I was never one of those who was vigorously opposed to random tests. I tried to weigh up what would be the best answer for the public in general and for motorists in particular. However, I have come to the conclusion that any law enacted by Parliament must be accepted by the public as being fairly reasonable. We must ensure that the law we make can and will be enforced. If new laws are not respected, and if people know that they can get away with contravening them, the efforts we take are hardly worth our time.
The tragedy of the road accident figures last Christmas has been referred to, and also the consequent publicity the Minister got for the Bill. However, road accidents are occurring all the time. They do not happen only at Christmas, although they may be more highlighted then because of Chistmas drinking. We should take account of that consideration in formulating our attitude to the Bill.
During the Christmas Recess I carried out some investigations. I talked to the police. I remind the House that in Committee a Government spokesman said that breathalysers would be carried only by 1203 mobile squads of the police. I do not know what instructions will go to chief constables. I hope that their hands will not be entirely tied. These tests will be carried out by only a small section of the police force, we are told. The procedure will be new. The penalties when people are caught will be severe.
It may well be that in two or three years' time much more drastic action will have to be taken, if the Bill does not work. I believe that it would be going too far to go the whole way now. The Minister, on the evidence placed before her, has reached the same conclusion. At the moment we have probably got this somewhere near right, with the ability of the police to enforce this provision when the Bill is enacted, and having made the first impact on people that if their ability to drive is impaired they can lose their licences for a year without their having been drunk. If this is not enough, we shall have to go further.
The right hon. Lady has promised us that this is only one of a series of Road Safety Bills. We shall look to her, or to a successor from this party when we are returned to power, to bring in a Bill to carry this the whole way. I believe that the Amendment would go too far to be acceptable to the public, would impose too great a burden on the police, and would strain their relations with the public to an unacceptable extent. Therefore, I could not support the Amendment.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Awdry
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) brought party politics into this matter. I do not propose to go down that road. We have had no party politics so far on the Bill.
I must admit that when I first considered the Bill I did not see any great objection to random tests, although most of my hon. Friends entirely disagreed with me. What had the innocent motorist to fear, the argument ran, because there would be a negative report on him and there would be no slur on his character?
Having since given the matter much thought, I now realise that the Minister was quite right to discard random checks. I hope that she will not change her mind tonight. It must have been a very difficult decision indeed for the right hon. 1204 Lady, and I hope that she will not have third thoughts.
I believe that some misundertading has arisen in the minds of hon. Members and of the general public. Some people seem to think that the argument is all about the power of the police to stop motorists. Police constables already have complete powers to stop motorists under Section 223 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. The question is not about stopping motorists. The question is about applying this preliminary breath test.
The commonsense of the matter—here I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell)—is that police officers should be allowed to apply tests if they have any reason to believe that an offence is being committed. We have an Amendment down to that effect. It will be debated later, so I will not anticipate that question. If this Amendment were accepted tests would be applied completely regardless of whether a police officer had any suspicion of any offence. Apart from anything else, it would be a colossal waste of police manpower at a time when manpower is very short.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) said that there will not be a waste, because policemen will use their discretion—in other words, police officers would act only if they had some suspicion. That is the end of random checking, anyway.
More important, I believe that there will be a wave of discontent against the police if the Amendment were accepted. It is absolutely vital that the police should get the public's co-operation. It may be, as the hon. Member for Heeley said, that hon. Members would not mind being stopped. Perhaps the general public would not mind being stopped, but I think that members of the general public would strongly resent having to blow into a bag. I could imagine resentment arising in many instances, for example when doctors were answering calls and were asked to stop or when family men out for a drive at the weekend were asked to stop for several minutes while a bag was produced and they were asked to blow into it. This would make for bad relations with the police. Finally, it would be a great intrusion on personal liberty. I urge the Minister to stick to her guns.
§ Mr. John Ellis (Bristol, North-West)
Will the hon. Gentleman concede that people are very concerned about road safety? In an effort to save lives and to deter motorists from driving whilst their ability to drive was impaired, people would be willing to stop and blow into a bag, even though this necessitated a delay of a few minutes.
§ Mr. Awdry
I assure the hon. Gentleman that hon. Members on both sides are deeply concerned about road safety. This point came out clearly in our debates in Standing Committee. Both sides agreed. It is a question of judgment as to how this aspect is dealt with.
I doubt if the hon. Gentleman is right. There may be some public spirited people who will not in the least mind being delayed for ten minutes whilst a machine is produced and they blow into a bag. Others will become very angry at being stopped when they are in a hurry and are on the way to some function and have to keep their families waiting while they get out of the car and blow into a bag.
This must be a matter of judgment. The hon. Gentleman has his opinion I have mine. I believe that the public would regard this as an intrusion into their liberty and I ask the Minister to stick to her guns.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) in the Amendment which he has moved, and at the same time I ask leave to propose Amendment No. 4—
§ Mr. Lyon
Then I shall speak about it, Mr. Speaker. Amendment No. 4, to which I and my hon. Friends have put our names, is to the same effect as Amendment No. 2, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Heeley, and, in fact, I prefer his wording. The only reason why I put down Amendment No. 4 is that it uses the words which appeared in the original Bill introduced before the last election. I am anxious that we should not be met by a reply from the Government in the stock phrase that the drafting of the Amendment leaves something to be desired. If the drafting of Amendment No. 4 leaves some- 1206 thing to be desired, it is the Government's fault because they used those words themselves. I could carry the argument a little further, perhaps for the amusement of hon. Members, if I were to quote in support of my Amendment the arguments which were put by my right hon. Friend the Minister in moving the Second Reading of the Bill which she introduced before the last election. But this matter is far too serious for the making of points at the Minister's expense.
When my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department closed the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill, he finished in ringing tones by telling us that in Austria the effect of introducing such proposals had been to cut the casualty rate by about one-third and that in this country it was expected that there would be a saving in the casualty rate of between 18,000 and 32,000. That sounds well enough, but what struck me as he said that was concern for the 56,000 to 96,000 who would not be saved by the provisions of the Bill. I am interested in getting the maximum effect from the proposals in Part I so that we shall substantially reduce the number of casualties each year.
There is no question but that the country ardently wants the sort of objective test of impairment provided for in the Bill and would be prepared to accept it wholeheartedly. The question then arises: how best do we enforce this new law, how best do we use it so that it has the maximum deterrent effect?
There has been, in my opinion, some loose talk from various parts of the House to the effect that, if we were to have wholesale random checks, we would not have the police to supervise them and the system would put an intolerable strain upon them in the time which they have available. In my view, this is to overlook the nature of the power which is to be given in random checking. It is not that there will be a trap set by the police where motorists would be channelled into a particular avenue and then be checked, a number of policemen being engaged on the duty. The wholesale random check simply gives to a police constable in uniform the power at any time to stop a motor vehicle and to ask that the driver take a breathalyser test. 1207 That is all that was intended in the previous Bill and all that I intend by Amendment No. 4. It means that there would be a power to he used whenever the police constable thought fit, and he would never be liable to an action for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution or anything else simply because he stopped a vehicle and asked the driver to take a test. It would be a protection for the policeman in any event, and it would not necessarily mean that there would be traps set all over the country. It would simply mean that, wherever he considered it right, a police constable could stop a car and apply a test.
What would be the effect of introducing such wholesale random tests? In my view, there would be the maximum deterrent effect. My right hon. Friend the Minister thought the same when she introduced the Bill before the election. She then said:If we want a deterrent, there could be no more effective way than for people to realise that there would always be a possibility of their being asked to undertake a random test." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1966; Vol. 724. c. 661.]This is the whole point. If, in administering this new law, we are merely to say that no person will be charged with an offence unless he is found to be committing or to have committed a moving traffic offence, for example, then the damage will have been done before he is about to be prosecuted. We must introduce into the application of this new law a system of random tests so that there is uncertainty about when a person will be stopped, an uncertainty which in itself will breed the deterrent effect. People will be careful about the amount of drink they consume—indeed, they will be careful not to consume drink at all when driving—if the Bill has the maximum deterrent effect. What we are arguing about here is how to achieve it.
Unfortunately, there are two views about the effect of the Bill if passed in its unamended form. I take the view that there will, in fact, be power to administer random checks at will by the police. I tried to make this point on Second Reading, I was glad to see that it was discussed at some length in Committee, and it has been raised tonight, but I shall rehearse it again for those who, perhaps, have not heard it.
1208 Under Section 223 of the principal Act, a person must stop if he is asked to do so by a police constable in uniform. Therefore, the power to stop exists. Once a driver has stopped, he can be seen and can be spoken to by the police constable. It is quite true, as one hon. Member said, that he may refuse to answer, but he cannot refuse to give his name and address or to produce his licence if required to do so. He may refuse to answer other questions, but he will at least be in a position where he can be viewed by the police constable.
No doubt, there will be some conversation, and the smell of his breath will be apparent to the police officer if he has been drinking. The moment the police officer smells his breath and the smell is of alcohol, the police officer has reasonable cause to suspect that there is alcohol in his body within the meaning of the Clause. He can, therefore, ask for a breathalyser test to be taken. In my view, therefore, there is in the unamended Bill a power to have wholesale random tests.
When he spoke in Committee, my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State said that this was not so. He said that, though the power existed to stop, it must be used only for reasonable cause. I do not see that in the Clause. His opinion is as good as mine, of course, but neither of our opinions really counts for much because the question has not been decided by the courts.
§ Mr. Lyon
With respect, Mr. Speaker, I think that I am coming to the Amendment. The whole point at issue is the effect of the Bill unamended and as it would be if amended. If I am right in saying that the power to have wholesale random tests exists in the unamended Bill, what will be the effect on the public if the police use that power after the Bill has been passed, when people have been assured by the Press and by the Government that wholesale random checks have been dropped?
What will be the effect in this House when the first motorist is stopped, under Section 223 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, and he is required to take a breathalyser test? There will be uproar in the 1209 country. Relationships with the police will deteriorate because people will think that the police are exercising powers which they do not possess and acting in excess of their authority. The obloquy, for such it would be, will fall not on the Government and not on this House, but upon the poor policeman who was only doing his duty. That is the situation that I fear will come about if the Bill is passed unamended.
§ Mr. Bessell
With great respect, I feel that the hon. Gentleman is missing the point, although I may also be doing so. Surely, if the police can stop a vehicle without just cause—and I accept that that may be so—they have not automatically got the right then to make a breathalyser test under the terms of the Bill? Under the terms of the Bill, having stopped the car and spoken to the driver, they must have reasonable cause, and that is the difference.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lyon
The difference is not substantial. In fact, it really does not exist. If the police speak to the driver and he has consumed drink and his breath smells of drink, they have reasonable cause. Under the old form of the Bill and under my Amendment, if they stop a vehicle and have the power to perform a complete random check but cannot smell anything on the driver's breath, does the hon. Member think that the police would ask him to take a breathalyser test? They just would not bother.
§ Mr. Ellis
Is not the whole point that my hon. Friend is trying to make that under the Bill as it is now the driver will feel that he has been tricked, whereas if it were amended he would know the position and the risk he was taking? If he feels that he has been tricked under the legislation in its present form, that will rebound against the police.
§ Mr. Lyon
I had hoped to make the point as effectively as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-west (Mr. Ellis) did. I am glad of his assistance. My whole point is that even as unamended the Bill creates the same power as the preceding Bill, when taken with Section 223 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. The result will therefore be that if the police use that power it will have the effect that my hon. Friend indicated.
I can see the amusement which is being caused on the Government Front 1210 Bench by the suggestion that I might have conceded the case. But of course I have conceded the case—I have conceded that the power exists. What I have not conceded is the deterrent effect of the Bill in its present form as distinct from the Bill in the form in which I would like to see it.
What will happen now is that if the Amendment is rejected a Bill will be passed into law which people believe does not contain wholesale random checks. That is what has happened as a result of my right hon. Friend's change of mind. It is no use my right hon. Friend shaking her head about the matter. That is the impression which has been given to the people at large by the Press. The kind of indication that has been given to public opinion is that there is no wholesale random check.
If we are to take the interpretation of the law given by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State, Home Department, that before the power under Section 223 is used there must be reasonable cause, we come down to the ineffectiveness of the legislation to deter offences before they are committed. How will a police officer know that he has facts on which he could say that he has reasonable cause to suspect that there is alcohol in the body if he cannot stop the motor car? That is the whole point. He has to be able to stop the car to be able to decide whether the driver has alcohol in his body—I see one hon. Gentleman shaking his head—unless the driving of the motor car is so bad that that gives him away.
That is the kind of situation we are seeking to avoid, because there the man has created a danger on the road by the nature of his driving. By the Bill, we want to seek to stop him creating a danger, to deter him before he actually does it. That is why I would like to see wholesale random checks and why I believe that the Bill will be ineffective unless there are such checks. It is essential that we should stop people driving after taking drink.
My right hon. Friend has said that one of the most important objects of the Bill is to carry out a system of social education. I entirely agree that the point of the Bill is to try to educate people into refraining from driving after drinking. 1211 But what will be the effect on the public if they believe that the only time they will be stopped by a police officer is when they are exhibiting manifest signs that they have been drinking, in other words, they think that as long as they can drive home without making it obvious that they have been drinking they will not be stopped? The obvious answer will be that they will risk going to the threshold—they will say that as long as they take a certain amount drink and drive home without incident that will be all right because no one will stop them unless their driving indicates that they have been taking drink.
The result will be that we shall have all the dangers of the present law, under which people think that they can take a certain amount of drink and get away with it. That is the situation we want to stop. That is the kind of social education on which we should be engaged. We should be telling people that it is never safe to drive when they have consumed any amount of alcohol, and that the Bill's object is to stop them doing so.
I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will think again, that she will make it plain not only by what she says in the House but by the terms of the Bill that there is a power for wholesale random checks, which can be made at any time on any road by a police officer in uniform, that a person who has been drinking can never be sure that he will not be stopped on the way home, and that as a result he will stop drinking before he has created a danger on the road or anywhere else.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
It has been the practice of a number of hon. Members to indicate when they start to speak whether they have a personal interest. I wish to do the same. It is quite simple: I have no desire to be struck down by a motor car driven by a person who might have an amount of alcohol in his blood which will affect his judgment.
I remember my right hon. Friend saying quite rightly—I believe that it was during the Second Reading debate—that the object of the Bill was to try to achieve a dramatic change in social behaviour. I believe that if one is attempting to achieve a dramatic change 1212 in social behaviour a certain amount of dramatic legislation is called for. When one is really trying to change social habits, the worst legislation is the mealymouthed form which leaves doubts and causes irritation. I can understand, and I am very conscious of, the arguments that we must try to find a balance between the amount of freedom we enjoy and the number of inhibitions we must place on people where they can be a danger to other folk.
Those matters should be mentioned when we are considering a question like this. They should be examined, and we must have the courage to come down on the side where decency is allowed to prevail. My hon. Friend's Amendment will achieve that. It seems to me that a number of arguments have been adumbrated that do not really oppose the proposals. Both in Committee and now they have generally concerned what it will cost to implement the idea, and what exactly is meant is "randomness".
"Randomness" is everywhere in this country where some poor soul is struck down and slain or maimed or hurt. That is what "randomness" means, and if we can get spot checks on the same scale as people are maimed and killed we shall be doing the nation a great service. I believe that the general public appreciate that.
Other hon. Members have said in the debate that they have spoken to police and other people over the summer and other holidays, and so have I. There will always be a minority who believe that there is some freedom in being able to take a risk as long as only they suffer. But this is not the argument in the case of the driver who has taken drink. One would not be too concerned perhaps if it could be guaranteed that the person who takes a little too much to drink is the only person who will suffer. Very often it is someone entirely innocent who suffers much more than the person who has taken drink. Therefore, the Amendment should be accepted by my right hon. Friend.
I come to the argument about a driver being stopped on the road. One evening, after the Committee had sat, I was returning home, in my constituency. Together with a number of other motorists, I was stopped at about half-past eleven 1213 or twelve o'clock on the way to Western Avenue, which is very near Wormwood Scrubs. We had to give up a certain amount of our freedom to the police because a number of other citizens had taken the view that they had been wrongly incarcerated in Wormwood Scrubs, objected to their incarceration and had made good their escape. During the efforts which were made to recapture them a number of us were stopped on the road and we had to prove that we were not those who had been on the inside. I do not think that that was an unreasonable thing to do. But it could be argued that once those chaps had got outside it would be wrong for the police to try to find them again unless they knew precisely the car to stop or which house contained the people who had got out.
On the question of costs, I should like to remind the House of something which was said by Professor William Giffane, Director of the Road Injuries Research Group of the Birmingham Accident Hospital. He said:The road now disables and kills many more people in England and Wales than all the infectious diseases".I readily admit that this does not mean that all the people who have been maimed or killed suffered because of the actions of drivers who have taken drink. But I maintain that a large proportion of that number is attributable to people who have taken drink and have driven their vehicles when they should not have done so.
We should try to encourage people to change their social habits. This is catching on. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House may have had evidence of this. When we go to parties there is talk that so-and-so is not drinking because he has decided to drive. This is the sort of thing which we want to encourage. Individuals who take that attitude will not mind being challenged by the police, because they have nothing to fear. The object of the Amendment is not to trap anyone; it is to prevent social disaster. This is what it is about.
An hon. Member opposite spoke about the man in his car coming from the seaside with the "kids" in the back objecting to having to breathe into a breathaliser. I wonder whether the same man would object to the person behind him 1214 who has nothing in the car but perhaps a bottle of whisky also taking the test, a man who later might be involved in an accident in which the man with the family in the back of the car lost a number of his children. These are the arguments which we have to balance.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister will go back to her courageous original stand. After taking her stand, she said that she would examine all that had been said, and, to a degree, she changed her mind. There was nothing wrong in that. This is often a very courageous and necessary thing to do. However, when further evidence is provided which proves that one was right in the first place, that should be acknowledged. This is not, we hope, a Bill to trap or ensnare or take away freedom. It is a Bill which will change social habits for the better and make a contribution to reducing the slaughter on our roads and the misery which follows.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Price (Rugby)
I, too, declare my personal interest. First, I am a fairly prolific drinker, and, secondly, in the course of my employment as a reporter, I have had the misfortune to be sent to the scene of many hundreds of accidents involving people who have been killed or seriously injured. In the light of a long and unhappy experience, I am disappointed and disturbed that the Minister has seen fit not to introduce random tests.
We all know that it would have taken very considerable courage to stand up to some of the individuals and organisations who have exerted pressure. But the last thing which any right hon. or hon. Member would allege against the Minister is lack of courage. We must therefore look elsewhere.
§ Mr. Price
I have a suspicion, and perhaps no more than a suspicion, about "who dunnit". I suspect that to a large extent it was the R.A.C. and A.A. The fact that I belong to the R.A.C. does not affect my view that on this issue that organisation and the A.A. are becoming thoroughly discredited. Their attitude to the Bill was typical. They, and particularly the A.A., attacked the Minister for random tests.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We may discuss the attitude of the A.A. and R.A.C. not to the Bill as a whole but to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Price
I may well have criticism to make of the police, but for rather different reasons. These two motoring organisations are concerned simply and solely with the narrow interests of their numbers. The police are concerned with the wider interests of pedestrians and motorists.
What I expect the Minister to say is this—and it has been touched on in an academic manner by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon). I shall not follow exactly his words. I think that the Minister has hit on a political compromise. I believe that provision is already made for random tests. The Bill provides that a motorist may be arrested ifthe constable has reasonable cause to suspect him of having alcohol in his body".What more do we want? The tests will be random in relation to the public house customer because, whatever the Minister may say about hiding down the street, all that the police constable has to do, is to go within the vicinity of a public house and he will catch people who have alcohol in their bodies.
The case for random tests is overwhelming. I ask my right hon. Friend to disregard the juvenile antics of those who appear to object to every measure designed to inhibit the motorist. I am not referring now to hon. Members. It is fair to say that all Ministers of Transport have suffered. Few have suffered more than the last Conservative Minister of Transport, a man for whom I had considerable respect. He got more than his fair share. Indeed, I sometimes think that if he had been as effective at Central Office as he was at the Ministry, he would still be in charge.
1216 The trouble is that the attitude of motorists basically is wrong. We are dealing with the minority of motorists— I stress "minority" because a considerable lot of motorists vote for me in my constituency—who will not pay any attention to persuasion. That is the problem. They believe that they are sacred and above the law. We know that that minority exists. One has only to drive around London in the evening to see the massed breaking of the motoring laws. I am bound to ask again how many of those motorists have had the devil instilled in them by drink.
I believe, as do other hon. Members, that the greatest task facing the Minister is that of educating the stupid, selfish minority of motorists in their responsibilities both to themselves and to other people who use the roads. Too many innocent people are being killed or maimed.
The Minister has made an excellent start. I feel that she has drawn back on perhaps the most vital principle in the Bill and I ask her to think again. Apart from the natural prejudice against any Minister of Transport, my right hon. Friend has to contend with the fact that a woman invariably offends the masculine instincts of male drivers. Of those who drink and drive, I urge my right hon. Friend to offend them as much as she will. I hope that she will not be deterred.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The right hon. Lady has been under considerable pressure. I should like to come to her support and say that I hope she will stick to her guns. This is the second time that we have been able to debate this subject and it would be a great pity if at this late stage we were to change our minds.
I realise that deep feelings are involved, not only among back benchers, but also on the part of the Minister. The very fact, however, that with all her doubts she was able to change her mind between the original Bill and the present one should encourage hon. Members who have spoken and who still have doubts to realise that the Bill will be very effective at hitting at dangerous overdrinking and that, as the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) has pointed out, there is a good deal of randomness still left in the Bill—indeed. 1217 rather more than we think that it should have.
I believe that it is right to support the Minister's stand on Second Reading. It would be a mistake to restore the complete random nature of the test which existed in the first Bill. There are two main arguments against random checks, first because of practicability and, secondly, on the ground of lack of public support, to which the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) has referred.
As to practicability, the Minister was very frank with us on Second Reading and we appreciated that. She said that if it had been left to her, she would have preferred to retain in the Bill the provision for random checks. She also referred, however, to the scarcity of resources for dealing with enforcement. I have no doubt that the influence of her right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made itself felt. Obviously, he does not live in an ivory tower. He would have to enforce the random checks and he must be well aware of the difficulties involved with a practical method. I hope that hon. Members who believe in random checks will face frankly the practical difficulties.
We are not legislating in a perfect or theoretical world. We are legislating in a practical world. We must, therefore, be sure that the laws we pass can be carried out and enforced easily and that they are likely to command general support and respect from the public.
From the practical point of view, even if random checks achieve a great deal and became widely popular, they would create vast problems in administration. Check posts would have to be set up, the offending cars parked and drivers with more than 80 milligrammes in their blood taken to a police station and subjected to a second test. It would all involve a great deal of work. Unless it were carried out on a huge scale, the chances of anyone being caught would be so slight that the deterrent effect would be almost negligible.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The hon. Member disagrees, but this argument of mine has been proved up to the hilt by the relative ineffectiveness of the spot checks on lorries. Unless this were carried on out 1218 on a vast scale, it would not have the deterrent effect which hon. Members expect of it.
For what purpose would all that effort be done? It would be done for only 1.5 per cent. of motorists who, according to my information, drive with over 80 milligrammes of alcohol in their blood. It would be like using a mackerel to catch a sprat. Quite apart from the practical limitations of random checks and the severe strain which they would impose on the resources of the police, a much more serious objection—and this is the second main argument against random checks—is that people have never thought it fair to give a policeman the right to check at random without suspicion an apparently law-abiding citizen.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I may have made a mistake, but my note states that this was quoted at c. 672 of HANSARD of 10th February, 1966, from the Grand Rapids Report; but I may have made an error. I am not at this moment able to verify the figure.
The Minister recognises that if she is to get the change in social habits which we all want, it is no good simply changing the law. She must also get the support of the public. To get the support of the public, it is necessary for the law to appear fair. Whether we like it or not, the idea of random checks has never appeared fair to the public.
I know that the right hon. Lady has been under great pressure concerning Christmas, to which many references have been made, although in a Parliamentary Answer which I received she stated that she did not think there was any reason to suspect that drink had played a greater part than normal. I agree, however, that even in normal years the situation is extremely serious.
I sympathise with the Minister in the dilemma in which she was placed at Christmas, feeling the way that she does, but I think that if she sticks to her guns, as I hope she will, she will have decided 1219 rightly. She is, after all, a politician, and politics is the art of the possible. It is a radical enough change in the Bill to have created the objective standard without trying to extend the Bill to include completely random checks as well. Hon. Members who support the Amendment because they fear that without random checks the Bill will be of little use have misjudged entirely the strength of the Bill. They will find that the introduction of the objective test will result in a considerable stiffening of the law.
I know that this is a very emotional subject, about which many hon. Members feel strongly, and I realise that, theoretically, the strength of their feeling may be justified. Practically, however, there is very little or no case for their point of view.
The existing Bill, without random checks, will achieve a great deal. I therefore urge them, after the long debates which we have had already, to accept what the Minister said on Second Reading—I hope that she will say the same today—because her views are largely the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, if she has been convinced, they ought to be convinced as well.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mrs. Barbara Castle)
I have very great sympathy with the purposes behind my hon. Friends' Amendments. I fully recognise the sincerity and the passion with which they have spoken. They want to see the new offence created under the Bill enforced effectively. I hope that they will accept that I do as well.
I have had, as I expect other hon. Members have, a very large number of letters in recent weeks urging me to reintroduce random tests, particularly since Christmas. I would have called it a lobby, but I did not want to make it sound unreal and sinister. I know that the people who wrote were genuinely concerned with the problem of road casualties and the element of drink in those casualties. I have personally read what seemed to be hundreds of letters. They were from people putting forward their views in a way that I could only thoroughly respect. I agree with them, 1220 and I agree with my hon. Friends who have moved the Amendments.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) on whether or not there is an issue of principle at stake on random tests. I do not believe that there is. I have never accepted, as I have said time and time again, that for us to have completely random tests would be an unwarranted interference with individual rights. That is not my motive in having proposed to the House, as I did on Second Reading and as I must do again tonight, the procedure for enforcement which is outlined in the Bill. It is not the principle of individual liberty which worries me.
I want to assure my hon. Friends that I am not running away from a previous decision at the behest of the A.A. and R.A.C. Those two organisations would have been flattered by some of the suggestions that somehow I had come under their thumb. It was not accurate to accuse me of pandering to those views. I did not pander to them on the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, and I would not pander to them on random tests. After all, a lot of the people who wrote asking me to re-introduce random tests were themselves motorists. The poll figures do not justify the belief that there is a division between the motorist and the non-motorist. There is a remarkable tally in those figures on the drink and drive issue between the sample of all members of the community and that purely from the motoring community.
The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. William Price) paid me the compliment of having a lot of courage, but said that he thought it had deserted me at the behest of Mr. Durie. But I have not been frightened away.
I have given the matter serious thought, and I want to start with the point that our common aim is to deter. What we should be discussing is the best way of doing that. One of the biggest deterrents of the Bill is the creation of the new offence itself. No one should underestimate that. What deters is the certainty of conviction. What has led to the lax attitude towards drink and driving in the past is that motorists knew that they could probably get away with it in the courts. A man could be found reeling about in the road with a level of more 1221 than 150. People have even been acquitted having been found to have as high a level as 200.
In a situation like that, the whole attitude is wrong, and the revolutionary step is the creation of the new technical offence. As a result of the tests provided for under the Bill, once a motorist is found to have exceeded the level, there cannot be any argument, and the penalties are severe. As the House knows, I have stood by automatic disqualification for the offence, and I shall not be easily frightened off that.
The second point which I have tried to make clear in answer to those who have written to me and in all the speeches which I have made is that they have not quite understood the extent of the cases which will be caught under the Bill. The powers are very wide, and I do not think that my hon. Friends have understood quite how wide they are. At more than one stage during the debate, I found myself a little confused to know what was the content of their complaints. I could not make out whether they were complaining that the random element in the Bill was too wide, as hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) argued, or whether it did not exist at all.
One of the accusations which have been made against me is that, to some extent, I am misleading the public, because I am pretending that I have abandoned the random principle, when there it is enshrined in the new power. I cannot accept that I have misled the public. Both on Second Reading and in a speech which I made on 2nd January about the number of Christmas accidents, I made it very clear. I stressed then and I stress again that the proposals now before Parliament contain an important random element. The range of circumstances in which a driver can be required to take a breath test is very wide.
I went on in my speech to say:Just think what involvement in a moving traffic offence covers.It does not have to be dangerous driving. The argument of some of my hon. Friends that, by the time a man has committed a moving traffic offence, it would be too late because he was on the threshold of an accident is to exaggerate the position. I went on: 1222It can mean crossing a white line. Or it can mean exceeding speed limits—something which drivers do every day as a matter of course. And if a driver commits such an offence, then he can be tested—without there having to be any sign that he has taken alcohol.That is a very important random element, but it is one which is concentrated, and the reason for seeking to concentrate it, as I have under these proposals, is twofold. One is the principle of acceptability. Just because there is an important random element still and just because we are moving into a revolutionary new concept of the law about drink and driving with a new offence which people will find strange at first and which carries very severe and automatic penalties, it helps to get the public to accept the new law if the random element is concentrated and not spread over people who may be going about their business never having taken a drink and certainly not remotely within range of committing a moving traffic offence.
The motoring organisations said to me and I shall be frank with the House— "Look, we think that a section of motorists"—and I think that it is probably 50–50 for and against the random test—"will feel outraged if they are to be stopped when there is no association at all with them of any kind of misdemeanour or misbehaviour as a motorist". But if a chap crosses a moving white line—[An HON. MEMBER: "He will be drunk."] He will be in those circumstances. If a person drives contrary to the traffic rules, he will have only himself to blame if the breath test is slapped on him, whether he has had a drink or not. Equally, if the police stop a car in the normal way under Section 223 of the 1962 Act—and this was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for York— in a crime chase, or for any other reason which may be appropriate, and smell alcohol on someone's breath, again he will not be able to complain, because there will be at least some indication that he might be above the stipulated level. He will have had a drink, and be driving, and in those circumstances, whether or not he has committed an offence, he will not be able to grumble too much.
That was the kind of argumentation involved and it was strongly enforced 1223 by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Carlisle) who asked for what he called the logistics. This is another consideration in a situation in which we know enforcement is the key. So many people are proposing new safety measures of one kind or another, all of which are excellent but all of which depend on our having an effective level of enforcement. This is it. We can all pass ideal laws, but if people feel that they are not going to bite they will not take a great deal of notice of them.
The Home Office estimates that the number of occasions on which the police stop vehicles, or are at the scene of an accident, is between 1½ million and 2 million a year. The number of police vehicles—that is cars or motor cycles—which will carry the breath-testing device—because this is to be operated by mobile police—will be about 9,000. These will be carried by the police on a wide range of duties, not only on traffic duties. This means, inevitably, that there will be a greater concentration of testing than if we were to spread the equivalent number of vehicles—we might not have all these vehicles for random tests, but let us assume that we have an equivalent number of vehicles—among the 14 million people in this country who hold driving licences. These, then, are the logistics. At least the same number of police vehicles carrying the breath-testing device will be operating the tests for a smaller number of possible offenders.
There will, therefore, inevitably be a larger proportion of positive results, and the more positive results there are from testing, and the more publicity they are given, the greater will be the deterrent. This will flow over to people who have not got into one of the three categories mentioned in the Clause, because no one can be certain that one day he will not be caught in this group. Nobody can be certain that one day he will not commit a traffic offence. Nobody can be certain that he will not be stopped in a casual police check, though in that situation he will not be tested unless he has had a drink. It is the man who has had a drink that we want to get. We do not want to deter the chairwoman of the local abstinence union. She does not need deterring. The benefits of the deterrent will come from people knowing 1224 that there has been a high proportion of positive results from the testing.
§ Mr. Molloy
It seems that my right hon. Friend is reaching the stage of supporting us, by saying that we cannot select a certain part of the population. The only alternative is to carry out random tests.
§ Mrs. Castle
I am not saying that we cannot select a certain part of the population. That is what we are doing under the Bill. Under the Bill a person will have to have committed a moving traffic offence, or be stopped for some reason by the police. He will have to have had a drink so that the policeman can tell from his breath that he has had one. Only the policeman will be able to say that the chap has had one or two drinks, and then proceed to test him. Apart from accidents, in which it is an important part, the breath test will be applied automatically and this provides a third possibility.
It is the deterrent that we want to establish, and I ask the House to think about this. I ask the House not to assume that we have thrown the completely random tests out of the window because we are afraid to deter. I am genuinely exercised in my mind about where we will get to, and how we will get the maximum deterrent. It seems to me that some of the arguments advanced by my hon. Friends are a bit confused. I know that they probably think my arguments are confused, but there we are equal-equal. It shows that there are legitimate grounds for disagreeing about how this will work out.
My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Fowler) began by complaining that we said we could not automatically test everybody outside a public house. He asked, why not? He said that that was the place to catch them. Fair do's, but that is the opposite of the argument about the completely random test principle, and this was made clear by my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Department during the Second Reading debate when he said that he did not think that the police would generally stop vehicles outside public houses because the mouth alcohol difficulty would be very much in existence there. That is one of the problems, because we know that one can get 1225 a false reading if the test is taken too soon after the alcohol has been consumed. My hon. and learned Friend went on to say that one does not want to stop the police from ever asking for a breath test outside a public house. Thus, we have struck this note somewhere between the completely random test principle and the relationship of any test to the suspicion of alcohol. I suggest to my lion. Friends that it may be we have got a better balance as a result. It could be that we will have a higher degree of deterrent.
All of us are operating on new territory. The way in which some of our arguments cancel each other out shows that none of us can be completely dogmatic, or say, "This is the perfect way; you have adopted the imperfect way and therefore you have run away." We have to learn as we go along and see what impact the new powers will make. Of course, we can always watch the situation—and we will, very closely—to make sure that it is biting as we want it to bite—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that the right hon. Lady gave way to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis).
§ Mr. Ellis
Before my right hon. Friend concludes her argument, how does she think this will deter the supremely confident gentlemen who have a large amount of beer every night and are sure that they can drive home, having got away with it 999 times before and who think that they do not make mistakes—until, one night, the crunch comes? What will we do? Is not the completely random check the answer?
§ Mrs. Castle
It is an even bet whether that person will he caught under my hon. Friend's proposals or under mine. The way to deter him is to catch him. There is more doubt that, under a completely random test for 14 million people, he will be caught on his way home, but the feeling that there is an odds-on chance that one will be caught is an important element in the deterrence.
This is what worried me over the completely random principle, that it is spread too wide to get a high return from the 1226 testing. If there are negative returns, the gentlemen whom my hon. Friend mentioned will be even more confident—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It will help the Chair and the Official Reporters if the right hon. Lady will address the Chair.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
Surely the point is that the over-confident driver who has been drinking too much is certain that he will never commit a motoring offence because he is such a good driver and therefore is certain that he will never be caught. Our aim in the Bill must surely be to prevent people drinking too much in the first place; if a driver knows that he might be caught in any circumstances, it is more likely to have a deterrent effect than my right hon. Friend's proposals.
§ Mrs. Castle
If he is over-confident, he is probably confident that he will not be stopped in a random test. There is a possibility of his being stopped by the police anyway under my proposals. If the police do stop him under my proposals, they will breath-test him because he is the sort of fellow who will be positively reeking of drink.
The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for York went in a circle. He said, "There is no real difference between these proposals and mine: do you mean to say that, under the total random breath test, if the police stop somebody, they would breath-test him if there were no suspicion of alcohol? Of course they would not." So what is his complaint about me—in some way that I am deceiving the public?
But I stand here to undeceive the public, to tell them that the powers are very wide and that they are in great danger, under my proposals, of facing a breath test, so they had better be careful—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We cannot have five interventions at once. Hon. Gentlemen must restrain themselves a little.
§ Mr. William Price
I wanted to assure my right hon. Friend that I was not so bold as to say that she was being seduced 1227 by the motoring organisations or anybody else. What is a police constable's right under paragraph (a)? If he sees me drinking seven or eight pints of beer, he knows that I have alcohol in my body. Can he now "do me" or does he have to wait until I commit a motoring offence? This is what I am not clear about.
§ Mrs. Castle
After all, a police constable can still stop a vehicle if he thinks that the driver's ability to drive is impaired.—[Interruption.] Certainly. I must conclude now. We have a good deal more of the Bill to deal with.
I agree that it entirely depends on how these proposals are enforced. It has always depended on this, whether it was completely random or concentratedly random, as my proposal is. Of course, we shall watch the situation closely. I was asked what instructions had been given to chief constables. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I understand, however, that he will make it clear to chief constables that, in applying these tests, we shall want a random element included—that is to say, that they should not just wait for a suspicion but should apply the breath test in cases of moving traffic offences, even where there is no suspicion of alcohol having been consumed. That is our intention.
We shall be getting regular and frequent records from the police on the tests and their results. If it appears that those tests are not giving the results we want and are not acting as a deterrent or biting in the way we want, we shall, of course, have to come back. I would be the first to come back to tell the House that I did not think that the Bill went far enough, and that we must now move to the wider random checks. However. I suggest to my hon. Friends that, in the meantime, we should give these new proposals a chance—perhaps the results may surprise us all.
§ Mr. Mapp
Two speeches have disappointed me today. The first was that of the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison). I followed his reasoning but with his background of road safety, I regretted his conclusion very much. However, I accept that his reasoning is probably just as sincere as mine. 1228 The second speech is the one which we have just heard. With that, I am bitterly disappointed. Throughout the Minister's speech, one could see the conflict between principle and expediency.
I ask myself the simple question which hundreds of people have asked, "What is your House going to do with those scores of motorists standing outside public houses between 8 and 10 o'clock at night?". There is no doubt about it; this is the 64-dollar question before the House and there is nothing to be gained by political expedience in trying to argue that there should be three sets of guidelines—one a moving traffic offence, the second an accident, and the third some other cause.
The public want to know, if a motorist has been seen inside a public house for three hours by a police constable and then moves across to a public car park, whether the policeman cannot, under this Bill, do a thing about it. I think that it is this motorist—
§ Mr. Bessell
With respect, the hon. Gentleman's argument is wrong. Clause 2 provides that any constable who has a suspicion that a person will drive a car and has taken any drink whatsoever may require him to take a breathalyser test. That is the point of the Bill.
§ Mr. Mapp
I am no lawyer, but some of us who were in the Committee know the conflict between lawyers on this point—between the Home Office and my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), for example. The main thing is the Regulations from the Home Office to chief constables. Those of us who were in Committee were told the nature of those Regulations and we were given to understand that they were quite clear—that chief constables will be inhibited from ever providing what most of us would regard as a random check, and that it will be confined to the area where an offence might have been committed.
I could not be taken into the Lobby in support of the words contained in the Bill at the moment. I would, however, enthusiastically go into the opposite Lobby, and indeed I have been asked during today by four or five hon. Members—some of them are not present now—about whether the sponsors of the 1229 Amendment would care to take it to a Division. My own opinion at this stage would be that it should not be taken to a Division. This is one of those problems where politics becomes involved in the sense that the subject has no relationship to politics in the normal way.
But, as frankly and fairly as I can, I say to my right hon. Friend that, if she cannot see her way to making some change pertaining to the operation of the Bill, I and some other hon. Members will not be able to follow her, in the certain knowledge that, within two or three years time, as the hon. and gallant Member for Eye more or less indicated, we shall be back at this same Clause amending it. Why should we have to wait two or three years in order to put it right?
I am not prepared to go into the Government Lobby knowing full well that the time and tide have arrived. I well remember the story of 1960 and 1962, when another Minister—a first-class man—was trying to do the same sort of thing. He was thwarted by his own back benchers. He had to face the same Conservative point of view as she has tonight. I am not surprised, but my right hon. Friend should have taken courage from the fact that, behind her, is a House which wants her to do the right thing for the 1970s. But she is only doing it by half.
§ Mr. Wilkins
I regret my intervention, for I notice that the House seems to be getting a little restless, but my right hon. Friend should clearly understand that many of her hon. Friends are bitterly disappointed with the way in which she has treated this Amendment. She is quite right in saying that some of her colleagues on this side of the House are confused. We are not only confused about the terms of the Bill. There is a doubt in our minds, which she has not explained away, although she was asked to do so. It concerns Clause 2(1) which says… if the constable has reasonable cause—(a) to suspect him of having alcohol in his body;That passage ends with a semi-colon. Surely that indicates that this will be an offence and that the constable will be able to carry out a random test on the grounds of suspicion that the person has alcohol in his body. My right hon. Friend 1230 has not explained to us the exact position here, although she was asked to. We should have a clear explanation from her about what this provision means.
§ Mr. Fowler
Would not my hon. Friend agree that we should have a clear indication of the precise powers of the police under Section 223 of the 1962 Act? My hon. Friend the under-Secretary of State said of the Section in Committee:I should not like to say that it necessarily follows from that Act that the police may stop people without reason. I do not want to be dogmatic about this."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 1st December, 1966; c. 147.]
§ Mr. Wilkins
There is a lot in this Clause about which we should have more precise guidance. The information so far is extremely imprecise. But I am now only concerned with the Amendment which seeks to alter the wording.
My right hon. Friend, referring to the attitude of some of her colleagues on this side of the House, said that she wanted us to understand that she was extremely sympathetic to the views we hold. Sympathy will not solve the problem of death on our roads. Only action designed to deter will do that. I believe that the Home Office has been mistaken about this point entirely. My right hon. Friend has quoted to us an estimate of the number of motorists who will be picked up even under the Clause as it stands and who will have breath tests. But we have had no sort of estimate of the number of motorists who would be deterred from taking intoxicating drink simply because they knew that they would be subject to a possible random check.
We in this House hear a lot about deterrents of one kind or another, and surely this is one deterrent which will be of some value. My right hon. Friend, in defending her change of view, talked about our being confused, but many of us cannot understand how she has been able to make such a volte face and wonder who persuaded her to do so. My right hon. Friend denies that the motoring organisations were responsible, and I hope that she is right, because I am a member of both and they have not my authority to put pressure on her to abandon the random tests. We plead with her to think again about this. If she cannot make a change in this House, 1231 let her do so when the Bill goes to another place.
I am sure that the vast majority of public opinion in the country believes that when the Bill is enacted it will deter the motorists from drinking. My right hon. Friend referred to the fact that if one only crosses a white line one is likely to be picked up for a motoring offence and at that point the policeman will be able to ask one to breathe into a bag. But anyone who drives a car knows that the offence of crossing the white line takes place dozens of times in the morning before any public house has opened or any drink has been consumed. It happens all the time. The police will not pick motorists up for this sort of offence.
The net result of all this is that the police will be less involved in taking checks. The observations which my right hon. Friend made on 10th February, 1966, were precise and concise in expressing the feelings that I and many of my hon. Friends and, I hope, some of my right hon. Friends, have. We cannot understand why she has changed her mind. Of course, she may have been frightened by the threat of the then shadow Minister of Transport who has now gone to the House of Lords. On 10th February, 1966, he said:… If the Minister is unfortunate enough to lose her Bill as a result of Dissolution, we ourselves, when we come into power, will go on with this Bill with the one important Amendment that we shall knock out the random check."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 10th February, 1966; c. 3.]Many of us thought that at least the hon. and gallant Member for Eye would remain on our side, but in view of his attitude today one wonders whether the promise of the noble Lord is finding a reaction on the benches opposite in that they must follow the line he then laid down.
The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) is wrong if he thinks that the police do not want this. Even in this House, observations have been made to me that the one person we seem to have left out of account in all our debates on this subject is the policeman who has to do the job. The police feel that their hands would be strengthened if they had the power to take random spot checks. I 1232 urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider this matter. To whom was she referring when she used the word "we" when she said, "We have come to the conclusion" about it being less invidious?
§ Mr. Wilkins
Then this matter has been decided at Cabinet level. I am not in a position to question a decision of this nature, if it is a Government decision. I can only express the hope that the Government will think again about their attitude to this matter and will see wisdom before the Bill becomes law in view of the strong public opinion that exists on this issue.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler
My right hon. Friend has referred to the importance of having a deterrent to prevent people from drinking and driving. The Clause and the Amendment prove that exhortation has not been a sufficient deterrent and I suggest that, with the best will in the world, the social pressures on people to drink before driving are so strong that the deterrents that exist have failed to prevent drunken driving.
At parties, and particularly at pre-Christmas office gatherings, people will continue to drink when they are under these social pressures—that is, unless we can make the deterrent absolutely firm. Perhaps we will never make it absolutely firm; so that the least we should do is to make it as firm as we can.
What will happen if the Bill is passed in its present form and without the Amendment? At private parties people who say, "I am not going to drink because I am driving" will be told by their friends, "You will be all right. You will not be seen coming out of a public house or a club and nobody will know that you have been drinking. You will not commit a traffic offence, so you might as well drink". This temptation will face people who might otherwise not drink and drive if the Amendment were accepted.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
What makes the hon. Lady think that the police cannot see people leaving public houses?
§ Mrs. Butler
The hon. Gentleman must have misunderstood me. I was referring to people drinking at private parties. They will be leaving private houses and the police will not suspect that they have been drinking in the same way as they will be able to watch people leaving clubs or public houses. The vast majority of parties held before Christmas are private affairs and there will be a temptation for people to drink before driving. Unless random tests are introduced in the way the Amendment suggests people will go on drinking at Christmas and New Year parties and will think that they have a good chance of not being caught.
I urge my right hon. Friend, who has taken a courageous step, to go one step further and accept the principle of the Amendment. The real issue is not how many drunken drivers the police may pick up but how many drivers we can prevent from reaching that drunken condition. That is the whole point of the Amendment, which I hope she will now accept.
§ Mr. Hooley
I am grateful to my hon. Friends who have supported the Amendment. The debate has been a valuable one in that the deep concern and strong feeling that exists on this issue has been made clear to my right hon. Friend.
The core of the matter is the present social attitude of people. This has been made clear in the debate. As a layman, I confess to being unable to follow the legal labyrinth of interpretation placed on this and other Measures. I still maintain that an explicit provision which provides for the random testing of drivers would be simpler to all concerned. The motorists and the police alike would be clear about what we have in mind. There would be less confusion and misunderstanding than will be the position in view of the various interpretations which have been placed in the Bill's provisions.
However, I recognise that my right hon. Friend is breaking new ground with the Bill and that this is a highly contentious and difficult sphere. I hope that she will give further thought to the matter and may possibly even arrange for a suitable Amendment to be introduced in another place. Having expressed that 1234 hope, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Taverne
I beg to move, Amendment No. 3, in line 29, to leave out 'preliminary' and to insert 'breath'.
It might be for the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker, if, with this Amendment, we also discuss the following Amendments: Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 20 and 21.
§ Mr. Taverne
Each of these Amendments is phrased in exactly the same terms. They are all concerned with leaving out the word "preliminary" and inserting the word "breath". Although we are discussing a considerable number of Amendments, I hope that they will occasion somewhat less discussion than the last Amendment.
This series of Amendments simply changes the "preliminary test" to a "breath test" throughout the Bill. The reason is because at present the Bill refers to the screening breath test as a "preliminary test". This was a convenient description because no provision was made for the use of a breath-testing device other than for screening purposes. By the new Clause, which the House has accepted, we have provided for a breath test to be taken after the laboratory test in certain circumstances. It would, therefore, no longer be appropriate to refer to it solely as a "preliminary test", and the phrase "breath test" would be simpler and more convenient.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I beg to move Amendment No. 60, in page 2, line 31 to leave out 'having alcohol in his body' and to insert:'committing an offence under section 1(1) of this Act or section 6 of the principal Act'.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
With this Amendment it will be convenient to take Amendment No. 59, in page 3, line 33, at end insert:'other than an offence under section 6 of the principal Act'.
§ Mr. Galbraith
By this Amendment we are seeking to word the Bill in such a way that before a constable applies the breath test he must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence against the Bill has been committed. I gather that in other branches of the law it is normal procedure for the police to act on suspicion either than an offence has been committed or is about to be committed, but as this Bill is drafted the police are being given powers to demand a breath test when they have no reason at all to suppose than an offence has been committed. This seems to be rather a new departure in our legal system, and amounts to a very severe infringement on the liberty of the subject which does not seem to be justified by the nature of the offence. It is bound to lead to resentment and to friction with the police.
It is all very fine for us, sitting here in the House of Commons, to say that it is reasonable, but my feeling is that the chap in the car will not feel exactly as we do. Whatever the right hon. Lady says, as she did on Second Reading, about the reasonableness of the police—with which, to a certain extent, I agree—even Homer nods, and every one makes a mistake from time to time. Under this Bill, the police have the power, if they see a man coming from the pub or leaving a cocktail party, to pounce on him, to use the Minister's words. She said that they would not do so, but they have the power to do so, and to apply the test even though the man concerned may only have gone into the pub to buy cigarettes or at the cocktail party may have had only a soft drink. The police have the power, and sooner or later they will use it in circumstances where they should not use it.
It was because of the wide power given to the police, and not because of any sympathy with people who drink too much, that very considerable concern was expressed in all quarters of the Standing Committee. This concern was recognised by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who said that he understood the disquiet—that was the very word he used—and would try to find a form of words to meet it. On the strength of that undertaking I withdrew my Amendment. Alas, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is nothing on the Order Paper.
1236 The Government's main argument, so far as I have been able to make out from our debates to date, is that unless the police have the right to apply the test to any one whom they think has been drinking at all we will be back to the old position where prosecutions took place only when there were 150 milligrammes of alcohol in the blood. This was the fairly constant refrain from the Government spokesmen on Second Reading; but with great respect I do not think that this really is a very good argument or that it fits in with the facts.
It is well known that drivers arouse the suspicion of the police when they have much less than 150 milligrammes of alcohol in their blood—I do not think than anyone would deny that—but because of the difficulty under the present law of proving impairment in a clinical sense when a driver has less than 150 milligrammes of alcohol in his blood, no action is taken below that figure. The course of events is that the constable's suspicions are aroused. He takes the driver in and finds that he has, say, 100 milligrammes of alcohol in his blood, but because there is no definite evidence of impairment at this level he has to let the driver go. There are grounds for suspicion, but there are not grounds for conviction. That is what is wrong today.
That is the situation with which the Amendment seeks to deal, but it goes no further. According to our Amendment, on the constable's suspicions being aroused he applies the breath test, and if the reading is over 80 milligrammes an offence has been committed. The difference between us and the Government is that we wish the constable's suspicions to have been aroused first of all while the Government wish the constable to be able to act without suspicion. I am perfectly convinced that if it had been possible under the present law to get convictions against people who, in the eyes of the police, were impaired and had aroused their suspicions, we would not have had this Bill today. What has been wrong has not been a failure on the part of the police to suspect—they do that easily enough—but a failure to he able to prove that their suspicions are justified. Yet the introduction of the objective standard of 80 milligrammes of alcohol in the blood solves that problem, and it is 1237 not necessary to go further and allow testing without suspicion.
I therefore just cannot understand why the Minister insists on powers so wide as almost to get back to the old position of random checks, with all the dislocation and wasted effort they would cause and all the hostilities with the public they would arouse, when, from a practical point of view—and this is what is important—our Amendment would produce a situation which if it existed now would mean that there was no need for this new legislation. The right hon. Lady is going very much further than she needs to go, and that is always a mistake in politics and in everything else. Even at this late hour, therefore, I urge the Government to think again very seriously. If they do not like the words I have thought out in our Amendment, and even though they may not have been able to provide others for themselves, they might, when the Bill gets to another place, have another shot at it.
§ Mr. Taverne
I must very strongly urge the House to resist the Amendment, because in our view it would very gravely weaken the enforcement of the Bill. It would mean that the Bill would simply create an objective standard but not enable it to be enforced on as wide a scale as we would like.
The issue before the House is whether or not a constable should have powers to ask for the breath test only if there are visible signs of impairment, or should be able to do so, as we propose, when he has some grounds for suspecting that there is alcohol in the body. The argument advanced in Committee is still that which I must put now. At 80 milligrammes there are not necessarily any signs of impairment. A constable therefore does not know whether or not someone is committing an offence. He does not know whether someone has a blood alcohol level of 80, or 50, or 30 or 100—because even at 100 there may be no visible signs of impairment.
If he has no such grounds for asking for the breath test to be applied, and if the person refuses to take a test and the constable therefore has no reasonable grounds for arrest, he may be subject to an action for unlawful arrest, or the whole procedure for breath testing and exacting the laboratory test cannot be 1238 implemented. Therefore, no constable would act unless he saw visible outward signs of impairment. One would then be back to the position where prosecutions would not be brought because constables would not ask for the breath test to be taken unless someone had at least 150 milligrammes of alcohol in the blood.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that the police never have suspicions, never bring a man in under 150 milligrammes? I thought the position was that they often have suspicions when the level is below that figure but that once they get him in and test him, if they find that he has less than that they do not proceed because they cannot prove the offence. That is the position.
§ Mr. Taverne
There may well be cases where the level is less than 150 milligrammes, but the argument would be whether or not the police suspicions were justified—whether the person's speech was slurred; whether his eyes were glazed; whether he was unsteady in his gait; whether the car weaved about on the road; whether or not there were reasonable grounds for supposing that someone was impaired in his driving by reason of drink or driving with more than 80 milligrammes of alcohol in his blood. This would inevitably follow. Therefore, in order to avoid a possible cause of action for unlawful arrest, the constable would not act, unless he was pretty sure that the person had more than 80 milligrammes, that is unless there were visible signs of impairment. I do not see how the hon. Gentleman can get round that argument. His Amendment will gravely weaken the force of the Bill.
It is true that in the Committee the Amendment that was then moved was withdrawn after I undertook to see whether it was possible to find words which without undesirably limiting the powers of the police to stop vehicles would meet the disquiet expressed that the police might stop drivers solely to see whether someone had been drinking. This aspect was carefully considered, but in the end it was not found possible to produce such an alteration in the Bill. Indeed, I warned the hon. Member that I thought it extremely unlikely that we could meet his wishes. 1239 8.0 p.m.
It was not possible to do so for two reasons. First, it would not be possible to find a workable set of provisions and, secondly, it would not be desirable on grounds of principle. One difficulty is that of drafting a statutory limitation to the constable's general and very necessary power to stop vehicles. The limitation in substance would be valueless because it would not be possible for anyone but the constable to know why he had stopped a vehicle. Suppose there were a form of words by which a constable could not stop a vehicle solely to see whether the driver had been drinking. What would be the effect if he suspected that the driver were ill, were tired or drunk and, having stopped the car, he thought that the driver was drunk? Would the constable then have offended against the statutory limitation or not? The provision could not prevent the constable stopping the driver in those circumstances.
If one looks at the proposal more closely, one finds that it is not only impracticable but not desirable. It is unlikely that in general the police would set traps outside a public house partly because of their relations with the public and partly because when asking for a breath test in those circumstances the amount of mouth alcohol would make it inaccurate at that stage. It would be wrong if it were impossible for a policeman ever to stop anyone outside a public house because he had cause to believe he had been drinking. There is not only a practical difficulty but also a difficulty of principle. I apologise to the hon. Member for not being able to find the form of words to meet his disquiet, but I strongly urge the House to reject this Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd (Portsmouth, Langstone)
I beg to move Amendment No. 37, in page 2, line 32, to leave out paragraph (b).
In essence, this is the Amendment which I moved in Committee. The reasons why I am presenting it again this evening are, with only one addition, identical to those I gave in Committee, but I shall reverse the order and begin with the new reason. The new reason is that the Under-Secretary, as he has 1240 just confessed, has not fulfilled the undertaking given to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) and myself to look again at the possibility of defining this matter more precisely. The statement implied at the time that he was at least partially convinced by our arguments that the definition of "moving traffic offences" on which the whole structure of pseudorandom tests was based was ridiculously and unnecessarily wide. I am pleased that the Minister herself stressed not an hour ago the width of this provision.
The Under-Secretary attempted to deny that this Clause was an attempt to reintroduce random tests by the back door. He said that it was to cover the case in which the police do not—I emphasise "not"—have reasonable cause to suspect that the driver has been drinking but in which the nature of the offence leads him to think that there might be an impairment of his ability to drive through drink. That statement quite clearly implied many occasions on which a policeman will have reasonable cause to suspect that a driver has been drinking. By common consent of everyone in this House, and I should think everyone in this country, a driver whose ability to drive is impaired is a dangerous driver, and we are seeking to limit the amount of dangerous driving. If it were possible we would eliminate it, but under present conditions we would succeed only by eliminating motor vehicles.
Unfortunately, so many of these laws appear to become ends in themselves. Because in this sphere more than in most they are rough and ready instruments, they deserve less than most to become ends in themselves. My fear is that if the Bill passes on to the Statute Book without this Amendment we shall have to put in yet another intermediate criterion—yet another rough and ready criterion—in this case between the citizen driver and the final criterion by which he should seek to judge himself and by which he should, so far as possible, be judged. That criterion is not on this question of alcohol but on the final criterion of safe driving.
We should look more closely at the effect of this Clause if it is unamended. There is a vast range of driving offences which might be committed by a driver who has had one drink and, say, 20 milligrammes in his bloodstream and has 1241 suffered no impairment by the definition which the Government—not only of this country but of the United States, which only in the last few days has set the limit at 100 millilitres—have set and who may be said not to have his judgment impaired. My argument is that most of these offences have no relationship to the ability to drive. They may have some relationship to the ability to read and to understand the Road Traffic Act.
The figures are important. The total number of offences alleged in 1965 were 1.47 million. This is the basis of the law's operation. The Minister stressed this in emphasising the width of the basis of the tests. Those 1.47 million alleged offences mean that a policeman stopped the owner of a car in each case. Prosecutions amount to 1.18 million brought before the courts and of those 1.12 million were found guilty. From those figures I am sure most hon. Members would willingly exclude offences of dangerous driving, 11,000, drunken driving, 9,000, and even careless driving, 280,000. No one driving carelessly can have any real complaint, but what about speed limit offences, which amounted to 217,000 in 1965. Were those in all circumstances careless?
The speed limit legislation of the country at the moment is about as obsolete as a model T Ford. Therefore, speeding offences should not be included in the basis which the Minister is adopting for the new structure of pseudorandom tests. I should not be prepared to argue this particular point, because I know how ready some hon. Members opposite are to use the basis of speed limit offences for the extension of random tests. But can any policeman have the right which this Measure will confer to assume impairment of ability to drive when he is involved with someone whose stationary vehicle has defective brakes, defective steering, defective tyres, is emitting dangerous smoke, has dirty glass or windscreens, is improperly equipped, and a host of other so-called "moving" offences? The only thing about these offences which moves is the policeman.
The Minister has refused to alter this Clause because, despite what she said, it reintroduces the principle of random 1242 tests even if the randomness is of dubious statistical parentage. At least she might do it openly. I see that rather than doing that she has now left the Chamber. The British public will resent these powers bitterly unless—this is a very open question—they are used with the greatest discretion. As in so many other spheres, the British public has very little idea of what will hit it when the legislation reaches the Statute Book.
Tyranny is easily recognised and resisted when it comes in boldly in search of naked power for its own sake, but this is a much more insidious and dangerous variety. It hides in the small print of worthy Acts of Parliament produced by worthy people for worthy motives, and those who oppose the minor tyranny lay themselves open to the charge that they are opposed to the major worthy objectives, that they are not on the side of the angels. I am not opposed to the major objectives of this Bill, which in this case involves an altogether new attempt to reconcile the liberty of the subject to drive freely without hindrance and the obligation of the subject to consider the lives and safety of others when he does so, but I am totally opposed to an accumulation of minor tyrannies which wholly satisfy the immediate criteria but only partially, if at all, satisfy the ultimate criteria. They do so by inflicting on the subject a degree of interference which he or she, in my view, will find intolerable, and I am quite certain that the Government will appreciate this before long. Such accumulation of minor tyrannies is not necessarily justified by referring to it, as the Minister did, as a maximum deterrent.
§ Mr. John Morris
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd) got very excited indeed in the course of his speech. He referred to tyrannies and to minor tyrannies, and I thought at one time that he was speaking rather like an Old Testament prophet and giving us a grim forecast of doom if his Amendment should not be accepted. He told us that his Amendment was in essence the same as he moved in Committee. Not only is it so in essence; it is exactly the same.
Secondly, he charged my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary with not having fulfilled his undertaking to 1243 look again at this matter—an undertaking which he gave in Committee. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is still maintaining that, but in pursuance of the undertaking my hon. Friend and I, and the Minister, looked into the matter—I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance—very carefully, and on 26th January my right hon. Friend wrote to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), who was leading for the Opposition in Committee and told him that, on moving traffic offences,we have decided, after careful consideration, that we cannot make any concessions".I hope, having regard to that, that the hon. Member will gracefully withdraw any charge or any suggestion that my hon. Friend did not fulfil the undertaking given in Committee to go carefully into this matter.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd
What I asserted was that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends looked but did not leap.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Gentleman can look at HANSARD in the morning, but I am sure he would not wish it to go out from this House that an undertaking given by my hon. Friend in Committee was not fulfilled.
As my hon. Friend said in Committee, acceptance of this Amendment would seriously weaken the Bill. He also said that this provision was supported by the motoring organisations. I would not have thought that they would have supported this provision—I think the idea came originally from them—if it had in any way been suggested this was tyranny.
But we gave the undertaking, and we looked very carefully at the width of this problem, and I think that this is, perhaps, what the hon. Member's feelings were: he was not objecting to some matters coming within the ambit of this subsection but rather that they should be so all-embracing as to cover such a multitudinous number of sins.
There are three kinds of objections. There are practical objections and technical ones, and there are objections in principle. First, as to the practical objections, as regards limiting the scope of this Clause, we looked at all possible alternatives—the creation of a new list of offences, something on the lines the hon. 1244 Gentleman suggested. This was opposed strenuously by the chief constables in that it would have meant that police officers would have to be armed with this new list; they would have to be sure they did not make a mistake in the application of this list; and it was suggested most strongly to us that this would place a very unfair burden on the police in enforcement, and that it would mean they would be faced with very onerous penalties if they wrongly applied the list.
Then we looked to the existing list. I am going through this to show the hon. Gentleman that we looked very carefully at the matter, because we were minded of the importance of the hon. Gentleman's feelings in Committee. We looked at the existing list of offences attracting disqualification, in Schedule 1 to the Road Traffic Act, 1962. This includes offences involving construction, and use, and licensing and insurance, and I am sure they would not meet the objections of the hon. Gentleman.
Then we looked, thirdly, at offences related to the manner of driving, and this, probably, again, would come within the ambit of what the hon. Gentleman had in mind. Here again we were faced with very serious difficulties of interpretation. There is a precedent for this in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, where disqualification was imposed for any offencein connection with the driving of a motor vehicle".That led to an enormous amount of litigation—I am sure, most lucrative litigation; but this litigation resulted in such doubt, hence Parliament had to face this very same situation in 1956 when it had to create the specific list of offences.
Indeed, it would be virtually impossible to arrive at a definition which would be precise and which would cover the kinds of offences which we particularly feel should be included. Indeed, even if one were to accept the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman said in moving his Amendment, he and I would be at odds immediately, in that speeding would certainly not be one of the offences which we would be excluding. In Committee the hon. Gentleman suggested that speeding was a technical offence. Indeed, he suggested that having 81 milligrammes 1245 of alcohol in the body was also a technical offence. I am certain I would quarrel with him on that, as to what was technical and what was not technical. I am sure he will accept it from me that there are practical difficulties in arriving at a list, and even if one were to decide on a list there would be very important differences of opinion as to what should be in the list and what should not be in the list. So those are the practical difficulties.
As regards objections in principle, I think my right hon. Friend dealt at some length in the debate on an earlier Amendment with what this Bill is about and what its object is. The object of the Bill is to deter all people, whether or not they show any outward signs, from exceeding the limits. It is accepted that most people are affected when they go over the 80 milligrammes, and, on the limited information available to us, probably some people with over 80 show no signs of having consumed alcohol. Therefore, it is essential that the Bill should provide some means of detecting drivers who show no signs. Hence, this part of this subsection (2) is a very important element in order to ensure that this is a deterrent for this very category of people who show no outward signs but for whom it is important that they should remain within the very important random element in the operation of the Bill.
Having regard to these considerations, the practical ones and the objections in principle, I would ask either that the hon. Gentleman withdraw his Amendment or that the House reject it.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd
As the Under-Secretary has convinced me not on the main points of his argument but wholly of the fact that the Government have reintroduced an effective widespread random element, the point that I sought to make. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendments made: No. 7, in page 2, line 39, leave out 'preliminary' and insert 'breath'.
§ No. 8, in page 3, line 9, leave out 'preliminary' and insert 'breath'.
§ No. 9, in line 12, leave out 'preliminary' and insert 'breath'.1246
§ No. 10, in line 20, leave out 'preliminary' and insert 'breath'.—[Mr. Taverne.]
§ Mr. Taverne
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 28, to leave out subsection (7) and to insert:(7) A person arrested under this section or the said section 6(4) shall, while at a police station, be given an opportunity to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test there.Mr. Deputy Speaker, might we at the same time consider two consequential Amendments, No. 12, in page 3, Clause 3, line 38, leave out from 'urine)' to second 'that' in line 41 and insert:'if he has previously been given an opportunity to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test at that station under subsection (7) of the last foregoing section, and either—(a) it appears to a constable on the breath test'.and No. 13, in line 44, leave out from 'when' to 'he' in line 45 and insert:'given the opportunity to provide that specimen'.
§ Mr. Taverne
In these Government Amendments we are acting on a suggestion made by the Opposition in the Committee proceedings, that the problem presented by mouth alcohol should be dealt with in the Bill by providing for a second breath test at the police station, instead of the police dealing with the problem administratively as was originally proposed. The Government undertook in Committee to consider the suggestion, and we have now accepted it. The two other Amendments are consequential on the one that I have moved.
Clause 2(7) at present only enables the police to require a person arrested under Section 6(4) of the 1960 Act to take a breath test at the police station. It does not refer at all to persons arrested or asked to take a breath test under the Bill. The power is at present discretionary, but in practice it would no doubt be exercised in all cases arising under Section 6(4) because the power to require a specimen for a laboratory test depends on a breath test having been carried out, or, of course, on a refusal to take a breath test.
The proposed new subsection (7) of Clause 2 places a new statutory duty on the police to offer a breath test to all 1247 persons brought to the police station under arrest, whether they are arrested under Section 6(4) of the 1960 Act or under the Bill. Persons arrested under the Bill will either be arrested under Clause 2(4), where there is a positive breath test, or under Clause 2(5), where someone fails to perform the breath test. Thus, the second breath test must be offered to those who are arrested for refusing a roadside test as well as to those who produce a positive result.
A feature of the Amendment is that a time lapse will now be automatically provided for between a road side test and the second test, because it will take some time to get the person to the police station and to go through certain formalities there before he takes the second test. This time lapse should normally be a period of 20 minutes, which is what is desirable, and that should be a sufficient safeguard against the mouth alcohol effect making the test not reliable. If, however, the police station happens to be very close to the place of arrest, and if, therefore, the time lapse should be less than 20 minutes, and if the driver claims that he had a very recent drink, the police will need to ensure that there is an adequate delay between tests. We shall certainly give guidance to the police on this.
The Amendment is not applied to the case of a person taken to hospital after an accident; if in such a case the police require the person to undergo a breath test, it will almost always be done at the hospital, provided that the hospital doctor does not object, because the first consideration will be to get him to hospital. The time lapse will then almost always be sufficient to ensure against mouth alcohol effect.
The effect of the Amendment on a person arrested under Section 6(4) of the 1960 Act is that he must be given the opportunity of a breath test at the police station. Although in such case the poilce will have a duty instead of a discretion under the Bill with the Amendment, it will make no difference in practice because, as I have stated, the police will almost always prefer to ask for the test there to enable them to prosecute for a fixed level offence rather than for impairment.
The second and third of the Amendments amend Clause 3(1) relating to the 1248 conditions to be satisfied before a person can be required to provide a specimen for a laboratory test, and are consequential on the first Amendment.
The effect of the consequential Amendments is that neither a person arrested under the Bill nor one arrested under Section 6(4) of the 1960 Act can be required to provide a specimen of blood or of urine for a laboratory test under the Bill unless he is given the opportunity of a breath test at the police station and either the result is positive or he fails or refuses to do the test.
§ Mr. Awdry
As I moved the Amendment on this subject in Standing Committee, I should like to thank the Under-Secretary for making this concession, which I believe will make for a fairer and more acceptable Bill.
I have said enough about mouth alcohol in Standing Committee and this House, and if I say any more I shall gain a reputation for drinking. Therefore, I do not intend to repeat any of the arguments that I used in Committee. It is generally agreed that tests taken immediately after a person has been drinking give false results. It is absolutely right that an accused person should have the right to ask for a second test.
I remind the House of the words used by the Under-Secretary about this matter in Standing Committee:I propose to deal first with a minor point of detail, but it may be as well to put the record straight. I understand that medical opinion is that no trace of mouth alcohol effect remains after possibly 20, and almost certainly after 25, minutes. Within the 25-minute period the mouth alcohol effect is greatest. It is worst immediately after drinking alcohol, and it reduces progressively until it disappears after 25 minutes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 1st December, 1966; c. 181–2.]In Standing Committee the Government seemed rather reluctant to support an Amendment. I very much welcome their change of heart. The Amendment gives additional safeguards to the innocent motorist, and we are grateful for it.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) for bringing this matter before the Standing Committee, and to the Government for now putting this Amendment forward on Report. 1249 Here we have the second example today of the positive, co-operative work that was done in the Committee, in that two matters raised on the Opposition side in Committee have now been accepted by the Government, on both occasions despite the determination at the time of the Under-Secretary that no such legislation was required. I am glad that he has seen fit to change his mind on this case since I am sure that, as my hon. Friend has said, the new proposal will do away with what would have been a considerable unfairness to many people who would have been taken to the police station as a result of a first test where mouth alcohol might have affected the reading and would then have had to undergo a urine or blood test and perhaps have had to wait several days before they knew the outcome of the test and whether they were guilty of an offence or not. It does not take much imagination to realise the great mental agony that many people might have suffered whose whole future, perhaps, was dependent on the outcome of the test when they were themselves confident that the effect of the breath test had been caused by mouth alcohol rather than anything else.
The Under-Secretary referred to our proceedings in Committee. In column 182 he made clear that it was his impression of the working of the Bill in practice that the police would very often agree to give a second test at the roadside to a man who maintained that he had only recently, within the last few minutes, had a drink.
I hope that, despite this Amendment, the police will still do this in those cases, because it will save many people from being unnecessarily taken to the police stations. A man might say, "I know that I have a positive reading on the breath test. I have literally had only one drink, but I had that within the last five minutes". If he could have another test at the roadside, it would save the police a great deal of additional work. I hope that is still proposed.
Do I understand from the new proposal that it is the Government's intention that every individual police station shall now have a breathalyser at the police station? Presumably they will have to, so as to be able to conduct the second test. If so, when in practice are police stations likely to be so equipped and will the 1250 coming into force of the Bill be dependent upon the Treasury's providing the money to furnish the various police stations with breathalysers?
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Taverne
The question of a second roadside test must depend on the circumstances. I do not think I can say what the invariable practice will be. One of the advantages of the second test at the police station is that the police will no longer have to hang about for 20 minutes at the roadside. On the other hand, in certain other cases if they are testing a number of individuals and if the first one to be tested says, "I have only just had a drink and I have mouth alcohol effect", it may well be that for their own convenience, as well as that of the motorist, the police would say, "Wait until we have tested the others and then have another go". However, we do not want the individual to have to undergo three tests, four tests, or five tests. This must be left to the discretion of the individual police officer.
Testing devices will be available at police stations. May I correct the hon. Gentleman on one point? The word "breathalyser" is commonly used. In fact, the breath-test device will not be the breathalyser. The breathalyser is one which is claimed to have an accurate reading, whereas ours is a screening device The breathalyser is a particular product. Ours is a breath-test device. There will be breath-test devices at police stations for the purpose of this second test.
The date of the coming into operation of the Bill, when enacted, will depend upon the number of devices available to the police. They are already being tested. Within a matter of weeks our final tests will have been concluded on whether or not the devices supplied by particular manufacturers are suitable. However, they will have to be available in considerable quantities before this part of the Bill can become operative. This does not depend upon the Treasury. It depends simply upon how fast we can get a sufficiently large number of breathtesting devices.
§ Mr. Ian Lloyd
To return briefly to the question of the breathalyser, in Committee the Under-Secretary referred to the question of statistical limits of error for this apparatus. After an assurance 1251 that some limit of error was built into the limits prescribed by the Government, he undertook to inform us what these limits were.
I attach the greatest importance to the public's knowing what are the statistical limits of error in all the apparatus the Government intend to use. If it is a very minor, insignificant limit of error, we can forget about it. If the statistical limit of error is significantly large, we should know what provisions the Government are building into the whole apparatus and administration of this law. The public should know and the House should know.
§ Mr. Taverne
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the limits now, because this question depends partly on the results of the tests to establish exactly what the error will be. However, it will not be significantly large.
§ Amendment agreed to.