HC Deb 17 May 1968 vol 764 cc1561-94

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I recognise that to have the Second Reading of a Bill as late in the Session as this does not give it a very good chance of reaching the Statute Book. In debating the Bill, however, we have an opportunity to look at the effect of the breathalyser and road safety during the first six months of the breathalyser's operation. There is no doubt that the new law on drink and driving is having a beneficial effect. There is an encouraging reduction in the number of casualties. What is so interesting is that that trend has continued over the last six months.

The improvement has been maintained even after the public have begun to get the measure of the new threat to their driving licences. The novelty of the threat has worn off. It is no longer a subject of major conversation at any social gathering. Even jokes about the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who introduced the Bill, and the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) are wearing a little thin and stale.

Therefore, six months after the introduction of the Act which my Bill seeks to amend, the signs are, as a whole, not so much of the old habits reasserting themselves, but of definite evidence of an enduring change in people's habits. There is more careful driving. There is certainly less drinking and driving and the volume of traffic during drinking hours has fallen significantly. The figures were supplied by the Automobile Association.

Having looked, however, at the credit side of the Act which I seek to amend after this period of time, it seems right that we should consider some of its defects, the troubles which have been thrown up during the first six months of its operation and the doubts and worries which still linger in some people's minds.

I think that all Members of Parliament had a fairly large number of letters on the subject of the Road Safety Act when the breathalyser tests came in, with all their surrounding publicity. Since I decided to use my place in the Ballot for the Bill, I have had a great deal of correspondence. The important point, however, is that I have had not one letter from the County of Lincolnshire complaining about police enforcement of the Act.

The House will realise that in Lincolnshire especially, a big agricultural county, during the festive season we have a large number of poultry checks on every road. Nearly every car going home at night during the Christmas season is stopped on the roads by the police. Before the poultry checks started the Chief Constable gave an instruction, which was well publicised at the time, that the first duty of the police was to check for poultry and escaping criminals and under no circumstances to pursue the motorist. I believe that that has been the spirit in which the tests have been continued by the police.

I also believe that in the counties which I know well, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire in my constituency, the breathaliser has not destroyed the relationship between the public and the police. That may be in particular, but one reason for my Bill is that I would like to look at the problem in general; and we should realise that perhaps—I say no more than "perhaps"—the position is not quite the same over the country as a whole.

There is just a suspicion, no more than that, on the evidence so far available, that the moving traffic offence may be used as a hidden means of introducing random tests, the one thing which Parliament decided should never be done. I say this—and the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am distorting the figures—because about one-third of the tests taken follow accidents, about another one-third are taken where a policeman suspects that a motorist has been drinking—but the category of having committed a moving offence represents more than the remaining one-third.

It is difficult to obtain accurate statistics and I appreciate the difficulty of the Department in probably not having analysed the position. I obtained my figures from a leading article in The Times published just before Christmas. I understand that the trend, which was obvious then, has continued. On the trend at that time, it is fair to say that the main reason why the police are stopping people—in numbers slightly in excess of other reasons—is for moving traffic offences. This is a tendency which the House must watch carefully, and I hope that further information on this score will be produced during the debate.

The other grounds for introducing my Bill are the very real doubts which exist about the efficiency of the breathalyser—the chemical and scientific methods of the law. If my Measure is given a Second Reading it will restore the discretion of magistrates not to disqualify a person from driving if, after he has had a positive breath test, which in itself is followed by a subsequent positive blood test and if, after that, he can satisfy the magistrates that he was fit to drive. To justify this we should consider the efficiency of the breathalyser in the last six months, the efficiency of the blood test and the effectiveness of disqualification because, as I say, my Bill would give magistrates the discretion not to disqualify.

I am conscious of the fact that I was brought up to believe that the people of Loughborough have very sound judgment. That belief was shattered in 1945 when they changed their Member of Parliament. However, we felt proud to live in a county like Leicestershire, which has such robust, independent and sound magistrates when we were delighted when the Loughborough magistrates' decided not to convict a motorist—because there was no proof that the police, in testing him, had used a device which had been approved by the Home Secretary—and when they upheld an appeal to the Queen's Bench in front of the Lord Chief Justice.

Our locality does not often figure in headlines in The Times law reports, but I much enjoyed yesterday's headline "Police Lose" and the Loughborough magistrates made a good point. Their decision had the great merit of embarrassing the Home Office and, although this was not a particularly good side effect, it induced yet another Government circular and it certainly reinforced my faith in British justice in general and the magistrates' bench in particular.

One must be disturbed at the general inaccuracy of the approved device. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary will dispute the fact that one-third of the tests when taken on people are positive, and that, of that one-third of people with positive roadside tests, who must then go on to the police station, virtually under arrest, 17 per cent. are proved on further testing to be negative. Thus, a very large number of people, because of this inaccurate device, are arrested, taken to a police station and forced to go through what has generally been described as a serious inconvenience but what, in my opinion, is the embarrassing indignity of further tests. Nobody has queried the most distasteful of these tests, probably because it is so much part of general medical practice.

It is important for the House to give my Bill a Second Reading because there are now serious doubts about the efficiency of the blood test. Even that newspaper which can hardly be described as Conservative—the New Statesman—had a leading article on 15th March headed, "Blood Tests Can Lie". In the Midlands and Lincolnshire there is real doubt about the blood test and this springs from three Sheffield cases and the researches of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. John Osborn), who is a sponsor of the Bill and who very much regrets that, because he must be abroad, he cannot be here to support the Bill today. The Sheffield Telegraph has done a magnificent job in highlighting the doubts which have been expressed in Sheffield over the efficiency of the blood test.

Hon. Members will recall that in February two motorists were acquitted because when they sent their own samples of blood to their independent analysts, who happened to be the consulting chemical pathologist at the Sheffield Northern General Hospital, they showed that, in the eyes of the law, the offending motorists did not have over the prescribed amount of alcohol in their blood. The magistrates acquitted both the first two cases.

On 9th March there was a third case. The magistrates did not acquit the person, but the point was made during this case, again by the consultant pathologist at the Sheffield Northern General Hospital, that he was most unhappy about the Government blood test and, in particular, about the margin of error allowed in that test. So high had feelings run on this issue, particularly among medical people in the Midlands, that the Sheffield branch of the British Medical Association Executive Committee met on 15th March and pledged its full support for an investigation into the margin of error allowed in Home Office blood tests.

As a result of this doubt and uproar, what has happened is perhaps not for the best because the method of sampling has now been changed. The Home Office has sanctioned another indignity on the suspected motorist who is suspect of drinking in that the police doctor is now to be allowed to use a hypodermic syringe to take blood tests instead of taking them from one's finger or the lobe of one's ear. This is not something which should be lightly inflicted on the very large number of innocent people I have already mentioned as being brought into the police station because of the innacuracy of the breathalyser, which is the first test.

As well as introducing the syringe, the Home Office decided that it would try and help motorists by issuing a list of recognised analysists, compiled by the Royal Institute of Chemistry, so that the motorist would know where to send his sample of blood in order to get another count for any court case. But the circular was not one of the Government's best, since it recommended a firm in Sheffield which, on enquiry by a Sheffield newspaper, admitted that it had not even the equipment with which to do the tests. So, as the A.A. reported on 20th April, in the fifth largest city in England, in the centre of the Midlands, there are no facilities for a motorist to have his blood count decided on his behalf as against the Government.

What is even worse in the Government's conduct of this question of accuracy of blood tests is a letter of 5th April from the then Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, sent to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam, who had complained that there were not proper testing facilities for motorists in the Sheffield area. The letter is not quite arrogant in tone but it has a certain hectoring attitude which I detect in the attitudes of quite a few junior Ministers. The letter made the point that motorists did not take proper care of their samples in order to give false results. I cannot believe that this is true. How can the Government say that motorists take proper care of their samples when, owing to the inadequacy of the services for proper analysis, a motorist has to commit his precious sample to the tender mercies of Her Majesty's mail?

Having dealt with the doubts about the accuracy of the chemical device and with the serious problems which have arisen over the blood test, I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us something about the effectiveness of disqualification. His predecessor gave an undertaking in Standing Committee E, as a result of evidence presented by my right hon. Friend for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), that the Ministry would look at the deterrent effect of disqualification. Evidence in Standing Committee was given from the Chair which studies crime at Cambridge University. This showed the results of interviews with 94 youths who had been disqualified. It was found that 76 of them had driven when disqualified and that 40 of these had driven immediately after disqualification. The average time on a yearly disqualification of effective non-driving among all the 94 youths was 5½ months.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us whether or not the Ministry has been able to do serious research into the problem of why people drive when disqualified and what is the optimum period of effective disqualification. It would appear to be about six months and that offenders disqualified for a longer period are more likely to succumb before the order expires.

If any hon. Member were unfortunate enough to be disqualified, it would be quite impossible for him—quite apart from the moral issues—to drive, but if some comparatively unknown person commits an offence in Gainsborough and is disqualified there but then takes a job in, say, Pembroke or Truro, there is every chance that he can drive and, as long as he does not have an accident, the odds are that he will get away with it.

So disqualification may be a very serious penalty for those to whom even going to court or even being in this sort of trouble is a very serious penalty, but it is not, on the figures supplied by Cambridge University, such a great deterrent for many other people, so I hope that further research has been done into this problem because, when the Act was introduced, the point was made that disqualification is the main deterrent and not the fine. The fine is variable but not the period of disqualification.

There is one other difficulty which my Bill seeks to put right. If we accept that there is a certain amount of inaccuracy in the breathalyser—and the figures I have given show that 17 per cent. of those tested are innocent—that there is serious doubt about the blood test, and that there are inadequate facilities for a motorist to have his blood sample tested in his own interest, surely this alone is a case for the Bill being given a Second reading. It does not in any way attempt to destroy the Act. It merely seeks to restore the discretion to the magistrates not to disqualify, provided, and alway provided, that the motorist can prove that he was fit to drive.

To exceed the 30 m.p.h. limit does not equal careless or dangerous driving. To have over 80 milligrams of alcohol to 100 ml. of blood does not mean in all circumstances that one is unfit to drive. When we are considering the weaknesses which have emerged in the working of the Act, we should bear in mind the case of the person who does not know that he is over the "bogey" because of the slow burn-up rate of alcohol in his blood.

It is perfectly possible to get up in the morning feeling perfectly sober, drive to work, be hit by someone else, forced to take a test and to find oneself over the bogey, although one has had nothing to drink since the previous evening. No one would expect an undergraduate to drive on boat race night or anyone to drive after a regimental reunion. But we all expect to go to work next morning, take important decisions and to be, in the eyes of every commercial and tutorial undertaking, perfectly sober. Yet, because of a slow burn-up rate of alcohol, one may commit an offence driving to work without knowing that one has committed it.

These are the reasons why I hope the House will give a Second Reading to the Bill. I know that the road of private Member's legislation is difficult. Indeed, my normal attendance here on Fridays is because, in many instances, I feel that the Government have made the path too easy for some undesirable legislation, so I would not at this late stage in the session ask the Government for any Government time in order to get the Bill through. I hope that we can be realistic about its chances coming so late in the Session. But I hope that we may have a general debate on the problems the Bill seeks to solve and perhaps, with a little fortune, another hon. Member with a better place in the ballot will take the Bill up next October.

11.29 a.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

I am sure that it will be no surprise to the House to learn that the Government are totally opposed to the provisions of this Bill. What is surprising is that the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) should seek to promote a Bill which would have the effect of undoing what is clearly, by common consent, the most successful single road safety Measure of the decade.

The House will be familiar with the arguments which lay behind the Road Safety Act since it was discussed very fully during its passage through the House. I will summarise them briefly. Under the Road Traffic Act, 1960, a motorist could be convicted of driving when under the influence of drink only if it were proved in court that he was "unfit to drive". It is well known that this expression was notoriously difficult to interpret, which was why in the Road Traffic Act, 1962, the phrase was explicitly defined as meaning that the motorist's ability to drive properly was for the time being impaired". Even after this amendment, the police found it extremely difficult to prove impairment in the courts. The judgment of whether or not a person who has been drinking is so intoxicated that his driving is impaired is inevitably a subjective one. Court verdicts were forced to rely on the opinions of witnesses which were often conflicting. The result was that a great many motorists were acquitted because some measure of doubt had been established about the extent of their impairment.

Because of the difficulty of proving a case, the police were forced only to prosecute in extreme circumstances. Prosecutions were rarely brought at blood alcohol levels before 150 m.g. to 100 m.1., although at this level a driver's accident risk is increased tenfold, and there were regular acquittals of motorists with levels over 200 m.g., especially in trials before a jury. In view of the number of jurors who are motorists, one might well ask how many of the jurors said, "There but for the grace of God go I" in reaching their verdict.

In 1964, important new evidence appeared, contained in the work of Professor Borkenstein at the University of Indiana. An analysis of the blood alcohol levels of a very large number of drivers involved in accidents was compared with an analysis of a comparable control sample of drivers who had not had accidents. The work established conclusively, not only that a driver who has been drinking heavily is an enormously increased accident risk, but also that the accident risk increases progressively from a comparatively low level of blood alcohol. The promoters of this Bill simply have not grasped the point that the increase starts from a very low level of blood-alcohol.

It is not enough to legislate against the motorist who is patently intoxicated. A motorist is a serious hazard on the road long before he reaches such an advanced stage of intoxication, and any legislation on the subject must accept this fact and cater for it. Medical and scientific opinion is unanimous on this. Many people's driving ability is affected at levels as low as 50 m.g. and virtually everyone is impaired at a level of 80. On average, a driver is almost twice his normal accident risk at that level. Above this level, impairment increases very rapidly indeed.

The effect of this Bill would be to create two levels of offence: first, driving while over the limit but not unfit to drive. The suggestion is that there should be a smaller fine, with disqualification being left to the discretion of the magistrates. The second level of offence would be driving over the limit and unfit to drive—penalties as they are under the present law. This contradicts all the evidence which I have outlined. There is an assumption that motorists who are over 80 m.g. can still be fit to drive. We all know of the individual who says that he drives better with two or three pints inside him. But this contradicts the facts. If a driver is a significantly increased accident risk, how can he be fit to drive? It is simply misinformed to presume. as this Bill does, that there are two different situations, namely, being over 80 m.g. but not unfit to drive, and being over 80 m.g. and unfit to drive as well. The distinction does not exist.

How would unfitness to drive be proved? I presume that it would be proved by all the paraphernalia of subjective opinion which was used under the 1960 and 1962 provisions. Experience has shown that this is a totally unsatisfactory way of determining whether a driver was impaired or not, and can be difficult to substantiate in court. I am sure we do not want to return to that state of affairs.

Driving after excessive drinking is regarded by us as a serious matter, and I am sure that the majority of our people would agree with us. This is why the Act prescribes automatic disqualification for driving with a level over 80, and obviously the Bill's sponsors agree with this, since they keep the penalty in the Act for their more serious offence of driving while over 80 m.g. and unfit. But the Bill seeks to mitigate offence and penalty in some circumstances, prescribing discretionary disqualification and a smaller fine for the offence of driving over 80, although fit to drive. The effect of this would be to put the offence of driving while over the limit on a par with, say, a speeding offence. I am sure that this would not be acceptable to the public.

The effect of the 1967 Act on the accident rate has been referred to by the hon. Gentleman. Although he has not said so, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is no doubt that the provisions of the Road Safety Act are having a dramatic effect on the road accident rate. During the first five months since the Act came into force, road deaths have fallen by 22 per cent. and serious injuries by 15 per cent., by comparison with the previous year. In terms of actual casualties, this represents a saving of 800 lives and over 6,000 serious injuries. What has been particularly striking has been the fall in accidents during the late evening. For example, in the month following the introduction of the new law, fatal and serious casualties between 10 p.m. and midnight fell by about 30 per cent., and by 57 per cent. between midnight and 4 a.m. The reductions around Christmas also bear this out—a time traditionally associated with office parties and other celebrations. Over the Christmas period, deaths were down by 36 per cent. and serious injuries by 30 per cent. There is no evidence of any reductions in the volume of traffic over this period. Naturally we expect traffic volumes to increase. Therefore, if we accepted the Bill, we would have a much worse situation than we had before the introduction of the 1967 Act.

Back in October, we had evidence of plentiful public support for the new law, and I know that this support has increased now that the results of the Measure have been shown in the accident figures. People have seen that the stricter legislation is both necessary and effective. We have received enormous numbers of letters congratulating us on its success, and a great many more urging us to resist strongly any attempt to amend legislation which is having such good results. We have no intention of succumbing to the pressure from the small group of opponents of the Act, many of whom are connected with the licensed trade. We do, of course, sympathise with any people whose incomes may have been affected by the new legislation, but I am sure that the House will agree that the casualty savings which I described earlier more than justify any hardship which the measure may have caused.

As I said at the outset, this Bill is totally unacceptable to the Government. It is an attempt to wreck a highly successful road safety Measure, and an attempt which is based, not on genuine informed criticism, but on prejudice and misunderstanding of the effect of alcohol on driving. I hope therefore that the hon. Member will see fit to withdraw it. If he is not prepared to do that, I hope that the House will treat the Bill with the contempt it deserves and reject it decisively.

11.41 a.m.

Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)

This is one of the happy occasions when the views of hon. Members transcend the ordinary barriers of party and on this occasion I am totally unable to agree with the case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) in support of his Bill. As to my own view on the merits of the matter, I can identify myself completely with what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said to the House. I express the hope that, having ventilated the matter, my hon. Friend, who is always reasonable in these cases, will realise the extent of the case against his Bill and, in due course, ask leave to withdraw it.

There can be little doubt that the mass of the public are greatly in support of the Road Safety Act, 1967. That support has greatly increased since the Act came into force and people have seen the quite dramatic results which have been achieved in saving road users from death and injury. I would certainly, at this early stage, want a great deal of convincing that it was right to modify an Act which came into force only on 9th October, 1967, and which, in terms of every available statistic, has more than fulfilled everything that was claimed and hoped from it.

The principal provision of the Act was for scientific tests to determine the level of alcohol in the blood of motorists when previously the tests which were submitted as to unfitness to drive were notoriously unsatisfactory and uncertain in the results which they produced.

My hon. Friend was frank in saying that far and away the main deterrent of the 1967 Act to driving under the influence or driving with more than the permitted amount of alcohol in the blood is the disqualification from driving for a period. We must all agree that that is the major disincentive.

My hon. Friend went on, however, having admitted that the disqualification is what the driver fears most, to seek to whittle down the effectiveness of the deterrent and to create a public climate of opinion which would take a less serious view than is at present taken of the offence of driving in the circumstances prohibited in the 1967 Act. The aim of the legislation was clear from the beginning. It was to reduce the number of accidents and to cut down the high level of fatalities. As we have seen in the comparatively short period in which it has been in operation, it has been outstandingly successful in that regard.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that on 17th January last the first statistics were given to Members of the House. Between 9th and 31st October, 1967, the fatal casualty rate per 100 million vehicle miles was 6.8 compared with 8.6 for a similar period in 1966. The number of accidents in October as a whole which involved death or injury was 9 per cent. lower than in October, 1966, although traffic had increased by 4 per cent.

Figures for the Christmas period were announced when the Joint Parliamentary Secretary told the House: The provisional figure for the number of road accidents in Great Britain for the five days beginning on 22nd December is 3,096. The corresponding figure for Christmas 1966 was 4,239. The provisional numbers of deaths and serious injuries over the Christmas period … were 98 and 1,013, compared with 158 and 1,507 last year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 1757.] It is not unfair to say that virtually the whole of the opposition to the Act since it came into force has come from vested interests whose business has to some extent suffered as a result of the Act. I have had experience, as, I imagine, a great many other hon. Members had, of receiving quite a number of duplicated communications from constituents, all of them expressed in the same form, all obviously produced on the same duplicating machine and all obviously emanating from a common source.

The form of those communications has consisted largely of an allegation to the effect that tests were being made by the breathalyser in a manner which was not authorised by the law and asking me to endeavour to secure legislation in the House to curb the activities of the police in subjecting members of the public to the breathalyser test.

In each case, I wrote back to the constituents concerned and said that, obviously, the allegation in their letter was a serious one and that if it could be demonstrated that the police were acting ultra vires and contrary to the law, that was a matter on which, if they would be good enough to supply me with particulars of the episodes on which the allegations were based, I would immediately bring them to the attention of the proper Government authorities so that any cases could be properly investigated.

It is interesting to note that I have not had one reply to those letters. Not one of the several scores of constituents who wrote to me making that allegation has been able to provide me with an authenticated example in which the test has been applied illegally and improperly. It is a rather serious matter when a vested interest deludes a number of people who do not really understand what they are doing into sending out communications containing allegations of that kind and the writers then put themselves in the position, when challenged, that they are utterly unable to produce one case or fact in support of the allegation contained in their letters.

I was rather impressed—I shall read only a short sentence or two from it—by an article written by Bernard Levin on the campaign against the breathalyser. I certainly would not be able universally to quote the writings of Bernard Levin with approval, but on this occasion he went to the very heart of the problem. Having described the crude method of addressing Members of Parliament, as he described it, he said in his newspaper article: The fortunate thing about this campaign from the point of view of the 'average person', on whom the principal effect of the breath test legislation has been to decrease sharply his chances of being killed by a drunken motorist, is that it is too ludicrously devised and presented to be as unsavoury as its implications. That is not an unfair comment on this ill-advised campaign, which I think has already died down for want of any general public support. I will now deal with what seemed to be the main objections to the Bill. The primary intention of the Road Safety Act, 1967, was to substitute scientific chemical tests for the previously wholly inadequate clinical tests. I submit that it would be folly to consider, even in a limited area, returning to these inadequate clinical tests.

Secondly, the scientific tests are a much fairer method of defining responsibility, since no arbitrary element, such as a doctor's intuitive judgment, is involved. Thirdly, the scientific tests apply without discrimination to all motorists. Fourth, the accuracy of the blood test is an important element in administering this legislation, as the result gives magistrates an unvariable criterion. Anyone who has served for a good many years as a magistrate, as I have, realises the importance of this unvariable criterion.

Lastly and perhaps most important, the reduction in the number of road accident injuries and deaths indicates the success of this new Act. The choice before the public is a very simple one. It is a choice between, on the one hand, increasing safety from death or injury by road accident for every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom, or halting the reduction in profits, which from all accounts, has not been very marked, if it exists at all, of a limited vested interest.

11.57 a.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I was a little surprised to hear the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) denouncing a campaign carried out by mimeographed circulars. He is very much connected with that kind of campaign himself, with people who propose to make the laws affecting the Sabbath more rational. I was a little alarmed by the Parliamentary Secretary's brief, which he read to us in answer to the speech of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball). It is quite understandable that whoever wrote that speech for him could not have heard the speech of the hon. Member. What seemed much more alarming is that he could not possibly have read the Bill either, because the brief seemed to be directed to some wholly different point, a proposal to repeal the Road Safety Act, 1967.

It is necessary to point out that this is not what the hon. Members Bill proposes. The Road Safety Act, 1967, certainly had my support, although I had certain reservations, because in the interests of justice, and from my experience of the courts, I have always disliked fixed sentences which leave no discretion to judges. I cannot always feel that we in this House, knowing nothing of the particular facts of an offence, are necessarily better judges of the right penalty than an experienced judge who has heard the facts. This is an aside, however. It was very necessary to stiffen the law with regard to drunken motoring. I have experience of this as an advocate, and know the results on human beings of motor accidents. Often a jury is seen to return some extraordinary merciful verdicts, out of fellow feeling.

The Bill does not bring back the jury, it says that in a particular case, where a man has over the legal limit in his blood, according to the test, it will be open to him—and the burden of proof in this matter will be on him—to prove, not to a sympathetic jury, but to an experienced magistrate, that the alcohol which he had in that particular case did not in any way affect his driving. This does not alter the case that alcohol always has some effect on driving. In this particular case, he has to prove this.

The magistrate has a discretion, and if he finds that the alcohol had not affected the man's driving, as he drove at that time, and that there were other special circumstances enabling him to exercise that discretion, he could say that in this case, not only was the man unaffected in the way he drove by the alcohol that he had taken, but that there were special circumstances, as a result of which he need not remove the licence.

I do not find that an unreasonable proposal. The Parliamentary Secretary correctly points out that taking alcohol always affects a driver's capacity to drive. That is not the only thing that affects a driver's capacity to drive. There is something else, of which I find myself imbibing all too rapidly that affects a driver's capacity to drive, and that is old age. Every year we get older, and our capacity to drive becomes that much less. Unless we compensate for this loss of ability, we are very dangerous. For me to drive as I could drive 30 or 40 years ago, with safety, would be exceedingly dangerous today. This applies equally to alcohol.

Some people, who are accustomed to driving home after sitting in this House, when they have had a drink with their dinner—and I am one of them—realise that this is an occasion on which they have to drive a good deal more slowly than they would otherwise. Certainly, if I am driving home after dinner, the only risk of accident that I really run is that someone may run into me from behind. A man has to prove, under the hon. Member's Bill, not to a sympathetic jury but to a magistrate, that in the particular circumstances he was making the necessary adjustments in his driving to suit his condition; that he was driving in a manner which would not only be safe for one of his age and ability as a driver who had not taken alcohol, but in a manner which would be safe after he had had his dinner and had one or two drinks or had been to a regimental dinner the night before.

He would have to prove all these things, and then it would be up to the discretion of a magistrate to say, "I am satisfied not only that he made the necessary adjustments in his driving, but there are special circumstances which make me feel that, although the person has done something wrong, which is to drive at all, none the less I feel that I can exercise discretion in this case." Will the deterrent effect be seriously reduced by giving magistrates this very small extra discretion? People will still be subject to the breathalyser, they will still have to go to the police station and they will still be subject, in 99 cases out of 100, to having their licences withdrawn. It is merely that in the hundredth case a magistrate, who has been satisfied by the accused, on whom the burden of proof is put, considers that what a rigid rule would require him to do would be not to do justice but to do injustice. In that hundredth case he should be free to do what he deems to be justice.

This is a reasonable proposal. The Ministry should take back their brief, and they should be asked to look at what the Bill does, and not to say, with almost ebullient arrogance that they have had such a splendid success that nobody shall make the smallest adjustment. If the successes are to endure, if public opinion is to be retained, if there is not to be a reaction, there is a case for being open-minded and accepting the minor adjustments that justice may require.

12.2 p.m.

Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)

I support the Bill, and I apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary for being out of the Chamber when he made his speech, although I have heard all the other speeches. I had hoped that the Bill would create more interest in the House and that more hon. Members would be here. It raises an important point of principle which particularly concerns those hon. Members like myself who represent rural constituencies, and at a later stage I shall say something on that aspect.

I will first refer to the courts which have to administer the Road Safety Act, 1967. As a magistrate in my own county for nearly 20 years, I am not unaware of the effect of this type of legislation on the conduct of magistrates' courts and on the morale of magistrates. It is a continuation of the trend of legislation on road matters ever since the war. As a magistrate I am driven more and more to the conclusion that, by enacting such legislation, Parliament must think that magistrates are brainless morons with no capacity to weigh decisions or to judge cases.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The debate is a wide one, but not quite as wide as that.

Mr. More

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I could relate my observations to the wording of the Bill, which puts the onus on a person who is convicted of an offence under Section 1(1) of the Principal Act of 1967 to satisfy the court: … that, at the time when the offence was committed, he was not unfit to drive … What I was trying to say, Mr. Speaker, and I hope it was not out of order, was that the effect of the Amendment would be to put decisions on this question back into the sphere of magistrates' discretion, instead of magistrates having no option to question the evidence or the terms of the penalty, which is what the Act now does, and what so many Acts concerned with road safety have done. Magistrates who are performing this service like to feel that they are chosen for their special capacity to assess fairly cases of this kind, and it would be bad for the morale of magistrates if legislation were to act as a discouragement to them.

I agree with what the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said about one's personal reactions in the way one drives according to the conditions which face one. He referred to old age, and that is a matter which affects me rather acutely. I now drive more slowly than I used to. He said that other things than alcohol could affect one's driving. I do not know if I am chemically curiously constituted, but cigars affect me as much as alcohol, perhaps because I do not smoke them very often. When I have smoked a cigar I tend to drive more slowly than on ordinary occasions. Whether one is a regular or an irregular drinker may also be revelant. Some hon. Members would say that it is better not to be a drinker at all. I would class myself as an irregular, rather than a regular, drinker, but I do not know if that is any safer, because it means that one is apt to find oneself, alcoholically speaking, in a "different situation" at different times. It is my personal rule that if I have imbibed I drive more slowly than on other occasions.

One can be affected by other things than cigars and alcohol. I drive more slowly coming away from a stormy political meeting than I do when I am going to one because I am slightly more emotionally boiled up after the meeting than when I am driving to it and mentally preparing my speech. There are a number of other factors which affect all these questions, apart from alcohol, and they should be taken into account. This Bill fastens on the single subject of alcohol which, to use a fashionable word, is an emotive subject, and it prescribes the penalties which we see in Section 5 of the principal Act.

I do not know if it is appreciated what the effects of the principal Act have been. In 1966, quite a lot was said in Second Reading about the likely effects, and we have now had a year in which to judge them. I represent a constituency which is very scattered, where many of our licensed houses are a long way not only from towns but from villages and where, in this day and age, it is hardly possible for a publican to expect a single customer unless he comes by car. I ask the House to appreciate the effect of provisions such as those in the 1967 Act on a very large proportion of licensed houses in an area like mine.

I was talking to a publican the other day not far from where I live. He told me that most people do not dare to come to his house. Anyone who does has to find someone who will provide his car, perhaps arrange seats for three other people and so organise a party. But it is very complicated to do it, and the result is that most people do not come.

Mr. Paget

Whether it be right or wrong that they do not come, would this Bill make the slightest difference one way or the other?

Mr. More

I am grateful for that intervention, because I agree. I do not think that it would. However, in an area like mine, the question is wider than that of the isolated publican. It also applies to the village public house because, in my part of the world, our villages are very small and scattered. We do not have the considerable concentration of houses such as one finds in counties like Essex and Cambridgeshire. The situation in our villages is no better. But what has astonished me is that, even in small country towns like Ludlow and Bridgnorth, the situation is not very much better, because a large proportion of the people who patronise public houses in small towns like that come from considerable distances outside.

The publican is an innocent party in this connection. He has a job to do and a living to earn like the rest of us. Usually his licensed trade is done on terms with the brewery which owns the house. However, that is not the end of the story, because an increasing proportion of publicans in the country areas find that they have not only to be purveyors of alcohol but have to go in for catering, which is becoming an important branch of the living of a very large number of country pubs.

Not only has the trade suffered in terms of the drink that is sold. Even more important to publicans in small houses is the fact that the legislation has greatly affected the catering side. This is a great injustice. Whatever the 1967 Act was intended to do, certainly it was not intended to hinder the well-meant efforts of our local hotel keepers to provide good food in out of the way situations.

Only three days ago, we debated the importance of the tourist industry to the country and the real contribution that it makes to our balance of payments by encouraging people to come here from abroad. It seems deplorable that, as a result of a Measure of this kind, all the useful initiative on that front should have been discouraged in the way that it has.

It is not too much to say that there are cases of publicans who do not go in for catering finding that their livings have been so much reduced that they are having to go out of business. What is more disappointing is that there are cases of publicans who have been enterprising enough to go into catering finding that their capacity for exercising this initiative has been so much curtailed that it is not worth a candle. Either they have to take themselves off to towns and try to set up in town restaurants or they have to go out of business altogether and take up something quite different. I cannot believe that this can be good from the national point of view.

I ask the House to look at it from yet another point of view, in terms of the financial justice to those who suffer. When we pass legislation, we do it because we believe it to be in the national interest, but it always seems to me regrettable that we never think of the effect of it on what might be called the innocent victims. We approve legislation which enables the Minister of Transport or a local council to build or improve a great main road passing a lot of established shops. We put up notices banning waiting or parking and enforce them, but we never think of the effect on the unfortunate shop keeper of all the traffic that rushes through without stopping. That is one example. Today we are discussing another example, because, however desirable the provisions of the Road Safety Act, 1967, they do nothing to compensate the completely innocent victims of it.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

If the hon. Gentleman suggests that some of the people who may suffer financially as a result of the 1967 Act should be compensated, would he include those with undertaking and funeral parlour businesses?

Mr. More

That is a subject which it might be worth debating. However, taking the long view, it is fair to say that, ultimately, the number of customers for that sort of business will be the same. It may be slightly postponed but, ultimately, the number will be the same—or am I wrong about that?

Mr. Huckfield

I should have thought that the financial results published by certain of the major breweries show that the period of time over which alcohol is consumed may have been lengthened, but that the actual amount consumed has stayed pretty well the same, though I agree that it dropped to begin with. If the hon. Gentleman can make that point about funeral parlours, surely the same can be said for the breweries.

Mr. More

I am not absolutely certain that I have followed the hon. Gentleman. Concerning the undertakers, I would be the first to agree that if there are fewer deaths from road accidents in the short term the amount of business could be reduced, but in the long term it must be the same. I am not certain that I followed the reference to the brewers' figures. However, if the hon. Gentleman catches Mr. Speaker's eye no doubt he will be able to develop that theme.

I think that all these matters are important. I wish that it could be a rule of the House that before any Minister answers a debate he should state specificcally what categories of the population, in the estimation of his Department, will lose as a result of the legislation that is passed; roughly speaking, what the amount of the financial loss will be; and to what extent there is any practical means of remedying the loss. If that was always done the legislation that we pass would wear a more honest aspect and produce fewer angry constituents.

I apologise, once again, for not being here when the Parliamentary Secretary made his speech, but I shall read it with great attention in HANSARD on Monday; or, if he has a spare copy of the brief, I should like to borrow it to read it today. I shall read his speech with great interest, because it is important that this question should be faced.

Finally, it should be a matter for the conscience of the individual—

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for interrupting a third time. But will he confirm that his speech is already available in booklet form?

Mr. More

I use papers to look at when I am speaking, but the speech is not written.

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are refreshing interludes, but we must come back to the Bill.

Mr. More

There is nothing in front of me except the Road Safety Act, 1967. I have not got a brief.

This should be a matter capable of solution. I say this not only on this Bill. When we were discussing the 1967 Act I was challenged in my constituency about the right answer to this problem. Admitting the grave problem of drunken drivers and accidents that exists in many parts of the country—but, oddly enough, not in my constituency—I was challenged, "If you do not agree with what the Minister proposes, what do you suggest?" My answer was, and I think still is, that surely it is not beyond the wit of the police in this country to organise some system whereby anybody under suspicion is subjected to an instant driving test. It would have to be done either in the individual's car or in a police car with a police witness in the car and some other person chosen by the individual concerned to act as a witness on his behalf. He would be required to drive there and then.

If the matter came to court, the magistrates would have to decide, on the evidence of the two police witnesses and the accused and his witness, what the condition of the accused was. I believe that that would be a much fairer way. From the magistrates' point of view, it would be a much more appealing way, and it would generally be a much more responsible way of administering what is obviously a difficult branch of the law.

I still hope that the Bill will receive favourable consideration, because I am certain that it is honest and very well-intentioned.

12.25 p.m.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Aberdeen, South)

As several hon. Members have remarked, it is disappointing that there is such a thin attendance for this debate this morning, because it is an interesting and topical subject. I wish that more of my hon. Friends had shown the same great interest as the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More), who is so anxiously hovering on the sidelines waiting for a discarded ministerial brief.

Being of a charitable disposition, I am prepared to debate the Bill on its face value and assume that it is an honest and well-intentioned effort to improve the present system of the operation of the breathalyser test. If that is the case, I think it is a deeply mistaken one. I cannot see that it will in any way make up for or be more advantageous than the present system. I am not opposed to considering improvements. There is still a lot of research to be undertaken into the incidence of drunken driving, its causes, its social motivation, and what accounts for the remarkable degree of regional variation that we get. We have a long way to go, and in future we may have to review the whole structure.

The accident rate in Scotland is disappointing when taken against the rest of the United Kingdom. Taking the figures for all serious levels of casualties on the roads in the first month, October 1967, in England there was a cut of 12.6 per cent. and in Wales 16.3 per cent., making the United Kingdom average 11.8 per cent. But in Scotland the accident rate went up, although admittedly by only 0.3 per cent. In view of the general pattern, this is a staggering and extremely alarming statistic from our point of view. Although we have had a modest decrease since then—and perhaps the Minister will be able to say something about this when he makes his final remarks—it has been very small indeed. It may be that we drank less in Scotland and, therefore, the breathalyser was not needed. I wish this was the reasonable explanation. However, one has only to talk to the Scotch Whisky Manufacturers' Association, which will proudly claim to have sold about twice as much per head in Scotland than in the United Kingdom as a whole.

On a more serious note, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), said at a conference the other day that we have an alcoholic rate in Scotland per head of the population about four times as high as that in England and Wales. So we have the problem in an aggravated form north of the Border. Yet the breathalyser seems to have been making less of an inroad than it is in the country as a whole. This is a serious situation. I cannot think of a reasonable explanation, unless there is some variation in police practice and they are using it less for some reason which I cannot understand. I should like to see the matter thoroughly investigated to see if there is a reasonable explanation.

There may be room for improvement, but not as suggested in the Bill. It seems a retrograde step. One argument which could be put up is that the Bill is not very harmful, because it will not be very effective. This is one plausible argument, but it damns the Bill. The Bill is saying that an accused man, even if he is found to have above the necessary legal limit of alcohol in his blood, can, if circumstances permit, convince the court that he was in fact fit to drive. My court experience is limited. I was a solicitor before coming to the House, but I did not practise in the courts to any great extent. However, I would be extremely sceptical, given the present situation, about the chances of this new provision being used to any great extent.

After all, the breathalyser can be used only in certain special circumstances, when the person has been involved in an accident, when there has been a moving traffic offence, or when the police have reasonable cause for suspicion. I think that a sheriff in Scotland or a magistrate in England will take that as prima facie evidence, and when it is combined with the fact that alcohol found in the person's bloodstream is above the legal level I cannot think of circumstances in which he will be prepared to ignore that and find that the man was fit to drive.

Mr. More

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will comment on my suggestion that where a driver is challenged to take a test he should be entitled to say to the police, "I require you to give me an instant driving test", and the evidence of that should go to the court.

Mr. Dewar

That is one of the most impractical suggestions that I have heard during my two years in the House. From a driver's point of view it will be of no comfort, because, without wanting to be too hard on the police, if they found that the circumstances were suspicious enough to give rise to the idea that the person was drunk, and if that was buttressed by a finding of a sufficient alcohol content in the blood, I would not be happy about a police officer having to give that person a test, because I do not think that the result would be to clear the individual.

I do not mean to be over-critical of the police, but that would be the practical result. From the police point of view, it would be putting far too great a burden on them. It would take time to give an adequate test, and we must remember that policemen are not professionals. Before people can give driving tests, they must receive professional training, and it is not reasonable to expect the police to carry out an adequate test in the circumstances outlined by the hon. Gentleman.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will also consider the hazard to the police of having to test somebody who, not to put too fine a point on it, is a bit foxed. It may well be necessary to test the adrenalin content of the policeman, rather than the alcohol content of the bosky individual. I hesitate to use the word "irresponsible" about my hon. Friend's suggestion, but I think that we must consider the effect of his proposal on a policeman's nerves—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Interventions ought to be brief.

Mr. Dewar

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am prepared to add to my charge that the proposal would be impractical and unfair, and would almost certainly be unsafe.

Mr. Paget

If a man decides to pull into the side of the road and sleep it off, and then somebody comes along and runs into him, might not a magistrate say that the man who was not driving had not had his driving affected by drink?

Mr. Dewar

There are always difficult cases. One can think of the situation of a man suspecting that he is not fit to drive his car and he hands his key into a police station with a view to abandoning all risk. There is this twilight zone, but basically we must remember that if people have been drinking they ought not to drive. That is the general rule which I accept. There may be ways of dealing with the situation, but certainly not by means of this cumbersome machinery.

The Bill will not help because it will not be used to any great extent. If, on the other hand, it is used, the results will be utterly disastrous, because they will undermine the whole basis of the new law. We are setting up a system which eliminates the greatest danger of all, the delusion from which many people suffer, and from which possibly I suffered a year or two ago—the delusion that people can hold their liquor. I thought that I could hold my liquor, that I was a hard man, that people who had not had the practice that I had had would be affected by one or two pints, but I could drink six or seven pints and drive like an angel. Many people suffer from that delusion.

The law now gets at such people, because it takes out the element of whether or not a person is fit to drive and substitutes a scientific test. There may be an argument about whether the level of alcohol is right, but the arbitrary level is excellent because it gives an air of certainty to convictions. It does not tempt people to take to the road after drinking, under the impression that they are safe.

The hon. Member for Ludlow spoke very movingly. I accept that there may be social and economic problems in his rural constituency with regard to the country pub, but if the Bill now before the House were to reinvigorate the trade of these country pubs it would undo the enormous amount of good which has followed the introduction of the breathalyser test. I think that we must stick to the outline of the present law. It may be desirable to consider certain Amendments to it, but to bring in the discretion which the hon. Gentleman seeks to introduce would be to open the door to people saying, "We are going to chance it because we will be all right". The Bill would have the effect of reversing the present extremely encouraging trend in cutting down accidents, and I hope, therefore, that the House will not give it a Second Reading.

12.37 p.m.

Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)

I should not have intervened in this debate had I not by chance spent a quarter of an hour with my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) and learned of his intention to support what I regard as a retrograde step which has been brought before the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball), with whose policies on other matters I find myself in strong agreement.

As other hon. Members have dons, I have had long talks with my constituents and with delegations from licensed victuallers on this subject. The central point of the Road Safety Act, 1967, is that it has led to a dramatic reduction, in a short time, in the number of deaths on the road in England and Wales. The public have accepted the price they have to pay for that decrease as a great bore and inconvenience, but they are prepared to pay it until the provisions of the Act have been allowed to run for a little longer.

It is too early to say what the effect will be in the long run. But over the weekend, I discussed the matter with a landlord who told me that a different pattern of custom was developing for his house. He said that he had taken steps to provide different attractions in that extremely attractive and popular pub; on the whole he was weathering the changes.

As has been pointed out, the total consumption of liquor has not greatly changed since this legislation was brought in, but the drinking habits of our people have been vastly changed. I do not believe that there is one Member of the House—except those who do not touch alcohol—who has not had to change his own approach to drinking because Parliament has intervened and brought in a law which has had a dramatic effect on the almost uncontrolled rise in deaths from road accidents about which people were desperately worried.

Many of my colleagues and I have been sensitive not only to the immediate economic loss suffered by public houses, but also to the dislocation of the way of life of people who regard public houses as part of their weekly, or even nightly, routine. For them, public houses are places where people meet each other. Apart from this House, public houses are the places where politics are most fruitfully discussed. Many of those who frequently enjoy public houses have found their personal habits greatly dislocated.

In spite of this, on the whole, I believe most people regard this price as worth paying—at any rate, in the short term, until the legislation has been given a full run. We do not know how the pattern of drinking habits will settle down, but it is certain that the previous pattern has been vastly changed. One hopes that the check in the rate of rise of fatal road accidents will be maintained, although it is perhaps too early to say. Certainly, to take away at this stage—as the Bill seeks to do—one of the severer sanctions, which is part of the package deal of this legislation, would be wrong and irresponsible.

I do not say that we should accept all the provisions of the recent legislation. Some of the tests are still in their early stages, and have been the subject of a great deal of criticism, but it would be wrong to abandon the present pattern of legislation until we can be sure that, by a modification, we shall still be able to provide sanctions as effective as the present sanctions have proved up to now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, with whom I have so much in common in other matters, produced what I thought was a most outrageous suggestion—that the police should give an immediate driving test to people whom the evidence suggests are bottled drivers. Imagine the hazard that would be created, without dual controls in the car, with a driver wobbling his way along the highway. He would be a hazard to the police, to himself, and to other road users. Perhaps my hon. Friend had not foreseen such hazards.

I am glad to see that my hon. Friend has now returned to the Chamber. But I think he realised when I rose that I was going to attack his proposal. This was not, of course, the reason for his retreat. I know that he had an urgent matter to attend to. Nevertheless, it is unthinkable that we should have this instant check by a policeman, who would necessarily be embarking on this adventure in a high state of nerves and possibly with a sharp shot of adrenalin going into his system at the thought of facing this hazard. Would such a policeman be in a condition to provide a test comparable to that provided by the present system which, however imperfect it is, has at least gained some confidence among the public as being moderately objective?

We may not yet have developed the best sort of test. But such a highly charged duet between a nervous policeman and a supposedly foxed driver, in the middle of all the hazards involved in driving on a main road, must be regarded as one of the most disastrous flights of fancy on the part of an hon. Member who is well known in the House and in his constituency for being a practical man of affairs who is seldom driven off course by what I can only refer to as a fantastic jeu d'esprit.

Perhaps I have said enough to make it clear that, having taken public opinion into account and having consulted the licensed victuallers, who have their own economic future at stake, I nevertheless would not be in favour of a change in the law which weakened it in this way. Indeed, this suggestion has not been put to me by the representatives of the licensed victuallers to whom I talked. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has had representations from them. In any case, he is well known to have an alternative means of transport, and, if ever he were in this slightly foxed condition, the only penalty that he might suffer would be, in the words of the well-known ditty. Gallopy, gallopy, off in the ditch". That would not be much of a hazard to anybody but himself, unless somebody were straying in the grassy lanes off the main traffic route.

To remove this sanction at a time when the public has given qualified acceptance to it and while it is producing results by checking the road death rate would be a retrograde step. And, if the matter comes to a Division I shall vote against it in the Lobby.

12.47 p.m.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield (Nuneaton)

I very much agree with the general tone of the remarks of the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair). I, too, was rather surprised, when I looked at my time-table for the week, to find that yet again—although the matter had been discussed almost ad nauseam—we were going to talk about the breathalyser. If there is one Measure which the Government have passed—and we have passed some rather unpopular ones—that has gained qualified acceptance it is the Road Safety Act, 1967, with its rather controversial introduction of the breathalyser.

Just at the stage when we are beginning to see how this Measure works in practice; just when people are beginning to adjust themselves to the drastic changes involved in the law, and just when the hospitals—and I can speak with a certain amount of experience, having certain contacts with the nursing staff of the Birmingham General Hospital—are becoming accustomed to seeing the work in their casualty wards and operating theatres cut by half, we are asked to bring the old situation all back again. It seems a retrograde step not only to stir up the controversy again, but to do so in this way. That Measure gained the wide support of all parties. I still drive about 30,000 miles every year, and there are about 39 working men's clubs and numerous public houses and other licensed premises in my constituency. These are the experiences upon which I base this speech.

The main benefit for magistrates and drivers alike of the 1967 Act is that, instead of highly fluctuating decisions,

for which some benches gained their reputation, instead of people getting away with it in one part of the country and being caught elsewhere, there is now a universal standard. But this Bill purports to upset this nice rationalisation. Not only was this working uniformly, but also, because the Act was becoming accepted, we were getting rid of some of the ugly rumours about policemen hiding behind bushes. I conclude that these kind of provisions, that the driver must satisfy the court, would be a backward step. I cast no aspersions on the police, but these rumours would be easily fed by the Bill's proposals.

If anything had proved its worth beyond a doubt, it was the direct effect of the Act in reducing road casualties. Now that we have been able to consider the figures and base constructive arguments on regional and international comparisons, it is proposed that we go back to square one and begin the argument all over again. That would be a great pity, because even the licensed trade was beginning to adapt to the changes of the 1967 Act.

It is interesting, for instance, that, despite some of the ardent representations to us by the licensed victuallers, clubs, hoteliers and stewards, we have received few from the brewers. The reason is that, after the initial shock of the breathalyser—it did shock many people, including myself—people have now adjusted their drinking habits and, the consumption figures, although slightly down on the corresponding period last year, have not suffered the terrific drop which some people forecast.

What arouses my interest is how the driver will satisfy a court that he is fit to drink—[Laughter.] I am sorry. Certain things have been said this morning which were not intended, and I hope that that will be taken as one of them. How will a driver satisfy the court that he is fit to drive? This is the main difficulty and my reason for opposing the Bill.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House divided: Ayes 1, Noes 28.

Division No. 144.] AYES [12.55 p.m.
Rees-Davies, W. R. Mr. Jasper More and
Mr. Marcus Kimball.
Binns, John Heffer, Eric S. Sinclair, Sir George
Black, Sir Cyril Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Blenkinsop, Arthur Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Carmichael, Neil Lee, John (Reading) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Dewar, Donald Lubbock, Eric Winnick, David
Dickens, James Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Moyle, Roland TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ellis, John O'Malley, Brian Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
English, Michael Parker, John (Dagenham) Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
Freeson, Reginald Ryan, John
Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

Accordingly, it is my duty, as provided in Erskine May, page 326, to announce that the House has not reached a decision owing to the absence of a Quorum, and the Bill therefore be- comes a dropped Order. It is now my duty to count the House.

House counted, and, 40 Members not being present, adjourned at nine minutes past One o'clock.