HC Deb 11 November 1969 vol 791 cc156-8
9. Mr. William Price

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied with the working of the breathalyser law; and if he will make a statement.

11. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Transport to what extent the breathalyser laws have reduced fatalitiesand accidents; what amendment to existing statutes on the subject he proposes in view of the inconsistencies and contradictions in the present law; and whether he will make a statement.

31 and 32. Mr. Rose

asked the Minister of Transport (1) whether he will introduce an early amending Bill to the Road Safety Act, 1967;

(2) how many deaths were caused in road accidents during the year before and following the introduction of the Road Safety Act, 1967, and how many in the last six months.

Mr. Mulley

During the 12 months before the Road Safety Act came into force there were 7,870 deaths in road accidents. During the following 12 months there were 6,727. During the six months to August this year there were 3,413. The Act still appears, therefore, to be having a very substantial effect on accidents.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I are examining very closely the effects of recent court decisions on the working of the Act.

Mr. Price

We all welcome those figures, but is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a growing belief that certain gentlemen in the legal profession are determined to sabotage the breathalyser law? If this is proved to be the case, will he take the necessary action?

Mr. Mulley

It is precisely because recent judicial decisions have suggested that there are deficiencies in the Act that I am conducting the present review. A number of cases are still pending appeal in the other place, and it would be wise to await those decisions as well.

Sir G. Nabarro

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is not a party political matter, and that the majority of us support the breathalyser law, but that there are widespread inconsistencies in judgments, notably in Scotland? Would not it be wise to proceed with amending legislation during the current Session?

Mr. Mulley

Until the review is concluded I am not sure whether changes are required, or what they will be. I cannot comment on judicial decisions, but the benefits in road safety, in people being alive today who would not otherwise be alive, as a result of the Act are such that I will not lose those benefits easily.

Mr. Gardner

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many of the anomalies are caused by our failure to introduce random tests when we had the opportunity to do so? Does he now accept that those of us who sought to introduce those tests when the Act went through the House were quite right?

Mr. Mulley

Random testing is obviously one of the matters that we shall consider, but there is here a normal conflict between increasing police powers on the one hand and the rights of the individual on the other. I am sure that the House will want to see that Road Safety Act works, and works efficiently, and I have to pay attention to this aspect as well.