HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc389-92
9. Mr. Mudd

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has to reform the system and administration of motoring offences; and if he will make a statement.

13. Mr. Temple-Morris

asked the Minister of Transport if he has any pro- posals to make on the subject of road traffic offences.

33. Mr. Dickens

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on any progress which he has made for plans to reform the system of motoring offences.

Mr. Fowler

A review of road traffic law is long overdue. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have decided to examine those areas of the law which are of the most practical importance and on which we can expect to make quick progress. We have therefore selected the fixed penalty system and the totting-up procedure for a joint review with representatives of the bodies which administer the laws. Others such as the motoring organisations also have a contribution to make and will be consulted. I am placing a copy of the terms of reference in the Library.

Mr. Mudd

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but I wonder whether he could give some indication of the categories of offence that would qualify for the totting-up procedure and how he feels that this would assist in the administration of justice?

Mr. Fowler

This is how it will assist. Under the important review that I announced, we shall examine proposals, such as the points system for traffic offences which operates in West Germany and Australia, and see whether they are suitable for inclusion in this country.

Mr. Temple-Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the review is welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House? Is he aware further that such a review—I believe it is evident from what he said—will include a "spot" penalty system? Does he agree that such a system, to be considered in the review, would be much more easily enforceable if everyone was obliged to carry a secure driving licence when driving, which would cut out the present widespread evasion?

Mr. Fowler

Let me make it clear to my hon. Friend, to whose knowledge in this area I pay tribute, that we do not intend to consider the case for on-the-spot fines. We are examining how the ticket system may be extended. We intend to examine that area.

Mr. Dickens

Would my right hon. Friend be surprised to learn that, because of the existing archaic system where one offence is similar to another for the purposes of totting up, in my constituency a young man of 21, who has been a member of St. John Ambulance since the age of 9, was denied even an interview for a job as an ambulance driver as he had one minor driving offence on his licence? That is unjust, unfair and unnecessary. Is my right hon. Friend aware of that?

Mr. Fowler

The review, which is long overdue, will be welcomed by the public, by the type of motorist to whom my hon. Friend refers, and by the police and the magistrates in particular, who are weighed down by the traffic offences with which they deal.

Mr. Greville Janner

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the review, as far as it goes, but will the Minister explain why he is not proposing to review the chaotic state of the law on drink and driving, especially in view of the continued tragic part that drink plays in a substantial number of deaths and injuries on the road?

Mr. Fowler

If the hon. and learned Gentleman looks at the Order Paper he will see that there is a later question on that subject.

Mr. Sever

Has the Minister estimates of how many offences are committed by drivers of untaxed vehicles and how many untaxed vehicles there are?

Mr. Fowler

I do not have that information with me. However, I shall provide it for the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Michael Brown

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. Can he confirm that the review will cover the possibility of introducing fixed penalty fines for minor motoring offences such as speeding?

Mr. Fowler

That is in the fixed penalty area. Where the fixed penalty area should extend to is at the centre of this review.

Mr. Prescott

Does the Minister accept that in adjusting our laws to the present European requirements, our lorry drivers will be required to work up to 16 hours—five more than under the present regulations? In his review, will he consider the anomalies that exist as a result of imposing a European uniformity in our laws, and the differences in the penalties lorry-drivers face in this country and Europe for the same offence?

Mr. Fowler

I am prepared to look at the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, but not, I fear, in this review. We have kept the scope of the review deliberately narrow so that we may make the quickest possible progress. I am sure that many lorry drivers in this country welcome the review.