HC Deb 14 April 1981 vol 3 cc259-70
Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)

I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 18, line 43, leave out 'reasonable' and insert 'any'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments:

No. 27, in page 18, line 43, after 'is', add 'committing or may be about to commit'. No. 31, in schedule 8, page 64, line 48, leave out 'reasonable' and insert 'any'.

Mr. Ennals

We are ahead of schedule. We should at this time be dealing with seat belts. The public will consider it extraordinary that we are not able to debate an issue on which we know there is a majority in the House and in the country, includiing all the arguments put forward by the medical lobby and motoring and safety organisations. The new clause is sponsored by 126 right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is disgraceful that we are not allowed to debate it.

The amendment is a further attempt to clamp down on drinking and driving. I remember Jackie Stewart writing to The Times in February this year saying: There can be no more fundamental crime than a driver causing injury or death where alcohol has impaired the driver's judgment and ability. The House knows that an alarmingly high proportion of road accidents occur where one of those involved has drunk to excess. Indeed, in more than half of the serious accidents, when tests are taken it is seen that one person involved has drunk over the odds.

We are now dealing with the circumstances in which a police officer may insist upon a breath test. Mr. G. W. R. Terry, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, and Dr. P. A. B. Raffle, chairman of the transport committee of the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention, both of whom were members of the Blennerhassett committee on drinking and driving, recently expressed their concern that much of the debate on the power of the police to require breath tests has been clouded by the use of emotive phrases which do not bear examination … it does not help to use expressions such as 'we are not yet ready for random testing in a democratic society'. In the first place, the committee did not recommend random testing. Its report specifically states that random testing would be wasteful of resources. I, too, oppose random testing. I believe that it would be wrong for policemen to be able on any occasion to stop a driver whom they had no cause to believe had committed or was about to commit an offence. That would be an infringement of civil liberties, apart from which it would be using the resources of the police in what I believe would be an improper way. Mr. Terry and Dr. Raffle continue: The only question is whether to allow the police to use their trained power of observation and their discretion to require a test when they think it appropriate, or whether it is possible in any logical manner to limit that discretion by statute. I submit that the inclusion of the word "reasonable" fetters that discretion, which I believe should be left to the police officers themselves. We are opening the way to a lawyers' paradise arguing about what is or is not a reasonable cause. We have seen so many cases on other subjects in which the definition of what is or is not reasonable has taken many hours and cost thousands of pounds in the courts.

If a policeman has any cause to believe that someone has committed or is about to commit an offence, he should be allowed to use the discretion that he is trained to use. Let us take a simple case. If a policeman sees a man stagger as he gets into his car, is that a reasonable cause? No doubt some hon. and learned Members here would say that that was not a reasonable cause, because the man might have a headache, he might have a limp, as I do, or he might have tripped over a brick, or whatever.

If we are serious about clamping down on drinking and driving, terms such as "reasonable" should not be written into the legislation. Mr. Terry and Dr. Raffle further state: With the appalling number of casualties due to drink and driving and a steady erosion of the effectiveness of the present law, surely a more logical and reasoned view should prevail. It is not the responsible motorist who need fear the use of these powers. He or she will be the first to benefit if casualties are reduced by keeping the driver who drinks to excess off the road. Do we believe that the policeman should be allowed discretion, or are we to put him at the mercy of the lawyers and make him fear that unless he has a profound and certain reason he will be challenged?

10.45 pm
Mr. Fowler

I have been listening with attention. The right hon. Gentleman appears to believe that what he proposes in the amendments concerns breath tests, the administering of them, and the power of the police to stop drivers. The amendments relate to the powers of arrest, which are not the same.

Mr. Ennals

I believe that a policeman should have power to arrest if he has cause to believe that a man or woman has committed or is about to commit an offence. That applies to breath tests and general arrest.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

I thought that the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) was against the "sus" laws. He appears to support "sus" on wheels.

Mr. Sheerman

I support the amendment after much consideration. We did not consider it in Committee. I am convinced that it has all-party support. Any strengthening of the law to make drinking and driving an unacceptable habit must be applauded. The most frightening statistic is not that of the number of drivers caught drinking and the levels that they measure in the breath test but the figure for motorists and motor cyclists killed between 10 pm and 3 am who in post mortem are found to have high levels of alcohol in the blood. That is the frightening statistic. That is how we know that drinking and driving cause so many deaths on the roads.

We must reduce the number of such deaths. We must try to be more bold, more definite and—some would say—more draconian. Perhaps we must be more draconian because of the commercialism which surrounds the glamour of drinking and suggests that one should drink as much as one can in order to become virile and a man. Perhaps a great deficiency of our Chamber is that hon. Members do not watch enough commercial television. Those of us who see commercial television are appalled at the brewing industry's attitude to drinking and driving. I shall give one example of a pernicious advertisement that is relayed time and again on a commercial television channel. It concerns something called the "Guinness supporters' club". We may smile. It is a humorous advertisement. It may capture our imagination. It is a very slick and well-done advertisemen——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but the amendment concerns drinking and driving, not television.

Mr. Sheerman

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will bear with me for a moment. I shall explain why the amendment is necessary. I am trying to balance a firmer legislative resolve against the pressures that exist outside the House, which force people to believe that it is acceptable to drink and drive.

I used the example of the "bottle of Guinness supporters' club" because recently I objected about it to the Independent Broadcasting Authority. The advertisement shows a gentleman lying underneath a milk float because he cannot get it to work. He is then pictured going down to his local pub and imbibing several bottles of the magic potion, Guinness. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) knows, and as John Havard, secretary of the British Medical Association rightly said during a "Man Alive" programme on the greatest epidemic of our times—a great programme on road safety—alcohol is an anaesthetic. Getting into a car after drinking is like getting into a car after having had an anaesthetic in an operating theatre.

Regardless of that fact, after the man has replenished himself with Guinness, the advertisement shows him revitalised. His mechanical abilities appear sharpened. The advertisement does not show that many deaths and injuries on the road and in industry are caused by drinking. Immediately, the man mends the milk float. At the end of the commercial he disappears down a country road driving his float at a rate of knots. The amendment represents a legislative corrective. We should adopt a firmer attitude towards drinking and driving in order to counterbalance the dereliction of duty that leads advertisers to encourage people to drink and drive.

Mr. Lawrence

My remarks will be brief. The contributions made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) and the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) have brought me to my feet. They demonstrate their manic and obsessive attitude towards this area of legislation.

The amendment seeks to delete the word "reasonable". It seeks to allow police officers to take action that might not be reasonable. That is absurd, because I have heard the right hon. Member for Norwich, North speak most creditably and strongly on the subject of "sus" and civil liberties. This amendment contradicts that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) said, the amendment represents a sort of "sus" on wheels. It seeks to take away a restraint that exists when a police officer considers whether to arrest, or to take action under the criminal law. It would remove a restraint on the police to behave in a responsible, ordinary and objective way.

The second example was given by the right hon. Gentleman. He said that he wished to see no random testing. But once one applies the subjective test and takes away the objective test, one is closer to random testing than at present.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

Does my hon. Friend agree with the proposition that under the amendment the court will be required to consider whether there is a cause? That implies an objective test. The court will be obliged to consider whether a reasonably-minded constable, faced with the circumstances, would come to the conclusion that there was a cause. That being so, we are back to all the problems that the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) posed.

Mr. Lawrence

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is no merit in removing a word such as "reasonable", which is the ordinary word employed by the courts, and placing upon the courts the temptation to reconsider the meaning of "cause" in the context mentioned by my hon. Friend. The whole thing is nonsense. It is not necessary to point out that it is nonsense, but it underlines the whole attitude of the Opposition throughout this legislation.

Mr. Fry

I do not want to speak at length, but we should consider the two amendments together. They drastically change what I regard, as a layman not a lawyer, as the common-sense attitude to this part of the Bill. If we remove "reasonable" and insert "any" and add committing or may be about to commit we are, in effect, considerably extending the right of arrest.

I ask the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) and the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) whether that is the intention. We want to stop those people who might be tempted to drive with an undue amount of alcohol in their blood, but surely we do not want to introduce possible aggravation between the motorist and the police. I know that in the time that he has been a spokesman on this subject, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has always been aware of the tender area of relationships. Therefore, because it is a considerable departure from what was intended and from the common-sense attitude among motorists and others, I sincerely hope that my right hon. Friend will resist the amendments.

Mr. Fowler

First, in reply to the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) no one is disputing the need to tackle drink-driving. That is why we have introduced legislation. It is agreed on both sides of the House that that is a problem to be tackled. The Government are tackling it for the first time in 15 years.

If the intention is to introduce amendments concerned with the application and administration of breath tests, the amendments are proposed to the wrong part of the Bill. We debated that in Committee. The amendments were then tabled to the correct part of the Bill—paragraph 7(1) of schedule 8. Amendment No. 31 has been tabled to paragraph 7(5)(a). We are dealing there not with the kinds of restrictions and regulations with which a policeman should be concerned before he administers a breath test but with the powers of arrest.

11 pm

It is absolutely right to expect the police to have reasonable cause to suspect that someone has committed an offence before they arrest him. I do not think that the wording suggested by the Government imposes an unnecessary or restrictive provision on the police. The Bill is an improvement on the existing legislation because it treats both offences, impairment and excess alcohol, in the same way. It enables the police to arrest on reasonable grounds of suspicion of an offence, whether under section 5 or section 6 of the 1972 Act. I understand that it has been welcomed recently by the Police Federation.

Amendment No. 27 would extend the power of arrest to cases where a person may be about to commit an offence. I think the House would agree that that is draconian in the extreme. I agree with the argument that we all want to do what we can to stop people from committing drinking and driving offences because of the dangers involved, but most people genuinely and objectively looking at that amendment would say that it takes the powers far too wide. Anyone who happens to have been drinking and happens to have his car key with him could, under this provision, be arrested, no matter how much he protested that he had no intention of going anywhere near his car.

I cannot believe that it was the intention of either my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) or the right hon. Member for Norwich, North to go as far as that, but that is what has been tabled by them. It is not unreasonable for the police to wait until such a person is starting his car before they stop him on suspicion of impairment. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend, whose name appears first on the amendment, might agree in the light of my remarks, that it would be right to seek leave to withdraw it at a suitable stage.

On the general point concerning random tests—or what the Blennerhassett committee described as unfettered discretion—I recall that an amendment to give the police unrestricted power to test was debated extensively and rejected by one of the biggest majorities in the Committee, by 14 votes to 4. One of the reasons for its rejection, and one of the reasons why the Government are opposed to this kind of proposal, is that nothing is more important than that we should ensure good relations between the police and the public.

Nothing is more important in that area than having good relations between the police and the motorist. It was one of the crucial aspects pointed out by the 1962 Royal Commission on the police. I do not believe that those relations will be improved if motorists find that they are being stopped without good cause. I do not believe that the present powers of the police are unduly narrow or hinder them in the performance of their duty at the Christmas or New Year periods.

I understand the right hon. Gentleman's concern about improving the deterrent effect of the law. In my view, the law will be improved not by giving the police wider powers to test but by increasing the level of police enforcement. One of the central aims of the Bill's proposals is to help the police in this respect by improving the procedures, so that they spend less time in the police station and more time on the road enforcing the law. We are at one on that.

We have sought in the Bill generally to cut the procedures. We have made other improvements, but I do not believe that we should go to the extent of having random tests. Even if I believed that we should do that, I would still have to advise the House that the amendments before it are simply not the way to achieve it. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree, on reflection, to ask leave to withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Adley

Because of the speed at which we are rushing ahead with the Bill, I apologise for not hearing the opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), who is my co-partner in this proposal. I did, however, hear the speeches of my right hon. Friend and one or two that preceded it. I accept that the amendment is not necessarily in the right place, but my right hon. Friend will understand the problems of those who, at this stage of the Bill, feel that it is better to debate an imperfect amendment or an amendment that is not necessarily in the right place rather than have to fume over an unselected amendment or an unselected new clause.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I try to answer one or two of the points that he has made. I assume that all hon. Members agree that drunken driving is undesirable and that we should aim for its reduction or prevention, The questions that arise are how this should be done and what is the social cost involved. The answer to the first question is the objective of the amendments. The cost is the point of contention.

My right hon. Friend's contention is that the social cost in terms of relations between the public and the police would outweigh the social advantages to be gained by the reductionin drunken driving that the amendments might produce. That is matter of opinion that cannot be tested until put into operation. I would, however, submit that the chief constables of Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire and many more would disagree with my right hon. Friend. They do not share his fears that the proposals for random testing or preventive testing would have the effect that he suggests.

I do not believe that the extra power granted to the police would be abused. This view is shared by the chief constable of Dorset, who maintains that the Road Safety Act has lost its impact and is no longer the deterrent that it used to be. The chief constable is concerned about the Bill's provisions relating to the motorist and the police officer who may be a trespasser. His argument is that while the Bill was originally designed for the protection of the motorist who arrives home, the possibility of a wider interpretation, such as of a farmer going into his own field to claim that the police were trespassing, is a potential problem in the Bill that has not been adequately considered.

The Bill as it stands will be a paradise for lawyers such as my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who, I know, is interested in this aspect. I recognise that there are differing views. I maintain that the view of the police about their powers is not clear. Is it, therefore, any wonder that the view of the public is less clear?

If the House makes a clear decision—it will clearly not do so tonight—in favour of increasing the powers of the police randomly to test people, such as those coming out of pubs, where they may have reason to suspect drunken driving, this will have a powerful deterrent effect. Parliament has a duty to make its voice heard on this and other controversial matters of road safety. We are here to do what is right and not simply what is popular.

I am prepared, in view of the remarks of my right hon. Friend, to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, because as he says—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot ask leave to withdraw the amendment, because he did not move it.

Mr. Adley

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am prepared to accept the proposal of the right hon. Member for Norwich, North if he seeks to withdraw the amendment. I maintain, however, that sooner or later we have to deal with this problem.

Mr. Stott

The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) have allowed the House, in spite of the imperfection of their drafting of the amendments, to debate a very serious issue. Not since 1967 has the House had the opportunity to examine the issue of drinking and driving as it relates to the breathalyser. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be members of the Standing Committee spent considerable time dealing with this problem. As I indicated to the Committee, I read the debates in the House in 1967. The debates that we had six weeks ago on this issue were almost an action replay of what took place in the same Committee Room 15 years ago.

There were differences of opinion on both sides. They were not political differences. They were individual differences as to whether the police should be given greater powers than they had. Hon. Members who were present at that time will recall that Mrs. Castle, in her original Bill, proposed that the police should have provision for random testing. The word "random" was removed at the request of the House because hon. Members reckoned that that would be a very provocative act. Therefore, the House had its way and removed that word from the Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Jopling)

Quite right.

Mr. Stott

The Patronage Secretary informs me that that was quite right at the time.

Mr. Martin Stevens (Fulham)

The question that those of us who oppose the amendment would put to the hon. Gentleman is this. Can he suggest, as he appears to be suggesting, that there should ever be an occasion when we should give a police officer the right to arrest a citizen without reasonable cause? It is as simple as that.

Mr. Stott

The hon. Gentleman has the advantage of having heard me in Committee. I do not believe that I have said anything from the Dispatch Box to lead him to that conclusion. I was merely indicating that the amendments give hon. Members an opportunity to express a view on a very serious issue. I think that the difference between the position in 1967 and our position now is that we have 15 years over which to look back to assess the effectiveness of the legislation.

It is true, as the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) and others have said, that when the earlier Bill became an Act and the legislation began to bite, the deterrent effect of the breathalyser was very potent and it had a marked effect on people's drinking and driving habits. Regrettably, the statistics show all too clearly that that deterrent effect no longer exists. The original proposals were reckoned to save about 5,000 lives and 200,000 injuries annually. Regrettably, the latest Government statistics suggest an ever-increasing toll of death and injury and carnage on our roads because people are drinking and they are driving. The deterrent effect of the breathalyser has worn off.

In the road safety section of this new Bill the Government have included some provisions which tidy up certain problem areas and assist the prosecution of drunken drivers. However, speaking for no one other than myself, I have to say that, like the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington, I do not believe that the Bill's provisions will tackle the problem. We need a much tougher and better defined power for the police to operate. I am convinced of that, having spent the Christmas Recess reading the Blennerhassett report. If hon. Members have not read that report, I recommend them to do so. Judge Blennerhassett makes a very cogent argument for increasing the powers in order to stop what is becoming a major problem.

Mr. Ennals

I agree with my hon. Friend that this part of the Bill needs to be tidied up. Surely time will come when we have a Bill that is entirely concerned with road safety and that deals with the fundamental issues of seat belts and drinking and driving in a way that is not possible in a Bill such as this, which deals with many other issues.

11.15 pm
Mr. Stott

My right hon. Friend is correct. I said earlier that it was regrettable that there was a road safety element in a party political and contentious Bill. I hope that at some stage we can have a road safety Bill, so that the House will have an opportunity to debate that serious subject.

I come back to what I was saying. We shall not resolve the problem unless there is a redefinition and a redetermination to introduce a deterrent effect into the law. The House of Commons makes the laws and we expect the police to carry out the laws that we make. However, we must be under no illusion about the outcome of those laws. The law that we are debating here is not working. Every year, 1,200 people are killed on the roads because of drinking and driving. Such drivers are a menace and a danger to innocent civilians.

I want to give some statistics. In the latest Home Office survey of 1979, the number of people who were charged witht drinking and driving offences, with over 150 mg per 100 ml in their blood, totalled 29,420. The list and the chart which are available from Her Majesty's Stationery Office, show that in all age groups from 17 to 60 the majority of people charged with drinking and driving have in excess of 150 mg per 100 ml in their blood. That demonstrates how dangerous the situation is. Moreover, those are only the people who have been caught and charged by the police. Goodness knows how many more are driving with the same amount of alcohol in their blood.

Mr. Sheerman

Does my hon. Friend accept it is irresponsible of certain hon. Members to try to diminish the notion of protecting the rights of the individual, in talking about protecting the individual from being breathalysed? One can turn on its head the concept of the rights of the individual. I notice that the argument generally comes from hon. Members such as the hon. Members for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and Grantham (Mr. Hogg) who belong to that parasitic profession, the law, and who gain from the closed shop that deals in the greys, rather than the black and white areas. Does my hon. Friend accept that the rights of the individual also include the right not to be mown down by the drunken driver and the right not to have one's children mown down and maimed in that way?

Mr. Stott

My hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) is a courageous individual, who feels deeply and passionately about this matter. His care and concern have brought about significant changes in legislation to protect young children in cars. I am therefore willing to accept an intervention from him at any time, but I hope that brevity will prevail in his future interventions.

I have always considered myself to be a civil libertarian and I have always defended civil liberties, but clearly there must be definable parameters to those liberties. If the preservation of civil liberties means that drivers can continue to kill themselves and others on the roads it is time to reassess those liberties.

The amendments are not satisfactory, and they may be withdrawn, but they have given us an opportunity to exercise our judgment and air our views on an important matter. I regret that the provisions of the Bill do not adequately tackle the problems of drinking and driving.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) should have thought fit to attack me without informing himself of my views. In fact, I am in favour of random tests—a position that I imagine would be adopted by the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman appears to have misunderstood the meaning of the amendment that he purported to support. During his rather lengthy recent intervention he said that those of us who opposed the amendment were in favour of letting drivers get away without random testing. But the amendment has nothing to do with testing. It concerns arrest without a warrant, which is a different subject.

If the amendment were to achieve its objective it would remove all the fetters on the powers of the police to arrest. For the reasons outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens), I find that wholly objectionable in principle.

There is another objection, which I do not suppose has struck the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East. If we removed from the law all fetters on the right to arrest we would remove a remedy from aggrieved persons. If someone is unlawfully arrested he has a claim against the policeman. But if we remove all the fetters we shall deprive those who are unfairly arrested of all remedy. That is a lamentable proposition.

I do not believe that the amendment, which is unjust, will achieve anything. It is put forward with the stated objective of curing some difficulties in the law and doing lawyers out of a brief. I am in favour of the latter proposition, but the amendment will not achieve it. The courts will never accept the view that a constable has cause to arrest simply on his say-so. The courts will say that the right to arrest will arise only if, objectively tested, there was sufficient cause to justify an arrest.

That takes us back to the present situation: would a reasonably minded constable believe that there was a sufficient cause to justify an arrest? The amendment is a waste of time, and should not be supported.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

The right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) said that if an earlier proposition had been accepted we would probably now be discussing the question of seat belts. I endorse his remarks and record my view that had it not been for the procedural manoeuvrings of the Government, enthusiastically supported by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends below the Gangway, we would have been discussing a matter of considerable importance in the saving of life and the reductions of injuries.

The Government have misused the guillotine procedures to curtail——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We must deal with the amendment. It has nothing to do with seat belts or misusing procedures.

Mr. Moate

I was simply endorsing a point that had already been made by the right hon. Gentleman and had, therefore, been accepted as being in order.

I think I have made that point effectively. Indeed, having agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in that respect, I had intended to disagree with the way he put forward the amendment. But then I heard the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who, on most matters of road safety, gets things completely and utterly wrong. He described the way that this had been proposed as manic. Frankly, I think that anybody who talks about the drinking and driving issue in those terms is totally misled and quite wrong in any of the arguments on road safety that he puts forward in the House. I suspect that my hon. Friend is not concerned with road safety in any shape or form. He is obsessed with libertarian considerations which have very little application to safety on the roads.

I am concerned with reducing the injuries and the numbers of serious casualties on the roads and with the saving of life. My hon. Friend is not. The time wasted by him on this issue in earlier speeches is an indication of his obsession with quite the wrong point on this whole question.

It seems to me that those who have supported the amendment have done a service to the House in raising the question of drinking and driving. I believe that in the Bill the Government have got it just about right. I believe that they have done a service to the country in introducing new breathalyser laws and that the new breathalyser machine, the new testing procedures and the proposals in the Bill will help considerably in reducing drinking and driving. The new breathalyser machine, which will have a considerable impact on the thinking of drivers, will be helpful.

If, however, anybody thinks that that is the end of the story, if anybody thinks that that leaves the law in a satisfactory state, I think that he—and I am thinking particularly of my hon. Friend the Member for Burton—is rather more manic than anybody else. How can it be satisfactory? I put it even to my hon. Friends who oppose the amendment, as in fact I do. How can they argue that it is a satisfactory state of the law that certain chief constables at certain times of the year can carry out random testing virtually without being challenged? How can they accept this and say that it is a reasonable procedure? Some chief constables can effectively carry out random testing, yet in other parts of the country certain chief constables say that they cannot do so.

The law is clearly in a grossly unsatisfactory state, and it is clear that the Bill will not finalise the situation or leave it in a state that will satisfy public opinion for very long. I would say, however, that there is a limit to how much the public are prepared to accept at one go. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken the right step forward in tightening up the law and simplifying the procedures, and I believe that that will help, but we shall be back debating this issue in years to come, or, perhaps, months to come. That is why I think that a reasonable job has been done in raising the issue in this way.

The law is rather more satisfactory as a result of a defeat inflicated upon the Government in Committee, for which I am proud to say I voted. in that in future the power to stop somebody suspected of drinking has to be exercised by a policeman in uniform. This is also relevant to the appropriate schedule. It was quite right that we insisted that a policeman in uniform alone should have this power and that this constraint has been included in the Bill

It seems to me that the amendment is wrong in suggesting that we should delete the word "reasonable". Even if this is done, it will still provide that a constable may arrest a person without a warrant if he has cause. Surely, he would still have to establish in court that he had cause to suspect that a person had been committing an offence. I do not think that the removal of "reasonable"——

Mr. Grieve

Is it not plain that a cause that is not by definition "reasonable" is not a cause?

Mr. Moate

The inclusion of "cause" requires a test of whether there is a cause. My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) said that this would remove the subjective cause and make it a more objective cause. That does not mean random testing as some have suggested.

11.30 pm
Mr. Adley

If I gabbled earlier, may I repeat to my hon. Friend and my colleagues on the Front Bench that I recognise that the drafting of the amendment is far from perfect? The objective was to give the Chamber an opportunity to debate the issue. I hope that on that basis my hon. Friend will accept the defective drafting.

Mr. Moate

I accept what my hon. Friend said. I believe that he and others who are responsible for the amendment have done a service to the House in giving us an opportunity to debate, perhaps in a brief and unsatisfactory way, random testing. It was right to raise the issue. There will be the need at some other time for a further and extensive debate. Those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Burton, have so irresponsibly condemned the amendment are wrong. I do not think that the amendment is right, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) has done a service to the House.

Mr. Ennals

I hope that the debate has been useful. The hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) and I tabled the wrong amendment in the right place or the right amendment in the wrong place. However, we have raised an extremely important issue which, I hope, will be considered in another place. The debate has revealed the inadequacy of the present law as it applies to testing and arrests. In all the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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