HC Deb 16 January 1984 vol 52 cc9-10
10. Mr. Gerald Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what was the level of fatal or serious road casualties over the Christmas period in 1982 and in 1983.

Mrs. Chalker

In 1982 there were 872 fatal and serious casualties between 24 and 28 December. The 1983 figures are not yet available. Comparisons between one year and another need to be made with care. However, I am hopeful that the 1983 figures will reflect both the increased public awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving that has resulted from our recent campaign, and the benefits of compulsory seat belt wearing.

Mr. Bowden

I welcome the encouraging trend in the figures given by my hon. Friend. Does she recognise that there is one sad side effect? Fewer kidneys and other vital organs are available for transplant. Could her Department give any assistance or encouragement?

Mrs. Chalker

I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome for the apparent reduction in casualties. My Department already encourages people to give organs for transplant by sending out donor cards with licences to those who apply for provisional licences. I hope that everyone in the House will carry such cards.

Mr. Prescott

I welcome the reduction in the number of casualties. However, does the Minister accept that there are still three times more accidents than there were after the first three years of the drink and driving legislation? Is she further aware of the controversially different policies pursued by chief constables, some of whom have imposed breath tests on between 4,000 and 7,000 people, with a success rate of 2 per cent., compared to the average of 150 breath tests, with a success rate of 50 per cent? Does that not seem to be a march towards random testing? Will she get together with the Home Office and assess the full effect of the results so that the House can judge whether random testing has reduced the number of accidents? Such decisions should be taken by the House, not by chief constables.

Mrs. Chalker

In the three years following the introduction of breath testing in 1967 there was a lower percentage of fatalities—about 20 per cent.—where the driver had over the legal limit of alcohol in the blood. The hon. Gentleman is right about that. However, the real question is not random testing but the unrestricted power to test. The House decisively rejected that in 1981. We should give the 1981 legislation, which was introduced only in 1983, a chance, and see how effective it can be, while reminding people of the dangers of drinking and driving. After a year we shall be better able to judge. I am not in favour of random testing, and the police do not want it.

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