HC Deb 29 June 1987 vol 118 cc238-9
4. Mr. Boyes

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he intends to lauch any campaign against drink and driving before Christmas.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Yes. The objective is to cut out avoidable death, injury and distress. Drinking and driving is unacceptable in today's society.

We are launching tomorrow the next phase in the national campaign against drinking and driving. We warmly welcome the wide support our efforts have attracted. The 1,100 killed and the thousands injured by drinking drivers demand substantial media coverage on a continuing basis.

Mr. Boyes

Will the Minister accept that Labour Members welcome any campaign that keeps off the roads the potential killers—the 100,000 or so drivers who lose their licences each year? As the Government have not agreed to requests for stiffer sentences and the lowering of blood-alcohol levels, will he consider making it a statutory requirement that all pubs, clubs and other places that sell alcohol display clear, bold notices at the exits of their car parks saying clearly what the consequences of drinking and driving are?

Mr. Bottomley

I welcome the all-party support for dealing with this avoidable epidemic of death and injury. Perhaps I can explain why I think it is better during the next three of four weeks not to pay too much attention on potential changes in the law. Drinking drivers will seize any excuse to avoid facing the fact that too many people are drinking and driving. The suggestion of having a notice in car parks near premises where alcohol is served or sold is a good one. I will consider whether, in co-operation with the licensing authorities, we can bring it forward, even if I cannot promise a change in the law to make it mandatory.

Mr. David Howell

When looking at the question of campaigns against motorists and reviewing the law, will my hon. Friend have another look at the campaign being waged against motorists by the London clamping units? Is he aware that when I introduced to the House the clause in the 1982 Transport—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question refers to drink and driving, not clamping.

Mr. Bottomley

If as many people are deterred by the clamp as successful convictions for drinking and driving deter, we may save 30 offenders for every person who is penalised.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

Is the Minister satisfied that the Government's proposals for all-day licensing will not make the problem of drink-driving at Christmas worse?

Mr. Bottomley

It is not at Christmas that we have the major problem; it is at this time of the year. That is why we are having another campaign in June-July. It is also worth remembering that it is not a question of how long people have to drink, but whether they mix alchohol and driving at all. I do not think that the question of the number of hours that licensed premises may be open is relevant. What is needed is social control, self-control and making drinking and driving as unacceptable as smoking in church or chapel.

Mr. Roger King

My hon. Friend will be aware that when there is a drink-driving campaign at Christmas the police are often accused of operating in a heavy-handed way. What talks has he had with the police so that their actions coincide with his present campaign to avoid the sort of hysterical headlines that we get at Christmas during such campaigns?

Mr. Bottomley

I do not think that any politician should be concerned about hysterical headlines. The police have a 365-days a year campaign to deal with drinking and driving. They also have a 365-days a year problem of coping with the consequences of it, because at every accident involving injury the police are involved. There is nothing that they would like to see more than the offences and the injuries cut out, thus allowing them to spend more time on more serious issues once we control our own drinking and driving.

Mr. Stott

The hon. Gentleman is aware that he and I share a common ground on this issue. I was slightly critical of him last year in respect of the budget that he allocated for the campaign on drinking and driving being less than it was in previous years. Can the Minister give us any indication as to whether that budget will be restored to its original figure? En passant, Mr. Speaker, it was not the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) who introduced wheel clamps; it was me, because I moved the amendment.

Mr. Bottomley

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend can sort that out afterwards. I am willing to admire them both. I am grateful for official Opposition support for the campaign. We are spending substantially more on the campaign against drinking and driving, but I am perfectly aware that if I announced tomorrow at the press coference that no taxpayers' money was being spent, we would then get about £40 million free media coverage, and the media would actually carry out their own responsibility of spelling out that this is one epidemic that can be ended if we can raise public awareness and get the enforcement and the education right.