HC Deb 12 June 1989 vol 154 cc541-2
5. Mr. Arbuthnot

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what further plans he has for tackling the problem of drinking and driving.

The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

We have today launched a new campaign, with the help and co-operation of the medical services, the police, the insurance industry and the brewers and retailers. Two new television commercials will be shown. New posters and publicity material are available for use by road safety officers throughout the country. The basic message continues to be that drinking and driving wrecks lives and that it is unnecessary and unacceptable.

Mr. Arbuthnot

Will my hon. Friend confirm that if other insurance companies follow the line recently taken by Pearl Assurance, motorists who insist on continuing to drink before they drive will find that they are likely to face a nasty financial shock, even if they do not kill or disable somebody?

Mr. Bottomley

My hon. Friend has a good point. At the moment an insurance company does not need to pay out for those who drive unroadworthy vehicles. Pearl Assurance has simply applied the same principle to those who are not roadworthy drivers. The company will not necessarily pay out to mend such a driver's car and may claim back any third party payments that it has to make. I do not see any reason why the 19 out of 20 of us who do not drink and drive should have to continue to subsidise those who do. We are sufficiently at risk of our lives as innocent victims and I do not see why we should pay out money as well.

Sir Dudley Smith

While every sensible person must he against drinking and driving, is it not correct that we have a good record compared with other European countries, thanks largely to the efforts of my hon. Friend's Department?

Mr. Bottomley

It is certainly true that the campaigns initiated over the years by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have paid off tremendously in saving lives. The death trend in Britain is very much better than, for example, in Finland or even New South Wales, which go in for other strategies.

We must change people's understanding and their behaviour, using allies in the drinks trade, so that wherever people go to drink, they can have alcohol-free drinks if they are driving. That is the host's responsibility. It is the passenger's responsibility to pick an alcohol-free driver and it is primarily the driver's responsibility to decide between the throttle and the bottle. The trouble is that even at the present reduced levels, the killing season is now with us.