§ Postponed proceedings on Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, resumed.10.22 pm
§ Mr. McCartney
It is some time since I was brought to an emergency stop by Mr. Deputy Speaker to make way for the private business. I want to consider the issues raised by clauses 1 and 3, which I failed to deal with prior to the suspension of this debate. I want to consider random breath testing to see whether those clauses can be improved in Committee.
I make no apology for referring to specific cases that involve the death of a young child and a young adult. I dealt with one case personally and the other came to my notice as a result of a press report. I will refer to those cases not to sensationalise the debate, but to bring a different perspective to the statistics. When deaths occur in accidents, we are dealing with human beings. Young lives are lost and family life is destroyed as a result of the stresses and strains created by that loss of life.
Although I support clauses 1 and 3, I want to refer to certain cases to show why I believe that we shall need to consider strengthening those clauses in Committee. We must take account of what has happened and consider the feelings of families who have been affected by tragic deaths and injuries. We must make it clear to those involved in reckless driving and reckless driving involving drink that there is no hiding place left for them in Britain. Hon. Members must make it absolutely clear to the police, the prosecution services and the judiciary that we expect them to act accordingly when cases involving dangerous and reckless driving and drunken driving come before the courts.
I considered the Bill in the context of three criteria, whether it fitted those criteria and whether I could wholeheartedly support it or support it with reservations. In Committee, the Government should seriously consider making the Bill a non-party political issue and strengthening aspects of it. The three criteria are, first, the extent to which offences are understood by the travelling public; secondly, the enforceability of penalties, in particular in respect of prosecution policy and interpretation by the courts; and, thirdly, the extent to which penalties will act as a deterrent and, therefore, lead to an improvement in the standard of driving.
I start with clause 3 and refer to two young children, Christopher Varma aged seven, and lain Varma, his brother, aged 14. I pay tribute to their father, Satinda, and their mother, Linda, who have courageously campaigned not only because of what happened to their family and the destruction that was caused by an accident on 21 June 1987, but to try to prevent such a tragedy happening to other children. Tragically, since the accident, their wish has not been carried out. Day in and day out, children are mown down and lives are destroyed in a second by a driver who has taken drink or by a driver who has no consideration for other road or public highway users.
760 On 21 June 1987 in Blackpool, young lain and Christopher were doing what many children do in the summer, visiting a local school fete. They became bored with the fete and decided to go to a local sweet shop and then return home to mother. Unfortunately, on their way to the sweet shop they were involved in an accident when they were mown down by the rider of a 1000 cc Kawasaki motor cycle. Young Christopher, aged seven, was killed almost instantaneously, but Lain survived with permanent disabilities. In a few seconds of madness that young life was lost and a family's peace of mind and happiness were destroyed for ever.
What happened thereafter is not only a disaster for the family but is a stain on the judicial system and a public disgrace in respect of the tragic death of one of the young lads, Christopher, and the permanent disability of his brother. As other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall read a short version of a report of the court proceedings, to give an understanding of what has happened and why it has happened not just to the Varma family but to hundreds and perhaps thousands of families who have become the victims of drinking and driving or of people who just did not give a damn about others who use the highways. In the tragic circumstances, I hope that the House will recognise that clauses 1 and 3 are insufficient to meet the task before us.
On 21 June, a 24-year-old baker called Henry Staals on his new motor cycle killed Christopher and seriously injured lain. He was travelling at a speed that was recognised to be at about 60 mph in a residential part of Blackpool. Indeed, it was said that even the 30 mph limit on that road would have been far too fast in the circumstances.
Mr. Richard Isaacson, who was prosecuting, told the jury that the tragedy happened when Christopher and his 14-year-old brother, lain, had attended a fete at Highfield school. It was a perfect summer day but the boys, who were not with their parents, were apparently bored and decided to return home to Ashworth court. But when they were crossing Highfield road at about 4 pm a 1000cc black Kawasaki motor cycle, with its headlights blazing, knocked them down. Mr. Isaacson claimed that the bike was driven in such a manner as to make an accident almost inevitable if anyone got in its way. Mr. Isaacson told the jury:Tragically for him, as well as for those young boys, they got in his way.Some witnesses who were overtaken by the motor bike or who saw it from the pavement thought that it was travelling at 60 mph. Mr. Isaacson told the jury:If you are sure he was travelling at speeds of up to 60 mph, that is a very reckless course of driving on any basis.The prosecution alleged that Staals was so determined to enjoy driving his motor cycle that he gave no thought to the manner in which it was driven.
At the end of the trial, Staals was found guilty, but I shall tell hon. Members what happened and the advice of the judge—not in my words, but in those of Christopher's mum, Linda, who wrote to me on 20 February this year, stating:20 June 1987: My seven-year-old son Christopher was killed and his fourteen-year-old brother lain critically injured by a speeding motorcyclist.October 1988: At Preston Crown Court the motorbike rider was found not guilty of causing death by reckless driving, guilty only of careless driving, fined £250 and banned for two years.761Murder—for that is what it is—on our roads is condoned by society. Innocent victims have no redress even when a Miscarriage of Justice is admitted by the authorities.I want to change the law to give the innocent victimthe same rights as those appearing before other courts, such as the Court of Appeal.
In those anguished words, that mother was saying that her son's life was worth only £250. However, what made it worse for the family was that when the judge passed the sentence, he then advised the court of the defendant's previous convictions. In 1984 that gentleman was fined £450 and banned for 18 months for riding a motor cycle at a police officer who had tried to stop him for speeding. This was the motor cyclist's fourth serious offence, yet he did not suffer the loss of his liberty, only a miserable fine of £250. There was no redress for the family or the victim.
I could quote many other cases because I have with me a file of similar cases involving children or young teenagers throughout Britain who were mown down by motorists and motor cyclists, some of whom were drunk while others were simply completely out of their heads with concern about themselves, but for no one else. None of the drivers has ever served a prison sentence or had a fine of more than a few hundred quid, and none has ever been banned from driving for life or faced a severe ban of more than three years. Surely that cannot be right when someone drives recklessly or in such a way as to be a danger to someone else, and when that person ends another person's life or damages another person, destroying the rest of her or his life. Surely someone who does that should not walk away with only a paltry fine and with no other consequences and be quickly back on the road either on a motor cycle or in a car.
That is why I believe that in Committee we should seriously consider whether the balance is correct. I am not a solicitor or barrister—I know that the Secretary of State is a distinguished member of the legal profession in Scotland—but, as a lay person, I believe that we need seriously to consider a charge of culpable manslaughter in such cases.
I disagree with the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) who suggested that people who are drunk do not know what they are doing when they drive. That is no longer true. Perhaps 15 or 20 years ago people could make the excuse, albeit the weak one, that they did not understand the impairment to their driving abilities that would be caused by their taking drink. After the years of campaign by Government and non-Government agencies and the change in attitude in society to drinking and driving, anyone who takes a drink must understand the consequences for their driving ability. When, as in the next case to which I shall refer, someone drinks four or five pints of lager before driving, that person is as guilty as anyone of lifting a weapon and deliberately striking a person down.
There is no doubt in my mind that people make a choice to drink and to drink to excess and that their action leads them to maim or kill another person. Therefore, they have a liability. They are culpable. Manslaughter is the only relevant charge in those circumstances. Any lesser charge does not match the consequences of the action taken by the driver. That is even more true of drivers who do not drink but deliberately, as in the case which I shall mention, drive recklessly.
I refer to these cases on a general basis. In this House or anywhere else we should not impose double jeopardy.
762 The gentleman involved appeared before a court and received a fine, however derisory. However, on the general principle, is it right that someone who has a record of serious accidents involving motor bikes or cars, flaunts good road sense and the rules of the highway on a regular basis and as a consequence destroys the lives of young people should not be culpable and should not be charged with homicide or manslaughter? Those are the only charges that such people should face when they come before the courts. Minimal sentences in such cases are not a deterrent.
If we are to seize the opportunity to challenge that small but significant minority who consistently drive motor bikes or cars in such a way as to put people's lives at risk, we should make it clear to them that we shall remove their liberty and that when they come out of prison we shall remove their ability quickly to go back on the roads. It is important that in Committee we seriously consider improving and upgrading what has been suggested in clauses 1 and 3 of the Bill.
I and the vast majority of people who are put in the appalling position of having their families destroyed by the loss of one, two, three or, as has happened in some cases, four members of their family do not seek revenge. Revenge is not my motive. Nor is it the motive of many of the people to whom I have spoken. They genuinely feel that, in their terrible and tragic disaster, the lives of their families should not have been wasted by allowing the carnage on our roads to continue. A change in the law is sought, not for revenge but out of genuine concern for others and the desire that in the years ahead people are not destroyed or disabled by drivers who drink or drive in a reckless and dangerous manner.
The last case to which I shall refer is that of Martin Allsop. His case is not one with which I have dealt personally but it was highlighted earlier this year in the Daily Mirror in such a way as to give Martin's mum Pam the chance to say things that she would have liked to say but until then had not been able to. Martin's case not only demonstrates the tragedy of the loss of his life, but says a great deal about our position in the House, the law as it currently stands, alcohol abuse and the way in which the Crown prosecution service and the police can contrive that someone who should be charged with a more serious offence is not and, as a consequence, walks away almost free from killing someone—for surely that it what they have done.
Two years ago Martin Allsop was killed on a pedestrian crossing by Howard Orpwood, a driving instructor. Mr. Orpwood was charged with causing death by reckless driving. He ploughed into three people—Martin and his two friends—at 60 mph after overtaking a car which had stopped to let Martin and his friends cross the road. Witnesses claimed that Orpwood had drunk five pints of lager before getting into his car. At the time of the accident he had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. Martin's two friends were badly injured but, fortunately, they survived. Orpwood was acquitted of the imprisonable offence of causing death by reckless driving and found guilty of the lesser charge of careless driving, which does not carry a custodial sentence. He was banned from driving for two years and fined £250.
That is the sort of disgrace which we should not allow to continue. We should amend clause 1 or clause 3 to make it clear to the judiciary and the police what we mean. I have 763 reservations about the elements of part I and enforceability. We must ensure that the Crown prosecution service and the police have clear guidelines and understand how the House feels about offences of the sort to which I have referred. We must ensure also that the courts interpret properly and reflect accurately the view that we take in this place. Let us ensure that sentences act as a deterrent to those who drink and drive.
The two tragic cases to which I have referred are typical of thousands of others. Before the Bill becomes an Act, more young people will be killed as a result of reckless or dangerous driving, with or without drink. How many more children's lives are to be destroyed? How many more will have to live through the loss of their loved ones? I am sorry that I become emotional, but I have met families that have suffered in that way. Let us think of the parents of a seven-year-old child who are told by an ambulance driver that their child has been ripped from them, and who learn about a year later that the person who killed their child is driving a vehicle once again after paying a fine that most people would regard as entirely inappropriate.
The House owes it to the Varma family and all the other families that have suffered so grievously to take every step possible to ensure that those who drink and drive and kill will be charged with manslaughter. We must ensure also that those who drive recklessly or dangerously and cause the death or injury of others are dealt with in the same way. I have no doubt what the CPS should do. The advice that we give to the judiciary should leave it in no doubt how we want it to deal with such offenders. To deal with them in any other way would be a denial of the rights of families. We cannot bring back their loved ones who have gone, but we can ensure that others do not go the same way.
§ Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)
First, I join all those who have welcomed my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to his new responsibilities. I take the opportunity to congratulate the Department of Transport on its recent announcement on adult rear seat-belt wearing.
I wish to put forward the views of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, of which I am joint chairman. The council welcomes the Bill's provisions, especially those on speed cameras and red-light cameras. It welcomes also the new penalties, but is concerned that enforcement should be given a higher priority than appears to have been attached to it. It welcomes the provision to make disqualified drivers who have been found guilty of serious driving offences undergo a driving test before they are able to regain their licence. It is concerned that driving with excess alcohol is exempt from that provision. We believe that there are serious omissions from the Bill.
Who worries about the penalties if the chances of being caught are not great? Rationalisation of police effort in some forces has transformed mobile traffic units into multi-purpose mobile units with the resultant loss of a highly visible police presence on the roadside. PACTS believes that, due to the increase in traffic volume, traffic 764 policing establishment levels should, if possible, be restored to those of the early 1980s—about11 per cent. of all policing should be concerned with traffic.
We support the greater use of disqualification and the proposals for the retesting, retraining and rehabilitation of offenders. However, we do not understand the logic of omitting drink-driving offences from the retesting proposals. Drink-drivers are, by definition, irresponsible drivers and their omission from retesting removes a useful penalty.
The Government's reliance on retraining is misconceived for, as the road traffic law review pointed out, the effectiveness of retraining has yet to be demonstrated even for those who might be identified as suitable. We believe that the retesting proposals of the White Paper should be extended to cover drink-driving offences as well as bad driving and other offences requiring disqualification.
The new offences and changes in penalty proposed in the Bill are welcome, but they must be seen as part of a package of measures to reduce drinking and driving. Since the introduction of the breathalyser in 1967, the number of excess alcohol offences detected has quadrupled. Surveys have shown that the chances of detection of excess alcohol when driving are extremely low, ranging from one in 250 trips in some areas to one in 4,000 in others. In most parts of the country the perceived chances of detection are similarly low.
A recent survey by the transport and road research laboratory suggested that 42 per cent. of those who admitted to drink-driving believed that their chances of being caught were small. It is true that the figures of those guilty of drink-driving have been steadily improving. Why does the Minister believe that leaving the situation as it is will make any impression on those 42 per cent. who drink and drive and believe that they will not be caught? Clearly, further action is necessary.
The Government have acted, rightly, on adult rear seat belts because that will save lives. They have accepted that persuasion has gone as far as it can in achieving their targets. Given that more lives could be saved with the introduction of random breath testing, why does not the same logic apply? The present law allowing breath testing under two separate sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988 —the result of a court decision—is a mess. It leads to anomalies in enforcement and it gives no clear public message.
Ministers appear to accept the principle of random breath testing every time they quote the fact that it is possible for the police to act under the present law. Why will not they make the principle explicit in practice? In principle, the argument appears to be accepted. Therefore, we are merely debating the most practical methods of enforcement.
PACTS believes that existing breath testing powers should be supplemented by an additional power to allow random breath testing as well as signposted roadside checkpoints, authorised by a senior police officer. That would provide the element of deterrence that is lacking from current procedures, which is necessary to allow the police to secure a significant reduction in road accidents.
Of the 3,400 responses to the Home Office consultation paper on changes to the breath testing legislation, 3,000 favoured additional powers to be given to the police. A recent survey published by the Government's transport and road research laboratory in November suggested that 77 per cent. of those interviewed supported such powers 765 and 70 per cent. believed that they would work. Given that level of support, the lack of those powers in the Bill is a serious omission.
I believe that the Bill is devalued by its failure to tackle fully drink-driving. It is a good Bill that has missed the opportunity of being excellent. The Department must look again at breath testing and, if nothing else, look again at including alcohol-related offences in the retesting procedure.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
I apologised earlier for not being here for the opening speeches from the Front Benches. I was in a Committee and came as soon as it finished.
The background to the Bill has been well rehearsed, both today and earlier. Many of us must be under threat of being swamped by an excess of road traffic. Government policy in the Department of Transport is like an oil tanker—it heads in one direction and it takes a lot to change its course to another direction. I am hopeful that, if only slowly, the Department's policy will become less one of supporting road traffic and more one of increasing support for traffic by rail and for public transport generally. If so, we shall begin to do things automatically that the Bill specifically seeks to do.
Other Members have given different figures, but the latest figures I have show that in the decade most recently reported there were more than 62,000 road deaths in this country and fewer than 1,000 deaths on our railways. lf the Department's projection of a 142 per cent. increase in road traffic by the year 2025 is correct, unless we do more to reverse that imbalance we risk many more fatalities and injuries. It is therefore not surprising that people become emotional about the subject. None of us would be critical of people such as the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) for the way in which he addressed the 'ways that people and their families are personally and collectively mutilated by the results of others' irresponsibility.
My colleagues and I welcome part I as far as it goes. Its objective, to summarise it in one sentence, is to prevent and punish drivers who are irresponsible either because they drink and drive or because they are managing vehicles which are mechanically defective and thus a liability to others on or near the road.
When I used to practise as a lawyer, I had experience of both prosecuting and defending people in such cases. Naturally I was vigilant, as I hope we all are, of the civil liberties of all, and careful and wary of the idea that the police should have the right to stop drivers at random in order—as they would say—to test them for an offence. The reality is that we crossed that threshold a long time ago.
Those of us who drive are all at risk of being stopped for a vehicle check, which is automatically assumed to be an acceptable premise on which a policeman can stop a motorist. The police do not have to have a reasonable belief that a motorist has committed an offence to carry out a vehicle check—it is sufficient that they regard it as an important part of their procedures, and it is carried out on a regular basis. If it is done because police believe it is important that vehicles should be safe, sound and mechanically valid, surely the same should apply, or even more so, if there is a chance that a driver has been drinking and is under the influence of alcohol. The rightful 766 argument of civil libertarians is countered by the simple argument that anybody who makes a decision to drive a vehicle must accept the consequences and responsibilities of it and accept that they will be at risk of being stopped by police to ensure that they are driving responsibly.
I welcome the fact that the former Secretary of State for Transport, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), whose speech I listened to with interest, and others have come round to that view. A good thing about the Bill is that its long title is so short and general as to permit amendment of the Bill. From what I have heard of the debate and of the arguments—not just figures —of the British Medical Association and others, there is every opportunity for the Bill to be amended either in Committee or on the Floor of the House and I hope and believe that there will be no resistance if it is seen to be the will of the House that we should take the opportunity to legislate for random breath testing. I hope that that view will not be resisted, because if it is widely held by people after careful consideration, we must respond. I entirely accept the view expressed by the hon. Member for Makerfield and others—that we can in that way act to prevent, particularly in the interests of the young, what has become a horrendous and regular carnage on our roads.
The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield made the point that the legal technicalities which allow police to stop motorists are not understood by the public at large and therefore not easily capable of being properly executed by the police themselves. It would be far better to say to the relevant agencies—traffic police, police in general, and others with powers in respect of lesser offences—"You have the power to intervene if you believe that a motorist is acting without the law, whatever that suspected breach may be."
It follows that the law must be enforceable, which is the bridge between parts land II of the Bill. We can pass all the laws that we wish in respect of drink driving or mechanically inadequate vehicles, or to improve parking restrictions, but unless we have people available adequately to enforce those laws, they are as nothing. All right hon. and hon. Members will have experience of parking controls, covered by part II, which are wonderful in theory but no use in practice, because no one enforces them. To cite one example, when I drive to the House I travel down Grange road in Bermondsey, which is capable of carrying two lanes of traffic, but a goods vehicle is regularly parked outside business premises, converting that two-lane road into a single-lane road for about half a mile just before the traffic lights at the start of Tower Bridge road.
§ Mr. Hughes
No, it is not—it is a relatively old van.
Despite regular representations having been made, the restrictions which already exist are not enforced, with the result that that route into central London is regularly blocked. Unless there is adequate enforcement through the provision of the right personnel, part II will be no use either.
I endorse the remark of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield that we are again in a muddle over the differing powers and responsibilities given to those expected to enforce the law. There should be a clear hierarchy in one chain of command—I do not mind whether it is a police or local authority chain of command, 767 though the logic is that it should come under the police because we would not entrust enforcement of serious offences to anyone who is not a police officer. Traffic and other wardens should work under a clear hierarchy so that they can deal with all traffic offences, and so that the public can recognise that they have that authority.
We then need to deal with the two other problems that part II seeks to tackle. I share the view of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that it is anomalous that half of a United Kingdom Road Traffic Bill should be dedicated to establishing a system for London. It is illogical not to allow decisions concerning regional and metropolitan traffic provision to be taken by the metropolitan authorities in the areas in question. The reason in London is that it does not have a metropolitan traffic authority. The Bill gives powers to the Government in London, and to local authorities elsewhere. The sooner we return to a coherent and democratic regional transport authority for London, the better.
§ Mr. Hughes
Yes, an elected regional authority for London. A small agency within the Department is no substitute—not least because it does not have the local accountability provided by democratically-elected transport authorities elsewhere in this country. That is the fundamental objection to part II. We hope that the situation will be reversed as soon as possible, and that the Government will realise that incoherent transport planning in London has produced a nightmare, and not a dream.
The three ways to deal with urban traffic congestion are to increase public transport and reduce the number of private vehicles, to increase the cost of road use—many eminent hon. Members have argued for that today—and to make roads more user-friendly for cyclists and pedestrians, and less user-friendly for motorists.
I understand that there is a good precedent for charging people more to use roads. In Singapore, where supplementary licensing was introduced for urban areas, there was a 40 per cent. reduction in road traffic. I know that there are objections—one can always argue that the rich can pay and can therefore afford to use roads in the urban areas while the poor cannot. However, in many countries the evidence shows that some form of congested urban area licensing brings in revenue which can be used for other things, and acts as a disincentive to road use. I hope that we shall soon move in that direction.
We should introduce traffic calming measures. There is a whole range of those. The introduction of red routes in London may alleviate problems on the roads involved, but all the side roads off them will be just as blighted by traffic 768 as they were before. Without environmental road improvements with through routes for bicycles only, chicanes, more road humps and differential surfaces—many methods can be used—throughout our urban areas, many residential areas will continue to be blighted. People will use them as rat runs, for short cuts, and for parking. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield cited examples of non-residents constantly parking in residential streets at no cost, blighting the streets for residents and for other people who may need to use them.
The cost of on-street parking has to rise. One can always exempt residential parking, but if people realise that it will be extraordinarily difficult to find a place in which to park and also extremely expensive, it will act as an additional disincentive. That does not work if the public transport system does not provide an adequate alternative. If it does, people will be encouraged to use public transport, and to leave the car at home or outside the urban area—for example, in park-and-ride facilities which seem to have been successfully pioneered in some cities.
We have to be fairly tough about the times and circumstances in which deliveries can be made to retail outlets. The times have to be reasonable so that businesses can carry on, but if a main road is the only point of ingress and egress for vehicles, there could be restrictions. It would be perfectly proper to allow deliveries only outside rush hours and the working day—that is, early in the morning or late in the evening—or to allow deliveries in small vehicles. It is perfectly possible for the Government to take such measures.
One thing that reduces the amount of money taken from motorists by the local authorities in London is that every borough—there are 33 authorities—has a different meter system and different tariffs, so that one never knows, from one borough to the next, what coins will be required, for what period they will work, or the form of meter. Local authority autonomy is indeed a wonderful thing, and I defend it, but, if we are to maximise revenue, co-ordination of traffic meters in London would be no bad thing. Let us try to encourage local authorities to have a standard form of meter. They can have differential pricing—it need not affect the tariff rate that they impose—but for heaven's sake let us make it easier for motorists to have the right coins to put into the meter rather than park and risk putting nothing in, which results in non-payment on a regular basis and if they get caught or chased for payment they still do not pay.
Although the Bill is welcome in some respects, it does not go nearly far enough. I hope that by the time it becomes law random breath testing will have been included and part II will have been improved—as an interim measure, until we have a proper, democratic transport authority for London.
§ 11.4 pm
§ Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)
I join other hon. Members on both sides of the House in warmly congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on his introduction of such a comprehensive Bill, which both rationalises and modernises the law on drink-driving and significantly increases the penalties, while also taking steps to deal with those selfish drivers who think that they have the right to block the public highway by parking wherever and whenever they want.
There are, however, some points that I should like my right hon. and learned Friend to consider further. The first involves the creation of a separate national traffic police force to enable regular police officers to be freed from myriad minor traffic duties—I except drink-driving offences—and deployed to perform criminal duties more suited to their training. This is not a new proposal, although it may sound radical. I feel that road traffic policing in general is too important to be left to traffic wardens or local councils. I feel that it would benefit less from an increase in their powers than from the establishment of a small, highly specialist force equipped to deal with the many lesser traffic offences.
Many hours of police time are needlessly taken up with such offences, which—although very important—are not criminal in the accepted sense of the word. The police are burdened by the frustration of having to spend so much of each working day dealing with them. If my proposal were adopted, many aspects of road traffic law with which the police have not the manpower or the resources to deal effectively would be properly enforced. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to consider it seriously: such schemes are operating both in New Zealand—where I was recently able to observe the system at first hand—and in some American states, and they are working extremely well.
My proposed system would also remove a major source of friction between the normal law-abiding citizen and the police. Minor traffic offences often lead to the only occasion on which such people come into contact with the police and I am sure that the police themselves would welcome such a move.
Secondly, I am pleased that the Bill deals in such depth with the problems of traffic management in London and, in particular, that it provides for increased powers to authorise wheel clamping and the removal of vehicles. The statistics tell us that wheel clamping has drastically reduced the rate of illegal parking in the capital. However, as I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will recognise, clamping a car for what amounts in some cases to three or four hours does nothing to relieve that particular section of road from the obstruction, but merely prolongs the problem. It makes far more sense simply to tow away offending vehicles than to leave them obstructing the highway. That can be done by contracting the service out to the private sector.
"Tow-away" should be extended both in the capital and in other areas to help free our roads of badly and illegally parked vehicles. Where tow-away schemes operate in the United States and Canada, they have proved an extremely effective deterrent. Tow-away zones should be extended to all cities and should become the normal way of dealing with the illegal and selfish blocking of public highways. I can vouch for the efficacy of the system: when I was in the 770 United States and Canada I did not dare to park in a tow-away zone, although I might have tried it on in other areas.
The establishment of red routes in London is a n excellent if long overdue measure, welcomed by the Freight Transport Association, the Road Haulage Association and the British Road Federation. It will probably double road capacity overnight in many areas. But why stop with just some of the capital's major routes? Why stop in London? Surely the principle is right and indivisible: selfish behaviour must not be allowed to clog the nation's arteries and create a horrendous cost, which the CBI has calculated to be about £15 billion a year. Please can the scheme be extended to all arterial roads and other cities? If we are serious about encouraging people lo switch from private cars to public transport, inability o park one's car and clog the highway will be the most effective method of persuasion—far more effective than ill-conceived road-pricing schemes which are unfair, impractical and unenforceable.
Like many hon. Members, I share the concern expressed over the evil of drink-driving. Society must make it clear beyond any doubt that if someone decides to drive a vehicle after drinking, the punishment will be so severe that he or she will be unable to do so again. I pay tribute to the tireless work that the Government have undertaken to get their message across. I welcome the proposals in the Bill to tighten the penalties for drivers who are convicted of drink-driving crimes. However, I do not feel that they go far enough. Five years' imprisonment for convicted drink-drivers who cause death may seem harsh, but how much harsher life is for the families who are left without a father, mother, a son or a daughter. Five years' imprisonment becomes 18 months with good behaviour. A death in a family lasts for ever.
Three people in Britain will have died today because of a drinking driver—that is more than will be murdered—and 45 men, women and children will have been seriously injured today, which is more than will be mugged or assaulted. Each fatal accident costs society about £600,000. The total bill for drink-driving in Britain is more than £1 million each day in lost production, demands on the national health service and damage to property.
I am delighted that the figures are falling rapidly, but a more realistic deterrence system would further reduce the figures. That is why I totally support a random breath testing scheme, by which I mean an established system whereby motorists can be stopped at any point on the highway to be breathalysed. Refusal would be an offence. A scheme along these lines has proved to be very successful in Australia and Scandinavia. Road deaths in New South Wales fell by 21 per cent. during the first three years and, more significantly, the number of drivers killed who were over the legal limit fell by 37 per cent.
I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to look at this matter closely during the passage of the Bill. Increased penalties must accompany random breath testing, and imprisonment for at least 10 years for drink-driving offences involving injury or death must be the norm. In Committee we should also consider the deterrent effect of somebody losing his or her licence for a minimum of 10 years.
I can do no better than to quote a short letter from one of my constituents that I received this morning. It is from Debbi Piper, aged 15 years, 10 months. She writes from Corbridge in my constituency and says: 771Dear Mr. Amos,I am writing this letter to express my views on drunk driving. During the month of April 1986, my best friend, Sandra Mitchell, was tragically killed by a drunk driver. She was just eleven years of age and was just settling into a new town after a move from Stockport. She was very well loved by all, family and friends. I have since moved from Formby in Merseyside, which was where the incident occurred, to the above address. Sandra's mother featured in last year's Campaign Against Drunk Driving which brought back many fond memories of Sandra.The purpose of this letter is to convey my ideas to prevent many more deaths like Sandra's. If during the Christmas period, which is, as you know, the time when the most heaviest drinking is done, when drinkers enter Pubs and Clubs and other buildings of the same manner, they hand over their car keys to the bar person who would hang them on hooks like at a hotel and when the person comes to collect his/her keys, the bar person would be the one to decide whether or not the drinker is fit to drive or not. If not then a free taxi service would be available to take them home.I feel very strongly that everything possible should be done to prevent deaths like Sandra's.That is a constructive suggestion which we should consider in Committee.
There has been much debate in recent years about the fitting, use and effectiveness of rear seat belts in cars for both children and adults. We have now reached a point where it is compulsory for children under 14 to wear seat belts where fitted in cars, and there is no question but that this saves many lives each year. It seems to me to be only sensible and logical, therefore, that the requirement should be extended to school minibuses. However, I would not wish to put any extra financial burden on bus and coach companies, so the requirement should apply only to new minibuses where seat belts will, I hope, have been fitted and to vehicles that already have seat belts. I do not wish to exaggerate the problem, but in 1988 more than 550 schoolchildren were killed or injured in road accidents involving coaches and minibuses; the vast majority of those children were seated.
My final point concerns the delays that occur before vehicle operators who are in breach of the law lose their operator's licence. Even though irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing and breaches of the law may be held by traffic area offices, illegal operators can continue to trade and may even do so after a court appearance and sentence. That is wrong and is an abuse of the law. I hope that it will be considered and that the loophole that enables operators to continue trading will be closed. I should like the existing powers of traffic Commissioners to be extended to enable them to confiscate vehicles of persistent offenders.
Many other details can be discussed in Committee. I believe that there should be a new offence for the so-called courier motor cyclists who weave in and out of static and moving traffic, which is very dangerous and should be stopped. I should like to see a ban on the use of hand-held car telephones, which is also dangerous and should be stopped. I know that the Whips want me to sit down, so I shall do so, but those points should be considered in Committee.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
This debate is obviously important and the Bill is two separate Bills.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and others, I very much welcome the 772 concentration on road safety in part I of the Bill. I agree that many of the proposals to punish drivers who knowingly drink and then maim people are far too soft. I have no sympathy for such people. They should try to put themselves in the mind of a parent who has lost a child or close relative because some idiot knowingly got drunk and then mowed them down at night in a car. Nothing can bring those people back. The fact that a year or two later they get their licence back and carry on driving is repugnant. I hope that their licences are taken away for a long time and that we consider prison sentences for people who, in effect, commit murder. An analogy is someone who has a licence for a shotgun and uses it dangerously, which results in injury or death, but two years later gets the licence and gun back. That is not acceptable, and something must be done about it. I hope that in Committee the Bill will be strengthened because there is broad consensus that it should be strengthened.
There is an annual campaign and constant publicity against drink-driving and school children well understand the dangers of it, but perhaps we should address ourselves to the drink culture. The opposition to drink-driving is well known and well publicised, and long may it stay so, but there is a culture surrounding alcohol—that somehow it is good and grown up to drink a lot. We must consider the advertising techniques that drink companies use and curtail them. Too many lives are ruined by alcoholism as well as by deaths caused by drunken driving.
The wearing of rear seat belts is obviously sensible and important. I spend a lot of time travelling around London by all forms of transport, and I find particularly irritating the number of people who drive quite fast in heavy traffic with a car phone in one hand and who attempt to force their way through traffic. That is extremely dangerous. I do not care for the argument that whenever the phone rings they should pull over to the side of the road and answer the call. The presence of a phone in a car is distracting for the driver. Even if he does not answer the phone immediately when it rings but pulls over and stops, it is still an irritant and a distraction. Strict regulations must be introduced on car phones.
In Committee, we should consider how good the driving test is. There are no repeat tests; hon. Members who passed their test 20 or 25 years ago have not had to take another test. A case can be made for refresher tests or probationary driving, whereby someone who passes a test has a probationary period of perhaps six months, as in France, during which time he can gain experience of dual-carriageway and motorway driving. It is not sensible that a person can pass a driving test and on the same afternoon head out in a sports car up the M1. There should be a form of probation.
There are speed limits, although they are not enforced on the motorways. Is it right that cars should be advertised for sale as capable of going at 140 or 150 mph? Why are such cars sold when there is no road on which a driver can go over 70 mph legally? The idea that a car can travel at 140 mph may seem attractive and clearly the temptation is to drive at that speed.
The Bill does not provide an opportunity to consider transport and traffic policies. Traffic is predicted to increase by 142 per cent. as we move into the next century. No roads, and certainly no roads in urban areas, can cope with that. We must consider restraining car use, particularly in urban areas, and consider the availability and accessibility of public transport. There is a widely 773 believed myth that the more people have cars, the more mobile the population is. That is not so. It is true that people become more mobile if they have a car, but the quid pro quo is that villages lose their bus services and urban areas lose their public transport facilities and that for the people who cannot afford to drive, do not own or want a car, life becomes less, rather than more, mobile. We should consider what we are doing.
Only 10 days ago, the Department of Transport announced enormous expenditure to create a fourth. fifth and possibly sixth lane in each direction on the M25. That motorway is already the largest car park in the country. I should have been more interested if the Department had proposed putting parking meters all the way round it—at least some income would have been derived from the traffic jams. It is ludicrous. There should be proper transport planning that encourages people to use public transport and provides public transport that people can use. If there is enough orbital traffic around London to jam up the six lanes of the M25 most of the time—three in each direction —that leads me to believe that there are enough people and enough freight vehicles travelling on the M25 that could use trains. I hope that we shall consider those points rather than calmly predict an ever-increasing number of private cars and the ever-increasing damage that they will do to the environment.
Clause 6, which deals with the fairly new offence of dangerous cycling—it was dealt with in earlier legislation —is extremely subjective and is hostile to the interests of cycling. I hope that the Minister will clarify it. Far from cyclists being implicity dangerous people who go around causing accidents, the vast majority of accidents involving cyclists are caused by motorists driving dangerously or by the lack of proper cycling facilities in urban areas. Too often, cycle lanes start and finish at road junctions but do not go through those junctions or across traffic islands.
I feel strongly about part Ii, which is really a separate Bill. I represent an inner-London constituency and have been involved in and campaigned on local transport matters for a long time. My constituency suffers from a high degree of traffic penetration—for want of a better word—and the level of car ownership is low. That is common to most of inner London. Impossible amounts of traffic come through our areas every morning and evening. That causes high levels of air pollution and gives rise to great danger to people living there. It needs to be dealt with and it can be dealt with only on the basis of regional or London-wide planning; it cannot be dealt with on a London borough basis.
Ever since the GLC was abolished, there has been no London-wide body. At least the Bill admits that there ought to be such a body, albeit the Secretary of State, who happens to represent a Scottish constituency. I mean no disrespect to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that, but is it really on for him to be appointing a London traffic director who will decide the traffic policies for London as a whole?
The Secretary of State reminded us of the history of the red routes proposal. There have been some misconceptions about red routes. The then Secretary of State first announced red routes as an alternative to the motorway-building plans then envisaged for London—the south London assessment study, the west London environmental improvement route, the east London assessment study, the south circular route and all the rest of it. All were the subject of massive opposition in London.
774 In my constituency, 17,000 people wrote letters, signed petitions or sent postcards to the Department expressing their opposition to the road-building proposals. That is an enormous number. As a result, the then Secretary of State finally abandoned the road-building scheme and came up with the idea of red routes instead.
Red routes are, in a sense, priority routes. Their stated aim is to get more traffic through London on existing routes. They are, in effect, major roads by another name. They are designed to increase the use of existing road space and to speed up traffic. In the consultation exercise, they have been dressed up as favouring cyclists and buses. It is true that the proposals contain some improvements in bus routes and cyclists' facilities. But the powers to introduce new bus and cycle routes already exist. We do not need a traffic Commissioner for London to bring in more bus routes. I fear that the red routes are a means of forcing major routes through my area and through other parts of London. The Department of Transport has been highly disingenuous during the consultation exercise. First, it announced its intention to introduce red routes and produced a red routes plan. Then it announced that it intended to consult on the proposals. A large number of public meetings were held, some of which were attended by representatives of the Department, some by the consultants, some by the local authorities and some by all three. No public meeting held anywhere along the red route said that it supported the principle. There was overwhelming opposition to the proposals and there were overwhelming demands for better public transport and smaller volumes of traffic going through London. What did we get? Virtually the same principle has now been put forward by the Department.
I can tell the House that, in Committee, we shall table a lot of detailed amendments on the whole question because many of us believe that there is only one way in which to solve London's traffic problems. We must recognise that public transport provides the key. That means larger amounts of public money invested in public transport, more bus priority measures, the better use of existing rail facilities and the development of light rail rapid transit systems throughout London.
§ Mr. Spearing
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, but does he agree that the nub of the case that the promoters of the red routes scheme will have to prove is this: given the legitimate needs of local people in terms of safety and trade, what additional flows can the schemes achieve that cannot be achieved by the use of existing powers, particularly at critical road junctions?
§ Mr. Corbyn
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. All the powers that are sought for the improvement of road safety and for bus priority measures and so on already exist. It seems to me that the only purpose of the proposals is to get a traffic director for London who will have powers of veto over what individual borough councils do and who will, in effect, become the appointed traffic authority for London. He or she will have power not only over the red routes but over the routes feeding into them and affected by them and over proposed new red routes throughout London.
I am extremely suspicious about that denial of local democracy. Instead, I want to see the election of a planning authority for London through a system of elected government under which people are representatives and are not told what to do by the Secretary of State's 775 representatives. As I explained earlier, far more resources should be devoted to public transport through subsidies, priority measures and a reduction in car travel into and out of central London.
All that can be achieved in several ways. It can be achieved by reducing the number of parking spaces in central London, instead of increasing it. It can also be achieved by physical means. I should prefer a reduction in the number of car-borne commuters travelling into and out of central London. Why should fewer than 15 per cent. of all commuter journeys into and out of central London cause chaos for the other 85 per cent.?
Such a change in approach would make London a nicer place in which to live. It would also make it a more mobile and safe city; and above all it would make it a much cleaner city. We are living in a highly congested, highly polluted, highly dangerous city because there is no serious planning to control the apparently irrepressible growth in the use of the motor car. The Department of Transport sees itself as presiding over the growth in the use of private cars in urban areas. It is not trying to control their use or to encourage investment in rail and public transport.
The Secretary of State kept on saying how much the Government are promoting an investment programme in the railway and public transport systems. That is extremely misleading. In reality, British Rail has been authorised to sell large amounts of its property to finance new rail developments. Exactly the same applies to London Regional Transport. We should be putting new money into our public transport systems and to do that we could end the subsidy on private cars. We could also do it by carrying out an environmental impact assessment of the cost to all of us of the ever-increasing use of cars in urban areas. We should assess how much our lives could be improved by improving public transport.
In many ways the Bill is a missed opportunity. I hope that the issues will be raised again in Committee. Londoners, in so far as they have been consulted on traffic and the red routes, were in favour of public transport, but they came out very strongly against urban road building, against route priority measures and against the imposition of a traffic director for London. Those latter aspects will be opposed strongly throughout the remaining stages of the Bill.
§ Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)
My constituents, and road users generally, welcome the Bill and particularly clauses 1, 2 and 5 relating to dangerous driving, careless and inconsiderate driving and causing danger to road users.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will be aware that my constituents are particularly concerned about the arrival of the M40, which is shortly to be completed close to the border of my constituency. They are concerned about the implications for the quality of life of the huge increase in the volume of traffic and particularly of the increase in the number of heavy goods vehicles thundering through residential areas. The increasing size of lorries is also causing my constituents concern as those vehicles pass by their houses.
I am only too aware of the strength of the transport lobby represented on the Opposition Benches and in 776 particular the strength of the Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association. I also acknowledge the interest of some of my colleagues in those matters. However, I want to make one or two points specifically about heavy goods vehicles.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) made a serious point, about which many of our constituents are concerned, when he referred to the number of fatalities caused by heavy goods vehicles. As he said, the number is increasing and gives rise to serious concern.
An extremely serious accident, about which I have written to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, occurred in fog on the M42 last month and claimed the lives of several people from Birmingham and elsewhere. The principal cause of those fatalities was heavy goods vehicles. Fatalities on west midlands roads in the past two years have predominantly involved heavy goods vehicles. I should like my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State also to take note of the concern expressed by some of my constituents as well as by myself about the increasing incidence of people being maimed or killed by heavy goods vehicles mowing them down on the emergency lane of a motorway or dual carriageway. I refer especially to an incident earlier this year when an entire family was wiped out by a lorry on the A38 in Staffordshire. The number of such incidents has grown significantly over the past few years.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) said that not only lorry drivers but the companies involved should be considered. Earlier today, I informed my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State of my concern at an illustration in the Daily Express of part of the difficulty that was caused on the M6 at the weekend. The difficulty was largely caused by lorries blocking all four lanes, including the emergency services lane. It is a matter of concern that the behaviour of the drivers of heavy goods vehicles is pressured by contracts placed upon them by their employers. When it can be proved that employers have ignored tachograph readings or placed unreasonable strains or responsibilities on drivers, the law should take action against the employer. However, it should also take action against irresponsible lorry drivers.
I agree with the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) that in the tragic circumstances in which a drunken motorist or motor cyclist maims or kills a child, the penalties currently imposed appear insufficient if not derisory. Nevertheless, in the west midlands and other areas recently there have been occasions when lorry drivers have maimed or killed and have not even been charged. There have been times when they have driven into stationary cars parked at the side of the road in the emergency lane, not on the highway, and have not been charged. The Bill should deal with reckless and dangerous driving of that kind.
I place specific emphasis on the fact that the driver of a 38-tonne lorry is significantly more likely than a car driver to maim, injure or kill not just one but up to a dozen people. Such a driver has extra responsibility. We expect the master of a large vessel, the captain of an aircraft, or the master of a large transport vehicle to take special care, so we should start to look seriously at the role of lorry drivers. I hope that that matter can be investigated in Committee.
There is good reason to ask that life bans on the driving of heavy goods vehicles or coaches should be imposed on 777 those who have been convicted of careless or reckless driving on more than one occasion. Many lives are at stake. I am seriously concerned by the high speed at which such vehicles travel on the motorways. Hon. Members who live in constituencies distant from London, including one or two of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, will share the experience of driving at the legal limit on the motorway and being overtaken not only by buses and coaches travelling at significantly more than the limit, but also by articulated lorries, some of which belong to well-known haulage companies. There should be greater insistence and greater co-ordination with police forces to ensure that the speed limits relevent to those vehicles are observed.
§ Mr. McCartney
It is not just a question of some drivers driving dangerously—when they drive loads containing toxic chemicals and other highly dangerous materials, the community living alongside the motorway also becomes affected when the load is spilled or there is a breach in the tank. The speed at which heavy goods vehicles travel is important to road safety, especially when they carry substances which, if they spill out of their containers or cylinders, can affect a wider group than the drivers on the motorway at the time.
§ Mr. Hargreaves
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point entirely. It speaks for itself and requires no further comment from me. I hope that that matter can be dealt with in Committee.
I have one final, small point to make about random breath testing. Having heard what a number of colleagues have said today, and having discussed the matter with a number of constituents and people in Birmingham generally, in all honesty I must point out that some people are suspicious of random breath testing. Although we all understand the right and proper motive for its introduction, it may well be misunderstood outside, and it may be counter-productive to the police forces. If we consider such a measure, and if my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State admits to its being included in the scope of the Bill for consideration at a later stage, I nevertheless urge colleagues to think carefully and to consult their local police forces before taking too high and moral a view before the public is ready for it.
§ Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)
I intend to make only a short speech and to refer only to part I of the Bill. The Secretary of State said that the purpose of the Bill is to save lives. I agree with much of what is in the Bill and many of my hon. Friends have also expressed their agreement. I am one of those—perhaps—incautious people who travel more than 20,000 miles a year on the motorways. I travelled down the M1 and M6 today from Lancashire. Driving down, I saw things that I have seen at normal times but which appeared worse as today is abnormal because some of the results of the recent bad weather are still evident.
I agree with the new definition of "dangerous driving", but should like to draw the Secretary of State's attention to some of the things that should be further considered in Committee. I have no doubt that my right hon. and hon. Friends who serve on the Committee will table amendments about some of the things that I shall mention.
778 As I have said, today was one occasion when it was more dangerous than usual to see some of the things on the motorway that give me heart murmurs while I am driving. Today I witnessed tailgating, an offence which should be punished hard. Even if it only intimidates the driver in front, it could cause a small shunt, but, at the worst, the driver in front could panic, run into some obstruction and put on his brakes. He will not have a snowball in hell's chance even of surviving the crash. As a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, I regret to say that some of my colleagues who drive are culpable. However, some employers put pressure on drivers in terms of time, weight, unfit wagons and other matters which have been mentioned today. They are as culpable as the driver behind the wheel. Some of us are surprised that when trade unions break the law they quickly have their funds sequestered, but when employers break the law in ways such as I have suggested, there is a marked reluctance by the courts, the police and the Crown prosecution service to do anything about it.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Is my hon. Friend aware that the problem of speeding coaches on motorways is a serious one? Is he aware that the timetables for some coach routes between London and other places make it impossible for coaches to make the journey without consistently breaking the speed limit on the entire motorway part of the journey? Should not something be done to companies that force drivers into trying to keep to those timetables?
§ Mr. Lewis
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I was coming to coaches, which are one of the main culprits of the motorway offences to which I have briefly referred.
I wholeheartedly support the Secretary of State's contention that new or existing technology should be used to detect offenders. Today we have discussed briefly the use of cameras to detect red light jumping and speeding. I suggest that the Standing Committee should discuss the possibility of using cameras to detect and prosecute tailgaters and those who overtake on the inside. Some drivers do not overtake only once on the inside. Often, particularly on the M1, one can see them overtake on the inside, on the outside again and tear off into the night. One Conservative Member mentioned car telephone users. I saw some today. We came through the worst of the weather in Birmingham where there was snow on the ground in the fast lane—which we parochially call the outside lane—and as soon as we reached a stretch where the weather had bucked up and it was dry and reasonable to drive at 60 or 70 mph, drivers were using mobile telephones. I saw not only one but about four of them with telephones clutched to their ears as soon as they hit a stretch of open road.
The worst thing that I saw today was a small hatchback car with three youngsters between the back seat and the tailgate. That is criminal in anyone's language and that is the sort of thing that I would like to see detected by photographic equipment. I should be the first to argue that it is a reasonable way to bring to prosecution people who put children in such danger.
I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has not grasped the nettle on random breath tests. On January 22 I shall test the mood of the House on random breath testing in a ten-minute Bill. I shall propose the introduction of random breath testing. I am confident that 779 it has the overwhelming support of our constituents. I hope to test the mood of the House before the Bill reaches Committee.
On the subject of drinking and driving, I cannot resist referring to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). He said that lemonade cost 35p for a small bottle.
§ Mr. Lewis
Even worse. Publicans and brewers—I suppose that the publicans are the victims of the brewers —are even more culpable when it comes to the cost of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers. I drink such beers from time to time. In many of the pubs that I use the price is almost double that of ordinary beer. There can be a temptation to the weak-willed motorist, who feels that he is being ripped off, to drink when he should not and then drive his car. Such pricing positively encourages people to consume too much alcohol and then to drive a motor vehicle.
The Bill is defective in some small respects, but I believe that some safety measures could be added to it without much difficulty. For example, I consider that coaches should be banned from the third lanes of our motorways. There is no reason why a 42-seat coach should use a lane that is barred to heavy goods vehicles. There is no reason why 42 passengers should be put at risk in that way. I hope that the Secretary of State will take up that suggestion.
I suggest that there should be some bad-weather containment of HGVs. In the midlands, there was ice and snow on the third lane today and, effectively, it was blocked off. The HGVs were nose to tail on the centre lane. Private motor cars and motor cyclists were being driven or ridden into the spaces between the lorries, which were far too small to enable that to be done safely. The highway code tells us that even when travelling at slow speeds we should allow a space between us and the car in front that is sufficient for another vehicle to enter safely. That was not being done today. In severe weather conditions, we should confine HGVs to the inside lane.
Where there have been debates on EC regulations, for example, I have talked about the spray from HGVs when the roads are wet. It is monstrous that we allow them to fog off sections of the motorway with spray. As some HGVs have well designed and superbly constructed anti-spray equipment, why cannot all HGVs be fitted with it? Why cannot manufacturers be forced to include it in the specification of their products? That should be done. If we have to go beyond the demands of EC legislation, so be it. That is what Parliament is supposed to be about and that is what it should be about. We should insist on proper anti-spray equipment.
I understood that anti-jackknife equipment was fitted as standard on all articulated HGVs. During the weekend, however, I saw at least three such vehicles that had jackknifed on one or other of our motorways. They were almost brand new. If anti-jackknife equipment is available, it should be fitted to all articulated vehicles. I thought that it was, though I may have been mistaken. I plead ignorance.
§ Mr. Lewis
I do not want to talk about caravans. I could bore the House all night with what I think about the towing of caravans.
The cause of many serious non-motorway accidents lies with the mismanagement of traffic in urban areas. It is as simple as that. I am afraid that the motor car has taken over the thought processes of many individuals and that problem should be tackled. Some people in my constituency, when confronted by double yellow lines, park their vehicles on the pavement—to blazes with anyone who is blind or otherwise disabled, and children going to and from school. Such people should be subjected to serious collar feeling by the police. They should be banned from driving, as that behaviour is ludicrous. If that is how they behave when their vehicles are stationary, heaven knows what they do when driving. The practice of parking vehicles opposite road junctions should also be subject to rigid policing. That practice is endemic in my constituency and many others.
The Bill, like the curate's egg, is good in parts. I hope that the Secretary of State has listened to this well-ordered debate and will act before the Bill goes into Committee on some of the suggestions made.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
I warmly welcome the Bill. It is high time that we enshrined into law the North report and I am pleased that a new offence of dangerous driving will replace that of reckless driving. It is also good to put on the statute book the new offence of causing death through careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. A number of other new offences, including the punishment of vandals who put road users at risk, are also welcome.
I want to concentrate on random breath testing, already referred to by many colleagues, and the greater safety of those on the road as they approach school.
The chilling statistic before the House is that, over the Christmas period, 750 people will die or be injured on our roads as a result of drink. That is a stark statistic that can only be welcome to the undertakers. I do not want to return to the House for another Christmas without acting upon that. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has moved from the vastness of Scotland to transport and its associated issues and I hope that he takes into account the need for random breath testing. I am surprised that it is not included in the Bill—perhaps that was a drafting error. If my right hon. and learned Friend accepts the mood of the House, that proposal will be included.
In 1988, one in six road deaths in Britain occurred in an accident where drink-driving was involved. In the same year, 840 people were killed and 22,000 injured on the roads and drink-driving was a factor in those accidents. If the average fine is £180 only, it is not surprising that many drivers, particularly youngsters with high disposable incomes, are prepared to take a risk. The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) has already referred to the sad cases where people were prepared to take such a risk. The victims of those accidents are unable to bear witness to their survival—they are history.
Random breath testing is used in some countries, including Australia, where the police have the power to set up road blocks and to breathalyse all or a fixed sample of 781 those passing through. I understand that in New South Wales, fatal road accidents have fallen by 28 per cent. since that procedure was introduced.
When my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic winds up, will he say whether, during the Bill's passage, there can be an experiment in west, north and south Yorkshire and Humberside over the next few months to see whether random breath testing would have a major effect? To his great credit, the chief constable of Nottinghamshire has taken the matter on board, but his lead has not been followed by the other chief constables. The effectiveness of such a measure could be tested while this legislation passes through the House and the other place.
Leaving on one side the important matter of random breath testing, I refer to another great issue, the safety of our young people on the roads as they go to and from school. I praise the recently launched campaign of the Yorkshire Evening Press for safer roads. During the Bill's passage we should consider the possibility of having white lines across the road, with the spaces between them diminishing the nearer they come to a school. Secondly, we should have clearer warning notices starting about a quarter of a mile before a school, in addition to the current signs that are sited close to a school entrance, possibly with flashing lights as well. I understand from the county surveyor of North Yorkshire county council that it is not within his present powers to implement such proposals —he would need a statute or the support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State before he could make such moves.
Thirdly, we could have speed humps on the road as a school entrance is approached. That, above all, would stop the speedy driver as he moves towards a school entrance. Only in that way will we substantially reduce the tragic deaths and accidents that take place around schools.
Those are three practical measures that should be considered by my right hon. and learned Friend. I am sure that they would have all-party support. There is no question of delay. If he gives even a hint of the possibility of such experimentation, he will be the parliamentary saviour of this Christmas.
§ 12.3 am
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
I have listened to every minute of the debate, particularly all the arguments surrounding random breath testing and, setting aside the obvious strength of feeling that has come through, three clear facts have become apparent. First, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said, police already have wide powers. Secondly, the police do not use those powers often and, when they do, they do not use them in a uniform fashion. Thirdly, the public are unaware of those powers.
Whatever the outcome of the Secretary of State's deliberations, I ask him to tell the House tonight, or as soon as possible, that the powers that the police already have will be used. Will he ask the Home Secretary to ask the Association of Chief Police Officers to ensure that procedures are standardised so that there is a uniform pattern nationwide? Will my right hon. and learned Friend seek to use all his powers to ensure that the public understand the powers that the police already have? Those 782 three steps can be taken in time to save lives this Christmas, irrespective of any other legislation that may be passed.
I hope that this will not become the "Random Breath Test Bill", not because that subject is not important or worthy of debate, but because there is so much else that is important. I applaud all the measures contained in part I of the Bill and simply ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider two further matters of amendment. First, there was a time when the uninsured driver was liable to a custodial sentence which was abolished in the belief that imprisonment was a draconian measure for an uninsured driver. At that time, that decision was probably correct. However, the result of that decision has been to prevent magistrates from using the community service sentence —itself dependent on a custodial sentence—against uninsured drivers. That is a source of considerable concern, and sometimes of hardship, to the victims of the uninsured. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend carefully to consider reintroducing that penalty. Only in extreme cases would imprisonment be used, but it would also open up to magistrates other avenues of punishment.
I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will also consider imposing more severe fines for failing to register vehicles. It is clear that the courts often have difficulty in identifying vehicle ownership, and that in itself causes problems.
Part III does not yet exist, but I hope that it will by the time that the Bill has completed its Committee stage. Part II lays great emphasis on traffic management in London and I should like to see the Bill lay equal emphasis on traffic management outside London.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and I will shortly be approaching my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in connection with improvements to the A253, which serves both Kent international airport and Fort Ramsgate. The A253 and other roads like it are important, because the heart of the county of Kent is being torn out by heavy lorries using as rat runs roads through rural villages that are not suited to them. The villages are being destroyed, and I urge my right hon. and learned Friend carefully to examine the general powers that already apply to London traffic to see whether they could apply to rural villages. It is possible, for example, to introduce sleeping policemen and highway-narrowing schemes to side roads but not to through roads. I ask only of my right hon. and learned Friend that he examines those existing powers, to ascertain whether any of them can be included in the Bill, to help preserve our rural villages from being destroyed.
§ 12.6 am
§ Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley)
I am very glad to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in his place at this late hour. The general powers in the Bill that he has inherited are very welcome, and it is right that the media have devoted considerable attention to changes to deal with drink-driving, which remains a scourge that demands our attention wherever effective measures can be devised to combat it.
The North report drew attention to the difficulty of proving reckless driving, and it is proper to replace the existing offence by that of dangerous driving and of causing death through careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. There is widespread public 783 belief that those who have caused death through careless driving when unfit to drive have been dealt with too leniently. The law should rightly be concerned with the consequences of people's actions as well as the circumstances leading to the Commission of the offence.
The Government have struck the right balance in respect of measures to deter drink-driving. Those who make their priority the introduction of random testing and greater police powers rarely seem to consider that the most effective change—that in public attitudes—has been implemented without any such measures. Drink driving is the biggest single cause of road accidents, but due partly to the Government's approach and to other factors, the number of people driving after drinking has almost halved in the past 10 years, with a commensurate reduction in associated casualties. That it is now regarded as much more socially acceptable for drivers not to take alcohol, and to respond when asked to have another drink, "No thank you, I'm driving," is a dramatic and welcome change by any standard.
Some hon. Members have cited the New South Wales example, where random testing is claimed to have reduced drink-driving by 30 per cent.—but with the voluntary assistance of brewers and others, Britain has achieved a much more radical result. It is futile to imagine that random testing could have the same effect in this country, where—thanks to an alternative, and more successful, approach—we have achieved better results.
In 1978, 42 per cent. of breath tests were positive, but by 1989 the figure had fallen to 18 per cent. That difference is only partly accounted for by the much larger number of tests now made. Random tests are much less productive than the targeted tests carried out at present. Those who continually call for random tests run the risk of signalling to potential drink-drivers that they are unlikely to be stopped and tested when the message should be just the opposite.
Certainly, new technology can deter bad driving, but we should be cautious about legislative changes of the kind proposed. Although I fully support them, it is also worth bearing in mind that, where automatic cameras are used, it will not usually be possible to apprehend the driver responsible for the alleged offence immediately. Under the provisions of the Bill, the company which owns the vehicle may be liable if it does not provide information as to the driver of the vehicle at the time the alleged offence was committed.
There is concern about the use of photography. For instance, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), while welcoming the Government's White Paper, said thatthe further extension, through the use of cameras of the principle that a motorist or a keeper of a motor vehicle can be found guilty of an offence without the same burden of proof that would be required to find him guilty of any other form of offence is becoming a little worrying".—[Offcial Report, 7 February 1989; Vol. 146, column 804.]In response, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), the then Secretary of State, agreed that there was bound to be controversy and said that the House would wish to debate the matter at length. I believe that that should be the case.
Sending photographs of an individual to that person's employer, or to the keeper of the car, who may be the 784 person's husband or wife, carries more general risks to civil liberty. The fact that an individual can be shown to have been at a particular location at a particular time, perhaps accompanied by persons whose identity he or she would wish to keep private, should not be the concern of an agency of the state. Rightly or wrongly, some people will view such devices as spy cameras. We should be a little cautious before we agree that they can be used on a widespread basis, because their impact may be more broadly felt than we imagine. The objective of reducing casualties by improving the standard of driving, which is a good one, may not always justify the means.
The Government have given signs that they are sympathetic to some of the provisions in the Motor Trade (Consumer Protection) Bill, which I brought forward in the last Session with the support of the Institute of Trading Standards Administration and the Automobile Association. Most accidents are caused by bad driving, but the use of unroadworthy vehicles by bad drivers can be a fatal combination. Indeed, in some cases innocent purchasers of second-hand cars may unwittingly find themselves in possession of a lethal weapon. I hope that the Government will look favourably upon amendments to make the lives of second-hand car cowboys more unpleasant by strengthening the hand of those who seek to protect purchasers.
I greatly welcome the tougher vehicle test recently announced by the Government, which will cover exhaust emissions, thus bringing considerable environmental benefits. I am glad that that represents no threat to classic cars—a matter of concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight)—and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State may be able to reassure him on that.
The Bill is an important measure. For the first time in my 11 years in the House, a major Bill has been devoted solely to road traffic. It will provide a valuable opportunity to debate issues which may literally be matters of life and death. I hope that that opportunity will be put to good use.
§ Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)
I join in the welcome to the new Secretary of State. I am delighted that he is still in the House at almost quarter past midnight. I hope that the reform of the House, which many hon. Members are pressing for, will soon make it unnecessary for him, or for any of us, to be here at this ungodly hour.
The debate has been wide ranging. Part I of the Bill has received widespread support for its inclusions, and a fair measure of criticism for its omissions. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) explained the extent of the Opposition's support for the Bill and the additions that we shall press for in Committee.
The compelling arguments for measures to improve road safety were well rehearsed in our debates on 16 November and I do not need to reiterate them now. It is the fervent hope of all hon. Members that the new measures will reduce the appalling toll of accidents on our roads.
Today, as on every other day, we can expect about 15 people to have lost their lives and 170 to have been seriously injured. In due course—as my hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) so graphically pointed out—the families of some of those killed will suffer further grief and anger on finding that the drivers 785 responsible have received inappropriately light sentences. The creation of offences of careless and dangerous driving, and of attendant penalties, will be widely welcomed, although we shall want to examine very closely the details of the cases raised by my hon. Friend and consider whether it is impossible to strengthen the Bill further in the way that he proposed.
We are, in any event, anxious about the effectiveness of the provisions applying to the new offences if more is not done to alter driver behaviour. As the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) argued in his powerful speech, increased penalties alone are not certain to have a positive effect. He and we have suggested that the introduction of random testing would act as a further deterrent to drink-driving. Whatever the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) may say about the progress made to date—and we all commend everyone involved in that progress—there is room for further improvement; that is why we advocate standardised random testing. Furthermore, we believe that the introduction of such testing could have a wider impact on driver behaviour and would serve as a useful complement to the new offences proposed in the Bill.
We shall continue to urge the Government to introduce random testing, and will of course explore the matter further in Committee. If the new broom—the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind)—is looking for a popular cause, he need look no further: as his hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), who is joint chair of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, reminded him tonight, the report by the transport and road research laboratory found that 77 per cent. of those interviewed supported random breath testing.
As we have heard repeatedly tonight, the Bill consists of two distinct parts, and it falls to me to deal with part II. Like the New Roads and Street Works Bill introduced in the other place, this Bill is a combination of long-overdue and sensible measures—dealing, in this case, with road safety—and some half-baked ideas advanced by Ministers who lack the courage to accept the need for strategic transport planning.
We regard it as mischievous of the Government to tack on to the relatively uncontentious and important part I their extremely controversial plans for London. So anxious are they to be seen doing something in London that they are starting the red routes pilot project on 7 January, before we have had any opportunity to explore the proposals in Committee. Indecent haste has been the hallmark of their proposals.
Just a year ago, the Department of Transport told local authorities that it foresawfew benefits and many difficultiesresulting from the red routes, yet six weeks later the proposal was published in "Traffic in London". Today, the Secretary of State argued that red routes would transform London's appalling traffic problem. The principal rationale is the need to get traffic moving more freely—a worthwhile objective in itself, but one which cannot be advanced without a critical analysis of all the factors that have led to London's acute road congestion and of the likely impact on that congestion of continuing trends in car use. It is here that the Government find themselves with irreconcilable objectives.
In "Traffic in London", the Government say: 786people's aspirations to own and use a car should not be artificially constrained".However, in June this year a letter from the transportation unit of the Department of the Environment stated that it recognisedthe need to reduce traffic levels where appropriate for environmental and other reasons … there is therefore no question of providing for all the potential demand".The red route proposals encapsulate the Government's muddled thinking. They are designed to speed people through—surely the most potent invitation to the reluctant motorist to abandon the awful tube or the appalling rail service and drive to work instead. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) clearly recognised that danger in his speech. He cautioned me not to make party political mischief out of the issue, but I have to say to him that that is not our choice. Labour's policy on traffic restraint is absolutely clear and to the point. It coincides with the broadest possible political consensus in London.
The red routes will do nothing to reduce the volume of traffic coming into central London. Yet again, the Government offer a piecemeal approach that, while appearing to solve some problems, will exacerbate others, as has been set out very clearly in the debate by my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn).
London needs a comprehensive strategy, designed of course to reduce congestion but also to provide for commercial transport needs and deliveries, for good quality, affordable public transport and for a cleaner, safer environment. Red routes will not deliver that strategy to London. In this capital city we are already at crisis point, yet the Government continue to predict an increase in private car use while allowing public transport to reach an all-time low.
The new Secretary of State for Transport would do well to remember the ignominious demise of the London assessment studies. They were defeated overwhelmingly by the arguments on this side of the House and by the implacable opposition of the residents in the affected neighbourhoods. Londoners decisively rejected road building in favour of public transport. I draw to the Secretary of State's attention the recent report of the Consumers Association, which found a large measure of public support for traffic restraint and public transport provision.
The Secretary of State emphasised that red routes will benefit buses. Of course we welcome any action that improves bus services. However, he could do so much more were it not for the Government's ideological commitment to deregulation and privatisation. Bus riding in London continues to fall and bus services throughout the capital continue to deteriorate. The stringent enforcement of parking restrictions would undoubtedly help bus flows, which we should welcome. We should also welcome similar restrictions throughout London as a whole.
The pilot plan envisages the creation of additional bus lanes. Again, that is to be welcomed. However, a comprehensive network of bus lanes that are properly and effectively policed is needed for the whole of London. More priority ought to be given to buses at traffic lights. It is not clear to us whether the proposed measures will include that priority, which technically it would be possible to implement.
787 The contradictions in Government thinking are further illustrated by their attitude towards local authorities that are affected by the pilot scheme and towards traffic-calming measures and measures to assist cyclists and pedestrians that they are supposed to encompass. The latter are welcomed by the boroughs and residents alike, yet the Government insist on painting the red lines before any other measures can be put in place. Their rationale for proceeding in this way escapes me. I trust that the Minister for Roads and Traffic will provide an explanation when he winds up the debate.
As the Secretary of State said, parking enforcement is vital in London. He told us that every day some 200,000 parking offences are committed in this city. I am told that 149 of the 150 offenders go free. It has been estimated that increased enforcement could reduce illegal parking by almost a half, with a consequent dramatic effect on congestion.
Parking enforcement is in the hands of three agencies —the police, traffic wardens and local authorities. The result is wholly unsatisfactory. This year, fewer fixed penalty notices have been issued than in 1989. The police have enough to do in fighting serious crime; the traffic warden service is severely understaffed; and local authorities have limited powers of enforcement. The Government are clearly not serious about the problem. There is a need for a new and streamlined system.
The Bill goes some way to tackling the problem. It transfers sole responsibility for permitted parking to the boroughs. In addition, the boroughs will be able to remove and clamp vehicles, which is welcome, but illegal parking will still be enforced by traffic wardens. In any one area, therefore, there will be two enforcement agencies. Not only will there be duplication of effort, but the state of the traffic warden service must raise serious doubts about whether the yellow lines will be effectively policed if the red routes become the priority for traffic wardens. I suggest that it makes more sense to give boroughs all the parking enforcement responsibility for local roads and we shall certainly table amendments in Committee to that effect.
There is also the question of the level of fines that the Secretary of State intends to set for the red routes. Will the Minister give his ideas on that matter?
Finally, we come to the proposed traffic director for London—the one-man quango with draconian powers. Once again, when London is crying out for a strategic authority to oversee London's transport planning, we have yet another body with powers to tinker with bits of the system. His powers of imposition will be considerable, but his duties to consult will be non-existent. We give notice to our intention to table amendments in Committee to make the traffic director more accountable to the people whom he is to serve. Furthermore, we shall oppose the provision for fining local authorities that do not comply with his plans.
We do not intend to press the Bill to a vote, because we can support many of its measures and are anxious to make progress on its road safety measures with due diligence. I give notice, however, on behalf of my hon. Friends who represent London constituencies and my colleagues in the Association of London Authorities, that we regard the red route proposals not only as flawed but as a totally inadequate response to the transport chaos of our capital 788 city. We shall seek to amend the Bill in Committee and, once in government, we shall legislate for the elected strategic authority that London needs. We shall provide the means by which an integrated public transport system can be developed to secure the interests of the people of London, of its economy and of its environment.
§ The Minister for Roads and Traffic (Mr. Christopher Chope)
It is difficult to remember a more constructive or better humoured debate on the Second Reading of a major Bill. If I detect the mood of the House correctly, it is to delay no further in giving the Bill an unopposed Second Reading.
I thank hon. Members who participated in the debate and showed their overwhelming support for the aim of the Bill—to assist in reducing road casualties and countering congestion, particularly in London. Although there have been disagreements, they have been about the means of attaining the objectives rather than the objectives themselves.
Many hon. Members spoke of the omission from the Bill of any reference to random breath testing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), the Father of the House, delivered a forceful speech full of conviction on that point. So forceful was his delivery that those who heard it could never have suspected that this was his first day back after a bout of pneumonia. We are delighted to have him with us.
I remind the House that the police have adequate powers to order roadside breath tests. It is lawful for a police officer in uniform acting in the execution of his duty to require the driver of any vehicle on a road to stop. A police officer who stops a vehicle on a road with the purpose of investigating whether its driver has alcohol in his body is acting in the execution of his duty. It is therefore lawful for a police officer in uniform to stop vehicles at random for that purpose, provided that there is no malpractice such as oppression or capricious conduct on the part of the officer. It is lawful for a police officer in uniform to require a driver who has been stopped in such circumstances to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test, provided that the officer has reasonable cause to suspect that the driver has alcohol in his body.
I believe that the existing powers are sufficient. Indeed, they have permitted a tripling in the number of breath tests over the past decade. Last December alone, there were over 111,000 screening breath tests. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends and others who want to give the police more powers: to what end? Do we really want police officers to spend their time giving breath tests to motorists whom they do not suspect of having alcohol in their bodies? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller)—surely a targeted approach is a better approach. Last December, 91 per cent. of all those who had screening breath tests produced negative results. Surely that bears out the effectiveness of the existing powers as a deterrent.
§ Mr. Chope
I have devoted almost all my concluding remarks to that issue because it was debated at greatest length.
As a former Secretary of State for Transport, it must be a great pleasure for my right hon. Friend the Member for 789 Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) to see the continuing beneficial impact of his radical period of tenure in the Department, particularly in terms of deregulation of long-distance coaches and the privatisation of the National Freight Corporation. I am sure that he is right in saying that the public is again in a receptive mood for further radical transport policies. I assure the House that, under the leadership of my right hon. and learned Friend the present Secretary of State, people will not be disappointed.
§ Mr. Chope
I shall not give way because I have little time left.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State was right to emphasise the way in which enforcement of road traffic law has not kept pace with traffic growth and new technology. Our estimate is that, when clause 19 is fully implemented, some 2 million extra offences will be detected and subject to prosecution on fixed penalty tickets, which will mean that the certainty of detection will be much greater. That is the greatest deterrent. In turn, that will lead to a dramatic improvement in road safety.
Let us remember that the authorities in Paris have introduced the axes rouges, with much more draconian powers than we seek from the House. Already, the immediate effects of the 17 miles where the axes rouges have been introduced in Paris are that journey times are down by 15 to 20 per cent. and the average speed in the central area has increased from 6 to 12 mph. That shows that we are on the right lines in proposing red routes for London.
The Bill contains important measures to reduce road casualties and to counter congestion and traffic pollution. It deserves the support of the whole——
§ Mr. Corbyn
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that there was a 10 o'clock business motion, which means that debate on the Bill can continue until any hour, even though it is opposed, and that the Minister is deliberately seeking not to answer the points raised in the debate concerning the appointment of a traffic Commissioner for London?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
The second point is a matter for the Minister, not the Chair. On the first point, the hon. Member is correct in saying that there was a 10 o'clock motion and therefore the debate is open-ended.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).