HC Deb 26 February 1991 vol 186 cc924-6
Ms. Ruddock

I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 66, line 10, column 4, leave out '3' and insert '4'.

The effect of the amendment is to increase the penalty for driving after making a false declaration about physical fitness, from a level 3 fine to a level 4 fine. Section 92 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 deals with the physical fitness of drivers. An applicant for a driving licence must disclose in his or her application whether he or she is suffering or has ever suffered from certain disabilities. The Secretary of State must refuse a licence to an applicant who is suffering from a relevant disability. The disabilities, which are prescribed by regulation, include epilepsy, severe mental handicap, liability to sudden attacks of giddiness or fainting and acute short sight.

Clause 16(1) amends that section of the 1988 Act by inserting a new subsection, making it an offence to drive a vehicle if the person involved knows that the declaration about physical fitness in his or her application for a driving licence is false. Paragraph 21 of schedule 2 introduces a consequential amendment to schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, setting the penalty for the new offence at a level 3 fine.

This is an important area of road traffic law because the condition of the driver of a vehicle is as important as the condition of the vehicle. It is not simply selfish or stupid to drive when medically unfit to do so, it is also potentially dangerous to other road users.

The amendment would increase the penalty for that offence from a level 3 to a level 4 fine. It is important primarily as a way of highlighting the importance of the offence. The amendment would also bring the penalty more into line with the penalty for driving after a licence has been refused or revoked under section 92 of the 1988 Act, which is six months imprisonment or a level 5 fine.

It is, however, important to add that the amendment deals with only one aspect of the problem: to ensure that people who are not medically fit to drive do not do so and therefore do not create a road safety risk for other road users. Equally important—and in the current financial climate more difficult—is the need to ensure that alternative forms of transport are available through concessionary fare schemes and the availability of services designed specifically to help people with disabilities so that they are not tempted to continue to drive and to break the law. I hope that the Minister will accept this simple amendment, which will increase safety on our roads.

Mr. Chope

I am happy to accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 34. in page 66 line 48 after second 'accident)', insert '(a)'.—[Mr. Chope.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 16, in page 66, line 48 leave out from 'in' to end off line 49 and insert 'columns 3 and 4 there shall be substituted—

(a) Summarily (a) six months or level 5 on the standard scale or both.
(b) On indictment (b) "two years or a fine or both".'.

Government amendment No. 35.

Ms. Ruddock

I want to refer to amendment No. 16.

The act of failing to report an accident can have serious consequences. It may mean that a casualty is not dealt with as speedily as would otherwise be the case. It may mean that valuable evidence, in terms of either the state of the driver or the condition of the vehicle is lost, and it creates additional work for the police as a result of having to trace the driver and establish the circumstances surroundingg the incident. In short, it is an extremely serious offence which can have costly implications, both for the individuals concerned and the police.

In certain circumstances—for example, where a driver is over the legal alcohol limit—there may be a temptation to run. It is essential that in such cases the driver is in a position where the consequences of running are likely to be worse than not running.

Amendment No. 16 would increase the maximum penalty for failure to stop and report an accident to two years imprisonment or a fine, or both. The amendment would further provide different maximum penalties for the two different modes of prosecution.

Mr. Waller

Eight or so hours ago, I paid tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister for listening to what had been said in Committee and for tabling an appropriate new clause. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend once more because, following what I said in Committee, he has moved an amendment that goes a long way towards implementing what I suggested.

The recommendations of Dr. North were not invariably correct. He failed to take account of varying degrees of culpability attached to the offence of failing to stop to report an accident. The Magistrates Association was unhappy with the more restrictive discretion accorded to courts. I welcome the fact that that has been recognised and that the discretion that will now be available to courts in terms of the number of penalty points that they decide to award in individual cases will be much greater. That is a great improvement, and it should be welcomed. That is a tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister.

Mr. Chope

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller) for his comments. I cannot accept amendment No. 16, suggested by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock), because it goes too far in increasing the maximum penalty to as much as two years' imprisonment. I hope that the House will reject that amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 35, in page 66, line 49 at end insert 'and (b) in column 7 for "8–10" there shall be substituted "5–10".'.

No. 36, in page 67, leave out line 4 and insert—

Discretionary, if committed otherwise than by virtue of subsection (5) or (11). Obligatory, if committed otherwise than by virtue of subsection (5) or (11). 3'
[Mr. Chope]

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