- "(2A) The Secretary of State may make provisions, by regulations which shall be subject to approval by each House of Parliament, for roadside checks at which either all vehicles or a sample of vehicles may be stopped by a constable in uniform under section 163 of this Act for the purpose of administering breath tests to their drivers at or near the place where such vehicles are stopped to ascertain whether any offence has been committed under section 4 or 5 of this Act.
- (2B) Regulations under subsection (2A) above shall provide for any roadside check under subsection (2A) above to be authorised in writing by a senior police officer and for the display of signs making the purpose of the check clear to road users and for the maintenance of records of the authorisation and of the location, date and time of such checks.
- (2C) Regulations under subsection (2A) shall be made by the Secretary of State for the 'Home Department in relation to England and Wales and by the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to Scotland.
- (2D) The Secretary of State shall consult chief officers of police and other organisations on a Code of Practice for the detailed operation of roadside checks carried out in accordance with the Regulations under subsection (2A).".'.—[Ms. Ruddock.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 5 Pm
§ Ms. Ruddock
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
As hon. Members have said, we began this afternoon's debate in considerable harmony, but I fear that I am about to change the mood somewhat. However, I rise to move the Second Reading of the new clause, conscious of the fact that the majority of hon. Members support its provisions. They and I believe that introducing random breath testing should be one of our highest priorities for road safety in this country. The new clause commands all-party support.
However, sadly for all those who are affected by the actions of drunk drivers, I fear that the new clause may not succeed. I understand that the Government have imposed a three-line Whip despite the strong support for the new clause among their own Back Benchers, and despite the many requests that a free vote should be allowed to enable hon. Members to vote according to their consciences. I can assure the House that a free vote has been granted for Labour Members. We cannot help but suspect that the Government knew that they would be defeated on a free vote.
Tonight, hon. Members could act in concert to introduce a measure that is supported by over 70 per cent. of the population but, because of the Government's intransigence, I suspect that they will be prevented from doing so. I hope that many Conservative Members will feel 822 able to show the Government by their votes tonight that they are not to be bullied into rejecting this important measure.
The list of organisations that support random breath testing is impressively long. It includes not only the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety, to which I pay tribute for its persistent and excellent work in this area, but the British Medical Association, the Consumers Association, the Campaign against Drinking and Driving, Alcohol Concern, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, the National Council for Civil Liberties, the Association of Police Surgeons of Great Britain, and the County Road Safety Officers Association, to name but a few.
Public support for random breath testing has been consistently strong.
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
The hon. Lady is making a good and telling point early in the debate. Does she know of any agency that supports the Minister's view?
§ Ms. Ruddock
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and confirm what I suspect he thinks—I know of no agency that supports the Government's view——
§ Ms. Ruddock
The Minister will have an opportunity to list his own supporters when he makes his speech.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I have not received any communication from the RAC to suggest that position. If the Minister has such a testimony, I am sure that he will use it in support of his own case when he makes it.
I repeat that public support for random breath testing has been consistently strong. Over the past three years, seven surveys have shown more than 70 per cent. public support for it, including a survey conducted last November by the Government's own transport and road research laboratory. A survey last March by the Harris research centre showed that drinking and driving is among the top three offences that people felt should be given priority by the police. By contrast, fewer than 50 per cent. of the police who were interviewed thought that it deserved priority attention.
In Committee, when we were discussing a similar amendment, the Minister suggested that random breath testing would involve too much police time and too many resources when the incidence of criminal behaviour in other areas is increasing. However, about 800 deaths a year are caused by drink driving. Surely, that number is serious enough to make this issue a priority for police resources. If those 800 drink-drive deaths were perceived as 800 murders, as they frequently are by the bereaved, surely they would be a police priority.
§ Mr. Ashton
Does that figure of 800 deaths represent deaths caused by drivers who have been drinking, or drink-related accidents which, in many cases, mean that perfectly sober drivers have knocked down a drunk who was coming out of a pub and who stood in front of their car? There is a difference in those statistics. Will my hon. Friend make the statistics clear?
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making his point, but I see from frantic signs on the Conservative Front Bench below the Gangway that another hon. Member wishes to enlighten him on that point.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)
I do not know whether it will enlighten hon. Members, but a casualty report has shown that, in 1988, there were 840 deaths where the driver or motor cycle rider had an illegal level of alcohol in his blood. The dead drunk pedestrians come on top of that.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am grateful for the help that I am being given, but I am under no illusion that that assistance will continue.
Like the whole House, I am deeply concerned by the fact that 800 deaths per year arise from drink-drive offences. The public understand that that should be a major priority for our police forces. I suggest that they will not understand any rejection of these provisions today, especially given the fact that on the last occasion when a similar proposal was tested in the House, on a ten-minute Bill that was presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis), it was supported by 165 votes to 49. Does the House really want to give an entirely contradictory message today?
§ Ms. Ruddock
Returning to the new clause, its purpose is to insert into the Bill a clear and straightforward procedure to enable the police to carry out random breath testing. It would authorise the Secretary of State to make regulations for roadside checks to be carried out by the police at which either all vehicles or a sample may be stopped for the purpose of administering a breath test to the driver. The new clause states that the purpose of the checkpoint must be clearly signposted and authorised in writing by a senior police officer. The proposed subsection (2D) authorises the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice for the operation of the roadside checks.
The Minister suggested in Committee that such provisions would still require the police to suspect that a driver had been drinking before they could breath-test him. I am happy to assure the House that I have taken further expert advice and feel sure that the Minister was mistaken.
§ Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West)
The hon. Lady mentioned sampling a moment ago. What does she mean by "sampling"? Under her new clause, would the police be entitled to stop all young people, for example, or all women or all men? How does sampling work? I had thought that random breath testing would have to involve everyone.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for posing those questions, because we are very clear in our minds about what we mean. I believe that there is a scientific definiton of "random". It has to be proved that it is truly random. Testing can be random if every passing car is stopped for the obvious reason that no-one knows into which category the driver of that vehicle may fall. Testing can also be shown to be random if, for example, every 10th vehicle is stopped because, by the same token, the person stopping that vehicle could not have anticipated whether its driver was young, old, female or black. That is random. That, indeed, is the purpose 824 behind this new clause. We are clear and we have checked extremely carefully with several authorities that our new clause truly offers the opportunity for random, accountable and controlled breath testing.
The case for random testing has been made many times, and undoubtedly it will be made many times again today. I make no apology for repeating some of the arguments. It is true that there has already been a gradual reduction in the number of accidents resulting from drinking and driving. That can be attributed to several factors, including publicity campaigns and changing the public's perception. But we cannot afford to be complacent about our rate of progress. Research suggests that one in 50 drivers at any one time is over the prescribed limit.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Is not that one in 50 at pub closing time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, not at any one time?
§ Ms. Ruddock
I shall look into that. I have taken on trust the information that I have been given. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will allow me, the information comes from an expert source. I have no reason to question it. If the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) is certain of his facts, I am prepared to accept that. It does not alter in any significant way the case that I make. It is obvious that a substantial number of people in Britain are prepared to say when questioned that they have driven when they believed that they were over the limit.
§ Mr. Bowis
Does the hon. Lady agree that, where recent campaigns against drinking and driving have been successful, it appears that it was because the public perception that there was already a degree of random testing? When I talk to my local police they say, not that they do not want to enforce the law against drinking and driving but that they already have adequate laws to enforce. Will the hon. Lady explain what is lacking in the law that persuades her that we need to strengthen it through the measure that she proposes?
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am happy to do that. I shall come to those arguments in a moment. The hon. Gentleman suggests that the public perceive that there is already a degree of random testing. He will also acknowledge that the public have become aware through reports that such testing is carried out by certain police forces but that in other areas it does not happen. Therefore, if there is any deterrent value in random testing, as I believe that there is, it is not available uniformly, even through the present system. As I shall explain in a moment, the present system is not the same as random breath testing, as proposed in the new clause.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden (Brighton, Kemptown)
I have great sympathy with the idea of random breath testing, not least because anything that can be done to stop drinking and driving must be done. But the hon. Lady implied in her answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) that she would want directly to interfere with the operational decisions of individual police forces by compelling them to operate random breath testing on the basis that she suggests. My police force in Sussex has advised me that it has all the powers that it needs in practice to stop motorists whenever it wishes.
§ Ms. Ruddock
If the measure became law, it would be apparent to police forces everywhere that the procedure was better in that it was clearer. It provides one power that could be used to establish random breath testing whereas at present, as I have promised to describe, the police rely on two powers and seek to combine them to create a type of random testing which we believe is inadequate.
We do not suggest that police throughout the country will have to undertake testing. We seek to provide powers for them to do so. We believe that there is such tremendous public support for the measure that police forces will wish uniformly to use the new powers made available by the House.
§ Ms. Ruddock
Let me continue with my argument. We are talking about what we believe are the preventable deaths of up to 800 people per year. The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) does himself and the House no favours by bringing hanging into the debate.
Lest hon. Members fail to keep figures in their minds, let me repeat that about 800 deaths and up to 22,000 injuries per annum are caused by drinking and driving.
§ Ms. Ruddock
My hon. Friend asks a fair question. There are about 5,000 deaths in road accidents per year in Britain. That figure is far too high, and the deaths occur through a variety of causes. However, I remind my hon. Friend that a single cause accounts for 800 deaths and 22,000 accidents resulting in casualties. That is the subject of our debate tonight. I believe that the House treats the subject with great seriousness and that, if there is anything that we can do to reduce the figure by 15 per cent., 5 per cent. or even 0.5 per cent. we should carefully consider it.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)
I have been following the hon. Lady with great care and great interest. She used the words, "if there is anything that we can do" and "if there is something that we can do". I have argued on the Floor of the House on many occasions that modern technology provides a complete solution to drinking and driving. There is something and there is anything. If the Government so chose, every motor vehicle could be required by law to be equipped with a device which made it impossible to drive it if the driver was over the prescribed limit, whatever that might be.
Does the Labour party support that? If so, we are at one in our objective and at one on the method. New clause 2 takes an entirely vindictive approach, but we should seek a solution. The solution is available. There is a variety of methods. The technology is available. If, as my new clause suggests, we encouraged the public to be fully aware of whether they were near the limit, drinking and driving would be reduced. Experience in Australia shows that the massive reductions achieved were largely attributable to that approach.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I fear that I am in great danger of being distracted from my speech, but I am willing to give way to the Father of the House.
§ Sir B. Braine
Is there not a device for overcoming the dreadful problem of deaths and injuries on the roads which is much simpler than that suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd), whose knowledge of modern technology no one would dispute? The solution is that people must be deterred to the point where it becomes the natural thing not to get into a car when one has been drinking. Either one does not drink or one does not drive.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) and the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) for their interventions. I assume that they will seek to catch your eye later in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. They will make their own speeches which, of course, will contribute greatly to our discussions.
§ Ms. Ruddock
Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) says, hopefully they will vote in the Lobby with us tonight.
We need to do more work to reduce the level of deaths and injuries caused by drinking and driving. Those of us who are in favour of random breath testing believe that efforts must be directed at changing the perception of drivers of the risk of being caught. In Britain that perception is still low; 42 per cent. of drivers admitting to drink-driving believe that the risk of getting caught is small. Clearly, we need to increase the deterrent as well as continue to detect offenders.
Countries which have introduced random breath testing believe that it has been successful in heightening drivers' perception of the risk of being caught, and that it has made a major contribution to reducing the number of deaths and accidents on the road. I acknowledge that overseas comparisons are difficult because of different systems, legal alcohol limits and procedures. Nevertheless, experience in New South Wales, which still has a higher accident rate due to drink-driving that we do, and in Sweden and Finland, which have lower rates at 7 per cent. and 11 per cent. respectively of all deaths, shows that random breath testing works.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
The last time I looked at the Swedish figures, they were counting only the accidents on which they had done an analysis; they estimated that there were twice as many as those whom they caught. Therefore, the Swedish figure may be the same as that for Britain. That needs checking, but that is my research.
My question may be technical. Over the years, we have had estimates of the number of lives that would be saved if we had random breath testing or what is proposed in the new clause, which is not what the Association of Chief Police Officers wants. Has the hon. Lady any estimate of how many lives might be saved if we introduced the new clause, gave unfettered discretion or introduced the mass random testing which they have in New South Wales?
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am grateful for the assistance of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. 827 Spearing). If the public perceive the provision as a considerable deterrent, and if people are prepared to admit that they are drinking and driving because they feel that they will get away with it and not be detected, we have every reason in logic and in our knowledge of human behaviour to expect that they are more likely to curb their habit if they think that they are likely to be detected in a criminal offence. That being the case, we believe that there would be a fall in the number of accidents associated with drink driving if the provision were introduced.
Before I began this part of my speech, I acknowledged that it was difficult to make international comparisons, but we know from the subjective evidence, at least of those which have brought in such measures, that a fall in deaths and casualties due to drink driving has resulted from their introduction. That is good enough for me, and I believe that it is good enough for the majority of hon. Members. The research which would follow the introduction of the measure would show whether our case was proved. There is no evidence in this country—and there cannot be until the provision is introduced—but there is every reason in logic to believe that it would be effective. That is what the public at large—the people who would be affected—themselves believe.
I cannot give figures, but let me put it on record that I believe there would be a reduction in road deaths. That is what matters—that there should be a reduction of any kind and at any level, because any life saved as a consequence of new legislation is a life worth saving.
In Britain the current procedures are cumbersome and inefficient. When we discussed the matter in Committee, the provision was thought by the Minister to involve too much police time and resources. Chief police officers, who seek a form of randomised testing, have to use two procedures. That cannot in itself be helpful to their administration. It is not true to suggest that the police already have the power for random breath testing. Only by the use of two existing powers can the police do anything that corresponds to random testing. The police have the power to stop any vehicle at random. Under section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a constable may administer a breath test only if there is reasonable cause for suspicion that alcohol has been consumed.
We are seeking to give the police new powers to complement the existing powers. We are not seeking to remove any powers. The police could still stop any vehicle and, having stopped that vehicle, conduct a test if they had reasonable grounds for suspicion. In addition, the new clause would enable them to establish roadside check-points where they could administer truly random breath tests.
We must ensure that breath testing is conducted on a truly random basis to avoid any potential problems of the infringement of civil liberties.
§ Mr. Ashton
In 1986, Nottinghamshire police, who at Christmas have always breathalysed four or five times more drivers than police in any other county, got to the stage where they were breathalysing people who were queueing for petrol. The police were stopping long queues of cars at the side of the road to do, they said, checks on windscreen wipers, and then they breathalysed the drivers. There were strong rumours that policemen had been told 828 that they had a quota of 35 breathalyser tests a day. At the end of that tremendous purge in 1986, they did not catch any more motorists than they had ever done.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention, because it absolutely proves my case. My hon. Friend has given an example of an area which, in his view, was over-zealous in trying to introduce random testing. He acknowledges that it caused consternation among the public because the police were stopping people on one pretext, when he suggests that they were endeavouring to test them for drink-driving. It is clear to me that, because of what he says rather than in spite of it, we need the new clause.
We must ensure that breath testing is conducted on a truly random basis to avoid potential problems of the infringement of civil liberties or of any one group being singled out for testing. We do not support giving the police unfettered powers such as they have requested. Such discretion might lead to abuse or might be perceived to be discriminatory, thus undermining relations between police and public. Roadside checks are a guarantee of objectivity.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) is disappointed that there was no detection of drink-driving as a result of a roadside check such as he described, that is not necessarily a problem to us. We are concerned about providing a deterrent. If the majority of people going through a roadside check are found on random breath testing not to be over the limit, it suggests to us that the deterrent of random breath testing is working.
§ Mr. Tracey
May I raise with the hon. Lady a question which I asked in Committee and which presumably she may now be able to answer? In order to carry out what she is suggesting, on behalf of the Labour party, how many extra tests and how many extra police officers or other officers of enforcement would be required, and what would be the cost of that operation? The House and the country should know those facts.
§ Ms. Ruddock
The hon. Gentleman knows that, neither in Committee nor here, have I had the resources to prepare the answer to that question. If the authorities decided to adopt the proposal, they would have the ability to make the appropriate resources available. I have said repeatedly that the provision is not designed dramatically to increase detection rates but dramatically to increase deterrence.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I will not give way to the right hon. Gentleman, having already delayed the House for a considerable time, and I am nearing the end of my remarks.
I am convinced that it is such a worthy proposal—I repeat, we are talking of the loss of 800 lives a year—that it would be appropriate to allocate the resources necessary to introduce the new deterrent element in an effort to persuade people to change habits that are still causing a significant loss of life through drink driving.
If the Government defeat the new clause and continue to set their face against what is clearly a majority view in the country, their road safety campaign will lose much of its force. We believe that random breath testing should be 829 introduced without delay. In any event, we make the commitment to introduce it as a priority when we are in government, if the present Government fail to introduce it.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) has an engaging manner, and in her closing words she came to the heart of the matter. On one side of the balance sheet is the question whether there is a case for a further deterrent. On the other side are 800 lives, fewer than the number killed some years ago, but still a considerable number.
I begin where the hon. Lady finished. I firmly believe that the new clause would greatly strengthen the capacity of part I of the Bill to deal with the still serious problem of drinking and driving and would thereby help to achieve the objective—with which I hope Members in all parts of the House agree—of reducing the toll of deaths and injuries on our roads.
The debate about random breath testing has gone on for many years. During that time, the figures have fluctuated, but more and more people, including children, have been killed and injured on our roads for various reasons, but one cause has clearly been the behaviour of drunken and irresponsible drivers. I guarantee that there is not a Member in the House who has not in the last year had an example—perhaps two or three—in his constituency of a child being killed wantonly by somebody out of control of the machine he was driving because he was under the influence of drink. I wonder how many Members have escaped the procession of relatives coming to one's constituency office asking for something to be done about this scandalous state of affairs.
As the hon. Member for Deptford said, the overwhelming majority of road safety organisations and the British public support the purpose of the new clause, and they, like many hon. Members, have become impatient with the Government's obdurate refusal to take the necessary action.
The arguments for random breath testing are well known, and I need not repeat them at length today. I shall make three points that go to the heart of the matter. The first concerns the confused and unsatisfactory nature of the existing law. Ministers often claim that random breath testing is unnecessary, because the police already have power to stop drivers at random, including stopping, them at roadside check points and breath testing those whom they suspect of having imbibed alcohol. Basically, that means the police officer engaging the driver in conversation so that he can form an opinion about whether he may have been drinking. This elaborate rigmarole takes time and is more likely to irritate the driver than the blow-and-go procedure of random testing proper.
The whole argument about random stopping seems odd for Ministers to employ, because it surrenders the main point at issue, which is the appropriateness and desirability of roadside checkpoints, the sole purpose of which is the breath-testing of motorists. The perversity of the existing law, and of Minister's arguments, is precisely that these concede the principle of random breath testing, but then allow it to be carried out only in a cumbersome and unsatisfactory way which is less effective than random breath testing proper and is more likely to alienate the travelling public.
That factor may help to explain why—as the House knows, I have had some connection for many years with senior police officers—some chief constables seem 830 reluctant to use these powers. Moreover, what I would describe as this poor man's version of random breath testing is made possible only by the use of two different sections of the Road Traffic Act, the combined use of which has never been explicitly affirmed or approved by the House. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who has had considerable experience of transport and road safety matters, said on Second Reading, this kind of equivocation is simply not good enough. As he said, if we want random tests, there should be clear provision for them in legislation, and that should be clear to the police and the public.
I shall not delay the House, because many hon. Members wish to speak. My second point concerns what appears to be one of the principal, though one of the silliest, arguments against random breath testing employed by its opponents. We have been told many times that random breath testing would not work because the number of over-the-limit drivers detected at roadside checkpoints would be so low that, to achieve the present level of convictions, the police would have to carry out millions of tests, which would represent a clear waste of resources. That argument was used by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), in an article entitled "Why random testing won't work", in the Evening Standard of 30 June 1988.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
It appeared only in the racing edition. It was subsequently thrown out in favour of an article to save Elstree.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
Does my hon. Friend accept the statement made in the article:With 300,000 tests a year, random breath testing might catch between 1,500 and 9,000 over-the-limit offenders. That figure compares badly with the 120,000 convictions secured by the police using their existing powers"?
§ Mr. Bottomley
If the article said that, it contained a misprint. In simple terms, to catch as many people by random breath testing against target testing, there would have to be as many tests in a week as there are now in a year.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
As we know, the figures have declined, partly as a result of campaigns that some of us have waged over the years about irresponsible drinking, in regard not only to driving but to everything else. One can make two statements, the first being that alcohol taken in moderation is a pleasant adjunct to living, makes for conviviality and friendliness, encourages conversation and so on. The second is that alcohol taken to excess shortens life, undermines health, is a potent cause of marital break-up, non-accidental injury to children, road deaths and injuries, and is found in practically every category of violent crime. If there has been an improvement in recent years it has been largely due to the campaign that some of us have waged to try to change public attitudes to drink. I am still engaged in that campaign.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
I am almost the Father of the House, and I take my hat off to the right hon. Gentleman for his lifelong campaign on this matter. However, I think he got hold of the wrong end of the stick when he alluded to alcohol making people feel pleasant. Alcoholics suffer from a major disease, and some such people fall to the floor and break limbs. That is not too pleasant.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He and I have been friends for many years. However, people who drive a motor car or any vehicle should not drink. The new clause seeks to increase the power of deterrence and to make people think twice or even three times before getting into a vehicle when they are under the influence of liquor.
The argument against the new clause is absurd, because it is based entirely on the bogus assumption that random breath-testing checkpoints would replace existing police activities rather than being an additional power used precisely for its deterrent effect. The hon. Member for Deptford spoke about that. Of course only a small proportion of drivers who are tested at roadside checkpoints are over the limit. Checkpoints are designed to be deterrents to drinking and driving, and if they did catch a large number of drinking drivers that would indicate not success but failure.
Thirdly, some hon. Members have spoken about the cost of random breath testing. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic estimated that the police costs of carrying out random breath testing would be about £12 million per annum. He added:In essence, that would be money invested in abortive work because it would not result in more people being charged with drink-driving offences."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 22 January 1991; c. 167.]Once again, the argument is confused. Despite the objective of deterrence, the failure of random breath testing in the Minister's eyes seems to be that it does not catch enough offenders. If my hon. Friend is to be consistent, he must presumably regard random breath testing as a failure, even in New South Wales. I understand that people in Australia have a great propensity to consume alcohol. Perhaps it is due to the climate.
The Federal Office of Road Safety reported in 1989, and stated:Following the introduction of random breath testing there was … a sharp fall of about 30 per cent. from 1982 to 1983 in the number of proven drink driving offences, suggesting that ther may have been a very real drop in the incidence of drink driving.My hon. Friend the Minister has his own view, but I think that most of us would welcome a reduction in the incidence of drinking and driving as a sign of success rather than failure. We would also welcome economic savings commensurate with those produced by random breath testing in New South Wales.
The same report also stated:Federal Office of Road Safety data suggest an estimated net economic saving to the community of $169 million over the first three years of the operation of random breath testing in New South Wales.I am not suggesting that it is possible to make simple comparisons between one country and another, and the hon. Member for Deptford did not fall into that trap either. We cannot expect savings directly proportional to those enjoyed by New South Wales. However, the Minister should not estimate the cost of random breath testing in this country without taking into account the likely economic benefits, because experience elsewhere suggests that one of the main advantages of random breath testing is precisely its cost-effectiveness. Even if it were to transpire that random breath testing costs us some money, it would still be worth the price. Indeed, what price should be placed on a human life wantonly destroyed by a drunken driver?
§ Sir Ian Lloyd
My right hon. Friend speaks about price and mentions New South Wales. He will have seen most of the reports and figures that I have. Does he agree that the most significant cost saving occurred where self-breathalysers were introduced to all the service messes? In that case, the reduction, which may have been coupled with random breath testing outside, was about 80 per cent. A large percentage of that figure was considered to be due entirely to the fact that giving people the opportunity to find out whether they would be dangerous on the road in itself made a large contribution to the results.
§ Sir Bernard Braine
I always listen to my hon. Friend with the greatest attention, because he is careful about the facts that he adduces. He seeks to reinforce my argument. Any device or propaganda or legislation which increases deterrence and makes it less likely that somebody will get into a car and behave in a way that will destroy life or injure somebody must be right.
The intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) during the speech of the hon. Member for Deptford is worthy of study, although I do not think that the hon. Lady took up his suggestion. It is not the first time that my hon. Friend has imparted wisdom to the House, and I hope that everyone will listen to him more carefully in future. The first person to whom he should talk is the Minister.
Like other hon. Members, I have received a letter from a Mr. John Knight, co-founder of the Campaign Against Drinking and Driving. He enclosed photographs of some of the innocent victims of drinking drivers, and I wish that every hon. Member could see those photographs before entering the Division Lobby tonight. Some of them depict the happy, bright-eyed faces of young children who are full of the joy of life, a life that was shortly to be extinguished by an accident that could have been prevented, at a cost, we are told, of a mere £12 million a year.
For those children it will be too late, but it is not too late for the House to take a step that would save many other lives. The great majority of our constituents—perhaps I should say the great majority of our constituents, because I cannot speak for other hon. Members—wish us to take that step. I hope that the Government will look carefully at the arguments and let those of us who have a conscience on this matter vote freely.
§ Mr. Ashton
Unfortunately, all too often in debates such as this we hear arguments from hon. Members who are not so much against drink-driving as against drink. Hon. Members who feel that way should be honest and say so. There is nothing wrong with people saying that they are against drink or that they are abstainers who believe that drink should be abolished. If people did that, at least we would know where we stand. I am against smoking and I am a member of the Committee examining the Children and Young Persons (Protection from Tobacco) Bill. I do not try to stop people smoking cigarettes. I use statistics in my arguments, and they show that 100,000 people die every year from smoking. Perhaps 1 per cent. of them die from secondary inhalation. That is 1,000 people—more than the 800 we are debating—but I am not aware of any big campaign against it.
I do not propose to blind the House with statistics, but I should like to examine some of the facts and figures.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I hope that my hon. Friend is not implying that those of us who are so enthusiastically moving the new clause—this is certainly true in my case—are abstainers or would seek to ban all alcohol or dissuade people in a general sense from taking alcohol with it is safe to do so. It would also be wrong to imply that I am not concerned about the hazards of smoking and that we have not done our best to campaign against that as well.
§ Mr. Ashton
That is not the case that I am making. I was trying to weigh one campaign against another.
Last week, the EC reported on the annual cost of road accidents. It said:The UK death rate from road accidents is just under half the EC average.It is about time that we started giving drivers some credit for the fact that, year after year, our roads become safer and safer. If my hon. Friend were to compare the number of vehicles on the roads in the 1960s and the number of deaths from drinking compared with the situation now, she would see that the percentage rate has declined. Nobody gives drivers the credit for that. I accept that too many are still killed, but the numbers are declining all the time. The system is working.
§ Ms. Ruddock
If my hon. Friend had been present for any of the road safety debates in the House he would have heard Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen acknowledge on every occasion the great efforts and achievements of the Government in reducing the number of deaths and injuries due to road accidents. Nevertheless, 5,000 deaths are not acceptable.
§ Mr. Ashton
We might have one of the best accident rates in Europe, but we have the second worst accident rate when it comes to children on their way to school. Why do we not have a campaign to stop people killing children going to school? Hardly any of those drivers have been drinking. [Interruption.] That is a valid point. All these arguments are often put together by people who are against drink, full stop.
The greatest number of deaths from drink-driving occur not at Christmas but in May when the nights become lighter and people start driving into the countryside. But it is always at Christmas that the Government announce big expensive campaigns 'with television advertisements and the police go on to the streets with their breathalysers. Such campaigns often have the wrong emphasis.
My part of the world has experienced exactly the type of system that my hon. Friend wants to introduce. I am a member of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. Britain has 43 different police forces and the chief constable of each is a law unto himself. He decides, often on a whim or a fancy, what sort of breathalyser campaign he will launch.
For five years, Nottinghamshire had a chief constable—he has now passed on and I shall not denigrate him in any way—who was vehemently against drink in any way, shape or form. Those five Christmases were a nightmare. On one side of the River Trent, about 200 people would be breathalysed; on the other side of the River Trent, 200 yards away, 4,000 would be breathalysed. In the other direction, in Derbyshire, about 200 were breathalysed, while in Nottinghamshire there were 4,000. That created an atmosphere which almost killed off Christmas for many people. In places such as Worksop in my area, nothing 834 moved—people were frightened to go to parties, dances would be half empty and the pubs and Christmas entertainments lost thousands because of the police campaign. In the end, the campaign proved nothing.
The police were stopping traffic to test windscreen wipers or lights. People were stopped on their way home from work at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. God knows what it cost in police manpower. Many of the drivers were very annoyed. They had not had a drink, they were being delayed on their way home from work and in the end the campaign produced next to nothing.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if someone is stopped for a windscreen wiper check but has not been involved in a moving traffic accident and does not give obvious signs of drinking, the police are acting illegally in asking such persons to take a random breath test?
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Gentleman is right, but who will challenge the police? What brave man or woman in the street will refuse to take a breath test and be prepared to go to court? It does not work that way. Most people just blow in the bag to get it over with and obey what they think is the law.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I may eventually come to the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman, but on this point I think that he is wrong. It is not the public perception of testing that matters. The person who never drinks and drives looks on himself as a potential innocent victim; the person who does some drinking says, "Thank heavens I wasn't above the limit"; and the person above the limit is caught bang to rights. That is not the objection. The objection is whether it will do much good.
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Gentleman can make his case when he makes his own speech.
I represent a rural area. Many of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench represent cities. Labour Members tend to represent city constituencies. My constituents cannot get a bus down to the pub, and there is no tube, as there is in Deptford.
§ Mr. Ashton
There is public transport in London. If I lived in London, I would not even have a car—it would be a waste of money—but in rural areas people cannot work without a car. They cannot get their kids to school or go shopping—they cannot do anything without a car. Without a car, the quality of life is vastly different.
If one of my constituents went to the village pub in his car and had a couple of pints, the only thing that he might knock down would be a rabbit. The roads are deserted in rural areas. People do not speed down to the pub for a couple of pints on Saturday night. It does not happen. My hon. Friend is trying to make one law which will apply throughout the country and it will not work. Closing hours are not as rigid in rural areas as they tend to be in cities. There is a much more relaxed attitude. It is a different life.
§ Mr. Andrew Bowden
I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman, but he is going over the top. He is not treating the matter as seriously as he should. He is virtually saying that his constituents in Bassetlaw are exceptional and should be excluded from drink-driving laws. It is crazy to say that they should have a special dispensation.
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Gentleman has not been listening. There are 43 different police forces, representing a wide range of areas—from inner cities with high crime rates to rural areas where there is little crime. To say that this is the law for 43 different police forces to administer as they like will result in the shambles that we have seen in Nottinghamshire.
§ Dr. Godman
I have been here since the start of the debate. Debates such as this, and drink-driving legislation passed by the House, may well be upstaged and overruled by the EC. Is it not the case that at this moment the European Commission is anxious to bring about a dramatic reduction in the permissible level of alcohol in a drivers' bloodstream?
§ Mr. Ashton
I did not mention the European Community, so I do not know how the hon. Gentleman's intervention is applicable. I mentioned our rate of accidents and said that we have half the number of deaths that they have in Europe, but I shall let that pass.
To return to my argument, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said that random breath testing is Labour party policy. I do not remember that being debated at any of our conferences. I do not remember anyone, anywhere, saying anything of the sort. The Labour party prides itself on its grass-roots democracy. Resolutions come from the constituencies, from the ordinary rank and file members who pay their £10 a year, make the policies and send resolutions to Blackpool or Brighton where we have a long debate about them. I have never read one line of debate about random breath testing in Tribune or anywhere else.
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Ashton
I have no doubt that my hon. Friend may have a fat document on transport in which she has smuggled something through on the bottom of page 419, chapter 21, without anyone knowing about it, and she is now saying that it is Labour policy.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
The hon. Member—I shall not call him my hon. Friend—has taken as long on this argument as on everything else that he has mentioned in his speech.
§ Mr. Prescott
You need not look so serious about it, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is not such a major crime.
At the party conference, we debated a document entitled "Moving into the Nineties", which made policy absolutely clear. After major discussions in the movement, after resolutions, discussion at the executive council and at the conference—whether the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) chose to debate it at the conference is a matter for him—the whole document passed through the democratic process through which Labour party policy has to pass. Therefore, I am entitled to say that he should withdraw his remark because there was debate, the policy was clearly defined and was a matter for amendment and discussion in the executive council, which came to the view that we are putting forward today.
§ Mr. Ashton
If the hon. Member can show me the report of the Labour party conference at which it was 836 debated in Brighton, Blackpool or wherever—I have been to every conference for the past 28 years—I shall certainly withdraw my remark.
§ Mr. Allason
I do not wish to intrude into other people's grief, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but is it appropriate for the Labour party to discuss what is or is not party policy when we are supposed to be discussing the Bill?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) will keep a little closer to the amendments and the new clause.
§ Mr. Ashton
I pursued that argument because my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and for Deptford, have been saying what they would do if we were in power. So far as I am concerned this matter has not been debated at our conferences and my hon. Friends the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East has not taken up my offer to show me the report of the Labour party conference where it was debated.
§ Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)
Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to call his hon. Friend a "twit"?
§ Mr. Ashton
The trouble with my hon. Friend is that when he loses in debate he loses his temper.
I shall move on to my next argument. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East will listen to me, as I have been in the House longer than he has and I can tell him what happened. There was a by-election in Leicester when Barbara Castle was Secretary of State for Transport—she could not even drive, but we made her Secretary of State. She introduced the breathalyser and Labour lost a safe seat at the by-election because of it. The former Labour Chief Whip, Mr. Bert Bowden, whom you may remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, fought that by-election and lost the seat for Labour. He retired, went to the Lords and became chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Association. The Tories went around every working men's club and miners' institute in Leicester before the by-election—they would do it again now—to tell them that the breathalyser was to be introduced. It cost us hundreds of votes. There was no question about it.
The same is true in many of our constituencies today. We represent miners' institutes in rural areas and areas where there has been a lot of slum clearance, where working mens' clubs are trying to hang on. [Interruption.] I wish that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East would listen instead of rabbiting all the time.
§ Mr. Prescott
I am trying to counteract some of the reactionary elements in the hon. Member's argument.
§ Mr. Ashton
I have given way about 15 times and I am trying to make a speech.
837 Many working men's clubs are hanging on by a thread because the houses around them have been pulled clown, and because members are getting older and dying off. This is true of any large city. It must be the same in Hull as it is in Sheffield, where there used to be 65 working men's clubs but the number is now down to about 30. It is probably the same in Doncaster, which you represent, Mr. Deputy Speaker. What is killing them off most is fear—people are afraid of going out at night and of taking the wife out on a Friday or Saturday and getting breathalysed. Members of working men's clubs will tell hon. Members that. Why do members not bother to come? Why cart they not even get enough people for a game of bingo? Club members do not want to get breathalysed; they would sooner buy a six-pack, sit at home and watch television.
§ Mr. Spearing
I understand many of my hon. Friend's arguments, but in his catalogue of what may be justifiable crimes, is he telling the House that we should not be worried if people drive around having had not just two pints but sufficient alcohol to be above the limit? If my hon. Friend analyses what he has been saying—apart from some of the justifiable criticisms that he has made—he will surely realise that he has not tackled the proposals made in the new clause.
§ Mr. Ashton
Yes, I have. I am trying to get across the message that every person and every area is different.
§ Mr. Ashton
Let me finish putting my case.
Everyone I know who drinks and drives occasionally is in favour of tougher sentences for drunk-driving. They think that a drunken driver who kills someone should go to prison for 10 or 15 years. Everyone I know who is against random testing is in favour of tougher sentences. To say that because one likes a drink one is in favour of drunken driving is like saying that because one likes sex one is in favour of rape. It is not true. It is nonsense.
It is not true to say that, because people like to drink a pint of beer and then drive home from the pub, they are in favour of killing people on the roads or that they support drunken drivers who are a menace to society. However, they object strenuously to people who do not drink but who assume that because they would feel woozy and unfit to drive a car after one pint of beer everyone else is the same. People who do not drink make far too many generalisations, and assume that, because drink has a powerful effect upon them, the bloke sitting next to them who has drunk a pint is not fit to drive either. That is not true.
§ Mr. Spearing
I cannot have expressed myself sufficiently clearly. My hon. Friend may be justified in making some of those remarks, but is he saying that a person who agrees with the legal limit—I think that we all do, even those who drink two pints and then drive home—thinks that people who go above that limit should not be subject to some sort of check? He must realise that someone who has had more than the legal limit is a dangerous driver—whether that limit is too high or too low is another argument.
§ Mr. Ashton
The average person would accept it if the existing check prevailed. If someone drives a car which is swerving or if there appears to be something wrong with the car or the way it is being driven, it is perfectly 838 acceptable for the police to stop them. No one is arguing about that. The average bloke, who might drink one pint and then drive home, is saying that it is monstrous if testing becomes a lottery, depending on where one lives, the time of day and whether one takes a chance and has a pint. That is too much of a lottery.
As always, the King Herod principle is in operation—because a handful of football hooligans cause a riot at Tottenham, away supporters are banned from every ground in the country, or because there is a problem with Leeds football supporters, one does not let them go to Hull. That is not what policing and justice are all about. Justice is about punishing criminals.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
Is not the crux of the hon. Gentleman's argument simply the fact that the random breath test will not work? Is it not a fact that the police do not want to be pinned down at a road block, stopping motorists and breathalysing people who have probably not been drinking, while all manner of mayhem is going on just around the corner? They would much sooner go out on patrol to do the job that they have been trained to do.
§ Mr. Ashton
The hon. Member is absolutely right. There will be a lottery, depending on where one lives. In Nottinghamshire, they are red hot on breathalysers. In Derbyshire, they are red hot on speeding. If you happen to live in Sheffield, then for God's sake don't park on a yellow line. Every police force has its foibles and whims. The public know that if they do certain things in certain areas they will get the chop.
§ Mr. Ashton
Yes, it is. Let me tell my hon. Friend, however, that elected councillors have no say in these matters. I would not mind if it was the county councillors who told the chief constable, "We want you to crack down," but it is not—the chief constable himself decides. It is for him to say, "This is operational—you cannot tell me that I can or cannot implement it."
The public have no way of protesting democratically. If they think that the chief constable is being too tough with the breathalysers, there is not a damn thing that they can do. They cannot vote against it; they cannot complain about it; they cannot raise it in the House by putting down a question asking the Secretary of State for Transport to go and see the chief constable. We have been through this before, although when the issue last came before the House—two years ago—it was not even raised during a transport debate; it was raised during discussion of the Criminal Justice Bill, and it was beaten then, but now it is trying to surface again.
Although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford that the number who are killed by drunken drivers-800 out of 5,000—is far too high, she gave us no figures to show how many people are killed, for instance, by lorries on the motorway which are carrying too much Weight and cannot brake in time, or by fog, or by speeding. All those are killers, and all need seeing to, but we never debate them or vote on them. This is the campaign that has been adopted, perhaps because it is considered a vote winner, with the result that a section of the motoring public are continually driving in fear.
If the new clause is passed, many towns and villages will find that Saturday nights become drastically and 839 traumatically different. Social life will be affected, and employment will suddenly vanish for those who rely on catering and the pubs and clubs for their living—waitresses, for instance, and other working-class people who may have part-time Saturday night pub jobs.
§ Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)
I do not wish to be unfair to the hon. Gentleman, so I am giving him an opportunity to clarify his position. He seems to be trying to excuse drink-driving.
§ Mr. Ashton
I am putting a case for the status quo. The present system is working—the number of drink-related deaths is falling every year. The hon. Gentleman may think that, if drink had been abolished, those 800 lives could have been saved, but 400 of them would probably have been lost in other circumstances. Accidents happen.
Random breath testing would have a major impact on Nottinghamshire life at Christmas. The average person wants tougher penalties to be imposed on those who cause accidents when they have been drinking and driving. The other day, someone who had killed a young man did not even lose his licence; he was simply fined £250. A famous television star was involved—I mention no names, but hon. Members will know who I mean. That caused tremendous anger—understandably so—but no drink was involved. There are massive inconsistencies in the penalties handed out by the courts. The alternative is mandatory confiscation for 12 months for those 2 per cent. in excess of the breathalyser limit.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Unless speeches are briefer and interventions fewer, we shall be here until very late.
§ Mr. Channon
Let me bring the debate back to the point at which the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said that we must address the matter very seriously. It is indeed a serious issue, and I congratulate her on bringing it to the attention of the House.
The debate has shown that views differ strongly across the parties. The feeling of the House is not monolithic; many Conservative Members agree with the new clause, and I suspect that some Opposition Members apart from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) oppose it. Surely we can all agree, however—indeed, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw just said as much—that we want a continual reduction in drink-driving.
Admittedly, the figures have fallen substantially. I believe that they have halved over the past 12 or 13 years, from about 1,790 to about 840. That is a great success, but it is not good enough. My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and others are quite right to say that we should do all that we can to reduce the number who are killed or maimed in accidents caused by drink—or, indeed, by any other factor. The question that the House must decide is whether random breath tests will achieve the desired effect, and I do not think they will.
I readily concede that many people outside, and masses of well-meaning organisations of high calibre, think that random testing is the answer, and those who argue against it may sometimes feel that they are in the minority. Nevertheless, I strongly disagree. Unlike the hon. Member 840 for Bassetlaw, I do not think that it will make an enormous difference, nor do I think that the way in which the House decides tonight will have the dramatic effect anticipated by either the hon. Gentleman—as an extreme opponent of the new clause—or its extreme proponents. As we have been told time and again, the police already have the necessary powers.
§ Mr. Channon
This is the one and only time that I shall do so. I am sure that hon. Members want me to get on with my speech.
§ Mr. Channon
I am not trying to criticise any organisation. I am merely saying that there are those who are enthusiastically in favour of the new clause, and those who are enthusiastically against it; and that, whatever the outcome, they will find that it does not make as much difference as they feared or hoped.
The present law has been cited several times. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) has explained what goes on in Sussex; as we all know, in effect, random testing already exists. I have read the persuasive speech made in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart), who rightly said that the police already have the requisite powers. Over the years, there have been many instances of police forces stopping people in such circumstances.
The powers already exist; do we need to increase them? There may be a case for clarifying the law, but I think that it is already fairly clear. It has been explained again many times this evening: it is well understood that the police have the power to stop drivers and, if they have reasonable cause to believe that they have been drinking, to apply the breathalyser. Well, once he has stopped someone, it is not very difficult for a constable to decide that he has reasonable cause: he may not like the way in which the driver answers him, or the driver's breath may smell of drink.
What is the attitude of the police to the proposals? Some years ago, when my hon. Friend the Minister and I dealt with the issue, the police were altogether against random breath tests, but they changed their minds with remarkable speed over 24 hours: having been violently anti, they became violently pro. They have now made it clear, however, that they are not in favour of the random roadside checks recommended by the hon. Member for Deptford. The want unfettered discretion: they want to be able to stop any driver, regardless of whether he has committed an offence. I wonder how much they will use the measure if it is enacted. I have read an article in which the chief constable of Warwickshire, who I believe was president of the Association of Chief Police Officers and who is very concerned about the matter, explains that the police want unfettered discretion rather than what the Government propose.
The new clause will force drivers to pass through a check; the police will stop every car, or one in 10—as suggested by the hon. Member for Deptford—or one in five, or one in 20. I do not think that that will add much to the number of people who are caught. According to a 841 parliamentary answer given the other day to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), some 100,000 tests would have to be carried out to establish that 1,000 extra drivers were over the limit.
There are many other better ways of using police resources to prevent drink-driving, and that is my point. If the police want to increase their efforts in that regard, as they clearly did in Nottinghamshire—and I certainly would not oppose such a move—they can target tests and are much more likely to get convictions than under a system of random breath testing. What the police want is either to have unfettered discretion or to target people—to say that all young people, for example, must go through the checks. That is what some Opposition Members and the National Council for Civil Liberties and others find objectionable; they think that young people or people in their thirties are most likely to fail the breath test.
Even the most jaundiced observer must agree that this country's record of road accidents is better than that achieved elsewhere in the Community. No wonder the European Commissioner is worried about traffic accidents. Elsewhere in the Community, the record is very bad; Britain's is much better. That is not to say that we should be complacent. We should try to find ways of reducing the number of accidents still further. We have had campaigns to protect children—I have been involved in them myself—and on other important issues.
What is the best way forward? The efforts made over the years by successive Ministers at the Department of Transport to increase publicity and deal with the treatment of offenders and the whole question of breath tests—I pay tribute in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham, who did much during his period of office to increase public awareness of the issues—have ensured that the public are now much more aware of the risks of drink-driving, and people feel far more strongly about the subject than they did five years ago.
Would random breath testing change the situation? The police already have powers, and they do not want the powers that the hon. Member for Deptford would thrust upon them. Moreover, if the police increased their efforts in a more targeted way, they would be more likely to be effective and to catch drunken drivers, which is our whole purpose. I shall be voting against the new clause, and I hope that a great many hon. Members will join me.
§ Mr. Fearn
I added my name to the new clause because, in Committee, I was adamant that something needed to be done to restrict drink-driving. We need a deterrent. We have all met the person who thinks that accidents never happen to him or who believes that he will be all tight because he knows—or thinks that he knows—his limit and feels that his ability will not be impaired. We have all met people who think that they will never be caught; there are many of them.
As we have already heard, a recent survey by the transport and road research laboratory showed that 42 per cent. of those who admitted to drinking and driving did not think that there was any great chance of detection under existing practice. Until drivers are convinced that there is a good chance that they will be stopped, tested and charged, drink-driving will continue to cause death and destruction on our roads.
Before I deal with civil liberties—the subject on which I wish to concentrate today—I must express my disappointment that, on a matter such as this, 842 Conservative Members are not to be allowed a free vote. I do not understand why. Clearly there are many arguments for and against the new clause, and hon. Members ought to be able to express their views and beliefs through a free vote. The Liberal Democrats are to have that opportunity. It was evident from the vote on the Road Traffic (Random Breath Testing) Bill 1987, introduced by the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) and sponsored by myself and others, that, given the opportunity, hon. Members would overwhelmingly support the new clause. I am sorry that they are not to have that opportunity.
We have heard the cry that random breath testing will infringe a person's civil liberties. That may be true, but the claim can be refuted. As I have pointed out both in the House and in Committee, anybody who gets behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol automatically and immediately infringes the liberty of others. Random breath testing will protect the liberties of the majority of road users.
The roadside checks that the new clause advocates will be conducted in controlled conditions, with authorisation in writing from senior police officers. In some respects, such checks would represent less of an infringement of individual liberty than the present system, because all drivers would be treated equally. At the moment, individual police officers or traffic patrols can pull a car over when they want to test for drink-driving or when they suspect that the driver may have been drinking, if the car has any defects, no matter how minor—it could be inadequate lighting over the licence plate. They have discretion at that level to make a random breath test.
That has often led to the accusations that the police target certain individuals, especially the young. The statistics tend to back that up, although surveys show that those most likely to be guilty of drink driving are in the older age groups. Unnecessary ill feeling and friction often arise as a result of present practice. That would not happen if motorists knew that any driver was likely to be pulled over and we have heard how, in New South Wales, random roadside testing is believed to have improved public relations between motorists and the police.
As I said, I do not want the discretionary powers of the police to be reduced, but I believe that they would become less necessary if we introduced roadside checks. Such checks would certainly be less of an infringement of people's civil liberties than certain measures advocated by the anti-random breath testing lobby. I refer in particular to the measure in early-day motion 495, which suggests that one method to be used as a deterrent should beinquiry by police and courts as to the drinking locations and companions of the illegal driver".Surely such measures would lead to greater infringement of the liberties of innocent persons. I do not think that the clientele of public houses, wine bars, or other drinking establishments would greatly appreciate the courts or the police making inquiries into how they spent their leisure time.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
If the hon. Gentleman and I were drinking and I knew that he would be driving afterwards, I would say to him, "You should not be taking alcohol." My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) would also insist on that. If people continue to believe that they have no responsibility for those with 843 whom they are drinking, and if those with whom they are drinking then kill someone, it is perfectly reasonable for the police and the courts to make inquiries.
§ Mr. Fearn
I wish that everyone were like the hon. Gentleman and me. Perhaps he and I would do and say that, but not everybody would, and irresponsible people do go out and kill people—we know that the figure is at least 800.
Random breath testing is supported by many organisations, including the NCC and the Consumers Association. Some 3,000 of the 3,400 responses to the Home Office consultation paper on changes to breath testing legislation favoured additional powers for the police. Surveys conducted on behalf of the Consumers Association and others show that the public at large would support more random breath testing and are willing to surrender part of their individual liberty in the interests of the liberty of the majority.
The House is representative of the people. It has the power to do something on their behalf. I hope that, in the interests of preventing the carnage on our roads, hon. Members will break ranks tonight and support the new clause, which is a most worthy proposal.
§ Mr. Day
Before coming to the points that I want to make in support of the new clause, I should like to thank the Minister for his forebearance in the meeting that he had this morning with my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) and myself. We are very grateful to him for listening to our views.
I wish to make it clear that, in my remarks on the new clause, I speak not just as an individual but in my capacity as co-chairman of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. Also in that capacity, I wish to put on record the disappointment of the council that our amendments on retesting for alcohol-related offences—amendments that had all-party sponsorship—were not called. We feel that those are central to the potential of the Bill. Indeed, they reflect a major part of the recommendations of the North report.
The case for introducing random breath testing in the United Kingdom can be summarised by reference to three pieces of Government research—one Australian, and two British. First, research conducted by the transport and road research laboratory found that a large proportion of drivers in the United Kingdom who admit to drinking and driving believe that the chances of their being caught are small. This perception is confirmed by information on the actual risk of detection from the British crime survey, which suggests that the chances are as little as one in 200 excess-alcohol driving trips.
Secondly—this has been referred to already—research conducted by the Government of New South Wales shows that highly visible mass random breath testing, targeted at times when drinking and driving is most prevalent, increases the driver's perception of the chances of his being caught, thus deterring potential offenders and reducing the number of road accidents.
Thirdly, there is evidence that United Kingdom drivers surveyed by the transport and road research laboratory believe that routine random breath testing would provide an effective acceptable way of reducing the number of road 844 accidents. Indeed, the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Joan Ruddock) presented all the arguments supporting the case for random breath testing.
I propose to deal with some of the arguments that have been advanced against its introduction, none of which I find particularly convincing. I was surprised by the recent motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), which suggests that the available evidence does not support the belief that mass random breath testing would be helpful. A number of countries have introduced the measure, but I shall restrict my remarks to the evidence from New South Wales, as the experience there has been rigorously monitored, and there is much information on the effects.
Random breath testing was introduced in New South Wales in December 1982 as a three-year experiment. The overall objective was to create a very high perceived risk of being randomly breath tested if one continued to drink and drive. The figures that I am about to quote may be found in a paper entitled "An Overview of the Random Breath Testing Trial in New South Wales", which was produced by three members of the New South Wales traffic authority. I commend that paper to my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham in particular.
§ Mr. Day
I shall show my hon. Friend a copy afterwards.
Part of the monitoring exercise of the trial to which this document refers was to look at the effect of the measure on accidents and casualties. It was found that, as a direct result of random breath testing, the average yearly reduction in the number of all fatal crashes was 21 per cent. The average yearly reduction in the number of crashes involving injury of all levels of severity in which the driver or rider was over the legal limit—in the case of New South Wales, 50 mg per 100 ml—was more than 35 per cent. Public support for the measure rose from 64 per cent. before random breath testing to 85 per cent. afterwards. Social security savings amounted to 20 times the cost of implementing the measure. So convincing were the results that the measure was placed permanently on the New South Wales statute book. Michael Knight MP, the then chairman of the parliamentary committee charged with assessing the affects of the measure, concluded:Random breath testing has been the single most effective tool in the struggle to reduce the road toll in the history of New South Wales.Therefore, it is simply not the case that the call for random breath testing cannot be supported by good evidence. Evidence from Sweden shows that random testing works not only in countries that have higher levels of drinking and driving than does the United Kingdom, but in countries where the levels are much lower.
It is important to point out that simple comparisons, between international rates of progress in this field can be misleading. I am sorry that they have been used as an argument against random breath testing. The argument runs that as the United Kingdom has reduced drink driving faster than most other countries, why should the existing policy be changed? That question has been asked in the House today. It is a welcome fact that we have made good progress during the last 10 years, having reduced the rate of over-the-limit deaths from one in three to one in five. This has come about as a result of a number of 845 factors: changes in the 1981 Act providing for evidential equipment; increases in breath testing; and increased social pressure as a result of Government publicity campaigns and the efforts of the campaign against drinking and driving.
However, if we stick to simple comparisons, we shall not do as well as we could. Sweden, for example, could be said to be doing better, having got the rate of over-the-limit deaths down to one in 14. But in reality, these figures do not mean very much. We have to remember that different legal limits, mixes of traffic, climate and road conditions all confound meaningful and scientific comparison between international rates of progress in this area. We heard this type of argument during the debate on the legislation making the wearing of seat belts compulsory for front-seat passengers, when crude number-crunching exercises were advanced to suggest that seat belts did not appear to save lives, because savings did not show up easily in some national data. It is fortunate that those negative arguments did not hold sway.
I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Eltham. Indeed, I think that he was one of the best Transport Ministers we have ever had—especially in road safety. I am particularly surprised at his attitude in advancing this sort of argument. I find it difficult to square his present stance with the stance that he took when he was responsible for roads and traffic. In answer to a parliamentary question on 4 April 1989, he advised against drawing simple international comparisons of this kind. HeSimple comparisons and statistics may be misleading; for instance, the legal limit for blood alcohol content in New South Wales is 50 mg/ml, and in this country it is 80 mg/ml."—[Official Report, 4 April 1989; Vol. 150, c. 18.]
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I hope that I shall get an opportunity later to speak in my own right, but I should like to put this matter in context now. As I understand the situation, the difference between the figures produced by the 50 mg level and the 80 mg level is probably two percentage points. My understanding is that the figure for dead drivers above the legal limit in New South Wales is 33 per cent., and that in this country it is 19 per cent. If the two percentage points were added, the figure for dead drivers above the legal limit in this country would be 21 per cent. There does seem to be an unexplained difference. Perhaps New South Wales would gain by copying us.
§ Mr. Day
I readily acknowledge my hon. Friend's great understanding of these matters, but the assumption at the end of his intervention did not necessarily correspond with the facts that he had put forward. However, I take note of what he said.
I wish to return to the suggestion that sufficient breath testing is being done at present and that, somehow, conducting random breath testing would be going over the top. According to the last set of annual figures for England and Wales, only one in 50 drivers was breath-tested annually. That means that, on average, drivers are breath-tested only once in their driving career. That is hardly excessive or overbearing. The figures provided to the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary suggest that the average number of breath tests per traffic officer is only one per week. Again, I do not feel that that is in any way excessive. Even the most enthusiastic random breath testing policy, which aims at the testing of one in two 846 drivers annually, would result in every driver being breath-tested only once in two years. In my view, that is hardly excessive.
I emphasise that this new clause does not seek to give the police unfettered discretion to stop motorists and breath-test them. Despite the explanation by the hon. Member for Deptford, the intention seems to have been misunderstood as being to increase the rate of detection. In fact, it is to increase the level of deterrence. We do not want to detect drunken drivers; we do not want to have drunken drivers on the road at all.That is what the new clause is all about.
I do not accept that because the police can act to stop motorists under two separate sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988, they necessarily have sufficient powers. That legislation has led to great confusion, particularly regarding interpretation. The chances of detection range between one in 250 journeys in some parts of the country, and one in 4,000 in others. Such a lottery can hardly be fair.
The extra power in the new clause would clarify the position for drivers and, more importantly, for chief constables. As I said on Second Reading, I have heard Ministers say that the police already have adequate powers to act and that no further measures are necessary. That implies that the Government accept the principle of random breath testing—we are arguing only about the practice—so why cannot they accept the new clause?
I would welcome an explanation of how the Government hope to achieve casualty reduction figures while rejecting the major contribution that the new clause would make towards achieving those figures. Will my hon. Friend the Minister explain how he hopes to convince the 42 per cent. who admit to drink driving yet believe that they will get away with it, to change their ways, if the Government are not prepared to take further action. There is a danger that the public will believe that the Government find that 42 per cent. acceptable.
As for civil liberties, I am sure that no hon. Member would agree that people have the right to take whatever action they wish, irrespective of the consequences for others. We all broadly accept that responsibilities go with rights, and we must therefore also accept that drink drivers are, tragically, often guilty of that.
I remind the House that drink driving-related accidents account for 800 deaths and 22,000 casualties a year. Furthermore, half of the victims will not have been drinking and driving.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
While my hon. Friend is on that subject, does he agree that a possible alternative way to deal with the problem is to ensure that every driver who is caught driving over the prescribed limit is charged with reckless driving? Such a charge could be made on the basis that, in this day and age, to get into the driver's seat knowing that one is over the limit is a reckless act. It therefore follows that if, as a consequence of drinking and driving, they cause death, they should be tried for causing death by reckless driving.
§ Mr. Day
My hon. Friend's remarks are worth considering. Although penalties are important, they are not the main factor. Deterrence is the most important factor, so, to some extent, penalties apply, but the greatest 847 deterrent is to know that one has a chance of being caught. The new clause is important, because it will increase the public's perception of the possibility of being caught.
A significant number of my hon. Friends have asked whether we could have a free vote on the new clause, and I register my disappointment that that has not happened. The Government could have paid no greater or more eloquent testimony to the arguments of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety than to apply a three-line Whip. The measure should have been dealt with in the same way as the seat belt legislation and left to the individual conscience and intelligence of hon. Members. Many hon. Members, whatever their views on the matter, would have wanted that.
I hope that hon. Members, whatever they feel about the issue, will consider the matter in depth. They must all agree that lives are important and that drinking and driving is silly and wrong. Notwithstanding the three-line Whip, I hope that they will join me in the Lobby in support of the new clause.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
I shall be brief, particularly as so many of the arguments have already been put most volubly by other hon. Members.
When I added my name to the new clause, I did not expect the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) to call me a killjoy, especially as I represent no fewer than 43 distilleries on Speyside, and have a strong interest in the future of the whisky industry. I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman that, although I have that interest at heart, I also recognise the importance of the new clause. He may care to reflect on that fact that people who now visit distilleries on Speyside as part of a tourist visit, instead of being offered a dram of whisky at the end of the visit, are now offered a miniature to drink when they get home. That shows the responsible attitude that the distilleries have adopted to the problem of alcohol abuse.
Like the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, I represent a substantial rural constituency, but I cannot accept his argument that the introduction of random breath tests will result in many restaurants, bars and clubs closing down because people will be frightened to move.
In my constituency, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, most of the vehicles going to social gatherings are taxis. Taxi drivers have benefited from the introduction of the breathalyser test. My constituents must cover vast distances but they join together to share taxis in order to avoid drinking and driving. Alternatively, one person in a group exercises self-discipline and says, "I am driving so I shall not drink, and that is the end of it." I have sat through many a party into the wee hours of the morning, nursing a tonic or a soda water. I wish that all drivers would exercise the same self-discipline.
Also in my constituency, I have the chairman of an organisation known as SCID—the Scottish Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers. That organisation would agree with many of the arguments about sentencing policy and about the need to look at other aspects of road safety—for example, how many years' driving experience people should have before they sit beside a learner driver, and other aspects that it considers part and package of its campaign against irresponsible driving. However, it has also consistently emphasised the need for random breath testing. It sent to me, and presumably to many other hon. 848 Members, case histories of the families of victims, where young people had been killed by drink-drivers. They show the sheer psychological torture through which those families go as a result of such bereavement. One cannot help but be touched by those stories.
The House has a responsibility to those families who have been deprived of one of their loved ones in such a way and should back a campaign that is worthy of support and has clear public demand. We also have a responsibility to remind drivers what they stand to lose if they are convicted of drink-driving. They will suffer the humiliation of being found out. Many of them will lose not only their licences but their jobs. Their loss can bring family tensions, and their recklessness can destroy the innocent lives of their own families. I am making a plea for drivers to exercise greater self-discipline and to remember what they may lose.
The hon. Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) mentioned self-test kits. Just before Christmas, there was a possibility that such kits might be introduced in Scotland. The idea was rejected by representatives of the Scottish Office, so it was not encouraged. It seems possible that putting self-test kits in any establishment where alcohol is served might encourage people to drink up to the maximum legal level, rather than discourage them from drinking at all.
I would prefer it to be an offence to drink any alcohol when one takes a car on the road. A car is the most lethal weapon that any of us are likely to own in our lifetime. To take alcohol while driving that lethal weapon seems to be the height of irresponsibility, and I shall not encourage the use of self-test kits. I listened to the intervention of the hon. Member for Havant with care, but was not persuaded that encouraging people to drink up to the legal limit was the best way forward.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd
I have carefully studied the issue, and I know that, where such instruments have been generally and widely available, there is no evidence that they encourage people to drink up to the legal limit. The obverse is true—the lower the limit, the greater the obligation on those who may take a drink or half a drink and then drive, to find out specifically, before taking the risk, whether they are in a position to drive.
§ Mrs. Ewing
While I accept that point, I believe that various tests have shown that different kits give different readings. If they are to be introduced, they will have to be critically monitored to ensure that they are effective. I am not yet convinced that they are that efficient. We must try to become a society in which people do not drink and drive at all—we should legislate for that, as many other European countries do.
Many hon. Members who are opposed to the new clause have argued that it will not resolve the problem, because there is no guarantee that we will catch additional drink-drivers. The purpose of the new clause is not to catch drink-drivers, but to deter them. If an individual feels that the police are able to use random breath testing, that will act as a deterrent. If we keep off the road just one more possible drink-driver who is likely to cause an accident, the new clause will have the potential to save lives and avoid injury. The purpose of the new clause is to act as a deterrent—surely we should support that.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) made a powerful speech, with almost every word of which I agree.
849 I do not think that any of us would dispute the fact that drink driving is a serious social and human problem. Since the breathalyser was first introduced 25 years ago, at the end of the 1960s, more than 25,000 people have been killed by drink-driving on this country's roads. In a quarter of a century, the number of humans we have wiped out is equivalent to the entire expeditionary force in the Persian Gulf.
The position is improving. During the past 10 years, the number of people killed and injured by drink-drivers on our roads has decreased by 50 per cent. There are a number of reasons for that, including a changed perception within society. The fundamental reason why the number of deaths and injuries on our roads has dropped so sharply is that the number of breath tests during the past 10 years has trebled—three times more breath tests were given in 1990 than in 1980. The public's perception that the police now put far more effort into carrying out breath tests has led to that quite dramatic reduction in the number of deaths and injuries.
There are more breath tests than there were, because the police take a much broader view of their powers to stop drivers. During the past few years, we in this country have developed a system of de facto random testing. There is random stopping, which almost invariably leads to testing. The police have introduced a system which is, in effect, random testing, but the House has not yet given them the powers to implement it.
We tell the police to stop people randomly, but we hesitate to give them the powers for random testing. It is interesting that so few people want to abolish the power of random stopping. Even the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who made a powerful speech against the new clause, does not want to abolish that power. He said that he was in favour of the status quo, but he did not say that he wanted to go back on the status quo and abolish the right of random stopping. Even he is happy with that power as it exists.
If there were an amendment giving the police what they want—unfettered powers to stop and test—I would vote in favour of it, but there is no such amendment. Instead. we are discussing the much more limited new clause, which was moved so well by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock). I am prepared to vote for it because I believe that it will increase the deterrent power, which is all-important.
In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic said that our acceptance of the new clause and its implementation by this country's police forces would cost an additional £12 million a year, which is a lot of money. However, the 800 deaths a year caused by drink-driving also cost society a great deal. If increased deterrence leads to a further reduction in such deaths of 10 per cent. a year, and we save an additional 80 lives a year at a cost of £12 million, that money will be well spent. I intend to support the new clause this evening.
§ Dr. Godman
I promise to be brief. My speech will not be as learned as some that we have heard this evening, and I intend to offer no comparative evidence in support of the new clause.
I have been astonished by the level of knowledge of the traffic laws of other countries shown by some hon. Members. It seems that many hon. Members have visited New South Wales, Sweden and other places. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) is but one of the hon. 850 Members who used comparative evidence extensively in his support of the new clause. The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) seems to be a brilliant expert in the methodology of statistical analysis. I shall skip that approach.
I think that the hon. Member for Cheadle said that drink-driving is silly behaviour. He seems to be nodding, but I am sure he would agree, on reflection, that drink-driving is dangerously irresponsible behaviour, whether the driver has drunk one pint—to quote my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton)—or four or five pints, or two or three glasses of the best Chardonnay. To drink and to drive is to commit an irresponsible act.
§ 7 pm
§ Dr. Godman
I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman intervened.
The new clause would act as a pretty powerful deterrent, and that is how we should regard it. The police forces involved would need a code of practice, as the new clause states, which would emphasise the need for civility, courtesy and firmness when checking people. The number of people who are killed and maimed because others commit the dangerously irresponsible act of getting behind the wheel of a car after having drunk alcohol should persuade hon. Members to ignore the Whips and to support the new clause.
I wish to make one criticism of the irresponsible behaviour of courts in Scotland. I say "irresponsible" because some of our sheriffs impose appallingly slight sentences on people who have been convicted of drink-related offences. When a driver's skills have been impaired by drink to such an extent that he or she causes an accident or hurts someone, he or she should receive condign punishment when convicted in a court of law. Too many sheriffs have let people off with trivial sentences.
If the new clause is to act as a deterrent, people who are convicted of such offences should be punished, and punished severely. I look forward to the day when the European Community, by way of a qualified majority vote, introduces to the 12 nations a drastically reduced permissible level of drink for drivers. When that issue was raised in the Council of Transport Ministers, it just failed to get the qualified vote. I look forward to that vote being reversed.
As the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said, people should not drink before getting into a car. That is why I disagree profoundly with my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw. There should be no question of having a pint and then getting into a car. If one is driving, one should not drink at all. That is the message that the House should send out, whatever happens to the new clause.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
I agree. It is important that people get the message that they should either drive or drink, but not both. The choice is the bottle or the throttle—"If you have the wagon, stay on the wagon." People should get together with their friends and appoint a driver.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) on one point. Cutting out drink-driving—rather 851 than reducing it to the legal limit—is not against the interests of the country pub. Anyone who thinks that it is should get in touch with Ron Jones who used to be the president of the National Licensed Victuallers Association and is landlord of the Friar Tuck and of the Little John, in Hatfield Woodhouse, nine miles east of Doncaster. He is a Yorkshire publican who will confirm that, if a pub does its job correctly and provides an attractive range of non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks, and if people either walk to the pub—one advantage of having a local—or allow one person to drive others, the pub's takings will increase because three people will not each feel guilty about their car or motor bike in the pub car park.
There are three problems with which we must deal—apathy, ignorance and stupidity. I usually tackle the problem of apathy by quoting the first paragraph of an article written by Auberon Waugh in The Spectator on 15 February 1986. It was the first article that affected me when I went to the Department of Transport as one of the predecessors of my hon. Friend the Minister. It is well worth reading for those who have not yet done so. It appears in most road safety debates.
However, I prefer today to read from a booklet produced by MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which is an American organisation. The booklet is called "Will It Always Feel This Way?" The first page is entitled "What it feels like now". It states:Right now, if you are like most people responding to the killing of their child, you are experiencing pain.The pain can feel as though it is in one special place—your head or chest. Or it can feel as though it has taken over your whole body. Or it may just be pain, not settled anywhere.The pain can be so intense that it is almost intolerable.You feel driven to do something, even while knowing there is nothing that can be done.It is hard to concentrate, easy to become distracted. You may start an activity, forget what you were about to do, start again.If you are thinking about the child killed, however, you don't become distracted. Then you are focused. You may have the feeling of still being able to do something for the child. You may feel this way even if in the back of your mind you know that it isn't so.You may feel filled with anger. You are likely to be angry at the drunken individual who was truly responsible for the killing; but you may also be angry at members of the legal system or the hospital staff. You may be angry at anyone who doesn't understand.Your anger can be directed against yourself for not having done something that would have prevented what happened—no matter how illogical this is.It continues. No one should doubt that we have a serious responsibility in terms of legislative powers, as do the police and everyone involved—the driver, the passenger, the host, the drinking location, the breweries, the Scotch Whisky Association, and others.
We all have a responsibility to cut out the remaining 840 deaths a year, but I suspect that the figure is probably down to about 650. There were 840 deaths in 1988. Each year we have, on average, cut the deaths from drink-driving by 100. We have halved the number of those deaths in the past 10 years. Sadly, that cannot be claimed by other countries.
We have talked about New South Wales, and I congratulate it on its achievements between 1982 and 1984. I do not have the information necessary to allow me 852 to congratulate it on its achievements since then, but there is no doubt that it cut its drink-driving deaths between 1982 and 1984. It introduced mass random breath testing.
If we introduced testing to that extent, we should have as many tests each week as we currently have each year. There would be 25 million tests a year instead of approximately 500,000 a year. Every statistic may not be right. Some refer to England and Wales, some to Great Britain and some to the United Kingdom, but the rough figure is that there would be 25 million tests a year instead of 500,000. That would not do a great deal to increase detection.
I disagree with. the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) on one point—deterrence must be built on the experience of detection. People would believe that they were being deterred only for about six months if there were not increasing detection.
In 1967, when the breathalyser was introduced, for a few months, nobody took alcohol and drove. People then discovered that they did not get caught every time, so they slipped. There was a momentary boost to life—a momentary reduction in drink-driving casualties.
I came to the subject in 1986, although I had the normal interest of a Member of Parliament before that, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), the Father of the House, with whose speech I basically agreed.
In 1986, at the Department of Transport, I rediscovered the transport and road research laboratory. An inter departmental committee also recommended that we should move money from the publicity budget to research.
I discovered that the probable reason why our road deaths in this country have improved so much faster than those in other countries and the reason why our road deaths are at half the level of the Community average—and dramatically lower than those above the Community average—is that, almost always, what we did was based on fact or on a disprovable hypothesis.
I recommend those who are some years out of university, of college, or of the Workers Educational Association, to go back to Karl Popper's book about the open society and its enemies. It helps to find a disprovable hypothesis.
From 1984 to 1989, for which we have the most reliable and easily available figures, we achieved more than any other country that I have yet been able to discover in the reduction of drink-driving fatalities. Let us all remember that the only aim is to save lives. We sometimes become carried away about saving lives. At the age of 80 or 90, I do not want heroic efforts to be made to give me an extra six months. If there was a way to cut out drink-driving among the young, many parents would avoid the misery to which the booklet by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving was directed.
In a wide alliance, which I helped to construct, we built on the work of those before 1986 to continue the reduction in drink-driving. If people refer to page 25 of the article by Derek Jones in "The Casualty Report—Road Accidents, Great Britain 1989", which was published in October 1990, they will see table 2J, which shows the transformation in drinking and driving by younger people.
The number of young men who normally drank beer in pubs or clubs was reduced by two thirds if one judges by the proportion of those who died who were above the legal limit. That does not solve all the problems. Auberon 853 Waugh is right to say that more people die in sober accidents than in alcohol-related accidents, but the alcohol adds to the risk.
Let us consider whether what we have been doing has worked. People kept referring to the comparison with New South Wales. In 1984, 33 per cent. of dead drivers in New South Wales were above the legal limit. In 1989, 33 per cent. of dead drivers in New South Wales were above the legal limit. There were fluctuations in between, but over that five years, the figures did not improve. Anyone who comes to the House and who uses that as an argument to switch away from what we do to what the authorities do in New South Wales will be killing people.
I want to postpone my remarks about the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who has a responsibility to share. I hope that he will return to the Chamber, because I do not want to refer to him without his being present.
In this country, we have cut the figure from 28 per cent. of our dead drivers being above the legal limit in 1984 to 19 per cent. in 1989—and the figure may be lower now. I do not think that there has been a dramatic continuation of the trend in 1990 or this year. The reason is that received opinion is suffering from a fashionable fallacy—that random breath testing, if introduced in this country, would make a significant difference to saving lives. There is no reason to believe that. If 40 per cent. of dead drivers were above the legal limit, there might be a difference. It would probably bring the reduction that my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) mentioned. However, our figure is less than half of 40 per cent. What are people doing if they do not read the information?
I should love to support random breath testing. If I thought that it would save a significant number of lives or if, on balance, it would save lives more effectively than the alternative approach has saved, I should support it, even if there was a three-line Whip.
However, I ask all those who have any doubts to vote against the new clause because, if it were introduced now, it would have the same effect as it would have had if it had been introduced two, four or six years ago. It would cause people to chase a system that does not have persistent results.
The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) was right to say that there are three ways to cut casualties. First, every host, whether in a pub, at a party or in a family home, should have an attractive range of alcohol-free drinks available on display—people should not have to ask for them—and the host should expect people to take them. The County Surveyors Society was the first group in Great Britain—except perhaps for a temperance party—to put on the menu card, "Your hosts have provided alcohol-free drinks on each table and they encourage drivers to take them." In Northern Ireland, the vintners—the Northern Irish term for victuallers or publicans—at their first annual banquet, were the second group of people to do that. I do not see that happen at dinners of medical societies, at police dinners or at parliamentary dinners, although it is the host's responsibility to make risk-free drink available to drivers.
If we could have swapped half the random breath testing for the three points mentioned by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow, we should have had fewer drink-drive deaths this week. Instead of 21 people in 854 the United Kingdom dying through drink-driving, the figure might have been down to 15. One cannot always lead the media and one certainly cannot lead some of the leaders in the media to realise these points. I must make passing reference to Adam Raphael's succession of articles in the Observer over the past four years in which he has never given any of these facts.
The second point is that the passenger who includes their own driver in a round of alcoholic drinks is something that none of us would tolerate for an airline pilot, a train driver or a member of a crew of a ferry.
I have an image—perhaps a false image—of a 2CV with a hairy man with earrings sitting in the passenger seat. He goes into the pub and comes out, having bought a drink for the woman who is driving. They have a sign on the back saying "Nuclear power, no thanks", as though the risk of a scrap of radioactive dust resting on their noses for a second was in some way more dangerous than sinking a half pint or a pint or two in the pub and then going driving. Passengers, especially if they are over 18, are consenting adults in those circumstances. They are not totally innocent victims. Every passenger should pre-plan to be driven by an alcohol-free driver.
The third point concerns the drivers themselves. No driver should wait until half way through a party or a pub session before deciding how he is to get home or what he is drinking. We should encourage drivers to pre-plan.
Random breath testing will not help with any of those points. It is another part of the game of cops and robbers with the police. We do not want people to come anywhere near the legal limit and then to say that they are all right if they are below the level at which they can be arrested and convicted virtually automatically. We want less offending and less drink-driving.
It is fashionable to support random breath testing. When James Dunbar, the police surgeon from Tayside, first discovered what had been happening in Sweden and in New South Wales in 1985–86, he did a service to the country. He started to show that one could cut drink-driving pretty dramatically. His work was shown to various people, including myself. I went to New South Wales to check the figures, although I did not go to Sweden. I kept ringing up Sweden and asking people there to provide the information.
The time series was not easily available. There were two or three sessions of years for which James Dunbar had information. He may have had the information for Finland. However, the time series for each country is not easily available. If it is, I should love it to be sent to me.
The National Audit Office, in one of its most shoddy pieces of work—report No. 517 in 1988—began to talk about random breath testing. Its job is to examine Government Departments, not to interfere in ministerial decisions. The decision whether to have random breath testing is clearly a decision for Parliament and likely to be based on a ministerial recommendation to Parliament.
The National Audit Office also has a responsibility to consider the effectiveness, efficiency and economic operation of Departments. Irrespective of those three Es, in the 15 months before the National Audit Office reported we were dramatically successful at a lower cost to the taxpayer. In the 15 months before the Select Committee on Transport examined the permanent secretary at the Department of Transport, the number of drink-driving offences committed by young men under 30, appeared 855 from surveys to have fallen from 2 million occasions a week to 600,000. That was a reduction of two thirds in the incidence of that criminal and lethal activity.
That approach has clearly saved lives, reduced crime and has not relied on a police officer behind every lamp post. One would have expected the National Audit Office therefore to extend that principle into other areas of crime reduction where silly lives are not lost.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
Does my hon. Friend accept that, during that period when there was a substantial improvement, there was an enormous increase in random stopping? Random stopping by the police is surely the key.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I was describing what I could call the ignorance area. I was learning about what to recommend to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), the former Secretary of State for Transport, who was involved in many of the decisions and in whose name many press releases were issued. I hope that he will not mind if I share that credit with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who was the first Secretary of State for Transport to endorse the message that people should not drink and drive at all. He moved away from the message "keep low".
The number of breath tests may have increased from 300,000 to 500,000. However, because of the white noise from the random breath test brigade, people do not consider the facts. Those facts are available in the road accident statistics and they are available in the transport and road research laboratory studies.
They do not reach the general public because the media will only allow the public to learn that people will not run the risk of being caught unless they are caught by a random breath test. If the 42 per cent. of people who are caught driving above the legal limit for drink-driving did not believe that they were likely to be caught, they were wrong.
If it were not so serious, it would be entertaining to hear someone explain that what matters is the perceived risk of being caught and not the real risk of being caught. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) referred indirectly on 10 December to someone being caught three times. Such a person must not rely on being caught—he must change his behaviour. I believe that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East should resign, but not because of his behaviour. We all make mistakes. I drove badly on the day of his court case and I did something that could have resulted in a loss of life. I do not argue that the hon. Gentleman did that. He should resign because the facts show that opting for random breath tests would cost 200 lives a year within two years. That rate over a decade would cost thousands of lives.
The Opposition's policy is wrong. If they were to offer suggestions which would work, I would support them. All the evidence is that random breath testing at best is a distraction, and at worst would cause more lives to be lost than could now be saved.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his remarks. It is unacceptable for him to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and I or any other hon. Member would table a new clause if we believed that it would result in the 856 loss of 200 lives a year. We would not, and we have not, done that. The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) has offered his personal opinion, but he has produced no evidence to support it.
§ Mr. Bottomley
The hon. Lady is plain wrong. I do not blame her, because she is not the boss. I am following the habit of her hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, who is the boss. If we had introduced random breath testing in 1982, as New South Wales did, or in 1986 or 1988, or if we introduced it now and relied on it to reduce the rate at which people die in alcohol-related accidents, we might have achieved what New South Wales achieved. There would have been 50 per cent. more deaths as a result of drink driving then we now have.
§ Ms. Ruddock
It is not a question whether the boss is here or not. I made the speech and I will defend it. We have not suggested, as I made absolutely clear, that our proposals in the new clause for random breath testing are a substitute for measures which the Government are pursuing. Nor do we suggest that with hindsight it would have been a better alternative. We propose an additional measure that we believe will result in a further reduction in the number of drink-driving offences and so build on the good results of this country in that respect.
§ Mr. Bottomley
The hon. Lady is leading on to what really matters. If we believe that random checks, even under the method proposed in the new clause, will not add to detection of the crime, in the long term that will not be an effective deterrent. It will not achieve anything. It caused Alcohol Concern to write to hon. Members stating that 500 lives a year would be saved and that that figure is more than half the number of lives still being lost in alcohol-related crashes. That is not possible. A similar argument is made by Derek Rutherford, and it is led by people like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East and the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock). They are all wrong. In fields such as medicine or education, if people can be shown to be wrong, they keep quiet.
I want to consider what measures would actually work. First, the police around the country should follow the lead of what happens in Scotland, where police try to test every driver involved in a crash. That does not happen in most parts of England, and particularly not on Merseyside or in London.
If we are to have a change in the law, all drink-drivers as a condition of bail should be expected to surrender their licences until they attend court. There would then be no delay in facing the consequences of one's actions. We should also ensure that we try to discover where people got into a condition that is criminal and so often lethal. In that way, people would have to face up to their own responsibilities, instead of relying on the mystique or white magic of random breath testing.
We must make progress so that drink-drive deaths are so infrequent that, when one occurs, the Opposition spokesman on transport calls for the resignation of the Transport Minister. When I was Under-Secretary of State for Transport for three and a half years, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East did not once call for my resignation, even though 14 people a day were dying on our roads. He was not interested in that. He wanted the 857 glamour. The Opposition and my colleagues should agree on ways to make progress and to continue to reduce deaths on our roads.
§ Mr. Bidwell
The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) has experience as a junior Transport Minister, but he said nothing to convince me that my Front-Bench colleagues are wrong.
Any additional activity should be pursued in the campaign to stop drinking and driving. As has been said earlier, people who drink and drive have a lethal weapon in their hands. That is enormously dangerous. Those people are careless. They are not all drunkards or alcoholics, although the number of alcoholics is increasing. Princess Di came to my constituency not too long ago to open an anti-alcohol clinic called Turning Point. The movement to combat alcoholism is increasing and has had to do so. People in a drunken state will be prone to take risks, a point that has not been raised so far.
As many other hon. Members have said, the power of this new clause is that it must increase the deterrent. It is a matter of logic. We are asking the police to undertake an additional activity. I am glad that Labour Members have a free vote on the new clause, because that will allow my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) to do, what his conscience guides him to do, so that he can go down to his working men's club and look those present in the face. However, I am considering the new clause in the broad range and asking myself whether it will decrease the possibility of drunken drivers killing other people. I think that it will.
I take on board what the hon. Member for Eltham said about the occasion when the former Member for Blackburn, who is now a Member of the other place, introduced the first breathalyser legislation. The hon. Gentleman implied that the pubs suddenly emptied. They did not. In my own constituency, racially prejudiced publicans who had previously refused to serve black and brown people, when faced with a sharp reduction in their custom, were glad to serve anybody, and welcomed everybody with open arms, even those wearing turbans. Those are the difficulties that we encountered in the early formative years of the legislation.
I have been breathalysed twice when driving from my surgery. The first time was some time ago, because I have now learnt my lesson. On that occasion, one of the councillors with whom I shared my surgery wanted to take me to the nearest pub to have a chat. He bought me a double whisky, which I do not normally drink, but as he was paying, I accepted it with open arms. Down the road we went, and I was pulled in near Southall police station. The policeman did not know me, but I do not think that he would have acted any differently if he had recognised me.
Fortunately, I was not over the top, but the experience frightened me. I did not want to be a companion of those other hon. Members who have been done under the breathalyser test and have then had to issue a public apology. Because I do not want to be put in that position and because that experience frightened me so much, I do not drink and drive nowadays. If any action to which the House can agree will push people in that direction, so much the better.
858 On the other occasion when I was breathalysed, I had had only a couple of cups of tea at a local Indian social, but I was pulled up in Hayes. I served in Committee on the Bill that introduced the existing regulations on deterrents. Of course, policemen always call one "Sir", and this young man said to me, "Well, sir, you were driving erratically." That was what had given him the suspicion that I might he drunk. I said, "I do not remember us including 'suspicion of driving erratically' in the legislation. I always drive erratically." That shows that breath testing used to happen on the basis of suspicion, but that we are now moving to the new idea of random breath testing.
I am sorry that the Government are not allowing their Members to vote according to their consciences. I do not agree with the suggestion that the new clause is an attempt by teetotallers to take it out on drinkers. I agree entirely that the new clause would be a step forward in the fight against drunken driving, and I wish it all success. I hope that Conservative Members who agree with my attitude to the new clause will join us in the Lobby and will say, "Throw this three-line Whip out of the window."
§ Mr. Conal Gregory (York)
There cannot be any right hon. or hon. Member who at some stage has not lost a constituent or a constituent's child as a result of a drink-driving case. Alcohol contributes to an estimated one in 10 of all road traffic accidents in the United Kingdom. As we have heard, it causes over 800 deaths and a staggering 22,000 casualties each year. However, more than a quarter of male drivers and one in five female drivers believe that their blood alcohol concentration has exceeded the legal limit at some time in the previous year. It is true that inroads have been made into the problem of drink-driving during the past decade. I welcome the detailed speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) as part of that statistical debate, although that is about the point where my hon. Friend and I diverge.
Further deterrents are needed, of which the random breath testing that is proposed in the all-party new clause would be one, but only one, way forward. However, based on evidence from other countries, that deterrent should work. We should not dismiss such evidence out of hand.
In a recent survey, 42 per cent. of people who admitted to drinking and driving thought that they ran little risk of detection. As long as people think that they can get away with it, the penalties will not work. Stopping the offence is clearly better than punishment—and the police agree. Mr. Peter Joslin, the chairman of the traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, has said:A deterrence-based enforcement system is far more effective in reducing drink-drive fatalities than the traditional enforcement model.At present, the police can require a breath test in three circumstances. As there seems to be a little confusion in the House about this matter, I shall reiterate those three circumstances clearly. First, the police can require a breath test when the driver is suspected of having alcohol in his or her body; secondly, when a moving traffic offence has been committed; and thirdly, when the driver has been involved in an accident. The police also have the general power to stop a vehicle at any time.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way, because he has made precisely the point that the police have the general power to stop vehicles. Like the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell), I too have been stopped and 859 breathalysed. It happened just before Christmas. When I stepped out of the car, the policeman said, "This is a routine check, sir." If that is not random stopping and effectively random breath testing, I do not know what is, because the policeman then asked me whether I had been drinking. I confirmed that I had, but thankfully I did not even register on the machine.
My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) owes it to the House to make a much better case than he and the hon. Members supporting the new clause have done so far, because there are already sufficient powers. Indeed, when I told the policeman that the House was debating the point that very evening, he said, "Sir, we have enough powers as it is, but if you want to give us some more, that's fine by us."
§ Mr. Gregory
With respect, my hon. Friend jumped into the argument a little prematurely. The next time that he is stopped, he can refer to section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. With respect, the correlation between that section and random breath testing seems to have escaped him. I did not go on to make that analogy; I merely referred to the occasions when a police officer in uniform can stop any person driving a vehicle. I have not yet gone on to extrapolate that argument in terms of random breath testing, but if my hon. Friend will bear with me for a little longer, I shall do so.
According to case law, the three circumstances to which I have referred may be combined. A police officer may stop any vehicle to establish suspicion that the driver has been drinking, after which the breath test may be required. The police argue that establishing grounds for suspicion before testing should be unnecessary and that they should have unrestricted powers to require a breath test.
The new clause provides for random breath testing at roadside checkpoints, and the regulations included in the new clause would permit roadside checks at which either all vehicles or a sample of vehicles could be stopped by a constable in uniform for the administration of breath tests. Roadside checkpoints would be authorised in writing and clearly signposted.
As a deterrent to drinking before driving, the great virtues of the new clause are its visibility and the fact that roadside testing could be encountered anywhere at any time, although there is no reason why testing should not be targeted. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety favours the new clause, as do many other experts and members of the public. In due course, I shall be interested to hear my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic summon all the agencies and organisations at his command which oppose the view of PACTS. In an intervention, he referred to the Royal Automobile Club. The view of the RAC is ambiguous, as my hon. Friend should know from its press notice. I am sure that he has many other organisations at his command which support his argument.
§ Mr. Bottomley
My hon. Friend has done a great deal of research into the matter. Will he confirm that all that PACTS and other organisations wish to achieve is legal 860 under the present law? It is possible to have marked road checks and to test everyone except a driver who, after being stopped, is found not to have taken a drink, who has not been involved in an accident and who has not driven badly.
§ Mr. Gregory
Rather than considering exceptions, I am concerned to deter people. When enshrined in statute law, the new clause should be used not only to deter but to catch people. My hon. Friend constantly looks at the exceptions and perhaps introduces an element of the civil liberties argument, which I shall come to in a moment.
Experience abroad, notably in Scandinavia and in most of Australia, supports the case for the new clause. New South Wales has been referred to frequently tonight. Many in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association must have visited New South Wales, judging by the number of hon. Members who seem to be aware of that fine state. In the first four years of random breath testing there, the average number of fatal or serious accidents related to alcohol fell by one third. That is a telling and practical argument which my hon. Friend the Minister should bear in mind.
One aspect has been referred to only obliquely. If there were ever any doubt about the new clause, it should be dispelled by this aspect. We are debating the measure as a motoring matter. If Department of Health Ministers and those responsible for budgeting for the health service were present tonight—they are not—they would be in favour of the amendment. The hospital and social security savings in New South Wales were over 20 times the initial cost of implementing the scheme. If the new clause does not find favour tonight—I hope that it will—such a measure might be included in the Finance Bill after the Budget on 19 March. The measure would certainly appeal to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Health.
An argument which is sometimes used against random breath testing is that the rate of detection is low. Up to a point, that was the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham. However, no one suggests that random breath testing should be a substitute for existing procedures. It would be an additional weapon in the armoury of the police. Only in the completely impartial context of roadside checkpoints would the requirement for establishing suspicion be waived. The impartiality of random breath testing is a crucial aspect.
§ Mr. Gregory
I must make progress. I am mindful of the time and the admonitions of the Chief Whip.
Over 77 per cent. of people interviewed in a Government survey last September praised the impartial aspect of random breath testing.
New clause 2 provides for the introduction of random breath testing. By that I mean that the police will be able to breath-test randomly selected samples of drivers without reasonable cause for suspicion at specially designated roadside checkpoints authorised by a senior police officer.
I stress that it would not give the police unfettered discretion to breath-test any driver anywhere at any time. It is an additional power, which provides an element of deterrence which is difficult to achieve under current procedures and which is so important for reducing road 861 deaths. I am convinced that there is substantial support among professional, public and parliamentary opinion for this change in the drink-driving law.
It is essential that the message from the House tonight is that drinking and driving do not mix. The power to deter that lethal concoction is with right hon. and hon. Members, and I urge them to accept this straightforward new clause.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd
I wish to detain the House for a few minutes to discuss some important aspects of the new clause. The first is the matter of definitions. The definition of the word "random" is important. It is clear that some hon. Members are under the impression that the new clause asks for a power that would virtually give the police permission to stop anyone they chose at any time and any place. That is not my understanding of the term "random".
A random number generator, as any statistician would agree, produces random numbers by choice, by means of a computer or, more simply, by taking numbers out of a bag, as in a lottery. For example, if 150,000 establishments which sell alcohol, such as hotels, pubs, clubs and so on, were chosen by a random number generator and one was the House of Commons, the police would be obliged to carry out checks at the exit of the House.
§ Sir Ian Lloyd
They might, but there might be other places, in the country where they would have an equally good field day. If it was established that every 10th, 20th or 50th car should be checked, and the 50th car going out of the gate was that of the Prime Minister, his car would have to be stopped under genuine random testing.
The second definition with which I wish to deal is the difference between drink-driving and drunken driving. For perfectly understandable reasons, many hon. Members use the two terms as if they were entirely interchangeable. Sometimes, they take the absolutist view that there should be no drink-driving when, effectively, they mean that there should be no drunken driving. The scale of the problem clearly defines the difference. t have already given all the figures to the House, and I shall not detain it by doing so again tonight, but a clear distinction must be made between a system with the legitimate objective, of catching the incompetent, dangerous, drunken driver—someone who is over the limit—and a system directed with vast resources at the rest of the driving community.
I state once again with all the force at my command that, in a free society, we cannot attempt to use motor vehicles—22 million of them—to enforce prohibition, which is what a zero limit would be. Even if there were no legal zero limit, the social idea expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley)—that whether or not it is a legal offence, it is a moral offence to take any drink and get into a motor car and drive—is an absolutist view. We could never achieve that objective in a free society.
As one gets nearer to the limit, so the processes of enforcement become more rigorous. I have argued before on the Floor of the House that, even if the death penalty were attached to drunken driving, in a free society there would still be those who would take the risk.
862 My main argument is based on an entirely different set of premises. The House—and, in a sense, the Government—continues to adhere to an old technology or set of institutions. I find that difficult to understand. We are always reluctant to say, "Here is a solution which we know could work and which, if it worked, would work perfectly." As I have shown in more ways than one, the technology is clear and is being applied elsewhere. One Opposition Member said that people should lose their jobs if convicted of drunken driving. I believe that in certain circumstances they should not lose their jobs.
In California, where there is considerable experience in the matter, the use of the breathalyser ignition lock enables a person who has been involved in a case of drink-driving which was not serious to be given a lesser sentence. It is not necessary for a driver to lose his or her job.
Some hon. Members may have seen an excellent programme some time ago on television; I think it was "Horizon". It dealt with traffic problems in Los Angeles and showed some of the ways being developed all over the world to deal with the problem of the motor car. One thing which struck me forcibly was that we saw eight or nine vehicles going along a motorway, completely under computer control, some with the driver in the back seat. We are not there yet. It may be 10 to 15 years before it will be illegal for anyone who is over the legal limit of alcohol consumption to take a car on to a motorway. The technology will exist to prevent accidents, and it will be safer and better than human judgment.
If we are serious, we may say that, by the year 2000, every motor vehicle shall be fitted with a breathalyser ignition lock. If that takes place, it will be impossible for anyone to drink and drive unless the driver cuts the wires, and that would be a serious offence. The technology might exist for a central register to show that he had done so.
Do we want to eliminate drunken driving, or do we not? If we want to bring it down to zero, that is the way to do it. If it is not the way to do it, I should like to see a better way. If that is the target that we must achieve, will we do so by using deterrence, which will involve vast police forces trying to achieve by random breath testing the final eliminator test? Do we do it in that way, or do we say, "Here is a technology which enables the human being to reconcile his wish to drive his motor car and also to drink up to the point where, if he is in the least dangerous, he cannot physically do so"?
If the limit of 80 mg is too high, we can bring it down to 50 mg. If 50 mg is too high, we can bring it down to 30 mg. If 30 mg is too high, we can bring it down to zero. But at every stage of the reduction, I believe that the case that I have made in my proposed new clauses for self-breathalysing and subsequently for the use of a breathalyser ignition lock becomes stronger and stronger. I ask the Minister to give us the Government's view on my proposals.
§ Mr. Allason
I should like to share with the House my experience of the breathalyser, both as a police officer who has administered it and as a motorist who has been breathalysed. During the period that I spent in the police, I was satisfied that I had the equivalent of the power proposed by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock). When I was breathalysed shortly before Christmas two years ago, I had not been drinking. When asked by the police officer who stopped me on the Embankment whether I had had a drink, I denied it. He 863 nevertheless administered the breath test, which was negative. But examples surely show that we already have the power.
The hon. Lady gave two platforms for the new clause. The first was public pressure. I am reluctant ever to criticise the Labour party for adopting Conservative policies, but I urge it not to adopt the policy of proposing amendments like the new clause in order to be seen to be doing something, or to be responding to what is termed public pressure. The Government have made a habit of doing that. I point to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 and to the Football Spectators Act 1989 as two classic examples of the Government misconceiving legislation and bringing it before the House.
The second plank of the hon. Lady's platform was the deterrent value—the likelihood of being caught. I entirely agree with her that the likelihood of being caught is indeed the principal element in deterring criminal activity. If we analyse what she is suggesting, it means greater police deployment in that sphere of activity. I interpret that as meaning greater interference with the operational decision-making which is the responsibility of chief police officers.
There is a hard core of persistent offenders, and the only way to change their behaviour is to change the culture and make it unacceptable to buy rounds for people who will later be driving.
It has been said that organisations such as the Consumers Association and the National Council for Civil Liberties support random testing. There is a belief that random testing is a panacea, but it is not. The police do not want such a power. They already have the powers that they need. I therefore urge the House to oppose the new clause.
§ Mr. John Browne (Winchester)
I wish briefly to support the new clause. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Gregory) has spoken ably on it, and I agree with almost every word that he said.
Of course, to have legislation on random breath testing is a curb on individual freedom, but we already accept curbs on individual freedom. We have to drive on the left of the road, we have to wear safety belts, and we have to obey the highway code. Those are all curbs on individual freedom, but they are all designed for safety and that is the purpose of the new clause.
I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason), who made a persuasive argument, but as a layman I still believe that the new clause would have a deterrent value, although the powers already exist. That value is enormous in relation to the human suffering of those involved, in relation to the human anguish of the relatives of those involved, and in relation to money for the national health service and the taxpayer. I believe that about £600 million per year is involved.
As a deterrent, the new clause would help to save lives. I support it, and I urge the House to do likewise. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to reconsider his opposition to the new clause and to remember that we demand these standards of airline pilots, bus drivers and train drivers. I believe that we should bring in the new clause as a deterrent to drink-driving.
§ Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
I support random breath testing, but not the nonsense of the new clause. I cannot 864 think of any single way in which the police could more infuriate ordinary drivers than to have such a roadside test. Whenever I am stopped at a roadside checkpoint, I get infuriated. If we want to improve relations between the public and the police, the new clause is not the way to do it.
The kind of random breath testing that I favour is the kind that we already enjoy. I do not say that with any great pleasure. The fact is that police officers can stop the driver of a car and, whether they pretend or whether they have real justification for doing so, they can inflict a breath test upon anyone. The trouble is not that that is being done, but that the public do not perceive that there is a power of random breath testing.
We could fulfil a useful purpose if we made it clear to the public that there is random breath testing already, that it is already legal and that they had better watch out when they drink and drive, because they may be stopped and disqualified. That is the random breath testing which it is within my bounds to support as one who believes in the freedom of the individual.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Chope
We have had a three-hour debate and I doubt whether anything that I could say would have much influence on the way in which hon. Members will vote. This has been a debate about random breath testing, although the better expression might be untargeted breath testing, because that is what the proponents of the new clause are arguing for. The House is united in its condemnation of those who drive with excess alcohol. Where there have been differences in the debate, they have been about the means to the end—of reducing the numbers who drink and drive and thereby the numbers who are killed and maimed as a result.
It is unworthy of those who support the new clause to accuse those who do not of being complacent or uncaring about road safety. The Government are proud of their record on road safety and, as the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) pointed out, we have the best road safety record in the European Community.
Government policy on this issue has been arrived at after the most careful and rational analysis of the evidence and arguments. On 1 February 1989, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), when Home Secretary, initiated the debate, in response to a request from the police, for more powers. References to the background to that were made during the debate, particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon).
As a result, there was public consultation. It emerged from that that there was much public ignorance about the extent of the powers that the police have. To clarify the position, on Tuesday 5 November 1989 the Attorney-General, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham), set out the legal position. It is not necessary for me to recite that again tonight.
That position ensures that the police have power to stop motorists whom they wish to stop and then to ask for a breath test of motorists whom they suspect of drinking, of being involved in accidents or of moving road traffic offences. The Government view is that the existing powers strike the right balance between the need for effective enforcement of the law and the freedom of the individual.
865 The arguments on the other side have been largely concerned with the issue of deterrence. I think that, in the end, perception and reality over time have a tendency to coincide. We saw in the examples from New South Wales, and earlier from France, that, as soon as there was a change in the law, people thought that a random test was just around the corner, and as a result there was a reduction in the incidence of drink driving. But that was only a temporary phenomenon. It is more important that there should be a change of attitude.
One can see the difference in connection with speeding. I do not think there has been a change yet in attitude towards speeding, and that is why, when one observes police vehicles going along a motorway, most people, if they are sensible, reduce their speed while in the vicinity of those police vehicles. But as soon as they have gone past, they increase their speed.
In connection with drink driving, we do not think that the incidence of a large number of road checkpoints would add significantly to deterrence. Indeed, Government policy is to use public progaganda advertising for the purposes and to try to create a public atmosphere in which drink driving is not tolerated.
The Legal and General Insurance Company, following a recent Gallup survey, found that 84 per cent. of people said that, as a result of Government advertising, they had been made to think twice about drinking and driving. That is a more cost-effective way of proceeding than spending £12 million a year in police time setting up road blocks at which probably fewer than one in 100 of the people tested would be found to have been a drink-driver.
§ Mr. Chope
I had not intended to mention New South Wales in detail. There is a code of guidance there, and my hon. Friend and others will be interested to know that as part of that code says:A random breath testing station is not to be established in the immediate vicinity of licensed premises.I do not understand why that provision is included. Many people who support the principle of the new clause may be concerned when they analyse what might be contained in the controls that would be introduced under it.
This has been a high-quality debate. We had moments of passionate intensity and serious deliberation and we had expressions of brotherly love in the Labour party, as exemplified by the exchanges between the hon. Members for Bassetlaw and for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). The latter called his honourable enemy a twit, which elicted the memorable response from the hon. Gentleman that he was speaking as a working-class Labour voter. On the evidence of tonight's debate, working-class Labour voters may be an endangered species, and we should place a preservation order on the hon. Member for Bassetlaw.
§ Mr. Ashton
I should put it on record that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) apologised for losing his temper. I accepted his apology and we are now the best of friends.
§ Ms. Ruddock
I shall delay the House for only a few moments to respond to the debate on the new clause that stands in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends.
I regret that the Minister concluded his remarks in the way he did, because this has been an extremely serious debate. We should concentrate our thoughts on the main issue involved, that of deaths and injuries. During the debate, a number of myths have been peddled by those who oppose the idea of random breath testing, and they have suggested that the powers to have random breath tests already exist. They do not. What is being used by some police forces in Britain is a combination of the power randomly to stop combined, with the power to test on suspicion. Those two powers have been combined by some chief police officers in a way that has not been authorised by the House and is a combination of powers that many other police forces have chosen not to use.
By tabling the new clause, we seek in no way to remove those powers from the police. We have no intention of trying to end targeted testing, of which we thoroughly approve and which has produced good results by reducing the number of drink-related accidents. We seek to add an additional power to permit truly randomised testing. That testing would be accountable. It would not distinguish between people—types, classes and so on—but would say, in effect, "If your car is passing a random test point and you are a chosen number, you will be stopped for a legitimate purpose," and that purpose would be to deter those who choose to break the law by drinking and driving.
This is not, as has been suggested, a response by my party designed to court popularity. I have called in aid the support of the general public. That supports our case, and we cite it because we are convinced that, if our proposal were introduced, it would have public support. So the public would understand what it was all about and would be willing to co-operate in its implementation.
I remind the House that 800 deaths per annum are involved in this argument. My hon. Friends and I believe that if we can do something to help reduce that number of deaths, we should do it. We are convinced of our case. There is room for improvement on all that has been done by the Government to date. For that reason alone, we urge support for the new clause.
Confident though we are of our case, we have allowed our Members a free vote. I hope, with hon. Members anxious to vote on the issue, that those on the Government Benches who support us will have the courage to follow their consciences.
§ Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 157, Noes 265.869
|Division No. 81]||[8.9 pm|
|Adams, Mrs. Irene (Paisley, N.)||Benn, Rt Hon Tony|
|Allen, Graham||Benton, Joseph|
|Alton, David||Bermingham, Gerald|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bidwell, Sydney|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Boyes, Roland|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Bray, Dr Jeremy|
|Barron, Kevin||Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)|
|Battle, John||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Beggs, Roy||Caborn, Richard|
|Beith, A. J.||Callaghan, Jim|
|Bell, Stuart||Cartwright, John|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Clay, Bob||McKelvey, William|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||McLeish, Henry|
|Cohen, Harry||McMaster, Gordon|
|Corbett, Robin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cryer, Bob||McWilliam, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||Madden, Max|
|Darling, Alistair||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Marek, Dr John|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Day, Stephen||Maxton, John|
|Dixon, Don||Michael, Alun|
|Dobson, Frank||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Doran, Frank||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Douglas, Dick||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Morley, Elliot|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Mudd, David|
|Eadie, Alexander||Mullin, Chris|
|Eastham, Ken||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||O'Brien, William|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||O'Hara, Edward|
|Fatchett, Derek||O'Neill, Martin|
|Faulds, Andrew||Pendry, Tom|
|Fearn, Ronald||Prescott, John|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Fisher, Mark||Redmond, Martin|
|Flynn, Paul||Reid, Dr John|
|Foster, Derek||Richardson, Jo|
|Galloway, George||Robertson, George|
|George, Bruce||Rogers, Allan|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Rooker, Jeff|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Rooney, Terence|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Gordon, Mildred||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|Gould, Bryan||Ruddock, Joan|
|Graham, Thomas||Salmond, Alex|
|Gregory, Conal||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Grocott, Bruce||Short, Clare|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Haynes, Frank||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Kilfedder, James||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Wallace, James|
|Lamond, James||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Leighton, Ron||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Lewis, Terry||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Livsey, Richard||Wilson, Brian|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Winnick, David|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Loyden, Eddie||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McCartney, Ian||Mrs. Maria Fyfe and|
|Macdonald, Calum A.||Dr. Lewis Moonie.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baldry, Tony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Allason, Rupert||Batiste, Spencer|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amess, David||Bendall, Vivian|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Benyon, W.|
|Ashby, David||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Ashton, Joe||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Atkins, Robert||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Body, Sir Richard||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Harris, David|
|Boswell, Tim||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hawkins, Christopher|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Hayes, Jerry|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Bowis, John||Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)|
|Brazier, Julian||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Bright, Graham||Hill, James|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hind, Kenneth|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Burns, Simon||Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)|
|Butler, Chris||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Butterfill, John||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hunt, Rt Hon David|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Hunter, Andrew|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Irvine, Michael|
|Carrington, Matthew||Irving, Sir Charles|
|Carttiss, Michael||Jack, Michael|
|Cash, William||Jackson, Robert|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Janman, Tim|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jessel, Toby|
|Chope, Christopher||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Churchill, Mr||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Plymouth)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Rt Hon Sir William||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Key, Robert|
|Colvin, Michael||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Conway, Derek||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Knapman, Roger|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Couchman, James||Knowles, Michael|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Knox, David|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Latham, Michael|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Devlin, Tim||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Dicks, Terry||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Dunn, Bob||Lord, Michael|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Dykes, Hugh||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Eggar, Tim||Maclean, David|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Evennett, David||Madel, David|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Malins, Humfrey|
|Fallon, Michael||Mans, Keith|
|Favell, Tony||Marlow, Tony|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Fishburn, John Dudley||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Fookes, Dame Janet||Mates, Michael|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Forth, Eric||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Franks, Cecil||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Fraser, John||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Freeman, Roger||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|French, Douglas||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Gale, Roger||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Moate, Roger|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Morrison, Sir Charles|
|Gorst, John||Morrison, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Needham, Richard|
|Grist, Ian||Nelson, Anthony|
|Ground, Patrick||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Hague, William||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Norris, Steve||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)|
|Page, Richard||Sumberg, David|
|Paice, James||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Patchett, Terry||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Patnick, Irvine||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Pawsey, James||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Thorne, Neil|
|Portillo, Michael||Thurnham, Peter|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Price, Sir David||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Raison, Rt Hon Sir Timothy||Tracey, Richard|
|Rathbone, Tim||Tredinnick, David|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Trippier, David|
|Riddick, Graham||Turner, Dennis|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Viggers, Peter|
|Roberts, Sir Wyn (Conwy)||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Walden, George|
|Rost, Peter||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Mrs Angela||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Waller, Gary|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Watts, John|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Wells, Bowen|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Whitney, Ray|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Shersby, Michael||Wilkinson, John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Skinner, Dennis||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wood, Timothy|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Yeo, Tim|
|Steel, Rt Hon Sir David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Steen, Anthony||Mr. Tom Sackville and|
|Stern, Michael||Mr. Nicholas Baker.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.