§ 2.35 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the figures given in answer to Questions asked in this House on April 16, which support the widely held view that prosecutions for driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs are better tried by magistrates' courts, they will bring forward an amendment to Section 6 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, to reduce the maximum penalty for such offences to one of a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months, which would in effect remove the right of an accused to go for trial before a jury while not interfering with the discretion of a magistrates' court to send any case for trial to a higher court if the gravity of the case, in the opinion of the court, warrants such action.]
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)
My Lords, Her Majesty's Government cannot agree to this proposal. As your Lordships know, the Government are very concerned over the hazards that may arise through driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and they share the noble Lord's anxiety that the law on the subject should be fully enforced and the appropriate penalties imposed. But they are not satisfied that it is either necessary or justifiable to take the drastic step of depriving defendants of their long-established right to elect for trial by jury.