§ 2.46 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1962 (which authorises the use in evidence of specimens of blood, urine or breath in cases of drunken driving) is yet in force; and, if not, when they propose to bring it into force.]
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act, 1962, with the exception of subsection (6) relating to the provision of breath samples, came into force on December 20, 1962. Subsection (6) cannot be brought into force until Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that suitable arrangements can be made for taking and analysing breath samples.
§ LORD CASEY
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Perhaps I might be allowed to ask whether the noble Lord is aware that the use of breath analysis equipment, popularly (or perhaps unpopularly) known as breathalysers, has been in use by the police in the State of Victoria in Australia since early 1960; that for the first two years the use of the equipment was voluntary, but that from early 1962 the use of this equipment has been compulsory, with a monetary penalty for refusal to accept the test? Is the noble Lord also aware that in this period of nearly four years over 3,000 cases have been tested at once and on the spot of the accident, and that in over 2,000 of these 3,000 cases the result has been a conviction? Further, I would ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the use of this so-called breathalyser equipment has added a valuable quantitative component to the body of evidence available in this type of offence, and has often provided substantial confirmation of the less definite conventional tests?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am aware of some of the things the noble Lord has told me, but there is at the moment a Working Party examining this question whether this equipment is suitable for this country and for our law. Her Majesty's Government are not yet satisfied that the operation of breathalysers, if I may use the term, is entirely suitable. We hope shortly to have a report from the Working Party, which includes representatives of the police and of the directors of the forensic science laboratories. We shall doubtless come to a decision in due course, but we do not want to bring it in until we are satisfied that it is suitable here.
§ LORD CASEY
While again thanking the noble Lord, may I ask if, when this investigation has been conducted, it would not be appropriate to seek an official account, rather than the rather more personal account that I have attempted to give, of the use of breath analysis equipment in the State of Victoria and also, I believe, in one of the Scandinavian countries?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, could the noble Lord say if the Working Party 1236 is also considering whether there should be a limit to the amount of alcohol a person could consume before he would be considered to have his driving ability impaired?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, the particular Working Party to which I referred is dealing only with breathalysers, so it does not deal with that particular question, which, of course, includes blood tests and urine tests.
§ LORD CASEY
My Lords, may I venture to ask a further question of the noble Lord? I am putting my thought in the form of a question. Would the noble Lord be surprised if I were surprised that there had been no reference to breath analysis equipment in the discussion in your Lordships' House about a week ago which was substantially on the means of coping with drunken driving?
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, would the noble Lord bear in mind that in some cases there is almost no limit to the amount of alcohol that can safely be consumed by an individual, but that in other cases a glass of sherry will render a person incapable of driving a motor car? This makes the breathalyser business very difficult.