§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill. Everyone who is interested in our roads and road safety will take a great interest in this Bill and will, I hope, assist in its speedy passage. Last week I heard a United States Senator speaking with great bitterness and anger about the deaths of soldiers of the United States in Vietnam; and one could understand his feelings and those of his colleagues at that dreadful waste of life. Yet if one reflected, there are many more killed on the roads of the United States year by year than in Vietnam. In each of the last two years we have lost nearly 8,000 of our people, with some 100,000 seriously injured, due to road accidents; and on present trends we can expect 1 million casualties by 1980.
Very rarely, except perhaps at holiday seasons, are we particularly conscious of this. Many seem to feel that casualties represent the price of civilisation. If there is a price to be paid, it is clearly the duty of the Government, and those who hold all forms of public office, to seek to reduce that price. There are some who say that the state and condition of our roads is the main cause of accidents. Clearly, improvement of our roads could reduce accidents. We all recognise that there is a long task ahead. But even if we had first-class roads throughout the country, we should still have accidents, because in the main—and anyone who is a motorist will, I think, agree with this—selfishness and total disregard of one's fellow human beings are the prime cause of accidents. This is the behaviour of a small minority. Therefore, it is necessary to have this type of legislation to protect the majority from this small minority.
We are all, I am sure, conscious that we are approaching Easter. The House may wish to be reminded of last year's death toll, and other casualties suffered. There were 121 deaths—20 on Thursday, 29 on Good Friday, 37 on Saturday, 14 on Sunday and 21 on Easter Monday; and we had 1,685 seriously injured. I should have thought that as we now approach Easter this is an appropriate moment to state in this House (perhaps it could be reported; I do not know) that 291 all of us, motorists and pedestrians, should make a very special effort to see what we can do to keep down the total toll in this coming holiday.
The Bill affects the road haulage industry, and it will impose greater disciplines upon its drivers. It will also affect private drivers. Part II deals with roadworthiness, and the testing of vehicles for roadworthiness. It also deals with the plating of vehicles so that we can check overloading. Part I deals with drink and driving. Here we hope to see a major change in habits and customs. If I may I will deal with Part II first. I will deal with it briefly and generally, because it is a complex and detailed Part of the Bill, perhaps more suitable for Committee stage. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who was a Minister in the previous Administration, and who I am glad to see is taking part in the debate to-day, will well remember the concern of Labour Peers in particular and, I think, the whole House, when the previous Administration increased the speed and size of goods vehicles. We were not necessarily opposed to that measure, but we were concerned that we did not have the legislation to deal with the overloading and testing of vehicles. I appreciate that it was an extremely complex matter. This Bill now provides the legislation.
I think I should say, too, that this Bill is not an attack upon the road haulage industry. As in all other industries there are black sheep, but the majority of them are good operators, and most of them are operating to the best of their capabilities. It is interesting to see the figures of goods vehicles that were inspected during 1965 and 1966. Ten per cent. of the vehicles that were tested were ordered off the road immediately because, in the judgment of the inspectors, they were dangerous. Quoting those figures may well indicate that a grave and serious situation exists, but it is fair and reasonable to point out that the inspectors, particularly by means of the spot checks, were obviously watching out for vehicles which were most likely to prove dangerous on the roads.
Much of Part II concerns highly technical matters which, as I have said, are perhaps more appropriate for the Committee stage and, in the view of the Government, more appropriate to be 292 dealt with by Regulations than by incorporation in the body of a Bill. Therefore many of the clauses are drafted so as to convey Regulation-making powers on the Minister. These Regulations, under the provisions of Clause 27(6) of the Bill, must be subject, in their preparation, to prior consultation with the interested organisations, and Parliamentary control is exercisable over them by way of the Negative Resolution procedure.
I propose to deal with the general principles underlying this Part of the Bill. Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill convey the necessary powers to make Regulations for the plating and the compulsory testing of goods vehicles and trailers. Plating consists of the determination by the Ministry of Transport of maximum weights—that is gross weight, axle weight, and so on—for any individual vehicle which that vehicle must not exceed. Normally, the weights so determined will be the weights at which the manufacturer designed the vehicle to operate. At present there is no such limitation on individual vehicles, and the Regulations will lay down only general limitations, mainly to prevent the overloading of highways and bridges. The form, size, position and particlars to be contained on the plate are all matters on which consultation with interested organisations has to take place, and there will obviously be highly technical matters to be considered.
Under Clause 9 goods vehicle tests will ascertain whether the vehicle complies with the construction and the use requirements prescribed by the Minister. The existing test scheme under the Road Traffic Act 1960 has been applied to private cars and motor goods vehicles of not more than 30 cwt. unladen weight. It is intended that the tests under Clause 9 will now be applied to heavier goods vehicles, including articulated trailers of one ton and more unladen weight. The actual items to be prescribed will again be subject to consultation. In fact one can say that all the Regulations to be made will result from consultations.
Clause 9 sets out the matters on which Regulations may be made for the purposes of carrying out the plating, testing and examining of vehicles, and provides for a system of appeals against the determinations of the examiners. The timetable envisaged for initiating these new 293 arrangements for testing and plating is that all existing vehicles on the road in the classes I have mentioned will receive a first examination in 1968 and 1969, when they will be plated. In 1970, subject to transitional arrangements which are still being worked out, testing will be switched to an annual basis. The call-up system for 1968 and 1969 is being worked out, and again this will be subject to consultation.
Practical arrangements for vehicle testing and plating are well advanced. Some 70 sites have been selected for purpose-built Government testing stations, planning permission has been received for about three-quarters of these, and special arrangements will be made for tests to be carried out in the more remote areas. It cannot be said exactly when it will be possible to start testing, but in the light of current progress there is no reason why the target I have just mentioned should not be achieved.
Clauses 10 to 13 deal with the introduction of a system of "type approvals" for new goods vehicles, which will include the function plating, and the aim will be to introduce this to new goods vehicles in 1970. The essentials of the system are that the Ministry will approve a sample vehicle that is submitted by the manufacturer in respect of certain prescribed construction and performance requirements. The Ministry will allocate a plated weight to the sample vehicle. Thereafter, the manufacturer will issue a certificate with every vehicle conforming to the approved sample. That certificate will set out the plated weights for a conforming vehicle. Clause 10 also provides that the manufacturer shall plate conforming vehicles at these weights.
Clause 14 contains the provisions for enforcing the plating, testing and type approval requirements by making it obligatory, after the relevant date, to have the necessary certificates. The clause also provides for the enforcement of these requirements by Regulation through the medium of the Excise licensing system That is to say, a vehicle may not receive an Excise licence unless there is a test certificate in force for the vehicle, effective as at the date of the coming into force of the licence. A similar Regulation-making power is given in regard to the production on the first licensing of a vehicle, subject to type approval re- 294 quirements, or a vehicle certificate under the type approval provisions. Full consultations will take place with the local taxation authorities before Regulations under either of these provisions are made.
Clause 14 also contains the powers needed to grant exemptions by Regulation from the provisions of the clause, in so far as the use of vehicles for various purposes or in various areas is concerned. This power is similar to that for which exemptions have been given from the requirements of the present test scheme for lighter vehicles. The power will be used in conjunction with the powers under Clauses 9 and 10 to give exemptions to vehicles of special kinds, as well as to vehicles in remote districts—vehicles proceeding, for instance, by prior appointment at a testing station, and so on.
I should also refer to the penalty provided under Clause 14 for failure to notify alterations to plated or type approved vehicles. Clearly the owners of such vehicles cannot be permitted to alter them in a way which will either cease to justify plated weights as high as those originally allocated, or which will reduce the performance of that vehicle below the standards prescribed in the type approval requirements.
Clauses 9 and 11 provide for the general Regulations to be made, laying down the alterations in the plated or, as the case may be, type approved vehicles which must be notified to the Minister. In certain exceptional cases Clause 11 permits the Minister to vary these Regulations in their application to a particular vehicle or model. I must emphasise that it is not the intention either to burden the Ministry with a mass of trivial notifications or to impose on the operator such a volume of obligations as to notification that he will be either overwhelmed with them or tempted to disregard them.
Clause 15, the penalties for sale of vehicles without the necessary certificates under Clause 10, is a necessary consequence of type approval clauses. Clauses 16 and 17 expand the existing powers of the Ministry of Transport vehicle examiners to impose prohibitions on the use of defective goods vehicles and give greater flexibility in the exercise of those powers. The following expansions of powers are perhaps worthy of attention. First, the power is extended 295 to the use of an unladen vehicle; at present it applies only to a laden use. Secondly, the power goes beyond the prohibition of mechanically defective vehicles and enables a goods vehicle examiner to order the off-loading of a dangerously overloaded vehicle. This power is also given to specially authorised police constables and persons authorised with the consent of the Minister by local highway authorities. These latter persons will of course in practice be professionally qualified inspectors of weights and measures about whose knowledge of vehicle mechanics the Minister is satisfied.
Thirdly, power is given to divert a vehicle for up to a mile for the purpose of examination. This may be useful where a vehicle is stopped on the road and where there is a Government testing station within a mile of where the vehicle has been stopped. Clauses 16 and 17 are to come into operation on the appointed day by virtue of Clause 30(3).
Clause 18 is intended to ensure that vehicles are kept in a proper condition at all times by enabling the Minister to make regulations requiring operators to arrange for suitable inspections and to keep the records of those inspections. It is not intended to enforce a bureaucratic uniformity on operators who may already be conducting their affairs on the lines envisaged, or to create a mass of new forms.
Clauses 19 and 20 provide for the reintroduction of special licences and tests for drivers of heavy goods vehicles, which in this connection are all articulated vehicles and others of over three tons unladen weight. Provision for such a scheme, which operated before the 1939–45 war, already exists in the Road Traffic Act 1960, but the powers have been dormant. The Bill makes some amendment to the 1960 Act to give the Minister of Transport the necessary powers to modify the pre-war scheme so as to take proper account of the considerable changes which have taken place since the pre-war scheme came into being, certainly taking into account the increase in volume of traffic. The proposal to reintroduce these special licences and tests has been widely welcomed in the industry. The detailed requirements for tests, the qualifications for licences will be laid down by Minister's regulations, 296 and it is of course my right honourable friend's intention to discuss these fully with the appropriate authorities.
Clause 21 enlarges the existing powers of the Minister to provide and operate weighbridges or to contribute towards their provision. Consultations are already in progress with the associations of local authorities about the provision of the necessary machinery. The discussion has also been extended to the availability of public weighbridges, of which some areas are short although others are adequately served. Local authorities have the power under the Weights and Measures Act to provide public weighbridges, and this is a matter which the Government consider should be continued to be the responsibility of local public bodies, who are aware of the local needs and opportunities.
Clause 22 enables the Minister to provide and maintain the testing stations about which I have already spoken. The power is more extensive than that under Section 65(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1960. Under Clause 22 not only motor goods vehicles but also trailers may be tested, and plating and inspections for the purpose of removing prohibition orders may be carried out. Clause 23 provides the penalties for certain offences connected with the use of goods vehicles. Perhaps the most significant point is the increase from £50 to £200 for overloading offences and for the use of goods vehicles in breach of some of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations which have a particular bearing on safety.
Clause 24 contains miscellaneous provisions in connection with proceedings for offences under the Bill. In particular it creates certain good defences for an operator who is charged with overloading. I think I should stress that these good defences are not intended to be an incentive to overloading, nor do they represent in any way the type of unofficial tolerance that is allowed in some countries on the Continent. I think that is all I need say about Part II of the Bill. Clearly there are some aspects which we shall need to discuss in Committee.
I now turn to that Part of the Bill which I am quite sure will be the main subject of our debate, and it is for that reason I have left it to the end. I do 297 not think there is any doubt now of the direct association of drink with the hazard and danger of road accidents. At Christmas, 1966, 158 of our people were killed within five days, and some 2,000 seriously injured. On December 23, 26 drivers and riders were killed. We have now received the coroners' reports on 15 of those deaths. Eleven had been drinking; nine were found to have in excess of 150 mg. to 100 ml. of blood. The Road Research Laboratory examined all the accidents in the months of December, 1964, and January, 1965, and found that 44 per cent. had been drinking.
Our approach to this Bill is in no sense killjoy or puritanical. We believe it is right to protect the majority from the minority. The aim of Part I is to make sanctions against drinking and driving more effective. The existing legislation on drinking and driving is the Road Traffic Act 1960, Section 6, and the Road Traffic Act 1962, Section 1. Under these provisions it is an offence for a person to drive if his ability to do so properly is for the time being impaired by alcohol. The courts are required to have regard to the evidence of the concentration of alcohol in a person's bloodstream, but they have no guidance on the degree of impairment to be expected at different alcohol levels. In practice, they tend to judge impairment by the general behaviour of the accused or by his manner of driving. As a result, many of us think the courts are too lenient.
The evidence was set out in the White Paper presented to Parliament (Cmnd. 2859) which reports very extensive scientific studies of drinking and driving, of which the most important comes from the University of Indiana. This has been analysed by the Road Research Laboratory, and it corroborates work of their own and previous studies carried out in Canada and Czechoslovakia.
When a person has a drink of alcohol, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream almost immediately. The concentration of alcohol in the blood builds up quickly, and intoxication results from the action of alcohol in the blood on the brain. The concentration of alcohol in the blood is measured by milligrammes to millilitres. The evidence of the studies I have referred to is that a concentration 298 of 80 mg. to 100 ml. impairs the ability of almost every driver to drive properly.
With the law as it now stands, a driver will not be prosecuted unless his behaviour is visibly affected by alcohol: he must seem to be affected, first to the police constable, and then to a police doctor who conducts a clinical examination at the police station, or he will not be prosecuted. In practice, he will usually have a blood alcohol concentration of the order of 150 mg. to 100 ml. At this point his driving ability is grossly impaired. His accident risk is ten times as high as that of a normal driver.
Moreover, a high proportion of drivers with a high average alcohol concentration who are committed to quarter sessions for trial are acquitted. In the last quarter of 1964, in the Metropolitan Police District, one-third of the drivers committed for trial who had blood alcohol concentrations of over 200 mg. per 100 ml. were acquitted, and nearly half of those with concentrations between 150 mg. and 200 mg. to 100 ml. were acquitted. Thus a driver can be a serious accident risk but run little risk of prosecution, and certainly less of conviction. Therefore, we take the view that the present law is unsatisfactory.
§ LORD ROYLE
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would allow me to interrupt for a moment to ask him whether he happens to have the comparative figures so far as magistrates' courts are concerned as against trial by jury?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I have not those figures with me, but I think the noble Lord knows well that the person who is being prosecuted and prefers to go to quarter sessions, obviously stands a greater chance of getting off than before the magistrates.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, would my noble friend like me to give these figures? For 1965, the proportion of drivers charged with drunken driving who were acquitted by the higher courts was 43 per cent., and the proportion acquitted by the magistrates' courts was between 5 and 6 per cent.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friends. I 299 think noble Lords will wish to be satisfied that the criterion laid down in this Bill is fair and right. Both medical and accident studies indicate that driving ability is impaired as the concentration of alcohol in the blood, and so affecting the brain, increases. Therefore, the Bill provides for the concentration of alcohol in the blood to be established by a laboratory test, either directly by analysis of the blood, or indirectly by the analysis of a sample of urine. It is a common experience that different people, consuming the same amount of alcohol, can be affected to a different extent.
This fact has long been, and remains, a major argument against expressing a safe limit in terms of the number of drinks you can consume. But one major reason for this variation is that the same quantity of alcohol can give rise to different concentrations in the blood of different people. Some people absorb alcohol more quickly than others. Every one absorbs it less quickly on a full stomach than on an empty one. The period over which alcohol is consumed also makes a difference, but the blood alcohol concentration makes some allowance for individual variations in the effect of alcohol.
The Bill fixes the limit initially at 80 mg. per 100 ml. At this concentration nearly all drivers are impaired to such an extent that they are probably twice as likely to be involved in an accident. For some drivers the accident risk will not have increased so much but, on the other hand, some people will be affected to this extent well before their blood alcohol concentration reaches the prescribed level. I want to emphasise this point most strongly, because I think one should discourage anyone from thinking that the 80 mg. level is a licence to drink to that level. The level has been fixed here precisely because virtually all drivers are less safe, and it is right that above this level prosecution should follow.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I think it would make it a little clearer to us if he could describe what produces levels such as 80 mg. and so on. For example, what level would a single glass of sherry produce?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am sorry the noble Lord did not understand, 300 but I thought I said that it is highly dangerous, certainly from a Government point of view, and even from the point of view of the R.A.C. or A.A., to say that three sherries or three whiskies is safe to drink. The effect is different depending upon the size of the man, the age of the man, and many other factors. Therefore, I think we should cease talking about what is a safe limit. We are trying to find out how best we can advise the public, but at this stage we are standing firm on our belief that we should not talk in terms of what is a safe drink. Most drivers are somewhat less safe at 50 mg. than they normally would be, and some are less safe as low as 30 mg.
For this reason, the provisions of the Road Safety Act 1962 will remain in force. It will still be an offence to drive, or attempt to drive, while the ability to drive properly is for the time being impaired. We need to deal with two situations: with cases where there is a clear outward evidence of impairment at blood alcohol levels below 80 mg.; and there must also be taken into account the effect of a combination of drink and drugs which impairs a driver's ability.
Clause 1 defines the new offence which we are creating, and lays down the penalties. The offence consists of driving, attempting to drive, or being in charge of a motor vehicle with a higher blood alcohol concentration than the prescribed limit. The penalties, imprisonment and fines, are the same as those laid down for driving while impaired. This clause is the foundation of the Bill and I shall come back to it in a moment. Clause 2 deals with the powers of the police to carry out breath tests. These breath tests are laid down in order that a police constable can quickly and conveniently decide whether a driver is probably committing an offence or not. Clause 3 lays down the procedure for obtaining a specimen of blood or urine for a laboratory test which, unlike the results of the breath test, is to be used in evidence. We think it right to provide standard procedures for testing in these two clauses, in order to safeguard the interests of the driver. The courts will have to satisfy themselves that the specimens for testing have been properly taken and accurately analysed.
I should like to say something further about the procedures which the Bill lays down for establishing the driver's blood 301 alcohol concentration. Drivers may be required under Clause 2 to take a breath test if they are involved in an accident or if they have committed a traffic offence while the vehicle is in motion, or once they have been stopped by the police in the ordinary course of their duties if the police have reason to believe that they have been drinking, however little. It has been suggested that this is not enough. The argument is that the complete random tests are necessary if the law is to have its full deterrent effect. Only so, it is argued, would anyone who drank before driving know that, even if he showed no signs of being intoxicated and even if he did nothing to attract the attention of the police, there was a chance he might be picked up. It is argued, too, that no one need be under any suspicion while taking a test, so no one would mind what other people thought if they saw him being tested.
However, this Bill will succeed only if our social attitudes change. We want to create a climate of opinion in which drinking too much before driving will be socially unacceptable. This will not happen if many people regard the law as unfair, if offenders are thought to be unlucky rather than anti-social. We must secure and retain full public acceptance of the Bill and full public co-operation. Many people think that random tests hit below the belt. So it was decided that we should not insist on empowering the police to conduct tests at random. Nevertheless, the Bill retains important random elements. A driver who has been drinking still cannot be sure that he will not be tested on one account or another. At the same time, the Bill will concentrate tests on those most likely to be committing on offence under it. It will thus better use scarce police manpower and be even more effective.
I think noble Lords will agree that the requirement to take a breath test is not one that will be unreasonable in practice. If a driver refuses to take a breath test and the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that he has been drinking, he can be arrested and taken to a police station in the same way as a driver whose breath gives a positive reading when tested. At a police station the driver must be given a second opportunity to take a breath test. This deals 302 with the difficulty that the first test might give a false reading because of the mouth alcohol effect which is present for about 20 minutes after the last drink. If the second test also indicates that the driver is above the prescribed limit, he can be required to provide a specimen for laboratory test. I must emphasise that a charge under Clause 1 cannot be based on the result of a breath test. It can only be based on the result of a laboratory test. These clauses also provide for breath tests and specimens for laboratory test to be taken in a hospital.
There may be some noble Lords who feel that it is wrong to pursue injured drivers in this way, but drivers involved in accidents will not infrequently be injured themselves and be taken to hospital. It is not unknown for drivers either to feign or exaggerate their injuries in an attempt to avoid proceedings. It is not only an interference with justice but a considerable nuisance to the hospitals. However, the Bill contains this important safeguard—
§ LORD STRANGE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but could the noble Lord tell us whether the breath test amounts to a sniff by a policeman or a scientific test?
§ LORD STRANGE
The noble Lord has mentioned several times the breath test, and I want to know if it is just a matter of a policeman sniffing a man's breath and himself judging its alcohol content, or whether it is to be something more scientific.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I will help the noble Lord after the debate, by showing him one of the devices that is being used. It is far more scientific than a sniff.
However, the Bill contains important safeguards. The police must inform the doctor in charge of the case if they wish to make a test. If the doctor thinks the provision of a specimen, or even knowledge that the police want to take a test, could in any way prejudice the patient's health and treatment, he can prevent the police from taking the test. In any case at the hospital the specimen of blood will be taken by a police doctor and not by the doctor who is in charge of the case.
303 When required to provide a specimen for a laboratory test the driver will first be asked to provide a specimen of blood. Blood specimens will be taken by a police doctor and only with the consent of the driver. The development of new techniques of analysis, and also the fact that one only needs to take very small quantities of blood, for instance from the pricking of a finger, mean that this is relatively simple and easy. Should a driver be unwilling to provide a specimen of blood, he will then be invited instead to provide two specimens of urine within one hour. If he fails to do this, he must again be invited to provide a specimen of blood. Only if he refuses to provide a specimen of blood at this juncture, that is on the second request, will he become liable for prosecution for refusing to provide a specimen. He would then be liable to the same penalties as if the test had been carried out and the blood alcohol level had been shown to be above the prescribed limit. This provision may seem harsh, but it is clearly necessary to prevent wilful non-co-operation. I hope noble Lords will agree that we have provided safeguards which make this method satisfactory.
Clause 4 gives the police powers to detain a driver who has been required to give a specimen of blood or urine until his blood alcohol concentration is shown by a breath test to be below the prescribed limit. This is a discretionary power which the police will use only if a driver cannot get home except by driving himself and insists on driving away before he is fit to do so. Clause 6 concerns the Armed Forces. Noble Lords will understand that this is necessary if the Bill is to apply to Servicemen in the same way as it applies to civilians. Clause 7 is the definition clause for this Part of the Bill.
I must draw your Lordships' attention to subsection (1) of Clause 7 which lays down the criterion of blood alcohol concentration as 80 mg. to 100 ml. which present research evidence and the advice of the British Medical Council and the British Medical Association all suggest to be the right limit. There is a provision, however, for the Minister of Transport to lay down a different level by regulations should the existing prescribed limit prove unfair or unsatis- 304 factory. I should like briefly to return to Clause 1 which defines the new offence and its penalties, and Clause 5 which deals with disqualification. Clause 1 is the foundation of the Bill. As I have already indicated, the existing laws on drink and driving have serious weaknesses. It is because of these weaknesses that the Government decided to introduce a more precise, one might say more stringent, form of offence based on the results of considerable scientific investigation in several countries. Clause 1, however, preserves the long-established distinction between being in charge of a vehicle on the one hand and driving or attempting to drive it on the other. In practice, the police cannot always tell whether a man is actually the driver or if he is only in charge of the vehicle. It is important, therefore, that being in charge of the vehicle with more alcohol in the blood than the prescribed limit should be an offence. Nevertheless, being "in charge of a vehicle" is a very wide concept. The Road Traffic Act, 1960 by Section 6(2) provides a special defence so that a person prosecuted for being in charge of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol can secure an acquittal if he can prove that he had not driven since his ability to drive had become impaired, and that the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving so long as he remained impaired.
Subsection (3) of the clause gives the accused a less onerous burden of proof. He would have to prove only that the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving while his blood alcohol concentration exceeded the prescribed limit. Thus, if someone had driven with his blood alcohol in excess of the prescribed limit but stopped his car at a lay-by and took steps to get himself collected and taken home, he would then, though still in charge of the vehicle, have a chance. The fact that he has driven while his blood alcohol exceeded the limit will be overlooked. This is intended to encourage drivers to pull up if they have had too much to drink.
The penalties for the new offences are the same as those for the existing offences under Section 6(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1962. On summary conviction the maximum fine is £100 and the maximum prison sentence is four months; six months for a second offence. The 305 convicted man can suffer both fine and imprisonment. On indictment there is no limit to the fine, and the maximum periods of imprisonment are longer. In addition, under Clause 5 a person may be disqualified for the "in charge" offence and the court may disqualify a person from driving for twelve months, unless there are special reasons for the driving offence. I think it is accepted that disqualification is the main deterrent for offences of this kind.
I apologise for having spoken at some length. As the House will know, this Bill was introduced in the previous Parliament, and when my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport introduced it again in this Parliament she did so rather briefly. Therefore, I thought it right to set out in some detail the terms and the purposes of this Bill. I hope that the House will not only give this Bill a warm welcome but help us, if possible, to improve it. We shall be very willing to listen to any advice or any comment on strengthening and improving it. I hope we shall be able to pass this Bill rapidly, because I am quite sure that if it is on the Statute Book it should have a major effect on these terrible and tragic accidents on our roads. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Shepherd.)