HL Deb 31 October 1988 vol 501 cc60-72

6.33 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 24th October be approved [35th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this order is to increase the penalty points for four road traffic offences. These offences are: careless or inconsiderate driving; failure to stop after an accident; failing to give particulars or report an accident; and driving without insurance against third party risks. The order would come into effect on 1st March 1989.

The increases arise from recommendations in the report of the road traffic law review known as the North Report. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced our intention to make these changes when he reported progress in our consideration of the report in a Written Answer on 26th July. The order, if approved, will increase both the lower and the upper ranges for the offence of careless driving from 2 to 5 points to a new range of 3 to 9 points. This reflects the North conclusion that a case which is not serious enough to merit 3 points should be dealt with by a police warning, and that a higher maximum is appropriate for some of the worst cases of careless driving.

Failure to stop after an accident and failure to report an accident at present carry penalty points in the ranges 5 to 9 points and 4 to 9 points respectively. The order provides for each to be raised to a new range of 8 to 10 points. These are serious offences. Regrettably they are on the increase, often because drivers are seeking to escape from the scene of an accident before a breath test can be administered. This not only hinders police investigations and makes it harder for victims to pursue civil claims for damage; at its worst it can also cost lives.

Finally, the order provides for the penalty points for driving without insurance to be changed from 4 to 8 to 6 to 8 points. This too is intended to mark the serious nature of the offence and the importance of providing financial protection for other road users in the event of an accident. Deaths from road accidents were over 5,000 in 1987, and the total number of casualties was 300,000. The costs to the nation of these casualties is now some £4,000 million. The grief and suffering that they cause are immeasurable.

The North Report was published on 12th April and it is a mark of the importance we attach to it that we felt it right to come to an early decision on these penalty point changes and to seek to implement them as quickly as possible. This reflects our desire to press ahead with the recommendations wherever they appear to provide a practicable way of improving the contribution which road traffc law makes to our efforts to reduce the heavy toll of road accident casualties.

These casualty figures are falling, but to reach our target of reducing all casualties by one-third by the year 2,000, we need to use all the measures available to us. The increase in penalty points for these offences may appear small in comparison to the magnitude of the task, but they are important. We believe they will help to make drivers more conscious of their behaviour on the road.

The changes which we are proposing today are only part of the story. As I said earlier, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced our initial views of the North Report only three months after its publication. We are now considering the views of other organisations and individuals, and we aim to announce our final conclusions on the report as a whole early in the new year. In the meantime, I commend the order now before your Lordships as an important first step in implementing the report.

Moved, that the order laid before the House on 24th October be approved [35th Report from the Joint Committee]—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for explaining this order and putting it forward in such a simple manner. Though he has done that, I have a number of comments and criticisms. Perhaps I may make it quite clear at the outset that this is not a party political matter at all. I am certain that my noble friends on these Benches welcome any proposals which are directed towards road safety and increase the points and other penalties where there are serious offences and the increases are thoroughly justified.

The noble Lord referred to the North Report, which naturally I have read. I found it extremely readable and a very valuable document. I am certain that it would have been helpful to Parliament as a whole if the total of 137 recommendations in the report had been considered in a general debate along with the Government's proposals before they moved on this matter. Why rush ahead with these four proposals? There are 137 serious recommendations in the North Report.

In a debate in the other place on three Bills on road traffic passed from your Lordships' House the Solicitor General said that if this order was approved these points would be included in a consolidation Bill. When the Government have made their final decisions on the North Report and we have a major Bill, surely we will need consolidation again. We must keep in mind that we cannot amend an order. Further, the opposition does not oppose an order that has been approved by the other place. At this stage I do not know whether the order has been approved by the other place because it is down for discussion there today. Our general policy is not to oppose an order for those reasons.

As the Minister has said, the review report was presented in April but I must emphasise that interested bodies were asked to submit views by the end of September. Yet here we are in October, with an order covering 4 points and an announcement to the effect that this order was to be put forward by the Solicitor-General on 25th July. Further, in a very lengthy written Statement by the Secretary of State on 26th July—and I am referring to the Official Report of the other place of 26th July at cols. 163–166—he actually announced the acceptance of a number of recommendations contained in the North Report, and not just these four. He also stated that these four proposals would be dealt with by means of an order. It seems wrong that we should have a consultation period closing at the end of September and yet have announcements made on 25th and 26th July about the North Report, just before we rose for the Summer Recess.

I should like to make a few brief comments on the four proposals. First, there is the proposal which deals with careless or inconsiderate driving. In this case the Government have accepted the recommendation from the North Report that the present range of 2–5 points be replaced by 3–9 points. I noticed that in paragraph 20 of the report a conclusion was that a mixture of general and specific bad driving be retained. I would point out that the extension of the upper limit to nine points is only one point less than the 10 points for reckless driving. The North Report goes into great detail in one or two chapters on the question of reckless driving, inconsiderate driving and bad driving. Therefore there is a case for a wide range of points, and I would suggest that there is a case for retention of the lower two points for the less serious cases.

As the Minister has said, the North Report urged that so far as possible warnings should be given instead of prosecutions and that as many verbal warnings as possible should be given by the roadside. Therefore I would argue that there is a case for retaining the lower figure of 2 penalty points, rather than changing it to 3.

Then we come to proposals (b) and (c) of the order: failure to stop after an accident and failure to give particulars or report. Here the Government have not accepted the North recommendations because the committee recommended that this offence should carry 10 penalty points in all cases and that the Magistrates' Association should review its guidance on the use of disqualification for these offences. There may be cases so serious that 10 penalty points are justified and where disqualification may be justified; but the North Report recommended that all cases should carry 10 penalty points.

I suggest that that would be extremely draconian and I am pleased to see that in this case the Government have not followed that recommendation. However, what they have done is to change to 8 to 10 points in all these cases. I would ask: why increase the 8 points? Why should we change the lower figures of 5 and 4 points respectively to 8 points? There is room for giving a wider range; that is, reducing the lower level to give this wider range so as to take account of many less serious cases, and even trivial ones.

May I, without taking up too much time, cite an actual case of which I have detailed personal knowledge? I may say that I am not the individual concerned. A driver was asked to go to a police station and present his documents. When he went he was told it had been reported that he had reversed into another car and gone off without making a report about the accident. The driver concerned said that he knew nothing whatever about this case. On looking at the car, the police could just find a small quarter-inch square chipping on his car. The driver—he is a lad of 19—was told "Don't worry: I do not think you will hear any more about it". But he did. He was prosecuted, and at the magistrates' court he was given 9 penalty points and fined £150 plus £90 costs. It was felt by some that this was a miscarriage of justice and the driver was persuaded to go to appeal. When the appeal was heard in the county court the judge summarily dismissed the case. He upheld the appeal completely and expunged the 9 points, the fine and the costs award.

That was a technical case. This is one of those cases that should be dealt with by the lowest possible number of points, if any points at all are in fact to be given, and not 9 points, as in the case I have mentioned. The only unfortunate thing about it is that the driver concerned is still left with legal costs of £250 for the solicitor he engaged for the first hearing in the magistrates' court. This case is one in which I can personally vouch for the details, and I checked them again last night to make sure that my facts were correct.

Proposal (d) refers to driving without insurance against third party risks. I agree completely with the North Report and with the Minister that this is a most serious offence. In fact, of the very few cases in which I have appeared on a jury the very first one concerned a case of failure to insure. The individual concerned had done this on two occasions and he was sent down for six months, which I thought was thoroughly justified. However, the North Report recommended that there should be a fixed number of points: 6 in all cases.

I suggest that that would be undesirable. There should be a range of points to meet varying circumstances, even up to 10 points, if necessary, to take account of what are really technical offences. However, the Government have not accepted the North Report's recommendation of 6 penalty points in all cases but they have changed the present range from 4 to 8 points to 6 to 8 points. Surely there are technical cases of which your Lordships may be aware or which may have occurred to your Lordships yourselves. For example, what about the position during the month's postal strike when renewal notices arrived some time afterwards? What about the position during an illness when one has not the opportunity to look at the renewal notices? What about the position when one is on holiday? It is a fact that some insurance companies give very short notice of renewal. I wonder how many of your Lordships could tell me the date on which their motor insurance will expire. I could not give my own date: I know the month but not the actual date.

Therefore there are technical cases and the North Committee Report recommended that in general no technical cases should be taken to court. Also we had the statement from the police that there is no desire to prosecute in respect of technical offences. I believe that there ought to be a wide range for these offences in respect of failure to have a current renewal of insurance, bearing in mind that there are these technicalities to which I have referred.

On the other hand, there are very serious cases which not only justify 10 penalty points but, in my opinion, even disqualification. I mentioned the case when I was on the jury in which the man was sent down. Therefore even though I recognise the Government's underlying purpose, I think these criticisms and comments justify the case I made right at the outset, that it would have been preferable if the whole of the North Report and the Government's response to it had been the subject of a full debate before the Government made any move at all.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I too am grateful to the Minister for introducing the order so clearly. However, like the noble Lord from the Labour Party Front Bench, I also have some qualifications—most of which, I must say, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has dealt with. Perhaps I may just underline one or two of the matters he raised.

I think that the question of consultation is something which the Government are at fault on here. Many noble Lords will have received a brief from the RAC today. Not of all of us swallow everything that the RAC says and briefs to us, when it comes to road matters, without a pinch of salt. Nevertheless the RAC must have the opportunity to make its case before such orders are laid.

It is quite clear that in this case the whole process was very truncated and before the RAC and many other people were able to put their views to the Government, the order had been laid. Therefore that cannot be considered to be a matter of consultation. Clearly the matters before us are serious motoring offences in most cases and deserve to be dealt with severely.

On the issue of careless driving, I was interested to hear the noble Lord say that they were increasing the range to 3 to 9 points, instead of 2 to 5 points, and that below 3 points people would be subject to a police warning. That I think bears on what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said. It ought to be set in a much wider context. If we say that below 3 points people ought to have a police warning, then we ought to be looking at the whole system because surely that cannot apply only to these offences; it must apply across a wider spectrum.

On the question of failing to stop or report an accident, that is clearly a most serious offence. I do not think that anyone would quibble with that. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, pointed out— quite dramatically—in the case to which he referred, there can be technicalities even in what appears to be an open-and-shut and serious offence. In my view the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is quite right to criticise the Government for rather rushing into this decision.

As regards the North recommendation on driving without insurance and, indeed, on all those cases where a fixed number of penalty points is to be administered, I believe that that is a mistake. We must leave discretion to our magistrates' courts. Parliament may well have to indicate to the magistrates' courts, and others, how serious it feels an offence might be. But to force courts into a position where there is really only one penalty that they can administer, especially in relation to driving offences, is a serious mistake. In most cases there should be the opportunity for matters to be varied; while, at the same time, not allowing the courts to underestimate the seriousness of the offences with which they are dealing.

Generally speaking, I support everything that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said. I ask the Government to take care that they do not bring the whole system into disrepute by bringing in such piecemeal orders. If we are to make changes, they ought to be set in a much broader context. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, we should have a general debate on the whole question. I do not pretend for a minute that the level of penalties, or the shape of the whole matter, is necessarily something which cannot be changed; we are to a certain degree experimenting with the whole system, and I believe it is a good system. However, let us not push everything up to the top end too quickly because if we do I seriously believe that we may bring the whole system into disrepute.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I think it would be proper if I were to remind your Lordships that I am a member of the Public Policy Committee of the RAC. However, having said that, I think that your Lordships will recall that long before I joined the committee I took an interest in such matters.

At the outset perhaps I may say that I believe, because I cannot dissent from anything that the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Underhill, have said, I might accuse my noble friend and his right honourable friend of driving this order through without due care and attention.

It seems to me inconceivable that out of the 135 North recommendations these few should be picked up in July, as it seems to be; whereas other penalty point suggestions made by the North Report have been totally disregarded. These are somewhat less important. For example, the North Report says that the penalty points as regards carrying a pillion passenger illegally, which currently carries a 1 point penalty, should be abolished. For speeding the report suggests that the 3 point fixed penalty should be retained, but that an additional 3 to 6 point penalty range should be added for court cases. Yet we hear nothing of this where so frequently speeding— not that I necessarily agree—is reputed to be the cause of so many serious accidents.

In my view, not carrying insurance does not increase the likelihood of an accident taking place. Yet my noble friend says—emotionally, if I may say so—that the regulations he has put before your Lordships tonight will make a great contribution to road safety. I do not know that I agree that it will make a great contribution because we have significantly failed to apprehend those who drive without any insurance; without any road fund tax and without any MoT. Therefore increasing the penalties for what may in many instances be a technical offence, such as not having insurance, does not seem to me to add to the great cause of road safety.

On the question of consultation, I am given to understand—if I am wrong I hope that my noble friend will correct me—that the Magistrates' Association have not yet put forward their formal response to the North Report. I am further advised that in the case of offences of failing to give particulars or report an accident, magistrates have generally taken the view that the lower in the range of 4 to 9 penalty points, that is 4 points, should be the punishment.

Therefore it seems to me that the Government have picked upon what are perhaps somewhat emotional, somewhat easily recognisable, offences to give credence to their consideration for road safety; their consideration of the North Report; and that they have rushed into this set of regulations.

Like both noble Lords who have spoken, I am bitterly disappointed that decisions should be taken before all consultation has taken place. With my little knowledge of the Department of Transport, and with the best will in the world, I cannot conceive that three weeks between the end of the consultation period—that is, the end of September—and the laying of the order some 10 days or a week ago is sufficient for the department to give proper consideration to all these matters.

I should really like the noble Lord to take the regulations away and discuss the whole range of the penalty point system against the background of the North Report. Let both Houses of Parliament give their consideration to that area and accommodate it in a consolidation Bill at some time—which cannot be more than a year or 18 months away. Or, alternatively, allow Parliament to debate the whole of the North Report to see what Parliament has to say against the background of the consultations and then come forward with the regulations.

I cannot say that I am happy about any of the regulations. There is a 10 point penalty for reckless driving. The penalty points for careless or inconsiderate driving rise from the bottom of the floor, 3, to 1 point below. That cannot be sensible. It cannot illustrate the seriousness of reckless driving to the driver. He will say, "It is just a point above inconsiderate". A good lawyer can argue that the driving was inconsiderate; another will say that it was reckless. Who wins? The lawyer. The law and the motorist will not win; nor will the poor victim. I am sorry that my noble friend and his right honourable friend have chosen this way at this time to bring forward the regulations.

7 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, these orders are normally non-contentious and minor and go through on the nod. That cannot be said of this order. The noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Underhill, have said it all. I shall not waste your Lordships' time by repeating what they said. However, I shall take up the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, of the young lad who had a slight bump. Anyone who goes shopping at the weekend and who parks in a multi-storey car park may find that he has just touched another car or may find when he gets home that another car has touched his. If every time one touches a car when parking or driving one has to run off to the police to report the fact, the police will be inundated. They could not deal with all the cases. They have enough to do at the moment dealing with serious crime.

If the order goes through one may touch another car. Although the damage cannot be seen, someone might have reported the accident and one therefore has to go around to the local nick and say, "I touched this car". It is inconceivable that the order should be accepted. I agree with previous speakers. To choose just four out of the 130 recommendations of the North Report is silly. I too should like to see a full debate on the whole of this important subject.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for introducing the order although I am afraid that I cannot welcome it. Very little of the North Report was welcomed by anyone. Much of it met with wide opposition throughout the country. The order was ordered to be printed only last Tuesday. I agree with other noble Lords who have said that the intervening two sitting days did not provide enough time for those of us who are interested to contact outside organisations to hear their views so that we can perhaps speak for them in your Lordships' Chamber as we are entitled to do.

I have spoken to the RAC and the Magistrates' Association today. They are upset that the order should come before the House before the completion of the consultation period. Both organisations feel that the Secretary of State's objective, to allow the courts to deal more effectively with the serious cases may be necessary, but they feel that there is no need to raise the upper as well as the lower limit of the points range.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned careless driving. I shall try to truncate my few words because all noble Lords have said what I wanted to say. As the noble Lord said, there must be a greater differential between careless and reckless driving. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, pointed out that the Government's idea is that there should be a police warning if the penalty is below 3 points. At what stage will it be decided to give a police warning? A defendant has to go to court to be assessed. One has to be found guilty before the points are assessed. That is obviously too late for a police warning to be given.

The Crown Prosecution Service comes in here. I do not think much of it. It frequently fails to recognise the problems on the roads. I sometimes feel that its members sit behind their little desks and have never been on the roads. I am certain none of them has been a magistrate.

I was pleased to see that the Government did not agree with the North Report which wanted 10 fixed points for failing to stop. That is right. I still believe that a maximum of 10 is far too high for failing to stop as it is for failing to report.

Driving without insurance is serious. It can be serious for other people on the road whose car might have been involved in an accident. The Government want to increase the penalty points from 4 to 8 to 6 to 8. On the whole I agree with that. However, I disagree with the whole principle of bringing the order before us tonight. I agree with other noble Lords. I too had been waiting for an opportunity to speak on the North Report, but we have had no opportunity to do so in this Session. That is a grave mistake.

The Government either welcome the North Report or they do not. They seem to have welcomed just four parts of a lengthy report. I am unhappy about the order. Although I do not sit as a magistrate at the moment because I have moved house, I have had many years' experience of dealing with such cases. I do not believe that upping the penalty points will save any lives. I doubt whether it will stop any accidents. I am afraid that I cannot possibly welcome the order.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I strongly support the powerful criticisms of the Government's actions made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and all other noble Lords who have spoken from all quarters of the House. Like the noble Lords, Lord Tordoff and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I wonder whether the Minister will explain why responsible organisations such as the RAC were not properly consulted before the order was introduced.

Following the interesting case cited by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, perhaps I too may ask for clarification of one point with regard to disqualification. Let us suppose that on a dark and stormy night a motorist thinks that he might have scraped against the brick or stone wall of someone's garden causing damage to the tune of £5 or £10; not to another car, but to what one might call static property, in other words, the wall. He cannot be certain because he does not have a torch in his car and he does not wish to reverse his car along a narrow and perhaps busy road in the middle of a thunderstorm. In the event that the wall is damaged, does that count in law as failing to stop after an accident? If so, is it right that the motorist should receive 10 penalty points for what most people would consider to be a trivial offence?

Earl Fortescue

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for explaining the order to us, although I cannot entirely agree with it. I agree with almost everything which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said. It is a pity that the order has been put through at such short notice in such a piecemeal way. As regards the number of points for each offence, I do not think one need worry at all about the maximum, either as the points stand now or as proposed in the new order. For any of the offences mentioned, the courts have power to disqualify in each case if they consider it a particularly serious matter or for any other reason such as the driver's previous record.

I am concerned about the minimum number of points suggested, in particular in the case of failing to stop after an accident. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, gave a perfect example of a very minor bump which does not warrant a minimum of 5 or a maximum of 9 points for failing to stop. As one noble Lord said, it happens frequently that one just touches another car without knowing it, getting in and out of a confined space in a car park.

Again, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. There are technical reasons where driving uninsured is not such a serious offence. In many cases of which I have experience insurance companies are very slow in sending out renewal notices. Several times I have been technically uninsured for a matter of days or even a week or two. Having said that, I think there are many other offences which should be covered and which are not mentioned in the order.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we have had an interesting debate on the order. I should like to thank noble Lords for the thoughtful contributions that they have made. I find it heartening that there is this growing interest in road safety matters. That concern is reflected by many others outside the House. The general public is increasingly concerned about the need to ensure good driving behaviour on the roads and a responsible attitude and consideration for other road users, particularly the most vulnerable groups—pedestrians and children.

Perhaps I may attempt to answer some of the criticisms that have been made. A number of noble Lords have said that we are rushing this through. We announced at the end of July that we intended to deal with this matter in the autumn. The autumn is fast coming to an end. Penalty points are kept under constant review and it is for the Government to make such decisions as and when appropriate. We have looked at the proposals again in the light of responses and there has been quite a long time for the interested parties to respond to our proposals. I may say that the majority support the Government's decision. Indeed, it has been widely welcomed. We are therefore proceeding as planned so that the benefits can be achieved quickly.

The more far-reaching recommendation to extend the maximum penalty for failure to stop to include a term of imprisonment is still being considered as part of the total North package on which decisions will be announced in the new year. Far be it from me to pre-empt the usual channels, but if the House wishes to debate the matter I am sure that then would be the appropriate time to do it.

As to specific offences covered in the order—careless driving for one—I know that the RAC felt, as has been explained to us this evening, that 2 points should he retained as the minimum and 9 was too high for the maximum. However, the majority of other commentators agreed with the new range. Some—mainly pedestrians' associations— argued for up to 11 points maximum because the difficulty of successfully prosecuting reckless driving means that serious cases are dealt with as careless.

The reformulation of the reckless offence which the Government have agreed in principle should help to avoid this. We did not want to keep the lower figure of 2 points, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in particular requested. A police warning is intended for use instead of a court appearance. The intention is that it should be used in cases where a penalty of 2 points might be awarded now.

The points for failure to stop or report drew the most comment; it was an area that attracted conflicting views. Most commentators disagreed with the North recommendation—a fixed number of 10 points—and noble Lords this evening have echoed that disagreement on the whole. We therefore allowed a range of 8 to 10 points in order to permit some flexibility. Others, I may say, would have preferred a fixed number of points so that there would not be any likelihood of variation between different magistrates' courts.

Some commentators, as well as noble Lords, were worried that this takes no account of offences where the driver, for instance, of a large vehicle may be unaware that a minor accident has occurred. The police and prosecution services are well used under existing arrangements to exercising discretion as to whether or not to prosecute in cases where the driver may be unaware of the accident. North's recommendation that the police should make greater use of warnings will of course also apply to such cases.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I am most grateful. When he says that the police and prosecution service are well aware and exercise discretion, it seems to me that that is perfectly true. However, in doing what they have done, the Government may be increasing the power of discretion of the police and diminishing the power of discretion of the magistrates' court. It seems to me that that is the wrong way round.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Lord is entitled to his view. We have had a debate on this subject. What we cannot do is to reduce the penalty for such a serious offence in order to deal with exceptions to the general rule. These should be dealt with by warnings, if appropriate.

As regards driving while uninsured, most commentators favour retaining a range to deal with the varying circumstances of the offence. The Government have acknowledged this and have marked the nature of the offences by starting the range at a higher maximum—that is 6 instead of 4—and keeping the current maximum of 8 points. Technical offences would be dealt with by a warning or a formal caution by the police. We have to be careful here because the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, cited a case and mentioned for instance the postal strike. However, I am afraid that the "cheque in the post" excuse is often used by people who have no intention of taking out any insurance at all. So we obviously have to be very careful of that sort of situation.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? If it is a really serious offence, why limit the penalty to 8 points? Why not go up to 10 points, as the Government have done in other cases?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, obviously there is the possibility of something other than points if it is really serious. There could be something worse.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, made one point which I think I should answer on the failure to stop and report. It was that nobody was going to be bothered to report to the police for a minor accident of some sort. It is not necessary to report to the police in a case where nobody is injured where two cars collide. That need not be reported to the police; the drivers only have to exchange names and addresses. Presumably in the case quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, the motorist would have to try and find out who was the owner of the wall which he hit. It is not as severe as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, implied.

The Government's objective is to make road traffic law fair and to maximise the contribution which the law makes to road safety. We certainly do not want to persecute the ordinary motorist who makes a minor error. We accept North's view that such cases are best dealt with by a warning. But we want to hit hard the bad driver, the drunk driver and the anti-social driver who seeks to evade responsibility for his actions. Therefore, I ask noble Lords to give their support to the measures before them today as a further step in the direction of reducing road accident casualties and improving our road safety record.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, did I understand him to say that we are to discuss more of these points in the New Year? I should like to know that because perhaps the noble Lord would then agree that we should discuss them all together—this order and other orders—in the New Year.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, what I said was made very clear by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State when he made his announcement on the North Report at the end of July. I do not know whether my noble friend has managed to read all of that very long report. It deals with a whole range of issues apart from the one we have dealt with this evening. As I said in my opening remarks, we hope to have our consideration of all of the other measures in the North Report early in the New Year. I did not promise a debate on the issue, but if we were to have a debate I should have thought that was the time to have it.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

My Lords, the Question is that this Motion be agreed to. As many of that opinion will say, "Content". To the contrary, "Not-Content".

Noble Lords


The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I think the Contents have it. Clear the Bar.

Division called.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I understand that Tellers for the Contents have not been appointed pursuant to Standing Order No. 51. A Division therefore cannot take place, and in accordance with Standing Order No. 54, which provides that no proposal to reject subordinate legislation should be agreed to unless there is a majority in favour of such a rejection, I declare the Motion agreed to.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I think the Deputy Speaker said that Tellers for the Contents had not been appointed. It should have been Tellers for the Not-Contents.

The Deputy Speaker

My Lords, I accept the criticism.