HL Deb 19 December 2001 vol 630 cc339-41

8.52 p.m.

Lord Filkin rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order, if approved, will mean that anyone convicted of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs will be required to pass a driving test before being allowed back on the road.

Under Section 36(3) of the 1988 Act, the Secretary of State may by order prescribe other offences involving obligatory endorsement, so that in such cases there would be obligatory disqualification until an extended driving test had been passed. The proposed order, if approved, would extend that requirement to the offence of causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs—Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

Your Lordships should also be aware that there is an important consideration with regard to the timing of the order, should it be approved. Subsection (14) of Section 36 of the 1988 Act prevents the Secretary of State from making orders to prescribe further persons convicted of offences to which mandatory retesting should apply after 31st December 2001 if lie has not previously made any such orders. I can confirm that this is the first such order. It keeps open the opportunity for the Secretary of State to make further such orders in the future.

In my view the provisions of this instrument are compatible with the convention rights as defined in Section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998. I commend the order to the House and hope that noble Lords will feel able to give it their support. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th November be approved [11th Report from the Joint committee].—(Lord Filkin.)

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order. I have no problem with the order; in fact, I strongly support it. However, we know that a fleet driver training scheme—I refer to a commercial fleet—can reduce the accident rate by about 20 per cent.

I accept that it would be political suicide and also very expensive to introduce universal driver training schemes, for example a retraining scheme every five years for all drivers. However, we could make a start by introducing compulsory retraining for any motorist who has been convicted of careless driving or certain other motoring offences such as speeding. This issue was raised in the Government's road safety strategy paper but we do not appear to be making much progress on the matter. I should be interested to hear what action the Government propose to take.

Lord Filkin

My Lords, as I am sure the noble Earl is aware, the North committee first introduced the concept of compulsory retesting, which implies also some compulsory retraining as part of that. The order makes compulsory retesting an obligation for two reasons: first, if one has been disqualified and off the road for some time, by definition one loses practical experience and therefore there is a case for requiring retesting and the retraining that goes with it; and, secondly, to prevent the likelihood of a further dangerous situation arising—in other words, to protect the general public from the consequences of what appears to be a dangerous or negligent driver.

The Government will want to consider whether there are other situations when such circumstances might apply. I agree with the noble Earl that it would be inappropriate to apply compulsory retesting and retraining to everyone. However, there may well be further circumstances in which it would be appropriate. I give the assurance that although primary legislation would be needed to achieve that, we shall consider that principle.

Lord Bradshaw

My Lords, we support the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.