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31 Mar 2003 : Column 738—continued

Sir Brian Mawhinney: I have listened carefully to the Minister. He understands, does he not, that he represents the Government? He can set the penalties, draw up the publicity and define those other activities. Also, he has told us that there would be a benefit in a reduction, although he will not quantify it, which is fine. Why is he unwilling to support a reduction?

Mr. Jamieson: Because the benefit is difficult to quantify. The benefits of other measures that we are taking on enforcement and advertising—in particular, the focus on those who are ignoring the drink-driving laws, who are mainly younger men, I am afraid to say—mean that it is better to expend our energy in that particular direction.

8 pm

There can be little doubt that the approach adopted by successive Governments—by the present Secretary of State, among others—involving powerful publicity backed by tougher penalties has reduced the number of casualties by about two thirds. Given that the amount of road traffic has doubled during the period involved, that means that, in terms of miles travelled, we now see about a sixth of the number of drink-driving casualties that we used to see. As I said earlier, that has given us one of the best safety records in the European Union, and indeed in the wider world.

It is encouraging to note the provisional results produced in 2001. They are the latest available figures. The number of people killed in drink-related road accidents had fallen from 530 to 480, and the number of people seriously injured had fallen from 2,540 to 2,410. Of course we recognise that there is a great deal more to be done.

I think that all of us, including the hon. Member for Bath, share the same ambition. We want to reduce the number of casualties on our roads, and to reduce the consequent misery. I think that the new clause is founded on good intention, but I fear that accepting it would lead to a further debate on whether we should reduce the penalty relating to 50 mg because it is too harsh, and whether we should come more into line with Europe. That would distract us from the important issue—for the issue should not be whether low alcohol should apply when people are driving, but whether no alcohol should apply.

I do not want our efforts, which have been very successful over a long period, to be wasted. I think that ours is the best approach: support for a strong deterrent and punishment, backed by the enforcement that operates in this country, along with education and research.

Mr. Don Foster: No speaker today has in any way denigrated the enormously good work that has been done to ensure that we retain our good record on drink-driving. All have acknowledged the tremendous efforts of the present Government and their officials, previous

31 Mar 2003 : Column 739

Governments and their officials, and many others. But none has denied the central truth that a lowering of the alcohol limit would save lives.

I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House who have supported the lowering of the limit. It is traditional to comment on the contribution of the Conservative spokesman, but fortunately I do not need to do so, as the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir Brian Mawhinney), on the basis of considerable experience, effectively answered the point made by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). She had argued that more consultation and debate were needed. He said that he hoped that the Minister would not involve us in more consultation, adding eloquently, "We know what the facts are"—and he is absolutely right.

The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) rightly pointed out that studies had been carried out for many years. He referred to the Grand Rapids study, which was conducted in 1962. All subsequent research has confirmed the basic findings of that study. He was also right to point out that we must tackle many other issues relating not just to speed but to drink-driving. We should promote the idea of a nominated driver, and the provision of a good range of reasonably priced non-alcoholic options.

The right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire said that we had reached a point at which—knowing the evidence, and knowing that if we accepted the new clause we could save lives—we must start discussing whether or not we were prepared to will the means. Normally I would agree with everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), but I am about to surprise and slightly disappoint him. He said that this was one of the occasions on which, without doubt, the House should lead, Parliament should lead and the Government should lead, expecting others to follow—echoing what one or two others had said. The implication was that majority public support for this move does not already exist, although all the evidence suggests that such support exists. Moreover, surveys of other European countries employing the lower limit show that some 77 per cent. of the public in those countries support it.

The Minister told us, as he did on another occasion, that we did not want harmonisation because some things that were done in those other countries were not as good as what we do here. He is partly right and partly wrong. If he wanted—although in fact I will not do it—I could go through the penalty regimes of each European country line by line, and show that ours is roughly the same as those of other countries. I could give the figures relating to public perception of enforcement, and demonstrate that a number of other countries believe that their enforcement regimes are stricter than ours, although some are less strict. I do not need to do that, because we all accept that measures in addition to limit-setting measures are important.

We need a decent advertising campaign, appropriate penalties and appropriate enforcement. We know that a lower limit, along with those measures, would save many lives. I must tell the Minister, however, that it will not be possible to provide for appropriate advertising, to set penalties or to determine what is the right enforcement without first deciding on the limit. The new clause, based on all the research carried out over so

31 Mar 2003 : Column 740

many years, suggests an appropriate limit. Notwithstanding what the Minister said, I genuinely believe that—in the words of the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Hopkins)—now is the time to press the Government a little harder.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 32, Noes 282.

Division No. 149
[8:07 pm


AYES


Allan, Richard
Beith, rh A. J.
Brake, Tom (Carshalton)
Breed, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gidley, Sandra
Hermon, Lady
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Keetch, Paul
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Lamb, Norman
Llwyd, Elfyn
Maude, rh Francis
Price, Adam (E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Pugh, Dr. John
Rendel, David
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Sanders, Adrian
Stunell, Andrew
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Wishart, Pete

Tellers for the Ayes:


Bob Russell and
Mrs. Annette L. Brooke


NOES


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, rh Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Burnside, David
Caborn, rh Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr. Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge & Chryston)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack (Copeland)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Darling, rh Alistair
David, Wayne
Davies, rh Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim (Heywood)
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Brian H.
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff (Barnsley E)
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings & Rye)
Gapes, Mike (Ilford S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hodge, Margaret
Hoon, rh Geoffrey
Hope, Phil (Corby)
Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford & Urmston)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, rh John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keen, Ann (Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S.
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green & Bow)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob (Derby N)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom (High Peak)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian (Wrexham)
Lyons, John (Strathkelvin)
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, rh Peter
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Marris, Rob (Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, rh Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Alan
Miliband, David
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moonie, Dr. Lewis
Moran, Margaret
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris (Gravesham)
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd (Portsmouth N)
Raynsford, rh Nick
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank (Motherwell)
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E & Lochaber)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark (Alyn)
Taylor, Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Wareing, Robert N.
Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike (Batley)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Nick Ainger and
Mr. John Heppell

Question accordingly negatived.

31 Mar 2003 : Column 742

New Clause 4

Rail freight facilities grants and track access grants


'Rail freight facilities grants and track access grants will be reinstated by the Secretary of State for the financial year 2003–04.'.—[Miss McIntosh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


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