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Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

Question agreed to.

15 Mar 2006 : Column 1573


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 83A(6) (Programme motions),

Question agreed to.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Will hon. Members leave the Chamber by all possible means if they are not staying for the rest of the proceedings?


Business Rates

7.32 pm

Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): This petition is from residents using Billericay high street, who are concerned that further above-inflationary increases in business rates are pushing up prices and will threaten some independent shops with closure.

To lie upon the Table.

Free Residential Care

7.35 pm

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend) (Lab): I wish to present the petition of Jean Weatheritt, a constituent of mine living in Oban court, Byker and others. The petition

To lie upon the Table.
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1574

Asylum Seekers

7.35 pm

Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester) (LD): I wish to present a petition from Winchester Voice for Refugees, which calls on the Government to allow asylum seekers whose claims have failed to work rather than just seeking benefits.

To lie upon the Table.

Pet Crematoria

7.36 pm

Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): I wish to present a petition signed by 3,868 people on behalf of the National Federation of Private Pet Crematoria, which opposes the classification, operation and licensing of pet crematoria as landfill sites.

To lie upon the Table.

Red Diesel Derogation

7.36 pm

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of those calling for derogation for red diesel, signed by 1,015 narrow boat owners. A further 3,000 people asked to be associated with it. I pay particular tribute to the work of John "Stokie" Chard, who collected many of the signatures.

To lie upon the Table.
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1575

Older Drivers

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Alan Campbell.]

7.38 pm

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Many issues that Members bring to Parliament arise from constituency work, and this is one of them.

Three-year-old Amicie Onyema Nwokeochar was on the footpath outside a chip shop in Highfield road in my constituency at lunchtime on 15 November 2003 when a car mounted the pavement and ploughed into the chip shop. Tragically, Amicie died within one hour of being admitted to hospital as a result of massive chest trauma following a collision with the car. Amicie lived in the constituency of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), but he regularly visited his grandma Mrs. Carol Brooks, who lives just around the corner from the chip shop.

The car was driven by a man within a few weeks of his 90th birthday, who started driving before a driving test became compulsory under the Road Traffic Act 1934. He claimed that he had pressed the accelerator of his Honda Concerto car instead of the brake while parking. The driver was convicted on 27 May 2004 of driving without due care and attention, fined £1,000 and banned from driving for two years. A police officer who gave evidence in the coroner's court, which recorded a verdict of accidental death, said that the accident was probably aggravated by the medical condition of the elderly driver, who surrendered his licence voluntarily to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.

Due to an ongoing heart condition, the driver was unable to attend the coroner's court, so the coroner could not cross-examine him. There is a requirement that all those who have attained the age of 70 submit themselves for a medical examination every three years. Form D45, which is sent out automatically by the DVLA, contains questions about a driver's health. If the DVLA is told of any conditions, it may require that medical evidence be provided before a licence is renewed. However, that is not a rigorous test of ability to drive and Amicie's grandmother, Mrs. Carol Brooks, and the family's solicitor, Mr. Tim Woods of Carl Chapman & Co, whose offices are in my constituency, have requested that I campaign for compulsory cognitive tests to be brought in for older drivers. They believe that, at the very least, form D45 should be completed in the presence of a general practitioner who has known the driver for at least three years, and that the form should include a section enabling the GP to give a statement on the driver's ability to drive. In their opinion, evidence of a recent eyesight test should also be presented to the DVLA.

Mrs. Brooks and Mr. Woods believe that a person's ability to control the car that they actually drive should also be tested in some way. On 25 October 2005, The Times reported that too many older drivers in Torquay, a well-known retirement town, were hitting the accelerator rather than the brake and thereby causing accidents. Police Constable Chris Lancaster, Torbay's road safety officer, recommends that older drivers enrol on a roadfit scheme, which allows participants to take
15 Mar 2006 : Column 1576
part in a one-hour observed driving exercise to check their ability to drive. I am not sure whether this is a local or national scheme, but it sounds like a good idea to me.

Two million people aged 70 or over now hold a driving licence, and that figure is likely to rise to 4.5 million by 2015. The biggest increase in older active licence-holders has been among older women. Between 1965 and 1985, there was a 200 per cent. increase in male drivers aged over 65, but a 600 per cent. increase in female drivers over that age. In 2004, 550 car accidents out of a total of 7,035 involving drivers aged over 70—about 8 per cent.—resulted in the driver being killed or seriously injured. Despite an increase in the number of older drivers, between 1979 and 1996 there was a significant fall—from 10 per cent. to 4.6 per cent.—in the number of male casualties aged 60 to 69. The number of male casualties aged 70 to 79 has also fallen, but there has been a modest increase in the number aged 80 or over.

Older drivers drive less than those in other age groups. The rate of motor vehicle crashes per mile driven is higher for the 70-plus age group than for middle-aged drivers, but only after the age of 85 does it reach or surpass the rate for younger drivers. However, older people are, unsurprisingly, over-represented in accidents involving death because of their increased frailty. They drive more slowly than other drivers and they cannot handle traffic conflict situations very well. The 60 to 69-year-old age group have a higher percentage of accidents at junctions in both rural and urban settings. They drive less at night due to deteriorating eyesight, and they have to be closer to signs to be able to read them.

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