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9 Oct 2006 : Column 87

The Liberal Democrats, who tabled new clause 39, raised the question of mandatory disqualification. I believe that the new clause is among a number of amendments inspired by the insurance branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. I am happy to congratulate the Liberal Democrats on their interest in the matter and the work that they are doing. The views and constructive ideas of stakeholders are always welcome, and I can see the logic behind the proposal, but I simply do not accept it.

When the original provisions of clause 36 were made following the road traffic review—the so-called North report—it was decided that while mandatory retesting should apply to drivers who committed the most serious road traffic offences, such as dangerous driving and worse, it was less appropriate for drink-drivers, whose driving skills, it might be argued, were less in question than their judgment about drinking.

I remind the House that the vast majority of drink-drivers are disqualified for 12 to 18 months, during which time their driving skills may not diminish as much as those of drivers who are disqualified for longer. More recently, however, it has been considered that the worst drink-drivers who were disqualified for longer periods, such as two years or more, should be subject to a retest because of the length of time for which they were off the road. Clause 36 will enable that to be done by means of secondary legislation, but it will be subject to further consultation. I hope that, on that basis, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will not press his new clause.

Finally, let me deal with the issue of alcohol ignition interlocks, which feature in a number of amendments proposed, again, by the Royal Bank of Scotland. If I understand correctly, their purpose is to impose a wider application of alcohol interlock programmes by extending their availability to all drink-drivers, and to require courts to impose orders unless they believe that there is good reason for not doing so.

We currently want to target the most serious offenders, and certainly those who cannot stop themselves from reoffending. That is where we can expect both the incentive and the commitment to participate fully, and, of course, where we might expect to achieve the best accident risk reduction. There may be a case for a more widespread application, but it has yet to be made. Best practice advice based on research suggests that a period of interlock use of less than a year is not likely to provide a benefit, and for shorter periods the fixed costs of installation and training may make it less cost-effective.

As for making the scheme mandatory, I have some difficulty with the idea of courts’ imposing such cost burdens on drivers, some of whom would not have the financial means to undertake the programme. Such drivers might have to sell their cars to pay for it. The Department would welcome the opportunity to have further discussions with insurance companies about drink-driving and other aspects of road safety.

I remind Members that our proposal is modelled on the successful drink-drive rehabilitation programme introduced by the last Administration in the early 1990s and rolled out nationally by this Government in 2000. In making the decision to undertake the course at
9 Oct 2006 : Column 88
their own expense, offenders recognise the value of learning how to change their behaviour. We should be very cautious about deviating from an approach that has served us well so far. I hope that the House will reject those amendments as well.

Mr. Chope: We have had an excellent debate. The Minister’s was a classic “Yes, Minister” response. As a former transport Minister, I congratulate his civil servants on having taken to heart his brief, which was to try to find an objection to every possible solution.

Every Member recognises that there is a real problem that needs to be addressed. It is causing the loss of a great many lives on our roads, unnecessarily, every year. But the Minister has come up with a whole lot of trivial objections. For example, he says that we need to establish the correct level for illegal drugs, but why do we need a legal limit for illegal drugs? Surely any level of illegal drugs should be illegal and the law should deal with it. What sort of message does the Government’s talk on this matter send out to young people who may be tempted to get into the drugs scene?

7.30 pm

The Minister says that there is a large variability of effects for the same dose taken. Well, that is exactly the same argument that was used against the breathalyser law. Perhaps you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can drink 10 pints without it having any effect on you, whereas some colleagues might drink one pint and be paralytic. What are the Government doing in resorting to that old, failed argument?

From the way in which the Minister spoke about the difficulties of testing, anyone would think that we did not have drug testing in prisons, schools and in sport—all promoted by the Government. So why cannot we have drug testing at the roadside? That is what the new clause is about. My Front-Bench colleague was absolutely right to draw our attention to the statistics that show that the proportion of drivers detected and prosecuted for drug-driving in this country is far below that of other countries. That is not because we do not have drug-driving, but because the Government are not dealing with the problem.

I believe in joined-up government, but what we have had from the Minister is a silo mentality, whereby drugs issues are viewed as nothing to do with his Department. I would like to see his Department deal with drug taking and drug use alongside the Home Office. One way of achieving that would be to make it an offence for anyone to be at the wheel of a car with illegal substances in their body. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) for making it clear that the Opposition will support the new clause. I hope that many Government Members will join us, too.

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

The House divided: Ayes 164, Noes 290.
Division No. 296]
[7.31 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter

Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Mr. Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Hosie, Stewart
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa

Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Angela Watkinson and
Michael Fabricant

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bottomley, Peter
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith

Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Tami, Mark

Taylor, Ms Dari
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Michael Foster and
Mr. Frank Roy
Question accordingly negatived.
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9 Oct 2006 : Column 90

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9 Oct 2006 : Column 92

New Clause 12

Retro-reflective markings

‘In the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52), after section 80 (approval marks) insert—

“80A Retro-reflective markings

The Secretary of State shall, by 31st December 2007, by regulations made by statutory instrument require the fitting of retro-reflective tape complying with ECE 104 to international category vehicles N2 and N3 and on goods trailers under the international classification 03 and 04 newly registered in the United Kingdom.”.’.— [Mr. Drew.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Drew: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 21— Passenger-side mirrors on HGVs—

‘All vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, operating in the UK, must have a mirror positioned on the exterior of the vehicle on the passenger side, which enables the driver to have a full view of vehicles and other road users in the neighbouring lanes, when driving on all roads in the United Kingdom.’.

New clause 22— HGV audible warnings—

‘All HGVs with trailers, registered in the UK, shall, by 31st December 2007, be fitted with an audible warning system that shall sound if the driver exits the vehicle when the brakes are not applied.’.

New clause 27— Daytime running safety lights for motorcycles—

‘(1) All motorcycles used on a public highway shall continuously display a dipped headlight beam and a red light during daylight hours.

(2) Any motorcycle manufactured before 1st January 1973 shall be exempt from the provisions of this section.

(3) Any person riding on a motorcycle which is not displaying daytime running lights and which is not exempt under subsection (2) commits an offence punishable by a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.’.

Mr. Drew: It is with a feeling of déj vu that some of us will approach the new clause, which stands in my name and that of several other hon. Members. I make no apology for bringing the matter back on Report, given that currently we have an unsatisfactory situation.
9 Oct 2006 : Column 93
We were sure that the Government had seen some sense; with the Lords accepting the amendment, it seemed that the Government would let it ride.

There were arguments in Committee about whether this very minor change could be brought in at the earliest possible stage. I pay due regard to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), who tabled an amendment in Committee to ensure that this measure could be introduced as early as 2007. Not only did the Government not accept it, they voted against clause stand part, meaning that we had no opportunity to introduce this very minor but important amendment.

I will not speak for very long. I hope that the Government have rethought their position, but I want to deal with some of the canards relating to this very small change. The biggest stumbling block appears to be that if we made the change we would be outwith some marvellous EU ability to deal with the matter. However, it appears that the EU is likely to accept the placing of retro-reflective materials on the side of heavy goods vehicles. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East raised a point of order, as did the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson), to point out, in the nicest possible way, that what the Minister was saying was not the whole truth. Italy has passed the measure into law and the EU does not appear to be chasing Italy around. Italy does not seem to be having difficulties; it is to be congratulated on getting on with this minor but important change.

Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend is right. Italy did move on this matter, but there were objections to that not only from Great Britain, but from France and Germany. The European Commission is almost certainly—it has started the preliminary stages—about to begin infraction proceedings against Italy. As I have said repeatedly, no matter how strong the merits of retro-reflective tapes, we have to conform to ECE—United Nations Economic Commission for Europe— regulations. We cannot move ahead of those regulations without facing the same measures that Italy will face.

Mr. Drew: I am not sure that that helps, but it does put the matter into perspective. If we are to proceed at the speed of the slowest vehicle—in this case, the EU—we are all doomed. This is a simple measure and it makes sense to do it now to save lives. If the argument is that we must proceed at the speed of the EU, it is a crass abdication of responsibility. This should be introduced now.

David T.C. Davies: Does the hon. Gentleman agree therefore that slow moving and overloaded juggernauts should be removed from the legislative road as quickly as possible?

Mr. Drew: If only we had that power. I will stick to the retro-reflective tape, if the hon. Gentleman does not mind.

I wish to address other canards. It is argued that the measure would be too costly. All the research—including the Government’s research done by Loughborough university, for which I am grateful, because I have been pursuing the issue for more than two years—suggests that this is not a cost issue. The addition of £100 will not break the bank for those buying new vehicles worth £100,000.

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