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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, it is true that the Commission puts the cost over the period 1995-97 at about 9 million ecus. One million of that will be for the central collection work; the other 8 million will be for those countries identified rightly by the noble Lord as having poorly developed collection systems. I am sure that the noble Lord will be glad to hear that the process has already led to countries with less developed statistical systems significantly increasing the value of the GNP base on which their fourth resources contributions are calculated. So we are already seeing some progress from those countries with systems which are not so well developed improving to the level of the best.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that most of us, while supporting the generality of the desirability of some standardised figures and some standardised way of going about it, may look at the cost and hope for a wing and a prayer?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I must say that the noble Lord seldom flies on a wing and a prayer on the subject of Europe. I simply re-emphasise one of the points that he continually makes, that some countries are not very good at looking after their money or that of other people. I should have thought that better statistical information would help that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, we have no plans to introduce specific legislation on the use of telephones while driving. We believe that the offences of "failure to exercise proper control of a vehicle" and "careless driving" provide sufficient powers of prosecution.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that I find his Answer rather disappointing? Has he been on a motorway (I am sure that he has) and seen a driver who is quite obviously concentrating on the telephone rather than the driving tearing past at over 80 miles an hour with just one hand on the wheel and the other holding a telephone? Has the Minister seen cars whose drivers are using the telephone come up so close behind him that he almost has a heart attack? Does he agree that people cannot be mentally and physically in charge of their cars while they are concentrating on talking to other people on the telephone? Does he agree that the only way forcibly to make people aware of the danger is to create a specific offence? I hope that he will do so.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the noble Lord has already listed a specific offence which in his example had been; namely, that of speeding. That committee illustrates that having a specific offence is not necessarily the catch-all. The Association of Chief Police Officers agrees with the Government's view that under the offences that I listed there are sufficient powers to prosecute. If the police feel that a motorist is driving dangerously, or is abusing a situation and is not able to control his vehicle properly, they will prosecute him.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right about the provisions that we have included in The Highway Code. However, as regards prosecution, the two offences that I have listed are the means that the police can use if they feel it necessary.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, there are many other statements in The Highway Code that are put forward as advice but for which there are not specific offences. There are many other things that can be done in a car with one hand which do not come under the category of specific offences
Viscount Goschen: such as perhaps operating a tape-recorder or indeed taking a drink. These are not specific offences. We certainly condemn the practice of using a hand-held telephone. I agree with the noble Lord that using a hands-free set is preferable, although indeed that too can be distracting.
Viscount Goschen: No, my Lords, I am not able to give that figure. We should have to go back through all the court records to determine that information. That would not logically be possible or indeed practical. The important point is that the Association of Chief Police Officers believes that the current law gives sufficient powers to act where it is thought necessary.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I asked the driver of the cab that brought me here this morning what he thought about this question, and whether or not the matter should be pressed? To my surprise, he was very strongly in favour of it. In view of this unusual support coming from a taxi-driver, will the Minister perhaps reconsider his lukewarm attitude?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord has consulted on this issueand indeed with an expert. We do not want to have an over-specific, over-regulatory system. The police have powers; they can, and do, act where they believe it to be necessary.
Viscount Goschen: No, my Lords. The police are in a particularly good position to judge. They are the ones who would have to enforce any such law, as they enforce the current law. They have powers to act and they use them. We do not believe that there is any specific need for a specific power. However, I agree with the noble Lord that in-car mobile telephones are increasingly being used.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I have not personally taken advice from Australia on this matter. We have our own laws in this country, which are geared to the problems that are prevalent. The police do not support the idea of a specific offence in relation to this problem. They believe that the powers that exist cater for it adequately.