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Lord Filkin: My Lords, I commend the direct action of the noble Baroness, and am delighted to hear that the phone, rather than the cyclist, fell off. I share her desire that the House should know exactly what are the regulations under which cyclists are prohibited from using mobile phones. I am racking my brains to remember whether cyclists are covered by the Highway Codeactually, they must be. The advice in the Highway Code is that one must have proper control over one's vehicle; a bicycle is a vehicle; therefore, cyclists could presumably be prosecuted by the police for failure to have adequate control over their vehicle. If my conjecture is wrong, I shall write to the noble Baroness.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that "keeping a matter under review" is one of the least satisfying responses that any Member of the House ever receives? Does he further agree that to speak on a hand-held telephone at the same time as driving comes near to defining the offence of driving without due care and attention?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that that would be one of the least satisfactory responses that one could give if it were weasel words, not a genuine commitment. But the Government have made clear that next month there will be a further publicity campaign to promote the cessation of the use
Lord Filkin: Indeed, my Lords, I thank the noble Lord. Under powers given over those who do not have proper control of their vehicle, the police are already able to prosecute. For example, one police force mounted a campaign and imposed fixed penalties on two-thirds of those whom they had stopped having observed them holding a mobile phone while attempting to control a motor vehicle. So the police demonstrated that they could convict people in those circumstances without much difficulty.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I declare an interest as the current president of RoSPA, and am delighted to follow a distinguished former president. Is my noble friend aware that this October the Irish Republic will join more than 35 other countries in banning the use of mobile phones while driving, with a rigorous system of fines backed up by the threat of imprisonment and penalty points? Road safety campaigners are mystified why the Government do not accept the existing evidence, including the most recent evidence from the Transport Research Laboratory, that using a mobile phone is as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, the short answer is yes and no: yes, I was aware of the Irish position. The recent Direct Line research produced a most interesting report. The Government thought that it was a valuable contribution to the debate. Evidence clearly measured the increase in reaction time demonstrated by drivers when using mobile phonesabout half a secondand how serious that could be. That is quite clear, so there is no doubt about the risks involved.
Neither my noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester nor RoSPA are in any doubt about what is the Government's position. In my earlier answer, I said clearly that the matter is under active review. If we do not have evidence that the public are shifting their
Viscount Astor: My Lords, the Minister said that the use of any form of mobile telephone in a car is potentially dangerous. Does he regard hands-free telephonesone sees people bellowing into their dashboardas potentially dangerous, or does he regard that use of a mobile telephone in a car as acceptable?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, the Government's positionand the Highway Codeis explicit on the matter. Hands-free mobile phones are also dangerous. The evidence for that, in the UK and elsewhere, is clear. There is a popular misconception that because you are not holding the damned thing, you are, in some way, safer. In practice, it is the mental distraction that causes the problem, just as much as holding the phone in the hand.
Lord Jacobs: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, given the fact that two drivers were observed driving buses down Oxford Street with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand holding a mobile phone, the present legislation is not adequate?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, the essential debate is not whether such action is dangerous or whether the public generally believe it to be dangerousthey do. The debate is about whether we can shift public behaviour without legislation. The Government's hope has been that enough publicity and enough common sense would remove the necessity for laws and regulations in all cases. However, if the practice were to persist in a way in which many noble Lords would feel is unsatisfactory and we were unable to shift the public's view, we would have to consider the matter further.
The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter makes it clear that governments have a right to take action in self-defence. Military action against terrorists is very much a last resort, but the Government are prepared to take military action in self-defence, fully in accordance with international law, when necessary. In various multilateral fora, the Government have discussed the problems posed by terrorism. Those discussions addressed the problem of terrorists operating in areas in which a state either cannot establish law and order or knowingly harbours and protects terrorists.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that thoughtful response. Does she agree that there is a consensus that national sovereignty cannot provide a licence to commit mass murder? Does she also agree that international law enforcement is at a stage akin to the sheriff raising a posse of those whom he could persuade to join him? The problem is exacerbated because we do not have a sheriff; we have nation stateshowever well intentionedwho place themselves at the head of coalitions. Is there not an urgent need for an internationally recognised authority to bring to bear objective judgment and legitimise appropriate interventions? Can the Government work on that?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that national sovereignty is never a licence to commit what my noble friend calls mass murder. However, he should consider the fact that Article 51 of the United Nations Charter is enormously important because it gives the right to take action in self-defence. That action must, of course, be proportionate and lawful.
My noble friend asks what else we can do to achieve international consensus. As your Lordships will know, there was discussion in the United Nationsparticularly after the terrible events of 11th Septemberwhere we addressed issues such as the financing of and recruitment to terrorist organisations and how those activities could be stopped. In the Commonwealth, we have addressed legal and judicial issues, and, in the EU, we have considered plans of action to combat terrorism. Several fora are addressing those issues. Although we are only starting, we are making useful progress.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that objective judgments about the harbouring of terrorists are, sadly, difficult to achieve? When one examines the detail of UN resolutionsnot only 51 but 56, 1368, 1373 and 1378one sees that they just about justify all forms of self-defence, individual and collective, in hunting down terrorists. That leads us to conclude that the real problems do not lie in the legalities but in the practicalities. No nation can hunt out terrorists alone; the operation requires
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