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Viscount Astor: I am grateful for the Minister's reply. Perhaps I should write to him with the details of charity hospital ships so that we can decide whether anything needs to be done. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Berkeley: I shall speak to Amendment No. 54, which is grouped. It would close an anomaly in the current proposals to extend alcohol testing to cover aviation. As Members of the Committee will know, the aim of the Bill is to establish consistency between modes. To achieve that, it has been framed to reflect the drinking and driving provision set out in the Road Traffic Act 1988, where a police officer may require a driver to take a breath test if a moving traffic offence has been committed if there is reasonable cause to suspect that a driver has been drinking or if an accident has taken place.
For the record, more than 200,000 drivers or riders involved in injury road crashes were tested in 2001. So the police have extensive experience in post-incident breath testing. The Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety shares my view that much of our success in reducing drink-drive fatalities is due to the rigour of police enforcement.
As drafted, Clause 82 extends the Road Traffic Act 1988 in its entirety to cover shipping, giving the police the power to breath-test in the aftermath of an accident at sea or in a public place. The comparable clause governing aviation, Clause 95, omits that power, granting the police the power to breathalyse only when an offence has been committed, or if there is reasonable cause to suspect the presence of alcohol.
I fail to understand why the power to breathalyse after an aviation accident has not been included. We hope that such accidents will not happen as often, but the power still needs to be available. Aviation does not concern only large planes but small planes. If the aim is to establish consistency between modes, I see no reason to omit the third occasion on which breath-testing can take place, with a comparable approach to enforcement of the law.
It is worth putting on record that extending that power to aviation should not be interpreted as meaning that there is a major problem of alcohol consumption among pilots. The Air Accident Investigation Branch does an excellent job and has
On Amendment No. 55A, the presence of uniformed police officers on commercial aircraft could cause undue concern and anxiety to passengers. I therefore propose that the airline or its agents should be made responsible for escorting the individual concernedwhether a member of the flight or cabin crewto a room where the uniformed officers are waiting. Under existing provision, the police would still ultimately have the right to enter the aircraft, if that were required.
On Amendment No. 55B, I shall listen with interest to what the Minister has to say, but the Government should be rather more proactive on the matter. I refer of course to drugs and alcohol. The Bill should include a requirement to introduce standardised peer intervention programmes within commercial air transportation in the UK; and the CAA should act as the responsible oversight body.
If we consider aviation in the United States, such programmes have already achieved a proven record. What has been done has been achieved under the title of the US Human Intervention and Motivation System. There is a great deal to commend that system to us.
Of course, such schemes will be introduced effectively only if they are required. Without that, the lesser parts of the aviation industry will regard them as a provision that can be overlooked. The standard and content of such provision should not vary significantly. The Bill should be viewed as an opportunity for positive preventive action that will help to reduce the risk of breaches of the prescribed limit in the first place. That would be regarded as a positive step for the travelling public and those suffering from drug and alcohol problems.
First, an undertaking is important. A recreational aviator may have given an undertaking to abide by the rules of a flying club. Those rules could provide that the pilot's use of an aircraft on a particular day were subject to the determination of the club on that day; timings may be variable. In such circumstances, the pilot should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at any time when he or she is prepared to fly.
Amendment No. 54 concerns the police power to test suspected offenders provided that they have reasonable cause to do so. An accident may well be a factor taken into account when the officer considers whether he has such cause. The Government consider that to strike the right balance.
The amendment would allow the police to carry out post-accident testing of aviation personnel. There would be problems with applying the amendment. For example, if a licensed maintenance engineer were over the limit when an aircraft was released to service, that could be days or weeks before any accident. There could be the same problem with air traffic controllers. The amendment refers to,
Aircraft are sometimes involved in minor incidents or accidents caused by the actions of third partiesfor example, a ground worker may drive a vehicle into an aircraft. Post-accident testing in such circumstances would cause unnecessary delay while the aircraft's crew were tested, even though the police did not have reasonable suspicion that an offence had been committed. So the amendment is defective in a number of ways.
On Amendment No. 55A, the process of carrying out a test is a procedural matter for the police. We are seeking to agree an appropriate testing protocol with police representatives, so that passengers should not be overly alarmed. In practice, suspected offenders will almost certainly be asked to leave the aircraft for the purpose of conducting a screening test. That ought not to cause alarm among the passengers.
If that request is refused, a uniformed police officer may have to enter the aircraft to remove the suspect. Good practice suggests that anyone seeking to gain entry to aircraft, especially the cockpit, should be readily identifiable as having the authority to do so. That is why we require the police to be in uniform. There is no need to place a separate requirement on operators to escort crew members from the aircraft; the police already have sufficient powers.
Amendment No. 55B concerns peer intervention programmes. I am glad that it has been introduced as an addition rather than an alternative to statutory provision. The Civil Aviation Authority does not have power to approve or oversee a peer intervention programme introduced by an overseas registered operatorwhich, I think, is the kind of operator with which my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis is concerned. So the new requirement and the inherent costs would fall only on UK-registered carriers.
The CAA already operates its own successful support programme. Peer intervention would be unlikely to address or identify one-off "binge" drinking, for example. The current Bill provides a framework of criminal sanctions on which individual companies can develop their own alcohol or peer intervention programmes. If it is felt that the UK needs to introduce a national peer programme, that should be industry-led, developed with the support of both employers and unions. I suggest that that is a better approach than the statutory framework suggested by the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis.
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