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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I notice that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, chose not to defend the amendment but to use the occasion to ask questions. I do not resent that.

First, the noble Viscount asked me about the timing of consultation. We shall start as soon as is practicable after the Bill receives Royal Assent. We cannot do so until there is some statutory basis for it. He asked about the position of heavy goods vehicle drivers and taxi drivers. At the moment, HGV drivers are required to wear seat belts. The amendment is about vans. Taxi drivers are exempt when they are carrying passengers. In other words, when they are plying for hire they are supposed to wear seat belts. There will be a negligible prize for the first person who sees a taxi driver wearing a seat belt when he is plying for hire.

The basic issue is the effect of Clause 107. Why do we want it? If we deleted the clause, it would not mean that delivery drivers needed to wear seat belts; it would mean that the exemption that they have would continue. Section 14 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 means that those making frequent stops, such as for household rubbish collection or doorstep deliveries need not wear a seat belt. That is not understood.

The Act refers to,

What is not clear—we want to make it clear by regulation—is what is meant by "local rounds or deliveries". We shall define local rounds or deliveries by the distance between stops. In that way, we hope to achieve an increase in the rates of seat belt wearing, to which the noble Viscount referred, and a reduction in accidents, to which he also referred.

Any change would not alter the existing legislation governing the way in which children are carried in goods vehicles. It will increase understanding of the exemption legitimately provided for local rounds with short distances between stops, without taking away any protection. On that basis, I hope that Clause 107 will be allowed to stand. My understanding is that it had cross-party support in the House of Commons.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. The other place did not have the time to debate the clause, as so often happens. We have a clearer understanding of the Government's thinking. The Minister said that there would be consultation, and, in his letter, he said that it would be with other interested parties. I hope that he will be able to include

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in that consultation noble Lords who took part in debates on the Bill as interested parties. I am sure that he will.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Of course.

Viscount Astor: I am grateful for that assurance, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 22:

    After Clause 107, insert the following new clause—

(1) In the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) after section 40A (using a vehicle in dangerous condition etc.) there is inserted—
(1) A person commits an aggravated offence if he drives a motor vehicle on a road while his ability to drive is impaired by drugs.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this Part shall be liable—
(a) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine, or to both,
(b) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum.
(3) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section in respect of the effect of a drug on his ability to drive, it is a defence for him to show that—
(a) he took the drug for a medicinal purpose on, and in accordance with, medical advice, or
(b) he took the drug for a medicinal purpose and had no reason to believe that it would impair his ability to drive.
(1) A constable shall have the right to require any driver whom he reasonably suspects of committing a moving traffic offence while under the influence of drugs to take a field impairment test, or require a blood or other bodily sample for analysis, or both, for the purpose of establishing whether or not that driver is under the influence of any drug.
(2) Where a constable requires a field impairment test or a blood or other bodily sample to be taken, it shall be an offence to refuse.
(3) Where a sample is required, a constable shall convey the person suspected of the offence to a police station for the taking of the sample by a properly qualified person.
(4) A person guilty of refusing a field impairment test or a sample shall be liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.
(5) The Secretary of State may by regulation establish maximum limits for the presence of drugs in the body of a person for the purpose of determining impairment of ability to drive.
(6) Regulations under this Part shall require the approval of both Houses of Parliament."
(2) It shall be the duty of each coroner to publish each year a report containing a list of all accidents which led to fatalities in which any of the drivers involved tested positive for any drug.
(3) It shall be the duty of each police force to include each year in its annual report a report containing—

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(a) a list of all motor accidents which led to fatalities in which any of the drivers involved tested positive for any drug, and
(b) a list of all motor accidents causing injury in which any of the drivers involved tested positive for any drug."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 22 seeks to modernise a significant part of the law in relation to drugs and driving on the basis of existing evidence. Drug taking is an increasing problem. Evidence indicates that there is an increasing chance that drivers will be driving under the influence of drugs. I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Bradshaw, for adding their names to the amendment.

It would be superfluous to go over all the background to this amendment which has been well discussed in Grand Committee, at Second Reading and indeed at Second Reading of my Private Member's Bill. Since Grand Committee, still more information has come forward. I have received papers from the British Medical Association and the All-Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group. These continue the trend of acknowledging that there is a problem and the complexity of the problem. No one is absolutely certain of how to deal with it but there seems to be a general concurrence that something needs to be done.

I draw the attention of the House to a paper that I have received from the National Council of Women of Great Britain, which undertook a survey specifically directed at drugs and driving in the Tees Valley region—receiving 1,024 replies. I shall not go into all the details of the survey, except to report question 4 which asked: "Should there be a legal limit for drugs (including medicines) and driving as there is for alcohol?". It is very interesting that 74 per cent of respondents answered in the affirmative. There is a clear view from the public about the need to do something on this problem. It is superfluous for me to say any more at this stage. This amendment is well directed. It may not be perfectly drafted but it was the best I could do. I beg to move.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I know that this is an extremely difficult problem. I am sure that the Minister will say that it is very difficult. I want the matter kept before the Government and responsible authorities and something done as soon as reasonably practicable.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I was pleased to support the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, when he proposed this measure in a Private Member's Bill. I congratulate him on his perseverance and on his ingenuity for getting it debated in the context of the Bill. I support him.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I join those who congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on his perseverance. We debated this in his Private Member's Bill and he continues to seek to improve the amendments he puts forward. I acknowledge that. However, there are two lines of attack. The first is the

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long and difficult haul towards statutory limits for drugs. The position is better than it was but it is still extraordinarily complicated. Different statutory limits would apply for different drugs and different drugs have different effects on different people. We are nowhere near having a usable test which could be used like the blood levels of alcohol test for drink driving. When we have such a test, the Road Traffic Act 1988, which includes drink or drugs, will allow us to implement it, but it may be some years away.

There is a second approach which we take very seriously—that is, impairment testing at the roadside. I said in response to the Private Member's Bill—I think I said again in Committee—that we are stepping up the number of police qualified to conduct impairment testing. That is rather like what used to happen as regards alcohol before blood or breath sample tests were imposed. There is a possibility that we can make progress in this area. We are considering whether it is possible to propose measures to provide additional police powers against driving under the influence of drugs. If that were possible—I cannot give any firm commitment—we could lay an appropriate government amendment at Third Reading.

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