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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in Committee yesterday I indicated in response to two amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Simon that we would bring forward these amendments which effectively import into the Bill two clauses from the Road Safety Bill. As noble Lords will know, unfortunately that Bill did not survive the wash-up.
The two new clauses will, first, enable the police to have access to insurance industry data relating to vehicles whose use is no longer insured; and, secondly, permit police to carry out an evidential breath test not only at a police station, but also at a hospital or at or near a place, such as the roadside, where a preliminary breath test has been administered. In the last of these situations the police constable making the requirement must be in uniform. I hope that will suffice. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have Amendment No. 22 in this group of government amendments, which is tabled as an amendment to Amendment No. 21. I believe that the whole group still stands. I look to the noble Baroness for guidance. I think the Table agrees with that. Therefore, I can go ahead.
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I apologise for taking time: the whole point of this was not to. As the noble Baroness said, yesterday, amendments were tabled by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and I and others added our names in support of those amendments to new clauses. When the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, introduced the amendment, he made clear that, at this late stage in the Bill, we anticipated that the whole point was that we should have further opportunity to debate these matters after an election, whatever government happened to occupy the government Benches then.
The noble Viscount moved his amendment at 10.45 p.m. I added my support to that view at that late stage. The Government seized on that opportunity with a "whoopee" to put them into the Bill straight away. I cannot complain about that because I support the clauses, as did my honourable and right honourable friends in another place, but that highlights the difficulty that we have in wash-upas has been noted earlierbecause we rush through a large and important Bill of this nature with insufficient scrutiny. Although I and the noble Viscount support the clausesnaturally, the Government doother Members of this House may not and are therefore denied the opportunity for detailed debate.
I have therefore tabled Amendment No. 22 merely to ask the noble Baroness to put on record some reassurances about one aspect of a change to be made. In the past, whenever a breath test has been taken, the screening testthe first test, if I may put it that waymay be done at the roadside. The change is that the second, the evidential, test may now be taken by the roadside or at a hospital, instead of only at a police station. The noble Baroness looks pregnant with information.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Yes, my Lords, it was probably remiss of me. I really wanted to shorten this debate and I honestly confess to the noble Baroness that I had forgotten that this was the time for me to make a full explanation. I am happy to do that; I thought that, as we were all going to agree, it would go through quickly, but I apologise to her for failing to recollect that that was the purpose. If it will assist her, I will now go through how the provisions will operate, so that she does not have be put to the trouble of doing so herself.
We have made the changes to the second new clausepowers to require specimens of breath at the roadside or at a hospitalin response to comments made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its 13th report of Session 200405 about clauses in the Road Safety Bill that the committee considered to be at risk of incompatibility with Article 5 of the ECHR. The Government are grateful to the committee for its advice and are acting accordingly to deal with that matter.
The effect of the changes is to modify the conditions under which a constable must release from detention a person who has been detained following a requirement to provide a specimen of breath, blood or alcohol.
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They require that a constable should be able to detain a person only if he has reasonable grounds for believing that that person would commit an offence under Sections 4 or 5 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 if released. The two amendments to Clause 177 are consequential on the insertion of those two new clauses.
I turn to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. It may help if I explain that procedures for dealing with drink/drive cases are covered by a precisely worded set of documents, known as the MGDD forms, that can be found on the Home Office website. The key form includes the following passage, which it may be convenient if I read into the record:
"As the specimen with the lower proportion of alcohol is in excess of the prescribed limit, but contains no more than 50 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, you may claim that it should be replaced by a specimen for a laboratory test. If you elect to provide such a specimen it will be of blood or urine which, in the case of blood, will be taken by a doctor (or health care professional) . . . You will be supplied with part of the specimen if you so require. The other part will be sent to a forensic laboratory for analysis. The result of the analysis of the laboratory specimen will replace the result of the breath test. Do you wish to provide a specimen for laboratory alcohol analysis?".
The police, in conjunction with the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, will adapt those forms to deal with the roadside and hospital circumstances for breath testing. I can assure the noble Baroness and other noble Lords that the procedures to be undertaken at the roadside will be no less rigorous than those at the police station. The history of drink/drive law has been peppered with challenges in the courts. That is why Sections 4 to 11 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 have been amended only where absolutely necessaryand then with great care and attention.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, as this is Report, may I interpret that as a very helpful intervention from the noble Baroness, so that this is not my second speech on the same group of amendments? The best laid plans go awry, because I telephoned the noble Baroness's office first thing this morning to explain why I was tabling the amendment and that there was no hostile intent.
I thank her for anticipating all the questions that I would have asked about my amendment and giving a more thorough and helpful explanation than may have been possible in another place on 25 January, when Standing Committee A was considering the Road Safety Bill. When we reach my amendment in the list, I shall not move it.
"(1A) The fact that specimens of breath have been provided under section 7 of this Act by the person concerned does not prevent subsection (1) above having effect if the constable who imposed on him the requirement to provide the specimens has reasonable cause to believe that the device used to analyse the specimens has not produced a reliable indication of the proportion of alcohol in the breath of the person."
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