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Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to my noble friend for introducing this amendment. The Government fully share her concern and that of RoSPA about driver tiredness contributing to accidents.

This is a serious issue. We do not need consultation on the appropriate measures, as suggested by the amendments, because we have carried out research in
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recent years that has given us the data needed to inform the department's advice to drivers and our ongoing publicity campaigns. Results from that research suggest that up to 10 per cent of accidents on the road network are sleep-related in one way or another, which is a truly shocking figure, and that up to 20 per cent of accidents on motorways and similar roads result from drivers' sleepiness. We estimate therefore that there are some 300 fatalities a year involving a sleeping or nodding driver.

The department has evaluated a practical method to enable drivers to overcome sleepiness. We put all this research on our website. We know that sleep does not normally occur suddenly or without warning, and this is true for those with most sleep disorders too. Drivers who try to stay awake by opening the window or turning up the radio before they start to close their eyes are taking risks. That is not to say they are not to be commended for being aware of the condition they are in, but it is not a sufficient strategy to overcome the problem. Relying on cold air or the radio to stay awake is a pretty forlorn strategy.

Research tells us that the most effective remedy is to stop somewhere safe—not, I hasten to add, on the hard shoulder of a motorway, which is one of the most unsafe places to stop anywhere in the country—and have a couple of cups of coffee or other caffeinated drink, followed by a sleep of about 15 minutes to give the caffeine a chance to kick in. This is our considered advice on the basis of our research. As will be recognised, we have service areas about every 30 miles on our motorways, and we are seeking to increase the places where people can stop and possibly partake of a coffee they have brought with them in a flask or something. Those measures will help to combat fatigue and thus driver sleepiness and they will reduce accidents.

In the light of all that knowledge, our aim is to change driver behaviour. We do not think that we need to consult on it; we know what needs to be done. However, sleep disorders are a particular feature and can be a medical condition. They can be a risk to road safety, and drivers are obliged to make them known to the DVLA so that a medical investigation is carried out and a decision taken on whether the driver should retain his or her licence or hold a licence subject to medical review after a short period.

As part of the department's ongoing research programme into various aspects of the medical fitness to drive, a workshop on driving and the medical aspects of excessive daytime sleeping was held in 2002 and those themes emerged from it. So we are fully seized of the necessity for action in this area. We do not intend to be anything other than unremitting in our campaign to make drivers aware of the dangers of sleepiness.

Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen: I thank my noble friend for that reply. In the light of it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 151C:
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When negotiating with the European Union, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the need to avoid retrospective legislation concerning the construction and use of historic vehicles which would tend to prevent their use for non-commercial purposes."

The noble Earl said: The Minister has been praying in aid EU directives that will do wonderful things for us—no doubt some will. However, once a directive has been passed it is very difficult to undo it. Additionally, our civil servants have a bad habit of gold-plating the UK regulations.

It is sensible that most people have a pastime other than work. Many people collect and use historic vehicles—cars, buses and lorries. I am one of them. UK legislation has always strived not to be retrospective. Wherever possible, new UK regulations apply only to new vehicles, and only when there is an imperative safety case is it retrospective. My concern and that of many historic vehicle clubs is that EU legislation will be agreed that makes it impractical to use historic vehicles on our roads. My amendment seeks to ensure that Ministers will take that into account when negotiating with EU and other European organisations. What assurances can the Minister give us that this important recreational activity will not be inadvertently terminated or be made very much more difficult by legislation coming from Europe? I beg to move.

Lord Berkeley: I support this amendment very strongly. I own an old car—a 1931 Lagonda. The insurance is very cheap because we are all very safe drivers in these things. We cannot afford to go fast. A few years ago the Government kindly said that we did not have to pay vehicle excise duty. There is no need to include these cars in any new legislation coming from Europe or anywhere else. We do not do very much mileage each year. These cars are a source of great fun. I suggest that they are really very safe vehicles taking into account the way in which they are driven. So I fully support this amendment.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: Perhaps it is unnecessary for me to declare an interest in old cars, since it has been there for 50 years. In those 50 years I have been involved in many committees and other think tanks to try to keep vintage cars on the road. All governments have been very sympathetic towards our cause. However, there are considerable problems with retrospective legislation. If someone in Spain said that everyone has to have four traffic indicators, it would completely ruin those cars. The policy followed by successive governments is that the original specification when they were new is good enough. I hope that this issue can be explored.

Old cars are a very popular hobby involving 300,000 people. Some of your Lordships may be watching the London to Brighton run in two weeks' time. We are asking the Minister to support the hobby and to preserve the right to have one's car on the road.
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It would much appreciated as it would do enormous damage to the hobby if such a proposal were not followed.

9.15 pm

Viscount Simon: I place on record that I also approve of this amendment.

Baroness Crawley: I thank noble Lords for their contributions. While I am on my feet, I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, for all his work over many years in this area. All sides of the House are proud of the work that he has done.

I hope to reassure noble Lords that there is nothing to worry about. We know of no European legislation or proposals that adversely affect the private use of historic vehicles. As the noble Earl said, virtually all proposals concerning the technical standards required of vehicles applied to new vehicles entering service after a specific date. We would not expect any suggestion for retrospective application of technical standards to vehicles unless there were unusual and robust safety or environmental considerations. It is particularly difficult to envisage any such circumstances that would be considered proportionate for the relatively small number of historic vehicles that are used privately.

Section 43(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 already requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that no undue hardship or inconvenience will be caused by the application of new construction and use regulations if they are applied to vehicles registered earlier than a year after the new regulations were made.

Both the European Commission and the Government would have to justify any provision in a regulatory impact assessment. The Government already undertake such assessments whenever new vehicle standards are proposed, including anything that might affect historic vehicles. We would not support any proposal that could not be justified on the grounds of proportionality or cost-effectiveness. I hope that the noble Earl will feel reassured and withdraw his amendment.

Earl Attlee: I thank the Minister for her extremely helpful reply. I hope that she will make sure that when officials are doing their duties in Brussels and elsewhere they read the Minister's words. I am much happier with her response to this amendment than my amendment about inspection reports. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 152:

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