Orders of the Day — Newly Qualified Drivers Bill

– in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 26 March 1993.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford 1:38, 26 March 1993

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It gives me great pleasure to move the Second Reading of a Bill which started life as a ten-minute Bill; the vagaries of the parliamentary timetable have made it possible. I accept and understand that it would be unfair and unrealistic of me to expect the Bill to be given a Second Reading today. That is because we have only 40 minutes to debate an important and complicated issue. As several hon. Members wish to make known their views and to submit possible improvements, it would not be right to expect such a measure to be rushed through the House.

I appreciate that the Department of Transport is studying carefully ways of improving road safety. I suspect that the Bill may be a few months premature. None the less, I hope that it will open up a discussion that will help the Department in its deliberations.

I must offer an apology to the House, especially to my hon. Friend the Minister. I regret that I shall have to leave the House early because I need to get to Chelmsford for an important engagement. As I am driving, I want to get out of London ahead of the rush hour traffic so as not to miss some appointments that have had to be postponed to enable me to be in the House this morning.

I have introduced the Bill against the backdrop of a relentless campaign by the Government and motoring organisations to make driving and our roads safer and to reduce deaths and injuries on our roads. Yesterday, the Department of Transport published figures showing that the number of road deaths had fallen, once again, to 4,273. Of course, that figure is far too high, but it is a remarkable improvement on the figure in the mid-1960s, when it was almost double that. During the past few years, there has been an inexorable reduction in the number of deaths, and that has been due to the Department's activities. The figure announced yesterday was the lowest since 1926, yet there are now 14 times more vehicles on our roads. I congratulate successive Ministers on their devotion to and success with campaigns——

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

My hon. Friend is falling into the trap of having been in this place too long. Surely, the principal credit for the reduction in driving accidents should go to the motorists.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

My hon. Friend is right in that it is up to motorists to be sensible and careful and to avoid accidents. However, it would be churlish to take away from Ministers and motoring organisations the credit for the way in which, with single-minded dedication, they have concentrated on the issue and sought not only to highlight the problems facing motorists as the drive, but to use campaigns to target specific areas such as drink-driving. Without that, I suspect that the figures announced yesterday would not have been so low.

The purpose of my modest Bill is to contribute to making roads safer and drivers better equipped and more confident when driving. As I have said during previous debates on this matter, during the past 25 years there has been a revolution in motoring. Improved living standards have ensured far wider car ownership. Instead of the norm being one car per family, it is now more likely that two cars or even more are owned by members of one family. Advances in technology, design and engine power have made cars far more sophisticated and powerful.

More than 29 million people have licences to drive cars. In 1988, 1·39 million people passed their driving tests, of whom 73 per cent. were aged between 17 and 25, 21 per cent. between 26 and 40 and 5 per cent. between 41 and 60. Surprisingly—indeed, staggeringly—0·3 per cent. were over 60. That intrigues me. As I shall explain later, newly qualified drivers do not necessarily mean young drivers.

I am an Essex man, in that I have the honour to represent an Essex constituency. I am pleased to see here today my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London, who is an Essex man, as are my hon. Friends the Members for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) and for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin). They may feel some affinity with a small article in the Daily Mail today, entitled "Essex girl, 83". The article said: A woman of 83 who sparked a major search when she vanished from her old people's flat"— in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar— …in nightclothes was found two hours later—in bed with an elderly man next door. I accept that that has nothing to do with motoring, but if elderly Essex girls have such enterprise at the age of 83, who knows how many other enterprising Essex men and women will want to learn to drive and pass their driving tests at the age of 83? My Bill would apply to them no less than it would to youngsters of 17 to 25.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles , Brentwood and Ongar

This matter is of deep concern to my constituents. The case that my hon. Friend mentioned is by no means exceptional behaviour for the people of Brentwood and Ongar. Indeed, it would be a matter for national comment if my constituents in their 80s were not to show that degree of vivacity and joy of life.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is the epitome of a fun-loving Essex man.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the diligence with which he is presenting his Bill. Does he think that the lady in the aforementioned article—an Essex girl, as he rightly called her—could have been on the hormone replacement therapy recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman)?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

It seems to me that the Essex girl to whom I referred is in no need of hormone replacement therapy—but if problems were to arise, she will know doubt know to contact my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay, who I am sure would be more than happy to give her plenty of advice, to ensure many more years of joyful fun.

On a more serious note, the statistics that I gave before we were diverted by Essex girl made it abundantly clear that the majority of newly qualified drivers are aged between 17 and 25. The casualty figures for 1991 highlight another serious problem. In that year, drivers aged between 16 and 19 who were killed accounted for 4·6 per 100,000 of the population. The figure for those aged between 20 and 29 were almost unacceptably high, at 4·5 per 100,000. For age groups above that, the figure fell dramatically, to an average 2.2 per 100,000.

Those statistics are reinforced by a recent study by the Transport Research Laboratory of the Department of Transport on the attitudes, opinions and development of skills among novice drivers in the first two years after passing their test. It showed that 28 per cent. of respondents had been involved in at least one accident as a driver. Twenty-five per cent. of those had been driving for only 12 months, 27 per cent. for 18 months, and 35 per cent. for 24 months.

Thirty-three per cent. of those involved in an accident had been involved in an injury accident. From their own estimations, 34 per cent. of those drivers felt it likely that they would be at least partly to blame if they were to have an accident as a driver during the first 12 months of their driving careers.

The report also highlighted the fact that those who had been driving for two years had higher scores on confidence in decision making than those who had been driving for a shorter period. That group also reported more frequently failing to notice a pedestrian waiting at a crossing, failing to use their mirrors when they should, misjudging, trying to beat other drivers on a getaway from traffic lights or in other stationary situations and taking other action that they knew might be dangerous.

Interestingly, the report showed that the proportion of new drivers involved in an accident between 18 and 24 months after passing a test was greater than the proportion involved between 12 and 18 months after passing one. Those statistics prove that there is a serious problem in respect of newly qualified drivers and road safety.

My Bill introduces measures to improve road safety for not only newly qualified drivers but other drivers and innocent pedestrians. The problem partly emanates from the fact that inexperienced drivers, as soon as they pass their test, are given the same privileges and rights as drivers who passed their tests more than 20 years ago and who have since gained experience and maturity. To my mind, that must be rectified.

My Bill aims at bringing greater safety and protection to newly qualified drivers and to others who share the roads with them. As I have said before, newly qualified drivers are not exclusively under the age of 25. They can be any age, through to the ages to which I referred earlier.

Clause 1(4) would make it law that a condition of granting a full licence would be that for two years after the passing of that test, the newly qualified driver would have to display a sign on his car noting that he was a newly qualified driver, in the same way as learner drivers have to display an L-plate before they pass their driving test. The type of display to be used would be left to the Secretary of State, but it is obvious that it should be something like "P" for provisional or, if one did not like that, perhaps "R" for restricted. We may quibble over the letter of the alphabet, but that would be the principle. Power would be given to the Secretary of State, who, after consultation, would come up with the right letter. My choice would be "P" for probationer.

P-plates for probationers would be a constant reminder to newly qualified drivers that they are newly qualified, that they do not know it all and that they do not have the experience of other drivers. It would also serve the useful function of drawing the attention of other drivers to the fact that they are in the vicinity of a newly qualified driver. They could then be more considerate and take more care with their driving.

It is interesting to note that the Transport Research Laboratory report shows that more than half the respondents felt that to require newly qualified drivers to display a special plate to let others know that they were inexperienced would prevent a great many accidents. Some may say that such a proposal is unenforceable, I do not share that view. I suspect that when L-plates were introduced for learner drivers, many people said that the proposal was unenforceable. Experience since then seems to be that the system works well.

Clause 2(1) would make it an offence for newly qualified drivers not to display their P-plate or their R-plate for the first two years after passing the driving test. Failure to do so would contravene the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. The maximum penalty on conviction would be at level 3 on the standard scale, which is a maximum fine of up to £1,000—the same penalty as is currently imposed on those who are convicted of failing to display a L-plate if they are learner drivers.

Clause 1(5) would amend the Road Traffic Act 1988. Any newly qualified driver would, for the first 24 months after passing his or her test, have to drive a vehicle of no more than 1300 cc.

Photo of Eric Pickles Eric Pickles , Brentwood and Ongar

Can I ask my hon. Friend for his advice on engine size? Mine is a rural constituency. My constituents use large vehicles, such as Land-Rovers and diesel cars. A sensible choice for a young person who had just passed his driving test would be a diesel car. The Bill would discourage the use of a sensible form of transport. There has been a great increase in car ownership, but many families have only one whose engine size is usually greater than 1300 cc. The Bill would mean that newly qualified drivers would be unable to drive the family car and obtain the experience that my hon. Friend wants them to obtain. Therefore, two years after passing their test, precisely the problem that my hon. Friend has identified would arise.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend. With his usual perspicacity, he has anticipated my next point. I accept that this is the most controversial and potentially the most difficult part of the Bill. I hear what my hon. Friend says, but it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the Bill is to improve road safety. One could find exceptions to, or plead a special case for, many of the measures that we pass. I believe that 1300 cc represents a respectable level of engine size for it not to become a major problem for the majority of families. Nevertheless, I accept that it may cause some problems for some families. One could argue that a one-car family might have only a series 7 BMW. It would be slightly odd to allow a 17-year-old to drive a series 7 BMW which belongs to his or her mother or father.

In theory, 17-year-olds could pass the driving test on their birthday and leave the test centre in a Porsche, a series 7 BMW or some other high-performance car. If they got into difficulties, they would not have the experience, maturity or capability to handle the car in the same way as a more experienced driver and avoid an accident—possibly a fatal accident.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

No, I have little time. I accept that it is a difficult position. If the Bill were to reach the Committee stage, the matter would have to be examined carefully because one does not want to be ludicrous and over-extend the law. One must give serious thought to how newly qualified drivers can cope with road safety, which is a primary concern to everyone. New section 102A(2) specifies that those who are restricted to driving cars not exceeding 1300 cc would have that specified on their driving licence to help with the enforcement of that provision.

As hon. Members will have noticed from reading my Bill carefully, no penalties are specified in clause 2 for an offence that is committed. The reason for that is deliberate. To get it right, we must not make the law look an ass. We must produce a law that is enforceable and rational. At this stage, it would be preferable for a Committee to consider how we can get it right with the most realistic proposal and the most realistic penalties for those who contravene the law.

I accept that the Bill will not get on the statute book because it comes much too late in the parliamentary timetable. However, if it raises awareness of the problems facing newly qualified drivers, if it goes some way towards improving road safety in the United Kingdom and if it raises a serious debate about road safety and provokes discussion of ways to improve the safety of newly qualified drivers, others on our roads and innocent pedestrians, who may be seriously affected through injury or death, it will be worth while.

As I said earlier, the Minister's Department is carrying out an ongoing study of ways further to improve road safety and the position of newly qualified drivers. All hon. Members must welcome the Department's work. We await publication of the Minister's White Paper and ideas which can be put out to consultation and, if necessary, result in legislation.

My Bill is a step in the right direction. It will bring more maturity and the opportunity for newly qualified drivers to gain experience on the roads. It will give more protection to other drivers and pedestrians and make people think more about how to make our roads safer for everyone. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham 1:58, 26 March 1993

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns). It is a remarkable feat to get this Bill from a 10-minute rule Bill through to Second Reading. It is such a remarkable feat that it is hard to remember any other instances in which such a progression of events succeeded. My hon. Friend the Minister has achieved the same remarkable distinction, and I congratulate him on that.

The Bill is to be highly commended. It has the most remarkably worthwhile objective of improving road safety. That is an objective to which all Members of Parliament dedicate many hours of their working lives. Although fewer people are killed on the roads now, the roads in Britain are still far too unsafe and we need to do more to make them safer.

One of the great problems of road safety is undoubtedly the difficulty of other drivers in identifying motorists who are not fully in control of their motor car, so it is right that my hon. Friend has introduced a Bill which would enable an inexperienced driver to be readily identified by other road users and avoided or given enough room. Other drivers would know not to anticipate that such drivers could cope in the difficult situations which can arise on the road.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

My hon. Friend is rather more complimentary than I might be about the driving standards of drivers who come across a newly qualified or learner driver. Without wishing to poor-mouth my driving standards any more than my family would consider necessary, I am not sure that my reaction when confronted by a learner driver is to make things easier for him. My reaction, which I am told is not abnormal, is to get away as fast as possible, if necessary by accelerating as fast as possible past that driver. Does that necessarily contribute to road safety?

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

I am sorry to hear that intervention from my hon. Friend. He must be unusual. But I know him well and I imagine that his comments are driven—if that is the right word—by modesty. I know him to be a kind and courteous man. For all that he might not want to get too close to less experienced drivers on the road, I am sure that he would get past in such a way as to ensure that their progression down the road was safe and easy for them so that they could learn. I am sure that my hon. Friend does himself less than justice.

The Bill is an extension of the principle that has been observed since the 1930s that a learner driver should display an L-plate. My hon. Friend's Bill is a natural progression from that. I suggest that we could equally benefit from other classes of road users and drivers being required to display a sign showing what they were.

We have just been hearing about road hogs, not that I suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-west (Mr. Stern) is a road hog. People who had been convicted of being road hogs or unsafe drivers should perhaps also display something on their car. People convicted of drink driving who had just got their licence back could also be required to display something on their cars. The principle could be extended to all sorts of groups.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam

Is my hon. Friend aware that the concept of a restricted driving licence or plate is not novel to the British Isles? Northern Ireland has them. An R-plate restricts a driver in speed and other matters. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will say how effective the scheme has been in the Province.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. She is right. We have other plates in this country. For example, the diplomatic corps, who are a noble and trustworthy body of people, display a D in the middle of their number plate. Any other drivers using the road know full well to steer clear of a car with a diplomatic number plate because if they have an accident with it their rights as citizens of this country will be severely reduced.

It is a well-established principle that certain classes of road user must identify their presence for the safety of other road users. One could wish to bring a number of other groups into such a category, to the point where most road users would have to display a sign on their car identifying themselves for the benefit of others.

I have to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford that I have one or two worries about the Bill, some of which were mentioned by our hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles). He mentioned people who need cars with engines above a certain size. Cars that have a larger engine size may be inherently safer than those with small engines. One thinks, for instance, of the three-wheeled vehicles, which have small engines——

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

What has the hon. Gentleman got against Reliant Robins?

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

I have nothing against them at all. A Reliant Robin requires skill and understanding to drive. It is the sort of car to which people should aspire once their driving skills are such that they can cope with the challenge. The Bill should provide that only experienced drivers should aspire to driving such cars.

The other problem is that a foreigner—I am thinking particularly of someone from the United States of America—who intends to live here permanently and wishes to drive on the roads must pass an English driving test. He or she may be an extremely experienced motorist, but the moment they took their test they would have to display a "P" on their car and may have to buy a car with a smaller engine.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

Does my hon. Friend accept that the vast majority of foreign drivers will not have experience of driving on the left hand side of the road? However experienced they are at handling a car, they may experience great difficulty in getting used to driving on the left hand side, with the associated problems of turning at crossroads and using roundabouts.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I look forward to discussing that in Committee and I hope that my hon. Friend's pessimism about the likelihood of the Bill going into Committee is ill-founded. We must debate such issues.

Does it take two years to learn to drive on the right or left hand side of the road? Should a British motorist be allowed to drive in France without displaying a sign on their car?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns , Chelmsford

They have to display a "GB" sticker.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

Even before the Maastricht Bill, once we joined the European Community motorists no longer had to display those stickers.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

If I recall correctly, my hon. Friend's dear lady wife has been through precisely this experience.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

Indeed. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. My wife is American and she went through that great trauma. As hon. Members can imagine, marrying me was a trauma, but it was made worse by the fact that, having been a driver for 20 years, she had to pass another driving test.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

Does my hon. Friend agree that when our European neighbours come to this country, their cars have foreign plates which enable us to work out whether the driver is from Germany, from France or from Italy? We normally give such cars leeway simply because we see the foreign plates and because of the problems already mentioned.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

That is right. The Bill proposes nothing revolutionary. It is an extension of the fact that we identify cars by looking for signs such as whether the steering wheel is on the right or the left, whether the driver is smoking a pipe—or wearing a sharp suit, to pick up a point made in an earlier debate. We look for signs of potential problems.

I strongly recommend the Bill to the House, but I make one suggestion for improvement. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that he felt that the right sign to have on the back or front of a car, where the L-plate now is, would be a P-plate. I can see the argument for having letters and we can discuss in Committee whether to have P, S or some other letter, such as D for danger.

I suggest that it would be more appropriate to have not a letter, but a picture which would make the whole process more flexible. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford will realise the merit of what I am saying. Someone who has been disqualified for drink-driving and who gets his licence back could, for the next three, five or 10 years, display the sign of a foaming tankard on the back of his car, which might be a considerable discouragement. Similarly, a driver who had had a road accident could display a sign of a crash which might also be a considerable discouragement. One could extend the principle to those whose cars had been clamped or to those who had not paid parking fines. The potential is enormous and I hope that my suggestion will be considered.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just put up taxes on petrol, a suitable picture for him would be of a hand in somebody else's pocket?

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is making a serious point. His comment is extraordinary in that he is, I know, absolutely dedicated to preserving our environment and to stopping the misuse of carbon energy resources which is so dangerous in terms of global warming. Far from wishing the Chancellor to carry a sign which, I am sure from the description, would be for the purposes of vilification, the hon. Gentleman should wish the Chancellor to be identified as somebody who has contributed significantly to saving our planet. I am sure that my hon. Friends join me in that wish.

I am straying a long way from the Bill and I am sure that you will call me to order before long, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall now make a point that will be vital for the whole process. At present, L-plates have to be tied on to cars with bits of string or stuck on with Sellotape which destroys the finish. Under the Bill, we should make it a condition that all motor cars are designed to have a card holder on the front and the back so that, as the motorist progresses, the appropriate sign can be inserted to demonstrate the stage of his or her development as a motorist. That is another matter to be discussed in Committee. I look forward to the debates in Committee, which will be important for road safety. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford and I wish the Bill well.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North 2:13, 26 March 1993

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington), who developed a number of important arguments. My hon. Friend said that the Bill might require the modification of motor vehicles at the point of manufacture to allow a plate to be displayed on the vehicle as required. Unfortunately, I believe that such action may be beyond the Bill's scope. It would also require European legislation, as national legislation for the approval of changes to the manufacture of motor vehicles is governed by, and falls under the exclusive competence of, European law. Therefore, we would be unable to legislate on that.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on presenting his Bill so ably. The principle of the legislation has an entirely laudable aim. New, upstart young Members of Parliament like myself are allowed, on their first outing, a maiden speech, during which other hon. Members are advised by the Chair or convention to avoid running into them or upsetting them. They give us a wide berth so that we can complete the process without damaging or injuring anyone.

I have a number of concerns about the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford made it absolutely clear that the issue of the plate would be one for the Committee or the Secretary of State if the Bill becomes law. However, the use of the letter "P" could be open to misinterpretation, particularly if we move to a system such as that recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, in which "P" could be seen to stand for a poor or pathetic driver.

I believe that "N" for novice would be a more appropriate plate. The "N" could stand for new, novice or "newly qualified" to reflect the Bill's title. If the system is expanded, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) might have an "A" on his plate to stand for aggressive driver—if that is not being unfair to him. I note that he is nodding. We might have "C" for careless or "E" for expert—we could develop the concept of driver labelling to inform others in a variety of ways. The letter "A" for aggressive is attractive as it is a reversible letter. The driver of a car in front could read it in his mirror to give him an idea of the sort of person driving behind, not just in front.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam

Does my hon. Friend agree that all the discussions about putting plates on cars are somewhat beside the point? We should really be discussing the introduction of a suitable restriction such as 45 mph speed limit, or—as in New Zealand—a ban on carrying passengers so that teenagers do not show off, or not allowing driving at night. We should be considering elements to discipline newly qualified car drivers.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, which leads me to the next part of the Bill: the restriction on engine size—the only restriction currently proposed in the Bill—about which I am anxious. I used to work in the motor industry for the Ford motor company. I did so when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced restrictions on engine size relating to the taxation of company cars. It caused great distortion in the car market and it was a relief to the motor industry when the restrictions were altered so that the engine size restriction no longer applied.

When the restrictions on engine size applied, some privately owned car fleets—not those of my employer—adopted a system called badge engineering. The fleet manager, more than anyone else, used to indulge in the process and ensure that the badge on the back of his car suggested that the car's engine was below 1800cc—other documentation might also lend weight to that suggestion. The car driver would know that he was driving a car with a larger engine and would not want the taxation authorities or his boss to know that he had a better car than the boss.

This leads to the problem of the enforceability of engine sizes. It might be impossible for the police to know whether a car had an engine bigger than 1300cc. I recall using my father's car many years ago. Its engine was considerably larger than 1300cc, although it was not a BMW 735—hon. Members will know the sort of salary my father had to live on.[Laughter.] Nevertheless, because it was my father's car, I took great care of it. I was far less likely to damage it than I would have been had I driven a cheap banger of my own with a small engine. So restricting engine size might not achieve the intended result.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

Does my hon. Friend remember that a Reliant Robin was caught speeding at well over 70 mph? The owner had souped up the engine. Robins present challenge enough to drive and they must be somewhat worse with souped-up engines.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

I remember the newspaper stories about that. It amply demonstrates some of the difficulties that might be involved in applying this restriction to newly qualified drivers.

I emphasise that this measure has great merits which deserve serious debate. I hope that all hon. Members who want to speak on Second Reading will have the time to do so. I end with a few remarks about foreign drivers. We can see from the signs on the back of their cars that they are foreign—and clearly inferior drivers. We know from watching foreign buses manoeuvring round Hyde Park what a risky business that can be, so the principle behind the Bill has a proven track record and I hope that the House will continue to give it lengthy and sober consideration.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley 2:22, 26 March 1993

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) has introduced the Bill. The intention behind it is right: to reduce the number of accidents on our roads and to reduce the numbers of people killed, maimed or injured on them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that a great many 60 and 80-year-old people are learning to drive these days, but I want to talk about the number of accidents caused by younger people.

The idea of putting a letter or symbol on the back of a car to identify a newly qualified driver is right. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) said that people in Northern Ireland in this category have to display an R plate. It has proved extremely successful.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

Common sense might suggest that, but no research that I have been able to find shows that it makes the slightest bit of difference. The problem has been properly identified, but the solution to it has not—certainly not by this simple method.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

Research has shown that the number of accidents caused by young, learner or newly qualified drivers in Northern Ireland has fallen significantly.

In this country people are not obliged to carry their driving licence with them. How long a person has been driving can be determined by the licence. If such a person is stopped and asked to produce his licence within three days at a police station, there is nothing to prevent him from giving the wrong name and address to the police officer and asking somebody else to furnish a licence to a police station that is many miles from the scene of the incident. It would be difficult to enforce the measure, although it opens wide the door to the introduction of identity cards, a measure which I favour for reasons other than enforcing the proposed legislation.

It is rather anomalous that a newly qualified driver is allowed to build up 12 points in the same way as someone who has been driving for 20 years. A newly qualified driver should initially have a lower points limit, perhaps four, so that if he causes an accident or breaks the law in some other way he can lose his licence far earlier and have to retake the test. That would be better than being allowed three or four accidents before the licence is removed.

Education should also be more widely used to warn of the dangers of speed on the roads. The advertising industry has much to answer for. Some vehicles are advertised in a way that will attract people who wish to drive fast cars. Time and again, the fast car is presented as the vehicle for virile young men to prove their masculinity on the roads. That is wrong and other drivers are placed in danger by the emphasis on such cars.

Education in the home is also important. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) said that members of his family comment on the quality of his driving. It has been proved that competent drivers—I am sure that that describes my hon. Friend—influence members of their families who are learning to drive. People tend to imitate some of the habits of their parents on the roads. Parental persuasion is therefore important.

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West

The picture conjured up by my hon. Friend is mind-boggling. On the principle that he advocates, if my daughter emulates her parents while being driven by them she will look around the car for another back-seat driver.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

I am sure that many people suffer from a similar problem. More discussion is needed of the measures that are necessary to reduce the number of incidents and accidents on our roads.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam 2:27, 26 March 1993

I welcome the Bill because the time has come to take a much more disciplined approach to newly qualified drivers. We should seek examples in Northern Ireland and overseas. For instance, Germany applies strict rules under which the licence of a first offender is taken away and he has to resit the driving test. The authorities in Australia are extremely tough on young drivers. That is right because most offences are caused by teenage boy racers and the time has come to stop them racing and showing off. If we can clip their wings we shall do a great service for mankind because fatalities in the 16 to 19 age group is disproportionate to all other age groups. I hope that the Bill receives a fair wind, if not today on another occasion. Perhaps it can be reintroduced later. The time has come to take a firm grip. What do we mean by allowing newly qualified drivers on the roads without any supervision or restriction?

Photo of Mr Michael Stern Mr Michael Stern , Bristol North West 2:29, 26 March 1993

I intend to be brief. Given the time, I will be brief. However, I wish to make two points. The first, which has not yet been made, concerns the showing of signs on the vehicle. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) gets as confused as I do by the multiplicity of signs on the backs of cars. I am a little worried, and he will have to be careful about how the Bill defines the regulations——

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Debate to be resumed what day? No day named.