Road Safety Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 22nd November 2005.

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Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative 4:15 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, this amendment would allow the police to undertake targeted breath testing for a maximum of 24 hours where an inspector believes that drinking and driving may be taking place. The same amendment was moved in Committee in June when the Minister said that he and the Government were reluctant to accept it. However, since then, two new pieces of information have become available. First, the figures published in Road Casualties Great Britain: 2004 indicate a continuing rise in drink-driving fatalities. In 2004, 590 people died in crashes involving illegal alcohol levels—a rise of 10 people over the previous year, and a level which is higher than that in 1996. The problem of drinking and driving remains a major road safety issue, especially as the number of road deaths fell by 8 per cent between 2003 and 2004. If the Government are not prepared to encourage target breath testing, what other policies and initiatives do they favour?

The second piece of new information is the figures published earlier this year by the Home Office covering breath testing by individual police forces. There are significant variations between police forces in England and Wales in the number of tests carried out per hundred thousand head of population from 390 in Hertfordshire to 3,390 in Derbyshire. While it is wrong to take that figure as the sole criterion for judging a police force's commitment to reducing drinking and driving, nevertheless, the disparities in the figures raise questions about how seriously each force takes action on this issue.

The current legal position already allows discretion to the police officer to ask for a breath test on suspicion, although that applies only to an individual suspect rather than to a collection of people. This amendment would remove that ambiguity and enable police forces to do a better job where targeted breath testing can provide a useful deterrent. I beg to move.