Road Safety Bill [HL]

– in the House of Lords at 8:06 pm on 22 November 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.

[Amendment No. 23 not moved.]

Clause 20 [Using vehicle in dangerous condition etc.]:

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 23, line 27, at end insert "and the offender was not an employee driving a vehicle owned by his employer in connection with his employment"

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, we return to,

"using [a] vehicle in dangerous condition", and, in particular, the question of determining culpability between owner and driver. Despite having probed the Minister extensively in Committee, we remain troubled still about the potential impact of this clause on people whose work necessitates that they drive vehicles owned by their employers. As noble Lords will recall, the clause is designed to change the penalty for committing a second offence from one of discretionary disqualification for the courts to that of obligatory disqualification if the offence is,

"committed within three years of a previous conviction of the offender under section 40A".

We are concerned that the reality of this change could be disproportionate discrimination against employees who drive vehicles owned by their employers. The Minister sought to allay our fears in Committee. In his attempts to persuade us of the equitability of the provision, he said that,

"existing legislation provides for the fact that if the driver can demonstrate that he drove the vehicle on the basis of assurances from the employer that it was a safe vehicle, but it proved not to be, the driver would not be prosecuted; rather the owner of the vehicle would be".—[Hansard, 4/7/05; col. 528.]

However, the central problem remains. Once the second offence renders disqualification obligatory rather than discretionary, the option is removed from the hands of the court to apportion blame between the employer and the employee.

The offence refers to,

"using [a] vehicle in dangerous condition".

The employee would technically be guilty if he were driving his employer's vehicle and he was unaware that it was in a dangerous condition.

In its current form, despite the Minister's assurances, the clause does not explicitly account for the very serious scenario where an employee could unwittingly be driving a vehicle which was unsafe. To try to make clear blue water between the employer and the employee in this part of the Bill, I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by my noble friend on the Front Bench to which my name is added. I understand the mischief that the Minister seeks to remedy; that is, predominantly youngsters who drive wrecks of cars. They need to be deterred from doing that. The first time that they get convicted of using a vehicle in a dangerous condition, their legal advisers, and certainly the court, will point out to them that if they do it again, they will be disqualified. That is the mischief that the Minister is targeting. But I do not think that he intends to target a professional lorry driver—the most likely—or a travelling salesman who inadvertently finds out that he has used a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Yes, it may be that the employer should have known that the vehicle was dangerous and the driver may not know, but there are some things you can do when using a vehicle in a dangerous condition that the driver would not be aware of. I do not believe that the Minister wants inadvertently to ban from driving a professional lorry driver. My noble friend's amendment would deal with that, while the Minister would still be able to meet his objective of dealing with the mischief of a youngster driving around in a wreck of a car. No one is employed to drive a wreck; employed drivers normally use vehicles in a much better condition. I urge the Minister to consider this point very carefully.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I am not convinced by the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness and the noble Earl in that it is the responsibility of the driver, before he starts any journey, to make sure that his vehicle is in reasonable condition. That applies equally to an employee and to someone who is self-employed. It would not be fair to remove the obligation from an employee to ensure that the vehicle is in good condition. It is also his responsibility to make sure that he is not overloaded because the employer is often not in the place in which goods are loaded on to a vehicle. He must check that his load has been properly distributed on the vehicle. It is also his responsibility to ensure that he is sober, that he has not taken drugs and, beyond all else, he must ensure that he can meet the drivers' hours regulations.

The Minister will recall his Written Answer to my Question concerning vehicles on the A55 in Wales. We found that, in the case of vehicles from the Republic of Ireland, some 55 per cent of those stopped in an extensive check were in breach of the regulations. If the employer is in Ireland, he will not be supervising his employees on the A55 in North Wales. It is dangerous to go down the road to accepting that an employee is somehow exempted from taking responsibility for the condition of his vehicle and the way it is used.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that the errant driver would still incur penalty points on his driving licence and therefore, if he had a bad driving record, he could eventually lose his licence?

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, as the noble Earl well knows, the problem is that the chances of being caught are so small that very many people will take a risk. While enforcement activity remains so low, that will continue.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate, particularly since it has generated more controversy than I would be able to introduce from this side. For that we thank the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who is quite right to mention his Question for Written Answer which highlighted the example of lorries coming in from Ireland and using the A55 in North Wales. I am afraid that a very high percentage of them were not fit for the road. That is an important consideration.

As the noble Baroness mentioned, we have discussed the issue previously and I understand the intention behind the amendment. I note the proper concern for the position of an employee who has the misfortune of working for an unscrupulous employer, but this Bill is about road safety and we have a duty to the public. Therefore there are obligations on those who take charge of a vehicle, to say nothing of the fact that one aspect of road safety is the hope that the driver will be safe. It is in his interest that we should reinforce the obligation to make checks on the vehicle. Our obligation to ensure the safety of the general public is quite clear and the reason we have the offence in the first place. Moreover, if we are considering the commercial transport industry, it is all the more important that we have these safety provisions in place.

The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has highlighted the problem with the amendment. It would open a very wide loophole associated with circumstances in which someone might try to claim that they did not own the vehicle and were merely driving it on behalf of their employer.

The concerns expressed are adequately covered by the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, which states:

"Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 40A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (using a vehicle in a dangerous condition etc) the court must not . . . order him to be disqualified, or . . . order any particulars or penalty points to be endorsed on the counterpart of any licence held by him, if he proves that he did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect, that the use of the vehicle involved a danger of injury to any person".

So we are covered by existing legislation.

The safeguard for the public is that we provide protection to the employee while requiring him to apply a reasonable amount of diligence when he is taking a vehicle onto the public highway. If a driver knowingly took out an unsafe vehicle only because he worked for an unscrupulous employer, he would deserve the punishment; he would be as guilty as the neglectful employer. If he can prove that he did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect, that the use of the vehicle involved a danger of injury to any person, he would be likely to escape disqualification on endorsement when the court examined the case.

So we are covered by existing legislation. I would be very wary of any loophole that would be created which might help to explain some of the issues to which the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, referred when he mentioned the incidence of lorries—admittedly those coming from an external source—that do not match up to the proper specification. I hope that is a reasonable answer for the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, the Minister is over-egging the pudding because no one is arguing that the court should not have an option to disqualify a driver if it is satisfied that he was culpable in what was going on. I hear what the Minister says about Section 48 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act.

The clause makes it absolutely mandatory on courts to disqualify someone who has been prosecuted for taking out a vehicle which is an unfit condition for the second time within three years. The only aspect we are questioning is whether the court should have the right to make its own decision as to whether a case is serious enough to merit disqualification. It should have the option. I am sure the Minister will know that courts are less and less happy about the mandatory sentencing that is being passed down from Parliament because it does not leave them room to make their own judgments. That is the aspect we are questioning.

However, I hear what the Minister says. I hope that I have made our concerns clear. I am prepared for today's purposes to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 [Breach of requirements as to control of vehicle, mobile telephones etc.]:

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, we return to the subject of the use of mobile phones in motor vehicles, on which we enjoyed a stimulating debate in Committee. While I have no doubt that all noble Lords will join in the condemnation of those operating hand-held mobile telephones while driving a motor vehicle—as do I—it is important not unnecessarily to criminalise those drivers who use their mobile phones inside their vehicles but while not actually driving.

In Committee, my noble friend Lord Hanningfield illustrated the point with the example of a senior social worker who was stuck in a traffic jam but felt unable to make an important telephone call for fear of committing an offence. The current wording of this clause would render any driver of a vehicle that is not moving—even if the engine is switched off—who uses their mobile phone to make an urgent call, guilty of an offence that would result in a mandatory three point endorsement on their driving licence. The amendment is designed to address this absurd situation by providing a clear stipulation of the circumstances where a person is able to use their mobile telephone without fear of being penalised.

When we last debated this issue, the Minister highlighted a number of difficulties inherent in the specific wording of the amendment. He spoke at length about the problematic distinction between being in control of a vehicle and driving a vehicle, and drew our attention to the peculiar fact that there is no definition before the law of what constitutes "driving". However, I believe that if you take the keys out of the car and put them on the back seat and are therefore unable to drive, you would possibly be considered not to be driving. The Minister also referred to the difficulties that stem from the advent of new technologies that automatically switch one's engine on and off in pursuit of fuel economy.

While I concede that the Minister cannot accept the amendment as it stands, that does not preclude the possibility of producing a form of words that would satisfy noble Lords. I simply cannot believe that there can be no room for this type of sensible flexibility within the legislation that we have all agreed to be so necessary.

I also remind the Minister that he gave the Committee an assurance that he would look at the issue again. I very much hope that he may be able to tell us tonight that he has done so and that there is a way out.

While there may be technical difficulties in the way in which the amendment is worded at present, something needs to be done. There must be some leeway to enable people to make a brief emergency telephone call if they are, for example, stuck in a traffic jam and are very late picking up a child from school. None of us holds any brief for people who drive round with one hand on the steering wheel and the other clamping a phone to their ear while trying to turn a corner. That is not what we are saying. Our amendment would cover someone, in extremis, who took the decision that they had to make a phone call, stopped somewhere safe to make it and then moved on.

If we do not have a provision of this sort that eases us through, the legislation will be deficient in this aspect. I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport 8:45, 22 November 2005

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Hanham. If we do not make some progress on this matter, there will be a perverse effect. When I drive my vehicle, I always switch off my hand-held mobile phone, which I believe is the right thing to do. I should not be using a mobile phone. I do not want it to ring when I am driving; I want to concentrate on the driving. But if I cannot legally make a call when I am stuck in a traffic jam to tell whoever I am supposed to meet in two hours' time that I will not be there for two and a half hours, I cannot relieve the stress on me from the traffic jam. So the solution for me would be to fit a hands-free phone, in which case I might as well leave it switched on. Then I will start making or receiving calls while I drive along, which I am sure is not what the Minister wants.

There is a perverse incentive. If people cannot switch on their hand-held mobile phone for a few minutes to make a call and apologise because they will be late, they will be encouraged to go for hands-free phones, which they might as well leave switched on. The Minister is smiling because he knows this is an ingenious argument.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

My Lords, I support the amendment. As the noble Baroness and the noble Earl have both said, there must come a time when it is safe to use a phone. With the engine switched off you cannot move, and whether you are in a lay-by or stuck in traffic, it does not make that much difference. If you get out of the car—which you are not allowed to do on a motorway, but people probably do occasionally if the traffic is not moving—that is illegal in one sense and legal in another. There has to be a solution.

What worries me is that if it remains illegal to use a mobile phone when you are sitting in a car under any circumstances, the police will probably turn a blind eye most of the time, but there will be occasions when they do not turn a blind eye, which they have a habit of doing these days. They arrested a lady walking along a cycle track in Dundee under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. She was not doing anything, just walking down a cycle track. The police do funny things. There needs to be a way out of this, and the amendment looks to be a good start.

Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

My Lords, I strongly support this extremely sensible amendment. Where a vehicle is stationary and the engine is switched off, that vehicle is clearly not being driven, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, pointed out. As was said by a number of noble Lords in Committee, an individual who has been able to let his family or his firm know that he is stuck in a 10-mile traffic jam is going to be a much safer driver when he finally emerges from it than a driver who has not been able to let anybody know and who drives fast to make up time in case his family believes that something untoward has happened to him. A cynic might point out that the police are in practice extremely unlikely to be able to identify and charge anybody who is stuck in a 10-mile traffic jam, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said. They would not be able to get through for a start. But that is not the point. We must look at the principle of the matter. The principle of the amendment is absolutely right.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, there are electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles on the road. The amendment should therefore state "motor" rather than "engine".

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I too support the amendment. I do not know whether the words are right, but I accept that if the amendment is not passed, it will encourage people to use hands-free phones, which are quite dangerous. It is much more dangerous than somebody stopping his car, switching the engine off—or the motor, as my noble friend says—and making the telephone call. I know that we have heard a lot about traffic jams, but many people are called urgently and might want to respond. It is better that they do so by stopping and making the call rather than converting to hands-free phones. I hope that the Minister may have some good news for us.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, this amendment makes so much sense. For the amusement or fear of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham—I am not sure which—I relate to the House that we were overtaken by a lady in an unmarked car who had a hand-held mobile phone in one hand and a piece of paper on the steering wheel on which she was writing. She was stopped for driving at more than 100 miles an hour and was disqualified from driving.

Photo of Baroness Masham of Ilton Baroness Masham of Ilton Crossbench

My Lords, I support this common-sense amendment. Would one be penalised for reporting an accident on a mobile phone, as I have done?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I have been assailed on all sides. But I suppose that one could ask, whoever thought that the arrival of the mobile phone in a car would be an aid to road safety? Everything that I have heard about mobile phones has been about how they distract from driving, and yet today we have heard the mobile phone defended on all sides as almost an essential aid to keeping the roads safe—as if the roads were a good deal less safe before people could report what was happening on the road and say that they would be home late for tea.

I accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, said about reporting an accident ahead. However, if a phone was demonstrably used because of an emergency on the road, I think that there would be full understanding by the police and—if it ever went beyond the police—the court of the purpose of the call. I cannot imagine that a prosecution would be sustained.

However, all the other representations from noble Lords have been about personal convenience. Now this is to suppose that drivers know that there is a 10-mile jam in front of them and know that they are going to be safely ensconced there for 45 minutes, and that is why they use their phone. What about the person who is in a jam and is just over the top of a bridge that unsights the traffic behind but is busy on the telephone and does not get away as quickly as he should and then is hit by a vehicle from behind, being stationary when he should not be? In such circumstances, do you think the driver could erect a defence and say, "Well of course I was stationary. I was concentrating on my mobile phone"? Would that be a perfectly reasonable defence? No, it would not.

We must recognise that if we are focusing on driver alertness and attention, the issue of the mobile phone must be a distraction. I heard what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said—that I will drive everyone from using the handheld mobile phone to using the hands-free mobile phone. I shall not be doing that. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, well knows, as does every other driver in the country, we do not believe that attention to hands-free phones while driving is a good idea either. Although there may be a common assumption that they are wonderfully safe because both hands are on the steering wheel, the trouble is that the hands are engaged but the mind is not. That is why we have reservations about the hands-free telephone. I am not involved in a contradiction when I suggest that because we have enormous reservations about using handheld phones that we are somehow driving people to using hands-free phones. We made it clear in our guidance that we do not believe that hands-free phones should be used either.

That is not to say that we did not have a very interesting debate, although the terms of the debate have changed a little, with an amendment that is even better drafted than the amendment we debated previously. We had an interesting debate last time as well, and I have thought about the issues, because I recognise that noble Lords would not have contributed to the debate if there were not a point here—namely, that people can see circumstances in which a phone might be of assistance.

Let me mention the obvious point: we do not have a definition of "driving" in our road traffic law, as I explained in Committee. We have never had one, and the law has worked—largely because it is difficult to know how one establishes a definition of driving a car. However, we know that there are technical points, such as the ones identified by the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie—namely, "Am I free to use a mobile phone, because my engine automatically switches off because I am driving a certain kind of vehicle?". To allow that would be to drive a coach and horses through these concepts.

I have sympathy with noble Lords' arguments. I do not like standing here and looking as if I am somehow a technological throwback because I do not enjoy the use of mobile phones. We all use mobile phones, and to good effect. Some of us use them to bad effect as well, when they ring in places they ought not to ring; my visit to the theatre the other evening was disturbed by a mobile phone. I must say that puts one against them for a little while. We all benefit from mobile phones, but mobile phones and driving do not mix. Despite all the representations made in Committee, we did not believe that a case had been made out for a change with regard to mobile phones and driving. The fact that a car is stationary need not mean that full attention does not have to be paid.

Of course, there was an allusion to another kind of instance—to people getting out of cars in 10-mile jams on motorways. Where on earth would the law be if we had an exception that said that if, in the driver's judgment, he was going to be there for a period of time, he could take a stroll on the motorway because it is obviously perfectly safe if he is in a jam? Of course he is perfectly safe—except that some of our fellow citizens have a very odd definition of a 10-mile jam or wandering around the motorway. The same thing applies to the issue of mobile phones.

We have heard a very well articulated argument on an amendment that I am afraid I cannot accept.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, I am almost tempted to say that the Minister has, with his comments about hands-free phones, led us to a situation in which no one will be able to be accompanied in a car at all. I cannot see that there is anything much more diverting about talking to a hands-free mobile than there is in talking to someone who is sitting next to the driver, or to passengers or children sitting behind him. Should they be dumped—do they need to come as well? So we are all going to be travelling up and down the motorway on our own, with a mobile phone. In that case, since we will all be on our own with our mobile phone, there will be no one to alert anyone else to the difficulty of a driver who has a problem, such as a child needing to be collected from school while you are stuck, or something that may look like an emergency to the person driving, but not to everyone else.

There is a need for an escape clause here, although I know the Minister does not think so. We will probably try again, but for today's purposes I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 9:00, 22 November 2005

moved Amendment No. 26:

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause—

"POWER OF POLICE TO STOP VEHICLE

In Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences under the Traffic Acts), in the entry relating to section 163 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (failing to stop mechanically propelled vehicle or cycle when required to do so), in column (4) (punishment), for "Level 3 on the standard scale." substitute—

"(a) Level 5 on the standard scale if committed by a person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle.

(b) Level 3 on the standard scale if committed by a person riding a cycle." and, in column (2) (general nature of offence), for "motor" substitute "mechanically propelled"."

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 26 I shall speak to Amendment No. 27 at the same time. Both amendments increase the penalties available for existing offences. Amendment No. 26 raises the penalty for failing to stop for a constable under Section 163 of the Road Traffic Act from a fine of £1,000 to one of £5,000. This was not contained in the consultation on bad driving offences, but was mentioned by a small number of respondents who thought the penalty for failing to stop for a police officer should be increased to recognise the serious risks to other road users of trying to evade the police or escape detection of more serious offences, such as driving under the influence of drink or drugs. The Government have considered this, and agree that amending the penalty would more accurately reflect the offending behaviour.

Amendment No. 27 makes minor changes to the offence of "furious driving" under the Offences against the Person Act 1961.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

I am sorry, my Lords; 1861 was the year I was looking for. I am not sure I can go back a century and a half with regard to these issues.

Existing bad driving offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988 apply to public but not private places, and to motorised vehicles. This means that, at times, instances of bad driving may fall outside the scope of the Act because either the place or the vehicle is not covered. In some circumstances the behaviour will fall outside the Road Traffic Act but be covered by other offences. Manslaughter, for example, may be committed anywhere, as can offences such as assault. Where an example of bad driving is not serious enough to warrant a charge of manslaughter, or where death and injury is caused and the offence takes place on private property or in a non-motorised vehicle, the only offence that may apply is that of furious driving under Section 35 of the 1861 Act, to whose correct date the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, drew my attention.

This is not strictly a road traffic offence. It is indictable only, and carries a maximum penalty of two years. Also, it applies—I note the presence of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie—only to England and Wales.

It may be helpful if I set out which roads would be covered by the offence of furious driving. Privately-owned roads open to the public to drive on, as may be found in some private developments, are public roads for the purpose of driving offences. What is not covered is truly private property—for example, race tracks. The consultation on bad driving offences argued that this offence should be replaced, as it is outdated. This was generally supported, but some responses emphasised that care should be taken as the offence is still used.

In addition, the consultation did not demonstrate concern that the present law is lacking. There is no evidence that there are current instances of bad driving that take place on private land or in non-motorised vehicles that are not adequately dealt with. The response from Justice noted that there are several factors that make it difficult to treat driving on public roads and on private property the same; for example, there is no requirement to have a licence to drive on private property, and there is a much lower risk of harm to others. Simply to apply existing driving licences for all vehicles to all types of property would not be justified.

The Government have therefore concluded that the offence of furious driving should be left in place, but there are a few simple measures that would make it more effective in practice. As such, our Amendment No. 27 will clarify that a court has a discretion to disqualify for the offence. The clause also makes the offence endorsable where it involves a mechanically propelled vehicle. That means that it will not be possible to endorse a licence where the person has been found guilty of furious driving of a horse and cart. I offer that to noble Lords as an indication of how carefully the Government have thought through the amendment.

Finally, Amendment No. 28 transposes Clause 23 on the offence of keeping a vehicle that does not meet insurance requirements to before Clause 18, so that it will be grouped alongside the two new criminal offences in government Amendments Nos. 19 and 20, which we discussed before dinner.

In light of that explanation, I hope that noble Lords will accept government Amendments Nos. 26 to 28. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, I am a bit disappointed that furious driving does not apply to Scotland, not only because constitutionally it is wrong as the Road Traffic Acts are reserved to preserve equal treatment across Great Britain, if not to extend it to Northern Ireland. There is the possibility of constitutional anoraks getting upset, but I am attracted by the offence, because it is what I have been looking for to deal with people who drive quad bikes and off-road motorcycles on public footpaths, causing people to have to jump out of the way. I have been struggling to find an offence that those drivers are committing when they are clearly committing a breach of common sense. I am almost about to hear myself ask whether we have to table an amendment to extend the offence to Scotland.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I have no difficulty with the Minister's amendments, but I was not aware of furious driving. Have there been any prosecutions or convictions for the offence?

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, in the light of my noble friend's research, did he know that what we now know as roads were originally described as those accessible to a shepherd, three sheep and a sheepdog?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Simon has taken us slightly further back in history than even 1861. I am sorry about the difficulty of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, with regard to Scotland. There probably was an Earl of Mar and Kellie in this House in 1861, but there certainly was not a Lord Davies of Oldham, so he cannot accuse me of being neglectful on that occasion. We are actually reflecting the use of land in the two countries, with very different legal systems applying to them.

So far as I know, furious driving is not so much a road traffic offence as one that falls under the criminal law in England and Wales. The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, will have to do his research, because it may well fall under the criminal law in Scotland or something similar to it. In that sense the matter is devolved, which is why we are not talking about Scotland in relation to furious driving.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, there is a slight problem, because I do not think that the Scottish Parliament constitutionally has the right to make laws of the type in a road traffic Act.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, that I understand. As I indicated, the law has regard not to road traffic, but to other aspects of the criminal law. Therefore, the Scottish Parliament can take decisions in that area and probably already has done so. I confess that I have not come briefed fully on the Scottish position.

I believe that the same issue obtains with regard to Scotland so I do not think that the noble Earl will have to do too much research to reassure himself on that point.

On the more general issues, I hear what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, says about furious driving being an interesting concept. It is a dated and restricted concept. I do not have information regarding the latest successful prosecution under the measure. I believe that such a prosecution is an extreme rarity but the measure is on the statute book, and that is why I refer to it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 27:

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause—

"FURIOUS DRIVING

In Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (prosecution and punishment of offences: offences otherwise than under the Traffic Acts), after the entry relating to manslaughter and culpable homicide insert—

"An offence under section 35 of the Offences againstthe Person Act 1861 (furious driving). Discretionary. Obligatory if committed in respect of amechanically propelled vehicle. 3–9""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Offence of keeping vehicle which does not meet insurance requirements]:

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 29:

After Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

"MEANING OF DRIVING WITHOUT DUE CARE AND ATTENTION

In the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52), after section 3 insert—

"3ZA MEANING OF CARELESS, OR INCONSIDERATE, DRIVING

(1) This section has effect for the purposes of sections 2B and 3 above and section 3A below.

(2) A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

(3) In determining for the purposes of subsection (2) above what would be expected of a careful and competent driver in a particular case, regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.

(4) A person is to be regarded as driving without reasonable consideration for other persons only if those persons are inconvenienced by his driving.""

[Amendment No. 29A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 29, not moved.]

On Question, Amendment No. 29 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 30:

After Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

"EXTENSION OF OFFENCE IN SECTION 3A OF ROAD TRAFFIC ACT 1988

(1) Section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) (causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs etc.) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), after paragraph (c) insert "or

(d) he is required by a constable to give his permission for a laboratory test of a specimen of blood taken from him under section 7A of this Act, but without reasonable excuse fails to do so,".

(3) In subsection (3), for "and (c)" substitute ", (c) and (d)".

(4) In section 24(1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (alternative verdicts), in the Table, in the entry relating to section 3A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52), in the second column, after "Section 7(6) (failing to provide specimen)" insert "Section 7A(6) (failing to give permission for laboratory test)"."

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, Amendment No. 30 arises from a response to the consultation paper on bad driving offences that highlighted a loophole in the current law.

At present the law allows the police to request a medical practitioner to take a blood sample from a suspect who is not capable of consenting—for example, because he is unconscious—but does not allow it to be tested unless the suspect subsequently consents. Where that consent is then withheld, there is an offence of failure to consent to a blood test under Section 7A(6) of the Road Traffic Act which has a maximum sentence of six months' imprisonment, but there is no provision that would allow the suspect to be prosecuted for causing death while under the influence. This is not the case in relation to a person who is capable of consenting and withholds their consent.

Causing death while under the influence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment so it is important that we do not allow those who do not consent, and have no reasonable excuse, in effect to opt for prosecution of a much less serious offence with a significantly lower penalty. This amendment brings the law into line so that whether or not a person is conscious or unconscious following an incident does not determine which offence he could ultimately be charged with.

I hope noble Lords will agree that this is an important amendment aimed at ensuring that the law is adequate and fair, and that it closes a loophole. I beg to move.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords will accept the amendment, but why is it necessary to obtain consent to analyse a sample? I can understand why it is necessary to obtain consent to take a sample, because otherwise that would constitute an assault, but why is it necessary to obtain consent to analyse a sample?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, it is necessary to obtain consent because the sample has been taken without the conscious agreement of the person concerned. Before any further progress can be made with the sample, consent has to be given. We all recognise that consent would be withheld where the person is in no position to exercise any response. However, we are concerned that delayed consent can lead to a different and lower order offence. We are trying to rationalise that process. That is why the amendment is necessary.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, if there is delay in obtaining the consent, is there a risk that the sample could become reduced or contaminated, and that could be used as an artificial defence, in which case I strongly support not having a delay?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 9:15, 22 November 2005

My Lords, there is undoubtedly a danger in the very long run, but we are thinking within a framework of a normal period, in which samples can be protected. I have no note of anxiety on that score; it is covered. It is clear that the loophole has produced injustice.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport

My Lords, is the Minister absolutely clear in his own mind on this? If someone has come into police custody presumably the worse for drink or drugs, and is unconscious, and a sample is taken from him without his consent—because he is not in a position to give it—is the Minister telling us that the sample has got to be kept in the custody of the police and not analysed until the person is able to give consent? The noble Baroness has just made the point that the blood sample could deteriorate considerably if, for example, it was held over a weekend. Can the Minister assure us that the blood sample would in fact be good enough to show whatever drugs or drink they are analysing it for? I am probing the Minister on why it is necessary, having taken the sample, then to get the permission of the person who is unconscious before you analyse it.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I have dug a pit into which I have successfully fallen. I put the emphasis in the wrong place, and I apologise to the House for that. The consent formally in law is to the analysis and not to the taking of the sample. That would be delayed if a person were unconscious. I recognise the legitimate anxiety about how long the samples would last. They do not deteriorate in the short term, but if someone was in a coma for many months, the problem might arise. However, I imagine in such circumstances the procedures of the law would have considerable difficulty anyway. We have no anxiety about the deterioration of samples in the short term.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 31:

After Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

"ALTERNATIVE VERDICT ON UNSUCCESSFUL CULPABLE HOMICIDE PROSECUTION

(1) Section 23 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (alternative verdicts in Scotland) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for "an offence under section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (dangerous driving)" substitute "any of the relevant offences".

(3) After that subsection insert—

"(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) above the following are the relevant offences—

(a) an offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (causing death by dangerous driving),

(b) an offence under section 2 of that Act (dangerous driving), and

(c) an offence under section 3A of that Act (causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs).""

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 31, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 32, which both deal with provision for alternative verdicts for the offences of culpable homicide in Scotland and manslaughter in England and Wales. In a small number of cases, rather than being charged with causing death by dangerous driving, a defendant will be charged with manslaughter, or in Scotland with culpable homicide. That can occur where the driving entailed a very high risk of death. It is rarely used, but is nevertheless important to reflect the fact that some offenders use cars just as they would use any other weapon. Some people use the term "motor manslaughter".

Doubt has arisen whether in England and Wales a prosecution for manslaughter could give rise to an alternative verdict of causing death by dangerous driving where the manslaughter charge fails. The consultation on bad driving offences proposed that the situation be clarified so that it is clear that alternative verdicts are available to ensure that prosecutors are not dissuaded from prosecuting on a manslaughter charge where that is considered appropriate. No doubt to the joy of the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, the situation is slightly different in Scotland. Section 23(1) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988—which I shall refer to as the RTOA—provides that in Scotland an alternative verdict under Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act on dangerous driving is already available where an accused has been found not guilty of culpable homicide. Amendment No. 32 provides that the offences of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink and drugs, and furious driving will be available as alternative verdicts where a prosecution for manslaughter has been unsuccessful.

Furious driving, under Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 has been added into Amendment No. 32, as this is the only offence that would be available if a prosecution for manslaughter for driving that took place on private property had failed.

Amendment No. 31 ensures that the same offences, with the exception of furious driving, which is an offence only in England and Wales, as I sought to explain in our previous discussion, will be available as alternative verdicts in Scotland. This will ensure that prosecutors feel able to pursue rigorously these charges where appropriate and ensure that the same alternative verdicts will apply regardless of where an incident occurs. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, can the Minister clarify this matter? If someone is prosecuted for manslaughter while driving a mechanically-propelled vehicle, and they are tried and found not guilty, is the prosecutor able to say that that not guilty verdict means that they must put before the court the possibility that the defendant is guilty of any one of the other three offences? If that happens, does the prosecutor have to allow time for the defence to take second instructions? Does he have to allow time for an adjournment? Does the defendant have to go through a retrial on the back of much of the previous evidence?

That may happen in other court proceedings, but I am not aware of it. Normally, if you are found not guilty at the end of a trial, that is that and you are not allowed to be prosecuted again for that offence. If you are then prosecuted for another offence, do the proceedings have to start all over again, with the person being re-arrested and the matter put before the court? Before we agree to the amendment, we need an explanation to clarify the matter.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I am interested in my noble friend's point about double jeopardy, because we have heard that that now applies in ordinary manslaughter or murder cases. We have heard reports in the press about someone's car being stolen and the driver deliberately running over the owner of the car. I do not know whether that person survived, but it certainly was a deliberate attempt to injure or kill. It would be desirable to have the option of a number of charges, but, like my noble friend, I would like to know whether the court can determine the outcome as an "either/or" case, or whether double jeopardy applies and the defendant could face a double trial.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, can the indictment start in Scotland as culpable homicide and then be followed by a second charge of causing death by dangerous driving? Will those charges all be listed, one below the other, or can they be returned to? Perhaps I may tell the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, that anyone who deliberately drives into someone is guilty of murder.

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, however I put it, all I am doing is questioning the process. I am not questioning whether someone who knocks down and kills someone is guilty of an offence. Of course they are. The question is whether, if they are found not guilty of one offence, they can then be prosecuted for another offence.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and I would have been surprised if she had remained silent while harbouring such anxieties about the way that this legislation will work, if the amendments receive the approval of the House.

We are not talking about double jeopardy or a retrial; we are saying that when the prosecution presents the charge of the more serious offence, it will encompass within that all the issues which might relate to the more minor offence. It will be for the judge to say that he did not find the first position established and he might direct the court to consider the second. That is how it would work. It would be the same trial—it would not be double jeopardy. You would be before the court with the more serious charge being outlined, and you might find that eventually, on the evidence, you were convicted on the lesser part of the offence. That is the basis on which it would work. I hope that that allays noble Lords' well founded anxieties.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

moved Amendment No. 32:

After Clause 23, insert the following new clause—

"ALTERNATIVE VERDICT ON UNSUCCESSFUL MANSLAUGHTER PROSECUTION

In section 24 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (c. 53) (alternative verdicts), before subsection (1) insert—

"(A1) Where—

(a) a person charged with manslaughter in connection with the driving of a mechanically propelled vehicle by him is found not guilty of that offence, but

(b) the allegations in the indictment amount to or include an allegation of any of the relevant offences, he may be convicted of that offence.

(A2) For the purposes of subsection (A1) above the following are the relevant offences—

(a) an offence under section 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (causing death by dangerous driving),

(b) an offence under section 2 of that Act (dangerous driving),

(c) an offence under section 3A of that Act (causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs), and

(d) an offence under section 35 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (furious driving).""

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 4 [New Schedule 2A to the Road Traffic Act 1988]:

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 deals with disputes and currently makes provision for regulations allowing for an application only to a magistrates' court. This is a drafting error as the Act applies to England, Wales and Scotland. In Scotland, as the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, was going to point out to me, the equivalent of a magistrates' court is a sheriff court. Consequently, the paragraph should in fact provide for applications in Scotland to be made to a sheriff court. The amendment rectifies that error by providing that the paragraph includes provision for applications in Scotland to be made to a sheriff court. I apologise to the House and, in particular, to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for the error. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 26 [Driving tests]:

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 39, line 4, at end insert—

"( ) In subsection (1) (tests of competence to drive), after the word "requirement" insert ", has received first aid training".

( ) In paragraph (a) insert at end—

"(aa) an applicant shall be considered to have received first aid training if on the date the application for the licence is made he has received the training prescribed by virtue of subsection (3) below.""

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, we had a very useful debate in Committee about the importance of basic first aid skills in saving lives on our roads. I have tabled Amendments Nos. 34 and 36 as I undertook to return to this significant issue at Report stage. I shall not rehearse in detail the many benefits of first aid skills for drivers as we heard them in previous sittings. However, I think it is necessary to restate the potential of enhancing first aid knowledge.

Noble Lords will know that we still have an average of eight deaths each day on UK roads. Some of those deaths are inevitable after an accident has occurred due to the massive injuries sustained. However, substantial research has shown that in the cases where death was not inevitable, up to 85 per cent of the casualties had an airway obstruction. With a blocked airway, it can take less than four minutes to die. In those cases, even if an ambulance arrives within the target time of eight minutes, it is those at the scene who can save a life.

In Committee, we were very glad to hear from the Minister that he was working with the British Red Cross—many of us have also been involved in discussions with the Red Cross—and St John Ambulance on practical solutions to increase these basic skills in new drivers. I take the Government's point about the complexities of requiring all new drivers to take a practical first aid course in order to pass a driving test. However, other European countries, such as Slovakia, Estonia and Latvia, do require such training.

I was also pleased to hear in Committee that the Government think that there is a way forward in amending the theory section of the driving test. My understanding is that both parts of the theory test can be amended to enhance new drivers' first aid knowledge. The Minister referred to the question and answer section of the theory test and to the fact that there are currently 22 first aid questions out of 1,200 in total. I should very much like the Government to commit to raising that number so that each new driver is certain to be asked questions about first aid. I should like the Minister to comment on that today.

In addition, I understand that the interactive part of the theory test—the hazard perception test—could include one scene detailing a first aid scenario. That would enable a learner driver to understand the basis of responding to a road accident: ensuring that the scene is safe; checking consciousness, breathing and circulation; and calling for help.

The new focus on the theory test would remedy previous objections on the grounds of bureaucracy and cost. It would not require a separate course on first aid, and would be integrated into the current system. Nor would improving the theory test require retesting every few years; it would simply give new drivers vital life skills at a time when they need them most. As your Lordships have heard several times, drivers between 17 and 20 are six times more likely to be involved in a collision that causes injury than a driver over 40.

These modest steps would not place any obligation on drivers. No driver would be required to act at the scene of an accident. What a dreadful tragedy it would be, however, if there were a willing bystander who could have unblocked an airway or prevented blood loss, but was unable to save a life through a lack of those very simple skills.

I hope that the Minister can respond to these amendments and outline the Government's intentions on improving the first aid content of the theory element of the driving test. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bradshaw Lord Bradshaw Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport 9:30, 22 November 2005

My Lords, briefly, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said. I remember quite clearly what the Minister said in Committee: he was keen to avoid extra bureaucracy and mentioned the large cost of extra testing. It does not appear to me, from the researches that the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has outlined, that it would be very difficult to incorporate some simple first aid questions within the theory part of the test, and include some simulator-type element where somebody could experience what it is like.

The messages to get over appear to be very simple. We are not expecting people to become paramedics. We expect them to think about a few simple things. It would be in the interests of all people who use the roads if the Minister could accede to this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I support this amendment. I was really opposed to the idea of any sort of extensive training, which I thought would be quite impossible and impractical. I am impressed by the leaflet sent by the Red Cross, however, and putting it into the hazard perception test would be very good. I will mention again the comment of my noble friend Lord Hanningfield—about new drivers, particularly between the ages of 17 and 20, being the most likely to be involved in a collision—when we get to Amendment No. 37.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

My Lords, to add to the remarks of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes in support of this amendment, the hazard perception test is an ideal vehicle. It is already there. This is just the kind of component that it should include.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Hanningfield. I am grateful for the letter that we had from the Minister, and agree with many of the points he raises in it—particularly the load on youngsters at that time, the skill fade on a large first aid test and the need for examiners to be examiners in driving, not in first aid. My amendment, which I described in detail in Committee, was a very short practical test with a dummy. I suspect it would only last 60 seconds and one would really have to be incredibly thick to fail it. That would be good, because the candidate would feel good for having passed the test. It would only demonstrate an ability to procure an airway, immobilise the neck and detect and control bleeding, and nothing else. It would therefore be a very short test. One would have to be some sort of moron not to pass it.

If the Minister cannot accept our amendments—which I suspect he cannot—will he at least ensure that there will always be at least one first aid test in the theory test? That way, if a candidate does not study any first aid, he will fail one of the questions.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this short debate. As the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, accurately prophesied, I cannot accept the amendments. But I accept very much the spirit in which they are moved, and who could gainsay the enormous advantages to the road-travelling public, in fact to all of us, if we increase first-aid skills? That is why we were only too happy to meet with representatives of the Red Cross, St John Ambulance and others in the summer to discuss these issues. We want to see an improvement in first-aid skills. As all noble Lords have testified, this can be of enormous advantage in certain circumstances. Our problem is quite straightforward: we are opposed to the idea that passing the driving test, which is a test of being able to drive a vehicle, should be dependent on a supplementary test or concept regarding first aid.

I want to give the assurance straight away that of course we will look at the issues of strengthening the driving test questions on first aid. We already have provision with regard to that. It is not the case that you can pass the driving test and show complete ignorance of first aid. We will look to ways, which we discussed with the Red Cross, of strengthening the driving test in these terms. But we are still reluctant to accept the argument that the test of the ability to drive should potentially be passed or failed by an additional test on competence regarding first aid.

I heard what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, said on how limited that test might be. Even so, as I attested when we discussed the issue in Committee, there are some who might find that test difficult, or even inimical, to take. There is a problem there.

I noticed that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, gave her whole-hearted support to the concept on this occasion. Last time she introduced a concept for which I was grateful and which I shall reiterate—not to embarrass her in any way, shape or form, but to show that we take her representations seriously, as indeed we should. Her point was that people who blithely address themselves to first aid and get it wrong could find themselves liable if it were subsequently shown that they had significantly contributed to the degree of action the person suffered. So, we are worried about that aspect. I give way to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, of course.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, is there any evidence that this problem has actually arisen?

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

No, my Lords. I do not have anything in front of me. I know of another incident, and I can only talk anecdotally in this. I do not know of an incident with regard to cars, but I know of a football injury where the person concerned demonstrated extremely inexpert skills in putting that injury right. He got it badly wrong and was sued. He acted out of goodwill, but he did not know what he was doing and made the injury a jolly sight worse than it had been when it first occurred. I am saying that if we introduce this as a requirement of the test, we certainly would have many more people feeling that they were competent to act in these terms and we would not be assured that their competence would stand the test.

Let me make the obvious point, and we discussed this with the Red Cross, some of us hold driving licences from a long way back, do we not? I do not think that the Red Cross would be very satisfied if I said to them that when I passed my test in 1961 I also passed the equivalent first-aid requirement at that time and therefore I feel myself to be entirely competent today. It would say that I was out of date after three years, not after 44 or whatever it is. There is a real problem about the question of effective first aid in these terms. I hear what the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, says about how limited the subject might be. That is not actually the nature of the representations we had from the bodies concerned. I give way, of course, to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, the Minister said at the beginning of his reply that he was with us in spirit and went on to say that he was giving the matter some thought. We might achieve the inclusion of some further points in the oral part of the test. We have all had discussions with the Red Cross, which felt that it had persuaded the Government to extend that element of the test. I am disappointed to hear the Minister say that the Government will give some thought to that. Can he not be more categorical and say that there could be more first aid questions in the oral part of the test? That hurts no one and at least gives people a bit more basic knowledge. As I said, that would not increase bureaucracy or need a lot of first aid people to administer the test; it would just ensure that young people taking that first test had a little more first aid knowledge as he and I had all those years ago when we took our tests.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

Yes, my Lords, although I am not sure that the noble Lord has applied himself to the test that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, referred to, which is now part of the driving test. I have taken the additional test recently and I hope that he will join me in that competence.

I can be more positive, because we discussed those issues with the Red Cross. We thought that its case had been made and that we would need to extend questions in the theory part of the driving test to include more on first aid. We have not reached final conclusions on that because this is no straightforward matter. The driving test is a pretty serious examination, as noble Lords will know. One of the blessings of having passed the test some years ago is that we are not subject to quite the same challenge as is presented to newly qualifying drivers today, although we are working on that to ensure that we are all up to competence. But that will have to wait for another day, not the Bill.

Let me make the obvious point that we accept what the noble Lord says. We are considering extending the test to include additional first aid material.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, especially for the last part of it. Many of us think that this is an important part of the Bill. There are areas that we are discussing now that could save a substantial number of lives. Earlier, we talked about reflective strips and this area, where a lot of people die in the early stages after a road accident who might be saved if something could be done. So we are discussing saving lives.

As I said, I was pleased to hear what the Minister said right at the end: that the Government were considering that. We all have to reflect on that and talk to others to decide whether we return to it on Third Reading but, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

moved Amendment No. 37:

After Clause 26, insert the following new clause—

"IDENTIFICATION OF VEHICLES DRIVEN BY NEW DRIVERS: PILOT SCHEME

(1) The Secretary of State may by order establish a pilot scheme for identifying new drivers by means of a distinguishing mark on vehicles driven by them.

(2) The scheme shall apply to all drivers passing the driving test within a specified period of not less than 3 months' duration.

(3) Drivers who pass the test during that specified period shall be required for a period of one year to drive only in vehicles carrying a distinguishing mark of such size, nature, position and colour as may be prescribed in the order.

(4) Following the pilot scheme, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to Parliament on the effect of the scheme on accident rates and the incidence of road traffic offences among the target group, when compared to control groups who passed the driving test in the period of 3 months immediately before and immediately after the pilot period."

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, I have gone to a lot of trouble, although I cannot claim credit for the clever wording of the amendment. It is specifically designed to meet all the objections that the Minister raised to my earlier, much more simple amendment in which I specified the type of plate, the number, the period of time, and so on. So this is an enabling amendment. The Minister has said that the trouble is that we always believe that young people aged 17 to 20 have many more accidents—sure enough, the Red Cross confirms that in its statement. My noble friend Lord Hanningfield said that they are six times more likely to have an accident; the Red Cross did not say that in my brief, but I accept that figure.

First, the amendment states:

"The Secretary of State may by order"— so it does not oblige him to do this, but it includes it as a possibility, which is extremely valuable because we have been trying for years to get such a provision—I certainly tried during the passage of the previous two relevant Acts.

The amendment continues,

"identifying new drivers by means of a distinguishing mark".

Again, I have left it to the Government to decide whether they want "R" plates, "L" plates, a happy face or a frog as an identifying mark; it is entirely up to them.

Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause says:

"The scheme shall apply to all drivers passing the driving test within a specified period of not less than 3 months' duration".

It was important to include something of that type because if you applied the scheme only at certain testing stations, everyone might move to the next testing station to avoid it. If the scheme lasted less than three months, people might say, "I'll hang on until that horrible little test is over before I take my test, so I won't be one of those that will be assessed". It is important that new drivers should drive only in vehicles carrying a distinguishing mark for a specified period but I am flexible on whether it is one year, three months or six months. The Minister could decide that. The amendment even refers to,

"size, nature, position and colour as may be prescribed in the order".

It is very important that, under proposed new subsection (4), following the pilot scheme there should be a report. The whole purpose of the idea is to answer the Minister's statement that we do not know whether such a scheme would help. I agree that we do not know, but for some reason the Department for Transport tends to chicken out and be unwilling to do something that would enable it to see whether it works and whether the situation of young people is different.

The amendment gives the Minister all sorts of opportunities to do things without forcing him to do them. I am prepared at Third Reading to table an amendment—or ask him to do so, if he prefers—that suits him better. He may not like some of my words, but we have gone to great trouble to table an amendment that is practical and enabling but still leaves great flexibility with the Department for Transport. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative 9:45, 22 November 2005

My Lords, I support my noble friend's amendment entirely. I am sure that the Minister will agree that we must acquire proper evidence of what works well and achieves best practice in road safety. For certain aspects of road safety, employment of pilot projects is undoubtedly the way forward. Thereafter, as my noble friend Lady Gardner, has explained, we can extend to the United Kingdom expedients that have proved efficient. That is particularly desirable in the case of her amendment as it advocates pilot projects to address the main anomaly that we face: new and young drivers, including 17 to 21 year-olds, who account for roughly 10 per cent of driving licences but are involved in about 20 per cent of crashes.

Photo of The Earl of Mar and Kellie The Earl of Mar and Kellie Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport, Spokesperson in the Lords (Scottish Home Affairs), Home Affairs, Whip

My Lords, as I think I said in Committee, this type of programme is already available in Northern Ireland; therefore we have evidence of whether it works. In some respects, one might even say that this is an attempt to extend the scheme to the British mainland, which is maybe not a bad thing. From a constitutional point of view, is it not a breach of human rights that young people in Northern Ireland, but not those on the British mainland, are subjected to such a scheme? Is that allowed?

Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Minister for Women & Equality- Not In the Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, perhaps young people would be happier to have such a scheme. It is a long time since I took the driving test but I remember vaguely that awful feeling of setting forth without anyone having the faintest idea that you were driving for the first time by yourself and therefore taking some notice of you. It might be worth testing in a pilot whether young people felt more secure in having a mark that, to some extent, is a warning sign saying, "Just be careful of me. I am quite new here and I might do something wrong".

There seems to be a lot of benefit in what is being put forward. I did not know that this happened in Northern Ireland, but it might be possible to find out from young people there—or anyone who passes the test because they do not all have to be young—whether it gives them a feeling of security.

Photo of Earl Attlee Earl Attlee Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling this amendment. I can see the benefits of what she seeks to do. I suspect that the Minister will tell us that although it is done in Northern Ireland, we do not know the result. The problem in Northern Ireland is that there is not a control and there is a different accident rate from the rest of the UK. Perhaps a small trial with a control, which of course would be the rest of the population, would be beneficial.

Photo of Viscount Simon Viscount Simon Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I am somewhat surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, did not mention Australia. I happened to be working in Australia when putting an identifying mark, which happened to be a "P", on the back of a car was introduced. It was very efficient, worked well and still is working well. I thoroughly support what the noble Baroness is trying to do. It is very good. The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, might like to know that I have spoken to a few drivers with an identifying mark on the back of their vehicles. They say that it has given them some confidence in that the majority of drivers, but certainly not all, keep out of their way and give them due care and attention.

Photo of Lord Hanningfield Lord Hanningfield Spokespersons In the Lords, Local Government Affairs & Communities, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Spokespersons In the Lords, Transport

My Lords, I, too, support my noble friend's amendment. There is a case for a pilot scheme. As we have said several times, we need to ensure that there is extra provision to enable young people to learn to use the roads properly, because that is where most accidents and deaths occur.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, particularly the mover of the amendment. Having discussed these issues at some length last time, I see the attraction of a possible pilot scheme. I want to attest to the House that I shall be negative about it in my final conclusion. But I want to make clear that we are concerned about newly qualified drivers, which is why we have, in parts of our legislation, stiffened up the penalties for newly qualified drivers who offend. There is no doubt that there are anxieties.

In any system the most newly qualified will be more vulnerable to getting things wrong because experience is a great teacher. We would all attest to that—it makes us the kind of perfect persons that we are. When discussing legislation of this kind, we all know the benefits of many years learning the skills of driving and so forth. By definition, newly qualified drivers, through their lack of experience, are more prone to accidents. Certainly, we need to address this as a particular issue.

The problem is that we do not think that a pilot scheme will tell us a great deal that we do not know already. We know already, for instance, that the restricted scheme for drivers in Northern Ireland with regard to the restricted plates seems to make very little difference to road accident statistics. We do not regard the Northern Ireland experience, which is by far the closest to home for obvious reasons, as helping us in any way. On the more technical points, I will write to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie. I need to talk to lawyers about that factor, so I cannot answer him immediately.

In 2004 we carried out a full consultation on this issue because we were very conscious of the public anxiety surrounding it. Our own statistics indicated clearly the difficulties associated with newly qualified drivers. But we concluded at the end of the consultation that we would not gain from imposing more extensive restrictions on newly qualified drivers. Our task was to ensure that they are better qualified by improving the driving test so that they would have to meet more rigorous standards. I should say that that is also the answer to the point about the restrictions that are imposed abroad. I take the point about what is done in certain American states, in Australia and various other places. However, first, many of those areas allow people to drive from a much younger age than in this country. Secondly, their tests do not approach ours in terms of rigour. So it is not surprising that additional restrictions are placed on new drivers because people are being put on to the road who we would not regard as qualified to drive. Our emphasis is on the quality of our driving test, both the theory and the practical elements of it.

We have carried out some statistical research on newly qualified drivers. The rate at which such drivers break the law compares reasonably well with the rest of the population. Under 4.4 per cent of newly qualified male drivers received fixed penalty notices or summonses for motoring offences, while the figure for females was just below 1.6 per cent. We should disabuse ourselves of the notion that every 17 year-old who gets into a car is a madcap driver hell bent on proving his machismo qualities and thus causing accidents. However, accidents caused by young drivers are dramatic and reported widely in the press, not least because they shock us so. Nothing is more chilling. I recall only too well an accident in my former constituency involving four youngsters aged 17 and below, including the driver, who was only 17. The car hit a moorland wall and all four were killed. The sense of shock in the community reverberated for months afterwards because it was such a colossal waste of life. We are all conscious of the cases when things do go wrong, but the statistics do not bear out any notion that we have an outbreak of lawless brigandry when learner drivers qualify.

I have already mentioned that we bite more heavily on newly qualified drivers who get it wrong. If they make a mistake within two years of passing the driving test and accrue six or more penalty points, they can be disqualified. That is half the points that may be accrued by more mature drivers.

I am not complacent about this issue and I welcome these debates. They force us to consider carefully the basis of the consultation we carried out some 18 months ago and the conclusions we drew from it. Indeed, a great deal of detailed research on this issue is now in progress. We accept that learners and newly qualified drivers need to gain experience and we know that a minority of them deserve to lose their licences because they have not conducted themselves well enough immediately after qualification, and lose their licences they do.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, we do not think that the objectives of this cause would be advanced by a pilot study. I hope that she will accept my response and feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative

My Lords, that response sounds delightfully plausible. The Minister has quoted some statistics, but whenever I have raised this subject in the past, he has said: "That's the trouble. There are no statistics". That is why I propose the pilot. Unless we collect some actual, real statistics, we do not know what we are talking about.

The Chief Constable of Northern Ireland certainly has always supported this proposal. There is probably a new man in the post now but I am sure he would equally support it.

The Minister has said to me in the past that the Australian figures are worse than ours. That may be so, but how do we know they would not be worse still without the use of these driving plates? This is the whole point. We are proposing a controlled experiment whereby an identified group driving on this basis is compared with a group that had, for example, gone through in the previous three months. You would have a controlled experiment. The Minister said, "We do not think all these young people are breaking the law". I am not suggesting they are, but the Red Cross must have obtained these facts and figures from somewhere. As I said, my brief refers to "many times" but my noble friend Lord Hanningfield said that 17 to 20 year-olds are six times more likely to be involved in an accident. Someone is producing these figures from somewhere.

I am going to hound the Minister between now and the next stage of the Bill because I do not think it should be up to me to bring this matter forward. I have been fortunate to have someone very clever to help me work out the wording of the amendment. But, in the past, if I have had a good idea in an amendment, the Government of whatever colour have taken it away, perhaps altered a capital letter or whatever, and brought it back as a government amendment. It always has to come back as a government amendment and I would be very happy to have it as a government amendment. That is what I shall be talking to the Minister about between now and the next stage of the Bill.

The amendment does not demand that the Minister should introduce the scheme but it enables him to do so. The power to order a pilot scheme would be on the face of the Bill and would enable the Minister to introduce it at whatever time he decided that that should be done. It is an indisputably good system. It is late at night and I do not have other noble Lords here, but I will be coming back to the issue at Third Reading unless I can persuade the Minister to bring something forward himself. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Government Whip, Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at two minutes past ten o'clock.