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Policing and Crime Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 7th December 2016.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour 7:15 pm, 7th December 2016

My Lords, I am pleased to add my support to the two amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge. As she did, I express gratitude to the Minister for arranging the meeting we had with Andrew Jones, and for producing an evidence-based specialist to give us his views—which were very interesting but not totally conclusive. The House previously adopted a Private Member’s Bill opting to do down to 50 milligrams and got that through earlier in the year. We have not moved any further forward and the conversations yesterday did not seem to indicate much change in prospect. So where can we make some progress? Where is progress needed?

The man who spoke to us yesterday, Paul Williams, said that we really need to focus—I am sure the Minister will say this—on the hardened drinkers and drivers who persist and will not take any notice no matter what we do in changing the limit. He said that in his opinion people fall into two categories: they are either entirely selfish, which is what he was talking about with mainly males who do this; or they are sick. Yet if we look at the number of accidents on the roads where there is a link to alcohol, the disproportionate bulk is among young people. This is where Amendment 175 needs closer attention in future.

Young people are killing themselves on the roads for a whole variety of reasons. Some of them are drinking as well. It was quite disturbing to hear yesterday the Secretary of State say that it is perfectly all right for drivers to drink a glass of wine. For adults, maybe, yes, but it is quite unacceptable for young people—the ones suffering most in these accidents—to hear that. A lot of the accidents arise through their inexperience but they have almost been given encouragement to drink by the Secretary of State. I hope the Minister will take that message back. There is a problem here about younger people that must be focused on.

The Minister suggested that we should look at his report produced in December last year on improving safety on roads. I always take the advice of the Front Bench and looked at that last night, particularly the sections relating to young people. One area he mentioned in the course of the discussion was that young people will be permitted to drive on motorways with an experienced driver with dual controls. That is a good thing and it is in the report.

The other point the report makes is that £2 million is going to be spent on learner and probationary drivers, trying to get better-quality performances from them and to help them in a whole range of ways. I do not know why the Government are going to spend £2 million on this. The Department for Transport has had two previous reviews undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory—the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, probably knows more about this than I do—focusing on the problems we have with younger drivers and deaths and accidents. It has come up with a range of suggestions, many of which have not been implemented, which might lead to a reduction in the number of people killed. In particular, it has said that we should try early on to get younger people not to drink. It has opted for 50. Amendment 175, which is modest and tries to address the big problem with young people, should not be so lightly dismissed in the way I rather sensed yesterday that we were being dismissed. We were told that there would be a continuing review but no specific review on Scotland. I hope I misunderstood the Minister and she will be able to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, that there will be a formal review of that. I particularly hope that she will say something more about young drivers.