Driving Licences and Dangerous Drivers

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:57 am on 14 June 2022.

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Photo of Siobhain McDonagh Siobhain McDonagh Labour, Mitcham and Morden 10:57, 14 June 2022

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The change should apply across the countries of the United Kingdom.

Carol and her grieving family will be listening carefully to the Minister’s answer. In preparing for the debate, I was interested to see that similar calls were made in this very Chamber in January, in a debate about police powers to suspend driving licences. It was heartbreaking to read that debate, and I truly commend those families who have had their lives turned upside down but who have channelled their grief into the fight for justice and into achieving change for others. It is clear from that debate in January that that includes the McConnachie family.

On 24 February 2019, Tom McConnachie was killed in a hit and run by a drink-driver, who left Tom fatally injured on the road. He then drove to Okehampton and set fire to the vehicle. The offender was able to continue driving for 11 months before being disqualified, as only a court can disqualify a driver. Tom’s family are calling for police officers to be able to provide a suspension notice from the moment the offender is caught drink, drug or dangerous driving until they appear in court. It would then be for the judge to determine whether a ban continues or whether the offender can drive again.

As it stands, the police can impose bail conditions for particular purposes, one of which is to ensure that no further offence is committed while on bail. I understand that a driving ban as a condition of police bail may be deemed appropriate for some cases. However, the remarks made by my hon. Friend Sam Tarry in January’s debate made clear that we simply do not know in how many instances a licence has been suspended while someone is awaiting trial, and whether police forces are making use of those powers or even regularly considering them.

Looking further back to November and yet another debate, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, Andrew Stephenson promised that the Government were considering a review of road traffic offences and penalties, yet six months later we are still waiting for the review to get under way. A review could clarify or amend the definition of dangerous and careless driving. It could close the exceptional hardship loophole whereby drivers routinely avoid driving bans by pleading that it would cause them exceptional hardship—a plea that Cycling UK argues happens so frequently that it makes a mockery of the term “exceptional”. A review could also provide a chance to strengthen the penalties for hit-and-run offences where the driver leaves a victim for dead. Will we be back in this Chamber speaking on behalf of another grieving family in a few months’ time?

I wish to briefly raise the concerns of another of my constituents, a class 3 mobility scooter user who fears that he could fall victim to dangerous or even non-dangerous driving on our roads. According to the highway code, he is allowed to use his mobility scooter only on the main road and not in cycle lanes. Understandably, he finds this unsafe and daunting, and the drivers of the vehicles that pull up behind him are equally frustrated as to why he is leaving the adjacent cycle lane empty while riding at his maximum speed of 8 mph. Does the Minister agree that that is an incredibly easy thing for us to resolve?

I conclude by turning our attention back to the grieving family in my constituency, who are watching today’s debate at home. They did not want to be here today. The pain is still too raw for them. That may never change. Their ask is simple: that the anguish they are facing is not burdened on any other family, and that their dreaded knock on the door can be a chance for change, for the law to be amended so that anybody accused of death by dangerous driving is immediately taken off our roads. I hope the Minister will agree that that does not sound like too much to ask.