§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The purpose of the Bill is two-fold. The first is to create a special road safety police force. The second is to create an offence if a person is driving a motor vehicle with a certain quantity of alcohol in his body—making that an absolute offence in addition to the existing offence of driving while under the influence of drink.
The strength of support for the proposals for the creation of a special road safety force was shown in the recent Friday debate on a Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) when almost every speaker demanded that the enforcement of road safety in future should be dealt with on a national basis. The inadequacy of the existing police forces to deal with safety on the roads is obvious. Something far more effective and definite must be done to tackle the terrible toll of death and injury on the roads. But we shall never tackle this problem until we have a specialised section of the police force, or specialised force itself, to deal with these dangers.
That is why I propose in the Bill a commissioner for road safety whose duty would be national and not merely over localities, as with present police forces, and under him safety enforcement officers. The Bill describes in Clause 3 the qualifications and conditions of service of safety enforcement officers, giving the Minister power to prescribe their 843 powers and duties, and Clause 4 deals with their remuneration.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
Will my hon. Friend explain exactly what is meant in Clause 2 which states:It shall be lawful for a Commissioner for Road Safety to appoint and swear such numbers of constables for preserving the peace …"?Does he suggest that this traffic force shall consist of policemen or is it to be specially constituted body whose members will not enjoy the rights of policemen?
§ Mr. Page
I think that the best simile I can use for this is the Metropolitan Police. Clause 2 is the form in which ordinary policemen are appointed, and what I have in mind is a police force consisting of a commissioner of police and police officers and policemen in the same way that the Metropolitan Police is a separate body under a commissioner. In this case, this would be a body with national duties rather than duties merely for a locality—national duties because of the need to deal with wide areas in connection with road safety.
Perhaps the best example of this is the motorways. I believe that the M.1 is controlled by a large number of police forces—the local police forces of each county along the M.1—and I have been told that the radio communication between those forces is not between the men in the several cars from the different forces, but that they have to radio back to their headquarters and the headquarters radio on to the next section.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
I find this very interesting in connection with what has happened this week in Committee on the Police Bill. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman, if he envisages a separate police force, how he will differentiate between traffic offences and criminal offences. How can we put traffic offences under one police force and criminal offences under another? Surely the two overlap.
§ Mr. Page
The members of this force would be sworn in in the same way as ordinary police officers and would be qualified to undertake any of the work of a police officer, but, in the same way as sections of the force at the moment 844 have special police duties, they would have special duties under a commissioner for road safety.
§ Miss Bacon
The hon. Member has made it quite clear now. He is asking that certain policemen should not be under the jurisdiction of local authorities, but that they should be national. This, of course, is a very important departure.
§ Mr. Page
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady, who has expressed it exactly as I would have liked to be able to express it. I believe that by means of a force of this sort, with special knowledge and training in road safety matters, we could reduce the number of accidents very greatly and control the traffic much better than we are able to do at present.
§ Sir Patrick Bishop (Harrow, Central)
Would my hon. Friend make this a little more clear? In London, for example, what would be the relationship of this new police force to the Metropolitan Police when it comes to questions of prosecution? Would it have entirely separate powers not coming under the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, or what would be the relationship?
§ Mr. Page
There would be separate powers to bring prosecutions and the force would come directly under a commissioner, as proposed in Clause 1, in the same way as the Metropolitan Police Force comes under the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It is to provide a force, not to usurp the present duties of the existing police force, but a force with specialised knowledge, controlled by a national head, and not restricted by the areas of the local police forces.
§ Mr. Curran
My hon. Friend will appreciate that we need to be quite clear as to what he proposes to do. Will the effect of this proposal mean that Metropolitan Police will no longer be responsible for traffic in London and that this responsibility will pass to this new body which he proposes to create?
§ Mr. Page
I think that the main duty of traffic control and of prosecuting for traffic offences would fall to this new body, but not exclusive of the Metropolitan Police. There would still be the power both in local police forces and in 845 the national force which I am suggesting to take action for traffic offences, and one would not be exclusive of the jurisdiction of the other.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
I understood my hon. Friend to say to the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) that this would not be a separate force. But as I read Clause 3 certain qualifications are laid down which provide means mainly for motorised safety police, traffic control police and road patrol wardens. As I understand it, these new enforcement officers will have these specific qualifications. That, surely, must mean an entirely separate force. It will not be the ordinary constable, the chap who protects property and deals with crime, or anything of that sort. This will be a separate force with separate qualifications.
§ Mr. Page
I envisage the members of this force as having the groundwork training of police constables with the addition of special training for traffic duties. It would be a special category, no doubt under separate scales of pay, but not only to have the qualifications which I have mentioned in Clause 3. They would be constables, police officers, first and foremost, but specially trained for traffic duties and for those duties which I have endeavoured to describe in Clause 3.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Would they have power of arrest and will it be confined to traffic offences?
§ Mr. Page
I have given way sufficiently on this point. If hon. Members are able to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, they can make their points in their own speeches.
The second part of the Bill would make it an offence to have a certain quantity of alcohol in the blood or in the body while driving. I have not endeavoured in this Bill to lay down the amount which would constitute an offence. This requires scientific research 846 which may not yet be complete. I leave it in the Bill to be laid down by order by the Minister, by an order which, of course, would have to come before this House for approval.
I do not think I ought to try to escape expressing my own view of what that figure should be, and perhaps I could express it very roughly as the quantity of alcohol which a normal man of, say, about 11 stone or 12 stone might drink and which would affect his driving. I think that the normal man's driving is certainly affected after a couple of pints of beer or two or three whiskies. It might be necessary for the Minister, at first, to set a higher figure if it is to be acceptable to the House and the public, but there is no doubt that even small quantities of alcohol do seriously affect driving. The statement at the beginning of the Highway Code is, as hon. Members well know:Alcohol, even in quite small amounts, makes you less safe on the roads. The only safe rule is if you are going to drive, don't drink.My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in a recent debate in this House expressed the view that at particular times of the day and of the year the taking of alcohol by a driver may well be the cause of some 56 percent. of the accidents. He said that he was carrying out an investigation of the accidents which occurred during the Christmas period, and, to take his words, thatif the Christmas accident inquiry provides us with even more conclusive evidence of the affect of drink on accidents and that the powers of the 1962 Act are shown to be inadequate, I shall not hesitate to come before the House of Commons with fresh proposals." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1964; Vol. 687, c. 1529.]He was referring to fresh proposals as compared with those which were included in the Road Traffic Act, 1962.
If he were to find that alcohol did have a very serious effect on the Christmas road accidents, and he wished to bring Forward proposals to this House, my Bill which I am proposing today would provide him with the ready made structure on the Statute Book for bringing forward those proposals. He could then bring forward the proposals in the form of a Statutory Instrument for creating it an offence if the driver 847 has a certain quantity of alcohol in his body.
Hon. Members no doubt saw the television programme at Christmas time when the interviewer took the camera and the microphone around the car park outside a public house. I am sure that anybody who saw that programme must have been deeply shocked that those drivers were intending to drive not only themselves but cars full of passengers some distance on the public roads in the condition in which they were when they were before the camera and speaking into that microphone.
I am sure that if we had an absolute limit of this sort, not dependent upon whether the person appears to be incapable of driving or not, but an absolute limit above which one should not drink if one is driving, it would be observed by the general public and observed readily. It is certainly observed in the Scandinavian countries, where it is recognised that one particular member of the party who is driving the car on that evening refrains from drinking. This is a social habit which I think would be accepted here if it were clearly shown by the medical and scientific evidence that even a small quantity of alcohol affects the driving to an extent to which accidents are caused, and if it were laid down by law that it is an offence to take that amount of alcohol.
I believe that unless we take some drastic action of this sort we shall not get a really effective reduction in the rate of accidents. One can differ on the proportion of road accidents which are due to drink, but there is no doubt that a significant proportion are due to it, and that means not only that a significant proportion of the number killed on the roads and maimed on the roads have been killed and maimed because someone has been drinking; it means that if we can lay down some limit which people will observe in their drinking we shall be able to save that number of lives on the road.
At this time in the afternoon I would not wish to take up any more time in proposing the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Would my hon. Friend clear up one point? If my 848 hon. Friend, who, I assume, is something like 11 stone or 12 stone, had two whiskies in his own house, heard an accident outside on the road, rushed out to help, then would Clause 5(1,b) make that an offence? It says:when unaccompanied upon a carriageway".He might be unaccompanied on that occasion.
§ Mr. Page
I apologise for not having dealt with the question of pedestrians on the carriageway who have been drinking a certain amount of alcohol. The penalty against pedestrians was inserted in the Bill because there is no doubt from the investigation, particularly of accidents at holiday periods, Christmas time and so on, that it does appear that pedestrians who have been drinking and are crossing the carriageway or walking in the carriageway have been responsible for a number of accidents, and there is no reason why they should not treat the carriageway with just as much respect as we are asking the motorist to do when driving.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Is the hon. Member really proposing that anybody who uses Her Majesty's highway after having a couple of whiskies is to be guilty of an offence? Because that is what the Bill seems to say.
§ Mr. Fletcher
It is only in urban areas we have got pavements and carriageways. Throughout all the rural areas we just have a highway. If I understand the Bill aright, a member of the public who has had a couple of whiskies will not be able to go out on the highway.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Member may well have a Committee point on this, that 849 one should restrict this Bill to the built-up area, an area where the pedestrian is most likely to become intermingled with the traffic, but I do not think it would be fair to impose on the driver of the vehicle alone the responsibility for keeping himself safe on the carriageway. The pedestrian also uses the carriageway, and I consider it to be his responsibility to keep himself as alert as he can when using it.
§ Sir P. Bishop
Suppose a car driver has had the two whiskies that my hon. Friend regards as the maximum and, knowing that, decides to leave his car and walk home along the highway. Is it really suggested that he is guilty of the same offence in walking home on the highway as he would have been if he had driven his car?
§ Mr. Page
This is surely the same as the point on which I replied to the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher). It may well be that one must restrict this to built-up areas where there is a pavement or where danger is likely to arise from pedestrians who are not alert by reason of having taken drink. The only fair way to deal with this is to put the same responsibility on the pedestrian as on the car driver.
I do not wish to take any further time of the House because I hope that other hon. Members will contribute to the debate.
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
Those who know my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) cannot fail always to detect a note of intense sincerity in his voice when he deals with road safety matters. When we criticise his Bill, as I think many of us may, we should at the same time do him the honour of paying tribute to him for that sincerity and the long campaign he has waged in a very worthy cause.
I will say nothing about Part II of the Bill except that I agree that one can never too often stress the danger of alcohol in regard to the driving of motor cars. Even if some of the drafting of Part II needs a good deal of attention, nevertheless it has been a worthy attempt.
It is on Part I that I have to take very grave exception to the Bill. Nor- 850 mally, if one seeks to impose a national police force on top of and in addition to the well-known locally controlled police forces, it is the sort of step, though not done with that motive, which is one of the most dangerous constitutional steps that one can imagine. It is the classic way in which a dictator proceeds. He doubts the loyalty of the existing police force and he erects another parallel police force so that one may be set against the other. That is not my hon. Friend's intention, but it might well be the effect.
Can one conceive it as operable, taking London alone, for two police forces to be operating in exactly the same area and with exactly the same powers, though with different ostensible functions? Suppose a car is stolen. Whose job is it to apprehend the thief? The thief having been apprehended, whose job it is to decide whether there should be a prosecution? If the Metropolitan Police Commissioner decides on a prosecution and the other does not, who wins? If either decides on a prosecution, how is the man prosecuted?
It would be an impossible division of responsibility in an area where responsibility has to be clear and definite. On that ground alone the scheme must be condemned. No member of the public would know, unless they were wearing different coloured uniforms, by what sort of police he was being dealt with—unless he was an expert on uniforms and detected different numbering and so on.
What my hon. Friend has in mind is the motorways and highways like motorways which run through various counties and county boroughs and which should be uniformly controlled. That has always been a difficulty in dealing with highways on our former basis as soon as one comes to the motorway problem. But I think the problem is soluble, and I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is to institute, in conjunction with the chief constables concerned, a uniform system of patrolling the M.6 as an experiment. This is surely all that my hon. Friend is after.
The dangers in having a superimposed national police force are so many and so clear, particularly to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who has had some experience of these matters, that it is hardly necessary for me to detail them. It is sometimes said 851 that the railway police are a national police force and are in a sense parallel to the existing police forces controlled by local authorities. Is that really so? They operate in a special area, on railway premises. The police about whom we are talking would operate on the highways where the ordinary police must continue to operate, whether on the footpaths or the carriageway. So they would be overlapping, physically and functionally, and I think they would soon come to blows. The railway police have, in practice, exclusive operation over goods yards, termini, stations, the permanent way, marshalling yards and such places, and I think I am right in saying that the ordinary police do not enter as a matter of practice unless invited. Therefore, in that case there is a clear division of responsibility.
But here there would be no such division. Suppose a car is stolen. The ordinary police have to go after it. Perhaps in the course of stealing the car a traffic offence is committed, as so often happens. Both sets of police arrive at the same moment when the car has crashed. Who makes the arrest, and for what, and who decides to prosecute, and on what evidence? It is an impossible suggestion. Much as I honour, as always, the motives of my hon. Friend, I ask the House to reject the Bill firmly.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Thompson (Croydon, South)
I add my tribute to that paid by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). Although I do not agree with the terms in which my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby commends the Bill, no hon. Member can doubt his sincere interest in the great problems of road safety, which, indeed, have often engaged our attention in the last week or so.
My hon. Friend is probably wrong in trying to advance this very excellent cause by the particular procedures which he proposes in the Bill. Broadly speaking, his Bill, under Parts 1 and 2, tries to do two things. In Part 1 it seeks to establish a second or parallel police force specially trained in traffic control and traffic problems. In Part 2 my hon. 852 Friend seeks to set down procedures whereby those who are suspected of having had too much to drink can be summarily arrested and tested for the alcohol content of their bodies. The intention behind all this is quite excellent, but I wonder whether we are going the right way about it. I intended to say something about Part 1 but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen has made all the points I had in mind.
I see very great difficulties here in setting up what is really a second and parallel police force. Apart from the legal and constitutional objections posed by my hon. and learned Friend there are practical ones also. Most people would agree that one of the urgent requirements in terms of road safety is more police, and if we are to set up a second force—which is what this amounts to—we should be drawing on the same pool of manpower for recruitment for both forces. The training, character, discipline and physical fitness standards would have to be the same for this new force as for the existing force.
Then we should he duplicating administration. We should have to have extra administrators. By all means let us stick to the chief constables and the Commissioner. Do not let us bring Commissioner Parkinson into this as well.
Then there is the question of the testing of individuals for the amount of alcohol being carried in their bodies. This sounds to me a very risky and imprecise procedure. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby did not go into detail and, I thought, rather left it to the Minister to sort out. I wonder whether we are entitled, in the present state of our knowledge and of the efficiency of the sort of devices which might be used to test people in this way, to assume that one could say that one man proved to have a certain percentage of alcohol in his body is necessarily drunk and incapacitated while such a test may not necessarily produce the same answer for another man.
I believe that, just as human beings differ very widely, so an intake of alcohol which would be quite incapacitating for one person might have relatively little effect on another. This question is at the heart of the suggested summary 853 testing by the roadside of people for their fitness to drive, which is what the Bill foreshadows.
It must be within the experience of hon. Members that some of their colleagues with a very moderate intake of alcohol are rendered quite excitable and possibly not fit to control a motor car whilst others can take on board a much larger quantity and apparently emerge quite unscathed from the experience. This is a practical point and we cannot lay down a rough and ready yardstick saying that, if a person has x-amount of alcohol in his blood, as estimated by a breathalyser or some other device, he must ipso facto be incapable of going about his business. Therefore, I do not think that we can base our thinking on this kind of test.
My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby is perfectly right in thinking that drink is probably the main cause of road accidents. Hon. Members will recall that following the appallina toll of casualties over Christmas, the Daily Mail, with its National Opinion Poll, in association with the Ministry of Transport, carried out a survey and produced some answers which entirely support what my hon. Friend clearly thinks is the main cause of road accidents. In the evidence collected there was no doubt that there was close consonance between ordinary citizens who were not necessarily drivers and who were questioned about what they thought was the main cause of accidents and people who were drivers as well.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The hon. Member says that there was evidence, but is that really so? Was not this a poll of opinion among perfectly ordinary lay people?
§ Sir R. Thompson
If I have been using a term rather loosely, I will withdraw it. I intended to convey that, according to the poll, about three-quarters of the people canvassed, whether motorists or not, came to the conclusion that drink was the major cause of road accidents. If that makes it a little easier for the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) I am glad to concede the point.
If that is the case, it is clear that we must direct our attention to trying to improve our way of dealing with motorists convicted of offences involving drunkenness. I do not think that 854 my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby, with his tests, has really got the thing quite right. I do not believe that our machinery for testing is sufficiently advanced or sufficiently reliable. I advocate a much simpler scheme.
I feel that we have to arouse public concern about all this and that, if only we can do that, we shall find half our problems settled. At the moment, drivers who are learning to drive have to carry an L plate as a warning that here is a man under instruction or who is not sufficiently experienced to be fully qualified. It seems to me that such a device could well be extended.
I should like to see an arrangement, which would cost very little, whereby a man convicted for the second time of driving under the influence of drink should be forced to carry a—"D" plate—"D" being for drunkenness. The "D" would not be separated from the number plate but would be part and parcel of the same thing. When convicted for the second time, he would have to turn in his old number plate for a new one. In return he would get a massive "D" plate which would include the car number. The plate would be large and coloured rather offensively in order to make it conspicuous and it would quite ruin the appearance of any otherwise attractive car.
§ Mr. Strotton Mills (Belfast, North)
Does my hon. Friend envisage the danger of interferring with German tourists who bring their cars to this country?
§ Sir R. Thompson
I recognise that difficulty. Perhaps I may borrow a word from my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby, who, when confronted with an obvious difficulty concerning this Bill, seemed to regard it as a Committee point which could be sorted out later.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
With a "D" attached to the vehicle, would there not be difficulty if it was being driven, not by the drunken driver, but, perhaps, by his wife, who would not be so pleated? Would it not be easier to have a large yellow armband with the letter "D" on one's clothing?
§ Sir R. Thompson
My hon. Friend has made the very point which I hoped that somebody would make: that is, 855 the added deterrent effectiveness. There is usually one car per family. If father was the offender, just imagine the kind of stick that he would get from mother and other drivers of the car if they had to take out this odious looking car carrying the badge of father's carelessness or neglect.
§ Sir R. Thompson
I see no reason for making any statutory exemption for a relative, even of that exalted kind.
I would go even further. If a man was convicted, say, of dangerous driving but not while under the influence of drink, I would give him an "M" plate, meaning maniac or menace. The effect of this would be utterly profound. The public at large, whether drivers or pedestrians, would see advertised by these plates somebody who had been convicted of serious driving offences and would, therefore, be disposed to give him a wide berth. There would also be the advantage that a certain social stigma would be attached. People privately are proud of their driving. After, perhaps, a couple of drinks, they get the idea that they can drive their car through the eye of a needle, and they go on to do so.
§ Mr. Curran
Will my hon. Friend consider an alternative to this interesting suggestion? Instead of imposing this brand on someone who is convicted of drinking and of driving while under the influence of drink, would he not think it simpler if any motorist who had been drinking was compelled to exhibit a special plate on the car to indicate that he had been drinking, thereby warning other people that he might be a nuisance on the road? Does not my hon. Friend consider this a better and simpler way of dealing with the matter?
§ Sir R. Thompson
That is a refinement of the suggestion which I was making. I am happy to know that my hon. Friend is thinking along the same lines.
The only point of my intervention was to say that while my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby has the right ideas, he is going about them in the wrong 856 way. I do not believe that we should have a second and parallel police force. We should not rely upon the uncertain apparatus of tests, as yet not satisfactorily defined, to determine whether one man or another had too much to drink. Since, however, we do not want to sweep away all these suggestions and leave the question of road safety simply where it is now, I believe that we could do much more along the modest lines which I have suggested, without great expense and with the minimum of legislation, which would draw public attention to those who had fallen down on their job, while in charge of a car, of taking proper care and precautions for the safety of other road users. I believe that by this method of publicity, exposure and derision we could secure a considerable reduction in the number of casualties.
I hope, therefore, that the House will not give a Second Reading to the Bill in its present form, although I end, as I started, by commending my hon. Friend for once again giving a public demonstration of his great interest in this human and urgent problem.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher), my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) —who was with us earlier—and 47 other hon. Members have been spending some 18 mornings recently in considering the Police Bill in Committee. On Tuesday last the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) moved a new Clause which appears suspiciously to be a condensation of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page).
I join with everything which has been said by hon. Members about the zeal with which the hon. Member for Crosby keeps bringing before us the need for additional measures to secure road safety. The figures of casualties are so appalling that no hon. Member can feel other than anxious about that phase of modern life. I join him in desiring to see that these figures are reduced effectively. But I do not think that creating a new police force is one way of doing it.
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse), who is one of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State to the Home 857 Office, opposed the Clause introduced by the hon. Member for Keighley.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. Member must forgive me for stopping him, but we have not yet had the Report of that Committee, and we cannot discuss its proceedings.
§ Mr. Ede
I managed to get a copy of the Report of the proceedings, but in view of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, I will not further allude to it.
I understood when the Police Bill was introduced that it was an effort to bring within one Bill the whole of the law relating to the organisation and control of the police in this country. If we could do that it would be a very great advantage. I do not understand how it is believed that what is proposed in the Bill can be other than detrimental to the general police operations in the country. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) about the effect that this is bound to have.
I asked the hon. Member for Crosby whether these officers would have power of arrest, and he said, "Certainly. They will be constables". Will they have power of arrest for anything? Will the ordinary police lose their power of arrest for offences of this kind? That would be a very serious thing, and I doubt whether it would be easy to frame a Bill which would relieve them of their power of taking effective steps to deal with any misconduct on the part of the public which they happen to see.
§ Mr. Graham Page
It is not the intention of the Bill to remove any powers from the existing police.
§ Mr. Ede
Therefore, for some things there will be two sets of policemen and for other things there will be two separate forces dealing with different parts of the conduct of the public in this important matter. I do not think that that will add to the efficiency of the policing of the roads of the country, and I certainly would never contemplate the creating of a special force outside the police force to deal with road traffic.
We are told by the chief constables of the country that about 5 per cent. of police time—that is, 5 per cent. of existing police force time—is taken in policing the roads. It is a very heavy toll. With the passing of their duty in 858 connection with the discipline of street bookmakers, I imagine that this is the heaviest de tailed duty which now falls on them. But I am certain that it is better for them to handle it than to bring in people with only this limited duty.
One of the reasons which we have been given is that enforcing the traffic laws makes the police so unpopular that it would he better to have a separate group of people clearly understood to be the people who harass the motorists on what are called technical motoring offences. I do not subscribe to the doctrine that a breach of the law with regard to motoring is in some way or other less of an offence than an offence against the ordinary criminal law. It would be wrong to attempt to get two sorts of offences, some of which are called criminal, and others of which are pure technicalities which anybody might commit once he becomes the owner of a motor car. I speak with some freedom on this matter, because I do not own a motor car, nor have I ever driven a motor car, nor do I take alcoholic liquor. So far as I can see, I shall be of very little interest to the hon. Member for Crosby should the Bill become law.
I regard it as fundamentally quite wrong to attempt to establish a special police force to deal with this matter, important though I admit that the matter is. Because of its importance, it should be understood that it is a proper duty for the ordinary police to handle, Although there may be occasions when the police become very unpopular in the course of doing their duty under the motoring laws, they joined the police force knowing that it is part of their duty, knowing that it incurs a certain amount of unpopularity. I commend the way in which they attempt to do what everybody recognises they ought to do, that is, to attempt to reduce the appalling toll on the roads. I could not vote for this Measure, because I believe that it would be more destructive of the position of the police than anything I have ever heard advocated.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
I join other hon. Members in expressing appreciation of the intentions of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I am 859 reminded of the American who on being asked his views in the Presidential Election said, "I am against sin". My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby and I are both against danger on the roads. So is every Member of the House who is present today. What is in question here is the method by which my hon. Friend is trying to achieve a reduction in the danger. By raising certain questions with my hon. Friend I shall try to show my trouble over the Bill. It is a very difficult Bill.
As I understand it, the Bill proposes two separate police forces, one a national force, or, rather, a number of other forces which will be the ordinary police force of the country, and a national force. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) pointed out the difficulties that exist in such a set-up. I understood my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby to infer that it would not be quite like that but merely that certain members who formed the national police force would have certain special qualifications.
I draw the attention of the House to what the chief constables said about these special qualifications when they gave evidence to the Royal Commission:Traffic patrols are trained and experienced police officers capable of dealing with crime or any other emergency which may arise in the course of their duties. They are, before setting out, briefed with the latest crime information and they are in touch with their Force Headquarters by wireless. Throughout the country there are schemes for stopping and checking vehicles on main roads, usually organised on a District basis, and for sending police officers to key points when criminals are being pursued. Motor Patrol officers as well as C.I.D. officers are used for this purpose. On the London-Birmingham motorway, for example, the five county Forces in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police can put into operation an emergency plan as soon as information is received that wanted criminals are travelling along that route. In fact, during the first twelve months of patrolling the M.1 motorway, 58 arrests for crime were made by traffic patrols.It is clear that chief constables are emphatically against having a separate force. They think it right that the ordinary police force should deal with motoring offences.
I join with those who say that it would be difficult to apply the first part of the Bill, and I find the second part equally difficult from the point of 860 view of its application. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby to be suggesting that a new offence should be created—not the offence that the person was incapable of being in charge of a motor vehicle, but the offence of that person having taken a stipulated amount of alcohol, that amount being determined as the result of an analysis made by an instrument,when using or attempting to use, or when in charge of a vehicle on a road or other public place …I appreciate the point about the person being or attempting to be in charge of a dangerous instrument, but it is difficult to understand subsection (1,b) which states:when unaccompanied upon a carriageway".My hon. Friend estimated that about two whiskies might be the test for a normal person, but according to the wording of the Bill if someone goes out into the country for a walk and goes on the road or crosses the road that will be an offence if that person has had two whiskies. This is an extreme piece of proposed legislation, and I hope that my hon. Friend, on reflection, will see that in trying to create a new offence of this sort he is introducing a wide ranging provision which it would not be advisable for the House to adopt.
According to Clause 5(5), my hon. Friend would enforce this by simply saying that if anyone refused to have a test taken that, too, would be an offence, because it would be an obstruction of the police. Thus my hon. Friend is not only creating a new offence, the one I described, but a further new offence by stating that refusal to be tested would be an offence. I hope that, this matter having been aired, hon. Members will not give the Bill a Second Reading. I say that with due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
Like other hon. Members, I recognise and respect the motives which have led my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) to introduce the Bill. We all share his desire to reduce the number of road accidents and to make our roads safer than they are. The question we must decide is not whether this is a desirable objective, for there 861 is no disagreement about that, but whether the Bill contains acceptable proposals. I suggest that none of its proposals can stand the test of scrutiny.
The Bill proposes to create a special traffic police force. This idea has been frequently advocated, sometimes in the terms of the Bill—a special kind of policeman with the normal powers of a policeman but with special traffic responsibilities—and sometimes in terms of saying that we should create a separate police force to cope solely with traffic. I think that each idea is based on the same fallacy—the fallacy that is possible to separate traffic duties from other kinds of police duties. As soon as one looks at the possibility of separating those duties in this way, one sees that it cannot be done.
One hon. Member has quoted the opinion of chief constables that the idea in the Bill is not practicable, and Sir Joseph Simpson, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in an interview appearing in the London Evening News a few weeks ago, also said that this idea, whilst plausible, cannot be made to work. The truth is that the maintenance of law and order cannot be fragmented. It is not practicable to say that some offences against the law shall be dealt with by one kind of policeman and that other kinds of offences shall be dealt with by another kind of policeman.
It is just not practicable to make any kind of distinction between traffic offences and other offences—certainly not in London. Sir Joseph Simpson has said that about one quarter of all crimes committed in London are committed with the aid of motor vehicles. Therefore, in dealing with crime in London, the police are also dealing with traffic, and vice versa. Coping with traffic and coping with crime are two aspects of the policeman's job, and I do not believe that we should even consider any attempt at fragmentation, or at carving up or at the creation of parallel police forces to do what is, in effect, the same job.
I am not quite clear, either, whether or not the effect of this Bill would be to create a traffic police force that would have powers greater than those enjoyed by the ordinary police. The people referred to in this Bill would aparently have certain powers or responsibilities other than those conferred upon the ordinary 862 police, and to me, at least, the Bill does not precisely make clear what distinction there would be between the traffic police and the ordinary police in respect of either their function or their authority—
§ Mr. Graham Page
There is no intention in the Bill to give the police who would be created under Part I any policing powers in excess of those enjoyed by the existing police force.
§ Mr. Curran
I appreciate my hon. Friend's explanation but, if they would not have any additional powers, would they have any function or authority not shared by the other police? I take it that they would be concerned particularly with traffic but would not have any power in dealing with traffic that was not equally enjoyed by every policeman, so we would be creating an elaborate system of duplication, since the ordinary police would, I take it, be quite as free to deal with traffic as would the special police—
§ Mr. Curran
We are therefore engaged in a large process of duplication, and I cannot see what end is served by that, or in what way the maintenance of law and order on the road, or anywhere else, would be advanced by doing this. We would simply be creating a sort of administrative jungle—
§ Mr. Page
My hon. Friend will realise that there are at present officers with different powers of enforcing the law. At the bottom of the scale, if I may so put it, are the traffic wardens; then the special constables, who are not on full time, and then the members of the ordinary police force. Each of these has different functions.
§ Mr. Curran
That is perfectly true, but the Bill proposes something on an altogether different scale. It is proposed to create a national parallel police force. That is a very large order, and we have to look at the dimensions of what is involved before deciding whether or not to accept it.
None of my hon. Friend's arguments makes out a case for doing this, nor do I see much force in the argument that since it is traffic duty that makes policemen unpopular we should create 863 a special force to absorb this unpopularity—that we should create, as it were, a sort of national lightning rod to take the law for motorists and focus it on one part of the police force and not on all. I cannot see that we can make decisions about the police and the maintenance of law and order in that fashion.
Part II of the Bill proposes to make the fact of having taken a certain amount of alcohol into a crime in certain circumstances. We must look carefully and critically at this. It is a completely new departure in English law. Are we to say that a man who buys a product which it is lawful for him to buy, and lawful for him to consume, thereby commits a crime in certain circumstances? If we accept the Bill that is what we shall be saying.
I should make it clear that I have no interest in this matter. I make a declaration of non-interest. I am not a motorist. I cannot drive a car and I have not the slightest desire to learn to do so. I believe in the division of labour and when I travel by car I prefer to leave it to someone else to do the driving.
§ Mr. Curran
I want to look at the position of the pedestrian as well as that of the motorist under the Bill. I make no plea for the drunken driver and I have no connection of any sort, direct or indirect, with the manufacture or distribution of alcohol. I can speak here as a totally detached neutral. It seems to me that the Bill will create a new crime. I do not believe that we have any right to do this. I do not believe that the State has a right to punish a man who does something lawful, namely who consumes alcohol, on the ground that he may thereafter do something unlawful. I make no excuse for people who drive cars when they are drunk. If they get involved in accidents they should be punished severely, and probably far more severely than we punish them at present. But this method is wrong because it means the creation of a new offence, which we have no right to do.
This proposal is not just, and I hope that I use the word with precision. It is not just that we should say that in 864 future people who take alcohol, which they are entitled to do and which the State permits them to do, shall then be made subject to criminal proceedings if after taking the alcohol they do something which involves them in collision with the law. We are entitled to say that if people do something that we regard as unlawful we should punish them for doing it, but we should not punish them for doing something which is perfectly lawful.
§ Mr. Marsh
Apart from the merits or demerits of the Bill, I do not think that this point involves a new principle. At the moment a diabetic who takes insulin and has an accident as a result can be justly charged with driving while under the influence of a drug. It is not a new principle to allow somebody to purchase something which it is lawful to purchase and then to prosecute him if he commits an offence.
§ Mr. Curran
I think there is a distinction. The question is whether we punish a man because he drives dangerously, which is what we rightly do now, or whether we punish him because he has taken a drug, whether it is alcohol or something else, which is liable to lead him to drive dangerously. This is the new principle that we are introducing, that the taking of alcohol may make him drive dangerously and that we should punish him because he takes alcohol beyond a certain amount. This is a new principle which we should not accept.
We should continue to punish people who drive dangerously, without having regard to the question of what it is that makes them drive dangerously, whether it is the taking of alcohol, or natural recklessness, or whatever it may be. Let us punish the act by all means, but we should not go behind the act and say that something which precedes it and which is in itself lawful should be termed a crime.
§ Mr. Graham Page
This Bill seeks to punish the act which impairs driving. There is no doubt whatever that taking alcohol, even in small quantities, impairs driving, as the Minister said recently, by at least 15 per cent. That is the act which the Bill intends to penalise.
§ Mr. Curran
In saying that, my hon. Friend is giving only part of the effect 865 of the Bill. He not only seeks to penalise the motorist who, before he starts driving a car, has taken a certain amount of alcohol, but he also proposes to punish the pedestrian who, before engaging in the perfectly lawful act of walking upon a carriageway, has engaged in the perfectly lawful act of swallowing alcohol. In both respects this is the introduction of a new principle. I ask my hon. Friend to consider carefully what is involved in doing this.
§ Mr. Graham Page
In order to correct that misreading of subsection (3), may I say that it does not mean that at all?
§ Mr. Curran
I have listened to my hon. Friend's explanation, but the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has certainly drawn an inference from the Bill which seems to me to be perfectly arguable.
§ Sir P. Bishop
Surely the effect of subsection (3) is that a person who accompanies somebody else who has drunk two whiskies, even if he himself has drunk nothing at all, might find himself under the necessity to submit himself to a test for alcoholic content if he wanted to establish the innocence of his friend, and to prove that his friend had been accompanied by someone who had not himself been drinking.
§ Mr. Curran
One might indeed find that somebody who takes a country walk and who has consumed more than the two whiskies, which my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby apparently regards as the legitimate limit for a pedestrian in the country, must first of all find somebody to walk with him. If he does not do so, he risks arrest and punishment under this Bill.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Sir P. Bishop) pointed out, a person, even though he were a teetotaller, would find it desirable under this Bill to submit himself to whatever test is to be applied for alcoholic content, not only to establish that he was 866 himself free from alcohol but also to establish that he was a competent person to take charge of someone who had taken alcohol.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
If a man accompanies a man who has had two glasses of whisky on a country road or while crossing a street in a town, in order to aid him in his progress, would he be in danger under this Bill of a charge of aiding and abetting the other man?
§ Mr. Curran
That is a fair question which, fortunately, I am not required to answer since I am neither sponsoring nor supporting the Bill. It is a question which might be addressed to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby. That is a question which would certainly arise if we were to pass the Bill, and it is a question to which, so far as I can see, there is no answer.
§ Mr. Curran
My hon. Friend says "No", but I think that it is very arguable. If we make it a crime in certain circumstances to walk on the road after having had some drinks, it might well be argued that to accompany a person who had taken drinks in that way and broken the law might be regarded as aiding and abetting the law breaker.
§ Mr. Graham Page
My hon. Friend is misreading the Bill. If he reads Clause 5(1,b), he will find that it is walking unaccompanied on the carriageway which is the offence, and what "unaccompanied" means is defined in subsection (3). My hon. Friend may have good arguments against the Bill, but he should not produce false ones.
§ Mr. Curran
If a person having taken a certain amount of alcohol, walks upon the carriageway unaccompanied, he will, under the Bill, commit a crime. In order to avoid committing that crime and the prosecution to follow, he must be accompanied. By being accompanied, he takes himself out of the reach of the Bill. If that is the case, and it certainly seems to be so, we are entitled to ask what kind of person shall accompany him and what sort of testimony will the companion be able to give in order to exempt the 867 putative criminal from the penalties under the Bill.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
If my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) and I were both walking along, having each drunk two whiskies, and if my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), having drunk nothing, were accompanying us, which of us under the Bill would be the offender? Would my hon. Friend be accompanying us both, or one or the other? I find it difficult to follow.
§ Mr. Curran
I should imagine that we should be guilty of having taken the whisky and that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby would suffer from guilt by association.
In the light of the obvious and not frivolous difficulties confronting us as soon as we examine the effects of enforcing Part II of the Bill, we are, I suggest, entitled to conclude that the Bill is both impracticable and highly undesirable. For these reasons, since there are objections equally grave, though of a different kind, to Part I, I invite the House to reject the Bill completely.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I agree very much with the observations made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran). His speech and the various interjections during the course of it have done a good deal to expose the absurdities and anomalies of the Bill. Nevertheless, I am sure that we all respect the intentions of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I yield to no one in realising how important it is that we should do everything we can in the interests of road safety. No one disputes the motive of the hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill.
It is a truism that the carnage on our roads is appalling. It is almost a disgrace to any civilised country. The number of those killed, maimed and injured on the roads week by week seems to increase. There is a public duty on us all to do something about it. But I agree with what so many hon. Members have said. I do not believe that the Bill offers the right solution. 868 Indeed, I believe that it is wrong solution, for many reasons.
It is a mistake to try to draw a distinction between crimes committed on the roads and other crimes. In so far as the Bill seems to draw that kind of distinction and to introduce a new and separate force to deal with these matters, it aggravates one of the underlying evils of the situation. Part of the tragedy on the roads results from the fact that the moral conscience of the nation seems to think that crimes in the form of dangerous driving committed on the roads are in some way less reprehensible than other crimes such as housebreaking, rape, perjury or highway robbery.
The truth is that they are no less serious than other crimes. In their result, they are more serious, because they cause more human misery and injury. Therefore, I agree that we shall not get this matter straight until the public conscience realises that the crimes being committed on the roads are at least as serious as all other crimes.
The basic approach of the hon. Member for Crosby in trying to create a separate force to deal with road crimes is wrong. It is part of the duty of the police to deal with traffic offences and traffic control because the two things are interlocked. We should get into serious social and administrative problems if, as the Bill suggests, we had a separate commissioner for road safety or a special body of safety enforcement officers. We must insist on giving the police the same responsibility in dealing with criminal activities on the road as we give them in dealing with all other criminal activities.
For those reasons, I am strongly opposed to Part I. We must inculcate in the nation the idea that malpractices on the road, such as dangerous or inconsiderate driving, are probably some of the most anti-social offences which can be committed.
I am equally opposed to Part II, the difficulties of which have been exposed. Part II is open to a great deal of criticism. It is impossible to lay down an objective test about the amount of alcohol which any individual, whether as a motorist or as a pedestrian, can consume with safety to himself and 869 others. The quantity must vary, according to the circumstances, from individual to individual. Therefore, any test of this kind would be unworkable.
I agree with the hon. Member for Uxbridge that by adopting Clause 5 we should be introducing into our legal system something quite novel. We should be taking away from the individual the right to do two things which at present are perfectly lawful: first, the right to go and have a drink, and, secondly, having had a drink, to use the Queen's highway. Pedestrians who take more alcohol than they should, involve themselves in greater risks than motorists who do the same. That in itself should have a salutary effect. It would be impossible to legislate on lines which made it a criminal offence for someone, merely because he had had a certain amount of alcohol and was not accompanied by somebody else who had not had the same amount of alcohol, to use the highway in the way to which he has been traditionally entitled.
I very much hope that the House will not give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Emery (Reading)
In discussing the Bill no one has attempted to minimise the seriousness of the problem of road safety. Looking at the overall figures of accidents during this century, it is fantastic to realise that there have been over 9½ million casualties and about 275,000 fatalities on the roads. Everyone will wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on the way in which he takes every opportunity to bring this fact to the attention of the House and of most people in the country.
I speak very personally on this matter, because it was only three and a half years ago that my own father was killed on a London road as a pedestrian. One of the terrifying things about road accidents is that one always believes that it will not happen to oneself. One always goes around in one's car as though it is the other person who will be affected, believing that it is the other person who will be knocked down, the other child. But 9,500,000 people have been casualties of road accidents in this century.
Another interesting fact in the background to the Bill is that, although 870 there is a great problem, it is amazing that the number of fatalities is lower than it was 18 or 20 years ago. This is something which should be made clear. This year there were 6,709 fatalities compared with 7,342 in 1934. What is even more surprising is that, in the ten years 1953–62, registrations of vehicles increased from 5,200,000 to 10,500,000 while the number of fatalities remained approximately the same.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not want to mislead the House. The number of personal injuries is now much higher than it was in 1934. It is true that the number of fatalities is about the same, but that is a tribute to our hospitals rather than to our escape from accidents.
§ Mr. Emery
It is true that there has been an increase in the number of casualties of about 40 per cent., but compared with the more than 10 million vehicles of 1962 the number in 1934 was probably about 2 million—I do not have the exact figure. That accentuates my argument.
This is not to say that we should be unmindful of the problem merely because of those figures. I do not pour scorn on some of the ideas behind the Bill, as other hon. Members have done. The Bill contains the concept of a commissioner for road safety. In the present structure of the police—not that envisaged by the Bill—there might be a designation of commissioner for road safety to consider the many and varying aspects of the subject.
I wonder what my hon. Friend had in mind for the duties of such a commissioner. There are certain aspects of paramount importance which he could consider. One of the great problems is the mechanical soundness of vehicles. Too often accidents are caused by vehicles which are mechanically unsound. Investigations on those lines should be pressed forward to see whether the testing of vehicles should be made more frequent. Too many people pay insufficient attention to their tyres, correct pressures and correct forms for the speeds which modern motoring has brought about.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith (Brentford and Chiswick)
Would not my hon. Friend 871 also agree that some cars are far too highly powered for road safety?
§ Mr. Emery
I would have thought that some cars were too highly powered for their drivers. I do not believe that the power of a car is automatically a factor which decreases road safety, but there are many drivers who ought not to have more than 2 or 3 h.p. under them. This question of tyres is of special concern on the motorways. I know of someone who thought that he could drive at 100 m.p.h. of four retread tyres down a motorway. If that was not absolute menace to everybody else—and it was ignorance rather than any desire to cause accidents—I do not know what is. He simply did not realise that this was a factor which might bring about his own downfall, and, indeed, his own fatality.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
Is my hon. Friend also aware that if there is shower of rain it is not safe to travel at over 50 m.p.h. on retread tyres that have not a sufficiency of tread?
§ Mr. Emery
I realise that. It is not only retreads; it is any sort of tyres with insufficiency of tread. Could not the commissioner for safety, if he should be appointed look very fully into some of the hazards which drivers, I think through carelessness or selfishness, cause by their activities on the roads?
The aspect of motorways with three lanes, where one sees a heavy vehicle or truck overtaking on the third lane, has been mentioned already in this House at different times, but it ought to be thrust home a great deal more. I hope that if the Minister cannot take action as envisaged in the Bill a commissioner for safety would have powers to take action about this sort of behaviour, because this inability of people to realise the dangers that they are creating for other people by their driving is most serious.
This leads me to consider that the commissioner proposed under this Bill might deal with the whole aspect of the state of mind of the person who drives carelessly and dangerously. And it is not only the driver. This question of safety comes into all our lives. One has only to watch pedestrians to see them cutting in and out, and stepping in front 872 of one another. As I was coming to the House this morning, I saw someone behaving in a way which made me think: my goodness, if he were on the road another bumper or fender would have been bent or knocked off.
A commissioner for road safety could help inculcate education in road use. I believe that the Bill would allow that. It is important, because we see the need for it, particularly among the young, and this could be a major use of the Bill. A great deal might be done, I would hope, in educating people to make correct judgments about width. That constitutes a problem, and faulty judgment means misuse of the road. There are drivers, sometimes elderly, sometimes young, who have no real idea how wide their vehicles are. I have seen two drivers sitting glaring at each other because they believed they could not pass each other, but really one could have driven a coach and horses through the space.
Better use of the road would be greatly helped if the commissioner envisaged under the Bill would do a lot more about the use of white lines. I have spoken twice before in the House on the use of white lines on the roads, and I congratulate the Minister for doing considerably more towards encouraging these. Indeed, this is one way of encouraging people to use the roads properly. It is, perhaps, a sorry condemnation that such action is necessary. None the less, it is absolutely true.
There is one matter in the Bill which worries me considerably and that is the powers supposed to be given to those recruited as the secondary police force. If I read this provision properly it seems that the powers which those persons would have would be controlled by and subject to the Secretary of State. As I understand the law, at the moment the powers of the police are powers given by the law of the land, and not by any Secretary of State. It would be a most dangerous precedent, as envisaged in this Bill, that the powers of any form of police should be purely according to the varying opinions of any Secretary of State who may or may not be in control of this secondary constabularly. It is a most dangerous precedent that we should allow a Secretary of State at his whim or will to be able to decide without consultation 873 I would draw attention particularly to the second part of the Bill. When we talk about accidents due to alcohol I believe that the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh), who has now left his place, was making a fair point when he took up the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) when he was talking about a Gallup poll considering and believing that alcohol was a cause. This, in fact, was a belief; this was opinion, not fact. I was very surprised to see some of the factors in the publication by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which showed that fatal and serious accidents in 1962, according to certain factors which had been analysed, that speed—
§ It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to he resumed upon Friday, 13th March.