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Lord Jacobs: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, can he confirm that using a mobile phone--either hands-free or hand-held--while driving is not an offence if one remains in proper control of one's vehicle?

Lord Carter: My Lords, that is the case at the moment. The offence occurs only if the use of a mobile phone leads to dangerous driving.

12.27 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, this has been a fascinating and instructive debate. I did a great deal of work in preparing my case, but I have learnt more from the debate in the Chamber in the past hour and a quarter than from my research. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, and I pay particular tribute to the

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speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I appreciate the research that he conducted in support of his argument.

It would be invidious to comment on every contribution that has been made. The Minister has already responded well to those speeches and it would protract my remarks unduly. However, perhaps I may refer to several contributions. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, who was the first to raise the issue in this Parliament when he tabled a question in May 1997. I hope that he appreciates the extent to which I am seeking to sustain the pressure at this time. I also pay tribute to the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the noble Lord, Lord Astor, who has guided me in the current work of that society. We all recognise the merits of his contribution today.

However, I think that the debate turned largely on the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Jacobs and Lord Lucas. The noble Lord, Lord Jacobs, identified what the Minister referred to as the "Jacobs sandwich".

Let me be clear that we are concerned about the translation of the car into the mobile office. It is a cocooned environment and for many business people it is their working environment for much of the day. The RAC's research indicates that frequently businessmen are called and told to slow down because they do not need to carry out their work under such a high degree of pressure. In those circumstances, the mobile telephone can be an aid to safety. However, I doubt whether that squares with the reality of the pressures of modern business life. Calls from head office are more likely to be along the lines of, "Here is an extra commitment that we are expecting you to fulfil and it will increase the pressure". That is the nature of the business world in which we live. I wonder how many noble Lords are in an environment where people telephone to say, "Relax a little. You are overdoing things and we would like you to do a little less". We receive telephone calls which increase the pressure upon us and I am sure that that is equally true of the wider population.

In the office environment of the motor car, is it the case that the driver is engaged in the same kind of activity when eating a sandwich, having a row with a fellow passenger, changing a cassette or any of the other incidents which occur in a car? With regard to car entertainment, the manufacturers have increased the safety dimension by making controls more easily available to the driver. But surely we all recognise from our own common sense that telephone calls are more intrusive than any other form of activity within the car. Using a phone is not the same activity as eating a sandwich, which you can put down immediately; nor can it be compared to a threatening situation which would quickly stop all the other passengers talking.

The problem with the telephone is that it is totally preoccupying. One only has to test that at home when taking a telephone call and at the same time trying to take part in any other activity or to respond to what is happening in one's immediate environment. When one is listening only to the human voice and receiving no

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body signals, the degree of concentration required is very high. The telephone is a most intrusive and demanding instrument which puts us all under pressure at various times. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said that she would join the Labour Party if that would reduce the degree of pressure--

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, my suggestion was that I should join not the Labour Party, but the anarchists.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, in which case, what a pity we have not gained a welcome recruit! However, I must be honest and say that in my party the pressure with regard to the telephone is not reduced. My noble friend the Chief Whip indicated that, too.

Telephone calls are intrusive and are dangerous in the driving environment. My noble friend the Chief Whip indicated the measures which the Government have taken. Studying The Highway Code is, of course, of great benefit, although in my experience the only people who read The Highway Code are those who are preparing for the driving test. If The Highway Code is an important element in improving driving behaviour, why only in the past month did the West Midlands Police Force pull in 1,000 motorway drivers for infringing the code by using mobile telephones while driving? The simple fact is that until we have a specific law our nation will not appreciate the dangers of using the hand-held mobile telephone.

That is the basis of the case for this Bill; it is not to overburden the police. However, I must say that it is easier for the police to see a mobile telephone held up to the ear than it is to monitor the seat-belt legislation, yet its implementation is recognised as an important safety measure. I do not want to see additional burdens put upon the police, but I do want to see the behaviour of our driving public improve. Once it is against the law to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving, the vast majority of our law-abiding fellow citizens will desist the practice; their common sense will tell them that it is dangerous on our crowded roads.

I accept what the Minister said and recognise that I do not have the warmest support for the measure. However, this is a listening government and I suggest that we should continue to make a gentle din in their ears on a worthy measure. On that basis, I ask the House to give the Bill a second reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Genetically Modified Crops Bill [H.L.]

12.35 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Miller of Hendon.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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House in Committee accordingly.

[The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brougham and Vaux) in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Consents for genetically modified organisms for agricultural purposes]:

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. A1:


Page 1, line 16, at end insert (", such research being subject to subsection (8G),")

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 6A which can be grouped with it. I was assured that the Minister had been informed about that.

At first, it seemed a little strange to be tabling amendments to my own Bill. But then I looked at what the Government did to the Greater London Authority Bill, which grew by 30 per cent while in the other place and was still being subjected to government amendments while in your Lordships' House. Furthermore, the Employment Relations Bill grew enormously yesterday when a whole new schedule was introduced.

The amendments are necessary because it is more than four months since the Bill was originally introduced. It took from 24th February until 18th June to receive a Second Reading and it is three weeks since then. As Harold Macmillan said, events have happened since then. I am sure that noble Lords will understand that I have received so much lobbying and advice from so many learned sources that I needed to table the amendments.

Amendment No. 1 is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 6A. In speaking to both amendments I remind the Committee that the primary purpose of the Bill is to ensure that genetically modified crops cannot be authorised for commercial release without adequate research being conducted into the risk involved in doing so.

The contemporary experience of GM crop field trials are currently in progress at sites throughout Britain. That experience has raised certain fundamental concerns with the testing procedures now in use. The two amendments seek to address those concerns. One of the greatest importance is that any decision on commercial release should not precede the completion of the associated research programme. That is why the amendments would require the Secretary of State to set an end date for each research programme that may be extended as required but may not be preceded by an authorisation for commercial release.

It is also important that a research programme is not allowed to develop into a de facto situation of commercial release. One could envisage a situation in which GM test sites could be used to produce a commercial crop. This amendment would outlaw the sale of crops from GM test sites on which authorisation for commercial release was yet to be granted. Without such a provision, the risk will always remain that the purpose of any piece of legislation designed to regulate GM crops could be undermined.

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Any Government guarantee on GM crops depends upon the integrity of the research programme, as I am sure the Government would agree. This amendment makes the minimum provision required to ensure that integrity and I hope that it will be supported on all sides. I beg to move.


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