Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the annual figure for deaths from smoking is about 120,000. However, we are looking at the smoking cessation service that we have introduced—I do not want to puff the Government too much—and other countries are judging it to be world class. We hope that that figure will reduce.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that an unfortunate side effect of firms operating no smoking policies in the workplace is that people smoke outside buildings and to enter those buildings one has to walk through an ashtray? Can the Government think of a way to persuade those who operate no smoking polices to provide ashtrays for their employees to use?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, I agree. There are few more pathetic sights than to see people standing in the road outside buildings smoking. I am pleased to say that as of the end of the month the Department of Health will have closed all its smoking rooms. We are promoting that idea across Whitehall, although I do not believe that we shall provide ashtrays outside buildings.

Lord Carter: My Lords, are the Government satisfied that their policy for achieving a reduction in the number of people who smoke is reaching lower income families and other socially disadvantaged groups?

Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. We have always treated attending to such groups who smoke as a priority. There is a higher concentration of smokers at the lower income scale. The health action areas will prioritise and through our research we have noticed that we are making more impression among those on income support than among others.

12 Mar 2003 : Column 1309

Dangerous Drivers Causing Death

2.52 p.m.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to change sentencing provisions for causing death by dangerous driving.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, we intend to increase the maximum penalty for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving from 10 years' imprisonment to 14 years' imprisonment. That follows our report on the Review of Road Traffic Penalties published in July of last year. We intend to legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The Criminal Justice Bill contains provisions that will empower the courts to impose indeterminate sentences on dangerous drivers causing death who are assessed as presenting a significant risk of significant harm to the public.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that Answer with which I am delighted. Is he aware of the case of Ian Carr who, on New Year's Eve, drove a stolen car and crashed into the saloon car of the Sawyer family, killing little Rebecca Sawyer, aged 6 years, and seriously injuring her baby sister? Ian Carr fled the scene. He was found to have 89 previous convictions, one of which was for causing death by dangerous driving.

I thank the noble and learned Lord for his Answer because I was going to ask whether he would bring in an indeterminate sentence which would enable the authorities—and I hope that he will agree with me—once someone was released as a result of an indeterminate sentence, to take him or her back into custody before the commission of a further offence. That would mean that the horrors that were visited on the Sawyer family on New Year's Eve would not be repeated.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I was aware of the case of Ian Carr who was sentenced to nine and a half years' imprisonment for causing the death of Rebecca Sawyer and for seriously injuring her baby sister. I was also aware that Carr had on a previous occasion been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and that he had committed 89 other traffic offences. Victims of such crimes often feel that crimes with those kind of consequences are not treated seriously enough. He was sentenced, as I have said, to nine and a half years' imprisonment. There are too many cases where people have been sentenced at the top of the range, which indicates that the maximum is not enough, and that is why we intend to increase it.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord give us an assurance that the Director of Public Prosecutions, who in fact brings cases and not the police, is not under any kind of performance or

12 Mar 2003 : Column 1310

incentive regime to prefer lesser charges than causing death by dangerous driving so that he may achieve a higher success rate?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, it is for the Crown Prosecution Service to bring each prosecution. It is well aware that manslaughter is a possible charge in cases where gross negligence occurs. It makes a judgment in each individual case. There are no performance targets in relation to how many causing death by dangerous driving or manslaughter charges it brings. It must make its judgment on the basis of the evidence presented to it.

Lord Monson: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that what is needed is the creation of an intermediate offence of causing death by careless driving, with a much lower maximum sentence but involving compulsory disqualification for an extended period?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Department for Transport produced a consultation paper last year or the year before which raised that specific issue. It is a difficult issue to decide whether or not the charge itself should be changed. People are becoming increasingly aware that a road traffic incident which causes death is as serious as any crime. Therefore, it should be more easy to prosecute.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, does the introduction of an indeterminate sentence herald the stopping of the tariff system? Furthermore, are there any plans to increase the maximum penalty for driving without due care?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as far as concerns the indeterminate sentence, "tariff", which is a reference normally to a life sentence, is the punishment aspect; the indeterminate sentence deals with where one is still a danger to the public. The case referred to by my noble friend Lord Mackenzie is that of a man who when in a car was a real danger to the public—see the 89 offences and the fact that he killed two people in two separate incidents. He remains a danger to the public. As long as he remains a danger to the public, he should remain in custody. There is no present intention to change the penalty for careless driving.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, first, given that the Government have—I think it is fair to say—flooded the statute book with new criminal offences to an unparalleled degree, and, secondly, raised maximum sentences left right and centre, to what does the noble and learned Lord ascribe this general and unique state of affairs?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I think it would be unfair to say that we have flooded the statute book with new offences. Yes, the noble Lord is right that we have increased the maximum penalty from time to time in relation to a number of offences. The

12 Mar 2003 : Column 1311

reason, as in the case of causing death by dangerous driving, is that the courts, which make the decisions, feel that the maximum is not high enough. If there are a large number of cases where one is at or near the maximum, that is an indication that the tools of the court are not adequate to deal with the kind of crimes coming before them.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the right way is to increase the maximum available to the courts, as he is doing, rather than introducing mandatory sentencing?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I assume the reference is to mandatory minimum sentencing. There are cases where mandatory minimum sentencing is appropriate; for example, in relation to the gun crime charges where we are going to introduce a mandatory minimum sentence. The reason for so doing is that it sends the strongest possible message that a particular sentence will be dished out for a particular crime.

Homes: Energy Efficiency

2.59 p.m.

Baroness Maddock : My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare an interest as a trustee of the National Energy Foundation.

The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure wider awareness of the standard assessment procedure, to inform prospective house buyers of the energy efficiency of their homes.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, whenever a new home is built in England and Wales its energy rating, calculated in accordance with the SAP, is required to be prominently displayed inside. When parliamentary time allows, the Government will legislate to introduce sellers' packs in England and Wales. We propose that sellers' packs should include an energy report containing an SAP energy rating. The energy report and the SAP will be made compliant with EU directive 2002/91/EC. That will enable prospective buyers of new and second-hand homes to understand how energy efficient the property is.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure he will be aware that in a survey carried out by National Energy Services and De Montford University, it was found that although it has been law for new houses to display their SAP rating, that was not the case on 98 per cent of building sites. Indeed, three-quarters of sales negotiators on sites did not understand the SAP rating and at least half of them did not even know that it existed. Can the noble Lord assure me, given that we are awaiting parliamentary time, that the Government will take

12 Mar 2003 : Column 1312

urgent action to get the building industry on side on the matter? It has been law for two years. How on earth are we to persuade and influence buyers of houses in their decisions if that basic information is not available at the point of sale?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page