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Lord Berkeley: I am very grateful to my noble friend for those comments. I was more grateful for the answer on the second amendment than for that on the first. Bearing in mind the Government's recent announcement, or, perhaps, leak to the press, about corporate manslaughter, I have to compare the effort on the part of the authorities—I do not want to specify which authorities—in pursuing railway staff for corporate manslaughter—I do not wish to express any judgment on whether that is done rightly or wrongly—with the lack of activity on the case where a car went

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over a bridge which happened to have been demolished 25 years ago and landed on a rail track. Sadly, the occupant was killed by a train.

It could be inferred that the relevant highway authority had a responsibility to put a barrier in front of that non-existent bridge or at least a sign. I am told that there was a sign but unfortunately it had gone rusty and one could not read it. When I tabled a Question asking whether proceedings would be taken in respect of corporate manslaughter, the answer was no. I am not sure that the same rules are being applied in every case. I hope that if and when the Government bring forth ideas on corporate manslaughter, there will be no question of Crown immunity. That would simply compound what is already a big inequality in that regard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 104 [Railways safety levy]:

[Amendment No. 58 not moved.]

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clauses 105 and 106 agreed to.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market moved Amendment No. 59:

    After Clause 106, insert the following new clause—

(1) The Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52) shall be amended as follows.
(2) In section 8(2) leave out "50" and insert "35".
(3) In section 11(2) in the definition of "the prescribed limit"—
(a) in paragraph (a) leave out "35" and insert "22";
(b) in paragraph (b) leave out "80" and insert "50";
(c) in paragraph (c) leave out "107" and insert "67"."

The noble Baroness said: This is the first of a number of amendments which I have tabled under the general theme of road safety. It is appropriate that a transport Bill should contain some significant elements of road safety. I believe that the Government have conceded that point by including in the Bill the duty to clear snow and ice from the highway.

I want to set in context the fact that on the rail network, with which most of the Bill is concerned, there are about 17 deaths a year whereas there are 70 deaths per week on our roads. Other Members of the Committee may share my irritation at the lack of road safety legislation in this Parliament despite pronouncements both within and outside the House. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some assurance to those Members of the Committee who have an interest in these matters. I am sure that, given sufficient comfort today, we need not return to the issues at a later stage in the Bill.

Amendment No. 59 deals with the reduction from 80 milligrams to 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. That is entirely within the department's own 1998 consultation, Combating Drink Driving: the Next Steps. Since 1998 they have clearly been very long and very slow steps.

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Some 520 people die each year in crashes in which one or more of the drivers is over the 80 milligram BAC. It is estimated that something like 50 lives would be saved each year by the reduction I am discussing.

We have the highest permitted levels of alcohol in Europe along with Ireland, Luxembourg and Italy. While it is certainly true to say that the alteration of drink-drive policies and penalties along with the introduction of the breathalyser made a significant difference some years ago, some worrying trends are developing.

Between 1993 and 2001 the number of accidents caused by drink-driving has risen by 27 per cent. That should worry all of us, because it reverses the previous trend and perhaps says something about a diminution in the acceptance that driving having consumed alcohol constitutes a serious problem. For a number of years there was a significant culture change in which people believed that drink-driving was unacceptable. I am worried that there may be a change in that attitude. It would bode well for the Government to show leadership in that regard by reducing the alcohol limit and reinforcing the message that drink-driving is unacceptable.

I do not intend to detain the Committee further on the subject. I have some very detailed briefings which I hope that I shall not have to use. However, I should like to record my thanks to Brake—the road safety charity—the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety and the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which have given me much information on the subject. Surveys show that public opinion is very much behind a reduction in the drink-drive limit. I hope that the Government will give the matter serious consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: I should like to speak to this amendment and to my Amendment No. 60—the two are grouped together—which concerns the testing regime. I have no intention of repeating the statistics which the noble Baroness has just shared with the Committee.

The case for the reduction in the drink-driving limit is in fact the Government's own case. It is very convincingly set out in the 1998 paper. They make it very clear that the number of lives that would be saved as a result of reducing the limit from 80 to 50 milligrams would be 50, that the number of serious injuries that would be cut would be 250 and that the number of slight injuries that would be cut would be 1,200. There would be a saving to the taxpayer, or to the country, of 75 million a year. Those are all the Government's figures.

To have adopted a 50-milligram limit would have been entirely consistent with the consultation paper and the recommendation of the European Union. As the noble Baroness said, it would have brought us into line with the overwhelming majority of other European countries. The European Union Committee has looked at the matter twice, most recently last summer when I was fortunate enough to be one of its members. We agreed unanimously that the case for

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reducing the limit to 50 milligrams was overwhelming. We were very disappointed that the Government declined to accept that.

So far as I can understand, the Government declined to reduce the limit because they felt that it was less important than the scale of penalties that applied in this country, compared with in other European Union members. There is some truth about the penalties, but the evidence is that it is not the penalty that makes the difference in terms of the effectiveness of the law, but the rate at which breath tests are carried out. That brings me to my amendment, which effectively would give the police the power to stop people and conduct random testing, as happens in a number of other countries in Europe.

Indeed, that happened to my son-in-law in France when I was with him a week last Friday. We were returning from a football match in Le Mans and, on the outskirts of his town, the police were stopping about one person in 10. There was a check of documents and a very courteous exchange, and it finished with him blowing into a bag. The result of course was negative, because he is a very responsible citizen, and there was no suggestion that he had committed any sort of offence. However, such tests are accepted by French people as a normal part of road safety legislation. So far as I can tell, there is no great resentment about it.

The number of tests that we perform in this country is not one that puts us on the same level as others in Europe. Only Ireland and Austria have a lower rate of testing than we do. Even if the penalties may be severe, the chances of being caught in Britain are that much worse. In the Netherlands, the figure of testing is one in 16. In Spain, it is one in 30. In Finland, it is one in four. In this country, the chances of being tested are only one in 67. We need to revisit the issues of the limit and how we allow the police to carry out tests. I hope that the Government will think again about the limit in particular.

5.45 p.m.

Viscount Simon: The Committee will be surprised to learn that I added my name to Amendment No. 59 slightly grudgingly, although I admit that I say that with a good tongue in cheek. I regard the proposed new limit as a compromise. On 1st May, the Minister said, regarding air crew, that the reason for the reduction in the BAC limit is that,

    "a combination of concentration, unremitting attention and exceedingly swift reaction is required".—[Official Report, 1/5/03; col. 830.]

What happens if someone is in a car? Do they need a combination of concentration, attention and swift reactions? Of course they do. Therefore the limit should be the same as for pilots, at 20 milligrams. It is as simple as that. The BAC limit of 50 milligrams is therefore a compromise, and I support it. Further on, the Minister said that we had higher penalties than other countries with lower limits. However, the

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penalty for that lower limit is having more people killed and seriously injured on the roads. That is another reason why the limit should be reduced.

Amendment No. 60, tabled by my noble friend Lord Faulkner, regards random breath testing. Such testing has proved exceedingly efficient as I know from my experience of Australia, where I used to live. People would rather abandon their cars when they saw a random check than be breathalised with the possibility of being over the limit. If they stopped in the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, they would be fined an excessive amount, but they would rather do that than lose their licence.

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