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The noble Lord said: My Lords, in speaking to Amendment No. 5, I shall speak also to the other three amendments tabled in my name, which concern minor drafting errors and omissions in Schedule 3, to ensure that all relevant legislative references are properly updated to take account of the provisions in the Bill concerning the new system of endorsement. I beg to move.
"TARGETED BREATH TESTING
(1) Where a police officer of or above the rank of inspector reasonably believes that
(a) incidents involving persons driving on a road or other public place while unfit to drive through drink or drugs may take place in any locality in his area, and
(b) it is expedient to do so to prevent their occurrence,
he may give an authorisation that the powers to administer preliminary tests conferred by this section shall be exercisable at any place within that locality for a period not exceeding 24 hours.
(2) If it appears to an officer of or above the rank of superintendent that it is expedient to do so, having regard to offences which have, or are reasonably suspected to have, been committed in connection with any activity falling within the authorisation, he may direct that the authorisation shall continue for a further 24 hours.
(3) If an inspector gives an authorisation under subsection (1) he must, as soon as it is practicable to do so, cause an officer of or above the rank of superintendent to be informed.
(4) This section confers on any constable in uniform power to administer a preliminary breath test, a preliminary impairment test or a preliminary drugs test pursuant to the provisions of sections 6A to 6D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52).
(5) A constable may, in the exercise of those powers, administer any preliminary tests he thinks fit whether or not he has any grounds for suspecting that alcohol or drugs have been consumed.
(6) A person who without reasonable excuse fails to co-operate with a preliminary test in pursuance of a requirement imposed under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale and four penalty points or discretionary disqualification or both.
(7) Any authorisation under this section shall be in writing signed by the officer giving it and shall specify the grounds on which it is given and the locality in which and the period during which the powers conferred by this section are exercisable and a direction under subsection (2) above shall also be given in writing or, where that is not practicable, recorded in writing as soon as it is practicable to do so.
(8) Where a preliminary test is administered by a constable under this section, the driver shall be entitled to obtain a written statement that the test was administered under the powers conferred by this section if he applies for such a statement not later than the end of the period of twelve months from the day on which the test was administered.
(9) In this section
"vehicle" includes a caravan as defined in section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (c. 62);
"preliminary breath test" means a test as specified in section 6A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52);
"preliminary impairment test" means a test as specified in section 6B of the Road Traffic Act 1988;
"preliminary drugs test" means a test as specified in section 6C of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
(10) The powers conferred by this section are in addition to and not in derogation of any power otherwise conferred."
The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment would allow the police to undertake targeted breath testing for a maximum of 24 hours where an inspector believes that drinking and driving may be taking place. The same amendment was moved in Committee in June when the Minister said that he and the Government were reluctant to accept it. However, since then, two new pieces of information have become available. First, the figures published in Road Casualties Great Britain: 2004 indicate a continuing rise in drink-driving fatalities. In 2004, 590 people died in crashes involving illegal alcohol levelsa rise of 10 people over the previous year, and a level which is higher than that in 1996. The problem of drinking and driving remains a major road safety issue, especially as the number of road deaths fell by 8 per cent between 2003 and 2004. If the Government are not prepared to encourage target breath testing, what other policies and initiatives do they favour?
The second piece of new information is the figures published earlier this year by the Home Office covering breath testing by individual police forces. There are significant variations between police forces in England and Wales in the number of tests carried out per hundred thousand head of population from 390 in Hertfordshire to 3,390 in Derbyshire. While it is wrong to take that figure as the sole criterion for judging a police force's commitment to reducing drinking and driving, nevertheless, the disparities in the figures raise questions about how seriously each force takes action on this issue.
The current legal position already allows discretion to the police officer to ask for a breath test on suspicion, although that applies only to an individual suspect rather than to a collection of people. This amendment would remove that ambiguity and enable police forces to do a better job where targeted breath testing can provide a useful deterrent. I beg to move.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I support the amendment, although I do not think that it goes far enough as I strongly favour random breath testing. Particularly with all the new changes in the alcohol laws, this problem will get worse rather than better.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am in danger of pouring cold water on so far a unanimous House. I admire the ingenuity of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, in the way in which he has constructed his amendment. We had not seen anything like itor similar to ituntil he proposed it on 27 June in Committee. We recognise the skill that has gone into the construction of the amendment and its objectives, which seek to ensure that we make our roads safer by greater control over drinking and driving.
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As noble Lords will recognise, there is a wide range of approaches to breath-testing policy. This one gives additional and free-standing powers to the police to establish what might be called campaigns of testing for a limited time and in a limited locality. The safeguard for the law-abiding motorist is that these campaigns must be authorised by a reasonably senior officer, as the noble Earl indicated, and that someone who is required to be tested can request a written statement to explain the circumstances of the test. I see this as a helpful concept in taking public support with us on the question of breath testing. I say that because, despite the assertion of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, she will recognise that the concept of random breath testing does not command universal assent.
Nevertheless, while it was suggested by some that this proposal would not go far enoughalthough in the case of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, it would go just far enoughfor the Government it is a step too far, given the current practice of the police in their enforcement procedures against drink-driving. The police are content with their existing powers in this area and we would not wish to widen them.
Since we last discussed this proposal, we have available further drink-driving statistics which show that while the number of road fatalities where alcohol is a factor has increased, at least the overall number of accidents has gone down from 12,400 in 2003 to 11,220 provisionally for 2004. I am also pleased to report to the House that since the publication of the joint Home Office, Department for Transport and ACPO Roads Policing Strategy, two well-attended conferences have been held on roads policing. The first was held by ACPO in October and the second by the Police Federation just last week. That shows that the police are taking this issue very seriously.
Our short debate today indicates how clearly noble Lords recognise that this is a problem which needs to be tackled. However, I repeat that, first, the police are content with their existing powers; secondly, we discuss regularly how the police enforce the existing law; and, thirdly, we have seen an improvement in one set of statistics. I am not at all complacent about the situation and we all know of the problems in this area. I hope that the noble Earl will accept that his amendment would not add to police efficiency, while at the same time acknowledging that we share his concern about this issue. I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.
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