PQs 29th Oct – 1st Nov 2012

Driving under Influence: Drugs
 
Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the potential effect of his Department’s proposed drug driving legislation on the quality of life of patients taking long-term prescription medication to manage chronic pain; what discussions he has had with (a) other Government departments and (b) external stakeholders on this matter; and if he will make a statement. [125410]
Stephen Hammond: Studies show that drivers who are under the influence of drugs are more likely to have an accident. Under section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is already an offence to drive while unfit through drink or drugs, irrespective of whether the drug consumed was illicit or prescription medication. There is no defence available for the section 4 offence.
Clause 27 of the Crime and Courts Bill creates a new offence of driving with a specified controlled drug in the body in excess of the specified limit for that drug. This is required in order to make it easier for the police to take action against drug driving. The clause includes a defence which is available where a specified controlled drug is prescribed or supplied (in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971) and taken in line with medical advice.
The following additional safeguards are also in place:
Police cannot test drivers for drugs at random.
Roadside drug screeners will be rigorously tested during type approval to ensure reliability of results.
The expert panel which is advising on specified limits will take account of normal therapeutic ranges and expected drug concentrations in blood when recommending limits for those drugs that may also be used for medicinal purposes.
The prosecution for a case where the medical defence was raised would need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defence could not be relied on.
The Code for Crown Prosecutors states that prosecutors:
“should swiftly stop cases…where the public interest clearly does not require a prosecution”.
Controlled drugs with medical uses are not excluded from the scope of the new offence because some drugs which have medical uses can significantly impair driving, and there is evidence that such drugs are widely misused. While it is important to consider carefully the quality of life of those who are legitimately taking long term pain medication, to protect other people’s lives it is also necessary to ensure that effective action can be taken against any drivers who are impaired by drugs.
In developing the new offence, officials at the Department for Transport meet regularly with the Department of Health, the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Members of the expert panel on drug driving include representatives of the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs and the Commission on Human Medicines.
Department for Transport officials and the expert panel have already had some discussions with interested stakeholders. Officials and the expert panel will continue to work with stakeholders informally and through the formal consultation process and will work closely with the pharmaceutical industry, regulators, pharmacists and clinicians to clarify the information given to patients about driving while taking prescription medication.
Furthermore, the secondary legislation setting out the specific limits for specific controlled drugs will be subject to public consultation and must be approved by both Houses under the affirmative resolution procedure.
Driving: Licensing
 
Jonathan Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he has had any discussions regarding the potential introduction of graduated driver licensing; and if he will make a statement. [125355]
Stephen Hammond: The Department has considered the issue of graduated driver licensing in the wider context of improving the safety of young drivers. We will keep this policy under constant review.
Improving the safety and ability of young drivers is a key priority for the Government. This is why we have made the driving test more realistic and are also considering how to improve post-test training.
We are already working with young people, the insurance industry and other key stakeholders to identify what else can be done to ensure newly qualified drivers are properly prepared and drive safely. We will carefully consider any ideas that reduce the risk of young drivers being involved in road traffic accidents.
Pedestrian Crossings: Schools
 
Tom Blenkinsop: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the role of school crossing patrols in promoting (a) road safety and (b) awareness of road safety for school children; and if his Department will provide additional ring-fenced funding to local authorities to ensure their full provision. [125522]
Stephen Hammond: We take the safety of children and all road users very seriously.
It is for the local authorities to decide whether a school crossing patrol is appropriate at any site. Road Safety GB, which represents local government road safety teams across the UK, produces “School Crossing Patrol Service Guidelines”, which contains guidance on how to assess where a school crossing patrol may be beneficial.
The Departments for Transport’s Think! campaigns and road safety education resources are available free online to the public to help teach children about all aspects of road safety. Our Tales of the Road Highway Code booklet for young road users is a useful guide to road safety and lays emphasis on the green cross code.
The Department has no plans to provide additional ring-fenced funding to local authorities for school crossing patrols.
Rail Delivery Group
 
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many officials in his Department have been assigned to provide administrative support to the Rail Delivery Group since June 2011; and how many will be assigned to such work in 2013-14; [125178]
(2) what (a) advisory and (b) communications support his Department will provide the Rail Delivery Group; [125180]
(3) whether officials in his Department assisted in the drafting of the articles of association (RDG Articles) governing the membership and work of the Rail Delivery Group; and whether (a) ministers and (b) officials in his Department can propose amendments to RDG Articles to the Office of Rail Regulation. [125181]
Mr Simon Burns: The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) was established by, and is fully funded by, Network Rail, the owning groups that operate the rail industry’s passenger franchises, and the leading rail freight companies. The Department for Transport does not provide administrative support to the group.
Officials from the Department for Transport have not been involved in drafting the Rail Delivery Group’s articles of association.
The Department responded to the recent Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) consultation on the formalisation of the RDG. The response can be viewed on the ORR’s website at:
http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.10968
The Department will continue to work alongside the RDG to ensure that the group’s work delivers the maximum long-term benefits for taxpayers and farepayers.
Roads: Accidents
 
Question
Asked by Lord Morris of Aberavon
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Department for Transport will initiate discussions with the Highways Agency with a view to ensuring that there are adequate diversion signs, lights and police guidance, and fast clearance of one lane, where there are major delays following crashes and other problems, such as on the M4 on 18 and 19 October.[HL2846]
Earl Attlee: Under the CLEAR (Collision, Lead, Evaluate, Act, Reopen) initiative, the Department for Transport is already engaged in regular dialogue with the Highways Agency and other incident responders. CLEAR aims to ensure incidents are managed effectively and efficiently so that lanes can be reopened as soon as possible and the disruption to road users minimised.
Roads: Badgers
 
Question
Asked by Lord Hylton
 
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many serious road accidents have been caused by badgers in each of the past 10 years.[HL2819]
Earl Attlee: Since 2005, the Department for Transport has collected information on road accidents which involved a vehicle hitting an animal (other than a ridden horse) in the carriageway. The table below shows the number of personal injury road accidents for which this was recorded in each year from 2005, broken down by severity. However, the species of animal is not recorded so no information is available on the number of accidents specifically involving badgers. No relevant information is available for 2004 and earlier years.
Number/Percentage
Accident Severity
Year Fatal Serious Slight Total accidents involving animal in carriageway being hit As percentage (%) of all personal injury accidents

2005

7

56

300

363

0.18%

2006

12

58

332

402

0.21%

2007

8

66

285

359

0.20%

2008

9

72

292

373

0.22%

2009

6

60

293

359

0.22%

2010

1

71

234

306

0.20%

2011

8

63

253

324

0.21%

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