I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I am grateful for the support that the Bill has received from all parts of the House. The degree of unity shows that this issue affects us and all our constituents equally. I am glad to have this opportunity to discuss such an important subject. We know that lives have been lost in road traffic accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence of drugs.
The review of drink and drug-driving law undertaken by Sir Peter North published its report in June 2010. It concluded that there was
“a significant drug driving problem”,
with an estimated 200 drug driving-related deaths a year in Great Britain. Drug-driving remains a primary concern for the public. In 2011, a new question was added to the British social attitudes survey to seek opinions on drug-driving. Ninety-six per cent. of respondents thought that those who had taken illegal drugs should not drive. Through the tireless work of people such as Lillian Groves’s family and my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), the dangers of drug-driving have risen up the political agenda. I thank my hon. Friend for supporting the Bill.
I welcome the changes that were made in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which received Royal Assent in April. The Act has made it easier for the police to arrest and prosecute drug-drivers. Before the Act was passed, in order to pursue a conviction for drug-driving, the police had to show that the driver had been impaired—a requirement that can be difficult to meet. The Act brought the legislation on drug-driving into line with the drink-driving laws, which have been very successful in lowering the rate of alcohol-related driving offences.
Our understanding of safety and of the responsibility of the driver has changed dramatically since I started driving in 1981.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the dramatic and welcome reduction in the number of deaths caused by crashes involving people who are above the legal alcohol limit. Such deaths have come down from about 1,200 a year 25 years ago to about 200 a year now. In cautioning people about using drugs, will he include the fact that some legal drugs and prescribed drugs are incompatible with driving? That might not necessarily be part of the Bill, but people ought to ensure that they do not drive while impaired, whether it is through legal drugs, illegal drugs, drink or tiredness.
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. I will speak about some of the technicalities later in my speech.
Using seat belts has become second nature and the attitude of the public towards drinking and driving has been revolutionised. “One for the road” is a phrase that rightly has no place in our more safety-conscious society. Drug use is now openly part of our society, but it is more difficult to address the attitudes of drug-drivers. In a drink-focused environment, we are aware of the designated driver—usually the least cheerful looking person at the party—and culturally we are conscious of that role, aware of their responsibilities and we do not encourage them to drink. We know that drink-driving is against the law and puts the driver, their passengers and other road users at risk.
In an environment where illegal substances are being used, a similar collective understanding is not necessarily present. I therefore welcome the fact that the 2013 Act reinforces in the popular awareness the dangers of the use of banned substances while driving. The Bill will similarly send out a clear message that drug-driving is unacceptable. However, the prosecution of drug-drivers can overlook the need to address their underlying problems. As a former special constable, I have huge respect for the work that the police do and how difficult their job is. I recognise from my personal experience that dangerous patterns of behaviour by individuals result in repeat offences, and I know that intervention at the right point can sometimes turn someone’s life around.
If we can work with the individual on wider psychological, physical or lifestyle problems, as well as their substance misuse, we can help to prevent further offending. Unless they appear in court, however, there is no mechanism to direct drug-drivers towards the necessary health care and support services that can help them to overcome their drug misuse. That contrasts with the existing approach to require assessments for other types of drug-related offending, such as theft or burglary, that has proven links to class A drug use.
At present, a person arrested on suspicion of burglary or theft who tests positive for heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine can be compulsorily referred for a drugs assessment if the arresting officer believes that would be appropriate. In contrast, someone who is suspected of drug-driving cannot be similarly required to attend an assessment of their potentially harmful drug abuse. The Bill would tackle that gap in legislation. It is about helping to break a cycle of behaviour and doing more to ensure that those found driving under the influence of class A drugs receive the appropriate help. By extending class A drug intervention processes to drug-driving, we may be able to intervene at an early stage and perhaps prevent an individual from committing further crimes and potentially endangering other road users as well as themselves.
That is a very good question. The Bill covers drugs that are usually associated with criminality—the class A drugs. Cannabis is not necessarily associated with criminality in the same way.
The Bill gives the police the power to require a person under investigation for drug-driving offences and who has provided a sample that has tested positive for the specified class A drugs to attend an initial and a follow-up drugs assessment. That will apply to the existing drug-driving offences in the Road Traffic Act 1988, as well as the new offence recently introduced in the 2013 Act. The Bill would not interfere with any other police processes in investigating the offences or the circumstances of a road collision, or in gathering evidence for a possible prosecution of drug-driving.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech to introduce his Bill. In view of the importance of this matter—and it seems that he has identified a bizarre anomaly—does he think that it would have been preferable for this loophole to have been plugged in the 2013 Act?
That is a very good question, but I must say, hand on heart, that I do not have the answer. I do not know why the substance of my Bill was not included in the Act, but I hope that my Bill will close the loophole.
After an incident, a suspect may be taken to a police station and a blood or urine sample taken to test for the presence of illegal drugs that may have contributed to what happened. The provisions in the Bill would come into effect when the offender had the sample taken. The offender would be asked to consent to the sample being used for the potential purpose of requiring them to attend an assessment for drug misuse. If the sample tested positive for class A drugs—heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine—the offender could be required to attend up to two assessments with a drug worker. It is already an offence to refuse to give a sample when required to do so. The purpose of the assessment is to assess a person’s dependence on drugs or propensity to misuse drugs and whether they might benefit from treatment or other support services. These can then be provided through existing local partnerships. Assessments can, if deemed appropriate by the qualified health professional carrying out the assessment, lead to treatment and a care plan.
We are not, however, mandating treatment. It will be for the individual, working with their drug worker during the assessment, to determine what course of action might work best for them. That means that decisions about the best course of action following assessment properly will lie with the professional health worker, who will have the best view of the local resources and services available.
Failure to attend the required assessment, or leaving part way through, is an offence under the Drugs Act 2005, and the Bill would extend that to drug-drivers. In making attendance mandatory, the Bill parallels the current legislation that enables the police to use a positive drugs test result to bring into play a number of semi-coercive measures, including attending a drugs assessment. The element of compulsion allows the police to engage far greater numbers than on a solely voluntary basis.
This is a simple and straightforward Bill with only five clauses. If I may, I will briefly set out what each clause will do. Clause 1 would insert proposed new sections 11A to 11C into part 3 of the 2005 Act to enable the police to require a person, who in the course of an investigation into drug-driving offences has given a blood or urine sample that reveals the presence of a specified class A drug, to attend up to two assessments with a drug worker.
New section 11A sets out the conditions that would have to be met for a person to be referred for an initial assessment. A person will have provided a blood or urine sample as part of an investigation of an offence under section 3A, 4 or 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, or driving with the concentration of a specified drug above the specified limit. Analysis of the sample must have tested positive for a specified class A drug—heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine. The person must also be aged 18 or over. New subsection 11A(2) would enable a police officer to require that they attend an initial assessment and remain for its duration. New subsection 11A(3) would allow the Home Secretary to change the minimum age.
New section 11B sets out the conditions that would need to be met for the person to be required to attend the follow-up assessment. These are that a police officer has required a person to attend an initial assessment and remain for its duration, and that the person is aged 18 or over. New subsection 11B(2) says that, when requiring a person to attend an initial assessment, the police officer must also require that person to attend a follow-up assessment and remain for its duration. New subsection 11B(3) would allow the Home Secretary to change the minimum age. If, after the initial assessment, the drug worker decides a follow-up assessment is not needed, the person will be informed that they are not required to attend the second session.
New section 11C sets out how the arrangements for attendance at initial and follow-up assessments would be made. The notice of requirement must be made in writing, but it is up to local areas to agree with the person concerned exactly how they will communicate with them. The notice must contain information about the time and place of the initial assessment, the requirement to attend and remain at a follow-up assessment, and a warning that a failure to attend or remain at the initial and follow-up assessments without good cause means that the person is liable to prosecution. New subsection 11C(3) would enable a police officer, or other suitably qualified person, to give a person a further written notice informing them of any change in the time or place of the initial assessment, and repeat the warning that a failure to attend or remain at the assessments without good cause means that the person is liable to prosecution. New subsection 11C(4) would require the person to be given at least 14 days notice of the date, time and place of the assessment. This recognises that the person may live some distance away and in a different police force area from where the traffic offence was committed.
Clause 2 makes a number of consequential amendments to the Drugs Act. The main provisions are in subsection 7, which amends section 16 of the Act, meaning that the requirement to attend either an initial or follow-up assessment is cancelled if a subsequent re-analysis of the sample arranged by a police officer does not reveal the presence of a specified class A drug. Clause 2(8) amends section 17, cancelling the requirement to attend either the initial or follow-up assessment when a person has been charged with an offence under section 3A, 4 or 5A of the 1988 Act, and a court has made a drugs assessment a condition of bail.
Clause 3 makes consequential amendments to section 3 of, and schedule 1 to, the Bail Act 1976, which require a court granting bail to impose as a condition of bail the requirement that the person attend an initial and follow-up assessment with a drug worker, as long as they consent. The court cannot grant bail if someone does not agree to participate in an assessment unless the court is satisfied that there is no significant risk that they will commit an offence while on bail. Clauses 4 and 5 are self-explanatory.
I am pleased to say that I have support from across the Government for the Bill. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), has provided the following statement:
“I am very pleased to see that the Honourable Member is taking this important Bill through the House. The Government has just completed the consultation on its proposals to the drugs and the limits to be specified in regulations, which we intend to bring before the House next year. We are currently analysing the responses and will publish our analysis in due course. The Government's aim is to take a zero tolerance approach to illegal drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, to send the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive. We firmly believe this will also act as a strong deterrent to those thinking about taking illegal drugs and thus have a positive impact on road safety as well as potentially contributing to the Government's overall drug strategy. A part of that strategy is to get drug misusers into treatment and support services to enable them to address their drug dependency. Being able to require drug drivers on Class A drugs to attend a drug assessment will be a valuable contribution to tackling drug misuse. Drug driving may be the first offence of someone who could be at the beginning of a lifetime of misery for them, their families and their communities, so tackling it early and at this added opportunity will play an important part in reducing the effects of Class A drugs in our society. I therefore fully support this Bill and recommend that the House does too.”
The benefits of the Bill are clear: it would close a loophole in current legislation and strengthen the hand of the police against drug-driving, while maintaining the important role of locally led and delivered drug services. I recently visited Vale Royal day services in Northwich, a facility in my constituency, which works with Cheshire and Wirral NHS partnership and Turning Point. Speaking to individuals tackling substance abuse and learning about the support network in Cheshire showed very clearly that these services are extremely effective and important for every community. They really can save lives.
In conclusion, the Bill would provide the police with an additional tool to bring in a group of people for assessment and potentially for treatment for their drug addiction who might not otherwise have accessed drug services. It would make the roads safer by helping to reduce the number of people driving under the influence of class A drugs and would build on the success of existing tools and interventions aimed at getting people off drugs in the longer term, while being independent of any criminal prosecution. I hope Members will agree that this is a sensible, practical and proportionate measure entirely in line with existing drugs policy and current practice. I therefore commend the Bill to the House and open it up to debate.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans) on bringing this measure before the House. It will have the Opposition’s support today, but I wish to raise a couple of issues about the Bill’s practicality and implementation, so that they can be considered in advance of any Committee stage.
As the hon. Gentleman said, the Bill would close a gap in existing law in respect of individuals being investigated for the commission of offences relating to driving while under the influence of drugs. I think I am the only Member here who had the good fortune to serve earlier this year on the Committee of the Crime and Courts Bill, whose drug-driving provisions we also supported. Today’s Bill would enable the police and courts to require drug-drivers who have tested positive for a specific class A drug to be required to attend up to two assessments with drug workers. I take the point from the hon. Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) about why this was not part of our discussions on the Crime and Courts Bill, but let us put that to one side for the moment.
The principle behind the Bill is in line with the previous Government’s policy of referring people for drugs treatment in the criminal justice system, which we did through the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, but the agency has now been scrapped and funding is no longer ring-fenced. We will need to test that. We also funded drug prevention and rehabilitation work directly through community safety partnerships. So the principle behind the Bill is sound—namely, that someone who is caught having a drug-driving experience should be referred by the police for treatment.
The Bill raises a number of questions, however. The Department for Transport’s assessment estimates that about 8,800 additional prosecutions a year could take place under the new drug-driving offence in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, but the hon. Member for Weaver Vale has said that we do not yet know which drugs are to be included in the new offence. Similarly, the Department has not yet published the regulations, following the public consultation on this matter. I would therefore be interested to learn how police forces will be expected to interpret the hon. Gentleman’s Bill, given that we do not yet know the details of the legislation that has already been passed.
If the Department eventually publishes the guidance and sets out the boundaries for drug testing, we will need to be told who will fund the drug assessments, who will employ the drug assessment workers, and what assurances the Minister can give us that the necessary resources will be made available to police forces to allow them to offer these services. A police force such as West Midlands, for example, might have a large number of health bodies in its area. How will the treatment programmes be co-ordinated in such an area? What negotiations will take place between the relevant bodies to ensure that that is done in a positive way? The Bill suggests that it will be for local areas to decide whether to carry out and fund assessments. This is therefore an enabling Bill, providing powers at national level, but it will not mean anything unless local police forces and health bodies in England and Wales have the resources, the capability and the willingness to implement them.
The Minister of State, Home Department, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), will need to reflect on those matters, and I would like to know his estimate of the costs involved. I have heard a figure of £128 million a year. Is that a genuine figure? If so, how have the Minister and his team arrived at that costing? Who will be expected to pay for this, at a time when we have already seen a 20% reduction in policing budgets? Like it or not, there are also now greater freedoms in the health service in England, and the devolved Administration in Wales, to whom the Bill will presumably apply, could make their own judgment on drug treatment in Wales.
Paragraph 25 of the Bill’s explanatory notes states:
“There were 129,584 police officers in England and Wales on 31 March 2013. As this Bill provides for an enabling power, police officers have discretion on whether to use it. Therefore there should be a de minimis impact on police officer time.”
That is a very broad statement, because police officers would have that discretion. Have the Minister, the hon. Member for Weaver Vale or officials in the Department asked police and crime commissioners whether this would be a priority for them? Introducing an enabling power is fine, but the Bill’s own explanatory notes give the lie to any expectation that the service will be delivered in all parts of England and Wales. They state, as I have said, that police officers will have discretion on whether to use the power, and that there will be a de minimis impact on police officer time.
I would particularly welcome an indication from the Minister as to whether he has solved the problems of the Crime and Courts Act. I am still not clear—that might be my fault; I might just have missed something—whether any assessment has been made of the equipment required to ensure that drug testing can be properly undertaken. I am not sure whether an assessment has been made of the level of drug use and the types of drug that might be present in blood. I am not sure whether people taking drugs for medicinal purposes could be caught by the legislation. That subject was debated fully during the passage of the Crime and Courts Act, but the matter was not resolved.
I am not sure what the unit cost is for any equipment required for testing. I am not sure yet whether police officers have roadside testing equipment or whether they are bringing people from the roadside to medical or police facilities to undertake the drug testing. I am not sure what training police officers have undertaken in drug testing and related areas or which police forces have indicated they wish to sign up to drug testing. I am not sure whether the Minister intends to leave this discretionary, as it appears to be in the Bill, or whether at some point he intends to make it mandatory. I am also not sure what assessment he has made of prison sentences for drug-driving offences as well as of the proposals for mandatory testing that the hon. Member for Weaver Vale has brought forward today.
I want to give this Bill a fair wind. I really do want to make sure it has potential for reducing drug driving, for preventing deaths through drug-driving, and for making sure that people who have taken drugs while driving can have treatment for their drug addiction or use. I have a lot of admiration for the hon. Gentleman, so I say this with the greatest respect: this whole package appears still not thought through. Drug testing for drug-driving has not yet been thought through in detail, although there is the legislative capacity for it, but what we have before us today is a Government-supported Bill allowing treatment for people who have been caught drug-driving through the use of testing equipment.
While I give this Bill a fair wind, I think the hon. Gentleman needs to go back one whole stage and say, “Is the technology being used? Is it in place? Will it be used? How is it being used? What are the regulations? What are the drugs? Where will this be undertaken? Which police forces will do it?” Then we can worry, on top of that, about what happens in terms of drug treatment orders for people who are caught and require drug treatment, which I fully support. This is full of holes, therefore.
Assuming the equipment is there—and I cannot believe any area does not have equipment that it is using for drug testing—does the right hon. Gentleman believe this may be an ideal situation for the introduction of a pilot to ensure the testing equipment and the services are rigorous enough to be able to take these provisions forward once they are enacted?
I am grateful for that positive suggestion. Drug-testing provisions were agreed in the Crime and Courts Bill Act 2013. Today’s Bill is about treatment when people are caught through drug testing, yet I know—I would be grateful if the Minister would confirm this—that as of now the drugs covered by the offence in that Act are not yet specified, the limits for the drugs in the body are not yet specified, the consultation by the Department for Transport has not yet been published and, dare I say it, the equipment has not yet, in my view, been sufficiently tested to ensure convictions are possible even if the levels and the drugs were set.
We are putting in place a vehicle, but I do not think we have yet put fuel in the tank, and my plea to the hon. Member for Weaver Vale is to think with the Minister and with the Department about how this will work in practice, because at the moment, although it is a good idea, there are still a number of policy areas that need to be developed and determined.
It gives me great pleasure to support this private Member’s Bill introduced by my neighbouring Cheshire MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans), especially because it sends out such an important message to young people in particular. The fact is that, tragically, innocent people die when individuals drug-drive just as they do when people drink-drive—people such as Ron Birch, whose family graciously allowed the circumstances of his death to be highlighted in a Cheshire road safety partnership campaign.
Ron was killed in his Transit van when a lorry driver who had taken drugs swerved into oncoming traffic and hit him. It was his 58th birthday. That evening his family sat at home with his birthday meal waiting for him to arrive back. He never did. He left a wife, two sons and three grandchildren. We must do all we can to send out a message that drug-driving is equally as wrong and as dangerous as drink-driving, and that we will deal with it equally as stringently.
The importance of this Bill is that not only does it send out that message, but it does so in a very practical way, providing for the police to require those found to be drug-driving to be assessed by a qualified drug worker for drug dependency or drug misuse, so that they can access appropriate specialised treatment for that individual to help them get off and stay off drugs. I hope that the assessments will be strongly directional in that way, because in the long term that will benefit those individuals, their families and the communities affected by drug-related crime, and it will make our roads safer.
The Bill strikes an appropriate balance between sending out a clear message, underpinned with prosecution for drug offences, and helping offenders into recovery and rehabilitation. As my hon. Friend said, and as the Secretary of State for Transport has said, a zero-tolerance approach should be taken to those who drive under the influence of illegal drugs. The reason for that is clear: more than 51,000 people were convicted of driving under the influence of illegal substances in 2012, and every one of those represents the potential risk of a wrecked life or wrecked lives.
I commend the work of Cheshire Road Safety Group, whose active work, particularly on the part of Cheshire fire and rescue service, involves officers going into schools in Cheshire to advise young people how to drive safely. They advise young people never to drive after taking drink or drugs, and that is so important because road crashes are the biggest single killer of young people aged 17 to 25 in the UK. The Bill, if passed, will play a significant part in preventing many of those tragic deaths and serious injuries involving young people on our roads.
I also commend the work of Cheshire police road safety. I wish to alert the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale to the concern of one of its lead officers, who this week said that better field impairment tests are essential if our approach is to be effective, as are accurate data on offences where the toxic mix of both drug-driving and drink-driving is involved. That will facilitate a better understanding of the number of these incidents, which are often either placed in just one of the two categories. Perhaps that could be explored further in Committee, because if the Bill’s objectives are to be fully achieved, that research and data will be essential.
I commend the work that my hon. Friend has put into the preparation of the Bill, and I hope that it will garner wider support across the House during its passage, to facilitate its successful implementation.
I would defer to the Minister if he wished to intervene at this stage, Mr Deputy Speaker—I thought he was going to do so—because my speech was going to be about seeking answers to the questions raised by the right hon. Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), as we do need answers to those questions before we can take this Bill any further. I was a road safety Minister and I have always been very much against the scourge of drug-driving. Indeed, I have introduced—in successive years, I believe—private Members’ Bills seeking to outlaw drug-driving.
I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, but my frustration about this is that when I introduced a private Member’s Bill to deal with drug-driving, I was told on successive occasions that we could not do anything about it because we did not have the right equipment to enable us to identify the drugs that were in the people who would be stopped by the police. A rearguard action was fought by the Home Office because, I suspect, it was concerned about the costs of all the prosecutions that would result from changing the law to put on to the statute book what is now contained in section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as introduced by the Crime and Courts Act 2013.
That Act set out a new provision, which had been promoted the previous year by the Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell) and others, who were very concerned about the scourge of deaths on our roads caused by drug-driving. What had caused me to introduce my private Member’s Bills in the first place was a horrific accident on the A31 in which a lorry driver crossed the central reservation and killed a young student. He had gone to sleep, after being high on amphetamines.
I was very disappointed to see from the explanatory notes to the Bill that we have not yet got the new offence in section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 into force. I looked then at the consultation document on the regulations, and as the right hon. Member for Delyn said, that consultation period expired about a month ago, so we have not had a Government response. When we get that response, we will know which drugs will be the subject of the new regime of drug-driving. I understand that they will include cannabis—certainly that was one of the drugs on which the Government consulted. The right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head, but that is included as an option in the consultation document.
If cannabis is not included it will be a disaster, because cannabis was one of the main issues that was raised in my earlier private Member’s Bills, and we know—these are figures from Brake, the road safety charity—that in the United Kingdom 18% of people killed in road crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their blood, and the main substance found is cannabis. Yet the Bill before us would make no provision at all in relation to cannabis, because it is confined to class A drugs. As the right hon. Gentleman makes clear, the Bill does not introduce the offence that everyone has been crying out to have introduced for years. I want to put more pressure on the Government to tell us exactly when they expect that provision to be on the statute book. Section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 needs to be on the statute book sooner rather than later.
The consultation on the regulations has finished, but the Government have not come forward with a quick response. When we get that response, draft regulations will be drawn up, and the Government’s own documentation suggests that when they have been drawn up, it will be necessary to get type approval of the testing equipment. At the moment, despite years and years on this—I know, because when I introduced my private Member’s Bill I got evidence from companies in this country that produce that drug assessment equipment and are marketing it in northern Europe and Australasia, where it is being used, and other countries—a game is being played whereby the Home Office is blocking progress, on the basis that it does not have the right equipment, but it is delaying the implementation of the type approval.
I will give way to the Minister if he wishes to intervene; I have no evidence at all as to when exactly the new offence will be on the statute book. Unless and until it gets on the statute book and is implemented, rather than just being a law, it will not make any difference. As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) said, we know that some 8,800 people will potentially be prosecuted as a result of that law as soon as it comes into effect. However, there is no timetable for bringing it into effect, because of the prolonged consultation process.
We are being asked today to approve another high-profile Bill that can be used as an example of how serious the Government are about dealing with the issue. However, it would be wrong for the House to give people who are watching this debate the impression that we have sorted out the problem. Unless and until the Government implement section 5A of the 1988 Act, we will not have an effective law against drug-driving, which is killing hundreds of people on our roads each year.
If section 5A is implemented, it will deter a lot of people from getting behind the wheel when they have taken drugs, but the Bill tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale would come into action only when the police made arrests at the roadside. Even then, as it deals only with class A drugs, it would not apply to cannabis users. Their numbers and the impact of cannabis on their ability to drive make them arguably the biggest menace on the roads.
Even leaving that aside, a police force would be able to use its discretion about whether to require a driver to present himself for an assessment, which could take place over two days. The explanatory notes state that the estimated cost of each of those assessments runs to about £200.
In that case, my point is even stronger. We would not be able to get much out of a £100 assessment of somebody who had been stopped at the roadside for suspected driving while impaired by drugs. If the police used their discretion to refer the matter to such an assessment, what would happen afterwards? That would be the stage at which something needed to happen. If the assessment said, “This is somebody who has a drug problem, and they need to go and see a therapist and go for more expensive treatment to wean them off”, that would create a fresh lot of costs. The financial memorandum suggests that they are not regarded as costs directly associated with the measures in the Bill.
I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says. We have not yet heard from the Minister, but if the Bill goes to Committee, he will be able to table amendments. My point is that for a long time, there has been too much gesture politics on the subject. Those of us who are genuinely concerned about road safety would like to see section 5A of the 1988 Act, which is already part of the statute law of the country, brought into effect. That means deciding which drugs will be included in that Act and authorising the equipment that will enable analysis to be carried out.
The right hon. Gentleman is nodding sagely, but there is something to be said for putting pressure on the Government—more pressure than he has so far—to respond to these points. My understanding is that there has always been a strong conflict between the desires of the Department for Transport, which I had the privilege of serving in as a Minister, and the Home Office, which is resisting taking such measures. If I am wrong about that, and the Minister can give me a target date for full implementation of section 5A, I will happily give way to him—if he is listening.
The fact that he does not wish to intervene to try to ensure reasonable cross-party consensus shows that the Government are again playing games with the House. They talk the talk; they say, “We want to outlaw drug-driving” and they announced, with a fanfare, in the Queen’s Speech before last that they would legislate on the issue. The Prime Minister congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central and met some of his constituents who had experienced tragedy as a result of death by drug-driving. Today, the Minister has the opportunity to tell us exactly when section 5A will come into effect—legislation that was forecast and supported in 2010 in the North report—but he is choosing not to; I do not know why. Perhaps it is because, as a Home Office Minister who has been a Transport Minister, he has, in a sense, a split personality on the issue. His previous responsibility was to try to push such measures through, but now that he is wearing his new hat as a Home Office Minister, the idea is to give people the impression that something is being done on the issue when we know that not very much is being done.
The Bill is a complete side-show compared with the main issue. If the legislation is brought into effect and people are prosecuted under it, it will not address the largest proportion of offenders: those caught with cannabis in their system. The measures in the Bill should have been included in one of the criminal justice Bills that the Home Office brings forward with such regularity.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale (Graham Evans), whom I have the privilege of sitting behind, opened this Second Reading debate—I congratulate him on choosing this Bill—he was not able to say why the Bill was not brought forward at the same time as other legislation.
The Minister may well be able to answer it, and I am happy to give way to him if he wants to intervene. [Interruption.] I am being heckled by Members on the Bench in front of me who say that the Minister has not yet had the chance to speech. Of course, we know that he did, but he chose not to follow the right hon. Member for Delyn.
This Bill was brought forward by the Government. When my hon. Friend the Member for Weaver Vale spoke to it, he read from a text on top of which was written “restricted”, which shows that it is essentially a Government Bill. The Government have the power to give the Bill more time. I challenge them to provide more time for this debate, so that the Minister can give a full response to the very important points made by the right hon. Member for Delyn. There is nothing to stop the Government providing extra time on the Floor of the House for Second Reading of this Bill, and responding on the issue of these very important road safety challenges. In my constituency, people are absolutely exasperated by the Government’s failure to deliver on this important issue of drug-driving.
The debate stood adjourned (Standing Order No. 11(2)).
Ordered, That the debate be resumed on Friday 25 October.