Lords debate lowering England and Wales drink-drive limits

The concept of bringing drink-driving laws in England and Wales in line with the rest of the UK, and indeed most of the EU, came one step closer last week when the subject was debated in the House of Lords.

While campaigners for a lower drink-drive limit would see this as a welcome development, it by no means suggests that the government will be bringing the UK-wide blood-alcohol limit down to match the limit in Scotland any time soon. The proposed amendment to the Road Traffic Act 1988 had only its second reading in the House of Lords on 29 January, and has many more hoops to jump through before it is graduated into law.

It appears there is strong public support for a lower drink-drive limit. According to a survey conducted by charity Brake and the Alcohol Health Alliance, 77% of 5,000 respondents supported coordinating the limit in England and Wales with the lower limit in Scotland- 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

“We cannot have differing levels between the UK countries, with trains and cars crossing borders every day as we have at the moment. I forecast that they can expect to see at least 600 people killed and around 25,000 casualties over the next three years as a result of maintaining the present level,” Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe said during the debate.

Commenting after the debate, transport lawyer Anton Balkitis of Rothera Dowson said he was supportive of harmonising drink-driving laws across the UK, but claimed it was too early to determine whether the lower limit in Scotland has improved road safety.

“It is difficult to make an assessment on the impact that the changes have had in Scotland, at present there is virtually no reduction in the number of prosecutions and we must look at whether there is any reduction in the number of drink drive related collisions and incidents,” he said.

But there had to be a sufficient education campaign ahead of any changes, he added. “In the past such campaigns have made a real impact on changing people’s perception of this type of offending which in turn changes drivers’ attitudes,” he said.

Owens Group warns of effect of Tata Steel redundancies

One of Wales’ leading hauliers has warned that the effect of job losses at Tata Steel on the local economy will be horrendous.

As Commercialmotor.com went to press, a further announcement on the job cuts at Tata was expected after the company announced last month it was to make more than 1,000 redundancies – including 750 at the Port Talbot steelworks.

Robert Williams, Owens Group company secretary, said job losses at Port Talbot would be tragic. “It’s a steel town, there are whole families working in the industry. The effect of this on the community is going to be horrendous,” he said.

He added that while Owens anticipated a drop in the volume of steel it moved for Tata, which will affect the business, the Group “is in a much better position to deal with this than it would have been 20 years ago”.

Williams said: “We’re not sure how big an effect it will have, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Tata has called on the government to reduce energy costs for manufacturers to level the playing field against foreign competition, but Williams said there’s only so much it will be able to do.

“I’m positive the Welsh Assembly is doing what it can to safeguard the jobs. But I don’t know how much it can do. I think it’s a question of just riding out the storm and having to deal with it as it comes.”

He added: “It’s a desperate situation, but I think Tata is doing this with the aim that it will carry on producing, and that Port Talbot will survive. We’ll do whatever we can to help it along.”