New Clause 29

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:30 pm ar 20 Ebrill 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Removal of licence restrictions for diabetics

‘In section 7 of the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Heavy Goods and Public Service Vehicles) Regulations 1990 (Statutory Instrument 1990 No 2611), leave out paragraph (d).'. —[Stephen Hammond.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The issue is whether a blanket ban on people who suffer from diabetes from driving a certain class of vehicle makes our roads safer. We contest that it does not. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that the ban on people who suffer from diabetes and have insulin treatment from driving group 2 vehicles makes our roads any safer. Current regulations stipulate that they are not allowed to apply for a group 2 licence which is needed to drive vehicles of over 3.5 tonnes or, indeed, most passenger service vehicles. This is a blanket ban. It would seem to us that the appropriate way forward is to have fair assessments, which would be done individually, and to end this discriminatory law.

The evidence comes from the body of scientific research dating back over the past six years. The first comes from “Diabetes and driving: towards equitable, evidence-based decision-making by MacLeod, K. M. (1999)”. It states:

“available evidence suggests that increasing the driving restrictions imposed on all insulin-treated diabetic drivers is unlikely to result in a significant improvement in road-safety”.

The study “Insulin-treated diabetes and driving in the UK by Gill, G., Durston, J., Johnston, R., MacLeod, K. & Watkins, P. (2002)” states:

“Over the last decade, however, it has become increasingly clear that such arbitrary restrictions may be unfair and even potentially discriminatory... there is no convincing evidence that diabetic drivers on insulin treatment as a group are more likely to have traffic accidents than their non-diabetic counterparts.”

Most recently, last year a study by Mills et al reported:

“Research into road traffic accidents and diabetes found no significant difference in the rate of collisions between people with diabetes and people that do not have the condition.”

It has been a feature of international driving regulations that people who were insulin-treated for diabetes had to suffer the blanket ban. However, over the past few  years, including last year in the United States, that blanket ban has been repealed in favour of individual assessments. The Minister will know that in the House of Representatives in the United States, the Secretary of State for Transport’s honorary advisory panel commented:

“relating to persons with diabetes, to allow individuals who use insulin to treat their diabetes to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. The revised final rule shall provide for the individual assessment of applicants” and not for a blanket ban.

It is our contention, therefore, that the scientific evidence provides no conclusive reason for the maintenance of the blanket ban and that we should move to a system of individual assessment. The new clause would put that into effect.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

It always amuses me to watch steam coming out of the ears of the Conservative Members when I tell them that things are banned by the European Union, so I am going to enjoy myself again. The new clause would be illegal under European law, and before the hon. Gentleman gets all huffy about that—his right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire has popped out for a moment and is, therefore, spared this—it was a European law to which his Government before 1997 agreed.

The simple fact is that there is a risk of people with diabetes controlled by insulin going into diabetic shock. Therefore, it is felt that they should not be in control of vehicles over a serious weight. The matter is being considered, however, by a medical panel of the European Union, with the view to seeing whether a rational way of determining those who have good control of their diabetes and, therefore, are not a risk can be established. In the UK, we will be informed by that work and will contribute our views to those discussions.

Having encouraged the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the new clause on the grounds that we could not possibly accept it, I hope he will at least accept that we understand the point that he is trying to make. There may be people who have well controlled diabetes who are being treated unfairly by not being allowed to drive, and if we can do it safely, we would want, at some point in the future, to come to a conclusion whereby we can allow them to have driving licences for those types of vehicles. However, that will only happen when we can absolutely and fairly determine who those individuals are, that it would be safe for them to have such a licence, and we can agree those measures with the whole of the European Union, which thanks to the previous Conservative Government has competency on the issue.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

Despite the Minister’s initial remarks, I was pleased to note that he must have listened to some of what I have said. A lot of the scientific evidence that I quoted made the point that there had been movement in the past decade in gaining knowledge, and, therefore, anything that happened before 1997 was a decade prior. My point was that there has been movement in the scientific evidence, which no longer suggests that a blanket ban is necessary.

Rather like retroflective strips on lorries, I look forward to the European Union coming to an  occasional sensible decision. Also, I look forward to the medical panel producing a conclusion in line with many other parts of the world, that an individual assessment would be acceptable. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.