HC Deb 11 June 1903 vol 123 cc705-23

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £136,907, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1904, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board."

Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Board."—(Mr. Cathcart Wason.)


, continuing his speech when the House resumed, said he desired to point out that a waggoner who drove his waggon without reins was amenable to the law, as was the farmer whose waggon was found in the road without the name being legible on it, although these offences were not half so dangerous to life and limb as a motor-car, which ought to be amenable to the same law. It had been suggested that the speed limit should be entirely removed, and that compensation should be paid for damage caused by furious driving. That was a proposal with which he had no sympathy. Any compensation that was paid for the death of a bread-winner was very poor indeed. He submitted that it would be an extremely dangerous thing to do away with the speed limit. Stock which was being removed from one field to another was in danger from motor-cars. It seemed to be assumed by motorists that they could safely ride at greater speed in the country districts than in towns, but that was not the case, because horses in towns were more used to motor-cars than in country districts. If a car were travelling at great speed, there was no time to get out and hold the horse's head, or take any steps to prevent it taking fright. His constituency would not be satisfied unless the twelve-mile limit of speed was retained, and the cars were so numbered as to be easily identified. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, in the Bill foreshadowed, would take care to protect the interests of pedestrians and all users of the roads. It was unfair that motorists should endanger the roads for those who had hitherto maintained them.

MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)

said this was a question of the most serious character, and he was in entire agreement with all that had been said by the hon. Member for Tavistock, and in order to give the hon. Member an opportunity of supporting his observations by his vote, he would support a reduction of the Vote by £100. He lived in the same county as the hon. Gentleman. The roads in that county were extremely narrow, and therefore the regulation of motor-cars was a most important question. No one would deny that the present position of things was extremely unsatisfactory. The law, as it existed, was broken by everybody, from the Prime Minister downwards. A motorist seemed to think he could go at any pace he liked so long as he could escape a fine. There was no demand on the part of trades which availed themselves of the use of motor-cars for any increase in the speed limit. The, only agitation came from people who motored for pleasure. The speed limit should, in his opinion, be the same all over the country, except that it might, perhaps, be relaxed on some of the great roads. There was an immense amount of difference between horse locomotion and motor locomotion. With motor driving there was only one brain to depend upon, but in horse driving there were two. In the case of two men who had dined not wisely but too well, the one who went home in a motor had to depend upon himself, and the course he took in the circumstances assumed might be of a very peculiar character; but the man who went home in a trap had not only his own brain but that of his horse to depend upon, and there were many steady old horses which could not be induced to run on the wrong side of the road, when a vehicle had to be passed, however hard the wrong rein was pulled. He looked upon the motor craze as a most dangerous form of amusement. He thought the President of the Local Government Board would only be doing his duty to the public if he took prompt steps to protect those who used the public roads, and for whom the roads were originally made.

MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)

desired to emphasise the necessity of registration. Of course it was a difficult matter, but there were one or two points which had not been brought forward which might have overcome any difficulty in the way of registration. The other day a man he knew very well was riding out on his horse when a motor-car passed and the horse shied. The rider was thrown on to the pavement. Two men from the car carried him into his house and then got into the car again and went on, refusing to give their names. The injured man was dead in less than an hour. Such a case showed that it was absolutely necessary that some legislation should be framed in regard to the registration of motor-cars. He would like to advocate that certificates should be issued to the drivers of motor-cars. There were only a few men in the country at the present time, expert cyclists, who could drive motors with safety at the rate of sixty miles an hour. He was not in favour of a time limit. He believed it was impossible satisfactorily to fix a time limit, and he believed it was impossible to fix a time limit which would be satisfactory to the people of the country. As one who had had some experience of living within thirty miles of London, he testified that the motor-car was at present a great nuisance to the vast majority of the people of this country. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would bring in a measure to deal with the matter at an early date.


said he was in agreement with the hon. Member for Lincoln, and believed the time limit to be a mistake. A fixed speed was apt to be regarded as a minimum speed. He thought the best course would be to apply the same rules to motor-cars as to other vehicles with regard to furious driving and the rule of the road. He was at perfect liberty if he were riding a horse, and was the only person in the road, to gallop as hard as he liked, but if he were to drive through a market town at ten or even eight miles an hour he would be very soon hauled up. He quite agreed as to the intelligence of a horse. Whenever he went to social and political gatherings, which were very tiring, he always went on horseback, because when they were over he could always get on his horse and go comfortably to sleep and be taken safely home. He did not know whether it was because chauffeurs were often foreigners, but motor-cars seemed to be always on the wrong side of the road. He hoped to see all motor-cars numbered in very large and plain figures, and licences required for drivers. Fines were no deterrent to rich owners, and he hoped that the magistrates would impose not merely fines, but terms of imprisonment on those who infringed the law.

*GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)

said it did not appear to him a very logical proceeding to move the reduction of the right hon. Gentleman's salary because he proposed to bring in a Bill to deal with this matter. What he had been struck by most was the fact that motor-car drivers apparently had the idea that they were a privileged body entitled to do what no other person was entitled to do. Other people recognised that they had to meet the elements up to the speed of a horse, but the occupants of motor-cars started out with goggles and mask, as a preparation for the high speed they proposed to travel, thus deliberately breaking the law. All vehicles should be made to comply with the same rule. It was necessary, too, that there should be some power of arresting offenders; it was no use summoning a man who had given a false name and address. He knew of a case where a constable had noticed a car travelling in the Regent's Park at a great pace, and in four minutes it came round again. He stopped the car and asked the occupant if he knew that he had travelled three miles in four minutes. "Yes," was the answer, "I was just trying to see what my motor could do." The constable took the name and address of the occupant of the motor-car and summoned him, and it was found that both name and address were false. What was the use of that? Unless some means were found of regulating motor-cars they would arouse general hate. We were told already that nails were put on the roads to puncture the tyres. The chauffeur did not care for the rule of the road; he sounded his horn and expected everyone to get out of the way. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take care that motor-cars were obliged to conform to the same rules as other vehicles which used the roads.

*MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)

said motor-cars as at present driven were a danger to the public, particularly children and those who were crippled or deaf. Deaf people, in his opinion, had as much right to live as people who were not deaf. It was not a rich or a poor person's question. It was a question between those who for the time being had command of artificial power, and those who had animals or worked their own vehicles or who travelled on foot. Restrictions should affect motor bicycles as well. There was a temptation, no doubt, to go at a great speed because it was so easy to attain that speed by turning a handle. He was sorry to read that the President of the Local Government Board had said that there should be no limit to speed. He could not see any reason for such a remark. People in country districts needed protection as well as those in towns. There should be speed limit everywhere. Exceptions might be made in open roads where they could see a mile ahead, but in ordinary roads there was as much necessity for speed limit for motor-cars as there was for horses and vehicles. Motor-cars he believed had come to stay, and he admitted they had many advantages. They quickened transit, and they all hoped that in the future they would play a very great part in taking agricultural produce to market, but there was no necessity for enormous speed. In country lanes where there was no path to get out of the way a motor-car driving at great speed would be very dangerous to old men who were deaf. They ought not to place people in danger because they were deaf, or crippled, or old. He was not an enemy to motor-cars, but he believed that they were the truest friends of their use who desired to place restrictions upon their speed.

*MR. BULL (Hammersmith)

said he had been a motorist for some years, and he had never yet been fined. He was convinced that the future of the motor industry in England depended upon the nature of the restrictions placed on the use of the cars. The question of speed limit must be very carefully considered indeed. He was in favour of abolishing the speed limit altogether. It would be remembered that when bicycles first became popular there was a similar outcry as to their speed. He believed the Thames Conservancy had always declined to lay down a speed for launches. The responsibility as to what was safe was the business of the owner and engineer. If they put the same responsibility on the person driving a car as to what was safe in town or country then he believed that with heavy penalties for reckless driving they would have the true solution of this difficulty. In what had appeared in the Press lately on the question of speed, forty miles an hour had been referred to as quite an ordinary speed for motor cars to travel. He could assure the Committee that that was quite an exceptional speed for motors. An hon. Member had spoken of motors travelling at sixty miles an hour. He ventured to say that very few motorists ever dared to travel at a speed of that kind. He was in favour of cars being marked either behind or on the side for identification. He believed that motors were going to revolutionise the trade of the country. He believed their use would solve some of the difficulties in regard to housing, and the taking of farm produce, especially dairy produce, from farms into towns. A Departmental Committee on Highways of which he had the honour to be a member was now sitting considering, among other things, this very question. It was difficult to realise that there had been no great new highways made in England for a hundred years providing communication between one town and another. This question was being considered with the view of seeing whether any alterations and additions should be made in regard to highways, looking to the changes which had taken place in the methods of locomotion. He did not think the proper regulation of motor car traffic could be obtained by fixing a limit of speed. He firmly believed the solution of the difficulty was to be found in refusing to lay down a limit altogether.

MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)

said that in his opinion for the safety of the public twelve miles an hour was quite fast enough for a motor-car. When dealing with the question as to the difficulty children had in getting out of the way of motor-cars, an hon. Gentleman said that children had no prescriptive right to claim the road. Every child going along the road to school had as much right to the road as the rich man in his motor-car. There were many villages where the doors of cottages opened directly on to the road, and to travel past these doors at high speed was most dangerous. Because a few wealthy men liked to use the roads for sport the general public ought not to be endangered.

MR. MURRAY (Coventry)

said it appeared to him that some of the hon. Members who had taken part in the debate had a fixed and rooted objection to the whole system of motor-cars generally. The attitude they took up did nothing to promote a solution of the questions which had been raised as to use of the cars. He earnestly joined in the appeal to the President of the Local Government Board to introduce useful legislation on this subject. An enormous industry was represented by motor-cars, and he believed there was a great future before it. Motor-cars had come to stay, and it must be borne in mind that they had not yet reached the highest point of utility in a commercial way. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be led astray by suggestions as to extreme speed limits; it would be far better to leave it to magistrates to say what was dangerous to the public.

MR. CHARLES ALLEN (Gloucestershire, Stroud)

said he was not at all sure that he was in favour of legislation to limit the rate of speed, for the reason that he did not see how they were going to carry it out. What he did think should be done if this motor-car industry was to progress in the country was to cultivate a better feeling among those who used motor-cars. He thought the Automobile Club could do a considerable amount in that way. Everyone must have had experience of what he must call the bad manners of those who drove in motor-cars. Only yesterday in Gloucester Road he saw an old gentleman with the greatest difficulty escape a motor-car. Instead of receiving any sympathy from the motor car driver he was abused. In his own case he had been driving a young horse when a motor-car came along, and when he nearly put the animal into a ditch the driver of the car only laughed. In another case a little girl was out leading a dog. A motor-car came along and killed the dog, and the driver went on paying no attention to what had happened. These instances showed how motor-car driving became unpopular. He thought motor-car drivers should be certificated. He understood that it was exceedingly difficult to drive straight at a high speed. There should be on all cars a ready means of identification.

*MR. FITZROY (Northamptonshire, S.)

expressed the hope that the President of the Local Government Board would deal with this matter at the earliest opportunity. He had received several letters from members of his constituency asking him to press the matter. Many people approached this subject with a deep-seated antipathy to motor-cars. But he did not associate himself with these. He believed that motors were an invention of great importance and had a great future before them for the public good. At the same time he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would frame laws which in the main they would be able to carry out and which the magistrates would be able to enforce. As the law stood with regard to limitation of speed, it was impossible to carry it out. There was no good in putting a limit of speed on motor-cars if they allowed them to run at all. As it was, unless they were personally acquainted with the driver or knew him by sight, it was impossible to identify him, or bring home to him any damage he might have done. Registration and numbering of motor-cars was the way of getting over these difficulties. He hoped therefore that this appeal from the Committee would strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's hand in bringing in a Bill which would have the effect of making the roads safe for all who might use them.

MR. LOUIS SINCLAIR (Essex, Romford)

said that a time limit was absurd, because all that the motor-car driver had to do when he saw a policeman in the distance was just to touch a small switch, and the speed of the car was immediately eased, making it impossible for the policeman to tell really what the speed was. The man who drove recklessly to the common danger of the public was a man to be punished. That was the common sense of the whole thing, and to reach that desirable end care must be taken that it was easy to identify the car and the motorist. Cars should never turn corners at a high speed. But on a clear road a car could surely go more than twelve miles an hour without causing danger. With a time limit there was always conflicting evidence. A policeman had come into collision with his motor-car—(laughter)—he meant that a policeman declared that his car was travelling at a greater speed than twelve miles an hour, and had nearly knocked him down. The magistrate dismissed the case against him, especially when he told his honour what his name was, and that his address was "The House of Commons." The policeman imagined that he was wishing to conceal his address, but the magistrate said that a better address could not have been given. [Laughter] He could assure hon. Members who seemed to be amused, that he was not trying to hide himself behind his address in the House of Commons. He wished to call the attention of his right hon. friend to the great danger which arose from some car drivers using excessive lighting on the road. It was not necessary to have these tremendous lights; they were not useful to the driver if he went at a reasonable speed at night. They had heard of a horse being frightened by a car and hanging with its fore legs on one side of a hedge, and its hind legs on the other side; but such an event was an exception. Personally, he had had varied experience in driving his car in his own constituency. On one occasion he happened to pass a carriage containing a lady, and he at once stopped, as the horse appeared to be frightened. He got out of his car and led the horse safely past, and he had had the hearty support of the lady ever since. On another occasion he was nearly assaulted by a gentleman, who said that he was going at a highly dangerous speed.

There was a good deal of misconception in regard to motor-cars, and he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman was going to introduce a Bill on the subject, because he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman himself had driven a motor-car at a higher speed than thirty miles an hour. It was an anomaly that the right hon. Gentleman should introduce a Bill, and that another Department would have the duty of enforcing it when passed into law. That drove him to the conclusion that there ought to be a revision of the work of all the Departments. The motor-car industry was one of the most important in the country. Millions had been spent abroad for cars which might have been spent here. Then there was the important question of car transport in the army. They were only at the commencement of a very big industry, but he did not think that the future of motor-cars meant that horses would be useless, or that the value of horses would go down in consequence. Farmers who found it impossible at present to convey their produce to market, owing to the excessive railway rates, ought to hail with pleasure the fact that cheap transport could be provided by means of motor-cars. If the industry was crippled by laws which were based on prejudice, it would have the effect of compelling people to obtain their cars from abroad, and would throw this country back many years. As it was, we were behind other nations in utilising motor-cars for many purposes. He was rather sceptical as to whether his right hon. friend would be able to introduce his Bill this Session; but when it was introduced, he hoped that it would not contain any limitation of speed, but embrace regulations as to lights, and penalties on those who had not the courage to stop when they had had an accident. A motor-car was by no means the dangerous thing sometimes imagined. A good deal had been said about cars running over dogs. He had been most unlucky in running over one or two dogs, but he had never killed one yet. If the law were sensibly amended he was certain that it would give a fillip to the motor-car industry, benefit the country, and bring us up to the same level as other nations.

MR. CULLINAN (Tipperary, S.)

said he should be very sorry if the horse-breeding industry in Ireland was injured by the extension of the use of motor-cars. He expected, however, a great deal of benefit from the introduction of motor-cars into Ireland for the purpose of carrying agricultural produce. In large towns and cities horses soon got accustomed to engines and motor-cars; but it should not be forgotten that undoubtedly great dangers were to be feared in country districts to horses and other animals who were not accustomed to the motor-cars. Motor-cars should be numbered, and the police should have the same power over them as they possessed over the ordinary Irish horse-car, which bore the name and address of the owner. An hon. Gentleman had said that the police would not be able to find out whether a car was going at an excessive speed; but he undertook to say that, now that the police were to be reduced in Ireland, if they brought over here Irish policemen, they would very soon find out whether the speed was excessive or not. He was certainly opposed to the driving of motor-cars at an excessive speed.


said that before approaching the absorbing topic which the Committee had now been discussing, he desired to say a word or two in regard to two subjects introduced in the early part of the afternoon. The hon. Member for Woolwich asked him whether he had announced his intention of abolishing Boards of Guardians, and to transfer their administration to other local bodies. He had never made any statement of the kind. He believed the misunderstanding was due to some general remarks on the subject of local government, in which he had indicated his opinion that the way to strengthen and economise local government was to reduce the number of local bodies; but he never suggested or contemplated the abolition of Boards of Guardians, which were a special and distinct branch of local administration. An hon. Gentleman had asked him about the administration of out-door relief, but that did not come within the purview of his administrative Department. He wished to say that he had made no attack on the Royal Commission on the Disposal of Sewage. He had suggested that they had been, perhaps, a little too long in making their Report; but he had also said that they had made a very valuable interim Report, and that had given him reason to believe that the members of the Commission were much interested in the great and serious problems connected with sewage, and that they were not to blame for any delay in the presentation of their final Report. He now came to the very important question which they had been discussing for the last three or four hours. The Motor-Car Question was important for more reasons than one. Last year there was a Debate upon it, and the right hon. Member for Sleaford suggested that there should be legislation, and he was supported by several Members. Before that Debate he believed that there was very considerable opposition in many quarters of the House to any Bill dealing with motor-cars in a comprehensive manner. He was surprised at the reception which that remark met with in the House. In his reply, after pointing out certain difficulties which surrounded the Question, he said— I am very glad indeed that the House of Commons appears to be unanimous in favour of an alteration of the law, which would compel motor-cars to carry some means of identification, and to enable them to go at any pace they like without danger to the public. That remark met with no opposition in the House, and no criticism in the Press or amongst the public outside, and he had every reason to believe that on these lines legislation would be regarded as being non-controversial. But how completely feeling had changed since that time! That night they had had an interesting debate, and everyone who had listened to it must realise that the majority of those who had spoken had, without hesitation, strongly opposed any relaxation of the limits which were now imposed on the speed at which motor-cars might go. That objection was due entirely to the fact that the users of motor-cars had, during the last few months, or at least a certain number of them, been so reckless in regard to public safety and public comfort, that they had undoubtedly aroused in the public mind feelings which it was impossible for the House to ignore. A short time ago all that was required was that there should be reasonable means of identifying the user of a motor-car, and that he should have due regard to public safety, and that, subject to that, he should be allowed to use the car as he liked, but now a strong feeling of indignation had grown up at what people believed to be an abuse of those privileges. The views expressed in that House had only been a faint echo of the views lately expressed in the leading journals. Let them read the correspondence published in The Times and The Daily Telegraph and the Yorkshire Post in the last few weeks. Let them read the letters innumerable which had appeared in the London and provincial press, and they would be convinced that the public mind was deeply exercised on the question. If there had been disagreement as to the form which the reform should take, there had been absolute agreement in the House that night as to the necessity for legislation.

A short time ago the difficulty that was anticipated as being the most serious was the opposition of the users of motor-cars to what some of them regarded, and he thought wrongly regarded, as the degrading obligation of carrying a distinguishing mark. He desired to say, however, that his hon. friend the Member for the New Forest, who was a pioneer in the motor movement, had rendered throughout the most loyal and useful assistance alike to the users of motors and the public in general, because not only had he invariably approached the question as a motorist with a strong regard for the public safety, but with a recognition of the difficulties of the case, which he was sorry to say had not been found in many other quarters, where it might be looked for. He desired, therefore, to thank the hon. Member for the assistance he had given him in dealing with that difficult question. He had been taken to task both inside and outside that House because of some remarks he had recently made on the subject in the country when he indicated that he believed now, as he did twelve months ago, that if they were going to deal satisfactorily with this unquestioned difficulty they could only do so by securing—as they had to meet every possible cause of danger to the public—that the offender should be easily identified, and by throwing upon the individual the full and undivided responsibility for the protection of the public safety. He thought that hon. Gentlemen who attached importance to the speed limit did not realise what the speed limit was. He had discussed the question with the chief constables who had had to carry out the law, some of them successfully, some without success. They one and all told him that the real danger to the public consisted, not in going twenty or thirty miles an hour along an open road, when the driver could see three or four miles in front of him, but in going probably even at less than twelve miles an hour when approaching dangerous corners. A policeman who saw a motorist approaching a dangerous corner at a speed of twelve miles an hour had no power to stop or interfere with him, for by statute they had told the man he could go at that pace. But twelve miles an hour would be more dangerous in some parts of a road than thirty in another. The evidence he had been able to collect pointed to the fact that, in the first place, they must make it quite easy to identify the offender. It was said—"What is the use of a distinguishing mark? Some of these drivers, who have been the cause of the present difficulty, who disregard all the laws of good taste and everything else, and drive as and where they like, will not hesitate to conceal their number, and the dust of the road will cover it up." It was possible that here and there there might be an escape from justice, either by fraudulent action on the part of the driver or by the accident of dust on the road; but in the great majority of cases it would be quite easy to find whether a man had his car marked or not. They had evidence to show that drivers, even when they had actually caused injury, had escaped, but he believed that in ninety-nine cases out of 100, if they made the numbers sufficiently conspicuous on the front and back or on the side of a car, they would find that the offender would be capable of identification. It had been said by some speakers that this was a demand by the owners of motor-cars who were rich to be allowed to drive as fast as they liked. He did not hesitate to say that in his judgment the roads of this country were not made for traffic of that kind, and were not suited for driving at a pace of twenty, thirty, or forty miles an hour. There were, however, roads, particularly the Lincoln and Bath road, and the road across Salisbury Plain, where they could see for miles in front of them, where there were no hedges and no ditches, and where motoring was as safe for the general public as it was for the person in the car. In such cases it was obvious that to impose a restriction on the speed limit would be to impose a restriction which would never be carried out, and the users of the motor cars would disregard them not only when it was safe to do so, but also when it was dangerous. Would it not be wiser to put a driver of a motor car in the same position as everybody else, and tell him, "We do not say that twelve miles an hour, or ten or twenty miles, is safe for you to go. We leave you to produce your machine, and drive it, but we impose on you the strictest limitations as to the regard you must have for the public safety?" They were bound to have regard to the fact that, if they drove a conveyance which was capable of being driven much faster than a horse-drawn vehicle, and of being brought to a high speed at a moment's notice, those who drove them must be responsible that they used their cars not only so as to avoid injury to life and limb, but with the least possible injury to the comfort and convenience of the public generally on the road, and beside the road.

It was said that children ought not to play in the road. Undoubtedly, they ought not, but the fact remained that they did. He knew from his own experience that they were often very frightened by the motor-cars passing through the village. But the twelve-mile-an-hour limit did not make it any better for them; it was just as much a source of danger to the child in the street as a speed of fifteen or twenty miles. What they wanted was to secure identification, to secure the means by which the police could tell who a person breaking the law was. Subject to that he believed the wisest policy would be to treat motor drivers as other people, and take care that if they did injury or endangered the public safety, they should be responsible, and should be made amenable for their acts. There had been a very wide difference of opinion expressed as to possible legislation, and he had received a great many letters on the subject. He had been told that there would be strenuous opposition to taking off the speed limit; and that those who were opposed to such a course would stop at nothing in the opposition they would offer to legislation of that character. What was the prospect of legislation? The debate that night had shown that the chances of passing a Bill in the present session were extremely small. The divergencies of opinion regarding speed limit were very great, and discussion on the subject would be very acute. Besides, there was a great amount of legislation already on the Table of the House. There was, of course, absolute unanimity as to the necessity. The difficulty was: What form should it take? He was hopeful that the discussion they had had would be useful, and, without committing the Government to any particular course in regard to legislation, he recognised the demand for it, and that, unless such legislation were passed to check abuses in the use of this means of locomotion, a feeling of hostility to motor-cars would arise, which he would be sorry to see, for he quite believed they had come to stay, and were going to play an important and useful part in locomotion, especially in rural districts not well served by railways. If the use of them was abused, if no proper check were placed on them, the public would step in and interfere, and that he thought would be much to be deplored; that should, if possible, be avoided. He hoped the discussion would help to bring about a compromise that would settle the question, which he admitted called for urgent treatment.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

regretted deeply that the right hon. Gentleman could not see his way clear to introduce legislation this session. He could not understand why a Bill on the subject, so urgently needed, should be further postponed. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think there had been a remarkable change of opinion on the subject both in and out of the House of Commons, but he apparently over-rated that change or mis-stated its direction, because, so far as he had been able to gather, the debate had shown absolute unanimity as to the immediate need for change, in the interests of the safety of the public, in the present laws affecting these vehicles.


I recognised that; but I pointed out that there was great divergence of opinion as to the form legislation should take.


could not help regretting the doubting accents in which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed himself as to the possibility of introducing legislation this session. He himself was originally responsible for the introduction of the measure dealing with motor-cars. But since that time this form of locomotion had been absolutely revolutionised. At the time that law was passed fifteen-and-a-half miles an hour was the fastest any of these cars had travelled in a race or otherwise. Three years ago they went fifty-three-and-a-half miles an hour, and now he did not exaggerate when he said they went between sixty and seventy, and even eighty miles an hour. He had been in one that went seventy miles an hour, and he sincerely hoped he would never go in another. Personally, he thought it absolutely monstrous that on the Kings highway, where everyone had equal rights, cars should be able to travel at the excessive speeds it was known that many of them attained, regardless of the safety and comfort of the public. It was the recklessness with which some of these cars were driven by individuals, and their utter disregard of public opinion and public safety, that had caused their unpopularity in certain quarters. The question was what kind of law there should be on the subject. He ventured to suggest that all motors should be put under the law that applied to other vehicles and furiout driving, with this accompaniment, that there should be penalties added of sufficient severity to insure attention to the law. That was absolutely essential, and surely it was not beyond the powers of statesmanship to carry it out? He would like also to see a system introduced by which all those who drove such vehicles should be obliged to be licensed, and should be the holders of certificates showing them to be thoroughly efficient.

As to the speed limit, that, of course, gave rise to a great deal of difference of opinion, and some Members seemed to think that no motor car should ever be allowed to be driven at more than twelve miles an hour. He was bound to say he regarded that as unreasonable. That speed on an open road might be admissible and not likely to do anyone any harm, but in a village it would be otherwise, and might be disastrous in a crowded town. He, therefore, would be entirely in favour of doing away with that speed limit, and for this reason, that experience had proved that the law as it stood was absolutely useless and totally ineffective for the public safety. Therefore, in the interests of the safety of the public, the time had come when there ought to be a change. There was, in his judgment, a real imperative necessity for a change. When they knew, as they did know, that most distinguished people, even Prime Ministers, were constantly being fined for breaking the law, surely the time had come when things should be put on a somewhat different footing. He entirely agreed with almost everything that fell from his right hon. friend as to what ought to be done at the present time. He sympathised with his right hon. friend's views; and he thought that if those views were put in the form of a Bill they would make the groundwork of a very good measure indeed. His right hon. friend said that there would be no chance of passing it during the present session; but he would suggest to his right hon. friend to introduce the Bill in another place. That would have one effect, at all events. It would enable his right hon. friend to ascertain what was the general feeling in the mind of the public in regard to this question; it would give him a good means of testing public opinion; and if it were not possible to pass the Bill this year, it would help him to pass it another year. With great regard for his right hon. friend, he thought there would be cause for great disappointment if there was to be no attempt on the part of the Government to deal with this question during the present session, the hope having been held out last year that it would be dealt with. A change was inevitably necessary; and why, under those circumstances, there could be any objection, at all events to introduce a Bill and pass it in another place, and if possible in this House also, he could not see. He hoped his right hon. friend would take courage, and before the end of the session make an effort to deal with the question.


said although he did not agree with all the views expressed by the President of the Board of Trade, he recognised the care and attention which the right hon. Gentleman was giving to this important matter; and, therefore, he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.