§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £146,954, 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 March 31st, 1906, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Local Government Board."458
§ MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said he regretted to have to move the reduction in this form because the right hon. Gentleman had had nothing to do with the grievance of which he complained. The Motor-Car Act of 1903 was the result of a distinct compromise, and the point upon which that compromise turned was the question of speed, and of the local authorities having the power to regulate the speed in their own districts. At the time the Bill was under discussion many Members acknowledged and adopted the view of the then President of the Local Government Board that there should be no speed limit, but that motorists should be allowed to travel on long straight roads at any speed they chose at their own risk, but at dangerous crossings and when they came to towns and villages the local authorities should have power to enforce a speed limit and to control the traffic in their particular district, subject, of course, to the decision of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House that deliberate pledge, and upon that compromise the Bill passed into law.
What they complained of was not the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had been an unjust judge, but that he had been such a judge as this country had never seen before. He prevented the case coming to trial. The very first thing he did when he got, rid of the House was to circularise the local authorities to the effect that in Mr. Walter Long's general view it was not desirable to enforce this part of the Act until it was seen how the other provisions worked. There were no other provisions of any importance; Section 1 of the Motor Act really expressed the common law of England, and Section 2 gave the local authorities the power they always had to mark dangerous places. That was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman carried out the law which he was called upon to administer, and upon his shoulders rested the responsibility for the whole evil that had arisen in this country on this matter. He did not need to discuss any Amendment of the Act; the Act was not unfair, and, fairly administered, it would work as well as any other. He would. 459 have been perfectly satisfied to have had no speed limit so long as the local authorities had had some control in the matter. The noble Lord the Member for Chorley, the First Commissioner of Works, had limited the speed in the Royal Parks to ten miles an hour, although the rule was constantly being broken, but if the Corporation of the City of London or the local authority for Greater London wanted to stop cars going down the London roads at twenty miles an hour they had to go to the Local Government Board.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WALTER LONG, Bristol, S.),
who had at this moment entered the House, said: The hon. Gentleman must pardon me; he has made a statement that I gave the House a definite pledge. May I ask him to produce that pledge?
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
I will produce it. You told me in your own room. I instanced my own county of Shetland, where no one would dream of driving beyond a speed of ten miles an hour. Your remark to me, as far as I recollect, was that it was intolerable that in a great county like Yorkshire the speed should be reduced over the whole area.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
The hon. Gentleman stated explicitly that I gave a pledge. I have asked him to produce the pledge, and he now proceeds to give his own recollection.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
I say I am the pledge. The matter is absolutely within the common knowledge of the House.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
How can it be within the common knowledge of the House when the hon. Gentleman has stated that what he refers to took place in my private room?
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that the deliberate pledge was by putting words in the Bill in another place that the 460 local authorities should have control of the speed limit in their own districts, and that the discretion of the Local Government Board should not be unreasonably and unfairly exercised. That discretion had been unreasonably and unfairly exercised by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR, Leeds, Central)
thought the hon. Gentleman had not read the circular accurately.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he believed he had quoted the circular accurately. They thought they could trust the right hon. Gentleman in this matter, and they had been very bitterly deceived. The issue of the circular was a grossly impertinent action on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. [Cries of "Order" and "Withdraw."]
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he desired to withdraw the expression, and said at all events it was an exercise of administration which no one expected from the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member then referred to the evidence given by the chairman of the Lancashire County Council (Sir John Hibbert) before the Royal Commission, to the effect that Lancashire had been compelled to spend £12,000 on their roads owing to the damage done by motor traffic. The President of the Local Government Board did not know anything of this scandal. As a result of the right hon. Gentleman's action, heavy motors weighing up to twelve tons were now to be allowed to travel at twelve miles an hour despite all the evidence before the Committee from country districts.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that the local authorities could limit the weight of the vehicles passing over the bridges.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said that that did not exonerate the right hon. Gentleman's Department from having given motors weighing twelve tons the 461 right to travel at twelve miles an hour. He had no feeling as regarded the motorists themselves or the motor industry; he was only desirous to see that the public rights were safeguarded. It was, in his opinion, a very undesirable thing that the police should be denounced as spies and informers, and for setting traps for motorists, and he now hoped they would hear better things. He thought the law ought to be most strictly carried out, and that no privilege ought to be created in favour of that very small class whose only desire seemed to be to over-reach their neighbours.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he regretted that so good a cause had found such a poor advocacy as the speech they had just heard. He shared the view that the users and drivers of motor-cars abused their privileges and had given the public good cause for complaint. It would have been quite possible for the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland to have made out a good case without accusing the late President of the Local Government Board of breaking his pledges. The hon. Member had accused him of having broken a pledge which he gave to the House and when challenged on the point he fell back upon an interview which took place between the hon. Member and himself in his private room in the House. He agreed that such an interview took place, bat he denied emphatically and categorically the hon. Member's recollection of what took place upon that occasion. The hon. Member alleged that he promised him that discretion should rest in regard to these regulations with the local authorities. As the House was aware, the Bill was originally introduced without any speed limit and it was suggested in the House that a speed limit should be inserted. The hon. Member suggested that local authorities should have the right to make representations to the central authority. That right he conceded, and he had never denied it either in private interviews or in any of his speeches, but he had never for one instant surrendered the position he had always taken up, namely, that the final decision and discretion in this matter must rest with the central authority. Where was the breach of faith? What did the hon. 462 Member mean by accusing him of a breach of faith?
After being driven from this charge the hon. Member fell back upon the circular, which he had described as "an impertinent interference with the local authorities." He regretted that the hon. Member did not take the precaution to bring the circular with him. The words of the circular were "and the Board are accordingly disposed." It went on to point out the view he had held throughout, namely, that the best protection to the public was to be found in the full exercise of the powers conferred by Section 1 of the Act, because the imposition of a speed limit carried with it dangers to the public, because the police, the public, and the careless drivers were apt to look at the statutory requirement in regard to speed lather than to the public safety. He maintained when the Act was before the House, and he maintained now, that there was no speed limit which could be imposed upon either a motor-car or a dog-cart which would under all circumstances be safe. He saw the other day a motor-car which was not going more than eight miles an hour, but even that was a great deal faster than it ought to have gone under the circumstances. The moment they laid down a statutory provision that the speed should be a certain number of miles per hour they at once ran the great risk that the police and the public would give undue attention to the restriction and not give sufficient attention to the general protection of the lives of the public. From the very beginning he had held that view with all the energy he was able to command, and that view dominated all his action in regard to the Motor-Car Act. Therefore it was a gross misrepresentation of the history of these proceedings to allege that he had given any pledge in any form whatever either in private or in public which departed in the smallest degree from the views he had laid down in the House. He denied that there were any words in the Act capable of that construction. If the circular was illegal then his action was also illegal, and the hon. Member had the usual remedy in a Court of law, and he ought not to waste the time of the House 463 discussing such a question. The paragraph in the circular which the hon. Member had described as impertinent simply stated that the Board were accordingly disposed to recommend the local authorities to refrain from proposing any extensive resort to certain powers conferred upon them by the Act until it was seen that the other provisions of the statute rendered such a resort indispensable. He appealed to the Committee to say whether it was possible for anybody to frame any less impertinent and less offensive words to be addressed to the local authorities than those. Until they had had some experience of the working of the Act the local authorities were simply asked to abstain from the imposition of restrictions which he believed would tend more to the danger than to the safety of the public.
He did not propose to deal with the general question, which would be much better dealt with by his successor in office, but he did feel that it was impossible to allow the extraordinary charge which had been made against him to go unanswered. He could hardly regard a charge that he had been guilty of breaking a Parliamentary pledge a seriously made, but it was a serious charge, and indeed it was a charge which ought to be met as goon as it was made. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland had produced no evidence in support of his charge, and he regretted that so good a case had found so bad an advocate.
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple)
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the very healthy doctrine he had laid down in regard to pledges. He had not the same hesitation as his hon. friend in regard to moving a Motion to reduce the salary of the President of the Local Government Board, in fact there were none of His Majesty's Ministers whose salary he would not like to reduce; therefore he would move to reduce the salary of the right hon. Gentleman by £100. He wished to thank hon. Gentlemen opposite, and more particularly those who represented motorists, for assisting them to get an 464 opportunity for bringing on this debate, they had shown no desire to burke discussion and they had fully recognised with them that as this matter was one which affected the weal and welfare of so many of His Majesty's subjects, it ought to be discussed on the floor of the House of Commons. He would endeavour to reciprocate that spirit and he would not say anything to endeavour to arouse prejudice. He had, therefore, no intention of alluding to motorists as "road hogs," "motor fiends," "goggled villains," or any similar epithets which had been bandied about from time to time. On the other hand the courtesy must be reciprocated, and he did not expect to be alluded to as a modern Mrs. Partington inimical to the cause of progress and progressive influences. They were dealing with a matter of very great importance which was agitating the minds of millions of people who used the public roads of this country, and therefore he thought they ought to discuss the matter in a calm and temperate spirit.
They had been met with the familiar argument. "Motorists have come to stay," and the people who used that statement treated it as the Alpha and Omega of the question, the beginning and ending of the argument, but on his part he agreed with that argument in so far as they supplied a practical and well-known want. It seemed to him, however, that the statutory privileges conferred on motorists should always be regulated by the well-known rule that everyone must use what belonged to him in such a way as not to hurt what belonged to other people. To show that he was not bigoted he might say that he was glad to see from the papers that a company intended to run a number of motor hansom cabs in the City of London. Most horse-lovers recognised that the lives of many horses in this country were little short of tragedies, well-groomed, well-fed, well housed, well-cared for in the days of their youth, in their old age they were often sold for an old song and the last ounce of strength and life was thrashed out of them in the streets on London. Many of them would be glad to see an absolute end to 465 that sort of thing. He also recognised the fact that motors were of considerable advantage to professional men in the country districts. For instance the most popular veterinary surgeon in North Devon used a motor. There were also in Barnstaple many doctors who availed themselves of motor-cars and that meant that they were able to extend the area of their operations, and so relieve a much larger amount o suffering than would otherwise be the case. But this was a matter to be observed that though there was a considerable amount of strong feeling in his constituency against a certain class of motorists, there was practically no feeling at all against those local motorists to whom he alluded. That was because those gentlemen knew every turn in the high roads, knew exactly where one road was bisected by another, and knew how to act when they met a herd of cattle, a restive horse, or a flock of sheep. The fact of the matter was that they were always courteous and considerate in regard to vehicular traffic, and they recognised that though they were made for the road, the road was not made for them. Having made these admissions, he hoped he should not be looked upon as a wild and irrational opponent of motor-cars.
He wanted to discuss the carrying out of the Act of 1903. When that Act was introduced he moved the rejection of it mainly on two grounds—firstly, because there was no speed limit proposed; and secondly, because the President of the Local Government Board refused to allow county councils to manage the areas within their jurisdiction. The right hon. Gentleman gave way on the first point, but not on the second. He thought then that the right hon. Gentleman was wrong in refusing to give way on that point, and experience had now proved that to be the case. What had been the result of that Act in Devonshire, in which he lived? Their position had been worsened instead of being bettered by the Act. It had been a curse to them instead of a blessing. Nine out of every ten of the touring motors which came into Devonshire paid no attention whatever to the speed limit. It might 466 be asked: "Why do not you prosecute them?" Well, there was a clause in the Act which said that two witnesses were wanted in regard to the speed limit, and that would mean that the staff of policemen would have to be largely increased. That would involve a very heavy burden on the ratepayer. Then, too, in North Devon there were no scheduled areas at all, and the consequence was that motorists were allowed to go twenty miles an hour wherever they liked. They might be asked why they did not schedule the roads. That was a very expensive matter. It meant the putting up of notice boards, and if they were to do their duty to the motorists it meant the lighting of them at night. That would throw a considerable burden on the rates of the district. The rates were already very heavy. They had been largely increased by the education rate alone. He did not think it was right to ask the agricultural community to incur a heavy burden in order to protect themselves against dangers arising out of the amusements of wealthy men. The result was that at the Easter holiday time—and he had no doubt it would be the same at the Whitsuntide recess—some of the country roads in Devonshire were just as if hell were let loose on them. People were smothered in dust, ladies dare not drive along the road, and children who lived in cottages by the roadside had to be absolutely confined at home all day. If there was one thing more serious than another it was the question of the children. These country districts were the breeding ground of the nation, and all wished to see happy, healthy, and rosy-cheeked children in the country. Country cottages were not big enough for a lot of children to stay indoors all day long, and anything that affected the health of these children should be looked upon as a grave matter indeed.
It was quite true that country people wore displaying inimitable patience with this. He wondered at the patience of poor people in regard to this and other questions. Let not the right hon. Gentleman think that, because there bad been no uproar, there was no great feeling on the matter. They felt the injustice of it, 467 although they did not know the remedy. Last Easter he spoke to a water bailiff near one of the main roads along which a large number of cars passed When asked what he thought of the matter he replied—I don't mind them so much, but the worst is we have to keep the children indoors all day.That was the whole conversation. The old man did not grumble but he would confess that it angered him to think that on that beautiful spring day the children had to be kept indoors all day in order that wealthy people might enjoy the amusement of rushing along the roads at a furious pace! He asked the Committee to notice what the President of the Local Government Board—the present Chief Secretary for Ireland—said when he was introducing the Bill which was now the Act under which the whole thing was being carried on. He said—It is not only the security of life and limb that has to be dealt with, but also the extraordinary discomfort suffered by people who live on the roads which motors largely frequent. Many houses alongside the public roads have been rendered almost uninhabitable, not only by the dust, which is an intolerable nuisance in the summer months, but by other inconveniences which follow from the improper use of this means of conveyance. It is in order to deal with these difficulties that the Government have thought it their duty to introduce the Bill to Parliament.He would ask—Had not the expectations of the right hon. Gentleman proved absolutely fallacious? Was not the prophecy which was made on that occasion as false as a pamphlet of the Tariff Reform League? He did not think that any fair-minded man could deny that that was the case. One of the main features with regard to the Act of 1903 was that it was a temporary and tentative Act. Why was it temporary and tentative? It was because it was felt that too great power ought not to be entrusted to local magistrates. Many of them were known to have strong prejudices against motor-cars. It was felt that if too drastic power was given to them the result might be the entire stoppage of the motor industry. After eighteen months experience of the Act there were very few cases which could be pointed out in which the magistrates had behaved partially with regard to motorists. There were a few, but it 468 should be remembered that they heard about every one of these cases. Motorists were powerful in the Press; they could all write letters, and therefore, whenever there was a case of injustice it was sure to be thoroughly well ventilated in the papers. On the whole, the magistrates had exercised the powers conferred upon them wisely, judicially, and well. Therefore the Committee might come to the conclusion that it would be perfectly safe, if it was thought necessary, to entrust the magistrates with wider powers than they possessed at the present time.
Another reason why the Act was temporary and tentative was that it was not known how motorists were going to behave. Some had one view, and others had another view, as to their probable conduct. He was sorry to say, and he thought the Committee would agree with him, that, taken as a whole, the motorists had not come well out of the trial. He admitted that the hon. Member for the New Forest Division had done his best in the matter; he had issued rules and regulations from time to time, but they had been disobeyed. The fact was that the touring motorist thought he could do just as he liked so long as he paid the fine. A fine of £5 was nothing whatever to a man who could ride in a £1,000 motor-car. In answer to a Question which he put to the President of the Local Government Board yesterday the right hon. Gentleman told him that in England and Wales outside the Metropolitan Police district there had been 837 convictions under Section 1 (1) of the Motor-Car Act, 1903, during the last twelve months. These were convictions for reckless driving to the danger of the public. The right hon. Gentleman further stated that in regard to the Metropolitan district during 1904 there were 168 convictions under the sub-section. Did not this prove that fines were no preventive? Was it not a known fact that at the present moment many motor papers published lists of "Police Traps," and told their readers that there were certain places where the law could be broken with impunity and certain places where it could not. Motorists did not think the imposition of a fine was a proof of bad citizenship. They paid their money, considered it was a piece of bad luck, and then thought no more 469 about it. There was no moral sanction behind these fines so far as motorists were concerned. He thought, therefore, that time had proved three things. The first was that taking motorists as a class they could not be relied on to act in a proper and gentlemanly manner in motoring along the road. Then it had been shown that fines had not had a sufficient deterrent effect. It had also been shown that it would be safe to entrust the magistrates with more drastic powers than they at present possessed. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that power should be given to imprison anyone for the first offence on conviction of driving recklessly to the danger of the public. He would suggest also that power should be given to the county councils to manage the areas under their jurisdiction. They made the roads; why should they not manage the traffic upon them? If they were competent to manage the education of children, surely they were competent to manage the motor traffic.
There many other questions in connection with this matter. There was the great question of dust. He believed that that was exciting the attention of the motorists as well as of the general public, and he would like to hear what they had to say about it in the course of the debate. Then there was the question as to whether the motors were sufficiently distinguished by their marks and the great danger which arose from motors driving at great speed at night. He was quits sure, if things went on as they were, there would be many serious accidents from that cause. Then there was the question of the wear and tear of public roads which was making motoring unpopular as much as any other cause. It was not fair that motorists should use the roads as they were now doing without bearing their fair proportion of the cost of the upkeep of the roads. He hoped before the debate closed that the right hon. Gentleman would make a promise to introduce legislation giving the county councils full power within their own area to regulate the motor traffic, and also giving power to magistrates to inflict imprisonment for the first offence of reckless driving. He did not think such an appeal could 470 be made at a more opportune moment than the present, because everyone knew that the Government did not know what to do with their time. They had to adjourn the House the previous day at half-past five o'clock. Their difficulty was not how to find time for work but how to get through the session. Therefore, he hoped that the Government would see their way to present a small and useful Bill on the subject, and to that end he begged to move to reduce, the salary of the right hon. Gentleman by £100.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the President of the Local Government Board."—(Mr. Soares.)
§ MR. ARTHUR STANLEY (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
said that his only reason for intervening at this early stage of the debate was that he was chairman of the Automobile Club and of the Motor Union, and that therefore he might claim to represent the moderate view of motorists, and not those motorists to whom allusion had been made. He had certainly no reason to complain of the way in which this subject had been brought before the House. The hon. Member who last spoke must recognise that motorists had no wish to avert discussion. When he asked his right hon. friend to put this Vote on the Order Paper for an early day, he promised the hon. Member for Orkney that if that was not done he would support him in moving the adjournment of the House in order to obtain a discussion. He confessed that it would be a little difficult to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney, because, instead of dealing with the question on broad lines, that hon. Gentleman had devoted the first part of it to an attack on the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the last part of it to an attack on heavy motor traffic, which practically resolved itself into an attack upon the motor omnibuses at present running in London.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he had not attacked the motor-omnibuses at present in the streets; he had only used them as an illustration to point out 471 that vehicles double their weight up to twelve tons were to be allowed on our streets and roads.
§ MR. ARTHUR STANLEY
said he was very glad to hear that it was only one lass of motors which met with the hon. Member's disapprobation. In regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Barnstaple, he could not help thinking that his picture of children being kept indoors from fear of motor-cars was a little exaggerated. He had motored to a certain extent throughout the country, and he could answer for it that most of the children in country places were not kept within doors. Although he agreed with a great deal which the hon. Gentleman had said, he could not accept the recommendations which the hon. Member had made at the end of his speech. The hon. Gentleman had mixed up the two questions of reckless driving and the nuisance caused to the public by dust. Nobody deplored more than the average motorist the inconsiderate driving of certain motorists. Indeed, they had every reason to feel horror and disgust, even more than the ordinary Member of the House, when a motor accident occurred, because every accident of that kind was not put down to the individual account of an individual motorist. In fact, he had heard language of abuse in the House against motorists, which was generally considered to be the special prerogative of His Majesty's Ministers.
He asked the Committee to consider that there was an enormous amount of exaggeration in the cases which appeared in print. There was a case reported in the Manchester Guardian and the Daily Mail, with large headlines, about a labourer on the road who had been injured by a motor and left insensible with nobody to help him. On investigation it was found that there was absolutely no truth in that whatever. There was no labourer on the road and the police were satisfied that there was no motor in the district. This was pointed out, but there was no denial of the original report in these papers Occasionally they had complained of exaggerated statements made in Parliament. For instance, when the Motor-Car Bill was before the other House, 472 Lord Camperdown gave an account of a lady who had been hurt in an accident on the road and that a motorist was to blame for it. When the facts were investigated it was clearly proved that the accident had arisen from quite a different cause, and that the only thing the motorist had to do with it was that when he came up he offered to convey the lady in his motor-car to her home. Of course, Lord Camperdown contradicted his original statement as soon as the facts were brought to his notice; but there was the old saying that, give a lie twenty-four hours start, it could never be caught up. There was another instance brought to public notice by the hon. Member for New Forest. An accident happened through a horse being frightened by a newspaper flying across the road. A motor-car was in the distance and the report of the occurrence was headed "Another Motor Accident." While there was a certain amount of exaggeration in these reports, still motorists in general were the last to deny that too many accidents were caused by motors. He did not wish to weigh in the scale the number of horse and motor accidents, but supposing that there were a thousand motor-car accidents last year, it was said that there were no less than 22,000 horse accidents in the Metropolitan area.
The Automobile Club were doing all that they possibly could to assist in the reduction of accidents by punishing those who caused them. The club had established a special committee to deal with cases of inconsiderate driving brought before them. There were a great many cases which could not be met by fines; but there were also a great many cases which could be met by such a committee. It would be a less punishment to pay a fine of £5 than to be expelled from the club. In that way many cases could be dealt with by the committee which could not be met by the law. Then the second action which the Automobile Club had taken was to grant driving certificates. Under the existing law in England, anybody might apply for a licence and get it without examination. In fact, it was said that a blind man had obtained a licence. Now, in France, before a driver 473 obtained a licence, he had to pass an examination and to show that he was fairly efficient in driving. The Automobile Club proposed to set up a form of examination; and if everybody who owned or drove a motor had to pass such an examination, he was certain that the accidents would be enormously reduced because of the absolute certainty that everyone who drove a motor on the roads was efficient. They also intended that the examination should include a knowledge of the rules of the road, and of the provisions of the Motor-Car Act. It would, therefore, be useless for any person holding a certificate to contend that he did not know what the requirements were.
He had had occasion to study the working of the Act; and he wished to endorse the opinion which had been expressed by the two hon. Gentlemen who had spoken regarding the speed limit. That was the one blot on the Act. Many motorists, including the Chief Secretary for Ireland, expressed that view very strongly when the Bill was being passed; but they were overborne. He would give the Committee a few instances to show the injurious effect of the speed limit on the working of the Act. A case was brought before the Automobile Club the other day in which it was shown that a driver attempted to pass another car in a cloud of dust. He ran into a cart, but fortunately did not inflict any personal injury. That was not his fault. When he, was extricated from the debris he remarked that he was only driving sixteen miles an hour. The papers put the speed at sixty miles. From his evidence it appeared that he expected to be exonerated because he was not exceeding the legal limit. It should be remembered that a great number of professional chaffeurs would not be familiar with the provisions of the Act; and in nine cases out of ten they would claim to be entitled to drive twenty miles an hour. Under such circumstances the speed limit was a danger to the public. Here was another case. Mr. Edge, who won the Gordon-Bennett cup, and who was one of the most scrupulously careful drivers in the country, was informed regarding a police trap. He went himself to ascertain if it were on a fair stretch of road. He had on his car a speed indicator which he had 474 carefully tested; and he had two or three friends with him. Mr. Edge was in a position to prove that his speed was only twelve or fourteen miles an hour; but the police swore he was travelling at the rate of forty-three miles an hour. Mr. Edge was too sensible to take notice of a point like that. The result might be, however, that a motorist who was travelling fourteen miles an hour, and was stated by the police to be travelling forty-three, might say to himself that he might as well travel forty miles an hour as the punishment would not be greater. He ventured to suggest that it would enormously strengthen the Act if the speed limit were removed; and if they relied entirely on the section which dealt with danger to the public. He thought he could say on behalf of all automobilists that they would be perfectly willing to see the penalties increased, so long as, in cases of imprisonment, there was an appeal to a Judge. There were certain localities where magistrates were inclined to be severe on motorists; and his contention was that motorists should be dealt with equally in every district.
The question of the maintenance of the roads had been referred to. The Roads Improvement Association was attempting to deal with that matter also. The Departmental Committee made certain recommendations on the subject; which, however, involved a charge on the Exchequer, and they were consequently unable to press them either last year or in the present year. But when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had more money at his disposal, he sincerely hoped that the question of nationalising certain main arteries would be taken up. He need only mention that the Great North Road was under no fewer than twelve authorities, each of which could act as it liked without consulting the neighbouring authority. In conclusion, he wished to state that all reasonable motorists desired that the Act should be strengthened by the omission of the speed limit; and that all inconsiderate drivers should be driven off the road altogether. They were working on two principles. Ono was, naturally, to maintain and secure the rights of automobilists; the other, which was not less important, was, in every possible way to prevent the rights of others being infringed.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he was sure the Committee realised the admirable tone of the speech of the hon. Gentleman. If all automobilists held his views and practised his doctrines, the public would not have very much to complain of. The hon. Member said he represented the views of moderate motorists; but they had to legislate, not for the moderate, but for the immoderate motorist. Legislation was based, not on the action of honest, but of dishonest people; and the Committee, in view of the circumstances, was bound to consider a great public grievance which undoubtedly existed. He was struck with one remark of the hon. Member, who referred to what the Automobile Club could and could not do. But there were a large number of motorists who were not members of the club and over whom the club could not exercise any disciplinary action. The debate indicated that the Act was experimental and tentative, and dealt with a novel state of circumstances. The House had proceeded very cautiously in the matter. It was all very well to say that the Government should bring in a Bill and pass it. He was afraid they could not. What the Committee, however, was considering was the administrative action of the Local Government Board in connection with the Act. The Act, as far as it went, was a very good Act; and to a certain extent it had worked well. He did not, however, agree that it was a blunder to have inserted the speed limit, When the speed limit was increased from fifteen to twenty miles an hour the accidents increased in similar ratio. The Irish Secretary said he had seen a motorist driving at not more than eight miles an hour, and that that driver ought to have been brought up under Section 1. That speed was almost invariably exceeded every day in London under circumstances which made it dangerous to the public. One of the faults to be found with the administration of the Act by the Local Government Board was that nothing practically was done to put a stop to this reckless driving. The Local Government Board was entrusted by the Act with the power of making rules, and many of the grievances of the public against motor-car driving could be 476 remedied by the administrative action of the Board. For instance, there was no country in the world where a licence to drive a motor-car was given so lightly. No municipality allowed a man to drive a hackney car without testing his capability to drive. But here was a man in the possession of an instrument dangerous to life and property, and he was granted a licence to use it without any conditions being laid down.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the Local Government Board had no such powers as the right hon. Gentleman thought they possessed. Under the licensing provisions of the Act, the council of a county or borough were required to grant a licence to any resident in the locality on payment of an annual fee of 5s., unless the applicant was disqualified by being convicted of an offence under the Act.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER
said he was under the impression that the Local Government Board had power to control the licensing authority. At any rate, the Board ought to have that power. No man should have a licence unless he was capable of driving a motor-car without danger to life and property, and the test of his capacity should be made, not by the Automobile Club, but by the local authorities. They had also to recognise that in this matter it was not only motorists who had rights to the road but the rights which pedestrians, equestrians, and vehicles enjoyed were seriously interfered with under the present administration, and they were more likely to get at the true remedy for this evil if they fairly admitted that no one ought to possess rights at the expense of other people. Of course no one denied that automobilists had rights; and the question, was to what extent was it necessary to limit those rights in the interest of the community. The Local Government Board had the power to make special regulations to limit the speed of motor-cars in districts where they were asked to do it by the local authorities. But there was an impression among the local authorities that the Board did not look with favour upon 477 these regulations, that the trend of opinion in Whitehall was adverse to the granting of these limitations of speed. He thought to make the local authorities in this matter the sole authority would be a wise provision. The Local Government Board could not and did not appreciate the local difficulties, which could only be known by the local authority, who were the only persons to deal with them. In a large town the only persons who could know which streets required protection and which did not were the local council. There were limitations in London. Personally, he would have in the whole metropolitan borough of London a lower limit of speed than ten miles.
With regard to the punishments provided by the Act, he thought they were inadequate, insufficient, and defective. He would abolish the distinctions laid down for the treatment of first offences and second offences. If a man broke the law, whether it was the first or the second time, he should be punished according to his negligence. The system of fines should also be abolished. A fine of £5 was no punishment to a man who could afford to pay £1,000 for a motor-car. No progress would be made in suppressing these motor-car nuisances until punishments were imposed which would be really deterrent punishments to the class of people who were liable to commit those offences. At the same time there should be a right of appeal in case of imprisonment to a competent authority. The offenders were a minority of automobilists, and it would be well if the Local Government Board were to invite the assistance of the Automobile Club in protecting the interests of the public; but at the same time the Board must uphold those interests and sternly deal with a certain class who curtailed the comfort and safety of the community, because they cared for nothing but their own pleasure and defying the law.
§ MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)
said no apology was necessary for discussing the extremely important question which formed the subject of debate that 478 afternoon. The question was how the law was to be administered in relation to motor-cars, so that other persons who had the use of the highways might not be interfered with. No one desired to deal unfairly with motorists. That was not the question. Since the roads were laid out for equestrian, vehicular, and ordinary pedestrian traffic motor-cars had come in, and it was abundantly obvious from the discussions that took place in 1903, and the experience under the Act passed in that year, that there must be careful legal and administrative arrangements made, otherwise those who were rightly and justly entitled to the use of our public roads would lose their birthright. It would be a mistake to be led away by direct instances of dangerous driving, and, on the other hand, they must be cautious of accepting the speech of the Chairman of the Automobile Club. All must agree that if all drivers of motorcars acted truly in the spirit indicated by the Chairman of the Automobile Club no law would be necessary to protect the common highways of this country. But there were a considerable number of motorists and motor-car drivers, who so far from adopting the conciliatory and fair attitude indicated by the Chairman of the Automobile Club disregarded every interest except their own, and it was the action of those men which had caused so much unpopularity in regard to motorists and motor drivers. Though no one was more desirous of stopping this sort of thing than the Automobile Club, he took exception to the claim they made that the administration of the law should be entrusted to a club of this kind. A large number of motorists did not belong to the Automobile Club, and he did not know whether any chauffeurs at all were members of it. If the chairman of the club had said that whenever the chauffeur of a member drove recklessly the owner of the car—who was often the person really in fault—would be punished, the club might be given more power. But was there any case in the history of the club in which a member had been expelled for reckless driving, or censured for the reckless driving of his chauffeur? In a large number of cases-the person who ought to be censured or 479 punished was not so much the chauffeur as his master, who, by allowing him to drive in a reckless manner had conduced to the accident.
Then as to the administration of the Act of 1903. Whatever any individual's views might be as to a speed limit, that was not a question for the Local Government Board at all. Parliament had decided that there should be a speed limit, and it was the duty of the Local Government Board to administer the law. Remembering that in 1903 the present Secretary for Ireland did all lie could to prevent Parliament from imposing a speed limit, but was compelled by the general feeling of the House to give way, he could not help thinking, during the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that, as President of the Local Government Board, he must have been biased and influenced by the views he still held, instead of carrying out, in a bona fide straightforward way as all Government Departments should do, the law as accepted and laid down by the House, and not as the head of the Department might wish it had been framed.
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hampshire, New Forest)
pointed out that the Local Government Board had nothing whatever to do with the speed limit of twenty miles an hour limit.
§ MR. CRIPPS
agreed that fortunately the Local Government Board had nothing to do with it in that way, and his hon. friend would admit that he was likely to know the law so far as not to fall into an error of that kind. The first point of the right hon. Gentleman was in effect that he regretted the law was not left under Section 1 so that anyone might be punished for reckless driving. There was a complete answer to that. First of all, it was not the law, and secondly, as regarded the administration of the law, everyone who had dealt with these practical matters as a magistrate, whether under the Motor-Car Act of 1903 or under the Highways Act of 1848, knew the extreme difficulty of proving a case of reckless driving unless the reckless driving had been carried to such an extent as probably to endanger human life. Personally, speaking from pro- 480 fessional experience, he would not advise anyone to embark upon a case of that kind unless the facts were very patent indeed. They did not want reckless driving so much punished as stopped and avoided. Persons could not be present at their own inquest if they were driven over and killed, and in one's absence in a case of that sort every possible prejudice would be alleged on the other side, and there would be no guarantee whatever that proper punishment would be meted out to the reckless driver. After a child had been killed or damage done it was too late to punish a man for reckless driving; what was wanted was a system or a speed limit which, in the great majority of cases, would prevent reckless driving or punish the driver before he reached a dangerous pace.
He would not reargue the question of the speed limit. It was the law and the Committee were considering, not an alteration, but the administration of the law. He believed it was the greatest possible safeguard to have a speed limit, and only under some such definite rule could they have any guarantee in the great majority of cases that motor-cars were driven at speeds not dangerous to a large number of people who had an equal right to use the highways. When the question was before Parliament, he argued that the safety of the roads should be entirely under the control of the local authorities who were responsible for their management and maintenance. Those who held that view were overruled on the principle, not that if the powers were given to the local authorities no such regulations would be made, but that if the powers were given to the Local Government Board, they might have a system of regulations of almost universal application throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman who was then at the head of the Local Government Board had to-day stated that he did not believe in the speed limit. What had been the result? Practically every application of the local authorities had been disregarded, and many other authorities had in consequence withdrawn their applications altogether. Was that fair treatment of a Parliamentary enactment in which the speed limit was introduced with the 481 common consent of the House? Furthermore, a speed limit of twenty miles an hour applied in villages and populous districts was entirely inadequate, and by its inadequacy might itself conduce to reckless and dangerous driving. The intention of Parliament was that the children of the villages—and they were an important factor in the question—should be fairly safeguarded in their everyday user of the roads, and it was a monstrous thing that in our villages and town districts the Local Government Board had done nothing; but in its dislike of a speed limit had allowed the maintenance of the twenty mile limit which was of no benefit whatever to those particular districts. Abroad, at the entrance to almost every village there were notices requiring a speed of much less than ten miles an hour to be observed while going through the village. He suggested to the Automobile Club that, if they really desired the motor industry to be fostered in this country, they should not, as they had done hitherto, appear at every one of these inquiries in order to oppose a proper speed limit in country districts, but recognising what the difficulties were, should do their best to secure a fair regulation in the matter.
Licences as they stood were absolutely absurd, but the Local Government Board were not to blame for that, as they had no powers in the matter at all. As to penalties, it was perfectly clear that those prescribed in the existing Act were wholly inadequate as deterrents. That was particularly true with regard to the owners of the cars. Without wishing to raise any prejudice on the point, all must recognise the fact that in the majority of cases the owners of motor-cars belonged to the richer classes, to whom a £5 penalty meant nothing at all. He believed it to be absolutely essential—and he did not understand the Chairman of the Automobile Club to oppose it—that if reckless misconduct in driving were proved, even for the first offence there should be power of imprisonment. The right of appeal to a Judge might be a proper safeguard. The magistrates had done their best to administer fairly a very difficult Act, and he did not at all subscribe to the sugges- 482 tions of bias on the part of magisterial benches throughout the country; but every conceivable precaution ought to be taken against any subject of His Majesty being unjustly imprisoned. So long as they had matters of this sort which depended not on the strict law, but on the interpretation given regarding the particular facts in a particular case, he thought the safeguard of appeal should be given, but with that safeguard there should be an adequate system of penalties, so as to stop as far as possible reckless misconduct in the driving of motor-cars. They must insist as regarded the administration and as to any alteration of the law that the users of the country roads who had used them from time immemorial, and who provided and paid for them, should have an adequate guarantee that their rights would be preserved, not by keeping motors off the roads, but by keeping them under fair control.
§ MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said it appeared to him that hon. Members wanted motorists not to be bound by any speed limits whatever, but to be simply bound by the ordinary common law of the land. That was a very great demand to make. There was absolutely no analogy whatever between the motor-car and a horse and trap. A horse and trap seldom went more than ten or twelve miles an hour, whereas the motor-car wont thirty, forty, or fifty miles an hour. The comparison should be made between the motor-car and a railway train. At a level-crossing there was always some kind of signal or safeguard, and when an ordinary footpath crossed the railway the Committee upstairs said there must be a bridge over it, but here they had motors allowed to run on the roads of fifty or sixty horse-power. Motors ought not to be allowed to go at any speed proprietors thought proper. The roads were the property of all, and he did not see why people for their own pleasure should make the lives of the great majority of the people who used those roads miserable. The automobile journals had criticised Members of Parliament very unfairly, and one writer went so far as to threaten them, for he had told his friends not to vote for any hon. Member who voted for the imposition of further 483 restrictions. He believed the great majority of motorists did not wish to break the law. As a rule, it was the minority against whom they had to make laws. Why offenders who broke the law by negligent driving should not be punished he could not understand, and it was no excuse to say they did not know the law. It was no excuse for a poor man to say he did not understand the law, and yet it had been contended that there ought not to be a speed limit because chaffeurs did not know the law. The whole thing was absurd. He had no objection to motorists, but in the interests of the public the law of 1903 would have to be altered.
The public were naturally indignant at the way in which the law was being administered. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had deprecated anything being said that would arouse class feeling, but the way in which the Local Government Board had administered the Act had certainly produced this effect, for it had given the people in the country to understand that the law could be broken with impunity by the rich whilst it had to be obeyed by the poor.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The Local Government Board has nothing to do with the administration of the law.
§ MR. CAWLEY
They had refused all local authorities power to regulate speed, and in that way they had given the public to understand that they were in favour of motorists and disregarded the public safety. For the first time since the old régime, before the French Revolution, the poor people were beginning to look upon the wealthy classes as an intolerable nuisance to their brethren and were beginning to hate them. The poor man did not like to be run over by a man in a superior position to himself, and he did not always care to rush out of the way when somebody blew a horn. He really thought motorists would be rather disappointed if they did not have a few hair breadth escapes, because it was looked upon as a kind of sport and it was for sport that they used the roads to the terror and disadvantage of those who had to get their living on and by them. Therefore, it was the duty of the House 484 to protect those who had a right to use the roads and not those who desired to use them for sport.
As to the refusal of the Local Government Board to allow local authorities permission to make a speed limit of ten miles an hour in certain areas, he did not think the Government would have got the Bill through the House if hon. Members had known that motor-cars would have been allowed to run through narrow streets and down steep gradients at over ten miles an hour. Whether a pledge to this effect was given or not, at any rate there was a distinct understanding when Section 9 was carried that local authorities would have power to restrict motor-cars to ten miles an hour in areas where there were narrow streets and steep gradients. The Local Government Board had disregarded the spirit of the Act and carried it out in direct contravention to it. They had frightened a lot of local authorities from applying for these powers. In the city of Winchester the streets were very narrow and the gradients steep, and in five days no less than 830 motor-cars went round a dangerous corner. The local authority applied for powers but they were referred to the common law of the land. The same thing occurred in Leeds, a city where they were allowed to borrow millions for great works and for an education scheme. Why was not Leeds allowed to regulate the traffic of its own streets? That was not the spirit in which this Act went through the House of Commons. The town of Bury applied for the speed to be limited within half a mile of the parish church. The streets were Very narrow and tortuous, and there were schools and mills whose doors opened out into the streets, but here again the President of the Board of Trade referred them to the common law of the land. That was not the spirit in which the law was laid down. That case illustrated what had happened in regard to all the towns that had applied to the Local Government Board. It had been said that not many local authorities had applied, but they were not likely to apply in these circumstances. If the Local Government Board gave the power in one case why should they not do it for everybody else when there was a good 485 case made out? The Act had been grossly misused by the Local Government Board.
Who opposed the applications which were made to the Board? They were opposed by the Automobile Club and other clubs. These clubs of rich men had more weight with the Local Government Board than any local authority in the land. That was the only conclusion they could come to. These clubs brought forward a whole lot of skilled motorists as witnesses. The same inspector was sent out by the Local Government Board to inquiry after inquiry, although it was perfectly well known that the inspector would report against the authority which made the application. It was a farce! It was putting the local authorities to unnecessary expense, because, while they were going to tell the local authorities to abide by Section 1, they sent this man out to make inquiry as if everything were above-board and straight. He believed that motors had come to stay, but whether they had come to stay, running under present conditions, was another question altogether. He was entirely in favour of a speed limit. He did not think the ordinary law of the land was good enough to regulate motor traffic, considering the people who used motors. If the ordinary law was to be left by itself he did not see how they were to get any prosecution at all. It could scarcely be proved that a man was driving recklessly unless there was a speed limit. Supposing a man was prosecuted for reckless driving, he would say that he was driving at one speed, and the police would say that he was driving at another. It was a disgrace that the law in regard to the speed limit was not carried out in the way intended when the Act was passed.
§ MR. LLOYD WHARTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Ripon)
said he had one or two suggestions to make to the Local Government Board which might lead to considerable amendment in what he thought everyone seemed to regard as a most intolerable state of things. His first suggestion was that a difference should be made in the cost of the licences granted according to the size and the speed power of motor-cars. He was not 486 dealing with motor omnibuses or lorries, or different vehicles for the use of the agricultural classes where there were no railways; but with motor-cars alone. His idea was that a motor-car up to ten or twelve horse-power was a vehicle to be encouraged. It was generally driven properly and to the safety of the public. These he would license at a charge of some £2 or £3 a year. The moment they got over that limit he would charge £1 per horse-power, so that if a man chose to drive a forty horsepower motor he would have to pay £40 a year. In this way they would get a substantial contribution towards the cost of the roads which now had to be largely maintained to allow motor traffic to proceed with rapidity. His second suggestion was that there should be a speed limit, and a low speed limit when inhabited places were approached. He was the other day at the house of a brother county magistrate in Yorkshire, who told him that during the summer he had to keep the whole of his windows facing the road closed, because otherwise everything was covered with dust, on account of the motor traffic. His third suggestion was that when they were dealing with the question of certificates to drivers there ought to be some real examination and not the absurd bogus examination now in force. He had heard, and he believed it was true, that to see what would happen, a blind man applied for a licence, and got it. There should be a bona fide examination of some sort for everyone who drove a motor on a public road. His last suggestion was not so much to the Committee as to his brother magistrates outside. If they wanted to inflict a penalty which was really telling, let them suspend the driver's licence for a time. [An Hon. MEMBER: And the owners.] He quite agreed; if the owner chose to employ a man whom he could not trust then let him be responsible as well. Drivers did not mind a fine of £5 or £10, but if the power of driving a motor-car for six months was taken away, they would care about that. He hoped his right hon. friend would lend a favourable ear to these suggestions.
§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
said he wanted to draw the atten- 487 tion of the Committee to one or two points which were mentioned by the president of the Automobile Club in the speech he had just made. It seemed to him that gentlemen who drove motor-cars wanted to discredit the police as much as possible. When the hon. Member stated that Mr. Edge said he was only driving at twelve miles an hour, and that the police said the speed was forty-three miles an hour, he could not help feeling that this would cast discredit on the police in the eyes of the general public. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the police discharged their difficult duties to the best of their ability, and that they did it very well. He was sure no policeman summoned motorists out of pure prejudice. It was because he believed it was his duty to carry out the law. If professional chauffeurs were asked the law in regard to motors, they would say that it required them to keep below twenty miles an hour. But they ought to know that they must not drive recklessly or to the danger of the public. There ought to be some examination to ensure that a man not only knew how to drive a motor car but that he knew the law of the land in this matter. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, when considering an amending Act, would insist on more strict punishment than even the censure of the Automobile Club on the chauffeur. It must be recognised that motor-cars had come to stay, but it must also be recognised that they must be driven with regard to the public opinion of the country.
He thought the Local Government Board had been lax in interpreting the duties placed upon them by the Act of Parliament. He would mention a case which had been brought to his notice by a rector in Sussex. He said that a boy was knocked down and killed by a motor and at the inquest the driver said he would not swear that he was not going at more than twenty miles an hour. Now twenty miles an hour was a dangerous speed, for at no part of the road within 120 yards of the spot where the boy was killed was the road more than fourteen feet nine inches wide. The Local Government Board had power to issue regulations to prohibit or restrict driving motor-cars on 488 any highway which did not exceed sixteen feet in width. Here was a case where a boy was killed on a road only fourteen feet nine inches wide! He asked the President of the Local Government Board if he had issued any regulation that motor-cars should go at a less speed than twenty miles an hour on these narrow roads. If the Local Government Board were in favour of carrying out the spirit of the Act they would have regulations of that kind all over the country. A man driving at twenty miles an hour in these narrow road must be driving recklessly and to the danger of the public. It was the duty of the Local Government Board to protect the lives of little children. What he would say to the right hon. Gentleman was that he should allow much greater power to the local authorities to control the speed of motor-cars. Of course, the Local Government Board should have some power to bring these regulations into uniformity. In answer to a Question the other day, the President of the Local Government Board said that he had had forty-five applications from local authorities to fix a speed limit, that seventeen had been withdrawn for various causes; that twelve local inquiries had been held; and that in only two instances had the Local Government Board fixed the speed limit to five miles an hour. Take the case of the city of Winchester. Surely the corporation of that city knew better than an inspector sent down by the Local Government Board, what speed the motors should run in the streets of the city.
He must confess, that all motorists were not so amiable as the president of the Automobile Club would have them to believe. A great many of them had banded themselves into a union, and there was a new pledge that no Member of Parliament was to get the assistance of motor-cars at his election unless he subscribed to the rules of the union. It seemed to him that the Automobile Club had taken up an attitude which might tell against themselves in the long run. After all, there was a good deal of human nature about.
§ MR. ARTHUR STANLEY
said that if Parliamentary candidates asked for cars, the club must prescribe regulations.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that if the members of the Automobile Club were to assist candidates for Parliament who would carry out their own wishes, that was surely a species of bribery; and he hoped the Automobile Club would not take up such an attitude. What he, himself, wanted was a fair and reasonable speed on the highways. Agriculturists and others who used the highways for the purposes of their business and of getting their daily bread had the prior claim for the use of these roads over those who used them merely for pleasure. That was the principle which should animate the law; and that was the spirit which should animate the President of the Local Government Board in passing legislation through this House on the subject of motor traffic.
§ SIR PHILIP MUNTZ (Warwickshire, Tamworth)
said that this was a question in which he had taken great interest for many years. When this Bill of 1903 was passing through the House he was in favour of a speed limit of fifteen miles an hour; and he was still of the same opinion. It was a great error to allow a limit of twenty miles per hour. What struck him was that the Local Government Board did not seem to appreciate in any way the strength of the feeling in the country in regard to this matter. In his opinion the Local Government Board had neglected its duty, with the result that there was a great and growing feeling against motoring throughout the country. In fact, it had come to this: either to stop motoring altogether, or to adopt stringent measures so as to secure the safety and comfort of the people on or adjacent to the highways, and the protection of property.
He agreed with everything that had been said in regard to the danger to life and the wrecking of the nerves of people who used the roads, but there had not been sufficient said in the course of the discussion as to the injury to property caused by the high speed at which a large number of motor-cars were driven. Take some of the good old towns and villages like Stratford-on-Avon and Henley-in-Arden. They were pretty, with picturesque residences, occupied by professional and business men. He agreed with the hon. Member for Yorkshire in saying that in such towns and 490 villages every door and window had to be shut and the occupants could not even sit in their gardens on account of the dust which was raised by these motor-cars. The consequence was that, the whole value of their property was destroyed. This also applied in country districts to glass-houses used for the cultivation of fruit and flowers. He knew, of his own knowledge, that the value of such houses had been destroyed by the motor-cars. The tremendous dust raised by them settled on the glass, obscured the sunlight, and the fruit and flowers could not ripen or come into full bloom. [Ironical laughter.] This was no smiling matter for a great many people, and it might be relied upon that John Bull and Mrs. Bull were getting into a frame of mind that they would not stand this much longer. Why should ten or twenty thousand people be allowed to ride rough-shod over the great bulk of the population of these islands? That was a plain, sensible Question to ask; and he wanted the right lion. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to answer it.
Then agriculturists were suffering very severely from the enormous plague of dust which was raised on the highways by those motor-cars. The dust rose like a cloud, hung for a whole day over the adjoining fields or was carried further by the prevailing wind and was finally deposited on the crops to their ruination. Again, when a farmer went out with his horse and waggon to take his produce to market, a motor-car came along, driven at excessive speed, and frightened the horse, and accidents continually happened. He had seen that happening in the narrow roads of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire and many other parts of England. Naturally farmers were very sore indeed against these motor-cars. The Local Government Board certainly did not seem to appreciate the extent of the grievance, for, instead of administering the law and assisting the local authorities, the Department had obstructed the local authorities in dealing with the evil and had grossly neglected their own duty.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ripon 491 Division was a very practical one—namely, that the chauffeur who drove furiously should have his licence taken away for a considerable time and that the owner of the motor should also be prevented from using it for a period. That would have a very considerable effect on gentlemen who were fond of scorching. He himself had a motor in Italy, and engaged a chauffeur who was a very astute person. In the first week he ran over a pedestrian; it happened in the second week, and also in the third. Meantime, he himself had to pay a fine and an indemnity on each occasion. He mentioned the matter to a friend, who asked the name of the chauffeur. On learning it he remarked, "Oh, he was employed by a friend of mine, and he always stuck a member of his family in the way." When he himself told the chauffeur he would have to pay future indemnities himself the accidents ceased.
He was not in favour of a general speed limit in the interests of pedestrians. In other countries there was no speed limit, yet the accidents were fewer in number. In German notices were posted at particular points, stating the speed at which all vehicles should travel. That was the real way of meeting the matter. For instance, the local authority might notify that the speed through a village should not exceed five miles an hour. If the speed through a village were ten miles an hour it would be dangerous, because the village street was the playground of the children. He did not believe that the proprietors of motor-cars generally did drive furiously; but a man might be in a hurry and might drive furiously along a straight road with no person in sight. He could not understand a policeman standing behind a hedge. It would have been infinitely better if he were stationed in a village where there might be danger. In France men who drove vehicles to the public danger were punished very severely, but the speed was not limited. It was suggested that the horse-power of the car should regulate the speed; but a ten-horse-power car with a light weight could travel as quickly as a forty-horse-power car. He remembered that many years ago there was galloping in the Park. The persons who indulged in 492 it were called "galloping snobs"; they were attacked in the newspapers, and they were put down by the force of public opinion. He thought the late President of the Local Government Board had not fairly administered the law. It was not sufficient to reduce the speed; neither would he allow each county to lay down a limit for itself. In his opinion there should be no general law as to speed; but he would allow any village or town to display a notice limiting the speed where there was danger.
§ COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)
said the two grievances of the public in connection with motoring were danger and dust. These were rural rather than urban grievances. There was comparatively little difficulty in regulating traffic in towns. Urban motorists were in the main ignorant of the country districts through which they drove, and were a danger to all on the road. He did not know if it was possible to make a calculation, but he thought it would be admitted that the danger to rural dwellers had increased 50 per cent. during the last three years. If that were so it established the direct necessity on the part of the Government to endeavour to reduce the percentage of danger to a more reasonable level. The danger was universal. It applied to the cottager and to the farmer, as well as to all who used the road in a more luxurious way. It did not arise altogether from excessive speed, although that was a distinct element; but he had himself noticed that drivers of motorcars were now more audacious than formerly in using their vehicles. An old coaching man like himself naturally noticed these things. Motorists would drive within a foot of the wheel of his carriage, and he did not know whether the horse would swerve in one direction or the other. Then, again, motor-vehicles ran round corners at a great, pace, and brought an enormous cloud of dust. It was not possible to avoid danger under such circumstances. A farmer might have a young or a shy horse to train, but was now prevented from exercising it on the read, owing to the development of motor traffic. This was essentially a rural question.
493 They had had many remedies suggested for this danger, some of them practical and good. By all means let them insist that no man should drive a motor-car a yard along a public road who had not passed a stringent examination as to his capacity, and let the licence of any driver who failed to satisfy the police be endorsed in such a way that he would lose his licence altogether on a repetition of his misbehaviour. There was also a good deal in the suggestion that the car should be impounded. Nobody would desire to do such a thing hastily, but it certainly should be done on a repetition of the offence. The best remedy was to bring the punishment of reckless driving much more closely home to the owners of cars. He believed it would be quite right to rearrange the penalties in such a way that the owner of a car, on conviction or on the repetition of an offence in which his vehicle was concerned, should be not only fined but imprisoned. So far as could be judged from what one read in the papers, such an amendment of the law might lead to the temporary seclusion of some noble Lords, and he was not sure whether some noble ladies also would not disappear for a short time; but he did not think any harm would be done to them, and he was perfectly certain that the roads would be safer by reason of their disappearance. This was a matter upon which the public had a right to appeal to the authorities. They were talking in no exaggerated sense and in no sense of hostility to motor-cars, but because they thought it right that the public should be secured from the dangers arising from the way in which motoring was conducted.
There were one or two little points of importance to the individuals concerned which he would like to bring to the attention of the Committee. They had heard a great deal of the sufferings of villages and country towns, but hon. Gentlemen sometimes forgot that a great proportion of our rural population was housed not in villages but in scattered cottages along the country roads, and he was not sure that the dwellers in these cottages did not suffer more than any other section of the population. There was a possibility of controlling access to a village; public opinion could be brought to bear upon the subject. But take 494 cases such as were within his own knowledge—the case of a sick child in one of those isolated rural cottages, whose life was perhaps dependent upon the admission of fresh air through an open window. It was impossible to give the child fresh air because of the constant passage of motor-cars. Again, if a cottage door were open the meals of the poor people who lived there were often spoiled while upon the table, owing to the dust raised by passing cars. Those who had travelled in the East knew the conditions under which a meal was eaten in a sand storm, and in such a case as that which he had mentioned people were subjected to similar conditions. Then, too, washing hung out to dry was often completely spoiled by the dust raised by cars. It was not as if the dust came once in a way; it was constant, day and night. He hoped that the damage, mischief, and danger involved to dwellers in the country would not be forgotten when this question was judged upon its merits.
A remedy for the dust, he supposed, would ultimately be found in some treatment of the roads which would mitigate the nuisance. It was said that something had been found which should be applied to the roads; but at whose cost? At the cost of the people who did not want the motors, but yet suffered from all the dust which the cars raised. Was the improvement, to be carried out at the expense of the many for the benefit of the few? If motorcars were to be used for the amusement of the few they must pay for it. If it were held that those who drove motors were to have the use of the roads as part of the public, then the public must bear the cost of preventing the dust nuisance. But in no case was it fair that the ratepayers of a particular district should bear the expense. He trusted from what he had heard in that House that those who drove or owned motors would recognise that motoring was an absolutely selfish amusement, and that it gave pleasure to the few at the cost of the many. Let them appreciate that aspect of the question, and then let them seek to make their amusement less selfish and join with those who were trying to meet them in an amicable spirit.
§ MR. NORMAN (Wolverhampton, S.)
thought that those who represented the motor interest should also take part in the debate. Therefore he rose, rather than because he had anything of value to add to the admirable speech of the president of the Automobile Club. That speech had dealt with the whole question, with a completeness, a frankness, and a wisdom which he had been glad to see so generously recognised by the Committee. He was thankful to recognise that motorists were getting off more easily than he had feared, and much more easily than they did during the debates of 1903. He came into the House with something like a feeling of trepidation, and when the hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth rose he shook in his shoes; but so far from anything terrible falling from the hon. Baronet, he could quite sympathise with much that he said. After all, the idea of the hon. Baronet was that motors should disappear from the roads, for he desired to limit them to such a speed that it would not be worth while for anybody to buy or use a car. Doubtless the hon. Baronet's ideal was that every wheeled vehicle should be drawn by a shire horse of his own excellent breed. But the phrase that the motor had come to stay was now something more than a mere phrase. Its arrival involved not only a great industrial development and social movement, but a great civilising impulse. He repudiated the assertion that motoring was merely an amusement for the rich. No doubt at present more motors were used for pleasure than for anything else; but it was certain that the movement would have an enormous industrial side, destined to be of great benefit to the country. It was true that some property in the country had been damaged by motors; but, on the other hand, a considerable amount of property had increased in value owing to the same cause. The dust raised by cars might do some damage to agriculture, but the motor industry was going to render services to agriculture incomparably greater than any harm it had done.
He protested against the suggestion that motorists were unpopular throughout the country. He motored a great deal himself and did not find that he was looked upon as a fiend in human 496 shape. On the contrary, he found his car added a new and educational interest to dwellers in rural districts. As to the statement that all the children in North Devon had to be confined inside their cottage homes all day, he thought it could scarcely have been put forward seriously. It seemed to him when he went motoring that not a single child in the United Kingdom was indoors. The point from which they should start in considering this question was that it was possible to drive a motor-car sometimes much faster than the law allowed and still to drive like a gentleman. He frequently drove very fast, but always stopped his car and, if possible, his engine when near a restive horse; he had never, so far as he knew, frightened a nurse with a perambulator; and had never been spoken to by a policeman. On the other hand, he had frequently been thanked by horse drivers for common courtesy, and he believed that to be the experience of a great majority of motorists. At the same time there existed a few who drove selfishly and abominably, and who ought to be suppressed by any means that could be invented. He had seen cars driven in such a way that if he were a magistrate and the drivers were brought before him he would, if he might use the phrase, "take the hide off them." Their conduct was abominable, but that had nothing whatever to do with the speed limit, because such offences happened more frequently in London than else where.
He was prepared to contribute one or two suggestions to his anti-motor friends. In Paris recently a municipal by-law had been passed practically making it an offence to sound a horn in the streets. He believed the constant hooting of horns in the streets of London might be suppressed and that its suppression would have the effect of making men drive more carefully. Another objection was to the emission of clouds of blue and evil-smelling smoke. There was no need whatever for that, and a man ought not to be allowed to drive through the streets unless he could so control his engine as to avoid it, for it was caused through either ignorance or carelessness. Obviously the criticism which motorists had the greatest difficulty 497 in meeting was connected with the question of dust. One had to admit that that was a very grave nuisance indeed, and something or other would have to be done. Opponents of motoring would probably say that motors must go or the dust nuisance must be put an end to. Certainly motors would not disappear. They had come to stay; but the dust nuisance would have to be dealt with in some way, and he did not suppose that any great social development had ever come without bringing in its train some national burden, and when the best method of settling the dust question had been decided scientifically by experiment, that method would probably have to be put in operation at the charge of the whole community. He had made the suggestion that certain types of cars should contribute much more largely to public funds than at present, and he believed that if cars were charged so much per horse-power the burden would be much more justly apportioned than at present.
Motorists did not desire in any way to shield nuisance who drove improperly. On the contrary, all decent motorists desired to do everything possible to bring such men to do justice and suppress them All they asked was that there should be a distinct line drawn between a real and a technical offence, that was, between driving so as to cause grave public discomfort or danger and committing any of the brutal and abominable acts to which reference had been made, and merely exceeding an artificial and technical speed limit. In the opinion of all experienced motorists a speed limit was an addition not to the safety but to the danger of the public. They had held that from the beginning, and when once that limit was abolished and every driver was made strictly accountable for what he did, they would have got much nearer to a settlement of the question and to the establishment of those harmonious relations among all sections of the public, which motorists were the first to desire.
§ MR. SCOTT-MONTAGU
said he fully associated himself with the remarks of his hon. friend who had spoken on behalf of the Automobile Club. It was a source of great anxiety to all reasonable 498 motorists that for a long time past—certainly since the Act came into force—there had been a tendency on the part of a small section of the motoring community to drive at a reckless speed, or in such a way as to cause inconvenience to the public. He could assure the Committee that the harm such persons did was resented even more by the automobile community than the people who were inconvenienced. The danger so caused and the dust nuisance were the two radical causes of the unpopularity of motorists, and if they could be removed there would not be nearly so much objection in the future to the decent use of motor-cars or even to their use at high speeds. The question of dust was not at all a new one. Hon. Members who had observed the main road leading out of London would have seen by the roadside little pumps put up 150 years ago, in the days when coaches went rumbling along the roads, and the dust nuisance was evidently then as great as to-day. He did not at all agree that the dust problem was insoluble. As a matter of fact it was in a fair Way towards solution. Experiments in which he had taken a humble part had been made with a view to finding out the best way of laying dust, and it had been proved beyond all doubt that at an extra cost of about 2s. 6d. per ton there could be put, on the main roads, or wherever it was required, a material which would last longer, was non-slippery, and, above all, dustless. He did not think motorists would object to extra taxation, provided the proceeds were devoted to such purposes as road improvements and dust prevention, which would tend greatly to the removal of the grievances under which the public and they now suffered.
In some of the attacks which had been made on the Local Government Board, hon. Members seemed hardly to realise that local authorities had power to put up warning posts without any application whatever to the Local Government Board. In his own county of Hampshire they had put up about 470 warning posts at dangerous crossroads, entrances to villages, and other places, and there was no reason why that should not be done 499 in every county in England. A proposal that such persons who drove recklessly after passing such warning posts should be more heavily punished would receive the undivided support of motorists in the House. With regard to the reduced speed limit in towns, he did not think the opposition had in every case been altogether wise or diplomatic from the public point of view. In certain places it had been opposed where a lower speed limit was possibly justifiable. But that was not so in all cases. As to the question of a reduced speed limit in towns, there certainly were places in which, in his opinion, a reduced limit was justified. Motorists generally would probably not oppose in future in a gratuitous fashion applications for a speed limit; but if the local authorities were wise they would not ask to be allowed to schedule in every case what was known as the borough area, as that area often extended a long way beyond the inhabited portion of the borough. He entirely agreed with the Chief Secretary that, if the police concentrated their attention on the enforcement of Clause 1 of the Act of 1903, they would do more to stop reckless driving than at present, and would receive every assistance in their efforts from motorists. That clause gave most stringent and wide powers not only as regarded traffic actually on the road, but traffic which might be reasonably expected to be there. The penalty for a first offence was a fine up to £20, and for a second offence a fine up to £50 with imprisonment and the endorsement or suspension of the licence. He would not oppose the suggestion that in certain cases there should be imprisonment for even a first offence, but, all the same, the penalties already provided by Parliament were very effective, and they had been put in operation over and over again in the country.
He quite realised that motor-cars were unpopular in many places to-day, and must be so for some years to come. But every new movement of this kind must arouse opposition. On the other hand, however, the picture which had been drawn of children confined entirely to the house because of the dangers of 500 motor-cars was very much exaggerated. There was now a general tendency to use the roads more largely by all traffic including motors, and what was wanted amongst the drivers of motor-cars was more courtesy, but courtesy could not be enforced by law. What was required also was a little more common sense. As the hon. Member had said, they should drive on the road like gentlemen, and do all they could to conciliate public opinion. The whole motor-car movement was in its early stages. Only six years ago when he drove down to the House in his motor-car he was stopped at the gates and told that it was not a suitable vehicle to go into the Palace Yard. There had been a great change since then, for the other night, on the occasion of an important division, he noticed no less than thirty-four motor-cars in the Palace Yard. Motorists were anxious in every way to remedy the evils which existed, and they would not oppose any reasonable proposal of the Government or the local authorities to make the Bill more efficient if it came up for revision.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said they would all agree that the Committee had had that afternoon a very instructive discussion, in the course of which interesting suggestions had been made. With some of these suggestions he cordially sympathised, and there were, of course, others with which he did not altogether agree. In the course of the discussion suggestions had been made in regard to changes which it would be desirable to make in the Motor-Car Act. While he did not regret that the debate had been to all intents and purposes a Second Reading discussion upon a Motor-Car Bill, he might, perhaps, recall the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Motion before them was one for the reduction of the salary of the President of the Local Government Board and, strictly speaking, nothing was relevant to such a Motion except the administrative acts of the Board.
The extent of the administrative powers and duties of the Local Government Board under the Act had been strangely misunderstood by some speakers. One hon. Member 501 seemed to think that it was possible for the Board, not only to make regulations, but to see that they were carried out. That was not the case. They had power to make regulations in regard to identification marks, the registration of cars, the granting and renewal of licences, the size and colour of notice boards to be erected at dangerous places, and the limiting of speed to ten miles an hour within particular limits or places on the application of the local authority. These were the functions which the Local Government Board had to discharge under the Act. The discharge of the duties of the Board had been impugned only as regarded the making of regulations for heavy motor-cars and for the limit of speed which was to be fixed on the application of the local authorities. The hon. Member for Orkney made a violent attack on the Board and on the Committee which had been appointed to consider the question of the regulations for heavy motor-cars, which he described as a lop-sided Committee. Well, it was a Departmental Committee of which the right hon. Member for Somerset was Chairman, and it included among its members Sir William Arrol, Mr. Munro, Mr. Law, of (he Local Government Board, and two eminent engineers. He did not think there was any ground whatever for suggesting that the constitution of the Committee was an unfair one, still less for the charge that the evidence taken was of a partial character and did not show the true state of the facts. It was unnecessary to go at length into the criticisms of the hon. Member for Orkney. He had indeed great difficulty in following the hon. Member, but, so far as he could follow him, he did not think any of the statements made could be justified by the Motor-Car Order. If the hon. Member had studied the Older with more care he would have found many of his Objections largely mitigated.
There were two clauses in the Act under which speed might be limited by regulation of the Local Government Board. Under Clause 9 a maximum of ten miles an hour could be imposed within any limit or place, and in making a regulation under this clause the Board had to consider if it was required in the interests of public safety and not merely the 502 desire of the local authority. Under Clause 8 motor-car traffic might be prohibited or restricted in any highway when the width of the roadway did not exceed sixteen feet, or where the traffic would be a possible danger. Under this section the Board could take action without application from a local authority, but had not done so, nor was it desirable the Board should. Applications, however, had been received, and in respect to these criticism had been most severe. It was only fair in defending the policy of his predecessor to point out that comparatively few local authorities had applied, only forty-nine out of 277, and of these seventeen wore formally withdrawn, a considerable number wore allowed to remain in abeyance, twelve local inquiries were held, and two applications were granted. Under Section 9 no order had been issued. His right hon. friend had explained the reasons why the majority of the applications had been refused. He took the view that it was better to proceed under Section 1, which prescribed no limit of speed, than to impose a limit of speed which might afterwards be in danger of being regarded not as the maximum but as the minimum. Ten miles an hour might in many cases be an excessive speed; and if ten miles an hour were fixed there would always be the temptation to the driver to regard any speed up to ten miles an hour as justifiable under all circumstances. No doubt, as the discussion had shown, there was great difference of opinion on the question of speed limit, He did not think it fair for the hon. Member opposite to charge his right hon. friend with having shown special favour to motorists as against the general public. His right hon. friend, in taking the course he did, believed he was consulting the safety of the public, and he was inclined to sympathise with his right hon. friend's view. Of course an application from a local authority ought to receive very serious consideration and careful examination in an unprejudiced, impartial spirit.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he was quite ready to consider the suggestion 503 made by the hon. Gentleman. The motor question presented many difficulties, and would present more in the future, As the hon. Member for Barnstaple had said, motors had come to stay and the increase in their number was growing from day to day. Vast capital was embarked in the manufacture of cars, and the development of the industry showed that it would be crushed out of existence by a limitation to fourteen miles an hour, [Cries of "No" and "Why?"] Such was his opinion. He did not think that it would be the view of the Committee generally that a restriction which would seriously impede the speed of motor-cars and would threaten to strangle the manufacturing motor industry would be in any sense desirable. On the other hand he realised that public opinion had been greatly stirred by the danger of motor-cars when recklessly or negligently driven and the accidents that occurred. In addition there was the intolerable nuisance of dust to dwellers by the roadside. Difficulties had to be met without unduly checking the use of motor-cars. Something could be done by Local Government Board administration, more by increased stringency on the part of local authorities and the police, and a good deal by legislation. The Act was a temporary one, and next year it would be reintroduced in an amended form. Further, he thought that next session there should be a full inquiry by Committee or Commission into the working of the Act. He expressed no opinion on the various suggestions made, he thought in his position it would be premature to do so. He suggested to the Committee it would be hardly fair to vote the reduction, which would imply censure on his predecessor and a Department which under difficult circumstances had done its best.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
said he wished to protest against the selfish and reckless indulgence, at the expense of the public safely and convenience, of the rich lower class, and against the wretched technical plea advanced by the right hon. Gentleman in reply to the case put forward. As a foreigner, he 504 asserted that the English people in this matter showed themselves either very patient or very stupid. He could not understand why they had not taken the law into their own hands once or twice and put down motorists with a strong arm. He had received a letter from an Anglican clergyman, the Rev. F. G. Welby, of Marsden, whom he did not know, and who wrote—All honour to you for your gallant stand. We here live with our lives in our hands. Last November I ministered by the side of one of our school children as he lay dying in agony after having been knocked over by one of these accursed motorists. The chauffeur returned to the spot, saw the child sweltering in his blood, said he would be back in a minute, and then rattled off to Henley without offering any assistance. Railway trains travel on rails; and what is now wanted is that motor-cars, should travel on tracks.Hon. Gentlemen who represented the Automobile Club were full of righteous indignation to-day against those who went in for reckless driving. What Pharisees hon. Gentlemen were! Had they no scorchers in the House? Some months ago an hon. Gentleman opposite was fined for furious driving; and then attempted to found a breach of privilege against the magistrate who had very properly fined him. On May 15th he himself asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether he would consent to a Return of titled persons and Ministers of the Crown who had been fined for driving motor-cars to the peril of the public. The right hon. Gentleman, replied that a Return singling out a particular class of the community could not be prepared without a great deal of trouble. The right hon. Gentleman himself would have been first on the list, because he has been fined three times.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
stated that the Prime Minister in answer to a Question put by himself, admitted he had been fined. He was brimming over with curiosity, and as the Prime Minister had told him he liked to be asked Questions, he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether be did not think the fines inflicted were inadequate, and the right hon. Gentleman in reply said he had no reason to believe they 505 were. In his opinion the fines were grossly inadequate when it was remembered that they were inflicted on men who owned motor-cars and to whom money was no object. If these offences were committed by poor men Imprisonment and not fines would be the result. He had tried to define the intellectual environment of various motorists, and it appeared to him that they were wanting in regard to moral sense. He thought it was a gross injustice that a man who had been fined £20 for furious driving one day should be on the bench the next, and sentencing perhaps to fourteen days a famishing boy who had stolen bread. He had a letter from a magistrate which illustrated this fact. That gentleman wrote to him that he had not the honour of his acquaintance, but he would be obliged to him if he would tell him why he (Mr. MacNeill) had made a personal attack on him in the House of Commons; that he was not charged with furious driving, which was a serious offence, but with the mere technical offence of exceeding the time limit. He did not reply to the letter, and he did not know the gentleman, but it was a curious fact that anyone should have thought that any hon. Member would have used his position in the House for the purpose of making a personal attack on anyone. He had never done such a thing in his life.
He held in his hands a comparison, drawn up by a very eminent gentleman, of the speeds allowed in different parts of the Continent and in this country. After comparing the different regulations on the Continent, he said that in New York City no car was permitted to proceed at a greater pace than eight miles an hour, but in London cars might be seen every evening proceeding at the rate of thirty miles an hour, thus rendering the streets for ladies and timid cyclists impassable. So it was all through this attempt to allow our roads to be destroyed, dust thrown in our faces, our furniture ruined, and the lives of old persons and young children to be endangered, and all for the benefit and amusement of, he believed, not more than 2,000 people. It only showed how demoralised this country had become.
506 He would draw attention to one more fact, and he hoped the President of the Local Government Board and also the Automobile Club would think of this. At an inquest held at Richmond on the previous day on an aged lady who was knocked down and killed by a motorcar while she was crossing the road, the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. The owner of the car, a City merchant, said he was driving at the rate of only four miles an hour, and the coroner stated that as long as the law allowed motorists to tear along at twenty miles an hour they would have to give them fair play, but he had just said to the counsel for the Automobile Club that if the Prime Minister of England had not been the chief off under the twenty mile limit would never have been adhered to. He had spoken feelingly on the subject as he had been two or three times within appreciable distance of being knocked over by motor-cars, and two people had been killed within a stone's throw of his residence in Dublin. He appealed to the House in every way possible to put a stop to this great and selfish iniquity which had destroyed rural life in England.
§ MR. HOUSTON (Liverpool, West Toxteth)
observed that in his view the regulation as to the speed limit was a dead letter. He had recently taken to motoring, and had not had any kind of accident, but he entirely agreed with many of the suggestions made by the opponents of motoring. With regard to the chauffeur, he quite agreed the licence fees ought to be much heavier as well as the tax on motors, and he would favour the imposition of a much heavier charge on the licence for a foreign chauffeur than for an Englishman, in view of the difficulty which might arise with respect to the foreigner if he committed an unlawful act. The point he wished to raise, however, had reference to the position of the law in so far as it was laid down that a person should not, under any circumstances, drive a motor-car on a public highway at a speed exceeding twenty miles an hour. It did not say at a rate exceeding twenty miles an hour, but a speed, and therefore it seemed that until twenty miles had been 507 run the enactment was a dead letter. He would be glad if that matter could receive the attention of the law officers of the Crown, as this was a penal Act, and must therefore be read strictly in accordance with the wording of the section. He ventured to submit, reading it in that way, that all the fines inflicted for excessive speed had been illegal.
§ GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said the President of the Local Government Board had pointed out that this was a Motion for the reduction of his salary. That was true, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not consider that Members had been speaking personally against him. Such a Motion offered the only means the Committee had of getting at the Department over which he presided. It was true that Parliament had passed a certain Act, but that Act empowered the Local Government Board to draft regulations. At the present moment mechanically-drawn vehicles in London were under three sets of regulations. Those regulations were drawn by the Local Government Board, who stated with absolute truth that they were not responsible for their enforcement. That duty devolved upon the police. If, however, a policeman's attention were drawn to a particular vehicle he would say to himself, "I wonder whether that comes under one, two, or three of the regulations?" Two or three days ago he called the attention of a policeman in Park Lane to a motorcar with a trailer attached, travelling at least eight miles an hour, and the policeman stated that he was not certain under which regulation it came, that he could ascertain only by stopping the car and examining certain small letters upon it, and that he could not do that because it would obstruct the traffic. Consequently the car went on. Three times he called attention to that car with the same result. He then wrote to the Local Government Board, who informed him that if the car had certain marks on it it came under one regulation, and if it had not it came under another, but that in any case it was not their duty but that of the police to prosecute. How on earth could regulations be enforced unless the authority which had to enforce them knew under 508 which regulation a particular vehicle came?
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to-make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.