HC Deb 15 March 1907 vol 171 cc381-400

Order for Second Reading read.

*MAJOR RENTON (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)

said the Bill of which he desired to move the Second Reading would be familiar to many Members of the House. It was introduced first in 1893 and received a Second Reading in 1897. The principle of the Bill was that roads should be rendered safe to all who used them. If the Bill became law it would affect not one class but everybody who travelled on highways. He thought that Parliament should not leave to county councils questions which affected life and limb, and that the time had come when Parliament should pass in regard to the lighting of vehicles a statute law which should be universal in its character It was quite true that county and borough councils had adopted by-laws for their areas, but those by-laws were a source of difficulty and trouble which increased year by year as the population increased. In sixty out of sixty-two counties and in 223 out of 324 boroughs there were by-laws with a total lack of uniformity, and what the promoters of the Bill asked was that all vehicles should carry a light at night so that they might be seen by everybody approaching them. It had also been suggested that vehicles should be compelled to carry a red light behind, but as they desired to go on the line of least resistance the promoters had abandoned that idea. Their great desire was to get uniformity. No doubt variety and elasticity were two excellent things, but when it came to the safety of the public the House would agree that uniformity was better. At the present time one could go from one county where a vehicle had to carry two lights into another where it had to carry only one, and pass from that into a third where it had to carry one in front and one behind. As it was in the counties so it was in boroughs. There was no uniformity whatsoever. In regard to the provision of lamps, it would be found that the expense was very little; an excellent lamp could be purchased for 2s. or 3s., and such a lamp would cast a red light behind, while the cost of maintaining it would be about 1d. per eight hours. One source of danger arose from carts which travelled by night at a walking pace. Those were the very carts which should have some light. It was said that a heavy cart going along the road at night made such a noise that people were bound to hear it and could get out of its way. But he would undertake to say that there was not a single Member of the House who had not on at least one occasion either had an accident or been threatened with one by one of those carts going along the road. One could imagine the danger of meeting such a vehicle unlighted on the road when driving along on a dark night, the roads very soft, and travelling down wind. Harvest carts and brewers' drays were in such cases absolutely noiseless until one was right upon them. Then it was urged that in summer months heavy carts should be exempted. Personally he had always regarded the darkness of summer as being quite as inconvenient as the darkness of winter. Indeed, on a cloudy night in summer, when the leaves were thick upon the trees, he thought hon. Members would agree that a country lane as even darker than in winter. It was also said that the proposal would entail cost upon farmers. No one in the House had greater sympathy with the agricultal interest than he, but he did not think that the proposal would cause any appreciable expense or annoyance to farmers. He had not heard a word against the Bill from any person connected with farmers or the agricultural interest. As a matter of fact, farmers did not send their carts along the roads at night to any great extent. The greatest offenders in that respect were heavy brewers' vans and furniture vans. Those were frequently on the road, and it was to them that the Bill would apply. There was also very great danger when carts were standing still. He had been inundated recently with harrowing details of people who had been injured by meeting at night with accidents which might easily have been prevented. He would not weary the House by reading an account of accidents brought to his notice, but there was on especially flagrant case which occurred in his own constituency about a year ago. A young man was riding home at night on his bicycle, and he was travelling downwind. A cart with no light was passing through a gateway and he crashed into the wheel of the cart. The result of the accident was that he was unable to attend business for thirty-five weeks, and he was under medical treatment for forty-six weeks. Accidents of that kind were growing more frequent every day of the week, whereas they might easily be avoided. The Bill was not brought forward in the interest of any one class of the community but in the interests of all who travelled. He was aware that it was said that the Bill was primarily in the interest of those who drove motor cars. The answer to that was that a similar Bill was introduced in 1893, before motor cars were thought of. He thought it quite possible, if the Bill were carried, to do without the monstrous and exaggerated head-lights which they now carried, for they would no longer have the excuse that they could not see what was on the road. He would only say in conclusion that he was well aware, as were most promoters of Bills, that the Bill had defects and required some amendment. If the House permitted the Bill to go upstairs its supporters would be most happy to consider any Amendment in a most sympathetic spirit, so long as it did not go against the principle of the measure. He asked the House, for the sake of all whose business or whose pleasure took them along the roads at night, or during the hours of darkness, to read the Bill a second time.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said the Bill was a very simple one, and as far as he could see, it did very little to alter the existing state of affairs. He did not quite see how the Bill was going to remedy the present state of things. The by-laws of counties differed, for in one they might have to carry two or three lights, as the case might be, while in another county only one light was required. The Bill did not remedy that. They had the existing by-laws of county councils, and, if this Bill became law, the County Council of Wiltshire, for instance, would have an opportunity of making whatever regulations it liked with regard to lights to be carried. It was only, as he understood, in the event of the county council or the borough council not making any by-laws that the provisions of the Bill would come into force. Therefore the numerous differences which existed at the present time would continue. But he did not think that that was any detriment to the Bill. The great object of head-lights was to enable one to see what was coining along the road, and one light carried on the off side would serve the purpose quite as well as two lamps ahead. There were one or two small matters in the clauses to which he would like to allude. No doubt some years ago there was considerable opposition on the part of agriculturists to proposals of this sort, but he thought that that opposition had to a certain extent died down. In most cases farmers had to carry lights on their vehicles and they had become accustomed to it. He agreed that the provision of lights was not an excessive burden. But it frequently occurred that a plough or some other agricultural implement had to be brought from the field across a road, and to require that in all such instances the farmer must provide lights would impose a burden on him. He did not suppose that the mover of the Bill intended that, but was was a Committee point which no doubt would be made. There was one other point. Clause 4 said that the Bill should not apply to Scotland or Ireland. If there was one place in the United Kingdom to which it should apply it was Scotland. In the Highlands a man might run into a cart and sustain an accident when he was twenty miles away from any place where he could obtain medical assistance, whereas if the cart carried a light the accident would be avoided. Therefore it seemed to him that Scotland ought undoubtedly to be included. He did not know anything about Ireland. If Ireland had no regulations in force, there could be no harm in extending the Bill to that country, so that she might not suffer the injustice of being treated differently from England or Scotland. With those qualifications he wished to support the Bill.

MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)

said that the County Councils Association had had this matter under their consideration on more than one occasion, and the Resolution which they passed some years ago in favour of some such legislation still stood. As the main point of the Bill was to get universality of application throughout the country, the County Councils Association, would like it to be read a second time. The important matters were that there should be further uniformity in the position and character of the lights, and that there should be no exceptions as regarded time. Those were matters which might be practically dealt with in Committee, and therefore, he hoped the Bill would be read a second time and committed.

MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)

said he in no way opposed the Bill, but he wished on behalf of the Mersey Harbour and Dock Board to point out the necessity of a little more elasticity being introduced into the Bill in Committee. There were portions of great cities, especially those contiguous to the great docks, where bicycles were certainly not the rule. He could testify that in the case of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board the approaches to their docks were not of a character to encourage bicycles, because the thoroughfares were monopolised by heavily-laden lorries proceeding to the docks. There was no need to light them, and it must be apparent to the House that where they had inflammable goods like hay and cotton and other materials of that kind it was undesirable, in the interests of safety, that they should multiply lights. In the view of the Dock Board, and of the people of Liverpool generally, it was thought that there was sufficient light in the public streets, as well as in other directions, to make quite needless the provisions of this Bill. He understood that the mover of the Bill was prepared to accept suggestions on that point, and he hoped it would not escape the attention of the Committee. Every day they had fresh evidence of the disastrous nature of fire in one direction or another. By the use of lights in the vicinity of docks and similar places, explosions might be caused and human life endangered. He was sure that the House would desire to introduce safeguards which would as far as possible minimise the danger to human life and property caused by the use of lights in circumstances such as he had described. He suggested to his hon. friend that in Committee some such clause as the following should be inserted in the Bill: "That the Act shall not apply to well-lighted areas in towns of a larger popula-than 200,000 inhabitants, where the local authorities have already exempted slow-going vehicles proceeding at a walking pace; nor in the boroughs of Bootle, Birkenhead and Salford." That would include Manchester, which claimed to be the third or fourth seaport of the United Kingdom. [An Hon. Member: The first.] He would not go into that controversey, but Manchester claimed a place, and therefore he thought it had a right to be considered in the matter. This might appear a small point, but in great cities, with big docks, it was a very important point, and he trusted that the promoters of the Bill when in Committee would understand that, if they passed the Second Reading, they reserved to themselves the right to introduce exceptions in the public interest, where human life and property might otherwise be endangered.

MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)

pointed out that whilst the Bill as it stood compelled the owner to place a lamp on his vehicle it did not provide that anybody should keep it lighted. It was, therefore, necessary that some provision should be made for the person in charge of the vehicle to see that the lamp was kept lighted during the specified hours. In his opinion it would be difficult to make a universal rule that a red light should be placed at the back of every vehicle, but such a rule might be made in the case of timber waggons. Already in many counties there was a special regulation that timber waggons must carry a red light at the back. He did not think the exemptions should be confined to the few cities which had been mentioned by the hon. Member for the East Toxteth Division of Liverpool.


said he would oppose the suggestion that the Bill should apply to Scotland until public opinion in Scotland was declared to be more in favour of it. He was afraid there were certain parts of Scotland where the Bill would be looked upon as inflicting a considerable hardship. Besides the difficulty of getting small vehicles to carry lights there was the difficulty which would be encountered in regard to motor cars. He did not think it would be found that there was any desire on the part of country districts to favour the acceleration of speed of motor cars. If all vehicles were compelled to carry lights he was afraid the strength of the lights on motor cars would be considerably reduced. He was not prepared to extend the Bill to Scotland, because many counties in Scotland would be found to be against it.

*COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)

said a good deal of interest was taken by his constituency in the Bill, with which he thoroughly agreed. He thought it was most desirable that there should be one rule throughout the United Kingdom. It was true that there were exceptions to every rule, and the Liverpool Cart Owners Association had communicated with him, pointing out that in well-lighted thoroughfares it was almost useless to require vehicles to carry a light. He hoped that when the Bill came to be considered in Committee, provision would be made for exempting well-lighted thoroughfares in such cities as Liverpool and Manchester and other large towns. Words might be inserted enabling the local authorities to define the areas which were well-lighted, and then all other areas should come within the scope of the Bill.

MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)

said that where the streets were well-lighted the provisions of the Bill would be totally unnecessary, and would be very onerous if enforced. It would be quite impossible to carry out the proposals in regard to lorries, which were flat carts laden well over the sides, because they could not fix a lamp on them. In county council areas where such lorries had to carry lights they were nearly always placed underneath where they could not be seen. Moreover, the lamps would be dangerous in the case of large loads of cotton-waste which reached well over the sides, because they might catch fire. In Bolton he had never known an accident through the absence of lights on vehicles in the well-lighted streets.

MR. C. DUNCAN (Barrow-in-Furness)

was afraid that if they made so many exceptions the Bill would be useless, and would apply only to the North Pole. He would like some of those hon. Members who talked about no light being necessary in a well lighted street to define what they meant by a well-lighted street.


All our streets are well-lighted.


thought probably there might be a difference of opinion amongst the hon. Member's constituents upon that point. He had twice very nearly lost his life through vehicles not carrying lights, and the matter was a far more serious one than some hon. Members seemed to appreciate. Probably the greatest danger had not yet been mentioned. They had heard a good deal about the danger of carts without lights moving along at a slow pace, but in his opinion the cart which was not moving at all was the greatest danger. He thought all vehicles should carry a light so that one driver might see the position of another vehicle. The objections which had been raised were all points which could be dealt with in Committee, and he should support the Second Reading of the Bill.

MR. MARNHAM (Surrey, Chertsey)

said that when the Bill got into Committee he hoped the suggestion made by the Association of County Councils that there should be uniformity would be carefully considered. Unless that were secured there would be a good many difficulties in the case of carts and drays and other vehicles coming from one district to another, because they would not know which districts had adopted the by-laws with regard to lights and which had not. Those who were acquainted with, the country districts know the danger of getting about the roads on a dark winter's night, and sometimes the darkness in summer was even worse than in winter. He hoped that the Bill would receive a Second Reading in order that that danger to the public might be lessened. An objection had been raised in regard to the trouble and expense of providing lights, but such trifling things ought not to be taken into consideration when the prevention of accidents was the object to be attained. In these days of cheap illumination the provision of lamps ought not to be any hardship at all.

MR. LANE-FOX (Yorkshire, W. R., Barkston Ash)

supported the Bill. They had had similar provisions in force in the West Riding of Yorkshire for a long time and they had worked well. He could assure those who had raised objections to the Bill that when its provisions came into force their objections would disappear. When the proposal was first made to apply similar regulations to Yorkshire he moved an Amendment to exempt various classes of agricultural produce, but his proposal was rejected. He was glad to say that the cause of his objection had now wholly disappeared, because the farmers had come to realise that if the Act was carried out fairly and with common-sense no harm would be done. The hon. Member for the Leith Burghs had stated that he was afraid the Bill would lead to motor cars reducing the power of their lights, and he also objected to the Bill applying to Scotland. He ventured to think that as far as the Highlands of Scotland were concerned there was not the faintest chance of the power of the motor car lights being reduced, because it was the possibility of meeting not a cart, but a pig or a donkey or a cow in the road that the motorist had to fear. He wished to emphasise the necessity of insisting upon red lights being carried behind timber waggons. They had a regulation to that effect in Yorkshire, and no objection had been raised to it. He hoped proper provision would be made in the Bill for the trimming and lighting of the lamps. It had been suggested that two lights should be insisted upon, but he thought that would be considered a grievance by agriculturists. The regulation that lorries should carry lights had been enforced in Yorkshire with very little objection, and notwithstanding what had been said by the hon. Member for Bolton he did not see why it should not be carried out in Lancashire as well. As to there being no suitable place to fix a lamp on a lorry, the light was often carried on a projecting hook which kept the light clear of the cotton or wool. The objections which had been raised did not appear to him to be very serious, and he hoped the Bill would speedily become law.

MR. ARTHUR STANLEY (Lancashire, Ormskirk)

said that he heartily supported the Bill, not merely as Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club and Motor Union, representing some 15,000 motorists, but also as President of the Tramways Association. The Bill was as important to tramway traffic as to motorists and cyclists. He was glad to note that the former hostility of agriculturists was dying out. Motorists recognised that the powerful head-lights which they carried at present were a danger, but the Bill would hardly remove the necessity for them, because ordinary traffic was not to be compelled to carry tail-lights. Those head-lights blinded the drivers and the horses and he wished he could think the Bill would very largely remedy that. But he was afraid it would not, because the essential point was missed from the Bill, that there should be a light at the rear of the cart. There was the ridiculous anomaly that they forced swift-going traffic to have a light at the back but slow-going traffic, which was likely to be overtaken, was exempt. He thought the ground on which the hon. Member for Bolton asked that his constituency should be exempted was not a good one. He wished to support the Bill because he believed it would be a step in the right direction for the safety of the public and would be one of the first indications that the House realised that traffic on the road must be adapted to the road and not the road to the traffic.

MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

said he was not going to speak against the Bill, although he had given notice of his intention to move its rejection. Having been informed by his hon. friend that it was not the Bill of last year, he had withdrawn his objection to it. He would protest against any attempt to extend the Bill further than it went at present. He hoped that its promoters would remember that its provisions represented the extreme amount of latitude that ought to be given to motorists. The roads were not made for the selfish gratification of motorists, but for the general use of the public at large. The Bill did not apply to Scotland, and it did not include the most objectionable features of last year's measure.

MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)

said the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was well-known to be a very hostile critic in regard to the deeds of motorists, and if the Bill had been brought forward in their interest, it would have in him one of its strongest opponents. His hon. friend behind him, who was well qualified to speak on behalf of the motor industry, had carefully abstained from saying anything from the motorist's point of view, and he was glad he did so. The House should consider the question not as it affected any particular class of traffic, but with the sole desire to provide for public safety on the roads. Great danger to people on foot or on horseback resulted from vehicles not being properly lighted. When a similar Bill was before the House three years ago he was inundated with correspondence pointing out the dangers arising from that cause. His hon. friend hit the nail on the head when he said that the Bill did not go quite far enough. In the case of a fast motor-car which was not easily overtaken on the road, the carrying of a light in the rear was compulsory, but agricultural carts and timber wagons were exempt from that obligation. It seemed to be an anomaly that the slow moving vehicle which was most likely to be overtaken by another should not be required to carry a light in the rear. Admirable model by-laws had been drawn up by the Home Office and issued to county councils and borough councils for adoption where it was thought advisable. The by-law with reference to vehicles carrying projecting timber might with advantage be adopted in the Bill. Some of the worst accidents had occurred through unlighted vehicles standing at the side of the road. He thought that was a matter which should receive consideration when the Bill was in Committee. Under the by-laws there was a penalty more than twice as large as that proposed by the Bill. The fact that in England sixty-two counties and 223 boroughs had adopted the by-laws, showed that there was a large consensus of opinion in favour of uniformity in the matter. The hon. Member for the City of London wondered why Scotland was not included in the Bill. Scotland was in advance of England in this as in most other matters. The Burgh Police Act of 1903 contained provisions more stringent than those in the by-laws issued by the Home Office. The regulations under the Act had been adopted by all except five burghs. Of the five, three had more stringent regulations of their own. In twenty-seven of the counties of Scotland the regulations under the Act were in force, and only six counties had no by-laws. He thought, however, that in Scotland there was room for greater uniformity. The variations in the requirements of the different by-laws with respect to lighting gave rise to a great deal of trouble to people who used the roads and had to cross the border between one county and another. That might be avoided by the adoption of a uniform system for the whole country. The Bill would provide for the enforcement of certain uniformity all over England. The provisions were not in any way oppressive or unreasonable. They were designed for the public safety and with no intention to promote the interests of those who owned motors or any other class of vehicle. For none of the offences under the Bill would the penalty exceed 40s. He did not think any more reasonable proposal could well be put before the House.


said everyone who had taken part in the debate had supported the Second Reading of the Bill, and that unanimity the Government were very glad to welcome, for the measure was one which they were anxious should be passed. It was a very necessary Bill. He supposed there was hardly any Member of the House who had not had personal knowledge either of an actual accident, or of a narrow escape from accident, owing to the absence of lights on vehicles on country roads at night. The use of lights became more and more necessary as roads became more and more frequented. The old English highways for a long time were almost deserted at night, but now they were alive with new forms of locomotion. Regulations of the kind proposed were therefore more necessary than before. In the interest of public safety a certain minimum standard of lighting of vehicles ought to be universally enforced. The hon. Member for the City of London had suggested that the local authorities had already very generally adopted by-laws, but there were seventy-seven boroughs in England and Wales where there were no by-laws at all; forty counties which did not require agricultural carts, or carts going at a walking pace, to carry any lights; and thirteen counties which required no lights to be carried during the summer months. All those exemptions seemed to the Government to be inadvisable and bad. Agricultural carts were just as dangerous as any other form of vehicle. In fact it was perhaps more dangerous to leave a small number of vehicles unlighted where people were accustomed to find lights in use, than to dispense with lamps altogether. As to the exemptions in the summer months, he would point out that in our climate a great many summer nights were dark, or foggy, or stormy, and lights were just as necessary then as at any other time of the year. There was no reason for all those local differences. He had had a map prepared showing the nature of the by-laws in force in the different counties of England and Wales. Taking a line from east to west he found that in East Suffolk the by-laws exempted agricultural carts, and there was an exemption for the summer months, while in West Suffolk there was an exemption for agricultural carts, but no exemption for the summer months; in Cambridgeshire there were both of those exemptions; in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Warwickshire there were no exemptions; and in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Radnor shire and Cardiganshire there were exemptions for agricultural carts. Those facts showed that there were marked differences in the conduct of the various local authorities. It was an absurd mistake to suppose that a measure of this sort was more in the interest of motors than of the agricultural carts with which they were likely to collide. It took two to make a collision. The regulations were required not only to save motorists running into carts, but to save carts from being run into by motorists. The Bill of 1905 included Scotland, but he thought it was perhaps wise on this occasion to omit Scotland, though not because Scotland was ahead of England in this respect, for she was not. Several of the chief counties in Scotland had no by-laws, and almost all of them exempted the summer months, and almost all exempted agricultural waggons. But the reason why it was possibly wise to exclude Scotland was because that country had separate statutes which dealt with the regulations as to lighting. An even stronger reason was that on the last occasion when the Bill was before the House it was bitterly opposed by almost all the Scottish Members who spoke, and was rejected by one vote. If the Scottish Members expressed a desire to have the Bill extended to Scotland, and if his hon. friend who had charge of the Bill could see his way to agree, that could be done in Committee. Certain drafting Amendments would be necessary when the Bill got into Committee. The point raised by the hon. Members for Liverpool and Bolton would no doubt receive consideration, although he was at a loss to understand why a regulation which was enforced in London and Manchester should be wholly impossible of enforcement in Liverpool or Bolton. That was a matter on which the Committee would decide. He hoped the House would grant the measure a Second Reading. Once the Bill was passed into law custom would very soon adapt itself to the new legislation, and soon everyone would wonder why it had been postponed so long.

MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)

said he wondered how the Under-secretary had been able to satisfy himself that an unlighted vehicle was a source of danger on an English road, but not on a Scottish road. He thought the House would be perfectly entitled to proceed in a matter of this kind on general principles, and to see that some portions of the community were not exposed to penalties from which others were exempt. As regarded the suggestion of the hon. Members for Liverpool and Bolton, he sincerely hoped the promoters of the Bill would not consent to the exemption they claimed. He had had considerable experience in the passing of by-laws, and he had found that the moment they began to exempt it was very difficult to stop. The hon. Member for Bolton had given an interesting account of the use of lorries in that town, and had stated that when the vehicles were loaded in a certain way the light underneath would be obscured. That could easily be remedied by requiring that the light should be put on the side of the lorry. He had the honour at one time to represent one of the Divisions of Liverpool, and he knew something of the way in which lorries were used in that city. He supposed that a large proportion of the carts and lorries used in Liverpool and Bolton did not traverse only the confines of these places, but that they passed in and out of the adjoining counties. If they were going to give exemptions within the borough or city the first man summoned for not complying with the regulations outside would say that his instructions were to work within the borough or city to which he belonged. By allowing exemptions they provided every sort of excuse for evading the law. He thought, however, that some consideration should be given to the agricultural aspect of the question, because, as the hon. Gentleman knew, the main difficulty which led agriculturists to ask for special provisions was not that they wanted to be put on a different footing from others who habitually used the roads, but because it frequently happened that an agricultural cart or waggon was taken out with the intention that the person in charge should be home before dark, but was prevented from doing so. It was difficult also for carts on the field to carry the necessary lamps, and that was one of the reasons which led agriculturists to ask special consideration. The opinion among agriculturists had been to his knowledge largely altered in that respect, for they realised that if there was to be a general law they must be amenable to it as much as the rest of the community. They realised that the dangers to which they were exposed at present made it desirable that they should be protected, and that if they were protected other people must be protected against them. When the Bill reached Committee it might be necessary to consider whether some special provision should be made in regard to agricultural carts which had been in use on a field. He hoped the Committee uptairs would resist further exemptions which might destroy the real value of the Bill.

*MR. COURTHOPE (Sussex, Rye)

said that he was very glad that agreement was so general as to the desirability of the Bill, and especially that its promoters would have the active support of the Government. He did not intend to detain the House, but he had been directly challenged by his hon. friend the Member for the City of London to answer him on one or two points. The first point that his hon. friend raised was about the inclusion of agricultural implements. He had spoken of agricultural implements as if the Bill included everything, spades, mattocks, and so on, that came under that heading.


said that there was nothing to show that it did not.


said that if the Baronet would notice it the Bill said hon. "drawn by animal traction." He did not think a spade was an implement drawn by animal traction, and it was perfectly clear to anyone who read that clause that it was intended to apply to such things as mowing and reaping machines, and those kinds of implements were a great source of danger. They were a far greater danger on the road than carts or waggons, and as an agriculturist himself, he did not think the words would inflict any hardship at all on the agricultural community. With regard to the exemption of Scotland and Ireland, they would like, if they thought it were possible or feasible, that the Bill should apply to the whole United Kingdom. There was no great opposition to the Bill, in fact there was a general consensus of opinion in favour of it in England and Wales, as far as they could make out; but there seemed to be a considerable amount of opposition in Scotland and Ireland; and they had acted on the principle of half a loaf being better than no bread. It might be a bad principle, but still it was sometimes necessary in practice. He thought it was certainly better that they should lay down the principle of uniformity in the question of the lighting of vehicles through England and Wales than perhaps lose even that by asking for the principle to be applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. A curious objection had been raised by the hon. Member for Kingston, and also by the Under-Secretary for the Home Office, which he would not have expected from either of them. They had said that there was nothing in the Bill requiring the lamp to be lighted. All he could say was that if the lamp was not alight, how was it going to display to the front a white light visible at a reasonable distance? As long as it displayed a white light visible to the front for a reasonable distance he did not care personally whether it was alight or whether it showed a light by another means. He did not think it mattered at all. What was wanted was a light showing, and it did not matter how it was obtained.


The Bill does not say it shall display a light, but that it shall be so placed as to display a light.


said he quite agreed— so constructed and placed as to shove a white light for a reasonable distance. He was not going to argue a point of legal interpretation, but he would have thought that that conveyed to the ordinary mind that the light was to be visible from a reasonable distance between the stated hours. As the Under-Secretary for the Home Office had said, however, that could be easily altered in Committee by the insertion of other words, and he was perfectly certain the hon. Member for Gainsborough would be the first to admit the Amendment. A number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for East Toxteth and the hon. Member for Bolton, had pleaded for an exemption in favour of their particular constituencies. He thought himself that that would be very undesirable. They had talked about lorries carrying cotton waste, and the danger in those cases of having a lamp. All he could say was that lorries carrying cotton waste and other inflammable materials in many parts of the country were lighted, and, as far as one could make out, without much danger. If cases of accident occurred frequently owing to the fact that they were carrying lamps, he was certain that safety lamps of some kind could be adopted. But the fact remained that lamps were carried by lorries loaded with inflammable materials without accidents in many parts of the country. Why should they not be in other parts? He thought it would be a great mistake if exceptions were made in favour of certain towns to suit the convenience of individual Members. The hon. Member for Middleton on behalf of the County Councils' Association had given the Bill very valuable support, and he entirely endorsed what he had said as to the desirability of getting absolute uniformity throughout the country. It was for that purpose that the Bill had been introduced. One or two right hon. and hon. Gentlemen had referred to the question of lights behind slow-moving vehicles. He quite agreed with them there, and he hoped it might be possible in Committee for the Home Office to support or possibly bring forward themselves the suggestion that on timber waggons and waggons carrying scaffold poles, and so on, there should be lights behind. In those cases of slow-moving vehicles, there was quite as much, or in fact more, danger to vehicles overtaking them than to vehicles meeting them. But he would not like to risk the Bill on a point of that kind, though if they could get it in in Committee it would be very desirable. He hoped the House would give the Bill a Second Reading without a division.


said that everybody who had spoken so far seemed to be in favour of the Bill, and also of extending it to Scotland as soon as possible. He did not give many pledges during his election contest, but one he did give, and that was to oppose any Bill for the lighting of vehicles in Scotland. The few roads in his constituency were used almost entirely by people who were opposed to the extension of this Bill to Scotland, and even if the law were imposed upon them there would be nobody to see that it was carried out. He did not think that the majority of his constituents wished to break any law, but if the Bill were extended to Scotland the cost of the lights would be to them a serious and unnecessary additional expense in bringing home their crops and agricultural implements from the fields. He would therefore oppose the extension of the Bill to Scotland.

MR. W. NICHOLSON (Hampshire, Petersfield)

hoped that when the Bill went to Committee a clause would be inserted making it clear that vehicles in the service of the Crown were bound to carry lights as well as other vehicles. Some time ago a collision occurred near Alders hot between an Army Service waggon and a farmer's cart; and the defence set up was that as the waggon was in the service of the Crown the by-laws of the county in regard to the carrying of lights did not apply to it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill referred to the Standing Committee on Law, &c., read a second time, and committed.