HC Deb 07 July 1919 vol 117 cc1485-90

Any transport service on roads established by the Ministry shall be subject to the provisions of the Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878 (or any amendment thereof), in regard to extraordinary traffic.

Amendments made: Leave out the words of the Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878 (or any amendment thereof), in regard to extraordinary,

and insert instead thereof the words "relating to." At end, insert the words contained in the Highways and Locomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878, or in Scotland the -Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Act, 1878, or in Ireland the Public Roads (Ireland) Act, 1911 (as amended by any subsequent enactment)."— [Sir Eric Geddes.]


I beg to move, to add (2) no claim for extraordinary traffic shall arise in respect of traffic on any roads made or reconstructed with the assistance of advances from the Minister. The effect of this Amendment is that no claim for extraordinary traffic shall arise in respect of roads made or reconstructed with the assistance from the Minister. It is a rather technical question. Under various Acts of Parliament anybody carrying heavy ordinary or extraordinary traffic along any road is liable to pay to the highway authority any damage caused thereby. There have been a very long (series of decisions under this law for years past to do what is, or is not, extraordinary traffic. I do not ask that the law as to ordinary traffic should be dealt with as a whole. It is too long and too complicated for that to be done here, but I hope my right hon. Friend will, before he has been the Minister under this Act very long, realise that it is absolutely essential to alter and to consolidate the law in regard to extraordinary traffic and to remove this liability when the Minister makes a new road or gives an advantage to a highway authority to make a new road. It has now been conclusively proved that there is a strong need for extraordinary traffic in this country. I would like to instance the case of a road very near this House. I am informed that in Victoria Street the road has been so splendidly made that the repairs cost less than the cost of repairing an ordinary macadam road. When my right hon. Friend makes a new road I hope he will not tinker any longer with this question. I know that ordinary pleasure motoring is not very popular in this House, but the development of commercial motoring, and of steam locomotive, is bound to increase year by year, as years roll on, and as soon as large numbers of the road locomotives and road lorries used in France are released for commerce and agriculture of this country there is bound to be a very large increase of heavy road traffic on our roads. We all hope and pray that my right hon. Friend will give a great impetus to the reconstruction of the roads of the country, and I ask, therefore, that when roads are reconstructed they shall be made sufficiently strong to bear this traffic. I can assure my right hon. Friend that his own technical advisers will tell him it will be cheaper in the long run, so far as the cost of repairing is concerned, to reconstruct the roads properly, instead of half doing it.


I beg to second the Amendment.

It is one of the greatest importance to certain trades, and one of the trades to which it is most important is the home grown English timber trade, the young home-grown trade which came into existence during the War. This trade was almost impossible to carry on in pre-war days, because of the heavy claims for damage to roads which were always liable to fall upon it. In fact, the trader never knew how much he might be called upon to pay for repairing the roads, and that almost killed the trade. I should like to point out to the House that during the War the Board of Trade brought in a Regulation by which the cost of this extraordinary traffic was borne by the State. If it was necessary during the War to have a provision of that kind, surely it is of equal importance at the present time, and it is on that ground that I second the Amendment.


As a member of a local authority in the East-End of London, I hope the Minister will stand absolutely adamant against this Amendment. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen who are interested in particular trades to come into Committee, and also into the House, to advocate the claims of their own particular trade —


The hon. Gentleman is a new Member of this House, otherwise he would know that I have no interest whatever in the trades affected by this Bill.

7.0 P.M.


I quite accept the hon. Gentleman's explanation of his own disinterestedness, but I have, at least, my doubts as to his non-association with those who are interested. I am only interested as an ordinary resident in a working-class district in the East-End of London, and this Amendment which is being proposed means that the district in which I live will have claim on the road authority where these people are destroying our roads, or, at any rate, making them almost impassable. As I understand this Amendment, any kind of traffic could be put on the roads and the local authority would have no claim. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] What, then, is the object of the speeches we have just heard? An hon. Member mentioned the timber trade, and claimed consideration for it. In some districts particularly approaching the docks our roads are being spoiled and we have no redress. The hon. Member fur Twickenham referred to Victoria Street being so well made up, but at whose expense? It cannot be used for tramways, and is confined to the 'buses, while the 'bus authority paid practically nothing towards the making of the street and the same thing happens in all the streets in the inner area of London. The outer area, because of the monopoly which exists in the centre, is practically scarified by motor traffic, which pays practically nothing to the maintenance outside particular districts. Am I not right?


As the hon. Gentleman asks me, surely he ought to know that this House has imposed special taxation on motors and motor cars, amounting to a very considerable sum per annum, and at about almost £3,000,000, and I expect it will be £5,000,000, while the total cost of the repair of roads is £20,000,000.


Is the hon. Gentleman speaking about the Petrol Tax?


Petrol Tax and licences.


But those do not in any way meet the claims of the local authorities in the maintenance of roads. What share do we in the East End get of what goes to the Road Board. We have tried to get assistance for the widening of roadways in our district, but have been told we cannot because they are arterial roads. Local authorities are in this matter practically helpless, and, therefore, we oppose this Amendment because we require national roadways and national authorities to control our traffic.


We are unable to accept this Amendment. I understand the object of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) is to ensure that in the interests of economy roads should be constructed with strong foundations and good surfaces and that it would be cheaper to maintain such roads than those constructed on different lines. The way in which the proposal is sought to be carried out is by saying that no claim for extraordinary traffic shall arise in respect of traffic on any roads made or reconstructed with the assistance of advances from the Minister. In other words, where the Minister has given the assistance of some advance that is to take away the right the road authorities at present have to be reimbursed for damages incurred in respect of exceptionally heavy traffic. I think it would be rather unfair to leave the road authorities in the position that if they accepted some advance from the Minister to enable roads to be repaired they should at the same time lose the right to make the claim which this House has already agreed to in respect of damage done by extraordinary traffic. I think the road authorities of the country would be very much disconcerted if this Amendment were carried. The Clause deals with roads made or reconstructed, but the Minister would not be responsible for maintenance or for other purposes along the whole length. Under those circumstances the arrangement would still prevail that each particular locality would be the authority for its own roads, and I am quite sure the local authority ought still to be entrusted with the powers given to it to make a claim in proper cases. I trust, therefore, my hon. Friend will feel convinced that his Amendment, proposed in the interests of economy, hardly effects that object and that it would do much to alter the whole system and powers of the road authorities throughout the Kingdom and therefore we are unable to accept it.


In asking leave to withdraw, may I say I did not enter fully into the subject as I knew the hon. and learned Gentleman was aware of the position? With regard to all the main roads of the country I think I am right in saying there can be no such thing as "extraordinary traffic." There is no such thing in London, as the highways authority are compelled to have roads to stand the traffic which goes upon them. That is the law at present. I think the highway authorities are as keen and as anxious as I am to get rid of the difficulties which constantly crop up in connection with roads which are on the verge of and are becoming main roads and desire that they should be made strong enough for the large traffic. There is no question of seeking to rob the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones).


What about new motor traffic?

Amendment by leave, withdrawn.