HC Deb 01 August 1924 vol 176 cc2461-8

Lords Amendment:

In page 26, line 8, at end insert (6) For prescribing the number and maximum size and weight of trailers which may be drawn on streets by vehicles or vehicles of any particular class or description, and for prescribing that a man should be carried on the trailer, or where more than one trailer in drawn on the rear trailer for signalling to the driver.


I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Lords Amendment, in line 4, after the word "description," to insert, the words either generally, or on streets of any class or description.


Is it not usual first to put the Question, "That this House doth agree with the Lords Amendment," before making any Amendment in it?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Entwistle)

No. The Amendment to the Amendment is first made.


May we have a little explanation of this Amendment? The hon. Gentleman simply got up and read the Amendment and his further Amendment. He gave us no information as to the meaning of it.


Should not the Motion that we agree or disagree with the Amendment be put before the Amendment is amended?


No. But I think it would be well if the Minister would let the House understand why he is proposing the Amendment to the Amendment.


Surely it is not an unusual thing to ask a Minister to indicate why he is inviting the House to take a certain course?


I confess I am not as well acquainted with the Procedure of the House as other Members, but I may explain that the Amendment as printed on the Paper is not complete and the words I am proposing to add are necessary in order to make it work. For some reason or other they were left out, but they should be put in.


That sounds all right.


I am surprised at the Minister having accepted this Amendment. It seems to me that what he wants to do could have been done better by Regulations. He is introducing a curious practice in English law by making the provinces subject to quite different Regulations as compared with those obtaining in the London area. If it is right and proper to carry a man on a trailer in order to see that they are not obstructing the roads in London, surely such a Regulation should be of general application throughout the country. If it is a bad thing that a trailer should be without a man in London it must be an equally bad thing that it should not carry a man outside London. I think the Minister of Transport should have proposed to disagree with this Amendment and have promised to introduce legislation affecting the whole country on this particular point.

Viscount CURZON

I should like to reinforce, if I may, the argument put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). My first point is that the Minister already has power to deal with trailers generally under the Highways Act of 1896, under the Motor Car Act of 1903, and under the Roads Act of 1920. Under all these Acts he has power to make Regulations.


I think it would be better if the Amendment to the Amendment were disposed of before we discuss the question whether or not this House agrees with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Amendment to Lords Amendment agreed to.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended."—[Mr. Gosling.]

Viscount CURZON

My point is that the Minister already has power under no fewer than three separate Acts of Parliament to make Regulations with regard to the use and construction of trailers. These Regulations are now in force right throughout the country. It is sought by this Amendment to impose upon these three Acts of Parliament a fresh series of Regulations applying only to London. This seems to me to be piecemeal legislation not of a very practical character. What is going to happen if this Amendment is agreed to and the Bill passes into law? What is going to be the position of a driver of a very heavy motor vehicle with a trailer coming up from the country to London. When he arrives at the boundary of the area covered by this proposal would it not mean that a man would have to be waiting there to take a seat on the trailer? Or must a man be carried on the trailer during the whole of the trip. I suggest that this really is not a practical suggestion. I have every sympathy with the spirit of the Regulation, because I know that it is proposed in the interests of public safety. I do think, however, that great difficulty and confusion will be caused if this proposal passes. I cannot help thinking that the proper time for an Amendment of this sort is when legislation in introduced embodying the recommendations of the Second Interim Report of the Departmental Committee on the Taxation and Regulation of Road Vehicles. The Minister himself, and I think also his predecessors, have indicated that such legislation is on the stocks. In fact, I believe that it has gone even further, and is actually ready for the Minister to introduce it whenever he wants to do so. I think that that legislation should the occasion for bringing in a restriction of this sort. When this matter was dis- cussed during the Committee stage the Minister said: I must warn the Committee that this Amendment would be an alteration of the general law and that it is not a matter with which the Committee can deal. Therefore, I should like to know from the Minister what, if anything, has taken place in the House of Lords to alter that view, and whether he still holds to it. If he does, I think he should explain to the House why, in spite of that view, he is now prepared to agree with this Amendment. A lot of people think that many accidents are caused through trailers having no one in charge of them, and that the noise made by a vehicle and its trailer prevents the driver from hearing overtaking vehicles; but I do not think that a man sitting on the rear of a trailer is necessarily in the best position to prevent small children from jumping on to the drawbar. I would also submit that there are many trailers now in use on the roads that have no accommodation for a man to sit at the rear and warn the driver of over taking traffic, and that, therefore, the proposal is impracticable from that point of view.

Another point that I would suggest to the House is that it is economically somewhat unsound. As things are to-day, many traders who employ motor vehicles to draw trailers to take their goods about have adopted that practice on a definite understanding, knowing the regulations and legislation as they stood. If, on the top of that, you are going to bring in legislation which is hound to put them to considerable expense, what is likely to be the point of view of those traders in the future? It is a matter which definitely concerns the workers now employed in the transport industry, because, should it become impossible for traders to use this means of transport, it may result in these men losing their employment. The goods might be transferred to a more economical method of transport, which might in that case be a railway, and people who are now working on the roads might lose their jobs. Suppose that, on the other hand, the result were that traders, instead of employing one vehicle drawing a trailer, employed more motor vehicles, would it not have the effect of still further adding to the congestion on the streets? The House ought to go somewhat carefully into the ramifications of this proposal before they agree with the Amendment which the Lords have inserted.


I hope the Minister will stand firm in his acceptance of the Lords Amendment. It is intended for the protection of life and limb in London, and, surely, in the case of a trailer coming from some distance, we have first of all to consider the protection of life here. We argued this matter out in Committee, and I believe this provision is necessary to protect the weakest of the users of the roads, namely, the ordinary passengers. Therefore, I hope the Minister will stand to his guns.


I hope the House will agree with the Lords in this Amendment. The hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon) and the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) ask why we are dealing with this matter in a piecemeal fashion. In answer to that I would ask why are we dealing with the question of London traffic in a piecemeal fashion? It is simply because of the anomalies of London traffic, and because the point of saturation in regard to the roads has been reached. That is why we are dealing with it in this way, and one of the greatest causes of congestion is the trailer. There is not a motorist using the streets of London, whether a passenger driver, a commercial driver, or a private driver, who will not admit that a trailer not only adds to the density of the traffic, but because of there being no supervision on the trailer, its continual sideways movement is a danger in manipulating closely organised traffic.

Viscount CURZON

I do not admit it.


The Noble Lord cannot do so at the moment.

Viscount CURZON

Perhaps I may be allowed to point out that I have some authority to speak on the matter, as I have been driving motor vehicles since 1898.


Unfortunately, too fast! That, however, is just a little banter, and I am sure the Noble Lord is not offended. There is not a coroner in the country who at some time or other has not commented on the great danger of a second vehicle controlled by the driver of the first vehicle, so far as braking is concerned, and who has not recommended in some form or another the abolition of these trailers. When one thinks of the juvenile life that has been lost owing to there being no man on the second vehicle, that in itself ought to compel the House to exercise its sympathies and its discretion in favour of the Lords Amendment. It is suggested that the only reason for the man on the rear of the trailer is where a second trailer is added to the first, but, when there is only one trailer, the man will be there, not only to watch the conditions of the traffic, but to manipulate that vehicle, so far as he can, in order to synchronise it with the operations of the man in front of him, and thus secure safety. If it is uneconomic, the trailer will go; if it is economic, it will relieve unemployment by adding the second man on the trailer.


Instead of another lorry?


Instead of another lorry. The trailers are here, and hon. Members opposite do not want them to go. I do. I believe it is far better that they should be off the streets altogether. The continual lateral movement of a heavily-laden trailer on a country road does, in my view, far more harm to the road than is done by any other vehicle, because if does not follow dead in the wheel-track of the vehicle that is leading it. The continual lateral movement of the second vehicle churns up the track of the vehicle in front of it. Having regard to all the circumstances, I hope the House will do as the Committee did, and support this Amendment.

2.0 P.M.


I think there is a little misunderstanding about this Amendment. The point of our opposition is not that we do not recognise the danger which there may be from using trailers, or the advisability of some Regulation of this kind, but it strikes me that a provision such as is proposed in this Amendment is really, I will not say outside the scope of the Bill, but is one of those things which ought not really to be dealt with by this Bill. One of the great objections to putting it in here is that there is already power in certain existing Acts to deal, to a certain extent, with trailers, and those provisions which enable trailers to be dealt with extend to the whole country. If you have some different kind of provision with regard to trailers in the London area, you are creating confusion and probably making greater difficulties, and, perhaps, causing greater trouble than if they were left alone altogether. Apart from that, there is this new Bill on the stocks, in which it is proposed to deal with something of this kind, and, judging by what has been said in the House to-day on another part of the present Bill, in regard to what the House ought to do in order to try to force Parliament to do something in future, I do not think we ought to allow this Regulation to go into the Bill. If it is a desirable Regulation for London and the district, it is a desirable Regulation for the whole country, and we are only inviting delay on the part of a dilatory Government Department in bringing forward this Bill to deal with the question as a whole. Therefore, I hope, in the interest of the Bill, and in the interest of the streets of the country as a whole, and of safety to life and limb throughout the country, the House will disagree with the Lords in this Amendment.


I hope the House will refuse to accept the Lords Amendment for a very different reason from that which has been advanced. I think everyone in every quarter of the House wishes to do everything possible to benefit agriculture. It seems to me if you are going to insist either on trailers being done away with altogether or upon a man being put on every trailer you are going greatly to increase the cost of carriage. The best way to help agriculture is to decrease as far as possible the cost of carriage. By making it necessary to employ several motor-cars, or to employ a man on each trailer, you are going to do agriculture a very great disservice.

Ordered, "That a Committee be appointed to draw up reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their Amendments to the Bill."

Committee nominated of Sir Kingsley Wood, Mr. Dennis Herbert, Mr. Gosling, Mr. Percy Harris and Mr. Webb.

Three to be the quorum.

To withdraw immediately.—[Mr. Gosling.]

Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments reported later, and agreed to.

To be communicated to the Lords.—[Mr. Gosling.]