HC Deb 28 July 1927 vol 209 cc1627-31

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

When this Bill came up for Second Reading it met with the general approval of the House, and it received its Second Reading without a Division. When it reached the Committee stage many Amendments were submitted to meet the views expressed on the Second Reading, and the Bill passed through the Committee stage with the unanimous wish that it should receive facilities for Third Reading.


I do not think the House ought to allow this Bill to go through without understanding fully what it contains. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed!"] I do not know whether there is going to be any statement made before the Division is taken as to what this Bill contains, and I am not at all sure that hon. Members, even those who cry "Agreed," know the changes that have taken place in this Bill since it received a Second Reading. In this case, as in others, hon. Members have not had time to make themselves familiar with what is in the Bill. I have only just received the Bill. Therefore, I am compelled, in what I have to say, to rely upon what I have heard as to the proceedings in Committee. If what I have heard is accurate, I desire to make a very strong protest against the attempt to rush this Bill through with practically no discussion. I understand that the Bill deals with road transport lighting and is designed to secure safety on the roads. As the hon. Member has said, during the course of the Second Reading Debate there was no opposition to this Bill, but the Bill in one material aspect has been very considerably altered since it left this House and went to Committee. I do not think the hon. Member has made any mention of that. I noticed that when the hon. Member was speaking his friends were urging him not to be too long. Hon. Gentlemen around him were casting apprehensive glances at the clock, because they thought, perhaps, that if any discussion were started and the hon. Member enlarged upon its provisions, it might become necessary for hon. Members to reply, and the 15 or 16 minutes that remained for discussion might elapse without a Division being taken. I would like to ask one or two questions of the hon. Member with regard to this Bill, and particularly with regard to the changes that have been made in Committee. I should like to ask the hon. Member and those who are responsible for promoting the Bill whether they have approached the authorities in this country who are more particularly concerned with the care of transport and the safety of the roads. If they have approached them, I should like to know whether they have received favourable answers regarding this Bill. For instance, has the Automobile Association been approached?

Mr. LOUGHER indicated assent.


Has the Royal Automobile Club been approached?

Mr. LOUGHER indicated assent.


Let me put a further question to the hon. Member. I understand that during the progress of this Bill through Committee one substantial change has been made. Is it or is it not a fact that towards the end of the Committee stage an hon. Member—I rather think it was the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir D. Newton)—moved an Amendment providing that vehicles which are used for agricultural purposes, or in connection with agriculture, should only carry one light, and that at the front? That is now in the Bill, I believe. If that is substantially accurate, it does raise an important point. This Bill is useless, or not as useful as it should be, unless it provides for greater safety on the roads. That is one of its main purposes. As a modest motorist with a certain amount of experience of driving on country roads, I say that, if you are going to lay down that for every class of vehicle except one, there shall be lights carried both at the front and at the rear in order to prevent the possibility of dangerous or fatal accidents, then you are rendering all your precautions nugatory, and destroying all you have done if you allow an exception in the case of one class of vehicles, vehicles which move at a slow pace, which are very often very considerable in bulk and very heavy, and which are very often to be found in those second-class and minor roads that are, from their nature, narrow and not straight. This particular kind of vehicle is just the kind of vehicle that is found in the country lane, and the country lane, which turns and winds between hedges, is the most dangerous type of road in the country. If you allow this class of vehicle to use these roads and carry only one light, you are rendering nugatory all the provisions of this Bill.

I do not know whether the hon. Members who are in charge of the Bill have taken the precautions I suggested, and have approached the local authorities. I do know that the authorities concerned with the safety of those using the roads were very concerned about this Amendment. The introduction of this Amendment in the Bill alters its character entirely, and it is not right that hon. Members should move the Third Reading at a time when there are very few minutes left for discussion. I wonder that, in those circumstances, they should attempt to procure the Third Reading of a Bill of this kind with such a substantial change in it. I did not notice when I rose that the Minister of Transport was preparing to rise in order to give an opinion on this Bill. During the whole course of this Parliament the right hon. Gentleman has been introducing small Measures designed to improve the various conditions under which motor and other vehicular traffic is carried on in this country. Here is a very important Bill. The right hon. Gentleman is in his place. I was prepared to give him his chance to speak, but he was not, apparently, prepared to take his chance. He was prepared to let this Bill slip through. Therefore, I had to take his chance from him. I had, however inadequately and imperfectly, to take the right hon. Gentleman's place. With all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I say that it is his primary duty, or one of his primary duties, to secure the safety of those who travel by road, but if the right hon. Gentleman, being in his place, is not prepared to carry out that duty, then others, who may be less competent, less able, and less effective in their methods of addressing the House, must be prepared to do it for him. It is a very strange thing that an attempt should have been made to carry without discussion the Third Reading of this Bill, when there has been a very substantial alteration made in the Committee upstairs, and hon. Members who were not on the Committee have had no chance of knowing what went on.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)

I hope that I shall be able to allay the fears of the hon. Member. This Bill received the unanimous support of the Committee. There was only one Division, although there were 80 Amendments. The Automobile Association had been consulted by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Mr. Lougher), and I understand that all their wishes have been acceded to. Without any Division, the concession to agricultural vehicles was given. The Committee was unanimously in favour of the Bill, and I hope that the House will give it a Third Reading


The Minister of Transport tells us that the Automobile Association has been consulted, but he does not tell us whether any of the other associations whose members use the roads have been consulted. Have the cyclists' associations been consulted in regard to the Measure—The National Cyclists' Union, or the Cyclists' Touring Club? It looks as if those who use motor vehicles are people who imagine that the roads are made for them and them alone. I would ask the hon. Member in charge of the Bill to give us an explanation of some of the Clauses.

It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Tuesday, 8th November.