HC Deb 04 July 1930 vol 240 cc2372-98

I beg to move, in page 14, line 3, after the word "road" to insert the words: at a greater speed than thirty-five miles per hour or. This Amendment seeks to retain the speed limit under this Bill and many of us on this side feel that it is the most important Amendment to come before the House to-day because, in our judgment, on the passing or rejection of this Amendment will depend the lives of many people. It is brought forward at the request of the Pedestrians' Association, the Holiday Fellowship Association and the National Cyclists' Union, and I have also been asked, officially, to move it on behalf of the London County Council. That body is very much concerned indeed with the question of the preservation of the speed limit in the Metropolitan area. In January of this year the Minister of Transport called a conference representing a number of borough councils and a number of motoring associations and that conference, as far as London was concerned, decided by an overwhelming majority that it was desirable to retain a speed limit not only within the inner ring of London but in the Greater London area. A great many urban district councils and borough councils are most anxious that the present speed limit or a speed limit should remain in existence. The number of motor cars on the road is increasing every year at an alarming rate. This year, at the present rate, 20 persons will be killed and 500 injured on the road every single day of the year and if the present progress continues, it means that in three or four years from now over 10,000 people will lose their lives on the road each year.

Many of us on this side feel that one of the principal causes—not the sole cause, of course; we do not suggest that for a moment—of these terrible fatalities is excessive speed by a great many motorists, and in our judgment this Bill does practically nothing to reduce this terrible toll of human life that is going on to-day. We also believe that if the speed limit is abolished, it will mean an actual increase in the number of fatalities. The Minister has refused during the Committee stage, the inclusion of practically every safeguard that has been suggested from all quarters, from Members opposite and on this side. He has refused any kind of test which might make for safety. He will have nothing to do with tests of driving capacity, tests of physical fitness, eyesight tests, or examination in the knowledge of the rules of the road, and apparently to-day, if the Clause is passed unamended, it will mean that any person, however incapable, is given a perfectly free hand to run on the roads of this country as fast as he can get a vehicle to run him.

The danger to the pedestrian to-day occurs not only when he essays to cross the road or is actually walking on the road; he is to-day subjected to an increasing danger when actually on the pavement or footpath. The deaths of pedestrians walking or standing on the pavement are reported in the papers every day in the week. Three weeks ago the Press reported in one week the deaths of 24 pedestrians on the pavement caused by motor vehicles mounting the kerb, and in the majority of cases such accidents were due to excessive speed. Judging from the Press cuttings which I have been examining in the last few days, particularly from provincial papers, not less than three people are killed every day in the week while walking or standing on the footways of this country.

Several Members of this House within the last few months have narrowly escaped with their lives in consequence of this particular form of accident. The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Wright) was walking on a footpath that had a six-inch kerb, with his wife, in April last. Without any warning, he and his wife were knocked down from behind, and both were seriously injured. He suffered from concussion and was unconscious for some time, and his wife was in hospital for nine weeks. The evidence in that case was that they were so injured by a motor vehicle coming round a corner at a tremendous speed and out of control, and mounting the pavement. That is going on, and in a considerable proportion of the cases where pedestrians are killed on the footpath the cause is undoubtedly the excessive speed of motor vehicles.

When I spoke in this House on the Second Reading of the Bill, I referred to the fact that in my own borough 600 trees growing on the footways were knocked down every year by motor vehicles. The Minister took the opportunity later on of denying that or to question my figures. I have subsequently verified them from the officials in my borough; and I have verified the fact that in Birmingham over 20 lamp-pasts or lamp standards on the pavement are knocked down every day by vehicles. Since I made that statement publicly in this House, I have received hundreds of letters from all parts of the country making similar complaints and pointing out, in fact, that the chief value of a lamp standard or tree on the pavement nowadays is its protection to the pedestrians walking on the path.

In the "Evening Standard" a short time ago there was a statement that the little village of Meriden, which is supposed to be the geographical centre of England, was gaining an unenviable record for road accidents. This little rural village has had 35 road deaths in the last 18 months, in nine of which cases pedestrians, including a number of young children going to school, were knocked down and killed while walking on the pavement. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that there is an increasing number of cars sold to-day which are advertised to do 70, 75, and up to 80 miles an hour. Those cars are being actually sold on their speed merits, and they are being purchased by people who intend to use them at their full capacity. In fact, if time permitted, I could produce a number of letters, including two from hon. Members of this House, stating that they have actually purchased highspeed cars and are using them at the present time, whenever they get the chance, at speeds above 70 miles an hour. Incidentally, I may say that during the Committee stage of this Bill upstairs we had acknowledgment after acknowledgment from hon. Members opposite that they were law-breakers in this regard and that they intended to be lawbreakers.


Not on your side as well?


I would call the attention of the House, and of the Minister himself, to a cutting from a paper for which the Minister has a good deal of regard and affection. It is his own paper—the "Daily Herald." Only three or four days ago there was an article in the "Daily Herald" from their motoring correspondent, who, one of his colleagues informs me, has himself been what he calls a speed merchant up till recently, and this is what he says about the recent bank holiday: I have never seen so many examples of dangerous and careless, even criminal, driving crowded into six hours as I saw yesterday … on the main roads. He gives certain reasons, and says: One is that 75 per cent. of drivers are under the quite mistaken impression that there is no speed limit in operation now. Accordingly, every driver is travelling much faster, and few have any experience of driving at speed. His own view about no speed limit has evidently been changed, because his own life was endangered on this particular occasion, when he says: Two motor coaches, travelling abreast at 40 miles an hour, bore down upon me. His only mode of escape was to drive on to the grass verge just in time to prevent a very serious collision. I have cuttings from every single one of the daily organs of the London Press showing that this sort of thing is going on continuously. The "Daily News" motoring correspondent points out exactly the same thing, and says that he witnessed a succession of narrow shaves, leaving a feeling of almost unrelieved motoring gloom. He goes on to say: I saw more road 'crimes' than I ever thought possible in such a brief time. The culprits were irresponsible people who drove in terms of speed only. This he saw happen hundreds of times in the course of the morning, and in every case they were driving at speeds which were obviously unsafe, and many of them particularly so, having regard to the fact that their brakes had limited powers of deceleration. The police apparently take no notice of these offences, and even papers like the "Daily Express" calling attention to the fact that motor coaches hurtle along the main roads at 70 miles an hour. One of their correspondents, travelling in one of these coaches, says: Nothing had passed us on the road. Our driver's motto was the French war slogan, 'They shall not pass.' He goes on to point out that any car that attempted to pass them was given short shrift. … When they tried to maintain their lead we accelerated and passed them in the dark by inches. Scared faces peered up at us and so on. That may be very good journalese, but it is none the less descriptive of what is happening every day, and what every Member of the House knows is happening. I drew the attention of the Committee, and I do not hesitate to draw the attention of the House, to a report published in several of the papers describing how undergraduates break records between Oxford and London and Cambridge and London; and, in the particular instance given in a cutting which I have here from the "Daily Mail," the distance between London and Oxford was covered at an average of over 60 miles an hour, which means that at certain spots the vehicle must have been travelling at between 80 and 90 miles an hour. [Interruption.] It is no use my hon. Friend interrupting and attempting to depreciate these facts. These are facts reported and substantiated not by anti-motorists, but by persons who are defending the motoring interests, and who are themselves complaining that this sort of thing is going on and ought to be stopped.

There is a speed limit of 20 miles an hour which no one attempts to enforce, and the Minister says that if a higher limit were determined it also would not be enforced. If the Parliament of this country lays down a law with regard to motorists, motorists ought to be expected to observe it as much as other people observe other laws. I could quote them from every journal in London other cuttings of a similar character. A writer in the "Daily News," referring to the instances of undergraduates travelling from Oxford or Cambridge to London at an average of over 60 miles an hour, states that he knew nothing of these particular exploits, but I do know of other and more sensational drives from London in the last two months. Everyone who has had his eyes open and has been interested in this subject, must know that these incidents are practically of daily occurrence, and it is time some definite steps were taken to put an end to them. The Bill does nothing to deal with these offences beyond increasing penalties. At the present moment, reckless and dangerous driving is illegal; and our complaint is that the police are doing practically nothing to stop it. The test now of dangerous driving is whether the person accused has actually smashed somebody up or not. In a few cases, prosecutions are undertaken for dangerous driving where no accidents have occurred, but in most cases the prosecution is after an accident. The mere introduction of this Bill, with the intimation that the speed limit was to be abolished, has resulted, in the opinion of many responsible people, in a considerable increase in the number of road fatalities and accidents. I have here a cutting from the "Yorkshire Evening Post" headed, "Grave rise in Leeds street toll." The cutting gives an interview with the Chief Constable of Leeds, who said he thought that because of the prominence given to the proposed abolition of the speed limit for private vehicles by the new Traffic Bill many motorists had got the impression that already they could drive at what speed they liked, and this had led to undue recklessness. There is the evidence of a responsible police official. I do not want to detain the House too long, and I refrain from quoting the opinions of six or seven coroners who have held inquests since the Bill was introduced. They have all expressed the same view, namely, that the mere introduction of the Bill had given encouragement to recklessness and increased fatalities. We are asked to give absolute statistical proof that speed is in itself a cause of danger. I submit that that is impossible. [Interruption.] It is impossible to give statistical proof on that point; it is a matter of common sense.


What about the Royal Commission's Report?


I know what the Royal Commission said, and there is a goad answer to it. I will submit one or two figures to demonstrate the opinion which some of us hold that speed is in itself a dangerous factor. The number of cars on the road is increasing at the rate of 7 per cent. per annum, but the number of accidents is increasing at the rate of 15 per cent. per annum. This proportion of increase can only be due either to increased recklessness or to increased incapacity. In either case, the abolition of the speed limit will obviously tend to make things worse. Nobody can deny that.

There is an amazing inconsistency in this Bill with regard to the question of the speed limit. The Bill abolishes the limit for light cars and for private motors which seat more than seven persons, but it retains a limit for all other classes of vehicles. The Minister has repeatedly argued that it is impossible to enforce a speed limit. If it be impossible to enforce a limit with regard to private cars, it is impossible to enforce it with regard to heavy cars. It is a major inconsistency to say that we will lay down a speed limit for a car which holds eight persons, and no speed limit for a car that holds seven persons. Yet all the statistical evidence is to the effect that the light car is the real danger on the road to-day. The figures are absolutely conclusive that the increase in accidents during the last two years in particular, and the last four years in general, has been mainly due to light cars, out of all proportion to the increase in the number of light cars as compared with heavy cars and public-service vehicles. [Interruption.]

As I am challenged, I will give the figures. As far as Greater London is concerned, the number of light cars and motor cycles actually on the streets, as shown, of course, by the number of vehicles passing a certain number of points over the 12 hours, has increased by 65 per cent. in the years from 1920 to 1926, but the number of people killed by light cars and motor cycles increased by 112 per cent., while the number of people injured increased by 250 per cent. As far as taxi cabs and trams are concerned, the total number of people killed decreased in that period. As far as heavy cars and commercial vehicles are concerned, the number of vehicles increased by 38 per cent., while the number of persons killed increased by only 48 per cent., and the number of persons injured by only 50 per cent. It shows clearly that it is the light car and the private motor which are the real danger on the streets to-day.


Could the hon. Gentleman say whether any of these accidents were due to excessive speed, or what the proportion was?


I am not arguing that point at the moment. I am arguing at the moment that it is totally inconsistent to impose a speed limit on the heavy car, which does less damage to life, and to abolish the speed limit for the light car, which does the most damage. I submit that that is a valid argument. Practically every argument that the Minister used in Committee and in his Second Reading speech in opposition to a speed limit for light cars applies equally to heavy cars—all except one particular argument, and when he used it I had a very severe shock. One of his arguments for imposing a speed limit on heavy cars was that the heavy cars caused damage to the road surface and the light cars did not. The damage, the destruction of human life, was not a matter that weighed with him at all.


My hon. Friend has made a number of sweeping assertions. I really think there ought to be a speed limit to his assertions. I most emphatically deny such a statement.


I say that I was very shocked, indeed, when I heard the Minister make that particular defence of the speed limit for heavy cars and no speed limit for light cars. I am perfectly certain that the public will hold this House responsible, that it will hold this House guilty of aiding and abetting murder.![HON MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I say so deliberately, if after this Clause is carried in an unamended form, a very considerable increase in road fatalities occurs, as I, and many on this side, believe, I say that the public will hold responsible this House in general and the Minister in particular. I want to say one word finally in respect to the views of the London County Council. The London County Council special committee endorsed the views put forward by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the Metropolitan Magistrates and the Magistrates' Association, that a speed limit for ordinary motor cars should be maintained in London and Greater London, and they approved of the speed limit of 35 miles per hour.


I beg to second the Amendment.

3.0 p.m.

I hope that the House will believe that I speak without bias when I say that I am not only a pedestrian but a motorist as well. My experience tells me that the motorist loses control of his machine the greater the speed at which he is going, and that his concentration is always on one operation of the motor, and that is in steering the machine. Everything else is done sub-consciously, that is to say, the faster he drives, the less able is he to anticipate the trouble that may come from a pedestrian crossing in front of him or of another car coming across his path. The pedestrian, in my opinion, has more right to the use of the road than the motorist, because the pedestrian is simply using the road for his own purpose without encumbrances, but the motorist uses the road, and at the same time takes with him a dangerous implement. Therefore, he must expect to be under a certain measure of control, and to exercise a little more vigilance even than is necessary in the case of the pedestrian. What happens when the driver is taking his machine along? If he goes at the rate, say, of 35 miles au hour, he is in absolute control of his machine, and his faculty for anticipating trouble remains unimpaired. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am quite prepared to admit that there are drivers and drivers, just as there are motor cars and motor cars, and what will apply in one case does not necessarily apply to all cases. We are bound to speak in general terms in a discussion of this kind, and I say that the main factor of safety is perfect control on the part of the driver of the machine that he is using. I am quite prepared to admit, also, that there are some drivers so skilful and so experienced that they could travel at 60 miles an hour with greater safety than less experienced drivers at 20 miles an hour, but they are exceptions. We are legislating not for the exception but for the general standard of motor-driving on the road. It is not always the experienced driver who goes at the greatest speed. It is the driver who has been at it a short time and whose temperament is, shall I say, optimistic. He has realised how fast he can go by the mere touch of his foot on the pedal and without any other exertion, and he goes—and then very often some one else goes with him. Such a man——


Or a woman.


—and especially a woman—when he feels the influence coming upon him, because I speak from experience, knows no law of nature that will prevent him putting his foot down and letting the car show what it can do. Anyone who is acquainted with motoring knows that that is the experience of every driver. He never learns better until something happens, and then it is too late to undo what has been done. This is just a plain, unvarnished analysis of what takes place when a man has got his hand on the wheel. A motorist comes to the cross roads, and it depends upon the speed at which he is travelling whether he is taking any precaution lest anything should be coming in the opposite direction or across his track. I submit that if 35 miles an hour is not fast enough for any man who wants a week end at Brighton——


Or in the infirmary.


No, it is not the driver who goes into the infirmary; it is the unfortunate victim—unless he goes into the mortuary. At the cross roads his speed may be anything from 40 to 60 miles an hour. As a man can get to Brighton in an hour and a half or an hour and three-quarters with a speed limit of 35 miles an hour, I submit that is fast enough for any dare-devil driver to go. This House ought to have some regard for the safety of the men and women whom they represent. Motorists belong to a privileged class. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] I speak as a motorist. I belong to that privileged class, but I am not going to allow the privileges conferred upon me by my licence to destroy my appreciation of the rights of men and women who use the roads to enjoy immunity from the mad career of the racing motorist. When you allow a speed limit to be broken, as the present limit is broken because it is too low, surely it is right to consider what speed limit is sufficiently high to enable it to be enforced. For these reasons, I submit that the House will be doing no less than its duty by adopting the Amendment.


This is a very sad fate for me. The Amendment has been moved by the Treasurer of the London Labour party and seconded by the Chairman of that party, and I am the Hon. Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Southwark (Mr. Naylor) has delighted the House with his experiences in connection with a seven horse-power car, and he has told us the dangerous things which can be done. The hon. Member has passed the stage of apprenticeship and has become a fully qualified driver, and he is now anxious to keep the other drivers on the road in order.

This is a question upon which hon. Members made up their minds on the Second Reading of this Bill and during the Committee stage, and no Minister of Transport would bring forward lightly a proposal to abolish the speed limit for light motor cars without a good deal of responsible consideration. I fully recognise that this is a serious step to take. I recognise that I have to justify that step. I listened carefully to the speech which has been made by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) in which he has revealed a number of cases of dangerous driving and condemns the existing practices on the road. The whole of that speech was a conclusive proof that the speed limit arrangements have broken down. It is no answer to say that those arrangements have broken down because the police refuse to do their duty, or because the Minister of Transport refuses to do his duty.

When a law becomes out of date and ridiculous, when members of the public no longer desire that a certain law shall be enforced, and when public opinion has come to the conclusion that it is out of date and antiquated, the police have to adapt themselves to modern conditions. There are many laws in this country which are not enforced because public opinion will not tolerate them when attempts are made to put them into force. The position which the House has to face is this: Do Members of the House expect the police to enforce the existing speed limit? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Some hon. Members have the hardihood to say that they do expect the police to enforce the existing speed limit, but every hon. Member who is sitting here has doubtless driven in a car that has exceeded that speed limit. You have only to ride on an omnibus down Whitehall to do it. In that case hon. Members are not breaking the law, but they are accessories after the fact; they ought never to have got on to the omnibus. Therefore, we are in a position in which every Member of this House and every Member of the other House is at present breaking the law, and in these circum- stances the police are grumbled at because they are not literally enforcing the law.


If my hon. Friend will allow me to say so, I. was not complaining that the police had not enforced the law as to a speed of 20 miles an hour; I was complaining that in cases of notoriously and flagrantly dangerous driving, no action is taken al all.


But when my hon. Friend was faced with the point that this situation had arisen under the existing law, he retaliated by saying that the police were not prosecuting, and I am answering that observation of his. I quite agree that the present proposal of my hon. Friend would make a material alteration in the existing law. He says that a speed limit of 20 miles an hour has been proved to be insufficient, and he suggests that the maximum speed limit shall be 35 miles an hour for light cars. Let the House examine the psychology of the motorist, of benches of magistrates, and of the police themselves. If you lay down a maximum speed of 33 miles an hour, the whole psychology of traffic control and dangerous driving will tend towards the idea that the man who is driving at 35 miles an hour is driving reasonably on the King's highway. For myself, I shrink from laying down such a principle in any Statute. If you get it into the head of the average motorist that Parliament says that driving at 35 miles an hour is a thing which Parliament normally contemplates, the motorist will feel that 35 miles an hour is a normal speed to be aimed at.

Speed is a factor in danger. Where I disagree with my hon. Friend is that he tends to make speed the only element of danger, or, at any rate, he would do that even if he did not intend to do it. Speed is a factor in danger. Five miles an hour going round a corner on the wrong side is dangerous and reckless driving; 10 miles an hour going through a little narrow village, with children coming out of schools and so on, may be dangerous and reckless driving, for which I would impose, possibly, severe penalties, according to the nature of the road and the circumstances of the case. Therefore, I want the motorist to feel that this is the case, but not merely by compulsion, because in the end this problem is not going to be solved so much by compulsion as by education, by the inculcation of a genuine social conscience. We do not think much of the man on the pavement who walks rudely into you and knocks into you. Nobody thinks much of him, and he does not think much of himself in two minutes' time. But, up to the present, a motorist who behaves rudely on the road does not feel that he has broken the social code. We must make the motorist feel that, when he is discourteous and inconsiderate on the road, he is not a British gentleman, and that we are not going to regard him as such. When we have reached that stage, by the inculcation of good conduct, we shall have done far more than by setting up a standard of 35 miles an hour, which may be a matter of the utmost danger.

Therefore, I am anxious that the minds of motorists shall be concentrated upon what is dangerous, reckless and careless in the circumstances of the case, and I think that the way along which we are going is the right way to attain that end. The penalties under our own Clauses are going to be severely increased, and I hope that in clear cases the magistrates will not hesitate to be severe in their penalties, and to disqualify dangerous drivers from driving. The Royal Commission itself, on this question of a speed limit of 35 miles an hour, said: The motorists will be encouraged to think, some of them, that, if they do not exceed the speed limit prescribed, they are driving with safety. Whereas 35 miles an hour may be quite safe under certain conditions, five miles per hour may be a danger in other cases. I quite agree with that. My hon. Friend, the Member for West Bermondsey, says that I am illogical in putting a speed limit on the heavier type of motor car and not on the light car. Really, however, there is no analogy between the heavier type of motor car and the light private car. The heavy car, in case of an accident, has a much more severe impact, and the result of the accident on human life and on the other vehicle is more severe. Then the heavy car travelling at a high speed is less under control than the light car. There is also the point which I have mentioned before, but I make no apology for mentioning again, that the heavy vehicle travelling at a high speed does severe damage to the road.

I want to make this important announcement. There is an Amendment on the Paper which, I hope, will be of very great value. It will enable me to contribute out of the Road Fund towards the cost, equipment and maintenance of motor vehicles for the use of the police as a mobile force. I quite agree that, if we abolished the speed limit, we should be criminal if we did not redouble our efforts to deal with the dangerous driver. Every decent motorist would wish us to do so. The pedestrian policeman is clearly at a disadvantage in dealing with the dangerous driver, therefore we are going to empower the police authorities, and indeed give them every encouragement to provide a mobile police force mounted on motor cycles or motor cars. This force will not be provided in any spirit of vindictiveness, nor will it be extravagantly large, but it must be sufficient for its purpose. In view of the additional cost to local authorities which will be involved, I am asking for power to contribute to the police force out of the Road Fund. There will also be the high-way code which we are going to publish, and for which we shall secure publicity, on the basis of which we shall conduct education not only among motorists but among pedestrians as well, who equally need it.

The view that some people hold that every motorist is a villain and every pedestrian a saint really will not do. There are faults on both sides, and it is no less the duty of any Minister of Transport or of Members of the House, or of the pedestrian Association, to which my hon. Friend belongs, to educate the pedestrian into reasonable conduct, because unless he is reasonable he endangers his own life and the life of the motorist and others as well. In short, we have to educate everyone up to a high standard of conduct and decency on the road. In these circumstances, in view of the administrative intentions on the part of the Government, I hope the House will emphatically support us in this course of action. It is not good that the laws of the country should not be enforced. If we have laws on the Statute Book, they ought to be altered or they ought to be enforced, and I am going to alter them and bring them into accord with common sense. The vote that we are going to take in view of its exceptional nature, will be a free vote of the House. I think that is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case. The Government is perfectly clear and definite in its own view and my definite advice to the House is to reject the Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY

I agree with the Minister that this proposal would be absolutely useless, on the hon. Member's own arguments. It will not stop people trying to make records on the roads. I have had some experience on a bench of magistrates which has probably fined more people than almost any other bench in the whole of the country, and I have come to the conclusion that fines for exceeding the speed limit are quite useless. It will not stop dangerous driving. Driving at 10 miles an hour may be much more dangerous than at 35. I do not think magistrates suspend licences as much as they should. The suspension of a licence is a much more potent weapon to prevent dangerous driving than fining people for exceeding the limit. I welcome what the hon. Gentleman has said in regard to civil police to control the dangerous driver. I think that it will be a very good thing. I would also draw attention to the fact that in having police travelling on the roads he will be taking police from their ordinary duties. If we continue the speed limit, we really ought to have a body of police specially retained by the Ministry of Transport for the purpose of duty on the roads so that county police are not taken away from their proper duties. If it was generally realised that the suspension of a licence is the most potent weapon to use against dangerous driving, there would be far fewer cases of dangerous driving and fewer accidents. I shall oppose the Amendment.


I am sure that the Minister must feel very gratified at having received the entire approval of the Opposition on this particular Amendment. I wish to support the Amendment, and I do so as a motorist, because I feel that we are running a very grave danger in abolishing the speed limit considering the very low standard of driving there is in this country. We are putting into the mind of every motorist that he can go at any speed he pleases and that he will simply be liable to be summoned for dangerous or reckless driving, if he is caught. The chances are that he will not be caught until he has had an accident. I have said in this House on a previous occasion that we are, speaking generally, the worst drivers in the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I knew that I should raise a storm of objections when I repeated that statement, but I am going to read the opinion of a very much more famous motorist than anybody in this building. I am going to give the opinion of Mr. S. C. H. Davis, who is, perhaps, one of the most famous road racing drivers in the world. He is a road user. He says that 50 per cent. of the motorists in this country do not know the elementary rules of the road. [Interruption.] That is what he says. If it is a true statement, I submit that it is a very dangerous thing to allow this 50 per cent. of the people to go at any speed they please. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) has said, we have not been able to get any kind of test at all. I thought that some kind of test was going to be supported by at least one Hon. Member opposite.

The death-rate due to road accidents in this country is, I believe I am correct in saying, higher per vehicle than in any other country in Europe. Furthermore, 40 per cent. of the deaths are due to mistakes made by the drivers. That is a statement made in the Royal Commission's Report. The Royal Commission also reports that the 2 per cent. increase in deaths during the last two or three years is due to speed. That is with the 20 miles an hour limit which now exists. If we do away with the 20 miles an hour limit and we have no limit then we may expect a very much higher death roll. I agree with hon. Members who have said that a man can drive at 20 miles an hour and be more dangerous than another man driving at 40 miles an hour, but as there has been nothing provided in this Bill to make the standard of driving better in this country, I support the Amendment that we should have a speed limit until the standard of driving is better.


I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the last speaker. Those remarks would carry much greater weight with me if I did not happen to know that the hon. Member habitually breaks the law as it stands to-day, and will in all probability do so later.


The hon. and gallant Member says that I break the law. I am speaking of exceeding the speed limit. I am not talking now of anything else.


I repeat what I have said, that the remarks of the hon. Member would carry greater weight if I did not know that he habitually breaks the law as it stands, and will break it equally regularly if the speed limit is amended up to 35 miles an hour.


I wish flatly to contradict the statement of the hon. and gallant Member that I habitually break the speed limit law. I ask him to withdraw.


Is the hon. and gallant Member entitled to pursue a suggestion on a general implication that the hon. Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool (Mr. Hall-Caine) is habitually breaking the law, without implicitly stating that it has only to do with speed. He might, at least, be fair.


I admit that I was referring only to exceeding the speed limit. As the House is anxious to go to a Division, I am not going to repeat the remarks made by the Minister of Transport, who has said exactly all that I wanted to say, but much better and more clearly than I could have hoped to say it, but I want to make a point in regard to something that was said by the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter). He remarked that it was inconsistent to institute a speed limit for heavy motor traffic, whereas light motor traffic would be absolved from the speed limit. He said that if it was impossible to enforce a speed limit in regard to light motor traffic it was not possible to enforce the law in regard to heavy motor traffic. We have a means, to some extent, of checking the speed of the high speed motor buses. We have their time table to go upon, and I think it is most important that no time table should be issued which breaks the speed limit. Of course, at times the drivers may exceed the speed limit, if they are not held up. They have power enough in their engines to do 40, 50 or more miles an hour, and they may seek to make up time, but what we particularly do not want to have is a time table which will compel these drivers to drive at a speed which they very often realise is in excess of the speed at which it is safe to drive. In that way we have some means of enforcing the law.


In respect of less than five per cent. of the total.


At any rate, we have those means of enforcing it. As far as the light motor car is concerned, it is difficult to enforce any speed limit. If it is advertised that someone is going to try to drive from London to Edinburgh at an average speed of 60 miles an hour it is up to the police to take steps to secure a conviction and I hope they will do so. I congratulate the Minister of Transport on having adopted the idea of motor police to check dangerous driving in the streets. The stationary police officer is hopelessly handicapped, and after all we are only adopting a system which has been in force for many years on the Continent with a large measure of success. For some years they have had police in motor cars and on motor bicycles and although the speed is considerably higher on the Continent than it is in this country the average of accidents is not nearly so high. I hope, however, that the Minister of Transport will take steps to prevent what happens in America. If a police officer is out to secure a conviction he drives alongside the motor car tempting the driver to race. That is the custom of a police cop in the United States. If he wants to secure as many convictions as possible he deliberately tempts the law-abiding motor driver to exceed the speed limit. I shall vote against the Amendment because I do not think it will improve the safety of the roads; in the majority of instances it will make them more dangerous.


I desire to support the Amendment. I supported the hon. Member for Bermondsey West (Dr. Salter) on this point on the Second Reading of the Bill. He is absolutely correct. The Minister of Transport has said that public opinion is in favour of the abolition of the speed limit. I submit that public opinion, as represented by the man in the street, has been absolutely coerced by the savage element which is now driving motor cars and making pedestrians, men, women and children, feel that they have absolutely no right on the highways at all. The Government on the most important question before them at the moment have had an excessive speed limit; they have not been able to do anything in the matter of unemployment. When it comes to facilities for killing human beings on the public streets the Minister of Transport says that the motorists are to have free scope; they are to have the roads to themselves. Those who are driving motor cars will be able to do just what they want. In the case of heavy vehicles there is a system of interlocking which can be used to save life when there is a danger of the vehicle running on to the footpath. In the case of light cars no such arrangement exists. The explanation given is that it is rather expensive; it is too expensive to lay out money on a system that would probably save human life.

This being the attitude of the Ministry and of a Labour Government, the time has come when the masses of the people, who have hitherto had legitimate rights on the public thoroughfares to walk in reasonable fashion and not to be chased along the streets like hens on a country lane, and are now hardly able to take a step off the pavement without the fear of this, that and the other coming along in a most disastrous way and playing havoc with them, straining their nerves beyond calculation—the time has come for the masses of the people to do as many of Gandhi's followers are doing in India, that is, to squat on the thoroughfares and hold up the traffic. [Laughter.] The matter is received with absolute levity. The answer to that levity was rightly given by the hon. Member for West Bermondsey. On a former occasion, some years ago, a right hon. Member of the Labour party was hauled up for charging the then Conservative Government with the responsibility for killing children by starving them. Now an hon. Member of the Labour party has challenged a Labour Government, his own Government, with the responsibility for taking human life on our public thoroughfares. He is absolutely correct.

The momentum of what is called public opinion has been actually manipulated and encouraged by those who occupy the position of a privileged class and who have said "Now we have at our disposal the means of cutting along in such a way that the railways are out of date and their speed is of no consequence. We have got our own special train." Ordinary people who ride on a bus do not have the settlement of the speed of the bus. Those ordinary people are now being dragooned by a Labour Government in a mater of this kind. [Interruption.] Let it be remembered that those who sit on the second bench are always highly appreciative of those who sit on the front bench. This is one of the most disastrous moves that could have been made by a Labour Government, but it appeals to an element that I know the Labour Government is more particularly-anxious to be appreciated by—the privileged class.

It is significant that, with all the strength of the backing that there is for the abolition of the speed limit, with all the sneers and the ridicule against those who desire a speed limit, a man who is representative of the medical profession should stand up here so nobly and so effectively to support this Amendment with powerful facts and figures, which are not in the slightest degree challenged. The Minister of Transport rides off on the assumption that under the motoring police force which he is going to have, everything will be put in order and everybody will conduct themselves in the best fashion, and we are told that Clause 11 lays down conditions as regards dangerous driving. I ask how are you going to apply the proof of dangerous driving? When a man or woman is killed on the road, an inquest is held, but, as far as prosecutions are concerned, they are scarcely known. Men and women are being done to death without any serious attention being paid to the business, and public opinion, as represented by the man in the street, regards the situation as hopeless.

This is the opportunity to-day of saying to the Government that the Members of this House who are not specially interested in running motors, but who are concerned about the protection of men, women and children, insist that the people, whether they are employed or unemployed, shall have reasonable facilities for the enjoyment of everyday life and shall be safeguarded from this peril which follows them at every step they take to-day. It is a tragedy that one cannot move even on the pavements of our streets without the fear of a motor car swinging in upon one. Little children, even children lying in perambulators, have been cut down in this way and the hearts of mothers have been broken by the terror of the situation. I submit that this is an issue upon which every man and women who is concerned with the public interest ought to support the hon. Member for Bermondsey. We ought to instruct the Government to put in a speed limit, and if they are a Government at all, they will see that it is obeyed. If a Labour Government has to confess, as the Minister of Transport confessed to-day, that they cannot do this or that, then I say let them get out of the job.


We have had two fanatical speeches from the other side, one from the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) and the other from the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Dr. Salter) who has said that if the Government pass this Bill they will be aiding and abetting murder. I think we might now get down to the facts. We want to examine the question of whether we are to have a speed limit of 35 miles an hour for light motor vehicles, or no speed limit at all. If the hon. Member for Bermondsey will study the report of the Royal Commission he will find on page 49 that the percentage of accidents due to motorists is 39.1 while the percentage due to pedestrians, cyclists and others than motor drivers is 43.2. I point out that fact because I am endeavouring to show that all these accidents which he talked about, and which, incidentally, have taken place under a speed limit of 20 miles an hour, are not going to be altered in any way by establishing a speed limit of 35 miles an hour.

This is a very important Amendment, and I hope the House will support the

Minister in opposing it. We want to make the roads safe for the people of this country, and I agree with him that if it is suggested that anybody can go up to 35 miles an hour in any part of this country, the roads, instead of being safer for the people of this country, will be more dangerous than they are at the present time. We have to rely on the motorist himself. We have to try to teach him, as the Minister has said, through a code of the road to be a better and a more considerate driver than he is now. If you give to the driver an opportunity to go as fast as he likes, and at the same time put the responsibility upon him, and say to him, "We put you on trust, as it were, that you will not drive dangerously; we are not going to tie you down to 35 or 40 miles an hour, but we will allow you to have latitude, and we expect that as a result you will drive more carefully"—if you do that, then, in all probability, the motorist will respond to that test. I should like to say one word—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] Is it in order for Hon. Members outside the House to shout "Divide"? I want to say a word about the police cars, and I want to know from the Minister whether, when he has these police cyclists and police cars on the road, the evidence of one of them will be sufficient to get a conviction for exceeding the speed limit.


It might be.


I think that ought not to be the case.


No motorist ever ought to be found guilty!


I would like to finish by saying that I agree entirely with what the Minister has said.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes 99; Noes 180.

Division No. 414.] AYES. [3.55 p.m.
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Burgess, F. G. Fermoy, Lord
Atholl, Duchess of Caine, Derwent Hall Foot, Isaac,
Ayles, Walter Cape, Thomas Forgan, Dr. Robert
Baker, John (Wolverhampton, Bilston) Cluse, W. S. Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)
Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley) Cocks, Frederick Seymour Gossling, A. G.
Barnes, Alfred John Cove, William G. Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
Batey, Joseph Crookshank, Capt. H. C. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)
Bowen, J. W. Daggar, George Groves, Thomas E.
Bracken, B. Ede, James Chuter Grundy, Thomas W.
Brooke, W. Egan, W. H. Hall, Capt. W. P. (Portsmouth, C.)
Hardie, George D. Marshall, Fred Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
Harris, Percy A. Matters, L. W. Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
Hayes, John Henry Messer, Fred Snell, Harry
Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield) Mills, J. E. Sorensen, R.
Hoffman, P. C. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Stamford, Thomas W.
Hunter, Dr. Joseph Morley, Ralph Sutton, J. E.
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive Thurtle, Ernest
Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. Moses, J. J. H. Tinker, John Joseph
Kelly, W. T. Muff, G. Turner, B.
Knight, Holford Owen, H. F. (Hereford) Wallhead, Richard C.
Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.) Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan) Watkins, F. C.
Lewis, T. (Southampton) Pole, Major D. G. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Lindley, Fred W. Potts, John S. Wayland, Sir William A.
Lloyd, C. Ellis Rathbone, Eleanor Wellock, Wilfred
Longden, F. Richardson, R. (Houghton le-Spring) West, F. R.
Lowth, Thomas Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees) Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Ritson, J. Williams Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
McElwee, A. Rowson, Guy Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
MacLaren, Andrew Sandham, E. Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
McShane, John James Sawyer, G. F. Wright, W. (Rutherglen)
Mansfield, W. Scrymgeour, E. Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
March, S. Shield, George William
Marcus, M. Shinwell, E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Marley, J. Simmons, C. J. Dr. Salter and Mr. Naylor.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Gillett, George M. Morden, Col. W. Grant
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West) Glyn, Major R. G. C. Morris, Rhys Hopkins
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Gower, Sir Robert Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
Albery, Irving James Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
Alpass, J. H. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Mort, D. L.
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Gray, Milner Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)
Arnott, John Greene, W. P. Crawford Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Coine) Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)
Attlee, Clement Richard Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Noel Baker, P. J.
Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley (Bewdley) Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Palin, John Henry
Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet) Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Paling, Wilfrid
Balniel, Lord Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Benn, Rt. Hon. Wedgwood Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn) Phillips, Dr. Marion
Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.) Hartington, Marquess of Price, M. P.
Benson, G. Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
Bentham, Dr. Ethel Hastings, Dr. Somerville Ramsbotham, H.
Berry, Sir George Haycock, A. W. Raynes, W. R.
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley) Remer, John R.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow) Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Bondfield, Rt. Hon. Margaret Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J. Reynolds, Col. Sir James
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
Brass, Captain Sir William Herriotts, J. Romeril, H. G.
Brockway, A. Fenner Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G. Rosbotham, D. S. T.
Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West) Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Ross, Major Ronald D.
Burgin, Dr. E. L. Horrabin, J. F. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Buxton, C. R. (Yorks. W. R. Elland) Hurd, Percy A. Salmon, Major I.
Cameron, A. G. Iveagh, Countess of Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City) Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.) John, William (Rhondda, West) Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
Charleton, H. C. Kennedy, Thomas Sanders, W. S.
Chater, Daniel Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Savery, S. S.
Church, Major A. G. King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D. Sherwood, G. H.
Colman, N. C. D. Kinley, J. Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Colville, Major D. J. Lang, Gordon Shillaker, J. F.
Dallas, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
Dalrymple-White. Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey Lathan, G. Sitch, Charles H.
Davies, Dr. Vernon Law, Albert (Bolton) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Day, Harry Lawrence, Susan Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridge) Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Duckworth, G. A. V. Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle) Smithers, Waldron
Duncan, Charles Leach, W. Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
Eden, Captain Anthony Leighton, Major B. E. P. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Edmunds, J. E. Longbottom, A. W. Southby, Commander A. R. J.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Lymington, Viscount Spender-Clay, Colonel H.
Edwards, E. (Morpeth) Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.) Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Elliot, Major Walter E. McEntee, V. L. Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Elmley, Viscount MacNeill-Weir, L. Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s. M.) Macquisten, F. A. Strauss, G. R.
Everard, W. Lindsay Margesson, Captain H. D. Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
Forestler-Walker, Sir L. Marjoribanks, E. C. Thomson, Sir F.
Freeman, Peter Markham, S. F. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Mason, Colonel Glyn K. Vaughan, D. J.
Ganzoni, Sir John Mathers, George Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton) Melville, Sir James Walkden, A. G.
Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.) Montague, Frederick Wallace, Capt. D. E. (Hornsey)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond) Wallace, H. W.
Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Waterhouse, Captain Charles Whiteley, William (Blaydon)
Wells, Sydney R. Wilkinson, Ellen C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Welsh, James (Paisley) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow) Mr. Perry and Colonel Howard

It being after Four of the Clock, further Consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), and not amended on re-committal, to be further considered upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3.

Adjourned at Three Minutes after Four o'clock until Monday next, 7th July.