HC Deb 19 July 1933 vol 280 cc1846-69

The references to hours for rest contained in paragraph (iii) of Sub-section (1) of Section nineteen of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and in the proviso to the said paragraph shall be deemed to mean hours for rest away from the vehicle.—[Mr. T. Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.52 p.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I hope we are going to be told that the Minister has done something to meet the hardships of the men engaged in driving road vehicles. In order to understand the purport of this new Clause the House must know first why Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, was passed. That Section was passed with a view to protecting the public against the risks which arise in cases where drivers of motor vehicles are suffering from excessive fatigue. Paragraph 3 of Sub-section (1) states that a driver must have at least 10 consecutive hours for rest in any period of 24 hours calculated from the commencement of any period of driving. When this matter was discussed in Committee we were told by the Minister that Mr. Herbert Morrison possibly resisted a similar Amendment in 1930 on the ground that it was entirely unnecessary. The difference is that Mr. Morrison was speaking at a time when he had had no experience of the working of his Measure. Now we have had roughly 2½ years' ex- perience of the operation of that Section. Obviously when the House agreed to paragraph 3 of Sub-section (1) of Section 19 they intended that 10 consecutive hours of rest should be allowed to the driver, and in my opinion they certainly did not intend the driver to sleep on the vehicle. The Minister said he was prepared to do everything he could to see that Section 19 was carried out, but I may say to him and the House that it is being evaded and violated, and in many cases completely ignored, by employers who are not prepared to play the game.

I will give the House one or two concrete instances collected and supplied to me since the matter was discussed in Committee, in order to show what is taking place and with a view to persuading the Minister and the House to accept this new Clause. In some cases employers have made provision for the driver to take his 10 hours' rest on the lorry. I will quote one or two things said in police courts to show what the drivers themselves think about this Act. I have here a case in which the Kent Farmers' Transport Company was summoned under Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act. The driver gave evidence that he only went to bed on Saturday night. He said there was sleeping accommodation in the lorry, but he could not sleep owing to the jolting on the road. He further stated that the bed in the lorry was usually covered with goods. The employer, in evidence, said he never sent out a vehicle with less than two drivers if it was necessary to be away for more than 11 hours. He supplied sleeping space, mattress, rug and other clothing for the use of the drivers, and the lorry was fitted with a proper bunk with ventilators and a door at each end. I think that Parliament intended that the 10 hours' rest should be taken away from the lorry.


What was the result of the police court proceedings? Was not the employer convicted, showing that the Section as it stands is sufficient to cover such a case?


If the Minister had waited I was going to say that a conviction was secured, but I am citing this case to show that employers are providing means of rest on the vehicle, which we think is wrong, and not the best means of ensuring that the driver gets proper rest in order to carry out his duty. In another case Trent Oil Products were fined £20. The evidence showed that they had employed a driver for 43 consecutive hours. The driver, in evidence, stated that he fell asleep in the cabin of his lorry, but was moved on by the police. He again fell asleep and ran his lorry into the river. The driver was dismissed, but was told that this had nothing to do with the accident. I have another instance of what is taking place under Section 19. A man called Barringer drove down a 67-foot bank, was crushed against a tree and killed. He had been working for a certain firm for 54 out of 98 hours. His mate said that on the journey he had to keep correcting the steering because Barringer appeared to be dozing. The coroner severely criticised the long hours which the man had to work, and said they had a great deal to do with his death.

In another case a haulage contractor in Blackburn was summoned for allowing his driver to be on duty for 57½ hours with one break of 4½ hours and odd half-hours which he could snatch from time to time. The chief constable said such conditions were dangerous to people using the roads. A worn-out driver was liable to fall asleep over the wheel at any moment, with disastrous results.


What was the result of that case?


I have not the result, but I think it will be found that the contractor was convicted. Another case concerns a haulage contractor of West Bridgford in connection with a five-ton lorry which was shown, in evidence, often to carry from six to eight tons. For the week mentioned in the evidence the driver had worked 118 hours. Incidentally he was paid 55s., including 10s. food allowance, for that 118 hours work, the pay working out at 4¾d. per hour. In another case fines amounting to £90 were imposed on Commercial Roadways for overworking a lorry driver, and it was shown that drivers had worked as long as 39 hours at a stretch. Counsel for the defence said the drivers slept in the cabin of the lorry for a couple of hours by the roadside. The magistrate said that cases of this kind were serious from the public point of view. One could imagine, said the magistrate, these drivers of big six- wheeled lorries driving along the public roads stupified for want of sleep, and nothing could be too strong in condemning it.


Was there a conviction?


Yes, I believe that there was a conviction in that case, but the mere fact of there being a conviction proves that justice was done. The Minister admitted upstairs that there were evasions of Section 19, and we want to help the Minister to see that the law is carried out in its entirety. From that point of view, we appear to be on common ground. The Clause of which I am moving the Second Reading aims at amending paragraph (iii) of Sub-section (1) of Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, by stating that the hours for rest—that is the 10 hours—shall be taken altogether away from the vehicle. The Minister will remember that he said upstairs that he had a great deal of sympathy with the intentions of this new Clause and that he agreed that our motives were of the highest, from the point of view of trying to get something like justice for the men who drove lorries. He went on to say that if this language were accepted it would mean that if a man slept on the vehicle it would be an offence, but if he left the vehicle and went into a field or on to the roadside it would not be an offence. One can agree straight away that that would be a possibility, but at the same time we have to make provision for motor vehicles in regard to the Road Traffic Act, and if we want to obtain for a driver the rest to which he is entitled, we must be sure that he can have that rest completely away from his work. That is the best, for the safety of the public, and for the assistance of the individual concerned.

In various Acts of Parliament, provision is made that men shall be away from their work for so many hours within the 24. I believe that in the Coal Mines Act it states clearly that a man cannot work more than a certain number of hours in 24. If any colliery company tried to make men sleep on the premises so that they would be ready for work next day, I am afraid that that colliery company would hear a good deal of it from the miners' organisation. Surely it is possible to make some provision in this Bill to ensure that proper rest can be obtained by men who have to deal with these big lorries, and who usually travel very long distances. If it is the language of the Clause that is not acceptable, may I suggest to the Minister, seeing that he expressed almost his support of the intention of the Clause, that he might, either in this House or in another place, amend paragraph (iii) of Sub-section (1) of the Act of 1930, in order to avoid this growing practice of sleeping accommodation being provided on the vehicle.

5.6 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

We have been supplied with ever so much information from those who are directly affected by this Clause. I know that there are other hon. Members in the House, not sitting on these benches, who are prepared to place before the House information to convince the Minister that he ought to accept the Clause. The Minister to-day is again being congratulated on all hands on the great amount of work that he is doing in connection with this Bill. He may take it from me that, so far as the drivers of vehicles are concerned, if he does not accept this new Clause, the Bill will not be worth a button, and might as well never have come before the House, because there will be nothing in it of benefit to the workers. This is the only little crumb, and we are trying to get it in.

All that this Bill has done up to now as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) well put it, is to try and avoid cut-throat competition between the various transport interests. The Minister has been told by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) from our Front Bench that the Government will not attempt to do away with competition. We want competition done away with. We said at the very beginning, when this Bill was introduced, that the only thing to be done was to nationalise the transport of this country, right from the ground to the air. All of it ought to be under the Government, because there is no other way out of this difficulty. The Minister will find, with this Bill, that he is treading a very thorny path, in trying to keep the balance between road, rail and shipping transport. Then he is going to be faced with the air. The only way that he can avoid trouble is by socialising the whole of transport.

We have come forward again to try to help to make the capitalist system a wee bit more tolerable than it is at present to the workers. That is why we have brought forward this new Clause. It was all very well for the Minister to rise, when my colleague was submitting case after case, and to say, "Were they not convicted?" Yes, they were convicted, and he sits down quite jubilant that he has scored a point, and as though the point that my colleague was making was of no account. There are innumerable cases which I hope that some hon. Members, who are more conversant with driving motor cars than we are, will put before the House. There are actual cases that never come before the courts. The conditions of the workers who are in control of large vehicles is an absolute scandal. If the Minister is the type of man that this House and the Committee upstairs give him credit for being, he will accept our new Clause. All that we are trying to do is to protect the worker, and to make the Bill more workable.

This Bill will put into the hands of authorities outstanding powers against men who do not conform to the law, and do not keep their vehicles up to the standard after they have been warned. If they do not carry out the instructions they will be liable to imprisonment. The reason given by the Minister to the Committee for conferring that strong power was the desire to get at those who are always against any advance being made. In the Committee, great power was represented by lawyers who were there to represent the interests of vehicle owners and omnibus owners, who did not want any concession to be given to the workers or any concession which would make it more difficult for them to make money out of road transport. That is their business. The Minister's business is to see that road transport is safe. The Minister laid it down that vehicles must be kept up to a certain standard, and that if they are not kept up to that standard the owner of the vehicle is to be liable to imprisonment. We put it to the Minister that if it is so imperative that vehicles should be up to a standard, it is even more necessary that the drivers of the vehicles should always be in a cool and calculating condition, not flurried and not excited or tired.

It is more essential to look after the men who are running the machine; the most important part of the machine is the man who is driving it. How can you expect a man who is tired because he lacks sleep to do his work? I know from experience, as a worker who has worked over-shifts night and day, that the most terrible thing, physically and mentally, is lack of sleep. How can our roads be safe when there is this possibility? After all the careful drafting of this Bill, after we have been hammering at it week after week upstairs and after all the ability that the Minister can bring forward, it should not allow the driver to be left to the tender mercies of the bad employer. We have against the bad employer to make laws that are so strict that he is not able to ride through them and send men on long journeys during which they will not get proper rest and not be able properly to carry out their function of driving a vehicle on the main highways.

I put this to the Minister: Think what it means. I know no more onerous job than to be the driver of a heavy lorry on our main highways to-day, travelling at 30, 40, or sometimes 50 miles an hour. If that man is not in perfect physical and mental condition, he is a menace to everybody on the road. Clauses have been embodied by the Minister in the Bill to make our great arterial roads safe, and it would be in keeping if the Minister were to accept this Clause of ours. We have to remember that men who are driving these vehicles have to do everything that is done by a whole organisation for the engine driver upon the railways. Think of the difference. The engine driver cannot drive his engine off the rails, because it runs on a fixed and permanent line. He has signals to guide him and everything to keep him correct. Nothing is likely to get in his way. On the other hand, the driver of a motor lorry on our great highways has 101 things to contend with. He has a most exciting and difficult job—one of the most difficult that I know of. Even in driving a motor car, anyone who has done it for 10 hours knows the terrible strain that it is, and the strain of driving a great big heavy vehicle for 10, 12, or 15 hours is very much greater. That is why we are so anxious that it should be laid down definitely in an Act of Parliament that the driver shall have, out of the 24 hours, 10 clear hours away from the vehicle. Surely, in this enlightened age, enough has been said from these benches to convince the Minister that, if he wants to have any credit from this Bill as far as we on these benches are concerned, he must accept this Clause. As I have already said, these drivers who have been reading the Bill, and watching every action that we have taken, consider that, unless the Minister accepts this Clause, his Bill, as far as they are concerned, might just as well have never come before the British House of Commons.

5.17 p.m.


I rise because I feel that, if this Clause cannot be accepted by the Minister, he should give the House some assurance that measures will be taken to cover the point which it raises. When the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. T. Smith) referred to several cases, the Minister of Transport rose and asked whether there was no conviction, and, when the reply was given that conviction did in fact take place, that appeared to satisfy my hon. Friend. I would like, however, to give him a case within my own quite recent experience, and I assure him that it is not the first experience of this character that I have had. Only a few months ago, a large furniture van arrived at my house near Lewes, in Sussex, and I went out and spoke to the driver. It was 20 minutes past nine in the evening when he arrived. I was interested in the man, and, therefore, asked him where he had come from. He informed me that he had left Winchester at five o'clock in the morning, and had gone from Winchester to Oxford, where he collected furniture from several people, including my son, and had brought the furniture to Lewes, 50 miles south of London. I asked him how he proposed to spend the night, and he said, "I want to ask you if you will permit me to drive my lorry into your garage or yard, and to sleep on my furniture van until five o'clock in the morning, when I propose to leave here for Hastings." I said to him that he could put his van in the garage, and I would find him somewhere where be could sleep during the night, but he replied, "Thank you very much, but I cannot accept that, because I must not leave my valuable cargo; I must sleep on that cargo." Therefore, all I could do was to give him some supper and permit him to sleep on the furniture van—a very large van—and he left my place at nine in the morning. In a case of that kind, the question of conviction does not arise. It was not the first occasion on which I had had vans coming to my place, and sometimes I learned that the drivers had been on the road for 18 hours on end. I really think that some protection should be given them. When these men are delivering loads of furniture and so on in the ordinary way in the country, there is no question of prosecution, because no one sees them, and they do not come within the purview of the police, so that they are able to carry on with their work the next morning. I suggest that some Clause of this kind should be inserted in the Bill.

5.21 p.m.


I have some knowledge in connection with the carrying of goods, having seen many deliveries go out of the city of Liverpool, and I think that this is a Clause which ought to be inserted in the Bill. It is a well-known fact that, in the case of many small firms in the City, young men are sent out with these cars on journeys lasting as long as 25 and 30 hours, and, consequently, they are not able to get proper rest. Certainly, there have been cases in the Liverpool Police Court in which convictions have been obtained against people who have employed men in this way, but conviction is not a sufficient safeguard, because there are hundreds of cases in which there is no conviction at all. The necessity of getting employment compels people—I notice that the Minister shakes his head; if he does not agree—


I was dissenting from the other point which the hon. Member made. He seems to be mixing up the enforcement of the existing law and the question of a provision in new legislation. He was complaining, not that the existing law was not sufficient, but that it could not be enforced.


My complaint is that there is no provision in the Bill which entitles the individual to a legitimate period of rest. A car may stand up at any moment for an hour, or two hours, or three hours, but my contention is that an opportunity should be given to the driver to get suitable rest away from the car. I do not see any objection to his leaving the vehicle. It may be said that he has no opportunity of putting up anywhere, but, surely, England offers many opportunities for anyone who is driving to get off the car, put the car up, and resume his journey when he has been able to get proper rest. Unless the Bill includes a Clause of this description, it will be of very little value except to competitors of decent firms who Are willing to see that their men who are employed in a certain occupation get reasonable hours of rest. It will open up opportunities of competition on the roads to people who are not particularly concerned to carry on their business in a legitimate manner.

Unless such a Clause as this is inserted, it will not be possible to bring about proper regulation of the roads from the point of view of public safety. On the ground of public morality, if on no other ground, the Government who are anxious to bring in a Traffic Bill like this ought at least to see that the person who conveys the goods is not only responsible, but has legitimate hours of rest such as ought to be Allowed to any person having control of a vehicle on a public road. No vehicle should be allowed on a public road unless the driver has absolute control of it, and, in these days of traffic congestion, a driver who has not had proper rest, and is therefore not able fully to understand the difficulties of the road, should not be allowed to drive. If the Minister does not accept this Clause, it will be he himself who ought to be indicted, because, if a person who can avoid a certain difficulty will not take steps to rectify what can be rectified, it is he who is really responsible.


The hon. Member should say that to Mr. Morrison.


I am only concerned with the Bill which is now before the House; I am not concerned with Mr. Morrison. I am as anxious as the Minister is that this Bill should be a workable Bill, which will give satisfaction to al concerned and do the Minister credit. I do not want to pass bouquets to the Minister, but I recognise that he is intelligent, smart, and knows his business and I and my friends are only anxious to make the Bill more complete and successful. It will certainly redound to the Minister's credit if he will bring in something which has a humane touch about it, and will give the opportunity to those who are in charge of vehicles to obtain that sleep which is so essential to the welfare of their business. I think the Minister will agree that, if he were asked by any firm to go on a journey of 20 or 30 hours without rest, he would think it was pretty tall, and I would only ask him to do to others as he would wish others to do to him. This Clause, if inserted in the Bill, would redound to the credit of a Minister who up to the present has really been a success on the Front Bench.

5.28 p.m.


I desire to urge upon the Minister the remarks of the Mover of the Amendment. Surely we have learned something since 1930. When this Clause was embodied in the Act of 1930, it was really experimental, but since then we have learned much. Not only is there greater road congestion, not only have there been great improvements in vehicles generally, but one knows that the roads in these days are carrying a substantial amount of traffic which formerly went on the railways. As one who travels about the roads fairly frequently in cars, I suggest to the Minister that there is no greater public danger in Britain to-day than the tired driver. The Minister can issue instructions telling you what you should do when turning to the left or turning to the right, as the case may be, and that you should be more sportsmanlike. All these forms of advice are given to us when we obtain our licence, but it avails us nothing if the human element in charge of the vehicle is not in a state of physical fitness. In these days when motor cars, in particular, have reached a stage when they can be said to be almost fool-proof, it is very easy for persons without any mechanical knowledge at all to drive them, but it is no use having technical improvements in the vehicle unless the individual at the steering wheel is in a state of mind to understand at all times the dangers confronting him and the regulations that he is expected to carry out.

I could cite within my own experience difficulties that I have been confronted with on the road. I know of persons who have driven from South Wales to Leeds and Sheffield and back in the same day with a break of just an hour or so. I know of many cases where persons have been on the road with no rest for 30 or 34 hours. That is indictable, but it is practically impossible for these persons to be brought before a bench of magistrates unless someone driving a car intimates to a policeman that somewhere some vehicle got out of its line of traffic and did something to impede someone else and might be conceived to be a public danger. But, after all, there is not a policeman every few hundred yards along the road. It is becoming a common practice of motorists to report to policemen that they have observed something that may be described as a public danger. We desire to obviate that. This is a non-party issue. It is a matter of safety first. There is something far more important than instructions or advice to drivers when they obtain their licences. We believe the better way is for the driver to obtain rest. We could instance, in our mining experience, very many things that had to happen before men in engine houses at the collieries were ultimately removed by Statute from the premises for rest.

The transport industry is only in its infancy. It is growing and is likely to grow substantially within the next few years. Our roads have not been constructed to carry the heavy vehicular traffic that they have to do. Safety depends entirely upon the efficiency of the human element, and it is remarkable how efficient the human element is, but while vehicles are becoming fool-proof it is essential that the driver should have adequate rest if he is to be conscious that he is driving to the public safety. For these reasons, we urge upon the Minister to let the driver have some hours of rest away from the nerve-racking vehicle. Not more than 2 per cent. of the prosecutions that take place represent the number of breaches of Clause 19 of the 1930 Act. The hon. Gentleman should do all he can to see that these breaches do not take place, and the way to prevent them is to see that the driver obtains adequate rest away from the vehicle.

5.36 p.m.


When this Clause was considered by the Committee, there was a general feeling that it was a highly important and desirable thing, if possible, to reduce over-hours in driving. My hon. Friend was most sympathetic to the feelings which prompted the moving of the Clause and pointed out one thing only about it, that it would not carry out what was intended, and that the words "away from the vehicle" might be interpreted to mean in a field by the side of the road where the vehicle stood. It seems rather curious that hon. Members, in bringing forward the Clause again, should not have devised some words of their own to meet the purpose that they have in view. We are all anxious, and not least the Minister, that the provision of 10 consecutive hours of rest in any period of 24 hours, calculated from the commencement of any period of driving, that is required by Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act should be enforced. We feel—the cases that have been cited by hon. Members opposite seem to prove it—that the law as it stands is effective if only it can be enforced.


May I point out the difference between us f At the moment it appears to be according to the law that a man gets 10 consecutive hours of rest on the vehicle. We are trying to make it illegal for the 10 hours rest to be taken on the vehicle.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

No doubt the hon. Member could cite some case such as he is alluding to. Will he do so I


I am trying to point out the difference. You say that the law if carried out is adequate. That does not satisfy us. We are trying to make it illegal for the 10 consecutive hours rest to be taken on the vehicle.

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I appreciate the point of hon. Members opposite, but I think the important point is the enforcement of the 10 hours rest, and that is adequate if you can get it enforced. It seems to me that employers will find it necessary so to arrange their work that they will be able to give their drivers proper rest in every 24 hours. We have every reason to believe that the provisions of this Bill will greatly facilitate the improvement of these conditions. When it is a condition of a licence that reasonable hours shall be maintained, and when a log book is kept which will record the journeys, I think bad owners who overwork their people will be far less inclined to run the risk of being found out. They will know that they stand to lose their licence, and possibly that will be a more powerful influence upon them than a fine in a court of law. The case that my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) cited was clearly one of illegality and he, as a good citizen, would have been well advised to take it up and bring it to the notice of the authorities. It is the duty of every citizen to assist in the maintenance of the law, and I, for one, should feel that it was my duty, if a case of that kind came to my notice, to take it up. In the circumstances we do not feel that we can accept the Clause.


Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman say that, as the law now stands, it is illegal for these hours of rest to be taken on the vehicle?

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

Oh no, I do not say that for a moment, and I can imagine cases where it might be very difficult for a court to insist upon the hours of rest not being taken upon the vehicle, for instance, where a man was in charge of a very important load. The point is that there must be, according to the law, 10 complete hours of rest in the 24. The law as it stands is strong enough, and the new provision in the Bill will be a further inducement to employers to keep to the law. We do not think the Clause would carry out the purpose intended, and we are not prepared to accept it.


As I understand it, provided a man has 10 consecutive hours rest, even though he sleeps on his lorry, he is carrying out the law. Am I to take it that my hon. and gallant Friend is satisfied that, if 10 hours sleep is taken on the vehicle, that is all that is necessary?

Lieut.-Colonel HEADLAM

I suggest that that is a case that should be tried in law. In the circumstances, I should not be prepared to give an opinion on the point of law.


On a point of Order. Might we have the Solicitor-General here to deal with the point?

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

That is not a point of Order. Hon. Members can ask in Debate for the advice of a Law Officer, but the Chair has no power to require his attendance.


In view of the fact that we have not a Law Officer present, would it be possible to move the Adjournment of the Debate?

5.44 p.m.


I can give the answer at once. It is a matter of fact in each case whether the condition as to rest is satisfied. Generally speaking, where a bunk and mattress are provided the courts would hold that that satisfies the condition. In the case that the hon. Member quoted, it is doubtful whether the courts would hold that that constituted rest.


Would the hon. Member agree that it would be more desirable if the rest were taken in a house or in a bed away from the vehicle? Would not the proposed Clause assist in that objective?


Perhaps I did not make myself sufficiently clear. First of all, the trouble is in regard to the actual meaning of the Clause which has been moved. The effect of the Clause is merely that the rest must be taken away from the vehicle. It is clear that in certain circumstances it might put a man in a worse position.




Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. It might put a man in a worse position if you forced him to take his rest away from the vehicle. If, for instance, he can satisfy the requirements of the law by sleeping out in a field, and yet if on a wet night he got inside his lorry to sleep he would be breaking the law, it would be manifestly absurd to put him in such a position. I agree with hon. Members opposite that one wants the 10 hours' rest spent as we understand that rest should be spent, but I would point out to them that that will not be assured in any way by the proposed new Clause, which in certain circumstances might produce a greater discomfort to the man. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about public safety?"] Public safety is not met by making a man sleep out in a field in the rain rather than allowing him to sleep in a lorry under cover. The hon. Member does not quite appreciate the fact that a man is not breaking the law if he sleeps in a bed; he would break the law if he slept inside the lorry. That is the reason why it is impossible to accept the Clause. It does not carry out the intention of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The point is that no case has ever yet been brought to our attention where the kind of thing of which hon. Members opposite complain has happened without the law being broken as it stands at present. In fact, we do not believe that when you really come to enforce, as we hope to do under the provisions of the Act, the 10 hours' consecutive period of rest, the kind of thing which the hon. Members have in mind will ever occur.


I can state a case.


All those cases to which hon. Members have referred hitherto are cases where a man in the middle of, possibly, excessive and illegal hours, has stopped for a couple of hours or so, and gone to sleep beside the road. That is illegal as things stand to-day.


Who is to ascertain the facts?


The hon. Member told me that he knew of a case where a man had driven 30 hours. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that he believed it to be the duty of every person, to whose notice a case of that kind was brought, to bring it forward. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) shakes his head. I cannot understand why hon. Members attach, as they rightly do, such importance to the enforcing of this law, and yet be prepared to stand aside and say that there is no reason to enforce it. I hear an hon. Member say that they are not all policemen. I should have thought that for the benefit of the workers whom they claim to represent if they can—[Interruption.]


I really must ask hon. Members to observe the ordinary rules of Debate. The Minister is speaking and if he will not give way, hon. Members should not interrupt.


I protest against the hon. Gentleman saying that we on this side are not prepared to do our duty.

[Laughter.] What is there to laugh at? The hon. Gentleman has accused all of us on these benches of not being prepared to do our duty in regard to the law. I want him to withdraw that statement as it is applied collectively. If some individual made the statement it should not be applied to all of us.


I am only too glad to have the assurance of the hon. Member. I confess I was rather horrified at the general laughter from the benches opposite. If they assure me that it is only one hon. Member, and a particular hon. Member, I at once realise that there is no imputation on the general body of hon. Members. To return to the point which we were discussing, I do not believe that hon. Members can find a case—and I ask the hon. Member who moved the Amendment in Committee to provide the information—where this kind of thing to which they and we object has happened without the existing law being broken. We believe that the main thing to do now is, not to amend the existing law, but to see that it is properly enforced. I think that I may claim that the speeches of hon. Members opposite upon this Clause, eloquent as they were, have been, in fact, a complete defence for the licensing provisions of this Bill. We believe that in making the observance of these hours a condition of the Bill, and that by making it possible, if the conditions are broken, not merely to fine a man £10 or £20, but to put him off the road altogether as not being fit to run vehicles upon it, will do far more to help the men whom my hon. Friends opposite want to help than any provision of this kind. I would again say that it is clear that the Clause which is now being moved will not have the effect which hon. Members seem to attribute to it, and may, in certain circumstances, act to the detriment and not to the advantage of drivers.



I must remind the hon. Member that he has already exhausted his right to speak. We are not in Committee.


I know. But—


If the hon. Member wishes merely to ask the Minister a question, I will allow him to do so.


The Minister of Transport has not replied to the point which I made, that the drivers of these vehicles say that, unless this Clause be included, the Bill will be of no use to them. The hon. Gentleman has not replied to that statement.


The hon. Member has asked a question, and my answer is, that those who say that have read neither the Bill nor the Clause. If they have read the Clause they will realise that it does not help them, and if they have read the Bill they will realise that it does help them. Does it mean nothing to have fair wage conditions attached to "A" and "B" licences, and to have the existing provision as to hours properly enforced in the future?

5.53 p.m.


I am sorry—and I speak for all my hon. and right hon. Friends—that the Minister has really evaded the question. Does he believe that it is illegal, or that it is looked upon as legal for a man to be compelled to sleep in his lorry? The basis of the proposed new Clause is that he should take his rest away from the lorry. A case has been mentioned of an employer who was fined £20. The evidence showed that the driver had been employed for 43 consecutive hours, and that he fell asleep in the cabin of the lorry and was moved on by the police. Does the Minister agree that, in accordance with the provisions of the Act of 1930, a man should be compelled to sleep on the lorry after he has been driving for 10 consecutive hours? There are many kinds of employers, and various interpretations are placed upon the law. There have been flagrant abuses of the law, and action has not been taken. If there had been a suspension of licences, there would not have been so many of these infringements. Some employers have little or no regard for the law or the well-being of their employés.

My hon. Friend who moved the Clause stated several cases where there had been abuses of the law almost beyond human endurance. Is the Minister prepared to state whether or not the law as it stands covers the position as stated from these benches this afternoon, namely, that it is legal for a man to remain on the lorry, if he does not operate it for more than 10 hours, and to sleep there for the remaining 10 or 14 hours out of the 24? We want to know if that is the legal position, and, if so, it ought to be made definitely and clearly known. Section 19 of the Act of 1930 has not been applied at all rigidly. I think that the Minister would agree that employers have taken great advantage of the slackness underlying that Section of the Act. This cannot be allowed to go on for all time. Therefore, we wish the terms of the Clause to be accepted. The Minister says that it will not make any difference at all. Then, what is the objection to its acceptance?


I did not say that it would hot make any difference, but that it would actually harm the driver.


It cannot harm the driver from any point of view. Surely, the employers have the same opportunity of organising their industry as the railway people had. What would be said of the railway companies if they compelled their drivers arid firemen to sleep on the engine after they had completed the requisite number of hours of work? They have to make arrangements for their employés to take their rest at rest houses. Nothing is provided in regard to road traffic, and it appears that there is no intention of doing anything in that direction. Consequently we are very much alarmed. Lorry drivers are human beings, and they ought to be protected. I urge upon the Minister the necessity of doing more to prevent evasions of the law. Is he aware of the terms of engagement of many of these drivers? In some cases they are paid by shifts, in others by contract, and in others by the loaded mile journey, with nothing for the return empty journey. That is the kind of thing which is going on. These men are exploited, and cannot help themselves. If they report matters to the police, there is little hope of their being able to get work anywhere again.

Surely it is not beyond the powers of the transport organisations to make provision, as is done by the railway companies, for sleeping their drivers after they have spent the full period at work. We believe that the Clause would clear away all doubt in the minds of employers that their people must take their rest away from the vehicle and not under a hedge or a haystack or something of the kind. They must make proper pro- vision for their accommodation after they have carried out their work oh the lorry. If the law at the moment covers the position, I should like to ask the Minister why he does not adopt something which would make it acceptable to all of us? We know, he knows, everybody in the House knows that there is flagrant disregard of the law every day and that the matter ought to be taken in hand not only by Members of this House but by everybody in the country. Why do people not report these things? Because it is going to harm someone. I do not play second fiddle to anyone in trying to see that the law is kept, and, although he apologised, I resent the statement that the Minister made. The law is there; it was put there for certain purposes, and it must be kept.

The Minister mentioned Mr. Morrison. Mr. Morrison was the Minister when the Act was passed. When the Act was passed it was an experiment, and it is not fair to blame Mr. Morrison for any faults that have transpired during the operation of the Act. Surely, Mr. Morrison ought to be given credit for having tried to do something. Now that we have found that the Act is not operating as efficiently as we anticipated we expect that the present Minister will take steps to put things right where they are found to be weak in the Act. There are many weak points in the Bill, and I do not see any reason why the Minister should not accept the hew Clause with a view to strengthening the Bill, not only in the interests of good employers but in the interests of the people who have to work for the employers. Those people are part of the industry, they form one section of the community and they have the same right of protection against the bad employers as any other person has a right to be protected against other persons who are breaking the law.

We are not blaming all the employers. We do not think that all employers would do the kind of thing of which we corn-plain, but we do know that these things are done and that some employers would perpetuate the system. Therefore, we ask the Minister to extend his consideration to this matter and to accept the Clause. If the section in the Act covers this point, it ought to be made definite and clear that a man shall take his rest completely away from the vehicle which he is working. To-day, heavy vehicles are being manufactured and cubicles are being built upon them, so that the men may take their rest. Does the Minister consider it to be a natural form of rest where a man is compelled to sleep in a small cubicle, probably no bigger than his body, in order to take the rest which human nature demands when a man is tired after a hard day's labour?

6.4 p.m.


It is very unfortunate that hon. Members opposite did not find some fresh words in putting down this Clause on the Report stage, because the Minister has made the same reply that he made in Committee that although it is undesirable that a driver should take his rest on his lorry or in his lorry, it would be still harder for him to be forced to take his rest under a hedge or in an adjoining field. That is a conclusive argument. But the Minister said something more in Committee than he has said to-day. He said that he had every sympathy with the purpose of the hon. Members who brought forward the Amendment, and to-day he says that he desires that the 10 hours rest should be real rest, under conditions under which real rest can be taken. That being the desire of the Minister, I think it is very regrettable, knowing the difficulties in which the Committee found itself, as the words of the new Clause are not satisfactory and do not carry out the intention of the movers of it, that he did not help the House by bringing forward words which would prevent what we all want to prevent, and that is, that the driver of a heavy lorry should practically never get away from his lorry.

We have all heard about the busman's holiday at the week-end. There is nothing in the law to-day that even imposes the condition that he shall get a week-end off. Take the huge, heavy vehicles which run, say, from London to Edinburgh and back, manned by two drivers. These vehicles can be continuously on the road and the two drivers have either to be driving the lorry or sleeping in the bunk on it. That is unsatisfactory. The Minister has not said that there is anything in the Bill to say that that will not be legal in future. What hon. Members wanted upstairs and what they want now is to make sure that the conditions of driving, which are much more onerous to-day on the road than on the rail, shall not be inferior to those which the locomotive drivers have obtained for themselves in regard to hours of rest. I think the Bill definitely fails in that particular.

While I frankly admit that the Minister is right in his belief that putting in this condition as a condition of the licence will make an enormous difference to the enforcement of the law as it stands, he has not satisfied the House that the law will ensure what he says is necessary rest, that is, rest not rattling along the same road where you have been driving but something which hon. Members opposite have tried to define as rest "away from the vehicle." If those are not the right words, why should not the right words be put in the Bill? While I cannot vote for a Clause which we were told upstairs in Committee would not do what is required, I appeal to the Minister not to leave this blot in the Bill but to see that a Clause is inserted in another place—there is still time—which will do what he wants, what the whole House wants and what the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment made quite clear is their intention.

6.9 p.m.


The Minister has received, in the Press and elsewhere, many compliments for the way he has handled the Bill. On the whole, the Committee upstairs and the House have treated him with the greatest possible consideration, but after having listened to his speech this afternoon I cannot say that he has reciprocated. If I understood his speech correctly, the line he took was that the existing law made it necessary that the driver should have adequate rest and that the obligation is laid upon the court to determine what is adequate rest. He said that if the new Clause was accepted the driver might sleep away from the vehicle on the side of the road. That would be a violation of the existing law. He said that if the driver slept under a hedge under the existing law the courts might hold that not to be reasonable rest and not an adequate place of rest. If the law holds that view, then the new Clause does not weaken the position. The Clause leaves the law untouched. Therefore, when the Minister tells the House that if the Clause were carried the driver would sleep under the hedge, I reply that the Clause does not give the driver the right to sleep under the hedge and it does not take away from him the legal protection which he now possesses.

The new Clause although it may be bad from the Minister's point of view, does not weaken the existing law, it leaves it untouched, and if it is illegal for a driver to sleep under a hedge now it would still be illegal for him to do that if we carry the Clause. Therefore, when the Minister says that we do not protect the driver from being compelled to sleep away from the vehicle a few yards, we suggest that the existing law does that. How can the Minister or the Attorney-General say that we do not protect the driver from that position? If we cannot protect him, how does the existing law protect him? How does the existing law protect a driver from having to sleep under a hedge? Because the courts would hold that sleeping under a. hedge is not a desirable way of getting rest. The Clause does not say that sleeping under a hedge is a desirable way of getting rest.

We are dealing with a very important industry, which is just being organised, and we do not want to sec it grow up like the canal boat industry. We do not want to see families growing up on lorries on the road. Hon. Members extol the virtues of British family life and domesticity and now they are allowing a law to be carried which destroys the family life of the driver of a lorry. We do not want drivers to develop into the sort of peripatetic workers who never stay in one place, who have little or no protection and whose mode of life is a violation of all those domestic ties which every man has a right to develop. The Minister would meet the wishes of the House if he said: "The words of the Clause are not the words that I would like to put in the Bill, but the point is one that ought to be met and I will do my best to put in suitable words in another place." Everyone would agree with him in that, because it would protect the men against the present situation.

A point has been made that the reason why strong exception is taken to this proposal is because it is difficult for the drivers to compel the employers to give them reasonable allowances for lodgings. It is so much cheaper to put bunks in the lorries. The Minister admits that the law is bad when he says that if the courts are informed that a bunk has been fixed in a lorry and that 10 hours' rest is obtained in that bunk, that that would meet the requirements of the position. Does he say himself that that would meet the requirements? No. He says that is unreasonable. Will he therefore give the men reasonable protection? That is all we ask. He would add to the laurels he has already won if he would give us that assurance at this stage.

6.14 p.m.


I say quite frankly that the Clause, as drafted, is impossible, and I say equally frankly that I think the lines of a Clause of this nature, which tells the man where he may not take his rest, would be fruitless, but there are possibilities along another line of making the rest period to be a rest period during which time the driver must be beyond the control of his employer. Some words on those lines—I am not making any promise—would be the best way of meeting the point. I am not much impressed by the remarks of hon. Members opposite, because their point is entirely covered by the existing law, but I am alarmed at a possible expansion of the double-bunk system, and I will certainly consider whether an Amendment can be inserted in another place on the lines suggested to meet the point.


In view of what the Minister of Transport has said, we are quite prepared to withdraw the new Clause on that understanding.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.