HC Deb 19 July 1933 vol 280 cc1869-77

(1) A person shall not drive a goods vehicle on a road unless he is licensed for the purpose under this Part of this Act, and a person shall not employ any person who is not so licensed to drive a goods vehicle on a road.

(2) A person shall be disqualified for obtaining a licence to drive a goods vehicle unless he is over the age of twenty-one awl fulfils such other conditions as may be prescribed:

Provided that the above-mentioned limit of age shall be dispensed with if the applicant shows to the satisfaction of the licensing authority that he was during the six months immediately preceding the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, regularly employed as a driver of a goods vehicle.

(3) A licence to drive a goods vehicle may be limited to such type or types of vehicles is may be specified in the licence.

(4) An application for a licence to act as a driver of a goods vehicle shall be made to the licensing authority for the area in which the applicant resides.

(5) The provisions of Sections seventy-nine, eighty and eighty-two of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, shall apply to any licence granted under this Section as though it were a licence granted under the provisions of Part IV of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, with the substitution of the licensing authority for the traffic commissioners referred to in the aforesaid Act.—[Mr. G. Hall.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

6.16 p.m.


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

The object of the Bill is to license all vehicles, to secure a proper regulation of the industry and to safeguard the interests of the public. We think that these purposes cannot be fulfilled unless the drivers of vehicles are also specially licensed, as is the case of drivers of public service vehicles under the Act of 1930. The new Clause embodies in this Bill the Section of the Act of 1930. The institution of a second licence for drivers of goods vehicles is, in our opinion, sound and reasonable. The same principle has been in operation for some time in the case of road passenger workers. There a, man has a driving licence issued in the ordinary way, but he also has a public service driving licence issued by the Traffic Commissioners. At the inception of the Road Traffic Act, those men who were driving public service vehicles before a certain date were automatically granted a public service driving licence under that Act. New applicants had to pass certain tests. We suggest in this Clause that a similar procedure should be adopted for the drivers of goods vehicles, that those who are already driving should be granted a licence and that new applicants should be subjected to a test, as they are in the case of driving passenger vehicles. In this way we suggest that the driving standard would tend to improve, a, good type of man would be attracted to the trade and public safety ensured.

If a second licence were adopted, it would mean that a man would have the same care and regard as the driver of a public service vehicle his, livelihood would in a large measure depend upon his keeping his licence clear. The machinery need not be cumbersome or costly. Such cost as may be incurred can be covered by a small amount, and any disadvantage which might arise would be far outweighed by the advantages which would accrue to the public and to the industry. No one is asking that the rigid tests which are applied to drivers of motor vehicles on the Continent shall apply in this country. We are not asking that under this new Clause. In almost every European country, in America, and in the British Dominions, very rigid tests are applied before a licence is granted, and in Germany, before a driving licence is granted, the applicant must, produce a certificate of competence signed by the head of a driving-school, and then undergo a final test to confirm the verdict of the school and pass the examination of the official doctor to certify that he suffers from no disability which may prove a drawback to his driving efficiency. In France some 38 per cent. of the candidates who applied for driving licences in 1932 were rejected as unsuitable.

I do not know whether it is the result of our system of licensing, but it is true that no country has such a high percentage of accidents as we have. One has only to refer to the evidence given before the Royal Commission of 1929 to find that the concensus of opinion of representatives of the public was that rigid tests should be applied to motor vehicle drivers. We are not asking for a rigid test, we are not asking the Minister of Transport to do any more than is done under the 1930 Act; and if he will make the same provisions in this Bill it will suffice. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has referred to the difference between road and rail and to the long apprenticeship which a driver of an engine on the railway has to undergo before he becomes the driver of a locomotive. It makes no difference whether he becomes the driver of a passenger train or a goods train. There is no danger of persons trespassing on the railways, it is a fenced track, and the chief thing for which a driver has to look is the signal. Still a rigid test is applied before a man can become the driver of a railway train. The Minister of Transport, in Committee, suggested that there was no analogy between a large motor goods vehicle on the road and a passenger vehicle. He maintained that the analogy was between a motor car and a light goods vehicle, and that nothing could be done with a view of applying tests for certificates of competency or licences unless it was done under the general licensing law. He went on to say: I have been asked questions in the House, several times, with regard to this matter, and I have always given the answer: Let me know the facts first; let me see from the facts whether this danger from the unlicensed driver is really as great as it is represented and as it possibly may be, and then we shall be in a position to decide whether this is a good thing to do or not. I could not anticipate the results of that investigation and accept this system, which would have to be extended to the whole of motor driving."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee A), 5th July, 1933, col. 643.] We are not suggesting here that the whole question of the tests for drivers of motor vehicles should be overhauled. We are dealing here with a particular type of vehicle, and all we ask is that the Government should apply the same tests, as far as goods vehicles are concerned, as are applied to passenger vehicles. The late Lord Brentford, when he was Home Secretary, said that every possible device had been tried to secure a reduction in the accident rate on the roads. He was President of the Safety First Association, which had issued leaflets by the million, and done everything possible by voluntary effort. It failed; and the late Lord Brentford suggested that if the State had any regard for the public, it should take some drastic action regarding the question of licensing. We are not asking for a complete over haul of driving tests for the issuing of licences. All we are asking in this Amendment is that the Bill shall contain a provision similar to that which is now in the Act of 1930.

6.28 p.m.


I desire to support the proposed new Clause as a step in the direction of greater strictness in the issuing of licences. It may be that hon. Members opposite do not desire to introduce into this country the severe conditions which are imposed on the Continent, but, at all events, I regard this Clause as being useful in helping towards obtaining better conditions on the roads, and a better class of driver. The dangers on our roads are enormous. Seventeen persons on an average per day are either hurled into eternity at once or so injured that they die, and 200,000 people a year are injured by accidents. Anyone moving about the City of London to-day carries his life in his hands. A state of affairs which produces such a rate of mortality and so many accidents is one which we should bring to an end. This Clause will help in that direction. There are, I know, on the roads many competent, skilful and conscientious drivers, but there are also 'a large number who are neither conscientious nor skilful. Let me quote from a speech which was made by the late Minister of Transport in July of last year at a luncheon at Clacton-on-Sea, given to Sir Alan Cobham. The late Minister of Transport said: He had spent a good deal of time during the last few days travelling about the constituency visiting some of his own friends there, through the somewhat winding local roads. At holiday times he had noticed driving signals so badly made that it was impossible to understand them, and it became a great relief to arrive safely home. He went on to suggest remedies. He referred to the fact that on the railways strict tests are applied to all drivers. Then he continued: What I suggest is that you yourselves"— he was addressing an audience of motorists— should undergo a viva, voce examination on road signals. Take out your Highway Code to-night and ask your wife or your friend to examine you as to your knowledge of the proper signals in certain circumstances. If you cannot pass this examination in the calm of your own home, you have no right to be on the highway. That was a statement by the ex-Minister of Transport. His remedy is that on Sunday afternoons, after that substantial meal that is so dear to the bourgeoisie, your wife is to put you through a cross-examination as to your knowledge of road signals. We want something better than that. We want to aim at securing on the road drivers who will be competent and safe and will not make the Minister of Transport thankful to get home after driving about the country. I received from a friend the other day a cutting from a newspaper which described an incident in Manchester. I ask why this state of things should be allowed. At Manchester recently a man was sentenced to six months imprisonment for manslaughter. That man had 30 previous convictions for motoring offences, and his licence was not taken away. Whether that was because the judge thought that he had not the power to do so, I do not know, but that man, as far as my knowledge goes, when his term of imprisonment is at an end, can come out and resume his career of destruction on the roads. There are to-day driving on the roads men whose physical condition makes them incompetent. Let me refer to the case of a surveyor—I shall not mention his name—at Horncastle in Lincolnshire, who was charged with manslaughter and with driving a motor car to the public danger. He appeared in court wearing an ear instrument, and it was stated that he was stone deaf, whereupon a magistrate remarked, "Stone deaf and allowed to drive a motor car!" I have here also an extract from a letter to the "Times" written by Mr. Warner. In the course of that letter he says: I recently met during the course of my duties a 17 years old certified mental deficient who had already held three posts as driver of a commercial lorry. Then there are the cases of the colour-blind. In a recent question I called the attention of the Minister of Transport to the fact that a very large number of people are colour-blind and are unable to distinguish between the red and green traffic lights. I am not going to continue treating the House to a series of horrible examples, but I say that all this suggests that there is a very urgent need for stricter tests to be applied to people who use the roads; and it is because I think the new Clause will be a step in the direction of greater safety on the roads that I have much pleasure in supporting it.

6.35 p.m.


I would rather condole with my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading of this Clause on the enthusiasm of the hon. Gentleman who has supported him, because if anyone could have made entirely the case that I made for the resistance of the new Clause, it was my hon. Friend who supported it. He showed at once and throughout his speech that it was impossible to draw a distinction between the licence system for the goods vehicle and the licence system for motor drivers as a whole, and that was the exact point that I made when the Bill was in Com- mittee. I want to make it plain to the House that in asking them to reject this new Clause, which is confined to one particular section of motor transport and seems to do great injustice in raising the age limit for the driving of a light van to 21 years, I am not by any means shutting out the possibility in the near future of legislation which would go beyond this proposal in dealing with the whole problem.

As hon. Members are aware, we are to-day for the first time carrying out a careful analysis of the causes of fatal accidents. The interim period of six months was completed at the end of June, and I hope before long to publish some results of that period. I felt that no really valuable results could be obtained in a less period than a year. When that period is ended, at the end of this year, I shall examine the classification of these accidents, and I shall then for the first time be able to find out if any substantial proportion of the accident arises from the sort of mistakes on the part of drivers which can be corrected by making them pass a test before they are given a licence. The very worst example is the case quoted by the hon. Member a minute or two ago, of

a man who had 30 convictions against him. Obviously that man had been motoring for a long time and knew all that there was to be known about motoring, and he would have obtained a licence without any difficulty at all. The trouble with him was, not that he did not know what to do, but that he was constitutionally unable to do it.

Before we take a step which does mean a very considerable interference not only with the convenience, but with the livelihood of a certain number of people, it is worth while spending four or five months in seeing whether the facts justify what we do. I am sure the House would feel that if I were to accept this new Clause I would put them in a foolish position if, after I had done that, the result of the analysis was to show that in fact the accidents which arise from causes that could be prevented by a Clause of this kind, did not exist. I assure the House that I realise the possibility of something like this proposal, but on a wider scale, having to be done, but only after we have ascertained the facts and the necessity for doing it.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 38; Noes, 268.

Division No. 273.] AYES. [6.40 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Parkinson, John Allen
Banfield, John William Hirst, George Henry Rathbone, Eleanor
Batey, Joseph John, William Salter, Dr. Alfred
Buchanan, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Cape, Thomas Kirkwood, David Thorne, William James
Cove, William G. Lawson, John James Tinker, John Joseph
Cripps, Sir Stafford Leonard, William Wedgwood Rt. Hon. Josiah
Dagger, George Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Dobble, William Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Edwards, Charles McEntee, Valentine L.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur McGovern, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Mr. D. Graham and Mr. Groves.
Grundy, Thomas W. Mainwaring, William Henry
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Broadbent, Colonel John
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Brocklebank, C. E. R.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
Albery, Irving James Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Brown, Ernest (Leith)
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Browne, Captain A. C.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Bernays, Robert Buchan, John
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.
Aske, Sir Robert William Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Burnett, John George
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Blindell, James Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)
Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton) Boulton, W. W. Carver, Major William H.
Atholl, Duchess of Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tattoo Castlereagh, Viscount
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Boyce, H. Leslie Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Brass, Captain Sir William Christie, James Archibald
Balniel, Lord Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Clarke, Frank
Clarry, Reginald George Horobin, Ian M. Pike, Cecil F.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Horsbrugh, Florence Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Procter, Major Henry Adam
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hume, Sir George Hopwood Pybus, Percy John
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cook, Thomas A. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Copeland, Ida Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Rankin, Robert
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Rea, Walter Russell
Cowan, D. M. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Reid, David D. (County Down)
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Cranborne, Viscount Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Reid, William Allan (Oerby)
Craven-Ellis, William James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.
Croft. Brigadier-General Sir H. Jamieson, Douglas Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Crooke, J. Smedley Janner, Barnett Roberts, Aied (Wrexham)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Jesson, Major Thomas E. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Cross, R. H. Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Crossley, A. C. Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Runge, Norah Cecil
Dawson, Sir Philip Law, Sir Alfred Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Dickle, John P. Lees-Jones, John Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Leighton, Major B. E. P. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Doran, Edward Levy, Thomas Salmon, Sir Isidore
Drewe, Cedric Lewis, Oswald Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Duckworth, George A. V. Lindsay, Noel Ker Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Duggan, Hubert John Llewellin, Major John J. Scone, Lord
Eady, George H. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Selley, Harry R.
Eden, Robert Anthony Mebane, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Edge, Sir William MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Edmondson, Major A. J. McConnell, Sir Joseph Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. McKeag, William Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Waiter D.
Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey McKie, John Hamilton Smith, Sir J. Walker. (Barrow-In-F.)
Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Emrys-Evans, P. V. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Macmillan, Maurice Harold Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Macguisten, Frederick Alexander Smithers, Waldron
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Maitland, Adam Somervell, Donald Bradley
Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot Soper, Richard
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Mander, Geoffrey le M. Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Fraser, Captain Ian Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Marsden, Commander Arthur Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
Ganzonl, Sir John Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.) Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Gibson, Charles Granville Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Stevenson, James
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Storey, Samuel
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Strauss, Edward A.
Gledhill, Gilbert Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Gower, Sir Robert Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale. Stuart, Lord C. Crichton
Graves, Marjorie Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.) Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Grimston, R. V. Morrison, William Shepherd Summersby, Charles H.
Gritten, W. G. Howard Moss, Captain H. J. Tate, Mavis Constance
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Munro, Patrick Thompson, Luke
Gunston, Captain D. W. Nall, Sir Joseph Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Guy, J. C. Morrison Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Hales, Harold K. Nunn, William Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) O'Connor, Terence James Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Ormiston, Thomas Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Harbord, Arthur Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Harris, Sir Percy Palmer, Francis Noel Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Hartland, George A. Patrick, Colin M. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Pearson, William G. Wells, Sydney Richard
Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Penny, Sir George Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Peters, Dr. Sidney John Withers, Sir John James
Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Petherick, M.
Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston) Captain Austin Hudson and Mr. Womersley.
Holdsworth, Herbert Pickering, Ernest H.
Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge) Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada

Question put, and agreed to.