HC Deb 26 July 1934 vol 292 cc2140-5

(1) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to sell, or to supply, or to offer to sell or supply, a motor vehicle or trailer for delivery in such a condition that the use thereof on a road in that condition would be unlawful by virtue of the provisions of section three of the principal Act.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to alter a motor vehicle or trailer so as to render its condition such that the use thereof on a road in that condition would be unlawful by virtue of the provisions of the said section three.

(3) If a motor vehicle or trailer is sold, supplied, offered, or altered, in centravention of the provisions of this section, any person who so sells, supplies, offers, or alters it, or causes or permits it to he so sold, supplied, offered, or altered, shall be guilty of an offence.

(4) A person shall not be convicted for an offence under this section in respect of the sale, supply, offer, or alteration of a motor vehicle or trailer if he proves that it was sold, supplied, offered, or altered, as the case may be, for export from Great Britain, or that he had reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle or trailer would not he used on a road in Great Britain, or would not be so used until it had been put into a condition in which it might lawfully be so used.

2.42 a.m.


I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

A similar Clause was moved in Committee here and was resisted by my right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Labour on the grounds that he preferred to obtain the co-operation of the trade. The Minister took the view that by persuasion and understanding he could achieve his purpose. That view was strongly opposed in the Committee here and still more strongly opposed in another place. We do not propose to resist the Amendment, because it is quite logical and can do no harm In those circumstances, I ask the House to agree to it.

2.43 a.m.

Lieut. - Colonel MOORE-BRABAZON

This is indeed comic opera. I could well understand the Minister resisting this Amendment. It is true to say that it might be illogical to sell a vehicle in accordance with the regulations for a vehicle run on the road. But there are certain things that it is quite unnecessary that we should pass. A man may have a particular preference for his own old number plate. If he takes it off and sells the vehicle, apparently he will be liable under this Clause. When an owner takes charge of a vehicle, it is his duty and province to take care of it. It may not have a back reflector. Is it really just and right that the seller should be liable under the law rather than the man whose business it is to run the car? We have got the boot on the wrong leg here. It is a very poor case to say that it can do no harm. It is one of these new tiresome regulations. When an ordinary motorist starts to read this Bill, he will not know anything about the regulations.

2.44 a.m.


I do urge the Minister to say whether he cannot meet us on this matter. If any Amendment suggested by another place be more ludicrous than another, it must be this one. I almost feel inclined to express the opinion that we are not likely to get any concession on this matter, because the late Minister of Transport was against it and because in another Chamber the leader, acting for the Government, was also against it and only gave way in the face of possible defeat of the Government. There is a great disadvantage in this Debate, because there are questions which we are anxious to ask the Minister and which it seems to me that it is impossible for him to answer. If he were able to give an answer, I would ask him to give a frank open reply as to how this Clause originated. Did it not originate almost entirely on the question of noisy silencers? Reading through the reports of the Committee stage, or the report in the House of Lords, page after page can be seen devoted to the question of unnecessary noise created by motors in the street. It is acknowledged that, after a second-hand dealer has parted with a car with a perfectly efficient silencer, it can be altered on the road, and there is no proof as to the condition in which it left the dealers. On top of this Amendment, you are to have all these other things, and under this Amendment the condition of a car as it is sold in the second-hand market may be the subject of a charge brought against the person who actually sold it. I do suggest that this is the main Clause which has shown the justification for the action which we have taken to-night against the aggression of a Government able to impose its will by sheer force of numbers and weight against its own back benchers. We are putting the Minister to the crucial test on this Clause. Has he any power to give justice under this Clause? The Minister should stand up as a House of Commons man and defend our rights. This is a matter which he must know in his heart of hearts will inflict great harm which he cannot justify. I ask him to concede this point and to withdraw the Clause, and, if he cannot withdraw the Clause, to keep it confined to those points which were raised in the Committee upstairs and in another place and not impose a burden which may cripple the whole of the second-hand car trade in the country.

2.52 a.m.


I think that this is one of the most fantastic Clauses I have ever seen in any Bill. It cannot be defined better than by quoting the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in Committee upstairs when speaking on the Clause and dealing with the question of silencers. He said that when we were dealing with this kind of thing we could not deal with it on the principle of putting down a Clause with which we all agreed and let it work itself out. He had already said that he did not think they could make the Clause effective simply by finding an improper user of the car and then, if they thought it was in that condition when it left the works, summoning the manufacturer. The right hon. Gentleman did not think that the courts would ever convict. Later the right hon. Gentleman declared that if Parliament wanted to do it Parliament must put in the means by which it could operate. Is there any power for a police officer to search a works or a garage? That is a question which I hope the Minister will answer. Suppose that I sold a car to an hon. Member opposite and that car did not have a back mirror, I am to be prosecuted under this Clause, because regulations are laid down in the original Act that cars shall carry reflectors. If the brakes are not properly tested and the tyres are not in order, then I can be prosecuted under this ridiculous Clause.

What is going to happen? First of all, the Minister had absolutely no power to tell a police officer to inspect these vehicles and how he was to do it. This is not a Clause put in by the Government; it is a Clause that was put in partly by the Opposition upstairs and was resisted by the Ministry. Then it was proposed in another place and again resisted by the Government who, however, did not try and divide on it, and, after that, another bit was added to it, and now we are brought down here at this time of night to assent to a Clause which has already been resisted by the Government, and we are asked by the Government to give assent to a fantastic Clause which will probably stop all dealings in secondhand cars altogether.

2.56 a.m.


This Clause is a lunatic Clause. It does not concern the trade in the way it concerns other private persons selling a car to someone else. The person who sells a car to someone else may after an indefinite time find himself involved in a prosecution with no adequate means of defending himself. He may have forgotten a number of factors and when a prosecution takes place he may find himself in great difficulty to defend himself. I think it is a very incredible step for the Government to take.

2.57 a.m.

Sir G. FOX

May I ask whether there has been agreement with the motor car manufacturers on this point? I would like to know this definitely, for I have a large motor works in my constituency.

2.58 a.m.


While I am sympathetic towards insertions in the Clause which will prevent certain difficulties experienced in respect of silencers, yet it appears to me that it is very much more extensive than a Clause for the protection of the public or of the persons producing motor cars should be. It is not the case of a person not being prosecuted if he had reasonable grounds of belief that the car was not working, but it is specifically making a law whereby any individual must be prosecuted if he sells a car which is not in the condition in which it should be used, and he is then put upon his defence to prove that he did not have it in that condition. That is a very serious thing. It means that every person who is selling a motor car, particularly a second-hand one, is definitely liable to be prosecuted, particularly a person not conversant with the full regulations, and more particularly a person who does not understand the mechanical parts of a car. I think that some alteration should be made to this Clause, so that it should not be a serious offence. At present, it does not give a loophole to any person until after a conviction when he can appear before a court and state that he was honestly of opinion the car would not be used in that condition.

3.2 am.


It appears to me that the effect of this Clause is that everyone who has to sell a motor car will tell the purchaser that the car is good and that he Can drive it on the road, but under this "law you will have to give me a certificate that you will put it in condition to put it on the road. I am asking you to make out a certificate as if it were not in order; then the onus will he on you when it is on the road that it is in proper order." The public will be forced to 'adopt that means of nullifying the Clause we are asked to pass to-night.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 116; Noes, 26.

Division No. 362.] AYES. [3.3 a.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Bateman, A. L. Bower, Commander Robert Tatton
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Blindell, James Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Bossom, A. C. Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Boulton, W. W. Broadbent, Colonel John
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hallgers, Captain F. F. A. Petherick, M
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Power, Sir John Cecil
Browne, Captain A. C. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Pybus, Sir John
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Horsbrugh, Florence Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Howard, Tom Forrest Ray, Sir William
Conant, R. J. E. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Cooper, A. Duff James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Copeland, Ida Jamieson, Douglas Ropner, Colonel L.
Craven-Ellis, William Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Leckie, J. A. Runge, Norah Cecil
Dalkeith, Earl of Leech, Dr. J. W. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) Loder, Captain J. de Vere Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Loftus, Pierce C. Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)
Duggan, Hubert John Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Somervell, Sir Donald
Edge, Sir William Mabane, William Soper, Richard
Edmondson, Major Sir James MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Elmley, Viscount McCorguodale, M. S. Stones, James
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Strauss, Edward A.
Fleming, Edward Lascelles McKie, John Hamilton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Ford, Sir Patrick J. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Sutcliffe, Harold
Fraser, Captain Sir Ian Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Templeton, William P.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Goff, Sir Park Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univerlies) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald Wise, Alfred R.
Graves, Marjorie Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H Womersley, Sir Walter
Grimston, R. V. North, Edward T. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Orr Ewing, I. L.
Guy, J. C. Morrison Palmer, Francis Noel TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pearson, William G. Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Lambert Ward and Major George Davies.
Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Penny, Sir George
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Milner, Major James
Brass, Captain Sir William Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Janner, Barnett Parkinson, John Allen
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jenkins, Sir William Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Daggar, George Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lindsay, Noel Ker Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Dabble, William McEntee, Valentine L.
Edwards, Charles Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Mainwaring, William Henry Captain Strickland and Sir Gifford Fox.
Greene, William P. C Martin, Thomas B.

Question put, and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 11, line 1, agreed to.