HC Deb 28 June 1934 vol 291 cc1361-6

Sub-section (1) of section seventeen of the principal Act (which relates to requirements as to employment of drivers and attendants) shall apply to heavy motor cars as it applies to heavy locomotives and light locomotives, and the provisions of the said section shall have effect accordingly.—[Mr. Dobbie.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

6.14 p.m.


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

I hope that after consideration of the Clause the Minister will accept it. Subsection (1) of Section 17 of the principal Act which deals with requirements as to employment of drivers and attendants, says: In the case of heavy locomotives and light locomotives, two persons shall be employed in driving or attending the locomotive whilst being driven on any highway. Then it goes on to make provision for further attendance when trailers are being drawn. Section 2 of the principal Act says: Heavy motor cars; that is to say, mechanically-propelled vehicles (not being vehicles classified under this section as motor cars) which are constructed themselves to carry a load or passengers, and the weight of which unladen exceeds two tons and a-half. I ask the Minister of Transport to realise that we are not asking for two drivers but for two men, the second man to be in the vehicle in the role of attendant. The reason why we are putting forward this proposal is that there is additional necessary work in connection with these vehicles to warrant the attendance of a second man. First of all there is the load to be protected in transit, and vehicles of two and a-half tons carry a pretty substantial load. At the moment the responsibility for its safety lies with the driver. We are of the opinion that this is an unfair imposition on the driver. Then there is the necessity for a look-out. We think a second man is necessary as a, look-out in the interests of safety, and for loading and unloading the vehicle as necessity arises. In regard to safety, we are as much concerned with the lives and safety of the people on the road as with those engaged in driving vehicles, and remembering the number of accidents which occur, safety demands that this additional safeguard should be provided.

In 1928 there were 1,164 people killed on the roads by accidents caused by commercial vehicles. Five years later, in 1933, the number of persons killed was 1,438, an increase of 23½ per cent. The number of persons injured in 1928 was 17,458, compared with 28,950 in 1933, an increase of over 65 per cent. This is a, very serious state of affairs. I felt inclined to compare the number of fatal accidents on the road with the fatal accidents on the railways, but I was reminded that it was hardly an analogous case, because people are not allowed to walk on the railways without being liable to be prosecuted and punished, although it would appear that people are being punished very severely for walking on the road because of the lack of care taken in driving motor vehicles. We sincerely believe that the presence of a second man will have a material effect in lessening the number of accidents and deaths on our roads, and that is the strongest appeal we can make. The Minister is as anxious as anyone to do anything to lessen the terrible toll of the roads.

Heavy and light locomotives are compelled to carry a second man. They are slow-running vehicles; they run at the rate of three miles an hour, often do not carry any load in addition to their own weight, and they certainly never run at more than eight miles an hour. Our contention is that fast-moving vehicles, considerably faster than these locomotives, which in almost every instance carry a load should, in the interests of safety, be compelled to carry a second man. The request we make is both logical and reasonable. This matter has been considered on many occasions by a number of organisations. The Trades Union Congress, which, I believe, reflects the considered judgment of the organised workers of this country, has on more than one occasion, when representatives of all the organisations catering for road transport have been in attendance, passed resolutions unanimously in favour of the principle embodied in the proposed new Clause.


Are we to understand that the General Transport Workers' Union are in favour of the Clause?


When I spoke of resolutions being passed on more than one occasion—


Would the hon. Member answer the question?


Yes, but I want to understand the implications of the question. At these conferences there were representatives of the General Transport Workers' Union, the National Union of Railwaymen, and other unions catering for transport workers—I can give the Minister the dates of the conferences—and the resolution was passed unanimously. In Bristol and Liverpool certain organisations have come to an agreement with the owners on the lines laid down in this Clause. We want a condition of affairs in regard to road transport in which the good employer shall not be in any worse position than the bad employer. The organisation to which I belong has many thousands of these men as members, and we have had this demand from men in all parts of the country. More than one conference has been held at which only men employed as drivers or attendants were present, and from all these conferences there has come an urgent, insistent and unanimous demand asking the organisation to proceed in their endeavour to get a second man in attendance on these vehicles.

These are the reasons why we ask the House to agree to the Clause. The organisation to which I belong has had some communications with the Minister on the matter. As lately as last year he was in communication with it, and I feel that he is bound to support the proposal, taking into consideration the nature of the reply which he sent to us. He said that a proposal of this kind could only be considered in connection with any general legislation. I submit that this is the time to deal with the matter, and I hope that the Minister of Transport, in accordance with the hope which he inspired in our organisation by his communication, will agree that the time has arrived to embody a proposal of this kind in the Bill, and thus give effect to what they looked upon as a promise.


I beg to second the Motion.

6.24 p.m.


The hon. Member, for some reason best known to himself, supposes that my hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is in favour of the proposed new Clause. If he had read a report of the proceedings of the Committee upstairs he would realise that this Amendment was proposed by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and was not accepted. The hon. Member has rather exaggerated the necessity for the new Clause. Under Section 17 of the Act of 1930 when a trailer is drawn by a heavy motor car, an attendant is required in addition to the two persons on the locomotive, but we can see no grounds for requiring two persons in the case of these vehicles. It is obvious that a trailer is in a different position when drawn by a locomotive; it is necessary to have a look-out for purposes of public safety. In the case described by the hon. Member the attendant really could not be of any great help to the driver. He would not help him to drive and, therefore, it is not in the public interest to have this additional attendant. We cannot accept the Clause, as it would be an unnecessary addition to the cost of labour.

6.26 p.m.


My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) did not refer to the refusal of the Minister of Transport to accept this Amendment in Committee, probably because he was hoping to witness repentance on his part this afternoon. I am surprised that the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend have not carried more weight with the Minister of Transport. The Clause asks that two people shall be employed on goods vehicles which are sometimes large and unwieldy, and which require the full strength of the individual who is in charge. There are occasions on which the driver would require assistance. There are also occasions when the second man might be able to relieve the driver.


The hon. Member who moved the Clause pointed out that nothing in it enables the second man to drive the car; he is only to be in attendance.


The same argument was used in Committee upstairs. It may be that the second man need not be able to drive the car, but it would be very useful if he could and, certainly, my hon. Friend would not object to a second driver being on a vehicle of this kind. To get the full advantage out of this proposal it would be necessary to have a second man who was a competent driver and capable of relieving his colleague at the wheel. If the objection to this proposal is on the ground of expense then the Minister ought to say so. If there are technical objections, if it can be shown that the efficient driving of the vehicle would be jeopardised by the presence of an additional man, then we would be prepared to consider such objections but as these vehicles are growing larger and larger as time goes on, we think that an Amendment of this kind ought not to be rejected without substantial reasons.

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