HC Deb 11 April 1935 vol 300 cc1312-4
15. Mr. WEST

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the inquest at Chertsey where the jury decided that the killing of one cyclist and the serious injury of another was caused by the negligent driving of a motorist; and whether he can explain why no action has been taken by the police against the motorist concerned?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Gilmour)

The hon. Member no doubt refers to the case of James Bispham. I have obtained a report from the chief constable of Surrey from which it appears that at the inquest into this death, which was held at Windsor, the coroner's jury returned a verdict of "accidental death" and added a rider that the driver of the motor car involved was guilty of negligence, not however amounting to criminal negligence. The chief constable informs me that this accident was not witnessed by the police, but the chief constable has carefully considered all the circumstances and has come to the conclusion that the available evidence is not sufficiently strong to justify the police in instituting criminal proceedings against the driver of the car concerned. The question whether or not the circumstances of a particular case are such as to justify police proceedings is one for the responsible chief officer of police to decide.


Does not the Minister consider that in all cases where there is evidence of negligent driving resulting in the death of some person on the road a prosecution ought to be instituted by the police?


Of course, it is easy to express a general opinion if each case is not to be dealt with individually. As I have said, this case was considered.

26. Mr. LUNN

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that 238,946 persons were killed or injured on our roads in 1934; and whether he will take steps to ensure that more severe penalties shall be inflicted on all those convicted of driving to the danger of the public or in charge of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor?


I am, of course, aware of the total to which the hon. Member refers, but it must not be inferred that all the deaths and injuries on the roads were attributable to persons driving motor vehicles dangerously or when under the influence of intoxicating liquor. As regards the second part of the question, the law provides substantial penalties for the offences in question, and it is for the court to decide what is the appropriate penalty to impose having regard to the circumstances of the individual case.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary to take more drastic powers to deal with these offenders, on account of the ghastly slaughter which is taking place on our roads?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a number of cases recently people have been killed by motorists who have been convicted of driving dangerously or under the influence of drink, and the penalties have been fines of two guineas, suspension of the licence for six months, and so on?


Will the Home Secretary make an investigation, through the insurance companies, with regard to accident-prone drivers? There are only about 10 or 15 per cent of them.

49. Mr. LUNN

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that of the total of 238,946 persons killed or injured on the roads in 1934 65,629 were concerning private cars and 8,615 public service vehicles; and whether there are any means which can be instituted by him to see that drivers of private cars shall be not less careful than drivers of public service vehicles?

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Hore-Belisha)

While it is true that there was one accident for every 20 private cars as compared with one for every five public service vehicles, it must be borne in mind that a true comparison would necessitate an estimate of the accident incidence per car mile and that there are other considerations which have to be taken into account. The standard of driving of public service vehicles has progressively improved as a result of the special test which drivers of these vehicles have to undergo, and I am hopeful that a similar result will ultimately follow from the imposition of the driving tests for drivers of all motor vehicles. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that driving is an art in which those who engage should, in the interest of their own and of the public safety, take the greatest pains to make themselves proficient.


Am I to take it that the hon. Gentleman does not dispute the fact that there is a higher standard of efficiency, and that greater care is taken by drivers of public service vehicles than is taken by drivers of private cars?


Has the hon. Gentleman taken into account, in arriving at these ratios, the increased mileage of the public service vehicle, and, if he has taken that fact into account, does it not show from the figures published that service drivers are much more careful than private drivers?


I have stated the considerations which should be borne in mind, and I do not think that I can say anything further than that.