HC Deb 24 May 1935 vol 302 cc703-39

1.54 p.m.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT:(Mr. Hore-Belisha)

I beg to move, That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under Sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved. Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in Sub-section (1), directs the Minister of Transport to prepare a code comprising such directions as appear to him to be proper for the guidance of persons using roads, and enables him from time to time to revise that code. Sub-section (2) requires that the code itself shall be approved by Parliament; and Sub section (3) directs that it shall be printed and issued to the public at a price not exceeding one penny. Sub-section (4) of Section 45 gives the Code its legal sanction when it lays down that a failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of the highway code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind, but that any such failure may in any proceedings, whether civil or criminal, be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or to negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings. That is the statutory basis of the Motion which I now move.

The original Highway Code was first published in April, 1931, and was a carefully compiled document which commended itself to Parliament at that date. Since then it has been possible to gain much experience. New laws have been passed and new regulations have been promulgated, and we have sought to profit by them. There has become apparant the need for a new and up-to-date Code. Since 1931 the Minister of Transport has been provided with a Transport Advisory Council, upon which all sections of trans port industry are represented, and I accordingly invited this Council under the Chairmanship of Lord Goschen to review the old code. Every road using interest was invited to submit its suggestions, which were carefully collated and examined. The detailed work was done by a sub-committee under Sir Arthur Griffith Boscawen, to whom I would like to express on behalf of the Ministry, and, I hope, on behalf of the public, our extreme indebtedness for the painstaking, thorough-going, and, I trust, successful manner in which he has discharged that duty.

As to the Code and its publication, it is printed for Parliamentary purposes in a white cover, but it will, in fact be in a blue cover when distributed. The Code itself stresses, as regards vehicles, the need for silence to which people have come to attach a good deal of importance in our modern civilisation, and the necessity for paying attention to brakes and tyres. If everyone gave regular attention to his brakes, on which, after all, he depends in an emergency, it would not be necessary for the police to deal with about 20,000 cases in a year. As regards the road user, stress is laid upon the necessity for caution, and in paragraph (4), which is a new paragraph, he is asked to be sure that his alertness is not impaired by alcohol or other cause. I desire to direct the attention of the House to certain new provisions, and I would here mention that all the paragraphs have been numbered for convenience. Paragraph (25) gives precedence to the major road. The requirement is that unless you have a clear view of the major road in both directions, stop just before entering the carriageway of the major road. Much argument has been used in favour of such a rule, and I am sure that the House will wish to concur in its adoption. This will necessitate the approval of a new sign which is a modification of the old slow sign. The new sign is to be found on page 23: Halt at major road ahead. Considering that about 20 per cent. of all the fatal accidents happen at cross-roads, the requirement to stop before entering a major road should tend towards a reduction of one of the principal dangers. The other provision to which I would desire to call particular attention is No. 90, which is an improvement on the "Keep to the Left" rule for pedestrians, and which reads: On a pavement or footpath do not walk alongside the kerb in the same direction as the nearer stream of traffic. That is valid on all roads, including one-way streets, in a manner in which the?Keep to the Left? rule is not valid, and I hope that it will also be considered an improvement on the present position, contributing towards safety. The whole of the Code itself has been rewritten in more succinct form and there are many new provisions in it, to some of the principal of which I have called attention in referring to particular paragraphs. I do not think that the House would require me to read all the new provisions because they are numerous. In the Appendix we have made one change, which is to be found on page 18, in the No. 4 signal: I am going to turn to my left.

Extend the right arm and rotate it from the shoulder in an anti-clockwise direction. The signal for turning to the left in the old Code was the same as the signal for slowing down or stopping, and I think that the alteration meets with the approval of most motorists who, despite the old Highway Code, actually use the signal which is now approved in this Code. We have added supplementary notes which were not in the old Code, and indeed do not form part of the Code at all. They direct attention to some certain legal requirements, to the sequence and interpretation of traffic lights, and to the chief road signs. That is the document.

In the old Code there were advertisements, and it is indeed the practice now to include advertisements in Government publications, but many representations have been made to me that it would detract from the judicial character of a document intended to guide all road users if advertisements were included. I approached my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has agreed that in this particular case it would perhaps be advisable to exclude advertisements, and I imagine that that will meet with the approval of the House. The old Code, excellent as it was, never obtained a large circulation. In the whole of the period since its first publication only 5,000,000 copies have been emitted. As this Code is intended to guide all road users, it is obviously a public advantage that they should all possess a copy of it, and accordingly, with the co-operation of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, who is always ready to assist in these matters, we propose to deliver a copy free of charge to every householder in the country.

I observe that while the Code itself appears to be generally approved some of my hon. Friends are perplexed that I should have left a blank page, at the top of which is written "Foreword by the Minister of Transport." When I was at Oxford I remember a publication of the?Isis? which appeared and at the top was the headline?What Oxford is thinking?—and nothing else appeared on the page. In this case there is no intention of being facetious. Indeed, the intention is to pay a compliment to Parliament by leaving the page blank in order to incorporate any suggestions which may be made in the course of the Debate. I can assure the House, that nothing will be added to the Code itself in my foreword; it will merely call attention to what the Code is and make an appeal to the public to observe its provisions. I hope the House will be content with that assurance, particularly if I asseverate that there is no sinister intention. Numerous suggestions have been made as to the matter to be put on this page, but I want the Code to go out to the public with the feeling that Parliament and the nation are united in a, determination to secure greater care, courtesy and method in the use of the roads. I do not want any atmosphere of controversy in regard to the object which we all have at heart, and I can give the House my assurance that I will endeavour to interpret their wishes in my foreword.

The foreword is not part of the Code itself and has no legal or parliamentary authority. It will be merely an appeal. If the public observe the provisions of the Code I have no doubt that we shall be able to obtain a reduction in the number of road accidents. The measures which we have taken, coupled with the growing traffic consciousness of the community, have produced very good results. As the House is aware there has been a considerable reduction in road accidents, fatal and otherwise, during the current year, despite the phenomenal increase in the number of motor cars on the roads. In London, where the safety measures have been more particularly applied, the reduction in fatalities in the last nine weeks has been no less than 30 per cent., and in injuries 15 per cent.; and this at a time when there has been an increase in the number of motor vehicles licensed of 12 per cent. The Code is another effort to con tribute to public safety. It embodies suggestions made from every quarter. It may be defective in certain particulars, but I know that hon. Members will not hesitate to call attention to such opinions as they hold in order that in any subsequent revision we may embody in the Code the best wisdom we can obtain.


On a point of Order. I want to ask in respect of the presumed legality of the note on the cover whether one may ask the Minister of Transport whether the Law Officers of the Crown have assured him that this is not a statutory enactment—

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

That is no point of Order.


On a point of Order. The Minister during the course of his remarks said that he does not propose to put anything in the foreword—


That is not a point of order; it is a matter for debate. Hon. Members will have an opportunity of raising these points in the course of the debate.

2.12 p.m.


Every one will be delighted with the statement of the Minister regarding the number of accidents. We are now reaping the fruits of the labours of the Minister of Transport during the time he has been at the Ministry. I feel sure that the Highway Code has never been understood by motorists and cyclists and pedestrians as it should be, and I welcome the statement that the Minister intends to send a copy to every home in Great Britain. There are many points in it which should be brought home quite definitely to the people. For instance, there is No. 4: Before using the road be sure that your alertness or sense of caution is not affected by alcohol or fatigue. I am not going to emphasise the question of alcohol, but I believe that fatigue is the cause of many accidents, and now that it is being stressed I think that drivers and employers will pay more attention to the question of the physical and mental condition of the people in their charge. In No. 14 it says: Do not drive in a spirit of competition with other road users. These are two main causes of accidents, and I am delighted that the Minister is paying particular attention to them. There may be some things in the code which are open to criticism but taken as a set of instructions and advice they will be very acceptable. There is one thing which is prolific of a large number of accidents, and that is the motor cyclist. I think that sometimes motor cyclists rather abuse the speed at which they can use their machines; they seem to become intoxicated with the speed they are going and do not pay strict attention to where they are going or what they are doing. You cannot be certain of the movements of pedestrians. Some times they hesitate and sometimes plunge along and become involved in accidents. I am not blaming either the pedestrians or the cyclists, but I want to bring them together, if possible, in an atmosphere of common sense in the use of the roads. The use of the road will certainly become a more involved procedure than it is to-day. The number of motor vehicles is going to in crease. It is already increasing, and it is absolutely necessary that everybody using the roads, and that even the pedestrians who are using the side walks, ought to be acquainted with the Code. There is another point in connection with cyclists. It is contained in paragraph 66 which says: Ride in single file whenever road or traffic conditions require it. I think that that is another suggestion which will be accepted by cyclists. We see breaches of the Highway Code probably every time we go out. Some, of course, are done quite innocently; others with the idea of doing something which a friend or a neighbour could not do.

Taking the Highway Code as a whole, I think it is a great improvement on the last one, and will be welcomed throughout the country. I believe that when every house in the country gets a copy of the Code it will at least create an impression in the country that Parliament, the Minister and the people do want more care taken on the roads and many of the dangers removed, and people will become acquainted with the dangers in a way which they have not taken the trouble to consider. When the Minister puts in the foreword —probably he does not yet know what he will put in —if any particular point can be stressed to bring the necessity of greater caution to every user of the road and every pedestrian, I sincerely hope he will stress it, because the great number of accidents on the roads must be reduced by one means or another. I am sure that the House will in no sense blame the Minister for the number of accidents. I believe that since his appointment he has done all that is humanly possible in order to bring safety upon the roads, and I am sure that the House accepts every step he has taken as an effort in the direction of reducing the number of accidents, of bringing greater safety to our people and making them feel more assured when on the roads. I also feel sure that there will be no severe criticism of the Highway Code. From our point of view, we accept it as a step in the right direction, and another effort of the Minister and his Department to bring that safety to our people to which they really are entitled.

2.18 p.m.


I should like to join with my hon. Friend in congratulating the Minister, and repeat what he has said, that we are quite convinced the Minister is most anxious to do everything he possibly can to reduce the number of accidents on the roads. I feel that every effort he makes is directed to that end, and I am very glad he told us that there would be no advertisements in the Code itself. I congratulate him on the success he has had with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think an official document of this kind is very much better, and looks far less cheap, if it has no advertisements in it. I am also glad to think that the cover is to be blue instead of white. Again, I agree with the remarks which have been made by my hon. Friend below me. I think that the advice in this Code is very excellent advice. Taking it all round, I think it is a considerable advance on the advice which is given in the old Code, and I am very glad to think that there are two particular signs mentioned. One was referred to by the Minister himself, namely, the sign when the driver wishes to turn to the left. There is no doubt a great deal of confusion existed under the old Code, because the sign was different from that in the Safety First publication, which is more or less the same sign in the new Code. I pointed that out some time ago.

I am also glad that the Minister is going to put a sign?Halt at major road ahead.? I think it is a great improvement, which will save a large number of accidents. I do not want to blow my own trumpet, but it was in 1924 that I first raised this question of trying to have the main road marked, and I am pleased to think that that is going to be done. So far as the fore word is concerned, I think that the explanation of the Minister is a satisfactory one. I have read the foreword note of introduction in the old Code, and I must say that I hope the foreword by our new Minister will be more illuminating than the introductory note in the old Code, because that merely reiterated a certain portion of what appears in the new Code itself as to the legality of the Code. I hope that the Minister will make it a little more instructive than the old one.

If I am critical of certain sections of the Code, I want the House to realise that it is purely constructive criticism I am making. I am not trying to be destructive in any way, but I do feel that there are in the new Code certain omissions of things which I would have liked to have seen in. The first one is in connection with the blowing of horns. On page 7 of the new Code these words appear: Horns and Noise. —Make as little noise as you can. Do not sound your horn unnecessarily. We do not want to sound horns unnecessarily, and we do not want to make unnecessary noise, but that is a very different thing from what appears in the old Code. On pages 8 and 9 of the old Code these words appear: Remember that your horn is intended to be used as a warning …. Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake. My own view is that the advice which appears in the old Code is very much better than the advice which appears in the new Code. I think that one of the great dangers on the road at the present time is the general idea that you have got to drive along as quietly as possible without giving any sign of warning to anybody, which results, I am convinced, in a large number of accidents. I have driven a good deal on the Continent, and I think that there people do use horns a great deal too much. At the same time, there is no doubt that the number of accidents on the Continent is far lower than in this country, and I attribute it, to a large extent, to the fact that people on the Continent when going round a corner, or about to overtake another car, always blow the horn. I think it very much better in this Code to insert the words in the old Code which said: Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake". I do not know whether it can be altered —I suppose it cannot—but I think it frightfully important—and I speak with a good deal of experience of driving—to use the horn, not to force one's way through anything, but as a warning when about to overtake another vehicle, or when there is any chance of somebody stepping out from the pavement. That is one of the criticisms I have to make, and it is purely constructive criticism of the Code itself. The second criticism I would like to make is this. On page 10 of the old Code, these words appear: To motor cyclists. This is a very important matter, because the number of accidents relative to the figures of motor cyclists in the country is very high indeed. I think it is a mistake not to give a special word of warning and special advice to motor cyclists as apart from the general drivers of motor vehicles. In the old Code there was advice to motor cyclists separate from the advice to the ordinary motor vehicle driver. This is what appeared in the old Code: The small space you occupy, your capacity for high speed and your reluctance to stop dead may tempt you to?cut in 'by threading your way between other vehicles. This is a frequent source of accident. These words also appear in the old Code. Make no attempt to gain a forward position in a traffic block by means of the narrow spaces between stationary vehicles. They may start suddenly, and you will impede them and endanger yourself. That is very good advice indeed to the motor cyclist. It is a very common practice for motor cyclists to come up on both sides of motor vehicles, especially at the lights, and make their way through. They are a great danger and are apt to?cut in.? I should have liked to have seen the motor cyclist treated separately in the code from the drivers of ordinary motor vehicles. Taking the Code as a whole, I am afraid I must be a little critical of it as it is produced. In the old Code I find a lot of the important points are brought out in heavier type or in capitals. On page 4 of the new Code we should have brought out in capitals or in heavier type the words never accelerate when being overtaken. That is a very common thing. Then there are the words, Never overtake on a blind corner or bridge or when approaching the brow of a steep hill. Those things should be brought out in heavier type, as in the old Code. They would then appeal more to the people who will read the Code. That is my criticism of the way in which the Code is printed. There is another suggestion I wish to make to the Minister. In the old Code, when there was a reference to any regulations or to any law, the reference was put underneath the particular part referred to. For instance, on page 7 of this Code we see at the top, Make as little noise as you can. That is No. 51 and there is an asterisk against it. Then in No. 53 we find: Give regular attention to your brakes and see that they are always efficient. Then in 54: Always maintain your tyres in a safe condition. On the page on which these paragraphs appear there is a footnote?See notes, page 27.? In the old Code it was not done in that way. In this new Code you have to refer from page 7 to page 27 to see what it all means, to see what the legal position is. That is not very satisfactory. On page 9, of the old Code, we find this: Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake. Almost immediately underneath that there appears these words: It is an offence under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to sound a horn when the vehicle is stationary, except when necessary on grounds of safety. That gives an indication of the legal position with regard to horns. It would have been better to have put in that statement close to the regulations, instead of in a footnote referring to a later page in the Code itself. I would make one more suggestion. Having read through this Code very carefully I have come to the conclusion that it would be better if split into two, the advice to pedestrians and cyclists brought together in one Code which could be circulated all over the country to 15,000,000 people, and the other containing the advice to the drivers of motor vehicles and motor cyclists, which could be sent out with the licences to the 2,000,000 odd drivers in the country. The advice to pedestrians should be circulated in much larger quantities, and that advice I would alter slightly. If any one in a household, an ordinary person who does not drive a car, receives a booklet like this and sees on the cover,?Highway Code,? and then sees all sorts of drawings of cross roads, and slowing up, what a policeman does and the way to pass and overtake, it is quite likely that he will say, "This has nothing to do with me; it has to do with the driving of a motor vehicle or a motor cycle."

It would be better to have?Advice to pedestrians and cyclists? in large letters on the outside of the Code that is to be circulated in large quantities throughout the country, and to have the Highway Code as it is circulated to drivers of motor vehicles. I do not think it is possible to split up the Code now because it is already printed, but I make that suggestion for the future. I suggest, further, that the Code should be illustrated on the screen at the cinemas of the large cities. Potential accidents might be reproduced on the screen. In every school the Code should be taught.


The Government cinemas?


You could have Government cinemas in the schools if you like. There is no reason why it should not be circulated in the cinemas, and I an sure that the owners of the cinemas would only be too pleased to accept it. My last point is, perhaps, a novel one. I suggest that the police on duty on the roads should be supplied with large numbers of copies of the code and that they should also have, as they had during Jubilee week, loudspeakers. When they get to points on the road where they find drivers are driving badly, they should stop the offending drivers by means of the loud speakers, tell them what they are doing wrong and present them with copies of the code, pointing out the particular respects in which they have been infringing it. I think that would be more useful than a great deal of this silly prosecution of motorists for travelling at 33 miles an hour instead of 30 miles an hour. I believe it would do a great deal more to educate drivers than the police trapping which is taking place at the present time. That is the advice which I would give to the Minister. Obviously, he cannot take it all, and I can only assure him that it is tendered in a friendly spirit.

2.36 p.m.


Like my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, I rise to speak on this matter in no hostile spirit and the few remarks which I intend to make will, I hope, be of a constructive nature. I think the Minister has done a very good work in producing this Highway Code, most of which is extremely valuable. First I would like to ask him why there is no reference in this Code to anything in the nature of signs painted on the road way. We all know the white lines on the roadway and the inscriptions calling on drivers to stop or slow down. If their is no mention of these things in the Code, it may convey to some people the idea that they are of no importance and perhaps when the Parliamentary-Secretary is replying he will give us some information on that point. I join with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) in congratulating the Minister on having for the first time included a?Stop? notice to traffic coming from minor into major roads. I feel certain that will result in a, considerable reduction in the number of accidents. There is no greater source of danger than sudden emergence from side roads particularly in the case of cyclists. They come tearing into main roads very often without looking.




Has the hon. Member any proof in support of his general statement?


I am not attacking cyclists as a whole, but any body who drives a car must know that they frequently offend in that respect. I myself have often seen cyclists coming out of a side road at great speed and sweeping across the main road without giving anybody a chance. If they had to stop as well as the motorists—and I am emphasising the case of the motorists as well—it would be a very effective method of preventing many of the accidents which at present occur at these road junctions. On the question of noise, I quite agree that we must not give the impression to the motorist that never in any circumstances should he sound his horn. I know myself how often accidents can be prevented if a motorist when approaching a corner round which he can not see sounds his horn. It does not mean that he expects everything to get out of his way, but it gives a warning that be is coming, and, if there is any body on the other side who is not taking proper care, it gives that party a chance to take precautions and so avoids accidents. But it is not desirable that any body should feel, on account of anything in these regulations, that motorists are not to sound their horns when coming to corners.

It is an offence under the Code—page 27—not to have properly silenced engines, and I hope the Minister will see that that regulation is enforced. We all know the type of motor car, very often a small car, sometimes a high-speed sports car, which tears along the roads causing great disturbance to the slumbers of hard-working people. We all know the horrible noise of engines with no cut-outs. Another regulation is that people are not to accelerate their engines in a noisy and offensive fashion. Again, we all know how people coming out of a cinema or a theatre on a winter night and finding the engine cold start racing the engine in the street, causing a great deal of disturbance. That is an abomination which I hope the Minister will stop. People at any rate ought not to start their engines in such a way as to wake up a whole neighbourhood.

I am glad to see that pedestrian crossings are referred to in the Code, and I take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with that question. I was one of those who always recognised, with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe, the importance of these crossings. If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to say so, he has really been responsible for introducing a good many excellent road regulations during the time that he has been in the House by persuading various Ministers to adopt his suggestions. I think these crossings are a great advantage to people who are walking about the streets. I am not going to say that I admire the beacons, and I dare say there are rather too many of them, but at the same time, for ordinary people walking about London, these crossings have been most valuable. I hope, therefore, the Minister will not be put off them, but that he will continue to encourage their use, perhaps in some modified form. If we are to get rid of accidents such as we suffer from on the roads at present, it will have to be put into the minds of everybody that they are road-users primarily and not motorists or cyclists or pedestrians. If we all realise that, if we realise that we have duties to everybody else on the roads, if we are not selfish we shall do more to abolish accidents than could be done in any other way. I hope the Minister will continue in his efforts to get road sense into everybody using the road, whether walking or riding a bicycle or driving a motor car. A drunken pedestrian rolling off the footway can be just as much a cause of danger in his own limited sphere As a drunken man at the wheel of a car and in the same way the cyclist who wobbles may be just as much a danger as the careless motorist. But, as I say, if we all try to remember that we are, first of all, road-users I am certain that we can bring about a great reduction in the number of accidents. I welcome these regulations.

2.34 p.m.


When I heard that a new Highway Code was being introduced I felt apprehensive. I feared the Minister might have given way to the clamorous demands of certain people in this House that cyclists should be compelled, for example, to use cycle tracks in this country. I am glad that the Minister has resisted that demand, especially in view of the fact that less than one per cent. of our roads are equipped with such tracks. I am also glad that the Minister has not done what at one time was threatened and made compulsory the use of rear lights for cyclists. All experience has shown that the provision of such rear lights has no effect on the reduction of accidents.

At the same time, there are one or two slight criticisms which I would offer. I cannot understand the remark of the last speaker about cyclists being especially responsible for danger by coming out of side roads. A famous motorist recently described coming from Birmingham to London, 120 miles, in two hours. Supposing that statement to be accurate, he must have travelled at 70 to 80 miles an hour on stretches of the road slowing down to 50 miles an hour at cross roads. That high-powered car coming at that speed, round turnings and across cross-roads, must have been enormously more dangerous than the frail cyclist spoken of by the hon. Member opposite. There are some cyclists who do stupid things, who come out of side roads in a foolish manner, but the very fact that they are such a danger to themselves is a safe guard against those stupidities which do not exist in the case of the motorist. The motorist who comes out of a side road in that fashion may be immune from injury, such as the cyclist is liable to suffer. In such a case the cyclist may hurt himself but the motorist may escape. Now I come to a criticism of the Code itself. Regulation 56 says: Always keep a good look-out, especially when riding with dropped handlebars. That regulation applies to cyclists. I have ridden a good deal with dropped handlebars. Is it the implication that those who ride with dropped handlebars keep their eyes on the wheel, or is it suggested that they do not keep as good a look-out as cyclists with other types of handlebars? The average cyclist who rides with dropped handlebars goes at a greater speed than the other cyclists, and consequently keeps a better look-out. Is it meant by Regulation 56 that these particular cyclists do not keep a good look out? Surely not. Commonsense would suggest stopping at the word?look-out.? Let the advice be: Always keep a good look-out. What more is needed? Why put in the qualification: especially when ruling with dropped handlebars. Why not leave out that phrase? The limitation does not strengthen the regulation but seems to say that if you have not dropped handlebars you need not keep a good lookout. To tell cyclists to keep a good look-out always is good advice. Let the advice stop at that. Regulation 67 says: Keep a straight course and do not wobble about the road. There are some cyclists who wobble. I do not know about wobbling about the road. Some motorists picture cyclists as going from this side of the road to that side and crossing and recrossing to their heart's content. That is a fanciful, exaggerated picture, and it is one which we never really see. If any cyclist does wobble about the road in that way, he is not going to wobble about very far before he lands himself into the hospital. The same logic applies to the advice in regulation 67 as in regulation 56. It is true to say that the average cyclist can not keep as perfectly straight a line as the motorist, but why should the advice not be: ?Keep a straight course.? If they keep a straight course, they will not wobble about. Why add the words: and do not wobble about the road. If you keep a straight course you are not wobbling. It seems to me that the language is rather wobbly. Why not make the English better, the regulations simpler and leave out ambiguous words by simply saying: ?Keep a straight course.? and stop at that? I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) in wanting to have the Highway Code book issued separately for pedestrians and motorists. It is a good thing that it should go out to all classes. It is well for pedestrians and cyclists to know that not only are they being given good advice but that motorists are being given good advice. We must not divide motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Motorists at times are pedestrians, cyclists are pedestrians, many pedestrians are cyclists, many cyclists are motorists any many motorists are cyclists. Millions of people come into the three categories. It is therefore a good thing for cyclists and pedestrians to know that the Minister of Transport is telling motorists to look out what they are doing. I am very glad that the Minister has inserted Regulation No. 4: Before using the road be sure that your alertness or sense of caution is not affected by alcohol or fatigue. That advice is addressed to all users of the road, and it is one of the most important of the regulations. I am certain that a great number of drivers of commercial lorries are involved in accidents because of their fatigue, due to long stretches of driving. None of us really understand the large proportion of accidents on the roads that are due to alertness having been dimmed by the use of alcohol. I should say that 10 per cent. of our fatalities on the roads are mainly due, I do not say to drunkenness but to some slight diminution of alertness by even a slight extra dose of alcohol. It is a first-class thing that the Minister should have had the courage to put this regulation into the new Highway Code.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the new Code, and I hope that not only will it be sent out to 15,000,000 homes but that some means will be devised—and they will have to be extraordinary means—to make the people read and understand the Code. It is one thing sending out the Code but it is another thing to get people to read it. Those of us who send out political leaflets know how difficult it is to get people to read them. If you send out 40,000 leaflets—jolly good ones, as I do, and as I expect my opponent does—it is not easy to get people to read them. I am certain that probably 90 per cent. of the people do not read them. As a schoolmaster I know that you can give to a class of 40 a really good lesson and sit down thinking that it has been jolly fine, but if you only knew the truth the important things that you have tried to teach have gone astray and only the illogical little trimmings have gone permanently into the heads of some of your scholars. That is true of life generally. You can have fine lessons, such as this Highway Code, and it is a jolly good lesson, but it is one thing having a jolly good lesson in a book, and another thing getting it into the minds of the people. If the Minister of Transport, after having produced this jolly good lesson could get it into the minds of the people he will have deserved well of every section of the community, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

2.54 p.m.


I think we have all enjoyed the last speech very much, but I think the hon. Member was rather modest when he said that not 10 per cent. of the electorate read his election address. I am sure there is a better reason for his presence here than that. I congratulate the Minister on his regulations and especially regulation 25, which gives precedence at last to the major road, but I am not sure how that regulation will work out in practice. We are told at the beginning of the Code that it is not a legal offence to break any of the provisions of the Code. I should like to know whether if anybody crossing from a minor to a major road is prosecuted by the police for dangerous driving and it is a fact that he has broken the code in that way, that that will be taken into account.


Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, makes it an offence to ignore the sign.


I am glad to know that. I think it is the most important regulation we have had in these codes. I hope that the Minister will adopt the suggestion of the last speaker, and of the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe and underline some of these regulations. I know he is very innocent of the subject, but there is such a thing as the art of publicity, and perhaps he can ask his friends to advise him so that there can be a lot of publicity in the press, especially in regard to these provisions.

The hon. Gentleman who spoke last rather took up an attitude at one time, though he modified it at the end, of the cyclist versus the motorist. I do not think we want to do that in this House. The law at the moment allows a side road as much right as a main road. This can be dangerous to a cyclist where there is a hill. He and I know that the nicest thing in bicycling is to free-wheel. When free-wheeling down a hill on a good road and that road passes a main road, it is very tempting to go on right across that main road. That is the cause of a lot of accidents to-day, and I hope the Minister may make it even clearer that there ought to be a halt when coming to a main road. In paragraph 25 it says: Unless you have a clear view of the major road in both directions stop, before entering the carriageway of the major road. I do not think he ought to have those words?unless you have a clear view?, because people vary as to whether they have a clear view or not. Anybody entering from a minor to a major road ought to stop, and I hope the Minister will take that point into consideration. I would like to ask him one or two questions. One page 4 in paragraph 27 in regard to tramcars it says: Subject to any local provisions to the contrary, tramcars may be overtaken on either side. The difficulty is that it is very hard for a stranger when he is in a big town to know whether or not there is a local rule. Sometimes you can overtake on either side; sometimes you cannot, and you do not know that you are breaking a by-law. I believe in practically every town in America you have to stop when a tramcar stops and that ought to be enforced in some cities here. Lots of accidents take place by people over taking a tramcar when it is at a stand still. I suggest that where there is a by-law that only allows you to overtake on one side, there ought to be some sign put up which would enable the motorist, who may be a stranger, to know what the law is.

I have only one or two other criticisms to make. I do not think paragraph 39, which deals with what is called filtration, is very clear. I confess I never knew the term?filtration? was used to mean turning to the left. In Section 105 the Minister deals with people riding and leading a horse. The section says that the duty is to keep the led horse between the traffic and the edge of the pavement. That is true but it must be remembered that to-day owing to tradition, the rider always rides on the near side and the horse, if led, is always on the offside so that this regulation means that a man riding one horse and leading another will always be going against the traffic. The Minister ought to consider whether we ought not to alter the old custom, so that a man leading the horse will have to ride on the off side and have the led horse on the near side. It would be very unpopular and a very awkward thing to do, but it is merely a matter of custom, and we could do it in time. The final question is in the supplementary notes on page 27 in regard to the sounding of horns. I would like to endorse what the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe said that, although we do not want unnecessary noise, do not let us try to make motors so silent that there is an increase of accidents. We must have a balance between the two. On page 27 it says: It is an offence under the Motor Vehicles …Regulations, 1934, to sound a born fitted to a motor vehicle between the hours prescribed by the Regulations on any road furnished with a system of street lighting. Is it an offence to sound a horn on one of these roads, that is, a road which is lighted, when that road bas been de-restricted? With these few words, I should like to congratulate the Minister and to ask him again if he can give every publicity to the Code, so that everybody in the country knows that a major road has the right of way.

3.2 p.m.


We have heard this afternoon the champions of the motorist, of the pedestrian and of the bicyclist. I should like to put in a word for the tricycle. The tricycle, to me, is a symbol of propriety and respectability, and I do not think it should be left out of the Highway Code. My real reason for rising was to make a suggestion to the Minister with regard to the sign that indicates that there is a school in the neighbourhood. The sign would have more attention paid to it if it were only in operation during the hours in which children are liable to cross the road. I would suggest that a sign be erected outside schools rather like a railway signal, and when the school hours are over or before they begin, the teacher, or some other individual, should raise the arm of the sign. Thus motorists would know that they had to take particular care. I think the fact that this suggested sign is there the whole time during the day and night may tend to get it ignored by motorists who are not familiar with school hours. I should only like to say in addition that on the whole I congratulate the Minister very much on his successful efforts to mitigate the accident rate.

3.3 p.m.


I want to make a plea for the child rather than for the motorist, the bicylist or the pedestrian. I want to make that plea more in regard, perhaps, to the foreword the Minister is going to write, than with regard to the regulations. I am not a motorist although I sometimes motor, and, as one who can during these motoring periods sit back and observe things, perhaps I am like the person who sees most of the game when he is not playing. I listened with a good deal of attention to my hon. Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West), the specialist in cycling, and I was thinking, when he was speaking, of a picture I saw of him attached to a very interesting article he wrote for one of the evening papers. What struck me most about that was not the article but the fact that he himself was riding a bicycle with one hand, while the other was engaged in another way. I wondered, when he was speaking to day, whether it would make the slightest difference if he had dropped handle bars, straight handlebars, or only half handle bars, to ride in that position.

I want to ask some questions particularly with regard to the publicity to be given to the new Code. I accept the Code as a very great improvement on any Code that we have had before, and I think it will minimise the number of accidents on the road. I think I understood the Minister to say that it was proposed to send a copy of the Code to every house in the Kingdom. I hope he will go further than that and send one at least to every family in the United Kingdom, because there are a great number of houses in which there are two, three, four, or even five families living, and if one of these Codes is pushed through the letter-box in the ordinary way—where there is a letter-box—the first person who comes along may get hold of it and appropriate it, and nobody else in the house will know anything about it.

After that first distribution, how are people who desire to get copies, having lost their copy or desiring other copies, to be able to get them? One of the difficulties in regard to Government publications to-day is that of knowing how to get hold of them. People usually have to write to His Majesty's Stationery Office, and in 99 cases out of 100 people do not know where that is. With regard to some Government publications, anyone can get them in a post office. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) suggested that a number of these Codes should be delivered to policemen in bundles—I do not know why he wants to inflict them on the police—but I should like to know why they should not be available for sale or free distribution in post offices.

With regard to children, the Minister has had conversations, apparently, with the Postmaster-General as to the distribution of the Code, but could he not have some consultation with the President of the Board of Education, and possibly with some of the associations representing local authorities, so as to get a knowledge of the Code into the schools? I do not think you can expect all children to read the Code, but I see no reason why the Code should not be for a time part of the curriculum in the schools and why lessons should not be specifically arranged for the children to understand the Code, which could be explained to them in simple form by teachers or others in the schools. I think that would minimise the number of accidents on the road.

May I make one other suggestion? It has been pointed out that the printing of the Code is all of the same kind, with out any variation, and that nothing is brought out as being of particular importance. Why not print it in colours? People are attracted by printing in red, and most people think a thing is important if it is printed in red. I have some of my election literature printed in yellow, and that is why 90 per cent. of the people in my constituency read mine and only 10 per cent. do not. Would it not be advisable in this connection to print the forewood in red? When I saw it at first I did not like giving the Minister a blank cheque, and I was anxious to know what he was going to do with it. Apparently he is even more anxious than I was, but I think he might use that foreword space for the purpose of putting in something that would induce people who otherwise might not read the Code to realise its importance. The Code appears to me to be sufficient, and it covers, I think, all the points of importance with the exception of the tricycle, that road users desire to know. if the foreword could be used to induce people to see the importance of the matter, I think it would be the best possible use to which it could be put.

3.10 p.m.


I want to thank the Minister for giving the House the opportunity of considering what to some folk may seem small and unnecessary details. Those of us, however, who practise in the courts, in running down cases and cases of land collisions know how difficult of interpretation the law may be and how inequity and injustice may be suffered by those who have not sufficient money to proceed to the higher courts. May I ask if the Law Officers of the Crown have accepted the paragraph that appears on the flyleaf? I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, whom we are delighted to see called to his high office, if this type of phraseology is sufficient to enable the lay magistrate to understand that this book is purely for guidance and is not law in the statutory sense. In its setting in the Act it may be sufficient to compel users of the road to use them in a normal way which will not be a danger to others. As these words stand on the flyleaf of the Code, however, they may be to a lay magistrate something on which he will hand very severe penalties on poor cyclists who have not sufficient means to protect themselves in the higher courts.

I would ask the Minister whether, before he puts this book into the hands of the public, he will consult the Law Officers again, even if they have already given some thought to the matter, and consider whether that paragraph should be eliminated so that there will be no danger of a lay magistrate or some coroner interpreting it too widely. Some of us who have both read and heard the judgments of some of the coroners and magistrates feel that it is necessary, before they administer the law, that they should undergo a course of legal training so that some of the inequities that happen may be prevented. I know that the Minister will not think me impertinent or critical of his high standard of public service and duty if I say that if the paragraph on the flyleaf gets into the hands of some of the laymen of whom I have been speaking, in nine cases out of ten they will accept it ipso factoas absolute law and apply such suggestions in a penal sense to the people who come before them. We have heard this morn ing about the righteousness, the benevolence, the kindliness and the generosity of motor users, and about the inquity, unthoughtfulness and carelessness of cyclists in their use of the roads.

I shall not enter into that interesting controversy, but I claim that the 9, 500,000 cyclists ought to receive as much consideration in these democratic days as the 2, 250,000 motorists. —[An HON. MEMBER:— More.]—They deserve more consideration I agree, because they come mainly from the humbler classes. Turn ing to paragraph 66 I see that they are commanded never to ride more than two abreast, and when I mentally estimate the space occupied by two cyclists riding abreast and then think of the dimensions of some of those gigantic and magnificent cars to which the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Mr. W. Brass) sometimes introduces us in Palace Yard, I ask why it is not laid down that motorists also shall not drive more than two abreast. What is sauce for the goose is good enough for the gander, and those of us who have ridden cycles for many years know sometimes that in turning corners it is impossible to avoid going three abreast and occupying rather more of the road owing to the radiating angle. I do not want to criticise any members of the Committee who have, in a public-spirited fashion, been devoting their attention to this matter, and have drawn up this Code, but I really should like to know whether they had advising them equally powerful experts representing all the different sections of the community as those representing the lucrative motor car trade, because I do suggest that the wording of this Code suggests a distinct leaning towards those who have the backing of the more powerful financial and press interests.

Another point to which I would wish to draw attention is paragraph (xiv) of the Supplementary Code, where it is laid down that it is an offence for a cyclist to carry a passenger on a bicycle not constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person. Those of us who have lived in industrial areas know that on a Sunday morning it is the pleasure of a young father—if he has not gone to church, and I hope most young fathers do go to church—to take out the baby in some little carrier fixed to his bicycle. In that way father and baby take an outing together. The words of this paragraph may be improperly interpreted by a magistrate as to the construction of the carrier, and I think there ought to be a more generous and elastic provision such as will not interfere with a cyclist taking his child with him on a little trip. I remember that in the old days my father used to put me on a little cushion on his bicycle, and I did not come to any harm. That simple method may not be possible in these days of rush and hurtle and speed and speed-lust, but I want to be certain that the manufacturers of cycles will not feel impelled to make the carrier such an elaborate gadget that it is too expensive for a working man to put on his cycle. On the whole I think the Highway Code is necessary, because there is no Member in this House who is not determined to reduce the toll of death which the roads are taking, but I suggest that the Minister should guide those of his Committee who draw up these rules, and which he has the power to alter as may be convenient, in order that the 9, 500,000 or 10,000,000 cyclists may not be subjected to legal inequity, as against other users of the roads who are driving vehicles costing anything from £120 to £4,000.

Very little has been said about the pedestrian. I want to protect the elderly and infirm users of the roads who cannot proceed in so swift a fashion as others. I have even heard magistrates and coroners refer to such elderly folk as?jay walkers.? Could not the police be given instructions, not necessarily from the Ministry of Transport but from the Home Secretary's Department, for the regulation of traffic near almshouses, hospitals, institutions, and other places where elderly people are likely to use the road? Some provision of that kind might be included in this Code. It is a good suggestion that, in order to bring the Highway Code to the notice of as large a number of people as possible, it should be available in Post Offices, in addition to the house-to-house circulation. Would the Minister also consider whether instruction in the principles of the High way Code could be given in the schools'? Teachers might perhaps give a half-hour lesson in road sense and road instruction to the children. I do not, of course, suggest that that would relieve the authorities from the duty of making the roads absolutely foolproof.

People, whether they are old or young, have a right to use the roads in such fashion as is legitimate for pleasure and proper exercise, which is one of the objects for which the cyclists use the roads although also many use them for proceeding to their work also. The younger generations must be taught road sense in a way which older people have not found necessary. If the number of motor cars on the road is to increase at the rate of the last 10 years, it will soon be pure luck when a man 50, 60 or 70 years of age gets safely across a road. I hope that the Minister will do his best to alter the Code so that all sections of the public may have full and equal protection in respect of the right to use the roads from old age even to childhood.

3.24 p.m.


I wish, first of all, to thank the Minister for this publication, which will be of real value to road users. As has already been said by other hon. Members, its value will depend upon the extent to which it may be read and absorbed by road users. I understand that all motorists and cyclists are to be given copies with their licences, but it is much more difficult to ensure that all pedestrians and ordinary cyclists will read and take in the valuable advice given in the Code, and I hope that the Minister will take careful note of all the suggestions that have been made to that end. My principal criticism of the Code is in regard to the question of giving emphasis to certain points. The Code gives luminous advice on very many points, some of which, however, are in finitely more important than others. For instance, the question of silence, although it may be very important, is obviously less important than, for instance, the question of cutting in, and, if the whole of the advice is mixed up together, the less important advice rather detracts from the value of the advice given on points which really matter. I do not think it should be impossible to pick out certain points which are of such importance as to require underlining, such as cutting in, acceleration when being over taken, blind overtaking, and cyclists riding three or four abreast. These are just a few instances of common faults which are not, perhaps, appreciated as they should be by road users, and I would suggest that the advice on such points might perhaps be underlined, or printed in heavier type.

Again, some of the advice given to pedal cyclists might, I think, also be included in the advice given to motor cyclists. For instance, the advice given in paragraph 70 with regard to the carrying of parcels on cycles is only given to pedal cyclists, but I think it also applies to a considerable extent to motor cyclists; and the same is the case with paragraphs 56 and 61, to which I will not make any further reference now. With regard to pedestrian crossings, the treat ment of this matter in paragraph 94 seems to me to be much too vague. It simply says: Where there is a pedestrian crossing, subway, or refuge, make use of it. That is the advice given to pedestrians. I should prefer to see it pointed out clearly that, whereas pedestrians have the right of way on their own crossings, it is expected, particularly in districts where these crossings are frequent, that pedestrians should give way to motor vehicles if they choose to cross where there is not a pedestrian crossing. I should like to see paragraph 94 strengthened in that direction if it is possible to do so.

The Minister, in the course of his speech, asked for advice as to what he should include in the Foreword. I have not heard any particular advice given to him in this regard, but I should like to suggest that the Foreword might perhaps be used to point out to motorists the duty, which I think they have, of instituting prosecutions against other road users when they see dangerous actions on their part. It often happens that one is cut in on, or sees someone behaving dangerously on the road, but does not take the trouble to report it. It may be that many road users do not know how to set about it, to whom to apply, or what evidence is necessary, but I think that, unless road users will assist the police in catching the dangerous drivers and other dangerous road users, it will be practically impossible to stop some of the practices which are going on and which are the cause of so many accidents to-day. I do not think that better use could be made of the Foreword than to point out that duty which rests upon all road users. I should like to say that it is apparent that the Minister has given the most careful attention to the drawing up of this Code, and I believe that it will prove to be of real use to anyone who can be induced to read it.

3.29 p.m.


The Minister has been given plenty of advice, which I think he appreciates. I do not remember many subjects coming before the House on which everyone seems to be so willing to help. We all realise the value of the Code, and are glad that something is being done to bring it to the notice of the public. I notice that the pamphlet is entitled, on the first page,?The High way Code,? but I think that, in the minds of the public generally, The Highway Code means a Code for the motorist. Wherever a copy of this Code goes to a household, unless the members of the household are motorists, very few people will examine it carefully. I therefore ask the Minister if he cannot introduce some thing in the foreword to attract the attention of all classes of the community and point out that it is not merely motorists who are dealt with but everybody who uses the roads. If he could do something on these lines, I believe that it would have a great effect on the public.

There is one thing I should like to emphasise from the point of view of the pedestrian. The points of view of motorists and cyclists have been put forward. I am one who very seldom rides if he can avoid it, and I am probably therefore in a position to take notice of things that happen. Paragraph 90 is most important in reference to pedestrians. I should like it to be emphasised more than anything else. It says:. On a pavement or footpath do not walk alongside the kerb in the same direction as the nearer stream of traffic. A common source of danger to pedestrians is to walk along with the stream of traffic on a narrow pavement meeting on-coming persons, and it is more dangerous still if you should happen to step off the footpath to give way to other people. If that be done the would-be gallant may be swept into danger from the on-coming road traffic. I have seen that sort of thing done and have known of one or two fatal accidents from that cause. If, instead, it could be emphasised that pedestrians should walk on the footpath nearer the on-coming traffic, I believe that it would help to avoid accidents. There are so many things which are good in the proposed Code that if the Minister raises certain special points, it is a question as to whether sufficient attention would be paid to other points, and I should-like the Minister to give full consideration to that matter. When I pick up a newspaper or a book and see that something is printed in larger type I pay too much attention to it and not enough attention to the other matter, and I hope that the Minister will be careful in this connection in dealing with the new Code.

I do not want it to be taken for granted that less noise from motor horns will be of great value. It is possible that if this sort of thing is carried too far people will become unaware of traffic. I always listen when crossing the road for the sound of the motor horn, and if I do not hear the horn and the motor passes me it surprises me. I should like the Minister to deal with the question of the silencer. If noise from the engine could be prevented, I would agree. I do not know whether I can help the Minister, but it is always a great difficulty for benches of magistrates to determine what noise is a nuisance and to what extent the law is being broken. I have sat on the bench on a number of occasions when I have been very doubtful as to the extent to which the law could be applied. In regard to cyclists and the number that should ride abreast, we have a new road called the East Lancashire Road, and on Sunday mornings there are thousands of cyclists going along that road riding five and six abreast. I speak in the interests of cyclists themselves—


How many abreast?


Five and six abreast. You will find groups of men and women going along quite easily and chatting together, but that number riding abreast is inviting danger. I think that two abreast is quite sufficient. The Code has been issued not for the benefit of one particular section of road users but for the benefit of all, pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. It is on the right lines and very little objection can be taken to it. I think that the Minister deserves the thanks of the House.

3.36 p.m.


We are extremely grateful for the courteous and helpful way in which the Debate has been conducted. It has been one of those occasions which are now becoming more frequent than they used to be when we can get right away from party disssentions. We hope that this same spirit will be shown by those to whom the Highway Code is directed, and that they will get away from the idea that there are any particular classes of road users, either cyclists, pedestrians or motorists, but that they should all have the same aim—safety for all. Let me deal with the points which have been raised during the Debate. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) paid my hon. Friend the Minister a compliment which is deserved, and for which he is grateful. He dealt with the question of tiredness, fatigue, which is often a cause of accident. In the Road Traffic Act of 1930 and later in the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933 we tried to deal with a side of this matter in the hours in which we allow lorry drivers to drive on the roads. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that tiredness is a frequent cause of accidents.

The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) said that he was glad advertisements are not to be inserted in the Code. We entirely agree, and are glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has seen his way to waive the extra amount of money which would have been obtained from advertisements, be cause we are certain that the Code itself will greatly benefit by the fact that even the small Advertisements which were found in the last Code are not to be inserted in the present one. The hon. and gallant Member also agreed that the new halt signs are an improvement. He raised a point as regards the sounding of horns. We have considerably altered that part of the Code which deals with the use of horns, because we have had great experience since the last Code was issued. The one thing we want to avoid is what is called driving on the horn, going as fast As you can and relying on the horn. If he will look at the instruction he will see that we say:. Do not sound your horn unnecessarily.? That does not mean that a motorist is not to sound his horn at all, but that he should not sound it unnecessarily. We did not want to put in the other old section also, because that rather cuts across the regulation as regards not hooting at night. Generally speaking, we want people to become more silent, to rely less on their horns, and that is the reason for the alteration of the wording. With regard to the point raised both by my hon. and gallant Friend also by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Conant) as to not having a separate section in the Code for motor cyclists, that was very carefully considered by the Transport Advisory Council, who recommended that it should not be done. But suggestions have been made to us not only here, but also a suggestion has been made in another place, that we might include in the foreword a recommendation for motor cyclists to read care fully that section which deals with pedal cyclists, because in that section there is not a single paragraph which would not be equally good for the motor cyclist as well. We shall be very glad to consider whether that is not one of the things that should be put into the foreword.

As regards heavy type, the question was raised by a number of Members as to whether the new system of having all the Code in the same type or the old system of having some parts in heavy type was the more effective. I do not think I am giving away any secrets if I say that the original proofs which we had of this Code were in the old heavy type, but we came to the conclusion that it did not make it more clear, but rather added to the confusion. It is really a matter of opinion. What I consider the most important thing in the Code is, perhaps, considered of very little importance by some of my hon. Friends. On the whole, if you look at the two Codes, I think it will be agreed that the type as we have it at present in the new Code, with no heavy type, is clearer, and will make people take equal notice of all the different provisions.

With regard to the supplementary notes, my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that the system in the old code where a note was Code attached at the bottom of the paragraph was the better. In the old Code there were no supplementary notes, but at the end of the present Code we have grouped together all those regulations which it is so necessary that motorists and others should know, and we call attention to them by means of asterisks and footnotes. As to the suggestion that the Code should be split into two parts, one for pedestrians and cyclists and the other for motorists, we think it very much better that that should not be done, and the reason for that is to be found in paragraph (6) of the present Code, which perhaps I may read, because it is so important: Every person who uses the road should learn thoroughly those rules in the Code which apply to him in particular, and should make himself familiar with those which concern other classes of road users. We do think it most important that all pedestrians should know some of the difficulties of motorists, and that all motorists should know some of the difficulties of pedestrians, and if they both read each other's paragraphs we shall help to bring about that very desirable state of affairs. We have taken, and are taking, careful note of the different suggestions for popularising the Code. We have taken certain steps in regard to schools. The hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Barclay-Harvey) said that there was no reference in the Code to traffic signs such as?Stop? and lines in the road. If he looks at section (82) he will see there a distinct injunction to. Keep a good look out for all traffic signals, signs and lines. If he also looks at paragraph (51) he will see we have put in there a paragraph telling people not to race their engine or make unnecessary noise.

The hon. Member for North Hamer-smith (Mr. West) referred to certain points with regard to cyclists, as did the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden). The advice in the Code has been drawn up with one object in mind only, and that is to get safety on the roads. Therefore, when we ask cyclists not to ride more than two abreast we do it both for their own safety and for the safety of other traffic which may be coining up behind. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) asked whether there was any penalty for disobeying a traffic sign. If he looks at the top of page 23 he will see the answer to his question: Under Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, it is an offence for any driver or cyclist not to go slow or to come to a stop before entering a major road from a minor road if there is a traffic sign which requires him to do so. That is a definite portion of the Act passed by Parliament which makes it an offence to disobey traffic signs. My hon. and gallant Friend then made a point about tramcars, and I gather that he would like to see places where local by laws are in operation marked with some sign. I had a question asked me recently about that, and we came to the conclusion that we must if possible minimise the number of signs put around the roads. As regards the places which have by-laws, speaking from memory I think there are only three, namely, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and I think that the local residents in those places know that the by-laws are in operation, and that no very great difficulty has arisen. The hon. Member also asked whether it was an offence to sound a horn on a road which is lighted but which has been derestricted. It is an offence to do so. If he will look at the end of the book he will see the words: You may not sound your horn between the hours prescribed by the regulations on any road furnished with a system of street lighting..


Would that apply when the lights are off or only when they are on?

Captain HUDSON

Between the hours prescribed by the regulation, that is between 11.30 at night and seven o'clock in the morning. But when that regulation came in there was no 30 miles an hour speed limit and there were no restricted or derestricted roads. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. MCEntee) made a very interesting speech. He desired to make sure that the Code goes to families as well as to houses. The first distribution will be 15,000,000 copies, or one copy to every three persons in the country, but we will see whether some wider distribution can be under taken. The Minister gives an under taking that there will be supplies of the Code in all Post Offices, in order that anyone who wants a copy can obtain it there. The hon. Member asked about fuller information being given to children. A committee has been set up and is now sitting, in conjunction with the Board of Education, to draw up a curriculum for road safety, and that committee will do a lot of good, I think.


Is the Ministry doing anything to bring home the Code to magistrates because the last Code was quite unknown to a large number of magistrates in this country?

Captain HUDSON

Every magistrate is to receive direct a copy of the new Code. With regard to the instruction of children, we would like to thank those teachers who have already taken such a great deal of trouble in the schools, particularly in London, in order to instil the principles of road safety into the minds of the children. In reply to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden) the quotation on the fly-leaf of the Code which he mentioned is taken direct from the Act. I cannot make it any more plain or any less plain. I think it sets out in pretty clear terms exactly what the Code is and what legal sanction it has.

The question of pedestrian crossings is the last one raised by hon. Members to day with which I need to deal. The hon. Member for Chesterfield complained that the directions in this respect are not sufficiently precise but if he looks at the instructions to pedestrians he will find that it is not only paragraphs 89 and 90, but several of the subsequent paragraphs which deal with this important point. Again, on pages 26 and 27 he will see in the supplement set out fully what a pedestrian crossing is and what are the rights respectively of pedestrians and of drivers of vehicles. I think I have now dealt with nearly all the points that have been raised. I would only say in conclusion that for years past the public conscience has been deeply stirred by the appalling toll of the road. Energetic measures have been taken—and a tribute has been paid in the House to-day to the Minister for taking them—to lessen that toll. This revised code is a step in the right direction. I would emphasise that there is nothing in it which the good citizen does not know and practise already. It is to those whom I may term not so good that the Code is primarily directed. For these reasons I ask the House to pass this Motion and allow us to proceed to print and circulate the Code at the earliest possible moment.

3.53 p.m.


I much regret that in the few minutes at my disposal it will be impossible for me to develop the suggestions which I had hoped to make during this debate. As the oldest motorist in the House, having been driving for 38 years, I am speaking from a practical and not a theoretical point of view. I shall resume my seat before 4 o'clock in order to give the Minister an opportunity of replying to the suggestion which I am about to make. The solution of this traffic difficulty is the abolition of the horn—with the sole exception when one vehicle is passing another. I have driven in all parts of the world, and I am not boasting but merely stating the facts when I say that I have done so without a single warning, or prosecution or accident. That may be put down to my expert driving but I would rather put it down to the fact that not using the horn has necessitated that I should use the roads with respect for every other user.

The Minister has, to a certain extent, adopted my suggestion in regard to the silence zones, and must thank him personally for the free access he has given me to his department, and the consideration he has given to all the remarks I have had to make on this burning subject. There are 615 Members of this House, and if the death rate on the roads were confined to Members of this House, we should be wiped out every five weeks. Perhaps some people would say that that would not be a national calamity but if we had 24 corpses laid out on this Floor every day we should realise the magnitude of the slaughter which is taking place on the roads to-day. My suggestions to the Minister are these. Let him experiment further than he has done, let him give me the opportunity of testing silence in a county for one month. I will give him my assurance, although it is sometimes dangerous to prophesy, that I will save 1,000 lives every year in this country if he will adopt my suggestion. It needs one month's preparation by notices in the Press, by notices at the limits of the county, by school teachers taking up the matter for half an hour a day with the scholars, by the police being instructed, and the whole of the people being brought to realise that on themselves depends the safety of every person who uses the roads in Great Britain.

What is the horn to-day? It is a licence to kill.?Did you sound your horn???No.? Then the prosecution wins every time. If you did sound your horn you are free and the horn has killed the pedestrian, who is startled at the sudden noise and dashes into danger. Thirty-eight years is a long time. When I began motoring there were no horns. The motor car itself made sufficient noise; it could almost be heard in the next county. In 1903 I was compelled by the law to affix a horn to my car but I never used the confounded thing because I had no use for it. I am told that if the pedestrian was not warned he would step into the road. That is not so. If the pedestrian knows that there is no horn he will not cross the road without looking both ways. If you wait for the blast of the horn you are a dead man and in heaven or elsewhere before you have heard it.

Seriously I ask the Minister if he will put in my hands for one month, one county, Staffordshire for preference, to carry out my experiment. He has already said that he will agree to this being done if the request comes. Why does not the request come? In the words of the hymn:. They stand shivering on the brink And fear to launch away. They have not the pluck to make the re quest, in spite of my advice. Let the Minister, therefore, give me one county for one month and I will be responsible for the rest. Do not let it be thought that I am speaking lightly. I realise the fact that there are between 7,000 and 8,000 people killed every year on our roads. One every hour. It is said that we must have silence. One's nerves are shaken to bits by the electric horns, the noise of which penetrates to your very marrow We want silence. There are times when silence is golden. Yes, but this is the exception which proves the rule. I want the Minister to give me an opportunity of testing out my suggestion. It cannot do any harm; it will do nothing but good. Another request. Will the Minister make fire extinguishers compulsory on every motor car. It is compulsory for every public service vehicle, for every taxi-cab and omnibus, but the private vehicle is allowed to go scot free. I have just allowed one minute to enable the Minister to reply.

Question put, and agreed to.


"That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under Sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved. "