HC Deb 05 July 1938 vol 338 cc281-3

It shall be the duty of the driver of any vehicle, and of every cyclist, pedestrian, or other person on a highway to afford free passage to any fire brigade vehicle proceeding to a fire, in answer to a fire call, and for that purpose every such driver or person shall—

  1. (1) Keep to the edge or the kerb of the highway and if necessary stop the vehicle or cycle.
  2. (2) Shall not after the passage of the fire brigade vehicle wilfully overtake such vehicle, if by so doing the passage of fire brigade vehicles is impeded.

Provided that the fire brigade vehicle gives audible warning of its approach. Any driver or person wilfully contravening this Section shall be liable on conviction to a fine of five pounds or such lesser penalty as may be decided.—[Lieut.-Commander Tufnell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.50 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

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

This new Clause is on rather the same lines as that which the House has just considered. It provides that drivers of vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and other persons shall be compelled to get out of the way of fire engines at the sound of the bell. I need not repeat the arguments which I advanced on the previous Clause. People using the roads have a duty to keep out of the way of these fire engines and they should be warned that if they do not carry out that duty, they will be fined for contravening the law. Difficulties frequently arise in the case of fire engines coming on to main trunk roads, especially during week-ends when there is an almost continuous stream of traffic, and in those cases fire brigade detachments may be seriously delayed. There is also the case in which a fast car overtakes a fire engine going up a hill and then causes an obstruction at the top of the hill or in which a car overtaking a fire engine obstructs a second engine which is coming up behind. I wish my hon. Friend to consider what can be done to deal with cases of that kind.

Sir D. Thomson

I beg to second the Motion.

I wish to ask the Under-Secretary whether it is not a fact that in America all vehicles have to stop at the approach of the fire brigade, and give way to it?

7.53 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I am afraid that I cannot, offhand, give my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Sir D. Thomson) the information for which he asks. In addition to the fact that it is already an offence to obstruct a vehicle on the highway, in practice emergency vehicles such as fire engines are, by common consent, allowed precedence over other traffic, and I very much question whether it is necessary to impose obligations of the kind proposed in the new Clause, in advance of any considerable number of complaints arising, which has not been the case up to the present. I suggest to my hon. Friend that he is not on any stronger ground with regard to this proposal than he was in the case of his previous proposal, especially in view of the fact that this new Clause might defeat its own object by immobilising large blocks of traffic. If these provisions were taken too literally they might have the reverse effect from that intended by my hon. and gallant Friend, and make it more difficult for fire engines to proceed on their way.

Lieut.-Commander Tufnell

In view of the Under-Secretary's statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.