HC Deb 04 February 1941 vol 368 cc785-6
20. Sir T. Moore

asked the Secretary of State for War how many military lorries and vehicles in this country have been damaged through road accidents in the last 12 months; and whether, in view of the extra cost this damage entails to the taxpayer, he will impress upon the drivers of these vehicles to take the greatest care?

Captain Margesson

I regret that figures are not available for the last 12 months, but during the last two months of 1940 accidents in which military vehicles have been damaged occurred at the rate of 300 a day. This is a most unsatisfactory record, and stringent instructions have been recently issued enjoining observance of traffic regulations, road signs and speed restrictions imposed by law, and also laying down maximum speed limits for the various classes of Army vehicles in areas where no speed limit is imposed by law. A driver who breaks the traffic regulations except when, in case of emergency, he is given special written authority by an officer not below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, to drive a heavy vehicle at a speed in excess of that ordinarily prescribed, is liable to prosecution by the police, or to military punishment. Severe disciplinary action is to be taken where the authorised speed limits are exceeded, and in all cases of dangerous driving.

Sir T. Moore

While thanking my right hon. and gallant Friend for the satisfactory steps he has taken, will he bear in mind that it is really speed which is more to blame than the quality of the driving?

Captain Margesson

There are probably many contributory factors.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend satisfied that these Army vehicles are being properly kept up and serviced, that the state of the engines and vehicles generally does not leave a great deal to be desired at the present time, and that it costs the taxpayers a great deal of money?

Captain Margesson

I have no evidence of that, and I do not know; I have driven a car a great deal myself, and I do not think that that question can necessarily be a contributory factor to the number of accidents.

Mr. Garro Jones

While appreciating the necessity for stiffening up the driving care displayed by soldiers in charge of military vehicles, does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman recognise that, during the period to which he referred when so many accidents occurred, the road conditions were exceedingly difficult, and that I myself have seen half-a-dozen lorries involved in accidents, when no amount of care could have avoided an accident?

Captain Margesson

I quite agree with that, but I do not think that it explains the whole list.

Captain Cunningham - Reid

The Minister referred to prosecution by the police, and I would ask him whether the police are entitled to prosecute?

Captain Margesson

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that there is a contributory factor in the fact that many motor drivers are employed for other purposes in the Army, while men who have never been motor drivers have been newly trained and are without a road sense to drive these vehicles?

Captain Margesson

I am certain that as drivers become more experienced, the accidents should become less.