HC Deb 31 July 1946 vol 426 cc1075-127

10.1 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. G. R. Strauss)

I beg to move, That the Highway Code, prepared by the Minister of Transport under Subsection (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, a copy of which Code was presented on nth July, be approved.

Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The hour of ten o'Clock arrived before the hon. Member who was speaking in the previous Debate had sat down. The Debate was taking place on the Motion for the Adjournment. Are we to understand that not only can the Highway Code be debated, but also the Prayers which are on the Paper as well?

Mr. Speaker

Certainly. We go on now with the Orders of the Day. All this is exempted Business, with which we carry on. Is that the point on which the hon. Member wanted a Ruling?

Mr. Bowles

Having been on the Adjournment since half-past three, and ten o'Clock having passed without the Question being put, are we allowed now to go on with the Adjournment, or can we go back to Government Business and then take the Prayers afterwards?

Mr. Speaker

The Motion for the Adjournment lapsed at ten o'Clock. Therefore, we now go on to the exempted Business. When that is finished—I do not know at what hour—we shall go on to the extra half-hour of the final Adjournment.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The Road Traffic Act, 1930, imposes an obligation on the Minister of Transport to prepare a Highway Code for the guidance of all road users, and it also imposes on the Minister an obligation to revise that code whenever he considers it desirable, to publish it, and to sell it to the public at a price not greater than 1d. It is necessary for the Minister, before he publishes and distributes the code, to get the approval of Parliament. That was in the Road Traffic Act of 1930 and with notable speed my right hon. Friend, who was then Minister of Transport, published the first Highway Code a few months afterwards in 1931. It was revised in 1935, but because of the war it has not been revised since and I think everyone connected with traffic problems considers that it is high time we had an up to date Highway Code.

The Select Committee in another place, called the Alness Committee, which considered a variety of road traffic matters, recommended that as soon as possible a new Highway Code should be produced and that it should form the basis of an intensive propaganda campaign for road safety. That proposal was accepted by the Road Safety Committee in their Interim Report published in December, 1944, and that Committee recommended, moreover, that the new Highway Code should be made as attractive as possible. In drawing up this document we have attempted to make it so, and from the comments which we have received from the public, the Press, and elsewhere, we can say that our attempt to make it more readable and attractive than it was before has met with a considerable measure of success. Great care has been taken to make the advice and suggestions to road users as simple, incisive and easily read as possible. Many new paragraphs have been inserted, comprising suggestions which have not previously appeared in the Highway Code, many of the old ones have been re-written in simpler and more direct form, and attached to the Highway Code there is a number of appendices which we think will be useful. There is also an exceedingly important table at the back telling the reader how long it takes him to pull up his vehicle under varying conditions of speed. Great trouble has been taken, moreover, in the general layout of the Highway Code and we have sought and obtained the help of the greatest experts in the design of the cover, the layout of the contents and the illustrations.

The document has been available to Members in the Vote Office for a little time now; it has been circulated previously to a very large number of organisations and associations who are interested in roads or road transport, many of whom have sent in suggestions. Many of those suggestions have been adopted, but generally we have received high commendation for this document and the opinion has been widely expressed that it will serve its purpose of giving people an easily read guide which will enable them to behave on the road with safety and thereby dimmish the appalling number of accidents which are taking place. The actual Code which we are asking the House to endorse is contained in pages 2 to 13 of the booklet which is before the House tonight. The remainder consists of appendices and a foreword which we think will be of value to readers, but it is not the actual Highway Code which the Minister is obliged to bring before this House for confirmation.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

On a point of Order. The Minister has made a very important statement on which I desire your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I submit that, under Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and the terms of the Motion now before the House, the appendix to this document is part of the Code; and that if the House passes this Motion it will then not be in order for His Majesty's Government to alter a word in the appendix. If you desire arguments on that point, Sir, I think it will be sufficient to draw your attention to Rule 46, admittedly part of the Code in the admission of the Minister, and to see that it there says: See pages 29–30. I submit that pages 29 and 30 are as much part of the Code, as are the numbered paragraphs at the beginning. These words which will be printed at the end, if this Motion is passed: This Code is issued with the authority of Parliament. apply to the appendix as well as to the numbered paragraphs and to the rules themselves. It is on that submission that I would welcome your Ruling.

Mr. Speaker

On that point—I do not know whether the Minister wishes to say a word on It—I must confess that, having read on the last page: This Code is issued with the Authority of Parliament (Resolutions passed … 1946). 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 any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under this Act) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish 01 to negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings,"— this seems to me intended to distinguish the appendix from the Code itself. I have looked at the matter. I did not notice the paragraph which the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) read, but I looked at paragraph 75. It states: Make sure that your cycle is in a fit condition to be used on the road, and in particular that the brakes act property. (See page 31.) I looked at page 31. It is in the appendix. I see there: A cycle is not in good condition if …the brakes are not fully effective, and so on. All that is apparently part of this official document and submitted for the approval of Parliament. I do not know what the courts will say, but I am prepared to say that the whole thing must be taken as one.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

On that point of Order, I bow to your Ruling, of course, Sir. I submit, however, that the Code is only that part of the document which lays down various suggestions and injunctions and which is contained in pages 2–13, and that the remainder consists of a summary of legal provisions and of various ideas, for example about how to keep a bicycle fit. I submit that it is perfectly proper in the Code to refer to some other document or to refer to the appendix. I submit finally that the actual Highway Code which the House is being asked to pass tonight consists solely of the injunctions on those pages.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot accept those submissions. If the Code did not refer to any proceedings in the appendix, well and good, but as it refers to various paragraphs in the appendix I must say that the appendix is part of the Code.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

As far as I am concerned, Sir, I am happy about that matter. I am glad that you have clarified that point. This document, as I say, has had the scrutiny of a number of motoring and road organisations who have given their views, and have, on the whole, warmly endorsed it. Some of the suggestions which they have made have been incorporated in the Code and the words have been altered accordingly. After that, one or two hon. Members, and particularly the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) has suggested to me certain verbal alterations which, in his opinion, would make the English of the Code or of the appendices better than it was before.

Many of those suggestions were in my view excellent and they have been adopted. Others, it appeared to me, did not improve the wording. In fact, they would have made the wording rather less clear afterwards than before if they had been accepted. But I agree wholeheartedly with his view that when we are issuing to the public a document of this sort, which will be distributed to every home in the country and which can be quoted in a court of law, we must take great care to see that the wording is as clear as can be. We have, however, to avoid the pitfall of making the wording of a document of this sort too pedantic. If it is really to be effective and read by every man and, we hope, every woman in the country, we have to render it in good strong vigorous colloquial English. That is very important and we believe that on the whole we have done that, although I am perfectly willing to admit here and now that there are some points to which my attention has been drawn, particularly in the Appendices, which could be better worded grammatically. I submit at the same time that on the whole the English of this document is not only clear to any ordinary reader but that it is couched in vigorous, robust phraseology which is wholly desirable and which wholly achieves its purpose.

The only point on which there has been any dispute at all in regard to the substance of this Code is that we have not accepted the advice that some people have put forward—particularly the Alness Committee—that the Code should have the sanction of law; that it should in fact be a legal document and that anybody who did not abide by any of its provisions would be committing an offence. We have not accepted that advice for two reasons. One is that many of the suggestions contained in the Code would be wholly inappropriate for legal procedure. It would be quite wrong to give, them a legal sanction. I am perfectly certain that the House would protest most vigorously if we asked it to give legal sanction to many of the suggestions and opinions expressed in the Code. Secondly, if we did make this a document with a legal sanction behind it, it would have to be phrased in legal phraseology which certainly would not be comprehensible to the great mass of the people who it is hoped will read it.

If this House approves the Code, it will become one of the tests which the examiners of applicants for driving licences will impose when we set up our examination system in, we hope, the autumn. It is for that reason, amongst others, that we are most anxious to get this Code passed before we separate so that when the examiners start their work in the autumn the Code will be available and members of the public who desire to obtain driving licences can be examined on it and will have it in their possession.

Further, the Code will form the basis of our propaganda for road safety. Up to now we have been bound—and I think rightly—to have a general propaganda to draw the attention of the public to the dangers of the road and to try to induce them by general injunctions to realise how serious the situation was and to behave with greater safety on the road. We have been awaiting the issue of this Highway Code to change that policy and to go on to what we consider to be the far more important part of our campaign, and that is to give precise instructions to the public based on the provisions of the Highway Code. We hope to be able early in the autumn to continue our propaganda campaign, which has had a very marked measure of success, on the basis of the instructions laid down in the Highway Code.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Does that include the propaganda which is already going on in the schools? Is it intended that in future this Code shall be used? Has the hon. Gentleman been in touch with the Minister of Education on that point?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Yes, we are in touch with the Ministry of Education on the very excellent work done in the schools, very largely by the Police Forces, and certainly the Highway Code will be used in the schools. Moreover, it will be used by the local authorities, most of whom are carrying on active road safety campaigns. The accident rate, in spite of all our efforts and of the efforts of the school authorities and the local authorities, continues at a high level, and there is no doubt a great deal more that can and should be done to bring down the toll of the roads. We believe that this document—which sets out in an attractive and an authoritative form the conduct which should be practised by every citizen in the country—will, when it is given wide distribution, materially advance our great national crusade to keep death off the roads.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Naylor (Southwark, South-East)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I want to know whether, in the event of the House passing the Highway Code as it is presented to us tonight, and in the probable event of certain hon. Members making suggestions during the discussion for improving the wording of the Code, it will be within the power of the Minister to adopt any of the suggestions that arise out of the discussions, or whether he is tied down by the fact that the House will have passed the Highway Code as presented tonight?

Mr. Speaker

I think it is perfectly clear that there can be no Amendments made to an Order of this kind, and, therefore, we pass it as a whole or not at all.

Mr. Naylor

Does that mean, Mr. Speaker, that it will be of no use for me, for instance, to make any suggestions for alteration? I know that other hon. Members are here to make suggestions for improving the wording of the Highway Code and we do not, I feel sure, agree with the Parliamentary Secretary when he describes the wording as vigorous, and colloquial and understandable by the public. It seems to me to detract greatly from the usefulness of our discussion tonight if we are told that no alteration can be made, and that we must accept it as it stands. My question is, therefore, Are we in a position, owing to that Ruling —with which I agree—to move to defer consideration of the Highway Code?

Mr. Speaker

I am merely carrying out Standing Orders. The fact of the matter is that this is an Order presented to the House which cannot be amended; it can be withdrawn and re-presented and that is the only way in which it can be amended.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, surely it would be quite in Order to make grammatical alterations— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—which do not alter the general sense of any particular sentence?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid not. The Order should be presented complete and whole and perfect in every respect, and we cannot go into that.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

On that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, I think it would be quite in Order for the Minister if, after hearing the suggestions which will be made in the course of the Debate, he considers them to be well founded, to withdraw the Order and submit an amended Order later.

Mr. Speaker

It has always been the case with every Order, including the one which is now being discussed.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)

I rise to oppose the Motion. Of course, my wishes can be met by the Minister withdrawing it, as I have no doubt he will, when the whole House is convinced, as it will be, that the Highway Code—which by your Ruling we shall approve if we pass this Motion— contains a number of paragraphs which are admitedly nonsense, and many of which say the precise opposite of that which is intended. The Minister made one slip. I did not correct him, because it was an obvious slip. He said that a number of suggestions had been made, and, as far as they dealt with the appendix, they had been adopted. Under your Ruling, Sir, they cannot be adopted. Therefore the Minister's admission in his letter to me, and admissions by the Government in another place yesterday, show that various matters contained in the appendix, as they stand, are nonsensical, and such as neither House of Parliament would dream of approving.

I believe there is one thing on which we are unanimous in every quarter of the House. Hon. Members are appalled at the slaughter on the roads, and want to do everything they can to promote road safety. On that everyone is agreed. But it is quite clear that that can only be accomplished by clear, accurate and simple language, and not by slipshod drafting, which is obscure and which, in certain places, says exactly the opposite of that which is meant. For my part, and I am sure other hon. Members did the same, I mentioned this problem of road accidents in my Election Address. I also said, and this is germane to the discussion, that it was important that we should encourage decent, simple and straightforward English. These things are not in conflict; they are part of the same problem. We should take the trouble to put this Code into simple and accurate English. I am not asking for legal draftsmanship, but for accurate draftsmanship. This document is slovenly, slipshod and inaccurate. I am perfectly aware that anyone who takes pains in the matter of language in this House is liable to be called a pedant, and that any hon. Member who troubles to do so can find, in the speech of the hon. Member who speaks in favour of good English, many examples of bad English. I do not suppose that there is any hon. Member in this House who does not at times make slips of grammar and construction. But it is an entirely different matter to send out a document, which is to be read in every home in the country, which can be quoted in courts of law, and not take the trouble to get the language right in that document. If this Motion is passed, this Code will be passed "with the approval of Parliament." I really do not think we want it to be used in our schools and sent to the higher forms for the pupils to detect and correct the more elementary grammatical errors so as to convey the Minister's meaning with accuracy.

When I raised the matter last Thursday, and gave notice of my intention, I did not imagine that I was the only hon. Member who objected to this document in its present form. It may be that, at that date, I was the only one who happened to have read it. Now it has been read in various quarters and, no doubt, I shall have the support of hon. Members in various parts of the House. Before I knew this matter was coming up tonight, I sent to the Parliamentary Secretary, in all friendliness, my criticisms of the draft Code, in order that it could be put right before being sent to either House of Parliament. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House originated the very first Highway Code, he was wise enough to publish it, to listen to comments from all quarters, and to produce a revised Code before it was ever submitted to the House.

Because many hon. Members wish to speak, I shall not deal with all the points in this Code that invite criticism. I will merely give sufficient points for the House, if they will be good enough to follow them, to reject this Motion, should the Minister be unwise enough to proceed with it. Will the House be good enough to turn, in the first instance, to page 29 of the Code? Let me call attention to the third of the general hints. I will first read it quite simply, as it stands, and then I will say what I think it is intended to convey. This hint on driving consists of these remarkable words: When driving, keep both hands on the steering wheel unless you are performing a necessary driving function. What I have some reason to believe the draftsman intended was: When driving, keep both hands on the steering wheel except when you have to remove one hand to perform some other necessary driving function. What the Code says, as it now stands, is "Keep both hands on the steering wheel unless you happen to be steering," for example.

As a result of your Ruling, Mr Speaker, if this Motion is passed, this Code will, according to a statement in another place last night, go in this ridiculous form into every home in the land. What will they think of this House?

Lower down on this same page, missing two hints, we come to this very remarkable one: Unless compelled by driving conditions, avoid driving closely behind the vehicle in front of you. If you do, your vision is restricted. … "If you do" will mean, of course, "If you do avoid driving closely behind …" This is, of course, an example of perfectly reckless writing, with the grammar out of control. What the draftsman thought he had said was not "avoid driving"; it was either "do not drive—" or "never drive—", in which case it would be possible to let the next sentence remain. An alternative way of dealing with it would be to leave "avoid driving" as it stands, and then go on, in the next sentence to say Such driving will restrict your vision … etc. It is quite easy. There are a certain number of teachers in the House, who, if their pupils produced that which the Minister of Transport, with the aid of the Ministry of Education, is now putting before the House, would have a good deal to say, and would take a gloomy view of their pupils' prospects.

Let me deal with one more of the hints on driving. It is the last paragraph in these hints, which hon. Members will find on page 30. It is a long one. I shall not attempt to redraft it, because it is, as it stands, such complete nonsense that I am not confident that I can even guess what it means. I can guess what certain parts of it mean. It begins: A good driver, though he may use different controls in quick succession, should be very observant and never allow himself to be placed in such a position that he must try to do too many things at the same time. To pause there for a moment, it is quite obvious that the words "though he may use different controls in quick succession" do not qualify the words "should be very observant," but qualify the words later in the sentence "never allow himself to be placed in such a position." In other words, roughly what is meant by the first sentence is "A good driver should be very observant. Though he may use different controls in quick succession, he should never allow himself to be placed in such a position that he must try to do too many things at the same time." Then it says "his whole method of driving should be mapped out." Then we get this remarkable sentence: It should be deliberate and thoughtful, which means that he should never need to be hurried, as he must always be master of his machine. The next sentence starts rather remarkably "In other words" though the second part of the previous sentence had tried to explain matters by the words "which means." I think that the words may mean "which means that he must always be master of his machine and never need to be hurried." Or, possibly, it means to say "which means that he will never need to be hurried since he will always be master of his machine." Either of these would make some sort of sense, whereas the paragraph as it stands is complete, and, I may say, admitted, balderdash. Another not very important point is in "Hints on Cycling" on the same page—page 30. "Hints on Cycling" include this remarkable statement "at slow speeds, or when turning a corner, the toe may catch the front mudguard." [Interruption.] I am dealing with a rather important document in rather a technical way. "When turning a corner, the toe may catch the front mudguard." I assure the House the toe is most unlikely to be turning a corner, unless the rider and the cycle are doing so. What the draftsman meant to say is not "when turning a corner, the toe may catch" but "when you are turning a corner, your toe may catch."

Before we leave this part of the Code, let us turn for a moment to page 18. On page 18 there is a picture of a gentleman performing marvellous evolutions with a whip. It says "I am going to turn." Then it says: After rotating the whip, incline it to the right or left to show the direction in which the turn is to be made. Admittedly it would be better if it said "in which you arc about to turn."

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Llandaff and Barry)

Read the bit in black above it.

Mr. H. Strauss

I will most willingly yield to the hon. Gentleman in one moment, but I thought he might like to know that this criticism has been agreed by the Minister as being a right criticism.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

If the hon. Member would simply read the whole of the passage, and if he had read the whole of the passage on page 30, it would be clear. The part in black, which he avoids reading, is "I am going to turn." It does not require much common sense to come to the correct meaning.

Mr. H. Strauss

The hon. Member seems to have misunderstood. I did, in fact, state, "I am going to turn." I was going to say, as a matter of wording, if one wants to use the simplest words understood by everybody—it is quite rightly the Minister's view—it is better to say "To show the direction in which you are about to turn" which everybody understands at once, instead of saying "The direction in which the turn is to be made." It is not one of the important things: it is a point of drafting. The Minister has said in a letter to me that he agrees with that criticism, and in another place the same point was made and those who spoke for the Government agreed with it.

I have dealt with some of the admitted absurdities. There are many more but these are admitted. If the Minister were allowed to alter those parts of the Code he would do so and he has written to me giving this undertaking. But as has been ruled, Mr. Speaker, he cannot do so. The only remedy is to refuse approval for this Code and then the Minister could bring back another Code on another occasion. It does not mean that we shall be without a Code: we shall go on with the existing one. There are objections, rather serious objections, to certain passages of what the Minister himself calls the Code. May I for convenience deal with these not in order of importance but in order of pages? Would hon. Members turn to Rule 10 on page 3?

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in Order to conduct a Debate in which hon. Members are asked to follow a Code when copies of that Code cannot be obtained at the Vote Office? The Vote Office intimate they have approached the Ministry and cannot get the necessary copies.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

There were more copies given to the Vote Office than there are Members of Parliament. If hon. Members take a large number, we cannot control that, but obviously we did not want to print an unnecessary number before Parliament approved of it.

Mr. H. Strauss

May I offer the hon. Member a copy?

Mr. Speaker

I would like to say in answer to the conundrum presented to me by the hon. Member that the matter is somewhat difficult. Hon. Members are entitled to have copies but if copies are not available we have a difficult situation.

Mr. William Foster (Wigan)

Is it in Order for an hon. Member to take more than one copy and leave other hon. Members without a copy?

Mr. Speaker

This is a novel situation again. Of course hon. Members can take more than one copy, but they ought not to take more than one or two. If a larger number were taken, there might not be any left.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the Department did not wish to print more copies of the Code than were necessary until Parliament had approved it but surely it was up to the Minister to have printed all the copies necessary to enable hon. Members of this House to read the document. We have taken a great interest in the Code and without copies we are discussing something in the dark. I have applied for a copy at the Vote Office but have been unable to obtain one.

Mr. Driberg (Maldon)

Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I say that I have myself obtained a copy of the Code at the Vote Office which I have passed on to a friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but when I asked for another copy ten minutes ago, I was informed that they had had a thousand copies all of which had been disposed of, but they had tried to get more from the Stationery Office. Could not a messenger be sent to the Stationery Office?

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I am informed that at the present moment it is impossible to get a copy. I do not know whether it would be in Order to move to report Progress to enable Members to obtain copies.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I am informed that there were 1,200 copies placed in the Vote Office. Surely that is a reasonable number. The Ministry has done all that is proper in this matter. If there has been a run on them in fifties and hundreds, we cannot be expected to cope with that.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

According to the information given, a thousand copies were provided a fortnight ago—not yesterday or tonight. I submit that in a matter of this importance, hon. Members are entitled during the Debate to expect to be able to find adequate numbers in the Vote Office. As an hon. Member, and a Minister, with long experience, I have never before known occasions on which adequate supplies of documents or papers have not been available. We are entitled to move to report Pro-

gress in view of the fact that large numbers of hon. Members have not the document in their possession.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman cannot move to report Progress, but he can move that the Debate be now adjourned.

Mr. Hudson

I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 85; Noes, 231.

Division No. 278.] AYES [10.45 p.m.
Baldwin, A. E. Hope, Lord J. Nield, B. (Chester)
Barlow, Sir J. Howard, Hon. A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Osborne, C.
Bennett, Sir P. Hurd, A. Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)
Birch, Nigel Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Ramsay, Maj. S.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Buchan-Hepburn, P, G. T. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Renton, D.
Carson, E. Jennings, R. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Challen, C. Keeling, E. H. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Kendall, W. D. Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lambert, Hon. G. Scott, Lord W.
Crowder, Capt. John E. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Snadden, W. M.
Cuthbert, W. N. Lindsay, HI. (Solihull) Spearman, A. C. M.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Lipson, D. L. Spence, H. R.
Davidson, Viscountess Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Drayson, Capt. G. B. Low, Brig. A. R. W. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Drewe, C. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) McCallum, Maj. D. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Duthie, W. S. Maclay, Hon. J. S. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Fletcher W. (Bury) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. H. (Bromley) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Touche, G. C.
Gage, C. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Turton, R. H.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. Marlowe, A. A. H. Vane, W. M. F.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Marples, A. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Grimston, R. V. Marsden, Capt. A. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Harris, H. Wilson Mellor, Sit J. White, J. B.(Canterbury)
Head, Brig, A. H. Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Herbert, Sir A. P. Nicholson, G. Mr. Studholme and Major Conant.
Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South) Comyns, Dr. L. Foster, W. (Wigan)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Cooper, Wing-Comdr, G. Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Corlett, Dr. J. Gaitskell, H. T. N.
Attewell, H. C. Crawley, A. Gallacher, W.
Austin, H. L. Crossman, R. H. S. Ganley, Mrs. C. S
Awbery, S. S. Davies, Edward (Burslem) Gibbins, J.
Baird, Capt. J. Davies, Ernest (Enfield) Gibson, C. W
Bechervaise, A. E. Davies, Harold (Leek) Gilzean, A.
Berry, H. Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.) Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Bing, G. H. C. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Gooch, E. G.
Binns, J. Deer, G. Goodrich, H. E.
Blyton, W. R. Delargy, Captain, H. J. Gordon-Walker, P. C.
Boardman, H. Diamond, J. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Dobbie, W. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge) Dodds, N. N. Grenfell, D R.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Driberg, T. E. N. Grey, C. F
Bramall, E. A. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Grierson, E.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Durbin, E. F. M. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Brown, George (Belper) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Haire, Flt-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Buchanan, G. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Hannan, W. (Maryhill)
Burden, T. W. Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Hardy, E. A.
Burke, W. A. Evans, John (Ogmore) Harrison, J.
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Haworth, J.
Champion. A. J. Ewart, R. Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)
Cobb, F. A. Fairhurst, F. Herbison, Miss M.
Cocks, F. S. Farthing, W. J. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Collick, P. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Hobson, C R.
Collins, V. J. Foot, M. M. Holman, P.
Colman, Miss G. M. Forman, J. C. Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)
Hoy, J. Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Soskice, Maj. Sir F.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Stamford, W.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Murray, J. D. Stecle, T.
Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.) Nally, W. Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.) Naylor, T. E. Stokes, R. R.
Irving, W. J. Neal, H. (Claycross) Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Janner, B. Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Stubbs, A. E.
Jay, D. P. T. Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Summerkill, Dr. Edith
Jeger, G. (Winchester) Noel-Buxton, Lady Swinger, S.
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.) Oliver, G. H. Symonds, Maj. A. L.
Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools) Orbach, M. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jones, J. H. (Bolton) Orr, Sir J. Boyd Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)
Keenan, W. Paget, R. T. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Kenyon, C. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth) Thomas, John R. (Dover)
King, E. M. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)
Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E. Palmer, A. M. F. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Kinley, J. Pargiter, G. A. Timmons, J.
Kirby, B. V. Parker, J. Titterington, M. F.
Lang, G. Pearson, A. Tolley, L.
Lavert, S. Peart, Capt. T. F. Ungoed-Thomas, L.
LOT, F. (Hulme) Perrins, W. Walkden, E.
Leonard, W. Platts-Mills, J. F. F. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)
Lever, H. H. Price, M. Philips Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)
Lewis, J. (Bolton) Pritt D. N. Warbey, W. N.
Lewis, T (Southampton) Proctor, W. T. Watkins, T. E.
Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.) Pryde, D. J. Weitzman, D.
Logan, D. G. Randall, H. E. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Lyne, A. W. Ranger, J. West, D. G.
McAdam, W. Rankin, J. White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.)
McAllister, G. Reid, T. (Swindon) Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
McEntee, V. La T. Rhodes, H. Wigg, Colonel G. E.
Mack, J. D. Robens, A. Wilkes, L.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wilkins, W. A.
McKinlay, A. S. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Maclean, N. (Govan) Royle, C. Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
McLeavy, F. Scollan, T. Willis, E.
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Segal, Dr. S. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Mainwaring, W. H. Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A. Wilson, J. H.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M. Wise, Major F. J.
Mann, Mrs. J. Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes) Woodburn, A.
Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson) Woods, G. S.
Mathers, G. Simmons, C. J. Wyatt, Maj. W.
Medland, H. M. Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Vales, V. F.
Middleton, Mrs. L. Smith, C. (Colchester) Zilliacus, K.
Mikardo, Ian Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Monslow, W. Smith, T. (Normanton) Mr. Collindridge and
Morley, R. Snow, Capt. J. W. Mr. Popplewell.

Original Question again proposed.

10.58 p.m.

Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I raise a point on your Ruling? As by silence you acquiesce, Mr. Speaker, I will venture to put my views before the House. May I draw your attention, first, to the Code generally? I would suggest to you that the Highway Code starts on page 2 and ends, as with the old Code, on page 22 with "The Signs Given." Thereafter, this little booklet sets out what are called "The law's demands ". The law's demands have already been approved by this House and if, Mr. Speaker, you turn to any of the matters contained on pages 23 to 28 you will find that therein is set out the Jaw. For example, on page 27, dealing with pedal cycles, it says: You must observe traffic signals and signs. The law was passed by this House 16 years ago in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, Section 49. I submit that this House cannot, by rejecting this Code, withdraw

all the Statutes mentioned on pages 23 to 28, so that we cannot, on your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, be rejecting the whole of this Code. We can only be rejecting the matters between pages 2 and 22. Further, included in heavy print on page 32 is Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930. We cannot reject that Section by rejecting this Code. I submit strongly, Mr. Speaker, that you reconsider this Ruling and consider again, in view of the submissions I have made, that matters contained in this Code after page 22 are merely setting out the law as it exists, and merely drawing the attention of the public to the existing legislation.

Mr. Speaker

I am glad I am not a lawyer. I think that these are interesting matters which lawyers, no doubt, can discuss among themselves. I am merely governed by the fact that it seems to me that this is really analagous to a Bill with a Schedule. I want to look at the thing from a commonsense point of view. I gather it was said in another place that amendments might be made by a Minister to the Appendix. Is the Minister, therefore, allowed to alter the law? It seems to be an odd doctrine which the hon. Member is trying to support, when he says that this is merely setting out the law, and that if it can be amended it alters the law, I feel that the whole document ought to come as one to the House of Commons.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. H. Strauss

It is often found that those who are not lawyers speak very good law by speaking good commonsense. If the hon. and learned Member will look at page 29 he will see that it says nothing about the law at all, but is headed "Hints on Driving." I want to deal with certain rules, and to ask the House, if we are concerned with the serious problem of diminishing road accidents, whether they are satisfactory. Rule 10 is addressed to pedestrians, including children, and you therefore want to put the thing as simply as you can. The Rule states: On a footpath do not walk alongside the kerb in the same direction as the nearer stream of traffic. If, as I believe, the Rule means this, how would this do? On a pavement or footpath do not walk near the kerb with your back to the traffic. This has been suggested by the Pedestrians' Association.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

You might start him walking sideways.

Mr. H. Strauss

The comment of the hon. Member for Ipswich applies as much to the Rule as it stands as to my suggested amendment. In Rule 30 the Minister has, quite rightly, tried to effect an improvement on the existing Code by collecting in a single Rule what was previously divided among several. It gives five cases where you should not overtake. Most of them are perfectly simple—at a corner or bend, or at cross-roads, for example. The first case, under (a), runs as follows: Unless you can do so without forcing the overtaken or approaching vehicles to swerve or reduce speed; ". Any hon. Member who has studied good drafting knows that you avoid a double negative wherever possible. Would it not be better if, instead of saying, "unless you can do so without forcing," you said "if by doing so you force"? I give that advice to the House. I am perfectly certain that any teacher would tell you that it is clearer and better if you do not use a double negative. Let me now turn to Rule 31, which reads: Never cut out, that is, do not turn from the near side sharply without giving ample warning and making sure that it is safe to do so. I believe that means: Never cut out. That is to say, never turn from the near side sharply, but give ample warning and make sure that it is safe. Hon. Members should bear in mind, if they want the words after "that is" to define what came before, that it is not a good idea to say, "Never cut out, that is, do not turn. …" It would be far better to say, "… that is, never …" —to repeat the "never," as was done in the last Highway Code. To make a change that simply introduces obscurity is not a good idea. I beg hon. Members to note Rule 46. This is a Rule to which great importance is attached. I hope hon. Members will follow this, because the Minister said, in his opening remarks, what importance is attached, and rightly attached, to what is printed inside the back cover. Rule 46 deals with that material on the back cover, and it says: Take a pride in your driving. … I ask hon. Members to notice the next words— The good driver knows how stopping distances increase with speed. … I have tried that sentence on a number of people outside, and at first they had not the slightest idea what was meant. I think that in this House we all know what it means, but let me point out how the smallest change to accurate drafting would make it clear. "Stopping distances" should not be put in the plural. What is meant is that the stopping distance increases with the speed; in other words, with a little more expansion, the stopping distance, that is to say, the distance within which he can pull up, increases with his speed. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh. There are hon. Members whose simple laughter demonstrates their ignorance of the whole problem with which we are dealing. They will not shorten the advice which I feel it my duty to give to the House, in a matter that I have taken the trouble to study. To attempt honestly to clarify the Highway Code, the object of which is to avoid road accidents, is not a trivial or unimportant job.

Let me give another example. Hon. Members will scarcely think this credible, but the rule I have just quoted says at the end: "(See pages 29–30)." It completely forgets to refer one to the inside of the back cover, which is the one important point in this connection which the Minister mentioned in his speech. Let me mention Rule 51. This is the only example in all the Rules where my objection is purely on grammar. I object to Rule 51 as it stands solely on the ground of its complete and notorious illiteracy. I do not think it is improper that a university Member should object on that ground. The Rule says: A speed limit is imposed for reasons of safety which may not always be obvious. To exceed it is to take a risk, as well as being an offence. The word "being" has not got any construction of any sort; "as well as" happens to be a conjunction and not a preposition. One can reduce the sentence to English by writing "besides" instead of "as well as," or one can say, "If you exceed it, you take a risk and also commit an offence." "As well as being" is there simply illiterate. If this goes through in its present form, this paragraph, among others, will be set in the schools by intelligent teachers of English, many of whom are my constituents and write to me, as an example of abominable grammar. The schools will be asked to correct the grammar and will be told that this language was approved by both Houses of Parliament.

The last Rule to which I will refer is Rule 53. It is headed "Vehicle Condition," which I believe means "Condition of vehicle." That would be much clearer because "condition" sometimes has a legal meaning. But there is also a point of substance in the rule itself which has been raised by those who speak for pedestrians. The rule speaks about the fitness of the vehicle to be used on the road and says: Give regular attention to brakes, steering and tyres. That is all good advice, but there is no allusion to the importance of an un-obscured number plate and of seeing that it is clean and not obscured. Everybody knows what the pedestrians and cyclists feel about the need for good driving on the roads and for identifying a motor car the driver of which indulges in bad behaviour. That is not unimportant, and it should appear in the Rule.

I am grateful to the House for the patience with which they have listened to what I have had to say, but I am not going to apologise for having taken the trouble to study this Code and to bring these errors to their attention. Let us see what the position is. If the Minister persists in this Motion, we know from Mr. Speaker that not one word of the nonsense which I have quoted can be altered. It will be sent to every home in the land in this nonsensical form. Admittedly "do" appears where "don't" is meant.—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly it does. It is no good hon. Members saying "No." If they will turn to page 29 and the paragraph I have referred to, they will see that it says: "If you do …", meaning "If you do avoid driving closely behind the vehicle in front …"—when precisely the opposite is intended. Therefore, this booklet will contain hints which are admittedly nonsense. It will contain the hint, "when driving, keep both hands on the steering wheel unless, for example, you happen to be steering." I am astonished at the Government. If the Government do persist in this Motion, it will at least be known through a Division that there are Members in the House who would refuse the sanction of Parliament to a Code which admittedly contains nonsense. The fact that it also contains good sense is no answer. The remedy is to remove the nonsense, to redraft what is bad and to return to the House with a Code than can be approved.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

We have heard a typical lawyer's argument. What has been done is to take words which have a simple and obvious meaning—[HON. MEMBERS: "To whom?"]— which any ordinary individual would understand and to apply to them ingenious constructions which give them different meanings. Every profession requires its jargon. Every profession finds that ordinary English as understood by the man in the street lacks sufficient precision to be able to express the particular meanings required by that profession. Thus medicine, engineering and law all have their particular jargons. The jargon of the lawyer has to express not merely a particular and obvious meaning, but has to exclude any other possible construction. That has not been applied to this Code, whereas the Code is drafted for the man in the street and not for the lawyers. Here we have a lawyer opposite reading it as a lawyer and complaining that it is not drafted suitably for lawyers. Of course it is not; it is not intended to be—

Mr. H. Strauss

Not at all.

Mr. Paget

There is a perfectly obvious simple meaning to every one of these Rules which any ordinary man in the street will understand perfectly well without going in for professional essays in the intricacies of grammar.

11.16 p.m.

Flight-Lieutenant Crawley (Buckingham)

I cannot quite follow the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) on this matter. I must confess to having some sympathy with some of the criticisms made. In view of the authority of the hon. Members for the universities, it would be impertinent to say very much about good English, except just to make this observation: that good English is not a tiresome thing, it is not a waste of time and it is not a matter of snobbery. It is simply a question of saying things in the most direct and the shortest way possible, and it is the greatest economy and the best way of being efficient. I will make one point about that before I sit down, but my criticism of this document—which I do not expect to be withdrawn, but which I do ask the Minister to look at again with a view to publishing another edition—is not of the precepts, which are unexceptionable, but of its presentation and its lack of imagination. This, after all, is a document which is intended to save life— presumably that is its main purpose. People are supposed to get hold of it, to be struck by it, and to memorise it. The one thing it should do is to appeal to people's imaginations, so that they will remember it and talk about it and really get it into their minds.

There was before the war, as many hon. Members will remember, another Highway Code and an unofficial document published with it which I cannot help feeling would have been a best seller even if it had not been issued free. It was drawn up by a humorist and a very famous artist. I remember even now, and I have not looked at it again, some of the drawings in it. One dealt with the question of what signals you should make when on a public highway or anywhere else. It was of a figure dressed in a topee riding a camel across the Sahara, with nothing in sight, and putting out his hand because he wanted to turn to the right. Another I remember was of a figure—not of Colonel Blimp but of a person more likely to be on the benches opposite than on these—in a crowded thoroughfare with a cigar in his mouth, a stick under his arm, and hand behind his back, stepping off the pavement into the middle of the traffic with one eye on the marked crossing saying, "Damn those spots. I'm going to cross this street where I like." These appealed to the imagination.

Now one comes to this document, and again we find there are drawings. Obviously the Minister will say that they are not meant to fulfil quite the same purpose, but I say that if you have drawings in any publication they should be drawings which strike the imagination, so that people look at them with pleasure, if possible, but at least not with great distaste, and do remember them. First of these drawings is a policeman. The fact is that the drawing does not look like a policeman. Then one comes to a cyclist, who has a black cap and a bald pate, and who looks rather like an overdressed convict. The fact is that these drawings are repellant. One's only feeling when one looks at them is that one does not want to look at them again. It may seem a small matter, but details of that kind are very important—psychologically much more important than one is apt to remember when one is busy.

Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)

Does the hon. Member realise that it is a complete waste of time to criticise the drawings or anything else, unless he is prepared to ask the Minister to withdraw the Code, so that we can have a better one?

Flight-Lieutenant Crawley

I do not agree. The precepts require to be published. I am suggesting that this is the place to criticise the form of this Code so that when it is republished it can be revised. [An HON. MEMBER: "It cannot be revised."] Surely there are ways of revising any document. It is worth making the point that I am not a lawyer. I have only read this as a road user. I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend. I will read one paragraph, which I think I now understand, after reading it several times, to see if the House takes the same view. On page 13, it is stated: When leading an animal, always place yourself between it and the traffic and keep the animal to the edge of the road. This rule applies equally whether you are walking or riding It may be possible to ride a horse and lead him at the same time. The other difficulty is that if one is riding a horse it is difficult to place oneself between the horse and the traffic.

Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)

Does the hon. Member concede the possibility of riding one horse and leading another?

Flight-Lieutenant Crawley

What I am saying is that when. I read that, although I have ridden many horses, that was the construction I first put on it, and when I asked other hon. Members I found that it was the construction they put on it. Even to a plain man it was not very plain. Indeed, I wondered whether the Parliamentary Secretary was thinking of an acrobatic horseman who was going to imitate those people who perform at reviews and other functions, who hang on to the saddle by their knees, trailing their hands on the ground.

Lastly, I think that even in the text imagination is of importance in any document like this. Surely the whole difficulty about this question of road safety is that everybody knows what he ought to do—all the precepts are really obvious; the difficulty is to get people to remember them at the right time. To do that, although we must have a Code, which must be set out plainly, it is no use, even in the Appendix, setting out the same type of observation in plain words. We must touch people's minds, interrupt their habit of thought, get something which will stick, so that they will remember at the right time what we are trying to get them to remember. On these grounds, it is worth reconsidering this Code, and by the necessary means, revising it at a later date.

Captain John Crowder (Finchley)

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary one question? I believe that when anybody applies for a driving licence he or she has to answer the following question: "Have you read the Highway Code?" If one puts "Yes, but I did not understand it, and I think it means nonsense," will that preclude the applicant from getting a licence from the local authority to drive a motor car?

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Kendall (Grantham)

I also want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary one question, a very simple one. If it be a fact that he has agreed to make the changes suggested by the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss), and, from the Speaker's Ruling, the Parliamentary Secretary is unable to make these changes, is it not rather foolish to print a lot of these books, many many thousands of them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Millions."]—-millions of them, when they will have to be withdrawn? I think that is surely the question round which the whole of this matter revolves. Whether or no the Parliamentary Secretary does agree, many of the things contained in this booklet must be changed, and, if that be so, surely the right and proper thing to do is to withdraw it. There is nothing dishonourable in that. Withdraw this, have it redrafted, and have it presented to the House of Commons without all this criticism and without all the ridicule poured on it from this side of the House and by the hon. Member opposite. Surely that is the proper thing to do.

11.27 p.m.

Mr. King (Penrhyn and Falmouth)

May I first express the utmost sympathy with the Parliamentary Secretary? I cannot imagine anything more horrid than to have to be responsible for an essay running to 32 pages, to be read by some 15 million people and criticised by everybody in this House word for word. Therefore, we ought not to be too severe in what criticisms we have to make.

I believe it is a custom of this House that, where a Member has a vested interest, he should first declare his interest. For many years I taught English. I have a vested interest in, shall I say, King's English, and when I look at some of the words in this book I do find it extraordinarily difficult to defend. I do not want to go through many examples; some have already been quoted; so I will confine myself to one on page 11. I may say that, originally, I had a list of 14, but I do not want to weary the House with more. If you use a direction indicator, see that it is returned to neutral as soon as your movement is completed. Surely what the writer means is "as soon as your turn is complete." Movement presumably means when the car comes to a standstill, which may be in Edinburgh. I know there are persons who think this use of words is not important. I cannot share that view. There are two things that must strike one. First, the point of view of the motorcar driver. This book is going out with the authority of Parliament, and I think there is something to be said for the view that it should not be a party matter. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is all right saying, "Hear, hear," but I am really sorry that the hon. and learned Member who first raised it seemed to me to be using it as a piece of political opportunism. It is just that it makes it so much the more difficult to say what I have said.

Having said that, there are two points I want to make. The first is that this will probably be quoted in courts of law, and in the courts of law one must have a sentence which is crystal clear. Second, the correct use of the English language is, and ought to remain, a matter which we regard as of consequence. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider withdrawing the Code and re-issuing it in another shape later on. I appreciate his difficulties. I understand that if that were done it would be difficult to get the pamphlet sent out for many months. Therefore we have to weigh one case against the other—whether it is better to send out this pamphlet imperfect, or whether it is better, on the other hand, to delay for many months a Code which may be of material value and, even, save life. These are the two points to be considered, and they are not so simple as hon. Members on the other side think. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will find it possible to withdraw this Code, amend it and issue it more clearly. I wish he had never introduced it in this form.

11.30 p.m.

Sir Alan Herbert (Oxford University)

May I as one who for many years has tried to learn English pour a little oil on the waters, or the flames, as the case may be? On the whole, I think that this document is a good honest job. On the whole only. I think a real effort has been made to observe the three rules of writing, to have something to say, to say it clearly and to say it attractively. But quite naturally the draftsman has not succeeded everywhere. I support every word of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the English Universities {Mr. H. Strauss) said. It is not true to say that such objections are "pedantry." It is not pedantic to bowl straight. To kick a ball straight at the goal is not pedantic. We do not say it is pedantic when hon. Members opposite tell us the best way to get coal. We listen with attention. It is not right when my hon. and learned Friend speaks on this subject, to which he has given so much study, to laugh as if what he says is mere scholastic pedantry. Nor is it true to say, as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) suggests, that all the sentences criticised are "simple and obvious." They are not. They have to be simple and obvious, not merely to us, who are, of course, educated and intelligent and brilliant people, but to the flapper driving her first car.

I am not going to weary the House with further examples, but I would mention No. 10. I had to read it four times before I was quite clear. But the amendment proposed by the Pedestrians Association and quoted by my hon. and learned Friend is immediately clear. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary that they have sought to make use of "good, strong, vigorous and colloquial English." But I happened to write down his words beside the eloquent sentence in the Minister's foreword, of which almost every word is Latin. The sentence reads: Each provision, whether it relates to a legal requirement or to discretionary behaviour, has been included because of its importance in preventing road accidents. This is all right, but do not point the finger of scorn at University Members when they try to get some of the long words out. Look at Rule 41: Give pedestrians and pedal cyclists plenty of room. They are very vulnerable… Well, some of us here have a knowledge of Latin. We know that Uulnus is the Latin for "wound," and that "vulnerable" means woundable. But simple people do not know what "vulnerable" means. And, by the way, a motor driver is just as vulnerable as a pedestrian, so there is not much point in the remark. I quite agree that this is not a party question. We all ought to try to get together to ensure that this is something of which we can all be proud, of which Parliament can be proud when it emerges from this House. I do appeal to the Minister in an entirely non-party and in a friendly spirit to withdraw this document and get a small committee together to deal with the points raised. It could be done in a day.

11.35 P.m.

Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)

I would like to reinforce the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). But the care exercised in this matter by the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) leads to the notable discovery that there is only one thing on earth in the construction of which the Tory Party are interested—words and phrases. In dealing with any English document, anybody with a sufficiently avid mind can analyse it for hours on end. I have done it myself, but I have always been wise enough not to do it in public. When one comes down to the seriousness of it, one finds that there is an English which produces a great precision, and which right hon. Members on the Front bench say is necessary and the only safe way in which to legislate. Then there is the English which is understood by the ordinary layman. I have had to master both. I have had to do it in order to prepare cases, and I have had to write books. Remembering that, I do not know why one cannot sympathise with the Minister, because he has to write for 15 million. I never reached such a public. I am envious of it. But let us examine the position. If we allow the lawyers to correct this and that—.

Mr. Basil Neild (Chester)

Is this not the position? Is the hon. and learned Member not forgetting that, under Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, a failure to observe the provisions of the Highway Code may be relied upon as tending to establish or to negative liability in civil or criminal proceedings, and that, therefore, the courts will have to construe the provisions which this House is now considering?

Mr. Pritt

That is not a matter to which I am addressing myself. Many of the parties before our courts are people who do not understand that, and many will not understand it. The point about this Code is that one may issue something which the ordinary layman cannot understand. It should be something which he can understand, but if he has lawyers' criticisms all over the place, one will have something which is not understood. It should be in ordinary lay English.

11.38 p.m.

Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)

Much has been said from the point of view of plain English. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) has lately popularised the sentiment, in which I join, that he wants to see the people happy. I want to see the people happy, and I also want to see the Parliamentary Secretary happy, but why he was happy when he held up this document is past understanding. He claimed that this document was simple, and it is not. He said that it was clear, and it is not. He said that it was concise. It is not. Because it is none of these things, we ask, not as lawyers, not as university Members, but as laymen, that this pamphlet be put in clear and concise language. The hon. Member for Penryn and Fal-mouth (Mr. King) talked about King's English. By "King's English" I understand using short words where you can instead of long, using few words where you can instead of many, using Anglo-Saxon words where you can instead of importations from Latin and French. It is because this booklet sins against all those canons that I join very earnestly in the appeal made to the Parliamentary Secretary to withdraw it and bring it in again at the beginning of the resumed Session, and have it published at that time.

I do not follow my hon. and learned Friend entirely; I have a better view of the pamphlet than he, for a reason which I think he will admit. It is quite obvious that this pamphlet has been written by a rather intelligent office boy in a kind of language with which he is not quite familiar. I do not mind what kind of language the Minister of Transport uses in his own publications, or what he does with them, but as many hon. Members have pointed out, this has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament, and it is a very serious matter that so incurably sloppy a document as this should go out with the imprimatur of the "Lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, in this Parliament assembled." This House of Commons is a historic institution; it has declared war and has made treaties of peace; and when it is proposed that it should approve of such a profound statement as this: A slippery road is dangerous ", adding the injunction: Watch your step ", I think it is time we looked a little further into the matter.

The fact is that there is a great deal of good sense in this booklet, and a great deal of nonsense. It is essential to separate the one from the other. Obviously if you remove the nonsense, if you remove what is puerile, if you remove what is superfluous, the quality of the whole document is immediately raised, and it becomes what it ought to be and fulfils the purpose it sets out to fulfil. As an example of the waste of words, using many words where few words would do a great deal better, let me quote Rule 26: When traffic in front of you is held up, never attempt to gain a forward position by encroaching on the offside of the road. I do not claim to know what "gaining a forward position" means unless it is " going to the head of the line," in which case I would simply say, " Do not run up to the front on the offside." A little further on is another example of ten words being used where three would be better and clearer. At the bottom of page 28 we read: A pedestrian may not remain on a pedestrian crossing longer than is necessary for the purpose of passing from one side of the road to the other with reasonable despatch. It simply means, " crossing the road," but is thought necessary to use ten words, " passing from one side of the road to the other," adding " with reasonable despatch," meaning " at a normal pace."

With regard to intelligibility, here is a hint on driving which I have discussed with very many hon. Members, and I do not think any of us have vet arrived at a clear interpretation: Keep a sharp look-out for changes in road condition. Learn to notice quickly, and use extra care where the camber of the road is against you or where the surface is loose, highly polished, or covered with leaves. I cannot understand what "use extra care when the camber of a road is against you" means. I have reached the conclusion, and it is a rather reassuring conclusion, that it means exactly the opposite of what it says. If the camber of the road is with you, you slide down and skid. Yet this says precisely the opposite—"against you."

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

How can the camber be either with you, or against you?

Mr. Wilson Harris

The hon. Member must not ask me that. I understand that it has been acknowledged by the Parliamentary Secretary himself that a great deal of the " Hints on Driving " part of the appendix, if not sheer nonsense, is capable of great improvement and calls urgently for it. Mr. Speaker's Ruling makes it clear that this matter cannot be improved without the recommittal of the whole of the Highway Code. I would like to ask whether, knowing of this nonsense, knowing that it is hardly intelligible, knowing a great deal of it to be stupid, the Parliamentary Secretary is going to force this document on to the public.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge (Bedford)

If I do not follow the last speaker he must understand that it is not because I do not have sympathy for some of the criticisms he levelled at the Code, though most of it dealt with mere drafting points and trivialities. We should remember that while we may reject the Code, accidents on the roads will be mounting if we do so. What we have to ask ourselves is what is the plain meaning of the rules in this Highway Code for the ordinary common-or-garden road user—pedestrian, cyclist, motorist or horse driver. Do the points raised in criticism justify the holding up of this Code? I contend that they do not. The road accident position is such, I think, that we cannot possibly afford to hold up the issue of this document. It is a splendid thing that it is going into every household and not, as was the case with the last Highway Code, to motorists only. It has a message for all road users.

I have already gone through the category of road users, and generally speaking I think the Code is handy and reasonably attractive. One thing which does appeal to me is that it puts proper stress on the safety of children and the necessity for persuading parents to advise their children as to the various rules they should follow in crossing roads where motor traffic is passing. I would not like to see this Code held up for any but the gravest reasons, and I do not think that any reasons which would justify its being held up have been put forward tonight. There was too much crossing of the t's and dotting of the i's in what was said by the hon. and learned Member for tsie Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss). It is perfectly clear to me what is the general meaning of the Code, and we all recognise, I think, that it is only part of a concerted plan to cure what is a grave social evil. It is true to say, for example, that not much can be done to improve the accident position in the country until there is a thorough reform of the road system of the country. The roads at the moment are quite unequal to the demands made on them. But that is another aspect of the matter.

The Code is very properly going to be made the Bible for all new drivers in the future. I wish it could be made the Bible for all those who hold provisional licences, and not only for those who are to apply for new licences, for I am persuaded that a great many motorists who have provisional licences are incapable of driving adequately under present-day traffic conditions. If possible they should all be put through the hoop, although I know that depends on an adequate testing staff being available. Unless this Code is thoroughly digested by all road users, and especially by motorists, the accident rate is unlikely to be reduced. I hope that the Code will be carefully studied by all road users, as I think it deserves to be, because it affects every man, woman and child in the country. If the advice it gives is properly heeded road accidents will most assuredly be reduced. I hope the House will reject the pleas put forward from the other side of the House, despite the defects of the Code, which I fully recognise, in matters of grammar and drafting.

11.53 p.m.

Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)

Unfortunately I have only been able to glance intermittently at this semi-secret document, but one thing which seems to be clear is that planned English is nothing like as good as plain English. We have heard a good deal of justified criticism of the language of this Highway Code, and I think the general weight of feeling is that the Minister would be well advised to withdraw it, redraft it, and issue it later.

I hope he may be able to do that even at this eleventh hour. I should like to make a constructive suggestion. We have heard a good deal of condemnation of phrases from abroad, but we can occasionally import phrases from abroad which are of value. I would remind the House that in France there was a figure of impressive and generous amplitude called " Bibendum." He was produced by a private enterprise firm, Michelins, which throughout France produced signs and a highway code of its own. It became universal, and everyone knew this splendid and ample figure, and the short vivid phrases with which he expressed warnings. It had a very great effect in that country, where driving is violent and fast, but where nevertheless accidents are not so numerous. I hope that when the redrafting'of the Code comes along, the Minister will pay attention to the ideas and methods and the way that firm '' put over " that highway code in France.

I have one improvement to suggest from the practical point of view. What classes of vehicles are mentioned? We have motor cars which the Chancellor of the Exchequer more or less tells us are badges of shame, cars which no Socialist should be seen driving, and which we shall not be able to run when the Minister of Fuel and Power rations petrol to a greater extent. Horses will not be on the highways much longer, because, thanks to a colleague of the Chancellor, we shall not be able to feed them. The only-vehicle not mentioned is the rickshaw. In the new edition he should include that extremely popular and democratic vehicle which is of such great use in the Far East. He should devote himself to " Bibendum " and rickshaws.

Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)

May I ask the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) a question? If that was all he had to say, why did he trouble to get up?

11.55 p.m.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvonshire)

I intervene to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to a point of the utmost importance to the Principality of Wales. I join with the hon. and learned Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) in deploring the English prose style of this document, but I hope his concern for getting this document into such a state that it can be understood by all the 15 million people who are expected to read it will make him join me in representations to the Ministry that this document should be published in Wales in the Welsh language, as well as in English.

Recently, the county council of the constituency which I represent, the Caernarvonshire county council, like other Welsh county councils, made representations to the Ministry of Transport with a view to having a Welsh language version of this document prepared. I am sorry to say that they received a reply which showed that my hon. Friend's Department were lamentably ignorant of the true position in Wales, particularly in regard to the prevalence of the Welsh language. The reply was to the effect that the number of people who were conversant only with Welsh was too small to warrant such a separate publication.

What are the facts? The facts are that, according to the B.B.C.'s official figures, there are over 1,000,000 Welsh-speaking listeners in this country, and according to the last population census, in Wales alone there were 900,000 Welsh-speaking persons, and of those as many as 80,000 were Welsh monolinguists. This is not a small number, and I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should be as concerned about the road safety of 80,000 Welshmen as he might be about So million of any other nationality. If one rests the case merely on the fact that there is that number of monolingual Welsh people, it is a strong case, but I must point out that of the other 900,000 Welsh people, the vast majority are not really effectively bilingual. Their first language, and in many cases their only effective language, is Welsh. Therefore, I estimate that there are probably, conservatively speaking, as many as half a million people in Wales to whom this English version of the Highway Code is perfectly useless, even with the necessary grammatical emendations which have been urged from all sides of the House tonight.

While almost every other Government Department has long ago conceded to Wales the right to have a good deal of governmental literature in the language of the country, the Ministry of Transport stands out as a melancholy exception. The Ministries of Food, Agriculture and Education publish notices, advertisements, books, pamphlets, leaflets, and even broadcast information, in the Welsh language. The B.B.C. Welsh Regional devotes 40 per cent. of its programme to Welsh, and yet the Ministry of Transport refuse to publish a document which, according to the Parliamentary Secretary himself, is a matter of life and death. I urge my hon. Friend personally to look into this matter. It affects as many as a million of the subjects of this Realm. The use of Welsh in testimony and deposition in the courts is allowed, and if this Highway Code is used for legal proceedings surely there should be a Welsh language version which can be used in those courts. I ask him, as a Welsh Member, to look into this point personally and to meet the reasonable and responsible request of the vast majority of the Welsh county councils.

12.1 a.m.

Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)

We are arriving at a most extraordinary position. Heretofore, this Debate has been conducted on the grounds that the Highway Code is not written in English and now the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr. G. Roberts) is complaining that it is not written in Welsh. I wonder what other language we may expect from this Government. I intervene because there have been two speeches from lawyers on the other side and I want very particularly to refer to them. I shall not go over, once more, the question whether this document is in good English or bad Welsh. I want to deal with the subject only from one point of view. I was rather surprised at some of the references made by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt). I agree with them that if this document were meant to be a simple guide to simple people, the thing is unimportant, but it goes a great deal further than that. This is a document which is to be recognised in a court of law, and may be used as evidence of offences. It is not suggested, of course, that it creates offences, but it may be used as evidence of offences. I want to draw the attention of the House to some of the offences of which it may be evidence—

Mr. Paget

May I interrupt the hon. and learned Member on this point? The courts of law deal with two sets of language —the language of lawyers, which is used for statutes, and ordinary language used for ordinary people, such as in correspondence, in contracts by letters and other evidence. The courts of law are perfectly capable of dealing with ordinary language for the ordinary person, as in this Code, when they come across it. They are doing it all the time. The hon. and learned Member must not confuse the two.

Mr. Marlowe

I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. I should have thought that his legal training would have prevented him from falling into the same error as the hon. Member for Mid-Bedford—

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

No, thank you —Bedford.

Mr. Marlowe

The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Skeffington-Lodge) said that this required a drafting Amendment. That is a complete failure to understand that this is the equivalent of a Third Reading. This document is incapable of amendment. We must take it or reject it. That is the great fallacy as a result of which many suggestions have come from all quarters of the House. Many hon. Gentlemen on both sides were not present when Mr. Speaker gave his original Ruling on the matter. The point is that we cannot amend this document, and if hon. Gentlemen believe that it ought to be altered in some way, their duty is to vote against it. It must be either taken or rejected as it stands. In reference to what the hon. Member for Northampton said just now, this is not a question of drafting; it is a question of what a court of law may look at, when it is deciding whether someone has committed an offence or not. May I refer the hon. Member to paragraph 38: When you are held up at a road junction by a police officer regulating traffic, or by a traffic light signal, do not turn to the left unless you get a definite signal to do so. That contains two standards of conduct: one where there is a policeman, and the other where there is a traffic light. If you separate those, you get this: When you are held up by a traffic light signal, do not turn to the left unless you get a definite signal to do so. Hon. Members must realise that there are many cases where you are held up by a traffic light and you get no signal to turn to the left; all you get is a clear signal. There is no such thing as a signal to turn to the left except where there is a green arrow. Yet under this section a court could say that if you turn to the left from a traffic light—

Hon. Members: No.

Mr. Walkden (Doncaster)

I have ridden a push bike for over forty years. I have always understood that I have certain rights on the road. [An HON. MEMBER: " Not now."] Does it not mean that if you are allowed to go forward, you may do so, or turn to the left, but if there is a one-way street, you cannot go into it? Obviously you are prohibited from doing so.

Mr. Marlowe

I entirely agree. I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think he has reinforced my argument. It is exactly the point I have been putting, that under this paragraph, where there is no apparatus on the traffic lights for giving an indication to turn to the left, if you then turn to the left that may be taken as evidence of an offence—

Mr. Walkden indicated dissent.

Mr. Marlowe

I can understand that hon. Gentlemen are surprised at it, but may I point out the facts?

Mr. Paget rose

Mr. Marlowe

I have given the hon. Member for Northampton one turn. Now I see the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith rising.

Mr. Pritt

Surely, if you are held up by a policeman and waved to the left, that is a positive signal? Supposing you come to a set of traffic lights and there is a road to the left, and the light becomes green, that will indicate to any one who is not subnormal, that he may go straight forward or turn to the left. Is the hon and learned Gentleman really suggesting that you get no indication in that way to turn to the left?

Mr. Marlowe

Exactly. The hon. and learned Gentleman is right. I will not go over it again; it was only to illustrate the absurdity of the language used. Let me give an even more cogent example. If hon. Members look at the last paragraph on page 29 they will see the evidence of two breaches of good drafting. The first is: Never brake or accelerate violently at a corner; it may induce skidding. One agrees with that as a generalisation, but that again can be split up into evi- dence of two possible instances of bad driving. One of them is this: Never brake … . at a corner What happens if you come to a dangerous corner rather too fast and you meet a brick wall? Are you never to brake—

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

Break the wall.

Mr. Marlowe

Is it to be said that you have committed a breach—

Mr. King

It does not say "never brake"; it says "never brake violently."

Mr. Marlowe

I agree, but the degree of violence depends only on the speed at which you are travelling. If you come to a corner rather fast, where there is a brick wall, it may be in the interests of good driving to brake fast.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman how he would state this, in order to cover the point he is trying to make to the House?

Mr. Marlowe

I think the responsibility for that is on the Government. There are a number of ways in which this could be improved, but all I am concerned with, is exposing the ridiculous phrases which are contained in this document. Under that section, it would be evidence of bad driving, upon which a driver could be convicted of an offence, if a policeman came into court and said, "I saw him approaching a corner, and he braked violently."

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

These are only hints on driving,

Mr. Marlowe

If the hon. Member will look at the last page he will see that they may be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Mr. Gallacher

I hope the hon. Member is convicted.

Mr. Marlowe

Most of us on this side of the House cannot afford to keep a motor car but if one of the hon. Members opposite is approaching a corner very fast and brakes violently, he must not complain if a policeman comes to court and says that that is evidence of an offence under the Road Traffic Act. There is one further instance, which I will not elaborate, because it has been dealt with. It would be worth while, for it is a good debating point, and raises a good joke, if Members, at their leisure, would look at paragraph 76, and consider how it is possible to ride a horse and retain oneself between the horse and the traffic at the same time-That again is the sort of thing which is put in this document. I ask Members to realise that this document is not capable of amendment. That is the point which really matters. We on this side will, I am sure, pay attention to what appears in paragraph 2 (b) making allowance for other people doing something silly at any minute. We will also remember to keep our dog under control. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise the mistakes he is making in this document, and look at the last sentence on page 12, which adjures him not to ride a machine which is too big for him.

12.13 a.m.

Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)

I have tried to approach this question with as fair a mind as possible, and I cannot help feeling that the arguments directed to the Minister to withdraw this document and reconsider it merit his consideration. I wish to asssociate myself with the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) and the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert), and to dissociate myself from the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe). In particular, I want to ask the Minister to hearken to the plea-made by the hon. Member for Caernarvonshire (Mr, G. Roberts). There are over one million people who read and speak the Welsh language, and a very large number of them are persons to whom words convey their full meaning only when written in the Welsh language. This is important to Welsh people. The Minister of Transport has said that the numbers do not justify the issue of this publication in Welsh. That is a fantastic; statement Here is a document which will have a circulation of a million among a Welsh-speaking population. Is there any author in the country who would say that a book which can attain that circulation, is not worth issuing? I would like to ask hon. Members who are not so fortunate as to come from the Principality to consider this, because they take their cars and come on holiday to that most beautiful country of Wales, and the way in which the Highway Code is observed by the people of Wales is of the utmost importance to all who come to the country. I do ask for most earnest consideration of this request that, not a Welsh translation of this document be issued—Heaven forbid—but that a Welsh version, drawn up by persons distinguished in the study of the Welsh language, should be made, in due course, of the Highway Code, in whichever form it may be issued. I feel certain there can be no democratic refusal of that plea.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid (Glasgow, Hillhead)

If it be the case, as I understand it is, that the Minister, under the belief that he could alter these words after tonight, agreed to do so, but now finds he cannot do so, surely it is perverse on his part to attempt to get a Resolution of this House which will defeat his original intention. Is the Parliamentary Secretary afraid of taking responsibility in this matter? I cannot believe that if his chief had been here tonight, he would have refused to accept the obvious desire in all quarters of the House that these blunders should be put right. I feel sure the Parliamentary Secretary has now sufficient authority and position in his party to be able to take just a little responsibility tonight, and withdraw this Order. It has been said by some hon. Members that this is not a legal document, but let me put this point, which I think is a new one in this discussion. The intention of the Government was that the first half of the book should be a legal document, in the sense that it can be referred to in any proceedings in terms of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act. The intention of the Government plainly was, from what the Parliamentary Secretary said, that at least from page 22 onwards, these parts of the book were not to be capable of being brought into court to establish a fault, either civil or criminal. That is the meaning of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement—that he did not regard these pages as part of the Code.

Let me bring it down to a practical point. On page 29, the third and fourth hints about driving are, first, that you are to keep both hands on the wheel unless it is necessary, for driving purposes, to remove one, and the second is " Never drive with your elbow on the window ledge." Is there any hon. Member in this House, at all accustomed to driving, who does not do one or other, or both of these things? Nobody objects so long as these are hints for novices and so long as they are not part of the Highway Code. But what is the result of Mr. Speaker's Ruling? These are now an integral part of the Highway Code, and, therefore, if at any time of the day, any driver withdraws one hand from the steering-wheel for any purpose other than for driving the car, his withdrawal of his hand from the steering-wheel can be relied upon in court as tending to establish fault. Now that is plainly not the intention of the Government. It would not have arisen if the Government's reading of the law had been right—that the second part of the book is not part of the Code. But the Government have now been told their interpretation is wrong, and that this page is part of the Code. Accordingly, and I ask the House to note that, if any driver of any motor car removes either hand from the wheel for any purpose other than for controlling the car, he has committed a fault under the Code, and, if he is subsequently cross-examined in court on that question and it is proved against him, then to remove his hand from the wheel tends to establish fault, civil or criminal as the case may be.

Now, I say that was not the intention of the Government, but plainly it is the effect of this book. For that reason alone, this book ought to be withdrawn, and it ought to be made clear that it is not part of the Code. It could be done quite easily, and done subject to the Ruling given by Mr. Speaker. It could be done by saying in clear terms " Pages … are part of the Code " and " Pages … are not part of the Code." No such notice is in the Code, and such a notice cannot be inserted in future if we pass this book. Then the whole book becomes the Code and any sentence could be relied upon in any court to establish fault. Is it going to be said that any driver who rests his elbow on the window commits a fault which tends to render him criminally liable? I challenge the hon. and learned Solicitor-General to say otherwise, to deny that what the Government are asking us to pass is something entirely different from that which they intended it to be.

12.22 a.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Questions have been put to me about the action which I should recommend the House to take on the Highway Code in view of the Ruling given by Mr. Speaker. May I first say that it is striking that there has been no criticism at all about the substance of the document? It seems generally agreed on all sides of the House, that the substance is good. That is very satisfactory. All the criticisms have been about the English of the Code, and about its grammar, and many hon. Members have argued that the English and the grammar could and should be considerably improved. When we are considering what is good English we are involved on matters of opinion. The speeches of hon. Members representing the universities advocated improvements in the wording of some of the paragraphs of the Code and some of the Appendices. I thought many of these suggestions would have worsened and not improved the English. In my opinion, where the present wording of the Highway Code is good, and clear to the ordinary person, if some of the proposed amendments were accepted the Code would be more difficult for him to understand. I admit readily that some of the points made by hon. Members were sound. I agree that some of the clauses and paragraphs in the Appendices might be improved, but I believe that the greater part of the criticisms have been trivial. They have not undermined my contention, which I made at the beginning, that the Code as a whole is clear, concise and intelligible to the ordinary man in the street.

Mr. Keeling

The hon. Member has said all the criticisms have been directed to the English of the Code. Surely he is not going to ignore the weighty arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. Reid) that, by Mr. Speaker's Ruling, liability is going to attach to breaches of these rules which the Government think ought not to attach.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I am coming to that point. Many of the paragraphs to which exception has been taken were paragraphs in the old, existing Highway Code, and about which no criticism has been made in the past, so far as we know. Other criticisms have been about regulations passed by this House, and we cannot alter those. By and large, I claim that the Highway Code, as it now stands, is good both in English and in substance, admitting at the same time, that there are one or two phrases in it, of minor importance, which, on redrafting, would have been slightly altered with advantages. But Mr. Speaker has ruled that we cannot make any alteration at all, even in the appendix to the Highway Code. That Ruling frankly took me by surprise. It has always been the practice in the past to quote the Highway Code, and not the foreword or appendix, in the courts. The Highway Code proper has been considered as the official document passed by this House, and I had therefore intended to make some of the smaller alterations suggested in the appendix.

Our problem, then, is this. Shall we withdraw the Code tonight and bring it before the House in October in a new form, or shall we go on with it now? It might be argued, " What do a couple of months matter? Let us get a 100 per cent. perfect article instead of a 99 per cent. perfect article." But there are in fact strong reasons against a delay of two months. We have made careful inquiries from the Stationery Office about the printing of this Code, and it is no easy thing nowadays with the pressures as they are to print 14½ million or so copies. Furthermore, we have made careful inquiries from the Post Office, and there is no doubt that, for sound, incontrovertible technical reasons, if we do not pass this Code before the end of this month, we shall not be able to distribute it to the public before the early spring of next year. If we pass it in July, we can start distributing it in September.

Mr. Kendall

May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether if he withdrew this present Code, we should revert to the Code which existed? Is there such a great difference between them that it is going to make all the difference in the world if we wait until the thing is put into proper shape?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I will deal with that point in a second. If we do not get the Code today, I would point out that it means a difference of about six months in the time when it would be available to the public.

Mr. Henry Strauss

Has the Parliamentary Secretary taken into account the undertaking given by Government speakers in another place yesterday? That other place passed the Code on the footing, expressed by Government speakers, that the appendix, and particularly the hints to drivers, were going to be altered, largely on the lines I en- deavoured to put to the House tonight. Do I gather that the hon. Member will not only advise the House to pass this Code, but will also be content that it will have been passed on absolutely opposite undertakings in the two Houses?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The Government are not at fault in this matter. We were advised that the situation was, and always had been, that the appendix to the Highway Code was not legally part of the Code. The Ruling which Mr. Speaker gave today upsets that view, which has always been held. I do not question Mr. Speaker's Ruling, but I do not think the Government can be blamed for breaking any promise.

Mr. H. Strauss

My point was that no doubt, if the House does pass this Code under the new Ruling, the Government will reintroduce it in another place, so that they do not make use of the vote that was given there on a false undertaking.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I cannot answer that point at the moment. To come back again—

Mr. Grimston (Westbury)

Did I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the General Post Office had informed him that if the Code was delayed two months, they could not effect the distribution of 14 million copies by December?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I did not quite say that. I said that the difficulties of printing and binding, combined with the distribution of the Christmas post and reasons of that sort, would in fact prevent distribution throughout the British Isles until the early spring of next year at the earliest. The difficulty, and the very serious difficulty, with which we are faced when we consider postponing publication of the Code is this: at the moment, although legally the Code exists—the old Highway Code published in 1935—in practice, it is not in the possession of the public. It is fair to presume that all the old copies had been destroyed, or most of them, and why we are so anxious to get this Highway Code out immediately is because we believe that doing so will have a material effect, through our road safety campaign, in saving life on the roads of this country. We believe the distribution of this Highway Code, accompanied as it will be by posters drawing attention to it, and by Press advertisements drawing attention to specific injunctions, will have a marked influence on the success of the road safety campaign, and will save— one cannot calculate the number, but it is bound to save a very large number of lives—of people who would otherwise be killed, and will prevent an even greater number of injuries.

Mr. Kendall

Would the Parliamentary Secretary forgive me—he has been very kind in giving way—but does he fully appreciate what this Debate will do to this booklet in the minds of the public? It will be reported in all the newspapers tomorrow—their representatives are there in the Gallery—that a lot of ridicule has been directed against this booklet. Does he think that that is going to do it any good?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I am perfectly happy to let the public judge for themselves, and I am confident the ordinary member of the public will say that this is a clear guide to good behaviour on the highway. What therefore the Government has to consider in advising the House whether to postpone the Motion before it till the Highway Code is polished up, or whether to go on with it now, is that what is at stake is not only the phrasing of a few sub-clauses, but the life and death of many hundreds of our fellow citizens. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is how we look at it and that is the problem before us now.

Now I will deal as briefly as possible with the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Mr. J. S. C. Reid). Of course it is for the judge in any court to say what weight he attaches to the hints or injunctions in any part of the Highway Code. In regard to the phrase which the right hon. and learned Gentleman quoted, which appears under the heading of "Hints on Driving," it may be that a learned judge would say it is not such a strict injunction as an actual part of the Highway Code; but it is for the judge to make up his mind what weight to give to this section.

Mr. J. S. C. Reid

Obviously I have not put my case clearly enough. If the Government's original view had been right, a judge could not have looked at the "Hints on Driving," because it would not have been part of the Code. I sup- pose, therefore, that the Government intended that the judge should not look at page 29. But now a judge can, indeed must, look at page 29. Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that that is a very different situation?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

A judge will look in future, at page 29. I suppose a judge always looks at whatever is brought before him. I imagine that is so. And as I say, he will give due weight to arguments which learned counsel may put before him on the suggestions made on page 29 under the heading, " Hints on Driving." I do not think that is a very serious situation. In view of Mr. Speaker's Ruling, which I assume would be upheld legally, that will undoubtedly be the situation which will arise; but I do not find anything very terrible about it. The only other point was the publication of the booklet in the Welsh language. The proposal is attractive, but the fact is we are advised that the number of Welsh people who do not read English is well under 100,000. The Ministry of Transport has not, so far, ever issued propaganda or other instructions in any language except English; though there might be a case for issuing them in Welsh or even Gaelic. But there is the disadvantage, we are advised, that if they were issued in Welsh, the Code could not be quoted in a court of law. As one of the objects of the Code is that it may be quoted in court, we felt that this disadvantage was substantial.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

There were two points placed before the Parliamentary Secretary this evening about the position in Wales. They may not be appreciated if the Code is issued in this manner. We have produced facts and figures which I really think the Parliamentary Secretary should look at further. He has told us that he is concerned with road safety. We have 80,000 people in Wales to whom this Code is useless.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker(Major Milner)

We cannot have a second speech from the hon. Member.

Mr. Roberts

I defer to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker; tout may I put a question? Will the Parliamentary Secretary look further at this point, and undertake, further, to ask the Minister to do likewise?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I will do that with pleasure. But a Welsh translation would not be a legal Code. I have expressed my view, and will ask the Minister to consider it.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Are we in Order in discussing this matter at all? Surely the House would be put into an embarrassing position as we would have to consider this Code in Welsh, and give it approval. Would the House be competent to do this?

Mr. McGovern

What about the 200,000 people who speak Gaelic?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

There is an equal case for producing it in Gaelic also.

Mr. G. Nicholson

There is a case for having it in English too.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The only other question which arises concerns the-revision of the whole of the Highway Code. The legal situation is that the Minister of Transport can, whenever he deems fit, bring out a new Highway Code. I have no idea when he will think it fit to do so, but it will certainly not be within six months or a year; but when he does, he will bear in mind the suggestions which have been made. If we postpone this Code, or the House does not pass it because of one or two minor imperfections in drafting, then the effect would be to postpone publication and issue to the general public by very many months. I am convinced that this would have a really serious effect on our safety propaganda, and would be the cause of avoidable death and injury to many of our citizens.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I hoped that the House would be willing to come to a decision.

12.42 a.m.

Mr. John Foster (Northwich)

I would add my plea to those which have been made, that the Parliamentary Secretary should withdraw the Code and reconsider it. There are two points of substance in regard to which the Code affects the safety of people on the roads. On page 9 there is reference to the practice, which unfortunately is allowed in this country, of parking on the wrong side of the road. This is, in no sense, a criticism of the language used in the Code, but is a criticism of omission. We should discourage the dangerous practice of parking cars, especially in towns where traffic is dense, on the wrong side of the road. The Code goes a little way towards meeting this problem, because it says that it is dangerous to park your car on the wrong side at night. It is also dangerous to park your car on the wrong side in day time, -which is a practice forbidden in France and America, because it has been proved to be the cause of many accidents.

My second point concerns a complete omission. It is a dangerous practice to drive a car across an intersection controlled by lights when they cannot see their way clear to get across. In other words, if the light is about to change and there is traffic all the way down, people attempt to cross the intersection although they cannot clear it. They are stopped in the middle of the road when the light turns Ted. Traffic is held up and pedestrians cannot cross. This practice is held to be highly dangerous in America and is forbidden by law. I give these two illustrations as reasons why the Parliamentary Secretary should again consider the substance of the Highway Code. Although I do not wish to intervene, like the King's Proctor, in the case of Strauss v. Strauss, I would point out that on page 4, the Code tells us before crossing a road to "stop, look right, left, and right again." But that is wrong in the case of a one-way street. In that case, if you stop, look right, left, and right again, you will be run over. This Highway Code will be taught to children in schools. In very young children it has to be done parrotwise. It has to be dinned into them by precept, by the scout-leaders going across the road first, and so on. If they follow parrotwise this Highway Code, they will be run over in a one-way street. The rule ends: Be specially alert on one-way traffic roads. But if one is especially alert, one has to do the opposite of what the Code tells one. The figures in the booklet have been criticised by the hon. and gallant Member for Buckingham (Flight-Lieut. Crawley), but I hope that one figure will be retained, the figure of the very attractive lady on the front cover, with a modern hair " do " down the back, who is being followed by a very presentable young man. It will be seen, from the way in which her left hand is extended, that she is making the signal, at page 17, "I am ready to be over- taken." When she is overtaken, she and the young man may get into the car. They may be driving, and it is possible that the young man may have one hand round her waist. If that happens, it is quite possible that a policeman may stop them and say, " When driving, you have got to use both hands," and the young man's answer may be, "I have got to drive with one hand necessarily."

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to withdraw this Code. He said that the Government are not at fault. But the Government are in charge of the country. The Government are not some remote machine which acts under irresistible force over which they have no control—at least I hope not. If the Government are not at fault, somebody must be, and if by that the Parliamentary Secretary means that the civil servants are at fault and gave him wrong advice, I submit that it is a breach of good taste by the Government to blame it on to the civil servants. I think it is very wrong that the hon. Gentleman should have said that the Government are entirely blameless, because they acted on advice and the advice turned out to be wrong. I cannot imagine that the Parliamentary Secretary was in any way questioning your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. The only people who can be at fault—and he admitted that somebody was—are his own civil servants. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary should not, in order to get out of an obvious mistake of the Government, blame the civil servants. I ask him to look at the back page and to revise his thinking distance. He has obviously made a very serious mistake.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Is it not time that the House came to a decision?

12.49 a.m.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)

Although the hour is late, I wish very earnestly to say something which it is all the more necessary to say after the exhibition of lack of seriousness, particularly on the part of the University Members, in regard to the relationship of this Highway Code to the very real danger on the roads, which it seeks to meet. I am very pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary has taken the stand he has done. Most of the recommendations in the Highway Code which improve it were contained in a Report which was published as far back as 1938. There has been a general conspiracy in Governments since that day in refusal to make effective very necessary recommendations that are to be found in the Alness Report. I am very glad that even if the proposals of the Code are not perfectly grammatical and do not please the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. Strauss), and do not please those of his constituents who write to him in the hope that they may have a successful grammatical exercise for the children in their schools, the Government have after long consideration brought this forward. I am glad that despite all the defects in the Highway Code and the one big issue that has been deliberately ignored by previous Governments—the danger in relation to alcohol—this Government has now taken a courageous stand on the matter and carried out what the Alness Committee Report recommended. It is necessary that this Code should be approved at the earliest possible moment in spite of its defects; and all the matters which have been raised have been entirely trivial in relation to the importance of the general Report. I hope that steps will be taken tonight to resist every one of the blandishments from the other side and to insist on this Highway Code being printed at the earliest opportunity.

12.52 a.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

We have had a long Debate—

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman may not speak again except by leave of the House.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

If I may, by leave of the House, speak again, Mr. Speaker, I would say that we have had a long Debate and on this side of the House we find it impossible to believe that a Government which really meant business, would have to wait until next spring in order to get the Code properly circulated if we should defer consideration of it until we meet again. The whole Debate, with the exception of one or two speeches, has shown that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that this Code is fundamentally unsound. The wording has been criticised from all sides of the House, and no attempt whatever has been made to answer the very important legal point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hillhead (Mr. Reid). For these reasons we on this side of the House will certainly vote against it.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 200; Noes, 73.

Division No. 279.] AYES 12.55 a.m.
Adams, W. T, (Hammersmith, South) Davies, Harold (Leek) Hairs, Fit.-Lieut. J. (Wycombe)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.) Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.
Allen, Scholefield (Crews) Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hardy, E. A.
Attewell, H. C. Deer, G. Haworth, J.
Awbery, S. S. Delargy, Captain H. J. Harbison, Miss M.
Baird, Capt, J. Diamond, J. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Bechervaise, A. E. Dobble, W. Hobson, C. R.
Barry, H. Dodds, N. N. Holman, P.
Bing, G. H. C. Driberg, T. E. N. Holmes, H. E. (Honsworth)
Binns, J. Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich) Hoy, J.
Blackburn, A. R. Durbin, E. F. M. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)
Blenkinsop, Capt. A. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Blyton, W. R. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)
Boardman, H. Edwards, N. (Caerphilly) Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel) Irving, W. J.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge) Evans, John (Ogmore) Janner, B.
Braddock, T. (Mitcham) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Jay, D. P. T.
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell) Ewart, R. Jeger, G. (Winchester)
Brown, George (Belper) Fairhurst, F. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S. E.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Farthing, W. J. Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)
Buchanan, G. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Jones, J. H. (Bolton)
Burden, T. W. Fool, M. M. Keenan, W.
Burke, W. A. Forman, J. C. Kenyan, C.
Champion, A. J. Foster, W. (Wigan) Kingborn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.
Cobb, F. A. Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Kinley, J.
Collick, P. Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford) Kirby, B. V.
Collindridge, F. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Lang, G.
Collins, V. J. Gaitskell, H. T. N. Lavers, S.
Colman, Miss G. M. Gallacher, W. Lee, F. (Hulme)
Comyns, Dr. L. Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Leonard, W.
Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G. Gibson, C. W. Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N. W.) Gilzean, A. Lewis, J. (Bolton)
Corlett, Dr. J. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Lyne, A. W.
Crawley, A. Gooch, E. G. McAllister, G.
Crossman, R. H. S. Gordon-Walker, P. C. McGovern, J.
Davies, Edward (Burslem) Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood) McKay, J. (Wallsend)
Davits, Ernest (Enfield) Griffiths, O. (Rother Valley) McKinlay, A. S.
McLeavy. F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Scollan, T
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Thomas, Ivor (Keighley) Shaokleton, Wing-Cdr, E. A. A.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. Thomas, I. 0. (Wrekin) Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.
Mann, Mrs. J. Thomas, John R. (Dover) Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)
Medland, H. M. Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.) Simmons, C. J.
Mikardo, Ian Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton) Skeffington, A. M.
Monslow, W. Titterington, M. F. Warbey, W. N.
Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.) Tolley, L. Watkins, T. E.
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Ungoed-Thomas, L. Weitzman, D.
Murray, J. D. Walkden, E. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Nally, W. Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst) West, D. G.
Neal, H. (Claycross) Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.) White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford) Pargiter, G. A. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford) Pearson, A. Wigg, Col. G. E.
Noel-Buxton, Lady Pearl, Capt. T. F. Wilkes, Maj. L.
Oliver, G. H. Perrins, W. Wilkins, W. A.
Paget, R. T. Platts Mills, J. F. F. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Palmer, A. M. F. Popolewell, E. Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Skeffington-Lodge, T. C. Price, M. Philips Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.) Pritt, D. N. Willis, E.
Snow, Capt. J. W. Proctor, W. T. Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Soskioe, Maj. Sir F. Pryde, D. J. Wilson, J. H.
Stamford, W. Randall, H. E. Wise, Major F. J.
Steele, T. Ranger, J. Woodburn, A.
Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.) Rankin, J. Wyatt, Maj. W.
Stokes, R. R. Reid, T. (Swindon) Yates, V. F.
Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N) Rhodes, H. Zilliacus, K.
Stubbs, A. E. Robens, A.
Summerskill, Or. Edith Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Swingler, S. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Mr. Joseph Henderson and
Symonds, Mai. A. L. Royle, C. Mr. Hannan.
Baldwin, A. E Head, Brig. A. H. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Barlow, Sir J. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Mott-Radolyffe, Maj. C E.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H. Herbert, Sir A. P. Nicholson, G.
Birch, Nigel Hope, Lord J. Nield, B. (Chester)
Bossom, A. C. Howard, Hon. A. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Ramsay, Maj. S.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Hurd, A. Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G. Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Reland
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E. Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.) Scott, Lord W.
Crowder, Capt. J. F. E. Jennings, R. Snadden, W. M
Cuthbert, W. N. Keeling, E. H. Spearman, A. C M.
Darling, Sir W. Y. Kendall, W. D. Spence, H. R.
Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness) Lambert, Hon. G. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Drewe, C. Lindsay, M. (Solihull) Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Duthie, W. S. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Fletcher, W. (Bury) McCallum, Maj. D. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Foster, J. G. (Northwich) Maclay, Hon. J. S. Turton, R. H.
Gage, Lt.-Col. C. Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries) Vane, W. M. T.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D Manningham-Buller, R. E. Wakefield, Sir W. W.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G. Marlowe, A. A. H. Wheatley, Colonel M. J.
Grimston, R. V. Marples, A. E. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Hare, Lt.-Col. Hn. J. H. (W'db'ge) Marsden, Capt. A. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Harris, H Wilson Mellor, Sir J Mr. studholme and Major Conant

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Highway Code, prepared by the Minister of Transport under subsection (i) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, a copy of which Code was presented on nth July, be approved.