HC Deb 05 December 1950 vol 482 cc209-11
Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make legal the leaving of a motor car without lamps in a street that is lit. This is a very modest measure and a non-controversial one in a party sense in that it has the support of Conservative and Socialist hon. Members. I suppose I ought to declare a certain interest, because I have been in the habit of keeping my car in the well-lit street where I live night after night until last week, when I was told that I should be prosecuted if I did it again. As to what I have done since then, I need not enlarge upon here.

When there is such a shortage of garages, it is a very great convenience to motorists to be able to leave their cars in those streets which are eligible for parking. If they are to leave their lamps on all night, it is very expensive for them in that it runs down their batteries, while it is very tiresome when they find that they are unable to start their cars in the mornings. It is also a waste of national resources at a time when there should be no waste at all.

It might be said that difficulties would occur after midnight in those streets where the lights are put off. Under this Measure, those motorists who leave their cars in streets where the lights are put off would be liable to prosecution; it does not seem to me to be reasonable that the many sensible motorists who realise that should suffer because a few have been unwise enough to get caught in that way. Secondly it might be said that difficulties would occur when there is fog and, in this country, that does occasionally occur; but, in case of fog, cars are generally moving very slowly and a modern car has a lot of shining instruments both front and back which reflect light and therefore make it easy to observe.

I think it is interesting to examine what has happened in other countries. In France, it is permissible for cars to be parked with a single parking light, white at the front and red at the back, but in practice I have found in Paris and many other towns in that country that cars can be left all night without any lights. In Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway, cars are permitted to remain in the streets without their own lights where there is adequate external lighting. In America the regulations vary in the different states; in the State of New York, no lighting is required at all for cars parked at night.

It seems to me that a good law is one which helps the many and hurts only the few, and is easily enforceable. I suggest that the present law inconveniences many, but helps few. In practice this law is widely disregarded. For example, I saw last night, in a street which was well lit, a Minister's car, waiting with the official driver in it, without any lights. I thought how prudent the driver was to conserve the resources of the State at the risk of a prosecution. Two thousand years ago a great Roman said that in his youth there were few laws and little crime; in his old age there were many laws, and much crime. At this time, when so many restrictions are thought necessary, could we not try the experiment of getting rid of one of them? If it is a successful experiment, well and good; If, contrary to the experience in other countries, it is unsuccessful, there should be no great difficulty in reinstating it. I should like to commend the introduction of this Bill.

Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)

I do not want to say very much on this matter because I expected that such an important effort as is now being made to relax what I think is a necessary precaution would be opposed. I made no preparation to speak on the matter. I cannot perceive that the passage of this Bill into law would be to the advantage of the motorist, and I should hope that if it were passed, the insurance companies would ask for additional premiums to cover the extra risk that is being run. There is no standard of lighting in any part of the country, and I imagine, from such observations as I have made, that the lighting might be deceptive from time to time.

If cars are allowed to be left without lights, no doubt there will be abuses, as there have been abuses of motoring regulations in the past, for many reasons. The Bill would be a retrogressive step, because the risks that are now run already in the day will be increased if motor cars can be left without their lights on. There is no doubt that there will be danger to motorists and an increase of the road difficulties and risks of injury that already exist.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Spearman, Sir P. Bennett, Mr. Bowles, Mr. James Johnson, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, Mr. Paget, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, and Mr. Turton.