HC Deb 12 June 1953 vol 516 cc601-4

11.11 a.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 6, to leave out from "if," to the end of line 8, and to insert: for paragraph (b) (under which regulations may, subject to any prescribed conditions, authorise vehicles to be parked in special parking places without the lights required by the Act) there were substituted— '(b) any vehicles or vehicles of any class or description when standing or parked within one hundred yards of a street lamp or on road verges or in places specially set aside for the purpose'. The general object of this Amendment is to make it possible for the Minister of Transport by regulation to legalise parking lights. Hon. Members will be aware that parking lights are in fact in very widespread use in London streets and elsewhere and this practice, although illegal, is connived at by the police. It seems desirable that, if practicable, it should be legalised within the terms and conditions to be laid down by regulations.

That being the general purpose, may I explain how this Amendment seeks to achieve it? The Clause, as amended by this Amendment, would lay down three circumstances in which normal vehicle lighting as prescribed by the Act will not be necessary under regulations to be made by the Minister. The first is in places specially set aside for the purpose. That is already in the existing law and is carried forward into this Clause. The second is where vehicles are standing on road verges. That was in the original form of the Clause agreed to by the Standing Committee and is caught up in the wording I am placing before the House. The novelty occurs in the words: any vehicles or vehicles of any class or description when standing or parked within one hundred yards of a street lamp. The object is to enable the Minister by regulation to legalise vehicles standing without normal lights but using parking lights in lighted streets. The problem one had to face in drafting this Amendment was to define a lighted street and to define a parking light.

The normal definition of a lighted street for the purposes of the speed limit is a street in which there are street lamps 200 yards apart. Had that definition been accepted for this purpose it would have meant that where there was only one light, although perfectly satisfactory, one could not park a car beneath it, although the car was carrying the prescribed parking lights. I have therefore adopted the alternative of specifying the minimum distance from a street lamp.

Hon. Members may be surprised to see that there is no definition of a parking light in the proposed form of words. The reason for that is that once one starts to define a parking light, the matter becomes extremely complex. One not only has to describe the lamp itself but to prescribe the position in which it is to be affixed to the car and the position in which the car must be standing in order that the use of a parking light might be allowed. On consideration it seemed better to allow all these matters to be prescribed by the Minister in due course in the regulations.

I should emphasise that, although it appears to do so, this form of words is not in fact an invitation to allow cars to be left without lights in lighted streets. All it does is enable the Minister to lay down conditions under which they may be so left without the normal lights laid down in the Act. I therefore suggest to the House that this form of words does enable the Minister in due course by regulation to legalise parking lights, which is a desirable object.

Colonel J. H. Harrison (Eye)

I beg to second the Amendment.

11.15 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Gurney Braithwaite)

Perhaps at this point I may briefly indicate to the House the attitude of the Government towards this Amendment. My right hon. Friend the Minister is not in a position now to say whether or not he intends to legalise the use of parking lamps or to argue the merits of the case in detail. On this he must reserve his decision. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) realises that many consultations are necessary with those concerned and especially with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, in conjunction with the police, before the Minister of Transport is in a position to declare whether or how he is ready to give effect by regulation to the permissive power which is here proposed.

Nevertheless, without at this stage giving any undertaking, the Minister does not wish to resist the grant of the power proposed. He fully recognises that in some circumstances, and subject to a number of conditions, the use of parking lamps may prove to be a useful contribution to road safety. It is in line with a growing practice of the public and it has been successfully tried abroad. My hon. Friend is doubtless aware that the possibility of legalising these lamps has been under examination from time to time in the Department for several years, and opinion has not been unfavourable, subject to a number of safeguards. The safeguards in question would cover such matters as limitation of the classes of vehicles to which the relaxation might apply, the place in which vehicles might be parked, and perhaps the times at which they might be so parked.

The Amendment now proposed would permit the Minister to lay down safeguards of this kind, if on consideration he decided to use the power. The House will realise that there are many difficulties to be overcome; for instance, the definition of parking places in relation to street lamps might automatically open the door to the parking of vehicles on trunk roads, or other places, where the parking light would be quite inadequate; nevertheless, it would be quite impossible to mark all streets throughout the length and breadth of the country, where parking within 100 yards of a street lamp was not permitted. I am indicating the sort of difficulties which naturally inspire caution on this matter, but I am not here to say that they are insurmountable.

My right hon. Friend is glad to promise, if this power is granted, a very early and thorough re-examination of the whole question of parking lamps, but until that is done he cannot state to Parliament what use, if any, he would make of the proposed additional powers, except to say that, elsewhere than possibly on grass verges, he would not intend to use the power to permit any extension of the practice of parking vehicles unlit. In these circumstances. I can advise the House to accept the Amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.