HC Deb 04 July 1955 vol 543 cc779-897

Order for Second Reading read.

3.49 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Hugh Molson)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

There cannot have been many occasions in Parliamentary history when there have been two Second Reading debates in the same House on the same Bill within three months. It must be even more exceptional for the same Government to move both Second Readings. In these exceptional circumstances there was a danger of the audience, which has been surprisingly little changed by the General Election, being wearied by the repeat performance. The Front Benches, at any rate, have tried to be helpful. The Opposition, I see, threaten this time to divide against the Bill, although they did not do so in April.

I am sure that all parts of the House will welcome the speech, which we understand, is to be delivered by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) who, in a true sense, is a debutant upon this particular subject. So far as we are concerned, my right hon. Friend and I have exchanged our rôles. He will answer criticisms at the end of the debate. I have to explain the Bill and also present it to the House against a background of our general traffic policy.

The Bill amends and supplements the existing legislative code and seeks to deal with road safety, traffic congestion and certain anomalies that now exist. It is sometimes not fully realised how limited is the scope of legislation in promoting road safety. If I may say so, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) fell into that error when, on the last occasion, he criticised this Bill as a jumble of unrelated ideas, ill-digested, if digested at all by the processes of thought, and strung together in a haphazard way."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 1112.] A remark of that kind suggests that the Bill is intended to provide a code of laws governing conduct on the roads. It is not intended to do anything of the sort. So far as the law is concerned, that already exists and so does machinery for its enforcement. So far as the rules of conduct are concerned, they are contained in the Highway Code. I gratefully recall the generous words of praise of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall about the fourth edition of the Highway Code which the House approved last autumn.

We have only built on the good work of our predecessors. It was, I believe, originally drafted under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison). The second edition was produced by Lord HoreBelisha and the third edition by Mr. Alfred Barnes, Minister of Transport during the six years of the post-war Socialist Administration. Ours is the fourth edition. It is going very well, and I am glad to be able to tell the House that, in addition to the free distribution, 4½ million copies have been sold.

It is a commonplace of the Departmental Committee on Road Safety, of which I am Chairman, to say that road safety depends on the "Three Es"—Engineering, Education and Enforcement. The Government fully recognise that there is urgent need for a great improvement in our road system both by building new roads and by improving those that already exist. In the twenty months that I have been in this Department, both the Ministers I have served under have announced road programmes which represent a great increase in expenditure upon what had gone before. Both statements also made it clear that the programme they were announcing was intended to be the minimum and not the maximum of what the Government intended to do. The two main objects of the road programme are exactly the same as the objects of this Bill—to increase safety and to reduce congestion.

The second of the "Es" is Education. It has a wider scope and a far greater potentiality for good than mere enforcement of the law. One of the obstinate facts with which we have to deal is the difficulty even of prosecuting people who are guilty of dangerous conduct on the roads let alone of obtaining a conviction. It is of the nature of modern transport that there is no time even to make a note of the offending vehicle. It is often difficult to prove that the conduct was, in fact, wrongful, such as failing to dip lights at night, and there are often no witnesses and, in the vast majority of cases, there are no policemen present. So a driver with ill-adjusted head lights, who dazzles an approaching driver and thereby causes an accident in which he himself might not be involved, is often able to get away and it is impossible to establish his identity and even more difficult to establish his responsibility.

It is, therefore, perfectly clear—and I think my predecessors on the Departmental Committee would agree—that it is far more effective to promote education and to inculcate consideration and courtesy on the roads than merely to seek to increase penalties for misconduct. Successive Governments have been remarkably successful in the last twenty or twenty-five years in improving the general conduct of road users. The number of accidents has recently been increasing in a distressing way, but I want to give two figures to show how road safety education over the last twenty years has brought about a tremendous improvement.

Despite the increase in the number of vehicles on the road, which is now about double what it was before the war, the number of children killed last year was 616 compared with 1,069 in 1938. Similarly, the number of casualties per 1,000 vehicles has fallen from 99 in 1934 to 76 in 1938 and to 41 in 1954. If I give these figures it is in no spirit of complacency but rather to show the good work that has been done and what more can be done in the same way to promote a greater traffic sense especially amongst children.

It is with this in mind that Clause 2 of the Bill extends the Minister's powers to provide grants to local authorities in respect of road safety propaganda and removes all doubt about the right of local authorities to spend money out of the rates on these objects.

I now come to the subject of enforcement. Much public discussion, inside this House as well as outside, has recently turned on the subject of penalties. There is a widespread feeling that the penalties imposed by the courts for motoring offences are often unduly light. It has been pointed out that the average fine in 1952 imposed, for example, for exceeding the speed limit was only £2 3s. com- pared with a maximum penalty of £20 for the first offence and £50 for the second.

It is sometimes argued from this that it is useless for Parliament to legislate for heavier penalties because the courts do not at present even impose the maxima that they can. I believe that this House can exercise great influence in this matter. It is, of course, important that we should not seek to legislate for savage penalties of which public opinion would disapprove. That would merely result in juries and courts refusing to convict or, if they did convict, imposing a small or even derisory fine. It is, of course, a very valuable safeguard of the subject that the courts should be free to exercise discretion as to how they administer Acts of Parliament. But it is, nevertheless, fully within the right of Parliament to indicate to the courts its view of the gravity of certain offences by increasing the penalties that may be imposed.

Further, the House of Commons is the grand inquest of the nation and it is proper for us, by speech and vote, to express the general view of the country that drastic action should be taken against those who, by carelessness, negligence, or worse, cause death or injury to other road users. It is for that reason that Clause 15 increases the penalties for certain driving offences and makes more stringent provision for the disqualification of drivers who have been convicted.

There are many good reasons, with which I need not weary the House, for not seeking to throw into gaol a large proportion of traffic offenders. For one thing, the courts will always be reluctant to impose the penalty of imprisonment upon persons who do not start out with any intention of doing wrong. The penalty of disqualification from driving a car is, therefore, I suggest, more just, more suitable and likely to be exercised much more freely by the courts. Therefore, Clause 17 provides certain rights of appeal in connection with the increased powers of disqualification.

Clause 16 ensures that an unsuccessful appeal shall not have the effect of reducing the period of disqualification. In Clause 8 we try to deal with the abuse, particularly serious in the case of motor cyclists, of continuing to take out provisional licences wthout passing a test.

Here, I should say a word about Clause 5, which creates a new offence of causing death by reckless or dangerous driving of a motor vehicle. I am sure that many people have been shocked by the fact that often drivers who have caused death through dangerous driving have not been convicted of manslaughter. We believe that there is a psychological explanation of this. The very word "manslaughter" is ugly and is associated in the minds of most people with brawls and sordid offences of various kinds.

A jury, therefore, is reluctant to convict of this offence a person who is obviously very decent and about whom the jury may think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." We believe, however, that they would be far more likely to find a driver guilty under Clause 5 of this Bill of this new offence if, in fact, his reckless and dangerous driving resulted in death.

So far, I have been speaking of motorists as though they were the only people who abuse the highway.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Before the Minister leaves Clause 5 could he give us some useful information, namely, the number of charges there have been on indictment for manslaughter within the past twelve months or two years and also the number of convictions as against acquittals? Perhaps we might have those figures at some time in order to gauge the necessity or otherwise for this new Clause?

Mr. Molson

I have not those statistics with me and it would be more suitable to deal with that point during the Committee stage of the Bill.

I was saying that, so far, I have been speaking of motorists as though they were the only people who abuse the highway. We are justified in giving special prominence to the offences of motor drivers because they are in charge of a lethal weapon, but it would be unfair to suggest that they are more responsible for road accidents than other road users. Indeed, I feel sure that motorists, as a community, have a greater knowledge of the Highway Code and a greater sense of responsibility than many other users of the highway. Cyclists and pedestrians are often responsible for accidents and, in many cases, it is not they but other people who are the victims of their negligence. It appears to us, therefore, to be only equitable to apply discipline to cyclists, as we do under Clause 6, and to pedestrians as we do under Clause 7.

One of three reforms by which the Road Traffic Act, 1934, so substantially reduced road accidents was the introduction of a 30 m.p.h. speed limit in built-up areas. This was at the time experimental and it now has to be renewed annually by the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. We are convinced that a 30 m.p.h. speed limit in suitable places is an essential measure to road safety, and Clause 1 therefore makes it permanent. However, we do not think it necessary that whenever a local authority chooses to put lights on a road this should automatically impose a speed restriction; in fact, often the lighting of a road may make the road safer than it was before. In future, therefore, new speed restrictions will be imposed by order on trunk and classified roads. That is provided for by Clause 24.

Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)

Does that mean that where the speed limit is presently 20 m.p.h., it is being increased to 30 m.p.h.?

Mr. Molson

No, this does not have any effect upon the limits. However, this is a complicated point and we will go into the matter more fully during the Committee stage.

The main difference between this and the first edition of the Bill is that we have dropped the former Clause 1. In its original form it provided for the periodical testing of vehicles by authorised garages or by Government-managed testing stations. Noble Lords in another place amended that Clause so that all tests had to be done in Government testing stations. We made it plain on 5th April that we were not willing to adopt that method.

In the first place, we could not find the army of examiners with the necessary technical and moral qualifications, and there are many other objections. My right hon. Friend asked the House for its advice on the matter and Front Bench spokesmen opposite complained that he did not know his own mind. The Opposition did not know their own mind, for while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall devoted the greater part of his winding-up speech to support for Clause 1 of the Bill, the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—I do not see him here this afternoon—said that he did not think the Minister— should ask for a power of this nature at this stage of his knowledge. He is really trying to carry the House much too far … There is much more to be said for the spot check of vehicles."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April, 1955; Vol. 320, c. 1033.] I make no apology for the Clause, which was included in the Bill originally only after careful reflection. The general standard of car maintenance in the country at present is thoroughly unsatisfactory. I do not hesitate to repeat some, figures which I gave in the previous debate. The Highway Code assumes that in dry weather good brakes should pull up a vehicle travelling at 30 m.p.h. in 45 ft. Some tests were made by the Road Research Laboratory. The Laboratory took not 45 ft. as the standard, but the very much lower standard of pulling up within 70 ft. Of the cars tested, fewer than 50 per cent. reached the lower standard; 10 per cent. of the vehicles could not stop within 100 ft.; and 1 per cent. could not stop within 200 ft.

Our official publication, "Road Accidents, 1953," suggests, indeed, that only 2 per cent. of the accidents are directly and primarily due to defects in the vehicles. But if we try to ascertain how many of the accidents which have happened and are primarily due to other causes might have been avoided, or might, at any rate, have been less serious in their consequences, if the vehicle had been in proper condition, we estimate that the figure is more nearly 20 per cent. In America, the average number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles is 8 in the States without compulsory inspection and only 6.4 where inspection is obligatory.

We have decided, however, for the time being not to make the testing of vehicles compulsory in this country. We are, therefore, considering falling back upon the proposal made by several hon. Members on both sides of the House, including the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, to extend spot checking from commercial to private vehicles. We hope also to obtain valuable results from Clause 4, which was introduced in another place, and which makes it unlawful to sell or supply a motor vehicle in such a state that brakes, steering gear or tyres would be unlawful under regulations made under Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act. 1930.

In a democratic country, the Government cannot go further in enforcing safety regulations than public opinion is prepared to support. We believe that the inspection of vehicles would make for a reduction in the number of road accidents, but if public opinion is not prepared to put up with the additional interference and inconvenience it is clearly unwise for us to try to legislate ahead of public opinion.

I referred, in the course of my speech on the previous occasion, to a suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke), that as part of the third-party insurance scheme there should be a requirement about the condition of a vehicle.

Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)

If the hon. Gentleman is leaving the subject of spot checking will he say how he proposes to carry it out. Is every fourth A and every fourth B in the list to be checked, or is someone suddenly to stop a car and say, "I want to check you," or what?

Mr. Molson

That is a matter which we will go into at a later stage. I dealt with the matter very fully and very fairly on the last occasion. If the hon. Gentleman wants to know about the difficulties which arise in connection with spot checking, a very convenient place of reference will be my speech in HANSARD of 5th April. On balance, we think that some benefit can be derived from it.

I said on the previous occasion that we had discussed this matter with the motor insurance companies and had, so far, not been successful in obtaining their co-operation. As this remark of mine, made without previous preparation, has resulted in some misunderstanding, I want to take the opportunity of correcting any false impression.

All that I intended to convey by this remark was that the motor insurance companies had explained to us the difficulties which they foresaw if they were compelled by legislation to incorporate a vehicle testing scheme in their normal procedure. The last thing that I intended to convey was that they had shown unwillingness to help us in this or on any other matter. My Department is deeply indebted to the motor insurance companies for their unfailing co-operation with us ever since the introduction of compulsory third party insurance under the Road Traffic Act, 1930.

That is all I propose to say about road safety.

I explained at the beginning of my remarks that the second object of the Bill is to reduce traffic congestion. I am sure that Clause 3 will be extremely valuable for this purpose, especially in London, as it provides for the removal of vehicles which are causing obstruction on the roads. At present, the police have no power to remove a vehicle unless it has broken down, has been abandoned, or is likely to cause danger.

Hon. Members often asked me why it is that the Metropolitan Police do not enforce more strictly our bans on parking and waiting in certain restricted streets. One simple answer is that, for practical reasons of legal evidence, they are obliged to wait until the person in charge of the vehicle returns. Clause 20, therefore, extends Section 113 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, from the traffic offences which it covers to all offences relating to the use of vehicles on roads. I believe that by this quite simple amendment of the law we shall immensely facilitate the task of the Metropolitan Police in enforcing traffic regulations in London.

I now come to the subject of parking meters. There is no doubt that the greatest single cause of traffic congestion in London and in many provincial towns is the increasing practice of people who drive to work and leave their cars parked for many hours, frequently for the whole working day, on the highway. Let me give some figures to show the extent of this practice. According to the last examination that was made, 78 per cent. of the whole kerb space in Central London and the West End is occupied by cars parked in the middle of the day. A test was carried out. Observation was taken of the time the cars were parked there. It was found that 19 per cent. were parked for two to four hours and 44 per cent. for from four to eight hours.

People have a right to use the Queen's highway for passage, and I think it is reasonable to allow a car to be left for short periods in convenient places on the road while the driver goes about his general daily business; but to leave a car all day parked on the highway is, in my view, an abuse and one which must be checked if traffic is to continue to move in Central London and other towns. If that is agreed to, how are we, in practice, to distinguish between long-term parking, which ought to be stopped, and short-term parking, which should be allowed?

Experience in other countries has shown that the parking meter is an effective way of doing so. By means of the parking meter, one can hire parking space in a proper position at a reasonable charge for up to two hours. At the end of that time, the rent suddenly goes up to a deterrent level. Enforcement is simple and involves no police prosecution, except in aggravated cases, because the meter holds up its hand at the end of two hours like a child at school owning up to having broken a rule.

The price mechanism, therefore, is used to regulate short-term parking, but what about long-term parking? Motorists proposing to park for a long time ought to put their cars off the highway and we must see that more accommodation is provided for the long-term parker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is not such a formidable problem as the cheers of my hon. Friends might suggest. In fact, a great many people use the Queen's highway, not because there is no alternative accommodation, but because it is cheaper and easier to do so. We estimate that in the middle of the day one-third of the garage space in the West End and Central London is unoccupied.

Last week my right hon. Friend and I went to look at parking meters being tried out on the site of Portman House. We found that two-thirds of the space in that great park was empty. Admittedly, our inspection was made reasonably early in the morning, but we asked about it and found that at no time has that park been even half full, and it is capable of accommodating 300 cars. However, we recognise that some increase in parking space will be needed. For that reason the Bill provides that all profits from parking meters must be used for increasing or cheapening off-road parking accommodation.

Clauses 9 to 14 of the Bill and the First Schedule deal with this matter. The details are complicated, but the principle is simple. We take power to introduce parking meters into this country as an experiment on the initiative of local authorities. But I would say at once that there is no reason to suppose that the experiment will not prove as successful here as it has been in other countries where it has been introduced.

The third purpose of the Bill is to correct certain anomalies and to re-state or to amend the law. I will mention only a few instances. The most important is contained in Clauses 21 and 22. They amend and clarify the law about the need for road service licences in the case of private parties. To meet the case of private party excursions we are making a special concession. If the vehicle is small, not seating more than eight persons, and operates under Parts I, II, III or IV of the Schedule, it does not need a licence. If the vehicle seats more than eight persons, and operates under Parts III or IV of the Schedule, it does not require a licence. We shall be prepared to go into this extremely complicated matter more fully during the Committee stage. For the moment I will merely say that it is our belief that this meets the reasonable complaints about the law made at the present time.

Membership of the important London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee does not now contain sufficient representation of those who provide or use motor vehicles. That is dealt with by Clause 27.

It has been held by the courts that the special speed limit applying to goods vehicles does not apply when the vehicles are empty. This seems to us to be an undesirable limitation, and we seek to amend the law by Clause 23.

In paragraph 7 of the Third Schedule we are taking power to raise the selling price of the Highway Code which, at ld. is badly below the modern costs of production. The Government, unlike most authors, have found themselves in the exceptional and unhappy position of having produced a "best seller," of which the more copies that are sold, the greater is the loss. That does not seem to be reasonable, and, therefore, we are seeking power to increase the selling price.

A Clause was inserted in another place dealing with the taxation of utility vehicles. As this matter has always pre- viously been dealt with by regulation, we thought that it would be a more convenient procedure and we intend to adopt it.

I have now explained all the more important Clauses of the Bill. We are not abolishing the Road Fund under this Bill, as my right hon. Friend announced on 5th April we intended to do. It seemed more convenient for that matter to be dealt with by the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Bill, which obtained a Second Reading last Friday.

I come now to a matter which has aroused a good deal of public discussion. Recent decisions by the courts have stated the law relating to being drunk in charge of a car in a way which has been generally regarded as unreasonable. There is the even more serious disadvantage that in many cases a person no longer fit to drive a car is encouraged to try to drive it home, instead of stopping still and sleeping until he has regained a more sober state. There was an extremely interesting article on the subject last week in the "New Statesman and Nation."

The Government feel that this is an extremely unsatisfactory position and we shall put down a new Clause during the Committee stage dealing with this difficult and complicated matter. We propose to try and make a distinction between driving under the influence of drink and being drunk in charge of a vehicle. During the Committee stage we shall seek to enlist the help and co-operation of all hon. Members. It is an extremely difficult matter, but it is of the utmost importance that it should be dealt with, both in order to ensure that justice is done and also because it has a direct bearing on road safety.

Until last Friday I thought that this Bill would receive an unopposed Second Reading in this as in the last Parliament. I cannot think of anything which has happened since 5th April which would justify a change of attitude on the part of the Opposition. The General Election can hardly be the explanation, because from that the Government obtained a vote of confidence. I can hardly suppose that we shall hear speeches from hon. Members opposite upbraiding us again for the Act of 1953, or for giving private enterprise an opportunity to compete again in the road services.

It would be an even bolder argument to reproach us for parsimony in road construction. The cost to the Exchequer of the schemes of new construction and major improvements which we are authorising this year is six times the Socialist Government's yearly average of expenditure during their six years of office, and ten times what they spent in their last year of office.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

Is not the hon. Gentleman now comparing commitments with expenditure?

Mr. Molson

No. I was careful about that. I have sometimes managed to score a point myself in that way, and, therefore, I was at pains to be careful about it.

When they were in power the Opposition passed the Special Roads Act. It was then the stated intention of that Government—and this illustrates the point which the right hon. Gentleman was making—to authorise £38 million in the first year. In actual fact, they spent only £20 million during the remaining five years that they were in office. We are grateful to them for having put on the Statute Book the Special Roads Act, under which we are now operating, and we thought that they would be grateful to us for having brought it out of the oblivion into which it had very nearly fallen.

We shall hope to hear from spokesmen opposite why the Opposition have had second thoughts and now intend to vote against a practical Measure based largely upon recommendations by the Road Safety Committee in its Reports, and which, by amending the present law, will help to regulate traffic, reduce congestion and promote road safety.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, while containing various minor proposals, does not provide a comprehensive policy to deal with the urgent and increasing problems of road traffic and road safety. We have all enjoyed, as we always do, the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation. He has faithfully fulfilled his task of explaining in considerable detail the provisions of the Bill. He was forced, unfortunately, to repeat a great deal of what he said before, but that was his duty and no one is complaining.

I hope that neither the hon. Gentleman nor the House will complain if I take this opportunity, on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, to deal not so much with the details of the Bill which I commented upon on the previous occasion, but with some of the broader aspects of our traffic problems. We consider this an appropriate occasion to do so.

The Parliamentary Secretary asked why we were now proposing to move an Amendment to the Bill as we did not do so when it was previously before the House. I will recall the history of this Measure to hon. Members. It will be remembered that the Bill originated in the other House, where it received a rough handling by all parties. When it came to this House, we on this side made some critical comments about it, and those which I made have already been quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary in the course of his speech. In short, we then said that the Bill was inadequate.

Nevertheless, because most of the provisions in the Bill were by themselves desirable—though taken together they were altogether inadequate to deal with the grave road traffic and road safety problems that confront the nation today —we allowed the Second Reading to pass without a vote. But now we are at the beginning of a new Parliament, and the Government have all the opportunity they require to launch and to carry out a comprehensive road plan in which the provisions of this Bill might well play a minor part. It seems, however, that the Government have no intention of doing anything of the sort. Instead, we are served up with the same hotch-potch of minor provisions designed to patch up a few of the deficiencies here and there in our traffic laws.

We maintain that under present circumstances that is not good enough, and, therefore, in the Amendment which I have moved on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends we are expressing our deep concern at the Government's failure to think imaginatively and to act boldly over the whole range of our urgent traffic problems. We are fortified in our decision by the Government's action in dropping what we were told before was one of their major proposals for reducing road accidents. I am referring, of course, to the proposal for the inspection of vehicles. We are told today that although the need for that proposal is as strong as it ever was, the Government do not propose to do anything along the lines which earlier on they said was essential, but instead propose to take other, and, in my view, comparatively ineffective, action. I will say a little more about that later on.

This remarkable change of mind on the part of the Government is a frightening example of the way in which they are dithering over the whole range of road problems. It will be seen from the Amendment that we are attacking the Government on a broad front because we do not believe that any aspect of road policy can properly be considered in isolation. I do not think that anyone will question that.

The efficiency of roads and road safety are one problem, and our case against the Government today is this. The road arteries of the country are gradually becoming blocked through having to carry far more traffic than they can bear, and millions of our people suffer helplessly in their daily journeys as a result of this congestion. Our industries are being severely handicapped, their costs are rising, and manpower, petrol, and rubber are being wasted.

The industries that suffer most are those engaged in our export trade. The situation, bad as it is today, is bound to become steadily worse. The free flow of vehicles on our main roads, particularly in and around our great cities, has already become a snail-like trickle at many times of the day. Simultaneously, road accidents are beginning to mount once more in an alarming way after a remarkable decrease.

After three and a half years of responsibility, and, presumably, of intensive study, all that the Government propose to do in order to deal with these twin economic and social problems is to introduce what we feel is a petty Measure against the background of the wholly inadequate road development plan announced by the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation eighteen months ago. The Government do their best to make that plan look attractive.

Mr. Molson

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to the programme announced eighteen months ago, that is the one before the last. That was announced by my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for the Colonies in December, 1953. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was another on 2nd February this year.

Mr. Strauss

There has certainly been an extension of it, but I think I am right in saying that it was based on the earlier programme launched by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. It must have been based on it; it could not have come out of the blue.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

The programme which I had the privilege to announce on 2nd February contained, as did no previous programme, the proposal for the new motorways.

Mr. Strauss

Yes, but let me put it like this; and I do not think that the Minister will disagree with me. We are complaining that the total amount being spent this year by the Government in capital expenditure on its plans is only something like £7 million more than in the last few years. Next year, it cannot be more than about £12½ million. Thereafter, the Government hope it will rise, but, in my view, under the present plan it will be wholly inadequate to meet the real requirements of the country.

The facts of the road situation are these. I do not need to give much data to the House. They have been given on many occasions before. One does not have to provide statistics to prove that our road situation is serious, and requires drastic action.

There has been an extension of road mileage in this country since 1910 of 4.7 per cent. The number of vehicles on our roads has doubled since 1939. It has increased by 50 per cent. since 1947, and it is likely to increase at a very much greater rate in the future. There is not a Member of this House who does not know, in his own constituency, of a black spot, of a road where there is extraordinary congestion, or of an urgent traffic improvement which is necessary on which money should be spent now, and for which, in all probability, no money has been provided in the right hon. Gentleman's new traffic proposals.

Taking all in all, and taking into account the two road improvement schemes which the Government have announced, I wonder if there is any one on either side of the House who really believes that we are now going to spend a sufficient part of our national income, or the right proportion of our capital investments, which last year amounted to more than £2,000 million, on road development. Are not our priorities in this respect shockingly out of balance?

I believe that it is true to say we are spending less on road development in this country than is being spent by almost any other comparable country in the world. To give two examples, I understand that West Germany has a road scheme under way in which it is proposed to spend £35 million a year, and that New Zealand is planning a road scheme of £15 million a year, which is about the size that our road scheme will reach in a few years' time.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that they are spending so much more than the previous year, because Germany is obviously planning to spend more than £35 million in all?

Mr. Strauss

This is, I understand, a scheme for the construction of new roads which will total £35 million a year. If it is generally agreed—and I think that a large number of hon. Members on the other side of the House will agree—that this amount of our resources which we are devoting to road development is insufficient, one has to ask: what are the reasons for this lack of action on the part of the Government and for their unwillingness to do what is necessary in this respect? Are the Government reluctant to embark on a worth-while scheme or schemes because they fear that the consequent taxation will be unpopular? A statement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation a little time ago suggested that that might be at least one of the reasons. If that is so, it is very foolish economy indeed.

Some people have suggested that in order to obviate the need for further taxation in this matter, it may be desirable to float a road loan. I am very doubtful whether that would be of value or is necessary; or whether the alternative proposal to put capital expenditure on the roads below the line in the Budget will really be helpful. I believe that it all ought to be done and can be done without these devices, but if we cannot do what is necessary without these devices, I would fully support their use.

Is it suggested that we have not now the physical material and manpower to carry out an appropriate, adequate scheme? Frankly, that was the main factor which caused the Labour Government to postpone their great scheme of 1946. It was then felt necessary to devote our resources to even more urgent purposes to enable the country to establish its viability in the immediate postwar years. Now these very real difficulties have been largely overcome. Since then, there has been an enormous development in mechanical equipment for road-making, and the civil engineering industry has expressed itself confident that it can provide all the necessary equipment and manpower to undertake such major road schemes as the Government may put forward.

The Government never tired of telling us and their supporters on every Conservative platform during the last Election that they had managed to bring about financial stability in this country and were confident of economic prosperity. If that is so, there is plainly no reason why they should not devote an adequate and much greater proportion of our resources to tackling our road problems before our roads become completely atrophied.

Is it perhaps because investment in roads is not an obviously profitable undertaking that the Government refuse to do more? Investment in roads does not produce revenue in the way in which investment in industry does and therefore it may be that the impulse to invest the necessary substantial amount in our road system is absent. The Government cannot hide, as the Parliamentary Secretary tried to do today, behind the argument that because a Labour Government, in entirely different circumstances, did not carry out a big road scheme that is a good excuse for the present Government not doing so today.

Neither can they say, as their spokesmen sometimes do, that the local authorities are the traffic authorities, and are the people responsible. All the local authorities in the country are only too eager to carry out such major schemes as the Ministry of Transport will allow them to carry out. The responsibility is fully that of the Government. If it is thought that we are putting forward this indictment today solely as a party one, I should like to quote from an eminently-respectable document, the Bulletin of the Oxford Institute of Statistics, in which the Oxford economist, Mr. Henderson, in commenting on the Economic Survey of 1954, used these words: It should be added that the Government itself bears some responsibility for the rate at which cost-reducing capital expenditure is carried out. In particular, it is hard to justify the failure to adopt a more ambitious programme of road construction. Given the neglect which the road system has suffered for the past 15 years, and the obvious benefits which would result from improving it, the present and prospective levels of expenditure seem clearly inadequate. The habit of postponing schemes of this kind, which was appropriate during the war, and defensible so long as strong inflationary tendencies persisted, should by now have been discarded. There is one further observation which I should like to make about traffic congestion. It is indirectly the cause of many accidents. A motorist may be held up for a long time by a slow-moving stream of traffic, and when he gets a chance to move ahead, he is apt to do so dangerously to make up for lost time. He is likely to be in a bad temper, which is a fruitful cause of careless driving.

If the amount of traffic on the roads is dangerously high, as we all agree it is, there are other ways of dealing with the problem besides building new roads. One is by diverting some of the existing traffic to the railways. No one will deny that much of the traffic at present on the roads could go, and in the national interest should go, on the railways. Are the Government doing anything about that? We all know that the answer is "No." Indeed, by dismantling the British Road Services—the Minister, of course, does not like this old story repeated, but it is a true story, nevertheless, and I propose to repeat it—the Government are, in fact, acting in the opposite direction.

When long-distant road haulage and the railways have common ownership and share the same kitty, and are both operating solely with the objective of serving the public interest, then something can be done about it. For example, diversion from one form of transport to another can be effected by financial inducements.

That possibility has been discarded by deliberate Government action. Moreover, British Road Services, by organisational efficiency, was carrying upon the roads more goods with fewer vehicles than were private hauliers, and this was making a small, but welcome contribution towards relieving the pressure of traffic upon the roads. To this extent, by denationalising this public service, the Government have added to road congestion.

What about canals? Even if some of them are uneconomic at the moment, might it not be worth while spending money upon their development as a partial remedy for road congestion in the future? Is it not possible that £5 million spent upon canals might be more advantageous nationally than double or even the same amount of money spent upon new roads? I have an open mind on this question, but the greater use of canals in future should be an essential part of any study for an integrated traffic system; and we criticise the Government for not having any such scheme.

I now turn to road safety. Here, again, the Government's actions appear to be characterised by hesitation and uncertainty. I am sure that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary feel as keenly about this problem as anybody else, and are just as anxious that the toll of road accidents should be reduced, but they seem incapable of making up their minds upon a number of major road safety problems. I want to deal with only two of those problems today, because I commented upon nearly all the other provisions in the Bill on the last occasion that it was before the House.

Let us take the problem of flashing traffic indicators—a problem which the Minister has recently remitted to the Road Research Laboratory for investigation. He hopes to have the Laboratory's Report by October—and goodness knows how long it will be after that before anything is done about it. This problem is not a new one. Each year more cars carry one or other of the many varieties of these blinking lights [Laughter]—I think that it is an appropriate adjective—and this will make it all the more difficult to take action to prohibit them should it be decided to do so.

I am prepared to suspend final judgment about these lights until I have seen the report of the Road Research Laboratory, but my present opinion is that they are a menace to safe driving, particularly in our towns, where we have the flashing beacons. A number of these flashing lights together confuse and disturb the motorist without giving him any better warning about the movements of other vehicles than he had with the old type of traffic indicator. It seems to me that the Minister has been seriously dilatory in dealing with these flashy—in both senses—lights, and that he should have taken action, or remitted the problem to the Road Research Laboratory, long ago.

Now I come to the curious history of compulsory road vehicle inspection. When the Bill was introduced in another place, the Government spokesman indicated that this was a matter upon which the Minister of Transport placed great emphasis, and which he regarded as likely to make a substantial contribution to the reduction of accidents. The proposal was then in a form which was unacceptable to the majority of their Lordships, who thought that it was undesirable that the responsibility for carrying out these inspections should be left to private garages.

When the Bill was debated in the House of Commons, no effective arguments were made in favour of the proposal until the Parliamentary Secretary wound up, when he gave evidence of what had been happening in other countries. He made out what I believe everybody who listened to him will agree was a conclusive case in favour of some form of vehicle inspection being gradually introduced. When my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), in an earlier speech, had said that up till then the case had not been made out he was perfectly right, because, if he had not read all the old Reports of the Road Traffic Committee—especially the ones signed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) and myself—he could not have guessed from the statements made by Government spokesmen what an enormously strong case there was for the inspection of vehicles for roadworthiness.

Today, the Parliamentary Secretary repeated those arguments and told us once more that the Road Research Laboratory estimates that in about 20 per cent. of the accidents which take place in this country defective vehicles are a major or contributory cause. He gave us a lot of other information about compulsory vehicle inspection in the United States. At present, about 14 million cars are inspected annually in the various States. Accidents in New Jersey dropped by 35 per cent. during the year following the introduction of vehicle inspection, and an analysis of examinations carried out by the State of Washington showed that defective vehicles were involved in over 13 per cent. of accidents. Taking the United States as a whole, deaths from road accidents in those States which carry out vehicle inspections are about 20 per cent. less than they are in those States where no such inspections are carried out.

Those are formidable figures, and yet we are now told that the Government will not deal with this problem in any way except by a system of spot checking. The Minister gave us figures—which further reinforced his case—in connection with the short experience which we have had with the road testing station at Slough, where it was shown that out of every 50 vehicles which went there for voluntary tests, 49 per cent. had some mechanical defect; 60 per cent. had something amiss with their lighting—and we all know how dangerous it is to drive at night when so many cars have badly aligned headlights—25 per cent. had faults with the steering or front wheel alignment, and another 25 per cent. were running with brakes of a lower standard than that required by the Highway Code.

After making out an effective case for vehicle testing, the Parliamentary Secretary now says, "We are not going on with a provision which, as evidence from other countries shows, is likely to save about 20 per cent. of road deaths and accidents." Translated into figures in respect of this country, it would mean a saving of 500 deaths and about 6,000 serious accidents a year.

There may still be differences of opinion among my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite about this, because detailed questions of road safety are nonparty. Some people think that one thing is better than the other. However, I am fully convinced—as I believe are most of my hon. Friends—that in the light of the information which we have now been given, it is deplorable that, instead of completely dropping this provision, the Government did not decide to institute whatever is the quickest and most practicable form of compulsory vehicle inspection. The lives of 500 people or more might be saved each year—and that is taking a figure of only 10 per cent.—besides 6,000 serious injuries. It is a most remarkable thing that, having made out the case so well, the Government say, "We are not going to do anything about it."

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said in his speech that the figures in the United States had fallen from 8 to 6.3 per cent. when he was comparing the States where they had inspection with States which had not. That is nothing like the fall which the right hon. Gentleman is now trying to make out.

Mr. Strauss

I said it was about 20 per cent: If the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) will do a little quick arithmetic he will find that the difference between 8 per cent. and 6.4 per cent. is about that figure. My arithmetic must be quicker than his in this matter.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The right hon. Gentleman was talking of road miles and not of accidents.

Mr. Strauss

I know the exact figures because I have quoted them often. The number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles in those States which have vehicle inspection is 6.4 per cent. compared with 8 per cent. in States which have not. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary will say that those figures are correct. There is a difference of about 20 per cent. Halve it for over here and make it 10 per cent., and that as I have said, will make a difference of 500 deaths and 6,000 serious accidents on our roads a year.

About half the cars now on our roads are at least fifteen years old. Many of them must be defective, and usually the owner does not know. I am not suggesting that we can have a scheme under which all cars will be inspected suddenly, but we strongly advocate the gradual introduction of a scheme whereby the older car, say those which are at least ten or fifteen years old, are examined and regularly inspected. Later on it might apply to all cars of at least five years old. We should not believe the propaganda made by some bodies that this proposal will involve enormous expense or thousands of inspectors. If it is properly organised, as in the United States, it will mean very little expense—none on the taxpayer. The 50 cents charged over there may mean 10s. over here, and this will easily cover the cost. The number of people doing the inspection in the early stages, and I believe in the later stages, would not be very many.

That the Minister should now give us this advice—after making the case effectively before and even better today—and say "We are not going to do anything about it," is extraordinary. If, in the opinion of the Parliamentary Secretary, there was such a strong case a few months ago for this proposal, why does he drop it now, and suggest instead a spot check which it will be exceedingly difficult to work out and which, I think he will agree, could be nothing like so effective as a regular check of vehicles?

I do not know why the Government have changed their mind. They say that public opinion does not like it; what do they know about public opinion? Public opinion has not expressed itself. If the public were told that this plan might save 500 to 1,000 deaths a year, public opinion would say, "We want it, and the quicker the better." Public opinion has not expressed itself on the matter. I seriously tell the Minister that his retreat on this all-important matter shows a deplorable lack of courage and resolution on an issue which is literally one of life and death.

My hon. Friends have a number of points to express, many of them of detail on the provisions of the Bill and others of general criticism about the Government's policy or absence of policy. I will, therefore, sum up, and say that the time has come when the Government should make up their mind to treat the problem of the roads with far more seriousness and a far greater sense of urgency than they have done up to now. This change will only happen if sufficient pressure is put on the Government by Parliament.

Today we are taking the first opportunity afforded to us in this new Parliament to initiate what we hope will become an all-party irresistible movement which will bring action in its train. We say to the Government, "This problem of road traffic and road safety brooks no delay. Stop dithering and tinkering about it. Attack it with the imagination and vigour which the situation requires and the country demands."

5.4 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)

I have noticed that several Members who have preceded me in the ordeal of addressing this House for the first time have started off by disclaiming any intention of being controversial, but have found it hard to keep to this good resolution. In my case I ought to be particularly careful not to offend in that, or in any other, way, because the fact that I have the honour to represent Nottingham, Central means that this House has been deprived of the services of one who, I was not at all surprised to hear when I arrived here, was so universally popular on all sides of the House.

However, so far as being non-controversial is concerned, as the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) has just said, nothing could be more nonparty than the question of halting the terrible carnage that goes on year after year on the roads of this country. I feel very deeply on this subject, and I know that this House does, also. It is a lamentable fact, however, that the general public does not feel that way at all. We slaughtered on the roads last year more than the total population of a town such as Cromer and seriously injured men, women and children equal to the population of a city such as Colchester. The grand total—perhaps the word "grand" is not the right one to use in this connection—of killed and injured was about equal to the population of a city such as Cardiff.

These dreadful facts, however, appear to affect the public conscience very little. If they did, we should now be debating a somewhat different Bill from this one, a Bill with more and sharper teeth in it. We should also be seeing very different sentences for motoring offences imposed in our courts of law. We should find juries more willing to bring in verdicts of "manslaughter," and thus obviate the necessity of Clause 5 of this Bill which institutes the new offence of "causing death by reckless or dangerous driving."

This is one of those cases in which this House—as it has so often done in the past—should not be content merely to interpret the will of the public, but should act in advance of public opinion. Many factors, of course, affect road safety and the accident rate. Many of them, and perhaps, the most important, such as the construction of new roads and the improvement of existing ones, are outside the scope of the Bill. So far as measures within its scope are concerned, I should like for a few minutes to suggest one or two which are not included in the Bill, but which could be carried out without the expenditure of any public money at all.

The first of these is to make compulsory the use of both an exterior side mirror and an interior mirror, centrally placed one in the case of all private motor cars and, wherever possible, in the case of all cemmercial vehicles also. All hon. Members who have been used to driving a car and relying only upon a centrally-placed interior mirror will know quite well that there is an extensive blind spot on one's offside, normally occupying about a 10-degree arc. It includes the most dangerous area of all, the final 10 or 15 yards in which another vehicle is overtaking and is just about to pass.

The position is even worse with commercial vehicles. The blind areas is larger. These vehicles usually have an exterior mirror, but seldom an interior one. Often, of course, it is impossible to fit an interior mirror, but in cases of lorries with low body-work it is possible. The only check I have ever heard of showed that 30 per cent. of commercial vehicles had bodies sufficiently low to enable them to be fitted with an interior mirror, and of these 30 per cent. only 5 per cent. were so fitted.

In 1953, the last year for which we have detailed accident figures, 1,251 accidents were caused—to use the official description—from vehicles pulling out from the near side, or from one traffic lane to another without due care. There were 2,595 accidents caused by drivers negligently opening the doors of their vehicles. Incidentally, 3½ per cent. of all accidents caused to cyclists, a total of 3,473 in 1953, were due to collisions with the doors of other vehicles and in most of those cases the much-blamed cyclist was certainly not to blame.

We have no figures to prove it, but I think that a very large proportion of accidents from these two causes were, in fact, partly attributable to the lack of a second mirror. I think, also, that a great many of the 7,430 accidents caused in 1953 by that most common of all causes, "turning to the right without due care," must also be partly attributed to it. So as no provision for the compulsory fitting of a second mirror is included in the Bill, perhaps my right hon. Friend would consider having evidence collected from now on in order to record what mirrors were, in fact, fitted in motor vehicles concerned in these three types of accident.

The second provision that I should like to suggest concerns stray dogs on the roads. The four main causes of accidents are drivers, passengers, pedestrians and defects of vehicles. After that dogs are responsible for more accidents than any other single factor. I know that it would be impracticable and undesirable to suggest that unleashed dogs be banned from the roads altogether, but I do suggest that they should be banned from roads in built-up areas. I know that it has been argued that such a law could not be enforced, and, of course, the sight of a police officer chasing a dog along the road in order to establish its identity would not add greatly to the dignity of the force.

Nevertheless, I think that that objection is rather exaggerated. After all, a village constable knows to whom all the local dogs belong. And, in any case, can we afford not to do something about this when it is remembered that in 1953, 2,848 accidents—an average of about eight a day—were caused from this reason alone?

Whether or not such a law could be enforced, I should like the Minister to consider one that most certainly could. I suggest that, wherever there is a cycle track, cyclists should be compelled to use it. I know that this is by no means an original suggestion. It has been urged on the Minister before, and I understand that the objections to it are threefold. They are, first, that we have not very many cycle tracks; secondly, that the ones which we have are often not in very good condition, and, thirdly, that in any case, we cannot keep cyclists out of the main streams of traffic at the most dangerous places of all, that is to say, cross-roads and roundabouts.

I do not think that those are very valid objections. They do not suggest that such a measure would not save lives; all they suggest is that they would not save very many. Here again, however, we have no statistics with which to prove the case. May I suggest again, therefore, as in the case of the second driving mirror, that in future the police should collect the figures to show in which cases cyclists were involved in accidents on roads where a cycle track was available?

While still on the question of statistics, may I also ask for records to be kept of accidents attributable about this time of the year to causes resulting from the failure of the local authorities to scythe the grass verges, which can transform perfectly safe and gentle bends into death traps? I should like to mention one more of these suggestions, and that is that bevelled kerbstones should be used outside built-up areas instead of the upright ones, which so many local authorities are still using and which are positively dangerous because they frighten motorists into driving nearer than they otherwise would to the centre of the road, and, therefore, nearer to other traffic. I understand that the Minister encourages the use of these bevelled kerbstones, but would it not be possible to go a little bit further than encouragement?

All these suggestions upon which I have touched at least have the merit that they would not involve the expenditure of any public money at all. That is why I have been quoting only measures of that sort, and have not mentioned another very popular one which has been advocated several times recently by hon. Members of this House, that of reducing or abolishing the Purchase Tax on crash helmets. I leave that suggestion there, along with the further suggestion that we might make the wearing of such helmets compulsory, because I think it is more important first to deal with those measures which are likely to stop people killing other people rather than measures which are merely designed to stop them killing themselves.

That brings me to my last point, and that is the question of the enforcement of the penal Clauses in this Bill, Clauses 15 to 19. While welcoming them very much, I suggest that, possibly, they do not go far enough. By that I do not mean that I am advocating larger minimum fines for these offences than are provided for in this Bill. I do not think that they would be any deterrent. Nor am I advocating more and longer prison sentences. We do not want to have these irresponsible people kept in prison at the taxpayers' expense, but we do want them off the roads.

For that reason, I feel convinced that the right answer to this question is a longer disqualification, but such disqualification to be effective it has to be largely automatic. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary was saying, there is great reluctance—and, of course, it is part of this business that the public conscience has not been aroused as it should be on this matter—to impose the sentence allowed. When we come to the question of disqualification, it is found that in 1953, of the 25,141 convictions for careless driving, the discretionary disqualification was imposed in only 626, which is less than one in 40 cases. Even in first convictions for reckless or dangerous driving, the discretionary disqualification was imposed in less than one-third of the convictions.

I suggest, therefore, that it would be rather more appropriate if there was an automatic disqualification of one year in any first offence for reckless or dangerous driving, and, in the case of a second offence, one of three years. For driving while under the influence of drink, I suggest that a period of three years would be more appropriate for a first offence, but for a second or subsequent offence, I do not think we need to work out any particular number of years. Such dangerous and irresponsible people, together with those convicted a third time for reckless or dangerous driving, should be barred from the driver's seat for ever.

That is all I wish to say, and I am sorry to have detained the House for so long. I should like to point out once more that the rather minor suggestions which I made at the beginning of my speech concerning road safety would not cost any money. If they saved only a few lives, and if they were really practicable and did not involve the expenditure of any public money, then perhaps they might be considered worthy of further attention. The collection of the necessary statistics would be useful for the House and the Minister when further legislation is considered in the future.

Finally, on the point I made about a longer period of automatic disqualification for reckless or dangerous driving and of driving while under the influence of drink, I have no doubt what the effect would be, and while I welcome the enforcement Clauses of the Bill, I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether, in fact, they go far enough in convincing the people that we are really determined to do what we possibly can to end this terrible holocaust on our roads which is causing the loss of thousands of innocent lives in ever-mounting numbers every year.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Whatever may be the fate of the latter part of my speech, I am quite sure that I shall have the whole House with me when I express to the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut. - Colonel Cordeaux) our sincere congratulations on a speech noteworthy for the qualities that it displays. He began with a graceful tribute to his predecessor, and all who knew that hon. Member in this House will be grateful for that.

I well remember, after the 1906 General Election, the late John Morley being asked to express his views of the result. He said, "Unholy is the voice of loud thanksgiving over slaughtered foes." The hon. and gallant Gentleman has done even more than refrain from that. He has paid a tribute, sincere and well deserved, to one who was a friend—irrespective of the way in which we use that word here —of every hon. Member. I may say that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has gone a long way to establishing himself in that position by the phrases with which he opened his speech.

Again, he spoke on strictly practical lines on some of these intimate problems with which the whole country is concerned. I am quite certain that his right hon. Friend on the Government Front Bench will be duly impressed with the way in which he advocated his particular remedies. I understand that the hon. and gallant Member's career has been one of great variety and distinction. There are few people, I think, who start as a sailor, then become a Marine and then go into the Army. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman can display on the varied subjects which come before us here the high skill he has shown in speaking about our present subject, his position in the House is assured, and we shall all be looking forward to hearing him on other matters.

I have discovered in these latter years that there are two opening gambits for a speech. The first is for the hon. Member addressing the House to say that he hopes that the hon. Member who preceded him will excuse him if he does not follow him; secondly, that he will only detain the House for a few minutes. He generally keeps the first promise, but fails lamentably in the second. The customs of the House preclude me from not following the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I shall endeavour not merely to say the second opening gambit, but to prove that I can use it.

I join in the general criticisms which were made of this Bill by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss), and I do not want to spend any more time on that. I want to follow the lines adopted by the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central, and to deal with a few practical points. I am concerned at the failure to secure effective enforcement of the law. It is a serious failure. I am not convinced that we rightly call public opinion those influences which are brought to bear to prevent adequate enforcement.

When I was a teacher, very few parents brought their children to school, but when I leave my home to come to this House, whether at morning or midday, I see nearly one-third of the children—whether attending primary schools or others—being accompanied by their parents because, in spite of road crossing patrols and other devices, these mothers go in daily dread of what will happen to their children if they go to school unaccompanied. They represent public opinion. The steps they take show their concern. I sincerely hope that we shall not regard juries—mainly composed of motorists—as, of necessity, representing public opinion.

It is no good complaining that a chairman of quarter sessions does not inflict heavy enough penalties if he cannot get the conviction which would justify him in imposing any penalty at all. I believe that a lessening of these penalties would result in more convictions, because, if we made the maximum sentence three months' imprisonment, it is quite certain that very different results would be achieved than those achieved when we make the maximum sentence one of four or more months' imprisonment.

We cannot afford to regard lightly this continued loss of life. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary said that he did not want to be regarded as complacent when he told us that the number of children killed had fallen from over 1,000 at some date in the past to over 600 today, but 600 children killed needlessly every year is an appalling toll of life. I very much hope that some means will be found by which we can reduce that toll.

I am not in favour of automatic penalties in any circumstance. One of the difficulties about getting convictions against people found to be under the influence of drink to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of a vehicle is a speech that was made, not on the bench but outside, by the Lord Chief Justice. In that speech he said that every such conviction ought to be followed by imprisonment. I would not mind had it been said that there would have to be some good cause shown why imprisonment should not be inflicted, but juries have got it into their minds that if they find a man guilty of driving when under the influence of drink the chairman of quarter sessions will be bound to send him to prison. I know that that is not so, but I am speaking of what juries have got into their minds.

I know of one deputy-chairman of quarter sessions, since retired, who, when he thought that the case was one where there should be a conviction, but was not one of the more serious kind, would say in the course of his summing up, "Of course, this offence, if there is a conviction does carry the possibility of imprisonment, but if you come to the conclusion that the prosecution have proved their case—and you must be quite sure of that —well, personally, I should not regard this, even if you take the whole of the prosecution's case into consideration, as a case in which imprisonment ought to be inflicted." Occasionally a jury, after being so addressed, found a verdict of guilty.

If, in any other class of offence, as many prosecutions by the police resulted in verdicts of not guilty—and these are nearly always police prosecutions—everyone would say that in this matter the police were over-zealous. But, in spite of all that is said on the matter, no one, so far as I know, has ever accused the police of being over-zealous in this matter. But if they failed as lamentably in getting convictions in cases of breaking and entering and similar offences, I am quite certain that severe criticism of the police would be made.

The hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central mentioned the case of the opening of motor-car doors and the trapping of cyclists as a result. The curious thing is that for a long time, magistrates convicted people for that. Then one of the A.A. solicitors, who get the customary couple of guineas for going to court and saying, "My client is unable to come. She pleads guilty. I do not think I need trouble the magistrates any further except to say that she has not been convicted very often before, and I hope you will make the penalty light," took the trouble to look up the Section under which the woman was charged, and found that one can only be prosecuted for opening a car door if the vehicle is moving. It is a very old statute. The solicitor's client was found not guilty by the bench of magistrates.

Other people who had been convicted for this offence heard of this, and when I was Home Secretary I was inundated by applications for the matter to be put right. I had to send recommendations for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative in dozens, in order to put the matter right. If a person in a stationary vehicle carelessly opens a door, I can see no reason why it should not be made a definite offence according to the law and why it should not be one of the things that should be amenable to the law.

However, when we come to automatic penalties, let us realise that every case has to be judged on its merits, and in most cases other than these the difficulty is not to arrive at what the result of the case ought to be. The problem arises when the magistrate or the chairman of quarter sessions has to impose a penalty. That is the really difficult thing that falls to people who hold magisterial and judicial offices. To be faced with the fact that in a case which in the particular circumstances needs lenient treatment, one is compelled automatically to impose a serious penalty like disqualification for a certain period, often places magistrates and chairmen of quarter sessions in a difficult position and makes benches of magistrates and juries reluctant to convict when they think that the penalty that must be imposed goes far beyond what the justice of the case requires.

We ought to remember that we call our tribunals "courts of justice," and there are occasions when magistrates and juries find their sense of justice injured by the knowledge that a certain decision that they ought to take will involve a penalty that they believe to be excessive. On these occasions we are lowering the dignity of the law in the country, and I always view with regret any statutes which impose an automatic penalty.

I therefore do not feel that the increases in penalties in this Bill will, of necessity, have the effect that is hoped. I think that the invention of a new crime of killing a person by a motor car is in itself a thing to be regretted. I would have thought that it is possible under the law with regard to dangerous driving, where manslaughter is not involved, for a bench so to deal with the matter as to see that a proper penalty is inflicted.

Of course, one of the troubles that we have is that whereas the horse was an intelligent animal, and was not likely to incur injury to itself, no matter what the driver wanted to do, the motor car is a lethal weapon which has no emotions at all. What it does is due entirely either to mechanical defects or to the will of the person who is driving it. I sincerely hope that the Government will have second thoughts about this provision with regard to making death caused by a motor car a separate offence.

I very much regret, too, that the medical profession when dealing with middle-class motor-car drivers do not understand that a person can be drunk. I recollect the first time that that definition was contested under the old law, when a doctor went into the witness box and said "Drunk' is a colloquial term. I do not know what it means. I cars describe the symptoms. It is for the jury to decide whether the man was drunk or not." When I was a provost sergeant in the Army I knew when a man was drunk. If he could take his boots off before he went to bed he was not drunk. If I had not given him the opportunity to show whether he could do it, I am quite sure that no commanding officer would have found him guilty.

Only a fortnight ago, a policeman giving evidence in front of me about a man charged with being drunk and incapable said, "Sir, his breath smelt strongly of drink. He staggered. He was drunk." No one can sit in court and listen to the way in which these cases are settled by conflicting medical evidence without realising that public opinion is very often outraged by the way in which the thing is carried through.

I sincerely hope that this problem of driving a vehicle while sufficiently under the influence of drink or drugs to be incapable of having proper control of it will receive very serious consideration from the leaders of the medical profession. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) attends quarter sessions with me on occasions, and he will agree that the way in which this evidence is given in the courts reflects no credit on the medical profession and can only confuse instead of help intelligent jurymen who are trying to do their duty.

No one wishes to say that the mere fact that a man smells of drink should be regarded as evidence of drunkenness. I do not believe in blood tests, because one man can take a quantity of alcohol which would make another man quite incapable and yet be reasonably under control. But I ask that the medical profession itself, which has a heavy responsibility in this matter, shall face up to that responsibility and assist rather than confuse the minds of those honest citizens who for the first, and possibly the last, time in their lives are sitting in a jury box trying to deal with the matter.

On the general criticisms offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, I join issue with the Government. I hope that what I have said about the difficulties of enforcement may make some impression on their minds.

5.42 p.m.

Mr. Denzil Freeth (Basingstoke)

In asking for the indulgence of the House for a maiden speaker, I realise that I labour under three great disabilities. First, I have to follow the maiden speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux), and the trouble is that he set so high a standard as to make it very awkward for those who follow him. Secondly, anybody who talks about road safety brings into judgment his own performance on the roads, whether as a driver or as a pedestrian, and I am very conscious of the fact that both my views and my sympathies tend to alter rather a lot according to which rôle I happen to be playing at any one time. Thirdly, I labour under the disability that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is an elector in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and the House will therefore see the over-riding necessity for me to be as non-controversial about the Bill as possible.

Through the constituency of Basingstoke runs the main road from London to the West of England—A.30, A.303. Further, through the middle of the town in which I live we have the main road from Birmingham and the Midlands to Southampton and the sea. In other words, using our roads we have not merely the vehicles taking away the manufactured goods and farm produce of our industries and our farms, not merely the vehicles needed to bring the raw materials to keep our industries of Andover, Basingstoke, Overton and Whit-church fully employed, but also large numbers of constituents of other hon. Members coming through my constituency either in charabancs and buses or in lorries and private cars, particularly at the week-end. Driving and the condition of our roads is, therefore, to us one of the most important things of our lives.

It is, I submit, non-controversial to say that at present our major roads are entirely inadequate. Large stretches of them are under the 30 m.p.h. speed limit, and at the present rate of building it appears that ever-larger stretches are likely to come under the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. I am glad that in his Bill my right hon. Friend proposes no longer to link this prewar speed with the erection of post-war lamp-posts.

I cannot help feeling that, as a general limit all over the country, a 30 m.p.h. limit has much to be said against it. There is, surely no scriptural authority for the figure 30. There are many places in built-up areas where a speed of 20 m.p.h. can be dangerous, and there are many more where a speed of 45 m.p.h can be pursued in a built-up area in a modern car with absolute safety. I cannot help thinking that there is a case for allowing a far more flexible speed limit in built-up areas and also for a great deal of the responsibility for deciding that limit being given by the Minister to the local authorities concerned.

It also seems to me that safety on the roads does not demand only a maximum speed limit. I think there is a case in many instances for a minimum speed limit. Let me explain what I mean. Most of the major roads in this country are of the normal three-car width. I regard that width as about the most dangerous imaginable. Indeed, I can never understand why today, when major road improvements are undertaken, or even minor widenings, we still maintain in so many cases the three-car width. For three cars to drive abreast at any one time is perilous. Yet overtaking can become almost a vital necessity. For instance, when a car is hugging the crown of the road at about 30 to 35 m.p.h. and when other drivers on a hot Saturday afternoon have come out of London, perhaps through Staines, and are suffering through their patience wearing thin and their lungs being filled with petrol fumes, they may believe that it is vital to overtake, and they do overtake.

It seems to me that there is a case—and I remind hon. Members of the procedure in many continental countries, on the autobahnen and other roads—for having a minimum speed limit where there are by-passes or duplicate roads running round a town. This is in order not to have main line traffic which can travel at a faster speed held up, particularly on winding narrow roads, by the person who is prepared to travel at only 25 m.p.h.

In so far as the Bill supplements a road building programme, I believe it is welcomed, or at any rate parts of it are welcomed, by most hon. Members. I particularly welcome Clause 2, which deals with education for road safety, and the assumption which it brings with it that the Minister is prepared to persuade the Treasury to disgorge larger sums for this purpose. It is, I think, a pity that at the same time as we have this encouragement to believe that more money will be spent upon road education we are also told that that best seller, the Highway Code, is to be increased in price; because to have taken away with one hand what is given by the other does not make one relish the gift all the more.

I believe that many people in this country still have not bought the Highway Code, and I doubt whether they will be encouraged to buy it by the decision to raise its price from 1d. to 2d. I cannot help feeling that this is one case where an extra 1d. could almost literally mean an increase in the cost of living.

I hope that many of those excellent maxims in the Highway Code will be taken by the Minister out of the covers of the Highway Code and given greater prominence in the country. I will give two examples of what I mean. When I drive on a Friday night from London to Basingstoke, I very often discover that there are two or three lorries or charabancs driving nose to tail along the road. That is essentially dangerous on a three-car width road, because a charabanc is wider than a car. One is unable to pass because there is not sufficient space between the charabanc or lorries on winding English roads. It is noticeable that even new roads seem almost to have been designed by Chesterton's "rolling English drunkard." It is almost impossible to pass a large fleet of charabancs or lorries.

The Army provides an excellent example of how to drive in convoy and to give room for others. Unfortunately, civilian drivers do not follow that example. Yet we all know that in the Highway Code there is Rule 56: Do not drive nose to tail on the open road. Unhappily, that is a maxim which very often remains within the covers of the Highway Code.

My second example is those either very small or very large cars—I do not know why it is usually one or the other—which cling tenaciously to the crown of the road and pursue the even tenor of their way at about 25 to 30 miles per hour. Again we all know of those needless queues that form behind those cars which could be avoided if only people would take heed of maxim 17 of the Highway Code: Do not hug the middle of the road. I ask the Minister to take those excellent maxims out of the covers of the Highway Code and placard them about the country. I should like to see a national poster campaign around the country with posters on sites at the side of main roads, not merely in towns, not merely where there are large hoardings, but where there are quite small ones by the sides of main roads facing oncoming traffic, and not only by the sides of roads in built-up areas. They should be by the side of roads in the countryside, and particularly by the side of dual carriageways, to encourage the car driver who, overjoyed at having passed something, thereupon remains glued to the outside lane.

It may be objected that we have had poster campaigns before and that after a General Election we are particularly sick of them. Although we have had the "Black Widow" asking us to "Keep death off the road," I cannot help thinking that my suggestion avoids the disadvantages of past programmes. The first reason is that the posters need not be very large and they should be by the side of the road where drivers of oncoming traffic can see them. Secondly, they would be not general but specific in the advice they would give. I believe that as a nation we have grown tired, we have grown almost immune, to generalised exhortation. For so many years we have been told to "Export or Die," "Work or Want," "Go on Saving" that I do not think we very often read those posters. But, if one comes round the bend of the road and sees a notice which hits one in the face "Don't bunch," "Don't hug the side of the road," people will take much more notice of it.

It may be objected that we have far too many hoardings in the countryside at present. That may well be true. We are told what beer to buy, what tobacco or what detergent, but, so long as road posters remain on our countryside there is one thing more important—more important than "boiling whites whiter"—and that is keeping blood off the roads.

5.55 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

It is my privilege and pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Freeth) on the second of the two first-class maiden speeches which have been made this afternoon. I think he combined those qualities which are desirable in a maiden speech: first, that of talking about something he really knows; secondly, relating it to his constituency; thirdly, bringing in a modicum of wit, which he very pleasantly did; and, finally, of being non-controversial.

It was a constructive and helpful speech. I hope that the Minister will take note of the many useful suggestions which were made. I know the House will look forward to future speeches from the hon. Member. I express the hope that they will be controversial. I have reason to believe that they will be, as the hon. Member represented Cambridge University in a debate in the United States a few years ago, when his reputation was considerably enhanced.

I cannot quite understand why the Government decided to reintroduce this Bill at this stage. In the Lords the original Bill received very rough treatment. Here, during Second Reading a great number of suggestions were put forward, criticisms made, comments passed and none of those suggestions—or very few—has been accepted by the Government. I should have thought that this Bill could have waited until we reassembled after the Summer Recess. That would have given the Government time to redraft considerable portions of the Measure which was dropped on the Dissolution of Parliament and to bring in a more comprehensive Bill. It will be many months before this Bill can become law because of the long Summer Recess, the Committee stage, and so forth. In the end, little time would be lost by following that course.

As it is, the Bill remains a series of miscellaneous proposals, many of which are desirable in themselves, but the sum total of which do not achieve the purpose of the Bill which the Parliamentary Secretary described this afternoon—that of adequately relieving road congestion and materially increasing road safety. I recall that, during the Minister's speech on Second Reading of the former Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was necessary to fit the pieces of Government legislation into the jigsaw of transport policies.

The pieces of this part of the jigsaw do not make any pattern whatever. Many pieces are missing and others are very difficult to fit in. Now that the proposal for compulsory testing of roadworthiness of vehicles has, unfortunately, been dropped in the way my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) described, apart from the important Clauses which create new offences in some cases and increase penalties in others, which have been adequately and extremely well dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), the main Clauses are Clauses 9 to 14 and the First Schedule, dealing with parking. They introduce a number of new principles, some of which I certainly do not favour.

I listened carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary's exposition of this part of the Bill. While the intention is good, I have considerable doubts whether these Clauses will succeed in achieving the objective which has been set. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, 78 per cent. of the kerbside space in Central London is occupied by parked vehicles during the day. If we are to succeed in removing a considerable number of those vehicles into garage space, or to new facilities provided off the highway, we shall have to undertake a very considerable amount of construction.

That is very desirable, but does the Parliamentary Secretary really think that by the erection of a large number of parking meters we shall succeed in removing those vehicles from the roads? With the number of parking meters which will have to be erected and the great amount of garage space that will have to be provided, it is difficult to see how they will solve the problem. If we erect parking meters to cope with a large proportion of those vehicles we shall make permanent the parking of vehicles alongside the roads, and that ought not to be. I think it is wrong in principle to authorise the permanent use of a large part of the Queen's highway for the parking of vehicles, but that is what will be done by the introduction of parking meters.

I wonder whether they would relieve congestion. What I fear is this. If we authorise the use of certain streets for parking, whether they are streets already used for parking or not, those streets become so congested that the flow of traffic will be slowed down and vehicles will seek the main arteries again and so add to congestion elsewhere. One sees that already in streets where there is heavy parking, as there is in Soho. Traffic cannot get through streets in Soho despite or because of unilateral parking, and Soho Square is congested with double parking.

This problem of parking creates a dilemma. We need to ensure both adequate parking facilities and a free flow of traffic, and the two are contradictory. I fear that if we increase the amount of parking space for motorists we shall encourage them to some extent to bring more cars into Central London or other urban areas. It seems that there is nothing a motorist abhors more than a kerbside vacuum. The kerbside seems to have some compulsion over him to draw him to it to park there.

First, alternative accommodation has to be provided for him. Secondly, there must be a considerable increase in the restrictions imposed upon parking in urban areas. It will be difficult, I know, to enforce restrictions on parking. That is one of the main problems which confront us. I suggest that the free flow of traffic through London during the railway strike has some lessons to teach us.

There were three factors which contributed to the freer flow of a much greater volume of traffic during the strike. One was the increased restriction on parking in Central London. It acted as a deterrent to some traffic from coming in. It was also a deterrent to the abuse of parking or the breaking of parking laws. Secondly, the manual direction by the police of the traffic helped it to flow more freely. Thirdly, there was the acceptance by drivers of the necessity for those increased regulations and the drivers' consequent co-operation with the police. The co-operation of the public during the railway strike was very noticeable.

If, in normal times, there were similar co-operation on the part of the public the traffic problem would be somewhat easier, but there are several reasons why that cooperation is not given at present. One is that the public does not accept that the present restrictions are fairly imposed. People ignore a number of the parking rules because they are not convinced that they are fairly enforced. Many people park vehicles where they are not supposed to be parked, and where they cause obstruction, and they seem to regard their fines for doing this simply as so much parking payment in lieu of garage fees.

If there is to be that co-operation from the public which is necessary there must be stricter enforcement of the present regulations, and fair enforcement. At present, as every motorist knows, if one parks illegally, it is a gamble whether one is accosted by the police or whether one gets away with it. It is a gamble often worth while taking. It is not, however, the way in which the law should be regarded.

There is something to be said for having a special corps of traffic enforcement officers in London. It will ultimately be found to be the only way in which motoring offences can be thoroughly checked and the situation kept under control, and people forced to co-operate in observing the law.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall pointed out, we cannot deal with the question of road traffic and road safety in isolation or in the piecemeal way which is attempted by this Bill. The overall transport plan which is required includes an adequate roads programme, sufficient traffic regulations for public service vehicles and private vehicles, adequate provision for public services, and, of course, other provisions, which are dealt with in the Bill, for standards of driving, parking, and other matters relating to road safety.

In relation to these there are certain general aims of which I would put first, as the most important, trying to fit the roads to the number of vehicles using them, and, of course, to make those roads safe for those vehicles. In spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary said today about the inadequacy of the previous Labour Government's roads programme, I do not think the Government can fail to admit that the present roads programme is quite inadequate. It is no good saying that because the Labour Government failed to spend much on the roads—there were many reasons why it then proved impossible to spend more—therefore, anything the Government spend they must have credit for and anything the Govern- ment spend must be considered adequate and, consequently, they must not be attacked for not spending more. That is not the way to look at this very serious problem.

In the days of the Labour Government it was necessary strictly to watch priorities in capital investment. There were great shortages at that time, and certain investments had to be made to catch up on deficiencies left by the war and to enable industry to regain export markets. In those circumstances, unfortunately, expenditure on the roads had to be deferred. The situation is not the same today. Many of the deficiencies have been made good and much more money is being put into capital investment today than before, but the roads are not receiving their full share. The roads programme could be increased and could be speeded up.

Last Friday we debated this during the Second Reading of the Miscellaneous Financial Provisions Bill, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, and which abolishes the Road Fund. I referred to this matter, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in reply, said that it was not finance which was holding up an increase in the roads programme. He said: It is a matter of the plans being ready and the resources available for going forward with them. At present, these are the restricting factors, and not the impossibility of providing money.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT: 1st July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 686.] If that is so, the Minister has no reason to hold up an increase in the road programme any longer because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall said, the civil engineering industry has stated categorically that it could increase substantially the work on road construction.

The industry has said that materials are available and the skill is available for doubling the size of the present programme. Sir Geoge M. Burt, the President of the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors, has stated it, and so have those who are concerned with the production of materials such as sand, ballast, and cement. There have been great advances in the mechanisation of road construction and the manpower involved is by no means great. The speed with which construction takes place today is so much greater than formerly that there is no reason why there should not be a considerable increase in the roads programme.

The Minister of Transport, when he was reminded in a television programme earlier this year that the civil engineers said that they could carry out double the programme which he announced, asked, "In the end, is it not always a question of finance?" I do not know whether the Minister is right in saying that, or whether the Financial Secretary to the Treasury was right in suggesting that work is restricted by lack of plans and inadequacy of materials. I am convinced that the plans are there. We have a surfeit of plans. They are ready for implementation. We on this side of the House drew up plans when we were in office but, as has been explained, we were, unfortunately, unable to carry them out. Many more plans are now available and so are the men and materials.

In addition to making the roads adequate to the vehicles which are coming on them in increasing numbers, another need is to attract traffic to the public services and thereby relieve the congestion caused by private transport, both passenger and goods. The bus, per passenger, occupies very much less road space than does the private car per passenger. Figures relating to that fact have been given in the House on other occasions, but if the public are to be attracted to the public services certain requirements are necessary. The services must be speedy and adequate and that requires a clear and faster flow of traffic. The flow is now so restricted by the congestion caused by the parking of vehicles and other factors that in some cases services are inadequate.

A further factor is that the high cost of travel today often makes it worth the public's while to use their own transport in one form or another rather than the public services. The high cost of transport also leads to a restriction of the running of certain routes. We have seen, in the rural areas in particular, how un-remunerative routes have ceased to be operated. The high cost of transport is leading to restriction of transport which leads to desertion of the public service vehicle for private transport, which, in turn, has the unfortunate consequence of further increasing the cost of transport.

One way in which the Government can help to attract people to the public services is to reduce the cost of transport by reducing taxation on fuel. I have already said that it is necessary also to have adequate and speedier services. Here, again, the Government can help considerably by allowing the British Transport Commission to proceed with the construction of the new tube route "C" across Central London for which plans are being drawn and authorisation is being obtained through the Commission's Private Bill. The Commission has pointed out that if that tube is constructed there will be considerable relief to surface transport in London, although it may be that in the early days the tube will be unremunerative and Government assistance will be necessary.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall has already referred to the break-up of British Road Services and how that has led to congestion on the roads. That cannot be disputed at present. There are now more vehicles carrying the same amount of goods as before, which obviously means more congestion. In addition, with the increased competition which has come with the break-up of British Road Services there is far less safety on the roads, because of longer hours worked by the drivers, their inadequate rest periods and the fact that many vehicles are poorly maintained. These facts have been pointed out in the House on several occasions. There is less safety. There is also more waste through smaller loads being carried and less economic operation. This leads to the encouragement of the ancillary user.

We on this side of the House were attacked time and time again when we were in office because C licences increased in number when the Transport Commission was operating British Road Services, but I suggest to the Minister that he will find that the number of C licensed vehicles is not falling today but is continuing to increase and that the deterioration of road services is encouraging the use of private transport. I will not refer to the whole subject of integration of transport, because we have discussed it so frequently, but the position has not changed, but unless we have planned transport, with integration of road and rail, we shall not be able to bring about any permanent solution of the traffic congestion and difficulties which concern the transport system of the country.

The Government are shirking the transport problem. They have not faced the real difficulties which concern those who are responsible for operating transport, whether the public services, private enterprise or the private owner of vehicles. The Government are doing little to meet the problem through the medium of this Bill. Until they succeed in introducing an adequate roads programme and follow a policy which sees that the traffic goes to that section of transport which leads to the most economical use of our transport system, we shall continue to be faced with the present serious situation of congestion, dangers on the roads and uneconomic operation. It would be in the interests of road users and their safety if the Government withdrew the Bill and prepared a comprehensive Measure for presentation in the autumn. That is why the Opposition have put forward the Amendment, which, I hope, the House will accept.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

There has been rather a spate of maiden speeches this afternoon and the longer I sat listening to the contributions the smaller got my speech. If I had continued listening to much more I would have torn up the whole of my notes. I should like to say how proud I am to be the first Member in this House for the new constituency of Selly Oak, in Birmingham. Perhaps I may mention the name of one who was very dear to all of us, the late Ronald Cartland, who was for many years the Member for the greater part of what is now my constituency.

No one in this House or outside it could claim that any traffic Bill would be a cure for all the ills of our traffic problem, but my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has convinced me that the Minister has gone a very long way towards easing the problem which now faces us. I was pleased to notice the justification for this Measure and the arguments why we cannot go further. We must all remember that road users—and that is not only the motorists—have suffered a tremendous amount of legislation in the past and to load on to the road user more than is in this Bill would be much more than we humans could digest, particularly when we remember that no one using the roads could remember all the regulations, which he does not observe anyway.

This Bill is for the safety on our roads and the relief of congestion on them. It is frightening to think of what the traffic on our roads will be like twenty years hence. It is not likely that any Minister during that time will be able to put our roads into the condition in which they ought to be. There have been many difficulties in the past few years, and we ought to remember that no Minister could accomplish much in the war years and that that loss has not been made good since.

I should like to make one suggestion which, no doubt, the Minister has in mind. There is a tremendous amount of road surface in the very limited area of our small island, already too heavily populated, which will have to take more vehicles in the future. We have land taken by canals and the railways as well as the roads. Every new vehicle that comes on to the roads—and they are coming at a terrific rate—must find room somewhere. Each vehicle has to be accommodated somehow on our road system, because it cannot fly over a river in the way that helicopters fly over the Thames.

The congestion on our roads is not only due to parking while we are about our business, but the vehicle has to be put somewhere for the rest of its life. Already reference has been made to the congestion in the streets of London, and we know that in other towns and cities the authorities are faced with the same problem. My suggestion, for what it is worth, is multi-storey car parking. Too much space has already been taken for motor and other vehicles and we cannot afford to go on taking space for this purpose.

Some years ago my native city, Birmingham, produced a scheme for multi-storey car parking, but whatever height it was to be it was not going to be tall enough. I believe that it would greatly relieve congestion if local authorities were able to build taller buildings and have multi-storey car parks. There seems no reason at all why motor vehicles should occupy the space we so badly need for our industries, as living space and, indeed, for food production. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not take more land than is absolutely necessary.

Although I was born in Birmingham I am very interested in agriculture, and very alarmed at the rate at which agricultural land is being taken. Twice in the last thirty years we have been faced with a possibility of starvation because we could not grow enough food for our people. Yet we are giving more and more of our land to machines. Some of the space is going for making motor cars and some for the use of them. If the time should ever come—and we hope it will not—when we are faced with another emergency, and we find that we cannot import sufficient food to feed our people, we will deeply regret giving up this land to other purposes. We shall be sorry to see wide verges on our new roads, the sort of which, in the last war, many of us wished to see being used for food production. I hope that aspect of the matter will be considered. That is why I should like to see the question of multi-storey car parking taken up instead of vast areas of land being given over to car parks.

In my view Birmingham and other similar cities and towns should be considered in this matter of traffic congestion as well as London. Several hon. Members have stressed the problem of congestion in London, but it must not be forgotten that Birmingham, like other cities, suffers equally. In Birmingham, there is no underground travel, no electric railways and no subways for pedestrians. These are some of the things we badly need in our industrial towns to relieve traffic congestion. Birmingham's population is about 2½ million, it is the second city of our land, but there is not enough room on the surface in the centre of the city to cater for all the traffic that uses its streets.

Yet in Birmingham there are miles of suburban rail tracks which are not used at all—or used very little. There are tramway reservations running for miles which are not used. All the trams have been scrapped, but the line reservations are there, suitable for any modern electric transport. As a member of the local authority I say that the nationalisation of the railways has deterred the city council from doing anything about it. The capital expenditure involved is too frightening for an authority such as Birmingham to construct tube railways.

We have had all sorts of excuses over the years. Some said that the soil was not suitable. Now it is generally admitted that it is a question of capital expenditure. I am told that it takes about £1 million a mile to build an underground railway. We should not need many miles in Birmingham because we have the reservations used previously for tramways. Just a few miles of underground travel would make a tremendous difference, but there seems to be difficulty in raising the necessary money.

Only recently I read of a fire-fighting vehicle which could not proceed on its proper route in London because the traffic was too heavy. What was happening to the fire while the vehicle went another way, I do not know. Recently, there was an enormous fire close to the Birmingham City centre. Had that fire been a quarter of a mile away and, had it occurred in the peak period, the building would have had to burn out completely, and any people in it would have been lost, because no fire-fighting machine could have got there. Those instances are examples of what goes on in other areas.

I may seem to be critical of my native city and I will not say much about its one-way traffic system because I expect others have heard all about it. Let me say at once that Birmingham has been a well-governed city. It had a wonderful water scheme in the early days and a fine electricity authority has been built up. Birmingham also has the only municipal bank in the country and it has an enormous output of exports.

The only other thing I can criticise about our city is its sprawl, which is not a good thing and which affects the transport position tremendously since the greater the sprawl, the greater the number of buses coming into the centre, and there is no other means of transport than diesel buses.

There is also the problem of diesel and petrol fumes. I believe that there is little difference in the harm to the public between the two; certainly, the experts tell us that fumes from petrol burning vehicles are just as harmful. I have had some experience of battery electric vehicles and I believe that some help could be given to our problem in encouraging their use either by the Treasury or by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport. In wartime even motor cars, driven by battery electric traction, were running round London and Birmingham. These vehicles are silent, they are not fast, which is a good thing, they are cheap to run and, when we have enough coal, they can be run on home-produced fuel.

It is a pity to see electric vehicles of any type disappearing from our roads, even trolley buses since they are much quieter, much cleaner, and use less imported materials. I would like to see more bakers, milkmen and laundries making local deliveries by battery electric vehicles. Even small motor cars could be sold in great numbers for local journeys.

I even go so far as to visualise multi-storey car parks fitted with electric charging apparatus. Users could plug into this on payment of 2s. which would include parking fee, and enough electricity for a journey of 30 or 40 miles, leaving a profit for the people running the car parks. What could be better for London and other congested towns?

I promised that I would not speak too long, but I must tell the House about one thing which has puzzled me. One of the letters I received when I came here as a new Member of Parliament was from an association for mental health, offering its help. Thinking over the contributions I have heard today, as well as on other days, I cannot understand why that offer should have been sent. I do not know whether all hon. Members received it, but they certainly do not deserve it.

6.38 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

It falls to me to congratulate warmly the hon. Member for Sellyoak (Mr. Gurden) on his maiden speech. It was marked by a most engaging candour, by sincerity, and by a real touch of originality due to the fact, I believe, that the hon. Gentleman has not yet discovered the Library. For those reasons I am sure that the House would like me to congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and say that we hope to hear from him in future debates, although I promise that he will not have such an easy passage as he has had today. It is fitting that I should have been called, because the hon. Gentleman was at one time a student at Birmingham University, of which I am a governor, and I was a student at Fircroft College, which, as he knows, is in his constituency.

This Bill is, in some respects, disappointing, because when the Minister introduced the original Bill and incorporated in it provisions for a compulsory test of road vehicles, I said to myself, "Here is a Minister who has courage"—because it requires courage to face up to the implication of this problem. But, the Minister has surrendered and he has done so as the result of what transpired in the other place.

The Parliamentary Secretary described the test as being one that had proved, on investigation, to be impracticable. I believe he has come to that conclusion because the private motoring interests came to that conclusion also, and because it was envisaged originally that a compulsory test to examine whether vehicles were roadworthy or not was to be carried out by private enterprise. Now that, after investigation, it has been proved that this can only be carried out satisfactorily as a public service, either on a municipal basis or by the State, the Government have decided to surrender and to withdraw the proposal.

Mr. Molson indicated dissent.

Mr. Moyle

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. If he would be kind enough to amplify why the Government decided to drop this provision, which was Clause I in the original Bill, I shall be grateful.

I read the debate in another place and considered very carefully the views expressed by noble Lords. It appeared that the reason why the Clause was proved to be unsatisfactory was the enormous sum of money involved, which was estimated to be not more than £20 million, and it was said to be impracticable because the public would not stand for having a horde of civil servants to carry out the scheme. One noble Lord went so far as to say that the motoring associations, on whose behalf he was speaking, were dead against the proposal for a compulsory test.

I have been a member of one of the motoring associations for many years, but I have never been consulted to find out whether or not I agree with having a compulsory test for road vehicles. I have discussed this matter with colleagues of mine, and they have not been consulted. If the Minister had had the courage to stick to his guns and retain the original Clause 1, he would have carried public opinion with him. Everybody knows that the major cause of road accidents is mechanical defects in vehicles. I hope the Minister will have second thoughts and try the scheme out. I shall be 100 per cent. in support of a compulsory test to discover whether vehicles are roadworthy or not. It is something which really calls for legislation.

I now turn to the subject of traffic congestion. It is true that the Bill can be generally regarded as being non-controversial in a party sense but, of course, it is a controversial Bill because we all have our own views as to how the problem should be tackled. As soon as any proposal comes before the House for doing something about road safety, every hon. Member receives propaganda from road transport interests, the effect of which is that the solution is to spend more money on the roads. I am in favour of having the best roads that can possibly be obtained because they will reduce vehicle maintenance costs, but I hope that no hon. Member thinks that having better roads will produce a reduction in road accidents, for that has yet to be proved. I am prepared to accept the argument that better roads will relieve traffic congestion, but I have yet to be convinced that any measurable improvement in the roads will lead to a reduction in accidents.

The number of vehicles on the roads has increased from 4½ million to 6 million during the last three years. Yet there is not a single word about the problem in the Bill. What are we to do about it? Are the Government prepared to say—I think they ought to be—"There comes a time when the increase in the number of vehicles on the roads should be limited by law"? The problem will not be solved by transferring road vehicle traffic to the railways, although that would make a big contribution. I cannot understand why the Minister of Transport does not consider the problem and make some proposal about it. I believe that the only way to solve the problem, at any rate temporarily, is to put a limit upon the increase in the numbers and types of vehicles.

Some time ago I suggested the formation of a civilian corps to control traffic. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) made the same suggestion this afternoon. Why should there not be such a corps? It is a fantastic experience to travel along our roads, especially at weekends, and see policemen—at any rate, those who can be spared for the task—attempting to control the traffic. It is true that the police do a first-class job, occasionally reinforced by mobile patrols. Yet every time I use the roads I wonder why we do not supplement the police force with a competent, voluntary special corps qualified to control traffic, at any rate during weekends.

Can anyone suggest a more competent traffic controller than an A.A. or R.A.C. road patrol? Those associations have first-class men who do a first-class job. If A.A. and R.A.C. road patrols can undertake traffic control duties in the course of their work, why cannot we have a special corps of competent civilians to take over the duty at weekends to allow the police to engage in the work for which they were originally recruited?

I am very pleased that the Minister has agreed to make the speed limit in built-up areas uniformly 30 m.p.h. That is the best contribution made by the Bill towards the solution of the problem of road accidents. I hope that the Minister will not go back upon his decision.

I should like to know what the Minister's definition of a built-up area is for the purposes of the Bill. By-pass roads and trunk roads originally laid down in areas almost completely rural are in some cases now built-up on both sides, and the absence of a speed limit in such cases is positively a danger to the community. The hon. Member for Selly Oak will know the Birmingham-Wolverhampton main road. Part of it runs through built-up areas, but there is no speed limit along it. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is common for cars to travel along it at between 70 and 80 m.p.h. The consequence of their being no speed limit is that it is a positive danger to people living in the immediate vicinity.

I hope that the Minister will take courage from the House of Commons, having lost it in the House of Lords, about the compulsory testing of road vehicles, and will restore the provision when the Bill proceeds to its final stages.

6.49 p.m.

Mr. Richard Wood (Bridlington)

I still find it extremely difficult to understand why the Opposition have decided to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. Only last Thursday the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) described the Bill as largely a nonparty one. We have had this afternoon from the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) an adumbration of a new theory that one does not vote against a Bill when one secretly has wind that a General Election may be in the offing, but that one votes against almost the same Bill when it is reintroduced in a new Parliament.

At the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman argued with great cogency, as indeed did the hon. Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Moyle), for an extension of vehicle tests. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall described it as a matter literally of life and death. If he wishes for a wider extension of vehicle testing, I suggest that he votes for the Bill tonight and ensures that it is amended during the Committee stage. Both the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) voiced a great many arguments against the Bill, but it seemed to me that the arguments would have been just as powerful two months ago as on this occasion.

I readily agree that the Bill leaves much to be desired and that it will require a great deal of amendment. But I believe it represents a sincere attempt by the Government to improve road safety and road progress by legislation. We have heard a great many excuses, particularly from the hon. Member for Enfield, East, why the Labour Government of 1945–51 did not spend more money on improving roads. I have not heard any excuses for their not having presented the kind of ideal road traffic Bill which hon. Members opposite have in mind during the six years in which they were in power.

It would seem to me—and here my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) seemed, in his maiden speech, to hit entirely on the point—that only a limited amount may be achieved in this way by legislation. I thought we were all agreed that that was the case, but the Opposition seemed to have a pathetic faith in the power of legislation in such matters. I hope that before the end of this debate the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), whom I congratulate on having the task of winding up tonight for the Opposition, will provide a more satisfactory answer than we have so far heard about why the Opposition are opposing the Government.

In a discussion of the Bill, when the problems are familiar to us, it is difficult to avoid a detailed examination of specific proposals, but I imagine that there will be plenty of time for that later.

The first two objects of the Bill suggested by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, road progress and road safety, seem to me, in any given set of circumstances—such as the state of the roads and the number of vehicles using the roads, the density of built-up areas and so on—to depend almost entirely on three things; the self restraint of road users, self discipline and experience. Obviously, it is true that the smooth working of human relations in general depend on those factors. It is particularly and urgently true of human relations on the road, where, as has been pointed out several times today, every road user, whether motorist, pedestrian or cyclist, is either himself, or is carried by, a potential agency of death. Pedestrians and motorists seem to share that quality; they can both cause death by irresponsible behaviour.

It is impossible for any Government to legislate for the necessary amount of self-discipline and restraint, any more than a Government can try by law to compel people to be polite and good tempered. It is true that legislation may help. All of us can think of examples. One-way streets, in my opinion, have certainly increased road progress. Driving tests almost certainly have increased safety on the roads. Certain, but not all of the Clauses in this Bill will assist progress or increase safety, but the limitations of legislation in this matter are adequately illustrated in Clause 1 which makes permanent the 30 m.p.h. speed limit.

I agree entirely with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Freeth) that the 30 m.p.h. speed limit is lacking in discrimination. In many places a lower speed would be dangerous; there are other places where a faster speed would be quite safe, particularly, I suggest, in the small hours of the morning. I feel that the 30 m.p.h. speed limit is open to objection because it encourages the view that speed in itself is dangerous and that a slow pace in itself is quite safe. Anyone comparing the danger to the public of a car well driven at 40 to 50 m.p.h. and a car badly driven at 25 m.p.h. need be in no doubt about which of the two vehicles is the more dangerous. I should like to see less reliance on a specific limit and a more clear and general direction of caution; with many more prosecutions for offences within what is at present a 30 m.p.h. area for reckless or dangerous driving, or any other of the offences mentioned in Clause 15.

If the Opposition persist in their intention to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, they are, in fact, voting against every Clause, including Clause 2. I believe that to be a good Clause. My contention, and that of many hon. Members, is that less will be achieved by legislation than by the instruction and co-operation of all road users. More stringent rules about tests may help regarding motorists.

I feel that the effect of increased penalties for driving offences will be negligible. There exists, and probably will continue to exist, a small proportion of bad and selfish road users. The trouble is that tests will not unearth them. A great number have never taken a test, and those who have and are now bad and selfish drivers were probably on their best behaviour on that occasion. Higher penalties will not deter them, especially, as has been pointed out, when the present maxima are seldom inflicted. The brightest hope of making bad and selfish drivers a litle more wise and responsible seems to lie within the limits of information, advice and instruction which it is sought to extend by this Bill, particularly in Clause 2.

I hope we shall not fall into the error of thinking that the passage of this Bill will contribute largely to the removal of traffic congestion and the limitation of road accidents. I am not optimistic that great things will be achieved, but I feel that if the Government and local authorities, with the powers which are taken in this Bill, can secure even a small improvement in the standard of road use, at least they will have done something to assist progress on the roads and cut down the mortality and injury which occur there at present.

6.59 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)

Although I intend to vote against the Bill, I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), because I agree with a great many of the things which he has said. My intention to vote against the Bill is entirely as a protest against the lack of imagination in the Government's whole road policy and their failure to face the present situation. I think that situation is recognised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I particularly agree with what the hon. Member said about the difficulty of personal relations on the road and the whole problem which is involved in them. When he talked about not liking the specific speed limit of 30 m.p.h., I rather agreed with him, but I do not quite see what the answer is.

I am quite sure that an old ramshackle car driven at 30 m.p.h. is often a great deal more dangerous on some of the trunk roads than a good modern car driven at 45 m.p.h. It may happen that the driver of the old small car has very slow physical reactions and that the driver of the big car is very keen on motoring, is alert and reacts to anything that may happen two or three times quicker. All these are matters of great moment if a sudden emergency arises.

How we are to get over this difficulty, I do not quite know. The hon. Member referred to the question of some further guidance on caution on the roads. As the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, one of the great difficulties in all legislation with regard to roads is the question of enforcement. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) also pointed out the difficulty of identification and of tying down the person responsible. As one looks at the whole problem, one is forced back to the simple argument which has been stated before in this House, that the only real solution which will offer certain improvement so far as traffic congestion and the reduction in accidents are concerned is segregation.

This is where the Government's lack of imagination comes in. We realise that in 1955 it is no good looking at the Queen's highway in the same way in which we looked at it in the old days. if we have fast-moving traffic, it has to be moved on separate lanes; if we have bicycles, they have to move on separate lanes, and, so far as pedestrians are concerned, the further they are kept away from all moving traffic the better. It is a difficult problem, and it is obvious that we aye miles away from it. Not until we really try to tackle it shall we make any significant impact on the terrible figures of read accidents.

I should have thought that what had done most to improve the road accident figures, when we consider the vehicles on the road now compared with those before the war—and we must realise that there has been relatively a big improvement—has been education, and that should go on. I suggest that unless we make a bold attempt to separate the traffic we shall not get much further. It is not a question of building motorways linking the main centres of industry, but of dealing with the problem in the towns and cities themselves.

A few years ago, guard rails around the worse parts of roads and junctions in city centres were put up. I know that when they were first put up in Bolton there was considerable amusement caused because one or two of those who were wont to spend their newly-gained free Saturday mornings in the town centre complained that there was no heating put through the pipes. Nevertheless, they have gone beyond the original idea of being a bit of a joke and a bit of a nuisance for pedestrians. They are steadily being recognised as a considerable improvement to safety measures in a town centre.

We have to visualise, and take action accordingly, that our main thoroughfares in towns and cities have to be widened a great deal, and not only the streets but the pavements as well, and the two being separated by fences with a space here and there for pedestrians to cross the street. Personally, I can see no other way, because if someone says "We will stop people walking into the roads," I am afraid that he will be up against a lot of trouble from all of us. If I want suddenly to cross the road and I see no traffic coming, unless there is a fence to stop me, I shall go across. I may go across very alertly one moment and as a jaywalker the next—and then the accident takes place. So, unless we really sit down to think of this problem in terms of 1955, I do not think we shall get anywhere.

I feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he coined the phrase a while ago of doubling the standard of living in twenty-five years, may have some cause to regret this eventually. At first there was some discussion as to whether this was possible, but soon there were people to tell us that of course it was possible if we did this and that. People are now beginning to forget about "If we did this or if we did that" and to feel that doubling the standard of living in twenty-five years is almost an inevitable process. There is an awful danger about this with regard to roads.

The Minister seems to get a lot of brickbats. Certainly, over the last two or three years he has had some difficult jobs to do, but, after all, he has been at the Treasury and must know where the real trouble is. If he would really stand up for more money, which is the crux of the matter, he would have the support of both sides of the House. He produced a programme in February. The statement he made on 2nd February on the expanded road programme was an excellent beginning. But it is, after all, only a beginning. He is like a weight lifter who has just flexed his muscles. He has not really started on the job of lifting this severe burden which has been left by the neglect of past Ministers of Transport and of past Governments.

In the plan for motorways, 800 miles is the generally accepted idea of what needs to be done urgently. We are starting this programme by commencing work on ninety miles. It is not only, as I stress again, the main motorways which have to be made. There has to be an entirely new and imaginative treatment of the roads in the centres of the cities.

I should like to offer two comments in particular on car parking and vehicle testing. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that he visited a car park in London and found that only one-third of the area was being used. I can assure him that if he comes to Manchester and looks at the number of cars parked round the centre of the city, and on bombed sites north of Deansgate, as well as in the garages, he will find them well filled. One cannot get into any big garage—one which I know is Kendalls Garage—at any time during the middle of the day. One may be able to get in there very early on, but certainly not in the middle of the day. It is only by commencing to build these tiered garages now that we can hope to solve the problem. The Minister cannot wait until meters are put up in the streets, collect the money from them, and then start to build the car parks; he must start straight away, as soon as the Bill—in spite of the opposition which has been put up against it—becomes law.

My next point concerns vehicle testing. The Minister has been wise to drop the original arrangement, and even some of the alternatives, but I hope that he will not leave the matter there. As has been stated by a previous Parliamentary Secretary—although he did not put forward the suggestion in exactly this form—I suggest that the Minister should urge the R.A.C., the A.A. and any other motoring organisation which there may be to start an "Efficient Car Club" and that a certain standard should be laid down. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that the research station which had been testing cars considered that a car should be able to pull up in 45 feet, but even when it tested cars to pull up in 70 feet, only 50 per cent. passed the test.

A standard should be decided upon, and anyone who wishes to belong to the "Efficient Car Club" should agree to have his car tested once a year, in order to get the scheme going, and subsequently at more frequent intervals, and have it stamped by a garage approved by the "Efficient Car Club" to carry out such tests. This system does not need to be upon the elaborate scale originally envisaged, but we could start a voluntary movement, which would at least make people think about it.

Although it is mentioned in the Highway Code, if hon. Members were asked in what distance they ought to be able to pull up their cars very few would be able to give any satisfactory answer—and they would certainly not mention the figure advocated by the Road Research Laboratory. I should think that a fruitful line of action might be started in that direction, and it might eventually develop into something universal. It is astonishing how such an idea as this will catch on, if it is fundamentally a good one.

In spite of all the improvements that may be made to the Bill, I feel that no Measure connected with road traffic or roads should go through this House at any time in the next few years without a very strong protest until, whatever Government are in power, real imagination is used to tackle the present problem of the roads.

7.14 p.m.

Sir Austin Hudson (Lewisham, North)

I look upon the Bill more as a safety measure than as an occasion to advocate big road schemes. Nobody is keener than I to see good roads built, or improvements made to the existing ones, but I am a little doubtful whether, when these great motor roads are built, we shall not do exactly what America has done, namely, find that more casualties are being caused because of the increased speeds of vehicles.

It is because the Bill deals with the safety aspect of the problem that I give it my support. For the benefit of those who have been referring to the slowness with which the major road projects of my right hon. Friend are being carried out, I would say that today, for the first time, I saw a notice in London saying, "Works in connection with the Cromwell Road Extension" and tears of joy came into my eyes at the sight of it. I was going to ask my right hon. Friend when a start was going to be made upon it, but I see that it has now been started.

The problems with which the Bill seeks to deal are very much the same as those which we had immediately before the war. We have in the House quite a number of ex-Parliamentary Secretaries, but I consider myself to be the senior dowager ex-Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, having held that post from 1935 to 1939. It is interesting to see how far what we were then planning has succeeded and how far it has failed. I was encouraged to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that the number of children killed upon the roads was decreasing, although as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, the casualties are still so great that we must not be complacent about them.

In pre-war days, when I was at the Ministry, we were only beginning to mark pedestrian crossings. The beacons were then set up for the first time, although they did not flash, and were made of tin. The reason for these marked crossings was that children could be instructed in school and at home to cross at those crossings and nowhere else. I am quite sure that those crossings have been a success. We see many older pedestrians jaywalking, but we do not see many children doing so, and I believe that that is partly due to the existence of the marked crossings.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House have said that this Bill is a bad one. One reason for this is that road traffic is a subject upon which everyone thinks he is an expert, and it is quite impossible to please all the experts. A friend of mine told me, some time ago, that in his view the 30 m.p.h. limit should be abolished. Another told me that that limit was far too high, and a limit of 15 m.p.h. should be introduced. The Minister will probably agree with neither of those opinions, and my friends will probably both come to me afterwards and say, "This is a bad Bill. The Minister should have done what I suggested." In my view, no Bill is a bad Bill which really tries to deal with the problem of road accidents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) rightly said that we could drastically reduce the number of road accidents if, by legislation, we could make all motorists painstaking, courteous and observant, and all pedestrians careful, tolerant and watchful—but we all know that we cannot do that by legislation. Therefore, we have to do the best we can in other ways.

The Minister has tried to deal with this problem in a wide range of Clauses. I am not going to attempt to deal with all the Clauses concerning the dangerous motorist, and endeavouring to give him a greater sense of responsibility and also to keep his car efficient. I was sorry to see that the periodical mechanical examination of cars is not to be introduced. I presume that the Bill will go upstairs, and I hope that that question can be thrashed out in Committee and, perhaps, a new Clause introduced.

I read the other day of a case before a magistrate—I think it has now gone to a higher court—in which somebody had crossed against the red light and a fatal accident resulted. The police evidence was that when the brakes of the car were full on, three out of the four wheels could be turned by hand. It is easy to see why the motorist did not stop; he could not. If he had had to have his car examined, that accident would never have occurred.

I believe this is the first time that the Minister is trying to deal with what I call the dangerous pedestrian. In my experience the dangerous pedestrian is almost as great a menace as the dangerous motorist. Clauses 7 and 25 will be very difficult to enforce, but through them an effort is made to bring a sense of responsibility to the pedestrian.

I have come to the conclusion that the pedestrian, and the cyclist, are much too impressed by their rights on the roads rather than by their duties to other people. They are inclined to say, "I have as much right to be on the road as you have." If one continues to adopt that attitude, sooner or later one will be run over. It is possible for hon. Members to walk straight off the pavement outside this building saying, "The Sessional Order says that I must be allowed to pass," but anyone who does that will probably be saying the last few words underneath a bus.

People must be aware of their enormous responsibility instead of always insisting on their rights. That applies to the cyclist as well as to the pedestrian, and I welcome Clause 6, which applies to cyclists the provisions already applicable to motorists. If these Clauses assist in improving road behaviour, we can look forward to a reduction in accidents.

I wish to say a few words about the 30 m.p.h. limit. Clauses 1 and 4 are excellent. The 30 m.p.h. limit obviously should be made permanent. The reason that this provision was put in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill was that originally no one was sure that 30 m.p.h. was the right speed. I think that by now we have come to the conclusion that 30 m.p.h. is right for built-up areas, and, therefore, that we should remove the 30 m.p.h. provision from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill and embody it in permanent legislation.

When the 30 m.p.h. limit was first put into operation, we had to have a yardstick in order to tell what were built-up areas. That yardstick was street lighting. Gradually, as street lighting was extended, the 30 m.p.h. limit was also extended, sometimes out into the country, unless the Minister derestricted that portion of the road. I am certain that we should not now keep to this yardstick. If any local authority wishes to have a greater length of road limited to 30 m.p.h. it must take the necessary steps to hold an inquiry, and so forth.

I do not want to be too long—and here I am reminded of a cliché mentioned by the right hon. Member for South Shields. I wish to say a few words about parking places, and particularly in London. This is one of our most difficult problems. If we get rid of at least some of the all day parkers mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary, there would result a great improvement in the flow of traffic, because undoubtedly congestion causes irritation, and irritation causes accidents. We are made aware of this fact again and again. We see a great blockage of traffic, and then somebody takes a chance, be it pedestrian or motorist, then the accident occurs.

I appeal to the motorist to try to help the Minister. Let us try to make work the experiment of parking meters, and if it is not necessary to take his car into Central London let the motorist leave it behind and use public transport. I ask, in return, that the authorities should try to help the motorist a little more than they do. There are still places where parking could be allowed, but is not. During the railway strike there were a number of places where parking was allowed, which did not seem to do anybody any harm, and which are now not allowed for parking now that the strike is over.

May I mention one example? I know that this concerns a Royal Park and that the Minister is not entirely responsible. I am certain that if the side of the Mall, by the wall which is used for parking during the Royal garden parties, were made available, it would accommodate a large number of cars. The objection to using the parks, quite rightly, is that people are prevented from going through and seeing the parks. The place that I have in mind is a former riding space on the St. James's Palace side. As the sand is removed, cars could park there in a row with their backs or fronts pointing to the Mall, and they would be well out of the way. I give that merely as one example, and I ask the Minister to see whether there are other places which could be used for parking.

The Bill contains provisions which will be of use, and I hope that the Opposition will not vote against it merely because they are not satisfied with the roads programme, which could not be dealt with in the Bill anyhow. If we can save one life by the application of some of these Clauses, we shall have done a good day's work.

7.27 p.m.

Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson), and I will immediately take up his last point about the use of the Royal Parks for parking. I was wondering where the guests at the Royal garden party would park their cars.

Sir A. Hudson

They park their cars in the park.

Mr. Pannell

I should think that it would be difficult for them to get out of the habit of doing so. Would the hon. Member suggest that the guests should have a reservation for two days in the year?

Sir A. Hudson

The police could put temporary "no parking" notices and there would be no difficulty at all.

Mr. Pannell

I want to say a word or two on the contentious part of the Bill, on whether provision should be made for the examination of vehicles. On balance, I am glad that this provision is out of the Bill. In its previous form I should have imagined that it was well-nigh impossible to work. I would remind hon. Members of the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) during the Second Reading debate on the previous Bill, on 5th April. It seems to me that in view of the great number of cars that are now on the roads, to have a systematic check of new, old, medium, large and small vehicles would be fantastic.

Generally speaking, I think hon. Members do less than justice to the motor car industry and its efficiency when they ask for that sort of thing to be done. The motor car industry—I am speaking of all the great firms—has evolved the most efficient motor cars in the world. Consider, for example, that on the small vehicles are to be found the luxuries of hydraulic brakes, and so on. I can go back over thirty-five years in the motor trade, where I earned my living all that time until I came to the House. The four-wheeled brake was not introduced until 1925.

When we consider that sort of thing, how do we approach this problem? I appreciate that there might be a case for vehicle testing, and it seems to me that if we are to have it we should use the age basis as a start. It seems to me that this would be reasonable, and the Minister might consider in Committee whether it could not be introduced into the Bill. We could say that the day after a vehicle was five years old it would not be eligible to go on to the road until it had had an exhaustive test. I was about to say that I did not mean a 2½d. test. but my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) spoke of a 10s. test.

In my opinion, we cannot do the test which is required at that sort of price. Before the war the average loaded time for a mechanic in any garage—and not necessarily one paying the best trade union rates—was about 5s. an hour and in a good garage today a mechanic's loaded time might be 8s. to 10s. an hour. I very much doubt whether we could have an effective test on all aspects of a road vehicle in an hour.

The original suggestion, in the first Bill, imposed a great task, almost a judicial responsibility, on the garages, which I thought was a bad thing. Yet the alternative of public testing stations opens up a vision of all sorts of competent people in the motor car trade checking each other's vehicles when they might be more profitably employed on the export trade building more vehicles to go abroad. It would be a chronic waste of manpower. The age which we might have in mind as a basis for a test could be five years or perhaps three years. We could introduce a certificate of efficiency stating that such a car, of that age, was fit to go on the road.

All those people who develop an affection for old cars—and there are many—should not grumble at such a suggestion. They should feel proud to have a certificate of roadworthiness. I know that many old Bentleys and Rolls-Royces on the road are kept in a better mechanical condition than some of the cars of a more recent vintage, but they are the exception and I think that my suggestion about an age basis is not unreasonable.

When a car is first let loose on the road it carries with it a certain warranty, and there is also a pride of ownership among most people for the first twelve months. I think we should encourage the motor trade to give a better guarantee, a better warranty, during the first twelve months. The trade could say that within the first year it would give the car two checks and would adjust the brakes and the headlights and do all the other little things which do not involve very much work in the trade but which are a different proposition for the amateur first driving on the roads. We could encourage the motor trade to improve the warranty which it gives on the sale of a new car. Equally, we could arrange tests for older cars.

If it happens that court proceedings intervene in this period, might it not be a good idea, when people are charged with dangerous or careless driving, to have as one of the penalties the provision that they should have an efficiency check on their cars, for which they must pay?

Having gone into all these suggestions, I want to emphasise that defects in road vehicles are not a prime cause of road accidents. There are two things which we could tackle and which would lead to an improvement almost overnight—drunks and dogs.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

Gay dogs.

Mr. Pannell

I appreciate what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) about drunkenness and about the danger of impinging upon the functions of the judiciary in deciding that there shall be an automatic imprisonment or a fine, but I see no reason why a second or third conviction for being found drunk in charge of a car should not mean that the offender is taken off the road for life. I do not say that this should be done on the first offence, but there is no reason why it should not be done on the second or third offence.

Having said that, I want to say a few words in support of what my right hon. Friend said about automatic imprisonment. I remember being an expert witness in a case of manslaughter—in fact, double manslaughter. It was a case in which one of the most skilful drivers I know, a man driving a commercial vehicle for his living, had an accident travelling round a bend on the Hertford-Hatfield Road. There was no grass verge, but a bank on each side of the road and a hedge 12 feet high.

As this man came round this bend he found two nursemaids, two perambulators and a child spread across the road in front of him and coming round the next bend, in vision, was another lorry. In an effort to avoid an accident he came as near to committing suicide as I have ever known. He turned his vehicle completely over by shooting up the bank and went into a nearby field. The steel tailboard of the vehicle flung back five yards and killed two people.

I can honestly say that had any one of nine or ten elements been absent in that case, he would have got away with it and would have been strongly praised for a remarkable piece of driving. What happened, in fact, was that he was tried by a local jury. Whereas it took the local justices of Hatfield 50 minutes to decide whether to commit him for trial, it took the local jury 17 minutes to send him down for manslaughter. I can honestly say that that sort of thing has moved me a good deal in motor cases. I can tell the story now because the man has served his sentence, but, of course, he was blacklisted for life by every insurance company and was finished as a driver. Yet, in my opinion, justice should have been on his side.

When we are deciding in the House what we shall do in these matters we are often deciding in vacuo because we do not know the sort of things which happen. Many hon. Members have probably never driven a heavy vehicle or such vehicles as a 2,000-gallon tanker with a shifting load behind the driver, where there is a different system of braking and application of braking than is found anywhere else. I urge the House to be careful, as my right hon. Friend said, before laying down arbitrary sentences and removing every bit of justice from our courts. Often I hear these suggestions of automatic imprisonment made by cyclists and pedestrians.

My right hon. Friend said he noticed that one-third of the children in a primary school near him are led to school by the hand by their mothers. I was impressed by that, but I am oppressed by the number of young children—too young—who are riding bicycles in our busy city traffic. Very often, when we consider these problems of taking little children to school or providing road patrols, we should consider whether it would not be a good thing to lay down an age limit for children cyclists. I have seen fathers and mothers near where I live—good parents who would do anything for a child—riding along and taking children on their first cycling trip. I think the time has come, with the number of vehicles we have on the roads at present, to say that small children shall not be allowed to ride cycles on the road without any form of control.

I wish to say a word or two about dogs causing accidents. I came across this problem in a peculiar way when a dog dashed out of a police station and brought a motor cyclist down. I wrote to the chief constable of the city concerned and he told me quite a story about dogs. He told me that two or three years ago, in the City of Leeds, one in four of the accidents could be traced to some extent to straying dogs. I asked a Question of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, who was then Home Secretary. Statistics given showed that, nationally, the proportion was one in six. It is difficult to get such statistics quite correct. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Freeth) used other figures. He said that about eight accidents a day—2,848 in a year—were caused by dogs. I think it all depends on which statistics are used.

When I went into the question of accidents caused by dogs I was surprised at the "fan mail" I received as a result of publicity in this House. It was not the sort of "fan mail" one would expect. I was not blamed, neither did all sorts of dog lovers rush in to say that I was being hard on them. It was rather the reverse; all the animal societies said that it was time that there was some control of dogs in the interest of dogs. People talk about the freedom of dogs, but they should think of the distress, maiming and injury caused to these dumb creatures. A dog is unpredictable on the road, but accidents have to be reported. If we asked the police how many accidents caused by dogs were not reported, I think the answer would be none. When a dog rushes out into the road an accident is frequently caused to a human being, perhaps a child, and third-party insurance is invoked, but where are we at the end of the day?

I do not think it unfair to say that the dog should no longer be treated as the "sacred cow" of British politics. It is time dogs were controlled in busy districts for their own sake. They should not be allowed to run all over the place. There should be zones in which dogs should be kept on leads. I believe that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) spoke about the dog being like the sacred cow. I was reminded that many years ago when, in the early 1920s I was friendly with my Member of Parliament, the late Lord McEntee, Members of Parliament were frightened of dealing with cyclists riding without rear lights.

The whole House of Commons seemed afraid of insisting that cyclists should have rear lights. Members fiddled about with legislation about reflectors for years. When the war and Defence Regulations came, the red light went on to the back of the bicycle. Who, today, would say that we should take it off? It is really fantastic how we get stewed up about these things. When we consider the large number of accidents caused by dogs, I say that it is time the Minister addressed his mind to this subject.

On the question of the variable speed limit, I am still amazed that this Government, after holding office since 1951, have done nothing at all about the 20 m.p.h. speed limit. We had a debate on the subject one Friday, when the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) took part. We have to get rid of the idea that speed of itself is dangerous. A heavy goods vehicle is one of the finest engineering jobs we can produce in this country, finer even than a light motor car. Often it is far safer to drive such a vehicle at speeds well within its coasting range of 30 m.p.h. or 40 m.p.h.

The curious thing is that although we prescribe a 20 m.p.h. speed limit for a goods vehicle, when the same vehicle, with a coach body, carries passengers instead of goods the legal limit is 30 m.p.h. If speed of itself is a danger we put a premium on the passengers and not on the goods, which seems quite ridiculous. I know all the arguments about this, but everyone knows that it is best on wide roads for vehicles to maintain the speed of that road.

The Minister and everyone knows that the speed limit is not really observed, and this law is brought into contempt. It is time everyone got together to see whether we can make our speed limits more rational. I do not like restrictive practices, whether they are indulged in by employers or trade unions, but it is a chronic waste of capital assets to under-drive a vehicle and to use it below its capacity.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I wish to ask the hon. Member a question because, rightly or wrongly, a number of us on this side of the House have been thinking that he was an obstructive element—a very important element—to getting this change made in the law. In Committee on this Bill will he support a new Clause, or whatever is the appropriate amendment, to raise the speed limit for heavy commercial vehicles from 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h.?

Mr. Pannell

In reply to the first part of that intervention, the noble Lord is mistaken. I stand by the speech I made originally on this subject. It was made when the matter was discussed and Mr. Alfred Barnes was the Minister. I have not changed. I am an engineer and I do not like to see machinery wasted. If there are obstructive elements they are not in the union of which I am a member. As to the suggested amendment, let us see it first; I think that that is fair enough. This is a matter on which I feel strongly. The noble Lord can read my earlier speech; I stand by it.

The hon. Member for Basingstoke made an extraordinary suggestion. Although I do not think it quite the thing to criticise a maiden speech, perhaps one may comment on it. The hon. Member wanted more posters on the road. I should have thought that that rumbustious young woman, Jane Russell, was responsible for as many road accidents as anyone. One sees motorists' eyes stray to such posters. I should have thought the best thing for drivers to do was to keep their eyes on the road and not on anything else.

I should have thought that there was a case for a variation of the law in regard to people drunk while driving, or in charge of a car. I cannot say that we have got it in the Bill. We may have to look at that question again in Committee. One knows of cases of people who have realised that they have had too much to drink and have been sensible enough to know their nervous reaction is such that they would be a danger. Some have deliberately thrown the key into the back of the car and gone to sleep to sleep off the effects. It may not be a virtue to be drunk, but they have the virtue of humility and of knowing that they might be a danger if they drove.

As we recognise the prisoner who "comes clean" I think we might also recognise the man who knows full well that he is not in a fit state to drive and does as I have described. The penalty ought not to be the same in that case as that for the man who not only may wreck the lives of other people but his own. I heard it said by a High Court judge that the difference between dangerous driving and manslaughter is that dangerous driving is dangerous, but manslaughter is when a man cares for no one's life, including his own. That is the degree of irresponsibility.

I hark back to what was said by my right hon. Friend to the effect that, if necessary, we must build smaller primary schools and in small neighbourhood units so that young children will not have very far to go to school. The siting of schools is an important consideration. All these are factors bearing upon road safety. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) said, it is very much a matter of public spirit and public education, tolerance on the roads, tolerance of the pedestrians.

We can all preach our rights on the roads, but we should remember the limerick which some hon. Members may know, though others may not: Here lies the body of Johnnie Jay, Who died protesting his right of way. He was right, dead right, as he strode along, But now he's as dead as if he was wrong. We all know that the motor car is a lethal weapon, but we live in a society in which we cannot dispense with motor cars. Motoring is an element in our lives, but to safeguard ourselves and our children in an efficient, industrial, mechanised nation, education is necessary in the proper use of the roads, and that will do more than anything else to promote it. If I have not mentioned the quality of the roads, it is because that is a per-requisite to all else.

7.51 p.m.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

This Bill is designed primarily to save lives. That is why I regret very deeply that my right hon. Friend has not adopted an obvious course to save a great many lives. I mean, making it compulsory for motor cyclists to wear crash helmets. I shall not keep the House long, for I do not think I need try to persuade anyone of the value of crash helmets. I have no statistics with which to back up my case, but it must be quite clear to everybody, it must be common knowledge, that large numbers of motor cyclists are killed and injured every year, and they would not have been killed if they had worn crash helmets.

Indeed, my right hon. Friend agrees about this, and the only point on the subject at which he and I differ is that whereas I think the wearing of crash helmets should be made compulsory he prefers to trust to the motor cyclists voluntarily and spontaneously to wear them. It is the careful and sensible and intelligent motor cyclist who will wear a crash helmet even if it is not compulsory. The people I want to protect are the more careless and less imaginative riders who, at present, do not wear them.

I have had correspondence with my right hon. Friend about this matter, and I understand that the main objection to compulsion is that it would cast an unfair burden on the police. Is it unduly imaginative to suggest that a hundred or, perhaps, two hundred motor cyclists are killed every year, who would not have been killed if they had worn crash helmets? Certainly, it is not unduly imaginative to suggest that many hundreds of motor cyclists who suffer head injuries every year would not receive them if they were to wear crash helmets. If we are in earnest in our desire to save lives on the roads, if my right hon. Friend is earnest in his propaganda about the saving of lives on the roads, it is obvious that this course must be taken.

I may be asked, what about the motor cyclists' passengers? Would I compel pillion riders to wear crash helmets? I am prepared to make a concession. I should say, no. Logically, of course, one should compel them to wear crash helmets, too, but as a matter of practical politics I would insist on the riders only wearing them. There is also the problem of the power-assisted cycle. I should not try to be logical in that case, either. The need for the riders of such cycles to wear crash helmets is not quite so great, because those cycles do not attain the enormous speeds of motor cycles.

Every safety measure has always been strenuously resisted at first. We find that that has been so in industry and in sport. In industry there was at first resistance to the wearing of safety helmets, and to such other safety appliances, in mines. In sport, there was resistance to the wearing of crash helmets in steeplechasing. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) spoke just now about the resistance to the putting of rear lights on pedal cycles. This reform of which I am speaking, I maintain, is bound to come, and I would rather it came sooner than later, to save all the misery, the death and injury, and all the hospitalisation and medical treatment involved.

I have put the point shortly and simply, but I feel very strong about it. I feel that our agitation about saving lives on the roads rings hollow if this perfectly obvious course is not adopted. The police are there to do a job of work, and it is merely to strain at a gnat to say that we shall not save scores, possibly hundreds, of lives, which we can save, by a stroke of the pen, because this would cast another duty on the police. I hope that my right hon. Friend will listen to my plea.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. James Harrison (Nottingham, North)

I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) a question. I felt that the provision in Clause 1 to make 30 m.p.h. the speed limit for goods vehicles was one of the best features of the Bill. I have been impressed by the fact that the law is being flouted by lorry drivers driving their lorries at more than the speed limit. I have observed this myself on the roads, and it has been mentioned in this House many times. It is the experience of many of us.

My hon. Friend suggested that the engineering capability of the vehicle should be the determining factor in deciding what its speed limit should be. He said that the engineering capacity of a heavy lorry should be the determining factor in reckoning the speed limit of the lorry. I know my hon. Friend's vast experience in motor manufacturing and engineering, so what I would ask him is this. What does he consider to be the engineering limit of a modern goods vehicle, the engineering limit upon which he would base the speed limit?

Mr. C. Pannell

I think my hon. Friend misunderstood me. The 30 m.p.h. speed limit mentioned in Clause 1 will apply to all vehicles in built-up areas, but I have no quarrel with that, except to say that under the present law the 30 m.p.h. is 20 m.p.h. for heavy goods vehicles above a certain weight, whereas for passenger vehicles of the same weight it is 30 m.p.h., which seems to me a foolish discrimination. I did not make the point that the capacity of a heavy lorry should be the determining factor of its speed. I did not say that at all. I said that road safety depends upon the capacity of vehicles to keep up with the speed on the roads, and that I thought that the average coasting speed of cars and coaches upon our roads is not less than 35 or 40 m.p.h. These are passenger vehicles. I did not think that it should be left to those carrying goods. I think my hon. Friend inadvertently misunderstood what I said.

Mr. Harrison

I am very sorry, and I apologise to my hon. Friend. Unfortunately, however, the opinion I formed seemed to be the same as that of other hon. Members, including, I gather, hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite, because my hon. Friend was asked whether he was prepared to support an Amendment in Committee to increase the permissible speed of lorries.

Mr. Pannell

The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) asked me—and this is an old controversy—whether I was prepared to support in Committee an Amendment which would allow heavy goods vehicles which are now limited to 20 m.p.h. to travel at 30 m.p.h.

Mr. Harrison

In that case, I must have misunderstood the gist of my hon. Friend's remarks, but I wanted to establish clearly that there are a good many people on this side of the House who would not favour an increase in the speed of heavily loaded lorries.

Mr. Robson Brown (Esher)


Mr. Harrison

Because we feel that it would lead to an increase of danger and because we accept the suggestion which is made very often from the benches opposite that these lorry drivers break their legal speed regulations. We suggest that if the speed limit of heavily laden trucks is increased from 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. the capability of the engine will soon permit an increase to a speed of 40 m.p.h. To retain the speed limit for heavy trucks at 20 m.p.h. seems to me a most valuable safeguard.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

Is it not a fact that in some cases lorry drivers who are paid on a time basis manage to go fast and get their work over quicker and in that way earn increased wages? Is there not something of that behind the desire not to see the 20 m.p.h. limit raised?

Mr. Harrison

There is something in that, but there is more to it. Our experience on the road is that if the lorry is capable of travelling at 40 m.p.h. and the schedules for the trip are drawn on the basis of 40 m.p.h. the driver receives the same wage for doing 40 m.p.h. and completing the journey in half the time as he would have received for taking the extra time. Schedules are drawn up to comply with the law and with the safe driving of the vehicle concerned. At least, they should be so drawn up but that is not always done.

We are quite accustomed to hearing of the speeding up of trips and tightening of schedules to produce a quicker turn-round of vehicles, but it is seldom that that helps the drivers over a period, because very soon the rate of pay is adjusted to meet the increased speed. We are fully aware of that trick in the transport industry, particularly now that such a large proportion of the vehicles are owned by private owners over whom there is not the control that there is over publicly-owned transport.

The Parliamentary Secretary gave the House some alarming figures showing how far the element of mechanical defect enters into the incidence of road accidents. I thought that he quoted really frightening figures when he said that 30 to 40 per cent. of accidents contained this contributory element of mechanical defect.

Mr. Molson

I estimated it at 20 per cent.

Mr. Harrison

Even a figure of 20 per cent. shows that this element enters substantially into the picture. It leads me to the impression that it is a grave omission from this Bill that there is no provision for compulsory mechanical overhaul.

A former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) described in this debate an accident in which it was found that three of the wheels of the vehicle which was involved were not in any way locked when the brakes were fully applied. That was an illustration of the defective machines that are found on our roads at present. It still further strengthened the potent criticism of the omission from the Bill of provisions to deal with mechanical defects.

The reason why we on this side of the House oppose this Measure is simple and clear. It is because it does nothing substantial towards solving one of the most urgent problems of the day. That problem is the congestion and terrible waste of manpower and machines which occur regularly on the roads throughout the country. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke rather boastfully about the amount of money which the present Government were prepared to spend on the roads, but it is accepted in many quarters that a sum of £1,000 million would be necessary to bring our roads up to date as first-class modern highways.

When we compare that figure with the paltry sum which it is intended to spend in the next few years, we must accept the fact that we shall not solve our urgent road problems within the next five to ten years. We must accept that the present tremendous wastage of manpower and machines on the roads will continue for at least another decade. If that is the position, we should join hands with our Liberal friends and oppose the Bill on the sole ground that it will not be effective in solving the main problem.

I strike a more conciliatory note in mentioning that it has been my pleasurable experience to see some of the results of the Parliamentary Secretary's second "E"—education. There have been delightful and encouraging examples of the results of road safety talks and education in Nottingham. Considerable sums of money have been spent on this education, and it has paid off wonderfully well. Nowadays it will be found that and around Nottingham a careless pedestrian turns out in most cases to be an adult. Children are today far more careful than adults. That is a reflection of the amount of training in road safety which is given to them in the schools and other places. I am sure that many of our children could accept the position of tutors in road safety to their parents. I hope and pray that the Minister will emphasise and publicise this education in road safety wherever and whenever possible. It is one of the most wonderful things that we can tackle immediately in attempting to solve the terrible problem of danger on the roads.

Recently, many thousands of pounds have been spent on building a new car park in the centre of Nottingham. Old buildings were demolished at tremendous cost. I should like to give the figures of parking in a provincial centre like Nottingham as distinct from the metropolis, the figures for which were given by the Minister. One day I went three times to the car park to see what had happened. It was not three-quarters full; it was almost completely empty on these three occasions, but at the kerbside all the way round the car park and in the main streets running from it were parked cars. I noticed that some of these cars had cost £1,000 to £1,200 when they were new. These substantial vehicles indicated that the people who owned them were wealthy, at any rate sufficiently wealthy to pay the 1s. parking fee.

It seems to me that some regulations about parking are not only desirable but very necessary. I welcome that part of the Bill which suggests that parking meters should be tried for an experimental period. By all means let us tackle this kerbstone parking for long periods, and one of the ways to tackle it is as suggested in the Bill.

There are other matters I should like to raise, but we will all have an opportunity to do so during the Committee stage. I sit down with this observation. One of the most frightening things on the road today is for a car driver to meet someone coming in the opposite direction, not with two glaring headlights which can be dipped, but with one great big searchlight which it is not possible to dip and which is focused right in front of the oncoming driver's eyes. A habit is growing among many motorists of having one headlight, and then no matter how it is focused they think there is no need to dip it. This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest menaces of the day to the driver of the oncoming car. If we can do anything in Committee to meet a situation of that kind we shall be doing something to help road safety.

We on this side of the House oppose this Bill on the grounds of its inadequacy to meet many of the problems with which we are faced on the roads of Britain. We will take this opportunity tonight to register our protest against the Bill.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. J. Harrison) based the main burden of his attack on the Bill on the fact that he did not like the provisions dealing with congestion, and for that reason he said he was going to vote against it. My right hon. Friend the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think the provisions in this Bill about congestion are very different from those in the Bill we debated in the last Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman is going to be consistent, he ought to have got his party to vote against the previous Bill, because our proposals about congestion are very much the same as were submitted to the House last April.

The other point in his speech which interested me was his reference to the question of the 20 m.p.h. speed limit for goods vehicles. I have a certain knowledge of this practice, and also of the law on this subject. I do not think that anybody who has had anything to do with industry will detract from the services which the transport workers render to it. But it seems to me that there is a considerable anomaly and, in some cases, breaking of the law which could all be overcome by discussion and negotiation on this subject.

Here is something on which both sides of industry can get together and deal with the problem in a practical and sensible way. Nothing is worse than seeing the law flagrantly flouted by these empty 20 m.p.h. vehicles going home at a speed of 30 m.p.h. and being driven with perfect safety and in a proper manner. I believe those connected with industry could assist in getting a realistic approach to this issue.

I should like now to turn to the Bill before us in its more general aspects. The thing that I like about it is that the original Clause 1 is no longer in it. The Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon faced a certain amount of criticism from hon. Members opposite about that, but I should like to congratulate him on taking a realistic stand on this issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) was a little unkind in his remarks. I recall, when we were discussing the steel proposals, that he suggested that hon. Members on this side of the House should change their minds. There is nothing wrong in anyone changing his or her mind. Here the Minister, with all the facts in front of him, changed his mind, and I think the right hon. Gentleman could have given him some credit for doing that. In another place, changes were made in Clause 1 which were not really practicable.

Those parts of the Bill which deal with safety and the question of accidents are to be commended. The spot checking of cars is something which is practicable, and speed limits and the ironing out of dangerous roads are things which we all can support. There is one matter I would put to the Minister for his consideration. It occurs to me that a reckless driver who may have caused a great deal of damage to his own vehicle may be fined £10 or £20, but the fact that the insurance company pays the full amount of the damage to the car leads to a certain amount of recklessness in some people's minds. Would it be a practicable proposition to give the magistrates the power, in the case of a driver who is found guilty of dangerous driving, to say that when he drives on the road again he will not be able to take out a full insurance policy on his car—I am not now talking about third party risk, which is fully provided for by the law—but shall be allowed only, say, 50 per cent. coverage? That would mean that this dangerous driver would know that if he damaged his car part of the money for repairs would have to come out of his own pocket. The psychological effect would be important, particularly in those cases where men or women were driving valuable cars. They would know that if they took a risk and damage resulted they would have to meet part of the bill themselves.

This suggestion has been put forward by certain sides of industry, and I would ask the Minister to consider it. I do not expect a decision from him on it tonight, but I believe it would be a practicable way of bringing home to a driver the seriousness of such conduct on the roads, and I think it would result in more careful driving.

I want to turn now to that section of the Bill dealing with congestion. I agree that we must try to deal with this problem not only in the City of London but also in our own individual areas, and that includes the City of Sheffield. However we have laws already existing which are not enforceable and which are held in disrepute. Therefore, this House, before imposing further restrictions upon the motorist which it is not possible to enforce, should consider the position carefully.

Let me give some examples of what I mean. First, there is the question of parking along the side of a road or street. I do not believe that it is practicable to deal with this problem merely by prohibiting such parking. It can only be done if the local authority is made to provide some alternative. The criticism I have of this part of the Bill is that there should be a duty placed upon the local authority to provide alternative parking accommodation before the police are given the wider powers mentioned in the Bill.

I would suggest that a quarter of a mile should be the distance of the area in which alternative parking should be permitted, and that it should be the duty of the police to show that there is available alternative parking space before they can use the powers which the Minister is proposing to give them in Clause 20. Otherwise what shall we be doing? We shall merely be giving the police the discretionary right of summoning the motorist, and as there may be a long line of cars the police obviously cannot deal with them all and they will pick out one or another.

I do not believe that this is practicable. We must realise that motoring is now a way of life. That was shown during the war, when we tried to restrict the petrol user and when we saw how necessary it was for those with cars to use them for their business. From certain arguments put forward from both sides of the House today I am afraid that there is some idea of trying to impose more restrictions upon the motorist and this will not solve our problem.

Let me put three practical solutions of it to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the Minister. As regards London, I believe that the parking arrangements during the strike were extremely successful. For instance, those in Hyde Park and St. James's Park proved effective and did not in any way diminish the amenities of those areas. I do not know whether those parking spaces are available since the withdrawal of the emergency powers—for instance, there was one towards the Serpentine where the cars were well out of the way. Perhaps the Minister can tell me whether those spaces are still available? If they are, or if they could be reinstated, they would provide one way of relieving parking congestion.

My second suggestion is the greater use of one-way streets. Where these are practicable—in some cases they are not—the use of the one-way street, particularly in London, is beneficial. I understand that there has been in the Department for a number of years a plan for the introduction of one-way streets. I would like to hear more about it and the views of the Minister upon it. I understand also that the police are hesitant in advising the Minister to put this plan into effect mainly because of the criticism which might come from shopkeepers in the roads concerned. However, conditions have become so bad recently that I think public opinion has changed and so the plan might now be given a trial, especially since one-way streets around Piccadilly and Dover Street have proved so effective.

Thirdly, there is the question of parking spaces. To my mind, this Bill puts the cart before the horse in trying to drive the motorist off the road before providing these. I commend to the Minister the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) which, I thought, was most effective. Of course, parking places are not used if there is a premium for using them. The hon. Member for Nottingham, North mentioned a parking place in his city where he had to pay Is. whereas people could park for nothing on the street. I do not know about Nottingham, but in Yorkshire if there is a free parking place people will use it rather than pay 1s. or 6d. So I believe that it is necessary first to provide parking places and then impose a fine on those who do not use them.

It is not fair of the Parliamentary Secretary to say that garages in London are not being fully used. When I use them I am charged an exorbitant price, and this may be the reason why they are half empty. If, however, the Minister were to send cars off the roads into the garages, there would not be sufficient room for one-tenth of them. So, if we take this course there must be a duty placed upon the local authority to see that alternative parking space is made available. The present transport arrangements, particularly in London, provided by the Underground and buses would not be sufficient to take the extra load of passenger traffic which would be forced to use them if cars were banned from the central area.

Those are my main criticisms of the second part of the Bill dealing with congestion; that is to say, I believe we may be imposing further restrictions upon the motorist which can only be enforced at the discretion of the individual policeman and he will not be able to solve the main problem by dealing with individual motorists. This brings me to my final point on Clause 20, which widens the scope of Section 113 of the 1930 Act. That Section states that where an offence has been committed then the owner of the car shall say who is in charge of it.

The offences which can be committed under the 1930 Act deal with such things as reckless or careless driving, to which I do not object. In the case of parking a car or leaving a car without any lights, however, the offence is the leaving of it. This offends such legal upbringing as I have. It is a question of principle. It is a case where the offence is the leaving of a car and Parliament is asking a policeman to go to the person concerned and ask him if he is guilty or not. If he refuses to say, he must pay a fine of £20 or more. That is a dangerous principle. Except for some provincial areas where it should not have been imposed—and I see no reason why we should continue the practice—it is the first time in English law where the offence is the question of whether the car was left or not, and the policeman or the inspector has the right to demand whether the man admits he is guilty or not.

The Parliamentary Secretary's suggestion was that it would be for the convenience of the police. A lot of these things may be for the convenience of the police, but that is no reason why we who, I hope, have a regard for the liberty of the individual should use that as a necessary excuse. It may be the only way to deal with the problem, I do not know, but, as I see it, we are giving the police very wide powers which they may use on any occasion; whether cars are parked in big streets or small ones, outside or inside a town, and whether there be any congestion or not.

Mr. Molson

I should like to correct the misapprehension of my hon. Friend. We are not increasing the regulations. All that is proposed under this Clause is to make it simpler for the police to operate the present regulations. There is no question of admission by a driver that he is guilty, but merely of saying who was in charge of the car at the time an offence was alleged to have been committed.

Mr. Roberts

That is exactly my point. The offence is committed by whoever was in charge of the car. Whoever was in charge of the car is the only person who may be proved guilty, who may be accused. I do not wish to labour the point now, there may be opportunities to do so later on. But I have read the old Acts very carefully, as well as this Bill, and I cannot accept the explanation of my hon. Friend.

Motoring is now an essential part of our way of life. The motorist must go up and down the Queen's highway and he must put his car somewhere. On the other hand, we have these appalling accident figures and we have to make a careful balance between the two. I believe that in some of the regulations dealing with obstruction we are going too far and giving too great a power to the Executive. I believe that that must be watched carefully.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on attempting to tackle what is not an easy problem. I congratulate him on the way in which he has amended this Bill as compared with the previous Bill. I suggest that reveals courage, because it is not often that a Minister is prepared to amend a Bill and be faced with the criticism which was voiced by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall. I believe that my right hon. Friend will have the good will of hon. Members on both sides of the House—once this debate is over—in his efforts to get this Bill into a workable shape. I will do all I can to help him.

I welcome the general principles contained in this Bill. I hope that even at this late stage—because we have not heard from them any pertinent arguments to the contrary—that hon. Members opposite will allow this Measure to have an unopposed Second Reading and will bring forward their Amendments during the Committee and Report stages.

8.32 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I hope that the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) will pardon me if I do not follow him all the way in what he has said, although I am in sympathy with his concluding observations.

I first drove a motor car in 1921, when one of the prerequisites of a motorist was a knowledge of mechanical engineering. If this Bill gets on the Statute Book, and joins the rest of the motoring legislation, a person will have to graduate in law before becoming a motorist. It seems to me that today a motorist must know all the byelaws and regulations relating to one-way streets and parking places and the rest of it. I well remember the first time I drove a car—I will not say into Birmingham, because I failed to get into the city. I went round in circles and eventually decided to stay outside. I found that it was much easier to jump on a bus.

That sort of situation is developing. It is a misery to drive from the suburbs or from outside a town and try to get into the centre for the purpose of going to the theatre or the cinema. It is difficult to find a place in which to park one's car and afterwards to get out of it. One might just as well go by bus.

I was pleased to hear several hon. Members mention legislating for courtesy on the road. I know a young man of my own age—perhaps I ought not to say that, perhaps I should say a middle-aged man—who, ordinarily, is a perfect gentleman, very courteous and methodical and slow in his actions. One would never believe the transformation which occurred in that man's character when he got into a car. He reminds me of the book "Importance of Living", by Lin Yutang, in which he says that he believes that Britain and her civilisation will be saved when two gentlemen can draw up their cars in opposite directions in Piccadilly in the middle of the day and talk to each other about their wives, children and grandmothers for an hour while policemen are blowing their whistles and the drivers of other cars are hooting and telling them to get a move on.

It reminds me of an Indian pedlar who spent twelve months touring this country trying unsuccessfully to sell his wares. When he went back to India, friends asked him what it was like in Britain. He replied that it was an extraordinary country in which everybody had everything they wanted except time. This was because whenever he called at a house the lady said "I am sorry; I have no time this morning." Motorists, also, never seem to have any time to spare. They are always in a very great hurry, and that accounts for all the speeding. I remember a wager between two motorists as to which one would get to London first from Newport. One man had a Hillman and the other a 1908 model Rolls-Royce, a beautiful car with triple ignition, which was used commercially. I went in the Hillman as one of the witnesses. We never exceeded 40 m.p.h., but we beat the other man who boasted that at times he was doing 70 m.p.h.

As a motorist, I have proved that if one travels along at a moderate pace in a car which is in decent condition one can very often get to one's destination long before the fellow who rushes madly along. The people who rush form great blocks of cars and then they have to meander for an hour before the road is clear again. They waste more time if they rush and cause a road jam, and the fellow who ambles on behind beats them. I remember passing a tandem just outside Newport when travelling to Birmingham. I was in an Austin car, but the tandem, going along at a steady 18–20 m.p.h., passed me at Malvern in spite of my bursts of 40 m.p.h.

We have heard about speed and mechanical condition, but no one has mentioned one of the greatest causes of accidents, the bad loading of commercial vehicles. I had an accident when driving a car in 1929 or 1930 as a result of a lorry being badly loaded, the load being badly distributed and badly tied. The same thing can happen with private cars as a result of tyre pressures.

I am not now the owner of a car; I cannot afford one. With reference to spot checking, as a former owner of a car, I can say that I should be very reluctant to accept my car as being satisfactory from some garages which I have observed. Suppose one asks a garage proprietor to give a certificate of roadworthiness. If an accident happens, who is responsible? One can put a car or motor cycle in order, and yet a mechanical defect can occur after a hundred yards and the garage proprietor can escape all responsibility for it. I maintain that the man who owns or drives a car or motor cycle must himself be responsible for it. It is impossible to put the responsibility upon a garage proprietor.

Nothing in the Bill deals with the problem of varying road surfaces. One of the worst accidents that I ever had was the result of a change in the road service. I was driving a 1,100 c.c. Enfield twin-engine motor cycle—about 11¼ h.p.—a huge, heavy motor cycle, which the fellows called a "flying camel." It was a beautiful motor cycle. I bought it cheap, did it up and sold it, and made a good profit on it. That was before the war. The motor cycle would easily do 80 m.p.h. I was riding it one night on a good road surface at 30–40 m.p.h. I suddenly went on to another surface, and the result was that the motor cycle slithered round and I had a nasty accident.

A change in road surface can be very serious, especially in light rainfall. Only last week I saw a near-accident when a car and a bus swung in Glasgow where the surface changed from macadam to cobbles. We ought to ensure that motorists find a consistent surface on main roads running through or skirting towns. I have motored for many miles on a good road properly banked on the turns, and then suddenly come to a section of the road where there is no banking on the bends. When that happens, a person can easily be caught out unless he keeps his eye permanently on the road. These are important matters for any motorist. I know some roads in Britain where there is no banking at all on the bends.

Nothing in this Bill compels county councils, local authorities or even the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation to provide a standard surface for the roads. If it is desired to put down an experimental road surface, then for goodness' sake let those responsible see that it is not put on a section of a road which has to take a heavy volume of traffic. I have seen these experimental sections, and I cannot see the good of them. When a motorist comes to an experimental surface, he usually treats it very gingerly. I know that I used to do so. I used to pull up to examine it.

I do not consider that the road surfaces being laid today are suitable for the modern motor-cycle. As I say, I used to be a very keen motor-cyclist, but I should be very reluctant to drive a high-powered motor-cycle on some of our roads in wet weather. They are most unsuitable. I think that consideration should be given to the roughening of the surface of our roads so as to enable the motor-cycle to get a grip on it, and so that the motorcyclist can use his brakes to their fullest efficiency.

I have not driven a modern car with syncromesh gear change, but when I drove I used to make it a practice to drop down into a lower gear to avoid using the brakes unnecessarily. That is better for the car and one is less likely to get into a spin.

On the question of road lighting, I well remember driving along at a fine old pace on the crown of a road. I was following the cats' eyes when, suddenly, they disappeared. I went round two or three corners before I saw them again. Fortunately, it was not too dark to see just where I was. The reason why the cats' eyes disappeared was because on that stretch of the road they were in the kerb. It was on a road between Tewkesbury and Gloucester. Because one lot of cats' eyes was in the middle of the road and the next lot—round the corner—was in the kerb, I found myself getting into the kerb, and this, as I say, when I was going along at a good speed.

It could have been very serious. I do not know whether a crash helmet would have saved me if I had hit the kerb, but a pillion rider without a crash helmet might have been seriously injured. Very often, in such circumstances, the pillion rider comes off worse. The driver is able to hang on to the handle bars, but the pillion rider is not so fortunate.

Clause 7 deals with pedestrians, and it is a Clause with which I am very concerned. I admit that there is a considerable lot of jay walking, but let us be careful what we are doing when we give a policeman at a traffic control spot power to pull up a pedestrian for disobeying a signal given by the officer. People may not see the policeman. They do not even see the traffic sometimes. That is just too bad for them. If pedestrians are to be summoned for disobeying a policeman's signal, we must be very careful about that. Where a policeman is standing there may be traffic lights and some traffic lights have a "cross now" signal for pedestrians.

I admit that there is some justification for these traffic signals and "cross now" signals for pedestrians. But people may be walking down a street in London or any of our big cities and cross the road where there is very little traffic about. They may be 20 yards from where the policeman is on point duty. He has given a signal at that point that no one must cross. If they are crossing 20 yards away, is the policeman in a position to prosecute them? Instead of going up to where the policeman is standing to cross, they may cross where they are. I know what I should do if I saw a policeman standing 20 yards down a road regulating the crossing. If there was only a little traffic, I should dodge across the road there, and not go 20 yards down the road to the policeman.

That seems to me to be a quite impracticable proposition. It does not do the job. To tell a policeman that he may prosecute people for doing this and not doing that is no remedy for the problem. We keep piling regulation on regulation. The motorist keeps on paying more taxes—more petrol duty, more road tax, higher insurance—and then we pile on more regulations. The motorist's life will not be worth living in a few years' time.

The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) said that our standard of living might be doubled in twenty-five years. I presume that means that more people will have motor cars, so it looks as if we double our standard of living in the next twenty-five years we may halve our expectation of life at one and the same time, unless something is done to create the right physical conditions, not necessarily by regulations.

I do not believe that all these regulations will answer the problem. We have to create the physical condition. We must have footbridges for crossing roads, wider roads, better road surfaces. We must educate the motorist and, if possible, the pedestrian as well. It is the physical means which are vital for handling road traffic conditions, and not merely regulations.

Then there is the question of bad loading. One sees heavy lorries very badly loaded. I have seen serious accidents as a result of overloaded and badly loaded lorries. Surely there is only one answer. We have the finest railway system of any country in Europe. The answer is that if we do not want to halve our expectation of life at the same time as doubling our standard of living we should put heavy traffic back on the railways, where there is some control in loading and a strict inspection of how the stuff is loaded. This is not so on the roads, where stuff is loaded in the most shocking manner.

I have seen steel bars and tubes loaded on a lorry in such a way that the slightest bit of spin on the road and the shifting of the load could result in all sorts of accidents. Then there is the extended bar, hanging over the back of a lorry, with a red flag on it. Look at the trouble that can cause. Look at the trouble it caused Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times," when the flag fell off. There is often a huge pole hanging out over the lorry which one cannot see at night, especially if one happens to be on a badly lit road. I have seen accidents to people following a lorry with a steel bar protruding over the end, with a red flag on it.

I shall vote against the Bill because all it does is to pile on more regulations. It does not make one attempt to create the physical conditions within which the motorist and the pedestrian can really play their parts in preventing the tre- mendous loss of life which is occurring upon our roads.

8.50 p.m.

Sir Frank Medlicott (Norfolk, Central)

I could not disagree more with the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) in his general approach to this problem. I do not believe that physical conditions are anything more than a secondary consideration. My view is that the solution to this problem—and it can never be more than a partial solution—depends upon the attitude of the individual driver or pedestrian. I appreciate, however, that I must not delay the House unduly, and I shall, therefore, confine myself to the remarks which I wanted to make in any case.

The difficulty about all road traffic legislation is that it attempts to do two almost incompatible things: it tries to make the roads safer, and, at the same time, faster. Those two factors are incompatible unless they are followed by a third, namely, the bringing into being of better drivers and more careful pedestrians. It has already been said that in this matter we all regard ourselves as experts, and in one rather grim sense that is true. Unless, as drivers, we are expert at avoiding running over pedestrians, or, as pedestrians, are equally expert at avoiding being run over, we are not able even to be here to debate this topic. In that sense we all have very personal knowledge of the problems involved.

Both in today's debate and in that in the previous Parliament, a good deal of time was taken up in discussing the problem of testing vehicles. I feel that that is putting the emphasis in the wrong place. Time and time again the problem comes back to a question of testing the driver. I do not necessarily mean the formal test, but the test of experience. Although my criticisms will be directed mainly at motorist, it is a fact, which ought to be made very plain, that pedestrians contribute largely to the appalling total of accidents, and in the Report called "Road Accidents 1953"—upon which I congratulate the Minister and his Department—the remarkable fact is brought out that 24 per cent. of the accidents in that year were caused by pedestrians stepping into the road without giving proper warning or taking proper care. That fact must be borne in mind if we are to keep this problem in its proper perspective.

I want to say a few words upon the question of speed, because many hon. Members have argued, both today and in previous debates, that, somehow, there is safety in speed. It may be possible to demonstrate that in certain conditions 40 m.p.h. may be safer than 20 m.p.h. for a large lorry, but such conditions can only be exceptional, and it must follow that a speed of 40 m.p.h. is normally more risky than one of 20 m.p.h. We have to think of the two factors involved, namely, the greater difficulty of pulling up and the consequences of an impact, if one should take place. Motor manufacturers like to build speedy vehicles, and we motorists like to drive them, but let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that there is safety in speed.

A further point I want to make has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East, and that is the remarkable change which takes place in some quite ordinary, inoffensive people when they find themselves driving a vehicle. Somehow, getting into a motor car arouses the worst in people who are normally careful, cautious and considerate when they are on their feet. Perhaps it is that latent desire to exercise power which comes to the surface when we find ourselves in charge of a vehicle with all the possibilities of power of the modern motor car. With apologies to the late Lord Acton, it might well be said that while power corrupts, horsepower corrupts absolutely.

There were a number of other things that I would have liked to say on that theme, but I must limit myself to stating that there are thousands of motorists who ought never to be on the road at all. In so far as this Bill will help to take off the roads those people who are not able to drive adequately—I hope by disqualification rather than by such penalties as imprisonment—I think it will do a great deal of good. It is not only the incompetent driver but the selfish, inconsiderate driver of whom we have to think, and although much has been said tonight about dangerous corners, it is so often the driver who is dangerous, and not the corner.

I also wish to add a word for more mobile police. How can the police deal with this problem, since they are already 8,000 short of their full strength? We we must see that the Minister is supported in that respect.

I want to give one last illustration of the kind of driver who, I think, ought not to be on the roads. We all know the driver who drives for miles with his traffic indicator sticking out. Not only is it irritating, but how can a man be said to be in full possession of his driving faculties if he is not aware of such a fact?

More recently, an even more stupid example has come to my notice. We see on the roads people returning from the seaside, from great towns the names of which I will not mention. They now have the habit of buying pennants which they plaster across their motor car windscreens. They are so glad to show where they have been that they can hardly see where they are going. I urge the Minister to give the police power to go to a car in that state and insist that these things—the golliwogs on the back and the pennants on the front—are removed so that the car is in a fit condition to he driven.

There is more that I would like to have said, but I do not want to delay the important speeches which are to follow. This is a rather sad and somewhat depressing problem. If we thirst for speed we shall have to pay the price in lives. It is a great pity that public opinion is not more easily aroused. A week or two ago a small boy was missing for three days and the whole nation, quite rightly, felt concerned and alarmed. Yet, in 1953, 797 small children were killed on the roads and nobody seems to care, or to care enough.

There is, happily, one realm in which there is progress, and that is the education which is being carried on by the Minister of Education and the Minister of Transport, by teachers, parents and the B.B.C. There has been a definite step forward in educating the children of this generation in road sense. If the children of our day remember nothing else of their schooldays, so long as they remember that lesson they may be able to do more towards solving this problem than we have ever been able to do ourselves.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

Since we started this interesting and, I hope, useful debate this afternoon 150 of our fellow citizens have been killed or injured on the roads and, by the time the Minister of Transport comes to the Dispatch Box on Wednesday to explain why further delay in improving our roads is inevitable, another 1,200 will have been killed or injured.

Indeed, it may be worse than that, because the figures for May, which were issued the other day, show that it was the second worst peace-time month since road statistics have been kept. It seems fairly certain that June and July will be even worse and that we shall be killing on our roads this month about five times the number who were killed in the motor-racing disaster in France a few weeks ago.

Almost every newspaper, and a number of hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Sir F. Medlicott), have reminded us that it is against the background of those figures that we must consider this Measure. I feel that if we take the Bill against the background of the road casualty figures, it will be shown to be largely irrelevant. After all, nobody can say that Her Majesty's Government have a heavy programme of legislation this Session. No major Measures were envisaged in the Queen's Speech. It is twenty years since we had a Road Traffic Bill before the House. In the circumstances, I should have thought that the Minister could have produced a more considerable Measure than that which we are discussing tonight.

I am afraid that the only effect of the Bill will be to distract attention from the real facts of the situation and to give the public the impression that the Government are responsible for a great drive for road safety when, in fact, that is not the case.

I am bound to confess that I hoped for a good deal more from the Minister of Transport. In the days of the Labour Government, as many who are here tonight will recall, nobody was so prescient, nobody so nearly omniscient and nobody so full of enterprise and initiative as the present Minister of Transport. Now, when he has his great opportunity, he produces a Bill which is only an emasculated version of an earlier Measure which received the coldest of receptions both in this House and in another place.

The Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough to refer to the comment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) on the Bill when it was introduced in the last Parlia- ment, but he very wisely did not tell us the descriptions which were given to the Bill in another place. For example, a Conservative earl referred to it as "ramshackle," a Socialist earl called it "ridiculous," another Conservative peer said that it was a "very bad Departmental Measure" and another Socialist peer said that it was "ill-conceived and slipshod." Now we find the "Manchester Guardian" telling us, the day after the Bill was read a First time, that the rehashed Bill deserves all the criticisms of its predecessor for its omissions: it tinkers here and there quite usefully, but it is in no sense the major measure that road problems demand. It goes on to say: These real problems of the roads will have to be faced one day, and the new Parliament offered an excellent opportunity for fresh thinking. It has not been taken. The present bill is at best a temporary traffic diversion when what is needed is some real road reconstruction in a legislative (as well as a physical) sense. We shall all look forward tonight to the right hon. Gentleman's defence of the Bill. We always listen to him with interest and appreciation, for we enjoy his epigrams and his impromptu remarks and we appreciate his debating skill. In the long run, however, the public will judge the right hon. Gentleman not by the epigrams he makes but by the bridges he builds, not by the impromptus he prepares but by the highways he produces.

It is because of the criticisms which have been made of the Bill that we propose to vote against it tonight. The hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) was kind enough to ask me to expand a little upon our reasons for doing so on this occasion when we did not do so when the Bill was before the House in the last Parliament. Quite apart from the fact that we did not want to be accused of electioneering, we appreciated that the political situation was uncertain and that it was natural enough that the Government should not want to embark upon a major piece of legislation at that time.

Since then it has become increasingly apparent that the proposals of the Government are wholly inadequate, and it is to a large extent because of that lack of imagination, to which the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) referred, that we are opposed to the present Measure. We believe also that it is timid. We believe it should have received much more careful consideration before it was brought before the House and, perhaps most important of all, we are going to divide against the Bill tonight in order to assure the Government that there will be no respite for them in this Parliament on the matter of road safety.

We are getting some remarkable reinforcements in that policy. On 28th June, the London County Council discussed the road situation. The Labour chairman of the town planning committee spoke in some criticism of the Government and said that he proposed to hammer it out all summer on the doors of the Ministry of Transport. Then Lady Pepler, for the Conservatives, said: We will gladly and energetically stand on the steps of the Ministry of Transport and hammer as hard as we can. In the bleak future which lies ahead of the Government, that at least is something to look forward to.

My job tonight is to sum up the views of the Opposition on this question. There has been general agreement upon the three approaches to this problem. In the first place, we can punish people for wrongdoing, which is one of the main themes of this Bill. Secondly, we can create the conditions in which accidents are less likely. Thirdly, another purpose of the Bill, we can educate the public in a sense of its own moral responsibility.

I should like to take the second of those approaches first—the creation of conditions in which accidents are less likely. I had expected tonight that we should have heard a great deal more about the growth of the number of cars upon our roads. In 1946 it was 3,100,000 motor vehicles. This year it will be 6,250,000, about double what it was nine years ago. The Road Research Board, in its annual report for 1954, has told us that by 1963 there may well be twice as many as we have at present.

We should not overlook the fact that if there should be any decline in our exports of motor cars the home market may well be flooded with cars and the pressure upon our roads suddenly become more severe. We are now putting on to the roads every day 1,500 new motor vehicles. That means that every year we are putting 1,250 miles of new vehicles on our roads and already the number of vehicles to the mile is higher here than in any other part of the world.

It is this increasing urgency of the situation that drives us to the conclusion that the highway programme of the Government is wholly inadequate. I thought the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Freeth) made a most courageous and encouraging maiden speech. He, too, said that the programme of the Government was inadequate. I am sorry we shall be forcing the hon. Member to vote against his convictions so early in his Parliamentary career, but, of course, we take exactly the same view.

The Government have had two bites at the cherry. They have announced two road programmes. I checked back on the statement the Minister made on 2nd February and, so far as I can understand what he said on that occasion, the second programme did absorb the first, which is not quite the impression he gave when he was discussing it with my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall earlier in the debate.

The first statement the Government made was on 8th December, 1953. We were told then that they had 10 major schemes which would cost £50 million over an unspecified number of years. The hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) has shown most commendable pertinacity in chasing the Minister upon the progress of the schemes. When on 29th April the hon. Member for Solihull questioned the Minister about the progress which had been made with those ten schemes, the Minister had to confess that work had been started upon only three of them, and one of them, the Cromwell Road extension, is one upon which work became apparent to the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) only when he went along it today. In the case of one only of those schemes, the Stafford-Stoke road, had any real progress been made, although so many months had elapsed.

The second statement which the Government made was on 2nd February this year. Apart from the wholly retrograde proposal to charge tolls for the use of the motorways, it was an improvement upon the earlier statement, but it is still inadequate, especially when we compare it with what is happening in other countries. It is disappointing, too, because so many really important long-standing schemes like the Severn Bridge appear to have been abandoned indefinitely.

On that occasion the Minister said that he hoped that expenditure of £147 million on new construction and major improvements would be authorised over the next four years, but it appeared that the actual expenditure will be only £97¼ million. The expenditure in this year will be only £8¼ million. The right hon. Gentleman appears to think it an act of great generosity on the part of the Government that they are going to spend £97¼ million over four years, during which time the motorists and the traffic-using industries of the country will have paid over £1,500 million in taxation to the Government. Only one-fifteenth of that is being returned to the public in the form of improved roads.

Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Robbery—highway robbery.

Mr. Greenwood

There is an aspect of this on which I should like the Minister to comment when he replies to the debate, and that is the slowness of the administrative machine. When the county surveyor of Kent, Mr. Vallis, addressed the Royal Society of Arts on 11th May, he listed twelve stages which had to be gone through between a project being approved in principle and the preparation of the engineering drawings, and when those twelve stages have been completed all that remains is for the local authority to buy the land and then to build the road. Surely it is not beyond the capacity of the right hon. Gentleman as an experienced administrator to do something to speed the administrative machinery, to streamline the processes which have to be gone through, and, while preserving the rights of the individual, nevertheless to make it easier and swifter for the public interest to be served.

There are other forms of slowness in the Ministry upon which I should like to comment. There is, for example, the slowness of some of the right hon. Gentleman's own officials. In November, 1953, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) asked the Minister to put traffic lights at the junction of Al with Kingsley Way, N.W.11. On 9th February, 1955—fifteen months later—my right hon. Friend asked the Minister how many accidents had taken place in the meantime. He was told that 66 accidents had been reported in which two people were killed and 27 injured. The only excuse for the dilatoriness for his Department the right hon. Gentleman was able to adduce was these things were governed by the date of the delivery by the manufacturers. He added: Owing to the demand for this equipment, at the moment there is generally a six-month delay."—[OFFICJAL REPORT, 9th February, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 1890.] To bring forward a six months' delay as an excuse for having delayed for fifteen months during which two people were killed and 27 injured is surely not the kind of reasoning that should commend itself to the House.

One can go on through various aspects of the Government's transport and traffic policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) referred to street lighting. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on 4th May drew the Minister's attention to the fact that the report of the Road Research Board had suggested that better street lighting can reduce accidents at night by 30 per cent. The Minister replied that he had the whole question of the administration of street lighting under consideration.

If one asks the Minister what he is doing about dazzle, he has the matter under consideration. If one asks about winkers and blinkers and all those other curious features of road transport today, one will find that he has them under consideration and hopes to give a decision in six months', nine months' or perhaps twelve months' time. All through the record of the Ministry runs this theme of dilatoriness and indecision.

We heard a maiden speech today from the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). My right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) reminded us that the hon. and gallant Member had served in the Marines. I should like to tell the hon. and gallant Member what a pleasant change it is for the Marines to be telling it to the politicians. It was an admirable maiden speech. The only error of judgment it contained was when the hon. and gallant Member asked the Minister to investigate the possibility of making external side-mirrors compulsory on motor vehicles, because anything that is suggested to the right hon. Gentleman will almost inevitably be lost in the labyrinthine workings of the Ministry of Transport. When the hon. Member for Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) was making his interesting maiden speech and referring to the difficulties of finding his way through the one-way street system of Birmingham, it occurred to me that Birmingham's one-way system is simplicity itself compared with the workings of the Ministry of Transport.

One is forced to the conclusion that it is to cover up this record that the Minister has brought forward these legislative proposals. I do not think it is likely that these proposals will be the subject of acute party controversy in Committee. They are matters upon which all of us have ideas, and because of that I hope that the Government will see that the Committee stage of the Bill is taken on the Floor of the House.

At the moment, I should like to confine myself to two general propositions. The first, of course, is the absence of any proposals for the testing of cars. I should have thought that it was desirable for the Parliamentary Secretary to give us rather more explanation of why the proposals for testing have been dropped. On the Second Reading of the previous Measure the Parliamentary Secretary said that in Committee the Government hoped to take into account the views which were expressed in all parts of the House. I should have thought that the Government would have been well advised on this occasion to have included either the original Clause or an amended Clause in the Measure so that we could know the Government's views and have an opportunity of accepting or amending them in Committee. No doubt other hon. Members will put forward a new Clause for consideration in Committee, possibly on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell).

The other general proposition is the way in which the Bill proposes to increase the penalties for various offences. It is a little surprising to find a Government devoted to the principle of setting the people free, extending penal provisions in this way to pedestrians and cyclists and making them liable to new and heavy penalties. It is a little surprising to find a Government which believes in anarchy in economic affairs becoming so authoritarian in matters of transport.

I agree entirely with what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. He is an experienced magistrate; I am a comparatively new one. I would have thought there were dangers in increasing the offences when the police are already incapable of tracking down all the breaches of the present law. It is doubtful too whether it is expedient to increase penalties, when we know that heavy penalties have a deterrent effect both upon magistrates and upon juries.

Another point I should like to make, and it was one which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall, is the need for the Government to have a real transport policy. Everybody except the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary appear to agree that our transport system is inadequate and will be inadequate even when the Government's present programme goes through. When our roads are inadequate, two things logically follow. The first is that we have got to ensure that all other forms of transportation, whether canals, railways or coastal shipping, are used to their maximum capacity; and the second is that commodities must go by the most appropriate method.

We have had a discussion today about those awkward loads which are known in the elegant language of the Ministry of Transport as "abnormal indivisible loads." We all know that it is not possible to remove completely from our roads loads of that kind. But the other day in one of the newspapers I read about a case in the South of England in which the traffic on a main road was held up for five hours because a lorry had broken down. What was significant about it was that the lorry was taking a large new launch from Thorneycroft's, Southampton, to London Docks. What can be the justifications by the Ministry of Transport or anybody else of allowing a large launch to be taken on our already congested and overloaded roads from one of our main ports to another? Yet I do not believe it will be possible to get a proper disposition of abnormal loads of that kind until we have an integrated transport system such as that in which we on this side of the House believe.

I sympathise with the Minister of Transport because of the way in which he is sabotaged by other Government Departments, first of all, by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which is clearly giving planning permission against the interests of a solution of our transport problems. Secondly, I sympathise with him because of sabotage from the Treasury. The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) talked about the need of our motor cyclists to wear crash helmets. Although the Minister of Transport wants cyclists to wear these helmets, the Treasury insists on collecting Purchase Tax upon them.

Purchase Tax on cars discourages the purchase of new vehicles, and the fuel tax means that money is consumed which is needed for the maintenance of cars. So we could go from one Department to another showing the way in which other Ministers are failing to co-operate with the right hon. Gentleman.

That brings me to the last point, which is perhaps the most important of all, the need for educating the public to a sense of their responsibility. I am glad that in one of the Clauses of this Bill the Government increase their powers to give help to local authorities. The local authority road safety committees and bodies like the Pedestrians' Association are doing a useful job of work which deserve the Minister's encouragement. We have to impress upon the public that in the first place this is a question of elementary good manners, that it is bad manners to "blind" through villages which are the homes of other people; that it is bad manners to jump the queue at the traffic lights; that it is bad manners for pedestrians to step off the footpath in front of motorists without giving a warning apart from an imperious wave of the hand. At its highest, this is a matter of individual moral responsibility which imposes upon every one of us a need to behave on the roads as we ought to behave, and to teach our children to behave in a way which shows consideration for others and for the safety of others.

Tonight, we shall vote against this Measure, but it is more than just a vote of criticism of the Government. To some extent we all share responsibility for this situation, particularly those of us who have been in this House for some years and who are responsible for the legislation of this country. I believe that the highway authorities, which have not yet a sufficient sense of urgency, have their share of the responsibility, and I believe that a public which tolerates the carnage that goes on must also bear its share of responsibility. Yet the fact remains that the one person who is strategically placed to make any real nation-wide impact upon this problem is the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite the Dispatch Box on the Government side of the House, and it is to shake the Minister out of his lethargy that we shall divide against this meagre, mean and muddled Bill.

9.26 p.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) has made what I believe was his debut at this Box in the same agreeable way in which some of us used to watch him at the Oxford Union. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman summed up the case, if there be one, for the Opposition very adequately; that is to say, in the course of making certain criticisms of general Government policy, with which I shall attempt to deal, he was not able to find time or occasion to bring forward a single reason why his right hon. and hon. Friends should vote against this Bill. The hon. Gentleman attacked the Bill, in general terms, as lacking in imagination. I am bound to point out that his own imagination did not go so far as to suggest one item which he thought should be in it which is not in it already, with the single exception of the vehicle testing proposal with which I will deal in a moment.

It is not good enough to say to the House that it should reject the Bill which the hon. Gentleman, winding up for the Opposition, is unable to criticise, and which a number of his hon. Friends have, with fair-mindedness, admitted contains useful and valuable provisions. The hon. Gentleman fell back on what appears to be a new technique from the Front Bench opposite, relying for his criticism of Government Measures on quotations made in another place—a remarkable development of Socialist dialectic. The clue to the whole thing was given when he put in an impassioned plea for a particular treatment of this Bill in Committee, when the course which he is recommending to the House would secure that the Bill never got to it.

Until the speech of the hon. Gentleman, the greater part of this debate, as it related either to the Bill or matters germane to the Bill, underlined the importance of getting it to the Committee stage and on to the Report stage, so that the contributions which hon. Members on both sides of this House can give so easily and valuably on a fundamentally non-political Measure of this kind can be given in a way in which they can only be given at the later stages of the Bill.

It seems to me that the great weight of argument adduced from the benches opposite on particular issues—and I think the House will agree with me that it is specific and precise criticisms which have value and weight—is itself the strongest condemnation of the course which the hon. Member for Rossendale was advocating, which was that this Bill should come to a stop tonight.

The debate has, apart from that, been valuable. We have had three most impressive maiden speeches by hon. Friends of mine. Two of them were the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) and the hon. Member for Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), and I am particularly glad, as one of his constituents, to be able to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Freeth) upon his extremely impressive speech.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Did the right hon. Gentleman vote for his hon. Friend?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should be a good enough lawyer to know that the ballot is secret.

We now come, at the end of the day, not, as one might have hoped, to a quiet consideration of the general effect of the Bill and the proposals in it as a preliminary to an examination in detail at later stages, but to deal with what courtesy and the convention of the House demand that I should refer to as a reasoned Amendment. Its timing is singularly odd. The earlier Bill, as we have been reminded, was given an unopposed Second Reading on 5th April, and the only explanation so far given of that in the light of tonight's performance is that given with delightful ingenuousness by the hon. Member for Rossendale, that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite did not want to seem to be electioneering.

This Bill was announced in the normal course of business by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on Thursday of the week before last to be taken last Thursday. Indeed, it was only on Tuesday of last week that its postponement to tonight was announced. Until that Tuesday no Motion of this sort had appeared on the Order Paper. It was only on Friday that whoever controls the Opposition arranged that this Motion should be put down at this stage in order to urge the rejection of a Bill which had been given an unopposed Second Reading less than three months ago.

The only excuse or pretext which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) gave for this course was a very peculiar one. It was that this Bill was not, as I concede it is not, precisely the same Bill as that to which the House gave a Second Reading in April, a Bill which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall himself conceded in his own speech had a number of useful features, but he said, "You have dropped the old Clause 1, vehicle testing."

The right hon. Gentleman knows quite well what happened to the old Clause 1, and how it was made unworkable by an Amendment moved in another place by noble Lords sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. It really is a little unreasonable if right hon. Gentlemen in this House make it a pretext for opposing a Bill which, previously, they had not opposed because the Government have adopted the point of view which was expressed by their own noble Friends in another place. It really does, on a non-party and non-partisan Measure of this sort, make it extraordinarily difficult to indulge in the normal give and take of ordinary Parliamentary discussion and the normal willingness to accept points of view, even if they are put from the other side, if, when one does so in deference to the strongly expressed view of those who lead the Opposition in another place, it is then made an excuse for opposing the Measure when it comes to this House.

Before I go back to what I am bound to call the reasoned Amendment, let me answer quickly points which were put in the course of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), in connection with the Clause relating to dangerous driving causing death, asked for the figures in respect of motor manslaughter prosecutions. I can tell him that in the three years 1951 to 1953—they are the latest figures that I have—151 persons were charged with manslaughter by the driving of a motor vehicle on the roads, and of them 133 were sent for trial with the following results: 41 acquitted; 67 acquitted of manslaughter, but convicted of dangerous driving; and 25 convicted of manslaughter.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central, in his most interesting speech, asked what we were doing to secure that fewer kerbs of a vertical nature were built on our roads. I am glad to be able to tell him that in the next two or three weeks I am proposing to send a circular to local highway authorities announcing the result of the very serious consideration which has been given to this matter and which, broadly speaking, recommends that they do not use vertical kerbs except in exceptional circumstances where it is quite essential in order to keep the traffic from going off the roads.

The reasoned Amendment, if I may return to it, seems to me to be based on a fallacy. It makes the point that the Bill does not provide a comprehensive policy to deal with the urgent and increasing problems of road traffic and road safety. Those words seem to indicate a complete misunderstanding of the position. The purpose of a Parliamentary Bill is to alter the law so as to serve the needs of a policy. But it is only required to embody that part or section of a policy which requires a change of the law. It seems to me the most complete fallacy to indicate—as by implication this reasoned Amendment does—that the whole of our policy on roads matters should be embodied in a road traffic Bill.

No one outside has made this mistake. The "Economist" says that it is obvious that any Bill must be a secondary matter to the major matter of road policy. So does "The Times." Anyone with any experience of these matters knows perfectly well that over a very large part of the field, legislation is not required. Generally speaking, we do not need legislation to build roads. We do not legislate, at any rate, for a large number of road safety measures. Legislation is needed to perform the ancillary secondary supports for the policy and only to achieve the making of the necessary changes in the law. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite expose one of the fundamental fallacies of Socialist thinking in their naïve assumption that if a policy is not in the Bill we do not have a policy.

A Parliamentary Bill is required for compulsion or direction, for ordering and compelling people to do things which they do not wish to do. But it is only required where it is needed to bring in the authority of Parliament—as we have to for certain purposes—and it is a revelation of the Socialist approach to these matters that they assume that, except where you are-compelling, except where you are legislating and where you are imposing penalties, you have no policy at all. It may weir be that the policy of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite requires to be embodied in a Statute, but let me tell them at once that the larger part of our policy is not embodied in this Bill which is designed, as the "Economist" has said, as a secondary support for it.

It is, for example, required as a support for our safety measures, to increase safety on the roads by preventing, and where it is not possible to prevent it, by punishing incompetent and reckless driving. Where needed, it gives the powers to deal with traffic congestion in great cities; it clears up the anomalies which have arisen in the road traffic laws; and also, as the "Economist" points out, it gives us power to undertake experiments in the control of traffic and in dealing with congestion. If I may say so, I think that the whole approach of right hon. Gentlemen opposite indicates that they have never thought out the implications of a road traffic policy, or they could not have believed that it would be either possible or necessary to embody this in a Parliamentary Bill.

Now let me come to the policy. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall waxed quite sarcastic about our road policy. It is true that, when challenged, it came out that he had not heard of the latest road programme, and was dealing—with great vigour—with a programme that was superseded some months ago. The right hon. Gentleman really must learn to tune in to the right programme. He entirely failed to understand what is, in fact, being done in connection with our road programme.

I will say a word or two about it because, in my judgment, it embodies the major part of our policy both in respect of congestion and in respect of road safety. We are now in the early stages of a major road programme, and we are working on the basis that there is and will be a very great expansion in the number of vehicles on our roads.

We do not accept that as a cause for discouragement. On the contrary, it is a symptom, and a healthy and encouraging symptom, of the high and rising standards of life of our people and of the widening standards of welfare and wealth which have come about in the last few years. The very fact that road vehicles are increasing in number is an illustration that the motor car is no longer a symbol of wealth and privilege. It is more and more widely dispersed throughout the community, as anyone who has seen the great car parks outside Midland factories knows well.

Equally, the increase in commercial traffic is a symptom and a symbol of a high and rising level of industrial activities. In the light of that our business is not to be alarmed and not to do as some hon. Members have done, moan helplessly about the increased number of vehicles, but to cope with it. We can take it as a possibility that by 1980—which, on the law of averages, is the next time that a Road Traffic Bill is likely to be moved from this Box—there will probably be four times the number of private cars on the road than there were in 1939. That is why we are working to a big road programme planned well ahead for the future.

In parenthesis—and this is where the helpfulness of this Bill comes in—in a community such as that which we can see some years ahead, when there will be a very large number of vehicles moving fast on a fine road system, it is all the more important that bad, dangerous and incompetent driving should be penalised severely, because in such a community dangerous driving becomes an even grosser social evil than it is at the moment. That is how the penal provisions of this Bill, which I regard as among its less important parts, fit into and are integrated with, but are subsidiary to, a major road programme.

The House may like to know something of the progress made with the programme which I announced on 2nd February. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) pointed out from his own visual evidence, the Cromwell Road extension is started. I have authorised the Dartford-Purfleet tunnel, and work is going on already on the Conway Bridge, on A.34 in Staffordshire, the Glasgow-Stirling Road, the Leven Bridges and the Langstone Bridge, to take just a few examples.

This month we are starting the Cavendish Bridge, the West Drayton diversion, the Inner Relief Road, Bridgwater, and the widening of A.40 from the Oxford City boundary to Islip turn. In the next month or two we shall start the Markyate by-pass, the Newbury Park Station approach, the Liverpool-Aintree Road, the Bridge of Don, Pelham Street Bridge, Lincoln, Doncaster Mill Bridge, and the dual carriageways on Western Avenue will all be started.

In September, I hope to publish the formal line required under the Special Roads Act which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary explained in respect of the first half of the London-Yorkshire motor road, that part of it which will run from St. Albans to Dunchurch where it will connect with the modernised A.45 into Birmingham. This road will be built with dual carriage ways, each containing three 12-ft. traffic lanes with what is technically called a hard shoulder on each side and a central reservation. It will pass either on embankments or by cuttings over the greater number of subsidiary roads which it passes, and between St. Albans and Dun-church there will be only six points of intersection, where fly-over junctions and roundabouts, either above or below the main road according to the layout, will be built in.

This is the first of the motorways. The motorways system—the Birmingham-Preston one is to follow—also includes a number of by-passes which are being built in the near future to motor road standards, so that they may themselves be incorporated in the future motor road system. Examples include the 15 miles of the Doncaster by-pass which will connect with the Yorkshire motor road, the Preston-Lancashire by-pass, ultimately forming part of the Birmingham-Shap motorway and the Maidenhead by-pass, which will in future be part of the South Wales motorway.

Mr. Bence

What about Scotland?

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he might very well have criticised me for the fact that the schemes which I read out included a large proportion of Scottish schemes, which I should have thought would have been familiar to him.

At the same time, a very large number of smaller schemes are going ahead, including, in particular, the building of dual carriageways on a number of main trunk roads towards the ultimate design of having a dual carriageway system on all the main trunk roads.

At the same time, the smaller schemes will get rid of what are technically called black spots where the visability, layout and surface of the road is apt to cause accidents. Hundreds of these will be dealt with during the present year's programme. That fits in with the whole purpose of the Bill, as the purpose of the Bill fits in with that programme, because it is essential that these great new roads should carry traffic which is well and skilfully conducted, so that we shall not suffer, as one of my hon. Friends reminded me we might, from the situation which from time to time has developed in the United States, in which great well-planned roads have, none the less, had a heavy casualty rate.

I appreciate that it is no use building great roads across the country unless they have access into and connect with the necessary through roads of the great towns and cities which are also affected. That is why a large number of schemes in London are going ahead in the next few years; street widening in the Strand and at Notting Hill Gate, and so on. These schemes are expensive not so much because of the work but because of the property which has to be acquired in order to clear the way for them. It is for that reason that we must ask, if we are making, as we intend to do, this highly expensive effort to improve the streetways of our cities, that those who use them should also use them reasonably, and that highly expensive road systems should be used, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, mainly for moving traffic and not be congested with parked vehicles.

It is in that context that the provisions of the Bill about parking meters and the moving of vehicles which cause obstruction are very relevant, once again, not as the main purpose but as subsidiary to the policy. I have listened to one or two suggestions that the road programme might be even larger—not without a certain sneaking sympathy. I would remind the House of the words which I used deliberately at the end of my statement on 2nd February: … it is the Government's firm intention to continue with a substantial programme of road construction and improvement—at least on the scale I have indicated—until the roads of this country are adequate for the traffic they have to bear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1955; Vol. 536, c. 1100.] I must remind the right hon. Member for Vauxhall that in the financial calculations of the amount to be spent during the next four years on major schemes of construction he omitted altogether the reference in my statement to the fact that certain of the major schemes of national importance are to be paid for over and above the money I have mentioned in the scheme.

We can argue whether this scheme should be larger or not. That is a matter for legitimate discussion. What is a little difficult to accept, however, is criticism in the tone adopted by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, when one recalls the performance of his own Government upon this very issue. In the whole six years of the Administration presided over by the Leader of the Oppositon, about £29 million was expended upon major improvements and construction, which is almost exactly that which in one single year—the present year—we expended at the beginning of our programme.

The figures are even worse than that, because the road programme of right hon. Gentlemen opposite was a diminishing one. It started quite well, with a programme of about £8¾ million in 1946, but in 1951 it had fallen to under £3 million. With a record such as that of right hon. Gentlemen opposite in this matter it really does not do for them, in a mood of apparent indignation, to denounce our programme as puny and inadequate when, in its initial year, it expends for this purpose more than they spent in six years.

Nor is it good enough for them to take that line when their own apologies and excuses, to which I have listened today, are pitifully inadequate. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall said that they had no money, and that the times were hard, and one or two of his hon. Friends said the same thing. But our criticisms of the late Administration are not based upon its thrifty economies. That Government maintained taxation at wartime levels and spent money in all directions.

I would remind the House and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the money expended upon the groundnut scheme alone—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which, I am glad to see, raises reminiscent sympathy in the minds of hon. Members opposite—would itself have been sufficient to build the Yorkshire motor road. A great deal of the trouble which this Government have to face in connection with road problems is due to the fact that we came to power after six years in which traffic was growing and virtually nothing was done by right hon. Gentlemen opposite about the roads—six years which ended with a road programme involving an expenditure of only £3 million, and with a financial crisis just to make us happy.

The road building programme also makes a main contribution to safety, but road building alone will not solve safety problems, as France, Germany and the United States have experienced. Naturally, anyone holding my present post must feel deeply the high figure of road casualties. Although, as the Parliamentary Secretary has said, casualties have not risen in proportion to the number of vehicles on the road, they are heavy and, I believe, unnecessarily heavy—but there is no simple panacea. It is only by a combination of methods, over and above an effective road programme, that we can deal with them.

There are many such methods. There is education, such as is given by the new Highway Code, of whose large sales we have already heard, and whose free issue is just beginning; there are training schemes, official and unofficial, such as those of the R.A.C. and A.C.U., for training motor-cyclists, or such as that which a great bicycle manufacturing firm in the Midlands is giving pedal cyclists, out of a sense of responsibility; there is propaganda, and there are experiments, such as those which we are conducting at Slough, where we are trying to carry out all the various techniques of road safety together and in succession, so as to be able to test for almost any conditions

They include a vehicle testing station, the use of substantial numbers of police, special signalling systems, road arrangements, and so on. In addition, there is the action by local authorities in promoting road safety for which Clause 2 of the Bill helps to provide the finance. Similarly, the control of motor cycles and pedestrians makes a subsidiary contribution.

As I have tried to show, the Bill is neither a complete policy, which hon. Members opposite think it ought to be, nor is it other than a very useful support and contribution to that policy. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite acknowledge that fact. Several of them, including the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, have admitted that it contains valuable and useful proposals. None the less, they have told us that they propose to vote against it, and they propose to try to turn, in that way, what is essentially a nonparty political Measure—one on which opinions go to and fro across the House —into something in the nature of a party political Measure. I think that most people who are interested in this subject regret that, and although I shall continue to try to meet points of view wherever they come from, if the atmosphere of controversy is introduced some damage will be done.

That is a matter for hon. Members opposite, but, before they go into the Division Lobby, they ought at least to be clear what they are voting against. They are voting against having a road traffic Bill and against the subsequent stages of a Bill in which their own proposals can be associated in Committee and on Report. They are voting against stopping the sale of dangerous vehicles, against bringing some sense into the chaotic law of speed limits and against giving power to enable local authorities to have contributions for road safety. They are voting against the stopping of abuses of provisional licences and against bringing the penalty for the drunken motorist up to that for the dangerous motorist.

They are voting against clearing up, as everybody wants to see cleared up, the present muddle of the law relating to private parties and special occasions. They are voting against the experiments in parking meters and pedestrian crossings, and against the possibility of even further detailed discussion on these matters.

Mr. G. R. Strauss rose——

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

They are voting against making the road traffic law a more efficient subsidiary instrument for the carrying out of road policies and against measures which they themselves have said are of value.

It is for hon. Members opposite to consider whether they want to do that, but I am bound to say that if, on a wholly non-political Measure of this sort, a Measure with much of the contents of

which many of them agree, they decide to do this as part of a wider political manoevre, they can do so, but I very much doubt whether the people of this country will either forgive or forget.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that a reasoned Amendment of this sort is a traditional Parliamentary method of expressing dissatisfaction and of saying that the Bill does not do as much as the Opposition would like it to do?

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 212.

Division No. 14.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Agnew, Cmdr. P. G. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C. Heath, Edward
Aitken, W. T. Crouch, R. F. Henderson, John (Cathoart)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Alport, C. J. M. Crowder, Petre (Ruisllp—Northwood) Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Currie, G. B. H. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. S. Dance, J. C. G. Hill, John (S. Norfolk)
Armstrong, C. W. D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Ashton, H. Deedes, W. F. Hirst, Geoffrey
Astor, Hon. J. J. Digby, S. Wingfield Holland-Martin, C. J.
Atkins, H. E. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry
Baldook, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Baldwin, A. E. Doughty, C. J. A. Horobin, Sir Ian
Balniel, Lord Drayson, G. B. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence
Banks, Col. C. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Barber, Anthony Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Howard, Hon. Creville (St. Ives)
Barlow, Sir John Ecoles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M. Howard, John (Test)
Barter, John Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Warwiok & L'm'tn) Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Beamish) Maj. Tufton Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hughes Hallet, Vice-Admiral J.
Bell, Ronald (Buoks, S.) Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Errington, Sir Eric Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. Sir Norman
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Erroll, F. J. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh.W.)
Bidgood, J. C. Farey-Jones, F. W. Hyde, Montgomery
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Fell, A. Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.
Birch Rt. Hon. Nigel Finlay, Graeme Iremonger, T. L.
Bishop, F. P. Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Black, C. W. Fort, R. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Body, R. F. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bossom, Sir A. C. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Freeth, D. K. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Boyle, Sir Edward Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Brains, B. R. Glover, D. Jones, A. (Hall Green)
Braithwalte, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Godber, J. B. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. Kaberry, D.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Gough, C. F. H. Keegan, D.
Brooman-White, R. G. Gower, H. R. Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Graham, Sir Fergus Kerr, H. W.
Bryan, P. Grant, W. (Woodside) Kershaw, J. A.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. B. (Nantwich) Kirk, P. M.
Burden, F. F. A. Green, A. Lagden, G. W.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Gresham Cooke, R. Lambton, Viscount
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Carr, Robert Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Langford-Holt, J. A.
Cary, Sir Robert Gurden, Harold Leavey, J. A.
Channon, H. Hall, John (Wycombe) Leburn, W. G.
Chichester-Clark, R. Hare, Hon. J. H. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Harris, Fiederio (Croydon, N.W.) Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harris, Reader (Heston) Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.
Cole, Norman Harrison, A. B. C. (Maidon) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Lindsay, Martin (Sollhull)
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Linstead, Sir H. N.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Llewellyn, D. T.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (SuttonColdfield)
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Harvie-Watt, Sir George Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Heald, Rt, Hon. Sir Lionel Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)
Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Storey, S.
Longden, Gilbert Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)
Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Osborne, C. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Page, R. G. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Teeling, W.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Peyton, J. W. W. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
MoKibbin, A. J. Pickthorn, K. W. M. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Pitman, I. J. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Pott, H. P. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Powell, J. Enoch Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
McLean, Neil (Inverness) Price, David (Eastleigh) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Raikes, Sir Victor Touche, Sir Gordon
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Rawlinson, P. A. G. Turner, H. F. L.
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Redmayne, M. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Maddan, Martin Rees-Davies, W. R. Vane, W. M. F.
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Remnant, Hon. P. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Renton, D. L. M. Vickers, Miss J. H.
Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Ridsdale, J. E. Vosper, D. F.
Markham, Major Sir Frank Rippon, A. G. F. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Marlowe, A. A. H. Roberts, Peter (Heeley) Walker-Smith, D. C.
Marples, A. E. Robertson, Sir David Wall, Major Patrick
Marshall, Douglas Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool S.) Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Mathew, R. Robson-Brown, W. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Maude, Angus Roper, Sir Harold Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Watkinson, H. A.
Mawby, R. L. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Webbe, Sir H.
Medlicott, Sir Frank Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Whitelaw, W.S.I. (Penrith & Border)
Molson, A. H. E. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Williams, Rt. Hn. Charles (Torquay)
Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Shepherd, William Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Moore, Sir Thomas Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Morrison, John (Salisbury) Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Nabarro, G. D. N. Soames, Capt. C. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Nairn, D. L. S. Speir, R. M. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Neave, Airey Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Wood, Hon. R.
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir p. (Kens'gt'n, S.) Woollam, John Victor
Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony Stevens, Geoffrey
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.) Mr. Studholme.
Ainsley, J. W. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Hannan, W.
Albu, A. H. Cronin, J. D. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)
Allaun, F. (Salford, E.) Cullen, Mrs. A. Hastings, S.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Daines, P. Hayman, F. H.
Anderson, Frank Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Healey, Denis
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)
Awbery, S. S. Davies, Harold (Leek) Herbison, Miss M.
Bacon, Miss Alice Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Hewitson, Capt. M.
Baird, J. Deer, C. Holman, P.
Bartley, P. Delargy, H. J. Holt, A. F.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Dodds, N. N. Houghton, Douglas
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Donnelly, D. L. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Howell, Denis (All Saints)
Benson, G. Dye, S. Hoy, J. H.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Blackbum, F. Edelman, M. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Blenkinsop, A. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Boardman, H. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Hunter, A. E.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bowles, F. G. Fernyhough, E. Irving, S. (Dartford)
Boyd, T. C. Fienburgh, W. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Fletcher, Eric Janner, B.
Brockway, A. F. Freeman, Peter Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn&S.Pncs,S.)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Gibson, C. W. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Burke, W. A. Gooch, E. G. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Greenwood, Anthony Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Callaghan, L. J. Grey, C. F. Kenyon, C.
Champion, A. J. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Chapman, W. D. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) King, Dr. H. M.
Clunie, J. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Lawson, C. M.
Coldrick, W. Grimond, J. Ledger, R. J.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Hale, Leslie Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.) Lewis, Arthur
Cove, W. G. Hamilton, W. W. Lindgren, G. S.
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Pargiter, G. A. Swingler, S. T.
Logan, D. G. Parker, J. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
MacColl, J. E. Paton, J. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
McGhee, H. G. Peart, T. F. Tomney, F.
Mclnnes, J. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
McKay, John (Wallsend) Proctor, W. T. Usborne, H. C.
McLeavy, F. Pryde, D. J. Viant, S. P.
McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Pursey, cmdr. H. Wade, D. W.
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Rankin, John Warbey, W. N.
Mahon, S. Reid, William Watkins, T. E.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rhodes, H. Weitzman, D.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddrsfd, E.) Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mayhew, C. P. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) West, 0. G.
Mikardo, Ian Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Wheeldon, W. E.
Mitchison, G. R. Ross, William White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Monslow, W. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Moody, A. S. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Wigg, George
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Short, E. W. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Mort, D. L. Silverman, Julius (Aston) Wilkins, W. A.
Moss, R. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Willey, Frederick
Moyle, A. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Skeffington, A. M. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
O'Brien, T. Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Oliver, G. H. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Oram, A. E. Sorensen, R. W. Winterbottom, Richard
Orbach, M. Sparks, J. A. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Oswald, T. Steele, T. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Owen, W. J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Zilliacus, K.
Padley, W. E. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Stones, W. (Consett) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Palmer, A. M. F. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Holmes.
Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).