HC Deb 01 June 1956 vol 553 cc587-640

Order for Third Reading read.— [Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified].

11.5 a.m.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)

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

Before I make some general remarks on this Bill, I would like to say how grateful I am to all Members of Standing Committee B, who, certainly when I was responsible for the Bill, worked so hard upon it. Although we had many long discussions upstairs, they were all, in my experience, always devoted to trying to improve the Bill in the interest of road safety and certainly not based on any political divisions. I should like to add also an expression of my thanks to the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) and to his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who have, if I may say so, approached the Bill in a very factual and helpful fashion. It is only right that I should say that they have greatly improved it, and I am very grateful to them for the way in which we have been able to co-operate on this Bill.

There are three main points which I should like to make in moving the Third Reading. The first is on the broad question of road safety, which the Bill does try to attack from a good many directions. We have dealt with matters concerning cyclists, dogs on the highway, traffic signs, and a great many other things; but I wish to emphasise that the testing of motor vehicles, with its associated spot checking provisions, is, in my view—and, I think, in the view of the House—essential to this purpose of increasing road safety through the Bill. The powers which I have taken have been made as broad and as flexible as possible, because, as I have explained to the House, I do not want to tie my hands; I want to leave myself free to try and get quick progress upon this question of testing, and therefore I must leave myself free to use whatever means of testing seem most readily available. Although those things have, rightly, I think, and of necessity, been left flexible and not yet decided in detail, because I do want to get agreement about them, I want to say how much importance I attach to this principle of the testing of motor vehicles and the associated spot testing provisions. I really believe that if we are to make any inroads upon the quite alarming casualty figures—something like 5,500 deaths on the road this year, I suppose—we cannot neglect any possible means of attacking the problem.

We must try and attack the problem of road safety, and thus the question of saving lives and injuries, from every possible direction. I do not think there is any easy or simple solution. Parts of the Bill do foresee the steady stepping up of a roads programme. To take just one small example, there are provisions for putting right difficulties about central reservations and traffic signs. But I want to make the point that I do not believe that, even if we could have a very much larger roads programme than is possible because of our resources, that programme could be regarded as some sort of universal panacea which would immediately completely change the road accident situation.

It might, indeed, do nothing of the sort, unless the new fast roads were most carefully phased with improvements in traffic conditions round congested areas on the outskirts of cities and so forth. There is a risk that too many people in this country are being asked to opt for what is presented as being a sort of simple solution—just build new roads, and we shall not have any accidents. That is quite wrong and quite untrue. Indeed, experience in both America and Germany does not always indicate /hat fast new roads cure accidents. In some cases they may cause even larger and more multiple accidents, as is often shown in America.

As the background to the Bill, because it gives me powers concerning roads, I want to say that I do not intend to depart from the policy which I have tried to outline to the House. My view is that a roads programme must be a balanced programme, and that a considerable proportion of expenditure must be devoted to curing bottlenecks and bad traffic conditions inside cities and at the outskirts of cities as well as to building fast motor connections between cities.

That is important. I believe that it is only in that way that we shall make the maximum contribution to road safety in our road building programme. One must have a road programme not only for building new motor roads—I am determined to build them as fast as I think is fair and proper in the broad national interest, and many of the plans recently announced show that I intend to get on with the job—but also for improving traffic flow and reducing congestion in and round our cities, and plans that I have recently announced show that I attach very great importance to that. I believe that to be essential if we are to make a contribution to road safety.

That leads me to my third point, which is the general question of parking and traffic flow, covered by the Bill in the Clauses dealing with the provision of parking places and the use of parking meters. It is sometimes said that the parking meter is a retrograde instrument because it tends to control motorists and perhaps even to drive them off the roads. I do not take that view. My view is that the parking meter does not represent a new tax on the motorist. It is an essential part of the general attempt, which I am sure is necessary, and which I am sure any Government would have to try to face, to get a better traffic flow in our congested cities.

Also, we must have more off-street parking, as we all agree. Unless the Government are prepared to subsidise off-street parking, which I am quite sure would be entirely wrong, there must be revenue from the parking meter which, in this Bill, is clearly restricted to the development of off-street parking. Parking meters perform two functions in relation to off-street parking. They make the price mechanism work on the highway and they make it worthwhile for people to build off-street car parks. They pro- vide some revenue for local authorities to encourage them to help in the task.

The parking provisions in the Bill are, in my view, essential if we are to find a solution to our immense traffic problems not only in London but Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and other big congested cities, and I hope that they will be considered in that light.

I will give only one more example, and that is the traffic study which I have asked Mr. Alex Samuels and his colleagues to undertake in London in the small congested central area. That is well under way, and I shall expect to receive the Report in the early autumn. I am sure that the provisions in the Bill are absolutely necessary if that report is to be implemented in the interest of all the people who want to get about the streets of London on their daily business or their pleasure.

The Bill has had a somewhat chequered career we would all agree on that—particularly in another place.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

It has to go back there.

Mr. Watkinson

As the hon. Member for Enfield, East rightly says, the Bill has to go back there, but it goes back there after this House has put into it an immense amount of hard work which, as I have said, has not in any way been devoted to the party aspects of the matter. It has been devoted—I say this most sincerely—to a genuine attempt to make it a constructive Bill which really will help us in dealing with the various problems that I have been discussing.

The country as a whole and all the interests concerned, should take note that this is now a Bill on which a great deal of time has been spent in the House and in Standing Committee, and which has been much improved. The responsibility for the improvement has been equally divided—I think it is fair to say so—between the two sides of the House. We have all played our part in it. I am grateful both to my hon. Friends and to hon. Gentlemen opposite for all their hard work. I think that the Bill is now as sensible and as practical as we can make it. Nothing can cure the great problems. but I believe that the Bill, if we can pass it into law reasonably quickly, can make a sensible contribution towards the solution of road traffic problems, to saving life on the roads, and to some general improvement in the many other difficult problems which it covers.

11.16 a.m.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

It is only at long intervals that we have the opportunity of dealing comprehensively in the House with the serious and vital problem of road traffic and road safety. During the last year we have had such an opportunity, and we have given this Bill most careful consideration at all stages. It is important that the outcome of our deliberations, in view of the rare occasions on which we can deal with the matter, should be good.

I would say straight away that I think the Bill as it now emerges from its previous stages is an effective one and will do a considerable amount in easing traffic problems And, in particular, in stemming—I will not say "reducing"—the increasing rate of accidents on our roads.

It will be remembered that when the Bill came before the House for Second Reading the Opposition were extremely critical. We thought at that stage that the contents of the Bill had been ill-considered, that the Bill consisted largely of unrelated odds and ends, that it would do little to affect road casualties, and that in a most important aspect of the problem, the testing of road vehicles, it represented a shameful retreat from the Government's previous policy. We were also critical of the related problem of road building. Taking all those considerations together, we came to the conclusion that it was right for us as an Opposition to oppose the Bill by a formal vote, and that we did.

There is no doubt about it at all that today the Bill differs immensely from the one before the House a year ago. It has been altered substantially in Standing Committee by contributions from hon. Members on all sides. The Standing Committee was not run at all on a party basis. Over and over again there were divisions in the Conservative Party and divisions in the Labour Party. All hon. Members made their contributions. The all-important Clause relating to vehicle testing was reintroduced after some difficulty and early opposition, but I do not intend to go over that history again.

Today a Bill emerges of which I think the House can be proud. I believe it will make a contribution towards the solution of our road problems.

I should also like to pay tribute to the sympathetic attitude displayed by the two Ministers who have been in charge of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, although we sometimes quarrelled with him, was on the whole, I think everyone will agree, most anxious to listen to the comments which came from various parts of the Standing Committee. The present Minister has been most sympathetic to every suggestion that has been made. He is obviously keenly anxious to do everything he can to help forward the solution of this problem. We all appreciate—I speak for all my colleagues in saying this—the way in which he handled the business in Committee. We are all appreciative too of the help given to him and to the Committee by the Parliamentary Secretary.

I told the right hon. Gentleman in Committee, when he was first appointed to his present post, what he should do if he wanted to succeed and to go down in history as a great Minister of Transport. I told him that what he had to do was very simple: when in doubt consult the Opposition and accept its advice. In his work upon this Bill he has done that; not entirely, but to a large extent. I must warn him, however, that he is slipping badly, because about other Measures which he has brought before the House, and in his relationships with the British Transport Commission and certain proposals it has made, he has rejected our advice. I must warn him that those chickens will come home to roost and that one day he will have to express regret, which, I hope, he will express publicly, that he did not follow our advice on those matters too. However, we are today dealing with this Bill, and with this Bill the Minister is doing well.

It is certain that because of the proposals in the Bill he is going to get into a lot of trouble. He will be criticised by motorists, by pedestrians, by large sections of the community. I fear he will be criticised by the motoring associations, which, in my view, have taken up a wholly anti-social attitude towards the Bill. They have carried on propaganda contrary not only to what we all here consider to be in the best interests of the motorists and of the people of the country as a whole, but even sometimes contrary to proposals whose value have been proved by experience in other countries, where they have been shown to be not only successful but exceedingly popular. Yet the motoring associations of this country have opposed them, heaven knows why—perhaps to justify their existence, or the existence of the special committees they have set up. Against these proposals they have carried out a very foolish but, I am glad to say, wholly ineffective propaganda.

The right hon. Gentleman will have this consolation, however, when he is subjected to criticisms. He can say quite fairly that this Bill has not been a party matter and that these proposals in principle have been agreed to by Parliament as a whole. We may criticise him because of a detail, or say that he is doing this wrongly or that, or that this piece of administration is foolish; or we may say that he is not acting quickly enough. There are such criticisms we may all legitimately make, but he can anyhow rest assured that for the principles involved he has and will continue to have the support of us all, and we of the Opposition will defend those principles when they are attacked.

Now I shall deal with some of the Clauses of the Bill. I do not want to go through the whole Bill. That would weary the House, and we are a bit weary already, having worked on the Bill for two long days already. There are, of course, many Clauses which, though useful and important, only tidy up the existing law, or make some minor improvements. There are two or three matters to which I want to draw special attention.

One is the proposal, about which the Minister has already spoken, to introduce parking meters. That has met with considerable opposition, and there still exists in the minds of many people, including mine I admit, doubt whether this will be successful. However, I have no doubt that the experiment should be tried. In other countries that experiment has proved successful even although in its early stages there was considerable criticism of it. Because it has been successful elsewhere, and because the problem of the flow of traffic and of parking in our cities is so serious and is becoming daily worse, I am convinced that this experiment should be tried here.

I am also sure of this, that if it is to be tried it must be tried on a proper scale. It will be of no use to have a petty experiment, in a few streets only and for a short time merely. If it is to be tried at all it must be tried on a substantial scale, in a large area and for a considerable length of time. If after that it is found that it effects no improvement, or that it causes more trouble than it is worth, I hope the Minister will tell the House, "We shall abandon it." However, I hope he will try the experiment, try it early, and try it on a large scale.

One Clause which aroused a certain amount of controversy in Committee, as, I am sure and hope, it will do in another place, is Clause 7, which introduces what is, I suppose, a new principle of law; and that is to make it an offence, punishable by five years' imprisonment, to kill any one on the road by driving dangerously. That is supposed to be in substitution for the existing procedure by which a motorist in such circumstances may be had up for manslaughter.

The argument in favour of it is that juries are unwilling to convict for manslaughter but will be willing to convict a motorist for killing a man while driving dangerously. It is doubtful whether that will prove to be so. Nobody knows. It is anybody's guess. What we do know definitely is that the Clause will create a ridiculous and, in my opinion, also an offensive anomaly. There are two different penalties now to be imposed— very different penalties—not according to the degree of dangerous driving for which a motorist is responsible, but according to chance consequences over which the motorist can have no control. If a man who happens to have a very thin skull is killed as a result of dangerous driving, the motorist is to be liable to imprisonment for five years. On the other hand if the victim of an accident has a skull of normal thickness and is not killed, the motorist, who may have been driving just as dangerously or even more dangerously will be subject to a penalty of only two years' imprisonment.

I put this example before the Committee. A motorist may be driving dangerously and kill somebody and, by the Bill, be liable to a penalty of five years' imprisonment; another motorist may be driving even more dangerously and may maim four or five people for the rest of their lives, but he is liable to a penalty of only two years' imprisonment. That is a ridiculous proposition, and I hope that it will be given further consideration in another place. It is wholly illogical and irrational.

I come now to the proposals concerned with road safety. First there is the increase in penalties for the existing offences of driving without due care, dangerous driving, and so on. I do not myself believe that that will have any effect whatsoever. This appears to me to be legislation by empty gesture. I know that every time any proposal is put before the Minister for dealing with road safety the first response by his advisers, and also my many outside bodies, is "Increase the penalties". It sounds a quick, easy and plausible solution of the problem; but we already know that magistrates do not impose anything like the maximum penalty. It is less than a quarter of the maximum penalty which is imposed by magistrates. They never impose the present maximum penalty. Therefore, what in the world is the use of increasing the maximum penalty from £30 to £50 for an offence when nobody now is given a penalty of £30? I do not think that increasing the penalty is likely to make any contribution to road safety.

We have had a great deal of discussion about the reluctance of juries to convict people whenever a substantial penalty may fall upon the offender. That is an undoubted fact. I have a theory as to why that happens. I do not know whether it will be accepted by other hon. Members, but I believe that most juries are unwilling to convict and see the offender sentenced to six months' or a year's imprisonment because so many of them have guilty consciences. Looking back on a long period of motoring, I cannot say that never at any moment have I driven foolishly or dangerously. I have kicked myself afterwards and said, "My God, I ought not to have done that. It was a bit of dangerous driving".

I do not believe there is a single motorist who would not admit to himself that he has occasionally driven foolishly or dangerously. Therefore, when a mem- ber of a jury sees a man in the dock he says to himself, "I might have been caught at one of those moments when my mind wandered and I was driving dangerously and been liable to a penalty of a year's or two years' imprisonment."

Because of this sympathy with the man juries see themselves in the dock instead of the defendant, and for that reason it is understandable that they are unwilling to convict, particularly when they know that the penalty will be substantial. For all these reasons, my view is that increasing penalties for offences does not bring about greater care on the road on the part of motorists and may indeed have the opposite effect.

We have had long debates about vehicle-testing, and I do not want to repeat the arguments that have been put forward already on this side of the House. Obviously this provision is most important and may have a material effect in reducing accidents on the roads. I am a little worried, however, about the Government's attitude towards this matter. The Minister accepts it in principle and says he is keen about it, but I am worried because neither he nor his Department appears to have given any thought to the way it is to be carried out.

It is not as if the principle had been agreed upon a week ago. It was first put forward by the Government over a year ago when they introduced their Bill in another place. Since that time we have had no idea whatsoever how the Government will proceed, what their plans are and what their administration of the scheme will be. We should have thought that the Government would have acted as Governments normally do whenever they bring a new and revolutionary proposal before the House and would have told us broadly how it was to be carried out and given at least an outline of what they had in mind.

We do not know how many testing stations will be put up and how many people will be employed in them. All we know is what the Minister has told us—that it will take some time before the scheme is worked out. There appeared in his speech the other day no real sense of urgency. One had the feeling that because the scheme would take some time to work out there was no hurry about it. I take the reverse view; that because it is difficult there is all the more reason for getting down to it quickly.

Mr. Watkinson

The real answer is that, as this provision has been defeated once in another place, it is only fair to my Department to say that it cannot make rapid progress in negotiations with the parties concerned until it is armed with the real powers to get on with the job.

Mr. Strauss

I am interested in what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I am not sure with whom he wants to negotiate to set up the various testing stations. If he carries out the scheme, as we hope and believe, and he himself sets them up—or perhaps it is with the local authorities that he wants to negotiate?

Mr. Watkinson

indicated assent.

Mr. Strauss

Then I understand why the right hon. Gentleman has not made much progress. But I hope that he will get in touch with the local authorities as quickly as possible to see to what extent they will be willing to co-operate in implementing the proposal. I still hope, however, that the Minister will give some indication before the Bill passes through the House of the kind of pattern he has in mind for administering the scheme.

I pressed the right hon. Gentleman on the Report stage, but he has given no answer as to whether he has in mind that the bulk of the testing will be done by the local authorities and the Ministry or by private enterprise. We have no idea whatsoever. He should tell us at this stage what his intentions are. Does he rely mainly on private enterprise garages, with all the dangers that that involves, or is he merely going to use private garages to supplement the scheme where necessary?

I would like to reinforce what I have already said in Committee with a comment which I saw recently in the Economist, a paper normally in favour of private enterprise, which stated that it hoped that when the Government came to implement the scheme they would use as few private garages as possible. But I must confess, in view of the Government's general prejudice against public enterprise, that while I hope for the best in this matter I fear the worst.

The last point is in connection with Clause 4 which permits the Minister to provide

... with the approval of the Treasury... for promoting roads safety by disseminating information or advice relating to the use of the roads. The Clause goes on to enable the Minister to contribute towards local authority schemes.

Although there has not been much discussion on this point, I think that at this stage we should say something about it and press the Minister to act on a large scale, because it is in the direction of propaganda and education that we can make the biggest contribution towards a reduction of accidents on the roads. Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Clause merely envisages a comparatively unimportant procedural change or whether it contemplates a large-scale propaganda campaign. I very much hope that it is the latter.

We know by experience what such a campaign can do. We had one in 1946, 1947 and 1948. It was a campaign in the Press, on posters and on the wireless, using every method of communication open to a Government Department. We found that although new cars were coming on to the roads in increasing numbers, rising substantially month after month, the number of road accidents sometimes remained substantially the same and in some periods actually went down. I have no doubt that the most important factor in bringing about that reduction in the number of accidents was that large-scale campaign.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

The right hon. Gentleman must not forget that at that time there was very severe petrol rationing and activity on the roads was very much less than it is today. I should not like him or the House to be under the misapprehension that propaganda can do so very much to prevent accidents.

Mr. Strauss

That is true, but the point I am making is also true. It is that during the period I mentioned the number of cars on the road increased substantially month by month. I have not got the figure with me, but if the hon. Gentleman will look at the number of cars licensed between 1946 and 1948 he will find that it rose substantially. All I am saying is that during a period when the number of cars on the road rose substantially, accidents decreased, and that was remarkable.

The amount of money now provided by the Government which filters through the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to the local road safety committees, is very small, and I believe that the present propaganda campaign conducted by them is largely ineffective. Unfortunately, although the road safety committees consist of people filled with goodwill, who do their best according to their lights to reduce the number of accidents in their localities, they are not experts on propaganda. Their selection of posters is often deplorable, and so the money they use is often dissipated in small, ineffective posters splashed about in inappropriate places with no sense of repetition. The net effect is practically nil, except in a substantial waste of money. Only experts in advertising know how important it is to have constant repetition of the same large posters in appropriate sites and next to each other in a series. Therefore I hope that the Minister will look into this matter in order to see, without treading too hard on the toes of those composing the local road safety committees, that the money is better spent.

I am asking for something more. I am asking for a national campaign along the lines of that carried out between 1946 and 1948. I do not say that it would make the same contribution, but I am sure it would make a valuable contribution to the reduction of accidents. Of course this would cost money. It would cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. But how can we value in terms of money, even a large sum, the hundreds of thousands of lives which might be saved? But even if we made a purely monetary calculation, I would again remind the House that road accidents are costing this country today £150 million a year. So that if we can reduce accidents by 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. by spending £300,000 or £400,000 a year, obviously it would be a good financial investment.

I put forward this further argument. We believe that the building of new roads will make some contribution to the reduction of road accidents. Incidentally, here I agree with all the qualifications put forward by the Minister. However, road building is expensive, and the expenditure of a few hundred thousand pounds a year on an all-out national road safety campaign would be far more profitable from the point of view of accident reduction.

If the Minister launches such a campaign, I hope he will not hesitate to use the same type of shock poster that was used before. The "widow poster" raised considerable controversy, but I am sure that it was extraordinarily effective. A campaign of this kind is useless unless it brings the danger home to the public, and that can only be done by shock. It cannot be done by pictures of pretty girls driving cars. We cannot use the same method as is used to sell chocolate. We have to shock people. So I hope that the Government will consider a large-scale campaign of posters and publicity in the Press, and so on. I hope also that it will be carried out with the same enthusiasm and keenness right down through the centre to local authority level, as before. Nothing would make a greater contribution to road safety.

Once again we must bring before the mind of every road user, pedestrian as well as others, that contrary to what they naturally and normally think, an accident can happen to themselves. The most important contributory factor to accidents is the subconscious feeling which most people have that accidents happen to other people and not to themselves. So we must bring home to them by shock the fact that they may be maimed for life, that they may be killed and leave behind a widow and orphans. If that is done on a sufficiently large scale, many lives will be saved.

We have to consider all these problems against the background of current events and today accidents are rising substantially and rapidly. Today there are nearly 300,000 deaths and casualties on the roads every year and about 5,000 people are killed every year on the roads through accidents. A large proportion of those could be prevented if proper steps were taken. One road accident in which ten people are killed becomes sensational, headline news. A colliery accident involving 100 people is a national shock, the main news in the papers, and the main item of conversation of the public for several weeks. Yet road accidents kill 5,000 people a year, and because they occur mostly in isolated units spread throughout the country, people do not pay as much attention to them as they give to one serious bus accident. Moreover, from calculations authoritatively made, we known that out of every ten children born today, if things continue as they are at present, four will be killed or injured on the roads sometime during their life.

Therefore I ask the Minister, now that he has been given various powers in this Bill, to act with the greatest urgency. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will do what he can, but he has so many other important occupations that I fear that through pressure of other business he will not pay as much attention to this matter as he would wish.

During the war, as I know from personal experience, Ministers had charts in their rooms showing the increasing production of various war weapons week by week. I should like the Minister to have a large chart put up in his room similarly showing the increase or decrease in road accidents. In that way the Minister would have the problem permanently before him, would never be able to forget it.

I hope the Minister will importune the Chancellor of the Exchequer for money when necessary. I hope he will use the powers given to him under the Bill with the greatest energy and drive. If he fails, there will be plently of public criticism, but I hope he will not. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that in any action, however unorthodox, however expensive, which he takes in trying to reduce the present appalling toll on the roads, he will have the unanimous support of this House and the gratitude of the country.

11.49 a.m.

Mr. Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

I am grateful for the opportunity of saying a few words in support of this Bill. Normally I take a considerable interest in traffic problems, particularly at Question Time in the House, but eleven months ago, when the Second Reading of this Bill took place, I was on a Parliamentary delegation to the West Indies and therefore I was not present then, and also I could not take part in the Committee stage.

So I welcome this Bill in its attempt to reduce accidents and to relieve traffic

congestion. My right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) are absolutely right in referring to the alarming casualty figures from which we are now suffering. They are a blot on our national life, and if it were not for the fact that our sense of tragedy has perhaps been deadened by the effect of two world wars, these figures would cause much greater concern in the country today than they do.

It is our duty to do everything possible to reduce those accidents. Even if some of the means, such as compulsory testing, do only a little, they will do something, and every little is a help. I therefore regard it as our duty to press forward with all the measures contained in the Bill.

I agree also that a new road system, although I welcome it from the point of view of relieving traffic congestion, is not necessarily a panacea for curing accidents. I well remember reading a vivid article in the Sunday Times a few months ago by Sir Miles Thomas, describing a journey he had made along Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, in California. His driver apparently took him past a place were eleven people had been killed a few days earlier in a collision in which several cars were involved. It was caused because one man had taken the wrong turning into a one-way road in a roundabout system and all the other cars, going at, I suppose, speeds of anything from 60 to 100 m.p.h., had all crashed and piled into the wreckage, with the result that eleven people were killed. When, and if, we get road systems like that, we shall need great propaganda and education among drivers if we are to avoid accidents of that kind.

I have an interest in the compulsory testing to the extent that I shall be one of its first victims. Although my car is seventeen years old, it has not done a mileage which is any way comparable with its age. In fact, it has not done as great a mileage as my previous five-year old car. I have left it in a garage today to have the brakes put right, because yesterday, driving down Whitehall, I had to pull up rather suddenly and felt that the brakes did not pull the car up as suddenly as I should have liked. That is one argument for having one's brakes tested from time to time to make sure that they are quite all right. It is not long since I had the car at a garage to have the steering put right after it had become jammed through a failure in the automatic lubrication system. That is something which cannot be detected very easily—except that the steering becomes a bit stiff—unless by inspection.

But I want to emphasise that these things are just as likely to happen in a car which is only a year or two old, and I hope that the compulsory testing and the spot checking will eventually take into account cars even less than ten years old. At the speed at which people drive today and in the conditions of traffic congestion which exist in and around London, brakes soon get worn out and need relining. It is necessary, therefore, that they should be looked at.

The third point mentioned by my right hon. Friend in connection with testing is headlights. I am not altogether happy that the headlight problem will be solved by checking, because what checking in a testing station or garage cannot do is to prevent the driver of a vehicle with headlights which possess no dipping mechanism, particularly on lorries, switching on the near side light only and imagining that he is not blinding anybody coming in the opposite direction because he has only one headlamp in use. The dazzle from one lamp straight ahead is much more than half the dazzle caused by two headlamps, and I hope that steps can be taken by the police to check this serious menace. There must be a large number of lorries which have no dipping mechanism on one of their headlamps. This is something which should be stopped but I do not think that checking alone will stop it.

Another cause of dazzle is motorists who use fog-lamps without dipping mechanism instead of, or in addition to, headlamps. I sometimes see cars coming along Watford Way, which, most hon. Members will know, is a fairly well lighted road, using three headlamps, including a fog light, with only two of them dipped. I sometimes wonder what the eyesight of these drivers is like. Anybody who needs to use all those headlights ought perhaps to have his eyesight examined. The fog lamp is a menace when wrongly used in normal conditions without fog, and without dipping mechanism.

Lastly, there is the question of parking. I quite agree that something must be done to take the long-term parker off many of the streets of London so that space can be left for the short-term parker who wants to call at one place for a short time. For a long time, I have wanted to call at an office in Savile Row. I am reluctant to do so because I should probably have to drive round and round to find somewhere to leave my car for only about five minutes. Whenever I have been there in the past either no space has been available or there has been insufficient room for me to park my car, and on occasions when I have stopped to back into a space somebody else has come up and got in behind me a little more quickly. I should like to see a system adopted in that part of London whereby short-term parkers can have some kind of a look in and not be crowded out by people who seem to put their cars there at nine o'clock in the morning and not take them away until six o'clock in the evening.

I am not too sanguine about the effect that the new arrangements will have on removing traffic congestion as a whole. Although there may be something in the argument that by clearing some of the side streets of cars which are parked all day, there would be more room for some of the traffic now using the main roads to use the side streets instead, I still think that the main cause of traffic congestion in London is the intersecting traffic at crossing places on both kinds of road. Until we can find means of preventing that by under-passes or over-passes, or whatever the method is called, I do not think that we will really deal with this traffic problem. Nevertheless, in so far as the Bill does take a step forward in relieving the parking congestion, and certainly so far as it goes to relieve the appalling problem of accidents. I welcome it and I hope it will be a great success.

11.56 a.m.

Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)

I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) in expressing the view that the Bill contains some very important and useful provisions for the preservation of road safety. The Minister, and indeed the House, are entitled to be proud of the work and achievement which the Bill embodies.

I like to think that the Bill is an example of what Parliament could do when the Whips were kept in check. There are not many occasions in Parliament these days when we can boast that a Bill of such importance as this Road Traffic Bill has been the product of the best brains on both sides of the House. It is a great advantage to Parliament that it should be so. Many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, feel that if the principle which has been applied to this Bill could be applied to many other Bills which come before the House of Commons, in which there is no serious political difference of opinion, we should get better legislation, and I believe that we should inspire greater public confidence.

There are occasions when Ministers refuse to accept reasonable Amendments which would not in any way affect the policy of the Government or the broad policy of a Bill simply because they are not prepared to depart from their Departmental briefs. We are indebted to the present Minister of Transport for having thrown overboard that rather outmoded attitude, and I hope that on the general principle of taking the fullest possible advantage of the knowledge and experience of Members, to whichever side of the House they belong, successive Governments—whether the present Government or a future Labour Government—will try to restore to individual Members of the House an opportunity to make a real contribution to the work of legislation in which we are involved.

The Minister, in his opening remarks, made reference to the road programme. I think that most of us would share his view that the provision of an extensive road system in itself does not necessarily mean that we shall solve the problem of road casualties. I submit to the Minister that the country is entitled to expect that the Government, with all possible speed, will proceed with very extensive road reconstruction and the construction of arterial roads, having regard to the financial resources available. I believe that if the Minister can couple with this very splendid Road Traffic Bill the construction of motor roads here and there and the elimination of difficult points, he will have made a contribution towards road safety for which the House and the public will be extremely grateful.

On the question of testing stations, I should like to join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall in urging the Minister to try to avoid any undue delay. It is vitally important that the local authorities and the Ministry itself, with in some cases the assistance of private garages, should get down to that work as speedily as possible. I am grateful that the Minister has accepted those proposals, which were originally my proposals during the Committee stage of the Bill. While I believe it to be essential and vitally important that testing stations should be provided as speedily as possible, I share my hon. Friend's fear that two great an extension of the private garage testing system might not be advantageous to the community. I feel that by moderate use of this arrangement the local authorities and the Ministry itself can make a contribution in this field.

In regard to road safety education and information, I am very pleased indeed that there are provisions whereby greater use will be made of the local authorities. The local authorities, as I think the Minister would be the first to recognise. have already made a contribution towards road safety. I think that we should all like to join in paying our tribute to the work which is being done by the local road safety committees throughout the country. They have done a really good job, having regard to the financial limitations; and I think that if, by some increased financial arrangement through the local authorities, we can increase the propaganda on the lines indicated by my right hon. Friend, the local authorities can render even greater service to road safety.

We have spent many months on this Bill. I think that they have been months well spent. I hope that the provisions which we have made in the Bill will serve the purpose for which they are intended, that they will help to reduce the terrible road casualties which are occurring, and that eventually, by the joint efforts of the Ministry and all those concerned with this Bill, we shall find that there has been a very substantial reduction in road traffic accidents and casualties.

12.6 p.m.

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I should like to begin by endorsing the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) in regard to the non-party approach to the Bill during the long months that it has been in Committee. The line-up in Committee was really between the speed merchants [VICE-ADMIRAL HUGHES HALLETT.] and those who disapprove of them. The Bill, as I see it, is by its nature a miscellaneous provisions Bill. It is essentially evolutionary, and most of it merely amends and extends the existing law. Its only really novel features are the provisions for parking meters and tests.

In connection with the tests, I notice that my right hon. Friend made little, if any, reference to the fact that the Clause which allows of spot checks on the roads still remains in the Measure. I should like to suggest that that should not be overlooked, and that there may be occasions and circumstances in which spot checks on the roads may prove of considerable value.

Among the satisfactory provisions of the Bill are the increased grants for road safety propaganda, but I think that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) is inclined to over-estimate what can be achieved by propaganda. I think that there is a great danger of propaganda being merely a shot in the arm. We can have our dramatic posters, weekly safety campaigns and so forth— even perhaps a year's safety campaign —but the old saying that familiarity breeds contempt is, I think, particularly true in connection with that type of propaganda.

Then there is the provision, to which little reference has been made, which gives increased powers for the driving away of vehicles which are badly parked. I urge the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to use what influence and powers he possesses to make sure that the police take full advantage of that Clause. I am sure that that would be a great contribution towards easing the traffic congestion in our cities.

Then we have the much criticised Clause establishing a special statutory offence for killing while driving dangerously. I do not at all agree with the observations of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall. I should have thought that it was a well-recognised and very ancient principle of the criminal law of this country that the consequences of evil doing are taken into consideration as well as the intent. If anyone doubts that, let him fire at someone with the intention of killing him and he will dis- cover that the ensuing consequences, if he misses, will be quite different from what they will be if he hits.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

It depends where he hits.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I personally support that Clause if, as we are assured, it results in an increased prospect of conviction.

I want to turn for a minute or two to certain features of the Bill which still need clarification, or where the Bill leaves something to be desired. The increased penalties for speeding, which the Bill at one time contained, have largely gone, and to that extent some of its original teeth have been drawn. I cannot agree with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who say that because magistrates and courts do not impose anything approaching the maximum existing penalties, it would be wrong to increase them by Statute. I cannot believe that as a body magistrates would completely disregard the clearly expressed will of Parliament when it is decided that a particular offence must carry with it increased penalties.

I should have thought that it would have been better to have left these provisions unchanged. However, they have gone, and I have raised the matter again only to express the hope that the Minister will not be misled by various statistics which indicate that speed as such has very little to do with accidents. That is entirely fallacious, and I hope that a determined effort will be made, when the Bill is passed, at least to enforce the law as it now stands.

To argue that excessive speed scarcely ever causes an accident is like arguing that the height of a window has very little to do with the fatality which occurs when someone falls out of it. It may be true that it is uncommon for the height to be such that the fall occurs because someone gets giddy, but, on the other hand, the height has a great deal to do with what happens when he hits the ground. It is speed which governs the results of an accident, even though it may not be an initial cause.

The greatest disappointment in the Bill is that it has done so little to strengthen the law about drunken driving. Only two Clauses refer to it. One is Clause 8, which I welcome because it reduces the prospect of the law being brought into contempt by constructive interpretation. Clause 9 brings pedal cyclists within the ambit of the law about drunken road users. The value of that Clause is somewhat reduced by the technical difficulties in committing the offence.

I recognise that the time may not be ripe for any considerable amendment of the law about drink on the roads, yet it is rather humiliating that we should find ourselves in this position, because many people believe that it is the greatest single cause of accidents today. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong, but it is the belief. I suggest that here is one of those rare problems into which a Select Committee could appropriately look, hear the evidence, listen to the experts and recommend whether the state of the law as left by the Bill should be modified, or extended by special legislation.

In spite of various criticisms, I am sure that the Bill will prove fully justified. The Parliamentary time which has been spent on it will have been well spent if it reduces accidents by only 1 or 2 per cent., which, after all, is fifty to a hundred lives a year. I believe that the effect will be greater in due course. Looking ahead, a Bill of this nature has to be considered in relation both to what came before and what may come after.

I hope that time may be found to introduce a consolidating Measure which will incorporate the provisions of this extremely complicated Bill and consolidate them with all the other Measures to which it is related. As a comparatively new Member, I know very little about these matters, but I think that if scrupulous care were taken in drafting a consolidating Bill so that no change in existing legislation were made, it could go through almost "on the nod."

I hope that my right hon. Friend will give serious consideration to the advantage of setting up some form of independent highway authority. Listening to the long discussions in Committee, I reached the conclusion that we have reached the end of the journey so long as the existing organisation of the roads and for the administration of the law, with the complexities, remain. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, road development and administration of the law about road safety must go hand in hand. That is why we must look for greater co-ordination in that direction for the next big step forward.

12.16 p.m.

Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)

This is a very important Bill, so important that the Committee stage might have occupied the attention of the whole House instead of being taken upstairs. I have listened to members of the Standing Committee praising themselves for their work, and I can add my praise to theirs.

It has been said that no opposition to parking meters has been expressed in the House, but I hope that the Minister will regard parking meters as an experiment, as is envisaged in the Bill. I hope that we shall avoid the use of parking meters for producing revenue and that the money will be used for its proper purpose of creating an easier traffic flow in the streets of great towns. I shall look forward to seeing the experiment, and I hope that Parliament will take notice of the effect of parking meters.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said in Committee:

Those of us who have been concerned about these matters of road safety for a long time, know that three things, in effect, can bring about a significant reduction in road accidents —education and propaganda, having newer and safer roads, and vehicle inspection." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1956; Vol. 553, c. 258.] I should like to add a fourth—the removal of much of the heavy traffic which is now carried on the roads and which should be carried on the railways.

Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)

What about canals?

Mr. Proctor

I agree that canals can also be used. While it is not within the ambit of the Bill, I hope that we shall not lose sight of the fact that we cannot solve the road problem unless we carry on the railways the heavy traffic which is now on the roads and is denuding the railways of their proper function of carrying the heaviest traffic.

Provisions dealing with safety are among the most important in the Bill. I was interested to hear a reference to an accident in America which was caused by someone who did not know that he was in a one-way street. The Minister should consider a better system of indicating one-way streets. Red arrows on the street and pointing towards the motorist would make the motorist less liable than he now is to miss an indication that he was in a one-way street.

We are universally agreed that it is the desire and aim of everyone to take murder vehicles off the road—and that is what they are. All vehicles which are unfit are a danger to those driving them and to other people on the roads. Anything which can be done to eliminate those vehicles should be done as quickly as possible. I quite agree that there is tremendous difficulty in getting this scheme into operation quickly. It is very easy to spend a large amount of capital and an immense amount of labour on new projects which do not fit in with the national economy at present, but I hope we shall use every avenue to make sure that these tests are made quickly.

I suggest that the Minister might lay down what he considers to be a proper test and a proper standard for vehicles. We might then ask all motorists to try to attain that standard. At present the average motorist takes his car to a garage only for oiling and greasing. If the Minister laid down a standard and asked motorists to conform to it when taking their cars to garages, it might have a very good effect.

I should like to see the present law used more extensively for the promotion of road safety. As I go about the roads of this country—not for very long distances—I see a large number of loads on the roads which in my opinion are definitely unsafe. I think the present law gives adequate opportunity to deal with the matter when it is applied. I have passed numbers of vehicles carrying timber on which huge loads were secured with what looked like watch chains. It is high time that more attention was paid to the safety of the load on the vehicle.

We should aim at conformity to a standard of efficiency and safety on the roads such as we have on the railways. If there were examination of the load and its security as there is on the railways we should do away with a very large number of accidents. I believe the present law is sufficiently strong to deal with that matter, and I hope the Minister will give very careful attention to it.

We shall look with interest to what happens when the Bill has passed. So far as I am concerned, I give it my full support.

12.22 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

if the passage of the Bill through various stages has taken a long time that is because most hon. Members feel that they are experts in this subject. Indeed we all have experience of the roads, either as drivers or as pedestrians.

I think that one reason why the shape of the Bill has changed so considerably during its passage is that the Government have quite rightly paid a great deal of attention to what has been thought about its provisions by private Members on both sides of the House. I say frankly that I was most opposed at the outset to vehicle testing, but, as a result partly of debates in the Standing Committee and partly through going into the matter more carefully and going to the Road Research Laboratory, I have become completely persuaded that vehicle testing is a necessary safety measure. I think that a great many other hon. Members have changed their minds in the same way. One of the most valuable features of discussions on the Bill has been the way in which there has been no party approach to it. I think that in the Standing Committee everyone learned quite a lot about road safety and road traffic law.

In the same way I was very doubtful about parking meters when I first approached the Bill, but I am now convinced of their utility and the contribution that they will make to the flow of traffic. I think they will be very popular. They will make it possible to do something which is now exceedingly difficult. I refer to the difficulty experienced on the rare occasions when one is justified in parking a private car in the centre of London because one has to go from place to place and bring away from a shop, perhaps, something which is bulky. It will be possible to leave a car in a parking place for fifteen minutes without having to drive around a block fifteen times before one can find a parking place. The all-day parker is the principal menace in the centre of London at present.

I was convinced of the utility of vehicle tests mainly by the consideration of headlamps, to which reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell). I do not think there is any other way of enforcing the existing provisions of the vehicle lighting Regulations than that of vehicle testing. For years I have been raising in this House the question of nonobservance by motorists of those Regulations, and in particular the point which was made by my hon. Friend, the driver who switches on his near side headlamp undipped, and thinks that he has made a generous contribution to non-dazzle on the road. I have received no satisfaction when I have raised this matter. The Home Office has always stoutly disclaimed any responsibility for police forces outside the Metropolis.

One has been told that the police are too busy and that they have no warranty or justification for stopping a vehicle which has undipped lights. The Regulations merely require the driver to have a dipping apparatus in good order; they do not require him to use it. If any vehicle is stopped on the road at night and has only its nearside headlamp illuminated, and that undipped, in nine cases out of ten it will be found that the dipping mechanism is not in order. That is why the driver has taken the bulb out of the offside lamp. I have made no progress in this matter, and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that all the devices such as amber headlamps and polarisation of light are not complete answers to the problem, but that vehicle testing is the only satisfactory answer. For that reason alone I am happy that the Bill contains the new Clause which we added during the Report stage.

I want to make a final expression of regret that this excellent Bill is marred by the presence in it of Clause 7. 1n the Standing Committee, I moved the deletion of that Clause, and we had quite a long and very useful debate on it. I was not successful in getting my Amendment called on Report, so this is my final expression, before the Bill goes to another place, of my unchanged opposition to that Clause. It is uttered in the hope that in another place the Clause will meet the end which it deserves. I am not entirely hopeful, because in the earlier Session of Parliament in which the Clause found its way into another Bill I believe the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, expressed his attachment to the principle which it contains. I can only say that I believe that the Clause has very few friends here and, if it were struck out in another place, no tears would be shed on either side of the House.

Although I have no right to speak for the legal profession, so far as I have been able to gather opinions in the last year I have found very few friends of this proposal in either branch of that profession. It would not be in order to repeat, on Third Reading, the arguments which I deployed rather extensively in the Standing Committee, but there is no logical justification of the anomaly of that Clause. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) justified it by saying that there were plenty of anomalies in the law now. So there are; but that is not a reason for adding to them.

The existing anomalies have ancient and not entirely respectable historical origins, which I described in Committee. We all know that these punishments for criminal offences were, in their origin, civil; they were the rights of redress given to the relatives of the men who were killed, and the punishment was compensation. Naturally enough, therefore, the law did not punish attempts, and attempts to commit crime were not punishable by the law of England for centuries.

It was as recently as the nineteenth century that attempts became generally punishable under the law of England by Statute; that was never part of the old common law. That is why we have this extraordinary anomaly of the punishment varying so much according to the consequences of the act rather than according to the act itself. The whole progres of the criminal law has been away from that state of affairs, and this Clause is a bit of legal recidivism.

I earnestly hope that the argument that the administration of the law is breaking down, and that this Clause will help juries to convict, will carry no weight when the Bill is considered in another place. The administration of the law is not breaking down because juries think fit to acquit; the man may be innocent, and the whole object of the law is not to procure convictions but to administer justice.

I am conscious of the fact that I have contributed many columns to HANSARD on the Bill, but I am quite unrepentant about that because I believe that the hon. Members with whom I have been associated in respect of various Amendments, and myself, have improved the Bill. At all events, these are the last words that I shall say upon it.

I want to associate myself with the opinion expressed by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) that undue reliance is being placed in road safety upon the punishments of the criminal law.

In the main, the increases in penalties remain in the Bill, although we were successful in knocking out the proposal to disqualify for a second offence of speeding. Even the noble Lord, Lord Goddard, in an earlier Session of Parliament, could find nothing friendly to say about that proposal. Nevertheless, we have increased the penalties fairly widely.

I make bold to say that in my opinion Sections 11 and 12 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, have not done a useful job. The fact is, as we all know, that we are all guilty of driving offences fairly often. I have been driving for nearly twenty years, and I have no convictions against me for driving offences. What does that mean? It means that I have not been caught. Let us be frank about it. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends suggests that I make better use of my driving mirror than does the average motorist.

We all commit these offences, and what happens is that if we are involved in an accident we are prosecuted, whereas if we are not involved in an accident we are not prosecuted. Nor is any change in that situation likely. The standing orders in some areas are that where there is an accident there should be a summons. I understand that it has been laid down by the Court of Criminal Appeal that the level of guilt under Section 12 of the 1930 Act is no different from the negligence which would support a civil claim; it has gone as far as that. A man is involved in an accident, on balance he is to blame, and as a result he has also to pay a fine of £2 later in the magistrates' court; that is what happens, and it is a bit of a farce.

I do not think the criminal law plays a very large part as a deterrent, except in relation to drunkenness under Section I5, and in connection with speeding where it is playing a part. These apart, I should have been quite happy with the ordinary common law offence of furious driving on the highway and manslaughter, so that there was legal punishment available if necessary. I deprecate the belief which is so widespread, and which finds expression in the Bill, that by doubling the penalties we shall diminish the number of deaths or injuries on the roads. We shall not. It is a delusion which may take our minds off the true solutions to this problem.

Some of the true solutions are not in the Bill, and I will therefore, on Third Reading, not refer to them, except to say that I hope that my right hon. Friend will press on with new roads, even though they may not be the whole answer. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Bill, which I think will make a valuable contribution to road safety, and which I hope will soon be passed into law.

12.37 p.m.

Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Bell) would like to know that at least one of his constituents agrees very largely with what he has said.

Mr. R. Bell

But the hon. Member does not vote for me at General Elections.

Mr. Darling

This is only a small point in the whole field of political activities. In the case of the other 99.9 per cent., I disagree with him entirely; but on this legal issue I very largely agree with him.

I was interested by the reference of the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) to the article by Sir Miles Thomas on driving in Los Angeles. The hon. Member said he was absent from the House on Second Reading. I was able to play truant from the Committee stage for a few weeks, and while I was away I arrived in Los Angeles, where I had the very pleasant duty of speaking to the State Convention of the C.I.O. Trade Unions, who asked me to speak about how trade unions fitted into the political scene in this country.

To help to make the point that our political set-up was not for export—at least that it could not be applied over there—I pointed out that, unlike the situation in this contry, where our political system is based on the idea that all men are equal, in Los Angeles they had two classes of citizen. The pedestrian had been debased to second-class citizen carrying an awful lot of responsibilities and no rights. The "Freeways" about which they boast in that part of California have no sidewalks and no provision for pedestrians at all. In fact, if a walker gets on the wide sweeping roads in some places he is committing an offence against the law.

I came to the conclusion—possibly I should not have done so from that short experience and from the little I saw there —that if we make proper provision on the roads for pedestrians we also help to make the roads safer for motorists. I should certainly not like to see the kind of road system which they have in that part of California adopted in this country.

We all agree that this Bill is overdue, generally worthwhile and ought to come into operation as quickly as possible, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) pointed out earlier, in spite of its being largely a good Bill, there are some things in it with which we disagree. Some think that it is not courageous enough and does not go far enough.

In spite of the fact that it is a good Bill, the Minister will run into difficulties in applying some parts of it. In particular, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, he will come up against some of the motoring organisations. It ought to be emphasised that we hope that he will stand up to any reactionary organisations which want to water down any part of the provisions of the Bill. If he stands up to them he will be in a very strong position because he will have the united support of the House.

I want briefly to refer to the opposition from the A.A., the R.A.C. and the Scottish Royal Automobile Club in their statement on car testing. In my view it was irresponsible to suggest that the car testing system would not work. I want to mention it in this context. Surely the experience of the Hendon testing station has shown that the vast majority of responsible motorists want this sort of testing to be developed. They have proved that by going along quite voluntarily to have their cars tested there. It seems to me that the motoring organisations are not now speaking for the responsible but for the irresponsible motorist, and I hope that the Minister will take no notice of any observations of that kind which they care to make. I should have thought that any responsible motoring organisation would have warmly welcomed this scheme and would have promised full co-operation with the Ministry and with the local authorities to make the testing scheme work successfully.

There are one or two matters that rather worry me in the Bill as it stands. For instance, I was somewhat worried when the right hon. Gentleman yesterday promised to look at the question of crash helmets for motor cyclists. I do not want to debate whether those helmets should be made compulsory, or whether the motor cyclist should be allowed voluntarily to use them and that there should be plenty of advertising with a view to extending their use. I want to raise the question of standards—which may apply not only to crash helmets but to other items of motoring equipment— which the Ministry may think ought to be applied in the interests of road safety.

I suggest that where standards are laid down by Ministerial authority, with the help of the British Standards Institution or other competent organisations, the onus of having equipment up to that standard should not rest upon the customer—the motor cyclist or the driver—but should be placed on the manufacturers and traders; and that it should be the manufacturer making equipment below standard, or attempting to sell equipment below standard, who should be proceeded against. It is altogether wrong that we should put this onus upon the users of the equipment. In spite of everything that may be done under the Merchandise Marks Acts and so on to prevent fraud and exploitation, there is still a great deal of dishonest advertising in the commercial world. Customers may fall victims to false advertising and should not be punished for it.

I turn next to parking meters. During the short debate we had about these on the Report stage, the Parliamentary Secretary suggested that opposition had completely disappeared because no voices had been raised in opposition. Certain of us may still not be convinced that parking meters will serve the purpose the Ministry has in mind of getting cars off the streets, particularly in the crowded areas of central London, but I do not think that those of us who disagree with the Ministry on this should continue our opposition at this stage.

The attitude we should adopt is that this is to be an experiment and that we want to see how it will work out. We should put our doubts on one side not only in regard to parking meters but in regard to other matters where we may be doubtful about the success or the virtues of Ministry schemes so that experiments can go on—and the more the better. However, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that the purpose of parking meters is to get the cars off the road, and he really should make sure that all garage space that can be used for this purpose is in fact being used.

I think the right hon. Gentleman knows the point I have in mind. If it were his predecessor who was sitting there I would persist in developing this, but I am sure the Minister will see that even garages which are taken by the Government ought now to be thrown open to the public. I believe that he will look at that matter in a very favourable light and will make sure that all the space that can be used for garaging cars in central London is so used.

In our discussions in Committee, the Minister in a number of cases had either to turn down proposals or to say that he would have to proceed very cautiously about them because those proposals would place very heavy burdens upon the police and that the police would not, so he was advised, be able in present circumstances to enforce them. When this Bill is out of the way and the Act is in operation, one important thing that the Minister should consider is whether the time has not now come to take road traffic control out of the hands of our ordinary police forces and put it under the care of a special traffic police force. I mentioned this on Second Reading, and it would, perhaps, be out of order to develop it now. Even under the Bill we shall not have proper control of the flow of traffic, the handling of accidents, the dealing with blockages, delays, the carrying out of testing, spot checking and so on, all of which are implicit in this Measure.

We shall not have those things properly carried out as long as we have a police force which is under strength and to which, because of its limitations, we cannot give any more duties to perform. I think that the time has come when we should very seriously consider whether all this work should not now be handed over to a special traffic police force with no other duties than those of seeing that our roads are kept accident-free as far as possible, that the traffic is kept moving and that blockages and delays are dealt with.

Finally, although some of us have misgivings about some aspects of the Bill and about its scope, I am sure that we all wish it well. I suggest, however, that this is not the end of our deliberations about road traffic problems. There are many more difficulties and many more problems still to be dealt with, and I hope that after this Bill becomes law we will get down to the other problems, including this traffic police force idea, without any delay.

12.47 p.m.

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

This is a great day to those of us who have lived with this Bill since July of last year, for we are here to give it, as I am sure we will, its Third Reading. As has already been said, it is not often that we have a Road Traffic Bill in this House. In some ways that is a pity, because with these great and complicated problems, many of whose aspects are changing from year to year, it might be wise to have such a Bill before us more frequently. When we do have such a Bill before us, with its many varied points, we give it full measure.

I should like to add my support to what has been said about the non-party atmosphere which has been present right through our deliberations since we gave this Measure its Second Reading. It will not go unnoticed in the country that when the House of Commons applies itself directly to matters affecting human safety and comfort it drops its political opinions, so to speak, and contributes the best of the brains of all Members of the House of Commons. In a word, the House of Commons is at its best when dealing with Measures of this kind.

I should like to join with others who have offered their congratulations to my right hon. Friend, the Minister, to his predecessor—now a Minister of another Department—and to my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, who has been with this Bill all the time it has been before the House since last July. All three have shown patience with the many points advanced from both sides and all have contributed in doing a very fine job. I should like to offer them all my very sincere congratulations.

I propose to develop one point only on one Clause, Clause 4, which deals with propaganda and road safety training to which I have made reference in this House on many occasions. When all the legislation is passed, when this House has concluded its weighty deliberations, when all the societies and organisations which deal with motor cars and the use of the roads have had their say and when all the special committees have been set up to further the cause of road safety, when all this has been done and everything that human ingenuity can devise has been conceived, road safety will still depend on the pattern and habit—indeed the good manners—of the individual.

Why is it that we accept the fact that today our children are much better trained in road safety than are we adults? It is because over the last quarter of a century, and especially in recent years, there has been an intensive campaign for the education of children in the proper use of the roads. That is why our children are better equipped, and I hope that future generations will be even better equipped, to preserve safety on the roads.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) thought that propaganda was a "shot in the arm." With great respect, I think that is only going so far along the road. What proper propaganda does, what useful road safety education does, is to inculcate a pattern of habit among road users, and that habit remains. It is not a question of selling something just for the time being. If the work is properly done, it should leave people with a habit of conduct, a habit of good manners, which will help in the preservation of life. The inculcation of good manners, which most of us experienced in our early days, was not a shot in the arm; it was something which I believe will remain with us throughout our days. Road safety, and all that goes with it, is something of the same nature and of the same importance.

There are about 5,000 fatalities on the roads every year. Let us put the other figure of injuries in the most emphatic and impressive way. One million people are injured every four years, a quarter of a million every year. Those figures are not decreasing. I believe that the reason they have not increased more, and thank goodness they have not, is that we have managed to keep them in check by intensive propaganda, especially in recent years. We must face the fact that we must continue to do that for ever and ever.

We are told that the number of vehicles in use will increase by millions in the next ten or fifteen years. Human frailty, the ordinary natural tendency to make mistakes, will always be the same. There will be this larger number of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) yesterday called "lethal weapons" on the roads. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said that he had been guilty, as all of us who drive have been guilty, of lapses from good driving. The only way in which we can stop these lapses is by having such propaganda inculcated into us that automatically we do the right thing. The more we can bring the practice of using the roads, as pedestrians or motorists, into a question of good manners as a matter of habit and less as a matter of objective thinking, the more we shall reduce the number of casualties, both dead and injured.

It is against that background that I commend Clause 4. I hope that this will not be merely lip service to propaganda. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned the amount of money which might be used for this purpose. I know nothing about the actual sums involved. but I am certain that whatever money can be found to implement the Clause objectively and thoroughly will be money well spent, not only because of the £150 million a year which accidents cost the country but because of the saving of human life. We are quite prepared in other connections to spend comparatively large amounts of money to preserve one human life. How much more should we be prepared to spend money to have a reasonable percentage of the five thousand lives which are lost every year, and to ensure a decrease in the number of people who are maimed or badly injured, sometimes for life.

I earnestly press my right hon. Friends and all concerned to make Clause 4 one of the outstanding parts of the Bill. I believe that, properly administered and in the long run, it can have more effect on road safety than any other Clause of the Bill. This is one kind of propaganda, from the Ministry or from the local authorities, which parents would take note of. There is not one father or mother who is not concerned with the safety of the children. Any kind of safety propaganda, as distinct from some of the political propaganda of which we have some experience, will have an effect in the homes if it is properly designed and addressed to the people.

I am sure that propaganda is the final answer and I am sure that it is the reason that we manage to preserve some kind of parity in the figures of accidents. It is a matter of education and of teaching our people how to preserve their lives in this age of ever-increasing traffic.

Once again I congratulate my right hon. Friends and express the hope that it will not be too long before the Bill receives the Royal Assent and becomes a historic landmark.

12.57 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

Many compliments have been paid to the Minister and to the other right hon. and hon. Members who have been associated with the Bill in its various stages. It is a Measure in connection with which no party pressure has been brought to bear on either side of the House. Therefore, for that reason, I find myself at liberty to express my regret at seeing the Bill in its present form.

Like the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) I have never been convicted of a motoring offence, and I never shall be, because I have never attempted to drive a motor and I have no intention of learning. The only thing I was ever taught to drive was a grocer's delivery van to which a cob was harnessed. I was taught by my father, and the first instruction he gave me was that the pedestrian had the first right to the use of the road. That maxim is buried for ever if the Bill becomes an Act.

The motorist, the possessor of an internal combustion engine, will have the first right of the road. If he does anything very drastic on it he has the right to go before a jury, but if a cyclist or a pedestrian, both of whom are now made amenable to the law by Clauses in the Bill, gets into trouble and is brought before a magistrates' court he has no right to trial by jury. The cyclist and pedestrian must make way for these offensive weapons that are on the roads.

The Bill does, therefore, mark a phase in the development of social life in this country which ought not to go unnoticed. I was glad that the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) emphasised that there is still a social responsibility upon all classes of users of the roads which ought still to be inculcated as one of the elementary principles of social conduct. Let us be quite certain that, without that, neither this nor any other legislation will do anything to reduce these appalling casualties on the roads.

I recollect the awful gloom which was cast over this country by the casualties in the Battle of Spion Kop—1,453, about a quarter of the annual slaughter on the roads. It is true that since the time of Spion Kop we have seen life sacrificed on a scale which would then have been unbelievable, but none the less it is important that we should bear in mind that 5,000 human lives, in a small country like this, are an appalling toll, when so many of them could be saved by the recognition of a standard of social conduct which one would have thought would appeal to every section of the community.

The use of the motor vehicle has, of course, spread over all the community; there is nowadays no section which could be regarded as outside the motor-using classes, particularly if we include the motor cycle. In the old days, users of vehicles formed a strictly limited section of the community; the nobility and gentry of the neighbourhood had their carriages, the tradesmen had their delivery vans, but, apart from that, very few people could give the time necessary to look after the animal which would have to draw the vehicle in those days. Now, people who want a car only for Sunday leave it in the garage during the week and take it out at weekends. The roads become almost unusable, and people wanting to get back to London from Worthing or Brighton have to spend several hours smelling the exhaust fumes from other people's cars.

Quite frankly, I feel that, in spite of all that is being done to improve this Measure, it does so mark a stage in the social development of this country that we should do well to realise its full implications. I am the more sorry that we appear to have to rely in this matter on voluntary social conduct rather than on any effective enforcement of the law. Yesterday, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department made it quite clear, discussing the new Clause which has been put in dealing with dogs, that the police force as a whole will not be taking any effective part in the enforcement of that Clause.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. W. F. Deedes)

I made no comment on that. I think the right hon. Gentleman may be under a misapprehension.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The right hon. Gentleman the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport said it.

Mr. Ede

I am sorry; the Joint Under-Secretary was here, and I apologise to him if I attributed to him something which his right hon. Friend, on his first day after his appointment to the Privy Council, said in laying down the law with regard to another Government Department, in a way which, I am sure, the Home Office, as the senior Department, must have regarded as most reprehensible.

Let us be quite certain that unless the police force regard the implementation of this Measure as among its most important duties, possibly the most important duty, in view of the loss of life involved in these motoring offences, this Measure will be very largely ineffective. Certainly, the proposal with regard to dogs will be ineffective. I hope that the police force will take a full share in dealing with the enforcement of the law when this Measure becomes an Act of Parliament.

I do not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) that what is needed is a new traffic police dealing with nothing else. If we cannot recruit for the police force, how shall we recruit for that new force?

In fact, it might lead to a further reduction in the recruits for the police force as a whole. Moreover, it would be another step towards putting the motorist into a privileged position, where the offences which he commits are not crimes but merely an exemplification of the wickedness of being found out, not of doing something which, on the confessions which we have heard here today from my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) down to the hon. Member for Buckingham. South —

Mr. Cole

Up to.

Mr. Ede

No. Of course, opinions as to the order of importance will vary on either side of the House; but on this matter, I may, after all, as a Privy Councillor myself, be allowed to regard a Privy Councillor as still entitled to a few privileges, in spite of the views of certain of my hon. colleagues in this House.

We heard from them the statement. made quite honestly, that infractions of the law are far more frequent than the number of prosecutions ever indicates. I hope that one result of our discussions today, and of this Bill, will be to bring home to the public that, as the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South said, the important thing is to have regard to our standard of social conduct, whether we be motorist or pedestrian, that is to say. whether we be the quick or those who, unless they are very lucky, will be the dead.

1.9 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

It is twenty-two years since we last had a Road Traffic Bill before the House, and in my opinion that period is far too long. I think we probably ought to have one every three or four years. The growth of the problem—a 10 per cent. increase in traffic every year, 2,000 new vehicles coming on the road every day, accidents going up 12½ per cent. every year—means that what is quite safe in fairly uncrowded conditions becomes extremely dangerous in crowded conditions. I suggest that it is up to the Minister of Transport, whatever Government we have, and to his Department, to impress upon the Cabinet—of whatever Government—the necessity for bringing our road traffic law up to date from time to time.

Personally, I think we undervalue the part that road transport and road traffic plays in this country. A lot of people still take a rather eighteenth century view of it, and think that a road which was good enough for horse traffic last century or in the eighteenth century is good enough for today. The great industry of road transport employs one in ten of the employed population, and some 7 million people drive vehicles on the roads. Despite what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has talked about, we are truly entering the era of democratic motoring, in which hundreds of thousands of people will in a short time, all have motor cars and be driving about the country. These facts must cause great problems, and we must go on facing them in the future.

I would not let the Bill pass without two short comments on its details. I am the first to agree that the maintenance of the standard of motor vehicles—cars in particular—is not all that it should be, but it should not be thought generally, as some people seem to think, that about three-quarters of the cars on the roads are unroadworthy. I consider that some of the criticisms from Hendon are rather hypercritical. Friends of mine have sent their cars to Hendon and have had black marks because their headlamps were not propery focussed. In fact, the fault was that the headlights were focussed too low and not too high. That is not dangerous at all, but it was marked as a fault.

Mr. Cole

What about the question of seeing a cyclist or someone else on the road, apart from an oncoming car?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I would not think it was a fault for a careful driver to have the headlights focussed too low.

It has been said that some of the horn buttons require rather more pressure than normal, and that those things have been checked as faults. I think that the standard of maintenance is such that about 15 per cent. of cars is rather defective, and nothing like the figures which have been quoted from Hendon.

Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)

Is it not a fact that in 20 per cent. of road accidents it has been shown that mechanical defects in the vehicles have been a contributory factor?

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Not in this country.

The figures brought forward by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) showed that accidents in America have been reduced by 10 or 20 per cent. by having annual testing. I do not dispute that. I am quite in favour of the compulsory testing. All I am saying is that I should not like it to be thought generally that 75 per cent. of cars on the roads are unroadworthy, for I do not think that is true.

I must say a word for the garage trade. The right hon. Member for South Shields has said some black things in his references to "horse-coppers" and so on in the garage trade. There are 15,000 garages in the country, some of them very good and responsible. There are black sheep amongst them, but I am confident that there are sufficient good ones, many of whom already have their own testing lanes and undertake this work for the public, to be able to choose from them and authorise them as garages which arc worthy and sufficiently responsible to test vehicles, in addition to the testing by the public testing stations.

As I have said. we should have a road traffic Bill every few years to bring ourselves up to date. I realise that the standard of driving is not as good as it should be. I am one of those Members of Parliament who is taking an active interest in promoting an Institute of Advanced Driving which would introduce. on a voluntary basis, an advanced driving test for those who care to take it. We hope that that will have a salutary and psychological effect in encouraging young people, not merely to be road users or people who have simply passed a driving test, but people who will present themselves for a second and more advanced test. If that comes about, I think it will improve the standard of driving.

We shall have these road traffic problems with us for the rest of our lives, and they will probably go on increasing in intensity. Therefore, I welcome the Bill as a step forward in dealing with this great problem.

1.15 p.m.

Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)

I should like to make two or three points before coming to the one which I regard as the most important. As a driver of more than twenty-five years' experience, my greatest difficulty is caused by dazzle at night. At times one is almost terrified to go on or to slow down because of what may be coming behind. I, for one, welcomed an offer by the police in my locality of the free testing of lights.

Secondly, I implore the Minister to use the technique of Guinness for advertising, with one large poster on the same site always displaying something fresh. That technique has never induced me to drink Guinness but, at the same time, I always look for the advertisements with great interest.

My third point is that the law should be enforced. I am reminded of an incident a week or two ago, when I came across two goats which had been parked beside a public highway for the last five months. They were in a dangerous spot but nobody had done anything about it.

I was impelled to try to take part in this debate because in my post this morning was news of a 12-year-old boy on a bicycle who was killed at the Tuckingmill crossroads, about two miles from my home. I wrote to the Minister about the danger of that crossroads three years ago. Only a mile away is a dangerous crossroad, for which the local authority has petitioned for traffic lights, but the application has been refused by the Ministry because of the cost. I implore the Minister, when allocating his expenditure for road improvements year by year, to consider whether he cannot set aside a fairly substantial sum—say, 10 per cent.—for the improvement of small crossroads. That would go a long way towards making our roads safer, and towards remedying a situation which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will appreciate, is like that of thousands of schools which are in a hopeless condition because successive Ministers of Education have not provided the money to carry out small improvements.

1.18 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Hayman) has drawn attention to one aspect of road safety with which we can- not deal in legislation. Indeed, that position has occurred on many occasions in dealing with the Bill. We can legislate to a certain extent for road safety, but it lies within the hands of the Minister and of local authorities in many cases to provide the safety measures. Nevertheless, we can do a great deal by legislation of this nature.

The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) grossly exaggerated in describing the deprivation of pedestrians, under the Bill, of their rights. As hon. Members who were members of the Standing Committee know, there could be no greater champion of the pedestrian in this House than myself. I am convinced that in the Bill there are many safety measures which will be of the greatest benefit to all road users, whether on foot or on cycle or driving vehicles. Indeed, the most important thing that developed from our discussions on the Bill was the deep concern of Members. both in Committee and in the House, to make this a road safety Measure.

At one stage in the Standing Committee I proposed an alteration in the Title of the Bill so that it should be called a Road Safety and Road Traffic Bill and not simply a Road Traffic Bill. I felt then that I was, perhaps, being a little cynical, and I also felt that it was, perhaps, a little hypocritical to say that the Bill contained any substantial provisions for road safety. It is true there were Clauses about the financing of road safety propaganda, and that there were provisions for increasing penalties. but there were at that time no substantial measures for safety.

While I sincerely congratulate the Minister and his predecessor and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary upon the introduction and their conduct of the various stages of the Bill, and thank them for their patience with many of us who talked for a long time in the Standing Committee, I do not think they will mind our putting on record today that in so far as the Bill contains measures to ensure road safety it is really a back benchers' Bill.

Until the new Clauses were introduced, until the Bill came to the House on Report, safety measures were absent from it. Now it contains certain substantial ones. There is to be compulsory testing of vehicles. A provision to ensure that was brought about by pressure from the private Members on both sides of the House. There is provision for the control of young motor cyclists, and if it is implemented it will contribute greatly to safety. There is provision for the control of dogs. That, I am sure, will prevent a great number of accidents on the roads.

I have tried to estimate in figures how many casualties the Bill will save us if it is fully implemented. It is almost a mathematical certainty, judging by the information which we have from the United States, that if the provisions for the compulsory testing of vehicles are fully implemented accidents can be reduced by 10 per cent. One can say that the casualties will be reduced even more, and I would put that saving at 12 per cent.—a 12 per cent. reduction in the number of casualties if compulsory testing is fully enforced.

If the proposals relating to the control of dogs are fully carried out we shall prevent between 2,000 and 3,000 accidents a year—accidents in which human beings are injured or killed, and which also involve dogs. In 2,000 or 3,000 accidents there are probably many more casualties than the accident figures, and I should say that we could prevent 1 per cent. at least of all road casualties by implementing the provisions relating to the control of dogs.

We can prevent another 1 per cent. of casualties by implementing the proposals relating to motor cyclists and controlling the younger motor cyclists on their powerful machines. The miscellaneous provisions in the Bill should prevent another 1 per cent. of casualties. That amounts to a total reduction of casualties of 15 per cent. a year, which is well over a hundred casualties a day.

I am sure that if the Bill is fully implemented, if the Minister and the local authorities use the permissive powers which the Bill gives them, the casualties can be reduced by a hundred or more a day. It is up to the Minister and the local authorities to use those permissive powers. We are doing no more by the Bill than to say to them, "You can prevent casualties". That is the most, perhaps, that we can do here on the Floor of the House.

That is very important, however, for we can—I emphasise "can"—legislate for road safety. Study of the graph of acci- dents since the records were commenced in the 1920s shows that we can. Apart from the times when petrol was restricted, there have been only two occasions when the graph has dropped. The first was in 1934 and the other in 1952. In 1934 we legislated for a 30 m.p.h. speed limit. In 1952 we legislated for the zebra crossings. On those two occasions, and only on those two occasions, has the number of accidents dropped, but it shows that we can, by legislation, reduce the number of accidents and I believe that the Bill, if fully implemented, will succeed in reducing them.

1.25 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I do not think we can pass the Bill without putting on record our special appreciation of my right hon. Friend for the way in which he took over this very intricate Bill late in its course through Parliament and at short notice, and proceeded to deal with it with considerable skill, patience and moderation.

The Bill is likely to receive a certain amount of criticism outside the House, and perhaps in another place, and it is therefore worth noting, as a number of hon. Members have noted, that the Bill has not been dealt with on party lines. I am never quite sure why people are surprised that matters are dealt with here on party lines. People should expect them to be, and should expect that in the normal course. They should give hon. Members the credit for sincerely believing, having sought election to Parliament in support of a party, in the programme of that party. If people do give that credit to hon. Members, then it should not be surprising to them if hon. Members back a party programme in the House. Nevertheless, it will be noted in the country, and perhaps, as I hope, in another place, that this Bill has not been dealt with on party lines. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) remarked, this Bill is of the nature of a general provisions Bill.

In such a Bill there is bound to be a variety of opinion as to what to put in the Bill and what not to put in it, and what ought to be given greater prominence in it, and I hope that when people outside consider the Bill and wish it contained some provision it does not they will understand that other people think that some other provisions ought to be in it which are not in it. This is a very large subject on which a very great many people have a very great many ideas not all of which could be included.

I hope that my right hon. Friend's remarks today about motorways will be noted. There is a tendency amongst many people to suppose that to make an improvement in the highways is all that is necessary for safety. Some hon. Members recently had the opportunity to hear a lecture by a very eminent German authority on road engineering, and we were surprised at the stress he put on the importance of improving the entrances to and exits from the towns before building motorways between them. In his view things could be made much worse by providing highways between towns unless the entrances to and exits from the towns were first improved, because bottlenecks were thus disregarded, or even thereby made worse, at those points. It is a fact which is sometimes overlooked.

In conclusion, I would refer to the parking meters. There is a great variety of opinion about them in this country and elsewhere. It is a distinctive feature of the Bill that the provisions relating to parking meters are linked with the provision of money to assist in the building of off-street parking places. There is great difficulty about off-street parking because of the considerable capital cost of building garages, whether autosite or other garages above ground or underground. Private enterprise hesitates to undertake it, because the profit is speculative, whereas it is certain the capital cost is high. Municipalities also hesitate because of the considerable cost. The way proposed in the Bill is different from that followed in other countries, in that it does provide the money to assist, and its new provisions for off-street parking we all ought to welcome. I am sure we all approve of the Bill, and I hope that it will soon be passed by another place.

1.30 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

I wish to join in the praises which have been showered upon the Minister and his predecessor for the way in which they have handled the Bill. I should also like to congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary upon his eleva- tion to the Privy Council. I feel that his work in connection with the Bill over a long period has shown him to be a worthy appointee, if that is the right word, to that body. We have experienced in Committee and elsewhere his knowledge of the Bill. He has put in an enormous amount of work on it. I feel personally grateful to him and as a fellow-Member for Derbyshire I should like to congratulate him very warmly.

The Bill is intended to promote road safety, to relieve the congestion on our roads caused by short-term parking, and to deal with some glaring anomalies in the law. I regard the first of these purposes as by far the most important, namely the attempt to do something about the appalling problem of death and maiming on the roads. People ought to have the figures of casualties and fatalities ever before them. As far as legislation can do something about it, I believe the Bill will help, but I have no illusions on the subject. I believe that much the greater contribution must come from our approach as road users to the use made of our roads.

Education in the art of using our limited road space is of paramount importance, and I hope that, whatever cuts the Chancellor of the Exchequer may care to impose on the Ministry of Transport, none will fall upon the job of educating people in the use of our roads. I hope that the Minister will fight tooth and nail —and he has always shown himself capable of fighting—to prevent any cut in this type of education.

Road users must also recognise that they should exercise a greater degree of tolerance towards other road users. I believe that a great deal can be done if people are courteous to others, which means that in using the roads they do not assert the rights which they believe they have. There are many people in another place—and I am not referring to another place along the corridor in the Palace of Westminster—who say when they get there, "Yes, but I was in the right." Too many of us are inclined to say that and run the risk of accident as a result of claiming a right which we suppose to be ours. It surprises me that so many decent, kindly and courteous people become dangerous and ill-mannered boors when they get behind the steering wheel of a car. They assert themselves in a way which they would never normally dream of doing.

Perhaps the most outstanding thing that Parliament can do in relation to road safety is to bring our roads to a reasonable relationship with the use which we now try to make of them. Parliament ought to insist more and more upon this aspect of our legislation and the use made of legislation by the Minister. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has reminded us that new registrations of vehicles are taking place at the rate of nearly one million a year. If they continue at that rate, obviously the roads will become perfectly safe, unless something is done about it, because nothing at all will be moving on them. but, at the same time. our economy will have come to a standstill.

I congratulate the Minister upon his courage in inserting in the Bill the provision for testing vehicles and upon reversing something that was done by his predecessor. He must have persuaded the Cabinet to agree to his point of view. I think that motorists and motorists' organisations are very much mistaken in their attitude of opposition to the testing of vehicles. I believe that as time goes by they will recognise the value of these compulsory tests and will join with the rest of us in trying to drastically reduce the minimum age of ten years at which a car must be compulsorily tested.

I regret that the Minister did not find it possible to adopt an Amendment proposed from this side of the House relating to a compulsory test before vehicles are sold. I know that I cannot develop that point on Third Reading, but I think that he or some subsequent Minister or Government will eventually have to come to it. The Bill effects a welcome change in the law relating to motoring offences. It tightens the law in some respects and changes it in relation to the offence of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. I notice that the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) made sweeping assertions about the failure of our criminal law to deal with motoring offences, but I am glad that he excepted from those assertions the penalty for offences involving drink and the enforcement of those penalties.

Every time I pass by a public house during the evening opening hours I am frightened at the increase in the number of cars parked outside them. I see it in Derbyshire and wherever I go. The driver gets out of the car and goes inside the public house and, much too often, remains there until after closing time. I am fairly sure that the practice has increased ten-fold in the past three or four years. It is no chance that there is a distinct relationship between that fact and the fact that casualty figures shoot up after closing time.

Magistrates are nothing like as severe as they ought to be upon people who commit offences associated with drink. I am no teetotaller, but I do not believe that people should drive cars when they have been taking drink anywhere. We should do something about it. I find as a magistrate that when some of these and other motoring offenders come before the bench there is, as pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), a tendency on the part of the magistrates to look at the man in the dock and say, "There, but for the grace of God, stand I." As a result of that sort of feeling there is a tendency to impose a lighter sentence than the seriousness of the offence ought to demand. There is also the fact that year after year we go on imposing fines which bear no relationship at all to the altered value of money and the resultant punishment which that inflicts upon those who ought to be punished as a result of their acts when driving this thing which has been called a lethal weapon.

The Clauses relating to parking meters have been the subject of much opposition from various interested organisations. Yet it is right that we should have included this provision in the Bill, because too much use is made of our roads for long-term parking. We ought to be driving these long-term parkers into proper provision which should have been made for them, but it is impossible to do that if the provision does not exist.

In this connection I hope the Minister will continue to use such powers as he has to encourage local authorities to use the money which will accrue to them from parking meters and in other ways, in order to provide proper parking facilities to get short-term parkers off the roads. At this time, when we want wider roads and more room upon which to drive, the motorists are causing those roads daily to become much narrower than they ought to be by using the roads for an entirely wrong purpose.

We shall watch the experiment of parking meters with interest. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall has said, we shall support the Minister in anything he does in this connection and in the amounts that he charges for the period beyond the first limited time. When this was mentioned in the House the other day I called attention to a case in America in which someone, seeing that the time was just about to expire, had put a nickel into the meter and had then stuck a label on the car window which read:

' we have put one nickel into the meter. This comes to you by courtesy of'"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1956; Vol. 553, c. 298. I said that there followed the name of some advertising agency which I could not remember. I have looked it up and found to my astonishment that the quotation should read:

A nickel has been placed in the parking meter by the courtesy of the Salem and Evangelical Reformed Church. I hope that none of our churches will follow that example, which comes from Buffalo, New York State, America.

We support the Minister on this Bill, we wish this Bill quick progress through the other place, and the Minister well also, in the administration of it.

1.43 p.m.

Mr. Watkinson

I shall not make another long speech in winding up this debate, but I want to make three points. Before doing so. however, I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Champion) for his kind words about my right hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who cannot be here today for the best of reasons. I repeat what I said in Committee, that I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend for the great help and expert assistance he has given me throughout this Bill while I have been in charge of it. As we all know, my right hon. Friend has played a notable part.

First, may I assure hon. and right hon. Members that I shall take a careful note of what has been said today, Secondly, on the question of roads, I am glad that several hon. Members have taken up that point. It is essential that we do not regard any one thing as being the panacea for road accidents and road problems. Whilst new roads are essential, even the type of new roads must not be restricted entirely to inter-city motor roads if we are to get the right answer to the problem. I do not want people to get the idea that there is a simple way out of our traffic and accident problems. There is not. We all know that in this House, certainly those of us who have studied the subject in Committee upstairs.

My third point answers some of the proper views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), and by other hon. Members, as to what progress will be made in solving these problems once the Bill becomes law. I say as plainly as I can that flexibility and willingness to proceed by agreement, as we always should, must not be taken to mean that I am not determined to use this Measure, if I get it, to the full extent. I am glad to know that in this I shall have the full support of the House, because I may need it.

As hon. Members have said, some of the decisions are bound to be unpopular. However, I hope that as they are developed, and as it is seen that they are for the sake of the nation and for the benefit of everybody who uses the roads, all will co-operate reasonably in at least giving them a fair trial. I thought that hon. Members who have opposed parking meters, and who have now taken a different view, were fair in pointing out that although perhaps they still do not like the idea, it is right to give them a fair trial, indeed an extended trial. That, I hope, will be the attitude of all concerned to the measures which will flow from this Bill.

Finally, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), with his great knowledge as a past Home Secretary mentioned it, I should say that whilst it has been necessary during this Bill to say that the police will find certain measures difficult to enforce, I know he will agree with me if I say that, once they are matters of law, of course the police will loyally enforce them, as they always do. However, I thought it was right at various stages of the Bill to indicate which measures would place an extra burden on an already overstrained police force. But neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I interpret that as meaning that the police will not co-operate, as I trust everybody else will, in trying to give the measures taken under this Bill a fair run in order to ensure that they are properly enforced. If we do that, I am convinced that we shall make a successful contribution to solving a great national problem.

I hope, therefore, that this House will give the measure a Third Reading, and that it may go on its way quickly so that we may have its benefits as soon as possible.

1.48 p.m.

Mr. Reader Harris (Heston and Isleworth)

Whilst I do not necessarily agree with everything in the Bill, I shall certainly approach it in the way the Minister requests and will give some of the new ideas a chance. I add my congratulations to those of other hon. Members to the Minister in the way he has handled the Bill.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) drew attention to the fact that this opens a new era for pedestrians, because this is the first time that they have not automatically had the right of way. I suppose it will now be true to say that the only time the pedestrian will automatically have the right of way is when he is in an ambulance. Now some attempt is to be made to control his activities and this is done in Clause 10 of the Bill. On the whole I think that is a good idea, though I should have thought that the amounts of the fines proposed for pedestrians tend to be rather high. The fine for a first offence of a pedestrian going against the directions of a constable controlling the traffic is somewhat high at £10, with £25 for a second offence.

I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) about Clause 7, and I hope that after the Bill has been through another place that Clause will be missing. However, that may be optimism on our part.

My main point is on parking meters and on the provision of power for the Minister to provide parking places. I hope it will be borne in mind that the more parking places we provide, the more motorists will be tempted to bring their cars into the centre of London. If a large number of parking places are provided, the roads will become more congested. Indeed, we might reach a stage where it will not be possible to move along the roads.

These matters have been pointed out to us by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) and others. I hope the Minister will bear in mind the possibility of providing parking places outside London, and of consulting the appropriate Minister with a view to setting up shopping centres on the perimeter so that people may shop there rather than inside London.

Parking meters may not be the great success that it is hoped they will be. Charging heavily for their use is a further imposition on motorists, a serious additional charge to the already heavy costs motorists have to incur. I hope the Minister will approach this aspect in the way that we do and will be prepared to remove parking meters if in the end they are found not to be giving exactly what they arc designed to give.

I hope the Minister will bear in mind the great problem which he will create if, by providing more parking places, he encourages motorists to bring their cars into London. Everything should be done to encourage motorists to leave their cars at home and travel by public transport. Otherwise we shall reach an impossible position.

Apart from those remarks. I wish the Bill every success.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.