HC Deb 31 May 1956 vol 553 cc489-506

  1. (1) The Minister may make regulations requiring persons driving motor cycles of a prescribed class or description on a road or who are carried in such circumstances as may be prescribed on or in such motor cycles while they are being driven on a road, to wear in accordance with the prescribed requirements helmets complying with the prescribed conditions.
  2. (2) Regulations under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.
  3. (3) Any person who contravenes or fails to comply with any regulations made under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding five pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent offence to a fine not exceeding ten Pounds.
  4. (4) In !his section "motor cycles" mean vehicles which are classed as motor cycles in section two of the Act of 1930, and "prescribed" means prescribed by regulations made under this section.—[Mr. Nicholson.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)

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

This new Clause deals with the very controversial matter of crash helmets for motor cyclists. It has two objects. The first is to enable the Minister to prescribe definite specifications for crash helmets, and the second is to make their use compulsory. When I say "enable" I refer to the word "may" in subsection (1). As the House knows, the word "may" in an Act of Parliament does not mean "may." In an Act of Parliament it is mandatory.

I propose the new Clause for perfectly simple reasons. I believe it is the duty of every Member of the House to make what contribution he can towards the reduction of what is called "the toll of the roads." I have no doubt whatever that this Clause, if accepted, will reduce the number of deaths on the roads, and the number of serious injuries.

I do not propose to argue at any length the merits or demerits of crash helmets. I know full well that many motor cyclists have valid objections to them. They say they take away the joy of motor cycling. Many of them say that they give them headaches. In certain weather conditions they may make them sweat and thus make it more dangerous for them to ride their motor cycles. There are many other similar objections raised against them. I do indeed sympathise with them. I used to be a keen motor cyclist myself, and I am sure I should have had many of those objections.

Two facts remain, however, and they are incontrovertible, first, that crash helmets do reduce deaths and injuries, and, secondly—and very important it is that the Government are convinced of it. It is the official and often-declared policy of the Ministry of Transport to encourage the use of crash helmets and to exhort motor cyclists to adopt them. Indeed, in the Services and in Government employment the use of crash helmets by motor cyclists is obligatory, and the wonder is, therefore, that the Government do not at once accept the principle of the new Clause and make crash helmets compulsory for all motor cyclists.

The first object of the Clause is to instruct the Minister to issue regulations defining a crash helmet, prescribing its thickness, its hardness, its size, etc. I do not think that anybody in the House could have any objection to that. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster Mr. Nabarro), who will second the Motion, knows of a case that occurred in his locality only a few days ago, and he will refer to it, for it brings out the need o have crash helmets which really are rash helmets, and the disastrous consequences of failing to have them.

6.15 p.m.

The really controversial matter of the Clause is the compulsion. People say a man has a right to kill himself and that we should not protect the fool from his own folly. That raises philosophical questions which we cannot deal with at great length now. However, we cannot be logical. Parliament does not attempt to be logical in these matters. We pass legislation to prevent a man from drugging himself to death with dangerous drugs. Yet a man may drink himself to death. People may go on drinking themselves to death if they want to. We just cannot be logical.

However, a man is not in complete isolation. His death causes grief to his relatives and friends, and it may make for widowhood and the leaving of children orphans. The expense of treatment for injury in hospital falls on the State. More important still, the loss of valuable lives—amongst motor cyclists, mainly young lives—to the State at this time is one that cannot be ignored.

People say there are too many laws; they are against too many laws and regulations. It will probably be argued that motor cyclists suffer in crashes many other injuries than head injuries. Crashes result in the most ghastly injuries. In crashes motor cyclists are castrated: they break their legs. This new Clause may be the first step, it may be said, to the wearing of protective clothing which will mitigate the effects of crashes or ward off these ghastly injuries. I reply again that we cannot be logical, and I would point out that head injuries are an exceptional category. First, they are particularly bad in their consequences, and, secondly, they are far the easiest to guard against.

A third argument which, I suspect, will be raised by my right hon. Friend is that the enforcement of regulations of this sort will cast an undue burden on an already depleted police force. I, of course, am not capable of judging that as well as the Ministry is, but personally I do not think it would cast much of a burden on the police force. I do not think that the Clause would entail many prosecutions. As soon as it becomes known that the wearing of crash helmets is obligatory, as soon as a crash helmet becomes a normal part of the furniture of a motor bike, motor cyclists will universally adopt them. Thus I do not think there would be many prosecutions, and I think that the argument of an undue burden being cast on the police is largely fallacious.

The House may ask me how many lives I think will be saved if the new Clause is adopted. Of course, I can give no answer. It is pure speculation. However, I do not think I shall be contradicted when I say that some lives will be saved. I do not think I shall be contradicted when I say that if it could be proved that five hundred lives would be saved the House would have no hesitation in adopting the new Clause. What number or estimate of lives to be saved would the House take as a starting point?

I was reading in the Bible a few days ago about how Abraham argued with the Almighty about the impending destruction of Sodom. The House will remember that Abraham asked the Almighty if he would spare Sodom if there were fifty just and righteous men in the city, and the Almighty said he would, but Abraham, fearing there might not be that number, asked the Almighty if he would spare the city for forty-five just men, and the Almighty said he would. There was a sort of Dutch auction, and finally Abraham obtained the Almighty's assurance that the city would be spared for the sake of ten just men. Unhappily, there were not so many just men, and Sodom was not spared.

If I could say that fifty lives would be saved, would the House not consider it desirable to adopt the new Clause? I say that some lives would be saved and a great deal of suffering and a great many injuries avoided. I suggest that if we are in earnest in the phrases which we constantly echo—that it is up to Parliament to do something serious about reducing the toll on the roads—this is an opportunity.

If the House fails to adopt the new Clause, hon. and right hon. Members can go home tonight knowing that, no doubt with good reasons, they have failed to take the perfectly good opportunity offered to them to save life and avoid injury and suffering. I see the valid objections, but I believe that the saving of life and the avoidance of suffering outweigh them all. This is an interesting subject from more than one point of view, and I await the speeches of hon. Members and the Minister's reply with interest.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

I beg to second the Motion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) was kind enough to make a short reference to a fatality in Kidderminster recently which attracted a good deal of attention in the national, provincial and local Press, but before I refer to that I want to mention from personal experience why I have always considered that it is a matter of the highest importance for any who ride in vehicles that are open, that is, not of a closed motor car type of construction, to have some form of protective headdress or gear.

As a young private soldier in the Regular Army about 1930, while serving in the first fully-mechanised battalion of the British Army at that time, on manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain, I was a machine-gunner on what was called a Carden-Lloyd tracked vehicle. It was an open vehicle, that is, without a top, and it had a rather dangerous tendency to overturn. A number of those vehicles collided and one or two overturned. The vehicles were largely experimental in character.

I was hurled out of one such vehicle, and I was saved from serious head injury because I was wearing a steel helmet. No doubt I should have lost my life had I not been wearing it. [HON. MEMBERS: "An argument against."] No, it is an argument for. In all seriousness, I would add that the driver of the vehicle in which I was riding, who was not wearing a steel helmet—which was not then obligatory in that type of vehicle—suffered severe concussion and was afterwards invalided out of the Army. I regarded it as very fortunate that he was not killed.

Many of us who have been motor cyclists have been thrown from a machine, and we know from personal experience that unless there is some sort of protection for the head there is real danger of concussion or of a fatality. I believe that a large number of motor cycles in this country are usefully driven by people travelling to and from work and so on, but, equally, large numbers of motor cycles are driven by youngsters, often recklessly, in pursuit of pleasure.

Many of these youngsters are not sufficiently responsible to recognise the great pain and suffering which they cause to relatives and others, and the inconvenience. trouble and expense which they cause to public authorities, notably the police, as a result of their irresponsibility in riding motor cycles, often at reckless speeds. I am not being unduly derogatory because I am conscious that most of us in our teens and early twenties have had a craze for speed, but I do regard it as a duty that the Government should provide protection for these persons who have not sufficient common sense to protect themselves.

The first point is that what we have been exhorting people to do by Ministerial statements and advice and otherwise, namely, that drivers of motor cycles, pillion riders and even those riding in sidecars, should wear protective helmets of one kind or another, should now in the terms of the Bill be made obligatory. The second point is a complementary matter and relates directly to the fatality in Kidderminster early in May, 1956, that is three or four weeks ago. This was what directed my attention to this problem, and brought me into close association with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham in seeking legislative powers, not only to make the wearing of helmets by motor cyclists obligatory, but also to enable the Minister to specify minimum standards of proficiency, durability and resistance for those helmets.

I suggest that there are three types of helmets with which the Minister would be concerned in this connection. First, there would be a steel helmet, secondly a non-ferrous alloy helmet, and, thirdly, a helmet made of a substitute material, not necessarily metallic in character. I believe a steel helmet not to be very valuable in this connection, because the danger is that a man might knock himself out or injure his head against the inside of the helmet. In any event, it is too heavy to be worn by the majority of men and women who ride motor cycles, although it provides good protection if there is suitable padding inside it.

The second type of helmet, made of non-ferrous alloy, has certain susceptibilities which might make it not very suitable in this connection, notably as it is liable to fracture, though of course it has the inestimable advantage of being light. It is the third type of helmet with which the Minister ought to be particularly concerned, that is the one made of substitute material. I say this because of the fatality to which I referred and I should like to quote briefly from a local newspaper, the Kidderminster Shuttle. [Laughter.] I cannot understand the ribaldry. Kidderminster is the most famous carpet-manufacturing town in the world. A shuttle is an operative part of a carpet loom, hence the name of the local newspaper.

The following appeared in that newspaper on Friday, 11th May, under the headings, "Crash Helmet was of Cardboard; Rider Fractured His Skull; Coroner's Comments On Road Tragedy ": A motor-cyclist killed in an accident in Stourport Road, Kidderminster, while wearing a crash helmet was found to have received two fractures of the skull, it was stated at an inquest at Kidderminster last Tuesday afternoon. A woman doctor said the crash helmet the rider was wearing was made of compressed cardboard and the North Worcestershire Coroner (Mr. Brian G. Evers) said it was most unfortunate that such helmets should be made and sold as they might give a false sense of security. The jury, in returning a verdict of ' Accidental Death' added a rider"— and that is not another motor cycle rider— urging that crash helmets should be standardised. The inquest was on Charles Arthur Pollit (45), a welder⁀ That is the type of case which causes a good deal of anxiety in the country.

Exhortation to motor cyclists to wear crash helmets is inadequate. The wearing should be made compulsory, but it would be valueless to make it so unless the Minister had powers to specify the structure of the crash helmets and the minimum standards of proficiency, durability and resistance that he considered suitable for general use by men, women and children whether as riders of motor cycles, pillion riders or as passengers in sidecars.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that there should also be a maximum price imposed to prevent exploitation?

Mr. Nabarro

That is a matter for the President of the Board of Trade, for which undoubtedly he possesses powers. I would not favour any subsidy at the expense of public funds in this matter. It is apposite to mention that a miner's helmet is sold for 2s. but is heavily subsidised by the National Coal Board to enable it to be sold for that amount. I do not believe that there is undue profiteering in the manufacture and sale of various types of crash helmets at the present time.

Mr. Watkinson

Perhaps I can save the time of the Committee, because we still have a great deal of work before us, if I say now what is my view of this proposed Clause.

The first thing about which there is some misunderstanding, and which makes it difficult for me, is that the construction placed upon the Clause by my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) and by me is not the same. Certainly I could not accept a mandatory Clause which would lay on me the duty, now or in the near future, to make it illegal not to wear a crash helmet. For one thing, the police have advised me that they could not enforce it. For another, it would be regarded as an intolerable burden until the general acceptance of crash helmets is more widespread, growing though it may be.

On the other hand, I see the benefit of wearing a crash helmet. Here, I must tell the House that casualties amongst motor cyclists not only remain heavy but, I am afraid, were 22 per cent, higher in 1955 than they were in 1954, so that it is a serious problem. To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), I would say that I do not think that it would be right, on the whole, merely to prescribe standards, and it would be difficult to do so by legislation, unless I dealt also with the question of the wearing of a crash helmet.

Because I am impressed by the case made by my hon. Friends, and am even more impressed by the necessity of trying to do something to avoid severe casualties, I think that the fairest thing to do is to give an undertaking—if my hon. Friend will withdraw his Clause—to see whether, in another place, a Clause could be introduced making it clear that merely permissive powers are given to me, so that if the voluntary use of crash helmets does not continue to increase at a satisfactory rate, as it is increasing at the moment, I could at a later stage make a regulation which would make obligatory the wearing of a crash helmet when riding a motor cycle.

I do not wish to take that upon me at this stage, and I wish to think about it carefully first. I must make it plain, however, that I could not use even purely permissive powers at the moment, not only because I am assured that the police cannot assume this extra burden, but because we must see whether the large increase in the voluntary use of crash helmets meets the need without my having to make the practice mandatory.

Mr. Nabarro

May I ask a question arising out of what my right hon. Friend has said? I appreciate the difficulty, from a Parliamentary point of view, of having a Statutory Instrument to prescribe minimum standards for crash helmets. Is not this a matter upon which the British Standards Institution could, relatively easily, get into touch with manufacturers, and from that basis could not my right hon. Friend act in the matter?

Mr. Watkinson

That is a valuable suggestion, and I will look into it carefully. However, if I introduce a Clause in another place, it will cover both wearing and standards, and that will be an even more powerful weapon.

Mr. Joseph Slater (Sedgefield)

I hope that the Minister will not introduce compulsion in relation to the wearing of crash helmets. I say that because I believe that the civilian population of this country is becoming so restricted by compulsion that, if this suggestion is accepted, I can see compulsion spreading in other directions.

It has been stated that people in the mining industry wear safety helmets, but that practice is not compulsory. I believe that we have reached a position where we ought to consider whether the ordinary member of society possesses average intelligence. We are already ensuring that young people shalll pass a test to prove their capability before taking a vehicle on the road. So I think that we should leave this matter as a voluntary one, instead of seeking to introduce more compulsion than there is at the moment for the people of this country, who are already so restricted in their movements.

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

I support strongly the views of the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater). I want to ask my right hon. Friend a question. Should the Minister find it desirable to take permissive powers, will he give an assurance that these will be in such a form that any order made under them will come before the House, and be debated?

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

Within the last two weeks there has been a fatal accident to a motor cyclist living in my constituency whilst travelling to his work as an attendant at one of the local hospitals. He was wearing a crash helmet. He collided with a vehicle and was killed. At the inquest a qualified motorcycle engineer gave evidence that the crash helmet was useless for the purpose for which it was sold, but that it carried a British Standards Institution certificate.

I have taken up the matter with the firm concerned, who have produced a copy of the certificate stating that the crash helmet met the specifications of the British Standards Institution. That matter is being discussed with the engineer by correspondence. He still maintains, however, that for the purpose of avoiding injury from a crash, the helmet is useless. How will it be possible to decide between those two conflicting opinions?

There is another danger, that if the Minister makes a regulation he will create an impression in the minds of motor-cyclists that the specified helmets are adequate for the purpose. In other words, he will create a false belief in their minds that they can take risks which otherwise they would not take. Therefore, if the Minister makes such a regulation as he contemplates, I hope he will exercise the greatest possible care not to create in the minds of motor cyclists a false belief that there is more safety than there really is.

Mr. R. Bell

I could not let this debate pass without agreeing in principle with the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater). I feel that this is an entirely inappropriate subject for the use of compulsion. Here we have a case of a man or woman who goes on the roads and is not wearing a crash helmet. It may be foolish, but that individual puts nobody in danger except himself or herself. There could not be a clearer case of the principle that it is not right in any general case to interfere with an adult person solely for what one believes to be his own good. As the hon. Member for Sedgefield put the point, the question is whether the ordinary member of society has average intelligence. One could carry that a stage further and ask whether he will have average intelligence if Parliament continues to take responsibility away from people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) said that a man is not alone in society, that he has parents and a family, and that others would also be bereaved by his death— that society would lose the lives of young people. But all these are arguments which could be advanced in defence of any interference with the liberty of the subject. No man is isolated, even when he makes any error of judgment whereby he deploys himself to less than his best advantage. He not only deprives himself of something, but also deprives his relatives and all those who take an interest in his welfare. If that is an argument for imposing on him by law a wise course of conduct, then of course the cause of liberty is lost.

Mr. Nabarro

While I do not disagree that there is a conflict of principle as to whether compulsion is desirable or otherwise, would not my hon. Friend agree that in protection of the very large number of motor cyclists who buy crash helmets, there ought to be Ministerial power to prescribe minimum standards of efficiency?

Mr. Bell

That is an entirely different matter, and my hon. Friend might well be right about that.

The basic effect of the new Clause would be to compel people to wear crash helmets, and my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham said that we cannot be too logical in these matters. My hon. Friend said that we do not let a man drug himself to death, but that is not true; we do. It is not an offence for a man to drug himself to death; it is not an offence to buy dangerous drugs. It is an offence to sell them without proper authority, and that is the dividing line which our law has always laid down and accepted.

We prevent people from doing wrong things which may damage others, but, though one cannot be absolute, because there may be special exceptions here and there, in general we do not prevent adult people of normal intelligence, by which I mean people not certified under the appropriate Acts, from doing those things. We do not try to compel them by law to be sensible, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will not delude himself by taking a permissive power. A permissive power is either used or it is not used. If it is used, it then becomes, so far as the subject is concerned, a compulsory power. The only difference between "permissive" and "mandatory" is the difference that it rests with my right hon. Friend whether he shall use it or not, but the effect on the subject is precisely the same.

With all respect to my hon. Friend, who supports me in general on this, I say that the Statutory Instrument is not much of a safeguard. We know what happens in relation to Statutory Instruments. They come before the House at 10 o'clock at night, when the party Whips are put on, we cannot amend them and we either have to vote against the Government or let them go through. That proposal seems to me to be useless as a safeguard. I urge the right hon. Gentleman not to embark on this dangerous course.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I too hope that the Minister of Transport will think very carefully before he brings in regulations making compulsory the wearing of crash helmets. We are all aware that the accident rate for motor cyclists themselves, and for other users of the road on account of motor cyclists, is tremendous. The 1954 figures show that there were 15,000 serious accidents to motor cyclists or people riding pillion with them, and that 1,100 people were killed. The Minister of Transport tells us that the figures for 1955 are substantially worse, and I imagine that they are growing.

Therefore, all of us must be very much concerned with doing whatever we can to prevent this high toll of accidents to motor cyclists themselves and to other users of the roads through actions taken by motor cyclists. But when we come to the question of prescribing a particular form of clothing for these road users, and making it a penal offence not to wear that particular form of clothing, I think we must stop for a moment and consider how far we are going and whether we are doing right, from the point of view of the rights of the individual.

6.45 p.m.

If nothing else at all could be done to reduce the number of casualties to motor cyclists except by making regulations of this sort, I think we might say "Well, it has got to be done," but I do not believe that that is so at all. I think that by continuing propaganda—and one of my chief complaints against the Ministry of Transport is that its general educational activities have been far below what they ought to he, in view of the number of road accidents taking place nowadays—a great deal of good could be done.

I think that by substantial propaganda by the Ministry, by the sellers of motor cycles and everybody concerned, practically every motor cyclist would be wearing a crash helmet in a few years' time. I think it can be done, and, moreover, I think it is more likely to be done if we can be assured that all the crash helmets sold are really effective. We do not want cases, such as have been quoted, of crash helmets being made of compressed card-board, which will cause many motor cylists who thought of buying crash helmets to consider whether it is worth while paying out quite a sum of money for a very uncomfortable helmet which might not be of any use after all.

The first thing to be done is for some action to be taken by the Government —the Board of Trade, it may be, though I am not sure which authority it should be—making it perfectly clear to every motor cyclist when he is buying a crash helmet that he is buying something which is really effective, which could save his life if he were involved in an accident.

There is a further point here, which has already been made by one hon. Member. It is true that the wearing or non-wearing of the crash helmet is a matter which will affect the motor cyclist alone, and not pedestrians or other users of the road, so that if a motor cyclist chooses not to wear a helmet, in spite of all the propaganda and all the pressure which has been put upon him, he will not in fact be causing the death or injury of anybody else but himself. That is a point to bear in mind. Therefore, by insisting on everybody wearing crash helmets, we shall not be reducing casualties on the roads, except those of motor cyclists themselves.

It is different introducing regulations providing that the motor cycle must conform to certain mechanical principles, having lights and brakes in good condition. All sorts of regulations can be made insisting on conditions pertaining to the motor cycle, because if something goes wrong with the motor cycle and an accident is caused, it will involve other cars and other people on the road, but if an injury takes place as a result of the motor cyclist not wearing some particular clothing, it is only the motor cyclist who is involved.

Therefore, I would consider that this proposal is the last step which the Government ought to take. It may be that the time will come when they will have to take that step, but I would much rather wait a little longer before incorporating in the Bill a proposal which offends deeply our general feelings about interference with personal liberty, which was the point put forward very effectively by my hon. Friend the Member for Sedge-field (Mr. Slater). I would much rather that the Government took the other actions which are open to them in order to effect a reduction in the number of accidents concerning motor cyclists.

There is only one respect in which, in fact, the death of a motor cyclist affects other people than motor cyclists, and that is under a Clause in this Bill of which the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell) is well aware and to which he is very strongly opposed, though I think he is entirely wrong. This is Clause 7, which allows the imposition of a sentence of up to five years in prison for the killing of a man as a result of a road accident.

It may well be that a man may be killed because he is not wearing a crash helmet, in which case the motorist may have to suffer five years' imprisonment. If the man is wearing a crash helmet and is not killed, but the motorist was driving equally dangerously, he can get a sentence of only two years' imprisonment, which is a ridiculous situation. That is something that we have introduced into the Bill which I think is a grave mistake. In that respect, it is true that somebody else may suffer. A motorist involved in an accident may suffer because a motor cyclist is not wearing a crash helmet when he ought to be doing so.

Apart from that, for the reasons which I have given, I would again, speaking personally on this matter—some of my hon. Friends may have different views, as so many of us have on all these road safety matters—I urge the Government to go very cautiously, and to take all the other steps which are open to them— there is a considerable number—to ensure that crash helmets are worn by motor cyclists before going so far as to make it compulsory and a criminal offence for them not to wear one.

Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North West)

I hope that the Minister will now realise, from the discussion which has taken place, that there is very strong opposition to the suggested compulsion.

Mr. Nabarro

But not to minimum standards for helmets?

Mr. Harris

Not to minimum standards for helmets. Many hon. Members fully agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) said on that subject.

On the subject of compulsion, the majority of hon. Members would have very strong feelings if the Minister went ahead with such a proposal. We feel that it would be an infringement of the personal liberty of the individual. Unhappily, the Minister stepped into the debate a fraction too quickly before hearing the views of many hon. Members who feel very strongly about the matter.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) is not going to withdraw the Clause on the understanding that the Minister is definitely going to meet him part of the way in another place, because many of my hon. Friends and I would feel that that would be a very unfortunate undertaking indeed.

Mr. Nicholson

I should like to reply to some of the points which have been raised in this short but interesting debate. I am very much surprised at the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. R. Bell). I am not a lawyer, but I believe that a man's life is not his own property. There is such a felony as felo de se. In law, in this country a man's life is never regarded as his own property. The tocsin which my hon. Friend sounded in favour of individual liberty is trifling with a most important subject.

As I have said already, we cannot apply logic to this matter. How does my hon. Friend square his views about saving people from their own folly when he takes into consideration the regulations made to protect pedestrians from stepping out in front of motor cars? That precaution is taken partly to save the lives of pedestrians and to save their relations from grief. It is also taken partly to save a motorist from having to bear throughout his life the thought that he has been responsible for somebody else's death. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) brought out a very important point in that connection.

What about passengers on a motor cycle or in a light three-wheeled car, which these regulations could cover? Are pillion riders to have no consideration? Is a girl sitting behind a man on a motor cycle to be told that her life does not matter, that she is a fool and is herself throwing her life away because she rides behind a careless driver? The whole matter is riddled with inconsistency and illogicality, and it is bound to be.

If anybody went mountaineering with manifestly rotten or inadequate rope and was killed, the coroner would have something very strong to say about it.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

Is it not pertinent that under the Factories Acts we make specific provision against workmen taking risks carelessly?

Mr. Nicholson

I am very grateful for that intervention, which is most germane.

Let us accept the fact that we cannot treat this matter from the point of view of pure logic or pure consistency. Thank goodness that as a nation we suspect logic, and quite rightly so. We must approach the matter from a severely practical aspect.

We should not necessarily allow people to go around the country killing or injuring their passengers and other people, causing people to bear a great sense of guilt and resulting in heavy sentences of imprisonment being passed upon people who run into them, causing loss and grief to others, and loss to the nation of valuable lives. If it is reasonable, rational, and likely to be successful, to compel, them to take safety precautions, let us by all means do so.

I frankly admit that I am not absolutely convinced that the time has now come for compulsory regulations. Like the right hon. Member for Vauxhall, I should like a great propaganda campaign instituted before having recourse to regulations. I think that the Minister has taken the wise and statesmanlike course. I do not know whether or not he agrees with me in interpreting "may" in an Act as mandatory. I think that I am right in that interpretation. No Minister would dare not to issue regulations if an Act says that he "may" do so, for the implication is that he must. I believe that the Minister is taking the right course in undertaking to consider—I do not take it as a definite pledge to take action—whether he can introduce, in another place, a Clause to give him genuinely permissive powers if, after the expiration of a certain period, he comes to the conclusion that exhortation has failed, and to give him power to propose minimum standards for crash helmets. I do not take the point that it will induce a false sense of security. People are more intelligent than that.

I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has said. I gladly accept his assurance and promise, and I beg to ask leave

Mr. Watkinson

Before my hon. Friend concludes, I want us to be clear about this matter. The promise that I gave was that I would give the matter very careful consideration. Obviously I must give careful consideration to anything which may save lives on the roads, particularly in this very dangerous sector. However, as my hon. Friend said, it was not an implicit pledge to introduce anything into another place. I merely said that I would consider the matter carefully.

Mr. Nicholson

My right hon. Friend need not have said that. I put exactly that interpretation upon his words. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, with-drawn.