§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I beg to move,That the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, 1956, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th December, be approved.These Regulations deal with a matter that has been before the House from time to time for at least ten years. Indeed, it has a much longer history than that, for questions of the speed limit for goods vehicles of various kinds have been debated in the House since the original Road Traffic Act was passed in 1930. Furthermore, this particular matter of the raising of the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles has been brought forward a great many times, but no decision has been reached. I think that I would carry the whole House with me if I said that it is time we tried to grapple with what is admittedly a very difficult problem.
I remember that when Mr. Alfred Barnes was Minister of Transport he said, in a speech in the House on 22nd March, 1951:If, in an industry, the employers and trade unions do not accept their responsibilities, then, after a reasonable time, we must make a decision irrespective of them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 1627]Those were very brave words. No doubt for the best of reasons, which I certainly understand, they were not implemented.
The understanding of this issue requires at least a brief look at its history. Therefore, I thought that it would be for the convenience of the House if I made a few general remarks on the broad issue before coming to the actual details of these Regulations. This matter was, of course, raised during our proceedings on the Road Traffic Act. It can be no novelty to the House, or, indeed, to the interests concerned in it—the trade unions and the employers—because on 30th May last year, nearly twelve months ago, I gave a plain assurance to my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) that I would proceed with this matter. Therefore, I think that today's proceedings can be no surprise to anybody.
609 Let us look for a moment at the history of the matter and try to see why it has lain before the House for about ten years. The first proposal on what one might call this current issue was made in 1944 by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and the National Road Transport Federation. It was that the speed limit for heavy goods vehicles should be increased to 30 m.p.h. The proposal even then had strong support. It is worth noting that the Committee on Road Safety at that time saw no objection to it in practice, although, of course, the braking systems and general mechanical efficiency of motor vehicles were certainly nothing like as good then as they are today.
I do not want to disguise what I think has been one of the main difficulties in making a change in the speed limit. Although most hon. Members would agree that the speed limit is honoured more in the breach than in the observance all over the country, and we see plenty of examples of that on the roads, nevertheless a change raises the difficult issue of schedules and, therefore, a difficult issue for both the unions and the employers.
It is fair to say that the problem has always been that the employers were willing to give certain general assurances but the unions usually, and, I think, quite fairly, wanted more specific assurances. Then there has also been the objection, which I think I can deal with, that on the ground of road safety the speed limit should be retained at its present level of 20 m.p.h.
I should like to deal with these general issues. First, I think that it is certainly not the duty of a Minister of Transport to enter into arguments about wages or conditions, but it is the duty of the Minister who proposes a change of this kind to the House to try to assure himself that there is a reasonable chance of a proper, fair agreement being reached. I ventured to say, when the matter was debated before in the House, on 30th May, that I had met both the unions and the employers and, while it was not for me then, as it is not for me today, to go into the industrial relations aspect of the matter, it was my duty, as Minister, to see whether it would go through smoothly or not.
610 I said then, and it remains equally true today,… I think it is fair that I should tell the House that I have this morning seen the Road Haulage Association and British Road Services, and they have both informed me that, whatever decision I take, they will not use it as an excuse either to stop negotiations or to import some new conditions into their negotiations. They have also both told me that they are most anxious to continue the progress that they have made until a satisfactory solution is reached."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1956; Vol. 553, c. 394.]That was the position ten or eleven months ago. Since then I have tried to keep myself informed of progress and I think that the position that has been reached is an important one and should be realised by the House. This touches the British Road Services as well as the Road Haulage Association and I think those who represent the C licences interests.
The position is, I am informed, and I have taken soundings again this week, that it is now clearly accepted that, first, no employee would be worse off as a result of the introduction of the higher speed limit, and, secondly, that any increased dividends resulting from higher productivity should be divided in an agreed ratio between management and men.
There may well be those who will say "That is a general statement which has to be implemented in detail", but what I want to make plain to the House is that I think it was my duty, as Minister, to obtain that assurance and be satisfied that it is genuinely meant—I believe it is genuinely meant by both the British Road Services and other interests—but that was as far as I could properly take the matter in my sphere.
Consequently, I will merely repeat what I said on 30th May, 1956, that I think a fair and proper agreement can be reached, and as the matter has already been in front of the parties for well over six months now, and as the date of operation of the Regulations has carefully been put forward to 1st May to give them still further time, I do not think it is right that the House should delay any further on those grounds in coming to a conclusion.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I am sure that the Minister would be the first to agree that there is a big difference between agreement on general principles about what should be done and achieving 611 a settlement to implement the agreement. Would he not agree that, if he were to hold the balance between the two sides fairly, the best course to adopt would be to refuse to raise the speed limit until there was a general agreement upon this very important matter between the two sides of the industry?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I accept what the hon. Member says—I know his great interest in this matter—but I think it fair to answer him by saying that that is what Mr. Alfred Barnes did and what successive Ministers of Transport have done over the last ten years. I have come to the conclusion that this really is becoming an anomaly, and almost, from the law-breaking point of view, a disgrace, which the House should face and remedy.
§ Mr. McLeavy
It is true that Mr. Alfred Barnes—this strengthens my point—made a general statement about what ought to be done from his point of view, but did not implement it. That is my point now. All that matters is the implementation of the principles on which agreement is reached.
§ Mr. Watkinson
It would be very wrong, and without precedent, for a Minister of Transport, or any other Minister, to try to impose a settlement in such a case. It has to be freely negotiated. I have seen the parties a great number of times—it is only fair to say that—and Mr. Frank Cousins, Mr. Eastwood and the employers' associations could not have been more helpful.
There is a spirit of good will—there certainly has been when I have met them—and that leads me to believe that, having obtained these general assurances, that is really as far as I can go and the House should now deal with the matter by passing the Regulations and leave it to the respective parties then to come to a final settlement. My advice to the House—it is based on a slight experience of labour relations—is that I do not think we shall ever bring the matter to a conclusion unless the House plucks up its courage and goes forward with this matter.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
If there is all this good will on the part of the employers, and it has apparently existed for ten years—it is a long time since I occupied a very humble position at the Ministry, and it existed then—can 612 the right hon. Gentleman explain why there has not been an agreement? If there is not an agreement now without the Regulations, will it not be much more difficult to get an agreement after the Regulations are made?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I know that the hon. Gentleman took, and still takes, a very great interest in transport matters. I think he will agree that there has been no agreement because the House has not carried out its responsibilities and given a lead, which is what the Government are asking it to do today.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
The Minister has referred to the law-breaking aspect in other words, that whereas the speed limit for these vehicles is 20 m.p.h., that rate is considerably exceeded in practice. If the House gives the Minister his Regulations, and the speed limit rises to 30 m.p.h. for these heavy vehicles, what assurance can the House have, in the public interest, that once it concedes a limit of 30 m.p.h., that will not still be far exceeded?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I always like to be courteous to hon. Members, but that matter is covered in a later part of my speech and I will deal with it there.
I have taken careful advice as to the most convenient time to both employers and unions for doing this, and I have been advised that it is the late spring when schedules are easier because the days are lengthening. That is why the date of 1st May has been set. It still gives the parties a good deal of time to settle matters between them. As I have said, I think that the House is really abrogating its responsibility if it does not now bring the matter to a conclusion.
I want to make one or two other general points before I deal with the Regulations. There are other considerations which a Minister of Transport ought to bear in mind. This quite false speed limit—it is false in relation to both the design and the capacity of modern heavy goods vehicles—is distorting our design and productive capacity. It is causing manufacturers to build the wrong type of body, and it is, to some extent, prejudicing exports. We are losing productivity which we badly need because lorries built for much higher speeds—safely built for much higher speeds—are being run at artificially low speeds.
613 We are losing, to some extent, a quicker delivery of goods because some people still keep to the limit—although perhaps not many do. We are also wasting more fuel than we need, and to some extent increasing transport charges unnecessarily. These are all matters which my Ministry should carefully take into account. Therefore, on the grounds of practical matters of design and productivity, I am not in any doubt at all that this should be done, and should have been done a very long time ago.
I now turn for a moment to the safety aspect, which I know worries a number of people, including the Pedestrians' Association. I notice that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) is present, and he will no doubt put the case of the Pedestrians' Association. If one looks through past copies of HANSARD since the days of the "red flag", one can find some very fascinating quotations about what speed limits should be. It may interest the House to know—perhaps it is in the recollection of many hon. Members—that it was the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who accepted the principle of altering speed limits by Regulation when the 1930 Act was passing through the House. The right hon. Gentleman said what a good thing it was that we should be able to vary speed limits according to changing conditions. That is true.
Therefore, those who want to maintain a 20 m.p.h. speed limit on the ground of safety are, I think, not really being very factual about it. The modern heavy vehicle has a modern braking system. It should also be remembered that the speed limit is not being increased for lorries with separate trailers. It is increased only in respect of lorries which have articulated trailers, the trailer really being part of the body. Where there is a completely separate trailer, the speed limit remains at 20 m.p.h.
There is another point to which I attach great importance. We are not getting a fast enough traffic flow on most of our main roads. I believe—I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House who do a great deal of motoring on main roads will agree with me—that it is very often the heavy lorry keeping to a 20 m.p.h. speed limit which is the cause 614 of an intolerable block on the road. I believe this causes a great number of accidents, because motorists are unsighted behind such a lorry, they remain there a long time, they get impatient and press past, and an accident then occurs. If that lorry were able legally to travel at 30 m.p.h. there would be a better traffic flow and, I believe, fewer accidents.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
My hon. Friend referred to cars overtaking these lorries which are travelling at 20 m.p.h. Would he not agree that the principal cause of innumerable serious accidents is the duality of the speeds of lorries themselves and the fact that a lorry travelling, perfectly legally, at 30 m.p.h. may endeavour to overtake a lorry travelling at 20 m.p.h., generally at the wrong time and place? That is the cause of most accidents.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is certainly another important cause of accidents.
In any case, if we were to say in the House that the design of the heavy lorry has not become more efficient and much safer in the last ten years, we should not be keeping pace with reality.
§ Mr. Collick
I can understand the argument, but the Minister refers to one set of changing circumstances when he must also bear in mind the other set of changing circumstances. Our roads are far more congested than they have ever been and that is a consideration which must be taken into account.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is why we must put more through the pipeline. We can do it only if we keep traffic flowing at a higher speed.
There are many other reasons that this change should be made on purely practical grounds, but I will not weary the House with them, because I think they are generally known to most hon. Members. I shall be fascinated if any hon. Member tries to argue this afternoon that we should not make this change on any grounds of practical test, the safety of the vehicle, or the general flow and speed of traffic, because I do not think that those objections can be maintained any longer.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The Minister has said that he would be fascinated by such an argument. Is it 615 not a fact that it is much more dangerous to overtake a lorry travelling at 30 m.p.h. than to overtake a lorry travelling at only 20 m.p.h.?
§ Mr. Watkinson
In perhaps one case out of a hundred I would agree with the hon. Member, but I am sure that he, like myself, has spent much time behind lorries keeping within the 20 m.p.h. limit, much to the detriment of our tempers. Perhaps he has not been tempted to pass, but I must admit that I have. It is not a good thing for road safety. He should also bear in mind the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), which is equally relevant.
§ Mr. Mellish
I am sure that the Minister wants to be fair about this. Surely the vast majority of the motorists recognise that the courtesy which the lorry driver shows is to his credit and that he has a high place among the finest road users in the country. It is a little difficult to understand the argument that we must increase the speed limit to permit the private motorists to pass more quickly.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I still do not agree with the hon. Member's argument. I agree entirely when he says that the standard of road courtesy of drivers of heavy lorries is outstanding; I think we all recognise that they are the most careful and courteous drivers on the road. But how many times has the hon. Member been so close behind a lorry that he could not see the hand signals?
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is a different matter.
I do not think that there are serious grounds of road safety for refusing to face this issue. Nor do I think that we shall ever reach a settlement on the problem of schedules if the House does not take a decision. On these general grounds, it is high time this matter was decided and that the House gave a lead to the country and dealt with a matter which has been in front of it for ten years. That is the reason for bringing the Regulations forward.
Perhaps I may deal briefly with what they set out to do. At the end of the 616 debate my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will answer any specific problems which hon. Members have raised. The Regulations provide a new schedule of speed limits and, to some extent, bring these together in a more convenient form, setting out the various speed limits to which vehicles will now be subject. I am sure that it is well known to the House that they do not in any way affect the private motor car or the speed limit for the private motor car, but they bring into a more convenient list for the interests concerned the speed limits for various types of vehicles, starting with a vehicle having an unladen weight exceeding three tons and going through a schedule, with which I will not bother the House, which includes heavy and light locomotives, motor tractors and various types of goods vehicles, as well as track-laying vehicles. The schedule is brought up to date and set out in a way which I hope is clear.
As I have said, the Regulations do not increase the speed limit for lorries with a separate draw-bar trailer, but they increase the speed limit for the articulated lorry, with which we are all familiar, and for the ordinary heavy vehicle. The other changes which the Regulations make are relatively minor and I do not think that the House would wish me to waste very much time in dealing with them. My hon. Friend will answer any points which are raised. The important point, I think, is whether the House wants to try to tidy up this anomaly, and whether it feels that the parties concerned will ever reach a settlement unless they are now given a clear lead by the House.
I have been into this matter most carefully with the parties concerned and have done all I could to bring them together. I am fully satisfied that there is now a genuine desire to have the matter settled, but I think that desire may even fail again, as it has failed so often in the past, unless the House gives a lead. I therefore commend the Regulations to the House. It is almost impossible to say that this should not be done on grounds of practical design or safety or productivity or making the best use of our roads and our road vehicles.
I agree that there is and always has been a problem about settling schedules, although it may surprise hon. Members to know what a very small proportion of routes are scheduled. It is under half 617 for British Road Services and very much under half for the remainder of the industry. Scheduling is not the main problem, although I agree that it is a problem.
§ Mr. D. Jones
The Minister must be fair about this. When he talks about half the services, he is including all the tramping services, which cannot be scheduled. When he talks about scheduling he must consider the trunking runs. A very big proportion of the B.R.S. runs are tramping services, to which scheduling does not apply.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. I am only saying that, to put it in its widest form, not the whole industry runs scheduled services. We must not, therefore, assume that the settlement of this problem depends entirely on scheduling.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that this matter is put in its correct perspective by pointing out that we are talking about 115,000 vehicles, out of which only about 10 per cent. are owned by B.R.S.? Unless that is made clear the impression may be created that we are discussing only B.R.S. vehicles, whereas they are only 10 per cent. of the total.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not think that my hon. Friend is right about that. I have made it plain that all the heavy vehicle operators are concerned. I mentioned B.R.S. because they are the operators who, perhaps, have the most scheduled services in their route pattern. There is an immense number of C licence vehicles, and I am advised that there is very little difficulty in coming to a satisfactory arrangement in respect of them. I believe that that is the union's view.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because it should be made plain to the House that I do not think that any difficulty will arise in achieving a satisfactory arrangement upon the C licence vehicle front if the speed limit is raised. The difficulty arises upon the front covered by British Road Services and the Road Haulage Association. That is why I referred to those bodies specifically.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that although the possibilities may be more favourable for a settlement with some of the larger companies, to which he has referred, there 618 will be some doubt whether a settlement can be arrived at if it cannot be applied to the whole industry, because the question of unfair competition will arise?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am sure that the hon. Member will develop that point in his speech. It is something about which he feels very strongly.
The largest and probably the most powerful union in the country is engaged in this industry. It has very wide experience of negotiating, and very skilful officers, who have been brought up in the industry. I am quite sure that they are entirely capable of settling the problems that would arise. If I did not think that I should not be so confident about recommending this change to the House. This union's officers have outstanding skill in negotiating these matters. First, we have the C licence operators, who present no great difficulty and then the Road Haulage Association and British Road Services, who have both given me specific assurances, which I have quoted to the House.
Upon that basis, and taking into account the fact that we are perpetuating anomalies in the law, in design, and in the whole pattern of road transport, I strongly advise the House to deal with this matter today and change the speed limit by agreeing to the Regulations.
§ Mr. Collick
In an interjection I raised a point about law breaking. The Minister said that he would deal with this matter towards the end of his speech. So far, he has not done so.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I can answer the hon. Member in one sentence. We all know that the existing law is not obeyed; that it is impossible for the police to enforce it, and that if we have a realistic speed limit there is a much greater chance of the law being enforced. That is what I am advised.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)
The hon. Member can do that if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye.
I listened to the Minister's speech with great interest. Hon. Members on this side of the House are inclined to differ from him upon the question whether this 619 is the right moment and the right way in which to bring in the Regulations. His attitude is that by laying the Regulations and asking Parliament to approve them, agreement as to working conditions can be reached within the industry when the increased speed limit is operated. Later in my remarks I shall deal with that point.
The second point in respect of which we differ from him is in relation to his understanding of the present position existing within the industry. Throughout his speech he stressed that there was good will on the part of the road hauliers to reach agreement with the transport workers, with a view to operating an increased speed limit to the mutual satisfaction both of employers and employees. That is a matter which is very open to question. I propose to deal with it in the course of my later remarks.
At the outset, I would say that most of us would agree with the Minister that, on the face of it, the present speed limit of 20 m.p.h. for heavy vehicles is outdated; that it is neither observed nor enforced; that there have been very considable technical developments since the speed limit was raised in the thirties, and that there is a very strong case for raising the limit to 30 m.p.h. But certain qualifications have to be made. First, there is no question but that our roads are very much out of date in comparison with those of other European countries, to quote only our neighbours. Driving at high speeds on a decent road system is very different from doing so on our outdated system.
The Minister suggested that the traffic was not flowing fast enough along our roads. The question is whether it can flow much faster with safety. The question of safety is the responsibility of the Minister. We should all feel far happier about the raising of the speed limit if we were satisfied that there was an adequate programme for improving our road system.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
Has not the hon. Member told the House that traffic is already going at a higher speed? What is the point of his argument?
§ Mr. Davies
My argument is that while the traffic certainly is flowing at higher 620 speeds it has not been shown that it is flowing at those speeds with safety. We are concerned with the question whether the increased speed will increase or diminish the dangers on the road. In that connection, I can well understand the point of view of those who are opposed to raising the speed limit. They have a case, upon grounds of safety, and their views are sincerely held.
The only justification for raising the speed limit is that it will be enforced. Those people like the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris), who accept the need for vehicles to be allowed to travel at higher speeds, must also agree that a higher speed limit must be enforced. I see no reason why it should not be enforced. It is far easier to enforce a universal 30 m.p.h. speed limit than a variable one.
In the last resort, safety on the roads depends upon the human element. Those who drive heavy vehicles are subjected to considerable strain, great responsibility, and excessive fatigue. There is a maximum distance for which drivers can drive these heavy vehicles with safety. It is therefore essential that if we have a higher speed limit, and vehicles are driven longer distances daily by the same drivers, agreement must first be reached by mutual consent between drivers and employers.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
Surely there is a statutory requirement in this respect which fully safeguards the question of fatigue and so forth?
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, but if there is a statutory requirement that a driver can drive a heavy vehicle at 20 m.p.h. for only eleven hours a day, it does not necessarily follow that he should drive the same vehicle at 30 m.p.h. for the same period. My argument is that agreement must be reached as to the length of time that these drivers should be on the road, at the wheels of heavy vehicles, and the conditions under which they should drive. Unfortunately, up to now agreement has not been reached between the unions and the employers as to those conditions. It is for that reason that we on this side of the House have grave doubts as to the wisdom of introducing these Regulations at this time and oppose the action which the Minister is taking.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman says that he does not think that this is 621 the right moment to make the change. My right hon. Friend referred to the series of negotiations which have been going on for six months but, in fact, when the hon. Gentleman was in office as a Minister in 1950–51, the same negotiations were going on and have been going on almost continuously now for nearly eight years. If this is not the right moment, when, for goodness' sake, will the right moment arrive?
§ Mr. Davies
The right moment, unfortunately, gets further and further away, because the congestion on the roads gets greater, and the road programme is not carried out.
We question the wisdom of the Minister in rushing these Regulations through at this stage. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but the Regulations provide that the speed limit will not be raised until 1st May. We are now only at 21st February and negotiations have been going on within the industry. In our view, it would be far better if the Minister delayed this in the hope that those engaged in the negotiations may have an opportunity to arrive at a conclusion. He should not load the dice, as it were, against the unions, as he is doing by forcing these Regulations through the House at this stage.
I would suggest to the Minister that, if peaceful relations which have so long prevailed in the industry are to continue and be preserved, any change in the speed limit must be with the full co-operation of both the road hauliers and the drivers. Unfortunately, the Government, in collaboration with a powerful section of the industry, are bringing about this change at this time and, in my view, are endangering future labour relations within the industry.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) says "rubbish". All I ask him to do is to wait and see. He must get this situation straight. All that the Minister is doing is to raise the legal maximum from 20 to 30 m.p.h. for vehicles of three tons and over unladen weight. He cannot fix the minimum speed. He is fixing the maximum speed, and there is nothing he can do to compel drivers to go faster than they are going at present. Whether the drivers travel faster or not, whether their 622 schedules are faster schedules or not, is a matter for agreement between the employers and the transport workers. That is an industrial and not a political matter. That is something for the industry itself to work out and not for the Minister to impose upon them. It is something which the industry has been trying to work out and has not yet succeeded in doing.
I would warn the hon. Member for Kidderminster that it is the driver who is at the wheel of the vehicle. If no fair agreement is reached as to the new schedules and as to the pay which the drivers will receive, they can continue to operate these vehicles on the old schedules. There is no way in which they can be compelled to operate them on the new schedules.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman has referred to drivers. Which drivers? There are 115,000 vehicles, 60,000 of them are C-licence vehicles, and the owners of these vehicles have not yet been concerned in the wage negotiations that have gone on. Of course, all that the hon. Gentleman is thinking about is the British Road Service people. If they withdraw their labour, private enterprise operators will take the traffic from them, and a very good thing too.
§ Mr. Davies
Fortunately for me, the hon. Member for Kidderminster cannot read my mind and does not know what I am thinking. So far as I am concerned, the unions are solid in the road haulage industry.
§ Mr. Davies
The Transport and General Workers' Union which organises both the C-licence drivers and those who drive A- and B-licence vehicles of the British Road Services. Any negotiations which are going on are with regard to all the drivers and not just the B.R.S. drivers, against whom the hon. Member for Kidderminster seems to have some prejudice.
§ Mr. Davies
I think that the Minister and the Road Haulage Association are being somewhat stupid in thinking that by imposing these Regulations at this time they will be able to force upon the 623 industry an agreement as to working conditions. As I have said, it is the man at the wheel who will have the last word on this and, unfortunately, so far there has been—
§ Mr. Watkinson
Of course I am not trying to force on the industry, nor are the Government, any kind of agreement. As the hon. Gentleman said, all that I can do is to put up the speed limit. What happens after that is not for me, but it is my duty to put up the limit.
§ Mr. Davies
I do not know whether it is a question of duty to put up the speed limit. The Minister's duty is to look after the interests of all those in the industry, and I fear that by taking this action he is looking after the interests, or thinks he is looking after the interests, of one section of the industry and not the other. He is looking after the interests of the Road Haulage Association and not the interests of the transport workers.
§ Mr. Davies
I wish the hon. Member would forget the C-licence holders for whom he holds a special brief.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, or in accordance with the best safety traditions of this House, that the hon. Member for Kidderminster should take his hands off the handlebars when trying to steer his way on to the Government Front Bench?
§ Mr. Davies
The problem which concerns the industry is that any increase in the speed limit requires revision of the drivers' schedules and their scale of remuneration. If 30 m.p.h. is permitted, it means that the average speed at which the vehicles can travel on the roads may go up from 16 or 17 m.p.h. to 23 or 24 m.p.h. That means that the drivers will be able to travel about as far in 8½ hours as they are now travelling in 11 hours, provided that the road conditions are favourable.
If that is so, the first principle which confronts the workers is that they shall be in no way worse off. If they are going on a run which they accomplish in 8½ hours instead of 11 hours, it is essential that they should receive as much pay for 624 8½ hours as they are now receiving for 11 hours. The second principle is that there should be some agreement as to the apportionment between the employers in the industry and the workers of the increased productivity which arises. The Minister agrees. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to take the view in his opening remarks that the employers had accepted those two principles, but my understanding is that they have not.
They have accepted the first principle, that the workers should be no worse off; but, so far as my understanding of the circumstances goes, they have not accepted the second principle, that there should be some apportionment of the increased productivity between the employers and the men. This, as the Minister agrees, is something which the industry itself has to work out.
Negotiations between the men and the Road Haulage Association took place a long time ago and went on over a period; and no agreement was reached, because the second principle was not accepted. When these negotiations failed, tripartite negotiations took place between the R.H.A., the B.R.S. and the transport workers. Again, those negotiations got nowhere, but the B.R.S. has continued discussions with the men and put forward tentative suggestions on certain formulae. It has definitely shown a readiness and willingness to reach agreement on some basis so that the speed limit can be raised and there can be a peaceful transition from the 20 to the 30 m.p.h. limit. I put it no higher than that; that a willingness has been shown on the part of the B.R.S. to reach agreement and that discussions are continuing up to the present time.
So far as the Road Haulage Association is concerned, no negotiations have taken place since August of last year. That good will to which the Minister referred has not been shown by the Association. In other words, it is the public sector of the industry which is showing the sense of responsibility in this matter which is lacking in the private sector.
§ Mr. Davies
Fortunately, I have no vested interests.
I wish to ask the Minister why it is that he has surrendered to the private sector of the industry, which represents only a minority within the industry? It is this private sector, and not the public sector, which is holding up agreement within the industry. It is preventing agreement being reached, and the right hon. Gentleman, by bringing these Regulations before the House, is playing into the hands of that private sector.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
The hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that British Road Services is against this reform being introduced?
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening to what I said, he would have realised that I have not given that impression at all. I stated that British Road Services is at present carrying on conversations with the unions concerned with a view to reaching agreement so that an increase in the speed limit may be brought about peacefully and so that the increased productivity can be shared between the transport workers and B.R.S.
I wish to point out the extent to which the Road Haulage Association, which is holding up any agreement, represents only a minority of the industry. At the end of last September, of 124,000 heavy vehicles—those are the vehicles with which we are concerned—there were only 42,000 A- and B-licences held by private operators—roughly one-third. The C-licensees, to whom the hon. Member for Kidderminster is so devoted, are represented by 71,000; and so these 42,000 out of 124,000 are responsible for holding up any agreement in the industry. It was the hon. Member for Kidderminster who, in the debate during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Act said that the R.H.A. was "an unrepresentative and minority body"—
§ Mr. Davies
It is this unrepresentative and minority body which is preventing agreement being reached in the industry today.
§ Mr. Nabarro rose—
§ Mr. Davies
No, I am sorry I cannot give way. I have given way a great deal. If the hon. Gentleman is fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, he can make his own speech in good time.
§ Mr. Davies
In my view, this hold-up in negotiations, this refusal by the Road Haulage Association to continue discussions with the unions in order to reach agreement, is the direct result of the action of the Minister. It is due to the fact that on 30th May the Minister, as he stated this afternoon, announced that he intended to bring these Regulations before the House by the spring of this year. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he was well informed as to the negotiations; that he had presided over several meetings and that they appeared to him to be rasonably fruitful. But at that stage, when it appeared that those negotiations could have a successful outcome, the right hon. Gentleman chose to announce that he proposed to introduce these Regulations and to raise the speed limit.
I cannot understand why he should have made that statement and taken that action at the very time when negotiations were proceeding. It seems to me that if the Road Haulage Association was informed—as it was—by the Minister that on a certain date the speed limit would be raised, the Association would be less willing or anxious to reach agreement, because, knowing full well that it would get the higher speed limit anyhow, it would be able to try to dictate terms to the unions rather than proceed in the normal way on an equal basis.
The Minister himself stated that he warned that he did not think he should do anything which would force the hands of those engaged in the negotiations, but it seems to me that that is precisely what he has done. It was only after the right hon. Gentleman had made his announcement that the negotiations broke down. The right hon. Gentleman made this statement at the end of May. Further fruitless discussions took place, but from August of last year there has been no attempt whatever on the part of the Road Haulage Association to meet the unions 627 and to reach agreement. The reason is that the R.H.A. felt itself in a strong position. It knew the speed limit was to be raised; it knew it was in a position to try to impose higher schedules on the men and it preferred to wait until the speed limit was raised.
What the Minister did was what the Road Haulage Association has always wanted. It wanted the Regulations to be made and then to try to make adjustments in the schedules afterwards on its own terms. The Association thought the unions would be put in a weaker position and that the dice would be loaded against them. The Road Haulage Association is being extremely stupid in this instance. It is being stupid because it underestimated the strength and determination of the men. As I said earlier, it is for the men in control of the vehicles to decide whether they drive at the higher speed or not.
Secondly, the Road Haulage Association is behaving extremely stupidly because, without agreement, the big hauliers will be at the mercy of the small men in the industry who do not abide by the agreement and who, because of excessive competition—brought about by the breaking up of the industry following denationalisation—will undercut the larger operators and will operate at the higher speeds. They will run faster schedules in these small units and some of the men will comply with the conditions, either because of the remuneration they receive—one cannot close one's eyes to that—or because of their fear of losing their employment.
It will be the big men with the large units who will suffer as the result of this competition and the unscrupulous, ruthless way in which the small men carry on in the industry. We all know that they are already running schedules far outside the limits and that they are breaking the speed-limits already. Hundreds of them are failing to keep the proper records and are working their drivers excessive hours. There is no disguising that. All the figures published have shown great increases in the breaking of the law in these respects.
The Minister has made a mistake. He should have been tough with the road hauliers. He is dealing with a set of 628 so-called businessmen who are not really clever and who are short-sighted. Even the Minister is cleverer, or should be, than they are. He should have said to the Road Haulage Association, "If there is no agreement on new schedules and new working conditions, there will be no Regulations. First, you must have an agreement, and then you will have your Regulations." The Minister can be tough on occasion. Recently he simulated toughness in regard to the railways. He threatened to break them up and sell them off if they did not co-operate with him in carrying out the modernisation programme. There is no justification at all for that petulant outburst, which was quite unworthy of a Cabinet Minister.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps it would be as well to quote it correctly. What I said was that if we did not get the right co-operation of the management, who are equally involved in this, the railways would go bankrupt and they would have to be broken up, through no act of mine but through their own failure—which I do not think will happen—to implement modernisation.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I hope that hon. Members will not pursue this point, which has nothing to do with these Regulations.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. When you rule that a matter is ultra vires our debate, is it in order for the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) to make such an opprobrious observation, following your Ruling?
§ Mr. Davies
I should like the Minister to show some toughness towards the Road Haulage Association at this stage. I should have thought the Government had already paid off their debt to the Road Haulage Association. The trouble with blackmailers is that they always come back for more. The Road Haulage Association, having got its denationalisation, is still coming back, and it is time that the Government stood up to it.
629 If, between now and 1st May, when these Regulations come into effect, no agreement is reached between the private hauliers and the unions, and if the Road Haulage Association continues to be as pig-headed as it is today and maintains its selfish stand, then, on the Regulations coming into force, there may be trouble within the industry. If there is, the responsibility will not lie with the public sector of the industry, nor with the workers, but with a powerful, stupid minority of the private sector, the Road Haulage Association, and with the Minister himself for surrendering to it. He and his collaborators will be to blame.
Although, therefore, this change is due, and it may be desirable to increase the productivity of the road haulage industry, the manner and the timing of this introduction are wrong. For these reasons, and especially because the speed-limit is to be raised in conditions which the Minister has made favourable to one side of the industry—the private employers—and prejudicial to the other side—the workers—and has thereby made agreement difficult in the extreme, I must advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to divide against the Regulations.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) will forgive me if I do not follow him into this labyrinth of negotiations and agreements between the two sides of the industry. With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, they seem entirely irrelevant to the point at issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I deprecate the attack on one side of the industry made by the hon. Member for Enfield, East, as much as I would deprecate any attack from this side on the trade unions in this issue, which seems hardly relevant.
My anxiety over these Regulations is entirely on the grounds of road safety. I feel that my right hon. Friend has rather swept aside that consideration. I rather hoped that our delay in debating these Regulations over the past few weeks meant there was some modification of them coming. I entirely appreciate that it is economically desirable to increase the flow of goods by road transport if the roads are adequate, but these increases in the speed limit are legalising a flow of traffic at speeds of 30 m.p.h. 630 along all the roads in this country. I would not have minded if it was just along dual carriageways, or something of that sort.
Some of the main roads along which these great vehicles have to travel are only 20 feet wide. My right hon. Friend has recently authorised a width of vehicle, with load, of 9 feet 6 inches—to travel along a 20-foot wide road—and an increase in length of vehicle to 30 feet. All this raises considerable anxiety about road safety.
These Regulations apply not only to the modern vehicle built in the last few years but to others. There must still be a great number of old vehicles on the road not equipped for these speeds. In commending the Regulations to the House, my right hon. Friend said that vehicles—I cannot quote his exact words, but this is the gist of them—were now constructed to go at these speeds in safety. That may be, but many of the older vehicles still on the road were built for the 20 m.p.h. speed limit. It causes anxiety that their speeds at between 30 and 40 m.p.h. will now be legalised. The argument that they already travel at these speeds is most fallacious in bringing forward these Regulations. That surely is no excuse for legalising something which is illegal. In fact, it strengthens the argument I want to put forward. We know perfectly well that 90 per cent. of the heavy vehicles on the road today exceed the 20 m.p.h. speed limit.
§ Mr. Page
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. He says that 95 per cent. exceed the speed limit. We are not talking about what might happen, but have before us statistics of what is already happening. I wish to develop the argument to show that it may mean that they will exceed 30 m.p.h. in future. Taking the figures for 1955, we find that 110,000 heavy vehicles were registered in that year. I believe the number is now 115,000 or 120,000. Of those 110,000, 10,000—to be accurate 10,006—were concerned in accidents in which personal injury occurred. That is one in eleven for every vehicle on the road.
§ Mr. Pargiter
That is the relationship between the number of accidents and the whole. What is the relationship between the accidents and the heavy vehicles as such as distinct from light vehicles?
§ Mr. Page
There were 110,000 heavy vehicles registered and 10,000 accidents involving heavy vehicles in which there was personal injury. Therefore, one in eleven heavy vehicles had an accident in which personal injury occurred. I have tried to make my mathematics clear. The heavy vehicle travels a far greater mileage than the private car and one must, perhaps, expect a far greater ratio of accidents for it than for the private car, but, even so, the ratio is very high. I do not blame the drivers, because in only 3,352 cases of those 10,000 I have quoted were the drivers responsible. I want to pay tribute such as has already been paid to the drivers as the most courteous and efficient drivers on the road.
§ Mr. Nabarro
My hon. Friend is faulty in his logic and seeks to compare the ratio of accidents as between heavy goods vehicles with private cars. The proper comparison, as we are seeking to make a speed limit for all goods vehicles, is the ratio of accidents to heavy vehicles currently tied to the 20 m.p.h. limit and the ratio of accidents to goods vehicles currently tied to 30 m.p.h. limit. That would be a valid comparison.
§ Mr. Page
I cannot produce the figures at once, but the ratio for goods vehicles travelling at 30 m.p.h. is very much better than the figure I have given for heavy vehicles. There is a lot in the mileage, and I have admitted that, but nevertheless the ratio is high.
What is even more important is the ratio of killed to the number of injured. In any set of figures of this sort that increases with the weight of the vehicle. That is to say, in all the statistics of road accidents the ratio of killed to injured increases with the weight of the vehicle. Hon. Members know the formula for kinetic energy, that is to say, the damaging power of a moving vehicle. It is half the mass multiplied by the velocity squared. To give a reasonable example, it means that a twelve-ton lorry traveling 632 at 30 m.p.h. is eight times as dangerous as a car travelling at 30 m.p.h.
§ Mr. Page
If my hon. Friend did not learn that at school and has not got it now, I shall never get it into his brain.
In addition to the danger from the weight of the vehicle, there are the peculiar characteristics of the heavy vehicle, which were pointed out in the Road Research Technical Paper No. 26, from page 1 of which I quote:When the brakes are applied the braking forces do not act through the centre of gravity of the vehicle. As a result, the effective load on the front wheels is increased and that on the rear wheels is decreased. The magnitude of the load transfer depends on the deceleration produced by the braking, on the total weight of the vehicle, and on the ratio of the wheelbase to the height of the centre of gravity of the vehicle and its load.Thus, in heavy vehicles with heavy loads the braking becomes unbalanced and is thrown on to the front wheels and one does not get such efficient braking as with the ordinary car. On page 19 of the same paper, it is clearly stated by those carrying out research for the Road Research Laboratory:The best braking performance of a few of the heaviest commercial vehicles was much lower than that of other classes of commercial vehicles. That was mainly due to the relatively slow build-up in the braking system itself; although fairly high maximum decelerations could be achieved, the time taken to reach the maximum deceleration was comparatively long and the average deceleration was low, resulting in long braking distance.There is no doubt that from the point of view of safety these vehicles take longer to decelerate and to stop and that they obviously cause greater damage when they hit anything, even at a low speed. One has only to refer to the figures at the back of the Highway Code, which has a note at the end setting out the stopping distances of various cars. That note says:Vehicles other than private cars or small vans may need twice these distances in which to pull up on dry roads.On wet roads, for all vehicles, allow twice the normal margin of safety.If one works out the figures, one finds that a heavy vehicle travelling at 30 m.p.h. needs no less than 100 yards to stop on a wet road. There are only 15 yards between the studs at the approach to a pedestrian crossing and the 633 pedestrian crossing itself. If large vehicles of this kind are to travel at such speeds, that will tend to turn pedestrian crossings into death traps.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Of course, my hon. Friend would agree that the braking surface of a heavy vehicle per ton is considerably greater than the braking surface of a light vehicle?
§ Mr. Page
Even when that is taken into account it takes a great deal longer to bring a heavy vehicle to rest, even at slow speeds, and it is more likely to cause death than a lighter vehicle.
Do these Regulations mean that they are likely only to travel at 30 m.p.h.? That is the anxiety in the mind of the public. If the speed is legally raised to 30 m.p.h. does it mean that it can be enforced at that limit, or is there going to be a speed limit at all? Are we really talking about raising the speed limit, or altering the schedules for heavy vehicles? I understand that the schedules are now working on a 16 m.p.h. to 17 m.p.h. average and that the discussions which have been proceeding are based on an average of something between 21 m.p.h. and 23 m.p.h.
I read in the Manchester Guardian a statement which purports to come from an official of the A.A. in these words:It has been calculated that to maintain an average 24 miles an hour on the London to Newcastle run, excluding stops, you would probably require speeds of about 60 or 65 m.p.h. at times on the faster sections.To read that sort of thing is really terrifying to anyone who has to travel these roads, either on foot or in private cars. It is terrifying to think that if these schedules are to be maintained these heavy vehicles may be running at 60 or 65 m.p.h. I do not know whether that is an exaggeration or not, but it is a newspaper quotation of a statement by an official of the A.A.
§ Mr. Pargiter
Has the hon. Gentleman got his figures right? Was it not to maintain an average of 30 m.p.h.?
§ Mr. Page
It is to maintain an average speed of 24 m.p.h. We are talking about the new schedules. I personally think that it must be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that speeds very much more than 30 m.p.h. will have to be reached in order to maintain a schedule of 24 m.p.h.
634 The argument that the 20 m.p.h. speed limit cannot be enforced causes great anxiety when one considers the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. Is that limit going to be enforced? I do not think it is a good argument to say that the 20 m.p.h. limit has not been enforced. I do not think anyone has ever really tried to enforce it. Ther are many ways of enforcing a speed limit other than putting a policeman down a side road. In Western Germany, they have already compulsorily introduced speed recorders on heavy vehicles. In the United States they use the radar system, which I gather is already quite far advanced in experiments carried out in this country at Slough. There is no reason why the new limit should not be enforced indeed, there is no reason why either the 20 m.p.h. or the 30 m.p.h. speed limit should not be enforced.
A further argument which the Minister used was that there would be less overtaking. With all respect to my right hon. Friend, I cannot believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would accept that argument. Those of us who have driven behind these heavy vehicles have wished to heaven that they would slow down to 20 m.p.h. so that we could pass them. That is what I have found in driving on the road. The ordinary private motorist is forced to pass these vehicles at 30, 40 or even 50 m.p.h., and he only wishes they would slow down to 20 m.p.h. or even to 30 m.p.h. so that he might pass them in some safety. I am afraid it is not going to mean less overtaking, but overtaking at greater speed, and there are already 18,000 accidents a year due to overtaking.
I feel that if only the Minister could give us an assurance that if these Regulations are accepted by the House a real effort will he made to enforce the speed limit of 30 m.p.h. we would not have so much anxiety about accepting them. But, while the argument is used that the 20 m.p.h. limit could not be enforced, there is that fear that the 30 m.p.h. will not be enforced, and that we shall have vehicles travelling faster and faster, more and more dangerously and a greater and greater threat to road safety. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to give us that assurance that he will be able to enforce the 30 m.p.h. speed limit.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
When we last discussed the question of increasing the speed limit in May of last year, we had under consideration a new Clause to increase the maximum speed limit from 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. which was proposed by the hon. Member fol. Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro). As the House will recall, I opposed that Clause on the grounds of public safety arising from the lack of suitable motor roads and the need for general agreement upon industrial problems between both sides of the industry. I want to say quite frankly that I stand by every word I said on that occasion. However, in view of the shortness of time and of what I have heard in the very excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on the safety aspect of the matter, I should like to confine my remarks to the need for prior industrial agreement.
The Minister has spoken about the need for increased productivity. No one in these days of economic difficulty will disagree that as far as possible in every section of industry there ought to be a drive for increased productivity, subject to and consistent with the safety of the public and the workers, and industrial agreement on the sharing of the benefits arising from that increased productivity. I do not think anyone on either side of the House believes that increased productivity can be achieved by the mere passing of regulations by this House. It can be made possible only by full agreement between both sides of industry.
The Minister, in proposing the adoption of these Regulations, made it perfectly clear that there are vast problems to be faced in the transport industry—the question of schedules, the question of wages and many other problems which all hinge on this question of the alteration of the speed limit. It is our case, from the industry's point of view, that it is wrong for the Minister and it is wrong for Parliament to agree to the alteration of the speed limit prior to industrial agreement as to how it will be worked and how the increased productivity and profits are to be allocated between both sides of industry.
We have seen Ministers come to the Dispatch Box on many occasions to report improvements in the conditions of employment of workers in the nationalised 636 industries, and they have merely expressed the hope that increased productivity would result. They very wisely left the question of the speed of production to be resolved through the normal industrial machinery. They would never have dared to say to the miners or the railwaymen, "You must produce, or travel, at speeds fixed by Parliament." The mere fact that the speed of road vehicles is subject to Parliamentary legislation does not justify the Minister seeking to use Parliament to solve an industrial problem.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Are there not all sorts of Acts and Regulations relating to safety on the railways and, indeed, to road safety? This is not a compulsory provision, but only one permitting a person to travel at up to 30 m.p.h.
§ Mr. McLeavy
That is very plausible, but in point of fact the whole of the case of the Minister falls down on the repeated assertion by the Minister that transport vehicles are travelling at 30 m.p.h. now. If the Minister's argument is correct that lorries are already travelling at 30 m.p.h., the Regulations will not bring increased productivity. The Minister cannot have it both ways.
I want to dwell on the vital question of the welfare of the transport worker. This matter was brought out very clearly in our discussions last May. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) addressed a very pertinent question to the hon. Member for Kidderminster, whom I am glad to see is here.
§ Mr. McLeavy
It was a question on this very important point of the welfare of the transport worker. It will be recalled that the hon. Member for Kidderminster had moved a new Clause to increase the speed limit from 20 to 30 m.p.h. My hon. and learned Friend asked this question:Will the hon. Gentleman be good enough to say whether, if the Clause was passed tonight, the dice would not be loaded against the drivers and in favour of the Road Haulage Association, because once the Clause has been passed, the latter would know that they had got it, and it would only be a question of hanging up on the negotiations, because the Clause which would assist them would already have been approved.637 The hon. Member for Kidderminster replied as follows:If I may reply to that point, may I say that I think there is an element of truth in what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, but I am encouraged by the fact that, since we debated the matter in Standing Committee on 15th December last—six months ago—very considerable progress has been made by the negotiating bodies, and, in fact, the issues outstanding have now been so narrowed down as to be capable of resolution within a few weeks.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I know the hon. Member much too well to think he would wish to mislead the House. He has quoted almost the whole passage but has left out the last sentence of my reply, which follows directly. After the words "within a few weeks." appears the following sentence:That, however, is a matter of wage negotiations into which I do not wish to go further on the Floor of the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1956; Vol. 553, c. 381.]That is the operative point, and I will come back to it later.
§ Mr. McLeavy
It is certainly not my desire to misrepresent the hon. Member, but to me the quotation seems clear-cut. Whatever short sentence I may have omitted, the fact remains that in May of last year the hon. Member was satisfied that the industry was on the verge of arriving at a settlement of these industrial problems which arise from the increase in the speed limit. When that statement was made the Minister himself did not share the hon. Member's view or hope. To my mind, the Minister appeared to share the views of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilkeston that there was some doubt whether these negotiations would be advanced by the passage of the Clause.
The Minister has very properly referred to the private discussions which have gone on between both sides of the industry. I want to say quite frankly that I believe the Minister has done what he could to try to get some sensible settlement between both sides of the industry of this very thorny question. My complaint against the Minister—I always like to be frank and fair in these matters—is not that he has not made reasonable efforts to get a settlement; my complaint against him is that, having failed to get a settlement because of the refusal of one side of the industry, he now proceeds 638 to ask Parliament to approve Regulations which will make it more difficult for the workers' side of the industry to get a reasonable and sensible settlement.
§ Mr. Watkinson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. McLeavy
The Minister may shake his head as much as he likes, but everyone who has had to deal with industrial matters knows perfectly well that the main point in solving industrial problems is for Ministerial representatives to keep a fair balance between the two sides. It is true that this question has been in existence for ten years, but that has not been the fault of the trade union movement which, over the past 10 years, has been striving to get a reasonable, fair and just settlement of the very serious problems which arise in connection with drivers' conditions. The Minister is conversant with this. He knows the full facts. He knows the efforts which the trade unions have made. Indeed, he has made some efforts himself.
We have here an industry which has been free from major industrial strifes and difficulties for the past ten years, and an industry which is of vital importance to the transportation of the commodities required by the nation at home and required for export. It is an industry in which there has been peace and good will over the past ten years. There have been no extravagant demands for wage increases. Yet the Minister says at such a time, "Because there has been no agreement on this question of the increased speed limit, I will introduce these Regulations, I will make it less possible for the workers to get a fair crack of the whip from the employers, and I will give the employers a whip which they can use against the workers." That is precisely how the transport workers will assess the Minister's attitude to this problem.
The workers in the transport industry have not made unreasonable demands for wage increases. They have been moderate and restrained and their leadership has been wise and understanding of the problem. If hon. Members look at the table in the Ministry of Labour Gazette for 1956, they will find that in the last week of April, 1956, the transport worker was placed 117th out of the workers in 133 industries and that he had a much lower average hourly wage rate than that for manufacturing industry.
639 This strengthens my point. Tribute has been paid from the other side to the ability, skill and courtesy of transport workers, but I do not think that every Member realises that the men driving these heavy vehicles can, by one error of judgment, kill or injure someone, or do serious damage to other vehicles, and can be hauled before a court for negligence or other offences. I am reminded that over 3,000 were taken to court last year.
That emphasises the importance of a settlement for the sake of the safety not only of the general public but of these drivers. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to say that these vehicles should go at 30 m.p.h. They should remember that those who are driving the vehicles have the responsibility of life and death in their hands, and it is because of that that we say that there ought to be agreement within the industry before we are asked to approve these Regulations.
I am sure that the Minister would not object if I were to quote what he said in May, 1956, on this very matter. He said:… the main question here … is one of industrial negotiations, of settling the new schedules, etc., that must inevitably arise from a change in speed limit. It is a question not only of schedules but of subsistence, of different turn round"—and I want to lay special emphasis on what follows:in fact, to some extent, almost a different system of operating. We cannot just put that on one side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th May, 1956; Vol. 553, c. 392.]If that was the Minister's view last May, the House and the workers are entitled to know why he has changed it, and why he asks us this afternoon to pass these Regulations in the face of all the problems which he then said had to be faced properly and fairly. In view of what he said in May, is the Minister prepared to give an undertaking that if there is no agreement on this increase in the speed limit by May he is prepared to suspend its operation until agreement is reached? As the Minister has repeatedly recognised that negotiations and a settlement are necessary in the interests of peace in this industry, I think that he owes it to the industry to give such an undertaking.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
This is the third occasion within a matter of 15 months on which either I have followed the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) or he has followed me exactly on this controversy. The origin of it was that during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill I moved a new Clause to give powers to my right hon. Friend, which, in fact, he already possessed under an earlier Statute, for the raising of the speed limit on heavy goods vehicles from 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. That was a legitimate device or artifice to bring about a full discussion of the problem during the Committee stage of that Bill.
I did not force a Division in Committee, although the majority of Conservative Members then shared my view. We deferred the next stage of the discussion until the Report stage of the Road Traffic Bill, which took place in May of last year, when I again moved a similar new Clause. It was then that my right hon. Friend gave the undertaking that he would introduce the necessary Regulations under the existing statutory powers to which I have just referred, and that he would make them effective in the spring of this year. There are good reasons for making them effective in the spring of this year, and my first duty now is warmly to thank my right hon. Friend for honouring his undertaking so expeditiously and punctiliously.
Listening to the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), one got the impression that the only body which favours the raising of this speed limit for goods vehicles is the Road Haulage Association. In fact, the greater part of his speech this afternoon was devoted to a vicious attack on that body. He called it, in effect, the paymaster of the Tory Party—
§ Mr. Ernest Davies rose—
§ Mr. Nabarro
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman when I have finished my sentence. I have made careful note of the fact that he gave way to me on two occasions, and I will reciprocate by giving way to him on two occasions—but on no more than two occasions, because I know his habits so well.
To finish my sentence, I say that one would suppose, having listened to such a 641 vicious attack, that in his eyes not only is the Road Haulage Association the paymaster of the Tory Party—
§ Mr. Nabarro
Whoever it is, we cast our net wide, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and it would be out of order this evening to debate the probity of political party finances.
The fact is that there is very widespread support indeed, by reputable bodies of many kinds and descriptions, for the action which my right hon. Friend is taking by these Regulations. It would not be inappropriate to say who those bodies are. They are: British Road Federation; Federation of British Industries; Mansion House Association on Transport; National Union of Manufacturers; Road Haulage Association; Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; the Traders Road Transport Association; the Traders Traffic Conference; the British Transport Commission itself and—may I add?—the Amalgamated Engineering Union. It will be intensely instructive tonight to see which way the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) and the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), the representatives and spokesmen in this House of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, representing the builders of the heavy goods vehicles, will vote tonight. I will willingly give way to the hon. Member for Southall as he is a representative of the A.E.U.
§ Mr. Pargiter
If I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall be very glad to tell the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am grateful. I shall await in my place, pregnant with expectancy, the momentous statement which is to follow.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has observed "Another miscarriage", but it is not a miscarriage. This is a very important topic which we have been arguing for many years past, and I want to make the 642 point at the outset that the case of the hon. Member for Enfield, East, stated erroneously that the Road Haulage Association is the only supporter of this Measure. Manifestly that is wrong.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
The hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting me completely. The point which I made, and of which he is very well aware, was that it is the Road Haulage Association which prevented agreement within the industry, whereby this could be brought about peacefully. Nobody denies that the other organisation's, including his favourite C-licensees, are in favour of raising the speed limit and of reaching agreement, but the Road Haulage Association is holding up agreements.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The hon. Gentleman is gullible indeed. He has made the intervention which I wanted him to make to enable me to proceed with the next passage in my speech. I have talked at length of the Road Haulage Association being a minority interest. Of course, it is a minority interest. British Road Services are also a minority interest in this field. The majority interest is represented by the C-licence holders. Do not let us make any mistake about that fact.
The hon. Gentleman's figures were out of date. I will give him the up-to-date figures, and he might take them down for his future reference. The total number of heavy goods service vehicles referred to in these Regulations is 122,000. The number of C-licence owners are 70,000 correct to the nearest thousand, representing 57½ per cent. of the whole. The A- and B-licenees, including the British Road Services, are 52,000 representing 42½ per cent.
§ Mr. Nabarro
These figures are the latest published figures available from the Ministry of Transport, as at 30th June. 1956.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman says that my figures are out of date. My figures are some months later than his. The figures which I quoted were for 30th September last year. The A- and B-licences number 42,414, the C-licences 71,953, and the B.R.S.—and these are the latest figures, as at 31st December, 1956—total 9,936. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will note those figures for future reference.
§ Mr. Nabarro
On the contrary, would the hon. Gentleman tell me the source of his figures? Was the source the Ministry of Transport? Of course, it was not. It is a figment of his own imagination. The fact is that the figures that I have quoted are incontrovertible and are derived from the Ministry of Transport.
Whether the hon. Gentleman is right or whether I am right, he would readily concede to me that something in the order of 57½ per cent. to 60 per cent. of all these heavy goods vehicles are in the hands of C-licence holders. I do not think we will quarrel any further on that point.
The fact is, as so much of our debate has been concerned with wage negotiations, that the C-licence holders have not been concerned with the wage negotiations at all. Thus, the majority interest in this matter has not been concerned with the wage negotiations. I ask the hon. Member for Bradford, East, who is or has been associated with the Transport and General Workers Union, whether he will talk to Mr. Frank Cousins—because we have often indulged in controversy on the radio and in other spheres on issues of this kind—and ask him, with my compliments, whether it is not a fact that he readily admits that C-licence owners are in no difficulty in this matter. They are prepared to adjust their wage rates and their schedules and fall in with reasonable union demands. There would be no difficulty whatever in their case.
The difficulty arises in connection with the A-and B-licence holders. They are made up of the Road Haulage Association representation in part measure, the British Road Services interest in part measure—[An HON. MEMBER: "They are willing to agree"] No, they are evidently unable to agree. If there is one thing to which I object more than anything else, it is that this debate was preceeded by a matter of twenty-four hours by a strike threat by B.R.S. drivers to reinforce the case being made by the Socialist Opposition today. In other words, the strike threat was launched yesterday in order to give hon. Members opposite an excuse to say that disquiet and dislocation in the industry, would result—
§ Mr. Ernest Davies rose—644
§ Mr. Davies
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has made an accusation and an imputation against the workers of British Road Services. Should he not substantiate the statement that he has made when he casts reflections like that on such a body of men?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
That is not a point of order. It is a matter for the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I am very grateful for your protection, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The fact is that I am not making an imputation. I am stating facts, and facts do not need substantiating. The hon. Member for Enfield, East is so indolent and pays so little attention to the reports published day by day in the newspapers upon the affairs of the industry which he is seeking to debate, that he has evidently omitted to observe that this strike threat by the B.R.S. drivers was made yesterday.
§ Mr. Nabarro
All I can say is that it is somewhat coincidental that they decided to make their strike threat yesterday evening in order to give hon. Members opposite something to talk about today
§ Mr. Nabarro
The Whip, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), who should be silent in these matters, has just taken his seat and has not listened to any of the earlier arguments. He has just walked in. Whips, especially Opposition Whips, should be seen and not heard. The fact is that this controversy has now been going on for no less than eight years. I will remind the House of the words of Mr. Alfred Barnes, the then Minister of Transport, when he uttered his now famous remark which has appeared in every paper associated with this controversy ever since, and which I have in 645 my notes today. On 22nd March, 1951, Mr. Barnes said:If in an industry, the employers and the trade unions do not accept their responsibilities, then after a reasonable time we must make our decisions irrespective of them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 2627.]A jolly good Co-operator was Mr. Barnes. He did not have too much regard for the sectional trade union interest which exists. I say "sectional trade union interest", because it is the Transport and General Workers' Union, not the Amalgamated Engineering Union, there being a split between them—
§ Mr. McLeavy
Yes; but I thought this was a serious debate on a very serious problem. Since the hon. Gentleman has referred to a split between two unions, I wish to make it perfectly clear, on behalf of the Transport and General Workers' Union, that we are the union which represents the men who will have to drive at 30 m.p.h. The other union represents the men who will produce the vehicles. I suggest to the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) that the bona fide trade union which has a right to express the only bone fide view on this matter represents those who will have to do the job.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I should not like to enter into any of the internecine strife between these unions. They must fight it out between themselves.
This is not essentially a trade union matter. The hon. Gentleman will have observed what so many people outside the trade unions have seen in regard to these drivers, many of whom have been plying at higher speeds than 20 m.p.h. or exceeding the schedules set down for this class of heavy goods vehicle. Why do many of these drivers object to the proposed change? I will tell the House.
Under the present arrangements they have been travelling at 28 to 30 m.p.h.—indeed, most of them do—and making up considerable time on the schedules, thereby being able to have several hours in the tea or coffee houses and cafés on the roadside.
§ Mr. Nabarro
No, there is nothing cheap about it; it is a statement of fact. When this speed limit is increased and the schedules are altered, they will drive at the proper maximum speed of 30 m.p.h., and many of those wasted hours will be eliminated. That is a very good thing indeed for production, and one of the reasons for these Regulations which should surely appeal to every quarter of the House lies in the fact that it is a Measure for raising productivity.
I thought the leading "Opinion" column in the Daily Express of 30th January, 1957, succinctly expressed public opinion in this country, not minority opinion of a sectional trade union interest, reactionary and restrictionist in its outlook, namely the Transport and General Workers' Union, but public opinion as against that tiny minority. This is what the Daily Express said, under the heading, "Why the Fuss?" The article read:After years of protests the absurd 20 mile-an-hour speed limit on lorries is soon to be raised to 30. Everybody knows that many lorries already travel at 30 anyway.I pause there to interpolate that the leader writer of the Daily Express, in using the term "many", hardly exaggerated the case, because, in the eyes of the official observers, the proportion is 95 per cent.Nobody can make a case that this is unsafe"—except my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page).But today the Socialists plan to attack the change. Their complaint is that the Government should wait until the lorry drivers' union gives the all clear.Was there ever such nonsense? The artificial restriction on road transport, which causes a loss of millions of pounds every year, should have been abolished long ago. Britain's roads will never he cleared of congestion if there has to be a wrangle over every simple improvement like this.I might have added to that apposite passage, "and never will Britain beat her overseas competitors so long as there are trade union restrictions of the kind inherent in the Opposition's case today," for that is all it rests upon.
I believe that the Minister's duty in this matter is to pay attention to all the very clear arguments which have been set forth under seven heads—I will go 647 through them very shortly one by one—and that he should act now, for that will not impose any duress upon the negotiating bodies. They have in hand the whole of the months of March and April, which gives them eight weeks, plus another week, namely next week—a total of nine weeks to finish their negotiations.
The hon. Member for Bradford, East was kind enough to quote a passage from an earlier speech of mine. I declare my interest at once. I am the President of the Road Passenger and Transport Association. I am a C-licence operator, on a considerable scale. That is nothing whatever to be ashamed of, and in fact I know a good deal about operating lorries, which gives me considerable knowledge within the realm of practical experience.
I said in Committee, and I repeat today, that I am the first upholder of the belief that, if we increase productivity in an industry, a proper and reasonable share of the profits and proceeds of the increase should go to the men who primarily create it, namely, the skilled, semiskilled and unskilled workers in the industry. This is what I saidI want this 20 m.p.h. speed limit raised to 30 m.p.h. It will result in a substantial increase of productivity; I declared my interest at the outset. I aver without any hesitation that a substantial part of the proceeds of increased productivity in this connection should accrue to the drivers. I want a sharing of profits resulting from the increased productivity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 15th December, 1955; c. 822–3.]to go to them.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite would be entitled to interrupt me at once and say, What is meant by a "share of the profits"? I will tell hon. Members. Let the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, East carry it back to Mr. Frank Cousins, again with my compliments. I would say that, on 1st May, every long distance lorry driver working a 20 m.p.h. lorry should have an increase of £1 a week as his share of the increased productivity which is going to flow from the Regulations. Twenty shillings per week, I say, whether the vehicle be A-licence, B-licence or C-licence; that is what it is worth.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is closely in touch with Mr. Frank Cousins, and he must know that Mr. Cousins was willing, on behalf of the Transport and General Workers' Union, to settle for 648 12s. 6d. a week. That is what he was willing to settle for, but I would be willing to give them 20s. a week each, and I think most enlightened employers would be willing to do that too. But for goodness sake let Parliament alter the law, and then let the interested parties decide among themselves as to the division of the proceeds.
I conclude on this note. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs), when I referred to these seven underpinning reasons for this long overdue reform, interrupted in Committee and said,It is like the seven deadly sins."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 13th December, 1955; c. 816.]I doubt whether they will be regarded by the operators, the owners, or the British public as sins. Here they are.
If these Regulations go through tonight, lower operating costs will result. Second, road safety will be improved. That is the professional opinion of the experts. I will not trouble the House by quoting it again; it was quoted during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill, and again on Report.
Third, we shall get rid of the ridiculous legal position so severely criticised by the Lord Chancellor in another place, whereby 95 per cent. of the vehicles already exceed 20 m.p.h. Let me say here that I am the strongest possible supporter of the law in this respect, and I hope that, when the speed limit is altered the police will enforce the 30 m.p.h. limit.
Fourth, and I say this in contradistinction to what was said by the hon. Member for Bradford, East, who purported to represent the lorry drivers, the drivers themselves will welcome it subject to an adjustment of pay. I say that because, having travelled long distances in the cab with them in order to find out about this, every one of them has told me that to drive a lorry at 20 m.p.h. over long distances, particularly at night, is the most wearying and fatiguing possible process. They would much sooner be able to drive at 30 m.p.h.
Fifth—and here I hope the hon. Member for Southall will corroborate this for me—greatly improved heavy vehicle design will result from this change, thereby directly aiding our export trade. Sixth, we shall see the end of the 649 ridiculous anomaly of a public service vehicle, a large double-decker bus for example, being permitted to travel at 30 m.p.h., whereas often a smaller lorry, if it is over three tons unladen weight, is still tied to 20 m.p.h.
Finally, I claim that, whatever may be the outcome of the negotiations to which I have referred—and, with the passing of these Regulations they will surely be expedited—there will be a financial benefit to the drivers.
That is the case, very shortly put once again. I hope that the House will support the views which I have expressed this evening, will warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend, thank him for the expeditious implementing of the promise which he gave on the Report stage of the Road Traffic Bill last May, and vote overwhelmingly in support of this long overdue reform.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
It would be neither useful nor seemly to draw further attention to the frivolous and conceited performer who has just resumed his scat by making any reference at all to his quite mischievous diatribe. I am in favour of everything that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy). Because they have made their points so well, I will not repeat them and, therefore, my speech will be considerably briefer than it might have been.
I found myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). I am sorry to observe that he will not be able to be with us for the rest of the debate. One other objection I have to the introduction of the Regulations is that they are to be applied indiscriminately. As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East reminded us earlier, road safety depends far more on the state of the road than on the speed of the vehicle. As everybody knows, British roads are about the worst in Western Europe. Everybody knows that the amount of money which is spent on road improvement is disgracefully niggardly. It is not nearly enough and other countries are spending ten times as much.
§ Mr. Delargy
Money spent on roads is not money wasted, but is a definite investment. It saves lives, time and fuel, and road improvements should be regarded as investments and not simply as amenities. There are some roads which are considerably worse than others.
I want to refer to a special problem which has not so far been mentioned, a problem which has arisen since the war and which will concern many constituences. It is that very often since the war new towns and new housing estates have been built around old villages. The result has been that some thoroughfares, which formerly had been merely village streets, have now become very important highways. I will give one instance, because I know it best, and because I am sure that it is typical of many others. It is the village of Aveley in Essex. Aveley is a very old place. It was there before the Normans came and its main street has not been widened since the days of William the Conqueror. The village itself, however, has changed very greatly and changed more in the last few years than during the previous thousand.
The High Street, which was wide enough when a few farm carts trundled along it every few hours, is now used by thousands of people every day travelling to work at Dagenham and elsewhere. It is the main bus route to London and yet it is as narrow as it was when it was merely a small village passage. The residents in the area are so alarmed at the appallingly dangerous road that they have sent to me a petition, which more than a thousand people have signed, asking that in this case the speed limit should be decreased. It is a petition which I hope to present to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport at the conclusion of the debate and to which I am sure he will give his earnest attention. These people ask for a decrease in the speed limit to 15 m.p.h. for at least the most dangerous part of the High Street.
I am sure that there are examples like that all over the country. For those reasons, the Regulations should not be applied indiscriminately to every road, street and lane in the country. The only permanent improvement would be to widen all roads. I submit that until such 651 time as the Minister is able to carry out those road improvements and widenings, in areas like the High Street in Aveley, far from increasing the speed limit, he should decrease it to 15 m.p.h.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) has objected to the speed limit being increased because some of the roads in this country are not up to the standard he desires. I should like to point out that there are many countries where the roads are just as bad as, if not worse than, those in this country and where the speed limits—as I will show in a moment—are considerably higher than in England, Scotland or Wales.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I want to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy). He put forward what I considered to be an extraordinary doctrine. As he knows, I have considerable sympathy with industrial workers and industrial managements. He suggested that it was wrong for Parliament to agree to anything until there was industrial agreement betweeen management and men. That is an extraordinary suggestion and is really an attack on the sovereignty of Parliament.
If we wished, without waiting for industrial agreement over wages between management and men, Parliament could say that all lorries should go at 50 m.p.h. On the other hand, as Members of Parliament we might well say—and perhaps we ought to say—that the financial benefits resulting from higher speeds and higher productivity should go, not to managements and men, but to consumers. If we said that, we should be perfectly within our rights. I hope that the Opposition will not try to prevent the country from changing these out-of-date methods and getting greater productivity.
Let us consider what other countries are doing in this situation. In Germany—one of our greatest industrial competitors, as every hon. Member will admit— 652 the speed limit is 37.5 m.p.h. In the Netherlands, a small built-up country like ours, the limit is 37 m.p.h. In Sweden it is 31 and in Norway 37 m.p.h. When the Queen was driving about the roads in Portugal yesterday, she would have had to exceed 31 m.p.h. to have overtaken a heavy lorry. In the U.S.A. and Canada the limits vary between 40 and 60 m.p.h., according to the State.
§ Mr. McLeavy
The House would be very interested to hear the state of the roads in those countries, and whether, and to what extent, there are motorways.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I reply willingly. In the Netherlands there is a certain mileage of motorways, perhaps 150, within the road network, but there are many small and narrow roads in the Netherlands and in Germany, Sweden and Norway where the speed limits are considerably higher.
I thought that hon. Members opposite had some concern for the interests of commercial drivers, or, anyway, for those connected with the unions. I am amazed at the lighthearted and cavalier way they have treated the interests of those drivers. Do they really expect the drivers of heavy commercial vehicles to continue grinding along at 20 m.p.h. for the rest of their lives? On the sides of some trunk roads, as drivers will remember, there used to be an old clock, an advertisement clock by Leylands, which said:Leylands for all time.Unless these Regulations are approved, the words on that clock will have to be changed to:Law breakers for all time.That is what hon Members opposite are asking 90 per cent. of the lorry drivers to be for all time.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
They are certainly not. About 90 per cent. drive at more than 20 m.p.h.
Last summer I drove up the A5, to run in a motor car. I drove at practically dead on 30 m.p.h. for about 100 miles on the London-Birmingham road. I, was amazed to find that I was overtaken by more lorries than I overtook.
On the subject of driver comfort, on an observed test over 100 miles, which 653 was made a few years ago, at 20 m.p.h. a lorry was overtaken 183 times. When it was running at 30 m.p.h. it was overtaken only 42 times. In other words, 141 vehicles were forced out of their path to overtake that heavy lorry. Moreover, at the slower pace set the lorry driver had much more work to do. He had not only the fatigue of driving slowly but had to make 102 gear changes when going at 20 m.p.h. but only 80 when he was going at 30 m.p.h. Let us face this fact, too, that the driver of an 8-ton bus in much more crowded conditions in London or any great provincial town is allowed to drive at 30 m.p.h.
§ Mr. Collick
Is the logic of what the hon. Gentleman is saying that we should allow lorry drivers to go at 40 m.p.h. so that they may change gear less frequently?
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am not going as far as that. I am only saying that there is less fatigue for a heavy lorry driver when he drives at 30 m.p.h. than when he drives at 20 m.p.h.
This out-of-date law has been a handicap to the export of our commercial vehicles. Our commercial vehicle exports have been too small for the last few years. A few years ago I was in Canada, and I was talking to the driver of a British lorry there. He was on the overnight run between Montreal and Toronto, a distance of 350 miles, and doing it regularly and regularly taking 10 hours every night. It was a Leyland lorry, for Leyland's were making an effort to sell their lorries in the Canadian market. That driver told me, "This British lorry goes very nicely on the flat, but I cannot understand why it goes faster uphill." He could not until he discovered that it was pushed uphill by giant American lorries behind him.
That instance illustrates the story of the struggle which we are having to sell our small British lorries in overseas markets, a struggle which has continued for many years. Of course, we have had to build lorries down to a weight limit of 3 tons. The chassis are too light, and their engines are too small, and the scantlings are too small, too.
What does the proposal of my right hon. Friend mean for productivity? I will give one or two examples of driving 654 experience in this country. Let us take, for example, a night's run of a heavy lorry from London to Macclesfield, a distance of 166 miles, at an average speed of 16 m.p.h.—or it may get to the outskirts of Manchester. Under the new schedule of 22 m.p.h. it could get from London to Preston or even Lancaster, 233 miles away.
Consider the journey to Newcastle, which will be of special interest to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short). With the present schedule of 16 m.p.h. on a night's drive one can get from London to Doncaster. Then another driver has to take the lorry the next 100 miles or more the next day to Newcastle, too late, of course, for the goods which it is carrying to be delivered in Newcastle that day. With the new schedule a driver could get the lorry to Darlington, and the local driver could pick it up and run it into Newcastle in an hour and a half and deliver the goods in Newcastle, unload the lorry, and run it back to Darlington for the night driver to take it back to London that night.
A day could be saved by such an increase in vehicle usage and saving of time. I hope that not all the financial benefit will be shared entirely between the companies and the men. I hope some of the financial benefit will go to the consumers.
The only thing holding up the reform is the agreement about wages. Not a great many lorries are involved in this negotiation, only 70,000 out of 1 million C-licences. As we have heard, and I have no doubt, the holders of C-licences will come to an agreement. Eventually British Road Services will be able to come to an agreement likewise.
This is the dramatic, the 64-dollar question: can the Road Haulage Association come to an agreement with its drivers? I believe that Mr. Frank Fowler, who is Chairman of the Employers' Side of the Road Haulage Wages Council, could have made an overall settlement of this matter as long ago as 1947. I told him so at the time. I am absolutely certain that Mr. Fowler can make an overall settlement now while this present wages agreement is being negotiated. So I say to Mr. Fowler, "What about it? Do not hold back a reform which is twenty years old".
655 Whether as politicians or as businessmen we want this reform to go through smoothly. I was incredulous when the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) hinted that there might possibly be trouble over this long-desired reform. Imagine the Press cartoons if there were a strike. Just think of it—men striking to go at 20 m.p.h. when they are already going at 30 m.p.h. I do not think the Opposition in this case has any general public sympathy at all. Indeed, I think that if hon. Members opposite vote against this proposal they will become the laughingstock of the whole country.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
Do not let us lag behind Germany, the United States of America, Canada, Holland, Portugal, Australia and New Zealand, to mention only a few other countries. Come what may, I say that my right hon. Friend is absolutely right to make these Regulations and to move this Motion, and that we shall be absolutely right if we approve them tonight.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. G. A. Pargiter (Southall)
It is rather a pity that what ought to be a matter of objective debate has been rather bedevilled by the somewhat mischievous speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) which might more properly have been made by the Member for Kid the Minister. Some of the things which he said were of value, but he said many which were highly provocative, totally unnecessary, and added little to the burden of the debate.
The position now is that the two Front Benches are in agreement as to the desirability of raising the speed limit on heavy duty vehicles from 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. Arguments have been adduced on this matter from many quarters on many occasions. Therefore, it is not necessary to repeat them at length. One or two references have been made to them already.
One problem which has been mentioned is that of the inadequacy of our roads. We may contribute to the solution of this problem by raising the speed limit to 30 m.p.h. because it may in many cases be found better to use two lorries travelling at 30 m.p.h. instead of three at the 656 present limit. That may not be a good argument from the point of view of employment in the industry, but it may be a good argument from the point of view of productivity and proficiency. Moreover, if two lorries can do the work of three, that will relieve congestion on the roads.
Reference has been made to the attitude of the Road Haulage Association. I was hoping that the Minister would have delivered stronger castigation of its misdemeanours in this matter since 1947, because, as has been said, all has depended upon one section only of the employers' side. Had those employers taken a reasonable approach to the matter it could have been settled long ago, and the industry would consequently have benefited very considerably in the interim.
It is understandable that if the people who operate the vehicles have under the law a certain hold on affairs they should be anxious not to lose it. It is natural that they should be desirous of retaining it. In some respects it is unfortunate that the Minister has chosen this juncture to make these Regulations, when there are difficulties because of shortage of fuel, etc. It would have been better, perhaps, if he had made them in more normal times. The position of the unions would have been stronger; not that it is not strong enough at the present time, in my view.
I am in favour of these Regulations, and I should have liked to have seen them passed several years ago, but the difficulty ahead, as I see it, is that Parliament may well be placed in a very awkward position. If the Regulations are rejected, not on the merits of the speed limit but because there is not an agreement between the two sides of industry or with what is less than one-half of one side of the industry, it really means that Parliament becomes the arbiter in a dispute between the two sides about the proper level of wages. That is an important factor which we have tried to avoid in the past. The trade unions themselves have tried to avoid it when they have said, "We will negotiate and we do not want Parliament to interfere".
If the Regulations are not passed and the matter is left to negotiations, the employers may say that the trade unions want terms to which they will not agree. 657 Parliament will then have to say whether those terms are fair or not. I should not like Parliament to be placed in that difficulty until it is in a stronger position in relation to the overall negotiation of wages than it is at present. It would be an unfortunate precedent, and that is why I do not like wages to be tied up with the question of these Regulations.
It is the duty of Parliament, however, to see that no section of the community is unfairly or improperly treated and that no one section of the community should be able to hold the rest of the community to ransom. Agreement may be reached with the C-licence holders, the National Union of Manufacturers and so on, and with all sections except that which is composed of the most individualistic members in the industry, namely, the Road Haulage Association. I would have hoped that other sections of the industry might have been able to get that recalcitrant and awkward body to heel before now, and I still hope that they may be able to do that.
§ Mr. Nabarro
The quarrel is between the Road Haulage Association on the one hand and the Transport and General Workers' Union on the other. Why does the hon. Member follow the hon. Member for Enfield. East (Mr. Ernest Davies) and dub the Road Haulage Association as being the awkward body and the guilty party? Why not say that the Transport and General Workers' Union is also equally guilty?
§ Mr. Pargiter
The answer is easy. It is an established fact that the union will have no difficulty with British Road Services and with the C-licence holders. They are already agreed. Therefore, the quarrel is not with the union. Its point of view has been accepted as reasonable by the vast majority of the operators concerned, and they are prepared to agree to it. The exception is the one section of the employers who are the awkward squad, presumably supported by the hon. Member for Kidderminster.
§ Mr. Nabarro
That is very unfair. I have dissociated myself today from the Road Haulage Association and on previous occasions. I have no sympathy at all with it and I am president of an organisation which is not in any way connected with it.
§ Mr. Pargiter
I hope that that will be conveyed to the Association.
Road safety is another important factor, and I have been concerned with it from an engineering point of view. The biggest danger on the road is the 30 m.p.h. machine which is carrying a legal load but, in relation to its capacity, is badly overloaded. The most useful vehicle is the heavy-duty vehicle properly constructed to carry its load. I have seen a 20 m.p.h. machine passing on a hill a vehicle scheduled and legally capable of travelling at 30 m.p.h., due to the fact that the power of the 20 m.p.h. machine was superior in relation to the load carried. I have seen the 20 m.p.h. machine, though still travelling within its legal limit, passing the other vehicle. That is not in the interest of road safety. If these Regulations have the effect of eliminating the present 30 m.p.h. machine in favour of a better and more robustly constructed vehicle it will be in the interests of industry generally and of road safety.
Reference has been made to the fact that the roads are not suitable for the 30 m.p.h. limit for these vehicles. I agree. I should be prepared to let the Minister have power to reduce the speed limit in particularly dangerous places until we have learned sense and have constructed proper roads, but in that case it would have to be applicable to all vehicles, because if the road is not capable of carrying a properly constructed vehicle at 30 m.p.h. it should not be carrying others at that speed.
The Minister will have to address himself, from the point of view of speed, to the problem of the narrow roads passing through towns. But it would be far better to have all vehicles moving in the 30 m.p.h. area at an even speed than to have some travelling at 20 m.p.h. and others trying to pass them, because that is the most frequent cause of accidents.
I do not like the timing of the introduction of these Regulations. It is ten years too late. I believe also that they should have been introduced at a time when there was not a shortage of fuel, because that shortage puts out of balance the power of one side of the industry in bargaining with the other. Nevertheless, now that the Regulations are before us I welcome them and I hope that the opportunity will be taken to end the 659 existing anachronism. It will be in the interests of road safety and it will be to the advantage of the export industry, because heavy-duty vehicles must be built on lines that will compete with that type of vehicle abroad and be at the same time capable of the necessary speed.
Although I have no intention of going into the Division Lobby with the hon. Member for Kidderminster, I shall not find myself in opposition to the Regulations. If they are approved and there is any section of employers who in the meantime prove so recalcitrant that they will not come to reasonable terms, I hope that the Minister, at some stage, will find ways and means whereby a proper level of wages and conditions can be established so that the men may benefit from the work required of them.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. David Price (Eastleigh)
I find myself in complete agreement with most of what the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Pargiter) has just said. I think that some Opposition speakers have made terribly heavy weather of this matter. They have taken a cyclotron to crack a nut. I agree completely with what has been said about the condition of the roads and the state of employer-employee relationships in the industry, but I cannot see that these problems are directly involved in what my right hon. Friend is asking us to do, which is simply to legalise the existing practice on maximum speeds.
A number of hon. Members opposite, and particularly the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), spoke as though we were legalising a higher average speed on scheduled routes. We are not. That comes at a later stage. As the hon. Member for Southall pointed out, that is a matter for negotiation through the normal machinery of industrial relations. We ought to have those two aspects of the problem quite clear. What my right hon. Friend is asking is simply that we legalise what, according to road statistics, 95 per cent. of lorry drivers are doing—namely, driving above 20 miles per hour.
As to what may flow from that and what may be the maximum hours a man can reasonably be expected to do at the wheel, I have very great sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member 660 for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), but I suggest that that is a separate problem and that we shall completely bedevil the issue if we widen it into the issue of industrial relations within the industry.
The subject of speed limits has a long history in the House. I looked up the first debate on the subject that ever took place in the House, in 1896, when a Bill was introduced which became known as "The Motorists' Magna Charta." The law at that time required three people always to be in attendance to drive and conduct a locomotive, one always having to precede it on foot by at least twenty yards waving in his hand a red flag. I think the hon. Member for Enfield, East sees himself in that rôle. I hope his locomotive goes faster than 4 m.p.h. Judging by his attitude towards the technical progress represented in these Regulations, he would find difficulty in attaining that speed.
When that Bill was considered in Committee, a Clause was inserted to provide for a maximum speed limit of 14 m.p.h. That was heavily opposed by a Dr. Tanner, who represented County Cork in the House, He objected to any Bill that popularised machines which were antagonistic to horseflesh and, therefore, to genuine sport, and he suspected that the Bill was, in fact, just a good, old Semitic craze.
So well did that Act work that only seven years later, in 1903, in introducing the Motor Cars Bill, which went wider and covered certain sections of the vehicles which we are discussing today, the Government decided that there was no need for any speed limit. The President of the Local Government Board, introducing the Bill on Second Reading, said:I am convinced if you simply say there should be a limitation on speed which shall be regarded by the public as security, that is no security.I think those words have been proved by the practice we have seen on the roads in relation to the 20 m.p.h. limit. On Friday, 13th April last year, I took a lorry in my stomach. I understand that there was no question of the driver having limited himself to 20 m.p.h. when he drove into me. Consequently, I think the President of the Local Government Board was right in his recommendation to the House in 1903.
661 In spite of the President's recommendation, provision was made for a speed limit of 20 m.p.h. That caused considerable perturbation to certain hon. Members. The then hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Soares) observed:Suppose you are driving along one of these roads in the dark and you sec approaching you two great acetylene lights—which are not at all beautiful—and that as it gets nearer the driver begins to blow the instrument called a horn. Not satisfied with that, suppose the driver has pulled out the sparking plug—I do not know whether that is the correct term or not, at any rate the thing which makes a noise like a Gatling gun—it does; I have heard it; suppose that horrible machine, with all that terrifying noise, rushes past you at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour. However quiet your horses may be, if there is a ditch handy you will be sure to be in it.We have tonight had very similar arguments from hon. Members opposite.
I should like to conclude by quoting to the hon. Member for Enfield, East the remarks of Mr. Redmond, who at that time represented Clare, East in the House:There was one view expressed by an hon. Member which I hope will never be realised—that the day was at hand when horses would completely disappear from our streets, and when every sturdy artisan would be found careering along to his work on a motor bicycle. I say it reverently—God forbid that we should ever see such a day as that.I feel that the speech of the hon. Member for Enfield, East was in the spirit of Mr. Redmond's remarks.
One cannot help feeling that if Mr. George Orwell were alive today the text to hon. Gentlemen opposite would be not "Big Brother is watching you" but "Big Cousins is watching you".
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I am sure the House will congratulate the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. D. Price), even if it does not agree with what he says, upon his literary and historical researches into the subject of the speed limits on our roads. If we are cracking a nut, I would remind him that it has taken a very long time to do so. Since this proposal was initiated, there have been four or five Ministers of Transport, and four of them have declined to try to crack the nut. Now we have the "Wonder from Woking" coming along, and the proceeds to try to crack it.
662 I would remind the House that we shall not make technical progress unless we win the good will and co-operation of the workers in the industry in addition to providing them with up-to-date equipment. It is not sufficient in any industry merely to give a man a better, bigger, wider or longer machine or a machine capable of carrying twice as much when it has to be used on a road which has been very little altered in the last fifty years. It is no good spending money on such machines unless we obtain the good will of the operators. Whatever may be our view about the technical state of the road transport industry justifying an increase in speed, we cannot make progress in the search for improved efficiency unless we have the co-operation of the operators.
I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman has chosen this moment to bring about the alteration. He will realise, leaving aside who may be responsible for what is happening, that difficulties are being experienced by the road haulage operators. The Road Haulage Association has an office in Newcastle, and during the last six years I have had a great deal of correspondence with it, not all of it being complimentary. On 18th December last the secretary wrote me a letter complaining that the right hon. Gentleman was not being fair with private road operators in allocating petrol for commercial vehicles. I wonder whether that has anything to do with the fact that an agreement has not been reached. The secretary told me that many of the operators who had purchased vehicles with special A-licences from the British Transport Commission at high prices would be forced out of business because they would be unable, through loss of revenue, to keep up their hire-purchase payments.
The right hon. Gentleman played some part in making it possible for those people to acquire their vehicles. Then, if that letter is to be believed, he proceeds to drive them into the bankruptcy court through his policy in respect of petrol. Consequently, there may be some justification for the resistance of the Road Haulage Association. All I know is that the Road Haulage Association has not been co-operative in this matter in the years preceding the rationing of fuel. It was not co-operative when fuel was not in short supply. This may be an excuse behind which the Association can 663 hide, but the right hon. Gentleman is the excuse which it is using.
I wonder, therefore, why the Minister has seen fit to introduce these Regulations now. He made an optimistic reference earlier today, as did his right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General yesterday, to the possibility of increased petrol supplies within the next few months. If they mean what they say concerning the petrol supply, would it not have been advisable to keep back the Regulations until there was no longer any excuse, fuel shortage or otherwise, for anybody to offer resistance.?
I remind the Minister that three of his predecessors, from his own party, declined to take the step that he is taking tonight. The right hon. Gentleman slipped up when quoting Mr. Alfred Barnes, because the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Scotland was at the Ministry of Transport and he made no attempt to introduce Regulations of this kind. Negotiations had been taking place beforehand. The present Colonial Secretary, when at the Ministry of Transport, never sought to introduce such a Measure without agreement.
The present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance also was at the Ministry of Transport, but he was not prepared to introduce such Regulations without agreement. Indeed, he said so in Standing Committee on the Road Traffic Bill. He said:The Government have a certain duty in this matter, and this includes trying—as for some months we have been trying—to see whether a satisfactory measure of agreement on the consequences of this change can be found."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 15th December, 1955; c. 860.]Are we not to be told why the present Minister feels more competent to introduce these Regulations following the experience of three of his predecessors?
There is still a volume of opposition to this Measure. If one listened to the speeches which have been made, with the exception of the speech by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), one would be led to believe that everybody else in the country was wholeheartedly in support of the Regulations. Is that really the case? Is it not a fact, that the Standing Joint Committee of Metropolitan Boroughs is opposed to them?
The right hon. Gentleman has another rod in pickle at the moment. He is trying 664 to get the 30 m.p.h. restriction relaxed on certain roads leading out of London. When I asked him on 30th January what progress he was making, he said:Proposals for an experimental 40 m.p.h. speed limit on certain sections of main roads leading out of London are now being examined by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th January, 1957; Vol. 563, c. 174.]I am advised on fairly good authority that the right hon. Gentleman is meeting the resistance of every single municipality represented on that body.
§ Mr. Jones
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. Will he stand at that Box and deny that the representatives of the municipalities who are members of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee are not resisting his proposal to introduce the 40 m.p.h. limit on roads leading out of London?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps the hon. Member will be kind enough to read the Answer which I gave to the House yesterday, which shows quite different results.
§ Mr. Jones
Is the Minister now saying, therefore, that there is no resistance from the municipalities represented on the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee? The Association of the Municipal Corporations is not happy about it either. In a letter to me the morning, it says:The Association has more than once expressed the opinion that this relaxation of the speed limit should be permitted outside built-up areas.
§ Mr. Jones
The Association of Municipal Corporations, comprising all the counties and municipal boroughs, has some comment to make, because this proposal will mean that the vehicles affected by it will be able to travel at 30 m.p.h. through those municipal boroughs. The Urban District Councils Association is opposed to the Regulations, not to mention the Cyclists' Touring Club, 665 the Pedestrians' Association and many of the Minister's road safety committees up and down the country. They arouse opposition also in the industry.
On 22nd January, in this House, the Minister used some very ill-chosen words about the railways, which created a good deal of resistance among the railwaymen. He did not improve the position on 6th February, when, in reply to a question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), he misquoted me in trying to explain away what he had said. In the same way, the right hon. Gentleman is arousing a good deal of resistance in introducing these Regulations to-night, and he ought to think again. He should realise that he will not get all the technical advance and advantages unless he can carry with him the good will and co-operation of the men who handle the vehicles.
What is the Minister seeking to do? While it is true that there are a large number of scheduled services operating—as far as British Road Services is concerned, they are also tramp services—there are many cases in which schedules are not suitable. A large number of private services do not have schedules but have maximum times laid down for the completion of a journey.
My constituency is 250 miles from London. With the present 20 m.p.h. restriction and an average schedule of 16 m.p.h., a heavy vehicle would take 15.5 hours to reach my constituency from London. By increasing the maximum speed to 30 m.p.h., the Minister will be enabling the schedule to be raised to 23 or 24 m.p.h. I prefer to take the lower figure. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman is going to ask the operators of heavy vehicles to run them at an average increased speed of 7 m.p.h. At a speed of 23 m.p.h. a vehicle can complete 250 miles in eleven hours. Does the Minister really believe that he will get co-operation in the industry, and that the men who are now being paid daily or weekly rates—as many are—will agree to reach their destination four hours earlier and so permit their employers to get four more hours work out of them, without any increase in pay? That is what it really means.
666 Why has no agreement been reached about this? Why have those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have some influence in these circles not influenced the Road Haulage Association to accept an agreement? The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) claims that none of the C-licence operators has any objection to improved schedules and improved rates of pay. Indeed, he is on record as saying that in his view the drivers should receive additional remuneration. He said that during the Committee stage of the Road Traffic Bill. If the C-licence operators, who run about 60 per cent. of the total number of vehicles, are not opposed to improved conditions, and British Road Services are similarly not opposed to them, surely it is within the capacity of those people who speak for he C-licence operators to bring sufficient pressure to bear upon the recalcitrant minority to compel them to negotiate an agreement in order that this can be achieved.
What is the right hon. Gentleman doing by his action tonight? He is not holding the ring fairly between the two sides. He is putting all the negotiating cards in the hands of the employers, to the detriment of the employees. Instead of holding the ring fairly, as a Minister of the Crown should do in such a case as this, he is throwing his weight in upon the side of the employers and saying, "You cannot reach an agreement, therefore I propose to make Regulations." I am not sure whether he will be unduly worried whether or not an agreement is reached, until there is difficulty in the industry.
It would be much more in keeping with the actions of an impartial Minister of the Crown if he held the ring fairly between the two sides until an agreement was reached, giving what most decent people believe should be conceded—a decent improvement to the men who will be called upon to travel at 30 m.p.h. instead of 20 m.p.h. I do not accept the argument of the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) that if a driver is driving a heavy vehicle with a heavy load at 30 m.p.h. through the night for a five-and-a-half hour stretch, or for an eight-hour stretch with two short breaks, his fatigue is less than if he were driving at 20 m.p.h. In my judgment his fatigue is considerably greater. These matters 667 should have been taken into account by the Minister before he deliberately took sides in the matter by making Regulations.
In very many instances our roads are still completely unsuited for heavy vehicles, with heavy loads, travelling at 20 m.p.h., much less 30 m.p.h. How far is the Minister taking into account the safety of the public? Does it mean that if a driver cares to drive continuously for eleven hours—as he is allowed to do in certain circumstances, under the Road Traffic Act—he should drive at 23 m.p.h. throughout the night? Should not the safety element be taken into account?
Does not the Minister think that there is a maximum mileage which no driver should exceed without a long period for rest and refreshment? Or is he prepared merely to multiply 11 by 23 and say, "All right; if you can do the job, carry on for 11 hours at 23 m.p.h. and completely disregard the safety of other drivers, vehicles and pedestrians on the road, as well as all crossing places and villages through which the lorry must pass"? The safety aspect of the problem does not appear to have been taken into account.
In those circumstances, because the safety factor has been ignored and because the right hon. Gentleman has sought to take sides in this dispute when he should have been holding the ring fairly between the two contestants. I shall have pleasure in voting against the Regulations.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Jones) can rightly be described as one of the last remnants of the force of reactionary restriction which, for the last ten years, has been fighting against what is inevitable and very necessary for the benefit of the country. We have now reached the last refuge of the persons without an argument. They say that this is not the right moment. When people say that one realises that they have reached the rock bottom, and those opposing the Regulations have certainly reached the rock bottom.
No one can refute the arguments in favour of the Regulations. We shall have a better utilisation of our vehicles; a better design for export purposes; less 668 congestion upon the roads, and lower fuel consumption. All those are very admirable reasons for passing the Regulations.
The one complaint I have to make is that for six years a Conservative Government have had cold feet upon the issue. It is almost disgraceful that Cabinet after Cabinet have refused to do what was essential in the national interest because they were apparently in some way afraid of the trade union movement. If one considers something to be right it should go forward, irrespective of the opinion of the trade union movement. During the past four, five or six years we have been more mindful of what the unions have thought about the matter than what would best serve the nation. I hope that we shall not have another example of a Conservative Cabinet refusing to do something which is absolutely vital in the national interest simply because they have cold feet about the reaction of the trade unions.
I am a strong upholder of the trade union movement and fight its battle for it from time to time. I condemn those who, sitting in armchairs outside, talk about the movement in totally unfair terms, which indicate that they have no knowledge of industrial conditions. That is one thing, but it is an entirely different matter to acquiesce in the opposition of trade unions to something which is clearly in the national interest.
I am surprised that hon. Members opposite have not made the next point that I am going to mention, because it is at the root of the whole trouble. My view is that the standard wage for the long-distance haulage driver is absolutely farcical. When, some time after the end of the Second World War, I intended to employ the services of such a man, I was told that his wages were £5 19s. a week. I could not understand that a man with his responsibility should be paid so little. I was told by the manager that he would not earn as little as that, because he would get overtime.
The situation in the industry is very simple. Men are paid a ridiculous standard wage, and the only way in which they can bring it up to a living wage is by doing overtime. But they do not do real overtime. All they do is to run the vehicle at 30 or 40 m.p.h. and clock up whenever they find it convenient, putting in their time on the basis 669 of a schedule of 20 m.p.h. or less. On the difference between those two running times they make their living. That is clearly an absurd state of affairs, and it has been perpetuated by the refusal of consecutive Governments to put this matter on a rational basis.
Tonight I am glad to see that we are putting an end to this nonsense. As from the passing of these Regulations employers, whether the Road Haulage Association, C-licence operators or B.R.S., will have to pay their men on a realistic basis and not a basis of doing 16 m.p.h., when we all know that they are not doing that and are clocking up purely bogus overtime.
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has now succeeded where his predecessors have failed. At last we are seeing the right thing done in respect of the speed limit. We are going to have a realistic approach and I hope that the same realism will be shown by the Road Haulage Association in dealing with the wage question. So far as I know, the Transport and General Workers' Union has at no time in the past five years put a price on increasing the speed limit from 20 to 30 m.p.h. I think that it is about time that it put a price on it and faced reality.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I am sure that the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent the work of the Transport and General Workers' Union. It is one thing to say that it should put a price on it, but is it not better that the union should be prepared to negotiate in a sensible way without asking for a price which may be absurd in itself? Is it not far better to negotiate on the practical side of the problem and get a settlement based on a fair assessment of the rights of the workers?
§ Mr. Shepherd
I do not think that it is at all, if the situation is farcical and the only objection which the union really has is on the question of wages. I quite support the objection on those grounds. It's duty is not to put up the old pretentious argument against raising the speed limit, but to say what the men really want.
While I do not hold any brief for the Road Haulage Association, I think that the trade union movement is also to be condemned for failing to face up to 670 reality. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has not waited for those two sides to get together. They will have to get together after these Regulations are passed tonight, and I am sure that that will be for the benefit of all concerned.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. G. H. Oliver (Ilkeston)
I promise to sit down in five minutes from now at the most. It would appear from the discussions which have taken place this afternoon that the Transport and General Workers' Union, the principal organisation concerned in this matter, was a body of restrictionists which had no desire at all to increase the speed limit and no desire to increase the productivity of the industry. That is quite erroneous.
One or two hon. Members whom I see here—the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and other hon. Members who have spoken—all familiar faces when the Road Traffic Act was being discussed in Committee, know full well that the principal objection which has been lodged is that which my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) stated earlier in the day.
It is 27 years since the existing speed limit was fixed, and it would be no compliment to British engineering if in that time improvement had not been made in the construction and equipment of this type of vehicle to make it as safe today at 30 m.p.h. as 20 m.p.h. was safe in 1930.
I was in the House when we discussed the 1930 Act. I discussed this matter with Mr. Ernest Bevin, Mr. Arthur Deakin, the present general secretary, Mr. Frank Cousins, and not one of them repudiated, in fact they welcomed, the idea of increased productivity for the industry. It is recognised that of the 133 trades which were shown in the Ministry of Labour Gazette in September last, the transport workers' average earnings were 117th down the list or, in other words, sixteenth from the bottom. In the same journal the average hourly rate was shown to be equally low.
The transport union and the transport workers are wise enough to know that if they are to obtain increased wages and better conditions and if the tariffs are to be lowered, it is only by increased productivity that that can be done. I cannot understand those hon. Members, particularly those who took part in the 671 Committee stage discussions on the Road Traffic Act, putting up a story tonight suggesting that there was no effort on the part of the transport union to see that the industry was brought up to date because the drivers were not concerned. They do not want to drive obsolete lorries and work to antiquated schedules and I am sure that they do not want to work for out-of-date employers. They want to see the employer brought up to date.
We have made it quite clear that it is not the British Road Services and the other organisations which have been referred to tonight with which the union or the industry has any difference. The nigger in the woodpile appears to be the Road Haulage Association. That is the body with which apparently no agreement can be reached.
I was very surprised when I heard the Minister use tonight the optimistic words that he thought things would go well. Those were precisely the words which he used in May last year. The last words that he uttered then on this matter were that there was a very happy relationship existing in the industry and that agreement ought to be come to very quickly.
Because the Minister is giving the advantage to the road haulage industry if these Regulations go through tonight—and they will go through by reason of numbers—that does not mean there will be a settlement in the industry on this matter. We are transferring the problem from the House of Commons to the industrial field.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)
We have had an interesting debate, and I think it has followed the traditional pattern of these debates. Few subjects have been more fully discussed over recent years, both in Committee and in the House, and before I came to deal with it I read past records of debates with great interest. I should like to congratulate hon. Members on both sides of the House on the interesting, lucid and cogent arguments which they have advanced previously on this difficult subject.
Once again hon. Members on both sides of the House have advanced their arguments with their customary weight 672 and cogency. As I heard them rolling out, they sometimes made me think that they were not unlike the heavy vehicles about which we have been talking—heavy vehicles discharging from either side of the House. I make no comment on the speed with which they came, but I would say this or, the subject of speed. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) accused the Government of rushing these Regulations through. Whatever impression we may have in this House I do not think that public opinion will consider that Parliament is rushing them through. Generally speaking, and looking not only at this Administration but also at previous Administrations, including those of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I think that public opinion feels it to be time that we tried to settle this problem.
I am sure that tonight the House will not wish me to recapitulate at length the arguments on the various points which have been discussed, both today and previously, by experts from both sides of the House. There are only two points on which I wish to make a few comments: first, on road safety, on which some hon. Members have what I am sure are sincere reservations, and which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page); and, secondly, on the main topic of this debate, the timing of the Regulations. Other than on those two matters, there has been general agreement among us, both today and in the past, that this step is something which is desirable and which will confer benefits all round.
On the topic of road safety, I should like to deal with one or two points raised by my hon. Friend. He referred to a recent Regulation made by my right hon. Friend which fixed the limit of width of vehicles at 8 ft. unladen and 9 ft. 6 in. laden. He complained that that was increasing the width of the vehicles, but there he was at fault. In fact, before that Regulation was made there was no limit to the combined width of a vehicle and its load. The Regulation relating to the 30-ft. length overall has been in force for a number of years. My hon. Friend admitted that there was no weight in his comment on the accident record of heavy vehicles in 1955, and I am sure that that would be confirmed by the House.
673 On a point which I feel commanded general interest, I think that I ought to add this further comment. My hon. Friend argued that if the limit is raised from 20 to 30 m.p.h. there was no better prospect of enforcement than at present with the 20 m.p.h. limit. I can say without qualification that there is a better prospect. The 30 m.p.h. limit is commonly enforced by the police in built-up areas, and there is a reasonably practical possibility that the police will be able to enforce this. I can assure the House that so far as the influence of my right hon. Friend and myself goes, we shall do our utmost to see that it is enforced. It is clear that there is a far better prospect that it will be enforced.
§ Mr. Collick
Is it so clear? If, according to information which has come from the hon. Gentleman's own side of the House, 95 per cent. of drivers exceed the present speed limit of 20 m.p.h., what assurance can we have that there will not be some who will exceed it when it is legally 30 m.p.h., and travel at 40 m.p.h.?
§ Mr. Nugent
I agree that it is a matter of opinion. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that the 30 m.p.h. speed limit is fairly frequently, commonly and generally enforced by the police in built-up areas. Therefore, it is obviously a less difficult matter to enforce than is the 20 m.p.h. speed limit.
On the matter of speed limits I would say particularly to those who argue that the 20 m.p.h. limit should be retained that, of course, the slower a vehicle goes the safer it will be, so far as speed alone goes. But we have to think about traffic flow, and I noticed an interesting comment by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) during the Committee stage discussions on the Road Traffic Act, that we could make the roads so safe that not a wheel would turn. We must arrive at a reasonable balance between the necessities of traffic flow and the necessities of road safety and so, with my right hon. Friend, I say roundly that 30 m.p.h. for the modern heavy vehicle is not an excessive speed; and that the brakes of such vehicles are sufficient to keep them reasonably safe.
Turning to the question of general concern, the matter of timing—
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point about the safety of heavy vehicles on the road, will he give an answer to the charge made from this side of the House that it takes longer for a private car to pass a heavy vehicle travelling at 30 m.p.h. on a narrow road like the Great North Road than it would take to pass a heavy vehicle travelling at 20 m.p.h.; and that, consequently, there is a double line of traffic for a longer stretch along the road, and a longer period of time when there is less safety?
§ Mr. Nugent
I hesitate to go into that argument in detail. It has been discussed in great detail on other occasions, and I feel that I should not detain the House unreasonably by discussing it now.
There is no difficulty in facing this point. I recollect reading a very interesting argument developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson), who referred to his experiences in Cornwall in passing heavy traffic. It it a fact that where a heavy vehicle is travelling at 20 m.p.h. on a narrow winding road, with a queue of traffic behind it, there is an element of danger in that one of the following vehicles may—as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—be a lorry which is allowed to travel at 30 m.p.h. and which may try to pass the heavy vehicle on that narrow road. If such a stream of traffic is travelling at 30 m.p.h. on a narrow road where no passing should take place, there is a better prospect that passing will not be attempted than if the stream is travelling at 20 m.p.h. But again it is a matter of judgment. That is my opinion which I am giving to the House.
The benefits of these Regulations have been referred to at great length by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, with his "seven deadly sins", and I will refer merely to the three main benefits which they confer. First, there is the benefit of increased productivity. I was delighted when the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) so roundly asserted that the trade union interest is no less than that of anyone else in wishing to see increased productivity. That is just the note which would prove acceptable to the House, it is something which appeals to all hon. Members. It is not only a matter of benefit to the 675 employer and employee. Let us, as one of my hon. Friends exhorts us, also think of the poor consumer, the person who uses the transport, and of the national interest generally. We wish to see a fair balance, and we wish to see everyone benefit from increased productivity.
The present Regulation undoubtedly has a retarding effect on design. It tends to give an incentive to the building of overbodied vehicles which have an unladen weight below the present limit. If we remove that, there is no doubt that there will be a benefit in design for the export markets.
Everyone has observed that the law at present is widely disregarded, and the effect of raising the speed limit will be to bring the law generally into line with common practice. These are substantial benefits which we all desire. The only objection is to the timing of the Regulations. The employers' representatives and the trade union representatives—
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
Is the hon. Gentleman now laying down the doctrine that the way to get a change in the law is to break the law, to defy it, and that if we break and defy the law long enough, the present Conservative Government will amend the law so that we can comply with it?
§ Mr. Nugent
No. I do not think that my remarks could be understood to carry that meaning.
Over the years both sides of this important industry have discussed the problem at length without reaching conclusions. The number of vehicles involved today is 71,000 C-licences, 12,000 A- and B-licences in the British Road Services and 39,000 A- and B-licences outside the British Road Services.
§ Mr. Nugent
British Road Services are optimistic that they will reach agreement. As my right hon. Friend said, in opening the debate, the Road Haulage Association is prepared to negotiate on the principle that no employee is to be worse off as a result of the increased limit and, secondly, that any increased dividend resulting from higher productivity should be divided in agreed ratio between management and men. That seems to be a fair basis, and I believe that when the 676 increase becomes fact instead of theory, good sense will prevail and agreement will soon be reached.
In reply to the hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy), I am afraid I must tell him that even if agreement is not reached by 1st May, if the Regulations have been approved by Parliament, the limit will be raised. I should like, however, to add this: I do not doubt that the Road Haulage Association will take note of the concern of the House, which has been expressed on all sides today, for a harmonious settlement and will interpret these principles fairly, as also will the transport workers' representatives in their part of the negotiations.
I should not like there to be any doubt that my right hon. Friend and I fully recognise that full co-operation and harmony in the industry is a vital part of this matter. As has been rightly said, at the end of the day it is the drivers who have to drive the vehicles at these faster speeds, and unless their co-operation can be obtained nobody will get the benefits to which I have referred. Nevertheless, I would say to the hon. Member for Enfield, East and the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones), who accused my right hon. Friend of endangering labour relations and favouring the interests of the Road Haulage Association, that I completely reject their accusation. My right hon. Friend and his predecessors have tried to keep a fair balance in this matter.
The facts are against the hon. Member for The Hartlepools. The record in this matter stretches back over the last ten to thirteen years. I read with interest that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) thought some ten years ago that he had achieved agreement. It slipped away from him again. The fact is that successive Ministers of Transport have struggled with this matter over the last ten or so years. It has been like a scene from Dante's Inferno for Ministers of Transport. It has been like Sisyphus trying to push the stone up the hill. Each time they were in sight of the brow of the hill the stone rolled back again to the bottom.
§ Mr. D. Jones
If the hon. Member is making that point now, may I point out that hon. Members opposite had every 677 opportunity in 1951, 1952 and 1953, when they had the Road Haulage Association where they wanted it. Why did they not take the opportunity then?
§ Mr. Nugent
I think that the record to which I have referred is a fair point to make. One Minister after another drawn from both sides of the House have struggled to reach agreement on this matter between the two sides. I say roundly to the House that this history is a conclusive argument that agreement simply cannot be reached until the Regulations have been approved. Is there any prospect that if we waited for another year, or even two years, agreement would be reached? I say roundly to the House that after the record of the last twelve years there is no prospect at all.
Bearing in mind the great benefits which can flow from this change to the drivers, to the employers, and to the national economy, we should not hesitate to give the prospect of those benefits to the nation by raising the limit. Let us send out a message from here tonight to both sides in these negotiations that we expect them, when we have raised the limit, to proceed with all speed to reach a sound and fair agreement. I ask the House to approve the Regulations.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
We have heard much in the debate of the failure of various road employer organisations to reach an agreement with the unions about certain matters. I want to submit to the House that that is not an issue upon which the House should decide a matter of this kind. The House has before it the question whether it will sanction Regulations whereby the speed limit for heavy road vehicles shall be increased from 20 to 30 m.p.h. In my view, there is only one question which the House should consider in this connection: will the increase in the speed of these huge vehicles increase public safety or not? The number of casualties on the roads of Britain at the moment is a positive scandal—and that is the only question the House should consider.
The Minister made as a substantial part of his case the point that 95 per cent. of these lorries are exceeding the 20 m.p.h. limit and are travelling at nearer to 30 m.p.h. If the House approves these Regulations the lorries 678 will be legally entitled to travel at 30 m.p.h. Everybody knows that in practice, instead of travelling at 30 m.p.h., many of them will travel at nearer 40 m.p.h. Does anybody suggest that to allow these heavy lorries to travel at these speeds on our roads will increase road safety? In my judgment it will not.
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) this afternoon put forward a wonderful case on the road safety aspect of the matter. His speech has passed completely unanswered. In my judgment, the House should not approve the Regulations. If the Minister lived on a main road out of London and had experience of the vibration, noise and speed of these vehicles, he would not ask us to increase the speed limit.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
The hon. Gentleman said there was no answer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). Is he not aware that as long ago as 1947 the Committee on Road Safety reported that, having regard to the improvement in braking equipment, they saw no objection on grounds of safety to increasing the speed limit?
§ Mr. Collick
I am not concerned about the 1947 Report but about the speech made today by the hon. Member for Crosby. I say that his speech has gone unanswered. No one can deny that it has been completely unanswered. If the Government had any regard to the enormous number of casualties which occur on our roads, they would not be a willing party to the indiscriminate application of this increased speed limit. Under existing conditions we can have two lorries on a 20-ft. road, completely blocking the road; but in spite of that, under the Regulations the speed limit for those vehicles is to be raised to 30 m.p.h. In my judgment, if the legal 'speed limit is raised to 30 m.p.h., and possibly 35 to 40 m.p.h. in its practical application, it means an increase in the numbers of deaths and other casualties on the roads. Any Minister ought to have some concern for that aspect, but it has gone completely unanswered from that Front Bench.
The right hon. Gentleman talks of increasing the flow of traffic in the pipeline. To anyone who knows anything about traffic conditions, London traffic conditions, main road traffic conditions before 679 the petrol shortage, to talk about an increase in the flow is quite absurd, and the Minister must know that from his own experience. Therefore, I say that it is quite wrong for the House to pass these Regulations. There is no party issue on this, and we should have considered it absolutely on a non-party basis.
I should have liked to have seen the House, on both sides, discussing the matter solely in relation to its influence
§ on road safety. That is the basis upon which the House should have decided, but that aspect has not been touched upon either by the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister. For that, if for no other reason, the House would, if it were doing its duty in the public interest, reject these Regulations as they deserve to be rejected.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 198, Noes 151.681
|Division No. 69.]||AYES||[7.41 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Gresham Cooke, R.||Neave, Airey|
|Aitken W. T.||Grimond, J.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Harvey, Alr Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Osborne, C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Partridge, E.|
|Ashton, H.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Barber, Anthony||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Barter, John||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pott, H. P.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Hope, Lord John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Hornby, R. P.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Redmayne, M.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Howard, John (Test)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Black, C. W.||Hurd, A. R.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Hyde, Montgomery||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Iremonger, T. L.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Braine, B. R.||Irvine, Bryant Codman (Rye)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Russell, R. S|
|Carr, Robert||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Shepherd, William|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Kaberry, D.||Speir, R. M.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Keegan, D.||Spent, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt. -Col. J. K.||Kerr, H. W.||Stevens, Ceoffrey|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Kimball, M.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kirk, P. M.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Lambton, Viscount||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Leather, E. H. C.||Storey, S.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Leavey, J. A.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Teeling, W.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Temple, J. M.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Lt. -Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McAdden, S. J.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Fell, A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thomton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Fort, R.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Foster, John||Maddan, Martin||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Freeth, Denzil||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Marshall, Douglas||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Mathew, R.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. D. C.|
|Godber, J. B.||Mawby, R. L.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Green, A.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Williams, R Dudley (Exeter)||Woollam, John Victor||Colonel J. H. Harrison and|
|Wills, G. (Bridgwater)||Mr. Bryan.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Allen, Scholofield (Crewe)||Hale, Leslie||Paton, John|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hamilton, W. W.||Peart, T. F.|
|Barter, John||Hannan, W.||Pentland, N.|
|Benson, G.||Hayman, F. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Beswick, Frank||Herbison, Miss M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hobson, C. R.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Holman, P.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Boardman, H.||Houghton, Douglas||Randall, H. E.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hubbard, T. F.||Redhead, E. C.|
|Bowles, F. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Reeves, J.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hunter, A. E.||Reid, William|
|Braddook, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Rhodes, H.|
|Brookway, A. F.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Janner, B.||Ross, William|
|Burke, W. A.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Royle, C.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Short, E. W.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Snow, J. W.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Lawson, G. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Clunie, J.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lewis, Arthur||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lindgren, G. S.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Cove, W. G.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Cronin, J. D.||MacColl, J. E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Daines, P.||MaoDermot, Niall||Thornton, E.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McInnes, J.||Tomney, F.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Delargy, H. J.||McLeavy, Frank||Viant, S. P.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mahon, Simon||Warbey, W. N.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwoh)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Weitzman, D.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Messer, Sir F.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bllston)||Mitchison, G. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Monslow, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Moody, A. S.||Willey, Frederick|
|Fernyhough, E.||Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Fletcher, Erio||Moyle, A.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Noel-Baker, Franois (Swindon)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Goooh, E. G.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Oram, A. E.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oswald, T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Owen, W. J.|
|Grey, C. F.||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Simmons.|
|That the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, 1956, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19th December, be approved.|