HC Deb 16 May 1957 vol 570 cc703-18

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield, East)

I beg to move.

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Removal of Vehicles (England and Wales) Regulations. 1957 (SI 1957, No. 675), dated 15th April, 1957, a copy of which was laid before this House on 16th April, be annulled.

Mr. Speaker

It might be convenient if this Prayer and the following one, in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), were taken together. They seem to me to be in identical terms.

Mr. Davies

Yes, Mr. Speaker. If we take the Prayer relating to Scotland with this one it will be quite agreeable to us.

I have moved this Motion not because we oppose the proposals in the Regulations, but because we feel that it will be helpful to the House and to the motoring public if some clarification as to the manner in which they are to be applied is given by the Minister tonight.

As far as I understand, before these Regulations were laid under the 1956 Act the only power in the hands of the police to remove vehicles was when they were constituting a danger on the highway; when they had been abandoned, or when they had broken down. These Regulations extend the power of the police to remove vehicles if they are causing an obstruction. Because very wide powers are being given to the police it seems to us that there are some unknown quantities which it would be helpful to have explained to the House.

It would be useful if we knew the extent to which it is intended that these powers should be used, under what conditions and in what circumstances they will be used, and what will be the position of the driver if the police exercise their powers. It is clearly important to the motoring public and to all drivers that the attittude of the police towards the driver should continue on the basis of co-operation and not persecution.

That means that it would be advisable for these Regulations to be used by the police with considerable caution and in a sense of reasonableness—but by reasonableness I mean firm reasonableness, and certainly they have started off in this way. I understand that up to Tuesday of this week only about 60 vehicles had been removed under these Regulations. The police are certainly acting cautiously—it may be that they are acting a little too cautiously—but that is erring on the right side in the initial stages.

As the opportunity arises, the public should be told how serious an obstruction must be before these powers will be used. We could all think of circumstances in which vehicles would obviously be causing an obstruction to other traffic, and when their removal would facilitate the flow of traffic very substantially. I am not referring to the ordinarily parked vehicle—although all parked vehicles on the highway are to some extent an obstruction to the free flow of traffic—but to cases of double-banking, as still exists today. In such cases, I think that these powers should be employed.

I believe that all double parking anywhere in London should be prohibited. Today, I came through Soho Square and Berkeley Square and I found, particularly on the corners, that congestion was so great that traffic had to move in single line. In my opinion, the time has come when it should be made clear that any form of double parking, because of the inconvenience it causes, should come to an end. There are a great number of other examples which one could give, such as parking near corners, obstructing vision at intersections, impeding pedestrian crossings, and the like, where the enforcement of the law against obstruction should be much more rigorously applied.

I wish to know to what extent the police propose to take steps to trace a driver when they consider it desirable that a vehicle should be moved and the driver cannot be found. I hope that there will always be a reasonable effort made by the police to find the driver, so that he may be given an opportunity to remove the vehicle. But "reasonable" needs a reasonable interpretation. One does not expect policemen to wait around as, unfortunately, they still do, though under the law it is no longer necessary for them to do so, until a driver returns to his car; because they can summon the owner of the car without waiting until he returns. But, as I say, reasonable steps should be taken.

After all, a driver may be put into a quandary, if he returns and finds that his car has disappeared. He will not know whether it has been removed legitimately by the police, or stolen, or just borrowed for an illegal purpose. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary whether the police intend to remove vehicles immediately to a distant pound, as it were or, if there is a convenient place nearby, that the cars will be left there. If there is a street nearby where there are parking facilities, obviously it would be preferable, both from the point of view of the police and the motorist, to put the vehicle there rather than to take it to a pound where the driver would have to seek it out. That would also avoid the cost of towing it away.

How is the towing away of vehicles to be done? I saw a statement which was alleged to have been made by a constable that qualified police drivers are to be empowered to drive away wrongfully parked cars up to a certain value, and for that purpose sets of master keys will be kept by the police. I find that rather disturbing. It seems to me that if the police are to be able to enter any vehicle and drive it away, there is considerable danger that the vehicle may be badly driven or damaged in the process. I should like to know whether that is a correct statement, whether it is the intention that the police shall be given keys and drive these cars away, or whether, if they cannot be pushed to a nearby spot, they will be towed away as I believe cars have been.

If cars are driven away by the police, or, for that matter, if they are towed, and they are damaged in the process, who is responsible? Will the car insurance cover that? It is problematical, but it is important to know whether the responsibility falls upon the police, or whether it rests on the driver or owner of a car which has been taken away by the police.

I would presume that if the owner could prove negligence, bad driving or responsibility for accident the police would be responsible. If no negligence is proved, who is responsible? It would be unfortunate if the car were towed away, damage were done by accident or otherwise, a prosecution followed for obstruction, and the owner of the car were found not guilty. Then he would have had all this inconvenience and, at the same time, be responsible for the damage which had been done to his car. There is need for a clearing up of the question of responsibility in the event of accident.

I hope that the exercise of this power by the police will not be regarded by them as punitive. It is not for them to decide to punish a motorist by towing his vehicle away and putting him to a lot of inconvenience. It is for the court to decide whether a person is guilty, and that power must not devolve upon the police. They must not assume, because the motorist is causing a nuisance, that they have the right to tow his vehicle away unless it is necessary to do so. They must strike the right balance.

Another point I have not seen clearly stated yet is charging for towing, if it is decided to make a charge. Section 6 of the 1956 Act provides that reasonable expenses can be charged to the motorist. Suppose these expenses were incurred, the car was towed away, a prosecution took place and, for some reason or other, the alleged offender was found not to be guilty. Would he then be responsible for the expenses incurred and could he be charged, even though no guilt was found in him?

These are points on which I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some information, as they have been causing concern to motorists. It is to be hoped that motorists as a class will learn their lesson from the fact that these Regulations have been made and it is the Government's intention to use them, and that motorists will, therefore, behave with greater common sense on the highways and when parking than they have done up to the present. It would be out of order, upon this Motion, to enlarge upon traffic congestion and parking in London, but if the Regulations are wisely used they can help in the enforcement of the very numerous parking restrictions which it has been found necessary to impose in London and throughout the country because of growing traffic congestion.

The congestion will continue to grow and get worse. Already, with the ending of petrol rationing, we have seen some return of congestion to the centre of London. I fear that as the summer progresses the congestion will become very much worse. I hope that the motorist will co-operate more than he has done up to the present in observing these Regulations, which, after all, have been made for his benefit. The Regulations are no substitute for the co-operation of the motorist in observing restrictions, using his common sense and exercising self-discipline. Sometimes I am inclined to think that motorists are the most selfish of perambulatory creatures, and that once a motorist substitutes four wheels for two feet his only concern is his own convenience and he has no concern at all about the convenience of other people.

Unless the guilty ones and those inclined to be selfish reform their ways and refrain from unnecessarily cluttering up the streets, particularly when public transport is available, not only will the conditions of many hundreds of thousands who travel in public vehicles be worsened, but the day when far more onerous restrictions will be unavoidable and have to be imposed on motorists will be hastened.

I saw that yesterday Sir John Elliot, in referring to the ending of petrol rationing and the return of traffic congestion, said that very soon London would become "the busmen's nightmare." What is beyond me is why so many motorists voluntarily drive into this nightmare.

Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)

I beg formally to second the Motion.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

In discussing these Regulations, I think that we want to avoid falling into one danger. We must not forget that London is a place to live and work in and not just a traffic problem. If one lives in a provincial centre one has no qualms about using one's car to go to and from business, to and from the office, to visit other businesses, to drive customers about and so on. Ideally, London ought to be a place in which one could use a car fairly freely.

I wish to quote from a letter that I received from a constituent only yesterday. He is a London businessman who is a manufacturer of scientific glass instruments, and he says: On a normal business day I bring my car to the centre of London. I get here from Teddington in 30 to 35 minutes; other transport averages 105 minutes. The saving in time is over two hours a day. During the day I often have to go to places like Harley Street and Portland Place, or the Imperial College of Science, South Kensington. I can get to either of these places in from five to ten minutes by car. By public transport it may take up to 30 minutes. I can save nearly 45 minutes every time I make a visit of this kind. If I am going to a place where I know I shall have difficulty I take a taxi, but few people can afford a taxi every time they go anywhere… On many occasions I have had to take visitors from abroad to the East End on business and a car is the only convenient means of transport. You cannot transport an overseas customer by walking, bus and tube. I agree that many people only use their cars to come to and from their businesses, but in a large number of cases it is done because it saves a lot of time. I am sure that many Members of Parliament use their cars for this reason and they happen to be lucky as regards parking. Some nonsensical statements have been made. For instance, Sir John Elliot, at his Press conference yesterday, said: I must warn Londoners that if 50,000 cars are left in the streets all day, as they were before petrol rationing, then it will be the busmen's nightmare and London's, too. He went on to name the streets in which the worst traffic blocks occurred, Oxford Street from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus, Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road, and Bond Street, Piccadilly and Hyde Park Corner. All those happen to be streets in which there is no parking of cars whatever because they are subject to "No waiting" regulations. So what he was saying about 50,000 cars being parked in London was nonsensical. Those cars are parked in side streets and squares such as Berkeley Square, which are not on bus routes at all.

That having been said, and with those considerations in mind, we want our city to remain one in which people can get about and use their personal transport just as people can in Continental and American cities. I agree that the Regulations are necessary for the removal of cars parked stupidly —no one in his senses would disagree with that—but it is a very drastic remedy and it could impose a great deal of hardship on businessmen and other individuals, and it should not be used too often or in an arbitrary fashion.

I should like to put a question to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary. Suppose a member of the public has something in his car and that that is lost when his car is being towed away or when it is at the police station or pound. What is the legal liability in that event? Also, if the car is damaged when it is towed away, arc the police responsible? I believe that they should be. Although the motorist may have committed an offence in parking his car, he should not be subject to the additional trouble of having his car damaged or his goods lost without proper compensation.

I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to clear up these points. Subject to those points, and subject to the consideration that we want to allow people still to motor about London on their business, I would agree that the Regulations are desirable.

10.32 p.m.

Mr. John Foster (Northwich)

The control of traffic in London is governed by two principles. The first principle, as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) has stated, is that traffic should flow as quickly as possible consistent with allowing the maximum use of personal transport. On the other hand, in view of the narrowness of the streets in London and the congestion of traffic, traffic inevitably requires a certain amount of regimentation. Today we are considering an overdue measure of regimentation.

I think that the Ministry has missed a chance to make things a little simpler. Where cars are parked negligently, it is necessary, in order to convict the persons responsible, for the authorities to prove that the cars were towed away; but in the case of streets where there is absolute prohibition against waiting, the mere fact that the police were able to tow a car away shows that an offence was committed. I should have thought that it would have been possible in cases where vehicles were left in a street where absolutely no waiting was allowed to provide for the imposition of a charge, so that it would be open to the motorist to pay the charge—which should be a fairly stiff one—and take his car away and no proceedings would be instituted.

With regard to the questions which have been asked, I should have thought that if the police were negligent they would be liable, that they do not assume an absolute liability for goods or valuables in a car if it is towed away but they have to look after the car as well as the owner does. If the goods were lost through no fault of the police, they would not, in my view, be liable.

I should also have thought that it would have been better to impose a charge for towing away. I gather that there is some legal difficulty about this, that the police might be held to be under a duty to tow away a car if they were allowed to impose a charge. I should have thought that that difficulty could have been overcome. If legislation were necessary, perhaps it could be embodied in some Bill. It would improve the Regulations if that were done.

One point I should like to make is about the way in which the Regulations are to be interpreted in relation to dragging away cars that are negligently parked. As I interpret the Regulations, a car has to impede the flow of traffic, but one of the worst features in London is that people park their cars too near an intersection. In all other civilised countries it is, I believe, forbidden to park a car too near an intersection because, in the first place, it impedes the flow of traffic, because people cannot see out of the road where the car is parked. Secondly, and what is very much worse, it is very dangerous because if a car is so parked one has to "push one's nose out" before one can see what traffic is coming along.

In, for instance, Canada, there is a very strict rule that a car must not be parked within say 15 yds—45 ft.—of an intersection. I am not sure that the wording of the Regulations covers that point. It depends whether it is held that a car parked too near an intersection impedes the flow of traffic. If, as I hope, it is so interpreted, as I think it can be, I hope that the police will be given orders, and that the Ministry of Transport will let it be known that a car will be regarded as dangerously parked if parked within 15 yds. of an intersection.

If the Ministers do not believe what I say, I ask them to drive round London until they come to an intersection near to which cars are parked, and see if they can get a clear view. It is, I think, a very important rule in other countries. and here I think we lag behind, as we do in so many other ways, such as in allowing cars to park on the offside. I urge the Minister of Transport to continue the good work of bringing in more regulations designed for the safety of good road users and to help the flow of traffic but, at the same time, to bear in mind that where it is not necessary to regulate parking, the maximum parking should be allowed.

10.37 p.m.

Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I want to make a plea for the majority of Londoners—the pedestrians and the public using public service vehicles. Let us not treat the motorists unduly roughly in the beginning. I agree that this ought to have the maximum possible publicity and that for a fairly lengthy period the motorists should be given the opportunity of behaving themselves as they should in this congested city. I appreciate the difficulty the motorist has in finding a suitable place in which to park.

I live in a block of flats in London where at this moment there are probably about fifty cars parked, though the majority do not belong to the people living in the flats. There are certain requirements made by those living there who are not themselves car owners. They are prepared to travel in public service vehicles and to go to bed reasonably early, and they do not want to hear doors being slammed and engines being "revved" up at two or three o'clock in the morning. Therefore, while I agree that a reasonable time ought to be given to the motorists to enable them to realise what will happen unless they behave in a civilised fashion, I do not want the police to be too lenient at the expense of the pedestrians and those who live in London and do not use cars.

When I have some spare time I sometimes watch the cars pouring out from London along Park Road between five and six o'clock. However much the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) may plead for the businessman, he knows as well as I do that nine-tenths of the cars coming out of London at that time are occupied by only one individual and the amount of road space they take up adds considerably to the congestion.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Of course, if this businessman wants his car in London to make a number of calls he does not bring his wife or sweetheart, his dog and everything else.

Mr. Jones

One understands that quite clearly, but when the hon. Gentleman speaks of thirty-five minutes he assumes that he is going to get a clear road into London. Many a businessman finds that by bringing his car into the centre of London he takes much longer than if he came in by Tube and left his car outside London.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

indicated dissent.

Mr. Jones

It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head. Hon. Members of this House have tried that since petrol rationing came into operation. They have taken their cars to the periphery and have found that they can get to this House in less time by public transport than by using their cars.

We must not forget that there are people in London other than motorists, people who are prepared to use public transport, people who travel by Tube and bus. The police ought not to be too lenient to the motorist at the expense of the pedestrian. But I agree that a reasonable time should be allowed to the motorist to see whether he can behave himself as an ordinary human being.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. G. R. H. Nugent)

I welcome the terms in which the House has received these Regulations. Although the Motion before the House is a Prayer against them, it is evident that the general sense of hon. Members' speeches is that the Regulations are valuable Regulations which may bring general benefit to the traffic flow, to public services vehicles, as the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) has just been saying, and to all concerned.

I will just briefly tell the House the source of these Regulations in order to put it on record. There is a point of some importance here. They extend the existing powers of the police, which were granted to the police by Regulations made in 1938 under the 1930 Road Traffic Act, which placed a duty on the police, amongst other things, to remove vehicles abandoned, broken down or likely to be a source of danger if the owner had failed to respond to his duty to do so. The present Regulations, which supersede those of 1938, add to this power the additional provision that a vehicle can now be removed when it is causing obstruction, subject to the proviso in paragraph 4, or contravening a statutory prohibition or restriction such as a "no-parking" notice. The point I want to make is that these Regulations are no innovation. The police have had powers not dissimilar to these for a good long time, and on occasion they have used them and no particular difficulties have arisen.

Before I answer the many points raised the House will probably be glad to hear a very brief account of how the Regulations have worked in practice during the last fortnight or so since they have been in operation. They came into force on 1st May, so they have had fifteen days up to last night. The record has been that during that period 110 cars were towed away and sixty-six cars were moved, that is, instead of being towed away, the constable on duty was able to open the car and push it to safety.

Mr. Ernest Davies

These are in addition?

Mr. Nugent

Yes, all these figures are additional. And here is another point which partially answers the point put to me by the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies). No less than 113 owners were found before their cars were towed away and, therefore, their cars did not have to be removed. In all cases, the offenders were reported, and the reports are now under consideration in accordance with the ordinary procedure.

The policemen concerned have taken the great care we are accustomed to expect from them in any matter where they have to deal with the public, and they have taken great care with the cars they have handled to check the exact condition before they have moved them and to make a careful inventory of anything inside. The result has been that they have had no claims or difficulty in respect either of the condition of the motor cars or the contents that the owners had left in them. The only occasion when they had any difficulty with one of the offenders was where he had come back for the second time. There was one occasion perhaps worth mentioning where a motor car was left unlocked with the ignition key in, turned on, and the engine running. After four hours the owner returned but, with the grace that one naturally expects from her sex, she thanked the police for saving the car from damage.

The hon. Member asked about the unlocking of cars. Do the police have keys? The answer is that the officers who actually do the removal of the cars have sets of keys and, where necessary, they use them. I will complete the whole story for the information of the House and the hon. Member, but the point I wish to make was that a very large number of cars are not locked. For instance, the sixty-six cars pushed away by the constables on the beat were all unlocked. It is evident that a very large number of motorists do not lock their cars and maybe they will find, as an incentive to that, that if they are not locked the cars are pushed away instead of being towed away.

The hon. Member asked whether the cars were driven away. The answer is that up to date the police have been towing motor cars away. In some cases they have unlocked them when it has been necessary to take off the brake or to take the engine out of gear. I must make the point, which I think should be placed on the record, that if the police are unable to unlock a car which is locked, the only way of removing such a car causing obstruction is to bring along a lifting gear to lift up the front and another lifting gear to lift up the back—a "dolly" as it is usually called. They have to heave the car up on the two front and rear lifts, and it is an operation likely to cause considerable obstruction in the street and could easily hold up the traffic for half an hour, and maybe cause damage at the same time.

Mr. Ernest Davies

I want to make it clear that I was not objecting to the police opening cars for the purpose of towing or pushing them away. What I was raising was the question whether or not they were going to drive. I do not want it to be thought that I was objecting to that.

Mr. Nugent

I thank the hon. Member for making that point.

There is no doubt that in most cases it will be better to unlock a car and deal with it in that way. In passing, I might just deal with one other point which I have seen raised as a matter of public interest and that is: how would a car with an automatic gear box or hydraulic transmission be towed away? The answer is that if a motor car of that type was to be moved, it would be lifted up on a dolly under the rear axle to take the rear wheels off the ground.

On the question of driving away, it is within the powers of the Regulations for the police to drive away and, in many cases, it may be the best way of doing it. It is not an easy job to tow a motor car through the congested streets of London, and the fact that the police have towed away this number with success is really a great tribute to the skill of the drivers. As the whole operation proceeds the police may well find that it is necessary to drive cars away, and I am quite certain that we in this House will feel, and I hope the public outside will feel, that their motor cars will be in safe hands and that this is a perfectly proper way of removing them.

The hon. Member asked a number of questions, and I think I should reply to them now. I have answered the point about whether the drivers are sought out and whether the vehicles are moved, where possible, to a safe place in the neighbourhood. The answer is "Yes" to both those questions.

Concerning the expense of removal, the Regulations do not contain powers to charge the motorist or the driver for the expense; and as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) said in his helpful speech, as the law is drafted the power to collect the expense could only be given to the police if a duty was imposed upon them. The police see difficulty in operating an order in that fashion and, therefore, we thought it best in these circumstances to leave the operation to the police without making a charge. Perhaps in a future Miscellaneous Provisions Bill we could make an amendment which would enable us to make a charge, if the House considers that wise.

That brings me to another point asked by the hon. Member and one which is relevant: that is, whether the Regulations are intended to be punitive. The answer is, of course, that they are not. It is a completely neutral operation. We have learnt by experience that it is not sufficient to have the power to prosecute the motorist who leaves his car in a wrong position, because while it is there and while the policeman is trying to find him the vehicle may be seriously impeding the traffic.

The Regulations, therefore, are the logical course of action. Indeed, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich said, it may be that they have come none too soon. In these circumstances, there really is needed the power physically to remove the vehicle to stop it causing the obstruction. It is, however, a neutral operation and the penal effect is the prosecution which brings the offender into court. It is then for the independent bench of magistrates to inflict whatever penalty it thinks right within the terms of the law. I hope, therefore, that the House is reassured on that point.

The hon. Member raised the important question of damage that may be caused while the vehicle is being towed away, and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham raised the same point. The position is that if damage occurs during removal by the police and liability is admitted, then, of course, the police would pay. Provincial police forces, I understand, have some kind of comprehensive insurance, just like any other road user, and the Metropolitan Police have their own arrangement which in practice amounts to much the same thing.

If the damage occurred before the police apprehended the motor car and after the owner had left it, naturally the constable and the towing-away team would have made a note of the damage that was on the motor car in the course of their inventory before they started to move it. As two or three of them would be present, that should be quite sufficient to establish beyond any doubt that it had, in fact, happened before they took the vehicle over; so they would not have any liability there.

If, on the other hand, damage occurred during removal and if there was no negligence by the police but the damage was due to a third party, the police, of course, would not have liability. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-wich said, they have no absolute liability in the matter; but there would be a liability, assuming that the car owner could prove it, on the third party who was responsible for the damage. Naturally, the police would do what they could to help in bringing that home. That, I think, answers the questions I was asked by the hon. Member for Enfield, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham, and I have answered the points which have been raised generally in the course of the debate.

There is one general comment which I should like to make in conclusion. In the main, I think that the Regulations have been well received by public opinion and by the Press. They have recognised that this is a sensible thing to do and that it can be of benefit to traffic and road users generally. There have, however, been one or two criticisms that it is restrictive to the motorist's interests.

The interests of motorists are twofold. They not only want to park their cars in the streets but to move them along the streets. This is a statement of the obvious, but as it seems to be overlooked I hope that the House will bear with me if I put it on record. As there is only a limited space in the streets it is clear that if motorists fill up that space with parked cars they will reach a point when they are preventing the other interest of motorists, and also public service vehicles, namely, to move along the streets.

It is surely our job to decide where the right balance lies between those two interests, and that is what we are try ing to do. We are not being restrictive about this; indeed, it is the driver who selfishly leaves his motor car in a position obstructing the traffic—and thereby interferes with the interest of every other motorist who is trying to move his car along the road—who is restrictive. What we are trying to do is redress the balance which has clearly gone too far, with the parking use of the streets encroaching upon the moving use of the streets.

The Road Research Laboratory, in a survey it took in 1954—and since then the position has become a good deal worse—found that more than three times as many cars were parked in the streets as were moving in the streets. That is a fair indication of the extent to which parking has increased in London streets.

The Measure which is being prayed against has been produced after very careful study of what has been done in other countries, as well as of our experience here, and I think that it is one of the right methods to redress this balance and get traffic moving. I would like to say again how much I welcome the terms in which hon. Members have spoken about it and to join with the hon. Member for Enfield, East in agreeing that this Measure is no substitute for the co-operation of the motorist. This is a little extra persuasion to try to get him to co-operate.

We must have co-operation. The police are doing their part to get it by a friendly and helpful approach, and I think that it is of the greatest possible help that we should have spoken with one voice here tonight, to let the motorist know generally that we are trying to do something which is helpful and reasonable. I hope that he will accept it in that spirit. Given the spirit that we are asking for, all road users in London will greatly benefit.

Mr. Ernest Davies

After that helpful speech of the Minister, which has clarified a number of points raised during the debate, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.