HC Deb 07 May 1958 vol 587 cc1210-1
42. Colonel Glyn

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has yet considered the implications of the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice of England in the Divisional Count in refusing the appeal of Harry George Shaw Wilkinson against a decision of the Appeal Committee of Dorset Quarter Sessions, which refused his appeal against a conviction for using a heavy-duty ambulance for cars, which did not comply with the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulation, 1955, made under the Road Traffic Act, 1930; and what steps he proposes to take to regularise the position.

44. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if his attention has been drawn to the confusion which has arisen by the decision of the court on the use of ambulances for towing vehicles away; and, as there are 10,000 of these vehicles performing useful public service, if he will introduce new regulations to make their use on the road legal.

Mr. Nugent

We are studying the implications of this judgment, but we are not yet in a position to make any statement.

Colonel Glyn

Is my hon. Friend aware that a great number of the civilian vehicles are recovered or rescued every month by means of these convenient appliances and that while there is doubt as to whether they can legally be used, the public will be put to considerable inconvenience? Will my hon. Friend speed up his consideration of the matter?

Mr. Nugent

Yes, Sir, I am very well aware that there are large numbers of these ambulances in use. I would, however, point out that the offence in this case was where the trailer was by itself being drawn behind the lorry from the garage. That is illegal in any event.

Mr. Awbery

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are now 10,000 vehicles out of commission by the decision of the court? As there is a gap in the Act of Parliament, will the Minister put it right as quickly as possible so that these vehicles can be put back on the road again?

Mr. Nugent

We will certainly clarify the position as soon as we can. I should, however, like to make it plain to the House that the offence was due to the garage lorry pulling the ambulance trailer behind the lorry without another car on it. That is an offence. The normal practice is to carry the ambulance trailer on the lorry until the broken-down vehicle has been collected and put on top of it. It is, therefore, by no means certain that the normal use is illegal.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is not it a fact that the gap is not in the Act of Parliament, but in the Regulations made by the Minister under the Act, and that it can, therefore, be rectified as soon as the Minister makes up his mind what to do? Is not it also the case that, although the facts in the judgment were as my hon. Friend has stated, nevertheless until the matter is cleared up nobody knows whether it is legal or illegal to use these towing apparatuses with a car on them and that the whole use of these devices is in obeyance until my right hon. Friend's Department decides what to do?

Mr. Nugent

I quite accept that it is an urgent matter. We will be as quick as we can in getting out a decision on it.