HC Deb 05 November 1958 vol 594 cc939-41
22. Mr. Strauss

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the scheme for the testing of motor vehicles will come into operation.

33. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the progress of the scheme for vehicle testing.

Mr. Watkinson

In the practical working out of the scheme certain possible legal objections were brought to my notice that could have prevented the smooth working of the scheme. Some small changes have therefore had to be made in the proposals contained in the White Paper to overcome these difficulties, and details are set out in a statement which I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

This inevitably meant some delay, but I expect to be ready to invite applications for appointment as authorised examiners and designated councils later this month. Inspection of the premises and equipment of the large number of applicants expected to respond to this invitation is likely to take about four months. During this period Regulations will be made. I propose to allow reasonable time thereafter before making it an offence for any vehicle to be on the roads without a test certificate. I hope, therefore, to start progressively, from about the middle of next year, to make it obligatory for vehicles over ten years old to have a test certificate.

Mr. Strauss

Is the Minister aware that this is yet one further delay in the inception of this scheme? It was only in July that he said that he hoped to put the scheme into operation by about the end of the year, but it will now be over three years since the Bill was passed before the scheme—which, when in operation, will save 500 lives a year, and thousands of accidents—comes into effect, owing to the unnecessary delay by the Ministry in not pressing this matter very much more quickly.

Mr. Watkinson

I do not think that there has been any unnecessary delay, although I regret the delay that has occurred as much as the right hon. Gentleman. The delay occurred due to our most complicated highway laws. It was found that there were several loopholes, which could well serve to negative the whole scheme, and I thought it right to get those out of the way before we went ahead.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that very long and detailed discussions had to take place with interested parties in connection with the very many and complicated problems arising under the Construction and Use Regulations, and that these must be put right before the new Regulations can become effective?

Mr. Watkinson

I quite agree. This is a very complicated operation. I agree that it should save lives, but it will certainly not do so if it does not work. Therefore, in order to try to make it a satisfactory and sensible scheme, some delay is quite justified.

Mr. Strauss

Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that a delay of three years was necessary?

Mr. Watkinson

I do not accept that there has been a three years' delay.

Following is the statement: One of the legal difficulties referred to above affects the proposal, contained in the White Paper (Cmnd. 430), that where on inspection a vehicle is refused a test certificate no fee should be payable for a re-test provided the vehicle is taken to an authorised examiner for the necessary repairs to be carried out, or submitted for re-test after repairs have otherwise been carried out, within a period of 14 days of the initial inspection. Though such an arrangement is not specifically provided for in the Act, I was anxious to mitigate as far as possible the cost to the motorist; but since the publication of the general outline in the White Paper further legal consideration has been given to my proposal, on which the arrangement was based, that only those items found to be faulty would he re-tested. I am advised that it could be claimed to be ultra vires the Act, the terms of which require that a complete test of the vehicle must be carried out in order that a test certificate can be issued. I much regret, therefore, that I am obliged to withdraw the proposal for a free re-test, but I am glad to say that to meet the difficulty the motor trade have agreed to carry out full re-tests of all items, under the same conditions as those which applied to the proposed free re-test of rejected items only, for half the full fee; they have also agreed that (a) when a vehicle remains with the authorised examiner who undertook the test for any necessary repairs to be carried out in the course of the test, only one fee will be payable and (b) when, should all three items need repair or adjustment, the vehicle is taken away and returned, within 14 days of the date of the notice of rejection, to any authorised examiner for the repairs to be carried out, no further fee will be payable. I was advised also that it could be claimed that since the existing statutory requirements governing the standards and conditions of lighting equipment on vehicles applied only when the vehicles were used at night, it was not possible to make a Regulation under the Road Traffic Act, 1956, which provided for the refusal of a test certificate of the lighting equipment if a vehicle was found on inspection not to comply with those requirements. It was clearly the intention of the House when the Bill was considered that lighting equipment should be dealt with in the same way as other parts of a vehicle the condition of which might lead to accidents; and I propose, therefore, to include in the Construction and Use Regulations a provision which will require, subject to appropriate exceptions, the lighting equipment on motor vehicles to be at all times in such a condition as to comply with the existing statutory requirements.