§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill stems from two things—the experiment of the Pink Zone last Christmas and the debate in the House on 10th December, which was an excellent debate and very constructive. That debate showed two things. The first was that the public were rather tired of the traffic chaos in our urban areas, and the second was that the Government should do something urgently. The Bill was conceived last December and born in March, so I do not think that that is an excessive period for its gestation.
There may be blemishes in the Bill— I am bound to admit that—because it was prepared in a hurry; there are 31 pages of it and it includes a large number of the suggestions made during that debate. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will assist, in Committee, to remove whatever blemishes there may be. We have tried to reconcile the urgency of the situation with proper legislation. I realise that we have an extra hour for this debate today, but I will try to be as brief as possible. My hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will wind up the debate and one of the Joint Undersecretaries of State for Scotland will intervene in the middle of the debate to deal with the Scottish aspect of the traffic problem and how the Bill applies to it.
The Bill falls naturally into three parts: first, how it affects London; secondly, how it affects the rest of the country; and thirdly, enforcement. But before we come to the Bill I think that we should put it in its proper perspective.
At present, a great deal is going on in road building and road improvement in this country—motorways, trunk roads and work in the urban areas such as London, Birmingham and other towns. In 1960–61, for the first time, the total being spent by the Government in England and Wales on roads will be over 893 £100 million. When we are discussing the Bill we should not think that this is the only thing that the Government are doing. A vast amount is going on, although I am aware that there is much still to do.
May I, first, turn to that part of the Bill which deals with London? Under the 1924 Act the Minister of Transport has responsibilities which mean that he is responsible for London's traffic, yet, at the same time, by a unique situation, he is not the traffic authority. The traffic authorities are 28 Metropolitan boroughs, six county councils and three county boroughs. The London County Council is not the traffic authority; it is an improvement authority. This situation is unique in this country.
I believe that the set-up at present is wrong. There are too many traffic authorities, they are too small and they do not consider London's traffic as a whole. This is not to denigrate the efforts of the Metropolitan boroughs, the county councils or the county boroughs. It is merely that the structure under which they are supposed to operate is not suitable for the work. I want to make that clear from the outset.
One or two of these authorities sometimes decide to use the right of veto. I mentioned on 10th December a case in which we at the Ministry wished to eliminate a right-hand turn and a local authority vetoed it. I am sorry to say that we have still not overcome that difficulty. Powers in the Bill will enable us to do so. We have set up in the Ministry a London Traffic Management Unit. The idea is that it will deal with London's traffic as a whole and that it will act quickly—as quickly as it can, especially in view of the number of cars coming on to the road.
Under Clause 7, we deal with alterations. At present, the smallest regulation, even if it is only to alter a bus stop by a few feet, has to foe sent to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. That has 45 members, and I am bound to say that this procedure takes too long. In some cases, it has taken two years from the initiation of an idea to the completion of the scheme. This ought to be altered, and the Bill gives the Minister power not to submit it to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. 894 Here again, the difficulty is not the fault of the Committee. It has done excellent work, but it was set up in 1924, thirty-six years ago, when the traffic was a very different proposition from what it is today.
Under Clause 7 (2), the Minister has power in London to control pedestrians. In some cases, it might be necessary to insist that pedestrians use an underground passageway which has been specially constructed for them, or to prevent them from crossing at places which are dangerous to their own lives. These powers are included in subsection (2). Subsection (4) of the same Clause allows some cars to be exempted from the waiting restrictions which will be inevitable if we are to make London's traffic viable.
There will be no privileged classes of people who will be allowed to be exempt from the waiting restrictions. The people we have in mind are such as doctors, where perhaps it may be a matter of life and death that they should attend to a patient. But there is no intention of introducing a privileged class. Exemption will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure and the House will, therefore, be able to debate it and say whether they think it a proper procedure.
There was a leading article in the Daily Express, by Lord Beaverbrook or somebody else, in which it was said, "We must not create a privileged class." I can assure the noble Lord that we do not intend to create a privileged class and that there is no intention of giving carte blanche to the Members of the House of Lords.
Under Clause 7, we have introduced an innovation. The motoring interests have pressed on me that we should adopt in this country the disc system which is used in Paris. I will give my own views on the disc system. I have investigated it in Paris. I do not think that it will work here and I think that it would be exceedingly difficult and extremely expensive to enforce. But as all these bodies have pressed it on me, I have taken powers in the Bill so that any local authority which is persuaded by the motoring organisations that the disc system can be operated, can try an experiment.
895 One thing about traffic is certain. It is an empirical process. One never quite knows whether what one is doing is right or wrong. One has to keep an open mind and be prepared to reverse one's decision if one is proved wrong. I certainly do not want to give the House the impression that everything we, as a Government, say in traffic matters is good for all time, because it is not necessarily so.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)
My right hon. Friend is taking powers under the Bill to introduce such systems as the disc system. Will all local authorities automatically be given power to carry out this experiment, or will each authority, in due course, have to apply to the Minister?
§ Mr. Marples
Each authority will ask for it. If authorities ask for it, I shall certainly try an experiment. I have brought back from Paris with me many things, on some of which I have paid duty. I have also brought one of the discs which they have. I have placed it in the Library so that hon. Gentlemen can look at it and read in French the regulations and some advertisements on the back. Then they can decide for themselves whether it will be suitable. The Government are resolved that this system will not be tried in the area of London for which I am responsible, but I am quite prepared to see it tried anywhere else if the motoring organisations can persuade a local authority to do it.
I come now to Clause 8. I mention this because I believe that we have had great difficulty in the Ministry in erecting signs in London. I want the House to remember that I am talking only about London. Sometimes the local authority is unable to do so in time; it may be waiting for a meeting of its finance committee, or something like that. We have taken powers to do it in such cases.
Also, we can rephase traffic lights— for example, from Notting Hill Gate to the City of London. One of the things which has impressed me a great deal is the system they have in Baltimore for phased traffic lights controlled by electronic computers. Cars passing a given point entering a congested city are counted by an electric eye. The information is then fed into an electronic computer which decides the length of time which the traffic can flow from that 896 particular direction. It can vary the length of time from as little as 60 seconds to 120 seconds. That, in itself, makes a great contribution to Baltimore's congested traffic problem in the tidal periods, which are early in the morning, when everybody is coming in, and in the evening, when everybody is going out.
Clause 9 is another result of the Pink Zone. During the Pink Zone period, we provided a number of free off-street car parks for motorists, because it was felt that it would be unfair to prohibit parking in certain parts of the streets of London unless we gave motorists somewhere else to park. We gave them the Horse Guards Parade. It turns out, in practice, that that will cost us £4,000 to put right, because some motor cars which were parked there leaked oil and all that sort of thing. It will cost us that sum to reinstate the Parade.
That sum fell upon the Vote of the Ministry of Works. One of the greatest victories of my life was when the Ministry of Works agreed to pay £4,000 for car parking for the Ministry of Transport. Under Clause 9, the Ministry of Transport can now pay on its Vote for that sort of thing. In addition, it can rent temporary sites which may be so used.
I come on now to London. The critical Clauses are Clauses 14 and 16. At the moment, block grants from the central Government cover improvements on classified roads. Clause 14 enables me to make grants direct to the authority for minor improvements to classified roads. I emphasise "minor", and not "major". It would not be possible, under this Clause, for me to make a contribution to the Hyde Park scheme or the Hammersmith flyover, but I could make a contribution to a minor scheme which might by itself make a major contribution to the through traffic of London. If a major contribution was made to the through traffic of London, it is only right that the central Government should be allowed to make that contribution to the highway authority concerned, which is mostly concerned with looking after its own finances and its own ratepayers. Therefore, I have the power to make grants towards minor improvements.
Clause 16 goes with Clause 14. Clause 16 gives the Minister default powers, in 897 effect. If a local authority refuses to carry out a minor scheme which will help through traffic, or if it is slow in carrying out a minor scheme to help through traffic, the Minister can do it himself and recover the cost from the local authority. I am sure that local authorities will co-operate in every way, and I can give the House the pledge that I intend to work through local authorities as far as is humanly possible.
I must make an apology to local authorities. I was not able to consult them on the Bill in the same way as we consulted them on Bills when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. My only excuse is the pressure of time to get the Bill before the House. We have seen the various local authorities and their associations and, in general, they have welcomed the Bill.
I promise that there is no intention of using what I call "the big stick". All I hope and pray is that Clause 16 will never be used. At any rate, it will protect us from stalemate. Stalemate is the one thing that one cannot afford to have when traffic is pouring on to the roads as it is at present. The number of cars sold in January and February was 50 per cent. more than it was last year. With this avalanche and deluge of cars coming on to the roads, the normal processes of consultation between the central Government and local authorities have not been possible.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
It is desirable to have this on record at this very early stage. When the Minister says that local authorities extend a welcome to the Bill, is he speaking of the Metropolitan boroughs of London?
§ Mr. Marples
The associations of the local authorities and of the county councils and the councils concerned were consulted as soon as they possibly could be by my Department. In general, they welcomed the provisions of the Bill and thought that public opinion would support it. Naturally, they will have individual points of difference. One never quite gets the county councils agreeing with the Standing Joint Committee of the Metropolitan Boroughs, but, generally speaking, they welcome the Bill.
For example, the minor improvements which I have mentioned do not involve 898 widening the road. It may mean that, in some cases, we can carry out traffic improvements which are necessary, but not allowed under the existing law. There is a public lavatory in Rochester Row which takes 50 per cent. of the road and is rarely used as a public lavatory, because people cannot get there. They are generally killed before they get there, which is very inconvenient indeed. If it is unreasonable for traffic interests to override well-founded local objections, Clause 16 will not be used, but it is there so that we shall not have stalemate.
I come on to one other point concerning London. We had a precise scientific analysis made of the results of the Pink Zone. The results were extremely helpful. The London Transport Executive and my own officials made reports. Quite a number of things flowed from the analysis.
The first was that the experimental regulations were successful in speeding up the flow of traffic within the Pink Zone. They speeded it up considerably.
The second was that loading and unloading by commercial vehicles on main traffic routes appears to be a more important factor in giving rise to traffic congestion than has perhaps been realised. Therefore, we must look at that carefully.
The third was that the Pink Zone itself, hurriedly contrived though it was, was too small and should be enlarged if it is to be effective.
The last was that cars parking illegally came back into the Pink Zone and that parking meters, traffic wardens and reinforced police powers seemed necessary for effective enforcement. I thought that the House would like to know that the results of the Pink Zone Scheme have been analysed scientifically, and have yielded quite a number of results.
I do not want to speak for too long, because I know that many hon. Members on both sides want to take part in the debate, so I now turn to the country outside London. Outside London, the traffic authority is not normally the Minister of Transport, as everyone seems to think—not in this House, but outside it. Everyone writes to me and says, "Can we have a pedestrian crossing?"— in Liverpool, or Manchester, or wherever it may be. But the traffic authorities in 899 Liverpool and Manchester are the Liverpool Corporation and the Manchester Corporation.
We must try to give those traffic authorities more help, if we possibly can, and we are trying to do so by the Bill. First, let me mention parking meters. I believe that, at present parking meters are the most effective way of seeing that motorists can use that part of the street that can be made available for parking. I am sure of that. At present, I can authorise only certain selected towns to be what I call parking-meter authorities and, when I do that, each scheme that they put forward has to be approved by the Minister. Frankly, I do not see why a Minister of Transport should approve a scheme in, say, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, or Birmingham; he has not the necessary local knowledge. Therefore, by Clause 5, I am taking the power, at any rate, to push the whole business of parking on to the local authority.
Clause 11 deals with off-street parking for the rest of the country and for London. If we are to use the streets properly, we must, first, designate part of the street that is to be used for moving traffic, and for temporary parking or loading and unloading; and permanent parking for the whole day should be off the street, and not on it. Until we do that, we shall always be clogged up in the centre of the cities. We must, therefore, encourage off-street parking. There are two main points about that. First, off-street parking must be in the right place. The Pink Zone scheme showed that some car parks were not used, while others were used to the full. Secondly, it should be of the right size.
There is no point in having an off-street park that is too big, because when everyone moves from it the street is immediately clogged and it is very difficult to get from one end to the other. That happens in many car parks in the United States. To get from one end of the Disneyland car park to the other one has to have public transport—it is so big. It houses 10,000 cars, and the whole effect of off-street parking has been spoiled because of the hugeness of that single car park.
Therefore, in the Bill we have allowed local authorities to undertake what I call composite development. They may have to take over a site because of the 900 physical conditions. If it is too big for a car park they can develop part of it for a car park, and develop the rest in another way. I want to make it quite clear that it is not the intention of this Clause that the local authority shall move into business other than that of car parking. There is no intention that local authorities shall move into trading in a big way.
To make that quite clear, the powers have been limited to five years, and the Minister will have to approve of the particular proposal. Subsection (2) of Clause 11 lays down the grounds for the Minister's approval. It says:The appropriate Minister shall not approve proposals submitted to him … unless he is satisfied that the extent to which those purposes will be served by the building is no more than reasonable to ensure the economic operation of the parking place.In other words, the object is off-street car parking—
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
Does that mean that a local authority can provide garages for parking, and can charge an economic rent for the garaging facilities?
§ Sir Wavell Wakefield (St. Maryle-bone)
Would not my right hon. Friend agree that if these off-street parking places are to be adequately used it is most important that there should be sufficient publicity, in the streets and in other places, to let people know where those places are? Will my right hon. Friend take steps, perhaps in the Bill, to ensure that?
§ Mr. Marples
That will be dealt with when we come to the question of traffic wardens and the enforcement aspect. We are hoping that the traffic wardens will be able to give that sort of advice to motorists coming to the centre.
I turn now to Clauses 12 and 13. In practice, at the moment, two types of cars are dumped on the road. The first are good vehicles, and the others are abandoned and bad vehicles. I have looked into this with the police, who have been most helpful, and I must say that there are some curious examples of what people do to avoid paying garage fees.
901 There is a man who owns a Rolls-Royce—possibly a member of the Liberal Party—and he leaves his car in a central street in Kensington and goes on a cruise to South Africa for about four months. By Clause 12, if he does that in future, first, he will be charged £2—because the vehicle will be towed away—and, secondly, he will be charged a scale charge for storing the car. Therefore, when next he comes back from South Africa he will have a reasonable bill to pay for inconveniencing all those people in Kensington who want to keep their cars moving in the streets.
Another case that Clause 12 will cover is one which we found in the Pink Zone. During the Pink Zone period we found a man in Hanover Square—I know his name, and I know the number of his car—[Interruption.] No, I will not divulge them—[Interruption.] No, he is a Labour man, I think. He used to leave his car in Hanover Square, and the police used to take it away to Tottenham Court Road. The man would then ring the police and ask them, "Where's my car?" He would be told, and would collect the car. The point is that that man was using the police as chauffeurs for himself—[Interruption.] Oh, yes, because he had plenty of car-parking space to use, but he preferred to drive his car there, leave the key in it, and let the police take it away. In future, Clause 12 will bite on that sort of person.
Clause 13 deals with the disposal of abandoned vehicles. Such vehicles are most difficult to deal with, because sometimes they bear no means of identification; the police do not know to whom they belong, nor does the local authority. The law at present is doubtful both for the local authority and for the police, so Clause 13 gives the authorities power to sell or dispose of an abandoned car— if it appears to be abandoned—but they must wait for not less than six weeks. If the owner can be identified, it is the duty of the local authority to notify him.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
There is another growing parking anomaly. It affects suburban towns, in particular, and especially those areas designated for residential purposes only. I refer to the growing practice of hauliers allowing their drivers to park their vehicles in front of houses, and to take their heavy lorries home at the 902 weekends. Will the Minister take powers to remedy that situation as well?
§ Mr. Marples
If the police think that the vehicle causes an obstruction they will be able to take it away and charge him under the Bill. In that respect, therefore, the Bill will help the local authorities and the police.
There is one other thing that I would like to mention—
§ Mr. Mellish
My hon. Friend the Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) asked about local authorities having powers to provide garages, but being limited as to their powers to supply other services. Does the right hon. Gentleman say that local authorities will be able to supply garage space, but not oil and petrol? If not, why not?
§ Mr. Marples
No, they will not be allowed to go into business in that way, but what they can do is to buy the property, erect the garage, let someone else run it and provide the services— [An HON. MEMBER: "At a profit."] It will not be a question of profit or loss for the local authority. It will be providing a service for the community.
§ Mr. Mellish
Let us assume that it is a Tory council. Why should it not be allowed to do this? Why should the law be so drafted as to bar the council from doing this?
§ Mr. Marples
The emphasis is on off-street parking and not on trading. The Westminster City Council is doing this now; it is doing exactly what we want to be done under this Bill. It is providing off-street car parking, which is the object of the exercise. The object is to free London of traffic congestion—not to set up local authorities as trading concerns. Therefore, I do not think that they should have that power.
I wish to say a word about accidents. According to information that I have received from the experts, some of these minor improvements are likely, if carried out, to reduce road accidents. Between the beginning and the end of this debate today there are likely to be 350 accidents involving personal injury. These will lead to about nine deaths and 450 injuries, and of those injured about a quarter will be seriously injured. Those figures are based upon a scientific calculation.
903 I only hope that these new minor improvements that we are making will be such as to reduce that accident toll. If, during the debate, any hon. Member has any suggestion to make about reducing the number of accidents, the Government will be delighted to listen to him. It is not possible to legislate for human behaviour. Half the causes of accidents are human error, impatience, and so on. All the laws in the world will not help. It is a question of education and of conscience.
I now come to the question of enforcement, and I do not wish to take too long over this. The first point is that all the traffic rules that we make are quite useless without effective enforcement. One motorist who is selfish can make many others selfish. The average motorist is not a criminal. He is quite decent, but the point is that if he sees somebody else doing something he says, "I can do it, too." During the operation of the Pink Zone I kept watch at Stratton Street, which is the only major right-hand turn out of Piccadilly. I saw the first motorist stop. He locked his car, looked round hurriedly and ran—in fact, he leapt— the first six or seven paces. When he had dissociated himself from his vehicle he strolled away calmly and unconcerned. In about five minutes Stratton Street was full of other cars because other drivers said, "If that man can stop there I can stop there." In ten minutes Piccadilly was in a state of chaos, because people could not make the right-hand turn into Stratton Street.
Therefore, we must have methods of enforcement which are swift and salutary and which will make that first motorist, when he does the wrong thing, pay for it. Then, I think, the rest will behave themselves as reasonable citizens. I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the police who have worked hard on Clauses 1 and 2, which are solely the responsibility of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Member is the best leader on traffic for the Opposition who is available.
904 The Magistrates' Courts Act, 1957, allows a driver to plead guilty by post, but I am told that that is totally inadequate as a solution of the problem in London. Therefore, my right hon. Friend proposes two measures. First, where there is no doubt of guilt—and when one parks a car there is generally no doubt of guilt, because the car is there in the wrong place—it can be disposed of without involving the courts. Secondly, the parking regulations should be enforced by a body other than the police.
§ Mr. Marples
I do not wish to be too subtle, but if a notice says "No Parking", and a motorist parks there, I should have thought that he was guilty of parking in the wrong place.
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. Gentleman must not be too clever about this. We are dealing here with an entirely new approach to this problem, and it is a very serious matter indeed. Even the Press are very concerned about it. People are to be fined on the spot, or are to have the option of paying a fine, or to be charged with an offence on the spot, which is very serious. Surely the Minister will say something more on this point rather than just speak of parking signs.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. People are not to be fined on the spot, or given a summons on the spot. If the hon. Gentleman will wait until I have dealt with the Clause he will see that that is so. If it is decided that a certain area, such as Stratton Street, should be marked with a yellow line to indicate that no parking shall take place there, and if somebody parks there, I should have thought it was crystal-clear that an offence had been committed.
Under Clause 1, it is proposed that certain minor traffic offences shall be punished without recourse to the courts, but only where the offender elects not to go to the courts. If he wishes, he can go to court in every single case. That right is not taken away from him.
The second point is that it is not a case of fining on the spot. No money passes at all to anybody. Indeed, it is an offence for money to pass. A constable will hand to a person or will attach to a vehicle a notice informing 905 the person liable that an offence has been committed, and it will specify briefly the offence. It is up to the driver to decide. He can either pay the fixed penalty within 14 days, or he can wait to be prosecuted. If he pays the penalty within 14 days the police cannot prosecute.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I think that my right hon. Friend has omitted a word. It will not be possible for a county court clerk to notify an alleged offender that an offence has been committed, because otherwise there would not be the option of going to court. It will be an alleged offence. My right hon. Friend did not say that; he referred to an offence having been committed.
§ Mr. Marples
If the person pays the penalty there will be no conviction and no sentence. It will be the justices' clerk who receives the penalty. If the person concerned pays the fixed penalty within 14 days the police are not entitled to take out a summons against that man. If, on the other hand, he waits to be prosecuted, the summons will be issued in the ordinary course, as it is now.
The ticket is different from the ticket issued in the United States, in this respect. The notice itself does not constitute a summons. It is an option to pay a fixed penalty. If the police took 30 days to apply for a summons, and the £2, or whatever was the penalty, was paid within the 30 days, before the summons was taken out, the police could not prosecute. It is 14 days at least, and in certain cases it may be longer. The fine will be £2, or whatever sum is fixed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but it cannot be more than half the maximum penalty for the first offence.
On the question of the fixed penalty, the justices' clerk will treat it as a fine. There are precedents for this. In 1825, I am informed on the best authority, the Commissioners of Customs and Excise were given power to mitigate penalties by accepting monetary penalties instead of taking proceedings. The local authorities can now do that where people have failed to take out certain Excise licences. It is also done to some extent by the local authorities who now operate parking meters in the West End. If a person stays beyond the prescribed time—an 906 hour, or two hours—he is given a ticket. Again, I have a copy, which I will place in the Library for hon. Members to look at. A person has the option of paying the excess charge of 10s. under the Road Traffic Act, 1956. It says in block letters, underlined in red—it is my underlining and is not on the normal form—that in no circumstances should the charge be paid to a parking attendant.
I find, on investigation, that 70 per cent. of the excess charges demanded are paid by return, or within a few days. A further 20 per cent. are paid either after a letter has been sent asking for payment, or as a result of court proceedings. In about 10 per cent. of cases, for one reason or another, because the case is not an exceess charge case, no action is taken. Those are very rough figures, but I thought that the House would like to have them as a guide to what has happened in practice.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The right hon. Gentleman said that there is to be no conviction under this. Is any record to be kept? Can a person go on committing these offences for a dozen times or more and still be liable to only half the penalty, at the most, for a first offence?
§ Mr. Marples
The police keep a record. If a man is a persistent offender they can prosecute him instead of issuing a ticket. If a man is a persistent offender there must be another way of dealing with it. The idea of this is to do away with a great deal of the clerical work that is taking place on parking offences, which is clogging the courts and the police.
§ Mr. Marples
If I have been rather reluctant in giving way, it was because I wanted to give time for other hon. Members to take part in the debate. I did not want to speak for too long.
907 This is an innovation and, therefore, it is an experiment in a limited area. My right hon. Friend proposes, in the first place, to designate London, where the need is acute, as the area. It will be for the Commissioner of Police to decide how to make use of the powers within that area. I am informed by my right hon. Friend that, at first, he proposes that the area shall be where there are parking meters, that is, in parts of Westminster and St. Marylebone. It must be remembered that St. Pancras, Holborn and Woolwich have parking meter schemes under consideration. When experience has been gained, the system will be made available elsewhere. My right hon. Friend thinks that this will be a valuable means of dealing with minor offences and will relieve both the courts and the police of a mass of cases, without depriving the driver of any right that he enjoys at present.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I understand that the Secretary of State will have to come to the House with his Order for every area to which he decides to apply the provisions of Clause 1. Do I understand that the Secretary of State will have to come to the House with a separate Order for the area to which he is to apply the provisions of Clause 1?
§ Mr. Marples
I think that that is right. My right hon. Friend comes to the House for every area which he proposes to designate. It is no good the rest of the country thinking that the Secretary of State can insist of designating an area. It will be largely for the local authority to take the initiative and say, "We should rather like to have such an area within our local authority."
I come to Clause 2, which deals with traffic wardens. At the moment, the volume of work falling on the police in dealing with traffic is a great burden on them. Ten per cent. of the Metropolitan Police are engaged full-time on road traffic. That has increased in the last four or five years by 3 or 4 per cent. In the last four or five years there has been a tremendous increase and in the next four or five years there will be a bigger increase.
I do not think that the answer is to recruit more police, because it is not in the national interest that we should take 908 fit young men to do part-time work on the roads, routine stuff, which can be done by older men who are seeking employment at present. A fit young policeman, well-trained for his job, should not be doing this routine work in the present state of our extended economy, but the police must do part of the work on the roads where there is great concentration of effort, such as at weddings, the Coronation, or the visit of President de Gaulle, and it is clear that we cannot have two different forces enforcing the traffic law. The local authorities have thought that they should be responsible for traffic wardens. That would mean divided responsibility for road traffic. As it stands at present, the Government are quite clear that the police should retain responsibility for road traffic and, it follows, responsibility for the traffic wardens.
There are a few more points which I should like to make. The first is that my right hon. Friend has not yet decided precisely what duties should be undertaken by the traffic wardens. He has said that he would rather like to listen to the views that hon. Members on both sides of the House may express, remembering that the debate on 10th December was most valuable in this respect. But I should have thought that the first category that would come into their duties would be that of stationary vehicles. The second point is that they are to have distinctive uniforms and these will be decided upon in due course.
The third point is that only the powers needed to operate the fixed penalty procedure should be given to them. They cannot ask for names and addresses or call upon a vehicle to stop. They will give advice where to park because one of the difficulties of the motorist arriving in Central London is that he does not know where to park. They will give advice, and the experiment, in the first place, will, like that of the ticket system, take place in the central areas of London.
§ Mr. Mellish
I must say that, although the time factor is important, we are entitled to a rather fuller explanation of the traffic wardens than this. We understand that the traffic wardens which the right hon. Gentleman now proposes will be only, in effect, parking meter attendants and school crossing patrols. Is that 909 exactly what the Government have in mind, no more and no less, with power to apply these fixed penalties? Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that before giving them any more powers he is simply waiting to hear what the House has to say?
§ Mr. Marples
The exact nature of the traffic wardens' duties will be decided by the Home Secretary later. What he has in mind is that they shall be responsible for all the duties where a vehicle is stationary. It is one class of thing to decide an offence when a vehicle is stationary and another when it is moving. It requires a different type of skill and, therefore, my right hon. Friend has in mind at the moment to confine the traffic wardens' duties, in the first case, to stationary vehicles. If it is the wish of the House that he should extend it further, then he will take that into consideration. The parking meters at present are dealt with by the local authorities with their attendants. Therefore, the traffic wardens will not come into that at all, but their duties will be where the cars are stationary.
It is hoped that with the good will of both sides of the House the Bill will apply on 1st September, 1960. It may mean that by next Christmas—and we are already going into the Pink Zone for next Christmas—we shall see a much greater freedom in traffic than in the past, in spite of the increased number of cars on the roads. The Bill by itself does nothing. It gives powers to the Minister. It entirely depends on the way in which the Government use it. I can assure the House that we intend to use it widely and well.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
The right hon. Gentleman took great credit to himself for getting the Minister of Works to pay £4,000 for the damage done to Horse Guards Parade and I notice that the Minister of Works is not one of the sponsors of the Bill. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on bringing in the Bill, although my congratulations fall a little short of the note of self-congratulation with which he introduced it.
Broadly speaking, we support the Bill as far as it goes. We have a lot of questions to ask and a lot of reservations to make. As the right hon. Gentle- 910 man said, the Bill contains blemishes— and it does—which we shall very closely examine in Committee and in this debate, and we shall have major criticisms to make about the adequacy of the Bill. It has had a good Press, but then, of course, the Minister understands that sort of thing. I think that on the whole what is good in the Bill is second-hand and that a good deal of it is a facade which, when we come to examine it closely, does not add up to a very great deal.
I begin with what I might call the Home Secretary's part of the Bill, dealing with law enforcement and the legal rights of the citizen, mainly the question of ticket fines and traffic wardens. Both of these are grave changes to make in our normal procedures and we must not make them lightly. It is repugnant to our traditions that a man should be punished without trial, even with his own consent, and that other law enforcement agencies than the police should be set up.
On balance, and facing the grave problems that exist in traffic and parking, one must approve these two ideas in principle, although there are a number of points that must be made in reservation. The Minister is correct in saying that neither of these two principles is wholly new. There are precedents for each of them, and therefore, we have experience of the working of this sort of idea. We must, however, watch these things with great care. In Committee, we on this side certainly will be extremely careful to safeguard the legal rights of citizens and, indeed, the rights of Parliament.
The ticket system clearly is not an on-the-spot ticket fining system and the person concerned has a right to go to the court if he wishes. There are, however, a great many dangers against which we must guard. One is that we must avoid a two-tier fining system by which the courts set up a practice of fining a person more than the level he would otherwise be charged if he causes trouble by going to the court. It is extremely important not to have that kind of thing.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
My right hon. Friend is making heavy weather of this. Surely, it is a fact that in any court, a person who pleads guilty 911 will be fined rather less than somebody who makes a fuss about it. That is a fact in magistrates' courts. It is an abuse of justice. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not a fact."] I have sat as a magistrate and I have watched other magistrates perform. If my right hon. Friend has not noticed that, he has not noticed much.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I have not had the pleasure of appearing before my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). Of course, there are magistrates and magistrates and courts and courts, and one cannot be sure that they are all as humane as my hon. Friend.
The main point I wish to raise is the one made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), which the Minister did not answer. In his second reply, I understood the Minister to say that records are to be kept by the police. I am now talking about cases where a man does not go to court but pays the fine without going to court and where there is no conviction under the Bill. The Minister said that the police will keep records and will prosecute if a man has too many of these, not offences, because they will not be convictions, recorded against him, but too many of these flat-rate fines. It seems to me dangerous that there should be an accumulation of guilt when a man has not been convicted by a court. If we have this system of fining people without going to court, I am not sure that it is right that these incidents should be treated like convictions which, apparently, can be cited against a person or taken into account by the police in deciding whether to prosecute. I hope that the Minister will give a careful answer on this point.
I certainly do not like the powers of the Home Secretary to increase the penalties by Order, even with the possibility of a Prayer against them in the House. It does not seem to me right that penalties which are imposed through the courts and potentially by the courts —because there is always that sanction behind them—should be altered or increased by executive action. I do not like that.
Traffic wardens certainly will be a valuable adjunct to the police. They will 912 help the police to do many other things which they ought to be doing, including other forms of controlling the traffic. Traffic wardens must, of course, be selected with immense care and carefully trained. We do not want a lot of ticket-happy traffic wardens who do not behave in the sort of way that the police behave towards people. They must be carefully selected and trained. A valuable source of recruitment will, no doubt, be retired police officers. Will there be any difficulty concerning pension when the same authority that employs a man as a traffic warden is responsible also for his pension? If so, this would be most unfortunate. This is a matter which should be thought about if it has not been considered already.
Subsection (1) of Clause 2 states that traffic wardensshall be deemed to be employed by the police authorityWhat does "deemed" mean in this case? Does it mean, for example, that Members of Parliament can ask Parliamentary Questions about the actions of traffic wardens in the Metropolitan Police District as they can about the action of police constables, or does "deemed" mean something other than that they are under the palace authority? May we have an assurance also that the Royal Commission will be at least invited to consider the answerability to Parliament of traffic wardens in the provinces as part of the general question of the answer-ability to Parliament of provincial police forces?
What worries me most about traffic wardens is that we must be more careful than the Bill is about conferring powers upon them. This is an untried and, possibly, dangerous experiment. We must watch it carefully as we go along. There are two things in particular that I do not like. The first is the implication that, whatever the Minister has said, traffic wardens can deal with oars on the move. The Bill refers to cars used without lights. That, surely, must include cars which are being driven without lights. There is also a provision that traffic wardens can be given the right to carry out the functions normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of traffic. The right hon. Gentleman said that their only powers would be those of dealing with stationary 913 vehicles. That may be the intention of the Government, but it is certainly not stated in the Bill.
The Bill implies that traffic wardens should have rights, almost certainly straight away, concerning cars moving without lights or reflectors and that soon the right hon. Gentleman will be able, apparently, to give them all the powers possessed by the police regarding the control of traffic. This seems to me to be completely wrong. I am sure that at first we should impose a restriction, not simply by being told that this is what is in the minds of the Government, but by the Bill, to limit the powers of traffic wardens to stationary vehicles— in effect, parking offences and the like. The stopping of cars on the road should be a matter for the police proper and until we have greater experience of these things, we should not go further than that.
I strongly oppose the provision in Clause 2 (3) which gives the Secretary of State power to confer by Order upon traffic wardens all the traffic powers of the police. The extension of powers to traffic wardens is a very grave matter. We do not want a uniformed second-class police force alongside the police force proper. If we are not careful and if we pile all these powers upon the traffic wardens, we may get just such a thing happening.
If the powers of traffic wardens are to be extended, it should not be done by Order in any form. It should be done by Parliament. This is an important matter of law and order. It should not be done by the Executive getting these things through with very little debate, no amendment, and so on. It is not much to ask that if powers in these respects of law and order are extended, it should be done by a short Bill brought before Parliament, at least for some years yet until we know how things go.
Furthermore, in spite of what the Minister said, I am alarmed by the provisions of Clause 7 (4), which seem to give power to create a privileged class of motorist. Whatever the intention of the Minister, this provision is drawn in wide terms. If the Bill becomes an Act, by the use of these powers the Minister or his successor or anybody else certainly would have the right to create a privileged class of motorist. We must 914 examine this extremely carefully and closely in Committee. The Clause is far too widely drawn. I am not sure that we may not come to the conclusion that it should be struck out. Certainly, we must define it far more clearly. We do not want a privileged class of motorist.
Now, I come to the Minister of Transport's part of the Bill. It is broadly right that we must treat London's traffic problem as a whole and increase the powers of local authorities outside London. These are the two basic ideas behind this part of the Bill; but in many ways the Bill is inadequate. Although there are steps in the right direction, they are rather faltering steps.
One step, in my view, seems to go too far. The Bill is over-drastic against local authorities in London. The Minister tells us that it is his intention to work with the local authorities, but the Bill takes from the local authorities many of their rights to be consulted and to advise. I regard this as wrong. Local authorities should not be allowed to fragment the traffic problem of London, of course, and they must not be allowed to hold up developments for improving the flow of traffic in London, but they do know a great deal about local conditions and problems and the Minister in all these matters ought to consult them. There can be a short time limit, if he likes; if, after a certain time, the local authorities do not make their views known, his powers can come in. I do not, however, like the idea of taking away powers from the local authorities in many of these matters.
I cannot understand why local authorities which provide service stations should not be able to sell the products at those service stations. This seems to be a little bit of cheap, selfish doctrine. The local authorities, if they provide the stations, should be allowed to sell the goods at their own stations.
The Minister likes to portray himself as toiling manfully against the delays created by dilatory local authorities. He gave us examples of that today and on 10th December last. But, on many occasions, the converse is true. If he searches the pigeon-holes in his Department he will find them full of proposals from London local authorities for improvements which were held up by the Minister for financial or other reasons. 915 In the debate of 10th December, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) described how, in Bristol and in Birmingham, the local authorities are undertaking great imaginative schemes and plans to solve their traffic problems but have been held up continually by the delays and indecisions of the Ministry.
My major criticism of the Bill is that it really is, to much too great an extent, a thing of palliatives and plasters. It will do no more than just enable us to keep pace with the developing problem of traffic. We can never solve the problem unless we can get ahead of it and really anticipate the predictable movement of the tidal wave of traffic which is coming upon us. If we do no more than just keep pace with it, we shall remain for ever in the state of near chaos in which we are today. The Bill misses many opportunities. In five years, the great provincial cities will be in much the same position as London is today. Why are there not powers for them to have traffic management units set up now? If we could have had one five years ago in London, we should have been in a much better position to deal with our problems here, and, in a few years, the provincial cities will be in the same sort of "gummed up" state that London is in today.
The Minister ought to have taken powers to give really large grants for traffic research and study. The problem which traffic presents is largely a predictable one, though not, of course, wholly so. One can foretell a good deal of what will occur in two, three, four or five years. Much can be done by people who study traffic scientifically, through traffic engineering and so forth, and we really ought to be creating a new profession in Britain.
§ Mr. Marples
Local authorities outside London can now set up their own traffic management units; no new legislative powers to do so are needed.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that. I had not understood it, and I am glad to hear what he says. I hope that many of the big cities will do so. Nevertheless, I still say that he should have taken power to 916 make big grants towards establishing real research units into all traffic problems. As I say, we really must create a new profession. It does not exist in this country today, and it will not exist until the demand is created for it by the Minister; then the universities and other centres of learning will begin to teach and train for it.
The Bill fails to deal with the long-term problem. The motor car presents us with a double challenge. On the one hand, it is a lethal weapon which seems to release the worst sorts of psychological feelings in people—the demand for dominance, competition, mastery and so forth—and it produces in consequence, appalling accidents. [Interruption.] There are more dangerous cars on that side of the House than this. The appalling feature about accidents is not, I think, their absolute number, though that is ghastly, but the fact that the rate of accidents is increasing more rapidly than the number of motor cars. There is an enormous increase in the number of motor cars, but the number of accidents is increasing faster still, I believe. In parenthesis, I must say that this is predictable, too. We can be fairly certain how many people will be killed next year and thereafter if we do not do anything about it in the meantime.
In part, therefore, when we are dealing with motor cars, we have to think in terms of discipline, restriction, control, punishment and law enforcement. That is one reason why I favour the introduction of traffic wardens. I wish to see police officers released to put much more energy into enforcing considerate and orderly driving on the roads than they now have time to do.
But, if the motor car is a lethal weapon, we can at least guard against mechanical defects in it. It is lamentable that the Government are still dithering about the inspection of motor cars, even those which are ten years old. This is a scandal. Other countries are far ahead of us. Germany, for instance, is far ahead of us. It is really a shame that this country, after all this time, cannot have a scheme going in respect of cars which are ten years old. In Germany, every new car is tested and every car is tested on a change of owner. The Germans are doing enormously better than we are in this respect.
917 The motor car is, in one respect, a lethal weapon and we must control it, but we shall never really solve any of the problems it creates simply by restriction and pushing the motorist around. One cannot even deal with the accident problem unless one comes to terms with the motor car and ceases to treat the motorist—we are all a bit guilty of this —as a sort of trespasser in his own towns and cities. The second challenge of the motor car is that, as well as being a lethal weapon, it is the major dynamic factor for social change in our country today. It is doing more to change the shape of our cities, roads and countryside than any other single thing.
The ownership of a car is, I think, beginning to replace the ownership of a house as the expression of a man's sense of independence and self-respect. It is becoming a social necessity for people, and the number of cars on the roads will enormously increase. With much greater vigour, we must rebuild our whole environment of working and living in terms of the motor car.
When I say "the motor car", of course, I mean not only the cars owned by private motorists. I have in mind, also, the man who earns his living by driving, the bus driver and the lorry driver. There are really no provisions for lorry parking and we are not making any, but a lorry driver has just as much right to park as a private motorist has. The provision for loading and unloading, for instance, is woefully inadequate.
We cannot solve our road traffic problem unless there is a large scale co-ordination of transport facilities. The real reason why the Government cannot deal with the matter as they should is that they have a doctrinaire refusal to co-ordinate our transport system. They will not do it. They do not believe in co-ordinating road and rail transport. They are, therefore, deprived of the major means of tackling the nation's difficulties as a whole.
Ours is a very small and compact country. We must not, therefore, neglect any resource of transport which is available to us. We have neglected our railways very badly, and, even more, our waterways. In Germany, 30 per cent. of goods are carried by water, whereas we carry about 0.6 per cent. of our goods by water.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to compare German canals with British, will he refer to the size of the German canals and the average number of locks on German canals compared with British canals?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The Germans have made a very much greater and more sustained effort to use their waterways than we have. I do not say that we could carry 30 per cent., as they do, but we could certainly carry more than 0.6 per cent. of our goods by water. There was a day when we led the world in canals. Now, I suppose, we are behind the whole world in that respect.
We cannot neglect any resources for carrying goods about in this tiny little country with this flood of motor cars coming upon us. Even in the direct field of road transport we need more co-ordination. We must co-ordinate building with traffic. We cannot have offices and blocks of flats going up all over the place regardless of their impact on the traffic problem. A huge office block can at the end of the working day discharge a population equal to that of a small town on to roads which are inadequate to cope with it.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman when he has been in New York has ever travelled on the subway in the rush hour as I have on a number of occasions. The conditions there are absolutely bestial, because the Americans have built more and more of these cities going up into the air which discharge people all at the same time on to a system of transport which cannot cope with them. There must be co-ordination between the building of offices, flats, and so forth, and the programme of roads and public transport in the cities.
There are so many interdependent factors in this matter that the problem cannot be solved simply by having traffic dicators, engineers, and so forth. I think that the only way of tackling the problem is by having a Cabinet Committee on transport consisting of all the Ministers concerned, served by a top level official committee. This is an extremely efficient way of getting things done. One of the great merits of our Cabinet system 919 is that the Cabinet Committee is an extremely efficient instrument. It is the only way of co-ordinating a whole lot of different views together. We cannot have a super dictator running the whole matter, and until we tackle the problem with this vigour and energy we shall not get our heads above the problems. Of course, machinery alone is not enough. We must have the will to put the public interest above the private interest, and the will to use our resources to the full. Our roads are universally inadequate.
We are all to blame. The Labour Government, when I had some share of responsibility, are also to blame, although at that time, immediately after the war, the problem was to balance power stations against roads, and the real problem really started only in 1953. The present Government have had nine years in which to deal with the problem, but, as I say, I am prepared to accept our part of the blame. However, by far the most blame must rest on the present Government.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that expenditure on roads had gone up to £100 million a year. That is pathetic compared with other countries. West Germany spends 3.15 per cent. of its gross national product on roads, the United States spends 20.8 per cent. and Italy 1.17 per cent. whereas we in the United Kingdom spend only 0.66 per cent. of our gross national product on roads. In our great days we headed the world in all transport developments. Now we lag behind almost every comparable country in the development of our transport system.
We could increase our expenditure on roads in the sure knowledge that the yield from the road taxes is going up steadily. Between 1960 and 1965 the yield of these taxes will rise from £600 million to £750 million a year. The projected road programme will go up from £120 million to £127 million. We think that the Government's plans and their performance are pitiful. I see little prospect of an improvement unless we make available the necessary financial resources.
We had a Tory rebellion below the Gangway on the Budget, and the Chancellor has got cold feet. He has, in fact, said to the rebels, "All right, I really agree with you. I cannot do it this year, 920 but I will do it next year." He has accepted their doctrine, which is that all private expenditure is good and that all public expenditure is bad. If we translate that into terms of transport it means that it is a good thing to buy the private motor car but that any money spent on roads, railways and canals is bad because it is public expenditure. That is the doctrine which hon. Members opposite are preaching and which, in fact, the Chancellor has conceded. They really believe—
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
That is one of the very things which the rebels are attacking. The rebels really believe, and honestly believe, in what Professor Galbraith described as private opulence in the midst of public squalor. We will have more and more motor cars as a result of reduced Government expenditure and reduction of tax and less good roads to accommodate them. That is why we are not going to get a solution to the problem in the remaining four years in office of the Government. But we cannot defer this issue for ever.
If a country wills millions and millions of more motor cars, it must also will the expenditure of millions and millions of £s in order to accommodate them and to stop them being a public menace. There is no alternative to that.
For the reasons that I have given, I do not think that the Bill does very much to tackle the real problems. We support it as far as it goes. I think that it is rather a fiddling Measure and that it is frittering away the very precious, irreplaceable time that we have at our disposal if we are not to be overwhelmed by the traffic problem.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Clive Bossom (Leominster)
First, I wish to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for giving the order "Full steam ahead". I am sure that the new proposals will go a long way towards unblocking the roads in our towns and cities. But what is so important, I feel, is that the Bill has created real public interest. I believe 921 that both the motorist and the pedestrian will be prepared to accept a greater measure of personal discipline now that the gravity of the situation has been brought home to all of us.
Whilst acknowledging that this progressive Bill is primarily one concerning large urban problems, I beg my right hon. Friend not to forget to help the authorities of the provincial towns and also our thriving market towns. It is no good having wonderful new roads if at the end of the journey one gets bottled up in a bottleneck. The Bill clearly shows that my right hon. Friend realises the urgency of the problem and is willing to take drastic steps to stop the appalling waste of time and money, and also loss of life.
As this is my first speech in the House, I will endeavour not to be controversial; rather I will follow the road taken by the previous Member for Maid-stone who enjoyed 28 years of remarkable history in this House. I feel that he sadly misses the House and his friends on both sides of the Chamber. He, like me, is a new boy, but in another place. I will not be so ambitious with my suggestions as he was with his idea of a monorail. But I still believe that the Monorail has a future as over three-quarters of the people coming into our large cities to work do so by public transport. If we could lift this group off the roads we should leave the roads that much freer.
I am fortunate to represent one of the most rural constituencies in the entire country, and, I do not hesitate to say, one of the most beautiful. It is a part of the country which is famous for its productive farm land, beef cattle, sheep cider apples and hops. It is obvious from what I have said that this area has a very thriving and prosperous community who are much sought after as potential customers by the City of Hereford and the market towns of Leominster, Kington, Ledbury and Bromyard. But if such towns do not make provision for parking and the flow of traffic, they will not get these customers who today, with widespread car ownership, are sufficiently mobile to be able to choose the towns which offer the best facilities. So it is of the utmost importance that even at rural level, we should consider every aspect of traffic control.
922 I have always taken a keen interest in road problems, having served for several years on the roads committee when I was a county councillor. Since the war I have been a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Paviors, who in their wisdom support a lecturer in highway and traffic engineering at the University of Birmingham, which today is the main school of highway and traffic engineering in the country. Those who are interested will find that it is well worth a visit.
I really believe that the Government must do more with education grants in this new field of highway and traffic engineering. I also hope that our ever-expanding motor industry, and its allied industries, which already help to support this post-graduate school, will now feel it is worth their while to do more by giving greater grants to finance more students, and also by lending more lecturers and equipment. Money is not the only thing that is needed. As has been said already in this debate, there is an acute shortage of qualified highway and traffic engineers. We must have these men to carry out continuous research and make surveys of delays, density, parking, accidents and the habits of pedestrians; also to prepare forecasts of traffic trends.
Then, I hope that my right hon. Friend will endeavour to improve the status of the highway and traffic engineers. They are vital men in any planning project and must be brought in at the very beginning. Local authorities, especially county councils, must realise the value of having and using, staff trained in these new techniques. The short-term solutions of our traffic problems, which can be achieved without vast expense, are that we must educate people, both pedestrian and driver, in the use of roads, followed by enforcement— such things as control of parking, the control of pedestrians and channelisation.
The control of parking concerns the traveller, the businessman and the shopper who want to remain in a town for approximately one hour. These people must be catered for or else the town will lose business and, with it, its own prosperity. I do not believe that meters in county towns can be an economic proposition. They cost £30 each and £3 or £4 to install, after which there is the 923 cost of upkeep. So, unless they are fully used, they will not pay. That is the reason why I am extremely pleased that my right hon. Friend is willing to experiment with parking discs. The French have tried this system for over two years, and it is also in use in Italy, Austria and Switzerland. Parking discs may not be the complete answer to the problem, but they are a check on long parking. It gives many more a chance and one can safely park 10 per cent. more vehicles compared with the meter system.
I should like my right hon. Friend to look into the Dutch system which they hope to launch soon, and also into the Austrian discs, because they are the simplest—one just puts the time of arrival on the clock face. If any hon. Member wishes to see the discs I have in my hand, I shall be only too willing to show him after the debate is ended. The advantage of trying out the disc system is that if the experiment does not work nothing will have been lost. We could then turn over to the meter system, for which the staff could easily be adapted, and no money would have been wasted.
In my view, the Ministry of Transport should press local authorities to improve their signs. These should be uniform throughout the country, and great care should be taken with their size and clarity. Most important of all, we need more signs directing motorists where they can park. The painting on roads should also be uniform throughout the country. Yellow and black means that you cannot park and blue and white means that you can. Many more signs should be fluorescent, and street lighting should be improved, especially at pedestrian crossings.
I welcome the idea of traffic wardens. In the large country towns they will be able to combine their duties with those of the school crossing patrols. These wardens should be selected carefully and receive adequate training. The motorist should be able to look upon the traffic warden as a friend, someone who will help him and not goad or torment him. Selection and training is, therefore, vital if the scheme is to be successful.
A long-term policy is certainly needed. By the end of this year there will be approximately 9 million vehicles of all types. Of these, close on 6 million will 924 be four-wheeled vehicles. It is forecast that by 1966 the number could be 14 million. It is obvious from such figures that planning for the future cannot be delayed or left to chance.
There will have to be major construction of highways, large multi-storied parking garages and by-passes. Every dwelling and building must have a garage planned; it will be a fixture, like a bathroom or telephone. Here again I stress the importance of making full use of highway and traffic engineers, whose advice is scientifically based.
I know America well. I have lived there and I travelled right across it on several occasions. We must not be hypnotised by America, although we can learn a lot from her costly mistakes, and we can adapt many of her first-class ideas. However, I always think it is difficult to compare our two countries, because the distance between towns and the width of the layout of the streets are so different.
I believe that the quality of our road surfaces are certainly better, and so are our driving manners. The main reason why we should not be discouraged over our new projects is that it is only during the last ten years that America has really completed her major road programmes in their cities. Time is not on our side. Many of my hon. Friends on both sides of the House will have seen what the Belgians achieved only two years ago right in the centre of Brussels. What can be done in Brussels can and will soon be done in a great city like Birmingham.
With the accelerated growth in the number of cars, I feel our daily habits are bound to change, and so will our ideas on town planning. Soon in the country our weekly shopping will be done under one roof—in supermarkets, which are opening at the rate of ten a month. We must site the supermarkets on the outskirts of our provincial cities and county towns, with car parks under, on top and around the building, not just for 20 or 30 vehicles but capable of holding 200 or 300. Drive-in cinemas, drive-in banks, schools and fire stations, are just a few which could be re-zoned on the outskirts.
I have another long-term suggestion for those who must take their cars into the cities and want to avoid crawling 925 slowly along congested streets. I see no reason why we should not cover our main line railways at the outskirts with roads into the centre; in other words, double-deck road and rail. When one arrives in the centre of the city, parking could be provided over the railway station. These car parks would be more expensive than those on the outskirts, but they will have to be provided. A useful illustration in this regard is that the two main stations in Birmingham occupy 10 per cent. of the total city centre area. Here is wasted space where one could build a heliport and parking accommodation over the actual railway.
At the other extreme, with vision we do not have to destroy our more historic and picturesque towns, built centuries ago, by completely altering the main character and façade of the high streets in order to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. Here I suggest two methods for widening without destroying. One is arcading, as is seen in Paris. One removes the pavement and takes it back about 6 ft. into the shop fronts. One preserves the outward appearance of the old building and gets an extra 10 ft. or so of roadway. Another method of widening our streets is well demonstrated at Chester; where they put the pedestrians on the first floor level.
Without having gone into great detail, I have tried to show the value of highway and traffic engineers, and I have also registered a plea that our market towns shall not be forgotten in the Bill. I hope I have shown that, although great problems face us, it is certainly not too late if we act now. I believe the Bill is the beginning of a new traffic era, but it will mean that both motorist and pedestrian will have to co-operate in making the Bill work, and, above all, they must not be selfish.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I am sure that every hon. Member who sat in the last Parliament and previous Parliaments will envy me the opportunity of welcoming the son of one whom we knew and respected as a colleague during many years and of saying how glad we are to see him here and hear a speech so full of knowledge on the subject which he has chosen for his maiden speech. We hope that the hon. Member for Leomin- 926 ster (Mr. Bossom) will enjoy his life here as much as his father did. We look forward to hearing him again. I can assure him that in his maiden speech he has established his position in the House as a person who speaks with knowledge and modesty.
I welcome one phrase which the hon. Member used, that we must not be hypnotised by America. That is very sound advice to give when we are considering this subject. We have a country which has been built up over a long period of years and we have a great population in proportion to our area, and we cannot attempt all the things that America has done. I recollect being on the outskirts of Cleveland in the United States in 1956 and seeing that to drive a new turnpike through they had ruthlessly destroyed a section of the city which had been built only in the previous decade. I am certain that any attempt to do such a thing in this country would be received in a very different spirit from that shown by the inhabitants of that part of the United States.
I intend to confine my remarks mainly to the parts of the Bill which, I understand, it will be the duty of the Secretary of State for the Home Department in the main to administer. The Minister was quite modest about the Bill in introducing it. He said that there might be blemishes in it. I think it is as well that we should recognise that there are not so much blemishes as gaps in it which need to be filled, particularly gaps in definition and closeness of expression which, from the point of view of the Secretary of State, will have to be remedied if the Bill is to be at all workable when it becomes an Act.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that the Bill had been prepared in a hurry. Having sat recently on the Standing Committee dealing with the Betting and Gaming Bill with my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who played a conspicuous and worthy part in the consideration of that Measure, and other hon. Gentlemen, I can only say that we shall spend a very long time between Easter and Whitsun on the Report stage because that Bill was obviously prepared in a hurry and insufficient definition was given to many 927 of its provisions, with the result that the Government have reserved to the Report stage all the major issues in it. I hope that when this Measure goes to the Committee the Government will be better prepared to say how the gaps can be filled and the blemishes removed than they were in the case of the Betting and Gaming Bill.
I am not quite satisfied with what the Minister has told me about the use of the ticket provision. In 1958, in Pittsburg I was in a car driven by a reader in a university, and we had with us his son, my sister and a friend. When he went down a hill and reached a main road at the bottom, he turned to the right into a no-entry street instead of turning to the left, and he was served with a notice by a waiting police officer. The 10-year-old boy who was with us took a great interest in the proceedings, and when the police officer had moved off he said, "Now you are level with mummy. She had one last week, but she has not told you yet."
We must be very careful that by this method of dealing with what is a very great problem—I do not want the Minister or anyone else to think that I do not recognise the magnitude of the problem—we do not establish the idea that there are certain breaches of the law or of regulations that one can commit if one is prepared to pay a tariff for doing so. The £2 tariff for this matter may increase rather than lessen some of the problems connected with parking and the other offences that can be dealt with in this way.
I regret—though I think it inevitable —that we have had to part with the idea that before a punishment can be inflicted there must be a judgment of the court, and I particularly disliked what the right hon. Gentleman said in answer to my questions about what happens to persistent offenders. As I understand it, the record is to be kept by the police. There are about 140 police authorities in the country. Is there to be co-ordination between them on these records?
It is quite clear that the person who moves about the country may commit a number of these offences before, in the area of one police authority, they amount to a very large number. Then, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, I 928 understand that at some stage, a police authority—presumably the chief constable—will conclude that he has become too persistent an offender—I think the right hon. Gentleman suggested after half a dozen entries on a person's police record—and will decide to prosecute.
It seems to me that it would be very difficult under any such arrangement really to do justice as between one offender and another. If a man uses only one parking place in the area of one police authority, his sixth offence, or whatever the number which is to be prescribed, can be committed fairly speedily, but if he likes to avoid this idea that paying a tariff is better than going round to look for a parking place, he may have a very long run before he goes before a court.
I suggest that anything that tries to set a tariff for a particular kind of offence ought not to be welcomed in the administration of English law, for when a man goes before a court of magistrates to be dealt with for any of these offences a good many considerations have to be taken into account. What is a trival penalty for one man with a big income may be a very heavy penalty for another man whose income is limited, and the courts, in these last years, have taken a good deal of trouble to make quite sure that the punishment fits the offender as well as the offence. That will not happen in the kind of case dealt with on the lines the right hon. Gentleman indicated.
He also said that the traffic warden would not be able to take names and addresses. Surely that places him at a very serious disadvantage. It is true that he can take the number of a car. but sometimes people have borrowed a car without the owner's consent. What happens when no name and address have been taken? The warden, according to the right hon. Gentleman, can deal only with cars that are stationary, though it was at once pointed out to him that lighting offences can be dealt with by traffic wardens. As a rule, this offence is discovered when the car is in motion. Will the Minister tell the House what will happen in this kind of case?
I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State will also consider the case of a stationary car found in a place where it is not expected one would be found. 929 A traffic warden goes to it and finds a driver inside, sleeping over the wheel. The warden suspects that the man may be sufficiently under the influence of drink as not properly to be able to be in charge of a car. What is he to do? This is not one of the offences that apparently he is supposed to deal with. Is he to wait until he can find a constable—who is not always very easy to find in the late hours?
I suggest that the whole question of the exact power of a traffic warden and his relationship with the ordinary police force has to be better thought out than it is at present, because one thing which I regard as essential is that if a man is discovered in a motor vehicle in such a state of Intoxication that he is likely to be a danger to other people on the roads, he should be put in a position where he cannot use his car until, at any rate, the police have carried out some investigations and have had a medical inspection of the man. Unless they can do that we are really encouraging dangerous conditions on the roads.
That brings me to what is an omission from the Bill. There is nothing in it which deals with the problem which confronts us all too frequently—that of the person who is committing an offence under existing law by being in charge of a car when he is so much under the influence of drink or drugs as to be unable properly to control the vehicle. I shall encounter some opposition from some of my hon. Friends by saying that I am not in favour of having the issue determined by some mathematical calculation of the amount of alcohol he has either in his blood or in his urine.
I know that some of my hon. Friends think that this is an infallible test, and I am not in a position to offer any personal evidence on the point from my own experience. But my experience of watching other people—outside the precincts of this House, let me make it clear—is that the effect of any given quantity of alcohol is a thing that seems to vary from person to person within the most amazing range. Some people seem to be able to consume quantities of alcohol which would reduce another person of similar build, activities and upbringing to a state either of frivolous hilarity, or the most mournful pessimism, and in either state probably quite in- 930 capable of being properly in charge of a lethal weapon like a motor car.
However, the Government cannot shut their eyes to the importance of this problem. As I go about the country during the evenings and see car parks outside country hostelries crowded with cars and then note the hours at which accidents are most frequent, it seems to me that we must admit that all our efforts to deal with this matter so far have failed.
In the old days, when the person accused of being drunk in charge of a vehicle was the carter returning home from the market, no doctor had any hesitation in saying whether the man was drunk or not. For a time, I was a regimental policeman in the Army. I never had any doubt as to whether a man was drunk—at least, that was in the Army with which I was connected. If he could take off his boots before he was got into bed he was not drunk, but if he was found with a strong smell of drink and was in bed with his boots on there was no doubt as to what his condition was.
I do not suggest that in civilian life we could take anything quite as ready as that, but it is a very serious thing that so many cases should be heard at quarter sessions in which there is conflicting medical evidence, and when all 12 of the jury are motorists it is very difficult to secure conviction. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has been a chairman of quarter sessions. I am sure that he will support my assertion, for even in Wales some Englishmen do not seem able to live strictly in accordance with the Nonconformist traditions of that country.
In a speech which admirably stated the case for reforming the Bill in Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick referred to the fact that possession of a motor car had now become one of the criteria of social status. I have never driven or owned a motor car. Therefore, I realise how much inferior I am in social status to my right hon. Friend and, apparently, to nearly every other hon. Member. However, I implore hon. Members to remember that even now motorists are a minority in the community. They may be a steadily growing minority, but they are not yet a majority. If our laws are to be justly framed, they must take account of such considerations.
931 I hope the House will realise that it is one of the worst signs of our times that the appalling figures of casualties in dead and injured should be growing every year and that although all of us denounce them nothing happens to stay them. That is one of the matters which will be the real test of the efficiency of the Bill when it comes into operation.
I fear some of the things in the Bill. I dislike Ministers being given some of the powers which are being taken under the Bill, and I regret to see some of the distrust shown by the right hon. Gentleman for the great local authorities. I deplore what has recently happened in Berkshire over the building of one of the great through-roads of the country. It is essential that great authorities should have sufficient work of the highest importance to enable them to employ planners and administrators of sufficiently high technical qualifications to assure that the best possible work can be done.
I can recall, unfortunately, taking part 46 years ago in a discussion in the county council about the claiming of main roads by urban district councils. A very wise county official said that it was as well that the urban district councils should be able to claim responsibility for financing main roads which they had to administer, because that enabled them to have plant, equipment and technical skill adequate to deal not merely with the main roads, but with the other roads in their areas. If the Minister is not to employ the great county authorities as his agents in the construction of these important roads, it may be that some of them will not be able to employ the sort of staff which in these days every sort of road requires.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to restore the confidence in his administration, which has been largely destroyed by what he has done in the case of Berkshire. I hope that the Bill will enable him to use all local authorities to deal with the problem of the appalling loss of life and the appalling injury which occurs on the roads.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
I thank you for calling me to join in this very interesting debate, Mr. Deputy- 932 Speaker, and I thank my right hon. Friend for giving us a very lucid exposition of some of the Bill's main features. I was very glad to hear the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) welcoming, in principle, the main features of the Bill, although I heard him say, ominously, that he had some reservations which would be developed in Committee. I suspect that the passage of the Bill will be very interesting, but may be rather long.
I listened with great interest to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), with whom I have had common experience on the great local authority of which he spoke. It is on that aspect of the Bill that I want to say a few words to start with. I should like to comment on many aspects of the Bill, but there is obviously not time for all of them and I shall refer only briefly to the two major aspects which have been already mentioned—traffic wardens and the ticket system.
I welcome both, but reluctantly. I agree that they are the second-best to the kind of system which we now operate, but sheer, practical necessity drives us to these expedients if we are to civilise the motor car, which is rapidly becoming the universal motor car and which may one day even become a possession of the right hon. Member for South Shields. [An HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman rides a horse."] There it is. It is the practical problem, and we have to deal with it.
My right hon. Friend is seeking opinions as to what offences traffic wardens and the ticket system might be applied to. My own opinion has been for some time that both should be reserved for non-moving vehicles. I have always seen their main job to be concerned with parking offences. I am quite certain that if they dealt with these alone they would relieve the hard-pressed police forces of a very heavy and very tiresome function which they have to carry out at present.
Let me then turn to what I see as the main purpose of the Bill, which is to confer these powers on my right hon. Friend for dealing with London. These are practically dictatorial powers which my right hon. Friend is seeking to take over the next five years, and it means that, in giving these powers, if it. is the will of the House to give them, we shall, 933 in fact, be short-circuiting the powers that Parliament has given in the past to the local authorities concerned; that is, principally, the Metropolitan boroughs, and to some extent the county councils concerned.
It is a very big change of the law to give a Minister such powers as these, subtracting as they do from the powers of local authorities. In the main, I think that all of us would prefer that the local authorities should continue to discharge their own powers in the ways that Parliament intended when giving them. Therefore, there has to be a very strong case to justify giving my right hon. Friend these powers.
In my opinion, that case does exist. A new situation has grown up, in particular over the last ten years, which our predecessors here, in giving these powers to the Metropolitan boroughs, had never foreseen, and that situation or condition is the density of the traffic in our cities today. That has created a new situation, one which, twenty or thirty years ago, no one had foreseen, and which today demands new powers, if we are not to suffer very severely by it. A new function is necessary; that is, the function of a central traffic authority with overall powers.
The fact is that the traditional method of dealing with traffic in our cities—and this, curiously enough, applies to provincial cities as well, although, as my right hon. Friend rightly said, they now have powers to set up traffic authorities if they wish them—still obtains, and it is the piecemeal method of dealing with it junction by junction and allowing vehicles to go as they please by whatever route they like to their destinations.
The result of all that is the situation in the minds of all of us today, that congestion is growing worse, the average speed of city traffic becomes slower and slower, until, in London, it is between 8 and 9 m.p.h. on the average, and even reaching a complete stoppage at times. Along with that, there is what the right hon. Member for South Shields referred to as the appalling toll of accidents. Accidents occur mainly in urban areas— over three-quarters of them occur there— and these are the two main consequences of the heavy density of traffic in our cities 934 today and the present inadequacy of the powers and the methods for dealing with them.
The solution which my right hon. Friend evidently has in mind is the setting up of overall traffic authorities for cities, equipped with traffic engineering units, and 100 per cent. enforcement to make the regulations effective. Already, reference has been made to the situation in American cities. There, some of them have had twenty or thirty years' experience of using this method, and the results are impressive. It is true that the geography may be different and that temperaments may be different, but, nevertheless, there are fundamental similarities from which we could learn. There is nothing more impressive than to see the smoother movement of traffic, and even more welcome the progressive reduction of accidents, in cities like Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore, to which my right hon. Friend referred.
The Bill, therefore, is, I believe, justified by the direness of our need. I think that all of us here realise how great are the powers that we are proposing to give to my right hon. Friend and just what that means in terms of the local authorities concerned. My right hon. Friend is asking for these powers for only five years, and five years is none too long to show results. The experience of American cities is that a period of five to ten years is usually more likely. These regulations cannot all be brought in at one fell swoop. They have to be brought in one by one, and we have to see what are the results and the way they are working out as we go ahead, because we cannot always be right. Before they are brought in, a long period of time is required.
§ Mr. Mellish
While recognising the great interest of the hon. Gentleman in London, particularly because he was chairman of an important body which went into the whole problem of London, may I ask him whether he is aware that the boroughs themselves had to streamline their consultations with the Minister, but that they did, in fact, make counter-proposals? Is he aware of the proposals?
§ Sir R. Nugent
I should like to say a word about the future. A Royal Commission is sitting to consider the future structure of the London local authorities, 935 and no doubt will have some valuable advice to give to the House on what the permanent solution should be. On the whole, I do not favour the idea of even such a competent Minister as my right hon. Friend having these responsibilities. I think that probably a separate authority for traffic is better, and I shall wait with interest to see what the Royal Commission has to say.
In the meantime, I should like to pay a tribute to the Metropolitan boroughs, and especially to their Standing Joint Committee, for the heroic way in which they have struggled to try to make their system work, despite its obvious defects. Similarly, with the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, which is an enormous body representing all these differing interests, it takes a very long time to get the machinery working, but that is no fault of the Committee. Under its Chairman, Mr. Alex Samuels, it has done a fine job in trying to make the system function.
There is no doubt that we should now make this experiment of giving my right hon. Friend these powers. I quite realise that as I was part of the previous Administration I might be asked why I did not do something about it. I did have a shot at doing something rather more modest than this two or three years ago, but it was a stillborn infant, I regret to say. I struggled, but I struggled in vain, and my scheme foundered on the rocks of the Establishment. I must congratulate my right hon. Friend on the greater power that he has been able to exert in cutting through the Gordian knot which eventually downed me, because down me it certainly did. The number of interests and existing authorities that my right hon. Friend had to cut through is very substantial indeed, and I congratulate him on having done it.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Member is being far too modest about this. He is saying that he consulted these people whereas his right hon. Friend did not. It is as simple as that.
§ Sir R. Nugent
It was more than that.
The chief enemy to safe and smooth traffic movement is the conflicting movement of vehicles and pedestrians. The worst enemy of all is the right turn across 936 the traffic. Those who are familiar with accident records will know that that accounts for more accidents than any other single feature. Then there is overtaking—another fruitful source of accidents—and pedestrians who cross the street while traffic is moving on the same surface. It is the specific job of the traffic engineer to study the movement of the traffic in his city, to see where the conflicting movements are taking place and then work out fresh and better patterns which will progressively remove those conflicting movements.
As my right hon. Friend said, with 28 different highway authorities in London—the 28 Metropolitan boroughs —it is quite impossible to achieve a coordinated plan of improved patterns of traffic movement. I recall one Metropolitan borough with which I had to struggle, trying to get it to agree to a one-way traffic system on two parallel roads which were quite close to each other and both so narrow that two vehicles could hardly pass each other. Year after year that borough refused to make those roads one-way roads. Finally, I went to the area myself and discussed the matter with the local police, and in the end a decision was taken that the police should introduce an experimental system.
But the Metropolitan borough was not done. It got an hon. Member to ask Questions in the House and to raise the matter on the Adjournment. It fought us to the last ditch. That improvement, which was so important to the people in the neighbourhood and also to the traffic, took four or five years to bring into being.
There is a traffic sign in my Borough of Guildford—which is in the Metropolitan district—which I want to see moved. I asked for it to be moved eighteen months ago, but it has still not been taken away. It merely affects parking, but it still wants doing.
These are just a few examples of the delays and obstructions which are bound to occur with a system of fragmented authority. In future, with the authority in the hands of my right hon. Friend, he can co-ordinate the picture and work out patterns of movement. He can see what the traffic does and can work out a better system. He has the chance to deal with the problem as a whole. The 937 most important thing is to design the traffic arteries which lead to the centre of this Metropolis and carry the very heavy morning and evening commuter flow so as to make sure that it flows safely and smoothly in and out.
My right hon. Friend has referred to the techniques adopted in one American city. We are familiar with the technique of reversible lanes, which can be used on these main traffic arteries. There are some techniques which our traffic engineers can use which can make an enormous improvement in the traffic flow, and it is not too much to say that with a major plan of this kind, particularly if it is accompanied by control over parked vehicles on traffic arteries, my right hon. Friend will achieve a 50 per cent. improvement in the traffic flow in London in the next five or ten years. That is a measure of what can be done by these methods.
The Bill will allow for the setting up of traffic engineering units, and that is a good thing. They will provide the technical advice that my right hon. Friend will need in making the new regulations to provide a better and safer traffic movement. But the second feature, which is equally important, is the question of the public relations which my right hon. Friend will have to establish to make the new regulations effective. I am thinking of relations with the Metropolitan boroughs, the London County Council, the other county councils involved, the driving public, the walking public, the shopping public, the shops and the trading premises. It is vital that every regulation shall be preceded by a period of education and propaganda, so that those who are affected will understand what benefit will be derived.
Each regulation, however good it may be, is bound to interfere with somebody's convenience, and unless the community as a whole is convinced that, on balance, the regulations will benefit them, they will not co-operate—and co-operation is the key word in this situation. My right hon. Friend must get the co-operation of all concerned to make these regulations effective. A 100 per cent. enforcement is only the long stop. These regulations will become a benefit to us, and will provide better and safer movement, only if the 938 public understands and gives its full co-operation.
I would offer one small word of criticism of my right hon. Friend. His démarche with the U-turn was not a successful one, for this reason. I am quite sure that it will have to be banned as part of a general campaign to stop vehicles moving across the traffic, but it must come as part of a more general picture—the stopping of all right turns in many important traffic streets in our Metropolis. When it comes it must be preceded by a full propaganda campaign, so that everybody understands that it will be a benefit to him and to everybody else.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick asked about provincial cities. My right hon. Friend is to be given powers to carry out his schemes in London. London will be the experimental area for the great changes which the Bill foreshadows, not only in terms of traffic engineering but also in terms of enforcement, with traffic wardens and the ticket system. My right hon. Friend's hope is that he will be so successful in London that other big cities will wish to copy those modern methods of handling traffic This is giving a lead, which I hope the whole country will copy.
I would point out that the big cities could already have set up traffic authorities if they wished to. They are highway authorities. But with one or two exceptions, like Birmingham, with that great highway engineer, Sir Herbert Manzoni, few of the big cities have done anything in this direction. I hope that the city councils in those of our big provincial cities which have traffic problems bordering in severity upon those of London will watch what is going on here and gird themselves to introduce similar systems. I hope that they will start training their bright young engineers so that they have a supply of traffic engineers to enable them to survey their traffic problems and begin, progressively, to gain control of the traffic in their cities and bring about a safer and smoother movement.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing the Bill. I extend to him my best wishes in his handling of this huge problem. He is backing himself not only to solve it in respect of London, but to demonstrate to the country at large what can be done by these methods. I also extend my best wishes to him for 939 the Committee proceedings, during which we may have some very interesting discussions.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent). I am in agreement with almost everything he said. I hope it will not be out of place to pay tribute to the hon. Member for the splendid work he did during his stay at the Ministry of Transport. Although on occasions we held different opinions to him in our approach to transport problems, we all appreciated the sincerity and the understanding with which he carried out his important duties at that Ministry. We look forward to his continued interest, as shown this afternoon, in transport matters, because I am sure that with his vast experience he will make still further valuable contributions to our debates on transport. Because of his association with the Ministry of Transport and his ability to make a first-class contribution to our discussions on transport problems, I am pleased, as I said earlier, to follow the hon. Gentleman.
My major criticism of the Bill lies in its limited scope. I welcome all its provisions, but it falls far short of what is required to reduce the toll of death and injury which is increasing month by month. In my own City of Bradford, the total killed and injured on the roads in the first three months of this year increased by 128 over the corresponding period last year. It is fair to make the point that the same story is told all over the country, where one hears reports of ever-increasing deaths and injuries. We appear both in this House and outside to have become so indifferent to the loss of human life that we are incapable of finding a remedy.
The three causes of the heavy toll on the roads are clearly known to the Minister, the Ministry of Transport, and to any hon. Member who has taken the trouble to examine the problem. They are excessive speeding, drivers affected by alcohol, and youthful motor cyclists. They are the three main categories responsible for our difficulties and the death and injury inflicted on the roads; yet there is nothing in the Bill, as far as I can see, which is intended in a practical way to deal with them.
940 It is lamentable that year after year the House has presented to it these figures of death and injury on the roads and does nothing about it. It is all right to talk about improving roads here; about the appointment of traffic wardens there; and for the Minister to come to the Dispatch Box and with crocodile tears in his eyes say how sorry he is. how alarmed he is, how distressed he is, about this terrible, ever-increasing toll of death and injuries, but it is alarming that the Government are doing practically nothing about it. The Government know the class of people responsible for our troubles, but for some unexplainable reason they are not prepared to deal with the problem. The time has come when hon. Members on both sides of the House must bring pressure to bear on the Government so that they get down to tackling this serious problem.
We are suffering today from what the present Minister of Transport called "pressure groups". I think it was the present Minister of Transport who said that until he came to the Ministry of Transport he was not aware of the large number of pressure groups which existed. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must get down to the solution of this problem of road deaths and injuries because, apart from the tragedy of death, productive capacity is decreased to an extent which is not reasonable and fair by the numbers injured every year.
The Government know what would provide the greatest contribution towards the congestion of our roads. They know as well as I do that if by some method we could get more co-ordination between rail and road we might by that stroke alone cut road accidents considerably. Our roads are far too congested. The volume of traffic and the number of cars on the roads is increasing by leaps and bounds each month. The roads are so congested that if a person speeds unduly he causes danger not merely to himself but to the rest of the travelling public.
In a previous debate on the difficulties of road congestion, I made an earnest appeal to the Minister and to the Government to call a conference of industrialists to see how far we could use a combination of road and rail services for the benefit of the industrial life of the nation and at the same time cut down the volume of traffic on our inadequate roads. I do not know whether it was a 941 question of offending vested interests, but nothing was done. My suggestion was not even commented on by the Minister during that debate.
If we play about with this kind of half-hearted Bill—and this is a halfhearted Bill if ever there was one—we shall waste hours of Parliamentary time, both here and in Committee, but we shall make no material improvement in the position. The time has arrived when Parliament must say clearly to the Government that there has got to be an attack upon this problem of road deaths and injuries equal to any effort we would make to win through in a war. This requires a first-class war effort regardless of pressure groups from one side or the other and regardless of anything except the saving of life and limb. Unless we have the courage to do that, we are unworthy of being representatives of the nation in this House.
When shall we be prepared in the interests of the nation to push aside all the petty political ideas and prejudices we have as between nationalised railways and ordinary commercial private enterprise on the roads? When shall we put away our political prejudice and try to find a common solution which will be to the benefit of the whole of the industrial and social life of the nation? Are we, in 1960, incapable of finding some common ground of agreement instead of doing all the silly things which have been done since the railways were nationalised in 1947? I have stood here pleading with Ministers of Transport one after the other to apply a commonsense policy to the problems of transport, but I have found that all the time they have been playing political games to placate their political supporters.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham) rose—
§ Mr. McLeavy
No, I shall not give way. When the Tory Government started to take away from British Road Services the road haulage services on the ground that they wanted to give free enterprise an opportunity of providing road haulage, that may have been a good political move from the Tory point of view, but it was bad business for the nation.
942 I want to deal with the thirty pages of this Bill. Clause 1 deals with the ticket system for payment of penalties. I do not know what the exact details of the system will be when the Home Secretary brings in regulations. It is difficult to understand why a Bill of this character should be presented to the House with so many provisions to be brought before us under the affirmative Resolution procedure. That will make it almost impossible for hon. Members not only reasonably to discuss and examine the regulations but to get Amendments made by the Home Secretary.
The Minister said that this Bill was produced in a hurry. We see there is no doubt about that when we read the Bill. It will cut out the ordinary Parliamentary debate and examination of important regulations which the Home Secretary brings forward. These things should be in the Bill even if that would mean delaying the Bill. They could then be properly considered on Second Reading and upstairs in Committee. Without those facilities, we shall not be able to see that the regulations are in accordance with the proper practice and provide a sensible solution of the problem.
Clause 2 relates to traffic wardens. As I read the terms of the Bill, this seems reasonably satisfactory, but I am very alarmed about what the Minister said as to the duties of the proposed traffic wardens. I was very sorry when my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) suggested that traffic wardens could be recruited from retired policemen. I do not know anything more absurd than that.
§ Mr. McLeavy
Because, first, we want traffic wardens to be active and to have the capacity to do the job. I presume we not only want them to act as traffic wardens but to deal with school crossings and the like. It would be fatal if we accepted the suggestion that they should have no authority to stop a vehicle. A traffic warden should have all the powers which normally are authorised to be applied by a police constable. Then they would be able to do the job efficiently and we should get 943 the right type of person. If we say that these traffic wardens are to be retired pensioners, from the police force or elsewhere, we shall be approaching the problem in an entirely indefinite way. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because dealing with traffic problems is not an old man's job.
I presume we want these wardens to take over very largely the duties relating to traffic which are now done by ordinary constables. It would be wiser to give them more or less the traffic powers possessed by a policeman. Presumably we shall make them subject to police control and police training. There is a very serious danger, unless we are most careful, that they will be cheap labour. Then we should not get efficiency and the men would not receive the wages, pensions or status which are essential if we are to tackle this new departure in the right way.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
The hon. Member must appreciate that many policemen retire at the age of 50, when they are in the full vigour of life. At the age of 50 they could deal with a job like this.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I appreciate that many policemen retire at a reasonably early age, but that was not the impression created in the minds of the House when it was suggested that retired policemen should take on the job. This is not a job which should be relegated to retired policemen or anyone else retired from active service. It should be done by physically able men, there should be a proper rate for the job and the pension should be similar to the police pension. To all intents and purposes they ought to be police constables with powers restricted to traffic problems.
Clause 4 deals with parking meters. The introduction of more paking meters is extremely important in trying to solve some of the congestion on the roads, but I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, in his reply, will make a point clear which is not clear in the Clause. It is not clear whether the Minister will be required to use the surplus receipts from the parking meters for the same purpose as that for which local authorities are compelled to use them. Will the proceeds of the parking meters put up by the Minister of Transport be used for the provision of off- 944 street parking facilities, as they are by the local authorities?
I agree entirely with the hon. Baronet about Clause 7 and the five-year period of control of traffic in London by the Minister. I hope that it will be successful. The scheme will be judged by the Minister's success. If he makes a good job of it, it may well become a permanent feature.
I am glad that the Minister clarified the question of those who will be excluded from specified streets and those who will have exemptions. The fact that the Minister said that those who were exempted would, for example, be doctors on urgent business met some of the doubts we have. It was a reasonable explanation.
I want next to deal with a point which is outside the Bill but which ought to be included in it. I recently appealed to the Minister to take powers to enable him to override local authorities in respect of the construction of roads in order that work on the roads can proceed more speedily. The classic example is the delay on the M.1 extension to Yorkshire. There was a considerable delay as a result of disagreements between the local authorities concerned.
Apparently, the Minister had no power to deal with that situation and was reluctant to press his point of view. As a result, there has been considerable delay in the construction of this part of the motorway—a part which is essential to the business life of Yorkshire. The delay arose simply because local authorities were at loggerheads about the precise line which the road should take. I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House agree with me when I say that it would be of value if the Minister took powers under the Bill to allow him in the last resort, where there has been undue delay, to say, "This is the line which you will have to accept."
Another point, akin to this, which ought also to be considered concerns the taking over of land required for road construction prior to the settlement of compensation to the owner. I understand that on the Continent this is done extensively and that there is no disadvantage to the owner arising from the fact that the Government have said, "We will take over the land first and settle the price afterwards." I agree that every possible provision should be included to 945 ensure that the owner of the land is at no disadvantage on account of the speed with which the land is acquired for road construction, but in our desire to meet the shortage of road space and to catch up with our past failings. I feel that the Minister should take powers, subject to reasonable safeguards for the property owner, which would enable him to take over the land prior to the settlement of compensation.
§ Mr. Hay
I assure the hon. Member that we already have those powers and exercise them. There is a procedure, which has been in operation for some time, whereby 90 per cent. of the purchase price on compulsory purchase can be advanced to the owner of the property prior to the entry on to the land and to our taking it over on the completion of the conveyance. The point has been covered in previous legislation.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I am glad the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that, but that information was not conveyed to the House when I raised this matter some months ago. It may be that the power is so sparingly applied that we have almost forgotten its existence.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I must be excused for not knowing about it. I knew that it must be of recent date. It is certainly very valuable, and I congratulate the Ministry on having taken that power.
I am sorry to have spoken for so long. In conclusion, I appeal to the Government in particular and to hon. Members on both sides of the House that we should try to reach a commonsense solution to this grave transport problem. Let us try to approach it in a policy of give and take to see whether we cannot find a solution to all these great difficulties which will be beneficial to the nation. Our very prosperity depends upon the industrial development of the nation and the cheap flow of goods and passengers. I urge the Government and hon. Members to realise that unless we stop playing politics with our transport system we shall continuously be in the difficulties which beset us today.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I shall not attempt to follow all the intricacies of the argument of the hon. Member for 946 Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy). As far as I could make out, he imagined that road casualties could be reduced by means of integration, by which he meant the compulsory transferring of traffic from road to rail.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I was not thinking in terms of compulsion immediately. I was thinking in terms of an agreement between industries and the British Transport Commission, based upon cost, and so forth. If it finally became a question of refusal to go on the railway, I agree that in the interests of public safety there should be some compulsion.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman is letting his imagination run away with him, because, short of a Communist State, that is an impossible policy. One cannot have a mixed nationalised and free enterprise society. That was the whole defect of the 1947 Act introduced by hon. Members opposite. When people had an option of using their own vehicles, they took it. The great competition nowadays is not between road and rail, but between public services by road or rail whether nationalised or not, on the one hand, and the private cars and C-licence vehicles of do-it-yourself individualists, on the other. I do not think that we should pursue that argument too far, because it does not have anything to do with the Bill.
§ Mr. Wilson
I will deal with that argument on another occasion.
I welcome the Bill, although I think that many of its provisions are drastic. Hon. Members and the public are prepared to accept a drastic Bill at present. Traffic congestion and parking problems have become so bad, not only in large towns, but even in small towns and villages, that the public as a whole are prepared to consider a drastic measure. However, if the Bill is to have its maximum effect, it is not enough that it should have general acceptance from the public. It must have, also, the support of a considerable number of motorists.
It is that aspect of the matter with which I should like to deal. I will leave to my hon. Friends, especially those who are members of the senior branch of the legal profession, the task of going into 947 the details of the Bill. However, I observe, in passing, that it appears from observations which have been made in the Press that some people are a little too anxious about Clause 1. I do not think that the legal purists need be too worried about it. It is clear that the intention is that the payment made on receipt of a ticket is not to be regarded as a fine on conviction, but to be more in the nature of the excess charge, which is already collected by this method for too long use of parking meter space. The provisions in Clause 1 are very similar to the parking meter system and no one need fear that he is being convicted without a trial.
It has also been suggested in the Press, though it has not been mentioned in the debate so far, that the ticket system will lead to a greater temptation to the police to accept bribes. There is not much in that argument. We have all heard of cases when motorists, having been stopped by the police, have handed over their driving licence with a £1 note inside. I remember an instance from the days when I used to appear frequently in police courts in a professional capacity. A motorist got into very serious trouble for attempting thus to bribe a policeman. It can happen with a policeman who stops a man to warn him about a summons. I do not see why the policeman should be put under greater temptation if he is giving a ticket under the system envisaged in the Bill.
A great deal of the parking trouble is caused by the resistance of motorists. They do not feel inclined to observe the regulations because they consider themselves a persecuted and over-taxed specialised section of the community. The Bill may intensify that feeling. They already feel that they are harried from place to place and fined for parking in streets, but not provided with any other places in which they can park.
Many motorists also feel that they pay such high taxes that they are paying for the existing roads two or three times over and are not getting a square deal. We in the House should do everything in our power to get that idea out of people's heads. It is a much exaggerated view. We should not only ensure that the motorist gets a square dead, but try to persuade him that he is having one.
948 To begin with, I think that it is rather unfortunate that the word "motorist" is still in common use, because words acquire historic associations. The word "motorist" conjures up a picture of a specialised pioneer, an adventurer. That as what the early motorist was, but in modern days everyone is a motorist. We all have a special vested interest in the roads. Even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has. About four-fifths of the passengers who pass by land in this country travel by road. About 56 per cent. of the goods carried on land pass by road. Therefore, everyone, whether he owns a car or not, is interested and has a vested interest in the roads being kept free from obstruction. If there are obstructions on the roads, the school girl is late for school and the old-age pensioner has to pay more for his packet of tea, because of increased transport changes. We have now reached the stage when we are all dependent on roads. There is nothing very special about a motorist.
The argument in favour of more and better roads and more and better control of traffic on the roads should not be confused with motor taxation. A legend has been built up around the memories of the Road Fund. The reason why motorists want better roads is that the present roads are not sufficient for their needs. We want drastic improvements because the roads are not adequate. It is nothing to do with the fact that the amount of money being spent on roads may not equal the amount collected in taxation from motorists.
Fifty years ago, when the membership of the A.A. was about 10,000, most of our roads were water macadam, that is to say, they were composed of large stones and small stones with a carpet of dust on top. They were excellent roads for horses. The music hall song was quite wrong in saying that it wasthe 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammer along the 'ard 'igh road which "urts the 'orses 'eels".Horses could use those roads without discomfort and such a surface provided a very good living for crossing sweepers in towns on such roads in wet weather, but when dry the surface was absolutely disastrous for the few motorists there were at that time.
Any hon. Member who was brought up from childhood on "The Wind in the Willows" will know what happened. 949 Every passing car raised a miniature dust storm. In those days, the motorist was someone who wore goggles, gaiters and gauntlets and his lady was swathed in veils like a Bedouin, to avoid the dust. In those circumstances, it was not unreasonable that the few motorists should demand that something should be done. It was done. Road surfaces were altered and improved for the benefit of the few. Therefore, when Lloyd George introduced his Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, he was quite right to allocate all the money obtained from motorists by special taxation to the alteration of road surfaces for their peculiar benefit. This was not then needed by other people.
That is now all very ancient history. All our roads are motor roads; they have been for many years, and the public are themselves now motorists. We should not, therefore, confuse the present issue by introducing the vexed question of taxation. The roads, and the improvements to them, are needed because we need them, and not because of the amount of money that is collected from motorists.
Motor taxation is, no doubt, too high, but some people think that the duty on beer is also too high—although that was reduced in the last Budget but one. However, there is really no more reason for saying that all money collected from motor taxation should be spent on the roads than there is for saying that all the money collected from the Beer Duty should be spent on the "pubs". I hope that we shall not so confuse the argument, but will confine ourselves to real needs.
Another argument that will probably be used against the Bill—and a misleading one—is that we should not restrict street parking until we have enough off-street parking to meet the needs. That is the old argument of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Unless the State, or the municipalities, are to undertake the cost of providing off-street parking— and that would be a very big undertaking, and a very expensive one—we shall not get off-street parking until we have some greater regulation of street parking.
One of the principal disincentives to private individuals trying to start an off-street park is the unregulated street parking. Such a case came to my notice 950 a few months ago. A group of young men, one of whom had some capital, wanted to start business in London and, very enterprisingly, wished to acquire a site in theatreland to develop as an off-street parage. On the face of it, the project looked very good; as I say, the site was in the centre of London, in the theatre and restaurant area, and one would have thought that people would be anxious for such accommodation.
When they asked me about it, I suggested that they should ask one of the oil companies, which have great experience of that sort of thing and know the economics of garage keeping. That group of young men was strongly advised not to touch the idea at all, on the ground that it was quite hopeless to run such an off-street garage in the centre of London whilst street parking went on unchecked. I am sure that similar professional advice is at present being given to anyone contemplating running an off-street garage in the central areas of London.
That advice will continue to be given until we have provisions, such as those contained in the Bill, that will make sure that there will be proper regulation of the facilities on the streets. Section 81 of the Road Traffic Act. 1960, is extended by Clause 11, and local authorities are enabled to assist in the provision of off-street parking. Quite apart from the money that may be collected from parking meters, I am sure that the moment the Bill is on the Statute Book a great number of other facilities will be provided by private enterprise. It will be done as soon as those people can be sure of a reasonable return on their money.
Those who own motor cars, and those who are interested in clearing the streets —and that, surely, must be all of us— should welcome the Bill, as I do. It will certainly need a good deal of looking at in Committee, but we can all congratulate the Minister on having brought forward such a Measure at such short notice.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) in his historical survey, valuable as that was, but I join with him in welcoming this Bill, although I am convinced that it does not 951 go nearly far enough. It has not the vision necessary to deal with the growing traffic problem, especially in the urban areas, and it does not seem to reflect a full appreciation of the growing horror of the accidents on the road. I am sure that we shall need to go much further if we are to prevent accidents and promote road safety.
There is a case for the warden system, and I am prepared to give it a trial. Great benefits could be derived from it. The selection of the wardens will be in the hands of the local authorities, who will need to exercise very great care. Obviously, these men must be people of integrity. Nor should they be selected only from the ranks of retired policemen. Younger retired policemen may be very suitable, but the door should not be closed to other acceptable persons. A man who had not, for instance, the height necessary to have been a policeman may be a very good and active person, taking an interest in road safety, and he should be selected because of that. Selection should not depend only on the job a candidate had before he retired.
In some areas it will be very difficult to provide designated parking places. Our towns have grown in a very higgledy-piggledy fashion, with a mixture of industrial, residential, business and other purpose buildings, and it will not be very easy to find appropriate parking spaces. Nevertheless, in places where there is a sufficient volume of traffic, and where designation cannot be obtained—or until designation is obtained—some sort of action must be taken to obviate the present appalling rise in accidents.
In our urban areas we have difficulties caused by the volume of traffic leading to bottlenecks, and vehicles just crawling along. Such conditions can lead to accidents just as much as can more swiftly moving traffic. In passing, I would say that our warden system should not deal just with stationary vehicles and with parking. I hope that these men are meant to deal with the proper flow of traffic. According to the Explanatory Memorandum the wardens will act under the…chief officer of police and will discharge such functions in connection with the control or regulation of road traffic or road vehicles. …952 The right hon. Gentleman practically said that the flow of traffic will also be the concern of these people—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
It is perfectly true that those words appear in the Explanatory Memorandum, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) expressed some disquiet about that. I certainly will not be prepared to vote in favour of traffic wardens unless they deal only with offences committed in respect of stationary vehicles. I disagree with the view that they should also work to ease the flow of traffic. I am not in favour of that a bit.
§ Mr. Manuel
I hope that the Minister will be more forthcoming, but it appears to me that the traffic warden is to be placed in that position. If my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will read Clause 2 (1) he will find that persons are to be appointedin connection with the control and regulation of road traffic. …I do not think he can get anything much clearer than that. Therefore, I say that active people are needed if that is the sort of function to be performed by traffic wardens.
I was saying that the problem in the urban areas is twofold—the slowly moving traffic; and then the parked vehicles on main roads, still in the built-up urban areas but where the traffic is moving much more quickly. One sees this sort of thing repeatedly. Traffic is moving swiftly. There are vehicles parked on the side of the road, and a vehicle several places in front of a line of traffic has to move out to the centre of the road, with the result that an accident is caused. Something will have to be done about that.
As I have already said, this traffic problem has come upon us as a result of the way in which the country has been built up. We have residential property and business property, including shop frontages. We have not yet reached the position where all the main urban roads have side service roads. Traffic stops for a variety of purposes on these roads. It stops outside house entrances and shop and business premises—possibly outside a small factory with a frontage on to the main road, with the pavement running between the premises and the main flow of traffic. Road accidents 953 are now commonplace and are increasing to such an alarming extent that the Minister must take some action.
I do not think this Bill contemplates enough action or looks sufficiently forward in order to obviate the increasing dangers which are coming onto the roads month by month. As each month goes by, large numbers of new cars are going on the roads, and I shudder to think what this summer will bring. I have in mind certain roads in Scotland that I know particularly well, The roads are becoming increasingly cluttered up with far too much traffic that should not be there at all. Huge loads are conveyed by road, in vans of an appalling size. Any driver behind such a van cannot see past it. It is extremely difficult trying to edge out to see whether the road is clear ahead, if one of these vans happens to be moving particularly slowly. This problem must be dealt with.
It is all very well for the hon. Member for Truro to say that we must not disturb the present arrangement. When we are getting this appalling toll of death on the roads, it is time that we dealt with this aspect of the problem. It is high time that we dealt with these various contributory causes of death on the roads by this lethal weapon, the motor vehicle. If it is possible for goods to be conveyed safely by the railways, which are losing too much money because so many of these loads are conveyed on the roads, ought not we to use the railway system instead of killing our fellow creatures, including innocent children and pedestrians who have just as much right to use the highway as the motor vehicle?
§ Mr. G. Wilson
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood my argument. I did not say that we should not do it. In a Communist State it would be done. But what the party opposite did was to nationalise all the railways, one-third of the buses and one in a hundred of the lorries, and none of the private motor cars. Then the party opposite believed that the country had an integrated service, which in fact we had not got, because one cannot produce an integrated service with a minority of the vehicles in use.
§ Mr. Manuel
I do not want to be put off my argument. The hon. Gentleman and I have argued this nationalisation matter before. I am dealing now with 954 bulky loads and dangerous vehicles which are difficult to overtake because of their size. I do not want to get out of order by dealing with nationalisation, but I hope that some day the hon. Gentleman and I may have an opportunity to discuss this subject.
We must have regard to this problem of the restriction of vision, and to the fact that thousands of cars each day are being left parked on our main roads for long periods. Where a local authority finds it impossible to designate a parking place, whether we like it or not we should take steps to prohibit parking on certain stretches of road. Already local authorities have power, and many of them provide parking places but they do not use their powers to make people use these parking places. Consequently, the problem on the main roads still exists.
I should be very happy if the Minister could tell me that he will take power to ensure that in local authority areas designated parking places, either those already in existence or those which are to be brought into being, are to be used compulsorily. I am very concerned about those areas where, possibly for a number of years ahead, it will not be possible to get such designated parking places, and I am wondering what can be done almost immediately to save life and prevent accidents.
Our building has been all wrong. It is wrong that goods vehicles should halt outside business premises which front our main roads, to allow goods to be carried across the pavement into the premises, thus disturbing the flow of pedestrians as well as causing obstruction in the road. Obviously, in any new development we should make certain that there are rear service roads both to residential and business premises, especially shops where we get this aggravation of goods being carried in day in and day out. Many pedestrians are very annoyed and complain bitterly because of these loads being carried across the pavements and impeding their progress.
I hope the Minister will look into the possibility of providing in any new development side service roads or, even better, rear service lanes, especially in shopping areas. In places where there are no service roads but where there is sufficient land, back service lanes should 955 be provided. That is where the goods ought to be discharged and where parking should take place, for whatever cause, including the parking of cars outside houses by people when they come home to lunch. That would be a definite step forward.
I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned specifically in opening the debate that he had his mind particularly focused, among all his problems, on this problem of accidents and road safety. There are far too many roads with far too great a volume of traffic, and road accidents are continually piling up. There is no real improvement taking place. The position is getting worse from year to year. Shocking accidents take place every day, with many innocent people being killed, and I do not think that we are getting to grips with this problem. I have mentioned in earlier speeches some of the actions necessary to grapple with this problem of death on the roads. I hope that the Minister has something tangible in mind to reduce this toll of the roads.
I have before me the report of the chief constable for the County of Ayr, a small and lovely county where the teaching of Burns is so well known. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport, I take it, knows this lovely county of Ayr and the poetry of Burns. I hope that he recognises the appalling situation that exists when a county with so many good roads has such an appalling report from its chief constable. He writes in his annual report for 1959:The classes of persons killed and injured were: Pedestrians killed 21, injured 241; pedal cyclists, killed 1, injured 114; motor cyclists, killed 3, injured 213; drivers, killed 2, injured 268; passengers, killed 10, injured 568. Compared with 1958, this is an increase of 30, approximately 1½ per cent., in the total number of accidents recorded, and this has produced a quite disproportionate increase of 238, approximately 20 per cent. in the number of persons killed and injured.That is just an indication that, even in that rather peaceful county in many respects, the tendency of the rest of the country is shown in the number of deaths and appalling list of accidents which take place.
I hope that the Minister will do something to try to bring about a radical change in penalties for road offences 956 which cause accidents. We have been toying with this matter far too long. I believe that we have far too many fines and not enough suspensions of licences. There are not nearly enough complete withdrawals of licences. We read of cases where an innocent child is carried on the bonnet of a car—I read of such a case the other day—and the driver leaves the child dead in the road and makes off. That driver was fined £30 with a suspension of licence for six months, or something like that. That is an appalling situation. I should like the Minister to try out a real system of licence suspension for road offenders. Each accident should be looked at very thoroughly.
It is not enough for a person to say, "I was in the right; the other fellow was wrong." After all, many accidents could be avoided even if the driver were in the right if he were watchful enough to take what action he could. Perhaps this is a case for suspension of licence for a fortnight or three weeks for a driver who does not take evasive action. I think that the Minister would get terrific results in the black and bad spots of this country if there were more suspensions of licences instead of automatic fining as is happening in many of our courts.
There are certain Clauses in the Bill which apply to Scotland, and I understand that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is to say something about them. I am very happy about that. We often get Bills in this House in which there is a little sentence at the end which states, "This Bill also applies to Scotland". There is a little more than that in this Bill, and I want to ask the Joint Under-Secretary of State two question about its reference to Scotland. Can he explain why in Clause 1 (3) the words "by any constable" are omitted? I hope that he is seized of the point. In the Clause applying to England those words are in but they are omitted from the Bill's application to Scotland.
Under Clause 2 (12, c) I take it—and I hope that I am right—that the expenditure on traffic wardens is excluded from the Exchequer grant in respect of Scotland—in other words, that the block grant is not to be eaten into with all the other things about which we have been quarrelling for a number of years with the Secretary of State and the Joint 957 Under-Secretary. Here Scotland is getting something which will not be in the block grant.
My last point to the Joint Undersecretary is that he is well aware, as I am, that owing to the success of the tourism policy in Scotland many of the Highland roads are quite unfitted for a heavy volume of traffic, although in the summer-time they carry a very heavy load of traffic. It is getting worse each summer, and it is greatly aggravated by the number of caravans which are towed along those roads to the Highland counties. I hope that the Minister of Transport will recognise that in the summer months we have this huge volume of traffic touring into the Highland counties and that this will be aggravated very much if he closes many more branch railway lines.
I hope that he has this matter much in mind because these branch railway lines could serve a very useful tourist purpose in the summer months. Following the Guillebaud Report, the Prime Minister said that the public needed to recognise that if the nation paid an additional £50 million, the public would be put to a great deal more inconvenience, and the railwaymen would need to recognise that the railways would possibly be much smaller than they are now. I hope that the Government will not apply the yardstick that every service in Scotland must pay its way from 1st January to 31st December, otherwise they can close down nearly everything north of Perth, and that would kill Scotland. I hope that they will recognise that the closure of railway lines is another means of killing the industrial potential of an area.
I hope we shall keep these things in mind in connection with this Bill. I can see that in Committee a whole lot will have to be done if I am to be satisfied that the Bill has the necessary teeth to reduce the accident rate on the roads. I welcome the Bill and its introduction by the Minister of Transport and I hope that we can do something in Committee to make it really worth while for the country.
§ 7.19 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has made a characteristically 958 vigorous speech, with much of which I agree. He has laid great stress upon the need for the prevention of accidents. I was struck by the stress he laid on the fact that it was not only by riding a vehicle that accidents can be caused, but by leaving a vehicle in the road. I was glad the hon. Member made the point. The Bill deals largely with parking.
As the hon. Member said, we will consider the various aspects of the Bill in Committee and we look forward to doing that in great detail. The hon. Member is, of course, aware that the responsibility for the provision of parking places, and so on, concerning trunk roads lies in Scotland with the Secretary of State, whereas the highway authority has powers elsewhere. I was reminded by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that in Clause 14 the Bill contains a provision concerning London— the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire was, I know, speaking in wide terms and not dealing simply with Scotland—to pay grant for loading bays, which is very much in line with what the hon. Member had in mind.
I may, perhaps, best serve the interest and convenience of the House, and, in particular, of Scottish Members, if I say at this stage, in broad terms, how the Bill affects Scotland. Generally, it affects Scotland to much the same extent as it affects England outside the London traffic area. A good deal of reference has been made to Clauses 1 and 2, both of which relate to Scotland. The proposal that traffic offences should be punishable without prosecution certainly has no more to be said in favour of it north of the Border than south of the Border.
Scottish Members will be interested to know that in Scotland, we have consulted bodies such as the judiciary, the local authority associations and the police and that no objection in principle has been made to these proposals. In particular, the judiciary has accepted the proposal that where a constable finds that one of the offences relating to vehicles specified in Clause 1 (1) is being committed, the person in charge of the vehicle should be given the option of paying a fixed penalty instead of appearing before a criminal court. This does not affect the general rule of law in Scotland that corroboration is needed.
959 The hon. Member asked why the words "by any constable" were omitted from Clause 1 (3). The reason simply is that in Scotland, any proceedings in in courts would be brought by the procurator-fiscal and not by the police. The fixed penalties are not to be more than one-half of the maximum fine to which a person not previously convicted is liable.
§ Mr. Willis
To what extent has the judiciary agreed to the appointment of traffic wardens? In the case of England, the Minister of Transport said that their duties were to be in relation to stationary traffic only. What has been the result of the hon. Gentleman's consultations in Scotland?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I said that they had been consulted and that they have not raised any objections to the proposals of both Clause 1 and Clause 2. The system in Clause 1 can be brought into operation for an area only by an Order, subject to negative Resolution procedure, and the Order may cover all or any of the offences listed in subsection (1).
I come now to Clause 2. It is not necessary to confer a new power to appoint traffic wardens in Scotland. The reason is that Section 13 of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1956, already empowers police authorities to employ non-police staff to assist the police force and it enables them to obtain grants on expenditure which is incurred. That answers the second point made by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire concerning Scotland.
Undoubtedly, we agree with the hon. Member that great care will be necessary in the selection of the traffic wardens. We also agree with him that one of the advantages of this system is that traffic wardens will not need to comply with the rather rigorous standards that are applied, certainly north of the Border. By that, I mean that the size and stature demanded in London is rather lower.
As in England and Wales, traffic wardens appointed in Scotland will come under the direction of the chief constable. The functions which they may perform will be prescribed by the Secretary of State by Order, subject to negative Resolution procedure. I draw the attention of the House to subsection (1), 960 which says that the functions which traffic wardens may perform arefunctions normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of road traffic or with the enforcement of the law relating to road traffic.The essential difference is that traffic wardens will not have the power of arrest and all that goes with it.
§ Mr. Willis
This is an important point, which has caused concern and, possibly, misunderstanding. In the case of England and Wales, I understood the Minister of Transport, in opening the debate, to say that the powers were to be limited to stationary traffic. Subsection (1) of Clause 2 goes much wider and subsection (3) enables the much wider powers to be included in the orders that will be placed before the House.
§ Mr. Macpherson
What my right hon. Friend intended was that the powers should, certainly at first, be limited to those purposes. Where the power of arrest is not given, it is much easier to exercise the functions for those purposes when a vehicle is stationary. This, however, is a Second Reading debate and we can investigate the matter a good deal more in Committee.
§ Mr. Mellish
On behalf of Scotland, therefore, the hon. Gentleman envisages the position, as south of the Border, that the warden will be a person who is responsible for placing tickets—which means fines—upon vehicles which are stationary and he will also be a traffic warden in the school crossing patrol job, as now. That is all that the Bill lays down. What happens when further Orders are laid before the House will be another matter.
§ Mr. Macpherson
The functions have to be prescribed by Order. Clause 2 (2) quotes particular functions which may be included. They are not exclusive functions. They are particular functions, among others, which have to be mentioned, because school crossing patrols are slightly different in that they are differently financed, for example, and arrangements must be made to cover that.
§ Mr. Willis
In the hon. Gentleman's consultations, was the judiciary in Scotland agreeable to wardens undertaking the whole of the duties that can be included under Clause 2(2)?
§ Mr. Macpherson
The bodies that were consulted were shown the Clauses and were asked whether they objected to them. They indicated that, in principle, they had no objections to them. It is quite correct that the two Clauses are widely drawn. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has explained how it is intended to operate them in the initial stages.
The main effect of Clauses 3, 5 and 6 is to give the Secretary of State further powers in regard to the designation of parking meter places so that an Order may cover not only the actual parking meter bays, but the whole zone to be controlled under the Order. At present, the rest of it would have to be the subject of separate regulations in Scotland made by the local authority.
The main changes here proposed are, first, to make it possible for an interim designation Order to be made, that is to say, a designation order relating to parking meters, dealing with part only of the sites contained in an Order against which objections have been made. If objections are made to part of it, the Secretary of State can confirm the part which is not objected to at once. Secondly, it is proposed to extend the power of the Secretary of State to make a designation Order with modifications so as to include power to make an Order with additions, exemptions or other modifications of any description. In other words, it gives him much wider powers.
Thirdly, I refer simply to the power conferred on the Secretary of State to provide by Order for designation Orders to be made by local authorities either in a particular area or in Scotland as a whole, instead of, as at present, by the Secretary of State on the application of an authority, and such an Order, that is to say, the Order conferring power on the local authorities, would be subject to affirmative Resolution.
At first sight, hon. Members will see that Clause 3 does not appear to apply to Scotland. There is an Amendment in page 27, line 22, of the Bill which has the effect of applying it. I thought that I had better mention that to make the position of Clause 3 quite clear.
Neither Clause 3 nor Clause 5 will apply to a locality until the Secretary of State has exercised his powers under 962 Section 85 (9) of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, which enables him to extend parking meter areas. So far, he has done so in only one instance in Edinburgh, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) will know.
It may be asked why we are altering the law in Scotland when we have, as yet, no experience of designation orders. We are glad to profit by the experience gained by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in London and to alter the law accordingly.
Turning to Clause 10, the present procedure by which parking places other than parking meter places are established and controlled in Scotland is by orders and regulations made by the local authorities, orders dealing with the provision and regulations dealing with the use of parking places. Charges cannot be made for parking on the street except by parking meters. Where a local authority wishes to acquire land for use as a parking place off the highway, or to use a street as a parking place, there is at present a right of appeal to the sheriff.
The effect of Clause 10 is this. In place of the local authority's power to make regulations as to the use of parking places and the right of appeal to the sheriff in the case of an order, Clause 10 provides a wider power to make Orders, subject to the usual procedure, for traffic regulation orders under Section 26 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, and to make them without the necessity for confirmation by the Secretary of State.
This will enable a local authority to include in an order provision for payment of a charge for the use of an off-street parking place and also, as my right hon. Friend has said, to provide for the use of a device, such as the Parisian blue disc, to indicate when a vehicle was parked, provided that the device has first been approved in an Order made by the Secretary of State. Any such order made by a local authority may be revoked, varied or amended by the Secretary of State after such inquiry as he thinks fit.
There is only one other purely Scottish matter to which I need draw attention. My right hon. Friend has dealt with Clause 11. Subsection (6) of Clause 11 confers power upon a county or town council, if so authorised by the Secretary of State, to purchase land compulsorily 963 for the purpose of providing off-street parking places, subject to the usual safeguards contained in the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act, 1947. This is a power which already exists in England and Wales.
Powers to make a charge for the removal of vehicles from parking places or the highway, for their custody, and to dispose of them after not less than six weeks if they appear to the authority to have been abandoned, are contained in Clauses 12 and 13, which apply to Scotland, also.
It is intended that the bulk of the Bill should come into operation in Scotland on 1st September, 1960, which is the date when the consolidating Road Traffic Act, 1960, comes into force.
The Bill deals with many different aspects of traffic control, all of which will certainly be most carefully scrutinised in Committee. If any points of principle affecting Scotland are raised tonight, I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will deal with them. At this stage, I simply say that the theme running through the Bill is the theme of conferring additional powers to help the orderly flow of traffic and so reduce accidents. I trust that both the theme and its development will commend themselves to hon. Members from Scotland as to other hon. Members, even though the Bill contains much which is highly technical.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I have previously expressed the view that anyone who follows an hon. Member and says, "I will not follow the hon. Gentleman in his interesting speech" ought to be shot down and ruled out of order at once, but I am bound to be in that position now because, as I understood it, the speech of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was no more than tedious repetition. I could not really understand in what way the practice in Scotland was different from the practice in England.
§ Mr. Pannell
I did not really know whether the hon. Gentleman was speaking for himself, for the Hereditary 964 Standard Bearer of Scotland or the Lyon King of Arms in dealing with the Bill. I must confess that Scottish law is quite foreign to me as it applies to these matters. I cannot follow the hon. Gentleman because I do not know what he was talking about. I did once run for a Scottish constituency, but, after hearing the hon. Gentleman, I am rather glad that I did not get it. [An HON. MEMBER: "So are we."] Perhaps my loss was somebody else's gain. I do not know.
Although we are discussing the Road Traffic and Road Improvements Bill, we are here speaking about the behaviour of people on our roads, and this is not something which we can lay at the door of the "Teddy boys". Whatever we may say about the young people of this country and their misbehaviour and delinquency, we are here, in the main, speaking about middle-aged delinquents. In another place, Baroness Wootton made a very good speech on this subject, which deserves study. If I understood her aright, she suggested that it was the lawlessness of the middle-aged when driving motor cars which instilled into the young the idea that they should do some breaking-up on their own account. I am reminded of the saying of Wilde that, when men are no longer young enough to set bad examples, they try to teach the young good ideas.
It would be true to say that, when we consider the behaviour of motorists, we are considering the bad behaviour of our lime committed by middle-aged people. The general standard of driving of commercial drivers is very much higher than that of the private driver. Perhaps I say that because I earned my living in that way at one time. Although we may complain about lorries on the roads, nobody who has ever seen a long-distance lorry driver can doubt that, if everyone was as well-disciplined as he is, in the main, there would be a far smaller toll of road accidents.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Would my hon. Friend agree that the standard of driving of local lorry-drivers delivering coal and so on is certainly far below that of the long-distance men?
§ Mr. Pannell
It probably is. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) speaks from his 965 experience of Sheffield probably. I speak from my experience of Leeds and London.
I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary was present during the Committee stage of the 1956 Bill. I and some of my hon. Friends were there. There is a cautionary story attached to that. The present Bill will be largely thrashed out during its Committee stage. I wish I could have served notice on the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), who was the Minister in charge when we started the 1956 Bill, that I wished to refer to him tonight. He showed a remarkable degree of obtuseness. He showed all those debating powers which used to keep us awake all through the debates when the Conservative Party was harrying the Labour Government to death in 1950 and 1951. However, we made no progress with that Bill. It went on for three or four months.
The then Minister began by treating the Measure as a party Bill. I hope the Minister of Transport will not do that with the present Bill. The former Minister thought he had only to open his mouth for any Amendment, however sensible, to be voted down. It was only the obstinacy of certain of his hon. Friends, who indicated quite plainly to the Minister that that was something up with which they were not prepared to put, that brought us to the stage of stalemate. During the last two or three weeks of the Committee stage, the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson), now the Minister of Defence, was appointed Minister of Transport. I have always had plenty of time for the right hon. Gentleman since then because of what he did on that Bill. He did not talk half as much as his predecessor. He asked for a certain amount of time, and we gave him a couple of days. He accepted all the Amendments which had previously been abortive and tidied up the Bill, and we got the 1955 Act.
§ Mr. Pannell
Yes, it was the 1956 Act. It would probably have been the 1955 Act if the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames had not been the Minister of Transport in its early stages.
966 That Act was a considerable step forward. I hope we begin the proceedings on this Bill on the firm assumption that it is an all-party Measure. Let us regard it not as a Government Measure. There are all sorts of things which do not lend themselves to the pranks and platitudes of party polemics. I hope we shall start with that attitude. I trust that the Minister will have a receptive mind I believe he will. I have never met a publicity hound with a greater propensity for using other people's good ideas and claiming them for himself. The right hon. Gentleman has no modesty about these things. I do not mind very much as long as he gets on with the job and treats the Bill in the manner that I have mentioned.
Because I have spoken on the Second Reading of the Bill, presumably I shall find myself a member of the Standing Committee. That is one of the penalties of being talkative in this place.
§ Mr. Pannell
There was a time when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) would have stood pat on making such a claim. I do not say that he has become less controversial as he has got older, but he has become more selective about the Committees to which he is appointed. I hope that we shall all do our best for the Bill. I feel that the Opposition have indicated that there is no party point in it.
If I may make a general criticism, though not one in a party political sense, about what we have done, I should say that over the past few years there has been far too much concentration on the belief that main roads would solve our problems and not enough upon dealing with the worst bottlenecks of urban development. It takes one almost longer to get through Birmingham than it does to go to Birmingham on the M.1. The situation in Birmingham is much the same as when one travels from London to London Airport. The route is a disgrace. If ever there was a justification for the use of helicopters, it is the bus journey to London Airport. It is ridiculous.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that the journey to London Airport has become 967 very much better in the last few months since the Chiswick flyover was completed and now generally never takes more than twenty-five minutes.
§ Mr. Pannell
I came up from London Airport recently and there was a major accident on the way. It was a considerable bottleneck. I and other hon. Members were on our way back from Germany where we had been studying the roads, and soon after we left London Airport we saw this accident. Even apart from that accident, my argument holds good.
However distinguished may be the road engineer in Birmingham who was referred to by the hon. Baronet the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), I should have thought that there was nothing much to be said in favour of the Birmingham system. When I came out of my time I was asked by Birmingham Corporation to work on its buses, and it seemed to me then that its transport system was organised chaos, and it seems steadily to have developed in the wrong direction.
If we look at the London problems, they seem to exemplify what I have said about greater concentration on relieving bottlenecks and so on. Let us take south-east England as an example. I have for many years lived in Kent, and still do. We did not get on soon enough—one may say that this is an indictment of the Labour Government as well— with the Dartford Tunnel. There is a ridiculous situation in this respect. Everything comes right up from the coast, much of it to Blackwall Tunnel, and much to Gravesend to cross by the ferry. I should have thought that more boats could have been provided on the Woolwich ferry in order to get traffic across. I do not think there are enough at present. Woolwich ferry is the most outstanding example that I have seen of traffic being locked up.
A few weeks ago there was a breakdown in the Blackwall Tunnel and it was closed. Everybody went for the Woolwich ferry. At that point the traffic comes down High Street and Hare Street, down from Plumstead High Street. Three or four roads discharge there. When the breakdown occurred, everything jammed up. I stood back and watched and thought "This is something I never expected to see. Now it has 968 really happened." Everything was just locked. I went to lunch with my wife and when I came out again the traffic was still locked. I had not time to watch it unlock.
§ Mr. Pannell
It was all right when I passed there today, but this is some months later.
In a previous transport debate, I raised a subject to which I have not had an answer and the Minister has not written to me about it. It is the idea of running Blackwall Tunnel and Rotherhithe Tunnel as one-way tunnels. At the present time, extensive road works are going on on the Bow side of Black-wall Tunnel, and these will lead to a great improvement, but I have wondered whether during the peak hours we could not run Blackwall Tunnel through one way and Rotherhithe Tunnel through the other, for that would be a great help.
§ Mr. Pannell
They are quite a distance apart, but I have seen the effect of a hold-up in Blackwall Tunnel when there has been an accident there. People have had to go as far as London Bridge in a diversion. Once one gets a breakdown in Blackwall Tunnel, it is absolute chaos. I can remember many years ago being just in front, fortunately, of a lorry which broke down with disastrous consequences. Blackwall Tunnel was jammed for five hours. I am sorry for the poor fellows who were behind the lorry, for they could not back out that way. I am not putting my idea forward as anything more than a temporary expedient to meet the peak-hour traffic problem.
I should be pleased to know how the Dartford Tunnel is getting on. I feel that the question of the Woolwich ferry ought to be examined. Very often there is a row of traffic from the Woolwich ferry almost through to the other end of Woolwich. This is disastrous, particularly at the weekend.
One thing I wish to say on the general issue is that I hope none of us will approach this matter with a view to victimising motorists. An idea which was very much inherent in some Members of my own party before the car 969 became so popular was that somehow the car was the instrument of the rich— and it seems still to have a certain hangover about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) complained about traffic which he could not see round or go round or which could not get on faster.
§ Mr. Pannell
It was all spoken from the point of view of an engine driver who rather glorifies in being a fast motorist. I think that is fair enough. It really indicates what I have said— that as a man gets any sort of social position or affluence, the thing he wants as much as a house is a car. We must approach this problem of traffic in a positive way and not a negative way.
§ Mr. Manuel
I really do not want to leave this matter on the record in that way. I certainly was not talking as a fast motorist who was once an engine driver, out purely from the motive that we should get the really heavy stuff off the roads and on to British Railways.
§ Mr. Pannell
When an ex-engine driver talks to me about getting things off the roads and on to the railways I know that his motives are not pure. I got into a great deal of trouble once, in referring to a certain outstanding railwayman, by saying that his mind moved in a permanent way. Listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire, I am sure that all railwaymen are standard gauge. They all think the same way—that a railway is an end in itself, that it is not something to convey goods on but an excuse for all sorts of other things which must follow.
Motorists have been taxed an awful lot. I do not claim that they should be a privileged section of the community, but they should not be a harassed section. If a man is to have a car, and to be taxed for it, we must provide him with adequate parking space. Bearing in mind the philosophy of the party opposite, expressed in the last election —that of a car- and home-owning democracy—we must provide conditions in which the motorist can move about and in which he will have at least a level chance of not being convicted before the end of the day.
970 While in Germany to study transport conditions, we visited West Berlin—a beleagured and fantastic city, cut off from the eastern sector, and surrounded by the East. Yet in Berlin they are planning for transport on the assumption of reunification of the city and also of Germany. I should have thought that was an act of faith; this is not a foreign policy debate but nevertheless that is an act of faith.
One finds there roads with ten traffic lanes, five each way. In addition, the centre is the old tram track, or permanent way, and that track, which is not to be removed for ten years, can be used for a free lane of traffic or as a great parking place.
§ Mr. Pannell
That is a thought, but there they have this road with ten traffic lanes and the people we interviewed said that they were planning for a decade ahead. Can we honestly say anywhere in this country that we are planning for a decade ahead? The hon. Member for Guildford said that the powers envisaged in the Bill were for five years though we probably would need them for longer. I disagree with him. We shall probably need a completely different and wider set of powers in five years. There seems to be a curious assumption that anything is static in life that seems to thwart us. When my party was in power it did not look far enough ahead. There has been this terrific expansion of car ownership.
I also observed the legal aspect in Germany, bearing in mind the Minister's difficulty—and I do not want to castigate him—of testing vehicles which are ten years old, a move which the legal gentlemen are holding up again. It is interesting to know that in Germany, for compulsory acquisition of land for roads, they have adopted a simplified procedure. As I understand it, they pass an affirmative resolution for the acquisition of certain land, allow so many days or weeks to pass, and then pass another resolution affirming the previous one, proceeding on the assumption that the compensation for the land will be settled during the course of construction. The idea that we must wait for years while lawyers argue is ridiculous. The legal gentlemen take far longer than navvies 971 in building roads. The legal transfers often take very much longer than the construction.
§ Mr. Hay
Of course, in road improvement matters which require the acquisition of land, we have to operate under statutory provisions laid down by Parliament. It is not a legal quibble to say that there must be some reasonable protection for the rights of the individual in order to ensure that his land is not unjustifiably taken away. Compensation is not the only problem. There is also the case of individual hardship which has to be met. How they order these things abroad is interesting, but should not necessarily be our guide here.
§ Mr. Pannell
I fancy that the hon. Gentleman has a hang-over on this matter from the time when, as a back bencher, he was always a good authority on the rights of property. I am not being unkind. He was a very considerable advocate. He has been speaking from a brief since he joined the Front Bench but I am sure that he has not lost his cunning on his old subject.
I point out to him, however, that under the German system these people are not disadvantaged. They go through the whole course of compensation and there is no suggestion that the individual is not properly compensated. It merely means that the odd individual, who may be someone in a great amalgam of private interests, does not thwart the public interest during a time when people —and I do not want to dramatise this— are being killed on the roads. The hon. Gentleman, in his office, must know many desirable things on which he is frustrated because a purely sectional interest stands in the way.
We must look for a simplified procedure by which we can decide this matter in principle—though not merely by a snap resolution. Perhaps it may be by an affirmative Resolution 42 days after an order—during which time a person can make an objection—whereby we firmly declare that we are going from "A" to "B" and that those affected will be compensated by a judicial body.
I am not trying to undermine the rights of the individual or of the property owner, but most people get very annoyed at the inordinate delays which sometimes occur in acquiring land. If 972 we are to approach this as a matter of urgency, then this right to property cannot be sacred. We must give proper compensation, but in the end the public view must prevail.
§ Mr. Mellish
Is my hon. Friend aware that the famous Cromwell Road extension scheme was held up for more than a year by one person on the question of compensation?
§ Mr. Pannell
I am glad to have the aid of my hon. Friend, but I want to get back to the subject from which I was driven by that intervention—testing road vehicles.
We went to a place in Cologne where a staff of 35 was testing about 150 vehicles a day—I may be somewhat wrong about the figures. As we all know, in Germany a private car is tested every two years and a goods carrying vehicle, certainly a public service vehicle, is tested every year—although in this country public service vehicles are tested every year, too.
One interesting thing we found in Germany was that on the ground floor of that testing station in Cologne they were testing vehicles, while on the top floor they were testing the driver's heads—it was a psychological research station as well. The courts had the right to send drunks there, or people who were accident-prone, while public-minded people who wondered whether they ought to be on the roads at all could pay a fee and voluntarily undergo an examination.
Certain members of our Parliamentary mission did not come out of that test very well—and I will leave it at that. I have never been abroad on any Parliamentary mission but that I have come back with a much better feeling towards the people with whom I have travelled. It is very curious, but one cannot go abroad on a Parliamentary mission without realising what it was that one's colleagues' constituents saw in them. Wild horses would not drag from me the names of the people who slipped up on that test. What the authorities did was to sit one at a driving wheel and then show a film of a road which one had to negotiate and one could see one's errors on the graph.
There were all sorts of other things, like the breathaliser in which the hon. 973 Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) glories and about which he will speak, if he manages to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker—that is, if he wants to. I thought that that was a good idea. On the bottom floor of that building vehicles were being tested and on the top floor heads were being tested and examinations were made of all sorts of people who were congenitally incapable of driving properly and who ought never to be on the roads.
Another thing which impressed me about Germany was that in Berlin, even with all their scarcity of land and accommodation, it was a matter of municipal planning that one car park had to be provided for every two new units of accommodation built. That is planning for the future.
That is a matter which brings me back to a subject which I have mentioned in every speech which I have made about traffic—dogs. There are only two dramatic things which can be done about road accidents—dealing with drunks and dealing with dogs. I leave drunks to the hon. Member for Crosby, and I will say a few words about dogs.
When I first took up this subject, I thought that I would get a great fan mail from people who would write to me from all over the country to say how dog life ought to be preserved, and so on. On the contrary, I had many letters from thoughtful people who cared about dogs and who said how necessary it was that dogs should be controlled. When we were discussing the Road Traffic Act, 1956, I was responsible for an Amendment which gave local authorities the power to prescribe certain roads on which dogs would have to be on leads. Can the Minister say how many local authorities have implemented that power? If this new traffic authority is set up, under which he is to take command, will that power in the 1956 Act be operated throughout Central London and the West End?
Should we allow dogs to be unrestricted? Can it be said that dogs are the only element in road accidents. Of course they are not, but they are a cumulative factor and it is the aggregate of such cumulative factors which helps to increase the figure of road accidents. Road accidents are not due to any single 974 cause. However, in one year alone, 60,000 dogs were killed and injured in road accidents and no one who cares about animals can contemplate a figure like that with any degree of equanimity. I have had figures from borough surveyors in towns in Kent where the figures are in no way comparable, but no one who has encountered a dog on the road will disagree with the contention that everyone likes to save life, whether it is a dog's life or a human life. We must bear in mind that the power which my Amendment provided was a permissive power, but it is a power which should now be extended and made mandatory.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) is laughing at me and I know the story of when she slapped on all the brakes on her car and thought that she may have killed a dog. I wrote an article in a newspaper to say how much worse it would have been if it had killed her.
The time has come for us to cease to treat the dog as the sacred cow of British politics. That is the approach of some silly people. There are far too many dogs in this country and far too many of them are given to children for the wrong reasons, such as passing the 11-plus examination. One of the worst fruits of full employment has been the multiplication of dogs.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Has the hon Gentleman any figures to show the number of accidents to human beings caused by dogs?
§ Mr. Pannell
I can give the hon. Gentleman the figures for the City of Leeds which are provided by the chief constable, as they are for practically every large town. The reports of the chief constables of the big cities give those figures, but it is difficult to get a figure for the whole country, because there are sometimes accidents caused by dogs on county roads which are not aggregated, making it difficult to get a nation-wide figure. However, when I took an interest in this matter, I was given some startling figures, one of them being that in Leeds in 1952 dogs were an element in one accident in four. That might have happened to be a remarkable year and it has not been matched since, but it did happen that year and I have 975 also been given the figure of 60,000 dogs having been killed and injured in one year alone.
Another fact about dogs is that if one knocks down a dog, one is supposed to report to the nearest police station. Perhaps the Minister can say whether there has been a single prosecution for non-compliance with that regulation. I have never been able to find one. That provision is a dead letter. One can kill a cat and need do nothing about it. I do not know why. A cat is far more intelligent than a dog, but if a cat is killed, nobody says anything about it. However, if one kills a dog, for some reason—and no doubt this is once again the sacred cow philosophy—one is supposed to go to the nearest policeman. Quite right, too, but no policeman has ever prosecuted a motorist who has failed to do that and nor have the police ever spent any time trying to catch up with someone who has not done it. I do not say that this is not a good provision, but it is a dead letter.
I want to say something about wardens, a subject which worries me more than somewhat. What are the wardens for? The powers in the Bill are far wider than the Minister suggested. I know the argument that the greater must include the lesser is an argument for the Parliamentary draftsmen when they want to allude to everything under the face of the sun, but we cannot have interpolated into an Act of Parliament something which may be used by the civil power for something other than its original intention.
I am not talking about the old fear of strike breaking when people were afraid of special constables being used in industrial disputes. That is not what I have in mind. We already have traffic wardens for schools, but I assume that they will not be incorporated into the new wardens. [HON. MEMBERS: Yes, they will.] If the Minister can say something about that, he might save me a great deal of time.
§ Mr. Pannell
They may be employed, presumably. If I could take a more specific case, if a local education authority is satisfied with the experienced people employed at present, they would not necessarily be dismissed under this Bill.
§ Mr. Pannell
I am much obliged; that puts that right. All the traffic power at present is with the police, and I understand that the police are to appoint these wardens. I suppose that they will come under the watch committee of a provincial town, if they are appointed, and presumably this applies to the whole country. I read something a short while ago which one of my hon. Friends had shown me, which envisaged that they would come under either the watch committee or the standing joint committee, as the case may be.
While I was out of the Chamber, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields spoke on the question of the wardens finding somebody drunk in a motor car. I think this is a good point, and that is why I took up the intervention as to whether wardens have anything to do with moving traffic. I understand that they would control pedestrian crossings, but I have in mind the apprehension of people for such offences when the thing was moving.
§ Mr. Pannell
There is the question of lights, and that is quite a technical matter. These lights are not just a matter of switching them on and off. One can have wiring faults. I refer to a case many months ago when there was a flickering tail light in front of me indicating that the driver was going to turn one way—to his offside—I took the near side and he drove into me. It was not until then that I found that, although it was a commercial vehicle, the system was interlinked into the tail light circuit, and there was a bad earth, which caused it to keep on winking. I got away with my no claims bonus on that argument, and so I hope the House will accept it.
As to this becoming a technical matter, I wonder whether wardens will adjudicate on it. A policeman would have the sense to listen to the arguments 977 before he served a ticket, but here, presumably, this will be an automatic sort of thing. In the sort of case of which I have spoken earlier, I should probably opt to go before a court.
I must return to the case on which I interrupted my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker). He seemed to rather disagree with me when I said that there were two classes of fines in most police courts. There is one in the case where one pleads guilty, and one gets away with the standard fine of forty shillings, or whatever the justices have agreed privately shall be the tariff, as it is popularly called. The other case is that in which one wastes the time of the court for two or three hours, and probably gets a fine of sixty shillings or something more. That is a statement of fact on which I am not prepared to be interrupted and about which I will not argue. I have known it happen. I have sat on a magistrates' bench.
The other day I ran into a legal luminary in this House, who said, "How right you are. When I am sitting at"— I will not say whether he is a recorder or presides over quarter sessions—"that is my view as well." I think it is reasonable to assume that if a man comes before a magistrates and says "I did it", the magistrates say, "Let us get rid of him", but if one makes a long rigmarole—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am not very clear how the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill can affect the state of affairs of which the hon. Member is complaining.
§ Mr. Pannell
With very great respect to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am afraid I must address arguments to show you how it does. The point about it is that we are discussing, within this Bill, the right of traffic wardens, or presumably policemen, to serve a notice upon a motorist. If it is complied with in fourteen days he can get away with a fine. If it is not complied with within fourteen days, or perhaps thirty days, he must appear before a court.
My right hon. Friend, in opening the debate for the Opposition referred to 978 two classes of fines, and I am trying to take up the point I made then that there are two classes of fines now, so that this is not novel at all. I think that if we are to have traffic wardens at all, we shall have to give them proper status. I am rather alarmed by people talking as if they should be superannuated police constables or even pensioned soldiers. I do not think that we should look at this purely with the idea that they are to be old men. I hope that they will be forward-looking people, responsible and capable of doing the job. I also hope that, since the Bill mentions persons, that will mean women as well as men. I might suggest that there are certain forms of offences concerned with parking when shopping where women would probably be more effective. I do not think the status of a warden ought to be lower than a constable of second grade.
There is also the point made by one of my hon. Friends where, for instance, the sort of person we are considering in the case of our provincial towns will be a person well-known in his district. I know that we recruit constables in one town and take them to another, but it is hardly likely that we would do that in the case of wardens. I hope that these people will be given a proper status and that their position will be one of respect. I am quite certain that there will be Amendments in the Committee stage on the question of wardens, for there is a strong feeling among the police that if we had done better by the police we would not have been driven to wardens. There is a great deal of feeling about it.
Another important matter is that there shall be no resentment among the police that these people, somehow or other, are to be regarded as a second-class type of person to take over the lesser part of their job. There has been a lot of nonsense talked by some people, including the Minister, about that sort of thing, suggesting that policemen are wasting their time. I do not think that a policeman is ever wasting his time when he is dealing courteously with the public, and it would be a bad thing if we recruited second-class people who do not deal with the public in the same responsible way as the police do now. That would be very bad indeed.
979 We have to bear in mind that the policeman cannot be judged entirely by the number of tickets he has served on people. He has to be judged by the humane, sympathetic and resourceful way in which he sometimes deals with situations, such as the case I referred to when there was a jam-up at Woolwich, and where there is a very difficult situation. In America, they draw a sharp line between what they call stationary offences and moving offences. I hope that these traffic wardens will be kept closely to the stationary offences.
The car parks outside the public houses are far too big. If the police are to be used intelligently, I suggest that we should keep one policeman outside every public house at closing time in order to stop certain people getting into cars. If we could do that, I think it would make a small contribution, though probably not as much as my suggestion regarding dogs, towards alleviating the terrible toll of life, which is not only a disgrace to our roads and our people, but, because of our neglect of the matter in the past, a disgrace to this House itself.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
I hope that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him on the many points which he has put to us over a considerable period, or ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to rule me out of order for not doing so. Last Friday, I was a guest at a lunch of the Hertfordshire Surveyors' Association, which is an association of chief officers of the highways departments of various local authorities. I was then asked if I would make it clear to my right hon. Friend— and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will pass this message to him—that they were grieved that he should have spoken about the ability of county councils, especially in the building of motorways. My right hon. Friend will know that we have one running through Hertfordshire.
Nevertheless, I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the speed with which he has brought the Bill before the House. I am sure that it will be welcomed by local authorities and by the motoring public generally. It is 980 designed to streamline the administrative arrangements and to cut out most of the time which is normally wasted both by the police and members of the public in regard to minor traffic offences.
I am also sure that hon. Members will welcome the possibilities of a more rapid extension of parking meter schemes. Anyone who has been into the Mayfair area since the scheme there was extended to cover the whole area will have seen how different the position now is. It will clearly add to the pressure elsewhere, but that is only an indication that we must get down to work more rapidly in dealing with areas where there is much pressure for parking space.
The points I wish to raise in connection with parking meters and the relevant regulations are rather complicated, and I hope that hon. Members will bear with me when I put them forward. The first arises out of Clause 2, which provides for the introduction of traffic wardens. In my opinion, the Clause does not go far enough. I agree that it is undesirable to have traffic wardens and parking meter attendants working in the same area. I therefore welcome the provision which enables wardens to act as parking meter attendants.
However, where there is an arrangement between the local authority and the police authority for traffic wardens to perform the duties of parking meter attendants, it seems desirable for those authorities to agree to the performance by the police of certain further duties normally undertaken by the local authority, such as the collection of excess charges and the conduct of prosecutions for non-payment of such charges.
In the absence of such an agreement there could be two authorities pursuing one driver at the same time, in respect of two offences arising out of the same parking incident. Under the Bill as at present worded it seems that the following circumstances could arise: a traffic warden might affix a ticket to a car which had been left too long at a parking meter and had, therefore, incurred liability for an excess charge. The ticket would invite the motorist to pay the excess charge to the borough or city treasurer.
If the same car were still at the parking meter two hours later it would attract a penalty charge, and a ticket containing 981 an invitation to pay the fixed penalty to a justice's clerk, the fixed penalty being for staying too long after the excess charge has been incurred.
That is the procedure which would replace the present one where a prosecution is undertaken. If two authorities were interested in subsequent events, and if the motorist failed to pay both the excess charge and the fixed penalty charge, there would be a duplication of action. It would be possible for the motorist to be involved in two court hearings on different days in respect of parking his vehicle on one occasion. That would not happen if only one authority were handling the case, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point worth looking at before the Bill goes to Committee.
If he should agree to this proposal he will have to consider giving himself extra power enabling him, by Statutory Instrument, to amend orders designating metered parking places, consequential upon the arrangements for traffic wardens and the police authority to carry out the duties which are normally undertaken by parking meter attendants and local authorities. Thus, a parking places order could clearly be amended to change such things as the designation of the official to whom excess charges have to be paid.
There may have to be considerable negotiations before local authorities and police authorities reach some sort of agreement for the exchange of duties in this connection, and in the meantime it would seem desirable that parking meter attendants should be able to operate a ticket system instead of initiating proceedings for prosecution, as at present, when anyone exceeds the excess charge period. I hope that my right hon. Friend will also consider that point.
Another difficulty experienced by authorities operating parking meter schemes arises in connection with the excess charge flag. Under existing legislation, if this flag is showing it is presumed—unless the contrary is proved— that the initial charge has duly been paid; that is, that the motorist has put some money in the slot and that the period for which he has paid has expired. In such circumstances, the parking meter attendant will attach to the car a yellow ticket similar to that which my right hon. 982 Friend showed us earlier, demanding payment of the excess charge. The circumstances are different in the first hour, between 8.30 and 9.30 a.m., when, if the flag for the excess charge is showing— appearing to indicate that the motorist has run out of his 6d. worth within the first few minutes—it is clear that he has not paid his initial charge, and that the situation is a hang-over from the day before. Then he will be given a blue ticket for non-payment, which will result in a prosecution.
The giving of the yellow ticket has caused a considerable amount of disagreement. Local authorities find that many drivers write to them saying that they did not exceed the period for which they paid; it was just a question of their not having paid because they did not have the right amount of change, or something like that. They say, "Since I have not paid the original charge I cannot pay an excess charge for exceeding my time." Several of my hon. Friends —I do not see them here at the moment —have been involved in just such a correspondence with a certain local authority. A good deal of correspondence is involved, and, finally, prosecutions follow.
Once it is established, on the driver's own statement, that an excess charge has not been incurred because the initial charge has not been paid, the council cannot accept payment if it is offered later; it has to prosecute. Conversely— this happens less frequently—if a driver receives a blue ticket for non-payment of the initial charge and he tries to settle the matter by proferring 10s. excess charge, as though he had really paid the initial charge and had stayed too long at the meter, again the only action which the council can take is to prosecute. If the Bill can be amended to provide that the appearance of the excess charge flag on the meter renders a driver liable to pay the excess charge, irrespective of whether he has paid the initial charge, the administrative difficulties which affect local authorities running these meter schemes will be greatly decreased.
Incidentally, it will also provide much more money, by way of excess charges, which the authority can use to build off-street parking places, for which purposes fines are not used—although the motorist might get away with it more 983 lightly, financially, than if he went to court.
Another point is the question of Clause 13 and abandoned vehicles. It seems that local authorities will be authorised to sell or otherwise dispose of vehicles left abandoned after not less than six weeks after removal of the vehicle from the point at which it had been left. If I read this correctly this will tax the accommodation of local authorities for this purpose to a great degree especially in London, where the available land is so limited.
Vehicles that are abandoned have, in most cases, been standing for long periods before the local authority takes any action at all. It seems to me that perhaps it would be possible to say that the period of six weeks would run from the moment the local authority takes the steps prescribed by the Minister rather than wait until it has removed the vehicle. That would cut down the time in which the vehicle had to be stored by the local authority, and the local authority would be relieved of some burden in that way.
One point is not catered for in the Bill, although the Minister has power to do it in London under Section 34 and elsewhere under Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act. I am referring to the designating of certain roads to be closed to heavy traffic. There are many cases, not only in narrow streets in London, but in a city like St. Albans, which I represent, where there are narrow old streets through which very heavy traffic comes rumbling day after day, and night after night.
We acknowledge the benefit of the M 1 and the St. Albans by-pass. Incidentally, some people confuse the by-pass with M.1 and do not realise that they can by-pass St. Albans and get back on to the road. That is a point which needs looking at, and perhaps a signpost would help. A lot of the heavy traffic is creeping back on the narrow roads through St. Albans, probably because there are popular transport cafes and that sort of thing on that bit of road which the drivers would miss if they went on the by-pass.
It seems to me unreasonable that we should not do what is done on the Continent, which is to designate certain 984 streets as closed to heavy transport unless they happen to be delivering goods in the area. It is possible that these powers are there already, but we do not use them. I should like the Minister to look at this and consider whether we could not designate some roads closed to heavy traffic wherever there is a possible alternative route. That is something we will have to face in London when we have a good ring road which will enable heavy transport to get round the City quickly rather than pick its way through it.
I do not want to delay the House any longer, because there are many hon. Members who wish to speak. I welcome the Bill and I hope that the Minister will use all the powers that he is given in it to see that we get out of the muddle into which we are rapidly getting.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I agree with the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) about the designation of roads for particular purposes, but I hope that he will forgive me —I am sure that it is my fault—for being a little confused about his reference to blue, red and yellow tickets. I am sure that the difficulties of procedure which he mentioned will be sorted out when the Bill comes to the Committee stage.
I nearly said, "when we come to the Committee stage", because I should like to tender my congratulations to the hon. Gentleman for staking his claim to serve on this Committee. In fact, I greatly admire the tremendous public spirit displayed by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), and my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), all of whom said that they wanted to serve on the Committee. Having looked carefully at the Bill, I can only say that they are gluttons for punishment, and that for the rest of us there will be an intense struggle to prove to the Whips that we are otherwise engaged.
As many hon. Members have said, the Bill is good in parts. Apart from the traffic regulations for London, and traffic regulations which, I hope, will be applied to provincial cities in somewhat the same kind of way, I find the Bill very flabby and inadequate. The Minister has missed a great opportunity to remedy 985 some of the defects in the 1956 Act. He has missed the opportunity to strengthen and bring some of the provisions of that Act into line with modern traffic conditions.
I echo the sentiment expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West. I hope that we will approach the Bill in a non-party spirit; that the non-party precedent which we established during our discussions on the 1956 Bill will be carried on when dealing with this Bill.
Clause 1 deals with what are loosely called "ticket fines". I hope that hon. Gentlemen will forgive me if I use that loose phrase to describe what will happen under Clause 1. Why do we not use the present procedure? As I understand, when one is dealing with obstruction, the policeman who finds the vehicle obstructing the roadway takes the number of the vehicle. He is thus able to find the name and address of the owner. He puts in a request, or whatever it is that a policeman puts in, to get the court procedure started. A summons is issued to the owner by post, and if he does not want to attend court, if he knows that he is guilty, he writes to say so, and the court deals with him by imposing a fine or whatever punishment the magistrates wish to impose without his being there. He is allowed to be a voluntary absentee.
That procedure works fairly well. Why is it not proposed to use that procedure on a much wider scale to deal with the offences in Clause 1 of the Bill—parking, obstruction, and offences of that kind? I am worried about the pinning of tickets on vehicles by policemen and the owner of the vehicle being fined without any proper legal procedure, or protective procedure, being invoked in this operation. I should be glad if the Joint Undersecretary, when he replies to the debate, will tell us why it is necessary to bring in new procedure instead of making the present procedure more widely known.
On the question of traffic wardens, it seems that successive Ministers of Transport operate about five years behind events. It seems to take five years for ideas to percolate through the Ministry to officials, whose job it is to advise the Minister, to take decisions. I am very glad that at last traffic wardens are to be introduced, but I am shocked that at this stage in the discussion apparently 986 neither the Minister nor the Home Secretary knows precisely what they are wanted for.
Instead of the flabby statement that we had from the Minister today, I should have expected him to have thumped the Dispatch Box and to say that traffic wardens are to do this, that and the other. It is not that this is a new idea, or that discussion on it had only just started. I do not want to be immodest, but I will quote what I said five years ago, on 5th April, 1955, in the Second Reading debate on the Road Traffic Bill which later became the 1956 Act:we should consider whether we should not set up a special traffic police force, to carry out the duties which will be imposed by the Bill….That was in 1955. I went to on to say:The police force which I have in mind might be recruited in part from existing police officers, in small numbers, but mainly from men who are not engaged in police work at present.The people whom I have in mind are ex-officers and ex-Service men …."—We were at that time talking about reducing the Armed Forces—and people who have been rejected from recruitment to the police force because they do not reach the high standards imposed at present.This was five years ago. I also said:By these means we could recruit a large enough traffic police force to carry through the duties which will be imposed by the Bill. This special traffic police force would be responsible for carrying out spot checks "—that is something which we have discussed very much—patrolling the roads; breaking up traffic blocks which they come across in the course of their duties; making sure that the traffic is moving all the time; dealing more quickly with accidents than is the case at present; clearing the roads after accidents; being on point duty at crossings, dealing with special arrangements for traffic as a result of road repairs, and so on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 5th April, 1955; Vol. 539, c. 1058–9.]I did not try to give a full list of their duties.
Those suggestions did not come out of the air. I had discussed the matter with many people interested in road traffic problems. I do not claim any special credit for putting forward the idea five years ago. It was not new then, for other people had mentioned it. I am shocked that after all this time the Minister could not come to the Dispatch Box 987 today and tell us what he wants a traffic warden force for. I should have thought that after all the time we have spent on this matter the duties of traffic wardens would be very clearly in his mind and in the mind of the Ministry.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said that he wanted traffic wardens to deal only with stationary vehicles. That is approaching the idea in precisely the wrong way. I do not want traffic wardens to have the job of prosecuting anybody. I want them to be there to help the motorists, not to check the motorist. I do not want him to try to pick out offences. I want him to help not only private motorists, but commercial motorists, the road passenger services, and so on, to move along the roads freely. The traffic wardens are not to be part of the police force in a formal way.
The idea that the wardens should be used for putting tickets on cars except for parking offences, which are straightforward, fills me with alarm. I want any action taken against motorists to be taken only by the proper police forces. I want the traffic wardens to be there to do the hundred-and-one jobs which have to be done by someone in authority to keep traffic moving. I shall not specify details of matters which will be dealt with by hon. Members who have declared their intention, and shown their public spirit in wanting, to serve on the Committee dealing with the Bill. I hope that these matters will receive serious attention.
There are other deficiencies in the Bill, and I should like to touch briefly on one or two of them. As several hon. Members have said, we must look carefully at the kind of vehicles which now park on the roads, even in permitted parking places. It is altogether wrong for a commercial operator to go into the business of carrying goods around the country unless he has a proper garage or proper parking place in premises of his own from which he can operate. Far too many commercial operators are using public parking spaces for the purpose of carrying out their operations.
That must be stopped. It is not only that the lorries and trucks which are parked around the place are stopping those who might be called the proper users from using the parking space pro- 988 vided by the public but, also, that I am convinced that many of these vehicles are not kept in an adequate state of repair because there are no facilities for the purpose. Obviously, there are no facilities in a public parking space to keep these vehicles in an adequate state of repair.
That also applies to certain road passenger vehicles. I have in mind the little man who buys his own private coach and operates for hire. I do not want to stop him from coming into the business and operating for hire, but I do not think that any commercial vehicle, whether for the carrying of goods or for passenger transport, should be allowed on the roads unless the owner has proper garage space in which to keep the vehicles in good repair.
I should also like those hon. Members who are to be on the Committee to look very seriously at the question of permitting vehicles to park in certain streets without lights. I know that some streets where parking takes place at night are very well lit and have good lamps, but as soon as we have a misty atmosphere and there is any fog, then, even where the lights are good, these vehicles which are parked at night without lights become dangerous to everybody using the streets.
I do not want to repeat the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West and others about the incredible delay on the part of the Minister in going head with the provisions which we put in the 1956 Act for the testing of vehicles. I cannot understand why there is any delay. I could never understand why the Minister had to turn to private garages for this business. By taking a pair of compasses stretched to the equivalent of a 25-mile radius on a map of Great Britain, I tried to work out how many testing stations would be required if public testing stations were put up so that no vehicle owner had to travel more than 25 miles from his home, or from where his vehicles operate if they are commercial vehicles, to the testing station. I may be wrong, but I do not think that we should require more than 50 stations throughout Great Britain.
The mechanism and the machines required for these testing stations are 989 being made. I understand that none of the testing machines is made in this country, but there is no reason at all why they should not be made in this country under licence. They could easily be made by those who are making equipment of one kind and another for garages. It is no use saying that we cannot afford to put up these stations, when we think if the hundreds and hundreds of new garages in the country, many of them put up merely to create competition between the various oil companies and, apart from this competition, not necessarily to give a public service. If we think of the number of garages being put up, it becomes quite clear that the country could afford to reduce the number of garages and put up some testing stations. I hope that that will be dealt with in Committee.
I want to refer to an aspect of traffic wardens' duties concerning eyesight. An Order must be issued under Clause 2 (3) to define the duties of traffic wardens precisely. It has been said already that a traffic warden, for example, ought to be in a position to deal with a drunken person inside a car. He should be able to stop the man from driving the car, contact the police and say to them, "I have a ' drunk' here. Come and deal with him". A traffic warden may come across a slight accident and, when he is fulfilling his duty and trying to get the traffic moving again, it may appear to him that the driver has got into the accident because he could not see clearly enough—not through drunkenness, but just that he had bad eyesight.
In those circumstances, what is the traffic warden to do? Who should he inform? Does he just say to the driver, "Look, old chap. You should go to an oculist and get a pair of glasses"? Does he leave it like that? Does he inform someone? Which authority should he inform? What will follow when that authority is informed?
I have asked those question because an opthalmic surgeon practising in Sheffield, in my constituency, wrote a recent article in the British Medical Journal giving some facts about patients who had consulted him, some of whom were car drivers. It was quite obvious to him that their eyesight was such that they should not have been on the roads. I will not weary the House with many 990 figures. I will give merely one or two which arose from his investigation.
Out of a total number of 4,400 patients, just over 1,000 held current driving licences. He found that 75 of them, roughly 7.5 per cent., were not able to read a number plate at 25 yards. If that is an accurate sample of all car drivers, there are certainly more than half a million car drivers who cannot read a number plate at 25 yards.
§ Mr. Darling
I will give the breakdown accurately. I was trying to skip it a little. Forty-five per cent. of all the drivers were able to read a number plate at 25 yards without the aid of glasses. Forty-seven per cent. in possession of distance glasses were able to read a number plate at 25 yards. Seven and a half per cent. not in possession of distance glasses were not able to read a number plate at 25 yards. More than half of the 75, or the 7.5 per cent., were not aware, or professed to be unaware, that their distance vision was defective.
That is the serious point which we have to consider. Those patients felt that their eyesight was all right, despite the fact that testing revealed that it was not all right. The vision of four patients, who were age 61 and over, could not be improved with glasses. Admittedly, four out of 1,000 is not a very large number. It is not even 1 per cent. Anyone interested in this point can read the article by Dr. Wilkie, which appeared in the British Medical Journal. I had a long discussion with him after the article appeared. It was obvious from what he said, and from what other people who test eyesight have said, that it is not sufficient to rely upon the man who fills up his application for a driving licence to say that his vision is all right.
We must have some kind of simple test, and that is where I begin to get worried both about the Bill and about the duties that we are to put on the traffic wardens. We must find some means not only of dealing with sight testing—I gave that as an example only because it came to my notice—but with other matters as well, so that when complaints are made against car drivers something will be done about them, and those complaints will not be left in the air.
991 Turning to the particular example I gave, I ask: what happens if a traffic warden—given the duties that we are now beginning to discuss in some greater detail, of making sure that the traffic is kept moving—comes across a driver who, obviously, has bad eyesight and should not be driving in that state? What does the warden do?
I do not want to venture an answer to that question. I could try to do so, but that would mean my making a much longer speech than I intend to make. In any case, it is a Committee point, and I hope that it will be dealt with there. I do not know whether, as we are approaching the Bill in a non-party spirit, the Minister will accept many more suggestions for strengthening the Bill, or whether he wants to keep it in its present very restricted form to deal largely with such things as ticket fines, traffic wardens and the general problems of parking and traffic regulations in the London area and in the provinces.
Many suggestions could be made in Committee to make this a far better Bill, and I sincerely hope that the opportunity will not be lost.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Fisher (Surbiton)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) has shown such a detailed knowledge of the subject that I am afraid that his hopes of not being selected for the Standing Committee are likely to be vain. In the light of what he said, however—and it was almost an invitation—I might say that I should be delighted, if also chosen for the Committee, to make a little pairing arrangement with him. I do not know whether it is in order to make arrangements for pairing across the Floor—I have not heard it done before.
I do not think that the Bill has been regarded as a party Measure by either my right hon. Friend or hon. Members opposite. Everybody has treated it in a very non-party spirit. Well they might, because here we know, more than most people, I suppose, that the most precious commodity of all in the life of a busy man is time. If we did not have to sleep for six or seven hours each night, we could achieve much more than we do. Perhaps that is why my right hon. Friend is so successful, because I under- 992 stand that he sleeps for only four or five hours a night.
The same thing applies to traffic congestion in our great cities. We waste much too much time getting from one point to another. I suppose that it is difficult to assess in terms of money, but in terms of wear and tear and frustration and fatigue, it is obviously very considerable indeed. It is, too, in the loss of life, when one considers that a quarter of a million lives have been lost on the roads of this country in this century.
It will, of course, get worse. In 1956, the weekly production of cars was about 13,500; by last spring it was up to 25,000. The Ministry of Transport has always underestimated this increase that is taking place all the time. In 1954, the Ministry thought that the traffic increase would be about 75 per cent. over a period of twenty years. In point of fact, it has been 50 per cent. over the last four years. Hire-purchase relaxations and Purchase Tax reductions have probably made a great difference, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who said that we are fast becoming a car-owning democracy, and that ownership of a car nowadays is prized not only for itself but also for the social status which, in spite of what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, many people have come to think that ownership of a car confers.
We have more vehicles per mile on the roads in Great Britain than any other country in the world. The reason is that this country seems to combine, in perhaps a unique degree, a dense population in a very small area with rather a high standard of living, and the combination of these three factors causes complete traffic chaos, which means that we have got to accept that we cannot behave in this country quite as other people do in other countries. We must accept a little less freedom of user than can be enjoyed elsewhere.
Up to now, we have thought mainly in terms of trunk roads, and very welcome and overdue they are, but there is not much point in improving the flow of traffic between cities if we cannot move when we get to the cities. This is especially true in London. The average speed of traffic in urban areas is 993 20 m.p.h. In Central London it is 10 m.p.h. or less—I believe my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said that it was 8 or 9 m.p.h. —and slower still in the rush hour.
I have read that in 1914 the London bus averaged 8½ m.p.h., and now, forty-five years later, it averages 8½ m.p.h. That is a fine lot of progress in forty-five years—just about the span of my lifetime. To increase the speed and reduce the chaos of London traffic I fear that we have to accept a certain amount of self-discipline, and we may as well face that fact. We have to accept a certain amount of minor personal inconvenience in order to avoid a major traffic breakdown. Traffic islands and things like that which are a convenience to pedestrians take up too much space, and probably many of them will have to be removed. I should think that many hon. Members would favour the introduction of tidal traffic arrangements, which have often been mentioned, on the main routes in and out of London, by which in the morning rush hours three streams of traffic come in and only one goes out, and in the evening the flow is reversed.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend has got all these things in mind. I am a very enthusiastic supporter of my right hon. Friend because he has such a lot of ideas—most of them very good ideas— and he certainly will not fail in his job through lack of energy. Where he might have failed in his arduous task might have been through lack of power; because, until the introduction of this Bill, his powers to relieve traffic congestion were either lacking altogether or were so slow and cumbersome as virtually to amount to the same thing. That, I know, was the experience of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford when he was at the Ministry of Transport.
One of the most striking features of our debate last December was the demand from both sides of the House that we should take the power to solve the problem. I agree with hon. Members who have spoken that the Bill will have quite a long and difficult Committee stage because there are so many detailed points that we shall want to discuss; but it is our job, now that we have got a Bill which is broadly accepted by both parties, to try to pass it reasonably rapidly so that we can get on with the job.
994 All traffic rules are useless without enforcement, and this Bill deals mainly therefore with enforcement. I do not share the apprehensions of some hon. Members about the ticket system. Its principal purpose is to relieve the police and the courts of a heavy and growing burden. Of course, there are legal objections to it. I am rather surprised that in this debate we have not heard more on that subject, because we have certainly heard a good deal about it before. But I think they are outweighed by the practical advantages.
Certainly this system will save a lot of time, paper and money. It has been calculated that two or three years ago, and it is probably worse today, in London alone, on average eighty-nine policemen each wasted a full day every day in the courts dealing with motoring offences. Even so, the administration of justice is so slow that it may take six months before a case comes up. Then the offender goes into court, after six months, and probably gets such a small fine that it is virtually no deterrent at all to his committing the offence again.
The ticket system has been operated perfectly successfully in other countries —the United States and many European countries—and motorists' organisations here, I understand, have all agreed that it is worth giving it a trial. The fine is optional, so it does not seem to me to be any serious infringement of any individual liberty or rights. Also it is, I notice, to be paid to the justices' clerk and not to the policeman direct. I think that is a valuable safeguard, because it avoids all possibility of corruption of the police.
There is one plea which I should like to make for the motorist. I think that technical obstruction offences—I do not know how to describe them in any other way —are at present very confusing. I think that people do not quite know where they can park or for how long they can park in many cases and that a lot of people do not know where they may not park. There ought to be more signing of the roads for that purpose.
I personally am all for uniformed traffic wardens. Many of us on both sides of the House have asked for them on many occasions. I think that they will relieve the police of many minor, time-taking duties. They will probably 995 be used first for parking offences. It may be that retired policemen would make suitable recruits, but I do not think that the wardens ought to be confined to that category. I think that we might accept a lower physical height standard for wardens than for the police. They must be trained and they must be of the right calibre—I see no reason why some of them should not be women —and their attitude should be to help rather than to harass the motorist. That should be their raison d'être.
I am glad that Clause 3 makes it unnecessary for my right hon. Friend to consult the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, which has over forty members. It probably does not meet very often and it takes a long time. The sort of machinery which was suitable for the 'twenties in this context is probably quite inappropriate in the 'sixties. Clause 4 gives my right hon. Friend the same powers that local authorities already have to introduce parking meter schemes in London. That, I understand, enables him to use the proceeds of the meters to finance off-street parking. I cannot help feeling that that ought to be obligatory and that he ought to be forced to use funds of that sort to help to provide for off-street parking, because this otherwise very good Bill, in my opinion, will fail completely unless we provide off-street parking in a fairly big way.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider various suggestions, which probably the Minister of Works will not like very much, and that he will consider constructing car parks for all-day parkers under the Royal Parks. I would not mind them being in the Royal Parks. I have noticed again and again lately that practically no one uses Rotten Row in which to ride. When I was a boy there were scores of riders there every day. Now one cannot see a chap riding in Rotten Row any day of the week. Perhaps they do so in the early morning; I do not know. My right hon. Friend may; he does all sorts of things in the early morning which other people do not do.
§ Mr. Marples
I would inform my hon. Friend that I am consulting the Minister of Works on underground car parks in the Royal Parks.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am delighted to hear that. I am sure that they will be extremely helpful to motorists.
Clause 7 is also of great interest. It covers pedestrians, exemptions from restrictions and the disc system. I am glad that pedestrians are mentioned in the Bill, because they, along with the dogs and the drunks, to whom other hon. Members have referred, cause a good many casualties. [Interruption] I merely class them together as one of the categories which cause a lot of accidents. It is not only the motorist.
I hope that signs will be erected telling people exactly where and when they can cross a road. I hope that if they take no notice of the signs and cross against the lights, they will risk a fine as well as their own safety.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
If my hon. Friend is making that suggestion, will he also suggest that there should be lights satisfactory for pedestrians to see at all-red periods to give them freedom to cross?
§ Mr. Fisher
Oh, yes. I do not want to go into detail, but I am sure that that is one of the things which my right hon. Friend the Minister has in mind.
My right hon. Friend has said that the disc system may or may not be the best method. He does not think so himself. But it seems to work quite well in Paris, Rome. Salzburg, Vienna, Lausanne, and in various French cities. It is certainly worth a trial in this country, if only for the reason that it serves the useful purpose of making full use of all possible parking space, whereas the meter system, to allow of the possibility of one or two large cars, must waste quite a lot of space in the road.
I hope that the proceeds of the disc system will also be given to the Minister's fund for providing off-street car parking. Probably my right hon. Friend should take power in the Bill to help local authorities to finance the provision of off-street car parking. I do not see any power in the Bill to enable him to do that. I know that the right hon. Member for Smeth-wick is keen on the idea of car parks being self-sufficient by allowing them to sell petrol, and so on, rather like service stations. I am sympathetic to that idea, because it would help with the cost of providing parking facilities by giving a 997 return on the outlay. I cannot go further than that, however, because I do not want anybody from this side of the House to be thought to be encouraging local authorities to go into a business which is not their own. Presumably, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent local authorities from leasing facilities in the area of a car park to provide petrol pumps, and so on, which could give a source of revenue for the car parks.
As motorists, we also must be prepared to pay a lot more for our car parking facilities. We have no inherent right as such to use the Queen's highway as a free garage. To park or garage a car in New York costs, I am told, about £1 a day. In London, the economic charge would be about 12s. 6d. a day. We must think in terms of those figures, certainly about 10s. a day, for the all-day parker.
When we think in terms of money like that, it may well be that we shall alter the fashion. If the all-day parker had to pay 10s. a day every day, he might decide to come up to London by the suburban train, which would be very good for the railway finances and would prevent the congestion which is caused by all-day parkers in the London streets. That is part of the object of the Bill.
I am glad that under Clause 12, the owner of a car which is towed away will have to pay a fine of £2 as well as suffer the inconvenience of having to collect his car. That is excellent. My only concern is whether £2 is enough. Does it, for instance, cover the total cost of towing the car away? I ask this because when I was abroad recently, my stepdaughter, using my car, thought nothing of having it towed away because of bad parking three times in one week. I should have considered it a terrible penalty, but, apparently, the only trouble involved was to go to Vauxhall to collect the vehicle and no great inconvenience was caused. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under the Bill it would cost £6."] Being an active young girl, she thought nothing of taking public transport down to Vauxhall to collect the car. She might have thought twice if she had had three stiff fines in one week. I think that we might well consider stepping up the fine.
I welcome very much what is provided in the Schedule for what I think is known as the "fag end" parking permission. Under the present rule, one has to pay 998 twice for the same time, and this is a bad principle. Anyhow, it must be practically impossible to enforce, and it would seem rather to discourage people from getting their business done quickly, which is the very thing one wishes them to do. The new rule in the Schedule will be helpful to motorists who wish to stop briefly, perhaps, to buy a packet of cigarettes, cash a cheque at the bank, or something like that.
The whole purpose of the Bill is, or should be, not to persecute the motorist but to assist him. On an earlier occasion which I remember well, my right hon. Friend said that he had 50 million advisers to help him in his task. I am glad that, in this Bill, he has taken a good deal of the advice tendered to him from both sides of the House in the December debate and, no doubt, advice offered to him from outside. Our reactions today have, on the whole, been very friendly from both sides, and I hope that they will demonstrate to him how warmly we support his energetic approach to the problems and how keen we are to give him a chance to put into practice his ideas and to make a real impression upon the ghastly urban traffic problem.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
Some months ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) suggested to the Minister that, to cope with the great congestion of traffic in Central London, he should consider imposing some kind of fine or levy upon large employers of labour in Central London who would not co-operate in a scheme to stagger hours. The Minister rolled his eyes to heaven and declared that that would be a great invasion of liberty. It was suggested to him, also, that, for the same purpose of dealing with traffic congestion in Central London, it might be necessary to impose a restriction on the entry of private cars into the central districts of London. Again, the Minister piously declared that any Government of which he was a member would never be a party to such a measure.
After posing on those two occasions as the champion of liberty, the right hon. Gentleman has now introduced a Bill which gives him dictatorial power to over-ride the London traffic authority for five years, which gives power to sign an 999 Order compelling pedestrians to cross the road by the subway whether they want to or not, which creates privileged classes entitled to park their cars where others may not, and which creates a kind of secondary police force the exact functions of which are still to be determined in an Order to be made by the Secretary of State which will have the force of law after merely running the gauntlet of one and a half hours' debate in the House of Commons.
I do not quarrel with the Minister for introducing a Bill to do all these things. I think that nearly all of them are necessary. But I counsel him against an attitude of mind which is extremely chary of adopting any suggestion which might restrict the liberty of the motorist to come into the centre of a crowded town, or which might restrict the liberty of a private employer to employ labour at hours and in ways which intolerably add to public difficulty. I counsel him against being chary of restrictions in those respects, but being perfectly ready to abridge the liberty of local authorities, pedestrians and people generally.
The Minister ought to appreciate the point which was very well made by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher), that we cannot deal with this problem without a greater degree of self-control and acceptance of restriction all round. If the Minister rules out for all time any suggestions which might restrict the liberty of the motorist to crowd up the centre of a town, if he excepts certain classes from any restriction on their liberty, the amount of restriction will fall all the more heavily on the pedestrian and the general public. Therefore, I would advise the Minister not to close his mind permanently to the possibility of having at some stage to stop the unrestricted entry of the private motor car into Central London at any hour of the day that the motorist pleases.
We have talked to a large extent in this debate as if the people who do not own motor cars were a small and dwindling minority of the population. I know that it is absurd to talk of the motor car today as if it were a rich man's privilege, that the number of motorists is growing and that it will grow a lot more, but I am very much aware of those of my constituents who go out to work the very great majority 1000 have to use public transport. I imagine that is true of nearly every constituency in the country.
A good many of those constituents of mine write to me about the length of time they have to wait for buses and the slowness of the buses when they get on them. The complaints that they make are perfectly true. It is not the fault of the London Transport Executive, and only the most ignorant critic of public enterprise could suppose that it was. It is due to the fact that it is a sheer, mathematical impossibility for buses to progress with sufficient speed and regularity to meet the public demand while the congestion of traffic in Central London is what it is.
If there is to be an unlimited right to fill up Central London with private motor cars, other people have to accept an ever slower and less frequent bus service. That is the kind of problem which is on the Minister's plate, and it will grow larger and larger as the number of motor cars increases. The hon. Member for Surbiton pointed out that in the last forty-five years the average speed of a London bus has decreased by a quarter of a mile per hour. A hurried calculation suggests that sixteen centuries from now the buses will have come to a complete standstill. We may not, in fact, need to look as far ahead as that.
Seriously, I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that the congestion of traffic in Central London is becoming a very grave problem indeed and that if he is genuinely satisfied that some of the remedies suggested from this side of the House will not work he has himself to find a remedy which will. We really cannot "kid" ourselves that we can solve all our motoring problems by building larger and better roads everywhere. It is true that we ought to have better roads in many parts of the country, but let us remember our special situation in this country.
There is a limit to the lessons that we can learn from the United States. The whole human race could be put into the United States and there would still not be as many people to the acre there are in this country at present. That is why we cannot solve our problems solely in terms of larger, wider, more magnificent roads in every direction. There is not all that room. It means that we have to face 1001 the problem of how much restriction on the right to cover up a bit of road with one's own vehicle it is fair to impose on each person so that all can have the result which is most convenient.
I do not believe that we can brush off indefinitely the idea that we must have some power to direct more heavy traffic off the roads on to the railways. We cannot brush that idea off by simply saying, "All this is an interference with liberty". A private businessman, I dare say, sends his goods by road because, on balance, that seems to him to be the cheapest thing to do and, in many cases, it will be because he can get them from door to door in a way which a railway system, however efficient, cannot hope to do. But the only justification for completely unfettered private enterprise is if it can be shown that what is cheapest for the private enterpriser is automatically best for the community as a whole. That is not so in the case of the use of the roads for very heavy traffic.
The private enterpriser works out his balance sheet and finds that it pays him, but certain items do not enter into that sheet—the delay imposed on everybody else's traffic, his share of the frightful toll and death and mutilation on the roads. I go on the roads in a modest little car and I see them used for enormous vehicles, the size of railway wagons, carrying immense and heavy goods. That development will go on. It really cannot be sense, in a crowded island like ours, for us to be wringing our hands about the insufficient use of the railways while this sort of thing is going on on our roads.
§ Sir W. Wakefield
Is it not a fact that some of these very large loads on the roads cannot go on the railways because they cannot pass under the tunnels? Is that not the difficulty?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am not suggesting that every single piece of large traffic on the roads can go on the railways, but there is a good deal of it which it would be in the public interest to put on the railways. I do not believe that as a matter of principle we can stick to the idea that it is the sole concern of the man whose traffic it is as to whether it goes by road or by rail. This country is not large enough to allow unrestricted use of space on roads and transport 1002 facilities in that manner. We have to approach this question without prejudice.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
Is the hon. Member suggesting in that case that we should limit the issue of C licences or the use of private vehicles by their owners?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that we have to do that. There is a variety of ways in which one could do it. The way which might appeal most to Members opposite would be to offer special financial inducements to people to send traffic by rail rather than by road. Another way would be to specify the size or weight of vehicles which might travel on the roads.
I shall be told, if I make that suggestion, that I am going back to the antiquated idea, put forward when road traffic was beginning to grow, that we should limit the size of the carriage to the road. But that idea, which did not make sense at the end of the eighteenth century, would make sense today, when our population has enormously grown, when we are moving to the time when every family has a car, and when the size of vehicle it is physically possible to put on the road is now enormous.
We cannot, on Second Reading, set out a whole scheme to make this thing practical, but suggestions such as those for a restriction on the sending of very heavy traffic on the roads, or on the unlimited right of the private motorist to go into the centre of these cities whenever it happens to suit him—provided that he can afford the comparatively moderate charge for a parking meter—cannot be brushed aside by saying that they are an infringement of liberty, because the provisions in the Bill are equally an infringement of liberty—though they do not happen to be an infringement in most cases concerning the motorist or the private industrialist. We all have to accept a certain amount of restriction all round if we are, as one hon. Member so well put it, to civilise the motor car.
I said that I did not object, therefore, to the restriction measures in the Bill. They are inescapably necessary, but I want to make one or two brief comments on some of them. The first is the right hon. Gentleman's over-riding of the London authorities. Although I am myself a Londoner, and very keen on the proper rights of London local authorities, it is probably fair to say that in most 1003 cases, if any London local authority finds itself seriously annoyed by the Bill, it will probably have itself to blame, because it will not have been sufficiently diligent in this important job. I think it very unlikely that there will be many local authorities who will behave in that manner.
The Minister himself paid a tribute to the London local authorities, as did the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), whose speech interested us all so much. I am certain that the Borough of Fulham will not find itself incommoded by the Bill, because it will never delay in taking any necessary action. Indeed, the Minister is more likely to be toiling behind the borough than the borough behind the Minister.
However, I wonder whether it is necessary to give the Minister power to make regulations without reference to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. If the worry is that that Committee will take too long to consider a matter, because of infre-quency of meeting, could not the Bill say that the Minister should refer his regulations to that Committee, but should have power none the less to make regulations within a given time limit whatever the Committee may or may not have said? It would then be up to the Committee, having had the regulations referred to it, to comment promptly if it wanted to comment. I should have thought that that would have been as reasonable from the Minister's point of view, but not so drastically ruling out the Committee as the Bill now provides.
There are two vexed political questions —in the strict sense of the word—which are raised by the Bill: punishment by consent, or punishment without prosecution, and the appointment of traffic wardens. I hope that we shall have an answer to the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Darling). What exactly is saved by the ticket system as compared with the system whereby, on receipt of a summons, if one feels that one is guilty, one writes an apologetic letter and sends a blank cheque?
I cannot see for myself that the ticket system, as compared with that system, saves any time or administrative labour, but there may be something I have 1004 missed. I would not object on principle, subject to safeguards, to the system suggested in the Bill, but I notice that this procedure is to apply only to such areas as the Secretary of State may specify.
I presume that that partial application is merely to be a temporary measure and that the Government intend to begin by having this system in certain areas to see how it works, and that the ultimate objective is to have it over the country as a whole. It would not be desirable to have the country permanently divided into a patchwork of areas in some of which one could break the law with a sporting chance of not being caught, or, if being caught, of having to go through the whole legal process and perhaps paying the maximum fine, while in other areas one could get away with it at half price.
If that were to be a permanent arrangement, motorists would begin to take a keen and painful interest in the signs on the roads marking that they were about to enter a certain county borough or a certain county. They would take care to make themselves well informed about which were half price areas. I can see the reason for beginning this procedure area by area, but I hope that it is clear that the Government intend that, if the scheme works, it will be a standard rule for the whole of the country.
We might otherwise get into a position which would remind me a little of the laws made by one of the Saxon kings of this country, who provided that the crimes of murder and manslaughter could be dealt with by the payment of blood money to the family of the victim, but added a proviso that Welshmen could be killed for half price.
On the other point about traffic wardens, I am very glad indeed that it has been suggested from both sides of the House that a woman can be a traffic warden as well as a man. We still fill ourselves up with a lot of nonsense about what things a woman can do and what things a woman cannot do. Over a job like this, we should start with a presumption that a woman can do it as well as a man. We might find by experience that there are some limitations to that general principle, but I am sure that that is the assumption with which we should start.
1005 It was a very good thing that the telephone was not invented 150 years ago, for if it had been men would probably have entrenched themselves firmly in working the telephone service, while women might be just trying to thrust their way into it, and a good many people would be arguing that women were emotionally and physically incapable of managing a switchboard. We still talk nonsense about a number of other occupations which, in many of the newer countries, women take on and make a success of. When we create a new organisation, it ought to be a new field, if humanly possible, for equality between the sexes.
The creation of this corps of traffic wardens is quite a big political and judicial step. I am rather surprised that the only provision for any kind of Statutory Instrument dealing with traffic wardens is the Order made by the Secretary of State telling us what the limits of their functions are. That Order is to be subject only to the negative Resolution procedure. I should have thought that, before making this important new step, there was a good deal more that the House would like to know, and more, I think, than we shall be able to dig out in Committee, unless the Committee stage of the Bill is to be a great deal longer than I am sure the Minister hopes it will be.
It seems to me that the Secretary of State ought to present to the House something like a code for traffic wardens. It might be the draft of the circular which he proposes to issue to the local authorities, or may be a list of positive regulations. There are quite a lot of things to be considered, possibly certain minimum conditions that ought to be fulfilled by anybody joining the force, some arrangements about the possibilities of promotion in it, and, of course, a much clearer definition of their function than we have at present.
I stress this because I do not think that we ought to dodge the fact that the opportunities for corruption in a force like this might be quite considerable. When we are creating a new force, which has not yet had time to develop esprit-de-corps and standards of its own, unless we are very careful whom we recruit, and we get off on the right foot from the start with the prestige and dignity of the 1006 force, we might create something which is a disgrace to the whole idea. I think that the House ought to have presented to it in some form or another a code for traffic wardens, and that it would be worth at least half a day's debate, not just an hour and a half at the fag-end of the day, and on the negative Resolution procedure, but at least half or perhaps a full day's debate on it.
These were the points that occurred to me on the Bill. There are, of course, a great many other detailed points which I could make, but which have been very well made already. I think that the Bill illustrates the principle that, when we make our society more complicated by inventing things like motor cars, we have to have a good many more laws and regulations. It is useless to think that we can preserve or pursue liberty by not making laws or regulations. In fact, in the modern State, we have to preserve liberty by finding out what are the sensible regulations to make.
That is why I began what I had to say by suggesting to the Minister that if restrictions on the right of the pedestrian to walk across the road, rather than obey the Minister by going through a subway, are justified, it is possible that restrictions on the right of a private businessman to send certain traffic on the road, or restrictions on the right of a private motorist to enter the centre of a city whenever he chooses, may also be justified and in the public interest.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) was right in saying that we can bring about good under the Bill only by means of restrictions. Every day there are 240 mutilated bodies—18 of them dead—on the roads. There are 677 other casualties a day, which are not classified as serious, because no bones are broken, but 240 broken, smashed bodies are to be found every day on the roads. Yet no Government have ever brought to this House a Road Safety Bill. Road Traffic Bills, yes, but never a Bill so devoted to road safety that it could properly be called a Road Safety Bill.
We have had previous Road Traffic Bills which were, to quote a phrase from this Bill:to facilitate the movement of traffic.1007 This Bill is no exception in not concentrating upon safety matters. Its cumbersome Short TitleRoad Traffic and Roads Improvement Billadvertises that fact. In devising the Long Title my right hon. Friend has, it seems, endeavoured to preclude us from inserting road safety measures in the course of the Bill's progress through this House. He has expressed deep anxiety about accidents and casualties on the roads, but I noticed that in presenting the Bill he made no promise that a Road Safety Bill would follow it. Is there any such Bill in draft?
In answer to a recent Parliamentary Question, my right hon. Friend said, in effect, that he would have to institute further investigations before producing a road safety Measure. Surely the House knows enough about the causes of accidents on the roads to fill a very substantial Bill. If my right hon. Friend can find time to bring in a Bill such as this, dealing with the removal and sale of abandoned vehicles, he can surely find time to bring in a Bill which will enable him to put into operation the scheme for testing vehicles—all vehicles and not merely old ones. The experience of other countries in the testing of vehicles has proved that it would save at least a hundred casualties a day in this country. If my right hon. Friend has time to bring in a Bill to appoint traffic wardens to deal with petty parking offences, he surely has time to bring in legislation bringing the police up to establishment, so that they can deal with dangerous offences, prevent dangerous and careless driving on the road, and enforce the speed limit. We know that that would save at least 250 casualties a day on the roads.
If he has time to bring in a Bill for sticking notices of fines on the windscreens of parked cars we surely might have some legislation for sticking breathalysers or other testing instruments on the faces of drunken drivers. We know that that would save at least 150 casualties a day. I am quoting from research work and tests which have already been carried out on that subject.
The Bill deals with the punishment of petty offenders, and has nothing to do with the more serious offenders or with improving the effect of punishment on 1008 the more serious offences. I am sure that the investigations of my right hon. Friend and the Road Research Laboratory into these matters will produce other causes and further information about road accidents, but I should have thought that we had enough already to make a real start on the reduction of the figure of 240 maimed bodies a day on the roads. While we delay, that number is increasing daily.
I do not despair of making this a road safety Bill. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for leaving just a chink or two in the Long Title to the Bill into which we might insert some road safety measures which are of such great urgency at the present time. Let me explain what I mean. I do not mean that they are of such great urgency now merely because in 1959 over 900 casualties a day occurred, which was an increase of 90 a day on the figures for 1958. In saying that they are of greater urgency now than ever before, I mean that the argument which has previously been used in a complacent way that accidents are not increasing as fast as the number of cars on the road is increasing no longer holds good.
The figures for 1959 show that accidents increased by 11¼ per cent. The number of cars on the road increased by only 8.9 per cent. Let us call it a round figure of 9 per cent. So we have got to the stage, which is the first time that we have reached it, that accidents are increasing at a greater rate than the number of licensed cars on the road. My right hon. Friend's Department says in effect, "Oh, but it is not as bad as all that, because although the number of licensed cars increased by only 9 per cent., traffic on the road increased by 12 per cent. The traffic on the road increased at a greater rate than the casualties ".
That 12 per cent. is an estimate by the the Road Research Laboratory. It may be right, or it may be wrong, but it looks to me very much like a tailor-made argument to suit the figures—11¼ per cent. increase in casualties, and 12 per cent. increase in traffic.
I will take that 12 per cent. and compare it with the increase in serious accidents and fatalities. They have not increased just by 9 per cent. They have not increased just by 11¼ per cent. They have increased by 16 per cent. over the 1009 figures for 1958. Although the number of cars on the road has increased by 9 per cent., the serious accidents and fatalities have almost doubled that increase, and have increased by 16 per cent. That phenomenal increase shows that when there are collisions on the road they are now happening at a greater force, and therefore they must be happening at a greater speed. Surely that must be elementary without our going to the Road Research Laboratory to be told.
That is the dire result of the progressive failure to enforce the speed limit. It is because cars are travelling faster and faster on the roads that we are getting this greater proportion of serious accidents. Serious accidents mean mutilated bodies on the road, and eighteen of them dead, a day.
The Bill is intended to speed up traffic. If it is to have its full effect, it is essential that at the same time we should have compensating safety measures. I hope that my right hon. Friend realises what he is doing by introducing the Bill. At a time when casualties are increasing at such a rate, at a time when the increase in serious casualties is nearly double the rate of increase in the number of cars on the roads, he is creating a potential for a very serious increase in the road toll.
I say frankly that I would not support this Bill unless I thought there was a possibility of getting some road safety measures into it to compensate for what my right hon. Friend wishes to do under the Bill. I trust that hon. Members opposite will not flippantly call it another Tory revolt when I say that if road safety measures are not put into the Bill in Committee and on Report I shall find it impossible to support it on Third Reading.
In Clauses 1 to 13 my right hon. Friend has dealt mainly with the clearance of cars from the road in the sacred cause of the relief of congestion; but, as the Metropolitan Police no longer prosecute for exceeding the speed limit, this relief of congestion is merely creating an opportunity for illegal speeds unless we have compensating road safety measures.
The remainder of the Bill, in Clauses 14 to 18, deals with improvements to the roads. Again I quote the words:with a view to facilitating the movement of traffic.1010 Is the prime object faster traffic or safer traffic?
I will indicate where safety measures can be introduced into the Bill. By Clause 2 traffic wardens are to be appointed. I cannot avoid the comment that if we can find the men to undertake these duties and the money to pay them, would it not have been better to have increased the number in the police force to try to bring that a little nearer establishment, and might not one policeman have been a lot more valuable in saving lives on the road than three or four traffic wardens?
However, I realise that these traffic wardens may release some of the police. I hope they will release the police to deal with the dangerous moving vehicle; in this Bill we are now apparently concerned only to find the men and money to deal with the inconvenient stationary vehicle. The wording of the Clause is that these wardens are:to discharge in aid of the police, functions normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of road traffic or with the enforcement of the law relating to road traffic;That is a wide definition of their functions and a definition which is limited only by subsection (3), that is to say, with the prescription of these functions by the Secretary of State "as appropriate". So the traffic wardens need not merely be parking attendants, they need not merely deal with the minor offences set out in Clause 1 if the Secretary of State sees fit to appoint them to deal with other offences. What assurance have we that if these traffic wardens are appointed and if police personnel are released the police will deal with the prevention of careless or dangerous driving, the prevention of drunken driving—or drunken walking, which is just as dangerous on the roads—and the enforcement of the speed limit?
I apologise for referring so frequently to the speed limit, but it has been proved that when a speed limit is enforced it does save life on the roads.
That statement is undeniable. We have had the recent example from Munich where the enforcement of a 31 m.p.h. speed limit during 1959 cut fatalities by 35 per cent. compared with the 1958 figures for Munich. It is not very good to quote from Western Germany because the number of casualties 1011 there is about five times the number in this country, but when a speed limit of 62 m.p.h. was imposed on the autobahnen it halved the fatalities and cut the total number of accidents by 20 per cent. In the built-up areas in Western Germany, when a 31 m.p.h. limit was imposed it cut accidents by 18 per cent. A similar limit in the Netherlands cut accidents by 17 per cent. In Northern Ireland, where a speed limit was imposed in the built-up areas in 1956, personal injury accidents were cut by 24 per cent.
Coming nearer home, we know that when the speed limit was imposed in built-up areas in this country in 1935, the pedestrian casualties in London caused by private cars alone—there had been a speed limit for commercial vehicles previously—were cut by 50 per cent. We cannot deny those facts. We cannot deny that when a speed limit is properly enforced it saves lives on the roads. I do not mind whether we appoint wardens as Class I and Class II traffic wardens, but surely these wardens of some class or another should be given power to deal with the dangerous offences on the road, with which I class breaches of the speed limit.
May I turn for a moment to the improvement Clauses in the Bill and mention briefly in what way I think the Minister could apply safety improvements as well as speed improvements to the roads? There have been several proved life-savers in improving the roads. I will give some examples—the pedestrian-actuated lights; the all-red period at crossings; the subways and refuges for pedestrians—and we shall certainly need these if my right hon. Friend is to speed up the traffic on the main roads; the prevention of parking in dangerous spots, particularly outside the exits from schools; and the prohibition of overtaking at pedestrian crossings.
If these faster roads are to be improved from the motorists' point of view, surely we must have more of the non-skid surfaces which the Road Research Laboratory has proved are so effective in preventing accidents. There must be proper spacing between vehicles. Can we not deal with the driver who sits on the tail of the other car? We shall never avoid accidents if it is the practice to 1012 drive so that one cannot pull up within the distance of one's vision.
I will not delay the House with further examples of the kind of safety measures which I hope my right hon. Friend will introduce if he is successful with the Bill in getting a faster flow of traffic. It must be a safer flow as well as a faster flow of traffic. I remind him again of the 240 maimed and mutilated bodies on the roads every day, 18 of them dead every day, two or three of those 18 being children. Does not that prove that we cannot just shuffle this off by saying that in many cases the victim is to blame? It is surely our duty to try to devise safety measures to avoid this near-thousand casualties every day.
As the hon. Member for Fulham said, restrictions will have to be imposed— unpopular restrictions, but I ask my right hon. Friend not to be afraid of their being unpopular. I ask him to be the first Minister of Transport courageous enough to save life on the roads.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I think that the whole House will agree that it was a very long time ago when the debate started. At least, it seemed so to me, waiting to make the final speech from this side of the House. There is so much in what the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said with which I agree that I propose to follow him in quite an amount of detail.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Proceedings on the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House) for one hour after Ten o'clock. —[Mr. Marples.]
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Mr. Mellish
Now that we have got that over, I can go on to say again to the hon. Member for Crosby that there was much in what he said with which I agree, as I propose to show later.
My first pleasant task tonight is to congratulate the hon. Member for Leo-minster (Mr. Bossom), who made a first-class maiden speech. He showed great knowledge of his subject. He talked about the possibility of a monorail. It is 1013 not the first time that that has been mentioned in the House. I believe that there was a suggestion at one time that we should have one going to London Airport. Perhaps the Minister, when he gets round to it, will have a look at the matter for his hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman talked also of the extension of traffic engineering and referred to the inevitable long-term solution of our transport problems. He is to be congratulated on his speech.
I do not think that the Minister can complain of the tone and temper of the debate, but I say to him frankly that many of us were disappointed at his own performance, and also with his Bill. We expected that, when the Minister finally produced a Road Traffic Bill, it would be an extraordinary Bill, because, after all, he is quite an extraordinary Minister. Since he became Minister, about six months ago, he has poured out a torrent of words, both abroad and at home. He has been buzzing around with ideas, many of which have not been all that new, but he has always claimed that they were.
We thought that the Bill would be quite different to anything that we had ever had before. We expected that it would be quite remarkable in its origin. On examining it, we find that there is not so much in it as the Minister would have us believe, as I propose to show. The Minister has had a Press reception which is hardly worthy of the Bill.
I want, first, to deal with the fact that there are very grave omissions from the Bill. Here I take up the point made by the hon. Member for Crosby. We have to discuss a Bill of this character in the light of the problem which it sets out to conquer. Indeed, it is pertinent to know the figures which have been announced tonight—I gather by the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry—of deaths on the roads in February. Four hundred and fifty-eight people were killed on the roads last month, 88 more than in February, 1959. It is against the background of that position on the roads today that we have to discuss the Bill.
The Minister calls it the "Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill". Does it deal with road traffic? Does it make a major contribution towards road improvement? I propose to show that it does neither. In Committee, the right hon. Gentleman will find that there is a 1014 genuine desire by all hon. Members of the Committee, from whichever side of the House they may come, to strengthen the Bill and to put something real into it which will try to achieve the objectives which we all desire.
I will now deal with the grave omissions. As has been said, there is nothing in the Bill about road safety. There is nothing in it about speed control. There is nothing in it about drunken driving. We have heard much talk from the Minister about all the great things he saw in America. We have read some of the wonderful speeches he made in America. The Minister is the best thing they have had in America since Barnum—the greatest showman, anyhow. Next to Barnum, he is the best thing that America has had. The Minister made most of his great speeches there. I wish that he would come to the House and put these things into practice.
There is nothing in the Bill about the purchase of land for securing proper development of vital intersections. The Minister knows better than anyone else that, when speaking of the so-called bottlenecks today, one of the problems is the acquiring of land, the power so to do, and the finance. There is nothing in the Bill to amend legislation needing amendment. There is nothing in the Bill about finance for expensive sites for off-street car parks. The Minister talks glibly about the places to be provided for off-street car parks, but money will have to be found for them. Who is to find the money? Will it be the Minister? Who will alter the existing powers? The Minister should introduce legislation to deal with that.
This Bill, which is supposed to deal with road traffic and road improvement, makes no mention of the powers that the House will have to give the Minister if we are to build roads over rails. The right hon. Gentleman recently made a remarkable speech, on H. G. Wells lines, about roads over the railways. That is not impossible to visualise. The obvious thing to any planner for today and tomorrow is that we must build roads alongside the railways.
My own constituency contains a perfect example; a whole viaduct of railway lines and not a single road alongside. In planning the cities and towns of tomorrow, the planners will see that roads 1015 are pushed as near to the rails as possible and pedestrians given some sort of freedom of movement in the centre. There are no powers to enable the Minister to do that, yet this is a Bill to deal with road traffic and road improvement.
This Measure does not make a major contribution to the traffic problems we face. Someone in London has already described it as the Marples Self-Aggrandisement Bill, because he has taken over certain powers for himself— and I will deal with those. It does not follow, however, that he will do anything with those powers when he has them. After all, he has been in office for six months but we still have not seen any testing of vehicles.
Even the Clause dealing with traffic wardens is only permissive. It does not produce the men. The Press that he has had would make one believe that suddenly, overnight, we shall have hundreds of wardens controlling our traffic—
§ Mr. Mellish
Yes, thousands. There is nothing like that about it at all. It is purely permissive. It enables, not the Minister, but the Home Secretary, later to produce a Bill saying what powers such wardens, if available, can exercise under the supervision of the police. If we are to go along at the rate that the present Minister and Government have travelled over vehicle testing, when will that be? Another four years? Will there be legal difficulties?
I am about to tell the right hon. Gentleman of some of the difficulties that he will encounter, because when he talks big we expect him to act big. He really cannot complain of the criticism from this side of the House. He really is the noisiest Minister that we have had. He has not stopped talking since taking office, in striking comparison with his predecessor, who was a much more silent Minister.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) is present, because I want to tell him that in traffic circles he is respected and honoured for the work he did behind committee doors —hard, slogging work, and no publicity. That was the trouble with the hon. Member for Guildford; he did not advertise himself.
1016 On the other hand, the present Minister of Transport produces all the past ideas of his Department as if he alone had just thought of them this very minute. There is, indeed, hardly a thing which has been invented for which he has not been responsible. Against that background, we have this Bill, which, although we have given it a good reception, I will now show contains little about which we need get excited.
I will deal, first, with the traffic wardens. As I say, Clause 2 is quite permissive. We do not know yet, and have not a clue what these wardens will be expected to do, or how. Here I must warn the hon. and learned Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department that the police are extremely worried about what the traffic wardens may be asked to do. It has been said many times in the House, and I repeat it, "Do not let us do anything that will worsen the status of our policemen." They have a difficult enough job. They are badly undermanned. In the Metropolitan area alone they are more than 3,000 short of establishment. They dread the idea of our having second-grade traffic wardens doing certain jobs that will mean that the policemen will be expected to do more night work than ever before. They fear that some of the work taken over by the traffic wardens of tomorrow will lead to a lowering of their own standards.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite need not express surprise about that. My own brother was in the police force. For one-third of a working life of thirty years he was on night shift, for one-third he was on from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., and for one-third, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The police work the shift system, and if we are to have wardens who will do a great deal of the day-time traffic work it may mean that the policemen will be asked to do a lot more night work.
I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat this anxiety of the police force very seriously. They are greatly worried about the employment of these wardens, and I am sure that that is why they have had to curb him all the time on the subject. The Home Secretary's hand is very clearly imprinted here. The impetuosity of the Minister of Transport will not make an intelligent 1017 Home Secretary introduce legislation which would in any way weaken his position in relation to the police forces, or convey the impression to them that their conditions would be worsened.
I say to the Joint Under-Secretary of State that we want to know what is in the Home Secretary's mind. We have heard from the Minister of Transport a vague reference to collecting the voices. We are a bit "fed up" with the argument from the Minister about collecting voices. He makes flamboyant speeches in the country and then comes here and says, "We should like to know what the House thinks about these things before we introduce them." We want a clear and positive idea of what he has in mind. I cannot believe that this Clause was introduced merely on the basis of something that has been deferred for many months. I do not think the Home Secretary would have done that. There are many anomalies which can come about as a result of it.
One important thing which I should like to point out is that in Clause 1, dealing with fixed penalties, reference is specifically made to the question of lights. People are to receive a fixed penalty for a lighting offence or for lack of reflectors which are required by law. The Guardian dealt with this point, and it brings out the difficulty with which we shall be faced under the fixed penalty system. I quote from The Guardian of the day after the Bill was published:Automatic fines for parking in the wrong place are one thing, but the same off-hand treatment for the potentially much more serious offence of driving without lights is another matter. The law should make a clear distinction between motoring offences that break administrative regulations and those that may endanger life. Driving without lights may be a matter of momentary forgetfulness, or it may arise from using a vehicle in bad repair in selfish disregard of other people's safety. The degree of seriousness in the offence is for a court to decide. In no case should it be possible to calculate cynically that the price of a ' ticket' would be less than the cost of repairs.Tickets can be given for so many offences that a grave injustice can be done to those who receive them. I warn the Under-Secretary now that in Committee we shall consider this matter as good democrats should, to ensure that the justice which we have in this country will not be changed.
1018 If we introduce a large number of traffic wardens, as the Minister has glibly announced—that is the impression that he has conveyed outside the House—one system which has been of enormous benefit to the motorist and the authority in this country will disappear, and that is the system of caution. If a motorist commits an offence today, generally the police send him a caution. They do not fine him. Thousands of motorists are sent cautions because the policeman on the spot has taken into account the difficulties which the motorist may have had to face.
Let me put the case of the lorry driver doing his legitimate work, coming from, say, Bristol to London to deliver his load. He cannot go round the back street to deliver it, because there are no facilities for unloading. He goes into the high street and off-loads. This is his livelihood. He is not responsible for the fact that there are no off-loading facilities. The policeman finds out that it is a genuine case and the driver may get a warning, or he may not even be reported.
Under the system envisaged in Clause 1, however, the man will be fined £2. He can go to court and plead not guilty if he likes. He has had the temerity to off-load a vehicle in a main thoroughfare; he had no alternative but to do that. Is he to go to court and argue his case? If he does, what chance will he have? By this system we shall be removing one of the great contacts between the police, on the one hand, and the public, on the other. It is inappropriate that at this time, above all others, we should be introducing such a Measure when a Royal Commission is now discussing the relationship between the police and the public. I issue this warning and I put it on record as one speaking on behalf of many police who view this problem of the fixed fine, the ticket with the fixed penalty, and the problem of traffic wardens with some temerity which we cannot ignore.
I agree with the hon. Member for Crosby that if, at the end of the day, we are to have a corps of fully trained traffic wardens, men of integrity with a great deal of training and police supervision, I would much prefer that we had an increase i nthe numbers in our police force, and we can only get them by improving their conditions and salaries.
1019 I wish to say one other thing, which I have been asked to say here, and which is very important. There has been a great deal of criticism of the present system and of how the Minister is to improve it in the Bill. Let us give a little credit for what has gone on in the past. Do not lot us denigrate our own system and people too much. Let us try to give credit where credit is due. I would point out that at present the police, when dealing with a vehicle for obstruction, report the details of the vehicle to higher police authority.
In many hundreds of cases, other charges have flowed from those charges of obstruction. Vehicles have been found with false number plates and, on investigation, to have false engines. I was asked to say that the famous Gutteridge murder case was discovered only because the police reported a vehicle which had been parked in an incorrect place. Consequent on inquiries, the owner of that vehicle was traced and so it was that the murder charge followed.
I do not want to be like the Minister, and capture the headlines in the Press by that sort of statement, but police work today will go by the board if we introduce a slap-happy system of sticking a ticket on a car and saying "That is the fine. Pay it and you need not go to court." If I park a car for five minutes I may get a ticket. If I park a car for five hours I may get a ticket. There is no discrimination. We shall argue it out in Committee to see that justice is given to the sort of people—and this mainly anti-motorist Bill—which this Bill will hurt very much indeed. We do not want it to go out from the House that we are anti-motorist.
I want to deal with that part of the Bill which gives the new Minister new powers and particularly in the London area. I speak as a Londoner. The Minister gave us some lurid examples and he was backed up by his hon. Friend the Member for Guildford, who gave one or two examples of how there have been delays in London. I do not deny—I concede at once—that there is need for a streamlining of the procedure by which the Metropolitan boroughs of London should consult with the Minister. It is almost indefensible that some schemes have been held up by one or two local 1020 authorities. The Minister, however, might have told us the other side of the picture. They have done, and are still doing, a magnificent job in London. They have tried desperately hard to advance road safety, of the kind that appeals to the hon. Member for Crosby and many of us.
The Minister might have pointed out that one of the reasons for so much frustration in London, as in every other city, is that previous Ministers of Transport and the Treasury have refused to give money to carry out the plans that the local authorities wanted to undertake. It has been said that the pigeonholes at the Ministry are stuffed with plans that have been turned down on ground of finance. To turn round and glibly say, "We have had so much trouble with these local authorities; we must streamline it on the basis that the fault is all on their doorstep", is too much.
We heard from the Minister the oldest story in the world, about the latrine that was in the wrong place, where people would commit suicide if they used it, but that the terrible local authority would not get rid of it. The present Minister and his officials are not the only people who have seen sense on this. Those in London who have the problem of dealing with transport have not been idle all these years.
The hon. Member for Guildford was a member of a committee which submitted a report to the right hon. Gentleman —he has it now in his office and I hope that he has troubled to read it—dealing with London's roads. The committee has done a first-class job. Let me read to the House what Londoners, those responsible for traffic, feel should be done in this great city of ours and put it on record, because this expresses the point of view of those who have made a contribution towards dealing with the problem.
They ask that physical improvements to the whole of London's internal road system should progress with all speed. They realise that increasing demands will be made upon its capacity by the improvement of important routes joining it at the periphery. So that the value of improvements to the outside routes is not lost, they say that particular care should be taken to ensure that their capacity in London is matched by our internal radial and distributive roads.
1021 They make the point that a thorough traffic review of key intersections should be carried out to obtain the maximum improvement in their capacity. Again and again, they have urged that traffic engineering techniques applied in this way can be used to "tune up" London's road system. They have pleaded that London's roads must be kept clear for moving traffic. To this end, comprehensive schemes of parking control in Central London are essential. This must be accompanied by public off-street parking facilities and facilities for loading and unloading off the main thoroughfares. They refer to the conflict between vehicles and pedestrians and show ways in which it can be tackled. These plans, ideas and general views were submitted to the Minister in 1959, and I put them on record now.
London has already declared that to streamline its present machinery it wants a Greater London Board of Traffic, a body of not more than six, and preferably of four, people. This board should be given certain powers and the public relations aspect between the local authorities and the Minister should be maintained. I am asked to say that the intensification and streamlining of the consultative machine could be the answer to the problem of consultation, to which the Minister has referred both today and in the recent debate. It is London's view that this is infinitely preferable to the adoption of a more authoritative line at the Ministry level.
Let me now turn to a statement which supports what I have just said, a statement made by one of the right hon. Gentleman's top civil servants concerning the Minister and his powers, which the right hon. Gentleman has so keenly taken today and which both sides of the House have conceded to him. Both sides have said that this is exactly what this great, lively, little Minister needs.
The chief civil servant whom I am about to quote did not mention the right hon. Gentleman personally, but was giving evidence to the Royal Commission on Local Government in Greater London on Thursday, 14th January. The witnesses before the Royal Commission were the Ministry of Transport's representatives. The Chairman of the Royal Commission asked the civil servants what were their views about the Minister 1022 becoming a traffic authority for London. I hope I do not embarrass the right hon. Gentleman, but this is all in print.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Transport, Mr. L. J- Dunnett, C.B., C.M.G., said:What I want to say here, Mr. Chairman, is that in my view it would be possible, but undesirable, for the Minister to be the traffic authority. In the first place, if you were to put this authority on the Minister, I think we have got to consider how many functions a single Ministry can effectively discharge. The Ministry of Transport, although not now responsible for civil aviation, is responsible for the shipping industry, for shipbuilding and ship-repairing, for internal transport of all kinds, including the railways and road transport, for the highway needs of the country, for road safety and various other things as well. Its main functions are policy and overall planning. To attach to a Ministry of this kind direct responsibility for the management of traffic in a particular area would, I suggest, be undesirable, though, as I have said, it would not be impossible.That was the view of the Minister's top civil servant. Judging by the way that the Minister comes forward today, however, one would almost think that he was unemployed. He has dashed forward now to ask for powers to straighten out the 28 Metropolitan boroughs, both Tory and Labour. There is no party politics in it. I should not mind if he had an original thought, but there is nothing in the Bill which is original. Nothing the right hon. Gentleman has said since last October has been original, although he has said it all with such a lot of "hoo-ha" that one would imagine that he had invented the lot.
We judge the Minister by results. He has been Minister since October. We had a Pink Zone, but we have not got it now. We had the proposal to prohibit U-turns, but this has been withdrawn. The Minister has been saying a lot, but, in this House, where we are able to cut him down to size, we judge him by results. As I say, we have now no Pink Zone and the proposal to abolish U-turns has been withdrawn. They were the only two things he proposed. All we have now is a Bill called the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill.
I understand that it has been decided that we shall sit in Committee on three days a week, because there is great need for speed with the Bill. I ask the Minister to believe that we on this side are sincere and genuine when we say 1023 that we want to help in whatever ways possible to speed the flow of traffic and to improve road safety, but there are so many grave omissions from the Bill that we shall, in Committee, have a great deal more to say.
We are a truly great democracy. We have never, at any rate during the last hundred years or so, had any dictators in this country. What we have done we have done by consultation and good will. At the end of the day, we have had the best from local authorities and from the British people by guiding them along. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) spoke about our recent visit to Germany. The difference between the German an the British peoples is that the Germans blindly accept whatever authority says, whereas the British do not. British people will accept authority only when they see that its laws are fair. They judge people not by what they say, but by what they do. In that sense, we in the House represent people outside. We want to maintain our democracy, but, at the same time, we wish for true overall planning to be applied to our road traffic problems. We wish money to be provided for research and we want plans to be produced which will make a genuine contribution towards the solution of our long-term difficulties.
If the Minister produces those things and comes to the House of Commons to ask for the money and the authority necessary, he will receive our support. In the meantime, he must expect us to offer a great deal of criticism of his Bill, because we shall wish, on behalf of all of those whom we represent, to strengthen it.
§ 10.28 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
My right hon. Friends are grateful to the House for the support which, with the exception of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), it has given to the Bill and for the valuable and constructive suggestions that have been made. Although I greatly admire nearly all the performances of the hon. Member for Bermondsey, I think that his sincerity and enthusiasm on this occasion over-ran his sense of discretion and judgment. What he suggested were 1024 omissions from the Bill were either matters contained in it, as I shall show, or were matters already provided for in our law. His strictures upon my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, greatly though my right hon. Friend enjoyed them, were really not appropriate.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary regards both the ticket system and the traffic warden system as experiments which should not be tried on a full scale in the first place but which should be gradually developed. In answering the various points which have been made about those two proposals, I shall explain the gradual nature of the process.
Doubts have been expressed about the ticket system on the ground that only a court should decide the issue of guilt and only a court should award appropriate punishment. That is a sound general principle; but are we really departing from it in the Bill? The motorist can always decide not to pay the fixed penalty but to go before the court instead. He can make the decision and act on it merely by doing nothing except wait for a summons. But for the benefit of those whom my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) called the purists in this matter, I should remind them, as my right hon. Friend the Minister did, that there are respectable precedents for giving the offender the option of paying a fixed penalty instead of exposing himself to the rigours of the legal process.
My right hon. Friend mentioned three, one of them over 100 years old and still used frequently today, not leading to any injustice and not bringing the law into any disrespect. There is the well-tried procedure under the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1957, which allows motorists and others to plead guilty by post. I suggest that that is a long step towards what we propose in the Bill, especially as some offenders already enclose a cheque for what they expect the fine to be, and sometimes the court accepts the cheque and the matter is finished with in that way.
It is rather interesting to note that in Central London 90 per cent. of the motorists who are charged with parking offences or obstruction are pleading guilty by post. It is hardly surprising that in those circumstances the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) suggested that we should confine 1025 ourselves to these rather simple motoring offences, which are numerous under the present procedure, and he and the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) wanted to know what time would be saved by the ticket system which is not already saved by the Magistrates' Courts Act procedure.
The Magistrates' Courts Act procedure involves a good deal of work which will not be involved in the standard penalty procedure. In the first place, under the Magistrates' Courts Act the police have endless work to do finding the driver. They have first to find the registered owner and then ask him who the driver was, and they sometimes have considerable difficulty chasing up these cases, whereas if a notice is either merely served on the person in charge of the car or put on the windscreen the business of chasing the driver, which involves so much administrative work for the police, could be avoided.
Secondly, the police then have to apply to the court for a summons in every case, and they have to make out for the court a brief written statement of the case, which means more administrative work. The court then issues the summons. Then it has to list the case. The case has to be set down for hearing even if a plea of guilty has meanwhile been sent through the post. So, as the Minister said, we get the courts cluttered up with these cases, and there are quite considerable arrears in some of the London courts.
Then there is the further matter that if one has a case tried in court by summons one has to have the inspector, who is normally prosecuting in these cases, attending, and one has to have the policeman present to give evidence. The Magistrates' Courts Act, in those cases where there has been a plea of guilty by post, saves only the time of the policeman who witnessed the offence, because if there has been a plea of guilty by post he need not attend the court.
The limited range of offences in Clause 1 (1) could, I agree, be extended by Order, but my right hon. Friend has no intention of doing so. However, when we are experimenting it is right that we should leave a certain amount of flexibility and room for development. After all, we must not assume permanent omniscience on the part of any one 1026 Parliament. It may well be that in years to come in some small particular this range of offences could be extended for some purely technical reason and it would be quite absurd to have to bring in a Bill specially to deal with it.
This is much the better way and there will, of course, be a degree of Parliamentary control, which we can discuss in Committee. These offences are nearly all what are called "self-proving"; that is to say, there is no possible doubt that an offence was committed, and that the driver committed it—for example—if his car is left unattended in a place where parking or waiting are forbidden.
An example given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) concerned the driver who might maintain that someone else took the car without his consent and then left it in the place where it was found parked. It is open to the driver, if he receives a ticket, to explain the matter to the police or wait until he is brought to court and explain the matter there.
Certainly no injustice is done, but if the driver concerned knows perfectly well that he is guilty of the offence he will generally welcome the chance to be rid of the matter by paying a fixed penalty, and thereby avoiding trouble and expense. We think that it is much better for all concerned to dispose of these many cases in that simple way than to clutter the court lists with thousands of these cases very year, especially as this involves no departure from our fundamental principle of justice, that he who wishes to should have his case heard by a court of law.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields also asked what was to happen about persistent offenders, those people who are always getting tickets. He wanted to know what records were to be kept. Under Clause 1 of the Bill, as the money has to be paid to the justices' clerk, the justices' clerk will always have a record, but it must not be thought that the court itself will thereby be given judicial notice of the matter. The payment of a fixed penalty is not a conviction and it is not a sentence, and it would not be right for the fact that there has been such a penalty paid in the past on one or two or more occasions to be brought to the notice of the court.
1027 He also asked whether the records will be kept by the police. Of course, it is up to them to decide whether to keep records or not. They are at liberty to do so if they wish. The Commissioner of Police has told the Home Secretary that he has no intention whatever of keeping central records. He wants to get rid of paper work, and has no intention of giving the police additional paper work by keeping records of all these standard penalties.
However, of necessity, the police constable or the traffic warden who serves the notice for the payment of the standard penalty will have to have a note of the circumstances in case, eventually, there is to be a case in court, and to that extent the police will keep a record.
§ Mr. Renton
The right hon. Gentleman knows police procedure very well, and he knows that a policeman has to record everything in his notebook. If he goes to court without having done so he may be in a difficulty.
§ Mr. Benn rose—
§ Mr. Renton
I am hoping to get into top gear, because I have a great deal to answer. If everyone is going to try and cut in I may be impeded in my progress.
The warden or the constable may have noted that a particular car is persistently parked in some place or area, and that the driver is always having to have these notices served on him. In such a case, the warden or constable is quite at liberty to say to the police officer he is working under, "This fellow offends much too often. It is no good serving any more notices on him—let us take him to court." But if that motorist is taken to the court the fact that he has been a persistent offender and has had many notices served on him will not be brought to the notice of the court.
§ Mr. Renton
Not necessarily. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman might 1028 raise that point. But the court will not know. The court will not know whether such a person has come because he is a persistent offender, or because he has refused to pay the fixed penalty although he is not a persistent offender, or because he has merely been brought before the court by way of summons owing to the mere omission to serve him with one of these fixed penalty notices. Those are at least three circumstances, and the imagination of hon. Members may run to other circumstances in which people will be brought before the court without the court having any idea why.
§ Mr. Renton
Intelligence in this case is bound to be tinged with speculation and, that being so, I do not think the point raised by the right hon. Member need be considered very deeply.
I now want to deal with the question of traffic wardens, about which many questions have been asked. This experiment has been welcomed by all hon. Members except the hon. Member for Bermondsey. The main point to bear in mind is that the traffic wardens will be under police control—that is, under the control of the chief officer of the police and not under the police authority, although outside London it will be the decision of the police authority whether traffic wardens should be employed or not.
Secondly, we do not contemplate that there should be two law enforcement authorities. The police will remain responsible for law enforcement, and whatever the traffic wardens do will be done under their supervision. We know that the Commissioner would like to have traffic wardens in London, but no police authority outside London needs to have them if it does not wish to do so. I have been asked whether women may be employed as wardens. Certainly they may be, if either the Commissioner or the police authority—outside London-wishes to have them.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
The hon. and learned Member should be plain about this. The Bill refers to "persons". We do not want police authorities to exercise local 1029 options whether women should be employed. We want a general direction to go out from this House that people should be considered on their merits. It should not be on the recommendation of the chief constable.
§ Mr. Renton
When the word "persons" is used in the English language it refers to both sexes of the human race. The Commissioner intends to start recruiting and training wardens as soon as he can make the necessary arrangements after the Bill becomes law. The authorities outside London may very well wish to see how he gets on in London before they commit themselves.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) asked what would happen to the pensions of retired police officers who enlisted as wardens. The answer is that such people will be able to keep their pensions without abatement if they are recruited as wardens, and they may eventually get wardens' pensions as well, so they will come off very well.
The hon. Member for Hillsborough asked me to specify what duties my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland would lay down for wardens to perform. First, I would point out that wardens will not have power to arrest; they will not have power to demand the name and address of anybody, or have power to stop a moving car. My right hon. Friends intend that from the outset of the system they shall be able to advise and help motorists where to park; to act as parking meter and car park attendants and to carry out the work of school crossing patrols; to deal with parking offences, and to serve notices under Clause 1 if they are acting in an area in which an order under Clause 1 has been made. Finally, they will be able to deal with lighting offences of stationary vehicles, but not of moving vehicles.
§ Mr. Renton
If the hon. Member had listened to more of the debate than he has he would have understood, as was made clear by the Minister of Transport in opening the debate, that in starting this experiment in the employment of wardens it is intended to confine their attention to certain duties in relation to stationary traffic, and I was asked what would happen if a car was on the move with its lights off. As is contemplated at the moment, the traffic warden would not be able to do what a policeman can do, step out into the road and stop the car.
§ Mr. Renton
No, I really must make progress.
I should point out, for the sake of clarity, that wardens may be employed in an area where the ticket system does not operate and, conversely, the ticket system may operate in areas where there are no traffic wardens. In other words, they can operate the system only where it has been extended to an area under Clause 1, and my right hon. Friend has authorised wardens generally to operate the system by an Order under Clause 2 and where the Commissioner of Police or a chief constable, as the case may be, has decided that wardens shall be used for that purpose in that area.
It is important to stress, as has been expressed as a hope by several hon. Members during the debate, that the traffic wardens will be able to help motorists. They will undoubtedly be able to help the police and we believe that the work of the traffic wardens will help to overcome our traffic problems. The Home Secretary has given a great deal of attention to this matter in recent months and he is confident that this experiment is worth supporting. He will give it all the encouragement he can.
I turn to those Clauses of the Bill for which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport is responsible. In doing so I hope I may be allowed to endorse the tributes paid to him in this debate for his energy and intention to get things done. The situation he has to face is worsening fast. In trying to meet it he has found that the present law contains many gaps and obstacles and he is 1031 dependent on far too many other people —people who do not have to share his responsibility to the public and therefore have not quite his sense of urgency. It is therefore not surprising that some of the Clauses increase his power to guide and to enable him to override these other people.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) said, in a most interesting speech which the whole House greatly enjoyed, the period of five years for which the Minister is asking is certainly none too long. The other people mainly concerned to whom I was referring are the local highway authorities. It was suggested by the right hon. Member for Smethwick that powers were being taken from them by this Bill. Nothing of the kind; indeed, they are being encouraged to use the powers they have already and they are being given yet further powers.
Let us consider the position at the moment. In Clauses 3, 4, 8 and 16, power is given to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to act where local authorities have failed to act or to require them to do things which they have failed to do. However, the Bill helps and encourages those authorities by increasing their powers in various ways. Clauses 3 and 6 and the Schedule simplify their procedure for applying for designation orders for parking meter places. Under Clause 5 (7), the Minister may delegate to authorities outside London power to make designation orders.
Under Clauses 7 and 10 local authorities will be able to have controlled parking schemes and experiment with parking discs. Under Clauses 10 and 11 their powers to provide car parks are greatly improved. Clause 12 gives a new power to make a charge when cars are removed from streets or car parks. At present, that can be done only when they are removed from parking meter sites. We shall no doubt consider in Committee what the charge should be and whether what is proposed is enough.
Under Clause 13, local authorities will have power to dispose of abandoned vehicles. Here I would particularly invite the attention of the hon. Member for Bermondsey, who seems to have lost interest in the debate entirely, or perhaps only in my speech.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Gentleman complained, quite wrongly and unfairly, that certain road improvements in the London area were being held up by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport because of lack of finance. My right hon. Friend has not had power under the present law to make grants to local authorities for minor improvements, but under Clause 14 they will get that money. They will get it when it is part of a traffic scheme agreed between the Minister and the local authority and approved by him.
There was one matter on which I strongly agree with the hon. Member for Bermondsey. That was the very felicitous way in which he congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Bossom). We all remember with affection the many years' service which his father gave to the House. In congratulating my hon. Friend I express the hope that he will be with us even longer than his father was, which I believe was thirty-eight years, and that we shall hear from him at least as many very interesting speeches as we heard from his father.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) pointed out that the Minister of Transport will have power to establish parking meter schemes himself. The hon. Gentleman asked whether, like local authorities, my right hon. Friend will be obliged to use the surplus net profits from them for creating new off-street parking facilities. The answer is that my right hon. Friend will not be obliged to use the money in that way, but I understand from him that in fact he intends to do so.
Several hon. Gentlemen urged my right hon. Friend to take even more stringent measures than the law at present contains to prevent accidents on the roads. It was suggested, in particular, that drunken drivers should be dealt with. My right hon. Friend has asked me to say that he is very conscious of this matter, but that he has no intention of proceeding on what he calls "a hunch". He intends to proceed only on scientific evidence, which is now being collected by the Road Research Laboratory which is investigating the 166 fatal accidents which took 1033 place alter Christmas, and is making a very careful survey of the factors which prevailed.
When my right hon. Friend has that evidence he will study the results of the survey with great interest and consult his colleagues in the light of them.
The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Smethwick and other hon. Gentlemen asked what was to be done about introducing compulsory vehicle testing. There have been a number of technical difficulties, but they have now been overcome and my right hon. Friend hopes to introduce a successful scheme in a few weeks' time, and he hopes it will come into operation in the autumn.
In conclusion, I would say that, like most hon. Members, I am a keen motorist 1034 and I have often wondered which is the greater evil, being unable to get to one's destination because the traffic will not move, or being unable to leave one's car anywhere when one gets to one's destination. I think that of these two great evils, the first is greater than the last. But the aim of the Bill is to avoid both of them, to get the traffic moving and eventually to create more parking space. These things cannot be done without the Bill, and we believe that the Bill will achieve this purpose.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).