HC Deb 14 December 1960 vol 632 cc410-1

3.31 p.m.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law relating to the duty of trolley vehicles to stop and furnish particulars in case of accident; and for purposes connected therewith. My proposed Bill is very short and has a very simple objective. It seeks to provide that the obligation to report accidents to the police shall be the same in respect of trolleybus drivers as it is in respect of the drivers of motor vehicles. The regulations governing the reporting of accidents to the police may not be perfect, but there is no reason why trolleybus drivers should not be governed by the same regulations as the drivers of motor vehicles.

In Newcastle recently, a trolleybus driver knocked down an old lady. It may not have been the trolleybus driver's fault—he quite correctly reported the accident to the depot—but the old lady went home and nothing more was heard of her until a few days later, when the police were called and she was found dead in her house. When the inquest was held the Newcastle coroner announced that he had looked up the law and had found that trolleybus drivers were exempt from reporting accidents to the police, under the terms of a very old Act, passed in 1871. The police supported the coroner's view and the chairman of the Transport Committee of the Newcastle Corporation also referred to the difficulties under which it operated its service owing to this differentiation in the law.

The people of Newcastle felt very sad and worried that this old lady had died in such sad circumstances. An investigation was immediately made into the legal position, and it transpired that the duties of trolleybus drivers were governed by the Act to which I have referred, which provides that in the case of an accident a report lies to the President of the Board of Trade, who, in turn, has to report to the railway inspectorate, after which an inquiry into the accident can be ordered.

Somehow or other this old law had been gathered up by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, and the fact that trolleybus drivers are under no obligation to take the action which drivers of motor vehicles have to take can have unfortunate consequences, as in the case of the old lady to whom I have referred. To the people on the North-East Coast it seemed right that trolleybus drivers should be under the same obligation as the drivers of motor vehicles.

In the case of motor vehicles, insurance companies are concerned, but it has been pointed out to me very strongly by the legal profession in the North of England that if, subsequent to a trolley-bus driver reporting the circumstances of an accident to his depot, legal action is taken, no evidence is available. When a trolleybus driver reports an accident it is quite possible that he will merely state his own point of view, and no examination or investigation is carried out into the circumstances of the accident.

Section 259 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, explicitly provides that trolleybus drivers are exempt from certain portions of the Act, and the people of Newcastle feel strongly that they ought not to be. That is why I am asking permission to introduce this Bill. It may be that I shall not have to proceed to any further stages with the Bill if I am given permission to introduce it. If I understand the position correctly, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport will be introducing a new Road Safety Bill next year, in which it may be possible for him to insert a provision putting trolleybus drivers in the same position as the drivers of other motor vehicles.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Dame Irene Ward, Mr. Elliott, Mr. McKay, Mr. Montgomery, Mr. Popplewell, and Mr. Short.