HC Deb 18 July 1960 vol 627 cc173-204

10.16 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That the Hyde Park (First Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made.

Mr. Speaker

I wish for some assistance. I do not know whether the Minister and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) can help me on this, but it appears to me that it might be for the convenience of the House also to discuss the following Motions which deal with Regulations relating to park speed limits: That the Regent's Park (First Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made. That the Richmond Park (Second Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made. That the Greenwich Park (First Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made. That the Holyrood Park (First Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made. That the Hampton Court Gardens (Second Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was, laid before this House on 25th May, be not made. That the Bushy Park (Second Amendment) Regulations, 1960, a draft of which was laid before this House on 25th May, be not made.

Mr. Page

It would certainly be convenient to discuss them together, if my right hon. Friend agrees.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some hon. Members wish to support some of these Regulations and some of us wish to oppose others.

Mr. Speaker

I am not proposing that they should not be severally raised as separate questions, but I think that they might be conveniently discussed together—that is, if time permits. If there is any doubt, we must take them separately.

The Minister of Works (Lord John Hope)

Would your suggestion, Mr. Speaker, be that they be voted on separately at the end of the discussion?

Mr. Speaker

If time permits.

Mr. Mellish

Is it proposed, Mr. Speaker, that we should have a general debate on all these Regulations and that the Minister would then get up and say what he thinks about them collectively instead of having a debate on each individual set of Regulations? I am, for example, particularly interested in Greenwich Park, which is local to me. I want a special explanation from the Minister on those Regulations, if I can get it. I therefore hope that in the light of my comments a separate debate may be allowed.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member. I cast an ill-directed fly. I think the answer is that the Regulations must be dealt with separately.

Mr. Page

I am afraid that I do not understand whether we are dealing with them separately or not.

Mr. Speaker


Lord John Hope

From the House's point of view we should get this right. I understand that there will be a series of speeches on each set of Regulations by each hon. Member who catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. My difficulty is one of time if there is to be a complete debate on each set of Regulations, because the forty days in which they have to lie are up tomorrow or the next day. If any of these Regulations were not debated and voted on by 11.30 p.m., it would mean that the period of forty days would be up.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the Minister for raising the point. The difficulty is not his; it is the other way round. I am afraid that I cannot help the House. If hon. Members are not content to discuss the Regulations together, I must proceed strictly by the rule, which is that they should be dealt with one at a time.

Mr. Page

I am sure that, on reconsideration, the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) woud see that it would be to the greatest inconvenience of the House to take the seven draft Regulations separately, as the arguments on them are very much the same. I submit respectfully that it would be a waste of time of the House. I ask you to reconsider, Mr. Speaker, whether they can all be discussed together.

Mr. Speaker

I cannot judge this. If hon. Members desire to discuss each of these Prayers separately, that settles it from my point of view. That is their right, and I cannot help the House further. I merely suggested tentatively that they could be discussed together.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

if the Minister were good enough to indicate that in his speech he would deal with the separate merits of each set of Regulations—but in one speech—surely that would meet the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). Surely if that promise were given, my hon. Friend would be willing for the Regulations to be discussed together.

Lord John Hope

I will certainly do my best to answer questions asked about each and all of these Regulations during the debate.

Mr. Speaker

I am not putting any pressure on him, but I do not know whether the hon. Member for Bermondsey can help the House in this matter.

Mr. Mellish

The trouble is that knowing the Government as well as I do, I have not a trusting faith in them. Some of my hon. Friends are particularly concerned about one set of Regulations and I feel strongly about another. I did not want this brushed aside as one overall debate, and I want it to be clear that these points will be discussed. I gather from what the Minister said that if we have not debated these Regulations by 11.30 p.m. they become law. The last thing I want is to prevent a free debate. Provided that I have an assurance from the Minister that he will answer questions about each set of Regulations, I am willing to co-operate with the House.

Lord John Hope

I will do my best.

Mr. Speaker

I know that the House will take the time factor into account. I cannot help about that. I imagine that it is probably safer for the Minister and the hon. Member for Bermondsey to be allowed a general discussion, and then we will do the best we possibly can in the circumstances.

Mr. Page

I take it that I have, therefore, moved the first Motion and that we shall discuss them all together.

Mr. Speaker

That is so.

Mr. Page

I am obliged.

It is necessary for my right hon. Friend to lay a draft of these Regulations before they can be made. If my Motion is approved these Regulations cannot be made. The purpose of the Regulations is to increase the speed limit in several Royal Parks from the present 20 m.p.h. to 30 m.p.h. and the parks affected are indicated in the titles of the draft Regulations. As far as I can ascertain, these draft Regulations have been brought to the House by my right hon. Friend without any prior consultation with the local authorities adjoining the parks or with the road safety societies and the amenity societies who might well be concerned, and indeed in the face of opposition from many such societies.

My right hon. Friend received a letter, dated today, from the National Council of Women deploring the proposed increase in the speed limit in the Royal Parks and setting out a reasoned argument why it should not be made. He also knows of other women's organisations who have protested publicly against these Regulations, including a County Federation of the Townswomen's Guild, the Women's Co-operative Guild and others. I understand that Greenwich Borough Council has protested publicly about the Regulations affecting Greenwich Park and that such societies as the London Society and the Richmond Society have made their opposition known. As my right hon. Friend may imagine, the Ramblers' Association oppose them, as do the Cyclists' Touring Club and, need I add, the Pedestrians Association for Road Safety. Even more important, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has informed my right hon. Friend that it opposes these Regulations, and I will come back to that opposition in a moment, if I may.

Of his own volition—as he is perfectly entitled to do—the Minister has decided to lay these draft Regulations before the House for three reasons. The first reason, which is so often advanced when road safety measures prove inconvenient to the motorist, is that the present limit is ignored and, therefore, the law is brought into disrepute. This is an expression of a dangerous doctrine, that if a law is broken frequently enough, this House is obliged to repeal it. It is a reason to which I might subscribe were it shown that the law in question served no useful purpose. But I hope to show the House that this 20 m.p.h. limit in the Royal Parks does serve a useful purpose. Furthermore, I think it untrue to say that it is not generally observed in all the parks. It may well be that it is not observed on the East Carriageway of Hyde Park or the outer roads in Regent's Park. But in the other parks mentioned in these draft Regulations it is generally well observed, particularly on the inner roads.

The second argument in favour of increasing the speed limit is a corollary to the first, that if we increase the speed limit it will be observed. What guarantee have we of that? Hon. Members have only to walk a few yards from the Palace of Westminster into Birdcage Walk, where the limit was increased from 20 to 30 m.p.h., to see the speed of the traffic there when it is not slowed down by congestion. Is that the sort of speed which the inhabitants of Richmond or Greenwich want in their parks? It is quite untrue to say that the speed of 20 m.p.h. is generally ignored in all the Royal Parks.

The third argument for increasing the speed limit is, to use the Minister's own words, that "a 20 m.p.h. limit is not in conformity with the movement of motor traffic nowadays and that it is unreasonable to expect drivers to keep down to that speed". I would remind my right hon. Friend that in 1952 his predecessor said, referring to one of the parks: "There are no legal rights of way in Richmond Park, except for pedestrians."

It is true that perhaps over the years the speed of motor traffic has changed and quickened. But although the speed of some people who travel on foot—such as those who beat the four-minute mile—may have increased, the speed of the normal pedestrian has not altered and the pedestrians deserve just as much consideration in this instance as do the motorists. The interests of the pedestrians, their convenience, their amenities and their safety deserve the consideration accorded to them by the 20 m.p.h. speed limit where it is in force.

These roadways through the Royal Parks are carriage drives, they are not public highways. One might indulge in a nostalgic smile when recollecting that they were first constructed for the leisurely enjoyment of the parks by those who drove through them in horse-drawn carriages. That picture may, perhaps, help to remind my right hon. Friend that when he talks about the movement of motor traffic in these parks, he is changing the whole character of these carriage drives. They are not traffic ways, and I should have thought it his duty to protect them from becoming such and to preserve them for the leisurely enjoyment of the parks.

I exclude, of course, the East Carriageway of Hyde Park. That has been lost to the park for a long time, but there is no need for these Regulations in relation to that roadway. The East Carriageway of Hyde Park is very soon to become part of a public highway, so these Regulations are of no purpose there. If my right hon. Friend thinks that he should have the Regulations for the East Carriageway for a short period until it becomes a public highway, why drag in all the other Royal Parks—Richmond Park, Bushey Park, Greenwich Park, Hampton Court Gardens and the rest?

How can such a course increase the safety of the children and the old people who use these parks, many of which have unfenced roads? Indeed, how will it increase the safety of the deer and the sheep which, to the pleasure and delight of many people, roam on these unfenced fields and roads of the parks?

I would remind my hon. Friend that the Highway Code says that in the best conditions of car, driver and road surface, an increase of speed from 20 miles an hour to 30 miles an hour increases the stopping distance from 40 yards to nearly double that—75 yards. Apart from the danger inherent in the reduction in the time for taking avoiding action, there is another very important consideration.

If one applies exactly the same speed limit to the carriageways in the parks as is applied to the roads in towns one loses the distinctive character of those carriageways. At present, if a motorist drives through the parks at over 20 miles per hour he does so with a certain extra alertness born, perhaps, of guilty knowledge. He realises there is—

Lord John Hope

I think that my hon. Friend, by a slip of the tongue, spoke of the stopping distance at the increased speed rising from 40 yards to 75 yards. I think he meant feet—from 40 feet to 75 feet.

Mr. Page

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for that correction. What I said about the distance being nearly doubled is quite correct—but I am greatly obliged for the correction.

I was saying that if the speed limit of 20 miles an hour is broken by a motorist in the parks, he still realises that he is doing so on a road that is of a distinctive character—is something different from a road in the ordinary built-up area—and he does so with some greater precaution.

I say again that these are not public highways, and the motorist should not be invited, by the levelling out of the speed limit, to use the parks as short cuts or convenient traffic routes. The roads there are just as much footpaths as roadways. I would invite any hon. Member to try to walk across Richmnd Park in the wet weather. He will, of course, use the roadway as a footpath.

I would invite him even to try to push a pram across Richmond Park. Let him try to push a pram across the grass—he has to use the roadway.

So it is with all the parents who take their infant children in prams in that way—they have to use the roadway, and it is at present treated as a footpath as well as a roadway—

Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)

I think that my hon. Friend is inadvertently misleading the House in this, because in Richmond Park there are a number of roads that are not open to motorists at all.

Mr. Page

There are also the number of roads affected by these Regulations that are open to motorists and have no pavements on which the pedestrian can walk. There is, in fact, a ditch beside them, so that it is quite impossible for the parent with a pram get on the grass and off the road. I use Richmond Park as an example, but the same thing applies to a number of the other Royal Parks.

Because these roadways are not public highways, the pedestrian crossing Regulations do not apply there. There can be no such thing in law as a pedestrian crossing in a Royal Park, and in this connection I come back to what I mentioned a little earlier—the objection by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to this increase in the speed limit.

I take the liberty of quoting from a letter which the Society has written to my right hon. Friend and of which, as you, Mr. Speaker, say on occasions, for greater accuracy I have obtained a copy. I wish to quote it in full if the House will bear with me. It states: My Society understands that Mr. Graham Page is due to raise objections to the draft regulations now before Parliament under which it is proposed to raise the speed limits in the Royal Parks from 20 to 30 m.p.h. At its meeting this afternoon— that was, on 15th July— the National Executive Committee of my Society approved a recommendation of the National Road Safety Committee laying down my Society's attitude to these regulations in the following terms:

  1. (a) RoSPA considers that, owing to their special circumstances, there is a case for raising the speed limit in Hyde Park and Regent's Park to a strictly enforced 30 m.p.h. but not until adequate provision has been made for pedestrians to be able to cross the roads concerned in safety.
  2. (b) As regards the other Royal Parks, RoSPA is not favourably disposed towards any raising of the speed limit and certainly not without arrangements being made, both for adequate enforcement and for the safe crossing by pedestrians of the roads concerned.
In effect, this means that my Society is against the raising of any of the speed limits in the Royal Parks in advance of adequate provision being made for pedestrians, and, of course, for proper enforcement of the limit. Will my right hon. Friend see that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport applies the pedestrian crossing Regulations to the Royal Parks if these Regulations are passed? If not, why not? Is there any justification, if the speed limit goes up to 30 m.p.h., for continuing to exclude the pedestrian crossing Regulations from the Royal Parks?

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not press the House to accept these draft Regulations tonight. I make this earnest plea to him. These Regulations are laid in draft. The whole purpose of this procedure is that the draft should lie on the Table of the House so that the Minister may obtain consideration of it by the House and the feeling of the House upon it. If he does not press these draft Regulations tonight, it will not be like withdrawing regulations which have been made. It will not be a reversal of Government policy. I ask my right hon. Friend to take back these draft Regulations without letting the House divide on them. Some hon. Members may consider that in the Regulations my right hon. Friend has a good idea, but nobody would suggest that the Regulations are necessary and many seriously oppose them.

We have been going along nicely without these Regulations. Why upset so many people by proposing them? Why, in heaven's name, create more dangers on the road now when my right hon. Friend's colleagues are trying so desperately hard to reduce those dangers?

10.39 p.m.

Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)

One of the intriguing things about this debate is that the feeling on either side of the House is equally strong. Even more important is that the feeling in most of the districts to which the Regulations apply is strong among people of all shades of political opinion. Obviously, there is a reason for this.

There has been a great deal of talk about the terrible toll which is taken on our roads year in, year out. We have had debates about the numbers of people who are killed and the numbers of children who are killed. One of the strongest points which influences most people is the conviction that if these Regulations come into force, they will inevitably involve, at some time, an accident to a child or adult which would not: otherwise take place.

Why the Minister is suddenly seized with this spurt of reforming zeal, why he departs from his normal placidness in this way without any encouragement from anyone, is difficult to understand.

I am opposed to all these Regulations. Perhaps I should say with the exception of the Scottish one, for I have not permission to speak on that; but I am really opposed to them all on principle because they are all equally pointless.

I speak about the Greenwich Park not only because I represent the constituency but because I have lived in the area and used the park as a child and my child plays in it now. The park is probably one of the largest in South-East London. It is very attractive. From the General Wolfe statue there is a unique view of the Queen's House and the Royal Naval College, built by Wren, backed by London's dockland. It is a fascinating and attractive place. Children come from all over south-east London to play there. In London in general there is not an abundance of places where children can play in safety. There are not many places where people can go for pleasant walks. The Royal Parks are among the few places where such people can go and where parents can send their children during the school holidays secure in the knowledge, so far, that they are safer there than probably anywhere else. The people in the London area who have gardens usually have very small ones.

Another factor about the park is its position. At the top is the A2, the main London—Dover road. At the bottom of it and running parallel with it is the Woolwich road which connects with Blackwall Tunnel. To encourage motorists to take a short cut from the London—Dover road through to the Blackwall Tunnel is an example of inefficiency seldom seen even on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—with no real purpose behind it.

It has been said that the present law is not observed. I suppose that is something which can be established as a matter of fact or not, but surely it is the duty of legislators to decide legislation upon its merits and, if it is not observed, to turn their attention to enforcing it and not to changing the law. It is a very peculiar doctrine which says that if murder continues to be committed, murder then becomes a legal activity. This seems to me to be the same sort of peculiar argument.

It is said in some quarters that it is difficult to maintain a speed of 20 m.p.h. While I feel a great deal of sympathy with pedestrians, I am a driver. I drive a fairly powerful 2½ litre six-cylinder car, but I find no difficulty in keeping to 20 m.p.h. through Greenwich Park, and I see no reason why anybody else should not drive at a reasonable speed.

There is another factor emerging from this. If the Minister is right in feeling that the speed limit of 20 m.p.h. is not observed, I think it automatically follows that a speed limit of 30 m.p.h. will not be observed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may shake their heads, but if they really believe that the 30 m.p.h. speed limit outside the Royal Parks is observed they are living in cloud-cuckoo-land. Very few hon. Members on either side of the House—I include myself—can say that they have never drifted away from the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in a 30 m.p.h. limit area.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)


Mr. Marsh

I agree that it is a shame. But there are some areas in which the speed limits enforced are lower than the average, and if we can keep a few such areas as oases in the huge areas of exhaust fumes and interminable traffic jams into which London is developing, surely that is a justifiable aim for any person.

These parks may be controlled by the Minister—they may be Government parks or Royal Parks—but they belong very much to the people of those areas. We are the people who use them, and it is our children who play in them.

If democracy means anything, on an issue of this type, which does not affect Whitehall half as much as it does Greenwich, there should have been some consultation with local authorities. Local newspapers came out strongly against the change, and every organisation which could conceivably be involved in the move has opposed the right hon. Gentleman's intentions. There seems to be no virtue or merit in the proposal.

As the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said, if the practice of laying draft Regulations before the House means anything, and if, as seems likely, the opinion of the hon. Members is overwhelmingly against the draft Regulations, and as there is no support from local people, the right hon. Gentleman should have second thoughts, change his mind and allow the present Regulations to remain unchanged.

There are very few places left where the pedestrian reigns supreme, and very few places where children can play all day long on a wide expanse of land, where they can play cowboys and do all the other amusing things that children do in safety. If those places are taken from them, we shall have children playing on the sides of roads where the speed limit is 30 m.p.h. and where there is no safety.

We cannot rely on children to remember to be careful when crossing these roads when there are many acres of attractions on one side, as there are in Greenwich, with flower gardens on the other. As they always do, children will run backwards and forwards, sublimely oblivious of the traffic up and down the roads.

There are plenty of roads in the area which can be used by a motorist in a hurry. The main reason why motorists do not now use Greenwich Park as an attractive short cut from A 2 to the Blackwall Tunnel is that there is a 20 m.p.h. speed limit. If that limit is removed, the road through Greenwich Park will become a main road joining two main roads and the average speed through the park will be 35 m.p.h. or 37 m.p.h. Even if it is not and the motorist strictly observes the 30 m.p.h. limit, an increase of the limit from 20 to 30 m.p.h. doubles the chances against the pedestrian and there is no reason why the change should be made at this stage without any support from local people.

We are now approaching the school holidays. I speak strongly about this subject because, as I have said, I played in this park when I was a child and my own child plays there now and I know what it is like. There are few other places where the children can go. If the Minister can produce evidence of a demand for these draft Regulations, he might be able to convince hon. Members on both sides of the House that they should support him, but if he cannot do so, then he has no right to fly in the face of local opinion.

10.49 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)

I wish to speak on the draft Regulations relating to my constituency and to oppose my right hon. Friend's proposals concerning Richmond Park, although for reasons quite different from those given by hon. Members who have already spoken in this debate.

I know that my right hon. Friend is a lover of Richmond Park and travels through it regularly and has the park's interests very much at heart. Richmond Park itself has had a connection with the House of Commons for many centuries. Sir Robert Walpole used to keep a pack of beagles in the park and, from that time, because he wanted to hunt at weekends, the House of Commons has always been closed on Saturday mornings.

King George II was not a very good shot, but he enjoyed his sport. He filled Richmond Park with wild turkeys and brought in a pack of dogs to chase them up trees. He then shot the turkeys while they were sitting on the branches. This park is a great heritage. It is used not only by local people but by the great mass of Londoners.

I think I can produce exceptional reasons why Richmond Park should be excluded from these Regulations. To begin with, it is the largest park near London. It consists of 2,358 acres of enclosed land. It is larger than Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Greenwich Park, Holy-rood Park and Hampton Court Gardens added together—all of which are dealt with in these Regulations. Indeed, for the record, it is larger than Greenwich Park, Battersea Park, Finsbury Park, West Ham Park, Victoria Park, Southwark Park, Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Green Park and St. James's Park added together. It is the largest park near Central London. It is only 6 miles from Hyde Park Corner.

It is a noble inheritance and is crossed by what are virtually country lanes. It is a rural area to which Londoners can go at weekends and to which the residents of Richmond. Twickenham, Wimbledon and Kingston can go in the afternoon or evening.

If the speed limit on these park roads is increased from 20 to 30 m.p.h., it will bring them into line with the public highways, and I am opposing these Regulations on this one issue alone.

Mr. Marsh

Does the hon. Gentleman's argument mean that he is not in favour of the Regulations in respect of Richmond Park but that he supports the other Regulations?

Mr. Royle

That is not my argument. In fact, I do not oppose the other Regulations. I am opposing only the Richmond Park Regulations.

If the speed limit were increased from 20 to 30 m.p.h., it would bring the roads in Richmond Park, which are very narrow, into line with the public highway. Unlike the other parks—and I will not deal with the park mentioned by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) because it is not in my constituency—Richmond Park roads do not have the surface or the width, or the road signs, which one finds in Regent's Park, Hyde Park, St. James's Park and many other parks, all of which are necessary for safety on a public highway. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said, Regent's Park and Hyde Park have wide tarmacadam roads with pavements, and "Keep Left" signs, and these roads can take heavy traffic quite safely. If cars are to travel at 30 m.p.h. along the narrow roads in Richmond Park, pressure must be put on the Minister of Works—indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby started to bring that pressure to bear in his speech tonight—to maintain the roads in the park on the same basis as one maintains the roads on the public highway. The corners would have to be widened, the surfaces improved; there would have to be more "Keep Left" signs and white lines down the middle of the road; there would have to be pedestrian crossings—

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

And more policemen.

Mr. Royle

And more policemen, as my hon. Friend says, as well as traffic lights and all the rest of the paraphernalia which is necessary for safety on the public highway.

This would completely and utterly ruin Richmond Park. It would become like Wimbledon Common or Putney Common, with cars speeding along the roads. Overnight, one would lose the character of this great rural park so near the centre of London.

I ask the Minister how he will be able to resist this pressure. I know that he wishes to avoid spoiling this park. What about his successor? How will he avoid the pressure which will be put upon him to bring these roads up to the same level of maintenance as the public highway? I ask him to exclude Richmond Park from these Regulations as being a quite different case from the other parks. If he will not do that, I ask him to delay the operation of these Regulations in order to see how effective the new enforcement orders which he put to work last week in the park are proving. I noticed that during the last week, when Land Rovers with "Park Patrol" marked on them and motor- cycle police have operated in the park, traffic suddenly began to go steadily at 20 m.p.h. Will not my right hon. Friend consider delaying the operation of these Regulations until he sees how the new enforcement arrangements work out?

If neither idea appeals to him, rather than submit to pressure to bring the roads in Richmond Park up to the same level of maintenance and to put up the same road signs as appear on the public highway, will he assure the House that he or his successor will reintroduce the former speed limit of 20 m.p.h.? I recognise the urgency of speeding the traffic flow, and I realise that my right hon. Friend has a deep concern for safe- guarding the amenities of Richmond Park, but I say that our open spaces have been encroached on sufficiently already. Therefore, I beg him not to bring these Regulations into force.

10.56 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I wish again to say a word about the intention to increase the speed limit in Holyrood Park. I have already made my case at considerable length in a previous debate, and I shall now confine myself to one or two matters Which have come up since then. First, since the last debate a census of opinion within the park and around it has been taken. About 7,000 householders and motorists have been stopped and asked what they feel about this. The census was taken by very responsible persons—councillors in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Oswald) and magistrates—and its result is exceedingly interesting.

Out of the 7,000 people questioned, only 7.5 per cent. were in favour of this increase from 20 to 30 m.p.h. In the case of the motorists—the people on whose behalf the right hon. Gentleman is supposed to be acting—only 25 per cent. wished to see an increase in the speed limit. In view of the very wide spread opposition on the part of residents and those whose children will be exposed to greater danger as a result of this change, can the right hon. Gentleman say that he is acting correctly in persisting in his proposal?

I ask him to consider the excuse which he put forward on the last occasion we debated this matter. He said: All I am doing is to tidy up an untidy situation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1960; Vol. 625, c. 1349.] This is not a built-up area. Why not remove the limit altogether? Then the situation would be still tidier. That argument is absurd.

Further, he said that the Edinburgh Accident Prevention Council had supported him in this proposal. I hope that he will apologise for having misled the House and myself—because that council has come out against the proposal. Therefore, the only support adduced in the last debate has disappeared. Not a soul in Edinburgh has asked for this. I know of no organisation, either amongst the public or from the town council, which has endorsed this action by the Minister.

I said that I would be brief. Other hon. Members want to speak. In view of the almost complete lack of support in Edinburgh for this change, I ask the Minister to reconsider this. I appeal to him to show that he is big enough to accept the democratic wishes of the citizens of Edinburgh. It is worth while doing that. Why should we have something imposed on us because somebody in Whitehall or elsewhere thinks that it is a good thing to tidy this up? It is better, fairer and more in accordance with the traditions of this House and of the country to accept the very well expressed opinions of the citizens of Edinburgh and leave this matter alone until there is at least a demand for it.

11.1 p.m.

Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) that there is undoubtedly opposition to this proposal in the City of Edinburgh. I admitted that in the last debate. What is doubtful is how much opposition there is.

Mr. Willis

Seventy-five per cent.

Mr. Stodart

I agree with the figures which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East has given. The figures are spectacular. In view of the substantial opposition to this proposition, I am surprised that I have had not one letter from a constituent in support of this move. That may not be unreasonable, because I admit that my constituency in Edinburgh is probably the furthest from the Park. But if feeling is running as high as the hon. Gentleman made out, it is surely likely that there would have been at least some correspondence in the Edinburgh newspapers.

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

I happen to be one of the hon. Gentleman's constituents and, though I did not write to him, may I now register my objection?

Mr. Thomas Oswald (Edinburgh, Central)

I add mine also.

Mr. Douglas Johnston (Paisley)

May I register mine too?

Mr. Stodart

It is already obvious that the hon. Gentlemen are incapable of putting their protests on paper. The fact remains that since this controversy began six weeks ago there have been only three letters in the Edinburgh newspapers.

Mr. Willis

All against.

Mr. Stodart

Yes, I agree that they were all against, but it does not show signs of tremendous agitation.

The objections to the proposal are twofold. One letter in the Edinburgh Press sums up the objection in this way: It is an undisputed fact that at present many motorists avoid the Park as a through road if at all possible, simply because of the restricted speed limit". I am not sure that that is an undisputed fact. I find it very hard to believe that anyone motoring either from Duddingston to Newington or from Jock's Lodge to Newington deliberately avoids the Park, When it is obviously the shortest way between those points, merely because there is a speed limit in the Park. The second objection is that, if the Regulations go through, the speed will rise from 20 miles an hour plus to 30 miles an hour plus.

At the meeting of protest against the Regulations, to which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East referred, one magistrate said, or is reported to have said: Holyrood Park will become a testing ground for cars—practically another Le Mans race track—if the speed limit is raised above the present 20 miles per hour. That is colourful language, if somewhat extravagant. I prefer the language of the Secretary of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council. It has been said by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East that the Edinburgh Accident Prevention Council is against the proposal by ten to nine—

Mr. Willis

After the chairman had already committed himself to approval to someone in the Department of the right hon. Gentleman. Then the Council rejected its chairman's view.

Mr. Stodart

The fact remains that the secretary of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council is reported to have said that his Council supported the proposal because it was realistic. I put to the House the opinion as expressed in one of the leading Edinburgh newspapers on 22nd June: There is no reason why the raising of the speed limit in Holyrood Park should not be given a thorough trial. The 20 m.p.h. limit is quite unrealistic these days. In any case, it is largely ignored. Provided the new ruling is strictly enforced, there is no cause to believe that it will bring any greater danger. But strict enforcement is the hub of the matter.

Mr. Marsh

Will the hon. Member explain why it is easier to enforce a 30 miles an hour speed limit than a 20 miles an hour limit?

Mr. Stodart

What I do not understand is why it is taken for granted that on roads which are narrow and twisting it automatically follows that people will drive at 40 miles an hour.

Mr. Willis

That does not answer the question.

11.7 p.m.

Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)

In face of the strength of opinion that has been expressed on both sides of the House, I suggest to the Minister in all seriousness that these Regulations ought not to be rushed through tonight.

I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw them because, clearly, this is not a party matter. It cuts across the ordinary party barriers. I also appeal to him to withdraw all the Regulations because, although hon. Members have dealt with different local aspects, it has clearly emerged from this unhappily brief debate that general principles underly all the arguments and they affect all the areas concerned. The main principle underlying them is that what we are discussing tonight is not a transport question but a parks question. What we ought to be considering is the needs of our parks and not a mere sideline of the general urban traffic problem.

If the Government or the right hon. Gentleman want more lanes for urban traffic, let them have the courage to say so and then let us fight out where they should be. Surely it is quite wrong to errode the peace and safety of our parks as a sideline of any Minister's abortive attempts to solve the urban traffic problem. There have been suggestions, particularly by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), that somehow when there is a 30 miles an hour speed limit it will be more enforceable, as though there was something natural and instinctive about a 30 miles an hour limit. I point out to the Minister that in certain built-up areas the 30 miles an hour limit is already being relaxed to 40 miles an hour.

If we give way on this in our parks, where there are some of the most clear and tempting run throughs for traffic, we shall be opening the gateway to further serious danger to safety in the parks, My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) told me just before the debate began that when he was Minister of Works he had this request put to him and he turned it down because he said categorically that, in his view, parks ought to be parks, with the needs of children and those who look after them, and of the elderly, paramount within them—in other words, the needs of those who want to enjoy peace and quiet. He said that he had never forgotten the days when, as a child, he had to walk all the way from Blackfriars Road to Green Park pushing a perambulater with one hand and dragging a toddler along with the other before they could find a blade of grass where they could play in safety. That was my right hon. Friend's view when he resisted this encroachment.

What has happened since he was Minister of Works? More traffic, more speed and more impatience. Surely there is even more need for the oasis of peace of our parks. In all sincerity I beg the Minister to withdraw the Regulations and to think again.

11.12 p.m.

The Minister of Works (Lord John Hope)

In the debate on this subject initiated by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) on the Adjournment on 28th June, I said, as he reminded the House, that I was engaged in a tidying up operation, and also that in my submission 30 m.p.h. was a very slow speed and a very safe speed and 20 m.p.h. was an unreasonably slow speed. I said that I believed it to be wrong to connive at a statutory obligation which cannot reasonably be carried out.

Hon. Members


Lord John Hope

Because it is unreasonably slow.

Mr. Ross

Come down to Ayr.

Lord John Hope

It is not a question of coming down to Ayr. It is a question of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) coming down to earth.

Mr. Ross

Is the hon. Member aware that for several miles on Ayr promenade the speed limit is 8 m.p.h. and that it is enforced? It is not a question of coming down to earth. Let him come to Ayr.

Lord John Hope

It is not for me to comment on the decisions of other authorities in matters which have nothing to do with me. I am trying to tell the House the premises on which I considered this matter very carefully indeed. Those were my premises the other night and they are the premises which influence me this evening.

That explains why I did not feel it right to consult local authorities or societies interested in this matter. I have been criticised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East and others, but I felt that this was a matter of universally admitted contempt of the law, in terms of the 20 m.p.h. limit, in which I had to bear my own responsibility and to stand up to it. That point has nothing whatever to do with any local authority. It is a decision on which I, as Minister, can make up my mind, and I thought that I alone should make up my mind on that. It is my responsibility and that of nobody else. I am perfectly prepared to stand up to it on that basis.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

I take it that if the limit is raised to 30 m.p.h. and if there, are a number of deaths of young children and old people, the Minister will accept that as his responsibility.

Lord John Hope

Obviously I will accept as my responsibility anything which can be shown to be the result of anything I have done. I hope very much that it would not be in the hon. Lady's mind—and I am sure it would not—to make any sort of capital by implying that the Minister was responsible for something for which, in the event, he would not be sure that he was responsible. It does not in the least follow that if there were—and God forbid that there should be—an accident in the park at some future date, it would be due to this increase in the speed limit. It would depend entirely on what was the cause of the accident. It is a pity, if I may say so, that the hon. Lady, who is not generally unfair in these matters, should have made this intervention now. I will leave it at that.

Miss Herbison

The Minister must realise that the kind of humanity—

Lord John Hope

I cannot give way. During the debate the other night I outlined the history of the 20 miles per hour speed limit. I will not weary hon. Members by repeating it. Most hon. Members must know it as well as I do. It goes back to the beginning of the century and to the days of the horse. There is nothing sacred about it. The simple position is that the decision has gradually been made to increase it so as to conform with the speed outside the parks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] That has been what has happened until this last step was taken in St. James's and Green Parks.

Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)

If the speed limit is raised, will it then be any easier to enforce it than it has been to enforce the 30 m.p.h. limit? I ask that because time and time again in Birdcage Walk, cars have gone past me at 40 or 50 m.p.h.

Lord John Hope

If my hon. Friend will listen to what I have to say, I think he will be satisfied. There is plenty of evidence to show that what he believes is not happening. [Interruption.] No, and I do say to the House that that is perfectly true. What I want hon. Members to realise is that, since the limit was raised to 30 m.p.h. in St. James's Park and Green Park, experience has shown that this has not produced any significant increase in actual speed or in the accident rate.

Mr. Dempsey

What does "significant" mean?

Lord John Hope

"Significant" means any increase which would have shown either of those things.

I should like now to tell the House of an extremely interesting and relevant finding commented upon in the Report by the Departmental Committee on Road Safety on the experimental introduction of the 40 m.p.h. limit in the London area. This Report was commenting on a finding of the relevant Road Research Committee itself, and in paragraph 7 we read, We note that the reports produced by the Road Research Laboratory show that, on those lengths of road which were previously unrestricted, the imposition of the forty miles an hour limit has in general resulted in a decrease in vehicle speeds and there have been fewer accidents. With regard to those lengths which were previously subject to the thirty miles per hour limit, the raising of the limit has resulted in no appreciable change in speeds while the accident rates remain substantially the same. We consider that the higher limit on these carefully selected roads has achieved the purpose of removing an unjustifiably low speed limit and has consequently encouraged a proper standard of enforcement. I have no doubt at all that exactly the same will apply between the 20 and the 30 m.p.h. limit as was the case between the 30 and the 40 m.p.h. limit.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister now advancing an argument for raising the speed limit in the parks to 40 miles an hour?

Lord John Hope

No. I do not think that the hon. Lady has followed what I was saying. If she has, she will see exactly the lesson I am trying to point. I think that her hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will bear me out because, in an extremely interesting speech on 14th July, he said: It is a curious thing"— he was talking about experiments in the United States: but traffic engineers who have made a detailed study of this matter are coming more and more to the conclusion that there is a speed limit which is self-policing. I do not mean by this that the motorist should decide the speed at which he should travel and the Government should fall in by obligingly giving him the speed which he wants, but the evidence suggests that there is a realistic and effective speed limit. It will greatly help the enforcement of our laws if, without prejudice to safety, it is possible to bring the speed laid down by law into line with that realistic level."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1960; Vol. 626, c. 1764–5.]

Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Since the Minister has quoted a speech made about a totally different subject, which was major motorways leading out of our cities, I must point out that that speech did not make any reference whatever to parks. That raises an entirely different issue. I strongly object to a quotation of this kind, which dealt with our major motorways, leading into and out of our cities, being used, quite wrongly, in connection with the problem of our public parks.

Lord John Hope

The House can judge perfectly well that the psychological side of this—and that, of course, is what it very largely comes to—is precisely the same whether the road is inside a park or outside it—

Mr. Page

I do not think that the House can judge that when my right hon. Friend does not report fully that the increase from 30 m.p.h. to 40 m.p.h. resulted in an increase in the percentage of serious and fatal accidents. There was an increase in accident proportions, and where the speed limit was not enforced in Hyde Park there were three deaths last year and 202 accidents.

Lord John Hope

My hon. Friend has got it quite wrong. As he knows, there was not an increase in the rate of accidents.

The question of the Holyrood poll, mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart). This is not a simple question. It is complex. I do not think that any hon. Member on that side of the House, any more than on this, would deny that, and I was not in the least surprised that a snap question asked in the way it was asked should have been answered as it was—"Do you want the speed limit raised in Holyrood or not?" If that kind of poll is to have any value at all, it has to include such a question as: "Do you believe that the law ought to continue to be held in contempt or not?" Because that is what is happening with regard to the 20 m.p.h. speed limit—

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

What about the Accident Prevention Council?

Lord John Hope

That has already been dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West, and I do not want to repeat what he has said. I quoted the remark of the chairman of the Council—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, I did—to the effect that it was a sensible thing that I was doing. That was reported as being the Edinburgh Prevention Council's opinion; it was, in fact, the chairman at that time who said it—

Mr. Willis rose

Lord John Hope

No, I cannot give way. I quoted it as a perfectly bona fide Report, but it was the chairman's statement that was reported. In fact, the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West were perfectly correct, although they were not quoted at the time in the Press. The Council debated this, and voted ten votes against nine with, I imagine, the chairman abstaining. As I said to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East in that debate, I did not claim very much for my case on that opinion of the Accident Prevention Council, and the hon. Member nodded acquiescence of my observation. Neither of us was trying to score points in terms of what either body felt about the matter.

I was about to speak concerning children. I know that this is something that one cannot escape and which must be considered. It has been said to me in certain quarters that what is being done in these parks by raising the speed limit from 20 to 30 m.p.h. is making it dangerous for children who hitherto have played all over the roads. That is what it comes to.

Mr. Willis


Lord John Hope

That is precisely what the point has been. I suggest to the House that it is not doing much of a service to children if they are encouraged—I do not for one moment believe that they have been—

Mr. Marsh

Utter nonsense.

Lord John Hope

—not to take their road discipline seriously in a park simply because the traffic limit is 20 m.p.h. It is extremely dangerous if children have been encouraged to ignore traffic on the roads through the parks, and I do not for one moment believe that they have been so encouraged?

Mr. Mellish

Why raise the limit?

Lord John Hope

As for the increase from 20 to 30 m.p.h., I have shown what the Report has said about one speed being raised to another, and precisely the same psychological result will be the effect of the change from 20 to 30 m.p.h. in the parks. There is no reason whatever why it should not be so.

Mr. Oswald

Will the Minister tell the House what the accident figures have been in the precincts of Holyrood Park over the past three years?

Lord John Hope

I do not have the figures with me, but they are infinitesimal, as the hon. Member knows. I will let him have them later. It is a very good rate indeed.

Mr. Mellish

Why spoil it?

Lord John Hope

There is no question of spoiling it in Holyrood, Greenwich or Richmond Park, or anywhere else. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) felt so strongly about Richmond Park, and I am grateful that the Council decided not to vote against the limit. I know quite well that—

Mr. A. Royle rose

Lord John Hope

I am sorry, I must finish—there is sincere feeling about this and against it in certain parts.

It would not be very courageous not to face now the established and admitted fact that the law is being widely brought

into contempt where the 20 m.p.h. limit prevails. That being said, however, I believe it to be my duty to watch the situation—

Mr. Willis

The right hon. Gentleman has no men.

Lord John Hope

I have got men to do it with. I have park wardens to watch the situation and they can do it. We shall get the co-operation of the police 100 per cent. I regard it as my duty, and the duty of any successor of mine, to watch the situation in the light of this new speed limit. Certainly, if I thought that all previous experience will be completely reversed and that the amenities of the parks will suffer as a result of this speed limit now being the very slow one of 30 m.p.h., I would be prepared, obviously, to face the situation, and so would any Minister in my place. But that, I repeat, is no excuse whatever for not facing an unhealthy situation that ought to be put right when we can do so.

11.29 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)

In the minute that remains, I should like to say this to the Minister. To the best of my knowledge, in the parks which he did not deal with—Greenwich, for example—the records show that not a single accident has taken place there in the last three years. There is at present a speed limit of 20 m.p.h. The Minister says that, for the benefit of motorists, it is necessary to increase it to 30 m.p.h. Frankly, I do not believe that motorists want this speed limit raised. I do not believe that there has been a demand for it. I believe that motorists going through the parks respect the speed limit to a large extent—

It being half-past Eleven o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER put the Question pursuant to Standing Order No. 95A (Statutory Instruments, &c. (procedure)):

The House divided: Ayes 47, Noes 167.

Division No. 140.] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Awbery, Stan Foot, Dingle King, Dr. Horace
Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood (Brist'I, S.E.) Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Lawson, George
Blyton, William Galpern, Sir Myer Loughlin, Charles
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gourlay, Harry Manuel, A. C.
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Greenwood, Anthony Marsh, Richard
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mellish, R. J.
Castle, Mrs. Barbara Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mendelson, J. J.
Cliffe, Michael Herbison, Miss Margaret Millan, Bruce
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Howell, Charles A. Morris, John
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Oram, A. E.
Delargy, Hugh Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Oswald, Thomas
Dempsey, James Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Page, Graham
Reynolds, G. W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Boss, William Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Short, Edward Wainwright, Edwin TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Skeffington, Arthur White, Mrs. Eirene Mr. Willis and Mr. Hoy.
Small, William Wilkins, W. A.
Aitken, W. T. Harris, Reader (Heston) Peel, John
Allason, James Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Percival, Ian
Arbuthnot, John Hay, John Pitman, I, J.
Ashton, Sir Hubert Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Pitt, Miss Edith
Barlow, Sir John Hendry, Forbes Pott, Percivall
Barter, John Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Batsford, Brian Hocking, Philip N. Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Berkeley, Humphry Holland, Philip Proudfoot, Wilfred
Bidgood, John C. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Biggs-Davison, John Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Bees, Hugh
Bingham, R. M. Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bishop, F. P. Hughes-Young, Michael Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Bossom, Clive Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridsdale, Julian
Bourne-Arton, A. Iremonger, T. L. Roots, William
Box, Donald Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Boyle, Sir Edward Jackson, John Russell, Ronald
Brewis, John Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Scott-Hopkins, James
Brooman-White, R. Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Sharples, Richard
Bullard, Denys Kaberry, Sir Donald Shaw, M.
Bullus, Wing Commander Erie Kerr, Sir Hamilton Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Kershaw, Anthony Smithers, Peter
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Kirk, Peter Spearman, Sir Alexander
Chataway, Christopher Langford-Holt, J. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Chichester-Clark, R. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stodart, J. A.
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. Alan Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Storey, Sir Samuel
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Lilley, F. J. P. Studholme, Sir Henry
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Litchfield, Capt. John Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Longbottom, Charles Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Cordle, John Longden, Gilbert Tapsell, Peter
Coulson, J. M. Loveys, Walter H. Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony MacArthur, Ian Teeling, William
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Mackie, John Temple, John M.
Cunningham, Knox McLaren, Martin Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Currie, G. B. H. McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Dalkeith, Earl of McMaster, Stanley R. Turner, Colin
Dance, James Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maginnis, John E. van Straubenzee, W. R-
Deedes, W. F. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Vickers, Miss Joan
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Markham, Major Sir Frank Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Drayson, G. B. Marten, Neil Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
du Cann, Edward Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Emery, Peter Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)
Farr, John Mawby, Ray Wall, Patrick
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)
Freeth, Denzil Mills, Stratton Watts, James
Gammans, Lady Montgomery, Fergus Wells, John (Maidstone)
Gardner, Edward Morgan, William Whitelaw, William
Gibson-watt, David Nabarro, Gerald Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Glover, Sir Douglas Neave, Airey Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) Nicholls, Harmar Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Noble, Michael Woodhouse, C. M.
Goodhew, Victor Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Woodnutt, Mark
Gower, Raymond Osborn, John (Hallam) Worsley, Marcus
Green, Alan Page, John (Harrow, West)
Gresham Cooke, R. Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe) Mr. Bryan and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.

Colonel J. H. Harrison (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household) rose

Mr. Benn

On a point of order. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that at the beginning of our debate we discussed whether we could discuss the Motions separately and divide on them severally. The question now arises whether it is possible after 11.30 p.m. to have further Divisions. Standing Order 95A says: No proceedings on a motion to which this order applies shall be entered upon at or after half-past eleven o'clock. It is clear, therefore, that my hon. Friends who were speaking to Scottish questions had, in fact, by the agreement and consent of the House, entered into proceedings on those Regulations, otherwise they would clearly have been out of order in speaking to Scottish affairs on the Hyde Park Regulation.

If you felt able to rule, Mr. Speaker, it would be for the great convenience of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House if we could proceed to a Division now against such other Regulations as have been laid as have been the subject of objections raised by hon. Members.

Mr. Speaker

I understand the difficulty of the hon. Member. It was for that reason that, when I cast forth the suggestion that for the convenience of the House it might suit to discuss the Regulations together, although it would be necessary to put them separately, I added on more than one occasion "if there be time". The fact is that I am governed by the Standing Order, which was designed exactly to prevent proceedings on a Prayer going on beyond 11.30 unless the Chair thought it was within the proviso. I do not think that that is so with this case.

I take the view that I am completely governed by the Standing Order, the sole Question proposed to the House being the Motion relating to the first set of Regulations. The sole Question technically under discussion at 11.30 p.m. was the first Motion. I regret the need so to rule, but I do not feel any doubt about it.

Mr. Benn

The House is in some difficulty here. Having approached these five sets of Regulations at 10.15 p.m., had we occupied the whole of the time in dividing on the five sets of Regulations there would have been no time for any debate on any of them.

Mr. Speaker

That may be so. I am sure the hon. Member will forgive me for reminding him that this is all coming out of the Adjournment time. I have ruled and it would be fairer to the hon. Member concerned with the Adjournment if the House took other steps to deal with my Ruling if it feels it to be wrong. I ask the House to accept my Ruling in the interests of the further proceedings of the House.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

The Adjournment debate is extremely important, and I have the greatest interest in it. I am anxious not to limit it, but this is the most important point of order that has been raised in the history of Parliament.

We have seven contested sets of Regulations. We have had a vote on the only Regulations against which there was very little criticism. We agreed that they would all be discussed together so that the proceedings could start at 10.15 p.m. and still be going on at 11.30 p.m. and so that we could have a vote. Some hon. Members regarded this as a very definite issue of great constituency importance.

When I said that this was the most important issue, I was really over-expressing myself, but the importance of it is that my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) realised the difficulties and spoke for four minutes, and the Minister spoke for nineteen minutes, and thus ensured, apparently, that he would not suffer an adverse vote on issues that had been fully discussed.

I suggest, with respect, and I hope that I am saying it with due respect to the Chair, that a consideration of the words of the Standing Order about proceedings having commenced really means that once my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) gave way and said that we consented to them all being discussed together we were entitled to a vote on each set of Regulations.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged. I considered this problem for a long time. Even indeed when I was inviting the views of the House about what it wanted to do I had it in mind and tried to emphasise the dilemma in which hon. Members would put themselves one way or the other.

I am afraid that I cannot change my Ruling, because I believe it to be right. I hope that the House will either take it or deal with me in some other way, because I cannot repent from it now that I believe it to be right.

Mr. Benn

As regards the question whether we are on the Adjournment, with respect, as soon as I saw one of the Whips rise I raised a point of order before you, Mr. Speaker, had time to put the Question.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member is right about that. I am not confident whether the Motion was made or not, because I do not know, but I hope it does not affect the matter in this sense. Without any kind of discourtesy, I do not wish to encourage the hon. Member. I do not feel that he will persuade me tonight that that was wrong, because I am convinced that the Ruling is right, and I would seek to be dealt with in some other way and not be argued with now. I do not think even the hon. Member's eloquence will persuade me to the contrary.

Mrs. Castle

Would it be outwith your Ruling, Mr. Speaker—in view of the fact that hon. Members who feel strongly about the subsequent Regulations are now denied the chance to register their votes upon them—to appeal to the Minister, even at this late hour, to withdraw the Regulations? This is surely the only way in which he can get round the difficulty of depriving hon. Members of their democratic right to vote upon them. If he withdraws them he can table them again—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady must not tax my patience too far. What persuasion can be exercised in this matter is not a question for the Chair.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

Is it the case that the subsequent Regulations, on this basis, are finally dealt with, or that—there being a clear recognition of the fact that the matter is not finished so far as the House is concerned—on a subsequent occasion these matters may be raised, and you may put these further Regulations before the House for its voting, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

The answer is that, subject to detailed reference—I would ask the hon. Member to consult the Table because I have not the dates in mind—I think he will find that all of them can be put down tomorrow, although their prospects for tomorrow are not very good, and there are two which could certainly survive even after the Recess.

Mr. Benn

Without in any way challenging your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, would you agree to give the House your considered guidance in this matter tomorrow? The word "proceedings" has already been the subject of many Rulings by the House. One which comes to mind was the Sandys case, in 1939, when it was decided quite definitely by the Committee of Privileges, and upheld by the House, that proceedings in Parliament included any speech or reference in Parliament to a matter, and it would be open to argument, at any rate, that my hon. Friends who spoke, with your consent, on the question of the Scottish speed limit, had taken proceedings in Parliament.

I do not ask you in any way to vary your Ruling tonight, but I wonder if you would be prepared to consider Standing Order No. 95 and report to the House at your leisure, tomorrow or later, so that my hon. Friend's point about the fear that we may lose the right to discuss a number of Regulations should not go without at any rate some further consideration.

Mr. Speaker

In order to avoid any kind of discourtesy, I will deal with the matter this way: I will promise to give the matter the fullest possible consideration, with my advisers, and if I am wrong—or believe myself to be wrong, or can persuade myself that I am wrong—most certainly to tell the House so without hesitation. Otherwise I would prefer not to deal with it, because I do not entertain a doubt at the moment. I hope that that is the fair and proper way to deal with the matter.

Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

Mr. Speaker, are you ruling that this discussion is taking time out of the Adjournment debate?

Mr. Speaker

No. I took great care to be uncertain whether or not the Adjournment had been moved.