HC Deb 23 March 1960 vol 620 cc480-2
27. Mr. Strauss

asked the Minister of Transport when the compulsory inspection of motor vehicles will start operating.

Mr. Marples

I am grateful for this opportunity to explain to the House the difficulty preventing the early introduction of the compulsory vehicle testing scheme, and I would apologise to the House for the length of the Answer.

The White Paper of May, 1958, explained that the vehicle test would require brakes, steering and lights to conform with the existing statutory requirements. Braking requirements, which are set out in the Construction and Use Regulations, are in general terms and broadly speaking lay down that braking systems of motor vehicles must be such as to be capable of bringing a vehicle to a stop within a reasonable distance under the most adverse conditions. A practical vehicle testing scheme demands some degree of uniformity and we decided that the test for brakes must include a practical test of braking performance. The performance standards required were embodied in a Manual of Guidance which was to be issued to those garages and local authorities who are to administer the scheme.

I am, however, advised Chat there are legal objections to proceeding on this basis and that any performance standards required must be embodied in statutory regulations. The drafting of the regulations is proceeding urgently and I will report again to the House at the earliest possible moment.

I should like to emphasise that I intend to press forward with vehicle testing; it is an essential part of plans for reducing road accidents.

Mr. Strauss

In view of the importance of this matter, why did not the right hon. Gentleman discover this legal snag before? Are not the Government open to the most severe censure for holding up for four years since they have had power this vehicle inspection scheme before discovering various snags and difficulties? Is the Minister aware that it is generally agreed that this scheme is likely to save 10 per cent. of the accidents—that is to say, 600 lives and 6,000 serious casualties a year? Can he say what is the use of expressing concern about road accidents if the Government refuse to take the action or to dither in taking the action which is open to them of bringing into operation this scheme which, the Government themselves agree, would have a significant effect on these appalling figures?

Mr. Marples

It would have a significant effect but I do not think it would have the effect that the right hon. Gentleman assumes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—according to the Road Research Laboratory. When I wanted to bring this scheme in, it was found that legally it was faulty and I set about putting it right as quickly as I could.

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