§ [2ND ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power (Mr. John Peyton)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
I should like, first, to express my very sincere gratitude, and that of my right hon. Friend, to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, and, in doing so, to assure him that my gratitude is quite untinged with envy though I am acutely conscious of the fact that by not myself being a member of Standing Committee B I missed a positive feast of oratory; and such opportunities are fortunately, rare, though not all that rare.
When we reached the Report stage of the Bill, yesterday, following upon the protests which had been made by the Opposition, in time-honoured manner, about the imposition of this wicked device, I in my innocence supposed that we would pass as quickly as possible over a number of Amendments and new clauses. In fact, we did cover a great many important points. Nevertheless, a great deal of time was spent by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) and others in touching up their well-known, old-fashioned and somewhat melodramatic masterpiece which shows a gallant band of Socialist Members rescuing the unfortunate country from a lot of predatory, rapacious and profit-thirsty oil company villains. All I would say is that we are all so familiar with that masterpiece by now that it has begun to wear a bit tibia, and I hope that the Opposition will find another picture to show us before long.
In commending to the House this undoubtedly desirable piece of legislation —and I should like, in using those words, to acknowledge that they are not my own, but those of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin)—I should like to express the opinion that the differences between the two sides of the Committee and of 1478 the House have been, with one major exception, those of method rather than principle. I should like to express, in passing, my personal view that it is rather a pity, when we discuss these very important and highly intricate problems, that we should always convert them into doctrinal mountains. The points with which the debates have been mostly concerned have been those of control, planning, and safety, and I propose very briefly to say a word about each.
I thought that yesterday the Opposition appeared to ignore the very wide powers of control which the Bill confers upon the Minister, and I refer particularly—I do not want to refer to a whole lot of Clauses—to Clause 1 (2), which reads:The Minister, on an application for a pipeline construction authorisation, shall have power in his discretion to grant the application or to refuse it.Really, this, in my opinion, gives the Minister all the powers which could possibly be thought necessary, and moreover, perhaps I should remind the House, under Clause 6 the Minister will have the power, if he thinks it right, to apply the cross-country pipeline procedure to local pipelines as well.
Let me come very briefly to the subject of planning. The word "planning" has now become a missile which we are inclined to throw at one another, meaning different things on different occasions; but it has some sort of magic content of its own which makes reasonable discussions on it sometimes a little difficult. There are two aspects of planning here. First, there is the national view of it, and then there is the local one. So far as the national planning point of view is concerned, I have already mentioned the very wide powers which are conferred upon my right hon. Friend.
The existence of those powers does really make nonsense of the Opposition's suggestion that the network of pipelines, when it comes into being, will be chaotic, unplanned and uncoordinated. The difference between us— and I accept this—is that the Opposition, on the whole, think that planning machinery in detail should be set up now, whereas we very much prefer the course, which we have adopted in the Bill, of tailoring planning machinery according to needs and experience.
1479 So far as local planning is concerned, I was myself particularly struck yesterday at the way in which hon. Members on the other side constantly appeared to ignore the powers, the experience, and, indeed, the abilities of local planning authorities. They did not appear to give them credit for any of the knowledge and experience of local affairs which they must have and which they must be supposed to have.
I should also like to refer to the plea, from which I do not altogether dissent —indeed, I do not dissent from it at all—that in legislation we should seek to make easy the task of local authorities; but equally, I think it right to say that we must and are obliged to look at the public interest as a whole, and this very much includes the competitive power of our industries. If we are to hedge about a new development of this kind with restrictions which, added together, would be extremely costly in delay, we should, I think, be making a great mistake.
I often fed that a habit has grown up today of almost searching for reasons for stopping people doing things, or, at any rate, of conducting into their actions, or their proposed actions, such lengthy inquiries as to render the action which eventually is permitted long out of date and obsolescent. Therefore, our intention in the Bill has been that, while we admit administrative machinery and control to be necessary, it should be so framed as to expedite proceedings rather than cause delay.
It will be recalled that in some recent debates there has been a serious plea made for action; and urgent action, to be taken in areas stricken by unemployment. This plea does not seem to me to be in very full harmony with the suggestion which appeared so frequently yesterday that administrative convenience should have priority over industrial efficiency.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman says "Nonsense", but his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) repeatedly made the point that it is our responsibility to try to make the task of local authorities easy, and very little 1480 weight was given to what, to my mind, in the present position of the country, must be of paramount importance, whether we can brush up our economic life so that we are able to compete in a world which gets more competitive day by day.
The third problem was safety. I readily agree with what hon. Members opposite said yesterday—that this is perhaps the most important problem of all. Under the Bill it is clear that every proposal, both cross-country and local, will be looked at thoroughly from this point of view. Indeed, it is largely because of safety considerations that the Government felt justified in suggesting to Parliament that such wide discretionary powers should be conferred upon the Minister. We must remember at all times that here we are dealing not with an old industry, but a quite new development which will inevitably bring with it a series of very new problems.
The Government believe that the Minister should be in a position to get as soon as possible an overall view of the needs and problems as they emerge. The Bill ensures that he will get the maximum experience and knowledge. He will also be free to consult anybody he pleases. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) sought to write into the Bill a provision to give the Minister the right to consult a number of authorities. We opposed that for the reason that my right hon. Friend already automatically has that right and will most certainly use it. The Bill will undoubtedly face him with many problems, and he will, of course, need to exercise his quite unfettered right to consult anyone who is likely to be able to help.
I said at the beginning that the differences between the two sides of the House are largely those of method rather than principle. I also said that there was one exception, and I will now deal with it. This is the question of ownership. It is only here that we have any fundamental difference between us. As I understand, the Labour Party would like to set up a statutory board which would own and develop the pipeline network. Our position is not a doctrinal one at all. It is very simple.
First, we do not believe that the State is equipped to be a skilful, successful, 1481 and enterprising commercial pioneer. Above all, we do not wish to see the already immense demands made by the public sector of our economy further swollen by the need to find the financial resources required for the development of a network of pipelines. In the words of my right hon. Friend on Second Reading, we believe that the users know best their own business. The hon. Member for Ashfield made great play of this in Committee, but I think that he made much too free a paraphrase of those words when he said that private interests know best. Certainly, the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) did when he said that what is good for Esso is good for Britain.
What we are saying is that the user knows the market best, and knows the likely demand better than anyone else. Therefore, under the Bill the initiative in the first instance, and only in the first instance, is left to him. It is for the potential user to make proposals. To get out of any possible doctrinal difficulties. I remind the House that both the railways and the canals have the right to construct pipelines on their property. After proposals have been made, every conceivable power and discretion that could be necessary is conferred by the Bill upon the State, which will have every opportunity to control and co-ordinate and to ensure safety.
I really believe that our differences are very much slighter than might have appeared in many of the debates in Committee and even slighter than appeared in the Chamber yesterday. I do not want to go into them further at the moment. All I want to do in commending the Bill to the House is to express the hope that the opportunity given by the Bill will be used and developed to the best interests of the nation as a whole.
Many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, and I have no doubt that many who served on Standing Committee B wish to take the opportunity of paying glowing tributes to my right hon. Friend who has handled the Measure, and I am very glad now to extend to them the opportunity to do so.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I have two preliminary comments to make on the speech of the Parliamentary Secre- 1482 tary. First, he did not utter the traditional platitude that Ministers at this juncture apply to Members on both sides of the House for the contributions that they have made to the improvement of the Bill. For that, I am grateful. Secondly, in the sixteen minutes that the hon. Member devoted to his Second Reading speech he overlooked the need for the Minister to say something about what is in the Bill in commending it for Third Reading. What he did was to go over all the ground that we went over in discussing Amendments which the Minister rejected. I cannot express the same gratitude to the Minister for having omitted to tell us what is in the Bill when commending it for Third Reading.
The hon. Gentleman said that the differences between the two sides of the House after we had got over our doctrinal arguments were related to method rather than principle. Many of the issues have been of very great importance and upon them there would probably be a very long argument about whether we were discussing method or principle. In any case, they have been arguments of very great importance to which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to pay very little attention.
The hon. Gentleman also said that the Opposition had complained at very great length about the inadequacy of the powers given to the Minister. He should read the report of the discussions. No one has ever complained that the Minister was not taking enough power. The complaint all along has been that he has been taking so much power to himself and giving so little to Parliament. The Minister has all the power in the world, but he has not made adequate provision in the Bill for his accountability to Parliament for his misdeeds. That is the complaint, and I regret very much that, after all the discussions, the Parliamentary Secretary seems to be unaware of it. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Opposition's ideas about the way in which pipelines should be constructed and operated were old fashioned and out of date and had been rejected.
§ Mr. Peyton
I said that what was old-fashioned and out of date was this masterpiece which every now and then right hon. and hon. Members opposite 1483 come back to—that of painting the picture of the pure, innocent maiden, representing the country and the Government, being rescued by a gallant band of Socialist M.P.s. This picture belies the facts.
§ Mr. Fraser
But masterpieces do not get out of date. Unlike Ministers and Governments, they live for ever. The hon. Gentleman said that the State is not equipped to be a skilled, efficient, commercial pioneer, and that pipeline development was new ground. It is not quite as new as that. The State broke this ground during the war when it built 1,200 miles of product pipelines in Britain, from which some of the oil companies are deriving very considerable benefit. It was not private enterprise which broke the new ground originally; it was the State.
Her Majesty's present advisers still take the view that in the most important works of modern society the job should be undertaken not by the State, but by private enterprise. But what about atomic energy development? Would that have been done by private enterprise? Earlier today, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty was telling us about nuclear propulsion in ships. That is being done under the leadership of the Admiralty. Were our nuclear power stations built by private enterprise or by dull, unimaginative unpatriotic people appointed by the Minister of Power to rum the electricity supply industry?
The Minister himself said something similar about the Government and private enterprise at an earlier sitting. I took the OFFICIAL REPORT containing that reference and showed it to some of those he has appointed to run the electricity supply industry. I am prevented from telling the House what they said in reply, for it would be rather unparlimentary language.
The Parliamentary Secretary began by telling us about the effect of the guillotine Motion and his disappointment that we ware not able to have full discussion yesterday on all the new Amendments and new Clauses. No doubt he had in mind particularly Amendments and new clauses put down by the Minister. As this is our last discussion before the Bill goes back to another place, with all the changes made in it by the Minister, 1484 we might bear in mind that 28 Clauses have never been discussed at all. Not a word was said about them in Standing Committee or on Report. Nearly 100 Amendments were made by the Minister with no opportunity of discussion or explanation of their purpose.
Then there are six very important Schedules, containing provision as to what has to be done when an application is made for pipeline construction authorisation and a great deal of the procedure connected with compulsory acquisition of other people's land and with compulsory rights over other peoples land. But we have never debated a single word of any of those Schedules.
The Leader of the House will perhaps note that when the beloved Guillotine fell at 10.30 last night, there were still 40 Government Amendments on the Notice Paper. They had been tabled over the weekend by the Minister of Power, but they were all put without any discussion at all and without even an opportunity for the right hon. Gentleman to explain their purposes. Because of the Guillotine, hon. Members on both sides of the House were disabled from putting forward Amendments which they thought would improve the Bill.
If noble Lords give the Amendments made in this House the same consideration as they gave to the Bill when it was first before them, it will still not be possible for the Government to get the Bill this Session. The Bill has been greatly changed, not as a result of discussion in the House of Commons but as a result of second and third thoughts by the right hon. Gentleman, very largely under pressure from the Country Landowners' Association and, in some parts, especially in respect of Clauses 9 and 10, by the oil companies who were not very pleased with some improvements made in the Bill in another place.
This is a bad Bill, a wicked Bill. Parliament has been tricked, and I regret to say that I think that it has been tricked deliberately by the right hon. Gentleman. All this started with the Report of the Select Committee on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill. That Committee reported to the House the need for general legislation governing the laying of pipelines with proper Parliamentary control.
1485 After the House received the Select Committee's recommendation, we decided not to proceed with further Private Bills on this subject. We declined to give a Second Reading to the Trunk Pipelines Bill in the spring of last year.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman now, but I wanted to consult for a moment. I must require him to withdraw the phrase "tricked deliberately by the right hon. Gentleman".
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does that mean that, by your Ruling, those words are expunged from the record?
§ Mr. Speaker
We do not need to make a fuss about this. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), in compliance with my request, has withdrawn the words, and the matter is closed.
§ Mr. Fraser
The point I am trying to make is that when the Select Committee's Report was accepted unanimously by this House, certain promises were made by the right hon. Gentleman. These were that he accepted the Report, that he would have pipeline development according to a proper balance and pattern, and that there would be adequate Parliamentary control. Yet this Bill makes no provision for any of these things. It did not do so when he introduced it, and it still does not do so. That is why I seek to convey to hon. Members on both sides of the House that the person we must blame for that is the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Gentleman has given himself very great powers but has allowed Parliament the absolute minimum of control. We shall only be able to query the Minister's decision when we learn that he has either granted a pipeline construction authorisation or refused one. Only then shall we be able to ask Questions about it, after the event and then only if we get to know from some outside source that a decision has been made, because the Minister will not be obliged to inform us that he has made a decision. The Parliamentary Secretary appreciates how important it is 1486 to got these pipelines laid in the right place, but the Minister has not given himself the power to say where they will be put down, when they will be put down, which applications he has approved, and which he has refused. The right hon. Gentleman has, however, given himself power to convey public utility powers on private persons to exploit those powers for personal gain. I may be an innocent, but I had always assumed that when Parliament granted public utility powers it reserved them to public utilities.
§ Mr. Fraser
It may be old-fashioned, but a principle is involved. If we grant a person rights over other people's property, he should be accountable to the public. Furthermore, we should take steps to ensure that he does act in the public interest. But under the Bill these tremendous public utility powers are to be granted to private persons at the whim of the Minister and without any Parliamentary control. This is what makes this a bad Bill, and I should have thought that this point would have been readily accepted by Members on both sides of the House.
As I hinted a moment ago, noble Lords in another place put into the Bill what are now Clauses 9 and 10 to give the Minister power to require the optimum use of pipelines by companies other than the owners of the pipelines, to avoid the unnecessary construction of other pipelines, or, as the Minister put it, to avoid the construction of a proliferation of pipelines. But the Minister has so hedged round these new Clauses with protective provisions for the owners of the pipelines that his powers to ensure that that happens are practically worthless.
By the time one has read to the end of the Clause, one has gone full circle. There is so much protection for the owners of pipelines that if the Minister honours the provisions of the Bill in the interests of the owners he will never allow any other company to use the pipelines. This is the effect of his succumbing to the blandishments of the oil companies after the Bill had gone through another place.
1487 The Minister has made many Amendments to the Bill to protect the landowning interests, presumably, as I said, at the request of the Country Landowners' Association, but he has made no concessions to the public interest as represented by the local authorities. If the new Clauses in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) had not been considered, we should not have been able to discuss any interests which local authorities might have in the Bill because all the Clauses dealing with their interests were subjected to the Guillotine, and we were not able to discuss them or the proposed Amendments to them.
The position, therefore, is that the land-owning interests in the countryside have had their interests protected, but the land-owning interests in the urban areas have not been afforded any protection at all. Land-owners, property owners and the occupiers of houses, offices, and shops in towns and villages who might have had their interests protected by the local authorities have not been afforded the opportunity of having their interests properly discussed, and no concessions have been made to their representations.
Under great pressure in both Houses of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman has incorporated in the Bill powers to make safety regulations, but he has made it clear that he has no intention in the foreseeable future of exercising these powers. I had intended to quote what the Minister said yesterday, but in the interests of time, and because a number of other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, I shall not do so. I do not think that I have misrepresented his intentions.
The right hon. Gentleman has no intention in the foreseeable future of exercising the powers in the new Clause which he reluctantly agreed to write into the Bill. He proposes both now and in the future to rely on the powers under Clause 20 to impose requirements on individual pipeline owners.
Who will advise the Minister when he is considering what safety requirements to impose by notice under Clause 20? His advisers are limited to six technical 1488 men in the petroleum division of his Department, all of whom are pensioners of the two biggest oil companies in this country. These are the people who will have discussions with the oil companies, both large and small, to decide what safety regulations should be imposed. Company A will not know what requirement is to be imposed on Company B. Local authorities will not know what safety requirements are to be imposed on those who propose to construct pipelines over their land and under their streets. People who may suffer injury from accidents due to the installation of these pipelines will not know what safety conditions have been imposed, because the Minister has decided that he will not in the foreseeable future lay down any safety regulations.
This does not lead us on this side of the House to regard this as a good Bill, and in this respect I remind the hon. Gentleman that all hon. Members who spoke on the safety aspect expressed views contrary to his. Hon. Members on both sides stressed the need for safety regulations from the beginning, not just a power for the Minister to make these regulations at his discretion at some time in the unforeseeable future.
The Minister has rightly provided that a compulsory rights order shall give no right of support by sterilising the minerals under the pipeline. This was raised by the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), and I think that it was right to make this provision. There will be protection for those engaged in the extraction of minerals of all kinds—sand, gravel, limestone, and brimstone—but there will be no protection for those engaged in the extraction of the one mineral owned by the nation, the one for which the Minister is supposedly responsible, the one which is in competition with oil as a fuel. I am, of course, referring to those engaged in the extraction of coal.
The shoe is on the other foot. If the extraction of coal more efficiently— which is what the Minister ought to want —leads to subsidence causing a break in a pipeline, it is the National Coal Board who will foot the bill. But if the extraction of sand or gravel or any other mineral causes a fracture in a pipeline, the person who will be held responsible 1489 is the pipeline owner. He will have to make good the damage and may be involved in the payment of damage to many people, notwithstanding that the pipeline was fractured by the extraction of minerals from underneath it. That is the way in which the Government treat minerals which are privately owned and those which are publicly owned, and yet the Minister still expects us to regard the Bill as worthy of Parliament's approval.
We have no confidence that the Minister will administer the Bill in the public interest. Whatever we think of him personally, he has not made any provision to bind his successors. My experience of him during the passage of the Bill makes it impossible for me to say that I trust him to administer the Bill in the public interest. Whatever hon. Members on either side of the House may think of the Minister personally, I repeat that he has not made any provision in the Bill to bind any of his successors to administer the Bill in the public interest.
Monopoly powers are about to be granted to large companies to supply oil and oil products to certain areas. That cannot be denied. But we shall not have a proliferation of pipelines into one area, such as London Airport, and we will not have a proliferation of pipelines from different refineries to one centre. The Minister will grant his pipeline construction authorisations to oil companies who will have virtually monopoly rights for the supply of oil and oil products to particular parts of the country. What the Parliamentary Secretary said about those parts of the country where there are pockets of unemployment could not have been more irrelevant, for the right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that those are the areas to which no pipelines will be laid.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not know what was the relevance of that remark.
The Parliamentary Secretary seems to think that there is an inconsistency between our saying that the rights of local authorities should be properly protected and our saying at the same time that the Government should take urgent steps to get on with the provision of employment in those parts of the country where 1490 there is a great shortage of employment. The only deduction which we can make from that is that the Government Should hurry on with the Bill and get the pipelines constructed so as to find it easier to deal with unemployment.
§ Mr. Peyton
All I wished to suggest was that there was disharmony between the very strong and perfectly reasonable plea that the Government should get on with the job of promoting efficient, prosperous and virile industry in the North-East, and in another context, the suggestion that industry should be hemmed in with restrictions which would impose all kinds of unnecessary and expensive delays.
§ Mr. Fraser
The only way in which the North-East and Scotland will be affected by the Bill is that the conveyance of oil and oil products into London and the Midlands will be made cheaper by the use of this form of transport, which will increase the attraction to industry of the Midlands and the London area, thus making it more difficult for the Government to steer industry into those parts of the country where there is unemployment. The hon. Gentleman must not think that the holding up of the Bill would be a bad thing for Scotland, or the North-East, or the South-West, or any other area where there is unemployment. One of the reasons why we wanted pipelines to develop according to a proper plan and pattern was that, through their various agencies, the Government might have been able to use that development to make those parts of the country where there is unemployment as attractive to industry as those areas where there is no unemployment, so that we might have some social planning in future where there has been none in the past.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the railways and canals had power to construct pipelines on their own land. How generous! Does he think that the oil companies would be willing to have their products conveyed by the railways or canal authorities in pipelines constructed alongside the railway tracks and canals when they could readily get authorisations from the right hon. Gentleman to put down their own pipelines elsewhere and thereby gain a virtual monopoly of supply to the area to which their own pipeline is directed?
1491 At a time when the Government are expressing concern about the financial difficulties of public transport services, it is a tragedy that the Minister has not made any provision for consultation with them in the consideration of applications for pipeline construction authorisation. The commodities to be conveyed by these pipelines are now conveyed by tanker on the railways, on the roads, on canals, or even on the rivers, and mostly by public transport. The least we might have expected from the Minister is that he would agree to have consultations with those authorities before deciding to take business from them.
At this stage of our proceedings, we are somewhat inhibited from discussing the Opposition's constructive alternative proposals, but we can and will register our most emphatic protest against what is contained in the Bill and the way in which it has been put through Parliament.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I was one of those hon. Members fortunate enough to serve on the Standing Committee which discussed the Bill It was about the fourth Standing Committee on which I had served and for the first time I had my eyes opened to what the Opposition's time-wasting tactics could accomplish. For many sittings, I think sixteen, varying in length from 2½ hours to nearly 12, the Opposition took every possible step to waste the Committee's time.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I am bound to say that it was passing through my mind that on the Third Reading debate one should limit discussion to what is in the Bill. I am sure that the hon. Member will do that.
§ Mr. Farr
That is what I was going to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I was pointing out that many hours were spent on Opposition trivia.
There were 27 sittings of the Committee altogether, and I should like to 1492 take this early opportunity of congratulating my right hon. Friend on the patience and courtesy which he extended to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee in steering through this contentious Bill. While it was an involved and contentious Bill when it arrived in Committee, it was very much more involved and contentious when it left the Committee, especially after the addition of numerous Government Amendments, which I feel, although perhaps I am not qualified to say so, made a difficult task even more difficult. There were stages in the Bill when it was very difficult indeed to follow exactly what was being discussed.
I should like to refer to one point which I consider of major importance, but which, however, was discussed in Committee on only one occasion. This point was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) during the ninth sitting of the Committee. He was the only hon. Member on either side to speak on it, and after the then Parliamentary Secretary had replied he withdrew his Amendment. I think that I am right in saying that hon. Members on both sides assumed, when we were discussing a pipeline, or a network of pipelines, and were struggling to find a definition of a pipeline, that all these pipelines were to be placed underground. Indeed, much of our argument was centred on whether one pipeline or a number of pipelines going into one trench formed one pipeline or a system or network of pipelines.
Nearly all hon. Members of the Committee assumed that the pipeline system when it was laid would, naturally, go underground. We struggled as much as we could, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) struggled with the rest of us, to visualise a big network of pipelines stretching from Edinburgh, perhaps, to Leicestershire, and I think he will agree that we always assumed that these pipelines would be underground and, therefore, invisible. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend whether we are sure that these pipelines will be underground. During the discussion of the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Tones, the then Parliamentary Secretary said that he would look into the point and see whether he could include it in the Bill 1493 when it was brought before the House today.
I well remember in 1959, about one month after I came into this House, a debate on town and country planning. I well remember an hon. Member on this side, a revered Member with many years' Parliamentary experience, saying that, in many cases, electricity pylons added to the beauty of the countryside. Hon. Members may be surprised that not one hon. Member present on that day questioned that statement. Not one expressed surprise. Indeed, it seemed to be completely accepted.
I suggest that we must remember that there will be the temptation on the part of pipeline operators, both from the point of view of expense and easy inspection, to place their pipelines on the surface of the ground. There is a temptation there, and, as I read the Bill, there is nothing in the Bill providing that they shall not.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)
May I endeavour to help my hon. Friend on this point? He will find that, at the end of Clause 42, it is provided that the Ministershall have particular regard to the desirability of ensuring that things constructed in the course of the execution of the proposed works are kept below ground so far as that is practicable.I think that that will achieve the objective which my hon. Friend has in mind.
§ Mr. Farr
I am much obliged for my right hon. Friend's intervention. I had noted that particular provision. While I hesitate to go on, because I do not want to get out of order, I was endeavouring to suggest that that phraseology was not strong enough.
I feel that pipeline operators are not concerned with the beauties of the countryside. If the pipelines can be placed on the surface, for easy examination, pipeline operators will not always be concerned whether there is an added danger to people passing by if there is a leak or an explosion—an added danger which would not, perhaps, be so serious if the pipeline were buried underground.
It is in the hope that, in a few years' time, hon. Members on both sides of the House will not have lived to see a 1494 spider's web of electricity pylons all over Britain, while below them is an iron girdle of surface pipelines, that I have raised this point. Nevertheless, I have great pleasure in adding my support to that given to my right hon. Friend the Minister and the late Parliamentary Secretary—[Laughter.]—I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharpies), who is very much alive.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I would agree with the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) about the undesirability of the countryside being covered by a network of pipelines, over which may be superimposed, presumably, a grid of electricity cables, but that is about the only thing on which I did agree with him. I can hardly agree with his commendation of the Bill.
I was particularly interested in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, and in the delightful picture which he conjured up of the Opposition always rushing into this battle on the side of the British public, as against the vested interests of big companies, in this case the big oil companies. The hon. Gentleman did not enjoy the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee, but he must have been asleep yesterday, or he would have been aware of the delightful picture of his right hon. Friend, as a sort of modern St. George, out to slay the dragon of planning. In fact, he went so far as to say that the new secret weapon of the Opposition was planning. I hope that he will convey that idea to the Prime Minister, who, apparently, must also be aware of this secret weapon, and seems to be attracted by it at present. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister would think that the views of the right hon. Gentleman are slightly heterodox.
This is a unique Bill. It has the unique Parliamentary distinctions of being, as far as I know, the fifth Bill to be guillotined this Session. In that respect, the right hon Gentleman has set up a new record for entry in the "Parliamentary Whittaker". Probably more of this Bill has been undiscussed than almost any other Bill subjected to the Guillotine. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has pointed out, this has 1495 meant that large sections of the Bill were not discussed at all, in spite of the fact that they were exceedingly important. It is too late now to start discussing them, so I will say why I think that this is a bad Bill.
It is bad, in the first place, because it does nothing to ensure that we will have an orderly development of pipelines. We shall certainly get pipelines; the Parliamentary Secretary is very anxious to ensure that. He will see that they are driven across the countryside and that we shall have them whenever they are wanted, as quickly as possible, so as not to delay the profit-making of Esso, Shell and the rest of the oil companies. That is apparently his purpose in life. He has come to the Ministry with that great fixed ambition in his mind. We shall see what happens. There is no guarantee that we shall have an orderly development of pipelines.
Not only that: the Bill will not even ensure that we get a system of pipelines which will serve the interests of the nation as a whole. The Parliamentary Secretary raises his eyebrows, but I cannot see these pipelines serving Scotland or the North-East. The Bill does nothing to ensure that, although such a service might prove to be very important in reducing costs and making production more efficient and competitive, thereby making the prospects of industrial development more likely.
We shall not see that under the Bill. All that the Bill does is to serve the profit-making capacity of the big oil companies. The Parliamentary Secretary appears to think that that is a delightful picture. That is exactly what the Bill does. It might be unpleasant to remind Mm of it, but that is the fact, whether he likes it or not. That is one reason why the Bill is a bad one.
Secondly, it gives to private people powers which I do not think are given to them in any other Measure. It gives them power to plough up other people's land in order to lay pipelines. Admittedly, they have to obtain permission from the Minister, or power to acquire through him, but I know of no other Measure which contains such powers and they are tremendous powers to give to private companies. The fact that the 1496 powers given by the Bill are so tremendous, and have never been given to people other than public authorities and public utilities, causes us to take the view that the responsibility for the construction of these pipelines should have been given to a public authority or a public utility. That is another reason why I regard the Bill as a bad one, and cannot see my way to support it.
Thirdly, the Bill makes little attempt to meet the wishes of local authorities and to offer protection to the people within areas about which local authorities are concerned. As far as I know, no consultation has been held with local authorities—at least, Scottish local authorities. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman regarded it as worth while to consult the Counties of Cities, in Scotland, or the County Councils' Association—bodies which are vitally affected by the Bill.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) spoke of the fears of local authorities-large authorities like the London County Council and other county councils in England—he received very short shrift. None of the Amendments which local authorities wanted was accepted. They are still seriously concerned about the effect of the Bill. They feel that the Minister has failed to take the necessary precautions to provide adequate safety arrangements for people and property in the vicinity of pipelines.
It is a serious condemnation of the Minister and the Bill that nothing has been done to take account of the interests of local authorities. They are very important bodies. The Tory Party is always telling us that it wants to strengthen local authorities, and that it believes in vigorous local government, but at the same time it has a stranglehold on local government and is gradually choking it to death.
All the Bill does is to provide a streamlined, cheap method for large private companies to obtain permission to lay pipelines. Since we were dealing with this subject for the first time in general legislation, we should have taken a much wider view. We should have done much more than has been done. That is another reason why I cannot support the Bill.
1497 I will repeat my main reasons for opposing the Bill. First, it does not provide for an efficient and proper system of pipelines. Secondly, it places in the bands of private companies immense powers over property and private citizens—powers which are possessed by no other private people; thirdly, it completely ignores the wishes of large and responsible local authorities. That is why we regard the Bill as a bad one, and that is why I shall take pleasure in joining my hon. Friends in the Lobby to vote against it at the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Willis
There are a number of reasons why I believe that pipelines should be placed under the control of a public authority. I have already given one. I do not like these immense powers over private property and private persons to be given to private companies. If these powers have to be given to somebody they should be given to public bodies which are accountable to this House, so that we can have a proper development, and a plan of production. That is an important reason.
Equally important is the necessity for creating a proper service, and the fact that if we are to have an additional transport system it ought to be integrated in a manner which avoids wasting our valuable resources. We cannot afford wastage. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have come some way to meet us. We are struggling for a living in the world, and we shall be struggling for many more years. We shall win that struggle only if we use our resources—our manpower, ingenuity and technical skills—not in a wasteful but in an efficient manner. Efficiency in transport means the avoidance of wasteful overlapping of three or four systems. It means the creation of a co-ordinated system, in order to make the most effective use of a particular form of transport.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. T. H. H. Skeet (Willesden, East)
I always appreciate the speeches of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and today he has spoken at considerable length, although I do not think that his remarks contained anything very significant. The hon. Member would like a number of pipelines from England to Scotland. That would be part of his scheme for the planned economic use of pipelines. We should bear in mind that, first, a pipeline must be economic to operate. There must be a reason for its construction and I fear that, were the British Transport Commission or its successor, the Railways Board, to formulate its policy on the lines indicated by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, there would be every reason for the organisation to go "into the red".
A pipeline would not be built unless it were competitive with other systems of transportation, including roads, canals and coastal shipping. It is also necessary to calculate whether there is a sufficiently large market to be served by a pipeline, and it would be necessary to ensure that the line would be worked to its full capacity. If we considered building pipelines into Scotland simply because that operation would fit in with the figments of the imagination of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, it would have the effect of imposing a liability on the sort of State corporation which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I do not think that that idea was in the mind of my right hon. Friend when, in the Bill, he introduced a system of public regulation, which, of course, we all support. It has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser)—and I regret it that there are—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Scotland has far more of existing pipelines than might be considered her share according to the population?
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Does not the hon. Gentleman know that the Government built pipelines in Scotland during the war and that they are still in use? The only addition is the crude oil pipeline from Finart to Grangemouth.
§ Mr. Skeet
The hon. Member was, I thought, referring to the pipelines built during the war in an area comprising a quadrangle inside the United Kingdom. These were devised for wartime purposes. If we consider the United Kingdom generally, the pipelines now being constructed—not for war purposes, because the war has passed—are being constructed in line with the programmes outlined by the oil companies—
§ Mr. Skeet
—the chemical companies, the china clay companies and many other interested bodies.
If there is anything for which my right hon. Friend should be rebuked it is that the Bill is too comprehensive. The hon. Member for Hamilton maintained that this was a bad, and indeed a wicked Bill, because its provisions did not go far enough in certain directions. I maintain that it goes too far. Had my right hon. Friend taken account of experiences in Europe, which were pointed out to him ad nauseam during the Committee stage proceedings, he might have limited the provisions in this Bill to pipelines conveying hydro-carbon oils and certain chemical products. Had that been done, I think that many of the complexities with which we are now faced would not have arisen.
The trouble, in my opinion, is that my right hon. Friend is formulating proposals for the future use of pipelines, which is something that at this time cannot be clearly envisaged. At some time in the future it may be possible to convey capsules containing parcels or letters by means of pressure exerted by a flood of water to push them along. 1500 It might be conceivable that in this country we should do what is done in Yugoslavia, where pipelines made of a sort of plastic are used to convey milk over a distance of miles. It might be possible to construct pipelines for the conveyance of non-ferrous metal in the form of a slurry. It is conceivable that, under the auspices of the National Coal Board, granulated coal might be conveyed by pipeline. These are some of the things which we may look forward to witnessing in the future.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the people of Yugoslavia like their milk sour? If so, is he suggesting that our people would like their milk sour?
§ Mr. Skeet
I am not suggesting that at all. The Yugoslavs may like their milk sour. I have not had the experience, as the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) has had, of going to Yugoslavia and seeing these pipelines in operation. But I should imagine that when the milk emerges from the pipeline it is probably as fresh and healthy as any milk which we have in the United Kingdom.
I was trying to indicate the general coverage of the provisions in the Bill which could apply to pipelines conveying anything provided that it was not gas or water. One of the fallacies of hon. Members opposite is to think in terms of an integrated system of transportation. That policy, carried to its logical conclusion, would include the gas trunk pipelines and the water mains. That, however, is not accepted by the hon. Member for Hamilton. Such pipelines are especially exempted from the provisions in the Bill.
Apparently the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East is leaving the Chamber. Later in my speech I should like to return to his remarks, although I do not wish to detain him in the Chamber for any length of time.
During the Committee stage—this point has been dealt with by the hon. Member for Hamilton—there were 28 Clauses in the Bill and five Schedules which were not discussed, largely because of the extensive amount of time occupied by remarks from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East.
§ Mr. Skeet
On the last day on which the Committee sat, during the morning sitting, we dealt with the question of deer and grouse in Scotland, and that was largely at the instigation of hon. Members opposite. Only during the afternoon sitting did we move on to the serious matter of the new Clauses.
May I come back to the important point of whether we are to have an integrated system of transport in relation to pipelines? When there is a pipeline conveying oil between the refinery and the market, its operation is integrated with the operations of the refinery and the market, and the distribution of petroleum products. Why should there be inserted a third party, the Railways Board, between the refinery and the market? Any profit would probably be absorbed by the transport system, whereas if any profit is to be made, it would be utilised to reduce the price of the commodity sold to the public.
Another thing which would have to be borne in mind, if we had this type of service, is that someone must provide the money for the Railways Board to invest in the first instance in the construction of pipelines. That is not the intention. We are saying that pipeline companies which wish to build pipelines must raise the risk capital themselves, or obtain it by ploughing back profits into the undertaking, so that the expense does not fall upon the taxpayers. I think, therefore, that we may ignore the suggestions from hon. Members opposite about such a transport system.
I am certain that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East is now proposing to leave the Chamber. I have, however, many important matters to discuss. The hon. Gentleman is rather reluctant—
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The only thing which keeps me in the Chamber, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is the hope that an hon. Member opposite will actually mention the provisions contained in this Bill and relate them to the Third Reading debate. Can you tell me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) has strayed into the path of order during the Whole time he has been speaking? He has mot mentioned anything about the Bill and there is a strict 1502 limitation imposed upon a Third Reading speech.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Bill covers about 65 pages, and I took it that the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Skeet) was referring to something contained within those pages.
§ Mr. Skeet
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. There are 69 Clauses and five Schedules. I am dealing with the extremely important matters which are referred to in the Bill, and I am telling my right hon. Friend how wise he was to have constructed the Bill in this form.
When dealing with oil companies and other enterprises which are concerned about this matter—I think that hon. Members will concede that the people who will be largely concerned in future with the laying of pipelines will be the oil industry, the chemical industry, the china clay industry and like enterprises —my right hon. Friend has included provisions in Clauses 9 and 10 relating to the sharing of lines, so as to avoid the construction of too many installations throughout the country. There the Minister has been particularly wise.
I pay tribute to the work done in another place in providing the foundation for these Clauses. In Committee upstairs, we were able to improve them still further. We have not fallen into the difficulty experienced in the United States of America of having common carrier status which have proved a failure. On the other hand, we have not fallen into some of the difficulties under the French system. We have a system in which there are operating companies and if they have spare capacity application can be made either at the inception or later for a third party to come in and use it.
I do not think that anyone would complain of this provision. It is fair and democratic and I think that it would dispense entirely with the suggestion put forward by the hon. Member for Hamilton that it will build up a monopoly for any one firm or operating company. That is not to say that in this field we have small undertakings. As I mentioned in Committee, although there may be small enterprises in the United Kingdom, abroad their parents are very large establishments.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Will the hon. Member take it from me that B.P. and Esso have assured me that the volume of petroleum products which they take by pipeline now to London Airport could not have been taken there by any other means, which means that no other oil company could possibly enter that market? Is that not a monopoly?
§ Mr. Skeet
That may well be so, but we are considering a number of markets. The hon. Member has considered only one, London Airport, but there is an enormous potential market which has been growing in the Midlands. It may be that several pipelines will be constructed there. It may be that some of the smaller enterprises in the United Kingdom may be able to participate in those developments. Monopoly is not being encouraged.
Although I say that the Bill has been improved in Committee, I very much regret that many of its Clauses have not been adequately considered. That certainly was not the fault of hon. Members on this side of the House. We had extremely long sittings in the Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. Skeet
In spite of the Guillotine we were able to give a certain coverage to the Bill which otherwise we would never have achieved. We find, reluctantly, that the Land Powers (Defence) Act, 1958, its not incorporated in the Bill. This is a comprehensive piece of legislation and it has been left outside. It is simply referred to in Clause 61. I should have thought that the Government would have included it.
I should have thought, also, that in tidying up matters some suitable definition could be found for gas which is utilised industrially or in households so that some modification could have been made in the Bill to Section 52 of the Gas Act, 1948. I pointed out to my night hon. Friend in Committee that it would appear that the gas industry has a veto over certain pipelines and could make a charge. It would have been very much better if the whole matter could have been regulated by this Bill.
Another matter of great concern to me has been the question of mining facilities which have not been fully implemented 1504 and included. The Mines (Working Facilities and Support) Act, 1923, has been excluded by a Clause of the Bill. This is time-honoured machinery and in the past applications have been made to the courts for way leaves for pipelines and other facilities. Why these things have not been included in the Bill I cannot understand. All in all, we can say that many of the Clauses which have been brought in have led to an improvement and although it is not in exactly the form I should like to see, I think that we can say that it is generally acceptable to us.
Clause 40 deals with rating and I think that it establishes a precedent. I do not want to speak for too long on that, because I had an opportunity of covering it in Committee, but I think the precedent is rather dangerous. If the Crown is defeated in the courts on any particular case it can simply come to this House with any Bill and have the facility rated. So we find Clause 40 inserted for the rating of main pipelines. It is, of course, acknowledged that if, on the other hand, the assets of an industry are rated by the courts the Crown does not come with a Bill to see that they are derated. These are difficulties. I have suggested to my right hon. Friend that the proper way of dealing with the matter would be to have a proper rating Bill at the appropriate time when all these matters could be considered together.
Under the Private Bill procedure, although there are many difficulties for outside operators they are persuaded to include a number of additional Clauses. In certain circumstances the pipeline promoter will get more out of this Bill than he would do under Private Bill procedure. For example, under Private Bill procedure he would have to subscribe to the mining code, while under this Bill he is not subject to it. Under Private Bill procedure in certain Bills which have passed through this Chamber he would have had to put up £250,000 to insure in the event of accident. He would have to do that under a Private Bill possibly by agreement, but under this Bill he does not have to do it.
There are difficulties, and although my right hon. Friend has tried to tidy up the provisions he has, nevertheless, created certain difficulties which we on this side 1505 of the House cannot overlook. The hon. Member for Hamilton referred to certain powers given to my right hon. Friend. He has been given a number of blank cheques. He has been given power under Clause 20 to give notice to ensure the safety of these lines. We assume that at a later date, and not too far distant, he will be able to lay down suitable regulations—the earlier the better—for the industries concerned. We assume, also, that for the classification of areas to which Clauses 1 and 2 will not apply my right hon. Friend will give due consideration to the interests of the industries concerned—the china clay and brine industries—which are confined in small areas. The cement industry may also be considered. Although my right hon. Friend has taken these powers, there is no undertaking on his part. He will not do more than give an assurance that they will be occasionally implemented. The powers exist and may be exercised; we hope they will be.
Hon. Members will be glad that this day has arrived. We have had over 20 long sittings and as many as 120 Divisions. We hope that when the Bill goes to another place it will receive further scrutiny and that when it goes on to the Statute Book it will be worked by my right hon. Friend in the way in which it is intended. Anything he might have said upstairs in Committee will not help the courts in construing its provisions because all the courts can do is to construe the letter of the law in an Act of Parliament and no reference can be made to debates in this House. I hope that we shall not have to come back to the Chamber with further Amendments for some time.
There are adequate provisions for safety in the Bill, and every effort has been made to ensure that the public are adequately safeguarded if there is a breach or a leak in the line, although these pipes do not easily break. Nor do they easily corrode, because of cathodic protection. Experience in Europe shows that there have been very few instances of trouble of this nature, and many problems are academic.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
The Third Reading of a Bill, especially when the Bill has been considered in another place, is frequently an occasion for re- 1506 joicing and a kind of pre-natal, joyful ceremony for a mew and worth-while Statute to be put on the Statute Book. This, however, is an occasion for a general funeral ceremony, because in agreeing to this Bill we are burying the Bill which we might have had. I can say no more about the Bill which we might have had except to shed a tear for it in passing.
I am glad to make my next comment when my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) has been able to rejoin us. We are very glad to see him back. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted my hon. Friend as saying that this is a desirable Bill. It is indeed, but of all the desirable Bills we have ever had in the House this must be the worst. It could have been a very good Bill. It could have been an agreed Measure. Leaving aside the basic controversy of public ownership—and we could have left it aside after fighting out the general principle—we could still have constructed a Measure which would at least have carried out the Government's original avowed intentions about pipeline development.
We could have constructed a Bill which would have ensured that there was public control of the development of pipelines transportation in an orderly fashion in the public interest. We have not done that, and the Bill is nothing like that at all. It is not like it, first, because the Minister has refused virtually all co-operation from the Opposition in the construction of the Bill. He has frequently, contentiously and arrogantly rejected many of the proposals which we have made to improve the Bill.
It is a bad Bill, secondly, because, as my hon. Friend said, it has not been properly discussed. Three-quarters of the Bill has not been discussed at all by the House, either upstairs or down here. Altogether, 50 Clauses and five Schedules, many of them of fundamental importance, have been passed either without discussion or virtually without discussion. It is a bad Bill, thirdly, because the Minister has broken the promises which he made over a year ago about the character which pipeline legislation would have.
On Second Reading of the Trunk Pipelines Bill on 27th April, 1961, the 1507 Minister stated what were then the Government's intentions about general legislation. He said that he envisaged the procedure consisting of general legislation, a public inquiry, Ministerial approval and Parliamentary approval. Those were the four steps which we were to have in the development of pipelines. If I may quote again what I quoted on Second Reading, he said that there would be an inquiry whichmight be on the lines of those held when the Generating Board make proposals to build generating stations or place grid lines all over the country, with any one able to be heard and make representations, the subsequent procedure being to allow the House of Commons to express an opinion on the provisional decision reached as a result of the public inquiry. The hon. Member for Ashfield made the point that it was important for Parliament to be allowed to look at all the proposals that might be made. He was quite right."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1961; Vol. 639, c. 720.]After that, the Minister changed his mind. After he had changed his mind about this procedure he wrote a letter to explain why he had done so. I quoted this letter in Committee, and I do not propose to quote it again, but I suggest that hon. Members who are interested in the doctrinal and philosophical approach of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to the problems of planning should read this letter, because it is a very interesting revelation of what Conservative planning involves and of the pressures which go to shape that Conservative planning.
In his letter the Minister said that he had changed his mind because at the time when he gave the undertakings which I have already quoted the various possible procedures for dealing with this problem had not been considered and he had not received advice from the many interests involved, both officially and unofficially. He changed his mind about the whole procedure for the development of pipelines as a result of representations made to him from both official and unofficial quarters. When some of us on this side of the House suggested that the pressures to which he was subjected were those of the big oil companies, we were accused of having suspicious minds.
The Parliamentary Secretary has said that we delight in representing the oil companies as bloodthirsty and predatory. After all, this suspicion of ours has been 1508 confirmed by the Minister, and now even more emphatically by the Parliamentary Secretary. The Minister said on Second Reading that it was likely that the first authorisations would go to the users of pipelines and that this would be so because it was the users who knew best.
Although the right hon. Gentleman did not actually say it, as this was part of an argument about how the development should be planned, the implication clearly was that by waiting for the initiative for proposals to come from users and granting applications to users he would be ensuring and preserving the public interest. That is only another way of saying that what the users regard as being best in their own interests is best in the national interest.
The Parliamentary Secretary slipped a little further. He said this afternoon that the Bill leaves it to the users to make applications for authorisations for pipelines. It does nothing of the sort. The Bill says nothing about applications being limited to the prospective users of pipelines. The Parliamentary Secretary has let the cat out of the bag now. We now know definitely that it is the intention of the Government so to operate the Bill that authorisations for cross-country pipelines are granted only to prospective users.
Who will the prospective users be in the near future? Will they not be the big oil companies operating in this country? Are they, or are they not, going to be Esso, Shell and B.P.? I should be very surprised indeed if, after what we have heard, not only from the Minister but from the Parliamentary Secretary, authorisations are, in practice, granted to anybody else.
§ Mr. Peyton
I should be sorry if anything I said this afternoon were taken to indicate that anybody who wished to operate a trunk line could not apply for it. Nothing I said was intended to convey the impression that by law or practice only a user of a pipeline could apply for or would get an authorisation. I think that the hon. Gentleman understands that very well.
§ Mr. Warbey
I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary's slip was only a Freudian slip, representing the subconscious intentions of the Government.
1509 The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the Bill itself does not prevent anybody else from applying. I am saying that he has revealed the fact that the Government intend in operating the Bill to grant authorisations to the big oil companies and the Bill as now constructed is designed to promote the development of pipelines by the major oil companies and to facilitate the construction of pipelines by the major oil companies. It is designed for that purpose and none other.
I do not want to elaborate this point, which I should have thought would be obvious even to the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), but it has never been assumed in the House or in the country that vested user interests, whose main concern is avowedly to look after the interests of their shareholders, and, therefore, to make a substantial profit, are the best judges of the way in which the economic development of this country should take place. I should be astonished if the hon. Member for Harborough or any other hon. Member opposite would be prepared to subscribe to that view. In fact, they do not entirely, because the Bill contains some form of protection for certain types of persons who will be affected by the activities of the oil companies which promote pipelines.
§ Mr. Farr
The hon. Gentleman is talking through his large metaphorical hat, because he has been continually referring in his remarks to oil companies, and oil companies alone, as being the only beneficiaries under the Bill. That is exactly what he said a moment or two ago. I am sure that he will agree, on reflection, that many other commodities will be carried by pipelines, and not only oil.
§ Mr. Warbey
That is true. I said in the early stages of the Bill that we all know that there will be other developments and that other products will be carried through pipelines. However, the primary and biggest development which we shall face in the near future will be the carriage of oil and the promotion of pipelines by oil companies. Does the hon. Member doubt that? Of course he does not. He knows that it is true. That is what the Bill is primarily designed to facilitate.
1510 Virtually the only people who are really protected in the Bill against the predatory activities of the oil companies, to use the words of the Parliamentary Secretary, are the private landowning interests. We even witnessed an attempt by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) to get for the private landowning interests the Whole of the proceeds of the exploitation of pipelines. It was not accepted, because even the Government were not prepared to go so far as to allow the landowners to collar the whole of the booty. All they are concerned with is that there should be a fair share between the various private interests and that the rules of competition for private enterprise should be observed.
In his letter to me the Minister referred to another form of pressure to which he had been subjected Which had led him to change his mind. He said that there was also official pressure upon him. I think I know What that official pressure was. It was from his own colleagues who are trying to get this country into the Common Market. I suspect that they said that the Bill must be so constructed that the form of procedure will be such as to comply with the rules of competition of the Common Market; that is to say, there must be such a development of pipelines as to ensure that, while monopolies are given their opportunities, the monopoly powers are not exercised in such a way as to conflict with other private interests.
The Bill has been so reconstructed that it will not have to be revised if this country is taken into the Common Market. The net result is that we are given a classic example of Conservative planning. The Minister himself boasted about that on Second Reading. He said that through the Bill he wanted to show that Conservative planning works. We shall see through the operation of the Bill just what Conservative planning means, and just how it will work. It will take a form in which big private enterprise is relieved of as many restrictions on its operations as possible while, at the same time, as many restrictions as possible are placed on the operations of public enterprise.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of avoiding the danger of hedging around the promoters of pipelines with costly 1511 restrictions, but he is not worried about the costly restrictions that are being imposed on public enterprise, and the costly competition. Public enterprise is quite rightly subjected in the public interest to certain restrictions. It has to operate in the national interest. For example, it has to operate uneconomic sections of transport, and observe statutory codes of safety in the mines—the kind of things chat will not be imposed upon pipeline operators.
It is public enterprise that is to be restricted and hampered. It is public enterprise, in the form of the National Coal Board, that will have to bear the cost of compensation if rights of support are lost when pipe-lines are carried across coalfields, but the Bill relieves private enterprise of costly restrictions. By the Bill it is even being relieved of the costly process of having to promote a private Bill for the operation of a pipeline, and I must say that I am very doubtful whether I shall vote in favour of the Third Reading.
We all agree that a pipelines Bill is desirable; that some form of public control is necessary. We might be in-inclined to agree that the Bill is better than no Bill at all, but I am not sure because, when we proceeded by Private Bill, promoters had at least to pay some of the cost of promoting the necessary legislation. We also had the opportunity of Parliamentary control because, under that procedure, Parliament had the last word. We could not only make changes in the detail of the proposals, but had the last word on whether or not the proposals should go through at all.
We now have none of that control. It is left solely to the Minister in his discretion. The final condemnation of the Bill is that it takes completely from Parliament the power to control this important new form of economic development, and hands it over entirely to private interests, supported by a Tory Minister.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)
The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) said that under the Private Bill procedure it was easier for Parliament to control development, and he seemed very happy to think that promoters of Private Bills had to spend a lot of money in appearing 1512 before Select Committees. It is important to remind the House that it was the last Select Committee to consider a Private Bill under this procedure that advised the House that no more private legislation covering pipeline development should be promoted. It was basically because of that recommendation that some public Bill had to be promoted to make sure that in future we would have some control of a development that will accelerate in the years to come.
The hon. Gentleman concentrated, as one would expect, on the oil side— because, at the moment, it is the oil companies that are mainly concerned with operating pipelines—yet we all know that as a result of developments now going on, many bulk products will be moved in this way. It is important to remember that it was as a result of the Report of a Select Committee that this House was seized of the view that there should be no more of this private legislation but that we should have a public Bill. Here is that public Bill, and we should welcome it.
The argument throughout our proceedings has been directed to whether this Bill is the right sort of Measure to deal with pipeline development. I think that it is, and while the hon. Gentleman sneers at Conservative planning, this Measure is one example of making certain that Parliament and the Executive will give a guide to how things will develop in the future, will lay down safety provisions, will make certain that there are opportunities of obtaining wayleaves and rights over land and that those rights will not be enjoyed by private companies to a greater extent than they are enjoyed by public authorities. That is another purpose of the Bill—
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
The powers are in excess of those given to public authorities, because the railways are not being given the same powers as the oil companies.
§ Mr. Mawby
The Bill gives the railways certain exemptions which the pipeline promoter does not enjoy. At the same time, there are certain restrictions on the railways that do not apply to the pipeline promoter. However, I do not think that on Third Reading we can 1513 rehearse all the many arguments that were put forward in Committee. This is not the time or the place for that, but I may say that when I referred to public authorities I had in mind the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport, and so on, whose rights of compulsory acquisition are very strictly laid down in previous Statutes.
This Bill may not be completely perfect, but its aim is to make certain that we have a procedure whereby the pipeline promoters can obtain some of the benefits that normally accrue to the public authorities, but they will be hedged in with the same restrictions that are placed on the public authorities in order to maintain the freedom of the individual and the rights of the property owner.
That brings us to the next point. The hon. Member for Ashfield again made some very sneering references to private landowners and said that all that the Bill sought to do was to protect their rights. In case anybody should get the wrong idea, let us ask ourselves who private landowners are. In the main—
§ Mr. Mawby
We may be content to live in council houses, but the majority of people are not. Why should we say that because a person owns or is buying a house on mortgage he is not a private landowner and may not be subject to the same claims as would a person who owns a large amount of land? This, I think, is important, because in many towns there will be a number of people who will be faced with the prospect of a pipeline passing through their back garden. Surely their rights are as important as the rights of anyone else. Therefore, I do not think we should sneer too much about the private landowner.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
The ordinary householder does not even have to be given statutory notice that a pipeline is going under his house. He has no protection under the Bill.
§ Mr. Mawby
I think that the main point here is that the Government have sought in the Bill to create hedging arrangements in order to ensure that safety factors will be recognised and that the ordinary individual will be properly looked alter. The aim of the Bill-indeed it is written into the Bill—is to make certain that there shall not be a proliferation of pipelines but that, as far as possible, there shall be a merging together of pipelines and opportunities for sharing pipelines where the maximum capacity is not likely to be used by the owners.
Anyone who considers it commercially practical to lay a pipeline from point A to point B will seek permission so to do and the Minister by using his powers under the Bill will make certain that all the proper formalities are followed. The main consideration will be a commercial one, whether, in fact, the pipeline is needed from point A to point B. I believe that if we take the view that there must be a national plan we might end up by deciding to run a pipeline from point X to point Y when we know full well that there will be very few people who will want to send oil or any other product through that pipeline at any time.
I think that the laying of a pipeline must be based on commercial practicability, on whether it is needed and whether it is going to be sufficiently economical to enable it to replace the present carrying capacity needed by the producer. Therefore, I believe that the Bill is the right sort of Bill and I give it my full support.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
The hon. Member for Tones (Mr. Mawby) was, together with myself, a 1515 member of the Select Committee and should, therefore, have some realisation of why we have this Bill before us now. To my mind, it is a most unsatisfactory Bill. The reason why the Private Bill procedure failed was almost exclusively because the basis of the willing seller and the willing buyer broke down. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would agree that the reason why the Select Committee reported to the House that we should take new measures was because the basis of the willing seller and the willing buyer failed. The Esso Petroleum Company got the right to have a compulsory purchase order for three years. The company—I have checked this, and the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) drew my attention to it last night—had to indemnify all property above and below the line.
The weakness of this Bill lies in the fact that the Minister has failed to write these compensation features into it. The Minister takes powers under the Bill, and if he is satisfied he will grant a pipeline construction authorisation. What, in fact, will this mean? It will mean laying plans before a planning committee and drawing a line for 70 miles between point A and point B. Where a small person resists and says, You are not going through my small piece of land," the Minister will have to make up his mind whether to protect the owner of the small parcel of land against the oil company. One remembers Crichel Down and what happened in that case. I suggest that there has been insufficient discussion of the policy behind the Bill. The pressure for the Bill came, more or less, from Trunk Pipelines Ltd.
I am 100 per cent. in favour of technical change. I am one who wants to see the big tankers which carry oil taken off the roads as quickly as possible. If we can transport their load by pipeline, I am all for it. I have no objection, as I say, to technical change and to a better system of transport. The fact that there are compulsory rights and other elements without proper safeguards for the small man is the reason why the Bill does not have my full support.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Having attended all the sittings in Committee on the Bill, I cannot help 1516 but share the disappointment of hon. Members opposite that we have not had the opportunity of discussing all the Clauses in detail. However, I would remind them that during the course of the Committee stage the report of our proceedings ran to 1,441 columns of HANSARD. Of that number, 132 columns were devoted to reporting our discussion about when we should discuss the Bill. In point of fact, the thunderstorm outside reminds me of the sort of chorus that we had in Committee to the effect, "We don't want to work no more, no more" which was always led by the Opposition. If one takes the trouble to read these voluminous reports, one soon sees from which quarter came the most filibustering. I recall that on one occasion in Committee an hon. Member said, "Yes", whereupon he was accused by hon. Members opposite of filibustering. I might add that that occurred long before the middle of the night.
§ Mr. Costain
As a matter of fact, we were trying to discuss Clause 20 at the time.
We should congratulate the Minister on his extraordinarily good humour throughout our discussions on the Bill. I do not think that any other Bill with such political differences—and I have taken the trouble to read the Committee reports of some of the more contentious Measures—has been discussed with such good humour.
§ Mr. Costain
Despite the number of columns that the discussion on that Bill occupied in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I do not think that the proportionate number of Divisions took place. In Committee on the Pipe-lines Bill the Divisions took place one immediately after another, and frankly it was sometimes difficult to understand quite why we went through that procedure.
Much has been said in opposition to the Bill and, as a result, there has not been sufficient emphasis—although my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) covered some of the points— placed on the advantages which will accrue. Not sufficient has been made of the fact that local authorities will have the right to charge certain rates to pipeline operators. I support their getting 1517 these rates, and it must be encouraging for local authorities to know that they will not have to build new roads on which heavy tankers will travel. Instead of local authorities and the Ministry having to go to the expense of building such roads local authorities will be able to charge private enterprise rates and thereby gain revenue as a result of this Measure.
A great deal has been said about the Bill giving a greater monopoly to the oil companies. That point has been made on the basis that only oil will be carried through the pipes. I can foresee a great number of other commodities eventually being so carried. I do not even go so far as to say that only the big oil companies will benefit from the Bill. The smaller ones will also benefit. The big oil companies already have their own facilities and road tanker fleets and have already constructed a pipeline to London Airport.
Since all this will ease road congestion, more should have been made of the fact that a pipeline is the only form of transport by which one does not have to return empty lorries. It is a one-way traffic. I emphasised on Second Reading that oil pipelines must be run by experts with real experience of these matters. That is why I very much support my right hon. Friend in his efforts to ensure that oil pipelines will be run by experts. Before anyone obtains an authorisation to build a pipeline he must satisfy the Minister that he is an expert in this field. An authorisation would not be granted other than to an expert.
On Second Reading I expressed concern about the effect pipelines might have on the sterilisation of land. At that time I saw certain disadvantages, considering the shortage of building land, in pipelines being laid. We had the opportunity of discussing this in Committee, and I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances on this topic. Fears were also expressed about the rights a private landowner, big or small, regarding the depositing of plans. A great deal of one sitting in Committee was occupied discussing whether plans should be deposited. I remember hon. Members opposite giving the impression that all one had to do was to deposit plans with Tom, Dick or Harry—or all the authorities which might be interested, 1518 including the fire brigades—and the whole thing would be settled. They did not seem to realise that any pipeline operator, or prospective operator, before putting a proposition or plans before the Minister, would have to make some sort of preliminary survey. No one with experience would attempt to build or plan a new pipeline without first finding out what obstacles there would be in the way of his project. There is no doubt that he would consult the local water, sewerage and gas authorities to ascertain the levels at which the pipeline must be constructed.
We also discussed at length the question of what is a pipeline. This was accompanied by a long debate on the effect of different products in different pipelines.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
On a point of order. I appreciate that of necessity this debate must be rather wide, but surely it is a little out of order for an hon. Member constantly to refer to debates which took place in Committee?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I do not think so, not on Third Reading. We are concerned, in fact, with debating what is in the Bill. I understand that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is debating the subject of what is a pipeline, and that seems to be in the Bill.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Further to that point of order. The reason I rose on a point of order was that in debate on Third Reading we are restricted to that which is in the Bill itself. Surely it is out of order for an hon. Member constantly— and I emphasise "constantly"—to refer to debates which took place in Committee?
§ Mr. Ross
Further to that point of order. Surely it is in order for the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) to try to find out, at this final stage, just what is a pipeline, bearing in mind that our discussion on the Bill has been so curtailed that we do not even know the meaning of the title of the Bill?
§ Mr. Costain
I was about to say that a pipeline is clearly defined in the Bill. One of the problems we were up against —and I admit that I did not fully understand this on Second Reading—was what was in the Minister's mind regarding the development of further pipelines.
§ Mr. Lubbock
What is not defined in the Bill is what is "a system of pipelines", because the Minister had said previously that he did not think that a system of pipelines was susceptible to accurate definition.
§ Mr. Costain
In taking that bait, I recall that during our discussions I referred to the fact that we were trying to decide whether a railway line was a railway track or a railway line. Exactly the same problem applies in the case of pipelines. One of the great objects of the Bill is to confine pipelines to areas where they will be most efficient, and I hope that a number of pipelines will be built on land adjoining railways because that will give access to areas where the greatest need exists.
There has been some reference by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) to pipelines between England and Scotland. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that there are ports in Scotland which take a lot of tankers, and I cannot see much advantage in oil being taken into English ports instead of Scottish ports. I am sure the hon. Gentleman's friends on the Clyde would not welcome the construction of pipelines to convey oil from England to Scotland, though I can imagine that some Englishmen might like them to be used to convey from Scotland products other than oil.
In general, I believe this Measure will be am important factor in our transport system. I have been surprised that there has not been much public reference to this Measure as it has passed through the House. I do not think I have received one letter from a constituent in connection with a pipeline. I was tempted to find out what happened when the rail-way Bills were going through this House 100 and more years ago. I think they got considerably more publicity because the whole idea was very novel in those days. Nowadays new modes of transport do not hit the headlines because they do not have an atomic or stratospheric connection.
1520 I congratulate the Minister on the way he has handled this Bill, and I welcome it as a Measure which will help our transport system.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I should have thought that if there were one thing on which both sides of the House agree it is that the definition of pipelines is certainly not clear and simple. More than forty lines in Clause 64 are used to define "pipeline", and I have the same feeling about pipelines as I have about sausages, which have been discussed at considerable length in the High Court. After years of effort no one has yet satisfactorily defined a sausage for the purposes of the Food and Drugs Acts.
I have had the privilege of serving on Committees dealing with long, complex and controversial Bills, but I cannot remember a Bill which has come to us, if I may put it crudely, in such a half-baked state as this. Apart from the evidence of one's own eyes, the other evidence for my statement is that the Minister himself has seen fit to put down more than 100 Amendments, many of which were very long indeed, consisting of thirty, forty and fifty lines. It is clear that he himself has had considerable second thoughts about the Bill as it came from another place.
I wish I could think that the Minister in moving his Amendments had been influenced by what had been said in the Committee stage. So far as I can remember, not more than about ten of his Amendments resulted from anything which was said in Standing Committee. The Opposition have been lucky if during the whole course of our discussions we had three Amendments accepted, and one of those was an Amendment to which the Minister added his name, an Amendment originally standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), who sought to insert "not" or to take out "not"—I forget which. We did have the support of the Government on that Amendment.
This is astonishing, particularly when one remembers that the Bill had already passed through the legislative machinery of another place. Despite that, the Minister has felt obliged to move more 1521 than 100 Amendments, some of them extremely long; the majority of which we have not had an opportunity to discuss. I can remember how at two o'clock in the morning, partly because of the Minister's stubbornness in not having indicated when the Committee would rise, we had to deal with an Amendment fifty lines long dealing with eleemosynary matters, long and complicated matters concerning compensation for Church property and the exclusion of the effect of the Land Clauses Acts from the compensation to be paid. It is fatuous to suggest that important legislation of that kind could be discussed properly at that time of night—new Clauses and Amendments which were inadequately prepared in the first place and which had to be modified, and then were moved extremely shortly and without adequate explanation by the Government in the middle of the night.
If anybody wants to see the result of this method, I suggest that he looks at Clause 50 (3), and if subsequently I could be told what the Clause now means, and particularly that subsection, I would be delighted. We are dealing with a Bill of sixty-nine Clauses, twenty-eight of which have never been discussed at any stage—vitally important Clauses like Clauses 15 to 19, which deal with placing pipelines in streets. This is a matter of considerable importance when one considers how the traffic flow and all that is associated with it is a vital factor in connection with the movement of population. There was no discussion on any one of those Clauses. We have no idea of the effect of the modification of the code in Part II of the Public Utilities Street Works Act, 1950, which is referred to in Clause 17.
Many of these Clauses are very long. Clause 15 runs to something like 150 lines. There has never been a word of explanation of it. Local authorities have very little idea of the effect of this Clause. Indeed, it is hardly to be wondered at if one reads Clause 15. I should like to draw attention to a "fringe" subsection (9), which again we have never discussed:For the purposes of this section a pipe-line shall be treated as placed along a line crossing a street if it is so placed that at either side of the street an angle, on a horizontal plane, of not more than forty-five degrees is formed between the line of the pipe-line inside the street and a line joining the point at which the 1522 line of the pipe-line crosses the side of the street with the point nearest to that point on the opposite side of the street.If any hon. Member knows what that means I am sure we would all like to hear. I have not the faintest idea.
I am certain that there is a mistake in Clause 18, to which I had an Amendment on the Paper, but it was never called. According to subsection (2), the Minister of Transport may in certain circumstances give permission for the breaking up or opening of a highway on the understanding that work beginsafter eight o'clock in the evening and carried on without intermission.If the words in the Clause say what is intended, this is clearly contrary to previous highway practice of the Ministry of Transport. It now means that work must not start until eight o'clock in the evening and that then the work shall go on without intermission during the night, all the next day and the next night, and so on, creating traffic dislocation which this provision, I presume, is designed to prevent. I have seen hundreds of Ministry of Transport consents, and normally the Minister of Transport says that the work must be conducted between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. If the Minister intends what the words in this subsection say, confusion will be created on the roads. I am sure this provision is wrongly worded. But we have never been allowed to discuss it, and unless something is done about it in another place there will be further headaches and more confusion for those who have to deal with these matters.
This is the sort of Bill where the Government have shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. There is to be no consultation with householders or their representatives before the laying of a pipeline. We are merely told that if any damage is suffered the aggrieved persons can go to the courts and seek redress. It would be much better to prevent these things.
There is no statutory right of consultation with the fire brigades. An important point arises even in connection with the notification of accidents. Under Clause 36, the fire brigades and the police have to be notified, and there is a subsection providing that the authorities mentioned may request maps if 1523 they want to. It may well be the intention that the authorities which think that they may be affected by accidents should have maps before accidents occur, but, as the Clause now stands, the only right given is to ask for maps after an accident. I raised this point earlier and I was told that I should foe informed about it. I have never been informed. Does the subsection really mean, as it seems to mean, that at the height of a raging fire someone can call round and say that he would like to have a map of the pipeline? This is absurd. I gave notice of the point, but I have had no answer. I should very much like to know.
There is no statutory protection for the sewerage authorities, in spite of all the risks which right arise. There is nothing to inform the ordinary householder that materials in a pipeline are being conveyed under pressure beneath his house. I should have thought that the householder certainly had the right to know. Provision could easily have been made. It is no use saying that the local planning authorities can give information about pipelines. A local planning authority has no machinery for communicating with every householder and, in any event, it is not qualified to deal with the safety and technical aspects of the matter.
This was a bad Bill when it first came to the House. It is a bad Bill now. We shall have to spend many hours in the future revising this piece of legislation.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Jasper More (Ludlow)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on having carried the Bill through, and I express my regret that I was not able to be in the Chamber this afternoon to hear my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary move its Third Reading.
As one who served on the Committee, I should prefer to draw a veil over our proceedings there rather than elaborate on them at this stage, but there are certain respects in which I should like to put the record straight. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), who is not now in his place, use words, even if they were not, perhaps, entirely seriously intended, to the effect that my right hon. Friend had 1524 contemptuously and arrogantly rejected Amendments throughout our proceedings. All of us who served on the Committee must have been impressed by one thing more than by any other, namely, by the continued patience and good humour which my right hon. Friend evinced throughout.
§ Mr. Willis
He still refused to accept Amendments and he still arrogantly refused to answer the arguments.
§ Mr. More
The hon. Member for Ashfield credited me with the intention or ambition to collar all the proceeds or profits of the enterprising oil companies for the benefit of the private landowner. I regard that as a great tribute, but, in fact, the modest effort which I made in Committee was merely to ensure that private landowners who might be affected by pipelines should remain in the same position as regards their rights and their compensation as though no pipelines at all had been put across their property.
At this stage, I offer one or two general observations on the situation which the Bill will create in regard to administration. I do not think that we want now to go into a discussion of doctrinaire ideas about nationalisation or anti-nationalisation. We all realise that it could have been left to private companies to drive these pipelines where they wished, as was done by the old railway companies, or we could have gone to the other extreme and allowed the development to be done under some nationalised scheme. Adopting a practical rather than a doctrinaire approach, I think that it is fair to say that this is something of a pioneering operation in both its practical and its legislative aspects. There are risks when nationalised concerns are allowed to decide the course of great new enterprises like this for which no practical precedent exists.
Even in the undertakings of nationalised industries long established, the coal mines and the railways, for instance, large sums of public money in quite recent years have, unfortunately, been devoted to enterprises which have not been successful. Whatever be our general political view in the matter, we must appreciate that the Bill as we pass it today will mean that the money which is to be risked in these enterprises will 1525 not be the taxpayers' money but will be the money of the corporations which will lay the pipelines down. I am sure that this is important.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) seemed to be impressed by the number of insoluble problems which he suggested we were leaving for the judges in interpreting the various provisions of the Bill. Looking at the Bill in general, the more remarkable feature of it, I suggest, is the extent to which the ordinary courts of law in this country are to be excluded from its operations. Throughout the Bill, the onus of decision and the onus of consideration are laid upon the Minister. Under Clause after Clause he has to exercise discretion and come to decisions. As we all know, this means that the decisions will, in large part, have to be made by members of his Department working as conscientious administrators and trying to decide in all these cases what is right in the public interest and how the various issues are to be determined.
In Clause 28, we find a surprising reference to the judges, but, in fact, they are merely given power to determine as between private owners how certain moneys shall be divided. In Clause 47 there is a provision by which questions of compensation are to be determined by the Lands Tribunal. In almost all other oases, decisions have to be made either by the Minister or by inspectors appointed by him. Clause 41 gives the Minister a general power to appoint these inspectors, and that, of course, will provide a more elaborate method which will help the Minister in making the decisions which will be so important in the working of the Bill.
This is really a four-cornered operation. First, there is the public interest. Second, there is the interest of landowners who may be physically affected by operations on the spot. Third, there is the position of the private or—whichever one may wish to call them—(public companies, the entrepreneurs, which will wish to drive these pipelines through. Fourth, there is the position of the administrators working under the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend. In my view, the impressive feature of the Bill is the extent to which we leave the effect of it to depend upon administration and 1526 the way it is operated. I am sure we may have confidence that, as this is a pioneering Bill and as it is important that we should start right in what will be a new form of transport in this country, my right hon. Friend will ensure that these provisions, discretions and powers are exercised really and truly in the public interest. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and wish the Bill well.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
When in moving the Third Reading the Parliamentary Secretary said that I considered the Bill to be very desirable, he, like his right hon. Friend in a previous debate on this matter, was dealing only in half-truths. The previous occasion was when I accused the Minister of being dishonest in his quotation in relation to myself. It is very desirable that we should have a Bill dealing with the development of pipelines as a future means of transportation, but to say that is a long chalk from saying that the Bill is desirable in its present form. I have said repeatedly in our discussions on the Bill that one of the tragedies with which we have been faced as that we had a Minister in charge of the Bill and a Parliamentary Secretary who, Heaven knows, did his best, but both of whom did not understand the Bill and had not sufficient knowledge to pilot it through its various stages.
It is true to say that one of the reasons why the provisions of the Bill have not been discussed as fully as they ought to have been, bearing in mind that it deals with the future transport system, is that both the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary were incapable of meeting the criticisms that were advanced from this side of the House because they had not the knowledge of the Bill that they ought to have had. I say that if this Bill is to initiate a revolutionary transport system in this country, it is, in its present form, a disastrous Bill. It is disastrous because, although we are being asked to give a Third Reading to a Measure which is supposed to be legislating for the future, we have never discussed a large part of it.
Clause after Clause dealing with the future work of the local authorities, a very important aspect of this problem, and to some extent with the whole question of property relationship and the 1527 rights of individuals have never been discussed. Yet the House of Commons is being asked to give a Third Reading to this Measure. It is not good enough for the Minister to expect the House of Commons to act in this way. We are supposed to be a responsible body and to pass legislation of which we have at least reasonable knowledge and after reasonable debate. The only difference between the Parliamentary system and the totalitarian system is that fine dictator cam govern by decree, but under the Parliamentary system legislation has to be exposed to the floodlight of debate.
§ Mr. Loughlin
The hon. Gentleman says "Nonsense". If there is any other fundamental difference between the two systems, I should like to know what it is. If the hon. Member wants to intervene—
§ Mr. Loughlin
The hon. Member has changed his ground again. It is customary for hon. Members opposite, when one makes a statement, to say "Poppycock" and "Nonsense" and, when one allows them to proceed to elaborate what they have said, to change their ground and say that they were talking about something else. I am saying that, although a number of hours have been devoted to discussing some provisions of the Bill, there are many other provisions in it that have not been discussed at all.
Hon. Members opposite have said that this is not merely a Measure to deal with the transportation of oil but that other commodities will also be transported. That is true. We do not yet know precisely what will be transported in the pipeline system because no one can envisage the ultimate of that system. It is most remarkable that hon. Members opposite, while they have recognised that it is a pipeline system for future development, always manage to make reference to the oil companies. It is true to say that the pipeline system is the future method of transport and that the Bill, inadequate though it is, initiates that future method of transport. But the Bill is also a charter for the oil 1528 companies and speculators in the pipeline system.
The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) referred to the fact that the money of the oil companies would be used. Of course it will, but this will be a better "spec" than independent television; it will be a gold mine and the oil companies know it. It is not only a question of their putting in capital; they are being given great public utility powers, almost monopoly powers, from which they will extract the greatest proportion of the profit.
The Bill is necessary, but not in its present form. It is a disastrous Bill in that it has not been adequately discussed in this House. We are being asked to pass a Measure without full discussion, and I am totally opposed to it.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Those of us who have been in the House for some time can remember serving on a great many Committee's dealing with important legislation. Whether we agreed with the legislation or not—in other words, whether we were on the Government side or on the Opposition side—we can remember the great satisfaction which we derived from striving to improve a Measure and from the general acceptance of the principles in it. As we get to the end of our discussions on this Bill, I wish to place on record the fact that I have never been a member of any Committee dealing with legislation which was as unsatisfactory as this Bill, despite the fact that we accept the need for a pipeline system in Britain.
The Bill has been ill considered in the way that it has been presented to us, in spite of the fact that it went through another place before it came here. Huge dollops of Government Amendments and new Clauses have been necessary, most of which we have not had the chance to debate, and as we get to the end of it we realise that much more of the Bill has not been discussed than has been discussed. I should have thought that, no matter how we viewed the working of the Guillotine in this House, it is something which we should consider most seriously when we reach the point that I have just mentioned about any piece of legislation.
1529 As I suggested in the debate on the guillotine Motion, democracy can become something of a mockery when important legislation leaves this House practically undiscussed, as has happened with this Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) showed us that one or two of the Clauses, as they leave us, simply make nonsense. It is, therefore, a great tragedy that we are having the Third Reading while the Bill is in its present form.
A pipeline Bill is the genesis of a new transport system, and, therefore, we on this side have never disputed the need to ensure the orderly and systematic development of a pipeline system. Yet, as the Bill leaves us, neither the Minister nor any other member of the Government can even describe what a pipeline system is, apart from the fact that a pipeline system is a system of pipelines. Then we axe in worse trouble because that cannot be defined. It makes nonsense of our efforts to guide the development of this sort of transport system when we cannot even define the main purpose of the Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about the need for encouraging the competitive power of our industries and went on to say that the State cannot be trusted with pipeline development. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) educated him a little by saying that the State has been building pipelines for over twenty years. Indeed, the war might not have gone so well for us if it had not.
But the Government's only criterion of success is profit, not the ability to produce pipelines. The hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) told us that large sums of money had been invested in industries which have not been successful. He spoke of nationalised industries. I thought that he was talking about agriculture, the Cunard Steam-ship Co., steel and cotton, but, apparently, those trifles escaped the hon. Gentleman's attention. We used to laugh in the old days at Robb Wilton, as fireman, asking people to fill in forms in triplicate before the brigade could function. Now we know that a map, not a form, is an essential prerequisite to obtaining assistance if one's house is on fire.
1530 We on this side are convinced of the need for a pipeline system, irrespective of whether there is profit to be made from it. The fact that pipeline development is to be left entirely to the oil companies and other sections of private enterprise presupposes that the Bill can be used as a vehicle for making profit, or there will be no pipeline system, irrespective of the fact that hon. Members opposite say that a pipeline system is essential to the well-being of the country. We are told that the public interest is to be safeguarded. How? What is the essential difference between a new transport system in pipelines and the old transport system in railways? There is just one small difference. Pipelines can still be used for profit-making and railways cannot. Therefore, the public has the railways and private enterprise has the pipelines. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman laughs. If he can dispute what I am saying, I will give way to him.
§ Mr. Lee
The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate the point. The great danger to the railway system is that if Dr. Beeching succeeds it will be denationalised, just as the steel industry and road transport were denationalised. The basis of the Bill is to ensure that the nation has a new transport system provided that the profit motive can be satisfied. If it cannot be satisfied, there will be no pipeline system, irrespective of what the public needs. That is enshrined in the Bill, and it is on this basic issue that we have argued about Clause 1.
The Parliamentary Secretary gave us the usual approach, namely, that if we advocate that the nation should own something we are doctrinaire, whereas if we advocate that private people should exploit something that is not doctrinaire but natural. We should have a new transport system because the nation requires it, irrespective of whether profits can be made from it. So great is the 1531 Government's concern about the public that they will not get one unless private people can make profits from it.
This is driving the Tory Party to some rather remarkable situations. Even the land-owning interests have been relegated to second place in the Government's consideration. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the British Transport Commission will be allowed to build pipelines on its own land. This is a great concession! We shall be accusing him of lining up with Mr. Khrushchev if this goes on. Who wants to lay a pipeline on land exclusively running along a railway track which is to be closed down because it goes in the wrong direction?
If we are to have a pipeline system which becomes the arteries of our industrial development—surely that is what we ail want—it will be successful only if it goes into the areas in which industry is required and to which industry should be channelled and, therefore, can act as the life blood of that industry. When my hon. Friends and I, in Committee, tried to bring about that revolution by Amendments, the Minister said that, although he wanted orderly development, the one thing that we should not do was to make sure that industry develops in an orderly way. This is one of the great shortcomings of the Bill and one of the reasons why it will not succeed.
We are told time and again in the Bill that we must ensure the orderly development of pipelines and that to do that we must make certain that there is not a proliferation of pipelines. In itself, that is an excellent suggestion. I dispute that the Minister can possibly do it without considering the kind of Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton moved last night and taking a complete picture of applications for authorisation before he even begins to look at the system itself. In any event, once it is decided to oppose a proliferation of pipelines the Government automatically preclude a large section of the community from ever hoping to get authorisation and they narrow the field of those who can. In itself, it is a good thing, but when we pass legislation which almost presupposes monopoly, the House has to decide as between private and public monopoly.
1532 In the Bill, we are told that people who fail to get an authorisation or who, perhaps, are not of sufficient financial standing to be able to apply for one, can arrange with those who have pipelines to get their commodities carried in them. Frankly, I do not believe that this is worth the paper on which it is written. How can the Minister tell me—perhaps he will try when he replies—the capacity of a pipeline which, first, ensures that the owner of the line can move his own commodities through it and, further, that there will be surplus capacity which other people can use? We hammered this point in Committee, but never got an answer. I ask the Minister again now.
On the theme of monopolies, which my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton has discussed, if the Government are saying that they will limit those who can get an authorisation—a proposition from which we do not dissent—unless there can be some way in which the Minister ensures that an authorisation does not become a monopoly right to those who get it, the Government are conniving at the creation of private monopoly.
That again, as my hon. Friends have shown at every stage of the Bill, is one of the important reasons why we do not believe that we can at one and the same time create conditions of private monopoly and look after the public interest. The two things are antagonistic. Therefore, I do not believe that that part of the Bill which gives the power theoretically to people who wish to use somebody else's pipelines to move their own commodities can work in the way that the Minister apparently expects.
I have just referred to Clause 11 as something which, under the Tories, will put the landowner in a secondary position as against the great oil companies. To discuss Clause 11 as we have done is nothing like sufficient. Not a word was said in Committee an either the Second or Third Schedules. Clause 11 is almost incapable of definition until we get to the conditions as laid down in the Schedules to the Bill, because they are the conditions which should have been discussed in justification of compulsory acquisition.
There again, I am not capable of saying whether the Schedules are capable 1533 of defining how Clause 11 will function. There has not been the slightest attempt by the Minister to interpret them to us. One remembers the position in which the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) found himself. He was a member of the Standing Committee and listened in—indeed, on one occasion he took part—to our deliberations. The hon. Member thought—I do not blame him for supposing this—that an ordinary householder would be protected within the Bill. He was horrified to find that no such protection was accorded and he fell back upon the argument that nobody could put a pipeline under his house without his knowing.
I shall not dispute that. Houses come to unfortunate ends when people begin to put pipelines under them. It is, however, a little late in the day to discover what to do about it if somebody is putting a pipeline under one's house.
§ Mr. Lee
That is an important point. As a layman, I would not attempt to answer. Perhaps the hon. Member for Totnes will tell us. I suppose that the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who asks what would happen if it were done while somebody was on holiday, is that there would toe no house to which to come back.
Is it not the case that we are being asked to accept a Measure of considerable importance undiscussed, undigested and certainly not understood? That is by no means an exaggeration, despite the fact that when the Bill came to us, we had the advantage that another place had already had a go at it and had defeated the Government on one or two occasions in discussing it.
Granted that we all wish to see a pipeline system developed, when we have a Measure of this kind, despite the differences between us concerning ownership, there could have been a great deal of mutuality. It is a great pity, however, that the Bill has been almost dragooned through the House. Before a single word was said in Committee, the Minister forced open-ended sittings upon us. Because of his attitude scarcely an Amendment of any principle or substance from the Opposition was accepted, although 1534 he was ready to adopt our principles and parade them as his own. The nation has the right to expect that this place, having fought out its differences of principle on ownership, will then co-operate together in trying to ensure that we get a proper system. Because of the way in which the Minister has handled the Bill, however, no such co-operation has been possible.
We know that the Bill was introduced far too late in the Session and that, rather than the Government blaming the Opposition for trying to analyse the Bill when it came to us, it is the Government who are culpable and who should be censured by the House for daring to introduce so late in the Session a Bill of the dimensions and importance of this one.
There is nothing further that we can do to stop the Bill going on to the Statute Book. The future may well reveal a different approach by incoming Governments to legislation of this nature. For our part, we have stated where we stand on the question of ownership. I think it very unlikely that our arguments in office as a Government would vary from those which we have used whilst in opposition. Therefore, the country can take heart in the thought that a pipeline system may well come into being irrespective of whether the profit motive can be satisfied. On that we stand. It is a great pity that we could not have had greater mutuality. Because of the disgraceful way in which the Opposition have been treated during the passage of the Bill, we shall divide against its Third Reading tonight.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ The Minister of Power (Mr. Richard Wood)
We have now reached the final stage of the Bill and I am bound to admit that in time to come I shall look back on this moment with a feeling of intense nostalgia. As I look forward to the weeks and months ahead I really do not see how I shall occupy my time, when the Bill has received the Royal Assent.
§ Mr. Wood
The suggestion has been made today that there has been insufficient time for discussion of the Bill. 1535 Whether or not that is so was debated at considerable length on the Allocation of Time Motion, when it was agreed earlier this month, but hon. Gentlemen have claimed this afternoon that the later stages of the Committee and other stages have been unduly hurried. They have claimed that a number of the Clauses did not get any attention. I must point out one thing. The fact that quite a number of Clauses were not reached did not preclude hon. Members in Committee from taking any chance they could to discuss them—
§ Mr. Wood
—but the compression of our later debates was the inevitable result of the tactics which the Opposition employed on the earlier Clauses.
As I understand it, the obligation of the Government is to allow adequate time for a Bill's discussion. The Government cannot bear responsibility if the Opposition choose to use the time available in rather peculiar ways. Therefore, the question is whether the Government have allowed adequate time to debate the Bill. The Bill occupied 75 hours in the Standing Committee, which is the equivalent of nearly 12 full days' debating time on the Floor of the House —12 full days. Altogether, it has been discussed in the House of Commons for not far short of 100 hours. If we add to that the 29 hours—I think it was— which the Bill had already occupied in another place I really do not think that it is possible to suggest that insufficient time has been available for its examination.
But in spite of the uneven discussion which has been afforded to it because of the operations of the Opposition in the Committee, I would gratefully acknowledge the improvements which have been made to the Bill during its passage through both Houses. Many of the Amendments which were accepted both in Standing Committee and again yesterday, on Report, were put down to meet points raised in the Committee or in another place.
I have already taken the opportunity —and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) warmly supported me—to express my gratitude 1536 to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Blackburn) for his conduct of our proceedings upstairs. I think that I shall be forgiven for expressing more appreciation of my hon. Friends, especially my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, for the magnificent and patient support which they gave me for so long, than for the apparent attempts—I must use my words very carefully, because I see the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) here; and, incidentally, having heard that he had been ill, I was delighted to find him in such vigorous health and in such good form this afternoon—of the Opposition to frustrate our progress.
Nevertheless, I should like to express my admiration for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton for the way in which he led his team, which was a team of quite remarkable versatility. If I may use cricketing metaphors, there was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), who was always ready for a quick single. I fear that in an attempt for a quick single today he ran himself out badly, because he suggested that I had not consulted Scottish local authorities before the Bill. I did in fact, consult the Scottish local authorities. Here, the hon. Gentleman was well out of his ground this afternoon. Then there was the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey), who so frequently—
§ Mr. Wood
I think that I really should get on, for I have a lot of things to say, but I will certainly give way in a moment if the hon. Gentleman really thinks that he must intervene.
The hon. Member for Ashfield was frequently performing the functions of what I think is called in first-class cricket, the night watchman—put in to bat for a few minutes before the drawing of stumps, to keep things going. And the rest of the side were certainly very often not averse from vociferous appeals to the umpire.
I cannot accept the charge made in debate on the Allocation of Time Motion that the Government have been rigidly resistant to all attempts to improve the Bill. If one makes a comparison of the 1537 Bill as it was when introduced and the Bill as it will finally appear I think that that suggestion is completely refuted, but I do not think that it is surprising that the Government have refused to accept the nationalising fervour of the Opposition on which many of the earlier Amendments were based, because we believe that such a philosophy, if it were to inspire future pipeline development, would frustrate and stultify what I am convinced will otherwise be an important new advance for industry and consumers.
The principles behind the Bill were fully debated on Second Reading and I do not wish to go over the ground again, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, anyhow, put the case most trenchantly and cogently at the beginning of the debate today. The Government appreciate that an unbridgeable difference exists on the fundamental basis of pipeline legislation. Hon. Members opposite believe that pipeline legislation should be based primarily on public ownership, that there should be a national plan, in the words of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice) on Second Reading,shaped and guided by the intervention of public enterprise so as to serve best the public purposes to which it can be harnessed."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1962; Vol. 659, c. 462.]In their view the Bill is misconceived in that it contains no positive planning.
We for our part believe with all our strength that this is the right approach. In our view legislation must primarily seek to provide conditions which will stimulate and encourage pipeline development and at the same time ensure that such development is subject, I use the words advisedly, having used them before, to a recognised pattern of public control.
I do not mind at all the suggestion the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hamilton pointed at me that—I think it boiled down to the phrase for which I give credit to my hon. Friend—that my head is just showing out of the pocket of the Esso Petroleum Company. That is what, I think, the hon. Member was trying to suggest. I do not mind that, because I think that it will be treated with the scorn and derision which it deserves, but I do certainly resent the innuendoes 1538 of the hon. Member against my engineering staff when he says that they have a rather sinister connection with the oil companies.
I should like to point out that they have other duties to see to and may not be employed on this work. In fact, it is quite essential, if they are to do their job properly in future, that the inspectors who will be employed under the Bill must come from industries using pipelines, so that they will have the technical knowledge necessary for them to do their job.
During the debates which have taken place we have discussed a number of interesting and important topics. The question of amenities has been discussed and my hon. Friend the Member for Har-borough (Mr. Farr) mentioned it this afternoon. It was not possible to provide that pipelines should be laid underground, because it may be that some pipeline development may be desirable, as, I think, the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out in Committee, at the bottom of disused canals, where it would be rather ridiculous to ask for under grounding and where there would be no offence at all to amenity. Certainly, amenity has figured very largely in the discussions both here and in another place. It is our determination that we should do what we possibly can to see that pipelines do not offend against that criterion.
The question of compulsory powers has been discussed at considerable length. The protection afforded now to those who own or occupy land corresponds with that which is provided by the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, with the important additional provision that when the Minister makes either a compulsory purchase order or a compulsory rights order it is subject in all cases—unlike the 1946 Act procedure—to confirmation by Parliament. I explained perfectly frankly to the Committee, and, I think, at considerable length, that I changed my mind between the debate on the Trunk Pipelines Bill and the introduction of this Bill about the need for parliamentary approval where compulsory rights orders or compulsory purchase orders were not necessary.
It is difficult to satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite when, most of the time, they are saying that I do not change my mind 1539 enough; and this afternoon they accuse me of having changed it once too often. I have explained that where compulsory rights ardors are not involved, or where rights are voluntarily granted, this provision for inquiry which is contained within the Bill affords much greater protection for local and other interests than ever existed before under the Private Bill procedure. The view has been expressed that a specific protection ought to be given in regard to the way in which pipeline works are carried out and it has been suggested that a mandatory code of practice for pipeline work should be laid down.
I think that the House will agree that the Government have gone a considerable way towards meeting this suggestion. Under Clause 13, introduced in Committee, where compulsory rights can be exercised over the operational land of statutory undertakers—for instance, railways—the Minister may impose conditions Which will prevent the operations of the undertakings concerned, either immediately or at any time in the future, from being adversely affected. He can also attach to ail compulsory rights orders certain conditions dealing, for instance, with the proper safeguarding of waiter supplies, reinstatement of land drains, ditches and fences, and, if I dare mention it in the presence of the hon. Member for Hamilton, also sporting rights.
By these means it is possible to Jay down proper safeguards which will meet any of the technical requirements of the undertakings concerned or in any individual case where they are necessary. The Bill embodies safeguards which are fully adequate to protect both agricultural interests and the interests of statutory undertakers Whose land may be subjected to a compulsory rights order.
We had a considerable discussion, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) took a prominent part, on the question of compensation and the proper liability of pipeline operators in this respect. The compensation arising from the exercise of rights granted by a compulsory rights order is covered by Clause 14, and the principles on which this is based follow the 1540 accepted code of compensation in regard to Government-owned pipelines. In general, the compensation provisions of the Bill seek to ensure that the owner and occupier of land to which a compulsory rights order applies is neither worse off nor better off financially than he would have been had such an order never been made.
Some property owners may regard this as ungenerous, particularly in view of the liberal compensation terms which have been voluntarily agreed by some of the major oil companies and the nationalised bodies for pipeline way-leaves. But the Government have had to consider the wider effects of extending the established compensation code and have decided, after very careful consideration, that the existing code should not be altered. Experience has shown that the existence of this code does not blind operators to the advantages of voluntary agreements wherever possible and of negotiating accordingly.
We had a long discussion, very necessarily, on safety. Some anxiety has been expressed about the potential danger of pipelines. It has been proposed that pipeline owners should be obliged to accept absolute liability for any damage which may be occasioned by their pipelines. There is no evidence to suggest that the building and operation of commercial pipelines will give rise to greater hazards than many other kinds of industrial process. The principle of absolute liability has been imposed only in very exceptional circumstances where unpredictable dangers are involved, and the Government see no reason why pipeline promoters should be placed in any different position from industry generally, where common law redress is always available to third parties whose interests may be injuriously affected.
A great deal was said both yesterday and in Committee when we debated the question of safety regulations. Indeed, a good deal has been said in general about the whole subject. The Government have taken the view, as I tried to explain yesterday, that safety requirements can best be imposed by notice in individual cases rather than by regulations for general application.
1541 It is thought that if one tried to frame regulations in the present state of knowledge—which, we argued among our-selves, is, at any rate, less complete than it will be in a few years' time—then it would be necessary for the regulations, if they were to mean anything, to be very much more restrictive and possibly less well-suited to the individual case than the kind of requirements which under the Bill can be imposed by notice in individual cases. There would be practical difficulties in attempting to draw up regulations which were both sufficiently comprehensive to be applicable to every type of pipeline likely to be laid and sufficiently precise to be capable of enforcement. Therefore, the Government believe that each case ought to be looked at on its merits, and it is felt that in this way the Minister will be able to impose the most suitable requirements in the light of the circumstances of each pipeline application.
During the Committee proceedings, as I explained yesterday, I was impressed by the view that, although regulations may not be desirable at present, they might be—as a number of horn. Members have suggested—desirable in the near future. Although, in my view, regulations would not be desirable in the very near future, it might well be that they would be desirable later, and, therefore, I agreed to include powers in the Bill to give the Minister the future option to impose a general set of regulations if these were felt to be desirable and would achieve the same ends.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) raised one or two points this afternoon. In particular, he quarrelled with the provision in Clause 18 (2) about the works having to be begun after eight o'clock in the evening and carried on without intermission. He thought we had made a mistake somehow and would have to put it right. If he had his way—I think this is his way—and the works had to come to an end at ten o'clock the following day or some such time, what would happen would be that there would be a big hole left in the road during the next day, and that would not be very conducive to the easy flow of traffic. Therefore, we suggest that the works should be begun after eight o'clock in the 1542 evening and carried on without intermission so that the obstruction to traffic will be as short as it possibly can be. I suggest that that is rather a sensible provision.
The hon. Member had great fun in suggesting that if there was an accident a map would have to be obtained at the last moment when the fire was raging. He has not done his usual very applied homework on this Clause. The maps will be supplied in advance when requested and not at the time of the accident. But the hon. Member was enjoying himself, and I should not like to spoil his fun.
I have explained on several occasions why the Bill had to be introduced during the Session. Contrary to the view expressed by the hon. Member for Hamilton, I am not expecting a flood of applications directly the Act is passed, but I am expecting to get some. After the Select Committee's Report on the Esso Petroleum Company Bill, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), it was perfectly clear that no future pipeline developments would be possible until public legislation was completed. That was the need for this Measure having to be introduced and put on the Statute Book as soon as possible.
I stated, on Second Reading, three main objectives. The first was to control the development of pipelines. The second was to facilitate the construction of pipelines by affording a procedure whereby pipeline operators could obtain compulsory powers and yet, at the same time, provide adequate safeguards to those who would be affected. The third was to ensure that adequate powers were available to the Government to control pipelines in the interests of safety. I believe that these are proper and desirable aims of the pipelines legislation which the Government undertook to introduce rather more than a year ago.
Pipeline development is a comparatively new field of enterprise in this country. I expect that it will develop very considerably in the future. The Government believe that this Measure will provide the best pattern of control in the national interest. I therefore ask the House to give the Bill a Third Reading.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—1544
§ The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 193.1545
|Division No. 258.]||AYES||[6.59 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Gilmour, Sir John||Marten, Neil|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)|
|Allason, James||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Mawby, Ray|
|Arbuthnot, John||Goodhart, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Gough, Frederick||Mills, Stratton|
|Balniel, Lord||Gower, Raymond||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)|
|Barter, John||Green, Alan||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Batsford, Brian||Gresham Cooks, R.||Morgan, William|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Morrison, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Nabarro, Gerald|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Neave, Alrey|
|Biffen, John||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Bishop, F. P.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Bossom, Clive||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Orr-Ewing, C. lan|
|Box, Donald||Hastings, Stephen||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Hay, John||Page Graham (Crosby)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Page, John (Harrow, west)|
|Braine, Bernard||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Brewis, John||Hendry, Forbes||Partridge, E.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Brooman-White, R.||Hiley, Joseph||Peel, John|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Percival, lan|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Peyton, John|
|Buck, Antony||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pickthorn, John|
|Bullad, Denys||Hobson, Sir John||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Butcher, sir Herbert||Holland, Philip||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Pitman, Sir James|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hopkins, Alan||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hornby, R. P.||Pott, Percivall|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hughes-Young, Michael||Prior, J.M.L.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pym, Francis|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Jackson, John||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Co'e, Norman||James, David||Rees, Hugh|
|Collard, Richard||Jennings, J. C||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Cooper, A. E.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ridley Hon. Nicholas|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Robinson, Rt. Hn. sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cordle, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Russell, Ronald|
|Costain, A. P.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||St. Clair, M.|
|Coulson, Michael||Kershaw, Anthony||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Kimball, Marcus||Seymour, Leslie|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Kirk, Peter||Sharples, Richard|
|Crawley, Aidan||Lambton, Viscount||Shaw, M.|
|Critchley, Julian||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Shepherd, William|
|Cunningham, Knox||Leburn, Gilmour||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Curran, Charles||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lilley, F. J. P.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Speir, Rupert|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Doughty, Charles||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Longbottom, Charles||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Duncan, Sir James||Longden, Gilbert|
|Eden John||Loveys, Walter H.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Emery, Peter||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Tapsell, Peter|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Taylor, Sir Charles (Easthourne)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N.Ayrs.)||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Farr, John||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Temple, John M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Foster, John||McMaster, Stanley R.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Niall (Dumfries)||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Fraser, lan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maginnis, John E.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Maitland, Sir John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Gardner, Edward||Marlowe, Anthony||Turner, Colin|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wall, Patrick||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Ward, Dame Irene||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Webster, David||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Vickers, Miss Joan||Wells, John (Maidstone)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis||Whitelaw, William||Woollam, John|
|Wakefield, Sir Wavell||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Walder, David||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Walker, Peter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek||Wise, A. R.||Mr. Finlay and Mr. McLaren.|
|Abse, Leo||Gunter, Ray||Owen, Will|
|Ainsley, William||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Padley, W. E.|
|Albu, Austen||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hannan, William||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Harper, Joseph||Parker, John|
|Awbery, Stan||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Peart, Frederick|
|Bel enger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pentland, Norman|
|Bence, Cyril||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Hilton, A. V.||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Benson, Sir George||Holman, Percy||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Blackburn, F.||Houghton, Douglas||Proctor, W. T.|
|Blyton, William||Hoy, James H.||Reid, William|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn.H.W. (Leics. S.W.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bowles, Frank||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Gaernarvon)|
|Boyden, James||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Bradley, Tom||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Ross, William|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Janner, Sir Barnett||Short, Edward|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Slater, Mrs. Hariet (Stoke, N.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, c.)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Small, William|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Soskice, Rt. Hon, Sir Frank|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Kelley, Richard||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, Clifford||Steele, Thomas|
|Crossman, R, H. S.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||King, Dr. Horace||Stones, William|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lawson, George||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Darlling, George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Davies, G. Elfred (Rhondda, E.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Swain, Thomas|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lipton, Marcus||Swingler, Stephen|
|Deer, George||Loughlin, Charles||Taverne, D.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lubbock, Eric||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dempsey, James||McCann, John||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Diamond, John||MacColl, James||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Dodds, Norman||McInnes, James||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||McLeavy, Frank||Timmons, John|
|Edelman, Maurice||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Tomney, Frank|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Warbey, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Manuel, Archie||Watkins, Tudor|
|Evans, Albert||Mapp, Charles||Weitzman, David|
|Fernyhough, E.||Marsh, Richard||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Finch, Harold||Mayhew, Christopher||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mellish, R. J.||Whitlock, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mendelson, J. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Forman, J. C.||Millan, Bruce||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Milne, Edward||Williams, Ll. (Abertillery)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Monslow, Walter||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Moody, A. S.||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|George, LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn)||Morris, John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Moyle, Arthur||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mulley, Frederick||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Neal, Harold||Woof, Robert|
|Grey, Charles||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip(Derby,S.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Oram, A. E.||Mr. Redhead and Dr. Broughton.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Oswald, Thomas|
|Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.|
§ As amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), further considered.
§ Clause 2.—(EVIDENCE ON CHARGE OF UNFITNESS TO DRIVE.)
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 25, at the end to insert:(2) If it is proved that the accused at the time of his driving or attempting to drive or being in charge of a motor vehicle had more than such proportion or quantity of alcohol contained in his blood or present in his body as may be prescribed by regulations made by the Minister, such proof shall be conclusive evidence that the ability of the accused to drive properly was for the time being impaired.Clause 2 provides for blood, urine or breath tests to ascertain the quantity of alcohol in the blood when a person has been accused of driving under the influence of drink. The test is to be voluntary and taken under safeguards. Nevertheless, if anyone refuses to undergo the test, that fact may be used by the prosecution during the court hearing of the case. This is the first time that any such provision has been embodied in the legislation of this country, although it is familiar in the road codes of other countries including the United States of America and Scandinavia. From evidence which has been collected there is little doubt that this provision, as it exists in other countries, helps to lessen the number of road accidents.
In this country there has been a remarkable change in the attitude of people towards drivers who drink. Only a few years ago, judging the police figures, the feeling was prevalent that the number of accidents due to people driving while under the influence of drink was not very large. In recent years we have come to realise, or most of us have, that this figure occupies a more prominent place than we had imagined in the statistics relating to drunkenness. The death toll on the roads, particularly at Christmas time —in 1959 the figure was astonishingly high and startled many people—has brought this home to us. Between closing time for public houses at night and midnight is the peak period for road accidents and it is not unreasonable to 1548 assume a connection between that and the accident figures.
At least three or four inquiries have been carried out into the cause of accidents and into the number of accidents due to drink. Dr. Spriggs, a Leicester police surgeon, and other doctors have carried out inquiries. Work has been done by the Road Research Laboratory. The British Medical Association has carried out extensive inquiries, and its findings have been published. The Home Office recently published figures which underline what I am now trying to emphasise.
I wish to refer to figures relating to driving while under the influence of drink taken from the result of an inquiry conducted by the Christian Economic and Social Research Foundation. Details were taken from 73 police districts. It was found that the figure for 1961 indicated an increase of 15 per cent. over that for the previous year. The figure for 1960 showed an increase of 40 per cent. over the previous year. The figure for 1959 was higher by nearly 20 per cent. than that for 1958 which, in turn, was 8 par cent. more than the figure for 1957. There has, therefore, been an increase in the number of convictions. I say "convictions" because it may well be that other drivers who were proceeded against were not convicted. These figures are very disturbing. They indicate that every five or six years the number of convictions doubles, whereas it takes nine to ten years for the number of licensed vehicles to double. We must take that into account when considering this problem.
I have referred to the exhaustive and careful inquiry carried out by the British Medical Association, the report on which was published under the title "Relation of Alcohol to Road Accidents." The Association has been accepted by the Ministry as a worthwhile organisation whose evidence can be accepted. It is stated in the report:The Committee is satisfied that the official returns for accidents caused by drivers who have taken alcohol underestimate very considerably the number of accidents due to this cause.I wish to emphasise that point, because it shows what many people now realise, the extent to which drink plays a part 1549 in road accidents. If we desire—as I know the Minister does—to try to lessen the astonishing and tragic number of road accidents, we cannot leave that factor out of account.
So far as possible, we must provide for it in legislation even—I say this deliberately—if that means the curtailment of some of the freedoms and liberties which we now enjoy. It is quite wrong that just a few people—I suppose that it is, relatively speaking, a few— should be so thoughtless about the welfare of others that they drive on the roads when they know that they are incapable of having proper control of the vehicle of which they have charge because they have been drinking. It would seem that it has been definitely established and accepted that a substantial proportion of road accidents are due to drivers being under the influence of drink, or pedestrians being under the influence of drink. I emphasise that because the more one examines the figures the more obvious it becomes that pedestrians who have been drinking are sometimes more to blame than drivers.
The Government have recognised this and provide for a test to be carried out to establish the percentage of alcohol in the blood of a person who is under the influence of drink. That is a good thing. But no percentage has been laid down to which reference may be made when judging whether an offence has been committed. There are, therefore, no "teeth" in this proposed legislation and I hope to persuade the Minister and the House that it is not sufficient unless something is done to provide the courts with a yardstick which may be employed in judging such matters.
It may well be that the Minister has a good reason for not including a toleration limit in the Clause and, if so, I shall be interested to hear it. Those who have considered this matter and are qualified to speak upon it are almost entirely in favour of a percentage figure appearing in the Clause. Practising barristers and solicitors have indicated that they are in favour of a percentage figure being stated. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) who is connected with it, that the Magistrates' Association is definitely of opinion that 1550 a figure should be inserted in the Clause. My hon. Friend gave assurances to this effect during the Committee proceedings. The Research Committee of the British Medical Association considers that a figure should be indicated. It says in one of the conclusions of the report at page 33:The Committee believes that a substantial reduction in the number of accidents caused by alcohol has been achieved where it has been made an offence to drive a motor vehicle when the concentration of alcohol in the tissues can be rapidly and accurately estimated.I read into that, and I hope it is a fair paraphrase of the conclusion, that in the view of the Committee it is essential that figures should be in the Bill in order to judge accurately and to get a proper estimate on which the courts could act. The question arises as to what concentration the Medical Research Association's Committee suggests as reasonable. When we dealt with this matter in Committee upstairs a number of various views were expressed about the percentage which should go into the Bill if we could persuade the Minister to put in a figure. I would be very largely guided by him, but I think that some figure should go in, even if from experience later we find that we should alter it.
Another conclusion of the Research Committee is:The Committee considers that a concentration of 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres while driving a motor vehicle is the highest that can be accepted as entirely consistent with the safety of other road users.That is 1 to 1½ pints of beer, or a double whisky. It does not seem much, but it is the Committee's conclusion. The Committee is composed of independent medical men who have no axe to grind and, so far as I know, none of them is a teetotaller. They have looked at this matter objectively and these are their conclusions. They say:While there may be circumstances in which an individual driver's ability will not depreciate significantly by the time this level is reached, the Commitee is impressed by the rapidity with which deterioration occurs at blood levels in excess of 100 mg/100 ml.That is about 2½ pints of beer or two double whiskys. The report goes on:This is true even in the case of hardened drinkers and experienced drivers. The Committee cannot conceive of any circumstances in which it could be considered safe for a person to drive a motor vehicle on the public 1551 roads with an amount of alcohol in the blood greater than 150 mg/100 ml.That is equal to four pints of beer or three double whiskies. Often one reads of cases in courts where individuals have confessed to drinking that much and more and yet have protested violently that they were still capable of driving a motor car and were not under the influence of drink.
As hon. Members will have noticed this Amendment does not put in any figure. We provide for the Minister to prescribe by regulation the percentage of alcohol which may normally be accepted as safe. We hope that a provision of this kind will avoid the criticism which undoubtedly would arise if figures were put in. Some hon. Members would think that the figures were too high while others would think that they were too low. We leave it to the Minister to decide. If the Amendment were accepted, the Minister would be left with elbow room to bring in the provision as and when he felt able so to do and also to prescribe by regulation what the percentage should be. It would also give him power to alter that percentage as experience demanded.
The proposal has other advantages. It would help to bring uniformity into the administration of our laws. As hon. Members know, courts vary in the way in which they treat the drinking driver. If a percentage were definitely laid down by the Minister in the Act it would provide for uniformity, which I think all of us regard as desirable. It would also help to solve the difficulty of a time lag between the arrest for an offence and examination by a police surgeon.
A couple of months ago I saw in the Sunday Times a report of a case which had been brought before one of the metropolitan magistrates. A constable had arrested an individual at 2.25 a.m. and the police surgeon did not see the person arrested for an hour, an hour and a quarter or an hour and a half afterwards. The police surgeon said that he was of the view that the man was not drunk, but the magistrate—rather un-sually perhaps because others do not take the same view of these cases— came to the conclusion that what he had to look at was the evidence of the police constable about the time when he 1552 arrested the man and not at the evidence of the police surgeon who saw him an hour or an hour and a half later. If we put a percentage into the Bill it would avoid that kind of difficulty.
It would also obviate the need for police surgeons' tests. Some people find some of those tests amusing, and undoubtedly they are. Some people find them somewhat out of date, and undoubtedly they are out of date. If the Amendment were accepted it would obviate the necessity for a test by a police surgeon some time after the arrest. In Committee we heard a great deal about the magistrate or the court having to rely on the word of the constable who arrested the individual. It was thought that sometimes a police constable might be rather unfair in what he said in his evidence. If a definite percentage of alcohol is laid down and the breathalyser is implemented or other tests visualised in the Clause are used, the evidence will be conclusive one way or the other. What the constable said would not be the final word on the matter.
I hope I carry the House with me in saying that the Amendment would meet the difficulties which arise, and which I know worry the Minister, about juries. Juries are human like the rest of us. They do not like to convict a man for drunken driving if they can help it. I have one or two cuttings with me and some of them are rather astonishing. I do not want to inflict all of them on the House, but I shall refer to some of them.
One is from the Daily Mail during June. It is about a very well-known champion snooker player who had drunk the equivalent of six large whiskies. He appeared before a quarter sessions court which, curiously enough, acquitted him. The nub of the report is that he was a champion snooker player and he told the court:One has to be accustomed to drink. It is part and parcel of my job. After a match I'm expected to drink and chat with people. But I do not drink before a game. Snooker requires clarity of eye and steadiness of hand.It obviously never occurred to him that driving a motor car, particularly in dense traffic, requires the same attributes, namely, clarity of eye and steadiness of hand.
1553 7.30 p.m.
These cases can be multiplied. I have another here, the case of Dryden against Johnson, reported in The Times last year. Here, the divisional court allowed this appeal by the prosecutor from a decision of the Tunbridge Wells borough justices, who had dismissed a charge against the defendant. He was accused of driving while under the influence of drink and was acquitted by the borough magistrates, although the case obviously had been proved right up to the hilt.
The Lord Chief Justice said that he just did not understand the justices' decision, which was thoroughly perverse. The defendant was seen by a police officer driving into a car park at ten minutes past midnight. He got out of his car with some difficulty, was unsteady on his feet, his breath smelt of drink, he was swaying and his voice was slurred. He confessed that he had had a couple of pints and two whiskies. A police doctor examined him and found that he could not articulate properly, staggered, was unable to stand, wrote illegibly and could not walk in a straight line.
A test showed that he had had a minimum of five pints of beer and five double whiskies, and the concentration of alcohol was very high. At 3 a.m. he was asleep in his cell and could not be roused. Yet the Tunbridge Wells borough magistrates as I say acquitted him, and the case was taken to a higher court where the Lord Chief Justice and those sitting with him ordered that the case should be sent back and the man convicted.
These are cases which all of us could multiply, because we meet them very often. It is one indication of the humanity of juries. They feel as we say, "There but for the grace of God go I." If the proof were taken completely out of their hands and embodied in legislation, as has been done in other countries, I am sure that it would be all to the good.
I emphasise that we all look upon this Bill as a road safety measure. That being so, we cannot shut our eyes, with the vast increase of traffic and the rising number of convictions of drunken drivers, to the need for drastic action. 1554 As I have said more than once in the last twenty minutes, the facts cannot be disputed. I remember that a little while ago the ex-Minister of Housing, who was once well known as the Radio Doctor, said:No one drives better after a drink. He just thinks he does. The plain fact, long proved, is that alcohol even in moderate doses does two things. First, it lowers driving efficiency by lengthening the reaction time—the interval between seeing the danger and acting to avoid it. Secondly, it reduces one's capacity for self-criticism, so exaggerating one's satisfaction with oneself. It over-eggs the ego.The Minister of Transport has gone on record more than once to indicate that he believes that these tests are useful. A year or two ago he visited America and, as one would expect of him, he paid a great dead of attention to what they did to avoid accidents on the road. When he came back at a Press Gallery lunch, as I well remember, he said that when he visited America he was impressed by the fact that in Chicago, although cars had doubled in ten years, deaths had been cut by half owing to stricter tactics. He said that in Detroit in three years deaths had been reduced by 90 per cent.—and there they had the breathalysers.
We are to have the breathalysers, and I ask the Minister to realise that a great responsibility rests on him. None of us wants to harry the ordinary moderate drinker, but people must realise—and the sooner all realise it the better—that one cannot drink, that is have a convivial evening—and then drive home afterwards. I believe that the Minister himself has said that when he and his wife go out, one drives and the other drinks. Friends of mine, who are well aware of the risks of driving when they have been drinking, always take it in turns to keep completely sober so as to drive the other without risk. We have to educate the public on this matter; to make it quite plain that Parliament means it when it says that drinking and driving do not go together.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I say right away that I wholeheartedly support the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall). I will support him to this extent—that if, after the end of the debate, my right hon. Friend the Minister is not utterly convinced that it 1555 is right to include this Amendment in the Bill, I will join the right hon. Gentleman in the Lobby in which he goes. I am convinced that this is the right thing to put into the Bill, and I base my argument, as did the right hon. Gentleman, on the B.M.A. report.
I remind my right hon. Friend that in Committee it was said on many occasions that the Government accepted this report—at least, accepted its scientific findings. It may be that the Government have not made up their mind how to apply this scientific evidence in law, but at least we have it on evidence that they accept the scientific findings of the report. I make no apology for referring in detail to this matter in the words as they are set out on the report:On the basis of the evidence examined in the preparation of this Report, the Committee is satisfied that a concentration of 50 mg./l00 ml. of alcohol in the blood of the driver of a motor vehicle is the highest that can be accepted as consistent with the safety of other road users.To translate that into the normal results of drinking, it means 1½ pints of beer to a man of 11 stone As I weigh a good deal more than that, I suppose that I can have two pints. It varies with the weight of the individual, but on the average it is about 1½ pints.
The report continues:The Committee is aware that other considerations will have to be taken into account, not least the question of liberty of the subject, and it is here concerned only with the presentation of the scientific evidence.It is the scientific evidence which the Government have stated that they accept.A compromise would appear to be inevitable between these considerations and the indisputable evidence of the danger to other road users when a car is driven by a person with more than 50 mg./100 ml. concentration of alcohol in the blood. The Committee wishes to emphasise that it is impressed by the evidence of the rapidity with which driving ability deteriorates, even in the most hardened drinkers and in the most experienced drivers, at concentrations of alcohol in the blood in excess of 100 mg./l00 ml."—which is approximately three pints to an 11-stone man.
That raises a point which has arisen again and again in our discussion, whether the hardened drinker becomes immune to the effects of alcohol. On 1556 several occasions we have been asked to consider the teen-age girl who has a sherry as compared with the hardened drinker. There is a confusion of two points here. It is true that if food is taken with drink, particularly if fatty substances are eaten, not so much alcohol is absorbed into the tissues. That is irrelevant in the test of alcohol in the tissues. It has not been absorbed. It is the amount which has been absorbed into the tissues which affects the reactions, which makes a driver over-confident, which makes someone a bad driver. The taking of food does not matter.
As to the supposed immunity of the heavy drinker, it has been proved that there is very little difference between the effect of alcohol on someone who is used to drink and its effect on someone who is not used to drinking. Someone who is used to drinking, who is quite a hard drinker, may be able to carry it off a little better, but that does not mean that he is any better driver when he has had the drink. Professor Drew says:It had frequently been argued that the regular heavy drinker developed an immunity, but the evidence did not support this.The argument of the teem-age girl with a sherry has befogged the issue to some extent.
So, I think, has the breathalyser. I rather wish the breathalyser had never been mentioned. We do not need to rely on the breathalyser as a test. Blood and urine tests have been used very successfully in the past. We shall probably get an efficient breathalyser in due course, and then we can use it. However, we ought not to wait until one is devised before giving the Minister power to lay down what I call a drink limit. That drink limit can be tested by blood or urine just as well as by breath.
In Committee the former Minister of State for the Home Department made great play of the difficulty of obtaining urine. I will not say that I do not believe the difficulties he mentioned, but I do not believe the strength of the argument. In Glasgow the urine test has been used over a period of years very successfully and hardly anyone has been unable to comply with it. Glasgow gets a high percentage of convictions for drunken driving, because there is then the definite fact of a quantity of alcohol 1557 in the tissues, as shown by the urine test.
I should have thought that most people when asked to provide urine are able to do so. We need not worry about compulsion. The Amendment does not make any compulsion. It merely provides that if this amount of alcohol is in a person's blood that person is deemed to be unfit to drive. I do not think that we need a compulsion Clause at all, because in the few cases in which there might be deliberate refusal to provide a sample of blood or urine we could use the rest of the Clause which has already been inserted into the Bill to the effect that a refusal to provide a specimen may be treated as supporting evidence. That is sufficient compulsion. We need in the Bill the power for the Minister to lay down a drink limit.
I do not see how my right hon. Friend can escape the logic of this. Clause 1 contains a now definition of "unfit to drive". The Clause says:a person shall be taken to be unfit to drive if his ability to drive properly is for the time being impaired.In view of what I have read from the B.M.A. report, how can it be argued that a man who has 50 mg. of alcohol per 100 ml. of his blood is fit to drive within this definition? How can at be argued that his ability to drive properly is not impaired?
It may be that a higher limit should be specified in Regulations, but if there is a limit it will be a deterrent to those who drive. At present the law completely fails in laying down any deterrent to the drinking driver. It does not set any limit for him. If a limit were set it would act as a deterrent to drinking and driving. The law at present fails to prove impairment. Even with the new definition, I am sure that an efficient counsel will still be able to persuade a jury that a man whom the ordinary man in the street would call drunk in his driving is not drunk at all. Many quarter sessions do not know what it is to convict for drunken driving. Accused are always let off. If we lay down a drink limit, the drunken driver will receive his deserts.
Some people may say that the offending motorist is not a criminal and that if an accident occurs it is not wanton 1558 or wilful law breaking but just carelessness on the part of a driver. What is most likely to cause the driver to be careless? What is most likely to give him over-confidence, to cause him to be inattentive to his driving, to cause slowness in reacting and that sleepy feeling at the wheel? The answer is drinking before he drives. That is the most likely way to become inattentive on the road. Do let us give some lead in the Bill. Surely we owe it to those who have suffered from the drinking driver. Indeed, many have suffered.
The right hon. Member for Colne Valley gave some figures. This question has been studied, as reported by the B.M.A., by a number of scientists. The scientist, Miss Jeffcoate, demonstrates that after 10 p.m. 62 per cent. of deaths occurring on the roads are due to drunkenness. She shows that at other times 17 per cent. of all accidents are due to drunkenness.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
How many fatalities in the figure of 62 per cent. occurred to pedestrians who, having come out from public houses, were involved in accidents?
§ Mr. Page
That question is not quite worthy of my hon. Friend. I have said in the House on many occasions that I would have a Clause in a Bill of this sort penalising the drunken pedestrian just as much as the drunken motorist. I ask my hon. Friend to refer back to a Private Member's Bill which I introduced and which received a Second Reading, which contained a penalty for drunken pedestrians as well as for drunken drivers. An examination of the figures of pedestrians who are killed on the road shows that certainly after 10 p.m. the great majority of pedestrians who dies on the roads are suffering from drink at that time. I draw no distinction between the drunken pedestrian and the drunken motorist, except that if we can deal with the drunken motorist, who wields a lethal weapon, we are at least dealing with something which will immediately save lives on the roads.
§ Mr. John Hall
Will my hon. Friend tell me in what way the question I addressed to him, which was a perfectly proper question, was unworthy? I was not trying to score a point. I was asking for information.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I rather hoped that my hon. Friend knew of some of the debates which we have had in the House on road safety over the past ten years. On those occasions it has been frequently said that the drunken pedestrian is just as much to blame as the drunken motorist, and I say it again now. I do not think that it is too harsh to say, though, that if a man takes a car on the road he should know how much he can drink and it is no hardship to say that if he does not know that he drives at his own risk of committing crime on the road.
I again ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to reconsider this matter. We have debated it for a long time in Committee, when the right hon. Member for Colne Valley sought to fix the limit within the Bill. Now, he and I are ready to let the Minister fix the limit on the scientific facts—but a limit there ought to be. Unless we have a limit, we shall make no real progress in preventing deaths on the road caused by the drunken driver.
§ Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)
I do not for a moment wish to destroy the present harmony. I think that the Minister himself will recognise that the varying shades of thought on whether or not a limit should be written into the Bill has been finalised in this Amendment which, in principle, asks us to live in this era, legislatively, and to give the courts a Plimsoll line for the recognised test.
In ten years, the number of proved cases of drunkenness in general has risen from 15 per 10,000 people to over 20 per 10,000 people—a 33 per cent. increase. In narrower terms, Home Office figures show that in 1960 4,347 people were found guilty of driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and that in 1961 the figure was 4,940. Convictions increased by 14 per cent. in twelve months. I accept at once that there has been an increase in the number of motor vehicles on the road, but I hope that none of us will seek to argue that the number of offences should go up pro rata.
We are here directing our thoughts not only to vehicles that are here for our pleasures and our utilities but to the serious problem of driving under the 1560 influence of drink or drugs. In fairness, I should add that convictions of those in charge of a vehicle increased by only 4 per cent.
The heart of this Amendment is the work of the magistrates. An accused motorist has certain choices before him. The physical movements of the accused having led the police officer to think that there is a case of impairment, he asks the motorist whether he is willing to accept some form of test. Under the Bill the motorist has complete choice, and the Amendment does not seek to alter that. He can either accept the test, or, for his own special reasons, he cam refuse it.
Let us move now to the courts—an atmosphere with which, as a magistrate, I have known fairly intimately for ten or fifteen years. The bench will be faced with two propositions. The first is the evidence dealing with the movements of the individual, the motion of the car, and all the circumstances leading to the police officer thinking that there was some impairment due to drink or drugs. The second is that the man has refused to have a test. The magistrates will weigh the evidence of the physical movements of the car and of the individual, and will also have to take into account the fact that the defendant declined to take a test. In the absence of a convincing explanation of his refusal of a test the bench will draw certain conclusions.
That is all quite fair, but we now move to the real difficulty, which arises when the result of a test is brought in. It is in that area that the Bill is deficient. At present, the analyst or other professional man will either cause to be sent to the court, or will himself produce, evidence of the results of his examination. As the law is now likely to be drawn, the magistrate will not have any yardstick or Plimsoll line by which to assess the consequential effects of the quantity of alcohol found to be present in the blood.
There are hon. Members on both sides who know full well that, in that uncertain position, the courts will be addressed by the defendant or his counsel over the whole area of the credibility of the consequential figure. As instanced by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), it can be pointed out that as the defendant is of 1561 considerable physical size the quantity of alcohol found to be in his blood at the time is of less consequence than it would be to someone smaller.
A second argument could be that the defendant had not had a meal for a number of hours, resulting in the drink consumed having an undue and unexpected effect to the extent that there were reasons and circumstances why the line before the courts should not be accepted. Thirdly, it may be said that the man had had a worrying day, that he was mentally exhausted, and all the other kinds of argument to which magistrates have had to listen for so many years.
Further, there will be differing points of view among the magistrates themselves. I am myself a motorist, and I hope that I am sufficiently broadminded to see beyond my own personal interest, but it is not fair to put on magistrates this area of fact that the Bill will establish, namely, to arrange that the court shall be apprised of the result of the test, but fail to give it any guidance at all as to the assessment of the extent of the impairment of the average man. It is because of that that I ask the House to appreciate the unfair position in which the courts and magistrates are being placed. We should, in a liberal manner, cause a reasonable figure defining the proportion of alcohol in the blood to be written into the operation of the Bill.
Throughout our discussions on the Bill hon. Members have appreciated that they cannot have the last word and that even the Minister—although in this field I would give him a large measure of my trust—cannot have the last word. Only by Regulation can we achieve our aim to enable the right hon. Gentleman to obtain such advice as is available to him, from other Government Departments and the professions. The right hon. Gentleman could write into the regulations even a very high figure if he wishes. The figure of 100 mg./100 ml. which has been suggested is, I suppose, travelling near to the danger mark. The figure of 50 mg./100 ml. appears to be preferred by the profession. I would be prepared to compromise at 70 mg./ 100 ml. or 80 mg./100 ml. and I am sure that the Minister, in his heart, 1562 knows that this is the right course to take.
I urge hon. Members to realise the difficulties in which the courts and magistrates find themselves. When adjudicating on this type of case they do not want to have to seek out precedents or discover what is happening in other courts. That is what will happen if we do not provide in the Bill the sort of proposal contained in the Amendment. The courts will, unless we act, wait to see the yardstick in operation elsewhere. The Minister should, therefore, begin with a figure which will result in a process of educating motorists so that deaths on our roads can be reduced. The Amendment provides the best kind of British compromise and I believe that every hon. Member supports it.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. C. M. Wood-house)
Without wishing to curtail the discussion or intending any discourtesy to hon. Members who feel strongly on this subject, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were at this point to indicate the Government's view on the Amendment. I do so apologetically because this is the first time I have intruded on the Bill. I apologise for introducing yet another Ministerial voice and I apologise also if I have to traverse again, because I have not been able to read the entire proceedings at the earlier stages, the ground which has been covered before.
I have mo desire whatever to minimise the gravity of the offence of drunken driving. This is common ground to us all. I agree with almost all the general arguments I have heard in the interesting speeches made by the mover and supporters of the Amendment. I agree with practically everything but their conclusions, and I hope that the House will allow me to explain briefly why this is so and to address myself to two points which are raised in my mind by the Amendment.
The first is the considerations which have led the Government in the past—and this is still the Government's view—to reject at the present stage of development any statutory limit to the concentration of alcohol in the blood, whether embodied in the Bill or by later Ministerial Regulation. The second is whether it would be 1563 right, in any case, to leave that level to be fixed by the Minister at a later date. Regarding the first, the Amendment resembles Amendments which were moved at earlier stages and, indeed, one which my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) moved on Report, although it was not selected, in this important respect of incorporating the idea of a statutory level of alcoholic consumption.
I mention this to show that this idea has been fully canvassed. I have gone fairly extensively through the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee proceedings and it is clear that it has been fully considered, that it has been rejected by both Houses already and that it would be very late at this stage of the Bill for Parliament to change its mind on such a fundamental issue. Nevertheless, I think it right to say something on the general arguments concerning a statutory limit.
I think it would be convenient to take a specific figure although the Amendment does not specify one. The figure proposed by the hon. Member for Crosby could well be the sort of figure that would reasonably be written into a Regulation if one were to be made, so I will take his figure of 100mg. of alcohol in 100ml. of blood which, I am told, represents in the average case two-and-a-half to three pints of beer or five or six small whiskies. These observations will apply to other figures but I am sticking to this one at the moment and I will come later to the effect of my argument on either raising or lowering the figure.
The ability of some people to drive properly can be impaired even with a lesser proportion of alcohol in the blood. I think that this is common ground. If a particular proportion such as this is fixed by the Bill or the Minister it may become difficult afterwards to get convictions of anyone who is found to have a lesser concentration of alcohol in the blood. That is not the intention of the mover of the Amendment but both the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and the hon. Member for Crosby have drawn attention to the fact that human nature does not always conform strictly to the intentions of the legislators.
Hence one of the troubles of fixing a statutory level is that once it is fixed and 1564 embodied in the law or in a regulation —whether as an absolute indication of fitness to drive or as strong supporting evidence one way or the other—the consequence may be that some courts will tend to take that particular concentration as the criterion of whether or not an offence has been committed.
This leads me to my second observation. As I have said, the proportion we are speaking of is equivalent to five or six small whiskies. Once it becomes known—and it is inevitable in the nature of things that it would become known— that a driver has a fair chance of getting off if it is shown that the proportion of alcohol in his blood is less than that, then the idea could very easily get around that it is all right to have two, three or even four whiskies, which is less than the average level, but that would certainly be far too great a consumption of alcohol in a large number of cases. This might lead, in some sectors of the population, to an actual increase in dangerous driving.
My third observation is that once the idea gets around that one will be convicted merely because one is shown to have a certain concentration of alcohol in one's blood, people will (refuse to take the tests because they will think that they have a better chance of acquittal— they may think it their only chance of acquittal—if they refuse to take the chemical tests. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby referred to only a few refusing to do that. I greatly fear that under this proposed Amendment the number of drivers who did refuse to do so might rise to a very high proportion of these cases. These tests are not compulsory under the Bill, and the only way to overcome these difficulties would be to make them compulsory.
My hon. and learned Friend the former Minister of State, Home Office, argued at considerable length in Committee that fixing a proportion of alcohol in the blood would necessarily lead to compulsory testing, and I am bound to say that I find has argument persuasive. I think it is corroborated, for what it is worth, by the experience of certain other countries to which reference has been made in debate. For instance, in the United States it is, I believe, in some of the States, though not all, conclusive evidence; that is to say, a given proportion of alcohol in the blood is taken 1565 in the courts as conclusive evidence. But in the United States testing is compulsory. When application is made for a driving licence in the United States one has to sign an undertaking that one will submit oneself to a test if required to do so.
Exactly the contrary is the case in Sweden. The proportion of alcohol in the blood is not conclusive in the courts and there is no compulsion to take a test. I think there is inevitably a connection between these two things. Either we make the proportion conclusive and the test compulsory, or we do not make the test compulsory and we do not make a given proportion of alcohol in the Wood conclusive.
I am not going to repeat all the arguments that my hon. and learned Friend marshalled in the Committee, but I have very carefully considered them, and two of them in particular have struck me as cogent. One is the argument about public opinion. Public opinion is different in every country. One cannot argue from the experience of one country to another in this context. There is a genuine doubt in this country whether the requirement that a suspected driver should be compelled to submit to a test would be acceptable to our public opinion. I think it can fairly be argued that this would be looked upon as an infringement of the traditional rights of the individual in this country.
Secondly, there is the practical problem to which attention has already been drawn. There are, in fact, three kinds of tests that could be applied—the blood test, the urine test and the breath test. I need not go over the details of how these things are done, but it is, I think, accepted that blood can only be taken from a suspected offender by a doctor. It is repugnant to many people, and I think it would be repugnant to many doctors, that it should be compulsory.
The urine test, I am told—I speak without experience—may present physical difficulties or even physical impossibility. Some say this is so; some say it is not. I can only speak on the best advice that I have received, which is that it may present physical impossibility and a suspect might very easily purport to be physically incapable of providing a specimen. There, therefore, remains only the breath test—
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, may I point out that I mentioned the tests in Glasgow where a very small proportion have refused or have been unable to participate in the urine test? I should like to have had the figures produced on that, because I am informed that in Glasgow a very high proportion have taken part in the urine test without any difficulty at all.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I apologise for not having the figures for urine tests in Glasgow to present to the House, but it seems to me that if we were to make them compulsory we might merely increase the number of spontaneous and perhaps non-genuine refusals.
To come to the last of the three possible tests, which is the breath test, it is certainly common ground that the practical disadvantages would disappear if a wholly reliable and accurate device were available. It is commonly called a breathalyser which is, I think, a proprietary name. I do not like it very much, but it is the only name we have got to use. I saw one today and I am bound to say on first inspection that the model which I saw—which is obviously susceptible to improvement, although it may well be perfectly accurate—struck me as being very far from perfectly reliable. According to the best advice which the Government have received, there is no breath testing instrument yet that is sufficiently reliable to justify the Government in asking the courts to accept the results as wholly reliable evidence.
As was explained by the then Minister of State, the Government have asked the Medical Research Council to carry out an investigation into the reliability and accuracy of the available instruments. This investigation is not yet complete, but we shall be guided by it when it is. The Government, in fact, at this moment cannot regard it as established until the Medical Research Council investigation is completed that the accuracy of such machines can be accepted. The arguments that I have so far been using apply to one specific figure of 100 milligrammes an 100 millilitres of blood.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
Would my hon. Friend enlighten the House? He has been speaking 1567 against the advisability of laying down any kind of figure. I appreciate that argument. But would he say what happens at the moment? Presumably when a doctor suggests that urine or blood should be taken, there is some kind of datum line. Does that vary from county to county?
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I must apologise. I cannot answer that question without notice, but I will certainly communicate with my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the City of Glasgow the chief medical officer to the police lays down a figure of .2 per cent., which is even higher than in Sweden, and he makes the categorical statement that the percentage of convictions in such cases varied from 91 per cent. to 94 per cent. Surely the Glasgow experiment has got to be examined in the light of those figures?
§ Mr. Woodhouse
Certainly we shall always be glad to examine experiments in Glasgow. It does not come under the responsibility of the Home Office, but that is not the sort of evidence that would be overlooked.
The arguments I have so far been using apply to one specific figure, 100 mg./l00 ml. If one took a higher figure, most of these arguments would still apply, and some of them would apply even more strongly. If a much lower figure were fixed, say, 50 mg., the figure quoted in the B.M.A. report, it would follow, I think, that some people would be convicted on the basis of such a figure who were not really unfit to drive in the ordinary sense of the word at all I feel that this argument is inconsistent with the data given in the report by the B.M.A.
§ Mr. Dick Taverne (Lincoln)
Surely the test is no longer simply whether someone is unfit to drive but whether someone's ability to drive is for the time being impaired, which is a different test from the one which the Minister has just enunciated.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I accept the verbal correction, but I do not think that it alters the argument. It would certainly follow from the proposed Amendment 1568 that some people would be convicted although fit to drive because under the Amendment, once a concentration is so fixed, the chemical evidence would then be conclusive. This would make it very difficult for the Minister to take the risk of erring on the side of fixing a low proportion if he had the responsibility of deciding the figure himself. I think that this is one reason among several which makes it very questionable whether this responsibility should be left to the Minister to discharge at a later date.
The discussions in Committee and in the House now have shown that many very important considerations turn on the precise level fixed. Surely, if it ever comes, the creation of a new offence, which is what it comes to, or, at least, an important constituent part of an existing offence, ought to be debated in Parliament with knowledge of all the relevant facts including the accuracy of the instruments available, which is a subject on which we do not yet have precise information. Parliament, not the Minister, should then take the responsibility of deciding the proportion. Parliament should debate at one and the same time the nature of the offence, the evidence for the offence, the sanction behind the tests and the statutory level if one is to be fixed.
I must make the final point, which is not a mere quibble, that the Amendment would involve a radical redrafting of the opening Clauses of the Bill which are based on voluntary tests and do not treat the result of those tests as conclusive evidence. One cannot just keep Clause 2 as it stands, add these words to it and make sense of the result. These ate the reasons why the Government still oppose a statutory level, but I emphasise that, even without it, Clauses 1 and 2 represent a real step forward by improving the definition of the offence and by encouraging, though not imposing, the use of chemical tests. We believe that an experimental stage by stage approach is preferable to a ruthless and theoretical one. We believe that it is important that public opinion should be behind this law, and we do not believe that it would be behind the Amendment.
Recognising that many hon. Members disagree, I hope, nevertheless, that we can fairly quickly bring this matter to 1569 a decision in the hope of getting this very important Bill through the House in a reasonable time.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I agree with the concluding words of the Undersecretary of State. We discussed this matter for, I think, two or three sittings in Committee. The arguments are well known. People feel very strongly about it, but I doubt that many new arguments will be produced on the Floor of the House which were not produced in Committee.
I am not surprised at the hon. Gentleman's speech. I realise that, although we have had a new voice this evening, we have had the same brief, the one which the Home Office gave to its Minister in Committee. The Department's case, though understandable, is not a strong one. The first thing which the House must appreciate in dealing with this matter is the seriousness of drunken driving. Hon. Members must appreciate that a very high proportion of the accidents on our roads arise because someone—in nine cases out of ten, I suggest, it is the driver—is drunk. I do not want to waste the time of the House in producing evidence to support that statement, but there is ample evidence in the report by the B.M.A. and the evidence of experience in the United States. All that evidence goes to the same conclusion, that of accidents which take place late at night, after ten o'clock, probably at least half arise because someone—in most cases, the driver of the car—has had too much to drink. The evidence for that is stated at some length in the report by the B.M.A.
Further, there is ample evidence to suggest—again, I do not wish to quote it, but I will if challenged—that probably about 10 per cent. of all accidents arise because someone concerned, usually the driver, has had too much to drink. Translated into terms of death and serious injury on the roads, that means that probably 700 people a year are killed and about 8,000 people are seriously injured because someone driving a car has had too much to drink.
What we are discussing here is the lives of 700 people a year and serious injury caused to 8,000. The question is whether we should take a very tiny step such as that proposed by the 1570 Minister in the Bill or do something admittedly much more drastic but, I think, effective while we have the Bill before us in order to tackle this serious social problem, a problem which is causing great distress every year among thousands of families, great loss of life and an appalling number of human tragedies throughout our community. If we accept these figures—I do not think that they are controvertible—the question is to what extent should we take steps which hitherto have been unorthodox in this country but which have been accepted and operated with great success in other countries to deal with this problem. That is not to say that I believe that we shall be able to eliminate all the accidents which arise because the people involved have been drinking, but a large proportion of them and, it may be, save seven hundred lives a year.
If we are to regard the problem from that point of view as serious, I think that we must come to the conclusion that something far more drastic must be done than is proposed in the Bill. Let us consider the case against this Amendment. I shall not repeat the arguments in favour, because they have been very well put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). The case against it is two-fold. Whatever limit we fix—this is the first leg of the case—it may be that some people who are drunk but the alcoholic content of whose blood does not reach that limit will successfully avoid conviction. I do not believe that should be so. If someone who cannot drink very much has one pint of beer and is then found driving a car under conditions which make it apparent to a number of witnesses that he is drunk, under the Bill he will be brought up and, if the case is proved against him, will be convicted.
It is said that many people can take a large amount of alcohol and their driving ability will not be impaired. That is perfectly true, but I am afraid that these people will have to suffer to the extent that they must not take more than, say, two pints of beer or two double whiskies before they drive. A number of people who are fortunate in being able to drink a lot more without having their driving capacity 1571 impaired will in future, if this Clause is agreed to, have to drink rather less before driving a car. I do not think that that would be very terrible. It would be for the general benefit of the country and many deaths might be avoided if such an imposition, which may bring a little hardship to some people, is legislated for in the Bill. What is being proposed is that if anybody drives a car or motor cycle and has more than a certain quantity of alcohol in his blood, that in itself is an offence. I think that is desirable.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is it not also the case that this might help to prove the innocence of someone who has been accused of being drunk and having caused an accident? If the can prove that he has no alcohol in his blood, then he disproves the charge.
§ Mr. Strauss
I quite agree with my right hon. Friend.
I come to the serious and more important argument which the Minister put before the House. He said that if we fixed the limit of alcoholic content in the blood under a statutory regulation, compulsory testing of the person believed to have too high an alcoholic content must follow. I do not accept that at all. If the Minister says that public opinion is against compulsory testing, I am not sure that he is right. No one knows. The Bill says that if anyone who is asked by a police constable to undergo a test refuses to do so that fact can be brought in evidence against him in court. If someone is "had up" in court and it is said that he refused to give a blood test or urine test, that would be very strong evidence that the alcoholic content in his blood was more than was statutorily permitted.
We can go further. The State of New York has got over this difficulty by a very simple proposal. In New York there is an alcohol limit. They do not have compulsory testing, but they provide that if anyone refuses to have a blood test when he is brought to the police station his driving licence is taken away for a certain period. That is not unreasonable, unless the person 1572 can prove, as he may be able to do, that there is good reason why he should not have a blood test. He may suffer from hæmophilia. If the Government wished to take the step proposed in the Amendment, the fact that compulsory testing is not attached to it would not be an insuperable argument against it.
I suggest that the Government's two arguments against this Amendment, although understandable, are not good. If they really wanted to take effective steps to deal with this danger on the roads, they would say, "We admit there are difficulties, but they are not insuperable." I do not doubt that the Minister the Parliamentary Secretary and every hon. Member want to do all that they can about the evil of drunken driving and the accidents which follow from it. Do hon. Members think that the very small step taken in the Bill will have any effect on that problem?
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The argument which carries most weight with me is that if we write into the Bill a statutory figure of, say, six whiskies there may be a tendency for people to argue that they can, in fact, drink four or five.
§ Mr. Strauss
That may be. I agree that if we laid down a figure of, say, six whiskies, which I think would be ridiculous, that might happen. But I imagine that the Minister would have a certain amount of common sense in this matter and that the figure written into the Bill would more or less conform with the suggestions of the B.M.A., namely, two pints of beer, two double whiskies, or something of that sort.
People who on Saturday evenings drink in public houses or in private houses at pleasant social "get togethers" —a great deal of it is done; I do not criticise and I do not want to spoil people's pleasure—often do not know how much drink they can take. They always think that having drunk one they can drink another and another on top of that and that all will be well. But if it is generally known that if they have more than a certain quantity that fact alone may make them subject to the rigours of the law, it would stop a great deal of excessive drinking before driving. That is one of the great advantages of my right hon. Friend's proposal.
1573 As I say, public opinion may be against compulsory testing, but I do not believe that compulsory testing is a necessary condition for the acceptance of this proposal. I am sure that public opinion would be very much in favour of, and if a Gallup poll were taken there would be an overwhelming vote for, my right hon. Friend's general proposition that the drinking of more than a certain amount of alcohol should be an offence.
The evils and consequences of driving when people have rather too much drink in them are well known and there is strong public feeling about it. I suggest to the Minister, who cares about these things as much as anybody else but is being timid on this occasion, that if he will not accept the Amendment now, as probably he is unwilling to do after all the discussion we have had, he should think about it again and realise that there is strong support for this proposal from all sections of the House. Many hon. Members opposite have made an effective case in support of it.
§ Mr. Strauss
There are others. I beg the Minister to take action on this matter as quickly as possible.
There are three points in road traffic matters where effective action would have the maximum effect. One is the compulsory wearing of helmets for motor cyclists, another is the wearing of safety belts and this present proposal is the third and probably the most important. If the principle incorporated in my right hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted and introduced into legislation, it might have more effect than any other legislative matter in reducing the appalling fatalities on the road. I hope that even at this late stage, we may be told by the Government that they are in favour of the principle and will introduce the necessary legislation at the earliest possible moment.
§ Hon. Members: Oh.1574
§ Dr. Thompson
I rise to express the sense of shock and dismay on this side of the House at the Government's reply and the reaction of hon. Members opposite. The Minister describes our suggestion as ruthless and theoretical and as being against public opinion. I appeal to him to accept that the overwhelming volume of scientific evidence, the evidence of the doctors and of months of patient research, has substantiated objective alcoholic blood tests. International evidence from a whole group of countries and evidence of varying kinds from America, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Belgium and elsewhere has demonstrated that this system works and has been applied with complete success.
The Minister has criticised the breathalyser. I quote from a United Nations investigation of the operation of the breathalyser in Sweden, which describes this method as quick, efficacious and involving no invasion of privacy that any driver can resent. I appeal to the Government, even at this late stage, to reconsider our proposal. It is not wild and impracticable, but is based on a good deal of research and international experience. The system has operated since 1926 in Norway, which has stated that it would never dream of going back upon its present system of objective alcoholic blood tests.
The Amendment would achieve the very objectives that the Minister wants: that is, to reduce deaths and accidents from drunken driving. Even if we are a little afraid of public opinion on this matter, this House must take the lead. Even if sections of the public would look askance, we must be able to guide the social habits of the country. What is this House for if it is not, in the light of its experience and deliberations, to guide the social habits of the people?
I believe that the British people are intelligent enough, as a result of propaganda and information, to know that by imposing a definite system of alcoholic tests we can reduce the number of deaths and accidents from drunken driving. If it knows the penalties, the public will know what to expect. We will get people accustomed to using public transport instead of driving their own cars after nights out and the knowledge 1575 that testing will take place will be a disincentive to selfish or wilful drivers who might otherwise be tempted to take risks. This matter is so urgent and important and there is so much evidence on the side of the Amendment that the Government
§ should take a lead and carry public opinion with them.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 159, Noes 199.1577
|Division No. 259.]||AYES||[8.40 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Hannan, William||Owen, Will|
|Ainsley, William||Harper, Joseph||Padley, W. E.|
|Albu, Austen||Hayman, F. H.||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crowe)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Parker, John|
|Awbery, stan||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hilton, A. V.||Peart, Frederick|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Holman, Percy||Pentland, Norman|
|Beaney, Alan||Houghton, Douglas||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Bence, Cyril||Hoy, James H.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Benson, Sir George||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hunter, A. E.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Blyton, William||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hynd, John (Atterclitle)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bowles, Frank||Irvine, A. J. (Edge HI.I)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Bradley, Tom||Janner, Sir Barnett||Ross, William|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Jeger, George||Short, Edward|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Slater, Mrs. Hariet (stoke, N)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||small, William|
|Brawn, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Smith, Eills (Stoke, N.)|
|Callaghan, James||Kenyon, Clifford||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. sir Frank|
|Cliffe, Michael||King, Dr. Horace||Spriggs, Lesile|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lawson, George|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Steele, Thomas|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannook)||Stones, Williams|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Darling, George||Loughlin, Charles||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lubbock, Eric||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Deer, George||MacColl, James||Swain, Thomas|
|Delargy, Hugh||McInnes, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Dempaey, James||McKay, John (Wailsend)||Taverne, D.|
|Diamond, John||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dodds, Norman||McLeavy, Frank||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Edelman, Maurice||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Manuel, Archie||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mapp, Charles||Timmons, John|
|Evans, Albert||Mason, Roy||Tomney, Frank|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mayhem, Christopher||Wade, Donald|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mellish, R. J.||Warbey, William|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mendelson, J. J.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Millan, Bruce||Weitzman, David|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Milne, Edward||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Monslow, Walter||Whitlock, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Moody, A. S.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Morris, John||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Moyle, Arthur||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mulley, Frederick||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Grey, Charles||Neal, Harold||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Phllip (Derby, S.)||Woof, Robert|
|Gunter, Ray||Oliver, G. H.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oram, A. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. McCann.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Chataway, Christopher|
|Allason, James||Bishop, F. P.||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Box, Donald||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Braine, Bernard||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Brewis, John||Cleaver, Leonard|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Collard, Richard|
|Barter, John||Buck, Antony||Cooke, Robert|
|Batsford, Brian||Bullard, Denys||Corfield, F. V.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Costain, A. P.|
|Bell, Ronald||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Coulson, Michael|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nalm)||Craddock, Sir Beresford|
|Bitten, John||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Crawley, Aldan|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Cunningham, Knox|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cary, Sir Robert||Curran, Charles|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Russell, Ranald|
|Dance, James||Lindsay, Sir Martin||St. Clair, M.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Sharples, Richard|
|Doughty, Charles||Longbottom, Charles||Shaw, M.|
|du Cann, Edward||Longden, Gilbert||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Loveys, Walter H.||Smithers, Peter|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Emery, Peter||McLaren, Martin||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stodart, J. A|
|Farr, John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Fell, Anthony||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Finlay, Graeme||McMaster, Stanley R.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Gammans, Lady||Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gardner, Edward||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maitland, Sir John|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marlowe, Anthony||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Teeling, Sir William|
|Gower, Raymond||Marten, Neil||Temple, John M.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Green, Alan||Mawby, Ray||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mills, Stratton||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Miscampbell, Norman||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Turner, Colin|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hastings, Stephen||Nabarro, Gerald||Van Strauenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Hendry, Forbes||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Walder, David|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Walker, Peter|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Partridge, E.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Hobson, Sir John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hornby, R. P.||Peel, John||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Webster, David|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Plikington, Sir Richard||Whitelaw, William|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pott, Percivall||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|James, David||Prior, J. M. L.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John||Wise, A. R.|
|Jennings, J. C.||Pym, Francis||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Rees, Hugh||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Kerans, Cdr J. S.||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Woollam, John|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Worsley, Marcus|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Kirk, Peter||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Leburn, Gilmour||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Mr. Michael Hamilton and|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Boyle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)||Mr. Ian Fraser.|
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I beg to move, in page 2, line 32, at the end to insert:(6) Where, after the coming into operation of this subsection, a constable requests any person to provide a specimen of breath—This Amendment adds a new subsection to Clause 2, the effect of which will be—it will not come into force simultaneously with the rest of the Bill—that a police officer who asks someone for a specimen of breath must offer to supply a duplicate specimen to that person in a suitable container. If it is not supplied to the person concerned then, as 1578 in the case of subsection (4) of Clause 2, covering cases of urine and blood tests, evidence of the proportion of alcohol in the blood will not be admissible as evidence against the accused.
- (a) subsection (4) of this section shall apply in relation to the specimen as it applies in relation to a specimen of urine; and
- (b) the constable shall offer to supply to that person, in a suitable container, another specimen of breath which he may consent to provide.
This Amendment arises from an undertaking given by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton), when he was Minister of State, during the Committee stage. He agreed to consider an Amendment providing that if some method of preserving a breath sample could be devised and found adequate, the accused person should be entitled to have such a duplicate sample.
My right hon. and learned Friend explained that no such provision had been written into the Bill originally because it was thought at the time that there 1579 was no prospect of devising a suitable container, and I must inform the House that there is still no efficient system of preserving such samples. The most likely way is by a self-sealing plastic bag, but the technical examination is not yet completed and there are many questions to be answered before the Home Office could recommend it to the police for use in court proceedings.
Nevertheless, in Committee the general feeling was that if and when such a device were available it should be available for breath samples in the same way as samples of urine and blood are available to an accused person. Although it is not the intention to bring this sub-section into force unless and until an adequate device is obtainable, we thought it right to insert it in the Bill now.
It is not, however, the Government's intention to postpone the use of the breathalyser itself, on the lines indicated in Clause 2 (1), until methods of preserving samples of breath are available. We intend to introduce a breathalyser as soon as an adequate instrument of that kind exists, and this new subsection will come into force only when an adequate device for containing samples of breath is also available.
§ Mr. Cole
I have a number of questions about this Amendment. I am entirely in favour of its intention although perhaps not of its wording. How will the coming into operation of this subsection be regulated? I can find nothing about that in the Bill other than the fact that whilst there is no breathalyser one cannot do it. Will it be brought into operation by order of the Minister? And who is to lay down the proportions in the breath which will be sufficient to lead to a charge of driving while under the influence of drink or drugs?
I believe that sub-paragraph (b) of the subsection is not necessary. Subsection (4) of the Clause already says that a specimen taken at the same time shall be provided to the accused on request. Then, again, sub-paragraph (b) says that the sample shall be offered in a suitable container, but that is obvious. The same thing applies to blood. Presumably, an accused person will not be given a 1580 sample of blood in his hand. Nothing is added by (b). It says that the constable… shall offer to supply … another specimen of breath which he may consent to provide.But if the person had not consented there would not be a specimen of breath in the first place. I cannot see the point of that sub-paragraph.
I think that the wording leaves much to be desired, and that is putting it politely. It states:the constable shall offer to supply to that person"—presumably the accused—in a suitable container, another specimen of breath"—From whom? Presumably from the person who is accused—which he may consent to provide.I can very well see that this wording may lead to the lawyers having a field day. Incidentally, my attention was drawn to this matter by an eminent lawyer, who is an hon. Member of this House, and I told him that I should raise it because I do not like subsections which are not properly worded. I suggest that the words should be:another specimen of breath from that person which he may consent to provide.I am delighted to see that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is in the Chamber and I hope that my remarks may influence his thinking on this matter. There has, as yet, been no answer to these questions. There has been no haste over this. We have had ten days or so in which Amendments might be put down. I think that my hon. Friend should provide answers to my questions.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), I welcome this alteration but I wish to ask a few questions. The alteration was made following a discussion during the Committee proceedings, in which I took part, regarding the method in which a breathalyser, or an equivalent instrument, should be used. I share the puzzlement of my hon. Friend as to what machinery is to be used to bring into effect the provisions in the new subsection.
But, that having been done—this is what worried hon. Members during the Committee stage—is it the intention of 1581 the Government that all other types of breathalyser which do not produce specimens for the use of the accused will no longer be used? Does the Minister intend to get rid of such instruments at the earliest possible moment? The Bill provides for careful safeguards in respect of other tests but it leaves completely open the matter of the breathalyser and that, to many of us, appears unfortunate.
I should like an assurance that as soon as an instrument is devised that will produce a specimen, all other breathalysers or similar instruments will be discarded by the provisions in this subsection being brought into operation.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
With the leave of the House, I will answer the questions put by my hon. Friends the Members for Bedfordshire (Mr. Cole), and Keighley (Mr. Worsley). The subsection will be brought into effect by Clause 43 (3), which provides for bringing the Measure into operation as the Minister may order by Statutory Instrument, and different days may be so appointed for different purposes. The answer to the drafting point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South is that subsection (4) refers only to blood and urine. It was, therefore, necessary to spell out the point again in the new subsection (6), referring to breath. I do not think that the question of whose is the specimen of breath referred to in the final line of the new subsection will cause serious trouble.
I must explain to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley that a breathalyser does not itself produce and seal up a specimen. It is a separate process of blowing into a container, in fact, blowing into two containers, one for the police and one for the accused. There is no sort of container built into the breathalyser, lit does, so to speak, develop an analysis on the spot. The preservation of samples is quite a separate process.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5.—(DISQUALIFICATION ON CONVICTION OF CERTAIN OFFENCES.)
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I beg to move in page 4, line 2, to leave out "for special reasons" and to insert: 1582is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances, that there are grounds for mitigating the normal consequences of the conviction and.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
With this Amendment there can be discussed the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle), in page 3, line 31, to leave out "for special reasons" and to insert:having regard to all the circumstances.and the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), in page 3, line 31, after "reasons", insert:(whether arising out of the circumstances of the offence or otherwise).
§ Mr. Marples
I wonder if it would be for the convenience of the House if we could discuss the seven Amendments in my name because they all relate to the argument about "special reasons". The first is the Amendment I have moved and the next is the Amendment in Clause 7, page 5, line 14, to leave out from "If" to "the" in line 15.
Then the Amendment in line 18, to leave out from "so" to end of line 22.
The fourth and fifth follow immediately, in Clause 9, page 6, line 39, to leave out "for special reasons".
In line 42 to leave out from "required" to "in" in line 1 on page 7 and to insert:it shall state the grounds for doing so.The next Amendment which is tied up with this general series is in the First Schedule, page 27, line 30, column 2, at the end to insert:the words from 'if the court' to 'punishment for the offence' shall be omitted.The last Amendment in my name which is consequential is in the Fourth Schedule, page 47, line 38, at the end to insert:In section one hundred and ten, the words from 'if the court' to 'punishment for the offence'.If we could take all those Amendments together I think it would be for the convenience of the House.
§ Mr. Marples
I am grateful to, you Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).
The Amendment I have moved is designed to give effect to the Government's decision, taken in the light of very strong views expressed in the Committee, to modify the safeguard of "special reasons" in relation to traffic offences. The last two Amendments referring to Section 110 of the 1960 Act deal with the words "special circumstances" which have a relation to "special reasons". I wish to make a few remarks on the main Amendment.
The chief criticism of the new system enshrined and embodied in the Bill was that "special reasons" was too limited a phrase to be an effective safeguard in relation to Clause 5 (3). Clause 5 (3) introduced the new principle of what is known as "totting up" where if three offences under Part I or Part II of the Bill are committed within three years an automatic disqualification of at least six months will take place. This is a new principle and is designed not to secure more convictions but to make a person who has endorsements on his licence, say two in a year, know that if he gets another in the next two years, automatic disqualification will follow and it will make him more careful. I think the provision will have that effect.
It was said that certain reasons might be brought forward as evidence in favour of the motorist—for example, that he was proceeding at 31-32 m.p.h. on a road clear of all traffic—and that this was a trivial offence in which certain mitigating circumstances should be taken into account. It was said that under the doctrine which has been built up in law—what is known as "special reasons "—these mitigating circum-stances could not be taken into account. It has been laid down by the courts that "special reasons" relate to the offence and not to the offender. It was therefore argued that the consequences would be too harsh and that in some trivial offences the magistrates would be unable to exercise their discretion. We had to see how we could get round this difficulty.
Under the Bill, the range of offences to which this doctrine of "special reasons" could apply has been greatly extended. I freely admit that it is the 1584 only ground on which the automatic disqualification for the six offences listed in Part I of the First Schedule and the "three in three years "penalty can be mitigated.
I announced the Government's decision about amending the provisions in Committee on 3rd July, as reported in c. 743 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, SO that the principle of these Amendments had been announced and was accepted by the Committee. Briefly, the effect of the decision embodied in these Amendments is, first, that "special reasons" will continue to apply in relation to the six most serious driving offences, which are in Part I of the First Schedule. That is provided for in Clause 5 (1). Secondly, "special reasons" will continue to apply in respect of endorsements as provided for in Clause 7. Next, a new formula, set out in the first Amendment on the Order Paper, the main Amendment, will take the place of "special reasons" in relation to what one calls the "three in three years" penalty in Clause 5 (3).
The reasons for taking this action are, first, that we wish to maintain "special reasons" in respect of the six most serious offences, which are the Part I offences. In my opinion, these offences are so serious—I call them the killer offences—that it is impossible to think of their being committed in any circumstances which could be called trivial. It is impossible to think of these as trivial offences. They are not. They are killer offences, and "special reasons" will still apply to them.
Secondly, we must maintain "special reasons" for endorsements, not because we want to pillory the motorist or to cause prosecutions but because we must have on a man's driving licence an accurate record of what took place so that the bench may judge what is the right penalty to impose. If a man committed an offence, it would be wrong if this were not recorded on his driving licence, because it might as a result not be taken into account by the magistrate.
I come to the "three in three years" penalty—the term which we have given it in the Miniistry—An Clause 5 (3). This can embrace a wide range of offences which, though important and embodying dangerous behaviour, are less serious than the six offences in Part I. The 1585 Government recognise that the courts should be given greater latitude in dealing with pleas of mitigation when the offences and the circumstances in which they occur are likely to be so varied. The new formula is meant to free the law of the limitations and pronouncements attaching to "special reasons". Hence the phrasehaving regard to all the circumstances".At the same time, it should be observed that what is to be mitigated—I emphasise this—arethe normal consequences of the conviction".In other words,the normal consequences of the convictionmust still be the paramount consideration in dealing with the sentence, and it is only in this light that the grounds for mitigation are to be found. In short, the new formula does not preclude any particular class of reasons from being taken into consideration, but at the same time it regards the automatic penalty as the normal consequence of committing three offences under Part I and Part II of the Schedule in the prescribed time, which is three years.
There is nothing in the formula which is likely to preclude consideration of circumstances special to the offender as well as to the offence. This was one of the objections raised about "special reasons". Before reaching this decision the Government considered many ways of dealing with the problem raised in Committee as a point of principle. Like many points of principle, it was not easy to boil it down to words which could go on the Statute Book. We dealt with the modification of Part II of the First Schedule. My hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) proposed that we should divide the offences in Part II into two categories. We considered that. We tried the other suggestions. One was the limitation by size of the earlier penalties so that the automatic disqualification should operate only if the penalty for the first two of the three offences was above a certain level. If the fine was £5 or over, it should count. If it was £4 19s. 6d. or under, it should not count. We tried that.
Another line of reasoning which we pursued was to extend the words "special reasons" to the offender as well as to the offence. This simple 1586 Amendment had its attractions, but we found that it might not remove the difficulties over "special reasons". We therefore did not decide in favour of that.
I have tried to meet the wishes of the Committee in this respect. I realise that it was not the feeling of all Members of the Standing Committee but I think it was the feeling of the majority. We have tried to meet it in the best way we could. It has not been easy. I hope that it will meet of the approval of those hon. Members of the Standing Committee who are present tonight. I also hope that it will meet with the approval of the House. It has been a genuine effort to meet the hard cases which may arise under the offences listed in Part II. In Part I there are the six killer offences and there "special reasons" must still apply. Part II lists twenty offences all of which mean accidents—leaving a car in a dangerous position, crossing the lights on red—but which, at the same time, are obviously not of the same serious nature as those in Part I. It is to the category in Part II that the new formula will apply.
I hope that hon. Members of the Standing Committee will feel that the Government have tried to meet their wishes. We have been as fair and as flexible as we possibly can. We hope that on this point of principle the House will agree with us. From time to time there are legal arguments in the House. If there are any legal arguments on this matter my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will deal with them. Now that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South has returned, I have no doubt that there will be legal arguments. I am reinforced in my determination by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who will buttress my arguments of principle with those with which he is very familiar in law. He will be able to show that the words in question mean what I have said in principle.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mapp
The Minister has been fair with the Members of the Standing Committee. He acknowledged that some of us were unconvinced. I want to put the point of view of those of us who are unconvinced. The Minister has made it very dear that for killer offences 1587 the doctrine of special reasons will remain. However, he has not made it so abundantly clear to the House that two of the three in three years offences —the first two—can be killer offences. Because the third offence happens to be a Part II offence, by the very nature of the Amendment special reasons will no longer apply.
I very much regret this. I realise that the Minister has arrived at a compromise, but I am trying to put myself in the position of a magistrate doing his job conscientiously and trying not to be perverse. Following on this broadening of the definition, the magistrates will on all occasions have reasons advanced why the accused should not suffer the penalty prescribed. If I am a doctor, all the reasons one can think of will be advanced. If I am a Member of Parliament, the magistrates will be be told that it is, therefore, essential that my car should be available, and all the rest of it. There are all the commercial travellers—the list is quite interminable.
This broader definition will be available to any fairly competent legal representative pleading for a man merely going to his works or his office. The environment of the individual will be urged, and that is not possible now. The magistrates will be told of the hardship, if not the injustice, and the career-damaging effects of imposing the penalty at present available. The courts should not be exposed to that sort of thing. I have to accept the discipline of a car as a dangerous instrument, and we should all do the same.
This Amendment will open the door so wide that a man will be able to say, "I am not a weekend motorist, so there are overwhelming reasons why this temporary aberration on my part should not influence the court to the fullest extent". I fear the consequences of this Amendment. I acknowledge the strides that the Minister is making in these matters, but I regret that, here and there, for reasons that are, perhaps, indirect, he is stepping backwards. Here the reasons have not originated in his mind but have sprung from a background. I regret that among the twenty steps forward, he is stepping back in one or two cases. This is one of them, and I regret it.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
It would be ungracious of me to allow this occasion to pass without thanking my right hon. Friend for the extent to which he has implemented an undertaking that he gave in Committee and for which I and other hon. Members pressed. We respect the views of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), but I do not believe that we are here opening a new door in the law. When a man has been found guilty of some offence, it is normal practice for him, or for those appearing for him, to advance to the court every reason that can be thought of for dealing gently with him. That is a normal process of the law, and it is perfectly right and proper.
Many hon. Members felt that it was wrong that when a minimum penalty was prescribed by law—and minimum penalties are very rare in the law and, in principle, are not desirable—there should be almost no scope at all for advancing, after conviction, the sort of arguments in mitigation that are considered appropriate in respect of every other crime except murder—including crimes very much more serious than the crime of driving a motor car badly. My right hon. Friend has very properly met us here, and we are grateful to him for it. It will improve the administration of the motoring law. I also believe that we can trust our courts, from the top to the bottom, to listen to the arguments which will be addressed to them, to apply great commonsense and to turn out the right answer.
We are, at the same time, debating two other Amendments, one in my name, and I will not say much about them at this stage since it is important that we should get on. Nevertheless, for the sake of the record, I will not say much more than I am sorry that my right hon. Friend could not have gone the whole way, as most of us had hoped when he gave his qualified undertaking in Committee. It is regrettable that he could not have reopened his consideration of the phrase "special reasons" in relation to motoring offences.
I realise that things are left in their former shape for those rather serious offences in the first part of the Schedule. I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's case for doing that, but on the general 1589 principle involved I take the view that minimum penalties are not a good thing in the law. They imply a lack of trust in the courts, which is always regrettable. It may occasionally be justified, but it is, nevertheless, regrettable, because minimum penalties are bound, by their nature, occasionally to result in a misapplication of justice.
The only way to avoid that is to give to the courts a real discretion in what they regard as a special case to waive or mitigate the penalty. By a process of judiciary interpretation—which I shall not repeat tonight because it was thoroughly discussed in Committee— from about 1946 the discretion left to the courts was largely reduced, reduced many people would say to the point of disappearance.
In relation to the six offences in the first part of the Schedule, we have a minimum penalty with almost no discretion at all to the courts to mitigate in a special case which may come before them. I say "almost no discretion" because there still is a little discretion left. However, its ambit is a good deal less than was intended by Lord Morrison, Mir. Herbert Morrison as he then was, when he introduced the 1930 Aot. In Committee I quoted the speech he made on Standing Committee on the 1930 Act, to show that in almost every one's view the intention which Mr. Morrison then had does not correspond with the decision in the Whittall v. Kirby case of 1946.
I see no point in labouring this matter now, since the Amendment about which I speak is selected for debate only and there cannot be a vote on it, even if I were disposed to press it to a Division. For the sake of the record and the future, I have wished to express my view that it is regrettable that my right hon. Friend has not been prepared to go the whole way and to open the phrase "special reasons" over the whole range of motoring offences.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Minister was right when he said that the majority of hon. Members who had spoken about the definition of the words "special reasons" were unhappy about those words and the legal interpretation given to them. In Committee, it was said that the courts were able to take into account special 1590 reasons regarding the offence itself, but not the circumstances of the offender. That is the layman's way of putting it.
This was made clear despite the fact that a new departure was being made whereby if a driver committed certain offences a certain number of times in three years he would be automatically disqualified. This alarmed some hon. Members and, while my hon. Friend the Member for oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) felt that any departure from what was already in existence would be unwise, many of us felt that one could not just apply automatic disqualification without the courts having the power to take into account the circumstances of the driver concerned.
I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East to consider this question from the point of view of the man driving a public service vehicle, who could well be involved in three minor offences under Part II, and under the Bill as it now stands would automatically lose his licence. As a member of a union which is very much concerned with this matter, I can tell the House that the union was shocked at the possibility of what could happen to some of its members who, unlike the private motorist, drive heavy vehicles such as buses, stopping and starting 1,000 times a day, and who might well be expected to become involved in minor offences. If such a man were to lose his licence he would also lose his livelihood.
I thank the Minister very much for what the Government have done to meet us. I am very glad that they have kept the killer offences. We never wanted the argument smeared with the question of what was in Part I of the Schedule. Any man found guilty of such offences, irrespective of any plea in mitigation based on the conditions of his job, and so forth, deserves to lose his licence, and certainly if he were to commit three offences in three years.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I think that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has misunderstood the position. Of course, I would agree that three of those offences in three years would deserve disqualification, but I think that the position as it remains now is rather different from that. For example, a first offence of causing death by dangerous 1591 driving—not three in three years—involves automatic disqualification, with no discretion on the part of the court to say, "This is a special case and we ought not to disqualify."
§ Mr. Mellish
I was merely saying that there is all the difference in the world between a plea of mitigation with respect to Part II of the Schedule and Part I. Those for whom I speak and who are employed as public service vehicle drivers will be with me 100 per cent. when I say that anyone found guilty of these offences deserves to suffer the full measure of the law. I am glad that the Minister has found the necessary suitable words. They may not be ideal, but they are a genuine attempt to deal with the problem.
§ Mr. Cole
May I briefly add my tribute to my right hon. Friend and to the Law Officers and legal advisers for having found a reasonable way out of this complicated maze?
I should just like to enter this caveat. As we have heard, as the words appeared in the original Act which was in the charge of Mr. Herbert Morrison as he then was, it was never envisaged that "special reasons" would take on the connotation Which they since have under the former Lord Chief Justice. Since I have clearly in my mind the dictum that the courts do not accept as evidence our intentions as expressed in HANSARD, and as by the same token we do not read the dicta of the courts as they decide their cases—apparently the twain shall never meet—I hope that somebody will not give a stringent legal definition of the meaning intended by this House of the word "circumstances". We have many phrases much longer than "special reasons."
I hope that, having voiced this warning, as we have in this Bill, and having widened the phrase deliberately, the courts will recognise that our intention is to be a little more lenient than has been the case in the past. Frankly, I do not believe that motorists in recent years have had quite the square deal that Parliament intended them to have.
On the technical point, I am a little concerned because I notice that the Amendments all have the effect of 1592 eliminating the words "special reasons". Clause 7 (2) refers tosubsection (1) or subsection (3) of section five of this Act….In line 18 are the words "special reasons". I can find no Amendment on the Notice Paper to eliminate those words, unless I have misunderstood, which I may well have done.
§ Mr. Marples
Perhaps I can help. I said that endorsement would still remain obligatory and special reasons would apply to it both in Part I and Part II. That applies to endorsement, but not to the punishment.
§ Mr. Cole
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend, but that is not quite the point. My point is that if we have the words "special reasons" in here, there may be the somewhat anomalous situation that the court does not have to apply its mind to "special reasons", with the legal connotation which those words carry, to offences under Clause 5 (3), but when we come to the endorsement Clause, Clause 7, no longer do we have the new form of words and special reasons are applicable. We have the wider consideration open to the court under Clause 5 (3) but under Clause 7 (2) we go back to the original stringent term "special reasons".
Surely, if the endorsement flowing from Clause 7 has application to offences under Clause 5, there should be a point of mitigation available under Clause 7. I am not a lawyer, but I cannot see how that matter is clarified.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
I think that we should put on record what we are doing here. In Committee, I supported the Parliamentary Secretary not only in his brief but in his belief that leaving the words "special reasons" in the Bill was the right thing to do. The hon. Gentleman advanced many good arguments with which I agreed.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
He was persuaded as in the case of crash helmets, though at that time he was persuaded the wrong way.
§ Mr. Steele
The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) used up a good deal of the Committee's time in trying to persuade the 1593 Minister, or rather carrying on a filibuster and trying to create a good deal of pressure upon him. In this he succeeded. This is what I want to put on record.
Before the Bill came to this House, the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary and the Department had obviously given a great deal of thought to the matter. In the other place, they maintained their view that "special reasons" should remain in the Bill. In Committee, pressure was brought to bear upon them, but at that time both the right hon. Gentleman and his Parliamentary Secretary argued that "special reasons" should remain. I accepted their arguments at the time.
I understand what the Minister has done. He has given way, but he has gone just so far. I appreciate the position. Is the alteration made by the Amendment applied to all the items in the Second Schedule, or does it apply only to the totting up?
§ Mr. Steele
Then I congratulate the Minister on saving as much as he possibly could.
This brings me to my second point. In Committee there was, as there has been in the House tonight, an inclination to talk about the offences in the Second Schedule as trivial offences. I object very strongly to this attitude. We find that they refer to dangerous driving, careless driving, speeding, as well as while under the influence of drink or drugs. These are not trivial offences.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that driving under the influence of drink or drugs is item 4 of the First Schedule and not in the Second Schedule at all.
§ Mr. Steele
I may be wrong, but I am still able to read. Page 28, item 11, states:(b) being in charge of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs).
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
This is the case that we discussed in Committee, where one could be in bed or in one's house with one's car standing outside and still be technically in charge.
§ Mr. Steele
In any case, I think that it is a serious offence.
1594 We listened to a great deal of this in Committee. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South, spent a great deal of time on the matter. I sympathise with the Minister. I think the Minister started with a very good objective, that after a man had committed two of these offences he knew that if on a third occasion he committed one of these offences he would lose his licence. The simple idea was that this would make him more careful in the future. I think that that was an admirable objective. Why I sympathise with the Minister is because the combination in Committee was too much for him. When we got the legal fraternity on his side of the House wanting to be able to save their clients when they go to court and my hon. Friends who represent the Transport and General Workers' Union wanting to prevent their friends from going to court, it was quite clear that the strength of the pressure was bound to be too much.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Transport and General Workers' Union does not want to prevent its members from going to court. All it wants to do is to make sure that when they get there they get a fair trial.
§ Mr. Steele
Perhaps my over-simplification was misunderstood. I think that my hon. Friend knows exactly what I mean. He wanted to protect the members of his union and hon. Members opposite who are lawyers wanted to find another method of making it easier to save their clients. I regret that the Minister has had to go so far as he has, but at least he has not been pushed the whole way and for that I am grateful.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir John Hobson)
The Amendment has met with some opposition because it is said that it goes too wide; it has received a good deal of support from the Opposition Front Bench and it has met with some opposition for not having gone wide enough. In these circumstances, it probably represents a very fair settlement of the views of the House. It is almost entirely a matter of judgment on the extent to which one should rely on the discretion of the courts or fetter the discretion of the courts about what they can do, if there are three convictions in three years.
1595 This is not a legal matter. It is a matter entirely of policy and once the policy is decided then the lawyers can put it into appropriate shape. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I hope that it will be found from experience that on this occasion they have put it in a satisfactory shape which will lead to proper consideration by justices of this difficult question of disqualification.
Only two legal points for me were raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) asked whether the relaxation proposed in this Amendment applies to totting up offences only under Clause 5 (3). It does, and it applies to nothing else. Only when a person has had two previous convictions and he is in peril of a third conviction in three years will this relaxation of the rules about special reasons apply.
The only other point which I need deal with was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole). He drew attention to the Amendment in page 5, line 18, but did not couple it with the Amendment above it in page 5, line 14.
§ The Attorney-General
If both Amendments are accepted, the Clause will read:If the court does not order the said person to be disqualified, the court need not order particulars of the conviction to be endorsed as aforesaid if for special reasons it thinks fit not to do so.The circumstances in which a person may be not disqualified are, first, under subsection (2) where there are special reasons; secondly under subsection (3) for totting up where the new principle is applied, and thirdly in the Part II cases where the court has discretion about whether it should disqualify or not. In all those cases it may be that the court will not disqualify. If it does not disqualify, it must, nevertheless, order the conviction to be endorsed. unless there are special reasons for not endorsing it, even when the count has exercised the new power given by the Amendment not to disqualify under the totting up cases, or has a complete discretion.
§ Mr. Cole
Could the new definition on page 3508 of the Order Paper of giving discretion to the court in all circumstances apply to the man not being disqualified, and, however important those circumstances were and however sympathetic the court may be, it is nevertheless under a dictat by the Bill to endorse that conviction although it did not wish to disqualify him. But under subsection (2) it would still have to endorse the conviction on the man's licence.
§ The Attorney-General
I do not know that it would be a dictate. It would be a statutory obligation imposed by this subsection that, even though the count having exercised its discretion and having not disqualified, yet it would, nevertheless, have to consider whether there were special reasons for not ordering the endorsement to be written on the licence.
§ The Attorney-General
No, it would not apply. Thus, for future occasions the count would have a record which was almost complete by endorsements of the number of previous convictions of the motorist.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move, in page 4, line 11, at the end to insert:(5) Where a person convicted of an offence under subsection (5) of section forty-six of the principal Act (contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations) committed while driving a motor vehicle has within two years immediately preceding the commission of the offence been convicted of such an offence, subsection (3) of this section shall apply in relation to him with the substitution of twelve months for six months.It might be for the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker, if you have selected the following Amendment, also in lime 11, to discuss it at the same time.
§ Mr. Speaker
Prima facie the problem is different between contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations, on the one hand, and speeding, on the other. I am, however, prepared to allow the discussion to range over the overlap between the two and to call the second 1597 Amendment, should the hon. Member so desire, for a Division only.
§ Mr. Page
I am obliged, Mr. Speaker. I take it, therefore, that I may range over both the contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations and speeding in my argument in favour of the Amendment which I am moving.
As this is an addition to Clause 5, perhaps I may briefly refer to the Clause in general and say that under subsection (1), when a person is convicted of an offence which is specified in Part I of the First Schedule, the court can order him to be disqualified for a period of not less than twelve months. Under subsection (4), there is an exception to that in the particular case of driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of drink or drugs. When that offence has occurred within the previous ten years, the possible period of disqualification is increased from twelve months to three years.
That spotlights one type of offence— driving or attempting to drive while under the influence of drink or drugs— and imposes a longer period of disqualification. What I desire to do, in connection with the automatic disqualification after three offences, is to spotlight two offences which, if repeated, seem to me to be of grave seriousness. The first is contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations. We owe a special responsibility to those using crossings to protect them, because with all the paraphernalia of the crossing we have invited those on foot to cross at a particular point and there is some duty to give them safety in crossing at that point. Furthermore, it is surely useless to provide pedestrian crossings unless pedestrians have confidence in their use.
It is at the crossing that perhaps the most tragic accidents occur, particularly to the young and the old. Therefore, I would single out a repetition of a contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations as a particularly serious offence and show, by increasing the disqualification period if that offence is repeated, that it is regarded by this House as of grave seriousness. That crossings can save lives is shown by the figures.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will, I think, agree that the risk of meeting an accident on pedestrian 1598 crossings is about half the risk in comparable traffic conditions elsewhere. I want to make crossings much safer than that. One good reason for spotlighting the offence of contravening pedestrian crossing regulations is that the proportion of casualties at crossings is increasing. There is not so much recognition of the rules of the pedestrian crossing by drivers as there was. Statistics show that accidents on crossings are increasing.
So I would not only spotlight that type of offence if repeated, but, in the second of these two Amendments, I would also spotlight the seriousness of a repeated speeding offence. This is not just a technical offence. Even if one called the first speeding offence technical, when a man has suffered a conviction for speeding that is surely a very severe warning to him, and if he goes on and commits a further speeding offence then I would treat that as something to be picked out and to suffer a greater period of disqualication than that for other offences.
My right hon. Friend the Minister is hoping to improve traffic flow by one way streets, by clearways, and so on, and by doing that he increases the opportunity for greater speeds. There is all the more urgency to impress upon people that speeding is not just a technical offence.
The real enforcement of speed limits has saved lives and saved limbs on the road. I have before me a paper by Mr. Newby, of the Road Research Laboratory, and it shows this so very clearly. He reaches the conclusion that as speeds increase there isa substantial deterioration in the principal factors making for safety.Mr. Newby quotes the figures of the reductions in accidents when speed limits have been imposed. They really are rather astonishing. In 1935, when the 30 m.p.h. limit was imposed in built-up areas, the percentage reduction in all accidents was 6 per cent.; the reduction in fatal and serious accidents was 15 per cent. The figures were even more astonishing in 1956, when the 30 m.p.h. was imposed in Northern Ireland. There, there was a reduction overall of 24 per cent. in the accidents.
The figures work the other way as well. On sites where the 30 m.p.h. speed limit had been removed over the period 1599 from 1945 to 1953 there was a general increase in accidents of 45 per cent.— by reason of the removal of the 30 m.p.h. limit.
Quite rightly, Mr. Newby comes to this conclusion:The imposition of speed limits was followed in every case by a reduction in total injury rates and even greater reductions in fatal and serious accidents. On the other hand, there were more accidents after relaxation or removal of the limits.I quote that to show that the offence of speeding is not merely a technical offence. It is something very directly related to road safety and to accidents on the road. If the speed limit is not observed and enforced it is absolutely certain that accidents increase; it is absolutely certain that the proportion of fatal and serious accidents will increase. Therefore, I would wish, by means of the subsection which I have suggested, to indicate that where a man repeats this offence, when he has had one speeding conviction, and yet goes on and breaks the speed limit, he should be subject to a greater period of disqualification than in the other case; and I suggest the same for repeated contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. John Hay)
My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has drawn attention to two of the offences which are set out in Part II of the Schedule and has said that they are offences, to use his own words, of grave seriousness. With that general proposition, frankly I would not quarrel. However, I beg leave to differ from him—I hope the House will also— about the treatment that we propose compared with that which he proposes.
The effect of the first Amendment is to modify the penalty which attaches if three offences are committed in three years. The modification is in two forms. First, the court has to take into special account a previous conviction of contravening the pedestrian crossing regulations. Secondly, the offence leading to the previous conviction has to be one which occurs within the previous two years, and not the previous three years, of the offence in question. To digress for a moment the second Amendment, dealing with speeding, relates to a pre- 1600 vious conviction in the preceding twelve months. If both of those conditions were satisfied, my hon. Friend would have it that the automatic penalty that the court must apply under subsection (3) should be a minimum of twelve months and not six months.
The issue that the House has to decide is fairly simple. Although a breach of the pedestrian crossing regulations is a serious offence, one has to decide whether it is sufficiently serious to justify our picking out that type of offence from all the offences in Part II of the Schedule for this special treatment. When we were discussing an earlier Amendment, the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) referred to the fact that there are a number of offences in that part of the Schedule which are of considerable seriousness, and I doubt whether one should pick out an offence against the pedestrian crossing regulations as being of greater seriousness than, for example, dangerous driving or careless driving.
I think my acid test applies even more strongly when one considers the second Amendment, in which, again, special treatment is proposed in respect of the offence of speeding. There can. of course, be cases—there frequently are, I am afraid—where speeding takes place in very serious and dangerous circumstances. Part of the reason for the Bill is to try to stamp that out. But I think we should be—
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
In a sense, the two things are linked. I know that the hon. Gentleman is trying to be brief. I strongly agree with some of his remarks. Many of the serious accidents on pedestrian crossings—I have witnessed a number—are due to the fact that when a motorist is courteous enough and has the good sense to pull up for a pedestrian he is overtaken by someone travelling at a fast speed. Such a person is breaching the pedestrian crossing regulations and speeding at the same time. Many accidents are caused by overtaking at pedestrian crossings. Having seen one car pull up, the pedestrian thinks it is safe for him to cross, and then that car is passed by another. I should like the hon. Gentle-man to take that into consideration.
§ Mr. Hay
I do not dispute that that may be very true, but at the moment 1601 we are concerned with two Amendments which seek to select from all the offences in Part II of the Schedule these two offences for special treatment.
I was saying that although it is true that in many speeding cases the speed itself may be very dangerous in all the circumstances, it is equally true that the breach of the speed limit may not in all circumstances be very serious. Be that as it may the central proposition remains: do we wish to select out of this list of offences these two for special treatment? I suggest that, although they are serious, they are not sufficiently serious to justify this course of action. Moreover, if we were to do this, it would start to complicate what is on the face of it a reasonably straightforward system as it stands.
It will be perfectly clear to the courts what we are trying to do, and the drafting of the Bill as it stands is such as to make it clear that one looks at all these groups of offences in the first two parts of the Schedule and considers them in relation to the "totting-up" provision. I do not see why it should make a difference—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hay
I do not see why it should make a difference that the previous conviction occurred within the previous two, rather than the previous three, years. I think that it would create an unnecessary complication if one introduced this provision.
I appreciate the sincerity with which my hon. Friend has put this proposition, but the automatic period of six months' disqualification provided in subsection (3) is a minimum period. It is not a maximum. It will be perfectly open to a court, in dealing with a breach of pedestrian crossing regulations or speeding to disqualify for a longer period of twelve months if it wishes. It would be far better to leave the matter to the sense of the courts in individual cases rather 1602 than to complicate the Bill with the provision my hon. Friend has in mind.
I believe that the mere threat of a six months' disqualification will act as a substantial deterrent, and I do not believe that if we were to double this minimum period it would have a directly proportional deterrent effect upon possible offenders. It is far better to leave the matter as we have it now in the Bill, and I hope that the House will agree with that view.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Clause 7.—(ENDORSEMENT OF LICENCE.)
§ Amendments mode: In page, 5, line 14, leave out from "If" to "the" in line 15.
§ In page 5, line 18, leave out from "so", to end of line 22.—[Mr. Hay.]
§ Clause 9.—(STATEMENT OF SPECIAL REASONS, ETC.)
§ Amendments made: In page 6. line 39, leave out "for special reasons".
In page 6, line 42, leave out from "required" to "in" in line 1 on page 7 and insert
it shall state the grounds for doing so".— [Mr. Hay.]
§ Clause 20.—(RELAXATION OF DUTY OF HOLDERS OF C LICENCES TO KEEP CURRENT RECORDS.)
§ Mr. Hay
Both these are drafting Amendments. The intention is to make it clear that any extension after the end of the two year experimental period of the relaxation of the duty of holders of C licences to keep current records may be with or without modification as to distances or weight specified in subsections (1, a) and (2, b) respectively. The approval of each House of Parliament by resolution would, in any event, be necessary.
§ Amendment agreed to.1603
§ Further Amendment made: In page 13, line 28, after "modification", insert "(if any)".—[Mr. Hay.]
§ Clause 23.—(MINIMUM AGE FOR DRIVING CERTAIN MOTOR VEHICLES.)
§ Mr. Strauss
I beg to move, in page 15, to leave out lines 16 to 21.
This Amendment deals with what may be considered a small point, but it is a matter about which the trade unions feel strongly. By the provisions of this Clause, it is proposed that in future boys of 16 shall be entitled to drive a tractor on the roads. Until now only boys of 17 who have a driving licence have been permitted to drive on the roads. The National Fanners' Union argue that a boy who drives a tractor in a field— at present boys are allowed to drive in fields even at the age of 13—may want to cross a road to get to a field on the opposite side to continue work with the tractor.
There are many workers' organisations who see great danger resulting from the acceptance of this proposal. A deputation to the Minister of Transport, which included representatives from the Trades Union Congress, the Transport and General Workers' Union, and the Agricultural Workers' Union, maintained that this would be dangerous; that it would be difficult to limit the scope of the operation of the regulations which the Minister is here seeking, and that there could be a considerable extension of the driving of agricultural tractors on roads by boys of 16 which would lead to danger.
That view is shared by hon. Members on this side of the House. Were it merely a question of driving the tractor across a road from one field to another it would be difficult to object. But the proposals here—within certain regulations formulated by the Minister affecting the type of tractor, the number of trailers and things of that sort—is that a boy of 16 shall be able to drive a tractor for an unlimited distance. He may travel miles. He may go to the nearest market town or railway station to collect or deliver produce. We consider that to be wholly wrong.
When this matter was raised during Committee stage discussions we were given no assurance that the distance 1604 would be limited. Admittedly such a concession as this would be a convenience to farmers but we do not think it should be granted because it might lead to grave abuses by boys of 16 who drive tractors.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I think that hon. Members opposite are making heavy weather of this matter. Boys of 16 will be starting regular employment on farms and they must be allowed to drive tractors which they will be trained to use. The tractors will be used mainly in rural areas. They are not lethal machines which are capable of attaining enormous speeds. I consider that at the age of 16, a boy will be able to drive a tractor in the way his employers would wish. It is only practicable that boys of that age should be allowed to do so and not have to wait until reaching the age of 17. I hope that the Government will resist the Amendment.
I do not think that farmers or their employees, including boys of 16, would support what the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) has suggested is the case advanced by the trade unions. I do not think this is a case on which the unions feel quite so strongly as the hon. Member would wish to make out. I hope that we shall find this provision acceptable.
§ Mr. A. V. Hilton (Norfolk, South-West)
I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) on this Amendment. This provision is one of the few things which will spoil the Bill. At a time when all the emphasis is on road safety, it seems an anachronism to reduce the age from 17 to 16 for boys to be set free on the roads to drive what actually are lethal weapons.
The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) did not think that farmers would oppose the proposal in the Bill. Of course they would not oppose it, because the suggestion came from the farmers. He may take it from me, however, that the trade unions are 100 per cent. in opposition to it. I remind the Parliamentary Secretary that last year nearly 50 people were killed on farms by tractors. In two consecutive weeks a couple of months ago two experienced tractor drivers were killed 1605 when driving tractors on the road. This is no laughing matter. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) to sit grinning all over his face, but this is no laughing matter for the people concerned.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
I was not laughing, I was observing that the hon. Member referred to two experienced tractor drivers. Does not that argument militate against his case?
§ Mr. Hilton
Not at all. The point I am making is that tractors are dangerous vehicles even in the hands of experienced, trained drivers. To set youngsters of 16, as soon as they leave school, free on the road with these dangerous vehicles and all sorts of implements behind them can lead to all sorts of accidents.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
Would the hon. Member not agree that young people drive about at 100 miles an hour on the roads, and not with tractors?
§ Mr. Hilton
Of course I agree, but two wrongs never make a right. We on this side of the House want road safety to be practised. We feel very strongly on this matter. Boys will be boys, and we have all been young. When one starts driving anything the temptation is to put one's toe down. With modern tractors that can be very dangerous. It has been the cause of many fatal accidents. It is a reflection on the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary that they have bowed to this pressure which is being put upon them by farmers to include this provision in the Bill.
I hope that the Minister will have second thoughts on it. If not, we shall have no alternative but to vote for the Amendment and against the proposal in the Bill.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
As a farmer I should like to make a comment on this proposal. It is most annoying when one has a good tractor driver, a boy of 16, who is not permitted to drive the tractor across the road. But I am also a motorist, and I have had many narrow squeaks because of tractors slowly crossing the road, sometimes pulling a plough or some other long vehicle. The motorist comes round a corner and finds this tractor crossing the road.
1606 I feel that the Government should think very carefully about this before they change the law. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, "If 16, why not 15?". But we must strike an age somewhere, and the older one is the more responsible one is. I have three boys, and they have all driven tractors in a field from the age of 14 upwards. It is a temptation to let them drive across the road, but we should think very carefully before permitting this, because it is dangerous. I know that many of my friends have had narrow escapes because of tractors being driven across the road. These are slow-moving vehicles, and they can be dangerous in country roads when one may not expert to meet them.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Does one cross the road more or less slowly at 16 than at 17? Will one be any more skilled at 17 than at 16 at taking a tractor slowly across the road?
§ Mr. Mackie
One can go from the sublime to the ridiculous and down to 15, 14 and so on. We have to strike a balance. We strike it at 21 for the age of responsibility and at 17 for driving. There are plenty of road accidents without lowering the age further. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's argument is valid. One can go to the other end of the scale—70, 75 and 80; and I would reduce that age, because one can grow more careless at that age. I appeal to the Minister to think carefully before making this change.
§ Mr. Hay
We have had a repetition of the debates in Standing Committee on these provisions. Before I ask the House to reach a decision I should make it clear that all we are doing in the Bill is to take power for the Minister to make regulations providing thatthe age under which a person may not drive on a road a tractor used primarily for work on land in connection with agricultureshould be 16 instead of 17. In other words, we are taking power to lower the age but by the Bill itself we are not lowering the age.
This is pertinent, because, as I shall show in a few moments, we propose to have a number of safeguards if we make the change which the Bill would give us the power to make. I have not 1607 been particularly impressed by the arguments advanced by hon. Members opposite. We think that this change is necessary principally in the interests of the efficiency of agriculture. It is possible for a boy as young as 13 to drive a tractor on a farm, but he cannot —and we should not want him to—drive it on a public road. We say that it would be a great convenience to agriculture if the age limit were lowered from 17 to 16, but I must emphasise that even if we took that step, the boy of 16 would not be able to drive a tractor on the road unless he had passed his driving test. We have that safeguard to start with.
Secondly, we have power to impose a number of conditions in the regulations about the type of tractor which can be driven by a person of 16, and the conditions under which he may drive it. I can give the House a little more information than I was able to give in Standing Committee about the sort of conditions which we have in mind.
First, we would apply the lower minimum age only to the driving of wheeled tractors and not to those with caterpillar tracks. This is an important point. Secondly, when a tractor was being driven by a 16-year old person the towing of trailers would be prohibited, except for two or four-wheeled trailers not exceeding 8 feet in width and which were, if they were of a four-wheeled type, what is called close-coupled.
The main difficulty we bad in Standing Committee—it was repeated this evening by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss)—was the question of distance. As I said in Committee, what we want is to give the power to have a 16-year-old boy droving a tractor for a limited distance in connection with farm work and not to go for long journeys over a vary great distance on the roads. We think that we have found a way in which we can dead with this and provide a distance limit. The Vehicles (Excise) Act, 1962, refers to agricultural machines and imposes a limitation of 15 miles upon the distance from the home farm within which such a vehicle may travel on roads. In our
§ regulations we could ensure that the reduction dm the age to 16 would apply only in the case of tractors taxed under that provision of the Vehicles (Excise) Act. The effect would be to limit the distance to 15 miles from the home farm. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is a limitation. We were asked in Committee to limit the distance, but so fax we have not heard from the Opposition a more practical way of limiting the distance.
§ Mr. Hilton
The hon. Gentleman mentioned 15 miles. Is he aware that in many areas it is the practice of farmers during the sugar beet season to take many tons of sugar beet to the factories for processing by tractor and trailer? Does this moan that a 16-year-old boy who has passed his driving test will now be able to take his place in the queue conveying sugar beet to factories for three, four or five months during the sugar beet season during the depth of the winter? If so, it will make the situation far more worse than we envisaged. This is very different from driving a tractor across the road from one field to another field.
§ Mr. Hay
We will take note of the hon. Gentleman's views. I have simply said that one of the ways—it may not be the final way, but it is a possible way— in which we can limit the distance, which is what the Opposition wanted us to do, is to make use of this provision in the Vehicles (Excise) Act. We are quite willing to consider any other proposition which may be advanced as to the way in which the distance may be limited if that is desired.
We want the power contained in the Bill, which the Amendment seeks to delete, to enable us to reduce the age limit and to apply the necessary, safeguards and conditions. This is what the Opposition want to delete. I must tell the House that this is a power that we do not think ought to be taken out of the Bill. I ask the House to resist the Amendment.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 195, Noes 140.1611
|Division No. 260.]||AYES||[10.24 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Barber, Anthony||Batsford, Brian|
|Allason, James||Barlow, Sir John||Berkeley, Humphry|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Barter, John||Biffen, John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Bingham, R. M.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Hastings, Stephen||Pott, Percivall|
|Bishop, F. p.||Hay, John||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Black, sir Cyril||Heald, Rt, Hon. Sir Lionel||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bottom, Clive||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Pym, Francis|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Hiley, Joseph||Rees, Hugh|
|Box, Donald||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Braine, Bernard||Hirst, Geoffrey||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Brewis, John||Hobson, Sir John||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Hocking, Philip N.||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bryan, Paul||Hollingworth, John||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Buck, Anthony||Hornby, R. P.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hughes-Young, Micheal||Sharples, Richard|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Shaw, M.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hutchison, Micheal Clark||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Iremonger, T. L.||Smithers, Peter|
|Chataway Christopher||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig, sir John|
|Chlcheste-clark, R.||James, David||Stodart, J. A.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham S)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Cole, Norman||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Collard, Richard||Kerthaw, Anthony||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Cooke, Robert||Kirk. Peter||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Leburn, Gilmour||Teeling, Sir William|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col J. K.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Temple, John M.|
|Co field, F. V.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Costain, A. p.||Lilley, F. J. P.||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Coulson, Michael||Lindsay, Sir Martin||Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Crawley, Aldan||Longbottom, Charles||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Curran, Charles||Longden, Gilbert||Turner, Colin|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Loveys, Walter H.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Dance, James||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|d'Avigclor Goldsmid, Sir Henry||McLaren, Martin||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||McLean, Neill (Inverness)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Drayson, G. B.||MacLeod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell|
|du Cann, Edward||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Walder, David|
|Duncan, Sir James||McMaster, Stanley R.||Walker, Peter|
|Elliot, Cant. Walter (Carshalton)||Maginnis, John E.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Elliott, R.W.(Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Maitland, Sir John||Wall, Patrick|
|Emery, Peter||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Marten, Neil||Webster, David|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Mathew, Robert (Honlton)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Farr, John||Mawby, Ray||Whitelaw, William|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Williams, Dudey (Exeter)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mills, Stratum||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gardner, Edward||Miscampbell, Norman||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gilmour, Sir John||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Wise, A. R.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Neave, Airey||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Gower, Raymond||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Green, Alan||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Woollam, John|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Partridge, E.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Mr. J. E. B. Hill and|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Mr. Michael Hamilton.|
|Abse, Leo||Callaghan, James||Fernyhough, E.|
|Ainsley, William||Clliffe, Michael||Fletcher, Eric|
|Albu, Austen||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Awbery, Stan||Dalyell, Tam||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Beaney, Alan||Darling, George||Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Blackburn, F.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Blyton, William||Deer, George||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Delargy, Hugh||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Dempsey, James||Hannan, William|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Lelcs. S. W.)||Diamond, John||Harper, Joseph|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Dodds, Norman||Hayman, F. H.|
|Bradley, Tom||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Herbison, Miss Margaret|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Evans, Albert||Hill, J. (Midlothian)|
|Hilton, A. V.||Mackie, John (Enfieid, East)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Holman, Percy||MacMillan, Malcoim (Western Isles)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Houghton, Douglas||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Steels, Thomas|
|Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Manuel, Archie||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hoy, James H.||Mapp, Charles||Stones, William|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mellish, R. J.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Millan, Bruce||Swain, Thomas|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Milne, Edward||Swingler, Stephen|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Morris, John||Taverne, D.|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Neal, Harold||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, George||Oram, A. E.||Thompson Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Owen, Will||Thornton, Ernest|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parker, John||Tomney Frank|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Warbey, William|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Peart, Frederick||Watkins, Tudor|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pentland, Norman||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Popplewell, Ernest||Whitlock William|
|Kelley, Richard||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Redhead, E. C.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|King, Dr. Horace||Reynolds, G. W.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Lawson, George||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||wills, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Ross, William||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Short, Edward||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|McCann, John||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)||Woof, Robert|
|MacColl, James||Small, William||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Mcinnes, James||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Sorensen, R. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Dr. Broughton and Mr. Grey.|
|Clause 37.—(Amendments as to aiding and abetting, etc., offences and as to INCLUSION IN INDICTMENT OF SUMMARY OFFENCES IN SCOTLAND.)|
|Amendment made: In page 22, line 29, leave out Clause 37.—[Mr. Marples.]|
|New Schedule.—(Offences in Scotland.)|
|(Provisions Replacing Sections 240 and 246 of Principal Act)|
|Penalty for aiding abetting, &c, commission of offences in Scotland.||240. As respects Scotland, a person who aids, abets, counsels, procures or incites any other person to commit an offence against the provisions of this Act or any regulations made there under shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be liable on conviction to the same punishment as might be imposed on conviction of the first mentioned offence.|
|Inclusion in indictment in Scotland of certain summary offences.||246.—(1) A contravention occurring in Scotland of any of the provisions of this Act or of any regulations made thereunder, which is directed to be prosecuted summarily and which, if it had been triable on indictment, could competently have been libelled as an additional or alternative charge in an indictment charging a person with culpable homicide in respect of the driving or attempted driving or use of a motor vehicle, or with a contravention of section one, section two or section six of this Act, may, notwithstanding the direction aforesaid, be so libelled and may be tried accordingly.|
|(2) In this section any reference to a contravention of regulations includes a reference to a failure to comply with regulations.—[Mr. Brooman-White.]|
|Brought up, read the First and Second time and added to the Bill.|