HC Deb 25 July 1962 vol 663 cc1614-32
Mr. Woodhouse

I beg to move, in page 43, line 22, column 2, at the beginning to insert: in the proviso to subsection (1), for the words 'he produces the same in person ' there shall be substituted the words 'it is produced'".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir W.Anstruther-Gray)

This and the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) in page 43, line 22, at the beginning insert:

Section two hundred and twenty-five.
In the proviso to subsection (4) for the words "he produces the licence in person "there shall be substituted the words "the licence is produced".
may be discussed together.

Mr. Woodhouse

This Amendment is in fulfilment of an undertaking given in Committee by my hon. and learned Friend the then Minister of State, Home Department, to take care of a difficulty which is liable to arise in the case of certain commercial firms using large numbers of vehicles and holding block or master certificates covering the whole range of such vehicles, which one could not expect the individual driver would carry in each case.

We are still unable to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) to apply the same principle to driving licences, for reasons which I think were made sufficiently clear in Committee and with which I will not weary the House again. I hope this Amendment will be accetptable.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I am, of course, grateful that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and his colleagues on the Front Bench have been able to go as far as this in meeting the case which I put forward in Committee. The Amendment will, I am sure, come as a mitigation of the inconvenience which is suffered by many people who have to produce an insurance certificate when it is not on the vehicle at the time when they are asked for it.

I think this is a clear enough case. There is nothing that I need say now to add to the arguments which were deployed in Committee and which have found acceptance in the Amendment now moved. But inasmuch as the Amendment which I have on the Paper is in order for debate on this Government Amendment, I would just like to say—again I am afraid it can only be for the future and for the record—that it is still my view that this concession ought also to be extended to the requirement to produce a licence.

This is the second occasion that I have raised this matter. I raised it in 1956 when the Road Traffic Bill of that year was going through its stages. I do not consider that I was then given any reason why this should not be done. I argued the case again in Standing Committee and had, I think, the support of some hon. Members at any rate, and again I do not consider that I was given any reason why this should not be done. I completely fail to understand why a licence has to be produced within five days at the police station not just by anyone but by the driver in person.

The present rule is supposed to avoid some abuse, but just what the abuse thus avoided can be is beyond my comprehension. It was argued against me in Committee that what I suggest would impose an extra burden on the police, but, even though I and others asked what. that burden might be, no explanation was given.

Twice during this period of seven years there has been a total failure to put forward any reason why this considerable inconvenience should be inflicted upon a very large number of people. A man driving to London Airport, on his way to a conference or important engagement at the other end of the world, perhaps, may be asked for his driving licence, not because he has committed any traffic offence but because he happens to be a useful witness of something which has happened on the road. Why should he be required to cancel all his plans to go abroad so that within five days he may in person produce this miserable licence at the police station?

It is, of course, important that a driver should have a licence and that it should be produced to show that he has it, but I simply cannot understand why it should not be possible for someone else, perhaps his secretary, to do it. I have always been open to argument and conviction on this matter. One can be wrong. One can overlook something. But it is very odd that in two debates in the space of seven years no one has explained what it is that I have overlooked. I do not want to take up time. Part of what I want has been accepted. I cannot take it further now since my Amendment is not selected for a vote— not that a vote is any good on Report, as one knows only too well. I am grateful for what has been done so far. I say what I do now so that, in seven years from now when we have our next Road Traffic Bill, I may have a reasonable prospect of seeing the remainder of my reasonable request accepted.

Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). It is quite ridiculous that one's wife or one's friend may not produce one's driving licence in these circumstances. My hon. Friend gave the example of someone going abroad. I recall that in Committee one hon. Gentleman said that he could be in a very awkward position if, having left his driving licence in his coat pocket in Scotland, he was asked to produce it while on his way to the House. He has five days to produce it. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that his wife should be permitted to take his licence to the local police station in Scotland and produce it on his behalf.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). If one is going abroad and on one's way to London Airport one is unfortunate enough to be caught speeding—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—and one is asked for one's licence, one can be put to great inconvenience. Whenever I go abroad I leave things like my driving licence behind, because I do not like to take them with me about the world and risk losing them. A person going abroad, say to Japan, for a fortnight or so has five days in which to produce his licence. He cannot do so. There is a lot of sense in what my hon. Friend has said, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will note it for next time.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, who is so brilliant at cutting through red tape of all kinds, could find a way round this difficulty. I hope that he will give us an answer.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Woodhouse

I did not argue the point when I spoke a few minutes ago because I thought Chat the House was anxious to make up time and get on with the Bill, and also because I had the impression that the arguments had been fully rehearsed in Committee. Since, however, the matter has been raised again, I should like to make one or two points in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), and particularly to take up one or two of the points of fact which the asserted in Committee and again tonight.

My hon. Friend asserted in Committee that the regulation was virtually a dead letter. I have taken the trouble to ascertain whether this is so. The fact is that it is not. I have had inquiries made among chief officers of police in many parts of the country and I find that almost all of them, particularly those in charge of the largest forces—the Metropolitan Police, Lancashire, Birmingham and the West Riding of Yorkshire, for example—say that they normally enforce the requirement that the holder of a licence should present it in person, and they clearly wish that it should remain so.

My hon. Friend said that it does not matter in practice who takes the licence so long as it is correctly associated with the driver. The fact is that this requirement not only enables the police to verify the identity of the driver and serves as a safeguard against impersonation—contempt has been poured on this idea, but it is a serious one—but enables the police to take up on the spot any irregularities associated with the licence itself. This is a convenient and not uncommon advantage.

If my hon. Friend looks at the 1961 return of offences relating to motor vehicles by the Metropolitan Police, he will find that a large number fall in this category, and they bring in a quite considerable sum of money in fines. The Metropolitan Police tell me that as a result of this requirement they have frequently been able to make inquiries on the spot into such offences as driving while disqualified or of learner drivers driving unaccompanied by another driver.

Mr. Dance

I do not follow the argument concerning identification. A motorist might be "had up" in Edinburgh, where he lives, but produce his licence at Chelsea police station. As I said in Committee, unless the person taking the licence is of different sex, no one is to know whether he was the driver. There are no photographs on a driving licence for identification. Anybody could produce the licence.

Mr. Woodhouse

The simple answer is that confirmation can be obtained by the signature. The licence must have a signature on it, and a person can be called upon at the police station to give a signature, when the two can be compared.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Is it not almost unknown for anyone to be asked for a signature? That is one of those metaphysical possibilities which does not happen. Is there the slightest reason why a matter like driving while disqualified, if it is revealed when a licence is produced, should not be taken up in the ordinary course of events? How is that helped by the actual driver producing the licence? I cannot follow the argument.

Mr. Woodhouse

I was coming to that. I should be grateful if I may be allowed to finish my argument before there are further interruptions.

There are also other offences which can be revealed on the occasion of production of licence, such as taking and driving away somebody else's motor car. The point is that in every such case where an offence is disclosed it is necessary sooner oar later to interview the driver personally. If it can be done sooner rather than Later, that is a convenience in administration and makes the task of the police much easier. These are the reasons why we have felt it necessary to resist my horn. Friend's Amendment, but I hope that the concession which we have made in the Government Amendment, which at least gives my hon. Friend half a loaf, will be welcome to him as better than no bread.

Mr. Robert Cooke

Will my hon. Friend take it from me that on the last three occasions I have been asked to produce my licence at police stations I was not asked to sign anything at all?

Mr. Woodhouse

There was no reason in practice why my Friend should have been, unless there was any suspicion of impersonation. Quite clearly, my hon. Friend has not been brought to one of the police stations where they do normally require this production.

Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

I have just checked back on my own licences. My current one is signed, but three have no signature.

Mr. Woodhouse

I am sorry to say that my hon. Friend is convicting himself of an offence under the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Fourth Schedule.—(Enactments REPEALED.)

Amendments made: In page 47, line 38, at end insert: In section one hundred and ten, the words from 'if the court' to 'punishment for the offence'.".

In page 48, leave out lines 9 to 18.

In page 48, leave out lines 24 to 28.— [Mr. Marples.]

Order for Third Reading read.

[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

10.52 p.m.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

At this late hour, and after some confessions from my hon. Friends on this side about not signing their licences and going to London Airport and on to Japan, with all the difficulties which are consequential upon that, there is very little time to go over the merits of this Bill, and I do not propose to do so. What I should like to do is however thank both sides of the House for the way in which they have discussed this Bill both on the Floor of the House and in Committee upstairs.

I think I can say quite honestly that the discussions have been full and comprehensive. Everybody has made his point of view crystal clear. We have not always agreed, but at any rate views have been expressed reasonably concisely. People have had strong views. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) had strong views. They have been opposed sometimes to those on the Front Bench —as have some expressed from this side. I do not complain about that. Everybody dealing with the Bill has, in my view, tried his best to make this a good Bill. Naturally, as the Minister in charge of the Bill, and as I have not got the whole of my own way, modestly I am sorry about that, because I think my own way would have been better than the way imposed upon me by various pressures from all sides. However, that is our democratic way of procedure.

I think, broadly speaking, this is a good Bill, and I would say to the House this, that politics is the art of the possible and we have to get through as much as we possibly can; but I do not want the House to understimate the importance of this Bill, because it does deal with road safety, and that is the most difficult problem every civilised country in this world faces today. We are killing nearly 7,000 people a year, and that is serious, and the more we can do as the legislative assembly to reduce those deaths and the accidents the better.

I think this House must not underestimate either the number of people who do not make their views known and who are intensely interested in reducing the deaths on the roads. I have a vast volume of correspondence which is analyses regularly, and I can assure the House that it is amazing how many people are interested but who do not make their views known as a pressure group because they are diffused over the country as a whole.

My correspondence shows this clearly. Only two days ago I got a letter from a man who wrote: I am sending you the enclosed driving licence to use if possible in your road safety campaign. My reason for giving up driving is that I am 58 and suffering a slight heart trouble. So after half a lifetime of driving to every corner of this land I do not want the very pleasant memories spoilt by hurting some one in an accident. Please do not publish my name in your endeavours but I am sure that my licence will help in some way. I receive a vast correspondence from every Member's constituency. These people do not constitute a pressure group, but their views should not remain unheard.

I wanted to make a speech in commending the Bill to the House, but it is too late. I think we ought to part with the Bill now. We have discussed it exhaustively. I thank right hon. and hon. Members opposite for their assistance, and I thank my hon. Friends for the way in which they have received the Bill.

I earnestly hope that the Bill will help me in what I consider my most difficult task, one I find baffling and perplexing— that of reducing deaths on the road. The individual responsibility is there all the time, and no Minister of any party can really influence the individual driver. At this very moment there might be an accident in Newcastle, Sheffield or Sunder-land, and there is nothing that a Minister of the Crown can do about it.

But we have introduced one new principle, and that is the totting up of offences. I assure motorists that it is not the Government's intention to persecute them in any way. I hope there are fewer convictions, not more. What I particularly want is this. When a man has one or two endorsements on his licence, I want him to appreciate the implications of a third endorsement and say "My heaves, I must be careful because if I do this again my licence will be suspended automatically". I think that will be the deterrent; it will make him drive carefully. That is what we seek to do in the Bill, and so it is with great pleasure that I commend it for Third Reading.

10.57 p.m.

Mr. Strauss

We welcomed the Bill on Second Reading. We give it an even greater welcome now because it has been improved in Committee. The Minister has accepted several important proposals put forward by back benchers on both sides of the House, and, therefore, the Bill is better today than when it first appeared.

It is remarkable that a Bill dealing with road safety and a variety of traffic matters should have passed 'through Committee in two or three months. The previous Bill took well over six months. I Chink the fact that it went through so quickly shows that everybody was most anxious that legislation on this subject should be enacted as soon as possible. It was also a remarkable tribute to the self-denial of hon. Members in that they restrained themselves, sometimes with considerable difficulty, from making the contributions which they felt they could make. If there is one subject on which everybody is an expert, it is road safety, because everyone uses the roads and has his own special ideas about how to reduce accidents.

I said that the Bill had been improved in a number of ways. We wish that the Minister had been able to go further in certain directions where he has not, but we must now accept the Bill as it is. I believe—here I speak entirely for myself—that it errs in only two matters. I do not believe that the three-year totting up proposal will have any significant effect. It will have very little effect compared with a hundred and one other proposals which could be adopted.

My only other criticism of the Bill, as I said in Committee, is that the indiscriminate raising of penalties is ridiculous when we know that magistrates do not impose the maximum penalties which already exist and are not in the slightest influenced by what the House thinks the maximum penalties should be. To quote one example, the maximum penalty at the moment for careless driving is £40. The number of times that has been imposed is 0.001 per cent. of the whole. The Bill raises the £40 penalty to £100 for the first offence of careless driving. That is nonsense. There are very many proposals in the Bill which are good.

In conclusion I wish to say, and I am sure that the Minister will agree, that what we can do by legislation to bring about road safety is very limited. We can do certain things, and many have been done. But there are many other matters of greater importance, and therefore we urge the Minister when bringing in regulations to be active in other matters, too—in road improvements, in eliminating dangerous corners, in improving the surface of roads, in increasing enforcement, that is, by having bigger police forces so that they can catch the man exceeding the speed limit and who is driving dangerously; and, not least, in propaganda and education.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is doing a good job, though not nearly as good a job as it could do. I think that the advertising campaigns are much too woolly. We need a new psychological approach to the matter in order to make people road-safety minded. It cannot be done by ordinary methods such as those used by people who want to sell detergents or an extra pint of milk a day.

All these matters are of the greatest importance, and we hope that the Minister will be successful in them. We believe that in this matter of road safety the right hon. Gentleman is serving the nation well, although it is the only direction in which we think that he is doing so. We wish him success and we on this side of the House shall do everything we can to ensure that success.

11.2 p.m.

Mr. Rees-Davies

One thing that is certain is that if my right hon. Friend the Minister were to be sent on to the Home Office we should be able to deal with home safety and that if he were sent on to the Ministry of Labour we might be able to get industrial safety. I would remind the House that though road accidents are extremely serious, industrial accidents are infinitely more serious and do far more harm and damage to the economy and to the life of the country. I hope that in due course my right hon. Friend—he is still a young man—will be able to deal with these problems which up to now these other Ministries have been unable to deal with.

The Minister said that the Bill made a contribution, as indeed it does, to one matter which was entirely novel. The Bill does something constitutional which has never been done before in the history of Parliament, and it is a bold man who can say that. The Amendment, now incorporated in Clause 13 of the Bill as reprinted, will produce the result that the very first order which imposes a minimum speed limit on a particular road will be subject to affirmative Resolution. But subsequent orders for different roads thereafter will not be subject to any proceedings, either affirmative or negative, and, indeed, will not be laid before Parliament at all under Clause 13 (5). But if any order is continued for more than four months by Clause 13 (2), it will be subject to negative Resolution. Thus, in the case of an extension of a second or subsequent order, the House will be asked to extend an order which it has never seen before.

This is very strange indeed. It is important, because these matters may arise again in the future with other Ministries. I have tried to find out whether their are any precedents. The first is the Financial Powers (U.S.A. Securities) Act, 1941. This gave the Treasury power to make regulations about placing United State securities at the Government's disposal. It provided that the first regulation should be subject to affirmative Resolution and subsequent regulations to negative Resolution. But in this Bail there is no provision for laying regulations before Parliament at all.

In the National Assistance Act, 1959, and the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, 1960, there is provision for negative Resolution for the first orders and thereafter for affirmative Resolution. This Bill, therefore, goes far beyond any constitutional precedent.

The Bill does not provide specifically for these orders to be laid, and there is no obligation to do so under the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946. Thus, although Parliament is given power to annul an order extending another order, it will not have seen the original order at all. When we are asked to approve the extension order, we shall not be able to get copies of the original order being extended.

I am sorry to present this conundrum to the House. I hope that in future the Parliamentary draftsmen and the advisers of the Minister will be more careful. I am very much in favour of the introduction of a minimum speed limit, but this procedure is not satisfactory. It means that if the Minister wants to lay down a minimum speed limit through the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. L. Thomas) so that I can get to my constituency more quickly, Ms order will never come before the House. Presumably my hon. Friend and I will have to abase permanent secretaries in order to find out about it. The method adopted by the Minister in this case is without constitutional precedent.

I congratulate the Minister on his forthright determination to push his Bill through while at the same time retaining his respect for doughty opponents. I had to fight him tooth and nail on one issue, but I believe that we should not by legislation take away the discretion of courts and force upon them an absolute statutory offence. Hon. Members tried to do it again today by moving an Amendment laying down the specific amount of alcohol which should constitute an offence. The country is against that sort of thing. I was determined to win through on the view that the courts must be given full discretion in these matters. I was delighted with the generous attitude of the Minister. I am sure that it will be proved right. I have no doubt that people like the courts to have the power to impose the sentences which they think fit, subject to a proper right of appeal for the accused person. The more this House tries to interfere, by writing in molecules and percentages of alcohol in the blood into a Bill of this kind, the more we shall bring ourselves into contempt. It is not the job of Parliament to administer the law but rather to give general guidance on principles and then to leave it to the courts.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) that we cannot create safety by legislation. The most important thing is to provide a first-class road system. Figures relating to the causes of accidents which have been bandied about are largely wrong. In 250 cases with which I have been associated I found that 80 per cent. were caused because people failed to keep a proper look-out or failed to concentrate sufficiently. In some cases the cause might have been drink, but they did not amount to 1 per cent.

The British Medical Association or the doctors do not understand about accidents. The men who know about accidents are the insurance managers and solicitors, the people who come into contact with them. The so-called evidence which is provided by reports is not really evidence. It is the opinion of doctors based on certain data. The real evidence can be obtained from the insurance men and the solicitors.

I believe that this Bill will prove useful and helpful, but the real need is for an improved road service. What will assist to reduce the accident rate more than anything else is the foresight and drive of the Minister and his advisers in improving the roads and the flow of traffic in London and other cities. The provisions in the Bill will be even more valuable when my right hon. Friend has completed his roads programme.

11.14 p.m.

Mr. Cole

The passage of this Bill has provided a perfect, if rare, example of the operation of this House at its best, when it is not bedevilled by political bias. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his Bill, and also on the fact that after two years of frustration he has managed to secure sufficient Parliamentary time to get it on to the Statute Book. I (hope that we shall not have to wait another six years before we have another Measure to deal with road traffic. I am certain Chat within two years there will be a need for another Bill and that within three years Parliament will be debating one. My right hon. Friend has incorporated a number of experiments into this Bill, and there have been other experiments introduced by other people. We shall have to see how they work. In three years there will probably be a breathalyser and legislation will be required. I give notice now that I hope that we shall have another Road Traffic Bill within three years. I do not mean a Consolidation Bill, but a proper Road Traffic Bill like the 1956 Measure and this Bill.

The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said that Road Traffic Bills and Road Safety Bills are not enough. I entirely agree. I commend whoever is responsible—I ought to know who is responsible, but I do not know—for this new campaign going on in the Press and on the television to the effect, "Accidents are caused by people like you". I know that that may be out of order, but that in conjunction with the Bill and side by side with this kind of legislation should produce positive results. I commend the simplicity and repetition of the slogan in the propaganda, because that is what gets over to the people. Legislation lays down the prohibitions and warns people what will happen to them if they do not obey the law. Propaganda educates them. The two together are having an effect.

I made speeches on transport in the House ten years ago. I have noticed a different attitude, especially amongst younger people, who are more susceptible to training and education than some older people. If we have enough patience, as we did with housing, to go on and on with education, with a dose of legislation every so often as necessary, we shall at last make an effect on reducing the high percentage of road deaths and serious injuries.

I commend my right hon. Friend for what he is doing. I am a great supporter and fan of his. I hope that he will get all the support he needs to implement this Measure and carry on with his propaganda campaign.

11.17 p.m.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on what has been a very considerable feat in this Parliamentary Session, namely, getting through two major Bills —the Transport Bill and the Road Traffic Bill. We are all very grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for the patient work he has done on many details.

With the passage of the Bill we have not by any means solved the traffic problem. Much remains to be done about road traffic in the next few years. When one is aware of the mighty motorways, under-passes, over-passes and closed circuit television for traffic control which are in existence overseas, one recognises what a lot there is still to do.

I am not sure that we have done quite enough in the Bill in respect of defective cars I know that we have the seven-year test. It will shortly be the six-year test. As I have pointed out during the passage of the Bill, there is an enormous number of defective cars on the roads. There are many logbooks relating to old cars floating around. The cars are built up into semi-new cars. It is strange that this country probably has about the oldest fleet of motor vehicles in the world. On the Continent one hardly ever sees an old vehicle, nothing over 5 or 6 years old. The reason is that the high Purchase Tax here gives cars a very high second-hand value. Cars are held on for years and years, much longer than vehicles are kept on the road in other countries.

This has been a useful Bill. I know that my right hon. Friend will go on thinking about traffic problems and acting on them and, I hope, reducing the number of accidents, as he has done already. I think that he is the first Minister of Transport for years and years actually to reduce the number of accidents. Knowing that he will go on in that way, I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. Ronald Bell

I also want to say how glad I am that the Bill has finally come to the end of its long journey. It was a traffic casualty itself in the previous Session. It got caught up in a traffic jam and never got through to this House. It has taken quite a long time having reached the House, though not as long as its predecessor in 1955–56.

I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) in his hope that we shall have another Road Traffic Brill in two years' time. I have vary much enjoyed our debates on this one but I do not know that I should like to chow all this over again within a spell of 24 months, and I am not quite sure that my right hon. Friend, if he is still occupying his present post two years hence, will want to repeat the experience.

The Bill has been improved during its progress, and while such a Measure may do some good, it would be the greatest mistake to think that it can make a really major contribution to the reduction of road accidents. Even if we were to have another Road Traffic Bill in two years' time, with more details and heavier penalties, it would be impossible for that operation to have a marked effect on road accidents—

Mr. Cole

When I spoke of another Bill, I meant that there would than be new matters to discuss—(hovercraifit on the roads, and so on. I did not mean going through the whole thing again.

Mr. Bell

I had today the agreeable experience of going in a hovercraft, but I do not see these vehicles coming on the roads in the next two years.

What we sometimes overlook in our debate on road safety and road legislation is the fact that we have in this country the most remarkably law-abiding set of motorists in the world. The contrary is constantly implied in our debates, as it has been this evening. We hear so much about the vast number of people killed and injured on our roads and about the heavy burden of guilt and the responsibility lying on my right hon. Friend's shoulders. Of course those people are killed and injured, and it is all very sad that it should be so, but let us not forget that our accident figures compare most favourably with those of any other country and that the number of accidents per vehicle mile have been steadily declining year by year for a long time. We cannot, of course, go too far in our efforts to reduce the accident rate, but our motorists are not the bloody, reckless, careless animals it is sometimes suggested in our discussions that they are. Our motorists, as I say, are the best in the world, and if we are to make really substantial progress in reducing road casualties it must be through our road programme, not through our legislation.

Incidentally, we also have the best road system in the world, which we constantly denigrate. It is inadequate, and should be improved very quickly, but we forget that in Europe about 80 per cent. of the roads are mud surfaced. In one European country that I visited, about 82 per cent. of the roads were gravel surfaced—but we were not, of course, invited to see those roads. We are a little self-depreciatory. I should like to put it the other way round, and say that our motorists are wonderful by any world standards, and that our roads are jolly good.

But, being on top like that, let us do even better, because success leads to success. If that is the picture, it is not right that we should sometimes shape these rather blunt weapons for bludgeoning the motorist. I have sometimes regretted hearing hon. Members on both sides say that motorists who get involved in accidents are so outrageous that we should do all we can to get them convicted. This is a rather lawyer-like quibbling, when one looks into the details, drafting and exact consequences of the provisions.

I have detected almost impatience in certain quarters, an impatience leading one to believe that when a man is brought before a court for a motoring offence he deserves everything and that nothing is too bad. I do not believe that that is a justifiable approach, and many hon. Members have done everything they can to resist that sort of attitude. We have succeeded, while resisting it, in improving the Bill.

In my view, a lot of the accidents occurring after 10 p.m. are not, contrary to what the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said, caused largely by drink. As my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) pointed out, there is not the slightest evidence to support that argument. It is easy for a committee of doctors to write a pamphlet and circulate it, but their opinions are, after all, only opinions.

Mr. Graham Page

There is hospital evidence to support the argument that drink is responsible. The Cassie Report definitely stated so.

Mr. Bell

All the reports in the world, Cassie Report or otherwise, do not advance the matter one inch.

Mr. Graham Page

Of course they do.

Mr. Bell

Unless there is evidence to show that something is so, one cannot definitely say, "This is so."

Mr. Strauss

What better evidence can there be than the results of examining 500 people who were killed in road accidents? Such an examination was carried out and it was found that 50 per cent. of the corpses had alcohol in their blood to the extent of more than 50 mg. Is that not good enough?

Mr. Bell

I cannot, with great respect, see the relevance of that. There is an accident in which someone happens, because two motor vehicles or a motor vehicle and a pedestrian have come into contact, to be killed. The question is what caused the accident? The fact that alcohol was found in some of the corpses may or may not indicate that the cause was drink, and to try to erect from such indirect evidence a conclusion that more than 50 per cent. of all accidents occurring after 10 p.m. were due to someone being drunk is to carry scientific deduction into the realms of fairy tales.

I do not know what the right figure is, nor does anyone else. We know tine number of people convicted of being drunk while driving motor vehicles. That is a certain and exact statistic. The rest is speculation. I say that because, in my view—which is based on nothing but my own driving experience—a great many accidents which occur after 10 p.m. are caused in some degree by dazzle, which I regard as one of the major factors causing night accidents, a view shared by the late hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, Mr. Bevan, and a great many others.

I beg my right hon. Friend, when using the powers which the Bill gives him for the first time to prescribe the use of headlamps in built-up areas, to remember that if he uses those powers indiscriminately there may be a large increase in the number of deaths and injuries caused by dazzle. I say that because I know that he is under pressure from certain police authorities to use those powers. I shall be sorry if he increases the amount of headlamp dazzle on our roads.

I can envisage some difficulties arising from the provisions contained in Clause 13 concerning Statutory Instruments. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look into this matter because, as a Member of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, I am not sure how we shall discharge our duty if we are asked to report on Statutory Instruments laid before the House continuing in force Ministerial orders which are not themselves Statutory Instruments, which have never been laid before the House and which may, I suppose, not be supplied before the Select Committee. I hope he will think this over. This is a novel procedure, and it could result in some difficulties in the mechanics of this House.

After those otherwise somewhat critical words, may I nevertheless say that this Bill has my wholehearted approval. I do not think we have wasted any time in debating it. All of the debate has bean entirely genuine and valuable, and this Bill when it goes through will make some contribution, even if not an enormous one, to safety on the roads.

11.31 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

Several of my hon. Friends have already congratulated my right hon. Friend on the passage of this Bill. Several of them have also mentioned that this is not the last word in road safety. I do not think we should part with this Bill, however, without one further last word, which nobody has yet mentioned. This Bill has involved some very intricate drafting, particularly of Amendments. I think we should congratulate my right hon. Friend and his legal advisers on the skill with which they have dealt with some of these Amendments. I am sure that the Bill will be effective, but I do not think it will have the effects which my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) thinks and that some surprising results will emerge in the courts from its drafting. I am sure that it will have the results which are intended.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.