HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc261-3

4.9 p.m.

Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable the Minister of Transport to license establishments which give instruction in driving motor vehicles and to make regulations with respect to a code of driving instruction and the qualifications of instructors. The Bill which I am seeking leave of the House to introduce is designed to enable the Minister of Transport to license establishments which give instructions in driving motor vehicles and to make regulations with respect to a code of driving instruction and the qualifications of instructors.

I am sure that the House will not grudge a few minutes being devoted to the subject of road safety, in which all of us are concerned on behalf of our constituents, all the more since this is the week before the Easter holiday when, unfortunately, the number of accidents increases. If nothing else comes out of my asking leave to present my Bill but that it does something to persuade us to drive a little more carefully over Easter, my efforts will have been worth while.

I remind hon. Members that on 24th January the House had a debate on road safety and passed unanimously a Resolution deploring the loss on the roads and reminding drivers that they control lethal weapons. As a result of that debate, it became clear that there is no single solution to this appalling tragedy but that a number of individual things can be done, all of which can help, and perhaps it also became clear that the most important person concerned is the individual driver. But drivers have different standards. We ourselves, as we drive, differ from day to day in how we feel and in our standards.

It also became clear that the more instruction a person has, the better driver, in the main, he becomes. This was clear particularly among that class of drivers who drive for their living. My Bill would give the Minister power to control the driving schools. As I understand the position, any person, whatever his driving record, can set up a driving school. He can have as instructors some people—I do not say that this often happens—who have perhaps only just passed the test and have never driven at more than 30 m.p.h. Yet they have to take out a trainee and travel at 60 m.p.h.

There are many good driving schools but, like everything else, we do not legislate for the good percentage but for the bad few. I have had a letter from the head of a very well-known driving school who says: I have long experience in the profession and regret that at the present time the position is such that the learner motorist is being exploited by inefficient and unscrupulous owners of so called driving schools. Thus I can say that there is a desire amongst the better schools themselves for a Bill such as this. I would like to see the Minister, under the Bill, make regulations that a school must have three proper modern cars with dual control and that the instructors must be trained or have passed tests or have had so many years of driving before teaching others. There is an excellent school at Hendon, run by the police, where they lay down a pattern of instruction. If that is the best pattern—and I am told that it is—then it should be the one on which everyone is instructed.

I may be asked why the Bill is required at the present time and has not been introduced before. I suppose that, in this House, it is better to be a little late man too soon, or to be late than never at all. I remind the House that the position has changed tremendously in the last few years because, in our affluent society which we enjoy, instead of there being a few people who drive for pleasure and a few professional drivers, every boy and girl is a potential driver on reaching the age of 17. Youngsters are already looking around to see where they can find instruction, and often it seems to be denied to them. We may come to the day when, in our schools and universities, we shall have to have official classes for driving, as s[...] happening in other countries.

We were first allowed to drive these lethal weapons on the roads merely by obtaining a licence and perhaps having no instruction at all. Nowadays, the beginner must take a test and carry "L" plates until he passes it. In view of all the tragedies on the roads, the public should have the protection afforded by driving schools giving the right standard of instruction, as laid down by Parliament and of the same pattern throughout the country so that signals are standardised.

At this stage in the Session, I realise that, if the Bill is to reach the Statute Book, I shall have to have the support of every hon. Member. In Committee, if it is shown that I have drafted it badly, then, of course, I will consider the objections. This matter concerns every hon. Member and every constituent. We all pay lip-service to the horror of our road tragedies. Here is a genuine effort to secure better standards of driving.

In my last speech on the subject of road safety, I quoted the reply of an engineer in a garage when asked which was the most important part of the motor car. He replied, "The nut at the wheel." I want to see that the nut at the wheel is well screwed down to the rest of the motor car. That is why I commend the Motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir H. Harrison, Mr. Gresham Cooke, Mr. Stainton, Mr. John Hall, Mr. Cleaver, Mr. Creech Jones, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Webster.