HC Deb 22 February 1966 vol 725 cc331-53

8.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. George Willis)

I beg to move, That the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order, 1966, a draft of which was laid before this House on 8th February, be approved. This Order lays down functions which can be carried out by traffic wardens in Scotland additional to those prescribed in the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order, 1962. It is in similar terms to the Order approved for England and Wales in May of last year. The broad effect of the Order is to permit traffic wardens to carry out functions normally carried out by the police in connection with the control and regulation of traffic. It will enable them to deal with moving as well as stationary vehicles, and to direct traffic at road junctions and other places.

Paragraphs (2) and (3) of Article 2 make it clear that wardens are not to operate as members of traffic patrol crews and are not to be given the powers expressly conferred on constables by Parliament. When the Scottish Order of 1962 was made, the understanding was that the functions of traffic wardens in Scotland would not be extended until experience had been gained of their use under the existing provisions. This experience was a long time in coming, since for a long time Edinburgh was the only authority which employed traffic wardens. However, about the middle of last year we considered that there was sufficient justification for consulting the interested bodies about an extension on the lines of that agreed in England and Wales. The Scottish chief constables strongly favoured an Order on these lines, and it was also acceptable to the Scottish local authority associations.

Whilst the growth of traffic warden services in Scotland has been disappointingly slow, and there are as yet only about 120 wardens in service, more and more police authorities are appointing wardens or have approved of or are contemplating their introduction. We are hopeful that this Order will stimulate authorities to give further consideration to the desirability of traffic wardens, and one or two have indeed indicated that they will do this when the functions have been extended on the lines proposed in the Order.

The employment of traffic wardens on a wider scale would be of considerable help in relieving the police of relatively unproductive duties and enabling them to concentrate on their primary tasks of crime prevention and crime detection. This Order will, we hope, serve to encourage the appointment of traffic wardens. I therefore hope that the House will give approval to the Motion.

8.10 p.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I am glad of the opportunity to say a few words on this Order. When we discussed the previous Orders hon. Members referred to the fact that they had come on earlier than had been expected. My problem is the reverse, and I hope the Minister will forgive me if I do not wait for the full reply to the debate.

The argument for this measure is the shortage of police and the need to concentrate their efforts on what might be regarded as their most important functions. Despite the fact that the shortage of police in Scotland is as serious as in England, this Order comes before us about six months after the discussion we had on the English Order. Even on the previous Orders relating to non-moving vehicles the Scottish one was made in 1962, whereas the English one had been made in 1960. As the Minister of State said, the progress made in Scotland in the use of traffic wardens has been disappointing. He said that 132 were employed in Scotland. That in itself is quite a considerable progress, because in the latest report on the constabulary in Scotland, issued recently, it was stated that at the end of 1964 only 32 wardens were employed.

It was a rather pessimistic report, for in the same paragraph it said: It is to be hoped that traffic wardens will become familiar bodies on the streets. That shows what a dangerous job we are talking about.

We are making a considerable extension in the duties of traffic wardens. Up to now they have been concerned only with questions of parking and so on, but they are to be concerned with controlling traffic. The question of training is very vital. The parent Act, the Road Traffic Act, 1960, simply says: A police authority shall not employ as a traffic warden any person as constable but shall take steps to ensure that only persons adequately qualified shall be appointed as traffic wardens". and also that traffic wardens shall be suitably trained before taking up their duties.

The police authority or the chief con stable is the authority concerned in saying whether traffic wardens are suitably trained. It is unfortunate that there were not powers in the 1960 Act to specify the training—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is confined to discussing whether these additional functions should be given to traffic wardens.

Mr. Taylor

Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry about that. I did not intend to stray.

The point I make is whether when we are extending the functions of traffic wardens so considerably it is wise to do so unless at the same time we have made arrangements for training them? In the Act from which this Order stems there was only a general invitation, but I do not rest my criticism on that.

The second point, which is important, is that we are extending the powers of traffic wardens very considerably. That will mean greatly increasing the number and responsibility, but there appears to be no career structure for traffic wardens in Scotland, England or elsewhere. When we are encouraging larger numbers of traffic wardens in Scotland and giving them greater responsibility, we have to ask if we shall get the right calibre of men to undertake these extra responsibilities if there appears to be no career structure.

When we were discussing the English Order on exactly the same matter an hon. Member referred to the question of controlling traffic as "a very ordinary chore". He said that there was no point in having policemen engaged on that duty. My experience—and I think the experience of most hon. Members, particularly in large cities such as Glasgow, where traffic problems are so serious and accidents are so frequent—is that controlling traffic at busy city crossings is not by any means "an ordinary chore". It involves complex work and depends on great responsibility and physical efficiency.

I hope that we shall not extend these powers without at the same time making sure that we have the right men entering what can be a real profession with a career structure, men suitably trained for the job. I should not like to think that we should put on the streets of our cities and towns where there are so many accidents, which seem to be increasing in number—10 million vehicles on the roads expected to increase to 27 million by 1980—and put this extra responsibility on them without making real provision for the training of wardens.

I agree with the basis of the Order. We are short of police in Scotland. The last figure I saw showed that we were 858 short of establishment, a very considerable number, round about an 8 per cent. deficiency, and in the cities it was far greater. One in every five police trainees left before completing their initial probationary period. Something must be done about this serious situation, but I hope that in making this decision we shall also make arrangements for good training for the men we are to give this job to perform.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

I welcome this Order. The Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order, 1966 is a logical development of the Order of 1962. The Minister of State, who so very expertly and briefly introduced the Order, was an expert in making probing speeches during his period on the Opposition benches. I am sure he will be delighted that I who am something of a disciple of his should try to ask one or two questions this evening.

I agree with the general need for this Order and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for bringing it forward. My hon. Friend the Minister of State indicated that Edinburgh was the only local authority until last year which used traffic wardens. Edinburgh is to be highly commended for its initiative in trying to use police more expertly on other duties and making a success with the traffic wardens employed in the city. That should allay the fears expressed by the representative of the other large city which, possibly, has different objectives from those of Edinburgh. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) consults his hon. and right hon. Friends they will tell him that he need have no fear about traffic wardens carrying out the duties given to them.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

In case the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is under a misapprehension, I should tell him that we have had traffic wardens for a considerable time, and, I think, far more than Edinburgh.

Mr. Manuel

I was thinking of wardens being used in a wider sense, developing from the rather limited parking duties they have performed. Edinburgh has made a success of that and it was a logical development. Perhaps I did not put the point clearly.

It is quite understandable that when these added duties are to be undertaken by traffic wardens local authorities will approach the question with a rather more open mind. There will be added impetus to employ traffic wardens and therefore to use the police strength in various areas much more effectively than in keeping police on the duties of regulating traffic at busy street crossings and the like. This, I agree, is an extension of the duties previously undertaken by traffic wardens, but we should recognise that at many of our busiest crossings in Scotland we see policewomen effectively carrying out these duties. I agree about the quality of women and about the farmer's wife being as good as the lawyer's wife. Seeing the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) present encourages me to make that comment, as he takes an active interest in this matter. I imagine that the traffic wardens will equal the work done by policewomen in this connection.

The Order begins with these words: In exercise of the powers conferred upon me by section 2(3) and (12) of the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act 1960 Just how far will that Act allow my right hon. Friend to proceed? Is the power unlimited?

Article 2 of the Order says: Without prejudice to the provisions of the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order, the following functions are hereby prescribed as appropriate for discharge by traffic wardens, namely, the control and regulation of road traffic at road junctions or at other places, whether on the highway or not". What does "whether on the highway or not" mean? Presumably wardens will operate at busy street junctions where traffic needs regulating.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), who is interested in agriculture, stages some brilliant and very busy agricultural exhibitions on land that has no highways giving access to it. However, by some means or other many vehicles get on to that land. Does it mean that wardens can be drawn out-with the Edinburgh area to regulate cars coming in their thousands to examine agricultural stock, intensive farming, or whatever other activity the hon. Gentleman engages in on his large and lucrative farm? I agree that, if the stock were all gathered together, they would make a very fine exhibition.

The meaning of "whether on the high way or not" should be clarified. Anyone who thinks of traffic wardens visualises them operating on highways. We are not thinking of their being used to control crowds at dirt track racing or scrambles over hills or mountain passes. If an endurance test were staged for motor cyclists under the auspices of somebody—

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

The hon. Gentleman surely knows that at football matches, race meetings, many sports gatherings and, indeed, at agricultural shows, on which he is chiding my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), vehicles are accommodated off the road. To get them all fitted in, there must be somebody to give guidance. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have read the Order and arrived at that very sensible conclusion.

Mr. Manuel

I have had experience of the hon. Gentleman in previous debates. I should have thought that he would have read the Order before making such an intervention. Traffic wardens can already be used for the purpose he is talking about—simple parking duties at, for instance, football matches. But the Order goes much further and envisages their use at busy road junctions. Then the Order goes on to use the words whether on the highway or not". as if it is a new development. What range of activity could be covered by this? Would the use of traffic wardens by private bodies at certain events staged in the countryside be covered? Football clubs which require the attendance of police to control crowds at matches must pay for the police. If traffic wardens were required to be present at a private venture, would the same charges be made and would the same principles apply as apply in connection with police officers officiating at public events?

8.26 p.m.

Mr. Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I was glad to have the assurance of the Minister of State that the chief constables welcome this plan, because they have always been concerned at the use of special constables on traffic work, or even for controlling crowds at football matches, because their use might in some respects reduce the amount of overtime which could be paid to members of the regular force. Although I should very much like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) and discuss the reasons for the shortage of policemen, such as the lack of sufficient pay, I will content myself by putting to the Minister what I regard as an omission from the Order. If included it would do much—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Roderic Bowen)

The hon. Gentleman will be out of order if he does that.

Mr. Monro

I will try to relate it to the Order. It is a desirable aim to secure co-operation between wardens and motorists, with the object of clearing the streets of unnecessary vehicles. Those of us who travel into the meter zone of Edinburgh and who go up and down George Street looking for a parking meter—an exercise rather like musical chairs—are frequently short of the correct change when we get out of our cars. It is a great disappointment that wardens are not able by Order to give change to motorists. If this were made possible by law it would go a long way towards securing co-operation between motorists and wardens.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Woodside)

I welcome the Order. Those Members of the House who are not Scotsmen must have been very interested in the little fracas between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Perhaps it will be helpful to them if I say that I have recently discovered that one of the well-known Glasgow characters who was my opponent at two elections is a member of an association containing an equal number of Glasgow people and Edinburgh people—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing about a fracas in the Order.

Mr. Carmichael

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker—the difference of opinion between Glasgow and Edinburgh. However, there is an asociation composed of equal numbers of Glasgow and Edinburgh people devoted to keeping this rivalry alive. They spend their time thinking up anti-Glasgow or anti-Edinburgh stories, and perhaps the references to meters being in Edinburgh first and Glasgow now having more wardens have something to do with that.

I welcome the Order. I am sure that it is the first of many on similar lines that we shall see as time goes on because the motor car has come more and more to dominate our society. All of us who are motorists are pedestrians as well, and we realise that something must be done about the problem of the motor vehicle and the drain on police manpower which it causes.

The hon. Member for Cathcart spoke about the shortage of police. These traffic wardens will help to make up the shortage. Moreover, the shortage of police is almost a function of traffic density; as the traffic becomes greater, so the apparent shortage of police and the actual shortage on establishments put forward by chief constables become greater. An Order such as this which will allow chief constables to train, supervise and control auxiliaries to help in the control of the motor vehicle should be welcomed on all sides.

I am certain that, ultimately, traffic wardens will become, as it were, a special group of traffic police. To my mind, this is the obvious step. I realise the difficulties. The motor vehicle is frequently associated with crime, that is, real crime and not motoring offences in the sense that we all think of them, and there could be a problem in giving special traffic police too much power and taking away some apparent power from the ordinary police. Nevertheless, I am sure that we shall reach a stage when we have a special corps of traffic policemen.

Most of the chief constables to whom I have spoken, whether they are happy about the training of wardens or not, are at their wit's end to find men for certain jobs, and they are quite willing to accept this idea. As long as the training of traffic wardens is in the hands of the body of chief constables we have in Scotland now, I shall be quite satisfied. This is the first bite in attempting to deal with the problems created by the motor vehicle in Scotland. The Order makes a good start, and I hope that the House will give it enthusiastic support.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)

This Order is of particular interest to me, and I want to say a few words about it. Like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Woodside (Mr. Carmichael) and all others who have spoken, I very much welcome it. It is a logical follow-on from the 1962 Order which confined the jurisdiction, as it were, of the traffic warden to stationary vehicles. It was essentially concerned with parking problems under earlier Statutes, and the next logical step, after the experience to which the Minister of State referred, was to move on to deal with road traffic as this Order is designed to do.

It is all the more important to pursue this matter in Scotland. Like the hon. Member for Woodside, I hope that this is only one step along the road. I do not think it is right to call it the first bite. I think that, properly speaking, it is the second bite at the problem, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman, none the less, in hoping that there will be more to follow. It will be more and more necessary in future to make wider use of traffic wardens, and it is in the general interest so to do. Our rules of evidence in Scotland are such that we always have to have two witnesses to prove a criminal offence, and parking offences or road traffic offences are criminal offences, so that the road traffic burden is that much heavier.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

It is not necessary to have two witnesses in all cases.

Mr. Wylie

I am confining myself to the subject before us, road traffic. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in salmon poaching, deer poaching and certain other cases one witness will do; but the general rule of law is that two witnesses are necessary, and this applies to road traffic cases as it does generally. A heavy strain is imposed on the limited resources of our police in Scotland, and it is all the more important, therefore, that we should supplement those resources by wider use of traffic wardens. It is no use giving the local authorities power to do this unless they use it.

I hope that they will make greater use of their powers under both this Order and the 1962 Order. I visualise the situation in Edinburgh, where, in George Street, a parking meter area, two traffic wardens are walking up and down while, round the corner, in Hanover Street, two police officers are doing the same thing. Surely we could make use of traffic wardens for more general duties, and, as I say, I hope that the local authorities will do so. They need not be confined simply to parking meter areas laid down in the 1960 Act.

If the local authorities take this course, the police will be relieved of time- consuming duties. I shall not pursue this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I have been impressed by the criminal statistics. It is clear that we must leave the police free to deal with the crime with which they are peculiarly suited to cope. The increase in crime is largely occasioned by crime against property, in which the clear-up rate is only about 27 per cent. A criminal exercising his genius against property, therefore, has a four-to-one chance of getting away with it. Crime pays in that context. For offences against the person, however, the clear-up rate is very high—90 per cent. This shows that the police should be free to deal with—

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Order refers to …any other function normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of road traffic. That seems to go far. In the context of what the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) and other hon. Members have been saying, therefore, may we have a Ruling on how far we are able to go in discussing the Order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) will be in order in discussing the expansion of the functions of traffic wardens and, of course, illustrating the difficulties of the police in advocating such expansion in the way in which the Order prescribes. But hon. Members are not in order in entering into general discussion as to the rate of crime detection in Scotland.

Mr. Wylie

I merely intended to illutrate that the demands on the police in common law crime are such that we must relieve them of as much traffic duty as possible. To the extent that the Order seeks to do so and follows logically on the experimental nature of the 1962 Order, I welcome it.

8.40 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Order arises out of the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Act, 1960. In 1962, an Order was made to prescribe the functions of traffic wardens. The authorities are the police authorities and the 1962 Order, mentioned in paragraph 2 of the present Order, gives limited powers to traffic wardens. The 1962 Order authorised wardens to enforce the law in regard to certain offences and to exact fixed penalties for some offences, for example, parking, while for offences such as obstruction or leaving a vehicle in a dangerous situation it provided that wardens could only report such an incident to the police.

The present Order widens those powers. Section 2(3) of the 1960 Act provided that wardens should not be employed to discharge functions other than those prescribed by the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) complimented my hon. Friend the Minister of State who, when the 1962 Order was introduced, was the only hon. Member of the then Opposition to probe it. He sought, as we now seek, further information.

A number of questions arise on that subsection (3). The basic question is when a traffic warden is a traffic warden and when he becomes a constable. He can become a constable for certain purposes under subsection (3). When motorists want to make a complaint, they want to know how far the authority of a traffic warden goes. Their powers at present are limited to what is in the 1962 Order.

Two or three important questions arise on subsection (12). First, it is quite clear that the police authorities are the employers, but this leads to the question which was posed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). As the employers, the police authorities are responsible for seeing that the wardens are adequately qualified and trained before beginning duty. It is the Secretary of State who determines the kind of uniform, but who supplies the uniform?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is getting rather wide of the specific matters dealt with in the Order.

Mr. Hannan

I shall not quarrel with the Chair. I thought that, as subsection (12) was mentioned and as the Order confers powers under provisions of the 1960 Act, I would be in order in mentioning those provisions. Will these questions be in order? How many wardens are employed? Who pays the bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

This Order is concerned with additional functions for wardens and the hon. Gentleman will be in order in discussing the merits or demerits of those additional functions. He will not be in order in discussing anything else.

Mr. Hannan

I will leave those points and go to Article 2 of the Order dealing with other functions normally undertaken by the police, such as the control and regulation of road traffic at road junctions and other places, whether on the highway or not.

Can my hon. Friend tell me whether the powers which wardens are being given by this Order will enable them to deal with the situation in, for example, the City of Glasgow, where congestion is caused through buses pulling up away from the kerb so that passengers have to walk into the road and the traffic flow behind is held up? This is against the law, but in the City of Glasgow the law is not always observed.

The S.M.T. and Glasgow Corporation seem to be the worst culprits. Congestion is caused unnecessarily because drivers will not pull into the bus stop because of parked cars nearby. The tramcar system of Glasgow was withdrawn because, running on fixed rails, traffic on the inside was held up. If congestion is to be eased I would hope that the wardens will be empowered in this Order, or in some future legislation, to deal with this situation. I think that it is very desirable that police authorities should be relieved of clerical or other duties, thus freeing them to deal with greater responsibilities.

I hope that my hon. Friend may, as a result of this Order, and the experience gained from it, be able to add other powers which he thinks will be wise.

8.54 p.m.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I, too, support this Order and am grateful for Article 2 which suggests that traffic wardens' functions can be expanded to enable them to control the flow of traffic. Going back over 40 years, I have always thought it unfortunate that the regulating of motor traffic was in the hands of the police. Traditionally, the policeman is a man who protects public order and who is on his beat to detect crime. When a policeman looks at one, or when a patrol car pulls in front of one when driving, one gets an inferiority complex and feels that one has committed some offence. The function of the police as controllers of traffic has been a contributory factor to the bad relationship in some areas and among certain groups of the population between the police and the public. The motorist feels that the purpose of the police is to detect him committing an offence rather than to help him on his way. It is desirable that we should have a force in the country which is solely concerned with the regulation and flow of traffic.

I appreciate that in order that the extended functions laid down in Article 2 of the Order are carried out more training will be necessary. It is unfortunate that this is linked, and will be seen to be linked, with the police. We should think of traffic wardens not only as regulators and controllers of the flow of traffic but as controllers of pedestrians in areas of heavy traffic density in city centres.

Pedestrians can often, by unregulated behaviour, add to the traffic chaos caused by motor cars. I hope that the traffic wardens will play their part in this matter, just as school wardens outside schools conduct children across busy thoroughfares. We often see policemen holding up traffic in order that pedestrians may cross the road. I hope that this force will be seen not only as a means of easing the flow of traffic but as a means of helping motorists on their way through a town or in seeking parking facilities in a town.

We are seeking, by the Order, to ensure that traffic wardens take the place of police in practically every motoring respect. I am all for that. This will have to be a gradual process. I hope that there will be on Scottish radio and in the Scottish Press a high pressure campaign to bring home to the motorist and the public that traffic wardens and the expansion of their functions is the development in our towns and cities of a new traffic control force.

I think that the word "warden" too closely resembles the word "warder". "Traffic wardens" was perhaps an unfortunate phrase. "Traffic controllers", "traffic regulators" or "traffic patrols" might be more appropriate. There are groups of traffic controllers in blue uniforms on motor cycles on all main roads on the Continent. They are informed of areas of traffic congestion by radio. I have seen this done dozens of times in Germany, France and Switzerland. A traffic control force on the motorways, in the big cities and on the link roads between cities, complementary to and co-operating with the A.A. or R.A.C., which is completely divorced from the police could bring about a new outlook among members of the public to those regulating the traffic.

I hope that publicity will be given to this new force of traffic controllers or wardens to show the motorist and the public that the Government are concerned to speed up the flow of traffic through our cities and to relieve the police of a function which they should not, perhaps, perform. The police could be far better engaged in the work of crime prevention and detection.

Let us have a new force, completely divorced from the police, employed by the local authorities and supported by the State, to try to get rid of the chaos on our roads and the frustration from which every motorist suffers in many of our cities—for example, by experimental one-way streets. Let us be honest about this. I should be sceptical of anyone who claimed to be an expert in traffic regulation and control, because I know no problem more difficult than controlling masses of pedestrians or motorists all wanting to get to the same place as quickly as they can on a narrow roadway.

The policeman is not a suitable man for this task and I hope that we will progressively—

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

Would not my hon. Friend agree that a by-product of this would be an improvement in relations between police and public? I ask him to excuse my incursion over the Border.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member would not be in order in dealing with that intervention.

Mr. Bence

Given five years and an expansion of the arrangements envisaged in the Order, we might get a relationship between the new traffic controllers and the motorist, a relationship much superior to that which has existed in the past and in the present between the motorist and the policeman. I believe that the Order will help us to create a new body with a new and better relationship. Notwithstanding the proposals and developments in our towns and cities, I hope and believe that we will have a better and freer flow of traffic in our cities and conurbations in Scotland.

8.57 p.m.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

If hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will allow a mere Sassenach briefly to intervene, I should like to make a protest, though not against what is in the Order. Indeed, its terms are very good and acceptable. When I saw it announced on the Order Paper, I did not think that there would be any talk on it and I expected that my Adjournment debate, on a really important subject, would have been reached well before now.

The reason why hon. Members are making such hard going of the Order and are so confused about what, from the title, seemed to me to be a straightforward Order is the badly-drawn Explanatory Note on its reverse. The Explanatory Note is gibberish. An Explanatory Note is intended to help hon. Members, to save their time and to tell them what an Order is all about, but this one does exactly the opposite.

My only reason for intervening was to say to the Secretary of State for Scotland that if we are to have an Explanatory Note, not only on Scottish Orders but on English Orders, too, let us have a note that really explains and is understandable. I was disturbed in wanting to raise the point because the Explanatory Note carries a line in very small print which states: This Note is not part of the Order I thought that I might be out of order in referring to it.

8.59 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

I am sure that the whole House will welcome the two English interventions which we have had in the debate. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) that it is not our intention unduly to delay his Adjournment debate. If, however, he is reproaching us with undue length, I remind him that the debate on the corresponding Order for England and Wales earlier this year ran to 47 columns of HANSARD.

It was good of the Minister of State to introduce the Order as he did. It was pleasant to hear him again. We do not often hear him nowadays.

Mr. Willis

I spoke last week.

Mr. MacArthur

He introduced the Order briefly, and to hear him was a whiff of old times, of the verbal expansiveness which used to haunt us not so long ago.

The debate has shown that quite a number of questions arise. We welcome the Order in principle, but there are a number of points to which I hope the hon. Gentleman will be able to reply in a moment. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) and the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) both described the Order as a logical extension of the previous Order of 1962. So it is. It extends the powers of traffic wardens quite substantially. The original Order restricted their functions to parked vehicles and the like, whereas the present one extends their functions to the control of moving vehicles. It is quite a wide extension which we should consider carefully, and there is one particular point which I should like the hon. Gentleman to consider, if he will.

It relates to the last line or two of Article 2(1), which sets out the detailed functions which it is intended to apply to traffic wardens. The earlier part of the Article says quite specifically that the new functions are to be …the control and regulation of road traffic at road junctions or at other places, whether on the highway or not, which are or are likely to be congested with traffic". So far, so good. It then goes on to say that traffic wardens are to be given powers to conduct …any other functions normally undertaken by the police in connection with the control and regulation of road traffic. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could give us some examples of what those functions would be. I should have thought that all the illustrations introduced into the debate so far were amply covered by the earlier words. What are the other functions to which the Order refers? I should like the hon. Gentleman to be a little more specific.

There are precedents for extending the traffic control powers of the police to other persons; for example, to controllers of children's crossings. I can see no objection to extending traffic control further within the limited extent provided for in the Order. Although the Order is attractive at first sight, there are a number of questions which must be answered before it is approved by the House.

Some years ago there was a feeling among the public that the introduction of what was then the traffic warden experiment might not be a happy experience either for the public or for the wardens. It is fair to say, however, that as the number of traffic wardens has increased and their spread has gone more widely across the country, so those fears have weakened to the point where they have almost disappeared. Experience has shown that traffic wardens perform their duties efficiently and courteously in an area of responsibility which must often call for extreme tact and great patience.

In introducing the Order, the hon. Gentleman indicated that one of its main purposes was to release police officers for other more pressing duties, and that point was touched on by other hon. Members, notably by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Pent-lands. I agree that this is an important purpose of the Order. We should as a result of it see the release of police officers to duties in other spheres where their presence is more urgently required. We make large demands on our policemen, and the more we can enable them to concentrate on the major problems of maintaining law and order, the better the nation will be served, no doubt to the greater professional satisfaction of the police officers themselves.

I hope that I can stay in order by saying that we should consider the pressure on the police as one of the reasons for extending the functions of traffic wardens. The extent of the problem confronting the police is illustrated by the alarming rate of increase in crime. I propose to mention only one or two figures. In a Written Answer today the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the number of crimes and offences made known to the police in Scotland had increased from nearly 196,000 in 1955, to 352,000 in 1964, and in the same period the percentage of crimes cleared up fell from 40.7 to 37.2; a small fall, but one which follows a steady fall over the years, and illustrates yet again the great problem which confronts the police. They are trying to fulfil their functions nobly, at a time when their numbers are low, and often at personal danger. One sees that 310 police officers were injured by assault in Scotland in the five years 1961 to 1965.

When the Minister of State introduced this Order, he said that there were 120 wardens in Scotland. This is a disappointing figure. I had hoped that there would be more, and it does not suggest that the development of the traffic warden system has progressed very well over these last years. Forces of traffic wardens in Edinburgh and Glasgow have been referred to, but I think that there are now traffic wardens in Stirling and also in Kilmarnock, the Secretary of State's constituency. Can the Minister say what plans are being made elsewhere for the extension of the traffic warden system?

The hon. Gentleman said that chief constables and local authorities had welcomed the Order, and I am glad to know that, but can he say to what extent he expects them to follow up their welcome by positive action in extending the areas covered by the traffic warden system? On the face of it, 120 wardens in our enormous country hardly suggests that we have yet reached the proper time to extend the functions of traffic wardens in this way.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can say how recruiting has been progressing.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Member should now come some way nearer the specific matter dealt with in this Order.

Mr. MacArthur

I shall do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I suggest, with respect, that the recruitment of traffic wardens has a direct bearing on this Order, in that I do not believe that it is right to extend the functions of traffic wardens until there are enough of them in Scotland to carry out those functions efficiently, but I shall leave the point there. If, however, the hon. Gentleman can remain in order and touch on this point of recruitment pay, and so on, I shall be very much obliged.

I appreciate that the Order is permissive, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some details of the likely extent of its implementation, and also, in the light of the low numbers which he has disclosed tonight, assure us that the organisation of the traffic warden system in Scotland is sufficiently advanced to meet the added responsibility which may follow this Order.

Another question which arises is the extent of the authority of traffic wardens in carrying out these proposed functions. Article 2(3) of the Order states: Nothing in this Article shall confer on a traffic warden a function conferred expressly on a constable as such by or under any enactment. What will be the position of a traffic warden if a signal is disobeyed by a motorist? There is a world of difference between dealing with parked vehicles, which is the present limit of the warden's function, and dealing with moving vehicles, which will be his function under the Order. What sanction can he apply if he finds himself dealing with a drunken driver? I suspect that the answer is "None". If it is, I suggest that the legal relationship between the traffic warden and the public should be considered in detail.

The debate also touched upon the question of training wardens to fulfil their new functions. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us something about the proposed programme of training. Can he also tell us what will be the standard of physical fitness? There may be a lower physical requirement for a warden whose function is to supervise the parking of vehicles than the requirement for a warden who has to supervise moving vehicles. This is not a small point. There may be many wardens whose eyesight does not enable them to control moving traffic as efficiently as is required.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) made the helpful suggestion that if this extended system is to work successfully there must not only be more and properly trained wardens of the required fitness; the public must be educated to understand the functions of wardens, and to recognise them as persons of authority. I hope that some attempt will be made to call the attention of the motoring public to the extent of the duties of the wardens, so that when action is taken under the Order the authority of the wardens will be recognised and their instructions obeyed.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Willis

We have had an interesting debate, which has ranged over a large area. Many questions have been raised concerning the future development of the warden service and the possible functions that might be given to wardens—all of which I have no intention of answering tonight. They are interesting questions, but it is not my function to deal with them in explaining this Order.

I want to try to answer some of the points that have been raised. The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor)—who has apologised for having to leave—and one or two other hon. Members referred to the question of training. It is laid down under Section 2(5) of the 1960 Act that only persons who are adequately qualified may be appointed as traffic wardens, and, also, that they must be suitably trained before undertaking their duties.

This job is now left to the good sense of the police authorities and the chief constables, and I think that we can continue to leave it there for the time being. I do not believe that chief constables would appoint men who are not trained. Chief constables are men of responsibility, who know what qualifications and training are required if a person is to do this kind of work efficiently.

The hon. Member also raised the question of numbers, and asked about the development of the service. The first traffic wardens to be employed in Scotland began work in Edinburgh in 1962. Today, there are 32 wardens there. Other Scottish local authorities, however, were slow to set up traffic warden sections and it was not until 1963 that 70 wardens were approved for Glasgow, although they did not commence operations until some time after that. A further six wardens were approved for Kilmarnock in 1964 and these are now in the post. In 1965, eight wardens were approved for Stirling and Clackmannan and six for Hamilton Burgh, though not all these are yet in the post. Twenty-eight have been authorised this year, 24 in Aberdeen and four in Inverness. Two other authorities have made provision to introduce wardens in 1966–67.

Therefore, although it has been three and a half years since the original 1962 Scottish Order was made, traffic wardens are operating or are proposed in only nine areas. A number of other inquiries have been received, however, and it is hoped that this Order will stimulate interest in the setting up of warden sec-sections as local authorities become aware of their value in releasing police officers for other duties. It is difficult to explain why Scotland has lagged behind in the appointment of wardens, out perhaps local authorities have felt that it was not worth while introducing them when their functions were restricted solely to those laid down in the first Order.

The opposite argument, of course, was that it seemed pointless to give consideration to extending their functions when there were so few in the post. But we have decided to do that. We hope that this will have a beneficial result and that local authorities will now proceed faster in this respect. I may remind local authorities that the costs are grant-aided, which is a help.

The hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) also raised the question of what powers of enforcement the traffic wardens have. The answer, as he suggested, is none. It would require legislation to give them specific powers of enforcement. We think that we can give them the powers in this Order even though they have not powers of enforcement.

After all, the vast number of motorists are law-abiding citizens. The vast bulk of them, seeing someone helping them by controlling and regulating traffic, will obey that person. If there is an accident on the road, and a lorry has broken down, the lorry driver gets out and directs traffic. In such cases that I have seen, nobody disobeys him. Yet he has no authority, but is only trying to assist in keeping traffic moving. We think that the same principle applies to wardens, that their functions under the Order will be generally supported by motorists, and that few people will disobey.

The hon. Gentleman also asked what is covered by the words "other functions" in the penultimate line of Article 2(1). Some of the examples given during the English debate were these: placing road signs under police direction, driving and parking of vehicles, advising and assisting motorists on routes through towns and on parking problems, controlling traffic at road accidents.

Personally, I am not certain that all the examples quoted tonight would be covered by the words: …the control and regulation of road traffic at road junctions or at other places, whether on the highway or not…". There might be certain difficulties about interpretation of the words "on the highway or not". Some of the suggestions made tonight might not be strictly covered by these words and lawyers usually like to make certain by putting in a general provision of this kind.

I was asked what sort of functions would be covered by the words …whether on the highway or not…". Such functions could be associated with, say, the Highland Show at Ingliston or a rugby match at Murrayfield.

Mr. Bence

Car parking activities?

Mr. Willis

Yes. Large numbers of police are required to assist at the international rugby matches at Murrayfield, or when there are crowds of up to 100,000 people at Hampden for the football match. It was suggested that if wardens were available they could assist at Ding-wall next Thursday night, when Ross County meet Glasgow Rangers. These and others are the sort of functions which are visualised as coming within the term …whether on the highway or not…". A number of questions were asked about how these functions and arrangements would be organised and who would arrange for payment. Arrangements of this kind are generally made by the chief constable. In any case, they would be made by the police authority concerned. This seems the desirable way of approaching the matter and the detailed arrangements in respect of payment and so on would also be worked out by the police authority.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) asked about buses in Glasgow streets and said that they were not stopping at the pavement. This is a common complaint in every city and town. The answer to his question is, Yes. They could be used for this purpose.

I have answered the questions of considerable substance and although other questions were put to me I have, as I pointed out at the beginning of my remarks, answered as many questions as possible".

I was asked if we were suffering from a shortage of policemen. This is true. However, I would not like that shortage to be exaggerated. There are serious