HC Deb 20 February 1967 vol 741 cc1159-76

On and after 1st January 1968 it shall be an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding £20 to drive or to cause to be driven on a road a laden heavy goods vehicle which is not carrying portable vehicle scales capable of measuring the laden weight of the vehicle; unless there is incorporated into the structure of the vehicle a device for measuring the load of the vehicle. —[Mr. Graham Page.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that it would be for the convenience of the House to take at the same time new Clause No. 3, "Knowledge of weight and type of load"— It shall be an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding £50 to drive a goods vehicle without knowing the maximum laden weight thereof (as prescribed by statute or regulations authorised by statute), the laden weight at the time of so driving the vehicle, the kind of goods or substances being carried by the vehicle and, if they are dangerous goods or substances, the appropriate security, safety and precautionary measures to be taken to prevent damage therefrom to person or property.

Mr. Page

I am much obliged, Mr. Speaker; it will be very convenient to take the two together.

New Clause No. 2 is designed to make it necessary to carry a means of measuring the weight of the load on a heavy goods vehicle, and new Clause No. 3 is, as it were, supplemental in that it would make it necessary for the driver to know what he was carrying and how to deal with his load in emergencies.

For too long we have treated road accidents in a rather fatalistic way. It is said that there are bound to be accidents in this modern age of high speed and travel by motor vehicle. We must expect accidents, it is said, and although we should try to keep the number down, so many are due just to simple understandable human error, the sort of error we all make, and no one should pretend that we are able to do very much about it.

That may be a commendably realistic view—it is not one which I take—when one is considering the immediate cause of an accident, but the Bill, if I understand the Minister's intention aright, is intended to go further back in time than the immediate cause of an accident. For example, it deals with the overloaded lorries which cause accidents. The immediate cause of such accidents may be defective brakes, but the real cause is overloading of the lorries when they started.

Part I of the Bill deals with earlier conduct on the part of a driver which might prevent his getting into the position of having an accident. If he is overloaded with drink, he will, in all probability, make a mistake in driving and have an accident. Part II deals with earlier conduct in relation to vehicles which may prevent an accident. If a vehicle is overloaded, its brakes may fail. It is in these cases important to see what can be done before the driving starts or before the vehicle goes on to the road, and it is here that legislation can be most effective. It is not easy to legislate effectively against human error in the act of driving, but it is not difficult to produce effective legislation for proper preparation for the act of driving, preparation both in the condition of the vehicle and in the condition of the driver.

I recall that when I used to teach flying during the war we would never think of going into the air without first going through the drill before we took off. This was, perhaps, a formal drill, but it called to mind everything that was necessary in the aircraft before one took it into the air. We should try to do the same in the case of the motor vehicle, and Part II of the Bill generally is designed to this end. These new Clauses are intended to supplement the present provisions in Part II.

Part II provides, in particular, for the weight which a vehicle is permitted to carry to be marked on a plate on the vehicle itself. If such weight is exceeded, an offence is committed. I ask the House to consider the practical aspect of this. It is all very well to mark on the vehicle the weight which it is intended to carry, but let us think of the lorry driver who is told by his employer, "Take that load out; it is already on the lorry", or "Go and pick up such and such a load at such and such a place". There may be no weighbridge available or anywhere near for the driver to judge the amount he is loading on his lorry or that is already loaded on, no matter that he can see on the plate the permissible amount of load. How is he to know whether he is overloaded or not?

We can make certain by legislation that he has at least the means of knowing the load on his vehicle. Given that situation, I think it fair to force him to find out, under threat of penalty if he does not take the simple precaution of knowing the load he has, and under threat of penalty to his employer also for leaving the driver in ignorance, if he does so leave him, by not providing the means for the driver to know the weight on his vehicle.

There is available a device which can be built into a lorry to show the weight of the load on the lorry. I have given the Under-Secretary of State particulars of that device. I cannot say of my own knowledge—I am no engineer—whether it is foolproof, but I wonder whether the speedometer, for example, was foolproof in 1933 when we made it compulsory to have speedometers on cars. We should not be deterred by the fact that some of these mechanical devices which can undoubtedly contribute to road safety may not be in perfect orders as yet. I have made provision for this by saying that the Clause should not come into operation until 1st January, 1968. But there is this device which can be fitted to a heavy goods vehicle to weigh the load on the vehicle, and it is claimed that it is efficient and accurate.

Apart from that, there is a simple portable device for weighing the whole lorry. It is a simple little weighing machine only a few inches high, and one simply drives the lorry on to it. It would be perfectly easy to carry this on the vehicle so that the driver could always test the weight. It would then be the weight of vehicle and load, of course, but he would know the weight of his vehicle unladen and would thus know the weight of the load. This instrument, the portable scale, is claimed to be accurate to better than 2 per cent. and it is a simple device which it would be very easy to carry with the lorry and use.

We make coal carts carry scales for the protection of the customer against short weight. It is far more important, is it not, to make lorries carry scales for protection against short life? It is from overladen lorries that we have so many deaths on the road. The importance of the weight factor in driving a goods vehicle is shown all through Part II of the Bill, and it is shown also by the statistics of road offences. I quote here from the Report, Offences Relating to Motor Vehicles, 1965. Under the item "Causing, etc. danger by reason of load", one reads that there were 5,752 findings of guilt in the year 1965. For exceeding the weight limit specified for road or bridge there were another 333 findings of guilt. In the case of dangerous loads by reason of weight, the courts thought that the offences were so serious in certain cases as to disqualify altogether in ten and to require an endorsement in nearly 1,000 of the others.

In some of the most tragic cases of fatal accidents resulting from overladen lorries the driver has said in a prosecution or inquest afterwards that he did not know that his lorry was overloaded. That problem is closely connected with brake efficiency, because even with the permissible load on a heavy goods vehicle the required brake efficiency is, in my submission, very low at present. Not until 1968 is it planned to require a 50 per cent. braking efficiency of main braking systems for new lorries, and the requirement will be only a 45 per cent. braking efficiency for existing lorries.

It is, therefore, essential that we make every effort now to see that the loading limits are obeyed. Too many times we read in reports of accidents, prosecutions and inquests that the lorry was overloaded, and that the driver said that he did not know that it was. I gave many examples in Committee, and I shall not weary the House with a large number of them now. I wish to quote only one case, because it happened near my home on Highgate Hill. A lorry was sent out to load on a demolition site. The driver had not the slightest idea what load he had put on the lorry, and as it went down Highgate Hill the brakes failed. At the Archway junction it ran into a bank on the corner, carrying with it two pedestrians, who were killed.

That was a typical example of a driver being sent out to load his lorry and, because there was no weighbridge and no other means of measurement, not being able to tell what load he was carrying. The new Clause would ensure to a driver the means by which he would know the weight of his lorry and the weight of his load, and his employer would be able to provide that means.

Mr. Charles Mapp (Oldham, East)

I doubt whether many of us would need much convincing of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Certainly I do not. But I would like him to go back a little and tell us whether the weighing instrument to which he referred is capable of weighing say, up to 8 tons an axle and whether it could be adapted to a tipping vehicle as well as flat, rigid vehicles. Could he also tell us what the price of such an instrument might be?

Mr. Page

I shall let the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) have a brochure on the instrument. It will take up to the weight he mentioned —the scale capacity is 20,000 lb. It is a small instrument; its overall length is 20½ in. and it stands only a few inches high, so that the wheel of the lorry can be driven on to it. Its accuracy is claimed as better than 2 per cent.

The brochure does not give the instrument's price, probably because it is not sufficiently mass-produced at present, but it looks to me such a simple little instrument that its cost cannot be great. At any rate, it should be investigated by the Government with great care to see whether it is a form of instrument that will weigh goods vehicles effectively. I have no reason to believe that the claims made for it are false. It seems to have been well tested, and I believe that it is sufficiently accurate for us to legislate with it, or a similar instrument, in view.

4.15 p.m.

I have so far dealt with the weight and overloading of a lorry, which relates to new Clause 2 and the first part of new Clause 3. The second half of new Clause 3 deals with the driver's knowing what he is carrying and how to prevent its becoming dangerous; in short, what to do with a dangerous load in emergency. I saw a report in the newspapers only the other day of a lorry which called at a house to fill the domestic heating system with paraffin. Because the lorry driver did not know what he had in his tank, he filled the system with petrol. Fortunately, the good lady of the house detected the difference in smell, and had she not turned off the system the whole house would have exploded in three or four more minutes.

That is an example of a lorry driver being sent out without knowing what his load was. There is also the famous example I quoted at length in Committee, the Ashby Parva case of the drums of potassium cyanide while fell off a lorry and were enough to blow up the village. Their contents spilled out and were hosed into the drains. They poisoned the water courses and caused great danger to the inhabitants in that village. The driver had no idea of the subsance he was carrying and he parked his lorry with the other drums a little way down the road, and left it there overnight untended.

The regulations merely require that for certain dangerous loads the vehicles shall be marked, not with the nature of the load, but with the words "highly inflamable". Therefore, there are at present being driven through built-up areas loads like liquid ethylene, which gives off a poisonous gas at low temperatures; hydrogen peroxide, which can explode and catch fire if the vehicle leaks; liquid sodium. which explodes when in contact with water; and propane, which is a heavier-than-air gas and which if it escapes from a vehicle which crashes or overturns, can get down into drains and poison the watercourses of a town.

We let drivers go on to the roads, through crowded, built-up areas, without their knowing what they are carrying and without their knowing how to deal with it if they crash their vehicles. I cannot help feeling that it is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Government and of Parliament to allow that danger in our towns to continue.

There was an example of the danger recently in Poole where the driver smelt some strange gas coming from his vehicle. He stopped and telephoned his employers to ask them what he was carrying. He had not a clue. The employers told him to leave his lorry and go straight to hospital. He did. He left it in the road leaking the poisonous gas, and the police had to get it off the road and into safety. That is the sort of thing which happens when a man does not know what load he is carrying. I could give many other examples, but I do not wish to weary the House.

I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members are with me in feeling that we should do all we can to ensure that a driver knows how to deal with dangerous loads. If it is thought too harsh to make the driver responsible, I would hope that in every case in which a driver goes out on to the road without knowing what his load is his employer would also be prosecuted for aiding and abetting the offence. This is where the blame should lie.

Part II of the Bill is too full of paper —certificates, licences, and so on—and not enough practical application to the driver of the vehicle. It does not get down to the facts of the case. It is too full of inspections off the road without getting at the driver when he is on the road. A driver's ignorance in cases such as those I have described may be lethal. The Clauses would make that ignorance illegal.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)

The House always listens with great care and interest to the observations which the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) makes on matters of this kind. We have a great deal of respect for his views. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), I am a little concerned about the intention of new Clause No. 2. I do not find much to debate on new Clause No. 3.

I think that the House is entitled to hear far more from the hon. Gentleman about the weighing device which he suggests should be compulsorily carried on vehicles before it agrees to the new Clause. In my time here, the House has always been careful to try to avoid enacting law which may be unenforceable or difficult of enforcement. If this device is satisfactory, one would wish to support the new Clause and insist on its being carried on vehicles.

I should like the hon. Gentleman to give us far more detailed advice about this weighing instrument. What weight and size of lorry would it weigh? I heard only yesterday—and this is what puts the doubt in my mind—of a vehicle on the road between Newport and the new Severn Bridge which, I was advised, was even longer and wider than those vehicles which are marked as being 60 ft. in length. How will this device weigh a vehicle, or the load which it is carrying of such proportions?

I wish to support the new Clause if it can be shown to be logical and if, having become law, it would be enforceable. However, I do not think that we have had nearly enough information on the matter unless my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport knows something about it and can reassure the House.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)

I support the new Clause, which is of wider application than might appear at first sight.

The West Country is not a mountainous area to the same extent as, say, Wales or Scotland, but in both Devon and Cornwall we have many hills and roads with fairly steep gradients, though often over a short distance. One of the most common forms of accident concerns the lorry whose brakes fail on a hill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) pointed out that a driver might be totally unaware that his lorry was overloaded. If he were told to drive a lorry which was already loaded one would suppose that the owner who handed it over to him knew, or should have known, what weight was on the lorry. But there may be circumstances in which the owner is not aware of the weight on the lorry. If he sends a lorry to pick up a load and he is told over the telephone that it will be of a certain weight, when the driver arrives at the place where the load is to be picked up he may find that it is more substantial than he was given to understand. He will have no knowledge whether the lorry is overloaded. In taking the load to its destination, he might be involved in an accident for reasons which have nothing to do with him because he did not know that the lorry was overloaded and had no reason to suppose that his brakes would fail. Accidents of this sort happen much more commonly than people suppose. Representing, as I do, a hilly district, I believe that this matter should be considered seriously.

I have no practical experience of the instrument to which my hon. Friend referred, but I am assured that it is a reasonable weighing device which can be fitted to lorries and that it is not unduly expensive. No doubt the Minister will have looked into that matter and can advise us on it.

On new Clause 3, I believe that the many cases to which my hon. Friend referred are also much more common than is sometimes supposed. We read reports in the Press from time to time of noxious substances which have been washed into drains owing to the ignorance of the substance concerned among people deal- ing with a road accident. This sort of thing happens a great deal more than people suppose, because it may not produce fatal or noticeable results. At the same time, it may be very dangerous, because it is possible to wash into drains a substance which produces a poison or gas without anybody noticing it. The suggested provision that a driver should know what load his lorry is carrying and what precautions should be taken if there is an accident is necessary, and it should be further investigated.

Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)

Assuming that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport accepts them, the two new Clauses would considerably strengthen the Bill.

The most important aspect of Part II of the Bill is that it should be effective in preventing accidents. The need to provide some means of enabling the driver of a vehicle to know the weight of his laden vehicle before he starts on his journey does not require any emphasis from me. I believe that every right hon. and hon. Member is convinced about that. I am a little concerned that the suggested penalty for failure to know is so small. I should have thought that an offence of this nature warranted a much greater penalty than £20. I do not put it past certain unscrupulous owners of vehicles to ignore the law if they think that they will get away as lightly as this.

I hope that acceptance of new Clause No. 2 would not reduce in any way the Government's responsibility to provide adequate weighbridges at strategic points along all major highways. This practice has been adopted in Canada and it has deterred drivers and goods vehicle owners from exceeding the statutory limits placed on their vehicles. It is very effective and it should be speedily copied in this country. From personal experience there, I know how careful the owners of goods vehicles are in ensuring that their vehicles are not overladen before they commence their journey, because they know perfectly well that their lorries are likely, without notice, to be taken off the road and put on a weighbridge and that they would be subject to the most severe penalties.

However, I realise that the provision of an adequate number of weighbridges in this country would be very expensive. The devices suggested by the hon. Member for Crosby are not the only devices available. I have seen alternative devices in operation in, for example, the United States. I can set at ease the mind of the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Wilkins) on this matter. Effective portable devices are available which, I am certain, could be manufactured at a price certainly within the £20 range and would meet the need, at least temporarily.

4.30 p.m.

I regard new Clause No. 3 as very important and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have no hesitation in accepting it. The importance of the last part of it was illustrated to me vividly only two or three hours ago. At lunch time, I was coming out of my office in Pall Mall and I saw a petrol lorry unloading. As it was unloading, it was leaking so badly that the driver had placed a can underneath the pipe to catch the liquid as it fell to the ground. The can was already overflowing, so a stream of petrol was running across the pavement. That is a most serious offence. It needed only somebody to light a cigarette and throw down a match and the result would have been a grave disaster. It is this kind of thing which sets at risk the lives and safety of people who are in no way associated with the vehicle or its driver or owner. Proper statutory precautions must be taken to prevent this kind of thing happening.

I have some reservations about new Clause No. 2, although I think that it should be supported. I have none whatever about new Clause No. 3 and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will indicate his readiness to accept it.

Mr. Mapp

I want to rescue the substance of the two new Clauses before my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary cuts off their heads as I have a feeling, although without knowledge, that that will be the probable result. I want to point to some substance in the Clauses and also to some weaknesses.

I have had the opportunity of looking at the literature concerning the weighing device in question. Railway companies, with whom I used to be familiar, looked in vain for a cheap and efficient form of either an axle-weighing or a separate wheel-weighing device to obviate the terrific costs attendant upon weighing machines. Those machines are very costly and anything that we can do to lighten the cost should be done.

It is clear to me, after having seen the literature about the device in question, that it originates from a very enterprising firm, not within Britain. No price is mentioned and I could have some reservations about its effectiveness. One has to think of a scrap metal merchant's yard or a building site, where the biggest offenders are likely to arise. The man who moves approved types of traffic with which he is normally familiar can guess to within 1 per cent. the weight of what he is carrying.

In my opinion, what is wrong with new Clause No. 2 is mainly the date of 1st January, 1968, plus its reference to the structure of the vehicle. If the new Clause were to say that at an appropriate time, which I would contemplate as being within two or three years, it should be a "must" to have a weighing device of some kind on a vehicle which is likely to be loaded with irregular weights and types of traffic, I would agree completely with the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I hope that my hon. Friend, in dismissing, as he probably will, the precise form of the Clause, will bear in mind that if he is not prepared to consider this matter of principle during the passage of the Bill, within two or three years it will be something upon which the House will insist.

New Clause No. 3 attempts to tell the driver of a vehicle that he must be as good as a fireman in dealing with the consequences of a dangerous form of traffic which he may be carrying. From experience of people who consistently handle or are likely to handle dangerous traffic day by day, I know that the secret is not that the people who handle the traffic must know from A to Z what must be done should something happen, but that the traffic should carry a type of identity label.

I quote again the precedent of the railway companies. They used nine or ten separate identifiable labels giving in code on the label the kind of simple directions which must be followed when immediate action was necessary before calling for specialist advice. I would not impose upon the driver of a vehicle the need to possess the know-how of a fireman, but he should have with him on the goods and on the vehicle when fully loaded documentary advice giving full and proper guidance to those who might be called upon to deal with any difficulty which might arise.

There might be something wrong technically with the new Clauses, but they suggest improvements which must come in the future. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will bear this in mind in dealing with them.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)

I hope that I can deal with reasonable brevity with the substantial points which have been raised on new Clauses 2 and 3. I greatly admire the persistence of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), and I do not underestimate his ingenuity in raising in a new form arguments that were dealt with in an old form at an earlier stage of the Bill.

In Committee, the hon. Member attempted to amend the Bill by seeking to give my right hon. Friend the Minister power to prescribe the installation of built-in weight-measuring instruments. We discussed that at length. I hope that in correspondence I managed to satisfy the hon. Member about it. I would like to put this clearly on record. I wrote to the hon. Member on 16th January in pursuit of my assurance and I stated as follows: There is no restriction on the powers in Section 64(1) of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. and they are wide enough to require the fitting of such apparatus if and when it becomes available. I stated that in relation to the hon. Member's then proposal that we should make it obligatory for weight-measuring instruments to be incorporated on road vehicles. The hon. Member will accept that such instruments for vehicles are at present in an experimental stage.

In putting forward new Clause No. 2, the hon. Member seeks to make it an offence not to carry on a vehicle a portable weighing device unless a satisfactory measuring instrument is already incorporated in the structure of the vehicle. Whilst my right hon. Friend already has power to make this obligatory and could make a regulation under the appropriate section of the 1960 Act, I am advised technically that portable devices which have been brought to our attention are not regarded as sufficiently accurate and reliable for us at present to reach the conclusion that we should make it obligatory for them to be carried.

The House will appreciate that that is the result of the best technical advice and of tests which have been applied to these portable devices. On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I am clearly not opposing the proposal in principle any more than at a previous stage I opposed in principle the suggestion that we might come to the compulsory incorporation of weight-measuring instruments in the structure of vehicles. It will be appreciated that, if we are technically advised that there is not a portable device available of whose complete accuracy we can be assured, it would be wrong at this stage either to incorporate this measure in the Bill or for my right hon. Friend to make regulations on the subject.

Mr. Graham Page

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Road Research Laboratory has tested these instruments and, if so, when the tests were made? In addition, is he prepared to make available to the House some report on those tests?

Mr. Swingler

Our engineers are making tests on the devices to which our attention has been drawn, and the Road Research Laboratory has this matter of overloading under study, anyway. I give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that I will consider the possibility of putting a report before the House, and I assure him, further, that we are quite prepared to discuss with other technical experts all aspects of such portable devices to see whether jointly we can find the solution, which is to get a device of sufficient reliability to make it possible to accept a proposal of this kind, which could then he carried into law by means of regulations under the Road Traffic Act.

Mr. Bessell

From the whole tenor of the hon. Gentleman's speech, I have the feeling that he is thoroughly sympathetic to this idea, but the difficulty is a technical one. If an instrument can be perfected to the satisfaction of the Road Research Laboratory, will his right hon. Friend make such an Order?

Mr. Swingler

If we can find an instrument which is completely reliable and accurate and, at the same time, if it is not going to impose an intolerable burden financially, yes. The matter of the cost has been raised, and it is one about which we should have to have consultation with the trade, because it would place an additional burden on the owners of vehicles. My right hon. Friend is sympathetic towards this. It might be a useful safety device, and we should be glad to find a technical solution to what is at the moment a technical problem.

I turn now to new Clause 3. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend that the maximum permissible weight which a vehicle may carry under the Construction and Use Regulations shall be marked on the vehicle where such maximum permissible weight is less than the weight at which the vehicle is designed to operate. One of the important features of Part II of the Bill is that it shall be marked on the vehicle and known at all times to the user of the vehicle.

Again, I am completely sympathetic to the objectives which hon. Gentlemen have in mind, but there are certain difficulties about it which are not trivial. For one thing, there is the difficulty that in the Bill we provide for a circumstance where clearly the driver of the vehicle does not know the actual laden weight. In Clause 23(4,a) we provide for the driver of a vehicle to drive his vehicle deliberately to the nearest weighbridge to find out what the actual laden weight is because it is not known. Secondly, we have the fact drawn to our attention that, in addition to the load that is on the vehicle, the actual weight can be increased by the accumulation of slush, snow and so on. That might seem to some to be a trivial point, but, if we provide in law that the driver of a vehicle must know the laden weight accurately, it is clear that a driver could be faulted owing to an accumulation of rain, mud or slush, where the actual weight of the vehicle and its load had changed in the course of being driven.

4.45 p.m.

In the case quoted by the hon. Member for Crosby about a driver apparently being in ignorance of his load, we have investigated, and I am informed that when the error occurred, the driver knew that he was carrying both petrol and heating oil in different compartments of the vehicle. The outlets were marked accordingly. The circumstances which occurred were the result of human error, where the driver coupled up the wrong compartment of his tanker to the lady's oil storage tank. But it has been established that the error was not due to the driver being ignorant of the nature of the loads which he was carrying.

However, as was said in Committee, we are seized of the importance of the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, and that is why draft regulations are now under consideration. As my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State to the Home Department said previously, the Home Office is now considering draft regulations providing for the appropriate marking of all vehicles carrying inflammable liquids above certain minimum quantities. Similar provisions for other classes of dangerous goods are contemplated. Such marking would make it unnecessary to impose upon the driver any obligation to ascertain the nature of the goods, because they would be marked clearly on the vehicle.

Likewise, according to her responsibilities, my right hon. Friend is about to put to the Radioactive Substances Advisory Committee draft regulations and an explanatory code of practice of the subjects. Those will deal with all aspects of the safe carriage of radioactive materials, including the obligations of drivers and the clear labelling of vehicles in the particular cases.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, under the appropriate Acts regarding the carriage of different kinds of dangerous goods, the drafting of new regulations is urgently proceeding, and they will be put before the House by my right hon. Friend. On the basis of that assurance, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider that we shall ensure that the type of load in these dangerous cases will be clearly marked on the vehicle, though I feel bound to say that none of these regulations will, in my view, detract from the moral responsibility on any employer to ensure that his driver is fully informed of the kind of load that he is carrying if there is any danger to the public.

Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I am sure that the House will be glad to hear about the draft Regulations which the Home Office intends to bring into operation. They owe a great deal to the campaign which my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has been conducting.

Nevertheless, I cannot help feeling a little disappointed by the somewhat negative approach of the hon. Gentleman. We all recognise that his heart is in the right place, and most hon. Members want to see something done. The hon. Gentleman explained to us in Committee that it was difficult to have an instrument actually incorporated into the vehicle. When my hon. Friend produces another instrument which does not need to be incorporated into the vehicle, the hon. Gentleman still says that it is not good enough. One has to make a beginning somewhere.

My hon. Friend referred to speedometers, which probably were not very accurate when they were first introduced. It seems to me that if we are going to wait until we get something that is 100 per cent. accurate we will never do the thing at all.

In Committee the hon. Gentleman said that what was needed was something to spur industry on to provide devices of this sort for weighing lorries. I cannot think of anything more likely to spur industry on than a much more robust and constructive speech than that which the hon. Gentleman made. Industry will just sit back. It will not do anything after hearing what the hon. Gentleman has had to say. The hon. Gentleman is seeing all the difficulties. We recognise that there are difficulties, but what we would like to see is something more constructive.

I do not think that we should go as far as suggested by my hon. Friend. The date suggested by him may be a little too soon, but, if we were to suggest a date two or three years from now, it would be a spur to industry, and I would very much like to have heard a more constructive and aggressive reply from the hon. Gentleman to indicate that he and the Ministry intend to put down some date which would act as a spur to industry so that we could get, either incor- porated into the lorries, or available to be used outside them, a device which would let people who were driving the lorries know the weight of the contents of them.

Mr. Graham Page

I must be grateful for the sympathy which I have received for the principle of my suggestion. It is my recollection that it is 10 years since I first endeavoured to introduce legislation into this House for Part I of the Bill. I hope that it will not take another 10 years for legislation to be introduced to provide for these two new Clauses. Under the circumstances, in the hope that we shall get some provision soon about this, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the new Clause.

Motion, and Clause, by leave withdrawn.