HC Deb 07 March 1980 vol 980 cc853-85

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [22 February]. That the clause (Report on the operation of the Act) proposed on consideration of the Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), be read a Second time.

The Minister shall within two years of the coming into operation of this Act and thereafter annually lay before Parliament a report on the operation of the Act.".—[Mr. Waller.]

Question again proposed.

12.32 pm
Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I am resuming the discussion of this important new clause which we started to debate about two weeks ago.

May I first draw to the attention of the Chair the fact that the Amendment Paper does not indicate that new clause 4 is to be debated. That is unfortunate. I am sure that there are good reasons for that, and that steps have been or will be taken to remedy it. I do not claim necessarily that inconvenience has been caused, although it is possible that hon. Members who wish to speak on the clause, will, believing that it is no longer a live issue, go away to pursue some other im- portant parliamentary activity, and therefore be misled.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. It could be misleading. It is unfortunate that new clause 4 was not included. The matter was raised earlier on a point of order. At that stage no copies of new clause 4 were available, but they are now available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Lawrence

I am grateful for that prompt action, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was not aware of that, as I was in the Chamber debating the Concessionary Travel for Handicapped Persons (Scotland) Bill. As far as I am concerned, no harm was done. I was here two weeks ago and appreciate that the clause is still live. I was anxiously awaiting my turn when stumps were drawn on that occasion.

I support the new clause, which was extremely well argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller). I concede that on other clauses and amendments there is room for argument and dispute, but it is difficult to see why the spirit behind this new clause should not be accepted.

The Bill is claimed by its sponsors to be desperately important. Organisations and individuals throughout the land who are concerned to get the Bill onto the statute book declare that it is urgent. It appears that the matter is so pressing that freedom has to go by the board. It is therefore extraordinary and astonishing that we have so little clear evidence about its operation.

Mr. Neil Carmichael (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

It is unlike the hon. Gentleman not to have noticed—and I do not know whether he was present at that particular moment—that I said a fortnight ago that I would be only too happy to accept the new clause.

Mr. Lawrence

I recall that, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for again pointing it out. It is important, nevertheless, that the subject be debated, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman's comments will shorten our debate.

I am fortunate in having a guest staying with me from Sweden. He asked how our legislation compared with that in Sweden. I do not know how the legislation in Sweden and many other countries is working. The Bill's sponsors have never relied as justification for the the Bill on the fact that similar measures are working in other countries. The burden is on them to produce such arguments. I believe that they have not done so because to date we do not have sufficient information.

It is therefore doubly important, if the legislation goes through, that there should be a proper monitoring procedure. It is suggested that for the first stage a period of two years should elapse, and thereafter of one year, which is the subject of this clause. That would enable us to see whether the wildest hopes of some of the sponsors are fulfilled. If not, we should remove the Bill from the statute book.

I do not accept it, but the only conceivable argument for taking away people's freedom is that it is necessary for the safety of the State. If close observation of the workings of the Bill reveal that it does not work or that it raises too many anomalies, it is right and proper to restore, as best we can, that measure of freedom which we feel we are in danger of losing.

It has been said that there has been a 50 per cent. reduction in damage and injury on the roads in Australia since the introduction of legislation there. On inquiry, I find that the truth is a little different. The reduction in death and injury since the introduction of their seat belts legislation is coincidental with the reduction of the overall speed limit to 60 miles per hour. It is well known that life is saved and injuries reduced by lowering the overall speed limit.

When we had a compulsory reduction of speed limits in this country in order to save energy—and we still have certain reduced speed limits—there was a reduction in the number of road deaths and injuries and motor accidents generally.

It may be misleading to use the Australian figures as proof of the efficacy of seat belt legislation. We need a body to monitor the operation of the Bill in this country. The absence of information about the workings of such legislation in other countries underlines the need to maintain a close and careful monitoring system to ensure that our freedom is being diminished for something approaching a remotely good reason.

There are two other examples which underline the need for a proper and thorough investigation. First, we do not know the opinions of our constituents about the Bill, although there has been ample opportunity for constituents to represent their general feelings to their Members of Parliament. We do not know enough about the responses of ordinary people to the legislation. Two Gallup polls were cited, which—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is pursuing a point that is not relevant. Our discussions relate to what might be the position two years after the Bill has been introduced. The present opinions of our constituents are irrelevant. We are discussing the position after the Bill has been introduced and a report has been made.

Mr. Lawrence

I think that you have slightly misunderstood my meaning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I used the fact that there is a paucity of information to underline the thought behind the clause, namely that we should gather more information. I wish to draw attention to the sort of evidence that would be forthcoming after the Bill has reached the statute book.

The general opinion may be that the Bill will not reach the statute book. I hope that it does not do so. Letters are often received after legislation has been passed and people have been alerted to the fact that the law has been changed. Because the Bill has been going backwards and forwards in Parliament for so many years, it may be that people no longer expect it to reach the statute book, and have not written to express their views.

However, a few people have written to me and it is important to note their responses. I received a letter from a retired captain of British Airways. He is not only a responsible person, but some one who has given his life to transport. Incidentally, he had to wear a seat belt in his aeroplane. No doubt he is also a driver. In this letter he said I consider that I am only alive today because I was not restricted by the wearing of a seat belt when a motorcycle hit us…

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's remarks are well outside the clause that we are discussing. I know that he wishes to probe the matter thoroughly, and he has done so. The new clause has been accepted in principle, yet we have been discussing it for about two and a half hours. All that we are interested in is whether the recommendation that a report be made after two years should be included in the Bill.

The opinion of the airline captain is irrelevant at the present time. His views could be completely different after two years. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will confine his remarks to whether the new clause should be included in the Bill.

Mr. Lawrence

I am addressing my mind precisely to that point. I am using that individual's response as an example of the sort of response that we shall receive in two years' time. Those responses will be stimulated by the passing of the Bill, and the monitoring body will have to take them into acount.

12.45 pm
Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to continue with a point that I have ruled out of order. The airline captain indicated that his life might have been saved because he was not wearing a seat belt. That matter has been discussed times without number. It is not appropriate to this part of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman could go through the whole Bill giving details from letters. It is irrelevant, and I hope that he will confine himself to the new clause.

Mr. Lawrence

Because I respect your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will give me credit for observing, as nearly as I can, any injunction that comes from the Chair. I am attempting to make clear to you why it is relevant that this letter, or any letter, gives circumstances—you are preventing me from putting my finger on a particular circumstance—which a number of people may, if the Bill is properly monitored, draw to the attention of the monitoring authority as a possible situation where an exception should be made.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. He would be completely in order to say that the monitoring authority should know whether lives have been lost or saved. But he must not detail every individual way in which lives could be lost or saved. That is outside the scope of our discussion.

Mr. Lawrence

I shall not persist with that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that you are impatient with me because of my attempts to pursue the matter. I have not done justice to myself when trying to explain the point to you.

There are many other points that could be raised in this regard, but I shall not weary you, or the House, by persisting in the matter. However, you invited me to make the point that there are situations which should be brought to the attention of a monitoring authority after one or two years so that it can judge whether an injustice has been caused or whether the Bill is not adequate to cope with a certain situation about which many letters or representations have been received.

Unless that facility is available, and those sorts of letter are welcomed—they can be welcomed only if people realise that there is an opportunity for such letters, having read the report of the debate—the monitoring and the functioning of the Bill may be inadequate.

I turn to an issue to which I do not think you will object, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Another matter to which we have not paid sufficient attention is the position of the police. The enforcement of the legislation is a primary matter for consideration. It is a fundamental issue that the legislation may not be enforceable. If that is the case, the Bill should not reach the statute book. If it reaches the statute book, and it becomes obvious that it cannot be enforced—it would become obvious only if the Bill were properly monitored in accordance with the new clause—changes would have to be made, and perhaps a repeal of the Bill would be necessary.

At one stage in Committee my hon. Friend the Minister said that we should seek the advice and opinions of the police. That appeared to be an extraordinary statement, because the views of the police are fundamental to the purpose of the Bill. Yet at that late stage their views had not been made manifest. Perhaps my hon. Friend thought that it would be wasting valuable police time to ask for their views if the Bill were not to reach the statute book. Of course I praise him for his very perspicacious view of the future of the Bill. But it underlines the point that if at that stage the police have not yet had their opinions sought on the fundamental issues, certainly the Bill must be properly monitored after it is law. A report will have to be prepared properly and given regularly to the House so that we can be satisfied that the legislation is working, even though it was entered into without the proper evidence and views of the police—the single instrumental body responsible for its enforcement. That sort of situation should not continue if the police are opposed to the Bill, after it becomes law.

Mr. D. A. Trippier (Rossendale)

We do not know the views of the police force about whether the enforcing of this legislation, once it is on the statute book, will be feasible. Does my hon. Friend know whether the police would be prepared to monitor the number of prosecutions which will take place as a result of the legislation being enforced?

Mr. Lawrence

I am sure that the police will be prepared to do anything that is helpful and that they will be prepared to make any reasonable contribution to the consideration of the workings of this legislation. I have no doubt that they will carry out any monitoring that is required of them. This only underlines the point that monitoring will be necessary. We are going into this with insufficient knowledge, and therefore it is all the more important that it should be monitored.

Mr. Matthew Parris (Derbyshire, West)

Certainly this monitoring must take place and the police must do it. But has my hon. Friend reflected on the possibility that the Parliamentary Secretary has not bothered the police so far with consultation because he knows full well that they are already overstretched in carrying out their duties under the existing law.

Mr. Lawrence

That is a valid and important point, which has been forcefully put by many hon. Members during debates on this Bill. The whole basis of this legislation imposes on the police a function and activity which will be very difficult for them to perform, bearing in mind their other duties. I take my hon. Friend's point, but I will not continue any further along those lines as we do not want to incur the wrath of the Chair, and that is basically a Second reading matter.

If it were the position that the police were overwhelmingly or completely and utterly in favour of the Bill, there would be less point in requiring close monitoring. However, I understand from a report in the Sunday Telegraph of 10 February that police officers are split in their opinions on this legislation. If I may read from that article—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

The hon. Gentleman has made the point about the difficulty. We cannot now have an argument about whether the police would do this. If there is provision for monitoring in the Bill, they would be required to do it. If they did not do it, that would be another matter.

Mr. Lawrence

In order to be accepted or rejected my point must be considered in the light of the evidence that I adduce in support of it. I am not so presumptuous as to expect that the House will take at face value every statement that I utter, unless I am able to support it with evidence. That is not only my training as a lawyer coming to the forefront: it is a matter of plain common sense. I wish it were otherwise. I wish that everything I said was accepted without the need for me to give chapter and verse. That is not so, however, and therefore when I make the point that it is important for there to be a proper monitoring process because the police at this stage appear to be divided, I must give some evidence to support that. If, after the Bill has been in operation, the police are seen to remain divided or they come out on one side or the other, that matter should be considered and debated by this House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I make the point quite clear to the hon. Member. Of course he is entitled to touch on these points, but how relevant are they now to whether the police will make a report at the end of two years, if this Bill goes through? Attitudes can change. It is irrelevant what different police officers might think about the issue at this stage before the Bill becomes law.

Mr. Lawrence

That the police will make a report is not in dispute. However, it is important to observe whether they make a report in favour or not. We must consider that matter. If the present position is that the police are divided we shall have to look at whether they are still divided or whether they have come down on one side or the other after this Bill is on the statute book.

I am simply pointing out that, according to the reports in the Sunday Telegraph of 10 February, the police forces in this country are divided. In 21 of the 43 forces there is an obligation on officers to wear seat belts. That is not so in the case of the other 22. That is unsatisfactory and it will have to be closely monitored.

I am putting my finger on something that is most important for us to have in the Bill. Not everyone in the House may agree with me. I remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) did not agree that we should have new clause 4. This is a matter for consideration. We cannot take it for granted that everyone will support the new clause, however much we may want it. It is a matter for consideration whether in the fundamental question of enforcement, the police will support the working of the Bill after it has gone on the statute book.

Perhaps I could mention the question of the payment of fees for certificates of exemption. I raised this matter in Committee when I read a letter from the RAC saying that it had received a complaint about a fee of £10 demanded by a doctor for a certificate confirming that a driver over 70 was fit to continue driving. This is the sort of situation that is comparable with the issue of a certificate of exemption under the regulations that the Minister will make.

The RAC letter pointed out that the only task for the doctor, since he was fully aware of the medical condition of his patient, was that of signing the certificate. In answer to the patient's protest it was said that the fee imposed was in accordance with the requirement of the British Medical Association. When inquiries were made it was ascertained that the BMA had not fixed or recommended a fee, but that it was thought that £10 was not a large sum to pay—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make a passing reference to how this is applicable to what we are discussing.

Mr. Lawrence

I hope that you will trust me, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am well aware of your concern that everything I say should be within the rules governing debate on particular clauses or amendments. I am doing my best to honour that, and even though I am not being singularly successful in passing on my thoughts in justification of my argument, I have no intention to do other than he acutely relevant.

The point is that questions as to whether the BMA lays down a rule which is acceptable, whether the rule is practical or fair, whether it causes harm and suffering or pleasure and exultation to the patients who seek these exemption certificates, are precisely the sort of matters that must be monitored.

Mr. Trippier

Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is a great imposition on a person to ask him to pay a fee for an exemption certificate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have already discussed that matter in the Bill. It has nothing to do with the new clause. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to raise the matter, because I am getting tired of continually rising, but it has nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr. Lawrence

I have obviously failed to get across the justification for my raising these examples. They are to do with the Bill.

1 pm

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I correct what I said earlier. I referred to the matter having "nothing to do with the Bill". I should have said that it has nothing to do with the new clause.

Like me, the hon Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) is a lawyer and he knows that in court one has to be relevant, and I know that he is trying to be relevant. To refer to matters that should be in the report is one thing, but it is irrelevant to go into details about all the discussions that would revolve around that. Medical certificates and such matters have already been discussed.

Mr. Lawrence

I was giving examples as tersely as I could. I have not read whole letters or articles, but I have pointed out the sort of matter that needs to be considered if effect is to be given to the new clause There is no point in approving the new clause if we have no reason for requiring a report on the operation of the Act.

I was merely putting my finger on three examples of matters that justify our asking for the new clause to be included in the Bill and I was trying to persuade hon. Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, who oppose the new clause, and to give guidance to the Minister and those who will have to operate the Bill about the matters on which there will need to be close monitoring.

It seems to me reasonable to make that argument and to substantiate it with examples. I do not think that I have gone on at undue length, although I appreciate that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, feared that I might do so. I have not and I will not.

Mr. Trippier

I support the new clause. It is essential that there should be a report on the working of the Act. It has become obvious that many of us are dissatisfied with the proposed legislation and so many exemptions to clause 1 have been discussed on the Floor of the House and in Committee that I believe that it will be impossible for the police to enforce the legislation. That is as good a reason as any for monitoring the situation. I believe that the difficulty in enforcing the legislation is the great weakness of the Bill.

Mr. Parris

My hon. Friend has used the phrase "monitoring the situation"—an expression that is being used with increasing frequency during the debate. I am not sure what it means. Will my hon. Friend give a few examples of the sort of activity that he has in mind when he refers to "monitoring the situation"?

Mr. Trippier

The most effective way in which we could monitor the situation would be for the police to keep records, as they do on other matters concerning traffic offences. I do not pretend that monitoring will be easy, but it will be possible, and local authorities will have a part to play in that monitoring.

It would be unacceptable to allow the Bill to become law without exempting certain persons and categories of vehicles, but we do not know what categories will be exempted.

We also have to consider the extent to which the Bill would become an infringement of personal liberty. That could be easily monitored, because I believe that there will be a groundswell of feeling among the vast majority of people in this country who will object to being told what they have to do.

Sir Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)

My hon. Friend is on a sound point. In considering how the working of the Act can be monitored, we must recognise that the number of people going to prison on a point of principle will be one method of measuring its effect. I have learnt today that the wretched Mr. Hill is back in prison again because of his conscientious objection to the wearing of a crash helmet. That is the sort of evidence which could go into a report and would be irresistible in its persuasive effect and which we would not have gathered together if we did not have such a report.

Mr. Trippier

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. and learned Friend. I shall be interested to know how the provision regarding exemption certificates has worked in practice. It is one thing to say that certain people should be granted an exemption certificate for reasons of bad health or because, like myself, they have been involved in an accident that was much more serious because they were wearing a seat belt, but it is another matter to adminster the exemption certificate system. I cannot believe that local authorities will welcome having to deal with the matter. If they do not deal with it, who will? I do not believe that a satisfactory and efficient system can be devised.

I have had several letters from constituents objecting to the legislation in principle and drawing attention to certain aspects of it.

Mr. John Wheeler (Paddington)

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of exemption certificates and who is to be responsible for them, will he consider the problems in London, where we are unable to recruit a force of traffic wardens to enforce motor vehicle regulations? I find it difficult to believe that we shall be able to recruit enough public servants to service a community of 7 million people in London, many of whom will be seeking exemption for good and valid reasons. Will my hon. Friend consider that matter and the substantial costs that will arise to the taxpayer and the ratepayer in consequence?

Mr. Trippier

I agree. I go further. In the monitoring over the two years consideration must be given to whether exemption certificates should be carried on the person or displayed on the windscreen. In that two years local authorities, which will be responsible for handing out exemption certificates, might use different methods. One local authority might require the certificate to be carried on the person and a neighbouring authority might require it to be displayed on the windscreen. If the certificate is to be carried on the person, the police will have to stop an amazing number of people to ask them why they are not wearing seat belts.

Sir Ronald Bell

The police might ask why they are not wearing exemption certificates.

Mr. Trippier

They might ask why they are not displaying the certificate on the windscreen. Again we are discussing an infringement of personal liberty.

I was involved in a serious accident. I was the only person in the vehicle to be injured and I was the only person wearing a seat belt. There are many such examples.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trippier) has kept in order so far, but now he is outside the provisions of the new clause. He can mention what should be in the report, but he must not go into the details of the argument, which he is now doing.

Mr. Trippier

I accept that ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, during the two-year period, others will experience the type of accident in which I was involved. Some people will be injured as a result of wearing a seat belt. That will have to be taken into consideration at the report stage in two years' time. I do not understand why we should charge a fee for exemption certificates.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is outside the scope of the new clause. He can say whether exemption certificates should be issued and whether a charge should be made, but he must not make out a case. These matters have already been discussed.

Mr. Trippier

I accept that, but in the two-year report stage we might find—

Sir Ronald Bell

When my hon Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trip-pier) talks about a two-year report stage, is he referring to the present Report stage of the Bill?

Mr. Trippier

I am not, although my hon. and learned Friend might wish the Report stage to last two years. I am convinced that when a report is presented in two years objections will have been made by people who do not believe that they should have to pay a fee for an exemption certificate simply because they are chronic asthmatics, for example.

1.15 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

I assume that my hon. Friend, the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Trip-pier) is referring to exemptions on medical grounds, which any Government would allow. The experience of other countries and medical advice here indicate that only a tiny number of people will be able to demonstrate a genuine medical reason for not wearing a seat belt. There is no evidence that that number cannot be handled by the issuing of certificates by general practitioners. There should be no difficulty for local authorities, traffic wardens or any enforcement bodies in dealing with the minute percentage of the population who have medical reasons for not wearing what is a valuable aid to their safety.

Mr. Trippier

I accept some of what the Parliamentary Secretary says, but it is fascinating to speculate on how the legislation will be enforced.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

The Parliamentary Secretary says that only a tiny minority of people in other countries have been granted exemption certificates. That is not the point. We are worried not about the small number who will be granted certificates but about the numbers who might apply and the monitoring of applications. That is the threat to the system.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Hon. Members are completely out of order. They are going into the details of the issuing of certificates. That is not the purpose of the new clause. Hon. Members should discuss only what should be in the report in two years' time.

Mr. Trippier

I accept that ruling and I shall leave my arguments about exemption certificates.

Enforcement should be monitored in the two-year period. How much will people be fined during that period if they break the law by not wearing their seat belt? That can be monitored easily and it would provide ammunition.

Much has been said about exemptions for police men and Service men. If exemptions are made for police men, they will pull up motorists for not wearing seat belts when they are not wearing them in their police cars. It is wrong to bring a person before a court for breaking a law which is being broken by the person who enforces the law. That will have to be carefully monitored.

The Minister of Transport has introduced about 2,000 regulations on vehicles and road transport. About 90 per cent. are never enforced. This measure is in that category.

Mr. Whitney

In seeking to address myself briefly to new clause 4, I hope that I shall be allowed, within the limits of the rules of the House, to say that I do so, regrettably, from a position of deep mistrust of, not to say hostility, to, the whole principle that what we are debating. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to participate in one of these important debates. I believe that the liberty of this country is fundamental. I believe that far too much legislation is emanating from this House and the other place.

I speak as someone who spends more hours a week on a bicycle than in a motor car. I am not sure whether that is a qualification or a disqualification. I tremble to think of the anti-libertarian attitudes displayed on the Bill applied to my own dangerous form of transport.

Mr. Parris

If compulsory seat belts are here this year, can crash helmets for cyclists be far behind?

Mr. Whitney

Not only compulsory seat belts, I suggest. The very riding of a bicycle may be considered to he too dangerous for mere members of the public or Members of Parliament to indulge in it.

I would welcome the clause. Clearly, on the face of it, it is a good principle that this House should have the opportunity, every so often, to look at the results of its handiwork. If one is filled with such misgivings about the potential results, a fortiori should it not be written into the Act that we should be obliged so to do? I recognise that the promoter of the Bill has accepted this in principle. I should like to put forward one or two considerations that might make him pause before rushing too precipitously into accepting an amendment.

There has been some discussion about the difficulties of monitoring. It has been asked whether the police are equipped to carry out this operation, whether their resources are not already overstretched, and whether, indeed, their motivation exists. We accept, of course, that, if it is the will of the House, the police forces of this country will do their best to carry it out. But the will is one thing, the execution another.

The difficulties of monitoring are real. I am not persuaded, on the evidence produced so far, that the experience of other countries with this legislation, and particularly its monitoring, gives any cause for optimism that this would be an effective and successful process. We are told that legislation which obtains in this country is not relevant and cannot be used as an example of what may happen in other countries.

My hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) mentioned Sweden. From 1932 until only a few years ago, Sweden lived under a Socialist Government and became immersed in what might be called nannyist legislation and nannyist attitudes of all kinds—the sort of attitudes that are reflected in this Bill. Forty-five years of that legislation, solidly, without a break, has impinged deeply on the political and social conciousness of Sweden and the Swedes. Happily, we are a long way down the road. We have not yet reached that stage. Now, after 3 May last year, we are embarked on a course back to freedom. It would be inappropriate suddenly to veer off in this one sector of our life in the wrong direction, and follow the Swedish road. The Swedes themselves have seen the folly of their ways. In the last two elections, they have rejected the opportunities offered to them of Social Democratic or Socialist Governments.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I hope that my hon. Friend is not implying that Sweden is having second thoughts about compulsory seat belt wearing. Concern was expressed by my hon. Friend and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) about the position in Sweden. After introducing compulsory seat belt wearing, Sweden found that the rate of wearing went up from 40 per cent. to 80 per cent. That achieved a reduction in fatal accidents of 35 per cent., a reduction in serious injuries of 50 per cent., and a reduction in slight injuries of 25 per cent. I am not aware of any second thoughts in Sweden or any other country where compulsory seat belt wearing has been introduced.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are wandering off the point. What happens in Sweden has nothing to do with whether we report in two years' time. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will revert to that matter. We have been debating for three hours a clause that seems to have gained general acceptance.

Mr. Whitney

I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I should like to pursue the experience in Sweden, but perhaps there will be another opportunity to do so during the consideration of this important Bill.

Mr. Wheeler

It is correct that the position of Sweden is irrelevant to us in the United Kingdom. We are concerned with a population of 56 million. We have a different legal and a different cultural history. There is no relevance at all. I hope that my hon. Friend will develop this line more.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not develop that line.

Mr. Whitney

I accede, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to your ruling and your advice. I should like to take up the point at a time more appropriate and more welcome and appropriate to the Chair. You said, a moment ago, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this clause had been accepted in principle by the whole House. With respect, it has not yet been accepted by myself.

I should like to put my misgivings to the House. They involve important points of principle that go beyond the important Bill we are discussing. If a mechanism for monitoring is set up, it will create an additional layer of bureaucracy, paperwork and form filling to an already overstrained structure. Someone would have to complete the reports, collate them and file them, read them, submit them, digest them and distil them. This is what reporting is. This is what monitoring is. It involves scarce, expensive public manpower.

This is no way to produce an effective country. It is no way to regenerate the economy, as I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will agree. We must be careful, laudable in principle though monitoring may be, about the structure, superstructure, or perhaps the substructure that might be created in what seems a simple reporting on the operation of the Act. Reporting means work and time. We should not rush into this as a happy way of underwriting what we are doing.

I am not a constitutional expert, but it laws are made subject to regular review, I invite hon. Members to consider what would be at stake. We pass too many laws already, some of which are not as good as they might be. Perhaps they all need to be monitored by a panoply of bureaucracy. That might act as a deterrent to the introduction of more legislation of this kind, but the statute book is already full of legislation.

I know that logic is not the strongest factor in our deliberations, but in logic everything on the statute book—from years or decades ago—should also be the subject of a solemn report and consideration, year by year and minute by minute. Eventually, we may be so engaged in monitoring previous legislation that we should have no time—perhaps no energy —left to consider real legislation, which the citizens need. We should have no time for a much more important function—monitoring the operation of government rather than that of supererogatory laws.

1.30 pm
Mr. Parris

My hon. Friend raised the spectre of a day when the House has so much previous legislation to review that it has no time to pass fresh legislation. I invite him to the view that that would be a happy day, when we would become a well-paid historical society.

Mr. Whitney

As someone has said—a consummation devoutly to be wished, but if so, let us proceed with that as our conscious objective and not stumble there by accident. I invite the House to consider the import of the new clause, which has been accepted in principle.

Sir Ronald Bell

I regret that the Parliamentary Secretary is with us again today. I had hoped for the presence of the Minister to further our discussions. The Parliamentary Secretary is helpful on gipsies but unsound on seat belts. You might think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that he is out of order because he should not be in the report, but—to revert to that war-time period that you and I both remember—I should like to put him in the report.

However, even the most desperate characters have a streak of goodness. When this proposal was considered in Committee, my hon. Friend said that he accepted the principle of a report but was not attracted by the terms of the proposal. He would like a report at the end of the first year and another at the end of the second year but not annual reports thereafter. I think that I am quoting him accurately.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I think that my hon. and learned Friend is remembering what I said at the start of the debate on this new clause. It seems so long ago that it might have been in Committee, but it was in the House. My feeling was that I saw no reason for a statutory requirement for a report at all, although I assumed that there would be a great deal of monitoring, to use the popular phrase, of how the Bill was working in practice—if it ever reached the statute book.

Sir R. Bell

The recollection of my hon. Friend is clouding over with the mists of time. He did say that on the Floor of the House during the early stages on Report but in Committee he is reported as saying that he was attracted by the thought of a report after one year and another after two years. The proposal in Committee was that there should be a report after the first two years and then an annual report.

My hon. Friend said that he thought that two years was too long a period before the first report. He favoured a report after one year followed by a second one but did not favour annual reports for ever. I am attracted by that reasoning and I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) is not here today. He was speaking when we adjourned last time and his speech is incomplete. He questioned the desirability of this new clause and said explicitly that if he could find another hon. Member to tell with him he would divide the House against it.

What the Minister said in Committee is of interest to us today as we ask ourselves what the purpose of a report would be. There has been much talk of monitoring, as there was two weeks ago. I feel that what has happened is that hon. Members were tending to stray outside the strict bounds of relevance on the new clause and constantly sought to justify what they were saying by a quick reference to monitoring.

I do not doubt that one useful purpose of a report or a series of reports would be something that one might call monitoring but I do not see monitoring as a prime justification for the reports asked for in this new clause. This is a highly controversial subject. If it were not, we would not be engaged in these long proceedings. If this were not a controversial matter, I would not be regretting the presence of my hon. Friend. I could not have said a fortnight ago that I wished that my hon. Friend were paired with his Minister had this discussion not been of a controversial character. This is an issue on which people take sides strongly. Households are divided against themselves Even the Minister of Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Fowler), and the Parliamentary Secretary are totally opposed in their assessment of its value.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

My hon. and learned Friend keeps referring to me. May I say that there is not a wide divergence of view between us? There have been many times during the proceedings on this Bill when I would have wished to be elsewhere. Today has proved no exception.

Sir R. Bell

Let not my hon. Friend stand upon the order of his going. We like him but we do not want him here. It is as simple as that. He is wrong about this Bill.

The issue of the reports asked for in new clause 4 is intensely controversial. There is a vehement clash of opinion on the matter. The proposal advocating a report is being put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Waller) with the intention that after the Act had been in operation for a year or two there might be a gathering of evidence about how it was working. That evidence might elucidate the differences of opinion, illuminate the dark places and resolve the controversy.

After all, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough is an opponent of the Bill on principle, just as I am, and others of my hon. Friends and the Minister. They are all opponents of the Bill on principle. We say that any advantage in terms of a reduction in deaths or injuries which might accrue does not balance the infringement of personal liberty.

That is a very different question, for no one really knows what advantage would accrue, nor how acute in practice would be the infringement of personal liberties. A report made after one or two years' investigation would cast some light on that. It would provide evidence where now there is a high degree of speculation. I should like to see such a report because I believe it would help us in this controversy.

Some remarkable statistics have been served up to us. Such a report—if we ever got to the stage of having one—would give us some authentic statistics. After all, reports are not simply monitoring exercises. This House not infrequently passes Acts of Parliament directing that reports shall be made. We even set up bodies to give them.

One of the more expensive and certainly the most absurd of all quangos is the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Accidents, which pours out reports of a highly biased character and, indeed, circulates its reports to hon. Members in order to canvass support for the Bill.

The Bill is a classic exercise in pressure group legislation. Hon. Members will know that in the weeks leading up to the introduction of the Bill—and this is the third time that a Bill of this sort has been introduced—we were subjected to a deluge of propaganda, often dressed up in the form of tendentious statistics, by bodies such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Accidents. There is no established body, apart from the Royal Automobile Club, which sends us the countervailing arguments. There is, in fact, no authoritative report because ROSPA, as I shall call it, and the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, have been nobbled by the proponents of the measure.

The great value of a statutory report would be that we would have an authentic gathering together of the factual considerations which bear upon this subject. What are the factual considerations? What would be the reward for the intrusion on personal liberty? That has never been properly examined by an authoritative body.

The number of people killed on the roads in an average year is 6,600. I know that hon. Members have been bullied over a period of years by reports to the effect that if we proceeded with legislation of this kind 1,000 lives a year would he saved. Hon. Members will be familiar with the figure because it has been given to us in print many times in the past. But, of that figure of 6,600 lives over 4,000 are in categories unaffected by the Bill—pedestrians, motor cyclists, pedal cyclists. That leaves only about 2,000. Of that number, many would be in the back seats of motor cars, and therefore unaffected by the provisions of the Bill. There will be exemptions, which we shall consider later. We do not know now who will be exempted. Some of the remainder—perhaps 1,500—will come under one exemption or another in the Bill, They will be too young, too old, too small, too ill, or whatever.

1.45 pm
Mr. Whitney

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that many people who are passionately opposed to the principle of the Bill may nevertheless accept the inference of the statistics from what he chooses to call the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Accidents. There may be 1,500 deaths as a result of the non-wearing of seat belts, and perhaps people should, in their own interests, wear seat belts. However, at issue is the freedom, rights and duties of the House. We are not at issue about the desirability or otherwise of the individual making up his own mind to wear a seat belt.

Sir Ronald Bell

I do not disagree with my hon. Friend. Mary I, in passing, correct the figure of 1,500. I do not think that that figure has ever been claimed, but I have heard claimed a figure of 1,000.

However, we are considering a new clause concerning the making of a report. The significance of a report is that we need real information on which to base a judgment. I have made it clear—I made it clear a fortnight ago—that, whatever the figure, assuming that there were 1,000 deaths every year as a result of the compulsory wearing of seat belts, I would be opposed to the Bill in principle. I am not prepared to accept this sort of intrusion into the freedom of the individual. That is an absolute position that I hold, but that absolute position is probably not held by most people.

There is probably a price that most people are prepared to pay for freedom, and they will not go beyond that. Many people in the community might say that if it will save 1,000 lives and 5,000 serious injuries they will accept the intrusion on their freedom. Equally, they might say that if it would only save 400 lives and 2,000 serious injuries in relation to a population of 56 million, it is a price that they would not pay. Most people come into that category. For them it is a question of degree. They make a balance between the tangible and the intangible. Those people would gain from a report. People in my position would gain nothing. If the figures are multiplied by 10, it makes no difference to me. That is my absolute position. There are others on the fringe of the argument who say that if it saves one life, it is all right. The main body of opinion is in the middle, as so often happens. For those people it is a question of balance.

At the moment we are arguing about those matters. I quoted figures from an article that I wrote myself. I prefer to quote from myself, because I have found from experience that I am the only person with whom I always agree, and on whom I can entirely rely. But no doubt others have engaged in this field also. But if the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Carmichael) were here he might not accept my figures or my analysis of them. He might not accept the inferences which I drew from my analysis of the figures.

Others might doubt them. I do not agree with the learned Gentleman's analysis or statistics, or the argument that he bases on them. It however, there were a report to Parliament from a Department—a Department in which at least one Minister was unbiased and one was biased, and one cancelled out the other—under the terms of the statute there would be no room for tendentious statistics.

Furthermore, the figures would be based upon experience in this country. I am sure that some of my hon. Friends are as tired as I am of being bullied with the record of Australia or Victoria. We never hear the end of that. Of course, we can say that Australia and Victoria are not in this country. Conditions here are different. This country is densely populated and densely trafficked. Australia is, by comparison, empty. Every country has complications. That is exactly where an authoritative statement would put us in a different position.

We were told that the experience in Australia was of a drop of about 20 per cent. in casualties in the four years after the introduction of the compulsory wearing of seat belts in 1970. Our riposte is that in the same four-year period in Britain the decrease in casualties without such a law was, as a proportion, 75 times as great. There was at that time trouble about the price of oil. A speed restriction was imposed on our roads. At the same time Australia imposed a 50 mph speed restriction. Who then can say that it is possible to make a profitable comparison between them and us? In both cases the statistics were dominated by other factors. We have nothing better than these exchanges of opinion—opinions sometimes confidently held and based upon a very narrow framework.

If a Bill such as this is in force there is some sort of statutory base for the statistics and information gathered. I am not pretending that they would be comprehensive, but they would be better than anything we have now. At the moment when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary produces figures, as he did just now, those most frequently quoted for this country are based on a sample of 100 corpses. They are odd statistics, but what else can be done? A couple of medical consultants examine 100 corpses. They know whether seat belts were worn and they say whether the individuals concerned would have survived if they had been wearing a seat belt.

The fascinating point is—and this should occupy a whole chapter in the report—that they found that 2 per cent. of all the deaths in motor cars were caused by seat belts. With the present level of wearing 50 deaths a year are caused on our roads by seat belts. If the rate of wearing went up from 50 per cent. to 85 per cent., as is desired, the number killed by the seat belt itself would be 128 per year. This is a consideration that has a tremendous effect on people. They say that we are not entitled to use compulsion when the effect of using it may be kill a person.

I know that these are crude statistics. Again this is where a report would be of benefit. Of the 128 killed by wearing seat belts, some would have been killed if they had not been wearing seat belts. There is no doubt about that. But of those who were killed who were not wearing seat belts some would have been killed anyway if they had been wearing seat belts. Nobody can be precise on this matter. We are extrapolating from a tiny base. One starts with 100 corpses then sends out printed circulars and authoritative-looking reports in which one extrapolates from 100 to 2,600 and gives an authoritative saving for a population of 56 million. Of course, that is nonsense.

The difficulty is that we are debating this matter in the absence of any proper information and proposing to clamp compulsion upon our compatriots. I suppose that if we were to obtain the information in the form that I wish, we might at least be able to move forward to removing compulsion. I believe that that would be the result of having a proper report.

A fortnight ago when someone was referring to the length of our proceedings on a Bill such as this. I said that if we could encourage hon. Members to come to the Chamber on a Friday and listen to the arguments put forward, I would be a lot happier leaving this matter to the decision of those present in the House at the time. But what happens when this subject is debated is that we talk to about a dozen or so people and when the bells ring at the end of the afternoon about 400 people take part in the Division. They have not heard any of the arguments, know nothing about the information or the statistics apart from what they have received through the post in the form of apparently authoritative reports.

That is why we who oppose the Bill are at a disadvantage in this argument. This is pressure group legislation. Pressure groups, almost by definition, have their propaganda; and those who believe in freedom and in allowing people to be left alone, almost by definition are not a pressure group. No pressure group is formed for freedom, for leaving people alone or for allowing them to do nothing. Therefore, there is no propaganda to assist such people. That is the gap that would be filled by a proper system of reporting under the terms of the new clause. That is the main reason for and justification of the new clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough, though it is not the only one.

I put aside at the beginning of my speech the concept of monitoring. Everybody had been talking about monitoring and I wanted to draw attention back to the broader and to me more fundamental issue of adequate knowledge about this subject. However, there is the aspect of monitoring. Perhaps it is the same thing looked at from a slightly different angle, but the ordinary member of the public will want to know the truth about not only the possible saving of life but the avoidance of injury. He will also want to know how keen will be the intrusion upon the freedom of the individual and what will be the effect upon the relations between the police force and the public of proposals of this kind.

2 pm

As to the intrusion upon the freedom of the individual, I do not know that that is the kind of thing that can be reduced into reportable form as well as most things; I suppose not. But there must be something to be gained from experience in a matter of that kind.

I intervened earlier to give an example of what very easily could be gleaned in that matter by referring to Mr. Hill. As some hon. Members will know, he is a motor cyclist who has an objection of deep principle to wearing a crash helmet. Parliament has passed a law compelling people to wear crash helmets when riding motor bicycles. This raises the same issue of freedom. Under that law, we are getting our quota of martyrs, people who feel so strongly about it that they will go to prison rather than obey.

I take Mr. Hill as a prototype, as a decent, hard-working, honest citizen of this country. He is in prison now. He came out of prison only a few weeks ago. He is continually in and out of prison. The police pounce on him, they even wait for him, and he finds himself in a police cell. On principle Mr. Hill goes on fighting.

This is what we start up when we pass laws that affront people's concept of liberty. They may be wrong. I do not know. It is a matter of argument. But the seat belt law would raise 10 times as many martyrs as the crash helmet law, and that is something about which we want to know. It is something that can be tabulated and put into a report. Some of the more intangible aspects of personal freedom—the resentments, and so on—are very difficult to put into cold print, but the number of people who feel so strongly about the law that they defy it on principle, and become what in a grander way are called prisoners of conscience, we can know about.

This House must question itself very seriously indeed before it embarks on that field. Our country is full of people who want to do good to others by compulsion, people with itching fingers who cannot keep their noses out of other people's business and are never lacking some argument about the impact upon other members of the community to justify that.

We are told that one can justify this outrageous encroachment upon personal liberty by talking about the extra burden on the Health Service. Let us hear about it. Let us have it quantified in the light of experience. Then, when we have this in black and white, we shall know whether we want to encroach into people's homes, where there are more accidents than there are on the roads, and more deaths than are caused on the roads. What shall we do about attempted suicides? We shall have the evidence to weigh that. Are we to slap them into prison, having recently passed a law to say that we shall not do that?

If we are to find some saving in the cost of the Health Service by passing a law such as this, it would be only a small fraction of the saving that would ensue by requiring pedestrians in towns to wear crash helmets. That is of course lunacy, but it is the sort of thing that the Swedes might do. I shall not go further than that.

I do not believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will have to admonish me about Sweden. I learnt my lesson about speaking of Sweden on a Friday a few years ago, when the Whips got me in to talk about something. I mentioned Sweden. There was an important horse race that day, and all self-respecting press correspondents were at that race, except the beastly Swede. I did not hear the end of the matter for months. I had a letter from the Minister for Social Affairs in Sweden. The Swedes could easily pass a law requiring pedestrians to wear crash helmets.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I hate to interrupt my hon. and learned Friend's argument, but I believe that a moment ago he almost made an incursion from home accidents into the place of work. For years and years we have had legislation in that respect of exactly the same kind as that contemplated over seat belts. Would my hon. and learned Friend say that it was wrong that the Factories Act legislation, makes it a criminal offence for an employer or employee to remove safety devices from power presses? Alternatively, would he say that, in the interests of individual liberty, as long as the press operator and his employer agree that they can take off interlocking guards, they should be allowed to do so? Many would do so if we repealed the long-standing Factories Act legislation.

Sir R. Bell

A safety device on a press is a little different from a seat belt on a human being. I do not expect that the press feels at all insulted by having a safety device put on it.

Mr. Clarke

It is there to protect the human being. I have had experience of industrial accident work in the Black Country for years. Many press operators resent the fact that the law makes them have an interlocking guard on the press. They could earn more money on piecework, as some of them try to do, by taking it off. It is against the law to do so, because people lose hands and fingers. In my hon. and learned Friend's opinion, they would be exercising their freedom if they took the guard off.

Sir R. Bell

With great respect, my hon. Friend keeps intervening with Second Reading points. I assure him that I dealt with those points in my speech on Second Reading. We are at present discussing a new clause on Report. In a way, my hon. Friend's intervention reinforces what I was saying. It is a question of degree and fact.

Some people would support the restrictions by balancing the gain against the detriment. If they do not know either, they cannot arrive at a reasonable conclusion.

Having been fortunate enough to be in a profession all my life, I do not know anything about the gain or detriment of putting guards on presses. They do not have them in the Temple.

In this Bill we have not had the information on which to reach a conclusion. It does not worry me as an individual, because my position is somewhat absolute, but it affects about nine-tenths of the public.

Mr. Lawrence

Does my hon. and learned Friend accept that the Minister's intervention is not only not a Second Reading point but is absolutely germane to the point that my hon. and learned Friend is making? The Minister is calling in aid quite wrongly in support of his case the situation with regard to industrial injuries. On the contrary, surely the case that my hon. and learned Friend is making is supported by the intervention. It is well known to all hon. Members that the industrial safety at work legislation is honoured more in the breach than in the observance. It is impossible to enforce the legislation on two parties, manager and employee, neither of whom wants to work it. The danger is that the legislation currently before the House will be likewise unenforceable, and will likewise be considered with contempt by the people who do not want to enforce it. It therefore ought not to go on the statue book.

Sir R. Bell

I shall rescue my hon. Friend's intervention from any infraction of the rules of order by attaching a skyhook to it and relating it to the second part of my speech, which I have already entered upon. While I have laid emphasis on the factual importance of the report, we also have to consider the monitoring aspect. We wish to know what effect the attempt to enforce the Bill would have upon the public—that is why I mentioned Mr. Hill on the martyr side —upon the police, and upon their relations with the public.

Most members of the public come into contact with the police in relation to motoring. In a way that is unfortunate, because it predisposes people to see the police force as a danger, and even as an enemy, rather than as their friend, protector and support. The police have enough duties which exacerbate their public relations without adding the most unwelcome task of prosecuting people for not wearing a seat belt. I wonder how genuinely happy the police are about such martyrs as Mr. Hill.

It is a beastly business. If the Bill is passed we will find, in a year or two, that any statutory report will contain references to a good deal of police unhappiness about the task imposed upon them. The public will be unhappy about police involvement. Far too much police time and manpower is devoted already to harassing motorists instead of protecting citizens in their homes. Some action must be taken about the harassment of motorists. I suppose that the police feel that they are doing their duty, and that they must enforce even the silliest law. The resentment caused by the totting up procedure, or the enforcement of the ridiculous 30 mph speed limit—which is antedeluvian in its application—should not be underestimated. It is now suggested that when a motorist is stopped for exceeding the speed limit he should be prosecuted if he is not wearing a seat belt. I wonder what the sponsors of the Bill had in mind when they drafted it. They must have thought that there would be some enormous saving in flesh and blood—which I do not believe would happen—to make it worth causing such damage to the law enforcement procedures.

We read much about the shortage of police manpower. I am sorry to say that there always appear to be enough police for speed traps. I have been driving for more than 40 years and have never been caught, so I speak entirely without prejudice and simply as a Member of the House. It is a bad state of affairs. The police should be advised not to waste their time on such matters, and we should not add to that burden with this legislation.

Those hon. Members who support the Bill should say to the Minister "We are sorry, we have been wrong and you are right. It is a foolish Bill". However, if the new clause is passed and if, God forbid, the Bill is passed, in a couple of years I shall be able to say to my hon. Friends "Now you see that you are wrong", and my hon. Friends will say "Yes, we are wrong, but we did not know it until we were able to read the reports". If there were, to be two reports, one after a year and one after two years, they would be able to read the facts twice. We should then know that we had been right all along, and that this was a most undesirable measure.

For the reasons that have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston, and not with-

out some hesitation, I recommend the new clause to the House.

2.15 pm
Mr. Parris

I followed with great care the rulings of your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and, if anything, I think that he was stricter than you have been. I listened with not inconsiderable sympathy to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Mr. Carmichael), who has protested from the beginning that he is prepared to accept the new clause. Therefore, it would be wrong of me to go on at any length about whether the new clause is a good idea and whether it should be accepted.

I wish to address myself to the broader picture. I accept that there will be a report after two years and that it will be laid before the House. What should the terms of reference for that report be?

A great deal has been said about the areas of this legislation that should be monitored by the police, and the statistics that might result and the interpretation that might be placed upon them. That is the fine brushwork. I hope that the broader sweep will not be avoided. I hope that the report will suggest to the House that it should consider after two years whether the legislation has proved to be worth the candle. The purpose of such a report should be to prompt the House to ask whether it was worthwhile having the legislation at all.

Mr. Lawrencerose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 45, Noes 12.

Division No. 217] AYES [2.18 pm
Anderson, Donald Faith, Mrs Sheila Rooker, J. W.
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Field, Frank Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Garel-Jones, Tristan Short, Mrs Renée
Boscawen, Hon Robert Graham, Ted Soley, Clive
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Heffer, Eric S. Stainton, Keith
Brooke, Hon Peter Janner, Hon Greville Stallard, A. W.
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Loveridge, John Stoddart, David
Buck, Antony McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stradling Thomas, J.
Carmichael, Neil McWilliam, John Wakeham, John
Chapman, Sydney Mills, Iain (Meriden) Wellbeloved, James
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Moate, Roger Winnick, David
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Cohen, Stanley Parker, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting) Race, Reg Mr. D. A. Trippier and
Dobson, Frank Raison, Timothy Mr. Raymond Whitney.
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Rhodes James, Robert
Bradley, Tom Mayhew, Patrick Stevens, Martin
English, Michael Montgomery, Fergus
Finsberg, Geoffrey Percival, Sir Ian TELLERS FOB THE NOES:
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Mr. Matthew Parris and
Glyn, Dr Alan Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Keith Best.
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 31 (Majority for Closure).

Question again proposed, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Parris

The House, after examining the report, will decide not only that the Bill is not working in detail but that it is not working in general. It has been said that in a certain country, although only about 40 per cent. of the public wore seat belts when the law was introduced, at the end of four years 80 per cent. were wearing seat belts. That was adduced as an argument in favour of making the wearing of seat belts compulsory.

To me that is a sure argument for failure. If only 80 per cent. of people wear seat belts after a law has been enforced for four years that is a sign that the criminal law is being disregarded by 20 per cent. of the population. I hope that we are a long way from the day in Britain when the criminal law is used as a means of trying to persuade people to do things that they may not otherwise wish to do for their own safety.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

I wonder why my hon. Friend is so modest about giving the name of the country involved.

Mr. Parris

I do not think that my hon. Friend was here—

It being half past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday 4 July.