HL Deb 14 July 1903 vol 125 cc523-57


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for again addressing you on this subject, but I confess that the text of the Bill does not present quite as favourable an appearance as the speech of the noble Lord in moving the First Reading would have led one to believe. There is no doubt that the Bill itself constitutes an admirable framework, but I think it requires in some places a considerable amount of stiffening and alteration. What are the considerations by which we should be guided in dealing with this measure? The pre-eminent consideration must be the safety and comfort of the public as users of the highways of this country; and secondly, we are equally bound to take into consideration the motor-car industry and the proper and legitimate convenience of those persons who may be fortunate enough to own and drive, or be driven by others in, motor-cars. It has been said by some persons, who, I think, are generally connected with the motor-car industry, that a certain amount of the objections which have been raised to those who we think very often drive most recklessly are vindictive, and simply intended to cripple the motor-car industry. I should think there is no human being who is in the slightest degree anxious to in any way interfere with the due expansion of any great industry in this country, and I am sure I am amongst those who wish to see this particular trade very largely developed. But I cannot help thinking that those who are doing most to injure the industry are those persons who drive their motor-cars to the danger and injury of the public, and I am confident that the motor-car industry is far more likely to be injured by disregard of the public safety than by any legislation. It is rather by legislation on behalf of the public, and by seeing that they are legitimately and properly protected, that the industry itself will be very largely benefited.

I do not believe, for one moment, that the industry will be benefited by the continuous building of very high-speed racing cars. On the contrary, where the benefit, in the long run, will come in will be in the adaptation of the motor principles to the great commercial vans, to agricultural implements, and, in fact, to all those slower moving vehicles on the road which will eventually become very common. The other night the noble Earl behind me, Lord Mayo, speaking on that point, said he hoped that every one would take a fair view of the question and not attempt to cripple this industry, and he referred to the great interest that had been taken in the motor-car race in Ireland. If I may branch off for one moment to a subject which is not absolutely in this Bill, I would venture to express the hope that we have seen the last of motor-car racing on the public roads in this country. I cannot see that it is right or fair that the roads should be taken up for these purposes, that great numbers of policemen and His Majesty's troops should be employed to look after the safety of the public and those racing in the cars, and that public money should be spent on such an object.

Turning to the provisions of the Bill itself, many of the clauses appear to me to have, at any rate, the foundation and the making of a most excellent measure, and no doubt many of your Lordships are thinking of putting down, for the next stage, such Amendments as will strengthen and improve the Bill. The first matter upon which I should like to ask for a little information, and to offer some suggestions, is the clause which deals with the licensing of drivers. On that point I trust sincerely that the Government will see their way to either inserting, or accepting, an Amendment which will render it necessary for every person, male or female, paid or unpaid, who may drive a motor-car to hold a licence to do so. I can see no reason for making any exemption, and I feel sure your Lordships hold a similar opinion. As a matter of fact, as your Lordships are well aware, no one can navigate even his own yacht unless he first obtains a Board of Trade certificate of his competency as a master, and I can see no reason why anyone should drive one of the most dangerous engines that has ever been placed on the public roads in this country without being compelled to have a licence.

When we come to the question of speed I think the Bill appears to need some alteration. It does appear to me that the proposal to place the control of speed in the hands of the County Councils through an order of the Local Government Board is a somewhat cumbrous procedure. I hardly know what to suggest as an alternative if the County Council is to remain the main factor as regards the regulation of speed in the country, but surely it might be an extremely lengthy process to get an order confirmed by the Local Government Board saying that a mile or two miles of any particular county, or even less, is a dangerous area. You would then have to have some very large sign stating the speed at which motor cars are allowed to go while passing through that area. If those boards are put up all over England you will be taking away largely from the beauty of many of our high roads, and you will be putting up structures in the nature of those extremely offensive advertisement hoardings which we see all over the country. I think that particular method of regulating speed is rather a doubtful one. However, I believe there are other noble Lords who have suggestions to make on that point, and I shall not press it. There is one other point to which I would draw your Lordships' attention, and which, I think, is worthy of some consideration. Nothing is said in the Bill as to whether a person, who has been summarily convicted and sentenced to imprisonment and has given notice of appeal, will be allowed to continue driving during the interval before the hearing of his appeal. Personally I think the licence should be suspended during the interval.

However much this Bill may be amended, and if it has the good fortune to receive the Royal Assent this session, I am sure that unless the owners and drivers of motor-cars show more consideration for others on the high roads it will be necessary in another two or three years to introduce an amending Bill of a much more drastic character. Therefore, I am extremely anxious that this Bill should be brought into operation as soon as possible, and that it may not be necessary within a very short time to have to suggest some other measure which would only rake up the very unpleasant feeling which now exists between a preponderating section of the public and the users of motor-cars. While I shall certainly vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, I feel that it is capable of, and in fact will require, a considerable amount of Amendment in the next stage.


My Lords, I venture to think your Lordships will view with general approval the introduction of this Bill by the Government. This subject of motor-cars is urgent, and during the last few weeks and days it has been becoming more urgent. Your Lordships will now see every morning in the columns of the more prominent of the daily newspapers a column which is generally headed "Speed of Motor cars," and if your Lordships should have time to cast your eyes over that column you will generally discover things which are very terrible and disagreeable, but a certain amount also that is decidedly amusing. The first point in this matter is the rapidly increasing number of these cars. I was struck very much some time ago by a statement made by Mr. Hawkshaw, the President of the Institute of Civil Engineers. I do not know whether he is a motorist or not, but at all events he may be taken as an impartial authority on the subject. He was addressing a speech to the civil engineers, and he said that he stood on Whit Monday, at Horsham, on the Brighton road, and that in eleven minutes there passed him 209 motor-cars, motor-bicycles, and bicycles. Well, now, if your Lordships will multiply that by six, it comes to something like 1,200 vehicles of this sort going by per hour; therefore in one hour, apparently, the happy residents at Horsham were passed on that day by considerably more motor vehicles than trains pass through Clapham Junction during the twenty-four hours.

This subject has been forcing itself more and more upon the notice of the public. I have not the slightest ill-will towards motorists, but it seems to me we may reasonably expect them to regard, to some extent at all events, the convenience of the public. We all have our own experience. We have our experience as magistrates and in other capacities, and we know what we ourselves see in the streets of London. I daresay many of your Lordships have had narrow shaves before now. Only a fortnight ago a motor-car nearly demolished the humble Member of your Lordships' House who is now addressing you. I do not suppose that anything less than the immolation of an Archbishop of Canterbury—for I do not think an ordinary Bishop would be at all sufficient—will induce drivers of motor-cars to show any respectful consideration for the welfare of the general public. I am afraid one must say that although there are no doubt a great many persons who drive with great care, still there are a considerable number—and I am afraid their number is increasing—who commit serious offences of several sorts. The first is that they drive recklessly. I appeal to your Lordships on that point. You know what goes on every day in London. In Hyde Park and elsewhere people who might easily be content to drive round the park at a moderate speed drive—well, your Lordships know at what rates they go.

With regard to the number of accidents and the state of things which is generally prevalent, I will quote from an article headed "Speed of Motor-cars," in the Standard newspaper of this morning. It states—and this is merely a record of what happened yesterday at three or four suburban Benches—that at the Epsom Bench yesterday a number of motor drivers were summoned for exceeding the twelve miles speed limit. In the case of one defendant—Frederick Bolton, of Wimbledon—the police evidence was to the effect that he was driving through East Street, Epsom, at the rate of eighteen miles an hour. It was stated that the defendant had been fined the previous week at Reigate, and the Bench now imposed a fine of £5. In the case of another defendant named Frederick Sharpe, the police stated that on Sunday morning, 28th June, he was driving through the Sutton High Street at the rate of twenty miles an hour. Another gentleman, a Mr. Arthur Chase, of Anerley, was summoned for a similar offence. He asked the constable if he could identify him as the driver of the car, and the officer said he could not because the driver he stopped was wearing goggles. The defendant said it was very fortunate the constable did not, because he had only just returned from Ireland. He had never been in Sutton or Epsom previously to that day. He proved conclusively that he was not there on the day in question, and one of the magistrates very properly said that it was abominable that the offender should have given an innocent gentleman's name. It only showed, he added, to what length some motorists would go.

Another case was that of Mr. Lewis Waller, of the Comedy Theatre, who has delighted so many of us. He was, at the Shoreham Petty Sessions yesterday, fined £5 and costs for driving a motor-car at excessive speed between Brighton and Shoreham. When told by the constable that he had been travelling at the rate of twenty-four miles an hour, Mr. Waller expressed his pleasure at knowing he had such a good car. At the Richmond Police Court yesterday a gentleman residing in Piccadilly was summoned for furiously driving a motor-car at Petersham on 27th June. Evidence was given that defendant descended the steep declivity by the Dyart Arms at thirty miles an hour, narrowly avoiding several schoolchildren who were in the road, and knocking down two cyclists, whose machines were severely damaged. That is one day's record in two or three Police Courts, and shows what we are coming to. I will instance a case which happened to come within my own observation. I was at the petty sessions where I live in Worcestershire on Saturday, and it was stated that about a fortnight before two foreign gentlemen passed at a great speed on a Mercedes car on their way to Holyhead, en route for Dublin. When taken to the police station they asked how far it was to Birmingham, and on being told that the distance was about thirty miles one of them said to the other, "then we shall just do it in about half-an-hour." There is another little town close by, and about thirty-three miles from Birmingham, a gentleman went to the telegraph office there about ten days ago at a quarter to eight, and telephoned to his wife in Birmingham to put off dinner till nine o'clock. I don't know whether he arrived punctually to dinner, but that is the sort of thing which goes on quite constantly in that part of the country. The Birmingham high road runs through it, and you see quantities of these motor-cars racing down, the drivers perfectly disguised, and there is no means of stopping them.

Motorists after they have caused or taken part in an accident very often do not wait, but rush on and escape. I think that is a cowardly and a very serious offence. Here is an instance of what took place yesterday, which I also quote from the Standard. A young lady living at Woodstock, Sutton, was found lying at Malden Road, Cheam, by some haymakers, with her face terribly grazed, her breast badly cut, and her right arm fractured. She stated that she was out riding when her horse was frightened by a motor-car and bolted, throwing her and dragging her some distance. The driver of the car did not stop to assist her, but drove off. She was removed in an unconscious condition to the hospital at Sutton, where she now lies in a very precarious condition. I cannot believe that there are many drivers who would do such a thing as that, but still it is by no means an uncommon thing for drivers when concerned in an accident to drive off and thereby escape all responsibility. I can give your Lordships another illustration—a Scottish one. Farmers, when their sheep or cattle are being driven across the road from one field to another, frequently incur accidents in this way. There is a very distinguished agriculturist in Perthshire who had some cattle being driven across the road, when up came a motor-car and knocked one of them over and nearly killed it. The car went on and disappeared. The owner of the animal finished the killing and then sent the meat into the local market, but, having done that, he was fined £13 for sending diseased meat to market. This particular gentleman never was very friendly towards motor-cars, but he is rather less so now probably than he was a month or two ago.

Again, drivers of motor-cars habitually refuse their names, and what are you to do? They are not persons living in the neighbourhood; you do not know where they have come from or where they are going to. The police are perfectly powerless. Two cases have come under my own personal knowledge lately. One was of a man who came into Stratford on-Avon. He had been driving too fast, and the policeman got into his car to identify him, upon which the driver started the car and never stopped again until he got a distance of seventeen miles, when he put down the policeman. These things are very amusing in themselves. The noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack will tell us the law no doubt, but I can hardly conceive the law in this country to be in such a state that an abducted policeman has no right whatever to make any charge against the individual who has carried him off. But however that may be, I can assure you that on this occasion, and on another occasion at a place close by, a policeman was carried off in this way. These cases escape unpunished.

In view of what takes place, is it surprising that reprisals are beginning to be advocated? If your Lordships look at the papers, you will see many amusing letters and different modes of reprisals suggested. First there has been the very simple one of broken glass bottles. A well known sporting Baronet has suggested that there is only one means of identifying the drivers of motor-cars, and that is by swan shot. A most extraordinary case occurred quite recently. A gentleman was cycling near Ealing, and he heard one of these motor-cars making a noise behind him. He thought there was room for the motor to get by, but then he saw another cyclist in front of him coming the other way, so he decided that there was no room and very wisely got down. He got into the hedge and the motor passed him, he says, at twenty to twenty-five miles an hour. When it reached the other cyclist, who had brought up at a fence which he grasped, that cyclist whipped out a revolver from his hip pocket and fired two shots in rapid succession at the car. When the motor-car had disappeared, cyclist No. 1 went up to cyclist No. 2 and pointed out to him that carrying revolvers was not permitted in this country, and that free firing was certainly not allowed, and he replied— What can I do? I have hit one of his back wheels, I am quite certain, and I think I have got them both. Cyclist No. 1 then proceeded on his way to the next village, where he found the motor just as the cyclist had described. He had disabled one of the wheels, and the car was ruined, and he afterwards saw it dragged away by a mule towards its home, but the driver of the car was absolutely ignorant as to what had occurred. He was making so much noise and creating so much dust that he did not see cyclist No. 2, and he did not hear him discharge his revolver. Naturally, he could not conceive what had happened. All this is very amusing, but at the same time it is becoming serious.

I hope this Bill will pass in some form or another, because if we are to have another twelve months of administration of the present law, there will be traps set in every lane for motors, and magistrates will have to fine more than half the motor drivers in the country. The real question is, Are the roads in this country suited for this sort of thing? Motorists have a perfect right to demand to use the roads and to use them in any manner which is at all akin or analogous to the manner in which they are used by other people; but I think we must all be agreed, in the first place, that the roads were never made for express trains—very often these motor-cars are nothing less—and, in the second place, that it is utterly unreasonable for motorists to claim to be allowed to run along roads as they like, and without any respect for other descriptions of traffic. Then there is the further objection—the dust nuisance. Fortunately, I do not live near any road where motor-cars pass, but people who do are rendered absolutely miserable. One gentleman, writing to the Standard, says— May I be allowed to put in a word for the merciful consideration of motorists and Sunday bicyclists on behalf of the remnant—a very little one now—of that old-fashioned and prejudiced class who still cherish the seventh day of the week as one of rest and quiet, and not a field day of noise and pleasure? Though a young man, and a Londoner, I am unhappily afflicted with such simple notions, and in consequence moved some twenty miles into the country, off the main road, in order to enjoy that repose which was denied me in town. I am also a lover of dogs, and had some idea of exercising them peacefully on Sunday afternoons. Such was my humble ideal. The reality is that from six o'clock on Sunday morning till one o'clock on Monday morning the diabolical tooting of motor horns is incessant; my garden is covered with the dust which they leave behind, and the summer air redolent of oil. To exercise my dogs with any degree of pleasure is, of course, out of the question, so I pay a boy to do it on week day, when motors are recovering from last Sunday's work, and their owners earning the where withal for next Sunday's amusements. The dust nuisance is really dangerous to the motorists themselves. I understand that a very serious accident which took place on Saturday last was caused in this way: two motors were following one another, but owing to the dust it was impossible for the drivers to see anything, with the result that one of them, a little bit wide of the other on the road, did not see a motor coming in the opposite direction, and the consequence was a telescope. That gives you some idea of what the thickness of the dust must be. I had a letter only a day or two ago from a gentleman at Richmond, who said his house was full of dust each week-end and almost uninhabitable. The dust is caused to a large extent by the excessive speed at which these cars will insist upon going. Surely twenty miles an hour is as fast as any reasonable person ought to want to go on the roads. Of course, if any of us attempted to go at anything like that speed in our carriages or on horseback, we should be had up for furious driving or riding, and punished.

Clause 1 of the Bill omits a speed limit altogether, and the only reference that is made to restricting speed is in Clause 5, where it is provided that the Local Government Board may empower County Councils or Borough Councils to enact a lower rate of speed in certain specified parts. I shall venture to submit to your Lordships, and I hope your Lordships will accept it, an Amendment imposing a speed limit of twenty miles. I am well aware of the objections that there are to an Amendment of that sort. It has been said that if you impose such a speed limit the result will be that the motorist will consider that he has a right to go at twenty miles an hour. Of course, if a motorist chooses to misread the Act entirely, that nobody can help. But his ideas on that point would undergo a change if he found himself in the Police Court on a charge of reckless and dangerous driving. Another point is that nothing is said about the owner. The driver is the person to be punished. Of course, in many cases the driver is to blame, but there are other cases in which the owner is to blame, and it has even been suggested by some persons that you should include the hirer. I cannot myself go as far as that; but, with regard to the owner, I think that in a Bill which is to be at all effectual, the owner ought to be included and made punishable when he is really to blame.

The next point I wish to call attention to is Sub-section 2 of Clause 1, which says that— Any police constable may apprehend, without warrant, the driver of any car who commits an offence under this section within his view. A more futile provision cannot be imagined. How can police constables be expected to see everything that is going on? I would suggest that a police constable should be empowered to apprehend the driver of any car who commits an offence under this section if he does not know him, or if he refuses to give his name and address. I think then that the sub-section would be a good and effectual one. But, further than that, I think power ought to be given to other people, when an accident occurs, if they do not know the driver, to apprehend and detain him until, at all events, such time as he can be charged. As your Lordships know, what happens now is this, that the driver, if he can, scuttles off as fast as possible, and nothing more is heard of him. Suppose he has knocked me in a ditch and I manage to get hold of him, and find that he is wearing goggles and there is no means of identifying him, why may I not be allowed to apprehend him? It is said that the number will be sufficient. Of course if the driver is obliged to carry a number, and if he is carrying a number, I quite admit that that is a very good mode of identification and quite satisfactory; but if he has no number is there any reason why he should not be apprehended by the unfortunate person whom he has injured?

When we come to the question of licensing, I quite agree with what my noble friend, Lord Granby, said just now, that there appears to be no good reason for obliging the professional driver alone to take out a licence. I cannot see any difference between amateurs and professionals, except, perhaps, that of the two amateurs are the most dangerous. The Bill as it now stands does not contain any clause requiring the licence to be produced. Surely it is most desirable that if a police constable asks for the production of this licence the holder should be obliged to produce it. I think an Amendment of that sort would do good to the clause. I will not trouble your Lordships with any more remarks at this stage of the Bill, except to ask the noble Lord in charge of the measure whether it would not be possible to draft a clause to exempt broughams and private carriages, which can only go at low speeds, from carrying numbers. It seems to me that if a private carriage can and does only go at an ordinary rate of speed it will be unnecessary to put marks upon it which must be of a rather disfiguring charactering.

Another point which I hope the noble Lord will consider is that of interfering with the police in the execution of their duty. As I stated just now, cases have occurred in which the police have even been abducted while endeavouring to do their duty, and apparently there is no remedy. I hope words will be put in to deal with that case. I should like to ask the noble Lord also whether it would be possible to extend this Bill so as to include the cases of motor bicycles, which are very nearly as bad as motorcars. They go at a very great pace and make most disagreeable and disturbing noises, and I believe they have been the cause of a great many accidents. They certainly stand on an altogether different footing from other bicycles. I believe they can go nearly as quick as motor cars, and very often do, and I think if it were possible to include them in this Bill it would be an advantage. I will not trespass further upon the time of the House to-day, as we shall have to discuss these questions at considerable length when we go into Committee.


My Lords, we have already heard two speeches containing very divergent opinions, which only prove to us how difficult the solution of this problem must be. Whilst I earnestly congratulate His Majesty's Government on their apparent desire to amend for the general good the Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896, I cannot but feel that this new Motor-Car Bill will not fulfil the hopes they anticipate, and will fail to remove the friction which at present exists between the motor-car drivers and the local authorities. Not only that, but it will create further difficulties for the Local Government Board, for apparently under Sub-section 1 of Clause 5, the local authorities are to be appointed referees in any question as to defining dangerous localities. I use the word "referees" because, as I understand the section, the council of any county or borough are given permission to frame regulations for speed, but must submit them for confirmation to the Local Government Board. In these circumstances it will be interesting to know whether it is intended that the councils of counties or boroughs are to send these clauses to the Local Government Board and the Local Government Board are to refer them back again for further consideration—in other words, to know which is to be paramount, the Local Government Board or the councils of counties or boroughs.

In view of what has already been said by the noble Marquis beside me, I make this very humble suggestion, that in this no-limit-of-speed clause should be inserted a proviso that in passing any group of houses, or through any narrow lane, the limit of speed should be reduced to eight miles an hour, and that distinct warning should be given by the blowing of a horn on approaching the houses or passing through the lane. I have used the words "group of houses" because I do not wish to distinguish between half a dozen houses and a regular village. It is not so much collision with other vehicles that has to be guarded against, but accidents to pedestrians, who constitute the largest majority. We have also to consider the convenience of householders on the road, who suffer the indignity and the annoyance of having their houses filled with dust by cars travelling at an enormous speed. My noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh was understood by me to say that the onus of identification would rest with the driver of the car—in other words, that he must identity himself. That is only natural so long as he carries the registration mark which is to be selected; but I should like to know whether the noble Lord or His Majesty's Government considers that the present labels and signs which are on foreign cars are adequate for a driver who is travelling recklessly and enveloped, as he always is, in a cloud of dust?

The object of this Bill is undoubtedly to promote and protect a young and rising industry, but also to prevent injury to life and limb by the reckless employment of the output of this industry. As the Bill stands, I cannot see that this object will be attained. I consider that the friction at present existing between motor-car drivers and the police—due very often to the exaggerated sense of duty of the police—will not be removed if we are to have one speed for one county, and another for another, and I earnestly ask your Lordships to consider my suggestion when the proper time comes, to add a proviso to the no-limit-of-speed clause that no motor-car driver should be allowed to exceed a speed of eight miles an hour when passing any group of houses or through a narrow lane. I turn to the section which deals with licensing. I cannot understand the reasons which the noble Lord gave on the First Reading for licensing professional drivers and exempting amateur drivers and the owners of the cars. If I remember rightly, he said that the Government exempted them because they believed that those who knew most about the cars, namely, the professional chauffeurs, were inclined to take greater risks than the ordinary amateur. But I think it can be proved with the greatest ease that the greater number of accidents have been caused by amateurs, and that a very large proportion of the summonses that have been issued have been served on the owners of cars.

It ought not to be permissible, in a great democratic country like this, that there should be one law for the rich and another for the poor, that there should be one law for the proprietor and another for his servant. I trust that His Majesty's Government will not only see their way to make the licensing universal, but will go further and say that before a certificate is issued to a driver there shall be a qualifying trial of skill in driving, and a test of knowledge of the component parts of the motor-car. In touching for one moment on Clause 6, which deals with the penalties, I would express the hope that imprisonment will be left out as regards the first penalty and a severer fine imposed instead. Again, I would suggest that on a second or subsequent conviction, the withholding of the licence, added to a fine, should be peremptory for a certain period. The Bill must be framed in such a way as to make it acceptable to everyone, and I hope that consideration will be given to the points to which I have called attention.


My Lords, I am not a motorist myself, but I have been asked by the Automobile Club, and those very much interested, to say a few words with regard to this Bill. I join with the noble Marquess who spoke first in his contention that the safety of the public comes first. The principle of the Bill, that upon the driver should fall the responsibility of using his motor car wisely, is a sound one, and if he does not do so he should be severely fined. The Marquess of Granby touched upon the commercial aspect of this matter, and I ventured the other day to address a few words to your Lordships from this point of view. There is no doubt that if you put a severe restriction upon motorists and those who build motor-cars in this country, you will hamper that industry, which is now being "cut" and encroached upon by foreign manufacturers, The noble Marquess expressed the hope, in referring to the motor race in Ireland, that that would be the last race that would be held on the roads of the United Kingdom. That was my own opinion before the race took place, and that was the very reason why I went over to see it. I am not now alluding to the day of the race but to the traffic on the several previous days. I live on the road which these motor-cars traversed, and I own two villages on that road, and I can testify to the fact that no one was hurt. The noble Earl mentioned the question of dust. The dust did not seem to hurt the people in Ireland. They rather welcomed the hurry, bustle, and confusion in that quiet part of the country; and there was a good deal of money left behind, which is, of course, the material consideration.

I quite agree that all who drive motor-cars should be licensed, females as well as males. I should like to say a word with regard to the large number of motor-cars, motor bicycles, and bicycles on the Brighton road upon a certain day, which were referred to by the Earl of Camperdown. I do not know whether the noble Earl differentiated between motor-cars, motor bicycles, and bicycles, but certainly bicycles are for the convenience of the public, and I should think there were more of these than of motor-cars amongst them. Another point which the noble Earl dealt with was that of reckless driving. I was glad to see that he did not damn the Bill altogether. I am glad the Bill has been brought in, and I hope it will stop reckless driving. There is a provision in the Bill that every car is to be numbered, and that, I think, will put an end largely to reckless driving The noble Earl opposite told some interesting stories about the proceedings at the Epsom Police Court yesterday. With regard to the story he mentioned of the cyclist and the revolver, I would observe that if the cyclist had hit the motorist and killed him he would have been hanged.


That question was put to him, and he said he was not the least likely to hit the man unless he shot at him. He said that if the motorist was in the country where he came from he would have had a bullet in his head.


The question of the speed limit is the crux of the whole matter. Is it not better for the local authorities to decide in what parts of their counties certain speeds are to be allowed, and that the Local Government Board should then, under their rules, deal with those recommendations, rather than that a speed should be fixed in the Bill? The noble Earl opposite suggested a speed limit of twenty miles. This suggested limit of twenty miles emanates from a meeting held in Committee Room No. 13 on 9th July.


No, it does not.


I have a report of the proceedings in my hand. At that meeting there was only one gentleman who owned a motor-car, and I suppose those present wished to have this limit inserted, not from any feeling against the Bill, but from a feeling against motorists. I now come to the Bill itself, and I may say that there are a great many things that those interested in motor-cars wish to see altered. In Clause 1, for instance, the word "reasonably" might very well come before the words "be expected"—that is, with reference to the traffic which might reasonably be expected to be on the highway. With regard to the power given to the police to apprehend offenders without a warrant, I wish to know what is to become in such cases, of the car. Even where there is a second individual in the car it may happen that he is unable to drive it. I think the clause which deals with the numbering of the cars is a most useful one. There is another question I should like to ask—What will be the result of enabling the Court to take licences away? A doctor who uses a motor-car for professional purposes may, I suppose, find himself deprived of the vehicle in which he goes about to his patients. With regard to speed, I am of opinion that there is no such thing as a safe speed limit. Twenty miles is suggested as a limit. But how can a car go down a hill with a steep gradient without exceeding that limit? A speed limit would make it almost impossible for people to drive motor-cars at all. With regard to the provision enabling the councils of county and county boroughs to make special regulations as to speed at certain dangerous places, I hope all these circumstances will be investigated by the Local Government Board before the regulations are sanctioned. The clause relating to the weight of cars does not, I am instructed, meet the wants of commercial people who build heavy motors; they would prefer to see a higher maximum of weight than the Bill proposes, say a maximum of seven tons or more. Clause 8 provides that motor-car drivers are to be male servants for the purposes of inland revenue, and I wish to ask if the owner of a motor-car will have to pay a duty on the male servants as well as paying for a licence. I hope your Lordships will give the Bill a Second Reading, and that in Committee the various points to which I have directed attention will be fully considered.


My Lords, I associate myself generally with the remarks and criticisms of previous speakers, but I desire to say one or two words with reference to the licensing of drivers of motor-cars. It is the feeling of the public that some steps should be taken to insure that the drivers of motor-cars shall be persons competent to deal with these complicated machines. It is done in France, and therefore I imagine that the difficulties with regard to the conducting of examinations can be overcome. It has been represented to me that people cannot become efficient motorists unless they practice on the public roads. I was talking to an expert to-day on that subject, and he informed me that at nearly all the large motor establishments they have places where people can be taught to drive motor-cars, so that that is a difficulty that can also be overcome. Unless a test is imposed we shall see motor-cars driven about by boys of ten or twelve years of age as soon as cheap second-hand machines become obtainable. In regard to the suggestion that a speed limit should be insisted upon when motor-cars pass through certain populous places, I ask how notices are to be made visible at these places at night. Signal lamps, of course, would be very expensive. I think it will be necessary to deal with this question by means of some general law establishing a speed limit in populous places. I have a letter in my hand from a Scottish minister telling me that in all cases where there has been anything like a motor-car accident in his village the drivers have tried to escape. I would ask whether it would not be possible to stop them by sending on a telegraphic message, and to adopt some summary procedure for the recovery of damages. I understand that the poultry of this country is being quite decimated, and I think it is a very serious matter for poor cottagers that they should have their poultry destroyed. In a case where the owner is in the car, I think he should be held responsible for any contravention of the law, and not the driver, who is his servant.


My Lords, it seems to me that there are two points with reference to which the safety of the public is not sufficiently provided for in this Bill. One is the registration of cars. It seems to me absolutely necessary that no car should be registered for running on any of the public roads, or licensed or permitted to run on any public road which is dangerous essentially from its own construction. We have heard from the noble earl, Lord Mayo, that it is impossible to go at less than twenty miles an hour downhill—on some particular motor-cars, I presume the noble Earl meant. I think it is absolutely necessary for the public safety that no car should be licensed to go on any set of roads unless it can be shown that it is perfectly under control on the roads in that part of the country. Another point in which the public safety seems to me insufficiently provided for is the interregnum in respect of speed. The present law as to speed is abolished by Clause 5, except in cases in which the local authority continues it, but the clause does not provide that the local authority must consider it. It is only permissive, and years might pass during which the local authority had done nothing, and the public is absolutely deprived of all the safety that a speed limit implies. When I read the explanation given by Lord Balfour in introducing the Bill, it seemed to me that this clause must be an exceedingly good one, and very well devised for the safety of the public. But then I understood it to be that the existing speed limit remained in force, unless abolished by the local authority, over all the roads, or over some of the roads, or some parts of some of the roads under their control. In other words, it seems to me that the abolition of a speed limit automatically by the Bill is a danger to the public, and if I do not ask the House to divide on the Second Reading it will be on the understanding that the existing law of speed shall not be automatically abolished but shall only be abolished when its abolition or modification is asked for by the local authority, and is arranged for between the local authority and the Local Government Board.


My Lords, I have listened with great attention to the interesting debate we have had to-night on this subject, and your Lordships will perhaps think it desirable that some Member of the bench on which I sit should express an opinion on this subject. I am distinctly in favour of the Second Reading of this Bill. I cannot agree with a noble Lord who said that this is simply a measure to protect a growing industry. The Bill is one to make our highways safe for the public who have a right to be upon them; and while ensuring this safety it is not designed to do an injustice to an industry which we all want to see prosperous and successful. A few years ago we used to hear of and meet a great many persons who wanted to put down the motor-car system of travel, and I have seen notices of Resolutions before County Councils, moved by important county magnates, with the object of putting such restrictions on motor-cars as would prevent them almost altogether from running. We have left that stage now. I am glad that that stage has been passed through. Motor-cars are with us and will remain with us, and it is acknowledged that they fulfil most useful functions and facilitate travel in a valuable way. But while that is so, we all feel the absolute necessity at the present moment of putting some check on reckless driving. The noble Lord who spoke from the Cross Benches (Lord Kelvin) alluded to a remark made by my noble friend Lord Mayo with regard to the impossibility of stopping the speed of motor-cars going down hill. My noble friend spoke on behalf of the Automobile Club, but I am afraid the argument he used was a most dangerous one from the point of view of that club, and if he had not, at the beginning of his speech, explained that he was not a motorist, a great point might be made against him on account of that observation.


I am told by a member of the Automobile Club that I was quite wrong.


I am glad to have that admission from the noble Earl. I think one of the things motor-ears are remarkable for is the extraordinary rapidity with which they can be stopped when running at a high speed. It is difficult, in a debate of this kind, which is of rather a technical character, not to go into details which more properly belong to the Committee stage, and I feel compelled to make a few general remarks which must, to some extent, touch on detail. One point to which I attach considerable weight is that not only professional drivers of motor-cars, but also the owners, should be compelled to have a licence. I quite agree that the most dangerous kind of driver is the amateur. The Bill provides that any driver, by payment of a shilling, can obtain a licence. No condition whatever is imposed in the Bill on the grant of a licence. I think that is a great mistake, and I should certainly say that every driver, amateur or professional, male or female, ought to be made to prove the possession of some qualifications before obtaining a licence. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill said that such a regulation would be an interference with the liberty of the subject, and that as we do not deal in that way with drivers of horsed vehicles there is no reason for doing so in the case of motor-cars. But everybody who is fond of horses will admit that though occasionally you have to deal with a runaway and a horse which is difficult to drive, yet, on the whole, horses are a great assistance to the driver and are not so dangerous as motor-cars, which have no sense or intelligence. I think it is not impossible to deal with this matter in the Bill, for I can quote the practice in regard to the licensing of bicycles in Germany and of motor-cars in France in support of my contention. It seems to me only legitimate to impose some sort of qualification on those who receive licences.

I am not one of those who think we can exclude motor-cars from the roads. Some people argue that there should be special roads for motor-cars, but I cannot give any support to that view. We had a wealth of illustration from my noble friend Lord Camperdown with regard to the terrible inconvenience that arises from the dust created by motor-cars going at a high rate of speed. There are other inconveniences connected with motor-cars on highways. But with regard to the question of dust, a friend of mine was telling me the other day that in one part of the country the owners along a particular road had been obliged to go to the expense of having regular water carts in order to avoid the great nuisance which the rush of motor-cars had caused. I rather regret some of our modern legislation. No doubt in some ways the abolition of turnpikes has been a great convenience; but at times I think that the system was not at all an unfair one of raising money for the upkeep of the roads, and I almost wish that turnpikes still existed as far as motor-cars are concerned. They might possibly run through a turnpike now and then, but certainly the system would afford greater facilities than obtain now for dealing with cases of improper speed. One thing in the Bill which I find exceedingly unsatisfactory is the want of uniformity of regulations in different parts of the country, which will prevail if it passes in its present form. Motor cars, as we are all perfectly well aware, are driven enormous distances in the course of a few hours, several counties, perhaps, being traversed during one drive, and if those counties all have different regulations as to speed in different places it seems to me that a great difficulty will be put in the way of motor-cars, and the safety of the public will be endangered. I think, therefore, that some general regulations ought to be made, applicable to the country as a whole. On the other hand, I admit that it is exceedingly dangerous to have any regulations which cannot in practice be applied, and that is the condition of affairs at the present time. I hope the Bill will pass the Second Reading, and that it may be strengthened and made more workable by Amendment in Committee.


My Lords, I certainly have no reason to complain of the tone of the discussion which has taken place at this stage of the Bill, and I think I may say that there is almost universal agreement on the part of every speaker that there is a case for legislation somewhat upon the lines of the present Bill, though there are differences of opinion in regard to details. There is no doubt whatever in the mind of any noble Lord who has spoken that the time has come when a very earnest effort should be made to pass a Bill dealing with this matter, and I do not apprehend, especially after the observations of the noble Earl who has just sat down, that there will be any desire to divide against the Second Reading. Therefore I shall not go at all into the general arguments which have justified His Majesty's Government in attempting to deal with this intricate, and, I am I bound to say, difficult subject. I regretted to hear the noble Marquess who spoke first say that he was not so satisfied with the Bill as he had been with my explanation of it. I certainly hope that I did not mislead him; if I did I can only assure him I did not intentionally do so, and he cannot have been long in a state of uncertainty, because the Bill was circulated with a celerity which is unusual in your Lordships' House. The speech of the noble Earl who spoke next seemed rather an argument in favour of dealing with the subject generally upon the lines adopted in this Bill, for nearly everyone of the lamentable instances which he quoted would have been much more easy to deal with if the measure had been in operation, and if there had been some convenient means of identifying the persons who broke the law or committed the offences against good taste complained of.

I think I may say that all the points which have been raised in this debate are points which are more appropriate to the Committee stage. On the other hand, I am bound to say that I agree with the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition that it is a matter of great convenience that those of us who are responsible for the Bill should know, at any rate generally, the sort of points which are likely to be raised at the subsequent stage. I shall not trespass at great length on the time of the House, but will indicate generally the opinions which His Majesty's Government hold in regard, at any rate, to the most important points which have been touched upon by the noble Lords who have spoken. It has been urged that there is no reason to distinguish in the matter of licensing between the man who drives a car for amusement, and the man who drives for fee or reward. I clear that out of the way at once by saying that His Majesty's Government are willing to accept that suggestion and to alter the Bill in conformity with the suggestion which has been made from so many different quarters, and at the Committee stage I will undertake to put an Amendment on the Paper on behalf of the Government to deal with that point.

Closely allied to the question of licensing is the question of granting certificates of efficiency. I ventured to say the other day that we did not intend the licence to imply a certificate of efficiency. If it were possible by any system of examination that the certificate would be a real guarantee of efficiency there would be much to be said for the proposal; but there are very grave practical objections in the way, which have influenced His Majesty's Government I am sanguine enough to hope that they may influence the minds of noble Lords who seem at first sight to be attracted by the idea, and I will endeavour to put them before the House in order that they may be deliberately considered before we come to the next stage. This is not a thing which in our present position could be effectually done by the central authority. I venture to think that it would not be possible to ask every owner of a motor-car to come to London with his machine, or even to a number of centres, to be examined and passed. I do not think that that will be seriously contested. I am quite aware that that is the system, generally speaking, in France. It is done, I know, under a public authority—under the Minister of Works—but we in this country are not accustomed to be governed quite in the same way as the French people, and the Local Government Board has not agents—and no other Government Department has agents—spread all over the country who can take a paternal interest in the affairs of those who wish to become motor-car drivers.

I am bound to say that I was much struck, as I am sure all of your Lordships were struck, by one suggestion made by Lord Kelvin—whose high authority in these matters entitles him to express an opinion which would have great weight with your Lordships—that no car should be allowed on the highway which was not of a safe and proper type. It is not a suggestion which has been made before, and I am bound to say that I think there would be great difficulty in carrying it out It is a very different proposal from that of a certificate of efficiency. I have been told by those who have obtained certificates in France that the examination is not a very practical test or well carried out. The process, as it was described to me, is this. The Prefect or Sub-Prefect mounts the car and tells the candidate to go forward, to stop, to go backward and to stop, and then to illustrate what he knows of the machinery. A couple of unmounted photographs are then produced, and one pasted on the certificate of the driver and the other kept in the Sub-Prefect's office. I can hardly think that noble Lords who are chairmen of County Councils can be expected to go through this performance with every car in their district which has to be licensed. At the present time the County Councils have not officers who can undertake this work, and if each Council is to have an examination of its own, uniformity of test will be lacking and the incompetent candidates will go to the districts where the examination is least severe. It will be impossible to exercise any check upon the quality of the certificates. Then, again, there are various kinds of cars and a man may be competent to drive one type of car and incompetent to drive another. Is the certificate to be limited to the car on which he shows his powers?


Personally I think the certificate should undoubtedly be limited to the car which the holder has shown himself capable of driving.


If the noble Earl is really bitten with the practicability of the idea, I venture to suggest that the best course for him to take will be, after considering the suggested difficulties I am putting forward, and after taking such advice as is open to him, to let me see a clause drafted by him for carrying out his suggestion. That will be the time for considering whether a practical, business-like assembly like your Lordships' House will go into a venture of that kind. The Local Government Board have kept a record of many of the accidents that have occurred, and there is no sort of suggestion that the cause of the accidents has been the incompetence of the drivers. Accidents arise much more from recklessness and from taking risks which the drivers ought not to take than from want of skill; and even the most competent man may sometimes lose his nerve. For these reasons I believe that a certificate of competency would be a very difficult thing to provide for in practice, and that it would be a delusion and a snare rather than a protection to the public. As to the responsibility of owners, upon which point some stress was laid by the noble Earl opposite (Lord Camperdown), I am quite sure that no one will suggest that the owner should be held responsible for a driver unless he is with him, or unless he has aided and abetted the driver's offence. I would ask noble Lords who think that the present Bill is not strong enough in respect of the liability of the owner to look at Section 5 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act of 1848, under which I am informed responsibility is distinctly laid upon the principal if he aids and abets his agent in the commission of an offence, and therefore under that Act the punishment would be the same for the owner as for the driver. I will verify that before the Committee stage. The information was given to me earlier in the day, and I have not myself had time to verify it, but it came from the Local Government Board, and I believe it is accurate. The licensing of all drivers will, I hope, prove a really important check, because it will enable the owner or amateur driver of a car to be punished in a very practical way without being actually sent to prison, because if his licence is endorsed or forfeited he will be prevented from driving the car which he has purchased, probably at a large cost. I understood the noble Earl who spoke from the Cross Benches to suggest that the method of dealing with the rate of speed in Clause 5 was not a very good one. I understood him to wish that more power should be given to local authorities, independent of the Local Government Board.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I had no intention of conveying any such impression. I wished to know which would be the supreme authority, and I expressed the hope that the Local Government Board would make one hard and fast rule as to speed in passing groups of houses and through narrow lanes.


Under the Bill the speed limit is to be abolished except for those districts in which the local authority desire it to be maintained, and there it can be fixed at fourteen miles an hour or less. The actual supremacy in the matter will remain with the Local Government Board, and the initiative with the local authority. I think that is the proper division of duties, because there is great force in the contention that you ought not to have ever varying rules of speed in a drive, say, of twenty-five miles. The simpler you can make the law the more likely it is to be observed. The idea of the Bill is to throw the onus of reckless driving on the driver of the car, and to have a much narrower limit of speed in places where there is a real justification for it. Lord Rosslyn suggested a limit of eight miles an hour. My experience of making by-laws, both for motor-cars and bicycles, would lead me to say that in very many cases that is too narrow a limit. Even in crowded districts I think a motor-car can safely be allowed to go as fast as a horse drawn vehicle; and of the two the motor-car is probably infinitely more under control, and I think that on the whole the provision in the Bill as it stands is better than any of the suggestions which have been made in regard to that particular point. A suggestion was made by my noble friend Lord Camperdown which I understood to be in the introduction of a new clause for the purpose of allowing cars which can travel only at a limited speed to be exempted from the regulations for numbering and lettering. The class of car to which the noble Earl no doubt alluded is that known as the electric brougham, of which one sees so many about the streets. I am bound to say that such a provision was, indeed, inserted by the Government in one of the drafts of the Bill, but a very grave practical objection was at once pointed out by the police authorities and others who have the experience of regulating the traffic in the streets. In the absence of any mark of identification, how can you say whether an unmarked vehicle is legally unmarked or not? The police would have in many instances to interfere with every car which was unmarked in order to find out whether it was legally entitled to the exemption. What the Government think is the better way, and what they desire to do, is to register every vehicle, but by regulations to modify the form of mark which may be necessary on this class of vehicle. I am willing at the same time, on behalf of the Local Government Board, to give a pledge that if the subject is left in their power the most serious consideration will be given to the proposal which has been submitted. If a vehicle is registered and marked so as to be identifiable I am advised that the Department believe they may be able to allow in the case of low speed vehicles a mark of a much less conspicuous nature than those marks attached to the high speed class.


Can it be done under the Bill as it now stands?


I am informed that it can be done. That, at any rate, is the intention, but if there is any doubt on the point I will accept an Amendment to make it perfectly clear. But I take it that those who are interested in this particular class of vehicle will remember that if a vehicle is built to run at twelve miles an hour on a level road, it must have a reserve power of speed to go up a hill, and care must be taken that this reserve power shall not be used to drive the car at a greater speed on a level road. I only mention this to show how desirable it is to leave a small point of that kind to be dealt with under a flexible and elastic system by means of regulation by the Local Government Board, rather than by a stereotyped and hard and fast rule in a section of the Bill. A good deal has been said about the speed limit. My noble friend Lord Camperdown suggested, as I understood him, a limit of twenty miles an hour. The noble Marquess who spoke first to night was unable to suggest any alternative to that in the Bill. If it had not been for the remarks which were made by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition upon the statement of Lord Mayo, I should have ventured to point out the very matter to which he took exception, and to show how the argument that a machine going twenty miles an hour along a level road must go faster down hill gave away the whole case for allowing that class of machine to go unrestricted on our roads But, of course, we know quite well that however fast a machine can go it can be effectively controlled by the man who is driving it.

Nearly all the difficulties in connection with this subject centre round the question of the speed limit. Some people say there must be a limit. The subject was carefully considered at various stages during the preparation of the Bill, and ultimately we decided the question in the negative, and we decided it upon this ground, that whatever limit is chosen must in some circumstances be excessive, and must in others be unduly restrictive. I believe it passes the wit of man to fix any limit which shall not be excessive under some circumstances and unduly restrictive in others. I believe that much of the difficulty which now exists is because there is a cast-iron limit which is too low for present purposes, and which no one respects. I venture to think that it will be a very serious departure from the principles on which the Bill is framed if either this House or the other House of Parliament imposes a speed limit in the Bill. I do not say that it will be destructive of the measure, but, as at present advised, I do say that it will require very much stronger reasons than have yet been advanced to induce the Government to depart from the position they have taken up. The noble Earl himself indicated one of the reasons. He said that a maximum speed would be considered a kind of charter within which drivers would be entitled to regulate their speed. But the Government did not wish to give any charter of that kind. We want to make it abundantly clear that the responsibility for the speed, whatever it may be, rests upon the man who drives the car. I believe that to be not only the simplest and the easiest to enforce, but the most satisfactory and most flexible condition to impose.

What is excessive speed must, it seems to me, be decided by circumstances. Obviously what is excessive speed at one time of the day in any of the thoroughfares might not be excessive at another time; and I hope that before Parliament makes up its mind to alter the Bill in that respect the gravest and the most careful consideration will be given to the subject. Some of those who are enemies of this form of traffic may like it; some police authorities may even like it as affording them an easy way of, so to speak, enforcing the law and catching evil doers. They may measure a piece of road and time a car from one end to the other, but what good do they do by that? Perhaps it is a perfectly straight road where the driver can see hundreds of yards ahead; perhaps it may be the very safest part of the road over which the car may travel, and yet all the energies of the police and the local authorities are concentrated on these easy level portions, while observation at the cross-roads and the populous places is neglected because they know they are less likely to catch an offender at these places than on the portions of the road along which it is perfectly safe to travel. I am bound to say that a great deal of the present difficulty—and it has been frankly recognised from all quarters of the House to-night—has arisen because of the want of consideration for others shown by a certain number of those who use the cars. If only we could impress upon those drivers that it is not enough in these matters to obey the letter of the law, but that there is a courteous rule of the road and a consideration for others which it is absolutely necessary to observe, I believe that a great deal of the difficulty would disappear. It is because I know that there is a certain class who will not give effect to these considerations unless they think they are likely to be found out, that I attach importance to an easy means of identification. It is to that kind of consideration that I pin my faith for making the Bill work well.

I agree in thinking that a large portion of the roads in this country are not constructed so as to be suitable for these exhibitions of very high speed. Many motor-cars go faster than many express trains, certainly faster than many trains in the south of London, and this on roads where there are many turns and crossroads, no safeguards, and no signals or appliances such as tend to make railway travelling so safe. How are we to reconcile what is reasonable freedom with the punishment of those who drive at an excessive speed and ought to be punished? I believe that this end can only be attained, with fairness to all interests, by some such proposals as are contained in this Bill. I hope that these considerations will weigh with the House and induce your Lordships to pass the clauses of the Bill relating to rate of speed on the same lines, at any rate, as those on which they are framed. I pledge myself and those who are interested in this Bill to give the most reasonable, most fair, the most candid consideration to any proposals, from whichever quarter they may come, for improving this measure on the main lines on which it is drafted. Exception has been taken during the course of this debate to the limit of weight proposed in the Bill. I believe the noble Earl behind me was correct in saying that in some of our large towns—in Liverpool, for instance—a great desire has been expressed for a slight increase of the limit as to the weight of these light locomotives. Your Lordships may disabuse your minds of this, that it is the racing fraternity who want an increase in the weight. Those who are hampered by the present limitation of weight are those who are using these machines for industrial purposes.

With regard to the question raised by the noble Marquess who spoke first, whether the licence will be suspended pending an appeal, all I can say at present is that the suggestion is well worthy of consideration, if there is reasonable limit of time for the trial of the appeal. My noble friend Lord Camperdown inquired whether motor bicycles were included in this Bill. Most certainly they are included under the first section of the principal Act of 1896, and in any case the point will be made clear before the Bill becomes law. The part of the Bill which deals with apprehension at sight will require very careful consideration; but I cannot hold out the hope that an aggrieved person shall be entitled to apprehend at sight the person who he thinks has aggrieved him. Free fights and police Court cases would be far more numerous if such a provision were sanctioned, and the Epsom Police Court would be an even more lively place on a Monday morning than it is at the present moment.


The power exists under the Highways Act.


I will look into that point, but I think the proper person to apprehend anyone is the person set apart for that purpose.


If he is there.


I sympathise with those who suffer from the excess of dust caused by the too rapid transit of motor-cars; but there must always be inconveniences as well as conveniences from living near great lines of traffic. I have endeavoured to take a real interest in this matter, which I believe to be of the greatest possible importance, and I assure the House that I shall do my best to make the Bill as acceptable as possible under the difficult circumstances


My Lords, I wish to take exception to a single point in the speech of my noble friend who has charge of this Bill—namely, with regard to the non possumus attitude he took up upon the question of requiring some proficiency on the part of the driver before he is granted a certificate. Even the arguments that were used by the noble Lord did not seem to be very convincing. They were founded, not on the undesirability of such a condition being required from a driver, but rather on the difficulty of enforcing it. The noble Lord asked who was to examine, and whether we expected chairmen of County Councils to go out in the motor-cars with the applicants for licences; and he suggested that it was not conceivable that owners and drivers of motor-cars were to come up to London in order to be examined. After all, these difficulties are difficulties which have to be got over. This is a new system of locomotion. The whole of the conditions with regard to it are new, and if it is necessary for local authorities to increase their staff and to adopt new methods of administration for the purposes of the new locomotion, then the local authorities must do so. The noble Lord was a little wrong in his description of how this is managed in France. It is not the case that drivers of automobiles are brought up to Paris to be examined. The examination takes place in all the great cities of France, and it is carried on there, as I think it might very well be carried on here, by the police. On the certificate is stated the class of car on which the examination took place, and, in addition, as the noble Lord said, in the corner of the certificate is placed the photograph of the driver. I do insist that it would be much more satisfactory to the country at large if some certificate of efficiency were given. It might not be a perfect one, but one that was not perfect would be better than none at all. After all, as much, if not more, knowledge is required to drive a motor-car than to drive an engine along rails. There is one other point with regard to the question of the speed limit upon which I should like to ask the noble Lord a question. I am with him that the enforcement of a speed limit is not desirable, but I want to know the exact position of County Councils in this matter. Will it be possible for a County Council to insist on a speed limit, say, of twelve miles, over its whole area, or will it be confined to urban districts? I do not think that point comes out clearly either in the Bill or from the speech of the noble Lord. I understood the noble Lord to say that the County Council or the local authority could name a speed limit within its area, and, provided that that speed limit was sanctioned by the Local Government Board, it would come into force.


The speed limit as it now exists is wholly abolished, except in populous or special places in the country, where, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, the present speed limit of fourteen miles or less is maintained. In other words, the onus of asking for the continuance of the existing system will rest, in the first instance, with the local authority, who will move the County Councils, who will move the Local Government Board to sanction that particular speed in a particular place.


What I wish to know is, would it be possible for a particular County Council which had a special hostility to automobiles to apply to have that speed over its whole area?


It would be possible to apply for it, but I cannot conceive the Local Government Board granting the application.


Do I understand that it would be possible to have over the whole country a patchwork of different speeds according to the desires of the different local authorities?


I agree with the noble Lord that the fewer variations of speed the better. I think that there should not be, except in very exceptional circumstances, a very low limit of speed prescribed. I hope it will be found possible to have only one limit of speed in the great majority of places, not exceeding eight or twelve miles—a speed at which a motor-car, properly constructed, will be at least as safe as any horse-drawn carriage in the same area.


That is exactly my suggestion. I think it would be far preferable to name in the Bill a particular speed for the places indicated. That, it seems to me, would be a very great improvement in the Bill, and I hope that the noble Lord, when we get into Committee, will consider an Amendment leading to that result.


I should like to ask the noble Lord whether, in the case of rural counties where a policeman is not very often to be found, and where motor-cars can go perfectly safely on long stretches of road, there should not be some general rule made by the Local Government Board that on approaching turns in the road, corners, or cross-roads, or inhabited districts, motor-cars should not travel beyond a certain speed. Motor-cars are becoming an absolute nuisance to the rural population in the country, and at the present moment it is almost impossible for farmers' wives or daughters to drive their husbands or fathers to the station, or go to fetch them, owing to the advent of the motor-car terror. I shall venture to move an Amendment dealing with this point when the Bill is in Committee.

On question, Bill read 2a.


I have had a consultation with noble Lords opposite as to the date when the Committee stage of this Bill shall be taken. It will be inconvenient for the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees to be in the House on Monday, and therefore, subject to the general convenience of your Lordships, I will place the Committee stage down for Friday next.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday next.