HL Deb 29 July 1908 vol 193 cc1374-93

rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether the question of motor-car legislation was being considered, and to call attention to the dust nuisance in country districts. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to a matter of considerable public importance. I am very sorry to detain your Lordships on this question at this period of the session, but I will make my remarks as short as I possibly can. It is useless to expect the Government to produce any legislation dealing with the motorcar question, in view of the large amount of work which Parliament has before it; but I submit that this question is at least as important as the proposal to get everybody out of bed an hour earlier between the 1st April and 1st September. That, however, may be a matter of opinion.

Your Lordships will remember that the Royal Commission reported in July 1906. Nothing was done during that session of Parliament, but a debate on the question was raised in your Lordships' House in July, 1907; when Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who I am glad to see in his place, said the use of the automobile was becoming less unpopular every day. I think that was a particularly fortunate time for introducing a discussion upon automobiles, because we had had a very wet summer, and the dust nuisance was not so apparent as it usually is at that time of the year. The noble Lord further said, I think, that he hoped legislation would not be produced in the dog days when the dust nuisance was at its highest and motor cars were not enjoying that popularity which perhaps they ought to enjoy. The question was again raised in March of this year when Lord Allendale informed your Lordships that no general legislation was contemplated.

I know, of course, that in calling attention to this matter nothing that I say can possibly injure the very powerful motor industry. It is only repeating a platitude to say that the introduction of motor-propelled traffic is in most cases good for the country at large, but, of course, it has its drawbacks. It has had a very bad effect on horse-breeding, and the displacement of a large number of horses will probably give serious cause for alarm to those who are interested in maintaining the armaments of this country; but there is one crumb of comfort to those interested in the horse question, and that is that the introduction of motor-cars has put an end to the breeding of the hackney horse, which has had such a deleterious effect on horse-breeding generally in this country.

I think your Lordships will agree with me that some legislation on this question ought not to be very long delayed. I venture to call attention to it because motorists have got every possible social and financial influence behind them. Their principal protagonist the noble Lord behind me (Lord Montagu of Beaulieu), has very properly been lifted to the dignity of big print in The Times, and consequently his views claim the attention of the nation, while the poor people who dwell by the roadside are, to the extent to which they are harassed by motor cars, dust, and so forth, really absolutely defenceless, and it is on their account that I wish to say one or two words on this subject this evening. As to motor 'buses in London, I think the people of London are quite able to take care of themselves. I do not propose to address myself to the motor bus question at all. Parliament has been already very influentially memorialised by those who dwell in the City, and it is to be hoped that something will be done in that matter. It is the country districts to which I particularly desire to call attention.

When we begin arguing about the dust nuisance and the danger, and so forth, the usual line of defence taken by motorists is tint it is only the wicked owner of motor cars, the scorcher and the inconsiderate man, who gives offence, and that they would willingly join the rest of the public in putting that down. That may be true with regard to many accidents, but the dust nuisance is absolutely inherent to the use of any kind of motor car. I think I shall not be overstating the case when I say that it is almost impossible for anybody, however philanthropic he may be, to drive a motor car on a dusty or muddy day without inflicting some annoyance and discomfort on somebody. And to that extent they are trying to adapt to the roads of this country a form of traffic which in their present state they are not intended to carry.

It is quite easy to produce figures to show that there have been an enormous number of accidents owing to motor cars being driven at a high rate of speed. I have had compiled from the newspaper reports of 1907 figures which show that 932 accidents resulted from motor traffic of all kinds, in which 215 people were killed. Accidents are inseparable, it is contended, from this kind of traffic, and will eventually become fewer and fewer. I may be asked what remedy I propose. Well, I have a suggestion to make. If the use of the horn or warning signal by motorists was for-bidden, they would have to take the same chance as drivers of horse vehicles; they would have to go much slower round corners and through populous places, and would not be able, by blowing a horn, to order everybody else out of the way. Their speed would be greatly reduced, they would have to pull up oftener, and they would be forced to be a, little more considerate of other people. I know what the answer to this argument is. It is said that if motorists were prevented from using the horn they would have continually to shout when coming behind a covered van or vehicle of that kind. But I have to shout when I am driving a horse vehicle, and why should not motorists? Personally I do not think there is such a great deal in that as many people try to make out.

As to the dust nuisance, we have some very telling evidence in the Report of the Royal Commission. A market gardener at Brentford said that the effect of the dust was to destroy the value of his produce, and other evidence of a similar kind was given by persons residing in the vicinity of the main roads. It is to the dust nuisance that Parliament ought, I maintain, to address itself very strenuously. There is no doubt whatever about the dust nuisance. It is abundantly complained of on all sides, and is admitted by motorists themselves. It would not be difficult to work up a case and to speak in language of emotion of the terrible scourge inflicted by motor traffic on roadside dwellers and cottagers on dusty days, and more particularly on Sunday afternoons, their only holiday. The Royal Commission declare that there is no doubt all at about the dust nuisance, and that it causes material damage, discomfort and annoyance to users of and dwellers by the highways.

The Royal Commission went on to say that there were three ways in which the dust nuisance might be mitigated—first by an alteration in the structure of the car; secondly, by the treatment of the roads: and, thirdly, by some regulation with regard to speed. I am not an expert in regard to the construction of motor-cars, Perhaps my noble friend Lord Montagu will be able to tell us something about that later. But I think it is not unfair to say that the motor car which does not raise dust when driven at twenty miles an hour remains yet to be invented. I think the same argument applies with reference to the remedy of treating the roads. It is in the first place an exceedingly expensive thing to carry out, and though tarred roads do not raise such clouds of dust as ordinary roads, they do raise black dust of a particularly venomous, hurtful, and mischievous kind. I do not think I am going too far when I say that, however thoroughly you may prepare the surface of the road, and however much money you may spend upon it, the enormous width of the steel-shod tires will wear through any specially-prepared surface in a comparatively short time. Therefore, I think we may dismiss that suggestion as impracticable.

There is no doubt whatever, if we are to place credence in the Report of the Royal Commission, that dust does increase in a corresponding ratio to the increase of speed, This is what the Commissioners say— Speaking generally, we came to the conclusion that at a speed below ten miles an hour the dust raised is comparatively slight, that it increases very greatly at from twelve to twenty miles an hour, and continues to increase, but in a smaller proportion, at higher speeds. It, therefore, follows that the dust nuisance is largely within the power of the motor driver to control if he be content to reduce the speed of his car to that of ordinary horse-drawn traffic. It is speed which, in my humble opinion is the real mischief. I do not want to recommend anything savage or Draconian with regard to the speed-limit, but there is no doubt whatever that dust will increase in corresponding ratio to the increase of speed. I am not going to propose that Parliament should require that anybody who has a motor car should go no faster than anybody who has a dogcart. That would be ridiculous and impossible to enforce. I was one of the few who went into the lobby in favour of the twenty miles per hour speed - limit, which was subsequently adopted by the other House, but it has been found impossible to enforce, that in the open between one village and another.

I do not wish to lecture any Member of your Lordships' House or anybody else. I may say that I have not got a motor car of my own, but have constantly been in one, and I am not sure whether breaking the law in somebody else's motor car is not more disreputable than breaking it in your own. But I do think that it is very deplorable that at this time of day society should have set itself to thwart and embarrass the police in the execution of their duty and in trying to enforce the law and obey the orders of their superiors. I think that to bring the Executive into discredit as has been done is a very regrettable thing indeed. It is no use for Parliament to attempt to pass a law if society generally has resolved not to obey it. You produce an impasse from which it is impossible to get out. But I do urge upon His Majesty's Government, most respectfully and most strongly, that if they would only let it be made clear that the central authority intends to enforce a reduction of the speed limit to something like ten miles an hour in villages and populous places, they would have the support of the whole of the better kind of opinion among both motorists and non-motorists, and would earn the thanks of the very much oppressed dwellers in country districts. This ought not to be difficult to do.

At the end of this Blue-book there is an extremely able report by the Secretary of the Royal Commission upon motoring in other European countries, and in every one of the countries mentioned there is a provision that motor-cars shall not go beyond a certain speed—the highest is twelve miles an hour—through villages and populous places. It may be said that this ought to be done by the local authorities. I believe the local authorities in several places have done what they can to mitigate this nuisance by placing notices outside the villages, but I think that in a very short time familiarity with the notices of the local authority without any extra penalty behind them will breed contempt, and that these notices, though possibly efficacious here and there for a short time, will soon come to be disregarded and will not have the same authority as they would have if placed there by the central Government. I ask the noble Lord whether he cannot send round some kind of requisition or instruction to each local authority to schedule all villages and populous places; but unless a more stringent penalty is enforced for driving through villages at a high speed, the dust nuisance will still continue and be just as bad as ever. Noble Lords opposite know quite well how to deal with local authorities who do not do their duty, and if they would only "ginger" the local authorities a little bit with regard to enforcing penalties and scheduling populous places in rural districts, their action would receive a, great amount of support.

Noble Lords who live in the country know that this is a very serious matter. It may be thought a trifling domestic affair, but it is a matter which is very likely to have a serious effect upon society at large. I am told, and I know from my own experience, that there is nothing which sets the poor against the rich and class against class so much as the practice of driving through their villages and smothering them with mud in the winter and dust in the summer. These people who live by the roadside have a right to be protected, and I trust that we shall hear that attention is being given to the matter by His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, this debate is very similar in tone to those we have had on two or three previous occasions on which I have had the honour to address your Lordships. But to-day we have had an able and conciliatory speech from the noble Lord, and with many of his conclusions, although I am a very keen motorist, I am bound to agree. I thoroughly agree as to the ill-feeling which might be caused between motorists and the general public, especially those who dwell along the roadside, by the inconveniences to which they are put; but, on the other hand, I am bound to say that the number of careful drivers is very largely on the increase. I think people offend in these matters more from thoughtlessness than anything else; but I have seen an immense improvement in this respect within the last year or two.

The Government are continually being given good advice from the parties interested on both sides. No doubt they can take care of themselves perfectly well. Everyone who has followed the Answers given by the President of the Local Government Board must be convinced that he is trying to find a solution to the question, and that pending a solution he is prepared to consider any suggestion that may be submitted to him. The noble Lord made one suggestion which, if he would extend it a little, I should be prepared to agree to. He said that there should be a reduced speed limit in villages and populous places. If he would add to that, that we might outside villages and populous places, where obviously there is no danger and no risk of life, exceed the twenty miles limit, we should be quite prepared to give that suggestion very careful and friendly consideration.

It is really in populous places, streets, and villages, where the danger and nuisance exist. There are a great many miles of main road in this country where no nuisance or danger can be said to arise except when you are meeting vehicles, and then every reasonable person—and I am glad to think they are in the majority—slows down. In the dog days we are apt to think that dust is always with us, but, as a matter of fact, a friend of mine at the Meteorological Office informs me that on the average there are only fifty dusty days out of the 365 in the year, or one in seven. Therefore, it is not so serious a question during the greater portion of the year, and I think more impartial consideration is likely to be given to the discussion of the subject if it takes place in February rather than in July.

As to accidents, everybody, of course, deplores them, but they are bound to occur with every kind of vehicle. Though I do not wish to say that motor vehicles are not driven sometimes much too recklessly, on the whole I do not think the motor car can really be called a dangerous vehicle. I made a rough calculation while the noble Lord was speaking of the number of miles which would be likely to be run in a year by motors and motor cycles. There are to-day, in this country, roughly about 60,000 motor-cars and 40,000 motor cycles. If anything that is an under-estimate. Let us assume that they run 100 miles a week apiece. On that basis they would run over 500,000,000 miles a year, which is a very considerable mileage, and the number of accidents is only about 1,000 a year. That is small in proportion. I am not such an efficient mathematician as to be able to work out the exact percentage, but it is very low indeed, and probably far lower than the percentage in the early days of railways. If one considers the great mileage run, I do not think the number of accidents, although deplorable, anything out of the way.

Then the noble Lord referred to the horn, and suggested that if horns were done away with there would be less furious driving and fewer accidents. I do not agree with him. All vehicles which go at any speed have a means of signalling their approach. Hansom cabs that were fitted with rubber tyres had to have bells on the harness; that was only another way of giving a signal to the public of their approach. The use of horns was prohibited in Paris, but the Paris authorities admitted that their abolition had not added to the safety of the public. I do not think that in the present state of our roads, with high fences at each side and children making mud-pies in the middle, it would be safe to do away with the use of the horn. Then there is also the difficulty in driving at night and meeting carmen asleep. I have often had the misfortune to meet sleeping carters whom it has been most difficult to wake. A sleeping driver on the road in the country is by no means rare. Then there are carriers' vans filled with clattering parcels, and the driver, with the best will in the world, is frequently not able to hear traffic approaching from behind. The abolition of the horn would lead, I am afraid, to a noisier form of engine, whereas the present tendency is to secure a quiet form.

The arguments for and against all these questions are so well known to your Lordships that I will not detain you upon them, but if the Government intend to bring forward any legislation on this subject, they ought to do so very carefully indeed. At the present moment the industry is not by any means in a flourishing condition, and any really drastic legislation would affect a large number of workers and a large amount of capital, and would strike a very serious blow at what is a great and growing trade. As regards dust, I have hopes that we are on the eve of a solution of this question. I have spent a good deal of time during the past year in visiting places where dust material has been put down on the roads, and I have come to the conclusion that a great deal of progress is being made in this direction. In a great many counties, notably in Hampshire, great portions of the villages, by public and private money, have been laid with dustless paving with excellent results, and I believe we shall in that way do a great deal to abolish the dust nuisance. We certainly should not stand in the way of the Government in the matter of fresh legislation. But while I do not think considerate motorists would oppose a reduced speed limit in populous places, they would ask for some relaxation in regard to those parts of the country where there is no danger, and also that the penalties under the Act of 1903 should be reconsidered and revised. The desire among motorists generally is to be considerate to the public and to minimise the nuisance which we are quite aware in some places we are guilty of creating.


My Lords, I have no reason to complain of this question having been raised again, or of the tone of the speech of the noble Lord who introduced it. If I have any complaint at all to make, it is rather that the question was not raised earlier in the session, as we have had a good many sittings occupied with only minor matters when we might have discussed this subject with advantage. To-day, however, there is a great deal of business on the Paper.

There was, as Lord Willoughby has reminded us, a debate op. this question earlier in the session, initiated by Lord Montagu, to which I had the honour of replying. That discussion dealt with another aspect of the question—that of the taxation of motor-cars—there being at the time some apprehension as to possible increased taxation being announced in the then forthcoming Budget. I intimated at the time that the Government were not contemplating any legislation during the present session amending the Motor Cars Acts. However, the Government and the Local Government Board have not lost sight of the question, nor of the fact that the existing Acts require amendment in many particulars. The working of these Acts is being considered. Although the noble Lord who raised this discussion did not allude to any personal grievance, he has, I know, a personal and justifiable grievance against motor cars, for a year or two ago serious damage was done to some very valuable horses. The noble Lord has my fullest sympathy as a hunting man.

As to the suggested abolition of the horn, I think it is the abuse of the horn or siren which has led to complaint. I quite agree with what fell from my noble friend Lord Montagu on this subject. I daresay your Lordships, in reading the reports of prosecutions for excessive speed or accidents, have noticed that the question is often asked: "Did he blow his horn?" Very often the driver is told that he ought to have blown his horn; and, if a man is nearly run over, one of the first things he says is: "Why on earth"—or something stronger—"did not you blow your horn, and let me know you were coming?" Therefore, with regard to the abolition of the horn, there are two sides of the question to be considered. The use of motor cars was, as your Lordships know, first made possible in this country by the Act of 1896, which was amended in many particulars by the Act of 1903. Heavier motors have been allowed, identification plates and registration insisted upon, and the speed limit raised to twenty miles an hour. It was felt then that the motor car industry was still in its infancy, and, in view of further legislation, a Royal Commission was appointed. Most of your Lordships are aware of the recommendations of this Commission.

The question of the speed limit is undoubtedly one of the most important dealt with by the Royal Commission; but, at the same time, the Royal Commission were by no means unanimous in their recommendations. On this question precisely opposite opinions are held by motorists and the general public, and I can only repeat that the matter is receiving the attention of the Local Government Board. Other business, however, has made it impossible to introduce legislation up to the present. The existing Act is, therefore, scheduled again in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. The Government are not without hope that the delay which is taking place in the introduction of legislation may meanwhile result in more general agreement being come to on many points in order that fresh legislation when passed may be permanent and not have to be tinkered with continually.

I should like to support what my noble friend Lord Montagu said, that there is not now so much opposition to motor cars as there was formerly, and that as a rule the drivers are much, more careful and the owners much more considerate than was formerly the case. Whatever may be the difference of opinion as to the speed on open roads, I think all reasonable persons will agree with Lord Willoughby that the greatest care should be exercised in populous places and when going through towns and villages. The local authorities have certain powers, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, of limiting the speed, and I understand that when this question of the continuance of the Motor Act was raised two days ago in another place the President of the Local Government Board intimated his intention of issuing a Circular drawing the attention of local authorities to the provisions of the existing law which may be put in motion in order to control the inconsiderate and dangerous use of motor cars. I am sure that if the noble Lord has any suggestions to make to my right hon. friend as to anything that could reasonably be embodied in this Circular, it will receive most careful consideration. The Local Government Board have certain drastic powers under the Act of 1903, but of course, they naturally do not take action until they are asked to do so by the local authorities. Speaking for myself, I certainly think that the minor authorities, the urban district councils and rural district councils, might also have power, without having to go to the county council, to schedule certain districts where motor traffic is dangerous. I should like to see the speed-limit considerably reduced in crowded and populous places, and in villages.

A good deal of the noble Lord's speech was taken up with the question of the dust nuisance. I do not think there can be any doubt in the minds of your Lordships that the dust nuisance is one of the greatest disadvantages of motoring, both to the general public and to motorists themselves, but there are, as the Royal Commission states, obvious difficulties in making dust production a statutory offence. As Lord Willoughby said, the dust nuisance is to a considerable extent aggravated by excessive speed. Then the question of road-making was alluded to. I think it is obviously impossible to have a uniform system in all localities. Various experiments have been tried, but, largely owing to the expense, they have been tried only on a small scale, and the attempt, has not been sufficient to secure reliable information. Anyhow, whatever system is adopted it must increase the cost of road-making considerably. The type of car has also been alluded to. Although some cars throw up more dust than others, I am afraid that any motor-car driven, even at a moderate speed, on a dusty road would throw up a considerable amount of dust.

There is to be a congress shortly in Paris to consider the subject of road construction, at which a number of experts from this and other countries will meet. One of the engineering inspectors of the Local Government Board has been deputed to attend on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and it is hoped that some information on this important subject may be forthcoming. As I have said, I have no complaint to make of this question having been raised. All I will say in conclusion is, that the whole development of motor traffic in this country is being watched with a view to supplementary legislation, and that I will represent the views which the noble Lord has put forward to the President of the Local Government Board.


My Lords, I cannot help feeling a little disappointed at the noble Lord's statement, because I think there is serious and urgent necessity for the protection of life in the Metropolis. I observed that both the noble Lord who raised this question and the noble Lord who followed him disclaimed any interest in London. They devoted the whole of their remarks to country districts. I am a Londoner; I see a great deal of what goes on in the streets of the Metropolis, and I cannot help thinking that it is a matter which urgently demands attention. It is impossible to doubt that a great number of people are deterred from ordinary circulation in London by reason of the state of the traffic in various streets. There are certain streets which it is manifest cannot be crossed without peril to life unless one has a policeman with him.

Although I have been a Londoner all my life, and am used to the streets, I find it difficult to cross some of them except at points at which are stationed the police, who so admirably discharge their duties. I walk a great deal; I always walk if I can, and from time to time I find a whole procession of motor vehicles on both sides of the road, following each other in rapid succession, and going at such a pace that to attempt to cross is a very rash thing. Surely this is not a question that need demand long deliberation before an end is put to the present state of things in the Metropolis. I can quite understand that there may be some difficulty in dealing with the question of dust, although in my opinion, I think the dust question might be solved very well by an indictment for causing a nuisance. But that is not the question which at present seems to be so urgent. As far as the cost of road construction is concerned, I think those who use the roads should be made to pay. My own view is that we shall have to go back to the old turnpike system. But, as I say, that is not what seems to me the most urgent matter.

Day by day one is struck by the number of accidents caused. A speed limit may be applied to vehicles travelling over a country road; but it would be absurd to apply the same limit to such thoroughfares as Piccadilly or the Knightsbridge Road at three o'clock in the afternoon. If there were no speed limit applicable to such streets, it would be clear that a driver would be responsible for travelling at a rate which was injurious to the public in the sense that it made it dangerous to pedestrians to cross the road. That view unfortunately was over-ruled, and it was determined to fix a speed limit; but I think everybody must be struck by the absurdity of making the rule apply equally to such places as Piccadilly and a country road.

There is another matter which seems to me to call for consideration. In regard to bicycles, the use of which by boys in the employ of traders has become general, it is not so much a question of the bicycle doing mischief, but a question of the cyclist dodging in and out and preventing the ordinary passenger using a crossing, because he has to calculate what will probably happen before he can reach the other side of the road, and before he had finished he would probably be run over. These are difficulties which exist in fact now, and to remit them to a general consideration of the whole motor industry and what may be done in country roads is small consolation to those persons who have to cross thoroughfares in London. It appears to me that some drastic measure is needed in respect of the mode in which motor cars can be driven on London streets.

I rather doubt the value of the motor horn in this respect. I think it acts as a deterrent against people crossing the road, and the effect is that the horn-blowers have established a reign of terror. It is all very well to say they have no right to drive you off the road, but people do not wish to try the experiment at the risk of their lives; they therefore have recourse to the ignominious expedient of running out of the way. I think the public convenience in that matter ought, to be considered, and I am very much disappointed that this should only be the subject of contemplation by the proper authorities. I should have thought that something for the convenience of the public could have been done at once, and that the other and remoter questions might be left for future consideration. It appears, however, that until the number of accidents reaches a still larger figure and exceeds what is considered a fit proportion in comparison to the number of miles run, nothing will be done. I protest against its being supposed that nothing is to be done, and that the state of the London streets is to be permitted to continue as at present.


My Lords, I have not much to add to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Montagu, but I should like to call your Lordships' attention to one or two general considerations of this question which I think are perhaps a little lost sight of. First of all, I suggest that the figures which were given by Lord Willoughby de Broke of the number of persons killed should be accepted with a good deal of reserve. They were, as the noble Lord said, extracted from the newspapers, and I think your Lordships ought to be assured that they did not include accidents from traction engines and tramcars and vehicles of that kind. Your Lordships will no doubt remember that before the Royal Commission many instances were brought forward of supposed deaths from motor car accidents which were reported in the newspapers, but the accuracy of which the local police, on being approached, denied. In one case a large motor car was said to have crushed a man to death in Oxford Street; but the Commissioner of Police said he had heard of no such accident and no man had been killed. Therefore, I suggest that the figures taken from the newspapers should be accepted with reserve.

Much has been said as to the abolition of the horn. I think it might make careful men drive more carefully, but the drivers who are to be feared are the reckless and inconsiderate drivers. They would not, I am afraid, be led to drive any slower in consequence of the abolition of the horn, but would be inclined to take the risk. Personally, if I were coming to a cross road, at whatever speed I was approaching it, I should not think that I was doing my duty without sounding the horn; and I think the abolition of the horn would place people in a danger they need not be placed in.

As to the question of speed, I think the noble and learned Lord opposite has sounded the right note. You will not attain public safety by imposing any artificial limit of speed, because when traffic is congested ten miles an hour is as ridiculous a speed as twenty miles an hour. It is not wise, I venture to think, to distract people's attention from that which should always be present to their minds—driving safely, having regard to the traffic, the state of the road, the condition of the car and the amount of control over it—by directing their attention to any artificial limit of speed. It may be perfectly safe in many streets in London at certain times of the day to drive at fifteen miles an hour, and it may be extremely dangerous in other streets to drive at four miles an hour. It is quite true, as the noble Lord opposite has said, that it is difficult to cross a continuous line of traffic, but I suggest that that is not a characteristic of motor cars alone. The same thing might have been observed in the early morning on the Embankment before motor cars became so fashionable, when City men were driven to business, and I am afraid that that is really an incident not of motor cars but of the ordinary congestion of traffic. It could, of course, be overcome by making it the law that the driver of a motor car should stop if a pedestrian desiring to cross held up his hand. Personally, I should not think of interfering with the progress of a pedestrian who had begun to cross, but should give him plenty of time.

Lord Montagu is right when he says that the proportion of considerate drivers has very largely increased, and is continually increasing. Your Lordships, I am sure, will not, lose sight of the fact that the three largest organisations to which motorists belong are continually impressing on their members the necessity not only of safe driving, but of considerate and courteous driving. That is being done by example, by individual cases of discipline, and by the issue of pamphlets and circulars. The drivers' organisation is also directing its attention to the same subject.

As to the suggested speed of ten miles an hour, I think the Local Government Board ought to reflect that that is not, as a rule, a reasonable speed. Figures were placed before the Royal Commission which showed that a horse-drawn omnibus in Victoria Street, Westminster, was going at a speed of thirteen miles an hour, that hansom cabs travelled at a speed as high as sixteen miles, and that tramcars went at sixteen and seventeen miles an hour. I submit that a tramcar, which is on rails and cannot swerve, travelling at seventeen miles an hour is almost necessarily more dangerous than a light motor car travelling at that speed. If rates of speed are to be fixed, I would suggest, in the interests of having them observed, that they should be fixed at some reasonable rate. Ten miles an hour is almost impossibly slow for an ordinary motor car. It appears hardly to be moving. Those of your Lordships who drive in the Royal parks, where the speed of ten miles is rigidly enforced, know perfectly well that you are constantly passed by hansom cabs and even by four-wheelers. I think your Lordships will see that that is putting a very considerable strain on human nature.

Then with regard to the dust problem, what can be done in the way of speed and of construction is, I fear, only in the nature of a palliative. A pair-horse van ambling along at six miles an hour on a dusty road will cause a large cloud of dust to rise. I fear that the tarring of the roads would also be only in the nature of a palliative. I do not think the noble Lord who initiated this discussion was quite right when he said that the effects of tarred roads were injurious. If they were, it is strange that those who live in villages should themselves subscribe to the cost of tarring the roads. The real remedy, I venture to suggest, is to put the main roads under a central board and to assist them with national money—to create in this country something corresponding to the routes nation-ales in France. The real remedy is to adopt the suggestion made by two Departmental Committees and one Royal Commission—to make these main roads a national charge and to construct them in the best possible way. A good many experts have said that if once a road is made up in a proper and satisfactory manner the cost of maintenance will be enormously reduced, and I venture to think that that will be the ultimate remedy for the dust nuisance.


My Lords, I want very strongly indeed to support the general contentions which were put forward by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Halsbury). The noble Earl who has just sat down talked about considerate drivers. The difficulty is, when you want to cross the road, that you do not know whether the driver is going to be considerate or not, and you do not find out that he is inconsiderate until you have been run over, and that is rather late. I think the noble Earl must have been fortunate in his choice of four-wheel cabs. My experience of them, and I go about a good deal in them, is that they never exceed the limit of ten miles an hour. I think that statement, if I may use a colloquial expression, is rather too thin to be of much weight in a discussion of this kind. The noble Earl used the expression, "Driving with safety, having regard to the circumstances of the traffic." I think that is a rather dangerous provision, because it is generally the more experienced driver who takes the greater risks. Many of those who are skilful think that they can take great risks, and, though they may succeed many times, when they fail there are usually lamentable results. But I rose for the purpose of expressing my hearty sympathy with the suggestions made by the noble and learned Lord. I think that the Commissioner of Police, who has considerable powers in this matter, should be stirred up to action in regard to motor traffic, and, if he has not sufficient power, he should be armed with powers to place trusted members of the police force on the watch at certain points in London and to prosecute drivers guilty of reckless acts.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down threw some doubt on the statement that hansom-cabs and four-wheelers go more than ten miles an hour. The other day I was going along the Mall at, according to a very accurate speedometer, twelve miles an hour, when a hansom cab ran away from me. I desire to repudiate the suggestion that the more skilful a driver the more risks he takes. In my experience, the more skilful the driver, the more he appreciates the dangers of the road and the more considerate he is to the public.