HL Deb 04 June 1924 vol 57 cc900-2

LORD NEWTON moved for a Return showing the regulations in force in the principal European countries with respect to the speed of motor cars The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that the Ministry of Transport offer no objection to producing this Return, but in fact are very glad to do so, although it will take some time to collect the information. In the meantime, I have obtained a certain amount of private information myself, which I believe to be more or less reliable, and as the question is of some general interest, perhaps I may be allowed to give a few instances.

In France there is no restriction to the speed of motor cars on the open road, but the speed must be reduced at night and in case, for instance, of fog. In towns and populous areas the speed is not allowed to exceed twenty kilometres, and is frequently reduced to a much lower figure. In Belgium the maximum speed is forty kilometres on the open roads, and fifteen kilometres in towns and villages. In Switzerland, where motor cars are not regarded with much favour, thirty kilometres is the maximum on open courtly roads, and in some districts the limit is as low as five. In Italy there is no speed limit on the open road, or regulations, and with regard to the towns and villages I am not aware of any limit. In Germany, on the open country roads, there is no speed limit, but in populous districts the maximum permitted is twenty kilometres per hour, and in many instances the maximum is not so high. These are not official statistics, but I believe them to be more or less accurate, and the countries named are those in which the circumstances are substantially the same as our own. I hope that the figures I have asked for will be forthcoming before long, because obviously they will be of considerable value. It is equally obvious we may be able to profit by the information we receive.

Moved, That there be laid before the House a Return showing the regulations in force in the principal European countries with respect to the speed of motor cars.—(Lord Newton.)


My Lords, I have great pleasure in supporting the request for a Return, but I observe that there is a great difference between the methods of enforcing the law in the countries to which the noble Lord has referred. The speed limit is never enforced in France, it is rarely enforced in Belgium and Italy, and in other places it is not enforced at all. In this country it is enforced in places. In fact, the speed limits are a farce to a large extent, and I have always, as your Lordships know, bean of opinion that we ought to rely in this country, as many other countries rely, upon the enforcement of the law against driving to the common danger. That is a more common sense method than the mere imposition of a speed limit. As to this Return, I think it would be more valuable if the Government saw their way to include in it, besides the speed limits, the number of prosecutions undertaken in each country in certain years and with- in certain limits. After all, a speed limit may be nominally on the Statute Book in France, but practically never enforced, and if you give in the Return only speed limits you may be giving a wrong impression and create a demand for a stricter enforcement of a speed limit which some of us hope will shortly be abolished.


My Lords, I do not wish to east any doubt upon the figures given to the House by the noble Lord. In fact, so far as the Ministry of Transport has information on the subject, their information rather agree than otherwise with what the noble Lord has said. As I said last Thursday, they have no official information on the subject. Such information as they have is gathered, as I rather think the noble Lord's information is gathered, from private sources, and I am not in a position officiallly to confirm those figures. With regard to the Return, the Ministry regard it as a very useful proposal. They will assist it in every way they can. I think information of that sort will probably have to be derived through the Foreign Office, and the process of obtaining the details may be rather more prolonged than perhaps the noble Lord might wish, but if he thinks he is not getting his information as soon as he ought I shall be most happy to hear any remarks he has to make upon that subject in the House. Therefore, I think I may say that the official answer to his Question is that the Return will, as soon as reasonably may be expected, be obtained.

I cannot help thinking, although upon this I have no instructions from the Ministry of Transport, that the additional information for which Lord Montagu of Beaulieu asked will be more difficult to obtain, but I will see what can be done at the Ministry of Transport about it. I realise the necessity and importance of what he says. In fact, it is only in relation to whether the regulations are given effect to that there is much importance in the information, because if you have information that there is a speed limit but nobody attends to it, and there are no prosecutions, you might as well do without the information altogether.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.