HL Deb 14 May 1924 vol 57 cc413-32

LORD LAMINGTON rose to call attention to the large number of street accidents that take place in London, and to ask whether accidents occur chiefly in crowded areas or in any special locality, also on any particular day of the week. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in bringing this matter to the attention of your Lordships I should like to quote some figures that I have worked out from past records and Reports to Parliament. In 1909 the number of fatal accidents in the Metropolis was 287 and in the City 16—making 303. Of this total 171 were due to motor vehicles and bicycles— "mechanically propelled vehicles" is, I think, the official term. In that year in the Metropolis and the City there was a total of 13,085 non-fatal accidents. In 1922 the fatal accidents in the Metropolis numbered 675, while there were nine in the City, making a grand total of 684, of which 645 were due to mechanically propelled vehicles. Thus, it will be noted, between 1909 and 1922 the annual casualty list from street accidents in London had more than doubled. As we can suppose that on Sundays there are fewer accidents than on other days of the week, the average works out, at nearly two a day.

It is a very remarkable thing that in 1922 there were only fire or seven—I cannot at moment remember which— passengers killed on the railways through no fault of their own, and there were seventeen killed in 1921. When a railway accident occurs we all know—the calamitous accident which occurred about a month ago is an example—that the newspapers are full of details and that inquiries are held in order to discover how the accident occurred. About three or four weeks ago five people were killed. That is about two and a half days' average of the number who are killed in the streets of London. I do not understand the psychology of people. When it is a case of a railway accident the whole of the public interest is excited, while you have this daily bill of mortality taking place in the streets and it passes practically unnoticed. The truth is, I suppose, that none of us quite realise that two people are killed in our streets every day. I know that in another place a Bill dealing with transport is being discussed, but I do not think the object of that Bill is concerned so much with the safety of pedestrians as with the devising of means of increasing the traffic possibilities. In the first three months of this year 175 people were killed. This is a further increase as compared with 1922. It is an alarming bill of mortality, and yet it goes on almost unrecorded.

I have no ideas as to how these dangers can be minimised. I have put down my Question in order to ascertain chiefly where these accidents generally occur, because my experience is that the narrow escapes which most of us have from time to time do not occur in the crowded parts, but usually in the non-crowded streets. You are walking along and see nothing in the shape of a motor vehicle, and then all at once you hear the swish of one of these juggernauts rushing along at a speed far in excess of twenty miles an hour. You are almost overwhelmed by it before you realise that there is any vehicle anywhere in your neighbourhood. It is not fair that those frightful risks should be incurred by the general public, and I think a speed limit ought to be strictly imposed. Why should the public have to run these terrible risks because someone wants to save a few minutes in getting to his or her destination?

I also should like to know whether most of these accidents occur on Sunday when there is less traffic, or whether there are fewer accidents on Sunday than on week days. Another point upon which information is desirable is as to the localities or streets where the accidents take place. It is a notable fact that in 1909 there were sixteen fatal accidents in the City, whereas in 1922 there were only nine. I presume the traffic in the City has increased as it has done elsewhere, and yet there were fewer accidents there in 1922 than there were in 1909. That seems to support the view that it is not in the crowded thoroughfares, where there is constant police supervision, but that it is where there is not so much traffic and where the police supervision is less, that most accidents occur. I should like to know whether there is any possibility of preventing or reducing the number of these accidents.


My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to intervene at this stage, because I am connected with an association—the Safety First Association—which has collected a vast number of facts and figures with regard to London traffic. I should like also to refer to a gentleman who, I believe, is considered almost the leading statistician in this or any other Government—namely, Mr. Sidney Webb, who told a deputation the other day that walking in the streets of London was a more dangerous occupation than working in a coal mine. I should be sorry to associate myself with any opinion of that kind, but a statement of that sort, proceeding from Mr. Sidney Webb, who is not only a leading statistician but is head of the Board of Trade, is one that cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed.

My noble friend is, I think, in the opinion of everybody here, well justified in raising this Question. Accidents continue to increase at an alarming rate. Last year there were killed in London just short of 700 persons, and there were no fewer than 72,000 accidents of a nonfatal nature to pedestrians in London. Taking the first three months of this year, the accidents are 20 per cent. more numerous than they were last year, and they are actually 52 per cent. higher than they were in 1922. With regard to one inquiry made by my noble friend, I am able to answer it myself to some extent. The information of the society to which I belong is that these accidents do not occur in places where one would naturally expect them, such as Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park Corner, the Bank, and so forth. They occur chiefly in the suburbs. The reason is clear. When motorists are in the congested districts they naturally drive with extreme care, but as soon as they are clear of them they exercise less care.

It is instructive to note that commercial motors and private cars kill far more people than are killed by what I would term public service vehicles, such as motor omnibuses. Again, the reason is perfectly obvious. The drivers of public service vehicles have to pass an examination of proficiency, and are obliged to show whether they are really capable of driving these vehicles, whereas in the other case anybody can obtain a licence, whether he is blind, or deaf, or suffers from any infirmity. I have a licence myself, and I occasionally drive. I detest it more than I can say. I am not quite satisfied in my own mind that I ought to have been granted a licence. I do not think our practice is followed in any other country. At all events in France, I believe, they are extremely particular, and nobody obtains a licence there unless he or she can show that they are qualified to drive.

There is another very obvious reason—at least it always seems to me a very obvious reason—why there are so many accidents. It is because, in my opinion, and I hope in the opinion of noble Lords who are present this afternoon, the penalties inflicted upon offenders are not nearly severe enough. I have in mind one gentleman in particular, a Member of the other House. That gentleman, if I am not mistaken, has been summoned upon fourteen or fifteen separate occasions and if was only upon the last occasion that his licence was withdrawn. All I can say is that if I had been in the happy position of adjudicating upon this gentleman's ease, if I had been a magistrate on the bench before which he came, he would have languished in gaol long before now, and would not be in the position of having a licence at all. The achievements of this legislator are equalled by another one, a member of this House. I read in the papers not long ago that a member of this House, whose sole title to distinction is that he is a scorcher, drove, I think, from Land's End to John o' Groats, in a preposterously short period of time. He could only have made the journey in the time by grossly infringing the law in regard to speed, and yet that was done without any conviction whatsoever. This legislator, so far from meeting with any punishment or even reproof, was held up as a sort of hero in the sensational Press because of his adventure. If was treated as a remarkable instance of the enterprise of the British aristocracy. If members of this House and of the other House, who make laws, or nominally make laws, defy the law in this way, how can you expect people in humbler branches of life to pay any attention to the law?

But there is another more fertile source of fatalities that I wish once more to bring to the notice of this House, although I have done so on many previous occasions. A large proportion of these accidents occur owing to the fact that, unlike every other country, we have two rules, one for the road and one for the pavement. The Safety First Association made a careful analysis in the year 1913 of the fatal accidents in which motor omnibuses were involved, and it was found that out of 158 persons killed, 60 were pedestrians who had left the near-side of the footpath in order to cross the road. It ought to be obvious to the meanest intelligence that if you walk on the left you will always have a free and uninterrupted view of the approaching traffic. This question of walking on the left instead of on the right has been considered by all kinds of bodies. It has been considered by Committees of the House of Commons, by Committees of the Ministry of Transport, by county councils and urban district councils, by chief constables and by the Metropolitan Police, and every one has expressed approval, in principle, of the change.

I may add that two ex-Ministers of Transport, Sir William Joynson-Hicks and Colonel Moore-Brabazon, have both expressed to me their strong approval of the proposed change and have permitted me to quote their names in connection with it. But in addition to these gentlemen, there is one other person who has been converted to this view and who perhaps will carry greater conviction to other people than anybody else, and that is my noble friend Lord Banbury of Southam. I have actually succeeded in persuading him to approve of this proposed change, and if one is able to convince my noble friend of the desirability of any change whatsoever one ought to be able to convince everyone else in this country.

There is only one obstacle to this proposed change. Whenever I have interpolated the Government on the subject they have always taken refuge behind this particular objection. The sole obstacle, as far as I can gather, is the Chief Commissioner of the City of London Police, and this official has the audacity to state that in his opinion you are much safer with the traffic behind you than when you are facing it. I think this gentleman would have been an official after the heart of the late President Kruger, who was under the impression that the earth was flat. It is preposterous that a reform of this nature, if it is desirable, should be held up by the obstinacy of one reactionary official. I hope on the present occasion that I shall receive a more favourable reply, and also that some attention will be paid to these considerations when the London Traffic Bill comes before this House.


My Lords, I should like to know whether the rules and the regulations which apply to ordinary motors in the way of speed and other matters apply also to motor-bicycles and side-cars. From my own observations it would appear that these are subject to no regulations whatever. A rule has been made in Hyde Park, a very proper one, that in the space around the magazine no motor vehicles are allowed because an enormous concourse of people, including women and children, assemble there. The other day I was going round there and saw a motor-bicyclist coming at a tremendous pace, forty or fifty miles an hour, scattering the people in every direction, and grinning and enjoying himself very much. I saw another one at Marble Arch on a Sunday afternoon, when hundreds of people were walking across. He drove a motor-bicycle with a side-car with a woman and child in it, and came along at such a pace that he scattered the people right and left. The occupants of the sidecar roared with laughter and treated it as a tremendous joke. I was nearly killed myself by a motor-bicyclist a short time ago. I was crossing by the Albert Gate. He came through at a tremendous pace. He would not have hit me but for another person who happened to be crossing too, and in swerving to avoid him he actually touched me. I watched him down Hyde Park Corner and he still went at a furious pace.

Anywhere in the suburbs there are regulations for motors to go slowly, and most of them do; but motor-bicyclists come dashing by. They are not only breaking the rules but act as a great inducement to other chauffeurs to put on the pace as well. I cannot see why these people should be exempt from the rules which govern other people. Opposite the barracks in Hyde Park the other day I saw two of them racing at a most fearful pace. I should like to know in what way the police are able to regulate the pace. I have spoken with several policemen and pointed out a man going at a great pace. I have asked: "Why do you not control him?' They have replied: "What can we do?; unless we stop-watch him we can do nothing. If we take his number, how are we to prove that he was going at an excessive pace?" I should like to know, therefore, whether there are any rules and regulations limiting the speed of motor-bicycles in London, and, if there are, in what way the Government think it is possible to enforce them.


My Lords. I think I am right in saying that motor-bicycles, and motor-bicycles with side-cars, are subject to the same rules as motor-cars, and if the offenders are caught then they can be fined and dealt with in the same way as the driver of a motor-car. I am very glad that my noble friend has introduced this subject because it really is hardly safe to walk about the streets of London at the present time. Only this morning I was very nearly run over at Hyde Park Corner. An omnibus was standing by the side of the road waiting to take up passengers. I went in front, looked round to the right to see if anything was coming. I saw a taxi-cab some distance away, but, as you know, it is difficult to estimate the speed of a taxi-cab which is coming like an express train on some of our railways and to know exactly how-soon it will be before it is upon you. I rather misjudged the speed of this taxi-cab. There was plenty of room, but before I could get to the refuge a few-yards away it was practically upon me. I ran and managed to reach the refuge. The man sounded his horn, and there is no doubt that many accidents are caused through the prevalent idea that all a man has to do is to sound his horn.

One of the first questions asked when a man is brought before a magistrate is: "Did you sound your horn?" and if he says "Yes," then it is supposed that he has taken all the precautions to avoid accident. Many people think that, if they sound their horns they have done all that is necessary and that people who are walking in the road must get out of the way. Apparently the idea of slackening speed does not occur to them. When I was driving about London we always pulled up or slackened down; but motor-cars and motor-cyclists do not. The taxi-cab driver—and taxi-cab drivers are not by any means the worst—never slowed up or attempted to Blowup. He did not even attempt to pass behind me, where there was plenty of room. There he was, and he knew that if I did not get out of the way I very likely should not have the honour of addressing your Lordships again, and I had to exercise what little agility is left to me in order to get upon the refuge.

Last Friday I was walking across from Hyde Park to Hyde Park Gardens. I looked to the right and saw a clear road. I looked to the left and saw a man driving what I believe is called a touring car, a long way off. He came at a tremendous rate, blowing his horn. I had to stand still in the middle of the road, for he made no attempt either to slacken pace or to get out of the way. My experience is the same as that of my two noble friends. Where thoroughfares are crowded you are much safer. A motorist cannot drive fast where there is a crowd, because if he does he will break his motor-car. The worst danger is to be met with in the more-or-less un-congested thoroughfares, where people can drive at a great pace.

I think there is a remedy, and only one remedy, and that is that the magistrates, when a mar; runs over somebody or knocks somebody down, should enforce sterner penalties than they do at present. A day or two ago I read a case in a London court which was headed "Convicted after two years." It appears that a man driving a motor car of some description (I forget which) knocked someone over two years ago, and made off without stopping, and without being caught. He appears to have gone to Belfast, where he did the same thing, injured somebody, and was sentenced to three months' imprisonment. When he came out of prison he was prosecuted here, and let off with a fine. If a man knocks somebody over and goes on without stopping, and then, a short time afterwards, knocks over somebody else and is sentenced to three months imprisonment, surely, when you have an opportunity of getting him, he ought to be punished with something more than a fine.

The thoroughfares in the towns were never, in my opinion—perhaps I may be a little prejudiced—meant to be used by persons travelling at the rate of trains, and so long as motorists are allowed to drive in towns at anything over twenty miles an hour—I should prefer a limit of fifteen miles an hour—these accidents will continue. I know it is very difficult to be certain as to the exact speed, but it is not difficult for a police constable to say: "I do not quite know whether the driver was going at twenty or twenty-five or thirty miles an hour, but be was going at too great a speed considering that there were pedestrians about, and was driving at a dangerous rate." If the magistrates would then enforce penalties against the driver who behaved in that way, we might have some cessation of these dangers, which are really very serious.

There is another danger which, if it does not come from the mechanically propelled vehicle, is very nearly is bad and that is the danger of the pedal bicycle. The pedal bicycle makes no noise, and, for some unknown reason, everyone who rides a bicycle in London rides with his head down, does not sec in the least where he is going, rides close to the kerbstone, and goes probably at about ten or twelve miles an hour. If you stop to avoid a motorist or try to run in front of a motorist in London, you are very likely to be run down by a pedal bicycle coining from nobody knows where. My wife was knocked down and had her arm broken by a pedal bicycle, which went on, and nothing more was known about it. Though these are not mechanically propelled vehicles, they are very dangerous in view of the way in which they are ridden at the present time.

My noble friend Lord Newton ventured to exercise his wit upon such a humble person as myself, and stated that I had been converted to his proposal. That is quite true. When he first told me that he thought the rule of the pavement ought to be changed, I admit that I did not agree with him, but, being of an enquiring mind and anxious to try everything before coming to an opinion, I tried it myself by walking first on one side and then on the other, and I found that there was no question that it was far safer to walk on the left instead of on the right, because you see the vehicles which are coming towards you. But I do not think the greater number of accidents are caused by following the present rule, though if somebody steps off the kerb with his back to oncoming traffic he may easily meet with an accident. The greater number of accidents, however, are caused by the reckless driving of motor cars, the drivers of which seem to think that they are entitled to drive at any pace they like, and if you happen to be in the way I think the old story of Stephenson and the cow will apply to you. It was "bad for the cow," and it will be bad for you if you get in the way.


My Lords, I venture to make a suggestion to the Government, and I do so with the more confidence because it fell to my lot to pass the first Act of Parliament dealing with, and attempting to regulate, motor traffic. As that Bill was drawn by me, it did not impose any speed limit at all. What I put in the first clause was that anybody driving a mechanically-propelled vehicle to the danger of the public must be liable to be stopped, interfered with and arrested. I think the words were struck out of the original Bill in favour of penalties for going beyond a certain speed, but until a change is made in favour of the original plan I am very much afraid that the police will adhere to the view which they hold, and which was expressed just now, I think, by my noble friend Lord Newton, that it is impossible for them to arrest a man unless they have two constables at different points so that they can swear that he has exceeded a certain speed. That really is a very difficult thing to do.

Like my noble friend, I have talked to police constables, very often when on duty, and I have been watching the motor traffic for a long time. I cannot help saying that it is one of the greatest scandals that can be found in any town in the world. People drive these mechanically-propelled vehicles, especially heavy lorries, very much too fast. I saw, to-day, a very heavy lorry coming along, and the fellow driving it came round a corner and over a crossing. I am certain that he was going twenty miles an hour, if not more, and it was by the merest good luck that he did not knock down half a dozen people. They do not care. I have stood in Hyde Park at Albert Gate, and above at Prince's Gate, where the President of the Royal Academy and Sir Luke Fildes met with that dreadful accident the other day. The police do not stop men who are driving too fast, and, when I asked them why, they said that they could not prove that these people were exceeding the speed limit, and unless they proved that there was no means of obtaining a conviction. The heads of the police told me the same thing. What you want is a general power enabling the police to deal with the people who drive to the danger of the public.

I am quite aware that if you adopt this method you run a risk which is always run when you put additional powers in the hands of the police. There are some people who believe that if the police have a general power of this kind they will exercise it in a tyrannical manner. I do not think so for a moment. The police can be trusted, not only here but in the country, and I am glad to see that provincial chief constables have now, almost all over the country, instituted a practice of posting constables at all the dangerous crossings and turnings. It is a most admirable plan, and one which tends greatly to our peace and comfort; but until they can summon a man for driving to the public danger, without being compelled to prove that he is exceeding fifteen to twenty miles an hour, you win, I am afraid, find that whatever you do the powers given will not be fully used.

I am satisfied that if any one of your Lordships were to stand in one of these streets, or in Hyde Park, any day, and take a note of the mechanically-propelled vehicles which pass, he would see how recklessly they are driven. He would see that they are driven only from the point of view of the driver getting to his destination as quickly as he can. It is a perfectly monstrous thing I remember an old friend of mine, a member of this House, who always told boys, when they had a gun for the first time, never to forget that at the end of every gun there is a man's life. So it is with these mechanically-propelled vehicles. They cannot be compared to other carriages or wagons. Even when driven slowly they proceed much faster than other vehicles. They are very heavy, and if you are hit by one of them, heaven help you; Even when Lord Banbury drove his coach about London if somebody had got in the way of the leaders the probability is that that somebody would not have been hurt very much; but if a person gets in front of a motor car the probability is that he will find himself the inmate of a hospital.

The other day a relative of mine was going out to lunch and was fortunately close to St. George's Hospital. I do not know what happened, because the man who was driving died almost at once, and so paid his penalty. He drove into a great lorry, and my relative was thrown into the road, and she suffered from concussion of the brain. The driver died in a few minutes. The whole accident happened so quickly that the police could not see who was to blame. I submit that the thing to do is to have a general power which will enable the police to stop men who are driving, as they think, to the common danger. It is only by having a power of this kind that any good can be done, and those who deal with these offences must really inflict substantial punishments. What is the good of fining a man £5 who can afford to keep a large motor car? Send offenders to gaol and let them serve time in prison, and then they will not be so ready to commit these offences. The Government should make a change in the existing powers on the lines I have suggested, because I believe that without this change you will not be able to put an end to these dangerous practices.


My Lords, the returns of the street accidents do not show the type of vehicle concerned in the accidents. Lord Lamington is no doubt familiar with those returns. No separate statistics have been kept as to the areas and streets in which such accidents occurred. But the police do, in fact, note the incidence of accidents in the principal streets, and endeavour to ascertain the cause of any increase and to determine whether any remedial measure can be adopted; but to classify accidents according to the congestion of the streets from these returns would involve immense labour and be virtually impracticable. One has to be very cautious when making any broad generalisation as to the cause of accidents, but obviously the number of accidents tends to increase where there is a considerable amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. On the other hand, it does not follow that considerable traffic connotes congestion. Present investigation tends to suggest that where congestion occurs, necessitating police control—and here the Home Office is in general agreement with what noble Lords have said to-day—the number of accidents of a serious nature is less than in places where there is no actual congestion necessitating constant police regulation.

With regard to the classification of accidents according to the day of the week on which they occur, the police have compiled the following figures, which relate to fatal accidents in 1923: on Sundays, 56; Mondays, 98; Tuesdays, 81; Wednesdays, 106; Thursdays, 97; Fridays, 115; and Saturdays, 115.


These figures relate to London?


Yes I think so.


Are these accidents to pedestrians?


They are the totals of fatal accidents in the course of the year.


Accidents of all kinds, whether to pedestrians or others?


Yes. It will be seen that there is a considerable difference on different days of the week. It probably confirms the old adage that Friday is an unlucky day. On the other hand, the high figure for Saturday is probably due to other causes. The accidents probably happen during the evening on Saturdays, and are due to specific causes. These figures are interesting and may suggest certain deductions, but it has to be remembered that congestion of traffic may be due to many extraneous causes. Thus, Derby Day and similar days may fall on Wednesday, and may tend to swell unduly the figure for that day of the week. Equally the cessation of particular sources of traffic—for example, during a strike—may have a marked effect on the figures. In general, therefore, deductions must be made with caution. The problem of accidents offers a wide field for investigation, and it seems one which might very well be referred, in the opinion of the Home Secretary, to the London Traffic Advisory Committee when that body is set up. It may be interesting to note that of the 668 fatalities which occurred in 1923 no fewer than 485 of the persons killed were pedestrians, and the inquiry at the inquests almost invariably showed that it was the incautious conduct of the victim which led to the accident. The noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, I believe, himself admitted that his accident was due very largely to misjudgment of his own.


What I said was that I looked carefully to see if anything was coming, and I saw a taxi-cab a long distance off, and there would have been plenty of time to get through if the taxi-cab had been travelling at an ordinary rate. But the taxi-cab was moving much faster, and came upon me.


Either the taxi-cab increased its speed when the driver saw the noble Lord, or else the noble Lord misjudged its pace. I may now be speaking with some lack of sympathy, but perhaps I am rather younger than some of my superiors in the Government. There were also ninety-five riders of pedal cycles killed during 1923, which seems to point to this method of locomotion as being ill-adapted to the busy-streets of the Metropolis. It is impossible to impress upon people too much that their safety depends upon their own acts, and that they must exercise the utmost care in present-day traffic. If I may interpose one or two personal remarks, I think that many people fail to distinguish between those who are not skilled in driving and those who drive fast. Reference has been made particularly to a certain Member of the other House. I personally know that particular Member, and, though I hold no brief for him, I understand that he has never had an accident. That illustrates my point. It is very often the people who drive fast who have the nerve to know what to do when something-does happen. A noble Lord referred to a test for driving which he says they have in France. That sounds a very excellent thing, but if they have that test in France I challenge anybody to say that Paris is any safer than London.

With regard to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, as to a change in the rule of the pavement, I understand this has been tried once before, but under very unsatisfactory conditions, some authorities trying to enforce it, and others not trying, so that there was general confusion. Mr. Bridge-man, during the term of office of the last Government said, in answer to a Question:— I understand that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport has promised that, if the London Traffic Bill heroines law, this matter will be referred to the Committee proposed to he 6et up under that Bill. I have great pleasure in saying that the present Government intend to adhere to that statement. The matter will therefore be fully enquired into, and if the practice is enforced it will be enforced generally by one authority.

The noble Lord, Lord Knaresborough, mentioned the matter of motor-cycles, and I believe that the answer of the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, was perfectly correct. With regard to the Park, I understand that there are separate Park regulations. But if the noble Lord would like I will confirm that, and write to him personally. At the present moment the police have the power to stop a motorist when going too fast, using their own judgment. I have had experience of this, as it once happened to me to be stopped when nobody was timing me, and it was just left for the policeman to say that he considered that the pace was too fast. I think that perhaps that answers that point.


My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether a twenty-mile speed limit is general in London? Or is there no limit at all? As to his statement about the police having the power to stop anybody proceeding, as they think, to the danger of the public, could not a public notice be circulated broadcast both to the police and the public, intimating that motorists are liable to be stopped? I think that course would be very efficacious to prevent fast driving, and it ought to be done at once so that more lives need not be sacrificed than can be helped.


My Lords, the noble Earl's reply was characterised by his usual engaging candour, but I venture to say that a mere profoundly unsatisfactory reply and a more ultra-official reply I have rarely heard from those Benches. He gave all manner of figures to show what happened on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, how these accidents are divided up between different parts, and so on. That is not in the least what we want to know. We want to know what the Government is going to do in order to bring matters to a head. When he came to that all that the noble. Earl could do was to suggest, with an amiable smile, that somehow or other it was always the fault of the victim.

As regards a certain Member of Parliament in another place, whose name presents a strange similarity to my own, it apparently redounds enormously to the credit of this noble Lord that he never killed anybody. I deprecate very much the performances of that noble Lord, and I recall an incident that happened a little while ago to myself, when I had an accident in the street, and was picked up by a motor-car and taken to my destination. The man who picked me up said: "Who are you?" I replied: "My name happens to be Lord Curzon." He said: "Ah, not the first time you have been in this sort of business." He had never heard of this particular Lord Curzon, but the other name was perfectly familiar to him. Therefore, I have to a certain extent been a sufferer. The only consolation that the noble Earl could give us was that a Traffic Advisory Committee is going to be set up at some unknown time in the future, to which the Government are going to refer this question in due time. That is not enough. I would beg the Government to treat the thing rather more seriously, and, instead of referring this matter to a nebulous Committer in the future, to consider whether they could not set up a Committee ad hoc, with a view to considering a situation of affairs which is rapidly becoming a disgrace to the Metropolis.


My Lords. Lord Lamington asked me whether there is a general twenty-mile speed limit in London. I think I am right in saying that there is, excepting where it is specially indicated that the speed limit is ten or twelve miles an hour. With regard to what was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, if he will look at the Question he will see that it has been answered point by point. We were asked to say where the accidents occurred, and the particular day of the week. Therefore, the answer is a thoroughly satisfactory answer to the Question on the Paper. And what I said about accidents being often the fault of the pedestrian was not my own personal opinion; I simply stated what was usually the verdict of the coroner at inquests.


My Lords, so fat-as I can gather from the Government's reply, it means that we can be killed wholesale wherever we walk in London. That is what it amounts to. The noble Earl said that the police have power to stop people for excessively fast driving, but if they have that power they do not use it. I come to another point which is the most important of all. When the police stop people for driving too fast, and those people are brought up before the magistrates, the magistrates do not inflict a sufficiently large fine. Referencc has been made to Ireland. It is perfectly true that means are taken there to stop scorching and to stop it effectually, because people are sent to prison now if it is found that they have offended two or three times in this way.

It was stated that 485 pedestrians were killed in London in 1923. That is a ghastly number. The noble Earl also said that it was for the pedestrian to look after himself. There is another aspect of that question. The motor car, as it is now made, is much easier to control than were the older cars. Modern cars can swerve more easily and they can travel faster than the earlier cars, while the brake can be applied to all four wheels. I have often stood in the middle of a road in order to see whether a motor car would go near me or not. I have done it in Pall Mall, and the driver has neatly swerved a little and avoided me. That is very often done by a man who sees people trying to get a good start when the hounds are running. If those people run across the field one of them is often knocked over, whereas had he stood still the rider could have avoided him.

The truth of the matter, as the noble Lord said, is that the police can act. Why do they not act? When people are brought before a magistrate why is not a proper fine imposed? The magistrate can do it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lamington, that the powers of the police should be circulated broadcast throughout, the Metropolis. It is no good for the Government to say that these accidents occur in the crowded streets. They do not occur in the crowded streets. They occur when a motor driver goes "all out," as it is called, through the suburbs. Anyone who has stood in Oxford Street on a Sunday and watched these fellows going out to the country will have seen that they do not go at thirty miles an hour but at fifty miles an hour. I often go out to buy newspapers on Sunday morning, and I find that you cannot judge of the pace at which a modern motor car is travelling. If you are not very careful, and if the sun is in your eyes, you will find yourself in hospital "and wake up dead." as they say in my country.


Would the noble Earl act upon my suggestion that the powers possessed by the police in this matter should be made known both to the police and the public in the way I mentioned?


My Lords, this discussion has taken place as though there was no measure before Parliament which would affect this subject materially. There is in another place a Bill introduced by the Minister of Transport on behalf of the Government, which has been read a second time and is in Grand Committee. That Bill arose, it is true, primarily out of the dispute among the omnibus companies, but it is a Bill which, to relieve congestion, does propose to set up a control of the traffic in the streets of London. That control will involve the assistance of the Advisory Committee to which my noble friend Earl De La Warr referred. I only mention the fact to your Lordships that the Bill is in existence lest it should go forth that the Government is doing nothing in reference to traffic control.

There are other aspects of the problem, of course. Whether the magistrate should impose more severe sentences is a matter with which the magistrates have to deal. They have the power to impose very severe sentences indeed, but they do not exercise it. No doubt, in many cases the accidents which happen to us are largely due to our own fault. We do not always see, although we try to do so. Such things do happen from time to time to tint", as the noble Lord said, as an accident even to a member of your Lordships' House. I speak from personal knowledge. There are an enormous number of people in London who are dependent upon all sorts of miscellaneous modes of conveyance and we never shall perfectly regulate them. But when the Transport Bill has been passed there will be more possibility of indicating the way in which traffic is to go. In that case the evil will be diminished, and I trust your Lordships will no longer have to complain that such a great number of these accidents occur.


My Lords, this has been a very interesting discussion, and I would venture to make a practical suggestion to His Majesty's Government. I think your Lordships, with the exception perhaps of His Majesty's Government, are all agreed that something ought to be done, and I would ask whether, apart from the Traffic Bill, His Majesty's Government would be good enough to put before the Home Secretary the possibility of sending a circular round to Quarter Sessions. If that were done the circular would be read at Quarter Sessions. All magistrates are present, or ought to be present, at Quarter Sessions, and if a suggestion was made by the Home Secretary that they should suspend the licence for a considerable period in serious offences of this nature, I think a very great deal might be done in this direction. The fortunate difference between this capital and Paris is, no doubt, due to the fact that, whereas in France the right of the road belongs to the vehicle which is going along it, in England, I understand, the presumption is that it is the pedestrian to whom the right of the road really belongs. There is, therefore, that difference, which is apt to make our own drivers somewhat more careful.

The Bill to which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack referred has, no doubt, this particular merit in his eyes—that it is one of those Bills of continuity which His Majesty's Government have taken over from their predecessors. When it reaches this House no doubt it will pass through without very much difficulty. In the meantime I venture to express the hope that this little practical point may be considered by His Majesty's Government, and perhaps the Home Secretary would see his way to adopt it.


My Lords, I am afraid that the Government cannot give any undertaking, but I will certainly lay the noble Lord's suggestion before the Home Secretary. It will give me great pleasure also to lay the noble Earl's excellent suggestion before him.


Surely the noble Earl can give me some undertaking in regard to the police?


I am afraid that I cannot, give any undertaking.


They have the power.

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