HL Deb 21 February 1933 vol 86 cc768-87

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Halsbury.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF ONSLOW in the Chair.]

Clause 1:


1. In this Act the expression "Minister" means the Minister of Transport; the expression "motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle in respect of which a maximum rate of speed is prescribed in the First Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, 1930; the expressions "owner," "road" and "chief officer of police" shall have the same meanings respectively as in the Road Traffic Act, 1930; the expression "speedometer" means a recording speedometer of any type approved by the Minister which causes the speed at which the motor vehicle is travelling at any time to be accurately and permanently recorded upon a chart.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, after "1930," where that date first occurs, to insert "except an invalid carriage." The noble Lord said: When the Second Reading of this Bill was taken a week ago I was opposed to the principle contained therein, but perhaps second thoughts are best and I confess that, having thought the matter over, I have come to the conclusion that the principle of the Bill is one that should be supported by your Lordships' House. If that is so one ought to try to make it a better Bill than it is at the present moment, although I have no doubt my noble friend the Earl of Halsbury will not agree that it is anything but perfect. I have put down on the Paper a series of Amendments in an honest endeavour to make the Bill workable, and I would ask your Lordships to join in trying to make the Bill a watertight measure so that if and when—I hope sooner rather than later—His Majesty's Government legislate on these lines they may have something on which to frame their Bill and something to take as a precedent.

The ambit of this Bill is very large. This is strictly germane to my Amendment because I want to rule out a certain number of vehicles from the scope of the Bill. The number of vehicles which comes under the Bill as it stands at present is anything from 450,000 to 500,000. The number grows every week. The burden that will be cast upon the owners of these vehicles is very substantial indeed. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in the Second Reading debate, estimated the initial cost of fitting one of these speedometers at £5. I have made inquiries and my information is the same as his. That is to say, a speedometer which would carry out the duty put upon the owner of the vehicle by this Bill—not a speedometer which would do a number of other things—could be obtained (or would, we hope, be obtained) for between £5 and £6. I will take £5 for the sake of argument. To fit that speedometer would cost at least 30s. and, as a speedometer is of no use unless it works, the owners of these 450,000 or 500,000 vehicles would have to do what the taxicab owners now do—namely, enter into a contract with a firm to keep the speedometer in good order. That is estimated to cost 30s. a year, so that the cost in the first year of the Act would be £3,600,000 if you estimate the number of vehicles at 450,000.

I think that although that is an enormous sum of money yet the saving to the nation—to the ratepayer especially but to the taxpayer also—in lessening the danger to other road users, in lessening the effect of vibration on houses which border upon the roads, by making heavy vehicles, whether carrying passengers or goods, keep to the scheduled speed laid down by Parliament, is worth the £3,600,000 initial expenditure and probably the annual expenditure afterwards for inspection of about £600,000.

I apologise for having said so much but perhaps some of your Lordships were not here when the Bill was read a second time. A great number of different classes of motor vehicles come under the Bill. As I have said, there are some 450,000 which are scheduled under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, as vehicles to which a speed limit is applied. My noble friend the Earl of Halsbury has assumed for the purposes of his Bill that all these vehicles ought to be forced to have this speedometer and that it is really necessary for this instrument to be fitted to them all. I have put Amendments on the Paper so that your Lordships may exercise your judgment as to whether it is really necessary that every class of vehicle in this number of 450,000 should be fitted with this speedometer, because one does not want to put a penny more expense on anybody than is really necessary.

My first Amendment relates to invalid carriages. I want to exclude them from having to carry a speedometer of this sort. They are, as your Lordships know, small three-wheeled motor-driven vehicles used by wounded ex-soldiers and disabled persons, and the definition would include a motor-driven bath chair. They come within the First Schedule of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, under the description: "In any other case, including invalid carriages," and the speed specified is 20 miles per hour. I put it to your Lordships, and especially to my noble friend who has introduced the Bill, is it really necessary in the case of an invalid carriage driven by a wounded ex-Serviceman or a disabled person to put upon that person £8 initial expenditure and 30s. per year afterwards? I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 10, after ("1930") insert ("except an invalid carriage").—(Lord Mount Temple).


I think there is a great deal in what the noble Lord has said, but if he will forgive me I think he is really not right on the logical point. The reason I included in this Bill every vehicle that has a maximum speed under the 1930 Act is that to drive such a vehicle at a speed exceeding the prescribed maximum speed is per se an offence. Therefore the driver can be proceeded against. If the noble Lord when the 1930 Act was under con- sideration had argued that an invalid carriage was not a vehicle for which it was proper to prescribe a maximum speed I should probably have taken the same view, but the position to-day is that there is a maximum speed and therefore logically and in law an invalid carriage is in exactly the same position as any other vehicle included in the First Schedule to the Act of 1930. If I am asked whether I think the omission of this particular type of vehicle would make any real difference to the value of the Bill I confess I do not, but as both logically and in law these vehicles ought to be included with the others specified in the 1930 Act, all I can say is that while having no personal objection to it I do not agree with the Amendment that has been moved. I must leave it to your Lordships to say whether you think in the present circumstances it would be reasonable to leave out invalid carriages or whether you think we ought to take the strictly logical and lawful method of making this clause apply to every vehicle for which a maximum speed is prescribed.


I rise for the purpose of saying on behalf of His Majesty's Government that they agree with my noble friend Lord Mount Temple in thinking that this Amendment and the three or four following, are desirable, largely on the question of expense to the people he has described—those ex-soldiers and other invalids who drive these small carriages. It may be found desirable later on to extend the exemptions still further and exclude, perhaps, locomotives, but I will not go into that now. I will only now say as regards three or four of the Amendments standing in the name of my noble friend that the Government support him in his action.


I hope my noble and learned friend Lord Halsbury will accept the Amendment of Lord Mount Temple. It seems to me a reasonable Amendment. My noble friend said he objected to it on the ground that it was not legal. Well, we all know how Mr. Bumble described the law.


I am perfectly prepared not to object to the Amendment, and if I may save your Lordships' time the same would apply to the next Amendment—namely, in line 10, after "1930" to insert "except a locomotive or a motor tractor licensed as an agricultural engine or tractor."


Ought not ambulances also to be excluded? They have to go at a great speed to different places.


With the greatest respect, that is not the subject matter of any of the Amendments. In order to save time I was only dealing with those Amendments that might be agreed to.


Do you agree to locomotives being exempted? That is the Amendment next but one.


I think I could accept that. But one I am not prepared to accept is that relating to a passenger vehicle which is adapted to carry not more than seven passengers and is drawing a trailer.


As the noble Earl has met me so handsomely, may I suggest that the Lord Chairman should put the Amendments down to and including that referring to a "locomotive exempted from licence duty as a road roller."


As a matter of drafting the word "except" in each of the other Amendments should be omitted.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendments moved— Page 1, line 10, after ("1930") insert ("a locomotive or a motor tractor licensed as an agricultural engine or tractor") Page 1, line 10, after ("1930") insert ("a locomotive exempted from licence duty as a road roller").—(Lord Mount Temple.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, after "1930," to insert "a passenger vehicle which is adapted to carry not more than seven passengers and is drawing a trailer." The noble Lord said: I appreciate that there are probably two points of view on this Amendment. There is something to be said for making it; on the other hand I can quite see there may be cogent arguments against it. But may I put this to your Lordships, and say that the purpose of this Amendment is to exempt from the operation of the Bill a private car drawing a caravan or luggage trailer? As the Bill stands, it will require the owner of a private car for which there is no speed limit, when hitching-up his luggage trailer for station work, to have a speedometer fitted. The First Schedule of the Road Traffic Act of 1930 placed a limit of 20 miles per hour on a private car drawing a trailer, but this was amended in the following year and the speed of 30 miles per hour is allowed for a private car drawing a two-wheeled trailer. The point for decision is a fairly plain one. We have a private car which, when used by itself, has no speed limit and will not have to carry a speedometer. If any of your Lordships hitch on to your private Rolls-Royce, in order to get luggage to and from the station, a small trailer carrying a couple of portmanteaux, then at once you come within the ambit of this Bill unless you accept my Amendment, and you have to pay this initial expenditure of £8 and 30s. every year afterwards for the privilege of taking your luggage to the station.

But I do not base my argument on that, because people who can afford a Rolls-Royce probably do not mind paying £8 initial expenditure and 30s.a year. I am concerned, however, with the small man who goes and hitches on a small sleeping compartment on two wheels and takes it behind him when he goes camping out in the summer. I submit to your Lordships that we should hesitate very much before we put any extra burden—a very serious burden in, this case—on the family man going out to the fresh air away from business and away from the big towns. There is a speed limit at present, it is quite true, when you have a trailer behind, and I do not disguise from your Lordships there may be greater danger going round a corner with a trailer than without a trailer; but, admitting all that, is it fair, especially to the professional man, when as I say be is taking fresh air or camping out by the sea, that he should have this initial expense of £8 put upon him and 30s. every year afterwards in order to have his speedometer kept in order? I submit that on balance the advantage is certainly not to impose a speedometer upon this class of people, and that the public interest would not be hurt if the Amendment were accepted.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 10 after ("1930") insert ("a passenger vehicle which is adapted to carry not more than seven passengers and is drawing a trailer").—(Lord Mount Temple.)


I think the noble Lord is trying to press several matters which should not really be pressed on this point. I notice that the sum of £5 which I thought originally was accepted has now grown to £8.


May I make myself plain? It is common ground between the noble Earl and myself that a speedometer will not cost less than £5, and I think it will be common ground too that the cost of installing would be from 25s. to 35s.—say 30s.—and that for the purpose of keeping it in order and for inspection another 30s. would be incurred —making altogether £8.


I cannot in the least agree with the noble Lord. First of all he suggested that £5 was the cost paid for a taximeter. That is perfectly true, but a taximeter is not bought—it is hired—and that is part of the rent of the taximeter. In the next place all I can say is that if he cannot find somebody to look after the speedometer for less than 30s. I shall be delighted to find somebody for 5s. Not only has the price insensibly always gone up, but the poorness and poverty of the person driving is insensibly going down, and we are now confined to poor people who are driving out to get beautiful fresh air in the country. May I add this? Any motorist will tell you that a trailer driving with a car at a high speed is one of the most dangerous things you could meet on the road. Not only does the trailer tend to yaw going round the corner, but the yawing tends to throw out the steering of the towing car. It is a thing you have to be extremely careful about. When the noble Lord says it is only a caravan in summer, I agree, but I have met a good many caravans and I know what they are to pass. I think this is one of the most important types of vehicle that you have to see does not exceed the limit the law puts upon it, and I hope your Lordships will say that this type certainly should be included. If this Bill is to go through, and it is really to give safety to the people on the road, as I hope it will, this should certainly be kept within the ambit of the Bill.


The object of this House is to make this Bill as good as possible, and in regard to this Amendment what I was going to say has been said more fully and better by my noble and learned friend behind me. There is no doubt that this class of vehicle is a very dangerous one, one that it is almost impossible sometimes to pass. In the circumstances His Majesty's Government are very much, against this Amendment and I hope my noble friend will see fit to withdraw it.


Certainly I withdraw it if the sense of the Committee is against me. I may be wrong. All I want to do is to make it a good Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, after "1930," to insert "except electrically propelled vehicles." The noble Lord said: I understand the noble Earl accepts this Amendment.


It ought to be moved without the word "except" to insert "and electrically propelled vehicles."


I agree, and I move the Amendment in that form.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 10, after ("1930"), insert ("and electrically propelled vehicles").—(Lord Mount Temple.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, after "Minister," where that word occurs for the last time, to insert "after consultation with the organisations representing the manufacturers and users of motor vehicles." The noble Lord said: I am not very much enamoured of this Amendment, but I am anxious that the decision should not rest entirely with the Minister without any consultation, obligatory consultation, with the interests concerned. In fact probably the Minister would consult the interests concerned, but if he is left, as now, without the obligation there might arise a situation in which the public interest might suffer. I am not sure I would not prefer the wording used in the order which the Minister of Transport issued in the spring of 1930 when he imposed on omnibuses the obligation to be fitted with an efficient speedometer—not one of the recording ones which we are discussing to-day, but simply an instrument which showed the driver and, incidentally, any passenger who looked over his shoulder, whether the vehicle was doing more than the permitted speed. There the Minister did not say anything about himself or anybody consulting with him. He left it entirely to discussion, I suppose, in the case of a prosecution or a lawsuit as to whether that speedometer was efficient. What I want to put forward for decision is whether this should be left entirely to the Minister, or left to the Minister after consultation with the interests concerned, or whether the Minister should fade out from the picture altogether as he faded out in regard to speedometers on omnibuses, and simply leave it "an efficient speedometer" which could he interpreted as and when occasion arose. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 15, after ("Minister") insert ("after consultation with the organisations representing the manufacturers and users of motor vehicles")—(Lord Mount Temple..)


I certainly object very strongly to this Amendment. The Minister is not trusted—why? I do not know why he should not be. Why has he to consult anybody else? In the days when the noble Lord held the position of Minister he had, I find, twenty-five experts in his office to give him advice on the matter. In these days of economy those twenty-five have now increased to thirty-four on much larger salaries, and therefore I should think the present Minister was even in a better position to take the expert advice given him in his own Ministry. Why should not that advice be taken? Is it because the guiding hand of the late Minister of Transport is no longer there and the present Minister is not sufficiently able to understand the advice of his own experts?

To whom is he to go?—to "the organisations representing the manufacturers and users of motor vehicles." I think the noble Lord might have had a little more courage and put down in terms whom he meant. All over the country there are local motor clubs who will help you in any difficulty you get into with your motor—help you with any repair. Are those, or are they not, organisations representing the users of motor vehicles and is the Minister to go to every one of them and ask them? Surely anything of this kind is hopeless in an Act of Parliament. It goes further.

The moment you start saying that the Minister must take the advice of so-and-so, are you not limiting his proper right to consult anybody he may think it right to consult? It is really a delimitation of the right of the Minister to consult whoever he thinks would be good and proper. For these reasons surely this is a most unreasonable suggestion. If we cannot trust the Minister of Transport then let us get rid of him.


Last week we got rid of him.


I agree the noble Lord did his best, but he has not done so and even if he had he would be met by the Home Secretary or the President of the Board of Trade. In any case there would be somebody who would have to take a decision and, whoever he is, is he really to go to some unrecognised, unidentifiable and unidentified bodies who, after all, when they have given their advice, are responsible to no one, though their advice might be as bad as it could be? Further I do not quite know who these organisations are—whether they are the noble Lord's friends who gave him the misinformation about the price of the speedometer; but the whole idea seems to me to be entirely wrong. Having a Minister one should trust him and leave it to him and not to some outside body to advise him.


May I ask the noble Earl's opinion about my suggestion as to an efficient speedometer, following on the precedent set by the Minister?


I have no objection, with your Lordships' permission, to giving my views about that. All I can say is that the problem is an entirely different one. When they were dealing with speedometers they were dealing with a known thing—known to everybody—and all they said was that it had got to be an efficient one. We are dealing with something that has not been mounted universally, although there are 2,000 of these registering speedometers on the road to-day. I had to give in Clause 1 a definition of "speedometer," and my definition was "a recording speedometer of any type approved by the Minister which causes the speed at which the motor vehicle is travelling at any time to be accurately and perman- ently recorded upon a chart." That gives a definition of what it has got to do, and the extra adjective "efficient" will not help it one way or another. If it does not accurately and permanently record it will not be efficient, and the particular adjective "efficient" does not seem to me to help.


I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a moment, because once more my noble friend has said very much what I was going to say. The effect of this Amendment would be still further to limit Ministerial responsibility in a very undesirable way. After all, a Minister is under a general responsibility to Parliament, but although his is the responsibility he naturally consults with anybody with whom he thinks it is necessary to consult when drawing up a Bill or issuing regulations. It seems to the Government that my noble friend's Amendment would limit the people with whom the Minister could consult, and although, no doubt, a Minister might like to think that he had shifted his responsibility, the Government do not think that that would be the right course. We think that the Minister should retain his responsibility, and for that reason we do not support this Amendment.


I take it that the Minister, if the clause is left as it is, will not decide very hastily on what is an efficient speedometer, but will wish to send all the instruments to be tested at the National Physical Laboratory, which is particularly fitted for testing this kind of instrument. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


May I ask whether the noble Earl will consider one point which occurred to me during the discussion about trailers? I know of cars which usually run in the ordinary way for business or domestic use but to which a trailer is sometimes added for the purpose of taking a portmanteau down to the railway station, or of getting a bag of leaf mould for the garden, or a bag of peat for the garden, which is constantly done in my neighbourhood. In the event of a chart and speedometer being placed upon the car, I imagine that it cannot be placed upon the trailer. When the car is travelling in the ordinary way it is allowed to exceed a certain speed, but when it has a trailer it is not allowed to exceed a certain rate. The chart will not indicate when the trailer was attached to the car. Is it possible to conceive a method by which the chart will record only the periods when a trailer was attached to the car? Otherwise the chart becomes of no use to the police.


I think I may say that it is a matter upon which I did approach the mover of the Amendment, and I said that I realised that there was quite a question as to a car which at emergency intervals might draw a trailer. I said if the noble Lord could devise an Amendment which would exempt that particular case I would consider it favourably, but the noble Lord has not produced such an Amendment. I am not surprised, because I think it would be very difficult to draft such an Amendment, but if one could be produced I would look upon it with the greatest favour.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2:

Requirements as to speedometers.

2. The owner of every motor vehicle shall cause the same to be fitted with a speedometer, and it shall not be lawful to use on any road a motor vehicle which is not so fitted, and, if a motor vehicle is used on a road in contravention of this section, any person who so uses the vehicle, or causes or permits the vehicle to be so used, shall be guilty of an offence.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE, who had on the Paper an Amendment to insert "after the appointed day" before "it shall not be lawful," said: In view of my Amendment to Clause 7 I do not move this Amendment.

THE EARL OF HALSBURY moved, at the end of the clause, to insert: Provided that, if while the motor vehicle is being used on a road the speedometer fails to record or accurately to record the speed at which the motor vehicle is travelling, it shall be a good defence to any proceedings for an offence under this section if it be established to the satisfaction of the court that all reasonable steps had been taken to keep the speedometer in order and to discover and repair any defects therein, and that since the defects in the speedometer had first become manifest there had been no reasonable opportunity to repair the speedometer or to replace it with another.

The noble Earl said: This Amendment is made with the idea of curing a defect which I myself saw on the Second Reading, and to which Lord Templemore also called attention. There is this great difficulty as to what happens when through no fault of his own a driver finds himself with his speedometer broken down on the road. He cannot be expected to stop his char-a-banc and turn people out on to the road, perhaps ten miles from everywhere. He obviously must go on, and something must be done to say how the matter shall be dealt with. I thought of dealing with the point as is done under the Act where a motor driver has forgotten his licence or insurance policy. Then he has got to go to the police station and report, but on consideration I did not think that would be the best way out of the difficulty. I felt that one had to be reasonable with regard to the drivers, and also that one ought not to put in the Bill something which would entirely destroy the value of the Bill. I felt that it was more important to be reasonable and to risk occasional evasions rather than to make the Bill so tight that it would be almost a hardship on the drivers to carry on.

My own view is that if this Bill becomes law, as I hope it will, the evasions will not be so frequent that we need be very frightened of them. Undoubtedly, with the use of speedometers drivers and owners will get better terms from the insurance companies, and if any driver or owner is found to be persistently and wilfully evading the Act the insurance companies will at once refuse to continue to give him cheap premiums. Therefore, I do not think there is much danger of large evasions, and I have drawn up my Amendment in the form on the Paper. One knows that these vehicles go very long distances; say, from London to Cardiff. A man breaks down three-quarters of the way to Cardiff. Obviously he has got to drive on to Cardiff. It may be that there are no spare parts and no facilities for repairs at Cardiff, and it may be quite reasonable to come back to the home garage in London even without a speedometer, in order to get the speedometer properly repaired there. I have given every latitude that I thought I could, and I hope your Lordships will accept this as a proper Amendment which does cure the difficulty.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 24, at end insert the said proviso—(The Earl of Halsbury.)


Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the Government think that this is a good and necessary Amendment, because under Clause 2 as it stands if a speedometer broke down on the road it would be an offence by the driver to continue on the journey, which is obviously an undesirable state of things. My noble friend recognised that on the Second Reading.

On Question, Amendment agreed to

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3:

Requirements as to charts.

3.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act every chart upon which a record of the speed of the motor vehicle has been recorded by the speedometer shall be securely kept by the owner of the motor vehicle to which the said chart relates for a period of not less than one month from the date on which the record of the speed as aforesaid was recorded on the chart.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "not less than." The noble Lord said: This is quite a small Amendment. It does not really make any difference whether it is "one month" or "not less than one month," but I should have thought my noble friend would get all he wants by simply saying that the record of the speedometer shall be kept securely by the owner of the motor vehicle to which the chart relates for a period of one month from the date.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 5, leave out ("not less than")—(Lord Mount Temple.)


I do not particularly mind this Amendment, but it is quite unnecessary.


I agree—legally.


I think the noble Lord has forgotten the first sentence of this clause, which starts: "Subject to the provisions of this Act …." If he will refer to Clause 4 he will find that in the case of legal proceedings the chart has to be kept for more than a month. I thought that as a matter of neat drafting it was better to put in the words "not less than" in Clause 3 because the period was going to be increased in Clause 4.


I withdraw. It is of no importance.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4:

Charts to be retained for purposes of legal proceedings and to be prima facie evidence of speed 4.—(1) If within the period during which the chart is retained in pursuance of the provisions of this Act by the owner legal proceedings, whether criminal or civil, are instituted in connection with the driving or user of the said vehicle on the road and the owner has notice thereof, the owner shall keep and preserve any chart demanded of him in his possession at the date of demand until the final determination of the legal proceedings. (2) In any proceedings the chart shall be prima facie evidence that the vehicle was being driven at the speed at the time thereon recorded.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, after subsection (2), to insert: (3) if any person is accused of exceeding the maximum speed in respect of the vehicle driven by him on the evidence of the chart on the speedometer of the vehicle he shall be entitled, whether at the time when the accusation is made or on any proceedings arising out of the accusation, to require the accuracy of the speedometer and its record to be tested.

The noble Lord said: If your Lordships will turn to subsection (2) you will see that it states: In any proceedings the chart shall be prima facie evidence that the vehicle was being driven at the speed at the time thereon recorded. I think on consideration that that is right. Obviously the Bill is filling a gap which now exists, and which enables the law-breaker to go free, and unless you take the record of the speedometer as prima facie evidence that something illegal has been done you get no further—you might as well not have the Bill. But we must be very careful, especially as these instruments are new. Perhaps only one or two have been manufactured, and we do not quite know how accurate they are; even those who are enthusiastic for them admit that there is a 5 or 10 per cent. margin of error. We have to be careful therefore that the person accused of an offence has a chance of proving that the instrument on which the record was made, and which record is being used against him, was inaccurate when the alleged offence took place. I do not know whether it would not have been better to have said that he should have full right to prove that the speedometer was inaccurate. But the noble Earl is a trained lawyer, and I should like to ask him whether subsection (2) alone would give the defendant the chance of saying that this prima facie evidence on the chart is inaccurate because the instrument itself does not record properly, and that therefore he ought not to be convicted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 33, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Mount Temple.)


I should like to support the noble Lord, anyhow in regard to the principle of the Amendment, if not its actual wording. I think if we are going to be dependent upon a machine as a witness the reliability of the machine must be tested. I quite believe that the noble Earl is satisfied that these machines are very reliable, and probably they are. But machines are apt to go wrong on certain occasions, even the very best of them, and I think that the person charged with an offence under this clause should have the right to have the machines tested.


I do not really quite follow where we are. Of course the man has the right of testing the machine. Subsection (2) says that the chart shall be prima facie evidence—not conclusive evidence. A man charged can bring any evidence he likes to show that the chart was inaccurate on this particular occasion.


If the noble Earl tells me that the defendant will be allowed to bring forward evidence that the speedometer was inaccurate, I am quite willing to withdraw my Amendment at once.


I can only tell the noble Lord that I have no doubt about it. There are other lawyers in the House who might confirm that, but I have no doubt whatever about it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6:


6. A person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable upon summary conviction upon the first offence to a fine of five pounds and upon any subsequent offence to a fine of ten pounds with or without imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, to omit "of" ["fine of five pounds"] and insert ("not exceeding"). The noble Viscount said: This clause, as drawn, provides for a fixed penalty. My fear is that magistrates may think the fixed penalty too high, and may refuse on that account to convict. Most Acts of Parliament make provision for fines "not exceeding" certain amounts, and I put down this Amendment to bring the clause into line with other Acts.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 6, leave out ("of") and insert ("not exceeding").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


I am very much obliged to the noble Viscount for having called my attention to what was entirely an error on my part in drafting the Bill. Of course I accept the Amendment with gratitude.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 7, leave out ("of") and insert ("not exceeding").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 6, as amended, agreed to.

Short title, Commencement and extent.

7.—(1) This Act may be cited as the Road Traffic (Speedometer) Act, 1933.

(2) This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may appoint.

LORD MOUNT TEMPLE moved, at the end of subsection (2), to insert "being not earlier than the first day of January in the second year after the passing of this Act and such day is in this Act referred to as the appointed day." The noble Lord said: I want the subsection to read as follows: This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may appoint being not earlier than the first day of January in the second year after the passing of this Act and such day is in this Act referred to as the appointed day. May I put this to your Lordships? As the Bill stands it is open to the Minister to appoint any day for the Bill to come into operation, and he might appoint a day three months after the passing of the Bill. The Amendment is designed to give a reasonable interval within which the speedometers of the type required can be fitted, and, assuming that the Bill were to pass into law by midsummer, 1933, the Amendment would require speedometers to be fitted on the 1st January, 1935. The same point arises in connection with requirements under the Ministry of Transport regulations for the fitting of speedometers to express public service vehicles. That gives an interval of approximately six months between the making of the regulation and its coming into force, but it has been under discussion with the industry for at least twelve months prior to the regulation being made, giving a total period of eighteen months.

Your Lordships will see that there is a precedent for the Amendment that I move. The speedometers required by this regulation are those of the ordinary type in common use, butt this Bill requires an instrument which is a comparatively new invention, because it has had very little trial in this country under ordinary road conditions. It may be said by your Lordships that you have shown such confidence in the Ministry of Transport and in the Minister within the last year or two that you must trust the Minister to be reasonable in this respect, but, instead of assuming the Minister to be reasonable, I think it is the duty of Parliament to provide against the possibility of an unreasonable Minister. These speedometers have hardly been manufactured. The inventors say they can do this and they can do that—they are eminent men, and perhaps they can—but these speedometers have not yet been manufactured, and they have not yet been tested in the National Laboratory at Teddington. They have not been put upon vehicles to see whether they really do the work. Therefore if this Bill passed into law to-day it could not possibly come into operation, in my opinion, for another eighteen months or two years. Therefore to put a safeguard in the Bill that this great burden of £3,500,000 shall not be put on the industry until ample time has been given to investigate the whole matter is, I think, reasonable, and I beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 12, at end insert ("being not earlier than the first day of January in the second year after the passing of this Act and such day is in this Act referred to as the appointed day").—(Lord Mount Temple.)


I confess it is extraordinary to me to find the noble Lord on every occasion showing such lack of trust in a Ministry over which he once presided. Surely the Minister is entitled to be given the general benefit of having some common sense, and I should have thought that he could have made up his mind perfectly well, on his own initiative, as to what was a proper date on which to bring this Bill into operation. It may be that when the noble Lord was in charge of the Ministry of Transport he needed two years to make up his mind about anything, but that disability need not necessarily have descended upon the present Minister. I do not quite understand what the noble Lord means. He said that these instruments have hardly been manufactured. There are 2,000 in use on the roads here to-day. My noble friend shakes his head. The difference, I am afraid, between my noble friend and myself is this. I take the trouble to go and verify things. I verified them yesterday. If the noble Lord wants the names of the firms who arc actually running them on the road to-day I will supply him with them, and the numbers. There are 2,000 of them on the road to-day. One firm, Carter Paterson, has 800.


I was at Carter Paterson's myself yesterday.


I know you were. I did not rest there. I went to others. Carter Paterson has only 800. I can account for 1,200 more, which makes, by addition, 2,000, the number I stated. Furthermore, I heard these things were being very largely used in France, and before the Second Reading of this Bill I flew Over to France myself and verified that. They are being used in very large quantities in France and it is being found there, as it is in England, that it pays industrial people to use them. They give a check on the running of their schedules of time, and upon the driving of the men, and therefore it seems to me to be idle to sug- gest that, by law, you should tell the Minister, whom you are supposed to trust, that he must not make up his mind before a certain date. I hope your Lordships will not accept this Amendment.


I should like to say a few words on this Amendment? I am not going to enter into the argument between my noble friend behind me and the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, which we have had several times, as to whether these instruments have been properly tested or not. I must, however, say a word in defence of that much-abused person the Minister of Transport. I think most of your Lordships will agree—the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buck-master, is not here; no doubt he would not agree—that Ministers, on the whole, are really very reasonable people, and that they would not be the least likely to order this Bill to come into operation before the machines had been ordered in large enough quantities and tested. For this reason His Majesty's Government oppose the Amendment, and. I very much hope my noble friend will not press it.


I do not press it and ask leave to withdraw. It is extraordinary the change of attitude of this House compared with a week ago when nothing was bad enough to he said against the Ministry. Now the Ministry is to be entirely trusted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.