HL Deb 07 June 1939 vol 113 cc305-31

4 p.m.

LORD SANDHURST rose to move to resolve, That His Majesty's Government should immediately implement the recommendation of the Select Committee on Prevention of Road Accidents, that a substantial grant should be made to the police without delay to enable them to increase the number of motor patrols.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I actually move the Motion that stands in my name to-day I would like if I might first to draw attention to the wording of it. As the Motion originally appeared on our Order Paper it was in my name with the words "on behalf of the Roads Group" after it. Your Lordships will notice that to-day those words have been removed. I do not think it is right that you should think that that is because the Motion no longer has the support of the members of the House of Lords Roads Group. The alteration has been made at the request of the Leader of the House and as a result of certain words which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, let fall on May 3. It was originally stated that the Motion was put down on behalf of the Roads Group in order to show that a number of members of your Lordships' House supported it. I have no doubt in my own mind that it is greatly for the convenience of the House that your Lordships should know who and what may be behind any particular Motion. For myself I am very much in favour of the names of as many Peers as may wish to be associated with a Motion being printed to that Motion. I think that is far more satisfactory than saying that it is on behalf of certain people.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know whether my noble friend would allow me to intervene for a moment to explain the observations which I made the other day when I saw a Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Eltisley, on behalf of the Roads Group. I did not in the least know—so ignorant was I—what the Roads Group was. I thought of a kind of big capitalist organisation outside the House speaking through the noble Lord. Of course that was a foolish thing to think, and I am satisfied now that the words meant a certain number of Peers who were interested in the roads. Therefore the greater part of my objection entirely falls to the ground.

May I say, however, that I cannot help thinking—it is not the fault of the noble Lord at all—that that is a little clumsy as a method of drawing attention to the fact, a very important fact, that a Motion does not merely represent the views of the noble Lord who moves it but the views also of a certain number of other Peers? That is a very important fact for the rest of the House to know, but I cannot think that that method is a very convenient way of making the fact known. I cannot help wondering—perhaps somebody will convey to the noble Earl the Leader of the House my doubt—whether it would not be better to adopt the procedure common in another place, so that any Motion may appear with the names attached of any number of Peers who like to sign their names. That seems to me a very convenient and straightforward way of conveying to the House a fact of some importance to the House before the matter is discussed. I hope my previous interruption did not cause any inconvenience or trouble to the noble Lord. That was not my wish, and if it did occasion inconvenience, I apologise.

4.4 p.m.


My Lords, may I say that I heartily agree with every word which has just been spoken by the noble Viscount? I think, particularly in the case of a Motion put down by a comparatively unknown person like myself, it is important to provide an inkling of the fact that a large number of members of this House hold the same view and are of the same way of thinking. Now, to come to the Motion which stands in my name, it may seem strange that the terms of that Motion, which refer to a Report from the Select Committee on the Prevention of Road Accidents, are such as expressly to exclude the Ministry of Transport from our discussion. But we have already had one most excellent debate on that Report, to which a reply of a sort was given, and I did not wish to harry the Minister unduly before he had time to give real consideration to the Report and was ready to say exactly what he was prepared to do to implement it.

The recommendation which I have selected for to-day's debate is one that really forms the kernel of a great many of the recommendations in the Report. To judge from statements that have been made on behalf of His Majesty's Government I am inclined to think that they have no intention of implementing that particular recommendation. In reply to a question in another place, it was stated: My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed in the circumstances to offer, as an additional and final contribution, to meet the cost of the experiment for a further period of six months. It is true that the Minister added that it was proposed that the police officers of any force in Great Britain, and not merely those forces directly participating in the experiment, may be given special training in the schools established as part of the scheme, but that is only training. I couple that with the statement made by the noble Earl, the President of the Board of Education, on May 3, in this House. He said then: … it has been decided to continue the experiment for another six months … and from then onwards local authorities will receive the 50 per cent. grant on their expenditure for carrying on that work. Those statements taken together convince me personally that it is not the intention of the Government to make a substantial grant, or even any grant at all, in addition to the 50 per cent. grant that the authorised police receive.

As I read the Report of the Select Committee, the opinion of members of the Committee was that more than a 50 per cent. grant is needed. In fact I do not regard that 50 per cent. as being a grant at all. I think that undoubtedly members of the Select Committee when they said "a substantial grant" meant a grant over and above what the normal police forces receive. No doubt a member of the Select Committee will correct me if I am wrong in that. Personally, I take that view and I attach the utmost importance to it. We have to remember that county and borough police rates are already extremely high, and that an increase of motor patrols must mean an increase in personnel. It cannot be a case of taking men off the essential work they are now doing and putting them on to what is equally essential—the saving of life on the roads. It must mean specially appointed and specially enlisted men, put on to a special job. The cost of this extra work, which is after all a national work—because it is the lives of the nation that are to be saved—should obviously be borne out of national funds and not out of the funds of the local ratepayers.

Of the need of the work I do not think I need speak. Plenty has been said already and figures from Lancashire, Cheshire, Essex, London, Salford, from wherever these special patrols have been working, prove that they are actual life savers. In the Report are a great number of suggestions based on two that are vital—education and propaganda. From the point of view of education and propaganda the motor patrols are absolutely essential. To start your education without motor patrols would be like trying to start a school without teachers. I learned something at school—not very much—but I am quite certain that if there had been no teachers I should not have learnt even the little that I did! Everyone who uses the roads will, I think, agree that motor patrols are the only possible means of educating not only the motorist but the horse driver, the cyclist and the pedestrian. They are even useful, as I saw the other day, in educating dogs. I saw a dog out in the road; a motor patrol came by, whistled to it, took it and put it in the garden to which it belonged. If it is agreed that the motor patrol has become a teacher of the nation on how to behave on the roads, surely when you have national roads it is natural to have your nationally-paid teachers on them. One has to remember that in this country of ours some counties have a tremendously long road mileage and a very low rateable value. If those counties are saddled with providing the same efficient motor patrol system over their vast road expanses as the smaller counties with short roads and high rateable value will have to supply, the farmers in those low rateable value districts will find the position impossible.

I cannot emphasize too strongly that this is a national job. Motorists are already paying several millions a year more than the total amount spent on road improvements and road maintenance. They have not done it willingly, but they have done it graciously, and they have had to do it. They have in this case a reasonable claim that some of the money they contribute should be spent on making the roads safe for them and all other road users. I do not regard as satisfactory the answer that in these difficult times we must not spend more on the police but we must spend it on air-raid precautions and armaments. I cannot see that there is any value in making this land safe from air raids if we are going to kill the inhabitants of it before the air raids come. To my mind we have to keep an even balance before us and distribute our money so as to secure the greatest benefit for all the people. I cannot see how the man who is killed in a road accident to-day is going to benefit by the air-raid precautions of to-morrow. I do not think that I want to add very much to what I have said. Others are going to speak who, I have no doubt, will bring out all the points. I do hope, however, that when the Government reply they will at least give a good, solid reason if they decide not to implement this recommendation of a Report which was prepared with such care and which took such months of work to produce. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That His Majesty's Government should immediately implement the recommendation of the Select Committee on Prevention of Road Accidents, that a substantial grant should be made to the police without delay to enable them to increase the number of motor patrols.—(Lord Sandhurst.)

4.14 p.m.


My Lords, I only wish to say a very few words in order to support what has fallen from the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, who moved this Motion. He said in introducing the subject that he looked upon it as the kernel of the whole question of road safety as outlined by the Select Committee. I should like to inquire of His Majesty's Government: Are they really serious upon this question of road safety? Here is a thing that could be done, a recommendation that could be implemented by a stroke of the pen, which does not require legislation. Many—in fact, I believe most—of the recommendations of the Select Committee will require legislation in order to carry them into effect. This does not require legislation, merely a stroke of the pen. If the Government are really interested in saving life on the highway and in highway questions generally, they will continue an experiment which has shown that it can reduce casualties by some 40 or 50 per cent.—46 per cent., I think. That has been shown, and is not contested. If they are really interested they will not only continue this method but will extend it to the whole country.

If, however, they do not care; if human life does not really mean very much to them and the toll of accident and injury does not really seriously interest them, then of course they will, I suppose, temporise. They will say that the cost is too great; they will tell us that nothing can be done, that the question requires further examination and further trial—in fact, the question will be shelved as far as it possibly can be shelved. I believe that what the country is asking to-day is: What do the Government really mean to do about this question of road safety? The rate of casualties, we have been told by our Select Committee, is something like 220,000 a year. I do not relish the responsibility of whoever is going to reply for the Government if he tells us that that figure does not matter. It represents a colossal cost in suffering and tragedy to the entire country, a colossal cost in pounds, shillings and pence. I believe that the insurance loss alone is some £20,000,000 a year in payment of compensation for accidents generally.

The country is going to judge of the Government by what they do about this and about one or two other of the recommendations, but principally about this, because here is a thing the Government can do by a stroke of the pen. The Government have assumed responsibility for 4,500 miles of our most important roads in the country. Surely their responsibility does not merely end with just improving the road or maintaining it; surely the Government have a certain amount of responsibility for what goes on on the roads? I submit that we know perfectly well that here is a thing which has shown results, which has shown that it can deliver the goods. What possible argument can there be for one hour's delay, not one day's delay? I will appeal to the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, who has so often spoken in these debates. I would appeal to every one of your Lordships, who I know take such a tremendous interest in this question of road safety. Here is a thing the Government can do; if they will do it within the next hour it can save lives; but if they do not do it, lives will be lost and injury caused. I cannot conceive what possible reason the Government can give for any refusal to carry out the recommendation of our Select Committee in respect of this particular question. I beg of your Lordships to bring as much pressure as possible to bear upon the Government. I cannot help feeling, with the noble Lord who introduced this Motion, that somehow there is a certain reluctance on the part of the Government in this matter, and that probably only the will of Parliament is likely to succeed. I implore your Lordships, in the interests of life and safety on the highway, to compel the Government to carry out the recommendations of our Select Committee on this question.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, may I in my humble way pay tribute to the noble Lords who have already spoken and say that I heartily endorse every word they have said? I have had the privilege of going to the Hendon Police School and seeing the training that is given to these motor patrols. As one of your Lordships who has had a very big experience of motoring on nearly all the roads of this country, and of many countries in Europe and outside Europe, extending to half a million miles, I would say that the training is absolutely excellent. Your Lordships have heard of the results obtained in Lancashire and Cheshire, and I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Howe that there is absolutely no excuse at all for not carrying this whole scheme to finality. To make new roads takes a considerable time, and means years of delay; but this scheme is already showing, even in the short time that it has been running, what can be done. I know that this scheme must undoubtedly cost a certain amount of money, but I should have thought that the money saved by saving the lives of these people would have been ten times greater than the outlay involved.

I should like to ask His Majesty's Government if they have any figures as to the cost of this scheme. At the same time I would with all due respect express the hope that any figures given will be considerably more accurate than those given by the Minister of Education in his reply in the debate on May 3, when he said that during the last twenty years no less than £1,000,000,000 had been spent on road improvements. I put down a Question not for oral answer on that, and it transpires in the written answer that out of that £1,000,000,000 over a period of twenty years—and I may say that in the answer it is said that for the twelve years to March, 1930, accurate figures are not available but only approximate ones—major improvements and new construction only totalled £228,000,000, maintenance, minor improvements, and administrative charges make up the rest. The striking difference between the actual figures is remarkable, and I do express the hope that if we get some figures they will be more close. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time, because I know there are some experts on this subject who wish to speak, but I do hope that the Government will make up their minds not to use this scheme as an experiment. The experimental stage has passed. Let us make the thing permanent.

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, I heartily substantiate the remarks which have been made by Lord Howe and Lord Sandhurst. The mobile police are absolutely essential to this country. It is just as essential for us to have an efficient force of mobile police as it is to have an efficient Army, Navy or Air Force. They at least try to save lives. The mobile police have many usages. They are excellent for traffic control—not point duty, but actually when the traffic is on the move. The effect on people driving down the road when they see a police car is such as to make them cautious and probably to drive better. It is amazing to stand by the side of the road, as I have done, talking to one of these police control men and watching the traffic. As soon as the driver of a car sees them you can literally see him lift his foot off the accelerator and slow down. That may be a very good thing, but the mobile police can by talking to people, as I heard this police control man talk to a driver, in a polite way, point out where a driver has gone wrong. Of the four people spoken to by this policeman every one at the end said, "Thank you." That in itself is surely a great argument for these mobile police, and I am sure that they have another use—namely, that of co-operation between the Ministry of Transport and the police force. They are on the roads all the time, and they get to know the dangerous spots better than anyone sitting in an office and looking at a map. I urge upon the Government that they will in all seriousness consider very carefully the remarks which have been made by Lord Sandhurst.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, may I intervene for a few moments in order to support this Motion? Although I am not, technically speaking, a groupist, I think I do represent the feelings of the Party on this side of the House, and I am especially pleased that the younger members of your Lordships' House, who have a great knowledge of the question of motoring, should intervene to press the Government on this point. Last month when I spoke on a similar Motion I said that this Report would be put into a pigeon hole. I did not think it would be so soon. There is no question about it that it is in the pigeon hole, and that nothing is going to be done. I think the noble Lord who moved the Motion, in selecting this particular question as the most important of all of the many recommendations that have been made by this Select Committee, should receive the enthusiastic and unanimous support of the House. We are, however, going to be told by the noble Earl, the President of the Board of Education, that nothing can be done just now.

He will probably say that the matter is having the Government's consideration. There are a lot of degrees in that. There is consideration, there is active consideration—I do not think we shall get that—and there are other forms of consideration which are less pressing. But I think we must remember that we are in a difficult position in your Lordships' House. We have not got the proper target here. We are going to fire at the unfortunate Minister for Education. It is quite appropriate that he should take this question on, because if ever there was a question which rests on education it is this one. As the mover of the Motion said, these police patrols are the teachers, and are wanted on the roads to prevent this deplorable number of accidents.

I rose only to ask those who are supporting this Motion to consider what is going to be done. I think there is another Motion coming on at a later date, but we can repeat these Motions and we shall not get anything out of the Government. We cannot get them to take the matter seriously. I think it is one of the most serious questions before the country just now, and when I am confronted in this House with directions as to where I should bolt in an air raid, I feel it would be far better if the Government would turn their attention to something serious, which is what is going on as we are sitting here to-day. On this fine afternoon you may be sure that many accidents are taking place. I do not think that we ought to sit down under this, and I hope that the Roads Group will seriously consider taking further steps. If I might humbly make a suggestion, it is that a well-manned deputation should call not only on the Minister of Transport but on the Prime Minister. I think we can get him to listen to the appeals that we are making, which are unanimously backed by everybody in the country, be they pedestrians, be they cyclists, or be they motorists, and which the Government ought to attend to more than they are likely to at present.

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot feel quite as despondent on this question as the noble Lord who has just sat down, because I believe that the new Minister of Transport, who took office only a few weeks ago, has not had a full opportunity to study all the recommendations of this Report and to declare a considered view upon it. Nevertheless, I am quite ready to associate myself with the representations which have fallen from my noble friends this afternoon, because I, like them, believe that this is one of the most important ways in which the reduction of motor accidents can be brought about. On a former occasion when road accidents were debated very little attention was really drawn to this subject, and I feel that I should like to give the extracts from the Report of the Select Committee which particularly refer to this matter. I have selected very short extracts, but they are so forcibly expressed that I think they are worthy of your Lordships' attention.

Speaking of the motor police patrol the Committee say: The Committee recommend that the policy pursued by the Lancashire police should be adopted throughout the Kingdom. Then they go on to say: The Committee are convinced that the greater the number of motor patrol vehicles, and particularly of those equipped with 'loud speakers,' which can be put upon the road, the greater will be the reduction of accidents. We come next to the paragraphs connected with the courtesy of the police. They say: Tact, tolerance and understanding are obviously required on the part both of the police and of the road user …. The key note of the scheme should be not to trap or to harass them, but to discourage and to prevent careless or dangerous behaviour on their part—to advise rather than to prosecute. If we examine the Report which was made by Captain Hordern, the Chief Constable of Lancashire, on the motor patrol scheme which he conducted in Lancashire during a period of six months, it is most interesting to find that there was a reduction of at least 45 per cent. in the number of accidents compared with the previous year, and that only eighteen complaints resulted from the half a million cautions, several of which were from cycling clubs protesting against requests to cyclists to use cycle paths. I believe a very large number of appreciations have been received, especially for the open way in which the campaign is conducted and the use of persuasion rather than prosecution. I consider that it is probably one of the most important results of that experiment conducted in Lancashire that out of half a million cautions there were only eighteen complaints, and those people who were cautioned acted on the advice that was given them.

That these experiments should be left to be conducted by private or semi-private organisations seems to me utterly wrong. Last year there was a safety campaign conducted by a body of motorists called the Veteran Motorists. Next week there is to be begun, under the joint auspices of the Scottish Safety Council, Yorkshire, and I think two or three other counties, a similar campaign over a period of ten days, urging care and courtesy among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. It is perfectly obvious from the contents of this Report and from what fell from noble Lords in the former debates and in the debate this afternoon, that this matter cannot be left to small efforts of that kind, and that an experiment which has proved so successful as the Lancashire experiment has proved to be should be extended throughout the country. I am not, like the noble Lord opposite, technically a member of the Roads Group, but I should like to join with my noble friend in urging the Ministry of Transport to take measures at the earliest moment to bring into force the most important recommendations of the Select Committee.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add a few words in support of this Motion. In my humble opinion the immediate application of the recommendations as set out in the Motion is absolutely essential for saving life on the roads to-day. I have taken an extract from the Report of the Select Committee, and I find that in Lancashire the casualties were reduced by no less than 46 per cent. by instituting these patrols. Surely this is a very striking figure. What a marvellous thing it would be if we had this patrol system all over the country. The cost to the Treasury would, of course, be very great in a matter of this kind, but I would suggest that it might be considered in the same way as a life premium of an insurance policy. The average individual during his lifetime no doubt costs the State about a pound, or even more, and I cannot help feeling that it is worth while paying a premium to protect this investment.

My noble friend Lord Elibank, has mentioned that tact, tolerance, and understanding on the part of the police are considered the three greatest essentials for the success of this scheme of motor patrols, and I trust that the local authorities when they make their police appointments will bear this carefully in mind. I am certain that if the public are able to see which are police motor cars and which are not, they will feel that no underhand methods are being adopted against them, and they will be much more willing to co-operate with the police, so that everything will work satisfactorily.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, I would like to intervene in this important debate for a very few moments only. After the most excellent Report which was presented to this House by the Select Committee, I was rather disappointed by the reply last month of His Majesty's Government, because unfortunately the accident toll on our roads remains at a very high level and is still on the increase. I would like to see put in operation, if funds permit, and I think they should, an extension of the Lancashire experiment which proved a very sound experiment in every way, and is the best and cheapest way of reducing the terrible toll on our roads. I should like to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, about which I feel very strongly. It is one of the cheapest ways in which to get down this terrible accident toll. I should like also to see, at the earliest possible moment, many of the other recommendations, small or big, put into operation in order to bring down this toll. I refer to such recommendations as further segregation of traffic, dual carriageways, more education propaganda, rear lights for cyclists, more control of pedestrians, and so forth, which were all dealt with in this excellent Report. I should like to support the Motion now before the House.

4.41 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this debate this afternoon, but lest one's silence as Chairman of the Select Committee might be misunderstood, I merely rise to say how cordially and whole-heartedly I support the Motion which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Sandhurst. The mobile patrol system, of which the pioneer was a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Cottenham, has given, in one's considered judgment, a greater lift to the cause of road safety than it has received from any other quarter. The results of the operation of that system, which has nearly halved the accident toll in Lancashire when the reduction in other parts of the country has been only 5 per cent., surely yield as a reasonable inference that the experiment made in Lancashire should, as the Committee recommend, be extended to the rest of the country. Delays are proverbially dangerous. Delay in this case is more: it is fatal in every sense of that word. Every hour that the Ministry of Transport omits or neglects to give effect to the leading recommendations of the Select Committee, lives are being avoidably lost on the roads of this country. Accordingly I do most strenuously urge upon the Government the necessity for a reply, not about consideration—they have had since March 30 to consider this Report—but a reply which will tell the House and tell the country, which I believe is waiting to hear it, what they propose to do. I hope what they do they will do quickly.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to be permitted to add a word in support of Lord Sandhurst's Motion. May I at the same time, as the matter was mentioned in the opening sentences of the noble Lord's speech, refer to the question of your Lordships' Roads Group? The Roads Group consists of members of your Lordships' House, and solely of members of your Lordships' House, who have formed themselves together and meet regularly every week without exception, and have done so for something approaching two years, in order to do all they can to promote the safety of the road, the regulation of road traffic, and to deal with the road tragedies which are so constantly arising. They are men who are horrified by the present state of affairs, the remedy for which has hardly been touched upon till now. The only object in putting the phrase "Roads Group" on the Order Paper was to make it clear that the Motion represented not merely the views of an individual but had solid substantial backing behind it. May I support the suggestion made by the noble Viscount. Lord Cecil, when he said it would be equally effective if names could be added to such a Motion? Against such a practice, I understand, there is no Standing Order, and it would give an indication of the measure of support such a Motion had and the quarter from which it came.

With regard to the roads question now being discussed, Whitsuntide, so far as motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists are concerned, has passed as satisfactorily as could be expected. There is undoubtedly a general improvement in die standard of behaviour of road users. But is that standard rising rapidly enough? Is it rising as rapidly as it should do? There is no question of experiment about the proposal now being made. The experimental stage has long been passed, and we have definite recommendations from the very important Committee set up by your Lordships and presided over so ably by my noble friend Lord Alness, that the matter of motor control is one of the most important and one of the most urgent of questions if we are to deal with the situation as it now presents itself. We are all aware that money is scarce during this time of emergency, but here is a step which can be carried out, and which human necessity demands should be carried out, at a relatively low cost. It is for that reason that so many of us are pressing this matter on the attention of the Government.

The steps suggested could be taken in almost a matter of hours, and we have the highest authority for saying they are well worth taking. In the words of Lord Alness's Report: The keynote of the scheme should be not to trap or harass them [motorists], but to discourage and to prevent careless or dangerous behaviour on their part—to advise rather than to prosecute. Most of the accidents result from faults in driving, and most of the faults in driving come from ignorance of the art of driving. We suggest that skilled and friendly policemen afford the best and quickest method of securing an alleviation of road dangers.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to emphasize a point which has been already raised—namely, the point of delay. The longer the delay, the easier it is to delay. Once you have delayed for a certain time, people are inclined to forget, and proposals can rest in their pigeon holes for even longer. I feel that with many of these special Committees time, money and patience are wasted because their recommendations are never adopted. Years later these recommendations come up again, and then perhaps they are adopted. It is most important, in my opinion, that the recommendations should be given a fair chance of being adopted immediately they are made, so that people's time and money are not wasted on special Committees which bring forward recommendations which are never adopted.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I came here this afternoon prepared to speak at some length, but so many noble Lords have spoken to Lord Sandhurst's Motion, and I see well that the subject before your Lordships' House is so thoroughly understood, that I shall confine myself to a suggestion in respect of the expense of the proposal, which I realise is considerable. The training which it was my privilege to institute is, I know, costly. I concentrated that training as much as I possibly could. To concentrate it further would not be safe, neither would it then be adequate. But the greater part of the expense arises from the increase which is necessary in personnel and equipment. That expense is undoubtedly very large; but, after all, this scheme is producing results. It is producing results on a scale that no other measure has managed to achieve since the War. So let us just take, for example, the Lancashire results, merely because they are the best. There have, as your Lordships know, been excellent results in other parts of the country too, but Lancashire happens to be in the van—so let us take the Lancashire results as an example and see whether we can arrive at some conclusion with regard to the expense.

Now in the first twelve months, as compared with the previous twelve months, there have been in Lancashire 55 fewer deaths, 789 fewer cases of seriously injured people taken to and detained in hospital, and 2,393 fewer slightly injured. As your Lordships know, there might be three or four persons included in one insurance claim, and in any event there is a big variation in the cost of third-party settlements to-day. Nevertheless I am told by those qualified to compute these things that such accident reduction figures most probably represent a saving to insurance companies of between £50,000 and £60,000. Now if one sets that against the cost of the experiment in the County of Lancashire, which I believe was in the neighbourhood of £130,000, it is very nearly one half, but not quite. Yet it takes no account whatever of those real but intangible advantages that are represented by noninterference with trade, by a saving of man hours, and by the avoidance of similar repercussions, arising from accidents, which undoubtedly cost the country not tens of thousands of pounds but tens of millions of pounds every year.

Well though I recognise, as we all must, the difficulty in Which His Majesty's Government find themselves in respect of expenditure in these days—one knows that the stringency, for causes that we all must greatly regret, is indeed severe—I would venture to put forward the suggestion that, if an extension of this scheme of training and using special motor patrols cannot be afforded in any other way, it should be looked upon as a first charge upon the Road Fund. And I say that, although, as your Lordships are aware, no one has attempted to urge with greater force than have I in your Lordships' House the urgent need for an accelerated road programme. In another place last autumn the Secretary of State for Home Affairs, replying to a question, stated that to extend this mobile police scheme to the whole of England would cost £2,500,000. Where a matter like this is at stake, £2,500,000 is a small sum. Supposing you started to build tomorrow morning £2,500,000 worth of roads, it would take you considerably more than a year to do it, and, when you had completed £2,500,000 worth of roads, that length of highway would not save a fraction of the lives that have already been saved in Cheshire and Essex, and Salford, and Lancashire, by the use of mobile police that have cost less than a quarter of the sum I have just mentioned. If His Majesty's Government can see no other way of extending this method, this highly successful method, of saving life, and one that has an immediate effect, will they please bear in mind that that is a humble suggestion Which is, perhaps, not too ridiculous?

I do not want to take up any more of your Lordships' time on a subject about which you have heard so much to-day, but I would like to say again to His Majesty's Government that this is a measure which is producing results. And it is not, so to speak, a mechanical measure. These results are being produced by the enthusiasm, the daily attention to detail, the keenness, the courage and the public spirit of hundreds of police officers. These men have been wrought to a pitch of enthusiasm that perhaps many of your Lordships do not realise unless you have been out with them. If His Majesty's Government are going to damp down that spirit again now, I venture to say that it will never, when they call upon it, blaze up again in quite the same way. I do beg them to think twice about curtailing this scheme which has meant so much literally to every man who has been connected with it. I support the Motion that stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Sandhurst.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, I think that after all we have heard this afternoon, as on other occasions when we have discussed this particular subject, there can be very little doubt as to the general feeling of your Lordships' House. I therefore rise only to press upon the mover of this Motion, and of the Roads Group, that they should have the courage of their convictions and press this Motion to a Division.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I do not think anyone could have listened to this debate and have failed to be impressed by both the strength of the feelings and, if I may say so, the strength of the arguments that have been put forward by your Lordships upon this matter. Perhaps I might begin by trying to be quite clear as to what it is that we are really discussing, if indeed it is true that the majority of your Lordships and His Majesty's Government are at issue on this point. It certainly is not true that there is any question at all as to the view of everyone in this House, including the representatives of His Majesty's Government, on the question of the value and the form of the particular matter that is to-day under discussion. The noble Lord, Lord Sandhurst, has described it as being the kernel of the problem relating to road accidents, and I think other noble Lords supported him in saying so. What we are discussing under the terms of the Motion to-day is not whether this system of mobile police is good or not, but as to how to distribute the cost of paying for it. We are in fact really having a financial debate.

What is the position? It is this, that we have known for some time that where mobile police have been tried they have been successful. In 1937 an experiment was started in order to confirm impressions that had already been formed. Although we generally talk about the Lancashire experiment, I think your Lordships are aware that it extended also to Cheshire, Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, Essex and the Metropolitan Police area. We all know that the result was to prove that this method of the prevention of road accidents was successful. The experiment was conducted under a special financial arrangement—namely, that for a limited period the Exchequer should bear the whole cost. His Majesty's Government considered that that financial arrangement was justified by virtue of the fact that the work was of value for all areas. The knowledge that was obtained would be of value to all areas. This Resolution raises a totally different question—whether we should place our system of grants to local police on an entirely new basis.

Hitherto for every police force, no matter how important a particular service may be considered to be, the grant has been on a 50 per cent. basis. I am assuming—and I think I am fairly right in assuming, although the noble Lord has not defined either in the Resolution or in his speech what he regards as a substantial amount—that he does not consider 50 per cent. to be substantial.


I said definitely that I thought the opinion of the Select Committee was that there should be a substantial grant in addition to the 50 per cent. and that that was certainly my opinion.


The Report of the Select Commitee did not say that. One noble Lord—perhaps it was the noble Lord himself—said that 50 per cent. was not a grant at all. It would slightly embarrass my own Department if all education authorities adopted that view.


It is a different question.


All these questions of relations between local authorities and the Central Government are different. The Ministry of Health frequently make grants which are a matter of life and death and those grants are on a 50 per cent. basis. So far as I can gather, the alternative before us, if we pursue the course advocated by the noble Lord, is that we should pay local authorities something like 100 per cent. for what are well recognised to be local services. I do not think a single one of your Lordships would suggest that, or would be prepared to support a national police force for this specific purpose. Certainly not a single one of your Lordships has in fact done so. There are cases in which for specific capital purposes His Majesty's Government have increased grants to local authorities, but they have done that on a temporary basis. It was done in the case of school building grants to help local authorities to deal temporarily with the problem of raising the school age. It was done also for the purpose of A.R.P., but purely on an emergency and temporary basis. His Majesty's Government would find great difficulty in altering the existing police grants on a permanent basis and that would apply at any time and in any circumstances. I do not think your Lordships will be prepared to argue to-day that we are not living in very exceptional times and in very exceptional circumstances, when my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is faced with very exceptional problems.

I have been asked what would be the cost. This scheme would cost approximately £2,500,000 a year. It is not an answer to say in regard to this and other desirable services which we have to turn down, that the particular sum wanted for a particular purpose is nothing compared with what we are having to spend. These figures mount up, and I do not think any one of your Lordships would suggest for a moment that £2,500,000 is a negligible figure. I am not arguing that His Majesty's Government are not prepared to put up any money for this purpose. What I am saying is that they are not prepared to go beyond the 50 per cent. grant. That means that on the present basis, if local authorities are prepared to back the scheme as your Lordships would desire to see it backed, the liability of His Majesty's Government would be £1250,000 a year, a liability-which we would be prepared, rather reluctantly but appreciating the value of the work, to face.

I cannot help feeling that we might be rather using our energies to more purpose if we could impress on local authorities the value of this work and urge them to develop the scheme. I cannot believe that we are going to do that by telling them that 50 per cent. is not a grant at all. In fact, anything more likely to slow up the work of local authorities in adopting and furthering this scheme I must say I find it very hard to imagine. There was one proposal—if I may say so, a constructive proposal—put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Cottenham. He would not expect me to give a reply off hand to the suggestion that this charge should be a first charge on the Road Fund, because, as he is aware, I am not responsible for the administration of the Road Fund, but it is a proposal which I think is certainly worthy of serious consideration, and I undertake to submit it to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I would also like to give your Lordships a very definite assurance that I will also convey to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary the strength of the feeling to which expression has been given in this debate, and I know that I can promise your Lordships his very earnest consideration.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I hope my noble friend will forgive me for venturing to speak after him, but really his speech has filled myself and, I suspect, the whole House, with such profound disappointment that I feel bound to say a few words. May I remind the House what the position is? The figures have been quoted ad nauseam: every year between 6,000 and 7,000 people are killed and about a quarter of a million people are injured by the slaughter on the roads. If we postpone any action, that means that we are going to allow 6,000 more people to be killed and 250,000 more people to be injured without doing anything. Here is a definite proposal for something which the noble Lord, Lord Alness, has told us he believes to be of the greatest possible importance towards diminishing that slaughter. I was not able to agree with everything in his Report, but no one but an idiot would fail to recognise the immense value of that Report, or the immense authority that it commands, by reason both of the arguments and of the personnel of the Committee.

None of that is disputed by the Government—not a word. We have been told that at Salford some 46 per cent. of improvement took place by reason of the adoption of this system of patrols. There is no dispute. The Government say:

"Oh, yes, that is so, no doubt." We can indeed save people's lives. We can prevent people from being maimed and injured by adopting this scheme. It will not want an Act of Parliament; it will only want a Vote on the Estimate. It can be done without the slightest delay with the Government's majority. It can be put through under the Guillotine and need not even be discussed, according to the modern system of the other House. What is the argument against it? I hope I shall not be guilty of any discourtesy, but I was simply amazed at the only argument put forward by the Government against it. It was entirely a question of how the expenses should be shared between the Central Government and the local authorities. That looms very large, I know, in Departmental consideration, but practically it does not matter a straw. The money has to be found from the same people, and whether it is found by a local levy or by an Imperial levy makes no difference to the people who pay. It does make a difference in the method of accounting between the local authority and the Imperial authority, but that is the only thing it does. I cannot believe that the Government are seriously going to tell this House that because of this technical difficulty—for it is no more—they are going to allow this slaughter and maiming to continue on the roads for another year. That is what it means if they will not do anything now. The time is drawing very close. The Session is very shortly coming to an end: if they do not do it now, they will not be able to do it for another year, or at any rate for another nine months.

The noble Earl, the Minister for Education, said that perhaps it would be possible to share the cost equally with the local authorities. In doing so he used a phrase which I think must have escaped him unawares. He said that the Government "rather reluctantly"—those were the words he used—would agree to pay £1,250,000 for this purpose. I cannot believe that really represents the view of the Government. The Government ought to be overwhelmingly delighted if they can find even a means of diminishing by 10 per cent. the frightful slaughter and injury which are going on. Here is a plan which we are assured on very high and impartial authority would diminish the casualties by 40 or 50 per cent., and the only reason that is given to us why that should not be done is that there is a doubt whether it ought to come out of one pocket or another pocket of the taxpayer. I hope and trust that the Government will reconsider their decision. Surely it is a decision which will not be welcomed in the country. I am sure it will produce the most profound disappointment amongst all those who have taken an interest in this question. To some extent I am associated with the pedestrians, and although, as I say, I do not think the Report goes far enough, yet whatever you intend to do, whatever measure of reform you intend to make on the roads, this particular proposal of an increase in the police patrols is one which, both on authority and on reason, is clearly desirable. I trust that my noble friends will go to a Division, and if they do, I shall be delighted to support them.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am speaking the mind not only of every member of the Select Committee, not only of every member of the Roads Group, but I believe of every member of your Lordships' House except possibly the noble Earl, the Minister for Education, when I say that we are profoundly disappointed with his reply. It is based, to my mind, entirely on wrong principles. He objected to the noble Lord's Motion on the ground that grants were made by the Government for all sorts of things not exceeding 50 per cent. But is it not worth while making a grant of 100 per cent. to save valuable lives, to save the toll of the road? Surely the whole point of setting up the Select Committee was to make the roads safer: to reduce, if not to eliminate entirely, fatal accidents and injury on the roads. If you can by courtesy, through the police, induce users of the road to take advice and thereby save valuable lives, I say it is not only worth 200 per cent. but it is worth 200 per cent. After all, lives come before almost anything else, and one of the chief reasons why the nation is engaged at the moment in all this great effort of emergency undertakings is to save life. We all know that if an awful catastrophe came, it would mean an enormous cost in lives. Here we have the cost in lives on the road, not from enemy action but from a lack of proper control of the roads by the Government Department as well as by local authorities. If the Government are not going to show any sympathy with the Report of the Select Committee—well, then, I think the disappointment of the nation as a whole will be supreme.

I am, however, rather afraid that the noble Earl's reply means that the Government are not in agreement with this particular recommendation of the Select Committee. Yet I think I am not far wrong in saying that this recommendation has received more attention in the country than any other, and has been wholeheartedly supported, not by one section of the country only, but by the whole nation. I hope that what was almost the only olive-leaf held out by the noble Earl—namely, that he would pass on to the Minister of Transport the suggestion that the Road Fund should find this money—if it does nothing else, will give some hope that something is going to be done. Obviously to save 6,000 lives and prevent accidents to nearly another 250,000 people is more worth £2,500,000 out of the Road Fund than, say, three miles of trunk road.

I suggest that this proposal comes a long way before any reconstruction of roads: to try to get every user of the road, by persuasion, to understand his responsibility to other users of the road; and for the Minister of Education not to wish to educate the public is a very—I hardly know by what adjective to describe that attitude. It is not very much support to the education authorities, who are trying to train children in this matter, if he does not wish to educate adults as well. After all, it is the adults who use the road and cause accidents, and it is the children who suffer. Therefore I suggest that as the Minister for Education is responsible not only for elementary education but for secondary education, and to a certain extent for University education, he might just as well extend it to those who are graduates of Universities as well as to undergraduates and secondary school children. I hope the noble Lord who has moved this Motion will not see his way to withdraw it but will press it to a Division.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I want to say only a very few words, as unfortunately I was prevented from hearing the whole of the debate in this House. I want to say that I think my noble friend behind me has somewhat misunderstood what was said by Lord De La Warr—


No, no.


Perhaps I might be allowed to finish the sentence—for this reason, that when my noble friend said we viewed with some dismay the spending of two and a half millions, it was to have been hoped that the Government would be congratulated upon any idea of trying to limit expenditure in any direction. In these days it must be realised—the Government realise it—how serious is the position into which this country is getting, in view of the heavy expenditure which is forced upon us very much against our will. It is not a question of being opposed to spending money in this direction, but it is of being opposed to spending money in any direction, and that is solely what my noble friend implied by his remark.

May I deal more with the general question? I think your Lordships will realise that after what I have been through during the past week I am not likely to quibble about spending money in saving life, certainly with regard to my own Department, the Navy, but really this is a question which goes to the whole foundation of the question of grants made by the Central Government to local authorities. The noble Lord shakes his head. We are not opposed to the extension of these police patrols, but we say that it is not only a Government service but also a local service. If the Government pay the whole cost, the local authorities, who have the control, do not mind what they spend, but if each pays a share then the service is more likely to be run not only economically but efficiently, because there are many ways of spending money which tend against efficiency. Therefore I hope your Lordships will remember that in suggesting that the Government should make a special grant for this purpose you are upsetting the whole series of arrangements with regard not only to the roads but also with regard to such services as health services. It is for that reason that the Government are unable to accept the Resolution.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I have to thank the noble Earl, the Minister for Education, for one thing, and that is for a liberal education in the art of wriggling. He might so easily have got up and said in two words, "I won't," what he did say in a great many words. This Motion does not ask that the total cost should be borne by the nation. The term used by the Select Committee is "a substantial grant." By that they meant a substantial grant over the ordinary 50 per cent, police grant. An additional 25 per cent., making it 75 per cent., would be a substantial grant. It would be a grant of a nature which would enable the Government to say to a local authority: "Put on more police cars here and we will pay you 75 per cent. of the cost of running them." The 25 per cent, which the local authority would have to pay would ensure that the local authority did not let the Government in for unnecessary expense. Unless I can get some assurance from the Government that they are ready to accept that, I am not prepared to allow this Motion to go by default. I shall have to take a Division, and I must say that, as I look at it, every one who votes against this recommendation of the Select Committee is saying: "I am prepared to take on my head the blood of the men and women who might have been saved by that extra police grant."

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 34; Not-Contents, 25.

Aberdeen and Temair, M. Mersey, V. Jessel, L.
Reading, M. Kinnaird, L.
Salisbury, M. Addison, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Alness, L. Rea, L.
Albemarle, E. Balfour of Burleigh, L. Rennell, L.
Cottenham, E. Clwyd, L. St. Levan, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Doverdale, L. Sandhurst, L. [Teller.]
Stafford, E. Eltisley, L. [Teller.] Selsdon, L.
Gifford, L. Snell, L.
Cecil of Chelwood, V. Hampton, L. Strabolgi, L.
Elibank, V. Hindlip, L. Teynham, L.
Esher, V. Holden, L. Waleran, L.
Hanworth, V.
Maugham, L. (L. Chancellor.) Lucan, E. [Teller.] Cottesloe, L.
Malmesbury, E. Craigmyle, L.
Dufferin and Ava, M. Munster, E. Fairfax of Cameron, L.
Zetland, M. Powis, E. Fermanagh, L. (E. Erne.)
Stanhope, E. Gage, L. (V. Gage.)
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) (L. Steward.) Howard of Glossop, L.
Swinton, V. Lamington, L.
Remnant, L.
De La Warr, E. Bingley, L. Seaton, L.
Feversham, E. Chatfield, L. Templemore, L. [Teller.]
Leven and Melville, E.

Resolved in the affirmative and Motion agreed to accordingly.