HL Deb 13 December 1955 vol 195 cc7-9

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved by Lord Hawke on Wednesday last, That the Motor Vehicles (Variation of Speed Limit) Regulations, 1955, reported from the Special Orders Committee on the 2nd of November last, be approved.


My Lords, if I may resume the discussion of these Regulations, I should like to point out that they are in implementation of something which I undertook to do earlier this year in the course of the discussion of the Road Traffic Bill. I think I can say that these Regulations go rather further than I thought it would be possible at that time. I was glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth (who has told me that he is unable to be here to-day), described them as excellent and that he had no complaint to make. I think, therefore, that the House will generally welcome these Regulations. The only question which was asked last time was for a more precise definition of what exactly was being done, and it is to this point that I should like to address myself now.

What these Regulations do is to amend the first Schedule to the Road Traffic Act, 1934. That Schedule is based on a division of motor vehicles into three classes—namely, passenger vehicles, goods vehicles and others—that is to say, locomotives and motor tractors. The classes of passenger vehicles and goods vehicles are carefully defined and, as your Lordships know, only a vehicle constructed solely for the carriage of passengers and their effects is at present included in the first category (that is, passenger vehicles), so that a dual-purpose type of vehicle is regarded as a goods vehicle. What the present Regulations do is to place dual-purpose vehicles, as defined in the Regulations, in the same category as passenger vehicles and take them out of the category of goods vehicles for speed limit purposes. Let me emphasise here that this classification is effective for speed limit purposes only, and for nothing else.

At this point in our discussion a little confusion arose in our debate [Col. 1188, of the OFFICIAL REPORT for December 7]. The speed limit of a dual-purpose vehicle under these Regulations will in no way be affected by the question of whether or not it requires a carrier's licence of any description. The need for a carrier's licence is decided by conditions laid down in Section 1 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, and arises only in cases where the vehicle is used for trade or business or is used for the purpose of hire or reward. Conversely, the reclassification for speed limit purposes in no way affects the need or otherwise for a carrier's licence. The effect of the Regulations, therefore, is that for speed limit purposes dual-purpose vehicles, under the Regulations, are in the same position as passenger vehicles—that is to say, if they have no trailers and are adapted to carry not more than eight persons, including the driver, the 30 m.p.h. speed limit will no longer apply.

The definition of the dual-purpose vehicle is shown in Regulation 3 and in the Schedule. They must be adapted to carry both passengers and goods, and must not exceed two tons in weight. In the second place, they must have four-wheel drive or satisfy the conditions in the Schedule in regard to construction. The conditions in the Schedule are that they must have a rigid roof; they must have permanently fitted transverse seats, with some form of upholstery; they must have windows at the sides and back; the seats must occupy a reasonable area behind the driver's seat, which is here defined as one-third. We think this definition will cover all vehicles which are normally described as dual-purpose or utility vehicles at the present time.

We believe that this Regulation will meet fully and completely what I think many of your Lordships have felt to be a desirable alteration in the Speed Limit Regulations in this sphere. And I do not think there should be any serious difficulty in anyone ascertaining exactly how they stand under the law if and when these Regulations are passed.

In view of a hint dropped by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I may add that the Government have no intention of introducing any other regulations affecting speeding, so far as dual-purpose vehicles are concerned, and the position will not be altered in any way by reason of any powers that the Government may acquire if the Road Traffic Bill which is being discussed elsewhere eventually becomes law. I should make it clear, as I have said before, that if a dual-purpose vehicle is used in a manner which makes a carrier's licence necessary, then that licence must be obtained; but it will not affect the vehicle's speed limit. The big change here is that we are now determining the speed limit by the type of car and not by the use to which it is being put. I think that that is, on the whole, a sensible arrangement, and I hope that it will commend itself to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.