HL Deb 16 February 1955 vol 191 cc137-76

4.53 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 3 [Application to pedal cyclists of provisions relating to reckless, dangerous and careless driving]:

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to the clause: (4) It shall be an offence under this section for any person while riding a bicycle or a tricycle to carry or have affixed to such bicycle or tricycle any article or load which will interfere with the view of the road or with the proper control of that bicycle or tricycle.

The noble Lord said: We now come to review Clause 3 of this Bill, and, of all the clauses in the Bill, I think this best fits the noble Earl's description of "breaking new ground," because—apart front the fact that a few months ago, by a regulation, it became obligatory, for the first time, for cyclists to have any brakes—this is the first time since 1835 that cyclists have been made subject to the law. Now the cyclist is brought under the same provisions as the motorist in respect of reckless driving, dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention. I applaud this principle and I believe that noble Lords on all sides of the House will be very gratified that it has been introduced.

As I said on Second Reading, this will bring within the arm of the law approximately 12 million cyclists. While I believe the majority of the offences against road safety could properly be encompassed by this clause and the law relating to reckless or dangerous driving and driving without due care and attention, there are some that will not be so encompassed. There are some offences committed by cyclists, highly dangerous and greatly conducive to accident, which would not be picked up by the provisions of Clause 3. I have therefore put down this Amendment to direct the attention—and I hope the sympathetic attention—of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, to one which we see every day of our lives; that is, the cyclist who hampers himself, either by carrying something or by having something attached to his cycle which prohibits him from having proper control over his machine.

I will cite one example: a man carrying something over his shoulder, such as a ladder, or carrying a bag. What does that cyclist do? He has to keep proper control by one hand. He has to steer the cycle, to use his brakes and to use his bell—all with one hand. What happens in an emergency? He generally comes off, perhaps with dire injuries to himself or to the person with whom he collides. There are also these trade cycles which are popular and are ridden, in many cases, by—not, perhaps, small boys, but at any rate not mature individuals. These cycles are loaded with a basket in front which prevents the rider from having a proper view of the road and are accident-prone from the time the cyclist gets on them. I feel, therefore, that in any Bill which sets out to rectify those things which I and all noble Lords have in mind, and to make the roads of this country safer for every type of user, it is common sense that we should insert a provision such as I have upon the Order Paper.

Noble Lords may tell me that this point is covered by the clause. I shall be happy to be told precisely where, as I have failed to find it. I want to give the police a chance, because we are going to put a terrific burden upon the police of this country. They are the only people who can enforce this law and any of these regulations under Clause 3 that will, in the future, affect cyclists. I feel that my Amendment would make things easier for them, because a cyclist will seldom be summoned for exceeding a speed limit—for carelessness, yes, but what kind of carelessness? For dangerous riding of a bicycle or for riding a bicycle without due care and attention. It may be said that the point of my Amendment is covered by this provision, but I should not have thought so. As this practice is very common, I should like the noble Earl to receive this Amendment sympathetically and thus to give the police a chance; because the Amendment does, I believe, pinpoint one of the main causes of accidents. Without further explanation of my reasons for putting down this Amendment, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 11, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


With much of what the noble Lord has just said I find myself in complete agreement; but I am not one of those who join in the hunt against cyclists as a whole, and I do not think much is gained thereby. But it seems to me that the enforcement of such an Amendment as the noble Lord has put forward is likely to lead to very great difficulties. The reason is this. There are countries overseas where cyclists carry number plates, but they do not do so in Great Britain. So how in the world would a policeman apprehend a cyclist who offended against this Amendment? There is no way of identifying a cyclist. If he passed a policeman, while committing an offence such as would be set up by the Amendment, the officer could not call or 'phone the next constable along the road telling him to "Pull up cyclist XYZ 123"—or whatever it might be. There would be no way of identifying the cyclist. That is why I cannot help wondering how this Amendment is going to work.

As we all know—at least, those of us who use the roads, and I think everyone in your Lordships' House does—a cyclist can be a nightmare. Nevertheless, I must say that, so far as my experience goes, only a very small percentage of cyclists do offend: the great majority of them try to handle their mounts reasonably. But if your Lordships could translate yourselves mentally, as it were, from the position of one riding in a nice, easily controlled vehicle, such as most of your Lordships probably use, into the position of a lorry driver in charge of a great big lorry, with a very heavy load, on the highway, you would probably take a very different view of the behaviour of the cyclist. In my humble judgment—and it is based on experience—while I agree largely with what Lord Lucas of Chilworth has said, unless it is possible to identify the cyclist offender this Amendment could not be operated. In any case, such a very small proportion of cyclists would be affected that I cannot see that this Amendment would get us much further. I hope I am wrong, but I think it would put the police in a position of great difficulty.


I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth (though it may well be that he has thought of it already), that there are a great many people, such as window cleaners, for example, who possibly at the beginning of their careers cannot afford to buy one of those little sidecars on which we see many of them carrying their ladders. In such cases, the only way these window cleaners can get about with the equipment they need for their work is by carrying their ladders upon their cycles. I have also seen many people, who were evidently going to their allotments situated some distance away from their homes, riding bicycles and carrying a spade or shovel in their hands. I do not know whether the noble Lord would bar them from carrying a spade or a shovel, or if he would have the window cleaner stopped from carrying a ladder.


I feel a little doubtful about this Amendment. To begin with, I have never liked creating new offences if it could possibly be avoided. What I should like to know is something about the number of accidents caused by cyclists carrying something in their hands or on their bicycles. In the course of my experience on the bench, I have never had such a case before me—a case in which an accident was attributed to a cyclist's carrying something. I feel that I should like to know a little more under that head before I could say that I would support the Amendment.

The other point very much in my mind is one which has been touched upon by the noble Lord who has just spoken. In the country, most certainly, rural workers of every description rely upon the bicycle for carrying the tools and the implements of their work from their homes, possibly long distances, to the places where they work. I think that considerable hardship might be inflicted on rural workers of that description if an Amendment such as this were carried. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that if this Amendment were carried it would throw an additional duty upon the police. My own opinion is that already far too much of the time and attention of the police is taken up by questions of motor traffic and motor accidents, and I should be very sorry to add to the work of the police in this respect unless it is clearly demonstrated that a great many accidents are in fact caused by cyclists carrying something on their bicycles.


I should like to say, very humbly, that I am delighted to find that one clause at least of this Bill finds favour in the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I am glad that he approves of this one—at least, so far as it goes. He said that he wanted to direct attention, as indeed he has done, to an aspect of cycling. I think it is right that he should have done so. But I must confess that I should have thought that any cyclist riding in a way which was highly conducive to an accident, in that he was absolutely prevented from having proper control of his machine, would indubitably be open to prosecution for either careless or dangerous riding. I do not think there is any doubt about that at all.

I feel, though, it would be rather difficult to prove in court that the load which he had on his machine interfered with his view of the road. That, I think, would be rather difficult to establish. My feeling is that, in the steps which we have already taken in this matter, we have gone quite a long way, and I should hesitate to go any further. I find myself in full agreement with what Lord Winster said. It does not relieve the burden on the police to multiply unduly the different types of offence. I think that we have already covered the point with which Lord Lucas of Chilworth has dealt. I trust that I have relieved the noble Lord's mind, and that he realises that this type of case would be fully covered by the clause. In view of what I have said, I shall be grateful if the noble Lord can see his way to withdraw his Amendment.


My Amendment has achieved precisely the object which I wanted it to achieve. The noble Earl has specifically stated into which category this offence would fall. That is what I wanted to establish. If I may give a piece of information for which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, asked, I would mention a figure which is given in Table XXXIX of the Ministry of Transport's statistics. If one can put these cyclists into the category of those described as "losing control," and I think one can do that in the case of a person carrying a load which prevents him from having proper control of a cycle, one finds that the number of cyclists involved in accidents which the police attributed to that cause was 3,149. A strange thing about that figure is—I do not want to stress this aspect too much, as I have no desire to make a debating point—that it is something like 900 fewer than the number of accidents which led to the Government's proposal to set up hundreds of test stations to prevent accidents caused by defective vehicles. The number of accidents attributed to defective vehicles was, I think, 3,994, and the number of accidents due to cyclists losing control was 3,140.

Compared with my Amendment to Clause 1, this is a modest one, but I think I can claim that I have had regard to all relevant considerations. In this instance, I have taken into consideration the case of the window-cleaner. I do not mind if the window-cleaner has a little sidecar on his machine on which to carry his ladders. I hope that the same argument which has been used against the Amendment will not be used later when the question of people driving cars dangerously is being discussed. I hope it will not be said in mitigation that they are doing it in the course of their occupation as they have to earn their living by driving cars. My Amendment, as I have said, has served its purpose. It has clarified the position, and it is on the record as the Government's indication to the appropriate authorities that this kind of riding by cyclists will come under one or other of the subsections of this clause. With that, I ask for permission to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.10 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to the clause: (4) Where by virtue of this section a person under the age of fifteen years is found guilty of an offence, the court shall order that any fine or other punishment imposed shall be paid or suffered by the parent or guardian of that person instead of by that person: Provided that no order may be made under this subsection without giving the parent or guardian an opportunity of being heard.

The noble Lord said: I now come to what I consider to be a very serious matter. Again, I put down the Amendment because I wanted to pinpoint a matter for your Lordships' attention. As I said just new, there are 12 million cyclists in this country, and I am given to understand that 3 million of them are juveniles. It is pointed out clearly by the Ministry of Transport, in the statistics I have just quoted, that in 1952 10,000 child cyclists between the ages of five and fifteen were killed or injured on the roads—twice as many as child pedestrians. As reasonable people, can we consider a Bill that purports to make a contribution to the elimination of accidents without giving serious attention to this matter, which is fraught with horror?

In a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, who made on this subject one of the most impressive speeches I have heard in your Lordships' House, I drew your Lordships' attention to a booklet, The Child and the Road, the result of a survey initiated by the Economic Research Council and carried out under the guidance of Professor Jones, of Leeds University, who also carried out a survey on the economic consequences of accidents for the Ministry of Transport some years ago. The survey on children was published by the Child Safety Crusade Trust on behalf of the National Federation of Women's Institutes. In this comprehensive study, the statistics underline the fact that the accident risk rate of child cyclists between five and fifteen years of age rises to catastrophic proportions. In concert, with others, I have given this matter careful thought. There is a substantial body of people who say that children should be prohibited from riding cycles on the road. I cannot agree with that point of view, because the child cyclists of to-day are the vehicle drivers of tomorrow, and they must have an initiation at some stage. The Bill places the same penalties on cyclists as on motorists, but the fact is lost sight of that while a motorist does not start on his or her career until eighteen, and the motor cyclists until sixteen, a child cyclist starts at the age of three.

The Women's Institutes, to whom this report was submitted, recommended by a large majority that no child should be allowed on a highway on a bicycle or tricycle unless he had received a certificate of competence, much the same as a driving test. I have asked myself, who is going to make this test? The police? I hesitate to put that burden upon them. The school teachers? I hesitate to put the burden on them. I have been driven to the conclusion that in this aspect of the accident problem there is a high degree of parental responsibility. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to see that children do not take cycles on the road until there is a reasonable chance in all circumstances of their being, I will not say accident immune, but to some degree competent.

What happens in the average case? Little Willie or little Emily is going to be given a bicycle for a present. Mother or father says that they must make sure to buy one a bit too big, because little Willie will grow out of it in twelve months "and we cannot afford to buy another bicycle in twelve months' time." So the cycle is bought, and after twice round the garden the child is launched upon the road. The "little toddler" becomes the "little wobbler." He cannot reach the pedals and cannot control the bicycle and is the easiest possible prey for an accident. That is why the accident rate for cyclists from five to fifteen years of age is absolutely catastrophic. I put this Amendment down to draw your Lordships' attention to this problem and to see whether the Government can think of some way of bringing it home to parents that they have a heavy responsibility. I suppose that a child could be brought before a juvenile court for a misdemeanour under this Bill, as he could be for a misdemeanour under any other Statute, and I have sought to bring home the parents' responsibility by proposing that, if the offence is proved, the parent or guardian should suffer the penalty. Of course, I should be foolish to divide the House on a question such as this. I brought it forward in order to receive expressions of your Lordships' opinion. I feel that we should be lacking in our responsibility if we did not discuss this matter, because, as the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, has said, we are exploring fresh ground in order to try to cut down this appalling toll. With a casualty rate of 10,000 child cyclists a year, it would lie on my conscience if I did not bring this question before your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 11, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said he moved the Amendment to give noble Lords an opportunity to express their opinions of the merits of the Amendment. If I may say so without offence, I think it is a very silly Amendment, both in substance and in drafting. The noble Lord said he had given careful thought to it. I do not think he did justice to his mental capacity when he put this proposal forward. Of course, we all want to stop accidents to adults and children, and we are shocked by the figures which we have to face as regards child accidents at the present time. But to say that the child's misdemeanour should be automatically the responsibility of the parent or guardian, irrespective of the circumstances, would be to take up an absurd position.

I can well remember the passionate pleas of noble Lords opposite on the Television Bill, that there should be no commercial television between the hours of five and seven, or whatever the hours were, because the children would be going to bed; and that the State must look after that position and not allow the parents to be responsible. Here we have the completely opposite position taken up, and the noble Lord suggests that automatically the parent or guardian should be responsible. It might well be, however, that the parent or guardian had nothing to do with the particular circumstances and was far away from any individual accident. The noble Lord then suggests that such "other punishment imposed shall be paid or suffered by the parent or guardian." He told us that the child might be arraigned in front of the juvenile court for misdemeanour. I am not conversant with the range of punishments allowed within the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts, but I believe that corporal punishment is one. Is the noble Lord saying here that the punishment, if it is corporal punishment, should be suffered by the parent or guardian? I feel that, both as regards the proposal of the Amendment and its drafting, the noble Lord should think again.


if I might intervene for a moment, I suggest that the parent or guardian is liable for the fine, anyway. I think we are barking up the wrong tree.


Perhaps I might state the law as it stands at the moment—and I am sure it will greatly relieve the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, because it is not substantially different from what he seeks to make it. The position is that under Section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, in the case of a child under fourteen the courts shall fine the parent or guardian. In the case of a young person between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, the court may, at its discretion, order the parent or guardian to pay a fine. In all cases, of course, the parent or guardian must be given the opportunity of being heard. The only effect of this Amendment would be to say that in the cases of children under fifteen, as opposed to under fourteen, the court should have no option but to impose a fine on the parent or guardian.

The only point I would make to the noble Lord is this. It would be a little anomalous, in regard to these offences, to make them quite different from the rest of the criminal law as it stands. Therefore I suggest that it would be wrong to change the law in this case. In any event, it does leave the court open to decide, with a boy of fourteen or fifteen, whether they should impose a fine personally and make him pay from his pocket money, or put it on to the parents. If the boy fails to pay the fine, the court may commit him to a remand home or require him to attend an Attendance Centre. I do not think there is any advantage in making a change in the law as it stands at the moment, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord would withdraw the Amendment.


Again, this Amendment has served the precise purpose that I wanted it to serve. I wanted a statement from the Government in the terms in which the noble Earl has made it. So my mental processes are not quite so foolish as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, wanted to make out. What I have put in this Amendment was already the law, and therefore, if my mental processes are wrong, then the law has been wrong all these years. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, would rather have waited until the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, had spoken. However, this Amendment has served the purpose I wanted it to serve, and it will, I hope, receive the widest publicity—which is what I want it to have—that we have a new form of juvenile offence. That is what it means: that for the first time a small child can be brought before the appropriate court, which I take it will be the juvenile court—




—for riding a bicycle dangerously, recklessly or without due care and attention; and the parent, if a fine is imposed, will, I expect, have to pay, although the noble Earl says that the magistrates may impose a fine on the juvenile—


Over fourteen.


But with children under fourteen the parent has got to pay. Therefore, the law, with that one slight alteration, is precisely what I have put down here. I hope that this will receive the widest publicity, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for making such a categorical statement. I think it will pinpoint what I wanted to pinpoint; that is, the parental responsibility in these cases. On that, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?


I want to raise only one point with the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. Here we are setting out a number of offences, and, quite rightly, in this case, we are doing it by reference. Some of the sections of the Act of 1930 are very short, and we are amending them and imposing new penalties. In due course, when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, there will obviously be the question of whether there ought to be consolidation. I feel that these offences ought to be set out so that "he who runs may read" without the slightest difficulty what the law is, without having to refer back to two or three earlier Acts of Parliament. All I should like the noble and learned Viscount to say—and here I am sure he will be in agreement with me—is that it is desirable, subject, of course, to the exigencies of the Committee, that as soon as may be, when this Bill does become an Act of Parliament, he should consider whether the two Acts should not be consolidated, so that everybody may know plainly on looking at the one Act exactly what their obligations and liabilities are.


May I say at once that I shall be very ready to consider that point. The noble and learned Earl would not like me to go into prospective forms at the moment, and I shall content myself by saying this: that I share his views on the desirability of consolidation whenever possible. I am grateful for what he has said, and shall continue to be grateful if he will take every opportunity to remind your Lordships' House of the desirability of that course.


I was rather sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when replying, did not say something with regard to the question of the numbering of cycles. How are the police going to operate this clause? There will be all these offences. How is the policeman going to take steps to enforce the law unless the machines carry numbers, as they do in certain other countries?


I said on Second Reading that there was no intention of registering bicycles. I think it is possible, with the present mobile police, to pick up cases which cannot be picked up by pedestrian police. I do not think it would be fair to regard the offences which we are putting into this clause as a dead letter. I believe it will have a real effect, and that in the great majority of cases the police will be in a position to see that the law is carried out.


It sounds to me very much like wishful thinking.


May I ask the noble Earl whether any representations have been received from police authorities to the effect that the work of the police would be facilitated if bicyclists were compelled to carry numbers?


I think I should have notice of that question, but I am not aware that any representations have been made.


If I may say so without any offence to the Minister who is dealing so admirably with this Bill, the real answer to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who, like me, has had real experience of this thing, is that the cyclists are the most powerful lobby in this country, even more powerful than the National Farmers' Union. Successive Governments, when they have been asked to deal with this and analogous questions, have invariably given the same reply as my noble friend. I am not blaming him, but that is the situation.


Is it not a fact that bicycles are numbered with the manufacturers' numbers, and that these could be used in many cases to trace owners?

Clause 3 agreed to.

5.31 p.m.

VISCOUNT ESHER moved, after Clause 3 to insert the following new clause:

Cycle Tracks

". Where a cycle-track is provided, it shall be compulsory for cyclists to use it."

The noble Viscount said: I have been waiting for a great many years for an opportunity to move this Amendment, although it requires some courage to suggest putting this particular spoke into the cyclist's wheel. I know that the main claim of the cyclist is his right to use the Queen's highway and that I run some risk of being hit over the head with a bicycle pump for daring to controvert that idea. I hope I shall not be accused in this House of an attack upon liberty. Since I put down this Amendment I have received many letters about the rights of cyclists, but only a few about the duties of cyclists to the rest of the community. One man went so far as to say that the perambulators which stray on to the cycle-track are far more dangerous than the motors on the road. But, surely, in these days no mediaeval right can stand against the modern necessities of traffic control, and it is the business of every citizen to assist, at any sacrifice of ancient rights, in reducing the mortality on the roads.

What is the position? At great cost cycle-tracks have been made in various places, in order to remove pedal cyclists from the stream of fast cars. The money of the community has been spent, and a large number of cyclists refuse to use the tracks provided. This is so well known that in many places these expensive tracks are falling into disrepair. Surely that is an intolerable situation. In every direction we have to legislate about traffic and ignore ancient rights. Pedestrians are ordered about and told how to behave, and only the well-organised cyclist is immune. Why are we so afraid to grasp this nettle of injustice? In Holland, the value of cycle-tracks is established. Every road has a cycle-track and every cyclist uses it. No one will pretend that the Dutch are less free or less sensible than we are. I am told that the secret lies in the voting power of the cyclists' union, and that no Government dares to offend them. If this is true, it adds another proof of the value of your Lordships' House which, having no votes to consider, can do what is best for the community without fear or favour.

I hope the Government will take their courage in both hands and agree to this Amendment. If they do, on the Report stage, with their co-operation, I propose to move an addition of penalties to this clause. If, on the other hand, the Government find specious reasons for refusing to accept the unassailable and logical justice of this clause—if they, like the cyclists, do not believe in the value of cycle-tracks—I propose to move on the Report stage the abolition of all cycle-tracks and the throwing of the space gained by that process into the road. The Government, surely, cannot want to have the worst of both worlds. Along Western Avenue a large length of road which should have four tracks has only two tracks, while on each side are largely unused cycle-tracks. Surely, your Lordships will agree that if the use of these cycle-tracks cannot, or should not, be made compulsory, we should have a proper four-track road instead. The present situation is obviously indefensible. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3, insert the said new clause.—(Viscount Esher.)


I should like to say a word in support of this admirable Amendment. I have never understood why cyclists do not flock gratefully and unanimously to these cycle-tracks, very much as citizens would flock into the air raid shelters on the outbreak of an air raid. But they do not. They continue to pedal unconcernedly along in the stream of high-speed traffic, even in the dangerous hour of dusk and with ice on the road. I think the noble Viscount who has moved this Amendment is right when he says that this insistence of cyclists on risking their own lives and inconveniencing other people derives from an understandable resentment at being deprived of freedom on the Queen's highway, on which they believe they have prior rights to motor traffic.

In that attitude, there are, I think, some analogies to the attitude, in the early days of the highway controversy, of many pedestrians who were very reluctant to give up privileges or to be ordered about in the interests of common safety. For a few years before the war I was chairman of a rather short-lived organisation, the Road Accidents Emergency Council, the whole object of which was to get the highway controversy out of this bedevilment by conflicting special interests. We wanted to represent the citizens, as distinct from the cyclist, the pedestrian or the motorist. As one who has frequently pleaded in your Lordships' House for further restrictions on motorists, I feel bound to say this evening that I believe that we shall never begin to solve the traffic problem as long as we think primarily of one class of road user. We have to think of the greatest safety of the greatest number. The greatest safety of the greatest number certainly requires that cyclists should use cycle-tracks. They persistently refuse to do so and I, for my part, wish the noble Viscount's Amendment a very favourable wind.


One of the reasons why cyclists do not like to use tracks may be because there are no vehicles to hang on to to get towed along the road. Seriously, however, I believe the reason why the cycle-tracks are not used more frequently is that cyclists feel that there is a danger, when crossing the road that intercepts the main road, or at a traffic light, in that the cycle track has to cross the other road and cannot remain a cycle-track entirely on, say, a by-pass.


I am grateful to the noble Viscount for raising what he knows, and we all know, to be one of the most difficult questions which has perplexed Ministers of Transport ever since that Ministry was brought into being. I should like, if your Lordships will allow me, to sketch for a moment the background of this position, because I think it throws light on the problem which we have to face. In the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, subsection (1) of Section 29 empowered the Minister by order to prohibit the driving of vehicles of any class or description on any class of roads. That provision has always been interpreted as being limited to roads, and not to parts of roads. At any rate, it commends itself as an interpretation of the law and the position is similar under Section 46 of the Act of 1930, which again deals with roads. In contradistinction to that, however, it is interesting to observe that Section 2 of the Special Roads Act, 1949, taken with the Third Schedule, contains provisions which would enable the use of cycle-tracks alongside special roads to be made compulsory; but, of course, the fact is that no special roads have been made. I have inflicted that statutory history upon your Lordships because I think it does pinpoint that important aspect of the matter as to whether the roads that are in existence to-day are really sufficient for your Lordships to put this direct restriction and compulsory order on cyclists.

The other point which I think the noble Viscount who moved this Amendment has well in his memory, because a smile of both knowledge and humour crossed his face as he dealt with a certain portion of his speech, if he will allow me to say so, is the fact that there was intense hostility from the cyclist community when these tracks were first made. They made the point which the noble mover made and which has been emphasised by my noble friend Lord Elton: that they had a claim to the Queen's highway as a whole. I think it is fair to say, and I am trying to express absolutely accurately the views that the Ministry of Transport have formed, that that hostility has been decreasing, although the use made of these tracks is not as great as one would have hoped. As a matter of interest, I have gone through the statements which various Ministers of Transport have made in various Governments over a long period of years, and it is fair to put it in this way: when these tracks were first put into operation, Ministers said that they would not make them compulsory; but as time went on they expressed the view that they hoped the use of the tracks could be made compulsory when better tracks came into operation.

It is with that background that one has to consider the practical problem today. I take the noble Viscount's own road—he mentioned Western Avenue—along which I have often driven. I agree with him, that the tracks are not used very much, though they are used; but I think the noble Viscount will agree with me that they are beaten by these bridges for pedestrians on which one does not see a pedestrian from one year's end to the other—but that, as Mr. Kipling would say, is another story. I come back to the question of the use of the cycle-tracks. The noble Viscount will remember that there the cycles are used largely by those who are working in various factories near the road. I think that makes a difficult point. If one tries to be absolutely fair, and tries to envisage a factory emptying, one has to realise that there may be hundreds, certainly dozens, of men and girls coming out at one time. To put them all by compulsion on to the bicycle tracks of the size and shape that exist in Western Avenue would not, I think, be either useful or fair. A great advance in the construction of the tracks would be necessary before we could do that.

I also agree, respectfully, with the point which my noble friend made a short time ago, that the position at intersections presents a difficulty. The tracks do not maintain their special position: they have to cross the other roads, and that again is a difficulty of which cyclists can legitimately complain. There is another point (though the noble Viscount who moved this Amendment may think it more relevant to one of his alternative threatened actions on the Report stage), and that is that the state of cycle-tracks varies very greatly in different parts of the country and on different roads. It has to be admitted to-day that many cycle-tracks are not in first-class condition, or, as I indicated in the point I made a short time ago, they are not wide enough to take all the cycle traffic, especially at times such as the one I mentioned in regard to Western Avenue when the factories open and close.

I invite your Lordships to ask yourselves: is it right to make the use of these tracks compulsory, or is it not better to leave it as it is at the moment? After all, Rule 48 of the new Highway Code says: If there is an adequate cycle-track, use it. I will not repeat to-day the interesting remarks that were made in the debate on the Highway Code which your Lordships had a short time ago. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will remember it well because he introduced it, in, if I may say so, a most interesting speech. But, in these circumstances, I ask your Lordships to consider it. The Highway Code, which is directory and not mandatory, correctly expresses the emphasis that we ought to put on this matter at the present time. I will repeat the way in which the matter is put: If there is an adequate cycle-track, use it. I think that is what we ought to indicate to cyclists at the present time.

I do not want to leave the matter there, however, because the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has raised an interesting point, and your Lordships ought to look for a moment to the future. I believe that more cycle-tracks will be provided in the course of the development of the new and expanded roads programme. As your Lordships appreciate, their provision and maintenance are the responsibility of the highway authority, who will no doubt have regard to the volume of the cycle traffic in their area and the needs which there exist. As I indicated to your Lordships when I referred to the Special Roads Act, in contradistinction to the other Acts to which we have been referring more frequently in this debate, the principle of a separate use for tracks for cyclists can be said to have been laid down in the terms of the Special Roads Act and can be applied as soon as the special roads are constructed. Until then I do not think it would be desirable to have a "blanket" provision, such as is contained in the Amendment, making the use of cycle-tracks compulsory wherever they are, without regard to the traffic or the condition of the track.

I would ask your Lordships, therefore, while sharing the sympathy which has been expressed for the Amendment, on this occasion to take the view that at present this is a matter where compulsion should not be applied, and that the Highway Code direction to use "adequate" tracks is the right one. But, of course, as this expanding road programme comes into being, we must have this problem ever before us. When we see that there are tracks which will adequately deal with the traffic, then we should, if necessary, anticipate the Special Roads Act and give the Minister the necessary powers; but not at the moment with the tracks in the present state. Therefore I would ask my noble friend not to press this Amendment at this stage and, if he will do me the honour, to consider at more leisure what I have said. If he thinks there is any value in it, I hope he will adjust his action on the Report stage to it. If he takes the other view, as he is perfectly entitled to do, he will no doubt act according to the lines he has indicated to the Committee.


I find the Lord Chancellor's speech very convincing, and no Liberal ever refused to adopt the idea of waiting to see what is going to happen. If, on the other hand, the Highway Code is disregarded by the almost political feeling of the cyclist against using these tracks, and if they fall into further disrepair because the authorities feel that they are not popular with the cyclists, and if their number is not increased on the new roads, then during the innumerable traffic Bills which will no doubt come before this House during the next ten years I shall move my Amendment again. Meanwhile, I have great pleasure in withdrawing it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4:

Duty of pedestrians to comply with traffic directions given by constables

4.—(1) Where a police constable in uniform is for the time being engaged in the regulation of vehicular traffic in a road, any person on foot who proceeds across or along the road in contravention of a direction to stop given by the constable, in the execution of his duty, either to persons on foot or to traffic generally shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

5.54 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved in subsection (1) to delete the word "constable" and insert the word "officer." The noble Lord said: May I have your Lordships' permission to speak on Amendments 25 to 30, because they are all in the same category and they are all tied up together? In short, what all those Amendments seek to do is to make the first half-dozen lines of Clause 4, subsection (1), read in this way: Where a police officer in uniform is engaged on police duty any person on foot who proceeds across or along the road in contravention of a direction to stop given by the officer in the execution of his duty shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding 20 or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding £50. Here again in this clause we are breaking new ground. Again for the first time in this country we are bringing pedestrians under the direction of the police in an effort—and again I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, a laudable effort—to prevent accidents. What I want to do is to make this subsection more effective than it is, because as it is printed in the Bill at the present time it says that the only police officer having jurisdiction and authority to give an order to any pedestrian is: a police constable in uniform … for the time being engaged in the regulation of vehicular traffic in a road.

I want to direct your Lordships' attention to the problem we are trying to solve. It is a very big one, because according to the official statistics for 1952 there were somewhere in the region of 40,000-odd accidents in which pedestrians were regarded by the police as contributing to the accident. Practically the whole, within about 2,000, were caused by pedestrians acting in a manner which the clause as at present drafted will not, prevent. These are the headings, the contributory factors, whereby these pedestrians caused the accidents: Heedless of traffic, crossing road masked by stationary vehicles 8,997; heedless of traffic, crossing road not masked by stationary vehicles 12,260; heedless of traffic, walking or standing in road 2,507; heedless of traffic, playing in road 1,460—that, of course, relates to juveniles; heedless of traffic, stepping, walking or running off footpath or verge into road 16,479.

Probably not one of those accidents, I would suggest to your Lordships, occurred where a policeman was on point duty engaged in the regulation of traffic. As I know from personal experience when I was in the Ministry and the Chairman of the National Safety First Committee, one of the greatest factors in accidents is people who step into a road behind a vehicle which masks their view in a stretch of road where police are not controlling the traffic. I want to help, and I suggest to the Government that it will be far better to give every policeman engaged on police duty this power. I have used the words "police officer" because I thought there might be some legal point involved in using such descriptions as "constable" or "inspector." If there is not, call him what you will. But let every police officer, whether constable, inspector or anything else, be able to say to a pedestrian whom he sees walking across the road, "Wait." Your Lordships all know the half-witted individuals who will not wait but must dash across the road, heedless of accidents to themselves.

As this clause is drafted at present, a pedestrian may say to a police officer, "You cannot interfere," because the policeman may not be engaged in directing traffic, but is standing on the footpath. I direct your Lordships' attention to Whitehall and to the crossing at Bridge Street. According to this clause, the only police officer who has any jurisdiction over the pedestrian is the police officer controlling the traffic; the police officer walking up Whitehall on his ordinary beat has no authority at all. My simple purpose is to give every police officer this authority. I am sure that he will exercise it only in accordance with the instructions given him by his chief constable.

I think I can carry the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, with me in this. Is it not far better for a police officer on duty on a crowded thoroughfare to have authority to say to a person, "Please stop and wait a moment until the road is clear"? I do not say that every policeman is going to take the name and address of every offending pedestrian, but he will have authority to coax people to use pedestrian crossings and not go across the road and, as I have pointed out, cause nearly 40,000 accidents. I would again stress that in these official statistics an accident is registered as an accident only where personal injury is suffered. If no personal injury is suffered, the accidents do not appear in the statistics. I hope the Government will accept this Amendment. I am not at all tied to the wording. I thought perhaps there was a differentiation between a police constable and any other rank of officer. If the noble Lord will accept this Amendment, I think it will help: I think it will be a great persuasive force for the prevention of a huge number of accidents. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 12, leave out ("constable") and insert ("officer")—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I have done this; I have been "the chap on the point." It is no fun at all when you, see something happening. You just cannot leave your point. I was on point duty once near Shore-ditch Town Hall, at the corner of Kings-land Road and Hackney Road. There the traffic is quite substantial, and you cannot leave your point—or, if you do, there is an awful mess, as the traffic becomes blocked. If you leave your point you get into trouble with the desk sergeant on returning from duty. I think the Government ought at least to reconsider the wording of this clause. It should be extended to police officers on duty, in uniform, if you like; then they can co-operate in doing the job.

I will tell your Lordships of another case: it occurred many years ago, and I am rather ashamed to admit this. In Glasgow, we have a students', or hospitals', day. I was at the Royal Technical College and taking part on this day. We were allowed to do anything we liked, in order to collect for the hospitals, except interfere with the mounted policemen. So we took the policeman off the point at the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Renfrew Street; one of the chaps got the trams beautifully muddled up, we collected from everybody, and then put the poor fellow back again. It is a very difficult job to sort out the traffic once a constable has left his point. I think that is a fair simile. A constable cannot leave his point to deal with some-body who is committing an offence. The traffic gets "snarled up." The man is there to deal with the traffic; a colleague walking down the street should be able to deal with this sort of thing. It should be done by anyone on duty—if you like, in uniform. I think it would be well if the Government were to think over this matter.


I think the officer should certainly be in uniform, otherwise the pedestrian will not recognise him.


I think we are all at one on the purpose of this clause and the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Let me, therefore, set his mind at rest on one or two points on which we can all agree. First of all, on the question of uniform: uniform is actually mentioned in the clause, so there is no difficulty about that. Second, on the question of the word "constable" for which the noble Lord wishes to substitute "officer": let me put his mind at rest about that. It may have slipped the noble Lord's attention that every member of the police force is sworn in as a constable. There are few exceptions to this except in most senior ranks of the force. The Commissioner, his Deputy and Assistant Commissioners are not sworn in as constables; they are actually sworn in as Justices of the Peace. But as Sir John Nott-Bower is seldom nowadays on point duty the point is somewhat academic. The words "police officer" are popular ones; the word "constable" is both statutory and has authority at Common Law. I have inquired of the police what the difference is and they assure me that the words "police officer" are used only by people who have good manners or a guilty conscience. The words "police constable" are the correct term in this case—they include all the officers to whom the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, refers, I would remind him that Gilbert said, that the policeman's life was not a happy one when "constabulary duty," not "police officer duty," had to be done. So much for that.

I now turn to a rather more delicate question. I must say that I was impressed with the personal experiences of my noble friend Lord Waleran, and he would be a rash man who contradicted personal experience. What we are trying to do, however, is to give the police constable on duty, in the middle of the crossroads or in any position in which he is actually directing traffic, a power at law which quite a few of our citizens would be surprised to learn he does not already possess. We have, however, tried to limit these powers to what are essential. I could not help smiling to myself to hear noble Lords, who were yesterday reproving us for conferring too much power upon the police in regard to the question of obstruction to vehicles, now asking us to take more powers for the police.

If I understand noble Lords correctly, they are concerned at the position of a policeman who is not on point duty but who is walking on his beat. Even if he sees a mass of traffic and his colleague on point duty attempting to wrestle with it in the middle of the road, he has none of the powers of direction conferred by this clause. Moreover, if I understand Lord Lucas of Chilworth's argument correctly, he even doubts whether the constable on the beat, not on vehicular point duty, can step up to the pedestrian and reprove him. I must confess that at the moment I am not clear about that point myself. I would therefore ask the noble Lord's permission to look at this question a little more carefully. One thing I must tell him at once is that I cannot accept his Amendment because it goes too far. In effect, it would give a policeman walking down a country lane, with no traffic for miles, power to give orders to pedestrians. I doubt whether that was in his mind at all. But I think I can carry the noble Lord with me when I say that it is undesirable to give the police any more powers than they really need, or, indeed, powers which they do not seek—that is the last thing we want to do. On the other hand, we must assure ourselves that the problem raised by the noble Lord, Lord Waleran, is dealt with by this clause; and at the moment I am not quite satisfied about that. I should like to look at the matter again more carefully. If I can assure the noble Lord that the point is met, I hope that he will be content to accept the clause. Perhaps on that understanding he will be good enough to withdraw this Amendment.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I would impress upon him that if he will study Table 40 of the Ministry of Transport statistics for 1950 he will see that 40,000 accidents which are contributed to by pedestrians occur right away from the policeman on point duty controlling the traffic. I want to stop that situation, and if the noble Lord will look at the point and meet me, I shall be grateful. Naturally, on that undertaking, I will ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.10 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved, in subsection (1), after "foot," where that word first occurs, to insert "within forty-five feet of the police officer." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend, Lord Milner of Leeds. It has been put down in an effort to obtain some information, and I am in no way committed to the distance indicated. I do, however, suggest that difficulties will arise as to the range within which the signal of a police officer is to operate unless there is some clear guidance. I believe that it would be quite wrong that a person who happened to be on the crossing should be prosecuted for disregarding a signal while another person, just off the crossing but within a foot or two of it, who had equally disregarded the warning, should escape. What, then, is the scope of the authority of the police officer under this clause? I do not for a moment suggest that any police officer could go off to a distance of 45 feet for people who disregarded his warning, but I do suggest that unless there is clear guidance as to what this clause actually means, and what is the scope of the authority of the officer, there will be varying practices from one police area to another and contradictory decisions in the courts of summary jurisdiction. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some guidance on this point. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 14, after ("foot") insert the said words.—(Lord Burden.)


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Burden, for raising this point, but, with respect, I do not think his solution is quite practicable. To suggest that the exercise of the powers in this clause should be limited to a distance of 45 feet means that somebody who is within the 44 feet area will be affected while somebody 46 feet distant will escape. Presumably the noble Lord has taken 45 feet because it is the zebra-crossing distance. I feel that we must rely in this case on common sense, and on the ability of the policeman to give intelligible directions; and these directions will have to be interpreted with common sense. We shall only cause confusion if we start laying down any precise boundary beyond which the powers shall not extend.

I will give one good reason why some mathematical boundary is impossible. How can the limitation in this Amendment be reconciled with the common practice of the police to direct traffic with a loud-hailer? That is a form of traffic direction which is becoming increasingly popular with the police, and it is well understood by pedestrians. One suddenly finds oneself being addressed by a loud voice from a great distance away, in personal but friendly terms, and told to "get a move on." The direction may be given from a distance outside the range of the noble Lord's 45 feet. I would suggest, therefore, that no fixed boundary is possible in these circumstances, and that in the future, as in the past, we shall have to rely on the mutual good sense of the policeman directing the traffic and sensible pedestrians being directed. If we go beyond that, we shall merely create anomalies.


In view of the explanation of the noble Lord, I am prepared, by leave of the Committee, to withdraw my Amendment. My only comment on the noble Lord's suggestion that we should trust to common sense is that common sense is so uncommon. I beg to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.17 p.m.

LORD BURDEN moved to add to the clause: (3) It shall be an offence under this section for any person proceeding across a road at any point controlled by traffic light signals to do so otherwise than when a "Cross Now" period is in operation.

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. Under this clause penalties are provided for people who disregard a verbal or similar signal, and this Amendment seeks to provide a penalty for, or to make an offence of, any disregard of "Cross Now" signals. I suggest that it would be a good thing if the law were extended to cover such cases. It may be argued that one difficulty would be that a police officer might not be on duty at all times at that point; but, from one's own observation, one knows that a police officer is occasionally on duty at some "Cross Now" points, and I believe one or two prosecutions, duly publicised, would deal with that lunatic fringe of our population which consistently disregards such signals. We must remember that the risk and danger, unfortunately, is not only to offenders. They may, in crossing, cause an accident which brings other people into difficulties.

I am sure all noble Lords from time to time receive letters from various people when particular matters are under discussion in your Lordships' House. Some of the letters are helpful and some are not; but I have received one in connection with this Amendment which may be helpful in our consideration of it. This letter is from a gentleman who is a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, a civil engineer, a surveyor and a consultant in road accidents. I have never heard of that type of person before. He writes: It is with so much interest that I have read of your excellent proposal to control the use of pedestrian crossings that I must respectfully congratulate your Lordship. I am eighty-five years of age and motored until a few years ago. My first car was preceded by a red flag. For 32 years I was divisional county surveyor, have given evidence in all the courts, including coroners', on numerous occasions, so I claim considerable experience. When the zebra crossings were instituted, I wrote the Minister of Transport that in my opinion it was essential that these crossing should display illuminated signs showing 'Cross Now' or 'Don't Cross' synchronising with the traffic signals. The Minister replied that whilst he agreed in principle he had to be very careful not to interfere with the liberty of the subject. … I have inspected several of these signs in operation, and find that they are a great success. … That is a very interesting letter from a very knowledgeable gentleman. With those words, I would commend the Amendment to the Committee.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 25, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Burden.)


May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Burden, one question on this Amendment? Before doing so, let me say that I think he makes out a good case, and I hope that the Government will show some sympathy. But the words in the Amendment: any person proceeding across a road at any point controlled by traffic light signals seem to me to require alteration. I suggest that instead of "any person proceeding across" the wording should be "any person commencing to cross." If the present wording were accepted, it would mean that if any person, such as the noble Lord, or myself, or any other noble Lord, started to cross at one of these crossings and was caught by the amber light and finally had to scurry across to the other pavement to avoid the oncoming traffic, he would be committing an offence. If the wording were "commencing to cross" I think it would better achieve the noble Lord's object.


I should like to make one point with regard to this Amendment. I do not think it will stand as it is. There are many traffic light crossings in this country which have no "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals. There are also police signals which are traffic light signals although they do not have these "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals. Therefore, if the Amendment which the noble Lord wishes is to be carried into effect, I think he must alter the wording.


I feel a great deal of sympathy with the Amendment which has been moved by my noble friend, Lord Burden. In part, of course, it deals with our old friend the "jay-walker." I remember that in a debate on this subject in another place I observed that every time I drove to London from my house I saved a life. I really believe that that is somewhere near the truth. It also, to my mind, raises the question of the comfort and convenience of the pedestrian. In many American cities I have found this system in operation—traffic lights, accompanied by the flashing signals "Cross Now" or "Don't Cross." I must say that I found the pedestrians were completely conditioned to the arrangement, and that they adhered to it as a matter of course. As a pedestrian myself, I am bound to say that I found it a great comfort and convenience which entirely eliminated any feeling of uncertainty as to whether it was wise to cross at a given moment or not. For those two reasons, in the interest of the "jaywalker" and for the comfort and convenience of pedestrians who use these crossings at busy times when the roads are crowded, I feel that the Amendment deserves great sympathy.


I should like to say a word on this Amendment. I have a great deal of sympathy with my noble friend, Lord Burden. I can see difficulties with regard to his Amendment, but, in my view and speaking from my own experience of busy crossings, this is the only possible solution of the problem of providing for the safety of the pedestrian. This system should supplant that of the ordinary pedestrian crossing. It would not be sufficient—and this I think was the interpretation which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, put on the purpose of the Amendment—to have the coloured lights govern the movements of pedestrians. Specified traffic lights at suitable crossing places should have the "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals as well, so that while the "Cross Now" signal is illuminated there is an "all red" period for the vehicular traffic.


That is the intention.


That is what my noble friend means. It has always been the argument I used when arguing in favour of this method as opposed to the ordinary pedestrian crossing. Of course, it would slow up the stream of traffic, but I am afraid that if you are going to consider pedestrians on a crossing you have to slow up the traffic—that is, if you are going to give the pedestrian a sporting chance, which some pedestrians do not think the ordinary pedestrian crossing gives them. In other words, you cannot have the best of both worlds. May I point to the answer which the Government gave me when I wanted an extra pedestrian crossing in Parliament Square to link up, so that one would be able to go right across the square and not be obliged to go all the way round. The answer of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, on behalf of the Minister of Transport was, in effect, "Well, if you do that you are going to slow up traffic in Parliament Square." If you want to give the pedestrian a perfectly safe passage there is only one thing to do—that is, to stop the traffic. You must have an "all red" period for vehicular traffic while the pedestrian is crossing the road.

I admit that if this system were installed all the way down Oxford Street the speed of traffic there would be brought down to an average of about two miles an hour. In that thoroughfare there are traffic lights at very close intervals, and to have an "all red" period every 100 yards would indeed bring the pace of traffic down. But when there is a specified crossing at a point where there is a huge volume of pedestrian traffic, it is not sufficient to say that they must honour the direction given by the traffic signals. That, as Lord Balfour of Inchrye said, would be likely to involve them in accidents because they might be half-way across the road when the lights changed. I repeat that the only way to accomplish what is required here is to have an "all red" period for vehicular traffic, with a signal showing to the pedestrians and directing them to "Cross Now." This light, of course, would go out after a specified period and the signal "Don't Cross" would appear. I know this proposal, if generally adopted, would involve a revolution and it would take a lot of thinking about. But my noble friend Lord Burden has put his finger on the only possible safe way of allowing pedestrians to cross to-day at traffic intersections.


I should like to support the Amendment. I think it is very important that in years to come we should get many more of these automatically controlled crossings with the "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals. Like many of your Lordships, I have been to America and have seen the system working there very well. One important difference in the system there is that if you proceed over a crossing when the signal says "Don't Cross," a police officer, if he sees you, can fine you a dollar on the spot. If you do not wish to pay you can go before a court. We do not like that system here, and I do not suppose that we should ever adopt it. It might perhaps result in cluttering up the courts too much. At the same time I think that if we are going to give a police officer the power to regulate pedestrian traffic and to bring people up to court if they do not do as he tells them, it will be right to do what the Amendment suggests.


The "Cross Now" signal is designed to prevent the argument as to who has the filtering right—the pedestrian or the driver of the car. Therefore I support the Amendment as finally answering that question.


I still want to point out that this Amendment does not deal with the situation at crossings where there are no "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals. It deals only with any point where the crossing of pedestrians is controlled by "Cross Now" or "Don't Cross" signals. I go out every week and use crossings which are not equipped with such signals. I should like to ask Lord Burden whether I am expected to wait before crossing at one of these crossings until the local authority has changed the present system to the system of traffic lights plus these "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" signals.


May I try to allay the anxiety of the noble Lord who has just spoken. The Amendment may be capable of improvement in the matter of its drafting. We are not all highly-skilled Parliamentary draftsmen. But it is designed to deal with the position where "Cross Now" and "Don't Cross" visible signs are in operation. I hope that that will allay the anxiety of the noble Lord.

6.30 p.m.


I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, has made that point, because he has saved me the task of pointing out to Lord Burden that if we were to accept his Amendment as drafted he would succeed in bringing practically the whole of the pedestrian traffic of London to a stop within twenty-four hours of passing the Amendment into law. Perhaps that may not be such a bad thing after all, as noble Lords appear to be of the opinion that the general run of pedestrians is not yet fast enough. There is another objection, a technical one. What the noble Lord desires could be done under the present law. If the principle were acceptable, it could be put into effect under existing statutory provisions. Under Section 18 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, regulations could be made forbidding pedestrians to cross except when the signal, "Cross Now" was exhibited. The noble Lord's object could perfectly well be achieved under the law as it stands now.


Will it be?


Now we come to the question—will it be?

The object the noble Lord seeks to achieve has met with approval in principle throughout the committee. The difficulties I have in mind are practical ones. When I saw the noble Lord's Amendment, I took the precaution of going down Trafalgar Square and standing for about a quarter of an hour by the "Cross now" signal just where the Strand joins Trafalgar Square. If the noble Lord does that, I think he will find that there is a practical difficulty straight away. The difficulty is the enforcement of the provision: when the policeman, who is to enforce these provisions, arrives on the scene, he will be able to exercise the powers conferred by the existing Clause 4. The Amendment moved, therefore, merely creates an unnecesary offence; the noble Lord's wishes could be carried out through the provisions of the existing clause.

There is another difficulty; I admit that it is not a logical argument and I am almost ashamed to put it forward. At night, when there is little traffic, nobody pays attention to the signal, "Cross now." I do not think that we should encourage, without a good deal of further investigation, the passing of legislation which any practical man standing on the spot can see is going to be disregarded in nine cases out of ten—at night or when a policeman is not on duty, or when the traffic is slight. That is my difficulty. I echo the sentiments expressed by my noble friend Lord Wolverton, about the additional burden on the police and the courts. These are practical arguments which must be taken into account at the same time as the powerful arguments for safety put forward by the noble Lord. I hope that the Committee will be good enough to consider both aspects. I will look carefully at what has been said and bring the knowledge of the experts to bear on it. I cannot perhaps ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment on that condition, but I promise to look at the arguments put forward to see whether anything further can be done. I fear, however, that the practical difficulties will outweigh the advantages which the noble Lord has put forward.


Would it not be possible to accept this Amendment in another form? We might consider having "Cross now" signals switched off at certain times—for instance, in the middle of the night. That would meet the point the noble Lord has just explained.


I shall be glad to consider that.


I am sorry that the noble Lord raised the last argument. He saved himself by saying that he was ashamed to put it forward. The only reason why the pedestrian disregards the "Cross now" signal in the middle of the night is that there is no traffic. We are in a dreadful state of flux on this whole question of pedestrian crossings. They were a great factor in the safety of pedestrians when they were a novelty. Now they are treated with contempt because they are not enforced. This is a difficult problem and I am grateful to the noble Lord for the undertaking that he will look at this question. We shall have to do something if the number of vehicles in London increases and the number of pedestrians increases. I am sorry to say that the pedestrian crossing is not proving nearly so effective now that it has become so commonplace. We have to get something more positive, and I would ask the noble Lord to consider this point earnestly. I agree that he already has power to do this. In thickly populated areas we must have crossings not only with a "red" period but also with a "Cross now" period, and with sanctions to see that they are properly used.

6.35 p.m.


I should like to raise one additional point that has not been mentioned: it is the difficulty found at T-crossings, where there is a main road and a single road running into it. A pedestrian wanting to cross waits until the traffic lights stop the traffic crossing up and down the main road, but the traffic coming up on his right is also turning round his corner and he cannot cross. In that way the pedestrian is sometimes prevented from crossing altogether. In Amsterdam, where I was a year ago, there was this short interval of "Cross now" between the right of vehicular traffic to go one way and to go the cross way, when the foot passenger was able to cross. So far as I am aware, there are T-crossings in London where there is no "Cross now" signal, and there may be times when there is no opportunity for pedestrians to cross at all.


May I ask a question of the noble Lord who moved this Amendment? As the Amendment is drafted, I can see no restriction applying it to built-up areas only. There are a large number of crossings in rural areas where, surely, there is no question of putting a limit on the "Stop" lights. I assume that this Amendment applies only in built-up areas.


Has the Minister any information of how many "Cross now" signals operate by pressing a button and how many operate automatically?


I assume that the noble Marquess has in mind one like that in Knightsbridge. I have not the figures at my fingertips, but I can get the information.


As we know, the noble Lord is always most thorough in his inquiries. I wonder whether it would be possible for him to find out something about the way the American system works. They are a practical people and I have seen the system working with the greatest efficiency and success. If the noble Lord is not already in possession of this information, could he make some inquiries?


With regard to the American method, my technical advisers have gone into it carefully and have examined it in great detail; but having done so, they are opposed to the Amendment, and I can only assume that they are not so favourably impressed by American practice as the noble Lord is.


As regards the question of pedestrians not being allowed to cross the road when there is no traffic, that is the case under the American system. I got into trouble with a policeman in New York for doing that very thing. There was no traffic at all and I disregarded the lights and proceeded to cross the road. The policeman dealt very roughly with me. I think it is rather a good thing to have these signals enforced at night time, so that people realise that they must use them.


May I say how grateful I am to all noble Lords who have supported the principle behind this Amendment, faultily worded as it probably is? May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that it is rather exist under some regulation? That cold comfort to know that power does power may exist until any time one likes to state, but it may not be used. As to the observation about what is done at the Trafalgar Square crossing at night, I am afraid that, as I am much older than the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, my knowledge of what goes on in that vicinity is somewhat limited. In view of what has been said, and the general support the Amendment has received, I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, on the understanding, of course, that another opportunity may arise for the point to be considered.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 agreed to.

6.41 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 4 to insert the following new clause: .In paragraph (a) of section forty-nine of the Act of 1930 as amended by section forty of the Act of 1934 and the Third Schedule thereto (which section among other things empowers a police officer regulating traffic to make a vehicle proceed in or keep to a particular line of traffic) after the words 'particular line of traffic' there shall be added the words 'or follow such alternative route as may be indicated to him'.

The noble Lord said: This is rather an important Amendment, but as I know your Lordships are anxious to rise at seven o'clock, I will be as brief as I can. I am constrained to put this new clause down for your Lordships' consideration because of the vast programme of road construction that Her Majesty's Government have embarked upon, a programme that we all rejoice in. I know that noble Lords who have given this matter consideration will appreciate that it is no good building new roads, at prodigious costs, by-passing congested areas and thickly populated towns, and seeing them practically unused. That is the problem. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, raised the same point when I had the honour to introduce the debate on the Oxford ring road a week ago.

I have searched the Statutes, as far as I can, and I can find no clear indication of who is responsible, or who can accept the responsibility, for seeing that some indication is given to through traffic to use a by-pass and not to attempt to go through a thickly populated area. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is to reply, and I should like him to follow me carefully as the point is rather intricate. My Amendment says: In paragraph (a) of Section forty-nine of the Act of 1930 as amended by Section forty of the Act of 1934"— and here I would break off to say that Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, reads as follows: Where a police constable is for the time being engaged in the regulation of traffic in a road,"— that sentence has a somewhat familiar sound— or where any traffic sign being a sign for regulating the movement of traffic or indicating the route to be followed by traffic, has been lawfully placed "— I do not know whether it means the constable has been lawfully placed, the sign has been lawfully placed, or both— on or near any road in accordance with the provisions of the last preceding section, any person driving or propelling any vehicle who— (a) neglects or refuses to stop the vehicle or to make it proceed in or keep to a particular line of traffic when directed so to do by the police constable in the execution of his duty … shall be guilty of an offence. The preceding section, so far as I can ascertain, lays down definitely that the only authority in the Statutes which can direct traffic over a certain route is a highway authority: that is my reading of it. The highway authority can close a road or divert traffic, and I can only suppose that the police constable mentioned here is carrying out his statutory duty as directed by the highway authority.

When we turn to Section 40 of the Act of 1934, we are referred to the Third Schedule, and the Third Schedule, which deals with "Consequential and minor Amendments," says: Section forty-nine—After the words 'to be followed by traffic'"— that means the direction— there shall be inserted the words 'and being of the prescribed size, colour, and type, or of another character authorised by the Minister …' Those words must refer to the sign and not to the constable, and it is the only piece of daylight I could find. So I have sought to put in paragraph (a) of the old Section 49, after the words "particular line of traffic," the words or follow such alternative route as may be indicated to him. The reason I put it like that is that I did not think it right that any police constable, at any whim, should be able to say at the beginning of a by-pass that the traffic must go along the by-pass and not through the town. I understand that he can do that only if the appropriate highway authority—it may be the county borough or the county council—decides that it is appropriate that all traffic or certain sections of the traffic should not proceed through the town but along the by-pass. I know that it is difficult to segregate through traffic from town traffic, but I thought there should be some authority to do it, where it was appropriate.

If the noble Lord does not like my drafting, I hope he will at least accept the principle, because I can find no authority. I think I am right in saying—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that the only authority under which police signs diverting traffic are erected in London, at times such as Coronations, is a local Act. Throughout the country the police have no authority to do this unless they are acting in accordance with the instruction of a highway authority. I hope the noble Lord will see the sense of what I am trying to do here, and if he can help me, I shall be grateful. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 4, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


If the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has put down this Amendment for knowledge, to find out what is happening and what the position is, I am entirely on his side. The only thing I am a little frightened about is that, if he gets an answer that is more or less satisfactory, he may be putting ideas into the heads of the highway authorities. I know he fears that when more by-passes are built lorries and commercial traffic will still go through the middle of the towns. He is hoping eventually for powers to make them use the by-pass. I agree with him up to a point, but it has been found abroad that you cannot really divert the bulk of your heavy through traffic until you have a complete ring road. Most of the bypasses we have now are either North and South or East and West, and to try and divert the heavy traffic in other directions in those circumstances is really an impossible business, even by signs. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, however, that the day may yet come when we shall have proper ring roads and when the highway authority will have seriously to consider compelling through traffic to go round the town. But I hope the Amendment which the noble Lord has put down will not make any highway authority rush into action just yet.


The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said he hoped that if I did not like his draft I would accept the principle of his Amendment. At this hour hope should not be deferred, and I can tell the noble Lord at once that I do not like his draft, but I will accept the principle of his Amendment. I think the noble Lord has put his finger on a definite flaw here and has a very good point. I did not follow the rather complicated reasoning about the ring roads, but I do follow the arguments he put forward about the limitation and diversion of traffic in certain circumstances by the highway authority. That is perfectly true. I think it will come as a surprise to many people to know that, although the police have the power, say in London on certain occasions and in certain streets, to divert traffic without signs or with signs by the hand, that power is not at all universal. I think it is one of the examples which we were discussing a few Amendments back, of an occasion when many people would automatically obey the police because they believed the police had certain powers. I think it is right to tidy this matter up, and I can give the undertaking to the noble Lord that if he will withdraw the Amendment I will look at the whole question again. At the same time, there are other kindred matters which we must consider: for example, in some ways his wording is not quite accurate. We will certainly do something and put into the Bill at some stage some different form of words which I think will meet the noble Lord's point completely, and other points which will no doubt arise as a result of this Amendment. I thank the noble Lord very much for putting the Amendment down, and I congratulate him for spotting this flaw in the existing law.


I am grateful to the noble Lord. I had a job to wade through the Statutes and, as I have said on many occasions—and it is so obvious that it does not need repetition—I am no Parliamentary draftsman. I believe there is a short Amendment following this one which it may be convenient for the noble Lord to take now, but before I move my next Amendment, which I think will be controversial, may I ask the noble Lord in charge of the Bill whether it would then be convenient for us to adjourn? With that, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

6.55 p.m.

LORD MILNER OF LEEDS moved after Clause 5 to insert the following new clause— .It shall be an offence where pedestrian barriers are provided on the edge of a footway for preventing pedestrians from crossing the road for any person to proceed over or through the barriers other than at the crossing place provided by the barriers.

The noble Lord said: Your Lordships are aware that, in a number of rather busy places in cities and towns there are pedestrian barriers for the protection of the public because of the pressure of traffic passing, both vehicles on the road and frequently the number of people who are at certain times pressing along the footpath. Usually those barriers are placed on a corner and there is an opening left in them so that people may cross from one side of the road to the other. Your Lordships will also be aware that frequently people either climb over these barriers or under them and "nip across" the road, to the great disorganisation of the traffic on the road and the dissatisfaction of the people on the footpath. It does not seem to me, therefore, to be unreasonable to ask that that particular action on the part of a very few people should be an offence.

My noble friend Lord Winster, who has had to leave, asked me whether I would remind your Lordships that outside schools, where there are similar pedestrian crossings, some form of wire mesh is frequently put at the top and bottom of the pedestrian barrier. But that does not deal with the question of the youth who climbs over the barrier into the road and crosses the road. It seems to me that it should be an offence to ignore a pedestrian barrier placed there for the protection of all concerned, and I hope the Government will find it possible to accept an Amendment in that sense. No doubt the present Amendment is not in the proper form and, indeed, I am extremely doubtful whether it is in the proper place. That could be adjusted if the Government feel disposed to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 5, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Milner of Leeds.)


The noble Lord is quite right: this Amendment is not in the proper form or, indeed, in the proper place. The Amendment is quite unnecessary, because the power already exists to do what the noble Lord wants. Where barriers are used they are usually erected in conjunction with pedestrian crossings. In such cases, the Minister already has the power under Section 18 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, to make regulations forbidding pedestrians to cross the road except at the crossings, and the amendment of Section 18 which is proposed in Clause 5 (1) will enable him to carry out experiments on these lines in relation to particular sites. Those experiments will be carried out. What the noble Lord has said will be borne in mind, but he will appreciate, I am certain, that the difficulty is the same as the difficulty of the "Cross Now" crossings. We run the risk of making regulations which are unenforceable. Because boys will be boys, it is natural for a boy to jump over a fence rather than walk round and go through the legitimate way. He will do that even with meshed wire underneath.

Bearing that proviso in mind, we will certainly look again at this under the provisions of the Act I have mentioned and see whether some progress can be made. Again on the general principle I think I carry the noble Lord with me when I say that it is undesirable to make a large number of regulations admirable in object, admirable in concept but quite unenforceable in law. With that I would ask the noble Lord whether he would be good enough to withdraw his Amendment.


I entirely agree with the last remarks of the noble Lord, and I fully appreciate the difficulty there is and would be in enforcing the law. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.

House adjourned at two minutes before seven o'clock.