HL Deb 22 February 1955 vol 191 cc303-59

4.36 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]

LORD BRABAZON OF TARA moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause: . The following subsection shall be substituted for subsection (3) of section ten of the Act of 1930 as amended by subsection (3) of section two of the Act of 1934: '(3) A person prosecuted for driving a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a speed limit imposed by or under any enactment shall not be liable to be convicted solely on the evidence of one witness'.

The noble Lord said: We now come back to this kaleidoscopic Road Traffic Bill. The purpose of my Amendment is not to introduce anything new, curiously enough, but to put right a state of affairs which has crept in owing to a different interpretation by the courts of what was clearly the intention of Parliament. The piece of legislation which has gone wrong reads as follows: A person prosecuted for driving a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a speed limit imposed by or under any enactment shall not be liable to be convicted solely on the evidence of one witness to the effect that in the opinion of the witness the person prosecuted was driving the vehicle at a speed exceeding that limit. That is as clear as day. As to what was meant by Parliament in its wisdom in this matter—


Will the noble Lord forgive my interrupting? I shall be glad if he will tell me what he is quoting from.


I am quoting from the Road Traffic Act, 1934, Section 2 (3), (3). That is what is laid down. As I see it, the intention of Parliament was that a person should not be convicted of speeding on the testimony of one witness alone. In the particular case of Penny v. Nicholas, it was held by the courts that the reading of the speedometer by a policeman was not an opinion as to speed but was evidence—and I accept that it is, clearly, evidence of his speed. But when he is gauging his speed against that of the motorist he is endeavouring to trap, there still comes in opinion of speed as to the difference between the rates at which the two vehicles are travelling. That, I maintain, still brings in the question of opinion of speed.

What has, in fact, happened is that up and down the country there are single police patrols on motor-cycles, waiting up side streets. They notice a car which they think is going too fast, and they "pop out" from the side-street and chase the car. A point to which I would particularly draw your Lordships' attention is that they are always going faster than the car they are following, because they are overtaking it. On a very short distance, as they are now inclined to do, they stop the motorist and say he is going over the limited speed. To that there is absolutely no defence, as your Lordships know. When it comes to a conflict between the motorist and the police, the motorist generally gets off in a very poor way.

I maintain that that was against the wishes of Parliament. Indeed, it is against what is in the Act, and we should not have these things changed by interpretations of the courts. I hope the Government will not be influenced too much by what the police want. Obviously, they want their job to be as simple as possible. I hope the Government will not be influenced by what the lawyers want, because lawyers are generally very keen on convicting people. Only the other day the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice really spoke against juries in general because they would not convict of manslaughter in cases where they should convict. But Parliament wanted this and made the law as they wanted it to be, and it should remain the law of the land unless it is deliberately changed by another Act of Parliament at the wish of the Legislature. That has not been done. It is not the desire of Parliament that anyone should be convicted for speeding on the evidence, or on the opinion, of one person. In conclusion, I would say that in Scotland, even on the interpretation of the courts as it is to-day, no one can be convicted without corroborative evidence. I hope that noble Lords who are of Scottish descent will realise that they have a better system in Scotland than we have in England and will rally round this Amendment to see that we poor people South of the Border get as much justice as they do in Scotland. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

After Clause 9, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)


In addition to what the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has said, there are other points about this question. In this Bill we are being asked to stiffen the penalties for exceeding the speed limit. It seems to me that if we are going to stiffen the penalties, we must be more careful than ever to see that justice is not only done but seen to be done. We must be careful that there can be no possibility of error. I would quote a case that was reported in the papers the other day to show what at the moment is the police practice—I think it was in Hampton. Two cars were "tailed" by a police officer on a motor-cycle. The drivers of both cars were summoned and both were fined. It seems to me impossible for a policeman on one motor-cycle to be able to see two drivers, one behind the other over the same distance. After all, he could not be in sight of the leading car the whole of the time, because he was bound to be blanketed by the second car.

That sort of thing rather leaves an unpleasant taste in one's mouth. If we are to stiffen the penalties, we should make it abundantly clear that where a man is alleged to be going over the legal limit the evidence must be as clear as a pikestaff, so that neither he nor anybody else can have justifiable cause for complaint. I think that the police do the best they can in present conditions, and I am sure that great care is taken to test their speedometers. At the same time, I ask your Lordships to support this Amendment, which I think, in the circumstance, is only fair.


I find myself unable to support my noble friends, Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Howe, in this Amendment. Lord Brabazon of Tara's case rests, first of all, on corroboration. I believe in corroboration, but fundamentally what the noble Lord is saying is that the police perjure themselves. I would rather have one man perjure himself than two men perjure themselves, when I am the only one against; but I do not believe that the police do this. I believe they are very fair. We know the difficulties they have. They suffer from a lack of manpower, and we should remember that one man on a motor-cycle costs this country a great deal less than a motor car with at least two men in it. I believe that when the magistrates have only one policeman giving evidence, they weigh the evidence carefully and fairly. We are just as safe with the present system as if we had two men in a car who had made up their minds to go a little far. I think the law as it stands is far better.


I have had hundreds of these cases before me, and perhaps it is only fair that I should give my experience over what is now a longish period of years. That experience has been that the police are very fair indeed in these matters. I think the proof of that is that I can hardly recollect hearing their evidence contested. Certainly I have not been in receipt of complaints about unfairness. I find that after the police have given their evidence about timing a motorist with stop watch and speedometer, which have been tested that morning, they frequently add phrases like "There was no danger to life involved"; "The road was clear''; "There was no traffic about," and so on. In my experience the police do not try to make these cases.

If we insist upon their evidence being corroborated, I should like to put forward this consideration. As I have explained to your Lordships more than once, far too much time of the police is already taken up with these cases, diverting them from their proper duty of detecting crime; and if we were to require evidence to be corroborated, another great body of police would have to be taken away from what I regard as their proper duties and put on to this job of trapping or timing motorists. The only point which has occasionally given rise to some query in my mind is that the timing is done over a rather short distance. If a speedometer had a little error, then the shorter the distance, the more that error exaggerates the speed. In a word, I do not think there is a sufficient body of evidence of the police abusing their position in this matter to warrant such a very large alteration in the regulations.


I am impressed by what my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara has put forward in this new clause. Is he not really asking for what is demanded in all courts of law: that there should be corroboration of any evidence that is given? I am not a lawyer, but I understand that no action would be taken on the evidence of one man, although it is listened to. A defendant is not convicted without some corroborative evidence. I think the noble Lord seems to be asking only that, and I support his Amendment. I am grateful to him for the complimentary words he said about my country.

4.50 p.m.


This is a difficult problem and one about which we have worried our heads a great deal in the past. I should like to begin by saying that I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Waleran and Lord Winster, for what they have said. Although the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, was careful not to say any such thing—I want to make that perfectly clear—the underlying implication of his remarks, the inference that must be drawn from what he said by somebody coming to this matter with an open mind, is that the police commit perjury. In fact the police are as careful as they possibly can be. They do not commit perjury. The police make mistakes from time to time, the same as the next man, but they are particularly careful in giving evidence and their speedometers are checked regularly and carefully.

They do not bring cases after short distances only as was suggested in the speeches of one or two noble Lords; they do their timing over some distance on the road so that they shall not fall into the mistake of accelerating past a car that is doing just over 30 miles an hour. I would also remind your Lordships that you see very few prosecutions for offences at 31 or 32 miles an hour. My experience is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Winster. There have been few complaints that the police have not been acting fairly. They know how vulnerable they are to accusation on this point when they are acting singly, and they go to scrupulous lengths to make certain that justice not only is done but appears to be done. I do not think there is the feeling of injustice that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, seems to think there is.

I must also refer to an important practical point. We are desperately short of police, and we are using more and more mobile police patrols manned by one policeman. If we make this change these patrols will be unable to take any action. It would also mean that we should need two policemen in court in each of these cases, whereas previously one policeman giving evidence, relying on his frequently checked speedometer, was sufficient. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, gave examples earlier of their first cases in court. I well remember the last case which I attended: there were nineteen policemen idly kicking their heels waiting to give evidence of a fairly trivial nature. How many of those cases were for speeding offences, I do not know, but what impressed itself strongly on my mind was the apparently needless waste of police manpower. I hope that your Lordships will not press this matter too strongly, as the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has urged. I am sure that justice is always attempted, and I think that justice is nearly always done. If we take the step the noble Lord advises, I fear that we shall be in great difficulty on the manpower question without any great advantage being gained. I hope that your Lordships, on consideration of those facts, will agree to leave the law as it is.


I waited for the noble Lord to reply before saying anything on this matter. I am rather disappointed with the reply. The important thing is that justice should be done; that is all that matters. It does not matter whether there is a shortage of police. Incidentally, the noble Lord has just put an extra burden on them under this Bill: that of regulating 12 million cyclists. Perhaps the thought about the shortage of police might have gone through his mind then. I cannot think it is just that some person should be convicted of wrongdoing on the uncorroborated evidence of one individual. It is well known that the motorist does not stand a chance and has no real defence: it is his word against the word of a policeman. If you are driving a car on your own, and the policeman motor-cyclist stops you and tells you that you have been doing over 30 miles an hour, you cannot have any proof that you were not doing so.

I will cite my own case. I was driving in London, down a decline. I knew that I was within the 30 m.p.h. limit, and I thought I was travelling at approximately 30 miles an hour. I was not looking at my speedometer, but at the traffic in front of me. I was merely coasting down this hill. I passed some traffic lights, and a policeman came out and stopped me. He said: "My colleague up the road wants a word with you: you were travelling at over 30 miles an hour." The gentleman came along in a tweed coat and a Fair Isle pullover, and the only reason why I thought he was a policeman was because the officer who stopped me was in uniform and knew him. I was told that I was travelling at over 30 miles an hour, that I should be reported and that proceedings might be taken against me in due course. I said: "I am sorry. I cannot contest it, but I did not think I was."

When I received the summons I found that I was travelling at 38 miles an hour. I live sixty miles away from where that offence took place, and I did not trouble to go to court—and I should think that is the attitude of 75 per cent. of the people who find themselves in that particular position; it was just no good attending. Eventually I had a printed notice saying that I was guilty—they had it all worked out beforehand—and I was fined £2, and my licence was endorsed. My experience is that the police are going in for this kind of thing less and less, because they themselves know the injustice of it. When I last had to do with this in an official capacity, I was told that in London the authorities were trying to give up all kinds of police traps, because they realised that they had to rely on the uncorroborated evidence of one policeman, a motor-cyclist. Though I have every sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, the thing niggling in my mind is that the motor-cyclist patrol is one of the most useful officers in the police force when it comes to the "courtesy cop," if I may use that expression. But even he is not altogether reliable with his speedometer—and I should not like to enter into a technical discussion with the noble Lord. Lord Mancroft, as to the accuracy of speedometers.

I feel that there is a problem here, although I am not sure that the way to get over it is to adopt this Amendment. At the risk of being accused of coming back to an original contention of mine, I hope that the result of this inquiry which is to be held will be a revision of the whole idea of speed limits. I would ask the noble Lord to give this matter further consideration, and perhaps, in the light of what has been said, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, will do that, too. It is not the sort of thing on which I personally should like to divide the Committee. As I say, I feel that justice must be the pre-eminent factor.

We have listened this afternoon to four magnificent speeches upon justice and about how it must be certain of being meted out to the ordinary individual. I copied down some words used by my noble and learned leader: "The satisfactory administration of justice is the strength of the State"—and I do not think the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, would contradict that. I do not think justice is administered by this method and it is something over which I am profoundly disturbed. It is firmly fixed in the minds of people that they do not get justice, and that is why they do not defend these summonses. That is not altogether a satisfactory state of affairs.

I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will have second thoughts on this matter. Do not bring forward the excuse of police manpower, because if that is the criterion the noble Lord should immediately repeal 50 per cent. of the laws affecting road traffic in this country. I think there is a better way out. That is how I should like to leave it, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, will withdraw his Amendment and perhaps, between now and the next stage of the Bill, have discussions with the noble Lord who is replying for the Government.


I, too, feel that I cannot support the noble Lord's Amendment. I have found in many cases—in fact, in every case with which I have been associated—the police are extremely fair. I have on occasions been "tailed" by a motor-cycle policeman, and when he found that I was going at 30 m.p.h. he has tailed off. I realise the point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that it is difficult for the accused to prove whether he is in the right or in the wrong; but I do not think there is any answer to that, and I do not think there can be. I do not think it would be any better if we had two policemen on bicycles, or even a couple of police in a car. I do not think it would make the slightest difference. What it would do would be to increase the cost immediately, and with the shortage of manpower it certainly could not be thought of at the present time. I hope that the Government will look at this matter again; there is something in it. I should like to see a condition that, before a motorist could be prosecuted for speeding on the evidence only of a motor-cyclist, it should be for a specified distance, say a mile or half a mile.


I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, with some surprise. In replying to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, he did not address himself to the Act which the noble Lord quoted. I am sure it was the intention of the original Act that there should be corroborative evidence of two witnesses. The noble Lord did not mention the sort of instance like the case I mentioned to him, which I believe was heard at Hendon the other day. There a policeman secured the conviction of two drivers driving one in front of the other. This Bill empowers courts, on a second conviction, to impose disqualification. Obviously, that is one of the most serious penalties that can be inflicted, and it seems to me of the greatest importance to be quite sure that a conviction has been secured fairly. I endeavoured to pay a tribute to the police, because I know perfectly well how they try to be scrupulously fair. At the same time, is it not better to exclude all possibility of error?


There seems to be one misapprehension which I should like to correct in a few words. It is that these cases are always a contradiction of evidence between one man and another man. It is not the case that magistrates listen to the police constable and then listen to the defendant, and then automatically decide in favour of the police constable. My experience has been that when the defendant is stopped by the police or, subsequently, if he does come into court instead of writing a letter to admit the offence, he rarely argues the case at any time: he generally says, in the idiom: "It's a fair cop." I know that it may be said that a defendant thinks that that is the quickest and easiest way to get out of it, but I have also found that the British are pretty obstinate about such matters if they really think they are being dealt an injustice. The practice, so far as I know, goes to show that the police are fair, and that in these cases the defendants themselves recognise that fact and do not labour under a sense of grievance.


In the remarks I addressed to your Lordships I did not make any criticisms of the police at all. I think they are placed in an extraordinarily difficult position, because everybody knows that the most difficult position from which to gauge the speed of a car is when you are going in the same direction and are some distance behind. Far from suggesting that they are perjuring themselves, all I was trying to point out was that the police have the greatest difficulty in assessing the difference in speed between their own vehicle and the one in front. It is laid down in the Act that there must be two witnesses, and not one. My complaint is that this practice represents a change from the intention of Parliament; something was actually laid down by Parliament but, by virtue of decisions in the court, that has been changed. I should have thought it was the duty of the Ministry of Transport, if they have found a difference in procedure from what Parliament wished, to introduce something themselves so that this trapping by one motorist should be, so to speak, endorsed by them. It has not been endorsed by them. It has drifted along by interpretation of a provision which meant something very different from what is happening to-day.

On the other hand, we have no answer from the Minister to tell us what is to happen in Scotland. Here we are with a Bill which says that in England you can be "had up" for going at over 30 m.p.h. on the evidence of one policeman on a bicycle. In Scotland, you cannot. Is that not a most unsatisfactory and ridiculous thing—to think that in Scotland, in spite of this Act, one can do something freely which one cannot do in the South? I do not know whether I am impressed with these rather nebulous promises as to investigation of the speed limit. I stick to my guns, and say that what Parliament wished we should not change, except by a change in the actual wording of the Act. That is what I have moved, and I still stick to the proposal.


This is a difficult question, and it might be convenient, in view of what my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara has said, if I bored your Lordships for a moment by looking a little more closely at the legal position first, and then pass to the practical side of it. The original subsection to which the noble Lord referred reads as follows: A person prosecuted for driving a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a speed limit imposed by or under any enactment shall not be liable to be convicted solely on the evidence of one witness to the effect that in the opinion of the witness the person prosecuted was driving the vehicle at a speed exceeding that limit. Your Lordships will appreciate the words which leap to the eye are, "solely" and, "in the opinion of the witness." That was the way the section spoke. I am not for a moment controverting my noble friend's Parliamentary history. I think he was Minister of Transport at the time.


No; not at thetime—after.


Shortly after. But he was always interested in these matters; and he was there, and I was not, so I am not entering into controversy on that point. But, of course, your Lordships are well aware that if once a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, it is the words of the Act that speak. That is not to say that we cannot change them if we think they are wrong. But it is a fact that that was a provision of the Act, and that was passed some twenty years ago.

In view of what my noble friend has said, I looked up the case that I think he had in mind, Nicholas v. Penny. In that case the constable gave evidence that his speedometer showed 40 miles per hour, and he also gave evidence that the speedometer had been tested. That evidence was valueless because it was hearsay evidence, which is not admitted; but he was dealing in advance with the question as to whether the speedometer had been tested. On that, the magistrates, I think, acquitted, and the case came to the Divisional Court. Lord Goddard, who gave the leading judgment, said these words, after going through the authorities: The question in the present case is whether or not, if a police officer says that he was following a vehicle at an even distance from it and the speedometer on his car showed that he was going not at 30.5 miles per hour or at just over 30 miles per hour, but at 40 miles per hour, that is evidence on which the justices can act, although it not strictly proved before them that the speedometer has been tested. On that, the Court said that it was evidence because it did not depend solely on the opinion of the officer but on the officer plus his speedometer.

To-day, I think we have to consider—I go further than the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth—not only that justice is being done, but that justice appears to be or is manifestly done, which is the test I am always prepared to take in considering the procedure of our courts. What Lord Goddard is saying is that, as evidence, that is a prima facie case. Of course, the defendant can controvert it if he is so minded, and if he can so do; but that is evidence. I put it to your Lordships that your Lordships have to consider, as practical men: is that evidence or is it not? In the ordinary case, the officer can be cross-examined about the testing of speedometers. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has explained the usual practice with regard to that aspect, and I believe that it is followed.

I was interested, and I have every reason to be interested, in the appeal to my nationality which the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, made in the first of his speeches. Of course that strikes a very deep chord in my heart. On the other hand, I must also remember that I have been a lawyer in England for a considerable number of years, and it is the fact that in England we have never adopted the Scottish principle as a general principle: that there must be two witnesses. We have always been prepared to give warnings as to certain categories of witnesses, such as accomplices or those who have a bad record, or anything of that kind, but we have always said that it is a matter for the jury or the magistrates who decide the facts to say whether one witness is enough.

As a matter of justice (I am trying to keep within the limits that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has put; I make no complaint) there is a lot to be said for the English system. I know the strength of the Scottish system, and I know its great legal ancestry; but, on the other hand, we have always said: "To decide facts, appoint a tribunal in which you have confidence, whether it is a jury or magistrates or a county court judge"—as we were discussing this afternoon—"and it is for the tribunal to say whether one witness is sufficient." That is a point I should like to put to your Lordships. The real point the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has been pressing is that the intention was to have two witnesses but that the intention has not been carried out.


Hear, hear!


If that was the intention, as I say, it was very badly expressed; but that does not conclude the point. I put it to your Lordships in this way: that after twenty years, when the effect of the Act has been interpreted in the way I have said, it is a serious matter to go back on what has now come to be the law.

I should like to put to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, the question of police manpower, because, with the greatest respect, I do not think it is as easy as he seemed to think. I was Home Secretary for three years, and the question of police manpower in five great cities sat on my chest and shoulders with heavy weight. As the noble Lord knows, I am sure, the cities are London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. One of the great problems of our time is that the police manpower in these great cities is terribly under strength. I have tried, my predecessor tried and my successor is trying, to solve that problem; but up to date it has proved intractable.

As my noble friend Lord Mancroft has said, not only have we been short of police but whenever there was a police debate it was put to me: "Cannot you devise some method of preventing so many of your police strength, especially in these cities, spending so much time in magistrates' courts waiting for cases to come on?" I merely state that because it is a problem that, as I say, has oppressed me, and it is a point that is always put to me whenever the problem arises. Both as Home Secretary and as Lord Chancellor, I have been trying to find methods. I appointed a departmental committee to consider this point, to see whether we could deal with it; but the problem exists and, as an aspect of the problem and the administration of justice, I do not think it can be controverted. I would ask all noble Lords who have considered this matter carefully: are you going to rule out the motor-cycle police officer? That would be a serious thing to do.

One of the problems of the police is to have sufficient motor police and yet keep costs down. Noble Lords who sit in county courts and on other local authorities know the other side of the question from the one that I am pressing—namely, the cost of the police at the present time and the cost of equipment. Therefore, I think it would be a serious matter to rule out the motor-cyclist and his speedometer as an effective way of dealing with proper cases. Even with a car, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, illustrated the difficulty the driver of the car would have to keep his eye on the speedometer: he has more to do; he has to keep his eye on the road. The same would apply to the driver of the police car. Therefore, I think we have these tremendous practical difficulties.

I am, nevertheless, most anxious, as is my noble friend, that we should consider any amelioration of the position. I must admit that I am not convinced by the speeches made here to-day that the change should be made, but I am quite prepared to have a look at the matter. I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, might withdraw his Amendment to-day on the assurance that we will have a look at it before Report stage. If he or the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, or anyone else who has spoken to-day, can put up any suggestions which would deal with the difficulties that I have stated quite frankly to the Committee, we shall be prepared to look at them. But a system that will tie down police manpower for a doubtful difficulty is, I think, something which cannot be accepted out of hand.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor for having looked up the case of Penny v. Nicholas. That case was rather curious. It was decided because the policeman in the car followed the car he was endeavouring to trap for one and a half miles. In a case like that, where a policeman follows another car for one and a half miles, it is of course satisfactory evidence that he was travelling at the same speed as the car in front, otherwise he would have overtaken him or got left behind; consequently, there was a prima facie case that the two speeds were the same. I still maintain, however, that cars are not usually followed for distances of that length. People are "had up" for speeding over short distances of 200 yards, where it is difficult to assess the difference between the speeds of the police and the car being followed, and where acceleration definitely enters into the matter.

The Lord Chancellor asks: are we to rule out the single police cyclist? That is not my point at all. If the introduction of the single police cyclist is desired, let the Minister of Transport put forward a clause to that effect, and we will debate it. But what I am complaining of is that this particular system, which is against the intention of Parliament, has come in not as Government policy but almost as a trick by legislation and by the interpretation of a Statute. It is that which is unsatisfactory. I will not divide the Committee at the present moment. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. But I think we have a point which really needs consideration, and I give notice that if something is not said about it on the Report stage, it will be raised again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.25 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause:

Movement by road of vehicles carrying abnormal loads

". The Minister may make regulations providing that vehicles the weight and dimensions of which, together with their loads, exceed the limits for the time being prescribed by regulations made by him in accordance with the powers in that behalf contained in sections 3 and 30 of the Act of 1930, shall be permitted to move by road only in accordance with the terms of a licence to be issued by the Minister and on payment of such fee as he shall determine having regard to the nature of the vehicle and load and to the distance to be travelled:

Provided that the Minister may by order direct that this clause shall not apply to any class or type of vehicle which does not comply with the said regulations but the use of which on roads has been authorised by an order made by him under subsection (1) (b) of section (3) of the Act of 1930."

The noble Lord said: We come now to the almost intractable problem of the abnormal load. I hope we can make some progress on this occasion, because I have raised this subject once directly in your Lordships' House and I can be accused of having raised it obliquely upon more than that one occasion. It is, however, a serious matter and one to which we must give attention, because I do not suppose we shall have another Bill dealing with roads before your Lordships' House for many, many years—I said the other day that it would not be within the lifetime of any Member of your Lordships' House. Therefore I think that this is the time at which to do it.

May I say to the noble Lord opposite that I have drafted this Amendment upon the assumption that the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Minister of Transport will produce a regulation, which I think he has in mind, regarding the nine feet six inches overall width of vehicles and loads. If that is going to be the new statutory regulation in regard to the width of vehicles, including the overhang of load, we must bear in mind that some of the roads of this country—indeed, some of the main roads—are in stretches only eighteen feet wide, and that two vehicles treasuring nine feet six inches cannot pass. Equally, as the majority of our roads are only twenty-two feet wide, there is no margin of safety, for, at the present moment, anybody can take a load on the roads of this country without asking any permission, provided that that load is not more than twenty feet wide and weighs less than 150 tons. Regulations are in existence which allow loads up to those limits to be carried, and for those loads to be of indeterminate length. For loads more than 150 tons in weight and twenty feet in width the permission of the Minister of Transport has to be obtained, and then we have the inconvenience caused to every other road user—the damage, and let me remind the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, the wastage of police manpower needed to escort these abnormal loads from the North and from the Clyde, to the South of England.

What I propose is that no load shall be carried outside that width—I have not mentioned weight; I am concerned with width—without a licence to be issued by the Minister of Transport. The Minister can, of course, put wilt conditions he likes in the licence, such as the time of day for the transportation to take place, or that the load shall travel only by night, what size it shall be, and the route it shall traverse. Those are the conditions which I suggest should be put in the licence. Then I suggest that there shall be paid a fee to compensate local authorities, the police fund and anybody else concerned, and also to act as a deterrent—and here I come to the real point of my argument. These loads have grown and grown over the years, simply because no condition has ever been imposed and there has been nobody to say that they shall not be carried. In other words, if I can put it in this way without offence, it has been a question of the slackness of the administration in not curtailing these abnormal, unwieldy loads. Anybody can put a load on the road, and that load grows and grows in size. The people concerned have as their only consideration their own convenience, and not that of the rest of the road-using population.

At times the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and I have had this passage of arms across the Floor of the House. The noble Lord has stressed every reason against my proposition—such as export demands and cost to the erector and manufacturer. That is nothing compared to the cost to the country as a whole through the inconvenience and the slowing up of our traffic caused by taking some of these abnormal loads through towns. There is no incentive to fabricate them in such a way that they will not cause disturbance. I produce here a picture published in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. Here is a typically abnormal load. It is a ship's propeller and it is going to be transported from London to the Clyde. This object is manufactured within a short distance of the River Thames, and the Clyde happens to be a river that fronts out to sea; therefore, it could be taken by sea. Nevertheless, this object, measuring fourteen and a half feet in diameter and weighing 16¾ tons, will be taken on a road vehicle and transported in the way I am indicating, so as to cause the maximum amount of inconvenience to everybody else. That is how these propellers are transported.

If there were a condition or a regulation such as I propose, somebody could say to them "No, you are not going to transport it in that manner. We will allow you to transport that load if you carry it vertically." On a low-loader of suitable tonnage that propeller could easily be carried in a vertical position. The noble Lord shakes his head. It could. Assume it is eighteen feet high: there are abnormal loads, twenty feet high, which cannot go under some bridges and which have to make a detour; but such a detour with a vehicle of only nine feet six inches in width does not cause the disturbance on the road that a load fourteen and a half feet wide, going from London to the Clyde, would cause. If a licence had to be issued, the authority issuing the licence, which would be the Ministry of Transport or the divisional officers, could say how the load was to be carried. I have some photographs here. One shows a jib crane, the front end which is poking through a storey on one side of the road and the back end through the shop window on the other side. That vehicle was in the main street of Oxford, trying to go through a one-way traffic stretch. Nobody had the authority to say, "Take the jib off." This load went right through with the jib of the crane hanging over, and all the one-way traffic of that city had to be stopped.

Surely, there is some sense in having a regulation that will cause less disturbance to our traffic. But nobody can say anything, because, as I told your Lordships, anybody is allowed to take on the roads of this country anything up to twenty feet wide and 150 tons in weight, putting the police to all the trouble of convoying it. Now that we have debated this so many times, is not this the time to put something in the Bill which will at least give some control of these loads and make these people pay something towards the cost of the police, which, after all, comes out of the taxpayer's and the ratepayer's pocket, apart from the inconvenience caused to the rest of the traffic? I am told by the chief constable of a certain city that when he has to hold up the traffic to allow one of these loads to go the wrong way through a one-way traffic system of about 400 yards, it takes him over an hour to get the traffic back into normal flow. Lord Waleran told us the other day that he had been a constable on point duty; he will know of some of these problems. Your Lordships may have seen some of the photographs which appear in the Press. The photographs I have here show some of the vehicles going through the main street of Oxford, where the whole of the one-way traffic system has to be reversed. That is common in hundreds of towns in this country.

That is why I have put down this Amendment—to see whether I can take the matter one stage further. I hope the noble Lord is going, if not to accept it—I do not think I am going to break in on the closed shop of Parliamentary draftsmanship; I do not think I have managed to produce an Amendment that is perfect—at least to accept the principle. Let us take this one stage further to see whether we cannot stop some of the nonsense which we have to put up with on our very overcrowded roads. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


My Lords, I cannot entirely accept what the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, but I would say that the basic principle in this matter is that the highways should be open to all. I think we must consider the needs of industry and particularly of the export industries. There are already definite limitations on the movement of very wide loads by rail, and of course it is not possible to reach every destination by water. Moreover, movement by water means movement by road to and from the water, and the same difficulty arises. I do not think the matter is so easily regulated as the noble Lord suggests.


My Lords, this is becoming a very familiar problem, but the familiarity which we have with the noble Lord's grievance does not in this case breed contempt. As I have told him on more than one occasion, I have a good deal of sympathy with his argument. I think his contention that we must do something, if we can, to minimise this nuisance on the roads is a valid one. The question is, how? I quite agree that there are, and must be, instances of abnormal loads which go on the roads and cause inconvenience which could conceivably have been avoided. Our difficulty is to know which are the loads which must go by road and travel in a certain way, and which could be diverted. I expected that the noble Lord would notice the photograph of the propeller in the Daily Telegraph, and I have made some inquiries about it in advance. The propeller is going to the Clyde for the "Empress of Britain" and it is most important that the schedule in the shipyard should be maintained if the launching date is to be kept. It was too big to go by rail. If it were to go by sea, it would mean a delay which neither the shipbuilder nor the makers could accept. If it is any comfort to the noble Lord, I can tell him that it is now stuck in the snow on the A6 road at London Colney. I say that merely so that the noble Lord will not get bogged down behind it.

The difficulty is: how are we to differentiate between the two types? There is, on the one hand, the man who has not taken the trouble to see whether he can send the load by some other means, break it down, or take it at some other time—in other words, the man indifferent to the road user; and, on the other, the man who must send it by road because there is no other way. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, in this matter. These loads are not sent by road for no reason; the manufacturers do not send boilers and cranes and propellers just to annoy the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. We cannot penalise people who wish to use the roads for highly important goods of vast importance to our export industry because in many cases they cannot send their goods in any other way. What the noble Lord is proposing is that we should license vehicles of the size below the 150-tonner 20-footer which has at present to be licensed. Vehicles of this size are comparatively rare, but the number of journeys involving vehicles to which the noble Lord wishes to extend the licensing provisions amounts to something like 10,000 to 20,000 a year. Is it really going to be worth while doing things in that way, penalising perfectly innocent people and adding to the cost of their goods, particularly since in many cases they cannot send them in any other way? I find something a little unattractive (although I know about tolls and parking meters) in charging people for using the roads of this country, even for using charges as a deterrent. We should require an army of officials to administer the provisions and to cope with 10,000 to 20,000 licences a year. Moreover, it might be implied that we were acknowledging some responsibility for the safety of the roads and the fitness of their use for the purpose for which they might occasionally be required—for example, for transporting a propeller or boiler.


You can do that now.


Only in respect of the largest loads. In the case of smaller loads, the consignor has to assume a large measure of responsibility. I do not take the point regarding the manpower of the police very strongly in this matter. When I replied to the Motion on this subject that the noble Lord moved some weeks ago, I expressed sympathy for the point of view he put forward and agreed with him that we had to find some way of trying to make the most economical use of the roads with these loads. I said that the suggestion of my right honourable friend, the Minister of Transport, was for an inquiry into the whole question, particularly in the light of arguments advanced by the noble Lord. That promise has been undertaken by my right honourable friend. He is now carrying out that inquiry, and hopes in due course to have some solution which will go some way towards meeting this difficulty. I would earnestly ask the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, whether he would not regard this as a wrong moment to put forward a piecemeal suggestion of this kind, with that inquiry going forward.

I do not know whether he would be prepared to withdraw his Amendment so that my right honourable friend can complete his inquiry, particularly in view of the fact that I do not believe this to be the right solution to the problem. To saddle the Ministry of Transport with the task of "vetting" 10,000 or 20,000 licences a year is a course we should not undertake too lightheartedly, if we can find some other way. The noble Lord's Amendment is not correctly drafted, although I do not make that point. In asking him to withdraw his Amendment in the light of my right honourable friend's investigation, however, I would reiterate my agreement with him when he says that we must find some way of deterring people from sending, by road, unnecessarily heavy loads which can go by rail or sea without inconvenience to other road users.


I have some sympathy with the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and I have also a great deal of sympathy with those unfortunate manufacturers who have the grave problem of moving their products, either for export or to other factories in the country. Doubtless many noble Lords will have received an interesting booklet called Round the Mulberry Bush in which manufacturers clearly state that they do not undertake heavy loads of this sort very lightly. They say that in many cases it takes up to one year to plan a journey from one end of the country to the other. They have to consult police and local authorities in areas through which they pass. They have to make surveys and take measurements of bridges, and such operations necessitate a great deal of time and great care in planning. The solution is, of course, better roads; and until we get them we shall be up against this problem.


I should like to hear a little more about this investigating committee. As we go through this Bill different problems arise, but most of them are now being shelved until this committee which is going to investigate meets. Yesterday we did not quite get a promise that an inquiry was to take place, but apparently to-day we have had a promise that there is to be an investigation. I should like to ask the Minister what sort of investigation it is to be. Will this committee take evidence from outside bodies, or will it be some little cabal of Ministers and people inside the Ministry giving their own opinions? We ought to know what this inquiry is to be, for a great deal apparently now depends upon it.


My right honourable friend the Minister is inquiring of all parties interested in this question what are their views, and what they think can be done to ease the problems. There is no question of a cabal.


Let us take the case of the speed limit then. Who is to give evidence upon that?


This is an inquiry in regard to abnormal loads, on which I gave a promise to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, when your Lordships last discussed this subject. I was referring only to my right honourable friend's inquiries into abnormal loads.


Was not the noble Lord referring to the investigation he promised us yesterday on speed limits?


In no way.


Is that inquiry on or off?


I am not now referring to that.


Can I ask the question?


My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in his imperfectly drafted Amendment, is only giving the Minister power to make regulations. Whether or not the Minister will use those powers is for the Minister to decide. Before making a regulation, he would naturally consult all who have an interest in this matter; but should this Bill go through without this power to make regulations, then, as I understand the position, whatever an inquiry may lead to, the Minister is powerless. I believe I am right in saying that so long as a vehicle does not exceed 20 feet in width, and 150 tons in weight, one has an absolute right to start a journey tomorrow, without asking permission of anybody. One may be liable to indemnify bridge authorities if a bridge is smashed, but no authority is needed. If that is the position, surely it is desirable to take power in the Bill to make these regulations.

No doubt the Minister will make wise and sensible regulations, and will specify the class of vehicles to be dealt with. All noble Lords will agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, that these loads have to be moved, for they are essential to our export trade; but they must be moved at some time, by such routes, and in the manner least inconvenient to others who have the right to use the roads. I believe that many of these loads ought to be moved at night. I know that there is the difficulty of lighting, but I believe that that could be overcome. Though the Minister may never exercise it, I should like him to take powers here to make such regulations. He might say that these loads should be moved at certain hours—say between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. I speak feelingly on this subject, because I think the position is absolutely intolerable. When one drives about the country to-day, one is frequently held up on main roads in an immense queue of traffic moving along behind one of these loads. Perhaps such things can be avoided, but, if not, then we should give the Minister power to make a regulation. Why is the noble Lord not willing to take powers for the Minister to do this?

While appreciating what the noble Lord has said, may I ask whether, between now and Report stage, he will consider taking for the Minister appropriate powers in this regard? It would be a pity to let this Bill go through if the Minister is not armed with the powers—though how and whether he exercises them is not for me to say. Doubtless he would not act without first consulting various interested organisations, but it will be a mistake to let this Bill go through without giving the Minister power to do what may be a great service to road users who suffer from this, perhaps inevitable but certainly almost intolerable, traffic at the present time.


I can answer the noble Earl's question now. The Minister already had the power to make such regulations as the existing Motor Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) General Order, 1952. He can vary existing sizes relating to loads, but he cannot impose a fee. So I can assure the noble Lord that the powers about which he asks are already there. That may answer his question. I am still unhappy about the fee, and the noble Lord has not carried me at all on that point. The question of movement during darkness was discussed earlier. It was then stated that, for safety reasons, the police do not like such movements at night, although they are agreeable where safety permits.


Has the Minister the power at the present time to say that these vehicles shall move only during certain hours?


No, the Minister has, at the moment, no power to vary the licence in that way. I should add that a licence is required only for the 150-tonner or the 20-footer. That is a power he exercises now. The Minister can give whatever orders he likes in respect of these vehicles. He has power to vary the general order and to say: "I will bring the maximum load down to 130 tons and the maximum width down to eighteen feet."


Has he power, in the case of a load 140 tons in weight and nineteen feet in width, to say: "This thing must travel either in the hours of darkness, or in the early morning between six and nine." or something of that sort?


I think not. I think he has not yet taken that power.


Ought we not to give him wider power than this regulation does? All I want is that this matter should be considered between now and Report stage.


As I have already told noble Lords, the Minister can, under existing regulatory powers, take that power to-morrow if he wants to, and can extend the number of vehicles in respect of which he is able to give orders. He has not yet taken the power. If he lowers the size of a vehicle to which he is prepared to grant a licence, under the Order he can give those concerned any orders he likes.


Is the noble Lord strictly correct in what he has just been saying? The noble Lord has used the words "issue a licence" again and again. The Minister makes a regulation, under certain powers which he has under the Road Traffic Act, to say that a vehicle may carry an abnormal load—and the size of a "normal" load is specified: up to 150 tons in weight and of a width of up to 20 feet. But no one has to apply for a licence to do that. Operators can go on the road with a load 20 feet in width and weighing 150 tons, and they do not even have to ask the permission of the police or a local authority. All they do is to tell them: "We are going through your county." There is a noble Lord on the back Bench who knows that his own county is up in arms about this matter. The County Councils Association have made representations for two or three years to the noble Lord's right honourable friend about this matter. They are at their wits' end to know what to do about this problem. There are 23,000 of these abnormal loads going through counties.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, I say with respect, is wrong about this. The Minister has made a regulation that this permission has to be asked for only when a load is over that dimension and that weight. All I ask is that, as my noble and learned Leader has said, the Minister shall take powers. I have been in industry far too long not to be aware of what happens. I do not say that the people concerned carry these loads for the fun of the thing; of course, they have to carry them. But these loads have to be carried at as little inconvenience as possible to other road users. There are other commercial users of the roads who are doing just as much for the export drive.

I say that there should be some power for someone to say, in the case of a marine propeller, for example, that it should be carried vertically like an aeroplane propeller—and we see those in their dozens being carried along the road without causing any inconvenience to the general run of road users. If all those aeroplane propellers were stacked on their side, one on top of the other that would be inconvenient to other road users. Why should a ship's propeller, on its way up to the Clyde, take up something like 14 feet 6 inches of the Queen's highway when it could be carried, with some ingenuity—and at a cost, I grant—vertically? That would not require a police escort or anything else. But at the present time there is no one—not even the Minister—who has the necessary powers.

It will be some three weeks before the Report stage of this Bill is reached. This problem has been going on for nearly two years, so the noble Lord's right honourable friend has had a fair amount of time to think about it. I think we shall have to return to the matter at the Report stage, unless the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, likes to have consultations with me. If he will, I will do my best to help him to put down a reasonable Amendment which is likely to be acceptable to the Committee. But something must be done, and if the noble Lord will give me that assurance I will certainly withdraw my Amendment now.


One of the most frequently met obstructions on the road—quite apart from the loads to which Lord Lucas of Chilworth has just been referring—are tanks carried on tank transporters. One finds them on the road with a traffic block three, four or even five miles long behind them. They seem to use some roads more than others. On certain roads this trouble is very bad—A.30 is one of the worst. I rather fancy that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, knows that road—it is the Southampton road, running towards Basingstoke. If the Minister had power to say that when these tank transporters move they must move by night, that would save a tremendous lot of delay for all sorts of other traffic. I hope that, when we come to the Report stage, the noble Lord will raise the matter again. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will be able to give a specific answer with regard to tanks and tank transporters, because there seem to be an enormous number of them moving about just now.


I have here a photograph which might interest the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft.


Of course I will do what Lord Lucas of Chilworth wishes. We seem to be very near in our argument, and our object is the same. I will consult with him and see what we can possibly do in this matter. With regard to the question of tanks carried on tank transporters, which was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I should like to repeat the assurance which I gave the last time we debated this matter—namely, that the Service Ministries are very conscious of their duties in this connection, and I think that they and the Ministry of Supply try to behave like decent citizens and cause as little inconvenience as possible to other road users.


The tanks to which I refer are frequently vehicles which appear to have been standing out in the open for a long time and which are now being taken, as it were, to the "knacker's yard."


I can assure the noble Earl that both the Ministry of Supply and the War Office are most meticulous in their efforts to cause as little inconvenience as possible. I will certainly go into this matter, and, if possible, help noble Lords to accomplish the object which we all have in view. I hope that I have cleared up the point about regulations, which is that the Minister, if he wishes to lower the size of a vehicle and the maximum load, can do so under the existing power.


I ask your Lordships' leave to withdraw my Amendment and I leave this document with the noble Lord, as it may assist him.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.59 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause:

Lighting of roads—Power to make grants

". It is hereby declared for the removal of doubt that the powers of the Minister of Transport under section eight of the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909, with the approval of the Treasury to make to any highway authority advances in respect of the construction of new roads or the maintenance or improvement of existing roads which appear to the Minister to be required for facilitating traffic, shall be deemed to include and always to have included power for the Minister of Transport with like approval to make such advances to a county council in respect of expenditure incurred by such council in the exercise of the powers conferred on them by section twenty-three of the Road Traffic Act, 1934."

The noble Lord said: I have put down this Amendment in order to get from the Government some promise of consideration. I thought at one time of putting down an Amendment that would make the Ministry of Transport the lighting authority for all trunk roads, as they are the highway authority for all trunk roads. The Ministry of Transport is responsible for the construction and maintenance of trunk roads—they became responsible for that under the Trunk Roads Act. In any discussions which we may have upon the subject of road safety, road lighting must, of necessity, play a very important part. But we are in the anomalous position to-day of having the Lighting of a trunk road the responsibility, under the Ministry, of a county borough. In some towns it is done remarkably well. Then at the boundary of the county borough we suddenly drive into the complete darkness of a main trunk road, because the lighting authority from then on is the parish council. That position is intolerable. I could quote to the noble Lord many cases where it is a positive danger to come out of an area of new fluorescent lighting into utter darkness where there is no main road lighting.

In the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act, 1909 (I am sorry to go so far back, but that is where it starts), the noble Earl will see that Section 8 provides that, with the approval of the Treasury, the Road Board shall have power to make advances to county councils and other highway authorities in respect of the construction of new roads or improvement of existing roads and in respect of constructing and maintaining any new roads. Developing from that came the provision under Section 23 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which again empowers county councils to improve road lighting, without any derogation of the responsibility of parish and rural district councils for road lighting. But there seems to be an age-old argument about whether the Ministry can reimburse county councils for the expense to which they are put in lighting the highways, with the result that the county councils will not light the roads and the parish councils cannot do so because they have no funds. Unless this misunderstanding—I will not say "squabble" because perhaps that is to exaggerate it—between the county councils and the Ministry can be resolved in some way, we shall never have the lighting on trunk roads that we should have.

I have put the case shortly, and I think that by abbreviation the case has suffered, but I do not want to detain your Lordships too long on this point. What I want the noble Earl to do is to give an undertaking that the whole system of road lighting authorities and their reimbursement from public funds will be looked at. It is in a sorry mess at the present time. If the noble Earl will do that and make an announcement, perhaps on Report stage, that can give a lead to these authorities, I think it will meet the case. While the Ministry is the highway authority and not the lighting authority, they can work in collaboration with the lighting authorities, and although the Ministry can find money for road maintenance and other things there seems to be a reluctance to find money to pay for the proper lighting of the roads which the local highway authorities think is necessary. That is the only reason why I have put down this Amendment; and if the noble Earl will give me that assurance, I will willingly withdraw it.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


This Amendment has the object of enabling the Minister, with the approval of the Treasury, to make grants toward the lighting costs of county councils. The noble Lord has put emphasis on trunk roads, but this applies equally to other roads. I will be frank and say that the present position of the administration and organisation of our lighting authorities is not generally satisfactory. It is conducted by borough councils, urban and rural district councils and parish councils, but not by county councils at all. Though they are empowered to make grants. I believe that in practically no cases do they do so. The Minister does make grants in regard to trunk roads. I am afraid that at the moment I have not the percentage of grant, but he makes quite substantial grants in that respect, and I think it is clear that he may seek powers to go further in future.

The whole question of lighting administration is receiving consideration, and all I can say to the noble Lord is that the time is still premature for me to point to the direction which this reorganisation might take. I think it would be a pity to accept an Amendment of this sort, which is very much a halfway house. I believe the noble Lord would agree with me that a much bigger reorganisation is required. I would add that generally we have far too many lighting authorities. I think most noble Lords would agree with that statement. We want bigger authorities to deal with lighting and to attain a greater uniformity in our lighting system. That is a fairly big matter, and while I can say that it is being considered, it is a matter in which the local authorities will have to be taken with us. Accordingly, it will need full consultation with local authorities—and that is not always too easy to arrange—to get their agreement before steps can be taken in this direction. I very much hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.


I have a good deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has raised, and I was interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said. The position is not satisfactory and I hope something will be done. The question is mostly one of finance. I believe I am right in saying that 80 per cent. of the capital cost of lighting installation of a trunk road is paid from the Road Fund, but that installation has to be done to a certain standard. Fifty per cent. of the running costs can be obtained by grant, but it is the running costs that are the difficulty. Particularly when they have to bring lighting up to a proper standard, rural and parish councils cannot manage to meet this cost. A lot has been done since the war, but a great deal more should be done, and it will not be done until the situation is altered and responsibility for lighting is put in the hands of bigger authorities. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said, it is dangerous to run from well-lit roads into a badly-lit area. I hope that this matter will be given urgent consideration by the Government and that something will be done in the next few years.


I am grateful to the noble Earl for making the statement that he has made, because by so doing he has done precisely what I wanted him to do. There is perhaps one small exception. Will he say that this matter will be conducted on the lines he stated, but treated as a matter of expediency? I know that it cannot be hurried, and how difficult it is to get agreement between any two local authorities; but does he recognise that the matter is one of extreme urgency from the public safety point of view? If he recognises that, then I thank him very much for making the statement he has, which is most helpful and will do a great deal of good, and I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.10 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause: . It shall be an offence for its owner to allow a dog to be upon the highway within a built-up area unless it be under proper control and such owner shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds.

The noble Lord said: We come now to another Amendment which will, I think, cause some discussion of the nature of that we had on the abnormal load. All I seek to do here is to make it an offence for a dog owner to allow a dog to be on the highway within a built-up area except under proper control, and I suggest that owners shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50. If I may deal with the last item first, £50 is precisely the same fine as the Government suggest shall be imposed on a pedestrian who ignores the signal of a policeman. This is a serious matter when one considers that three times as many accidents (and when I say "accidents," I take it from the official statistics that an accident is rated as such only when personal injury is involved) are caused by dogs on the highway as are caused by "drunks" driving motor cars. That is a staggering figure. There were 2,635 accidents, attributable to dogs, on the highways, in which human beings were either killed or injured, whereas there were only 870 accidents in which human life was lost or injury caused by people being drunk in charge of motor cars. I suggest that in any Bill that purports to deal with road safety we cannot ignore those figures.

When I started my researches into this matter what staggered me was, looking at it from the point of view of the dogs, to know that 75,000 dogs are killed, or maimed to such a degree that they have to be destroyed, in this country every year. What a tragedy—and not only from the point of view of accidents to human beings! The majority of accidents, of course, are caused to motor cyclists and cyclists, because when a motor car or motor vehicle hits a dog, the dog comes off worst; but when a motor cyclist or a cyclist collides with a dog, very likely the motor cyclist or cyclist is seriously injured, as well as the dog. From the humane point of view, one can imagine the sorrow and suffering caused to families by the loss of 75,000 dogs, the vast bulk of them in built-up areas. Is it too much to ask, in the interests of humanity as well as of the road accident problem to the individual, that those dogs should not be allowed an the highway in a built-up area, except when they are under proper control?

That is my simple proposition, and I say that it is unanswerable. I expect that the next time we meet we shall have long dissertations about driving motor cars and being in charge of motor cars while under the influence of drink or drugs. They cause exactly one-third of the accidents caused by stray dogs on the highway. Can any dog lover object to a provision such as this, that will go some way to stop 75,000 dogs being killed on the roads? I have some other figures. Of all the dogs licensed in 1950 one in forty was killed or injured in a road accident; and only 4 per cent. of the total of dogs injured are injured to such a small degree that careful attention will save their lives. I never realised that; and I suggest that few noble Lords ever realised that 75,000 dogs—pets, friends of human beings—were killed on the roads of this country every year.

I ask the noble Earl to accept this Amendment. I would ask him not to say that this cannot be enforced. If he is going to say that, he will only say that as quite half the regulations on traffic control in this country cannot be enforced therefore they should not have found their way on to the Statute Book. The 30 m.p.h. speed limit for motor coaches, or other kinds of vehicle other than a motor car, is not enforced—it cannot be enforced; but it is, I suggest, some kind of a deterrent. I would beg of the noble Earl, in the interests of road safety and the humane treatment of dogs, to accept this Amendment. The figures I have given are far more eloquent than any speech I could make. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new Clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)


I should like to support this Amendment, because I think that something must be done to dissuade dog owners from turning dogs out into the street instead of taking them for a walk. I do not necessarily blame them for this, because in these days it is difficult to find the time to take the dog out. However if people are desirous of keeping a dog, then they should be prepared to make some sacrifice, even if it means getting up a little earlier in the morning, or taking the dog for a walk last thing at night in bad weather. In London, where I live, I am appalled by the number of dogs one sees going about by themselves. I must confess that I am not a motorist; I am a pedestrian who walks a great deal, and I have a good opportunity of observing the great number of dogs that one sees roaming about the metropolis. Indeed, there are some dogs that never go out with their owners.

I know of one dog in my district of Kensington that goes all over the Royal Borough by itself. I once tackled its owner about it, and she said: "Well, I have no time to take it out. We got it from the Battersea Dogs' Home for a few shillings. If it had not been for us the poor little thing would have been put out of the way. We have given it a few more months' life, and if it gets run over at least it has had its chance." What did not occur to the good lady was that that dog might be responsible for causing an extremely bad accident. I have mentioned that experience of mine because I think it is a prevalent custom to allow these dogs to roam about. The more intelligent dog will dart across the road behind a vehicle, but it is not clever enough to see the vehicle coming in the other direction. I read the other day in a newspaper that one council in one of the London suburbs has instituted a dog-training school to train dogs to cross the road at the zebra crossing. I believe, incidentally, that although a dog cannot tell colours it can differentiate clearly between black and white. I submit that this training school is trying to make the best of a bad job. What is required is to try to get to the root of the trouble, and to make it an offence for a dog to be out of control on a highway in a built-up area. It is for that reason that I hope the Government give favourable consideration to the noble Lord's Amendment.


The noble Lord, Lucas of Chilworth, is quite right: dogs are an infernal nuisance. But the only quarrel I have with the noble Lord's statement is the statistical one that 2,600 accidents were caused by dogs. I believe it is not the dogs who cause the accidents at all—it is the dog owners, and that is what we are really getting at. The trouble is that people do not bother to train their dogs. I had this problem very practically brought to my notice when I was chairman of the public health committee of my borough council. We started a campaign to try to cure the horrible evil of fouling the footway—and that is the fault of the owners. We met resentment after resentment, and we came to the conclusion that some people who keep dogs lose all sense of public manners. That, I think, is what happens to the 2,600 owners of the dogs which have caused these accidents.

We are at one over this. It is a very serious matter, and if we could do something about it we would. The question is, what? Let me tell your Lordships what the powers of the police are at the moment, because they are quite considerable. The police have power, under the Dogs Act, 1906, and the Control of Dogs Order, 1930, to seize stray dogs. This takes up a considerable time, and it is an important job which has to be done. In 1954, no fewer than 19,000 stray dogs were seized by the Metropolitan Police; 8,000 of them were returned to their owners, and the rest were sent to dogs' homes. The only saving thing about these figures is that they show a steady and sharp decline over preceding years. In 1948, the figures were 36,000 dogs seized in the Metropolitan area and 10,000 returned to their owners. From this one may deduce, perhaps—at least we hope so—that people are learning and starting to train their dogs.


They may have been killed.


That is true. I produce those figures only to show your Lordships the size of the problem. It seems to me that it is no good putting into effect laws which are not going to be regarded or respected by the people of this country. The noble Lord chided me, and said that I must not tell him that his Amendment might not be enforceable. I think that is a consideration which I must lay before your Lordships—the enforceability or not of the Amendment. The noble Lord is suggesting that: It shall be an offence for its owner to allow a dog to be upon the highway within a built-up area unless it be under proper control and such owner shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds. My first reaction to that is that my sympathies are entirely with what the noble Lord is trying to do, but that I think it would lead to a lot of ill-feeling between the police and the dog owners and would be terribly difficult to enforce.

The noble Lord uses the words, "its owner." The owner may very well be in London at work when the dog is on the highway at Working. The owner may be away for the week-end. Is he really to be held responsible? Suppose his child is taking the dog out and it slips away. Surely, we are not going to discourage the laudable habit of training children to look after dogs. The noble Lord uses the word "allow." I see a difficulty about this. The back door is open for a moment and the dog disappears. Has the owner "allowed" his dog on to the highway? He will take a very poor view of that. The noble Lord uses the word "highway." Does he mean in the residential roads within the built-up areas, where there is little or no traffic? Does he include the verge or the gutter, both of which are technically the highway, where we are trying to train people to take their dogs for the purpose of hygiene? What does the noble Lord, mean by "under proper control"? Does he mean on a lead? Most people like to train their dogs to be under control without being on a lead. He has not defined that, and I think there will be great difficulty in enforcing it. A dog may be walking along with its owner under proper control and yet suddenly, distracted by the irresistible attraction that dogs have for one another, disappear like a bolt from the blue.

I am not raising silly points to try to discourage the noble Lord. I am pointing out the practical difficulties which would make this Amendment extremely difficult to enforce, and cause the police interminable trouble. I hate to raise the point of police manpower again, but the provision would require many police to enforce it. I wonder whether it would really be worth while, considering the difficulty of enforcing this particular Amendment as the noble Lord has drafted it. It contains, as I hope I have suggested, several fruitless causes for endless litigation. I wonder whether the better solution to this problem is not education. Under this Bill we are spending more money on educating people in road safety. The figures I have given your Lordships suggest that people are becoming more sensible, about their dogs and are trying to train them and keep them under better control. I should have thought that a propaganda campaign by the local authorities and other interested bodies to try to get these statistics into people's minds would do more good than legislation as suggested by the noble Lord, which I think would be unenforceable, would cause endless disputes and would cause great ill-feeling. People may not like the idea of paying a £50 fine, and will leave the dog in the hands of the police rather than risk that. The proposal cannot, I feel, present itself as a full solution to the problem which I should like to solve.


Might I ask the noble Lord why he has put in "built-up area"? My experience is that it occurs much more outside the built-up area. I cannot quite see the point of it.


It was because I thought that the majority of accidents that are caused to motor cyclists and cyclists occur in the built-up areas. I am not going to say there are not as many dogs killed in the country as in built-up areas, but I do not think so many human beings suffer in the country as in built-up areas. I wonder whether the noble Lord would mind my saying that I have never heard such a deplorable reply. I could ridicule every proposal of the Government. I could put up just as many Aunt Sallies and wax eloquent about enforcing the restrictions we are going to put on 12 million cyclists. What about the great antagonism there will be between the police and the cyclist? We are now going to control pedestrians. The noble Lord has made my case in what he has said about stray dogs that the police capture. That is all I want. These are stray dogs, and the police return 6.000 to their owners.


They have owners.


These dogs are strays. They have been allowed to stray. They may have owners, but every stray thing in this world has an owner. If those 6,000 owners were taken before the benches of London and publicity were given to the fines imposed, it might make the others a little more careful. The noble Lord asks whether I want to include the verge or the gutter, and whether I include one road or another. Is the noble Lord so complacent that he is willing to continue having 75,000 dogs and 2,600-odd human beings killed and injured?


Will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? Is he really saying he wants to fine everybody who loses his dog? That is what the argument amounts to.


The number of road accidents will grow and grow; road accidents are growing in our built-up areas through traffic congestion. The owner of a dog, like the father of a child, has to accept some responsibility. All that the noble Lord has put up is a lot of Aunt Sallies, which he conveniently knocks over and which are so unconvincing that I have a good mind to divide your Lordships' House upon this Amendment, but I will not because I would not put some noble Lords who may feel that they would have to vote for Her Majesty's Government in the position of being thought inhumane. If we get many more answers like that, we shall end up with this Bill, but without having done one solitary, single thing to reduce accidents—and this is a Bill which purports to try to cure this great accident problem. When any Amendment is put down, up to date, with the sole idea and the simple and single purpose of reducing accidents, that is the type of reply we get, Very well: if that is the Government's idea, I am very surprised, but I do not think it will reflect any great credit upon them.

6.32 p.m.


I sypathise very much with the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but he really cannot take such a high moral attitude on this matter, which is a very difficult and thorny problem. I notice he did not get any support from any other noble Lord on his side of the House. The truth, of course, is that the provision, however desirable, is absolutely unenforceable. We who live either in built-up areas or in not-built-up areas all know that it is impossible for every owner of every dog to keep an eye on that dog from morning till night. We all know that dogs stray on the road. Public opinion—which, after all, Parliament is supposed to represent—would never sanction such a provision. I am quite certain that if noble Lords opposite were in power at the present time they would never introduce a provision which meant that any dog owner whose dog was found on any highway of this country was liable to a fine of £50. It could not be done.

So far as the humanitarian interests and the personal sufferings of the owners are concerned, to which the noble Lord referred in his first speech, I would say that if owners care about their dogs and wish to save their dogs from suffering, there is nothing to prevent that at the present time. If, in addition to their suffering from the loss of their dog, they were then fined £50, would that system commend itself to them any more than does the present system? I have listened to this debate. I respect greatly the public good sense of this House. I do not think it would be to our credit if we allowed the noble Lord's sentiments to go unchallenged. We in this House are a responsible body. Our object is to frame laws which can be carried out. I am certain that this law could not be carried out and I do not think that any other noble Lord in this House, except the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, thinks so.


Personally, I think that, if you are taking a dog along the high road—I do not go into detail about the kind of road, but along a main road where there is much traffic—you ought to have that dog on a lead. If your dog is really well trained, and you are certain it will follow you, it is not too bad; but, if a man takes a dog out for a walk by the side of the road without knowing whether it is a trained dog, that is really a bad thing to do—it is unfair to the dog and it is very unfair to the traffic on the road. I have been told that in driving a car you ought not to attempt to avoid a dog but should just go on, and "that is that." But that is not how one drives in practice. You do try to avoid a dog and, in trying to avoid it, you often do something more serious and perhaps hit somebody else. I agree that this Amendment, as drafted, would be impossible. I should not like there to be a £50 fine, but I should like in some way or other to inculcate into people what I believe is good social conduct: that if they are deliberately taking their dog for a walk along a main road, they ought, unless it is a really well-trained dog, to see that it is on a lead. If that were done, the number of accidents would be reduced. No doubt the noble Lord will not press this Amendment. However, he has ventilated the point and, I hope, has called attention to what I think is a duty of dog owners in built-up areas.


May I venture to say how very much I agree with the words which have fallen from the noble and learned Earl who has just sat down. As regards responsibility, there is no question of the responsibility of a dog owner if his dog worries sheep, kills poultry or does damage of various kinds. If the owner is responsible in such cases—and he certainly is—why should he not be held responsible if his dog is out of control on a road and is causing danger and difficulty to a number of people besides himself? But I cannot, with great respect, agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, when he says it would be impossible to enforce such a provision. If the dog owner is responsible in certain other ways already, I cannot see why he should not be held responsible if his dog behaves in such a way as to be a danger to other people.


There is one other aspect of this problem. Amongst the more than 3,000 offences that a man driving a motor car can commit is the offence of running over a dog and failing to report it.


I would first apologise to your Lordships for giving you, if I did, the impression that I was adopting a high moral tone. I am the last person to adopt that because I should be so unworthy of it if did. However, I feel strongly about this matter because something must be done to stop accidents. The noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, has said all I wanted to say in a very few words: that if you make it the responsibility of the owner of a dog in a case of worrying sheep and offences of that kind, why cannot you make the dog owner responsible for allowing his dog to stray on the highway? However, having ventilated this point I shall not press it, but I feel that, before we finish with road accidents as a problem, we shall have to find a way of tackling this matter. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.39 p.m.

LORD BRABZON OF TARA moved, after Clause 9, to insert the following new clause: (".—(1) The Minister may upon the application by any person or persons or club (in this section referred to as "the promoters") made in accordance with the provisions of the Fifth Schedule to this Act by order declare that any road may be used for motor races during the whole or any part of the days specified in such order.

(2) Not more than ten orders under this section shall be made in any calendar year and no order made under this section shall permit the use of any road for motor races on more than six days in any calendar year.

(3) An order made under this section shall contain such provisions as the Minister may think fit including (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing words) provisions requiring the promoters to secure such insurance and indemnities against such liabilities, injuries or damage as may be mentioned in the order; for the temporary stopping up or diversion of any road and the temporary prohibition or restriction of the exercise of any right of way; for the regulation for the safety of the public or other traffic; for the restriction of speed in populous places and for any other purposes incident to the proper conduct of the motor races.

(4) An order made under this section may prescribe a race area as defined in subsection (10) of this section and may prohibit or restrict access either by vehicles or on foot to the said area on such terms and subject to such conditions including (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing words) the payment of money as the Minister may think fit.

(5) In deciding whether or not to make any order under this section the Minister shall consider the alternative routes which will be available to traffic normally using the roads proposed to be specified in the order, and any objection to the making of the order lodged in accordance with the provisions of the Fifth Schedule to this Act.

(6) No provision of any enactment restricting the speed of or affecting the manner of driving motor vehicles or prohibiting or restricting the driving or using or speed thereof on specified roads or within specified limits or places or imposing any penalties in respect of the infringement of any such provisions shall apply to any motor vehicle or the driver or rider thereof while actually engaged in races save in so far as any such provisions may be incorporated in an order made under this section.

(7) Any expenses incurred by the Minister in publishing any notices or in connection with the making of an order under this section shall be paid by the promoters and the Minister may as a condition precedent to the consideration of an application for the making of an order require the promoters to deposit or to give security for such sum as in his opinion is sufficient to meet such expenses.

(8) The Minister may as respects any race area make by-laws:

  1. (a) for regulating the hours during which motor races may take place;
  2. (b) for securing safe and adequate means of ingress and egress;
  3. (c) for the prevention and suppression of nuisances and preserving sanitary conditions, cleanliness, order and public safety.
The Minister before making any by-laws under this section shall consult with the Royal Automobile Club and the promoters.

(9) (i) Any person who

  1. (a) wilfully or unlawfully obstructs or interferes with the conduct of any races
  2. (b) without lawful authority enters or remains on any road or any race area specified in an order made under this section
  3. (c) otherwise wilfully contravenes any provision of an order or by-law made under this section
shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £5.

(ii) Any person who obstructs or interferes with the conduct of races or without due authority enters or remains on a road or in a race area as aforesaid or acts in contravention of any by-laws may, together with any vehicle or animal in his charge and without prejudice to any proceedings which may be taken against him, be removed by a police constable or any person authorised in writing in that behalf by the promoters.

(10) In this section except where the context otherwise requires the expression enactment" includes any provision in any Act of Parliament and any provision in any Order in Council, order, regulation, statutory instrument, rule, by-law, scheme or other instrument made under any such Act; motor races" means races held on roads for motor vehicles (including any test or trial of speed to ascertain the time taken by such vehicles in the ascent of a length of hilly road not exceeding three miles); race area" means any area prescribed by the Minister under this section for the purposes of motor races and such area may in addition to the roads to be used for motor racing include any land or premises enclosed by, or lying within a distance of, a quarter of a mile of such roads; races" means any mechanically propelled vehicle race held by virtue of an order made under this section and includes any practice or trial authorised by the relevant order as preliminary to any races.

The noble Lord said: I hope that the length of this Amendment will not frighten your Lordships. It certainly occupies one or two pages, but it is very simple. Its purpose is to allow the Minister power, if he shall think right, to allow certain motor races upon the Queen's highway. This may appear to many people a shocking proposal, but times change. It is interesting to note that your Lordships' House has been certainly most prominent in its familiarity with motor problems. The Alness Report was the most up-to-date and impressive Report upon motor cars that has ever been made. As I say, times change, and instead of conversation amongst the young in the clubs or in the public houses being of hocks and spavins, the conversation now is about blown bugs and v.p. propellers. That is the change in general thought and outlook of the populace of this country. The racing of horses generates a certain amount of interest, not because many people see the horses but because of the betting that takes place upon them. But there are millions of people who own a motor car and who have never in the past owned and never will own a horse.

This tremendous interest in motor cars is not peculiar to this country; it is common to the whole world. If you go to a motor race abroad, you find vast crowds coming to see the remarkable contests which can really be held only upon a highway. The 24-hour race at Le Mans is well worth a visit, because it is one of the most remarkable spectacles imaginable to see 200,000 people sleeping with complete contentment during pouring rain. In this country we have, from the point of view of exports, a tremendous industry in the motor car industry. We export£340 million worth of motor cars; it is our eighth biggest export. We can do this, or continue to do it, only if we have something better to export than that which is made in another country. We have the second biggest motor industry in the world, yet this is the only country which forbids motor racing upon the high roads.

I belong to the curious vintage of many years ago in which the racing car of one year was looked upon as the touring car of the next. That is going back to about 1900 to 1903. I am not pretending that that is the case to-day, but I do most emphatically say that it is by racing upon the high road that the breed of car is improved. This started with the remarkable rule that a car should be under 1,000 kilos. That had a profound effect upon lightness, tyre construction and that sort of thing. But even in modern times, over the last two years two things stand out which will undoubtedly soon be adopted by every car. Each of them was born of racing: there were first the disc brakes which won the Jaguar success in the 24-hour race and secondly, fuel injection, which was introduced by Mercedes with such conspicuous success this year. Those are two things which have emerged from racing and will inevitably be standard in a few years.

Should we be allowed to have these races? There is an added export in the attraction we should have for the many foreign tourists who would come to see such a race. If your Lordships will look through this Amendment you will see that I have mentioned the great Royal Automobile Club. They have had tremendous experience in running road races, going back right to the time of the old Gordon-Bennett races which were held in 1903. They have organised racing most successfully in Ireland. Recently, they have had great experience of races in Northern Ireland and in the Isle of Man. I assure the Committee that motor racing is not a dangerous thing for the public; we have got far past that. Everybody understands all about it, and it can be very well regulated from the point of view of the protection of the public.

There may be a clamour against the closing of roads, but that would be for only two or three days during the year, and then only in localities where the county council asked for it and where they could have through traffic by reason of alternative routes. I am not so impressed whit the argument about the closing of roads as are some of my noble friends. I think it is wonderful to consider the way in which people put up with the closing of roads by ordinary level crossing which one meets every day. On the main road going north I have been stopped for three-quarters of an hour by the Quorn Hunt, and nobody said anything at all in expostulation. I have been unlucky enough twice to go north whilst the St. Leger was being run. The road was closed, just as much as if a motor race and not a horse race was taking place. With other people, I was told to make a circuit to avoid the race, which I certainly did. There is really no great hardship at all in that sort of thing.

Instead of all these repressive measures, I should like the Government to do something to help this great industry which has pulled us out of so many difficulties and through the lean times, and helped us during the war, in order to keep it abreast of the times and in the vanguard of the world, as it should be. One cannot say that the Ministry of Transport have done much to help the motor car in this country. It has been a fairly sorry story. We have been taxed to astronomical figures and we have failed to make roads; it is not a record to be proud of. Even in this Bill no great encouragement has been given to the motor car. But here is an opportunity for the Ministry to say, "We will help you." Here is an opportunity for them to show that they take an interest in this great movement which has done so much for this country. I do not think that this is a proposition which will shock the populace; it would be welcomed up and down the country, because the interest of the man in the street in the ordinary motor car is enormous—much more than in other forms of racing. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

6.47 p.m.


I feel that I cannot let the R.A.C. stand alone in this matter. To say the least, it is somewhat strange that Great Britain, with its vast motor vehicle industry, should be the only country in Europe where motor racing is not staged upon the highway as a matter of national importance and prestige. I believe that it is done in the Commonwealth of Australia and in New Zealand, and in many countries of Europe. I believe that some forms of motor-cycle racing are indulged in where there can be virtually no inconvenience to other road users because excellent alternative roads are made available in the area. In any case, the provisions of this clause provide that the Minister shall take due notice of these considerations, and shall see that there are proper facilities to meet these objections. From negotiations that have taken place in the past, I understand that a number of local authorities in Great Britain would welcome, and play their part in motor racing. I believe that the County Councils Association in Scotland have already expressed their wish to have motor racing, and to have certain highways closed for the purpose. I should like to add my support to this Amendment, not only because it would be of great benefit to our great motor industry, but also because it would be of great benefit to our tourist industry, and would bring a large number of people to this country.


In rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I am fully aware that the question of motor racing on the public roads of this country, even if they are temporarily closed, will not be received with universal enthusiasm. It is true that we in this country have motor racing circuits, but these are all on private ground; and although they are adequate, within their limitations, they cannot represent road racing in its true sense, as it is practised on the Continent. I would not suggest that we should have motor racing through our towns, but there are many roads in open country that would be most suitable—for instance, roads across Salisbury Plains.

An international motor race promoted near a town, but not necessarily in it, brings great prosperity to that town. Two examples in France spring to mind. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has already mentioned Le Mans, and I would mention the French Grand Prix at Rheims. Permanent grandstands have been built on both those circuits. As the French are practical people I am sure it has proved to be well worth their while to make those circuits a permanent site for the international meetings. There is tremendous enthusiasm abroad for motor racing, even more than in this country, although its popularity here has increased enormously since the war. Any success in an international event reflects very favourably on the export sales of the country concerned. When the Germans sent their racing machines to South Africa before the war, and achieved success there, the sales of their small "family" type of car increased enormously. We are to-day in a favourable position in sports car racing, and I believe everything should be done to encourage true road racing in this country, thereby helping to increase our export sales. It may be said that the closing of the roads to the public will cause great inconvenience; but even now there are constant diversions caused by lengthy road repairs that go on for weeks rather than days, and nobody seems to be greatly concerned. I do not feel that any undue hardship would be caused by the closing of a road for perhaps two days at a time. I hope this Amendment will be accepted.


I should like to support this Amendment. I have seen a great deal of motor racing in my time: in fact I have taken part in a great deal. Lord Brabazon of Tara referred to the enormous crowds that are found at these events on the Continent. At the Nurburgring, which is the big course in Germany, I asked the police officers there last year whether they had any idea how many people were looking at the event, and they told me half a million. On one occasion at the Avus track, just outside Berlin, I asked the chief of police the same question: and he said 800,000. We in this country have had an attendance at some of our events of up to about 150,000, and the venue for that was about equidistant between London and Birmingham.

Motor racing not only sells motor cars but it sells pots and pans, and everything else that belongs to the country of origin of the successful car. The figures can actually be given for this. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, referred to the sales of German cars in South Africa. I can give your Lordships the figure for that. Before the motor racing took place in South Africa—it took place incidentally on the public roads, closed for the purpose—the sales of the DKW car were thirty a year. The Auto Union firm was responsible for making those cars, and the sales of them went up in the next year to over 3,000. That was the direct effect of racing. Then again, take another form of racing. Everybody knows, and has heard of, the Jaguar car. The Jaguar car is the one car whose sales are going up to astronomical proportions in America; and that has been achieved entirely by their success in racing. There was nothing else which could advertise the Jaguar car and produce the world advertisement except its success in racing.

This Amendment mentions the R.A.C. That is most important, because the R.A.C. is the governing body of all motor sport in this country, and it works under the International Federation which meets in Paris. The R.A C. has tremendous experience in providing for public safety. So successful have the R.A.C. requirements been with regard to public safety that the insurance companies have been able to reduce their premium for race insurance. We do not want to see—I do not suppose the noble Lord wants to see, and it would not be for the benefit of racing if it took place—an indiscriminate extension of racing. There are not enough cars and drivers to go round. One does not want motor racing extended as an addition to amenities. It might be that some coastal resort would consider it a good thing to have motor racing, to get the Minister to close the road and have racing, because it would be one more attraction to the town. That is a laudable thing from a parochial point of view, but it would not be to the advantage of racing if that took place. But under careful supervision racing can be made reasonably safe and can be made to pay.

As we all know, motor racing takes place on the Continent, but it also takes place in the Channel Islands. Why should this country be denied the privileges which are extended to Jersey, the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland? All of them have power to close the roads for racing, and when you close roads for racing you do not necessarily close only the actual road; you have to close an area around it. It seems to me that this might be done. Another peculiar feature of life in this country at the present time is that there is an enormous amount of cycle racing. There is the tour of England, which results in a mass start of cycles, ordinary pedal cycles, on the highway, and they go all the way round the country. It is grand fun to watch them, and although, in effect, they are breaking the law, no authority has taken action against the race, and I hope that none will. But it does seem to me that if that sort of thing is allowed motor racing, under proper control, should also be allowed.

I think the idea would be a track which could he found—and as a matter of fact a track has been found; the Minister and his Department know all about it, and his officials have seen it; and it is geographically in the right place. That is most important. The noble Lord suggested Salisbury Plain. He will not get much of a public to go and see motor racing on Salisbury Plain. They would have to go a long way by motor car and there would not be enough to stage a paying event. There is a circuit—it has been inspected and the officials of the Department know all about it—the use of which is supported by the local authorities, who are quite ready to have the road closed. It does not interfere with the main artery of traffic. There are good access roads all round, even a small railway; there are plenty of hotels and plenty of garage accommodation within easy reach. It is up in the Midlands. I will not say more at the moment; I do not know whether the Department want too much information to be spread about it.


It would help noble Lords to assess this more accurately if the noble Lord could say exactly where it is.


I am not sure whether the Department want me to disclose that point.


Better not.


The Minister will say whether or not the site should be disclosed. I would rather not say anything about it unless the Department want it said. The site has been inspected. There is a circuit upon which all road racing in the country could be concentrated. That circuit could be used for cars or motor-cycles, or even for cyclists, without causing any public inconvenience; and the local authorities are in favour of using it. But it would require the expenditure of a large sum of money. Once that money had been spent the position would be good, and we should be on all fours with other countries.

I hope that, so far as is possible, your Lordships will consider this question with an open mind in deciding the best course. There is no doubt whatever that racing has proved of the greatest possible benefit to trade. I mentioned the Jaguar car. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has mentioned other benefits which have accrued—disc brakes, direct injection and so on. There is hardly a feature of the modern motor vehicle, bus, lorry or private car, which has not at some stage in its development owed something to racing; so this is not a proposal to be lightly turned down. It may be found impracticable but I hope the Amendment will be considered by Her Majesty's Government with an open mind. I believe that if it could be agreed, even on a limited basis, it would be of the greatest value to industry and to the country.


I had hoped that a noble Lord, better qualified than I, would speak against this proposal. For a great part of the year I live in Southern Ireland, where a number of roads are blocked for this purpose, with great inconvenience to those who live nearby and with fearful and appalling noise which can be heard for many miles. While I fully appreciate the importance of racing to the motor industry, I feel that industry should have its own tracks and should not use public roads, and thus spoil the quiet of our countryside. That is the point of view I am putting forward. I know that there is the other one, which has been heavily and effectively put forward, but I believe that many people will feel as I do.

7.3 p.m.


No one who has listened to the arguments advanced to-day by the noble Lords, Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Howe, can fail to realise that this is an important point. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, by his life, has pointed the way by which engineering skill has led the world; and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has taken an active part in motor racing. Anyone accustomed to talking to young men of fifteen or sixteen will know how their minds are inflamed with interest in motor or motor-cycle racing. These are subjects which are to-day in the minds of many people. I believe that no one will misconceive the importance of racing in the development of the modern motor vehicle. There are, of course, already a certain number of private racing tracks, such as Aintree, Donnington and Silverstone.


The noble Earl will not come out of Donnington—at least we have not been able to "winkle out" Her Majesty's Government.


Perhaps the noble Earl may be successful in due course; but I realise that such tracks do not meet what noble Lords here have in mind. Her Majesty's Government are very much alive to the importance of the problem, particularly to the motor industry, which today has such a great export potential. At the same time, it is fair for noble Lords to consider whether in this regard this country, being the most densely-populated in the world, is not in a different category from any other.


Belgium is more thickly-populated than Britain, and they have two tracks.


The line of the Northern Highlands completely throws out the balance of the rest of the country; the rest of our country is much more densely populated than Belgium. I feel that it is not possible to over-estimate the degree to which the closing of the Queen's highway constitutes an invasion of personal liberty. It is really making a public road into a private road, and no one should in any way misconceive the significance of doing so. It would become a statutory offence to walk on the road or to drive a motor car on it. That is a very different thing from running on a road which is under repair, or running into the Quorn Hunt or, perhaps, the St. Leger gathering. It would become an offence even to walk on the road. Those who are on the wrong side of the road might find it impossible to get where they wanted to, or even, in some cases, to get home.

We must be under no illusion. People in the locality where this racing took place would be personally affected in a very high degree. I am sure your Lordships will agree, therefore, that any step of this character must be subjected to the most scrupulous and careful examination, and the right of objection must be available to anybody in the locality who wishes to give expression to his objection. Although the safeguards here proposed go a long way I believe that they do not go quite far enough. There is no provision for public inquiry; and the Amendment contemplates the possibility of ten orders a year, with six days' racing on each, which means that, in one place or another, there may be as many as sixty days a year during which traffic may be held up. That is quite a substantial period of time in a country where congestion of traffic—which we have just been discussing, and shall continue to discuss—is a very serious matter. The Minister of Transport would be in a most difficult position in having to give a decision, even after the procedure here outlined.

I would suggest that there are two ways in which to proceed, if we agree that this is important. We could proceed by the Nurburgring method, adopted in Germany and I believe still in use there, although I have not visited that country for many years, whereby a special track would be built and held open during the rest of the year for anyone wanting to use it outside of racing periods. That course would be expensive, which only emphasises how costly is the building and maintenance of roads. The alternative is to proceed by Private Bill, and I see no reason why this method should not be used. It is a well-known method of evaluating private and public interest and, in one form or another, has come before Parliament hundreds of times before over many years.

I cannot see why that procedure should not apply here. It would provide ample opportunity for anyone to make objections and for their objections to be heard and carefully examined. I am sure this Committee will agree that, however desirable this project is, it should not be carried out in face of strong local opposition. Provided that such a Private Bill made provision for the general public to be properly safeguarded, and for traffic in the district to be reasonably undisturbed, it might well find Parliamentary approval. This is a matter which can be much better presented in a Private Bill than in a Public Bill. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, thought nothing was being done to help or encourage the motor industry. After all, we are here producing a Bill which seeks to promote safety, to free congestion and to assist freedom of traffic—all important matters for the motor industry. A racing provision is perhaps a little incongruous in a Bill which seeks to deal with road safety. I would suggest that thought to the noble Lord in asking him to withdraw his Amendment.


The Almightly never constructed us to pat ourselves on the back. I am interested to see that the Minister is very pleased with himself about this Bill, and I wish that other people were of the same opinion—but let us dismiss that thought. The noble Earl suggests the alternative method of a Private Bill. Perhaps my Amendment includes too many details, and I think that possibly the noble Earl has made a good point. But if this is to be done by Private Bill, may we have an assurance from the Government that the Ministry will not oppose automatically such a Private Bill, because if they are going to do that it will be a waste of time putting it forward?


I will readily give the noble Lord the assurance that the Ministry will not automatically oppose a Private Bill.


On that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.10 p.m.

THE EARL OF ROTHES moved, after Clause 9 to insert the following new clause: . The following subsection shall be substituted for subsection (1) of section eight of the Act of 1934:— '(1) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to sell or to supply or to offer to sell or supply, a motor vehicle or trailer for delivery in such a condition,

  1. (a) that the use thereof on a road in that condition would be unlawful by virtue of the provisions of section three of the principal Act, or
  2. 355
  3. (b) that the brakes, silencers, steering gear and tyres are not efficient and in proper working order.'"

The noble Earl said: I venture to hope that this Amendment will commend itself to your Lordships, particularly as several of your Lordships have already expressed grave concern about the sale of vehicles which are not roadworthy. Section 8 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, is effective in making it illegal, subject to certain exceptions, to sell a vehicle which is defective because it does not comply with the provisions of Section 3 of the Act of 1930. This section makes it unlawful to use on the road a motor vehicle which does not comply with the appropriate regulations as to construction, weight and equipment of the vehicle, and to that limited extent it has achieved the object desired. But I suggest that a large number of unroadworthy vehicles which are sold are unroadworthy, not because they lack the correct construction, weight or equipment but because the maintenance of the vehicle is defective. To give your Lordships only one example, I am advised that if a car has only one braking system—for instance, no hand brake, only a foot brake—to sell it or offer it for sale would be an offence under Section 8 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934. On the other hand, if a vehicle were offered for sale which had the normal foot brake and, in addition, the normal hand brake, but owing to lack of maintenance both brakes were ineffective, no offence would be committed under Section 8 of the Act. I suggest, therefore. That something more is urgently needed to prevent that kind of occurrence. I believe that a large number of accidents are due to badly maintained brakes, silencers, steering gear, and tyres. Accordingly I commend this Amendment to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 9, insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Rothes.)


I also hope that this Amendment may be accepted, and for quite another reason. In the earlier stages of the Bill, we knocked out the proposal to bring in authorised examiners. That means that the Minister still has power to establish testing stations, but as there are now well over five million vehicles involved—and it will not be long before there are six million—the numbers will clearly be far more than the Government testing stations can possibly deal with. Furthermore, your Lordships will recollect that the Minister stated that the examination was not going to be a very elaborate one; that it was only to prove that the vehicle was 100 per cent. roadworthy at the period when it was actually being tested. Therefore, it would not be worth the expense, which I think the Minister at the time said would be something like £15 million a year, to establish Government stations all over the country. I agree with the noble Earl who moved the Amendment, that what we need to tackle is what I believe to be the principal danger in the motor car world—the motor car which is not properly maintained. Motor cars are being sold in a deplorable condition. Your Lordships must have noticed, time and again when you are going out into the country, motor cars standing outside garages and dealers shops, with, it may be, "£10" or "£100" painted on their windscreens. Some of those cars are known to be in a most dreadful state. I have known of many cases where cars have literally had no brakes at all, and there have been other defects of an equally grave nature. Some of these vehicles, as I say, are in a most dreadful condition, and if steps were taken to ensure that vehicles of this sort, on resale, had to be taken to the testing station to secure a certificate, that, I believe, would be taking a real step forward in the direction of road safety generally. Therefore, I beg to support the Amendment, and I hope the Government will be able to accept it.


Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who, I gather, wishes to speak next, will allow me to say a word now. I would never, as he knows, stop him from addressing the Committee, except that I should hate to see the noble Lord pushing at an open door, and I am an open door, because I am going to say that I am prepared to accept this Amendment in principle. There are certain points which I should like to look at, with a view to covering the sort of situation which would arise when someone sold a car to an engineer, or someone like that, to repair it and put it on the road in a repaired state. There are, clearly, points like that which, as the noble Lord knows, are already dealt with in the corresponding section to which the noble Earl, Lord Rothes, referred. I should like to look at that and one or two points in detail, and, if my noble friend is content with that, I accept the Amendment in principle. May I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth? If I have preceded him, I have done so because I thought it might help him to know what I was going to do.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, because I want to support this Amendment. But I was hoping that the reply on behalf of the Government was going to indicate some way in which the Amendment could be made effective. The noble and learned Viscount has not done that. I feel that this matter needs to be carefully looked at, and I do not think it will be a waste of five minutes if I put to the noble Viscount some of the things which I suggest will have to receive some consideration. The noble Earl, Lord Rothes, has put his finger on what I would call a public menace, and I think the noble and learned Viscount had better know just how it arises. If I can, I will give him a slight illustration of how the motor trade operates, and we shall get to the stage when something will have to be done along the lines of this Amendment because the motor trade is largely—and is becoming to an even greater extent—a replacement business.

What happens is this. Cars are taken in part exchange for other cars, and we can divide them roughly into three sections. First there are those that are taken by reputable dealers—if you call them dealers—or agents, and are thoroughly reconditioned and sold with a guarantee. All reputable dealers sell their best cars by guarantee. A second category is that in which it is seen that, while it would cost far too much to put a car into such a condition that it could be resold with a guarantee, it is possible to put it into a very good workable condition. The third category is that of cars which are sold—and they are sold in large numbers—to car breakers with a view to their being broken up. Cars in this last category are really sold as scrap; but it is those cars, I believe, at which the noble Earl, Lord Rothes, is aiming. What happens with regard to these cars in a number of cases is this. I hope that I am not doing the motor trader a disservice, but the fact is that if the scrap merchants or other people to whom these cars are sold did what they should do, they would take them off the road altogether and break them up. But there are cases in which, instead of doing that, they sell the cars for mere song. Then somebody else starts the vicious circle all over again by trading-in the car for a new one, and it again finds its way to the scrap-dealer. These are the cars we see on bombed sites with the prices chalked on them, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, described. They are in a deplorable and disgraceful condition and should never be allowed on the road at all.

The difficulty is how to get them off the road. Unless we are going to have a thorough inspection of a high character, the testing system will not do it. It is no good giving the people who own these cars a certificate, passing the brakes, the steering and the lighting—though I know the test which the Government envisage is in some accord with the Construction and Use Regulation No. 103—because these cars are in such a deplorable condition that they will break down in the next twenty-four hours. They are unroadworthy from the word "Go." Unless £50, £60 or £100 is spent on them, they will not be fit to use on the road. That is why it is not profitable for the motor trade to repair them; it would cost far too much money. We may impose some examination at a Government testing station, if we ever have Government testing stations, or by a Ministry of Transport examiner, but unless the examiner is prepared to toothcomb these cars from radiator to back axle before he passes them, they will still be a menace. These are some of the considerations that the noble and learned Viscount will have to take into account when he tries to put this proposal into effect. I am in favour of it and I think something should be done, but I am greatly puzzled about how it should be done. If I can be of any help to the noble and learned Viscount in his consideration of it, because I have some knowledge of this problem, my services are entirely at his disposal.


I thank the noble Lord very much.


I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, who I understand accepts the Amendment in principle, and would like to say that I am not wedded to the words in any way. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.