§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ Clause 1 [Tests of satisfactory condition of vehicles]:
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to leave out Clause 1 and insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of s. 17 of 23 & 24 Geo. 5. c. 53
§ "1.—(1) The provisions of section seventeen of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933 (which provide for the enforcement of the obligation to maintain goods vehicles in a serviceable condition by the appointment of examiners authorised to carry out inspections and the prohibition of use when found to be not in a fit and serviceable condition) shall hereby be extended to cover all mechanically propelled vehicles, goods and passenger, including motor cycles except—
- (a) public service vehicles adapted to carry eight or more passengers, tramcars and trolley vehicles;
- (b) vehicles of such class or description, of such age and used for such purposes, as may be prescribed by the Minister.
§ (2) The Minister may make regulations prescribing that vehicles of such class, description or age shall, upon changing ownership as between certain parties, carry a certificate issued by a competent authority or authorities that such vehicles upon such change of ownership conform to certain standards of fitness and condition."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the Committee stage of this Bill we had a long and interesting debate upon Clause 1 and the principle it contained. Your Lordships thought fit to delete a substantial part of the clause in so far as it proposed the setting up of testing stations operated by the motor trade. The noble Lord, Lord Teynham, moved an Amendment to leave out the entire clause, and I thought he made an excellent case for his Amendment. The reasons why we on this side of the Committee, at least, did not support him were these two simple ones: first, we did not wish to strike out the clause without substituting
some other form of examination; and secondly, because an eloquent appeal was made to your Lordships by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. He said this—I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of February 15, Volume 191 (No. 20), Column 61:
I told your Lordships a few moments ago that Her Majesty's Government were quite prepared for discussion and that I believed that, by our common intelligence, we could work out a system.
That is what I have tried to do—to use what intelligence and what experience I have of this particular subject to help Her Majesty's Government out of a dilemma.
§ I want to impress upon the noble Earl in charge of the Bill one thing, without the slightest equivocation: there is nothing whatsoever between us upon the desirability of having some form of test for the mechanical fitness of vehicles on the roads of this country. What I have tried to do here is to steer a course between what we consider may be practicable and what is theoretical and (I say this without the slightest hesitation) absolutely unworkable. Therefore, by this Amendment I seek to substitute a new Clause 1 which is based upon the argument which I expounded in your Lordships' House on the Committee stage, basing examinations of motor cars upon the principle that is firmly ensconced in Section 17 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, in so far as it affects commercial vehicles.
As I have explained to your Lordships, every holder of an A, B or C licence is liable, if an examiner so desires, to be stopped and to have his vehicle examined for fitness. If it does not come up to the minimum standard prescribed, then, under the sanctions contained in Section 17, either he can be warned that, unless he rectifies the fault in fourteen days, he will be turned off the road until the fault is rectified, or if the case is so bad and the vehicle is considered so dangerous as to constitute a menace, the examiner can turn it off the road forthwith until such time as it is put right. I have sought to extend that principle to cover all forms of mechanically propelled vehicles, including cars and motor-cycles, with the exception, as your Lordships will see, of
public service vehicles adapted to carry eight or more passengers, tramcars and trolley vehicles.
I except them because, as public service vehicles, they already have a rigid examination and have to be examined periodically for fitness to carry passengers. The exception also includes:
vehicles of such class or description, of such age and used for such purposes, as may be prescribed by the Minister.
That covers the points made by many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, who, on the Committee stage, wanted to except from this examination various types, classes and descriptions of vehicles. I seek to give the Minister power so to do.
Before I come on to subsection (2) of this new clause, I should like your Lordships to consider some things that the present clause seeks to do. I would ask you whether you think that this is practicable. First of all, it seeks to give the Minister power to set up examination stations and to
make provision for the examination, by inspectors appointed by the Minister, of vehicles submitted for examination under this section and for the issue, where it is found on such an examination that the said requirements are complied with, of a certificate (hereinafter referred to as a 'test certificate') that at the date of the examination the requirements were complied with in relation to the vehicle.
That brings out the point that was so well made by my noble and learned leader, that the only effect of the present clause is to make sure, as nearly as possible, that on one day only out of the 365 days of the year that vehicle complies with the Minister's requirements in regard to brakes, tyres, steering, et cetera. As to the remaining 364 days it can be in any condition. And I can tell your Lordships, from my own experience, that a vehicle can pass that test on one day and fail absolutely to pass it the next.
§ I estimate that to test 6 million vehicles a year, less the exemptions—and the more exemptions there are, the greater becomes the farce, if I may use the expression—would need approximately 15,000 testing stations in this country. It would be impossible to run one testing station with a staff less than six in number. I should think that the average number of staff would be six, of which four would have to be skilled people. That means that approximately 100,000 people would be required. If you were to pay a mechanic of the lowest grade for this job, you would have to pay about 5s. per 962 hour as a minimum. It would take two mechanics two hours to do this test. The bare cost, with overheads, would be somewhere in the region of two or three guineas per inspection—and you are going to employ 100,000 people. Unless you have a sufficient number of these testing stations over strategic areas it means that a vehicle driver will be subjected to a drive of 20, 30 or 40 miles for the purpose of having his vehicle tested, on one day of the year. I think that should bring home to the Government the uselessness of this matter—the cost which would ensue from the result which you are going to achieve.
Turning to subsection (4) of the present clause, these words appear:
Any person who uses on a road or causes or permits to be so used a motor vehicle as respects which no test certificate has been issued within the last twelve months…shall be guilty of an offence…
and can be fined up to £20 or, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, up to £50. Then, by the provision of another subsection the driver may be charged for the cost of the examination, which at the minimum I put at two to three guineas, on top of his licence fee, his insurance and everything else. Then, by subsection (6) (g) it is provided that a person cannot renew the excise licence for his vehicle or motor car unless he can produce a valid certificate, one which has been issued within the preceding twelve months. What good it is when he has it, I do not know. As I tried to point out to your Lordships on the Committee stage, a man can take out a certificate for his car on this one and hallowed day of the year. That may be in January of this year and, twelve months hence, when he wants to renew Hs excise licence, which would be on the 1st January next year, he can still produce the same certificate, eleven months old.
§ I cannot understand the reaction to my suggestion of having what I called a Sword of Damocles or a spot check, to keep a motorist always conscious of the fact that his vehicle must be in first-class condition. Under the clause as it now stands a driver can get a certificate to-day, and for the next eleven months he is absolutely immune—immune from what? Everything but his conscience. But what validity has the certificate? He can get an excise licence on it. If he went about fearing that at any time his brakes might 963 be subjected to examination, I think that would be a greater incentive to him to keep his brakes in proper order, and better than a system under which he is issued with a certificate giving him carte blanche to do what he likes in regard to his brakes (if he has no more sense) for the next eleven months.
§ Suppose you did away with all the Inspectors of Weights and Measures, and said to all retail traders and merchants: "On one day a year you must take all your scales to the nearest Government examiner to have them tested for accuracy." Or suppose you said to all the coal merchants, "Once every year you must drive your coal wagons with twenty-one 1 cwt. of sacks of coal into the scales testing station, so that we can see whether your scales are accurate and that each sack has 1 cwt. of coal in it." How many of these scales would be found to be wrong? I should imagine that any retailer who took his pair of scales into a Government scale-examining station when they were not dead accurate would want not his scales seen to, but his head. Nothing will be found out by having these stations; brakes or steering will not be found out of order. All those defects will be put in order—for that one day. I have, therefore, based my Amendment on the approach which I believe to be correct. I have not troubled to put down the consequential Amendments, although some will be necessary—for instance, that an excise licence should be in peril if a vehicle is not fit—as the Statute at present refers only to A, B or C licences.
§ May I come now to the second subsection of my new clause, which I believe to deal with the heart of the problem? May I offer an apology, if that is necessary, to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, who has a later Amendment of a similar kind. I do not want the noble Earl to think I tacked this point on to my Amendment in order to jump the queue. I was impressed by the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Rothes, on the Committee stage in moving his Amendment, which was accepted in principle by Her Majesty's Government, upon the danger of allowing very dilapidated and accident-prone motor cars to be sold to the public. I believe that by the steps which I propose we can put a stop to the source of evil, and can achieve it without any cost to the 964 State, without any State certification, without examiners or anything else of that—if I may use the expression—bureaucratic nature. The noble Earl, in his Amendment, and Her Majesty's Government, in their acceptance of it, want to get at the type of vehicle sold from parking lots, daubed with whitewash, which are a disgrace to any community. I want to see the onus put firmly on the shoulders of the motor trade—in other words, on the sellers of such vehicles. I believe that a certificate of some kind should be required to be issued on a retail sale. I shall have to risk boring your Lordships by telling you why I specify the retail trade.
§ The noble Earl, Lord Howe, when he supported the noble Earl, Lord Rothes, pointed out that some of these very bad used cars and other vehicles have changed hands six or seven times. That is quite correct, and the reason is that they are so bad that nobody will spend money putting them right; they are so bad that nobody will buy them, except at a "knock-out" figure. Nobody will keep them for very long, so they keep changing hands, sometimes as between trader and trader. For every new motor car sold in this country before the war, about 2½ motor cars were taken in part exchange. The turnover of such cars in that way is stupendous. One does not want a vehicle of this sort examined or tested until it is sold to the man who is going to use it on the road. The interchange of vehicles from trader to trader runs into hundreds of thousands, every trader thinking that he is going to buy that vehicle to make a little profit.
I should like firmly fixed upon him, when he sells the vehicle to the public, the responsibility of issuing this certificate. For him to issue a certificate for an article which he himself sells is a different matter from acting as a certifying officer for the Government, who send in other people to have their cars certified. There is a great distinction between those two cases, and that is why I have put this Amendment in its present form, that
The Minister may make regulations prescribing that vehicles of such class, description or age shall, upon changing ownership as between certain parties, carry a certificate issued by a competent authority or authorities that such vehicles upon such change of ownership conform to certain standards of fitness and condition.
I have said "competent authority or authorities." Her Majesty's Government may think of other authorities, or that the trade should certify their own cars. In a sale from one private individual to another Her Majesty's Government may consider it necessary to say that the vehicle must be taken to a Government inspector, or they may think fit to accept as valid in any particular case a certificate issued by another competent authority, a reputable motoring authority. I have left the provision wide in order to give the Minister power to make such regulations as he will.
§ I believe that by that simple means we can get over 75 per cent. of our troubles. The balance of the troubles can be overcome by the Government examiners, because they will know the vehicles for which they have to watch. There are certain owners of commercial vehicles who are notorious for their bad maintenance; others are equally famed for their good maintenance. In the latter class I would pick out some of the fleets of vehicles of brewers, which are kept in immaculate condition. Some of the other vehicles are the real seat of the trouble, and to examine them once a year is futile. They should be examined, and should have a Government examiner "on their tail," about once in every two months, for such vehicles are always grossly overloaded and are driven by a different driver from one day to the next. They are the black spots in this problem which Her Majesty's Government are trying to solve—the problem of 2,501 accidents in 1952 caused by mechanical deficiencies.
§ There were not 6,000 such accidents, as the noble Lord said. He took his figure at the bottom of the column, instead of halfway down. The figures of accidents attributable, according to the police and the Ministry of Transport, to mechanical defects or failure of brakes, tyres, wheels, steering and other causes, were: motorcycles, 760; private motor cars, 1,059; goods-carrying vehicles, 681: I have taken out pedal cycles and also all public conveyances, as they already have to be statutorily examined. I ask noble Lords: Is it worth while setting up a huge machine such as would be required if the Government go on with this proposal, involving somewhere in the region of 15,000 stations, and trying to get nearly 966 100,000 skilled men when, by my Amendment, it is possible to get it done at a tithe of the cost and very much more efficiently? I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 1 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ 3.0 p.m.
My Lords, I should like in a few words to support this Amendment. To my mind it is a very, reasonable compromise for something which many of us think is quite impossible in the present Clause 1. It is a feasible scheme and would be useful in checking the very dangerous machines which are on the roads to-day. In fact, there is only one word in the present Clause 1 which I care about, and that is the word "may," which provides an escape route for the Minister if his pioneer scheme should turn out to be not so effective as he hopes. I particularly like subsection (2) of the Amendment. I think that goes to the heart of the matter, as Lord Lucas of Chilworth pointed out, because, although purchase tax on new cars will, presumably, continue, more new cars are coming on to the road than was the case a few years ago. That means that there will be a much larger turnover of second-hand cars, I imagine, for many years to come. It is these second-hand cars that it is so important, in my view, to check in order to see that they are fit to be on the road—and this is particularly the case when a car may have been in the hands of two private owners, neither of whom may have understood cars as well as he should. It is important that there should be some definite check on these cars. As I say, I particularly like subsection (2) of the Amendment. I think the Amendment is a good compromise, and I sincerely hope that the Government will see their way to accept it.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I cannot help feeling much as the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, feels about this Amendment. We were told in the Committee stage that this examination of vehicles was not going to be an elaborate one. What is the good of having an examination unless it is fairly elaborate? I would point out again, as I did in the Committee stage, that you can examine any vehicle you like—you could take any one of the cars belonging to your Lordships which are parked outside this building—and in all 967 probability it will pass the test. But no one knows, unless the brake drums are taken off, how much brake lining is left. Apparently, it is not proposed to go that length. Then, of course, a fee is going to be charged—ten shillings is the figure mentioned. What will the owner get for that ten shillings? Just a bit of paper stating that on one day in the year (Lord Lucas of Chilworth has emphasised this point) the vehicle concerned was in a condition to pass a test. The certificate means just that and no more.
I cannot help wondering whether it is necessary to have such an elaborate machine in order to achieve so little. Less than 2 per cent. of accidents are alleged to be caused by failure of the vehicle. That is a figure which, to my mind, is suspect. It is only human nature on the part of many people to blame machines rather than themselves when an accident occurs. If a fellow is fairly "quick in the uptake" he will no doubt say: "My steering went" or, "My brakes went," or something of that sort, the real fact being, of course, that he was driving his vehicle without having it under proper control. I do not think the figures which are quoted in this connection are entirely beyond suspicion. I cannot help feeling that, as Lord Hampton has said, in this Amendment we have a compromise. I do not know whether the Government will feel able to accept it, but I think it would be to the benefit of all, and it might do a great deal to clean up the second-hand car business as we know it to-day. I trust that the Government will find it possible to accept this Amendment.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ THE PAYMASTER GENERAL (THE EARL OF SELKIRK)
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for saying he is in agreement with us that some form of practical test is necessary. But I cannot agree with him that this Amendment is a possible alternative to the proposals in Clause 1. I am prepared to say that it is to some extent supplementary to Clause 1, should that appeal to your Lordships. But, in fact, it seems to me that owing to the procedure of your Lordships' House we have, in fact, three distinct Amendments before us. One is to leave out Clause 1. The second is the first paragraph of the Amendment, which intends to extend the 968 system of spot checking. The third requires a certificate of change of ownership of certain vehicles.
May I, to start with, say a word or two about these last two points? Spot checking is, of course, a valuable addition, and I am not saying that it is not. But it cannot replace a basic periodic test of any mechanical machine. That must be the basis on which proper inspection or supervision takes place. And I do not think that in this case we should underestimate the inconvenience to the public of constantly being stopped on the highway and having their vehicles tested for half an hour or so before they are allowed to carry on. That is implicit in this Amendment, if it is to be of the slightest use. However, the Amendment does not really go much further than we go to-day. It does only two things, one of which is objectionable, and the other of which I am prepared to accept if the House so desires. What is objectionable is this. If the Amendment were passed, it would mean that under Section 17 (2) of the 1933 Act an examiner might enter any premises on which he had reason to believe that a vehicle was kept, and if any person obstructed the examiner in the performance of his duty he would be guilty of an offence. I do not think it is desirable that we should give examiners on this ground authority to enter private premises. It is quite different when goods vehicles are concerned, as is the case to-day. But, in my view, it is a most undesirable feature which the noble Lord is now proposing, and one to which the House would be unlikely readily to agree.
The second thing the Amendment does is to enable examiners to issue prohibition notices in respect of private vehicles, as they can do in respect of goods vehicles. I see no objection to that if the House so desires it, but I should point out that this is not a great deal more than they can do at the present time. Under Section 30 (1) (g) of the 1930 Act, the Minister can make regulations in respect of brakes and steering gear. The current regulations are the Motor Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations, 1951, which at paragraph 103 lay down that any police constable in uniform and any person for the time being appointed certifying officer or examiner (who shall produce his authority, if required), is empowered to test and inspect either on the road or, subject to the consent of the owner for 969 the purpose, on the premises where the vehicle is. So that these powers already exist except in one particular, and that is the issue of the prohibition notices. If the noble Lord presses the matter, I shall be prepared to accept prohibition notices, or to consider whether we can redraft this clause in a form to incorporate that feature should the House be so inclined.
With regard to the question of resale I would rather defer consideration of this until we have heard the arguments of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on his Amendment, which I think is No. 49 on the Marshalled List. It seems that it would do the very same thing, and we should like to have the opportunity of deciding whether one Amendment is better than the other. I have no strong feelings about this point, and I should like to hear the noble Earl's arguments deployed in due course. What I can say is that I am afraid subsection (2) of this Amendment would not be of effect until the competent authority to issue quite a large number of certificates a year had been set up, whereas Amendment 49, would come into force almost straight away. Therefore, I suggest that, whilst we are prepared to consider which of the two points in these Amendments is the best, it would be undesirable to come to a decision on this one for the reasons which I have giver.
Now may I turn to Clause 1 for a moment? I do not think any of us is unmoved or can avoid a sense of discomfort on seeing every month or so the published figures of road accidents. I am certain that the country to-day is deeply concerned about this subject, and I do not think we can write off mechanical defects as quite insignificant among the factors which play a part in this problem. I am not going to argue with the noble Lord about the detailed figures. They are not very high. I should mention, however, that the noble Lord did not include such offences as having no front light, no adequate front light, or no rear light among the figures which he gave. I would like to give one or two facts on this subject for your Lordships' consideration. These are from an examination made by the Road Research Laboratory.
I think it is the Highway Code which says that a well-maintained car on a dry surface requires a minimum of forty-five feet to draw up, if travelling at thirty miles 970 per hour. A much higher figure than that, seventy feet, was taken, and examination showed that over 50 per cent. of cars tested failed to draw up in that distance. Ten per cent. of cars tested could not stop in 100 feet, and 1 per cent. could not stop in 200 feet. Take, as another case, the question of dazzle. Anyone who has ever driven a car at night in this country must, time and again, have said to himself, "Why do not the Ministry do something about dazzle? Why should we constantly be exposed to this form of dazzle?" I have no doubt that dazzle plays a considerable part in the problem of the roads at night time. I must say that it is a most difficult problem, and anyone who is familiar with it knows that it is not a simple problem to resolve.
Your Lordships came to a decision when we last discussed this matter in Committee. The Government make no complaint about that decision, but we would ask your Lordships to give the Minister a little time in which to consider the result of that decision, so that he may see what he can do to make some progress. It would be a great pity if it should go out from this House in any sense that the value of an annual inspection of motor cars is wholly illusory. That, with great respect, is utterly untrue. It is the basis on which all examination is carried out. One might almost as well say that a certificate of air-worthiness for an aeroplane was useless because it was only given as the result of an inspection carried out at one point in a year. I believe that motorists are very anxious to co-operate in this matter. No one has an interest in driving an unfit car; no one wants to drive such a car; and no one is going specially to "jigger up" his car for one day's inspection. There is no advantage in doing that. I would add also that I think it has considerable educational value for any driver to know what his brakes should feel like and to know what well adjusted lights are like. That in itself is quite an advantage.
Now, I hesitate to do this, but I feel I should draw your Lordships' attention to an article which appeared in a journal known as The Motor on the day after we had our discussion on the Committee stage. The Motor cannot be said to be biased against motorists, and I would commend this article to your Lordships. It is an article by the journal's American 971 correspondent and it deals with the experience of testing cars in the United States of America. I will not quote much of it, but perhaps I may give you one or two extracts. It says:The general increase of the practice appears to be a notable proof that it has inherent values. At present about eighteen of the forty-eight States have testing and they are the most populous States. Statistics viewed from any angle do seem to indicate that there is merit in inspections of a periodic nature.Then the statistics are given, and your Lordships can look at them.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
The inspection varies from State to State. In some States it is six-monthly and I think in others yearly. But I will lend the noble Earl this book so that he may look at it if he wishes. The writer turns to examination and says:Amongst other things at the present time the idea of periodic inspection is popular and of persons interviewed 97 per cent. approved of periodical inspections of all motor vehicles.I would add that the Road Research Laboratory have expressed the view, after examining American figures and statistics—and of course statistics are not things that are easily presented on this subject—that not less than ten and possibly up to twenty per cent. of accidents have been saved by systematic vehicle testing. I put this before you only because I think that we are faced with something here in regard to which we must try to take some forward step.
I know that your Lordships feel very strongly in regard to this matter and I should like to suggest that we make the application of Clause 1 subject to affirmative procedure in both Houses. In other words, we should say to the Minister, "We have expressed"—and of course the views expressed in the course of these debates are of great value to the Minister— "grave doubts about this matter, and in any case we dislike the scheme that you have put forward. We are willing for you to try again, but you cannot bring in a scheme which affects any car until you have explained it to Parliament and 972 satisfied them that it is a workable scheme." I suggest that in that way your Lordships will be giving nothing away; you will be asking merely that this matter should be examined further. I think the experience which has been had elsewhere is impressive. What we suggest is simply that we put in Clause 1 on the Third Reading an affirmative procedure; that in regard to the first part of the Amendment moved by Lord Lucas of Chilworth we should, if the House so desires, redraft it in such a way as to put in a prohibition, and take out the power of entering on private property to inspect cars, which I think is undesirable; and that in regard to the second part, dealing with the resale of vehicles, we should examine it in the light of the discussion which may come about when Lord Howe speaks. If that course commends itself to your Lordships, I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, speaking for myself I do not think that is a satisfactory arrangement, but may I remind your Lordships what the position was? As this Bill was introduced, we were to have a system of inspection which was to be brought about in this way. First of all, there were to be inspectors appointed by the Minister, and secondly, in order to make this possible, he was going to authorise a large number of private garages and the like to undertake the duties of inspection. Had he done that, and created a large number of potential inspectors, this clause might have been practicable. But this House, in its wisdom, decided to strike out the part about private garages and the like, and consequently we are now limited to the Minister's inspectors. I maintain that this clause, or anything like this clause, is absolutely physically impossible at the present time, by reason of the simple fact that the manpower is not available.
May I say to the noble Lord at once that I think we are all absolutely shocked and horrified by the extent of casualties on the roads. I think we have to take really serious steps to try to deal with this matter, and, if necessary, we must break down some of the motorists' shibboleths. One way we can do that is to authorise the inspection of any private car if there is any reason to suppose that it is in an unfit condition to be on the road—because, if it is, it is a potential juggernaut 973 which may kill and wound people. We ought not to stand on the order of our going, if a car is really unfit for the road. But, as I have said, the number of accidents due to mechanical defects is not a large number—I estimate the proportion at something like 2 per cent. In 1952, the last year for which I have figures, there were 171,000-odd road accidents involving personal injuries and involving 264,000 vehicles. The police attribute 2,500 of those to mechanical defects and, as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has said, it is likely, that drivers, to excuse themselves, put the blame on the vehicle. I eliminate accidents due to the absence of front lights or to inadequate front lights or the absence of rear lights, because it is manifest on the face of it that we cannot deal with that problem by inspection of a car once a year. It does not in the least follow that if a motorist has a certificate saying that his car was tested on March 1, his lights would be in a good condition six months afterwards. I myself am the owner of a car, a very good car, which I bought four months ago. I had reason to think that both the brakes and the steering needed to be looked at, so I put the car into a very good garage and had the work done. That was after four months, and, as I say, it was a very good car.
Let us look at the clause as it stands. Subsection (4) says:Any person who uses on a road or causes or permits to be so used a motor vehicle as respects which no test certificate has been issued within the last twelve months, …shall be guilty of an offence…It is true that there is an excepting provision. As I see it, it is inevitable that the Minister is bound to use his power of exception to such a huge extent that, of the bulk of motor vehicles covered by the clause, only a small fraction will in fact be subject to the rule. In short, what we are doing is to start with a wide general proposal that all cars must be inspected every year, with power to make exceptions, and the circumstances make inevitable the excepting of something like 99 per cent. It is to be done by Orders in Council, which have the grave defect, among other things, that it is extraordinarily difficult to get hold of them. It is difficult for those who want to obey the law to know what the law is, if it is contained in Orders in Council.
974 Though I entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, that the number of motor accidents should shock and horrify us, I feel that that is all the more reason why we should not be guilty of panic legislation and should see that we use the existing and available sources of manpower to the best effect. It is now common knowledge that with all these great motor firms undertaking great extensions of their works, and with more and more motor cars being put on the road and sold for export, the demand for skilled mechanics is tremendous. We cannot possibly contemplate having an army of mechanics going about inspecting cars. The harsh and unpleasant fact is that we have only a small army, and we must use that small army in the best way and to the best effect. I would suggest to your Lordships that much the best way of dealing with this problem is to have what is called the "spot check." A sensible man can see at a glance whether a vehicle needs to be inspected. Inspectors might have to be provided with some badge or insignia or something to show they were entitled to stop a vehicle. As my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has pointed out, the spot check would test a car in the actual condition in which it was being driven on the road. If, instead of that, a motorist has to take his car round to be inspected once a year, we may be quite certain that for that particular day the man will "doll up" his car and it will be all right. It is far better to stop the car on the road or, if you like, go round to the garage and see what the defects are there.
It is not because I am not horrified at the number of road accidents that I take this view; it is because I am certain that, with this number of road accidents, we must act sensibly and use our manpower to the best effect. No Party politics are involved in this matter. I am sorry to be opposing the Minister in anything that seems likely, or which he thinks likely, to cut down road accidents; but I think we should be abrogating our position and not doing our duty if we did not examine this scheme carefully. I maintain that it is absolutely impractical to say that every vehicle should be inspected every year. It cannot be done. The manpower required would be far in excess of the available manpower. It is important to use our manpower shock troops in the best possible way, and I maintain that the best 975 possible way is to have a system of spot checks, applying not only to goods vehicles, as happens today, but to passenger vehicles, private vehicles and all other vehicles, bearing in mind that the complete justification for such a system is that, if these vehicles are not in a fit condition to be on the road, they are juggernauts which can do frightful damage to life and limb on our roads. That is all the justification I want for this proposal, and I beg the Government to think again about this matter.
I understood that when we had eliminated the private garage as an agency which might do this checking, the Government were going to think again about the whole position—indeed, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said so—but now we have this truncated clause which, as it stands, is manifestly impossible. I suggest to the Government that they should withdraw this clause and accept my noble friend's Amendment, and if, before the Bill goes to another place, they can think of some practical scheme which is of value, it could well be inserted there and come back to your Lordships' House. But to my mind, to pass this Bill as it stands is to ask the House to do something which is so unreal and impracticable that it will have no beneficial value at all. That is a view which I humbly invite the Government to take in this matter.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, I am sure that no one in your Lordships' House would doubt for an instant the sincerity and purpose of the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition in regard to diminishing, so far as legislation can, the number of road accidents, but I feel that in this context the counsel which he has given to your Lordships is rather a counsel of despair. The noble and learned Earl has asked us to abandon one approach because (I admit it frankly) we have not reached the state of efficient working which we all desire. I had hoped it would have been possible to come before your Lordships at this stage with a new plan for working out these tests which would gain general support from your Lordships. We have not got as far as that, but the fact that we have not been able to do that in a matter of two or three weeks does not mean 976 that we have given up hope of doing it. There are other methods which will occur to your Lordships by which it can be done. I would only remind the noble and learned Earl of the difference in insurance cover in regard to accidents since the days when he and I used to argue insurance policies, when we were both at the Bar, to show what a great advance there has been in that field. I think that is an aspect of the matter which may well deserve consideration in regard to the field with which we are dealing to-day.
On the first point that the noble and learned Earl makes, that we should drop the clause, I would point out that that would prevent my right honourable friend the Minister from having the chance to go on with the experiments which he desires, and, when he has made the progress which I still hope and believe he will make, of coming before your Lordships with another plan. The noble and learned Earl is entitled to point out that we have not found the plan to-day. But my noble friend Lord Selkirk met that point by saying that he would change the manner of operating the clause to an Affirmative Resolution, which means that nothing could come into law until your Lordships approved of the plan ultimately decided upon. The noble and learned Earl and I discussed in another connection the difficulties of Affirmative Resolutions. He and I have every reason to know what they mean: they mean finding Government time; they mean putting the matter forward in a positive way and getting it through the House subject to the criticism of your Lordships. In making that proposal, my noble friend Lord Selkirk has gone a great way to meet apprehensions which may be in the minds of your Lordships.
But I believe that the most serious answer to the noble and learned Earl is the psychological and educative effect of this proposal. I have listened at all stages—as I always try to do—to the weighty arguments which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has put forward on this point. I know that if you have a check on January 2 of one year, defects may show themselves by January 1 of the next year. But at the moment there are no tests at all, and to get people accustomed to the position of having to subject ancient vehicles, such as I described on the Committee stage, to tests, is, I believe, an important matter. I agree with 977 the noble and learned Earl that we need to be realists in this matter. It would be a poor thing if your Lordships were to be content with a spot check without realising what is meant. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble and learned Earl have turned to the spot check as if that were, if lot a panacea, at any rate a really good patent medicine for the illness that we are trying to diagnose.
What is the position? To-day the spot check operates approximately on 160,000 vehicles—the classes of vehicles that have been described by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. On this suggestion it would have to operate on 4 million vehicles. Therefore, every argument that the noble and learned Earl has put forward about the deficiency of manpower would apply if the examination were confined to the spot check system. I had the honour of being responsible for the police of this country for a period of years, and it is extremely doubtful whether the spot check system could operate without police co-operation, except in the cases in which there is some doubt—namely, in dealing with cars that are in garages. There is an argument on that point, and I have been acquainted with it. But that is the position at the present time.
Again, I ask noble Lords who have put this forward to consider the practical situation. This is a system designed and operating in regard to a small and limited class of vehicle, amounting to 160,000. Assume that an attempt is made to operate that system by stopping, and then prohibiting the use of, every private car—because that is what is proposed. I ask your Lordships to believe that I am not trying to make a debating argument against the supplanting case in order to protect my own. What I am suggesting to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and to the noble and learned Earl is that we should take both: that we should keep Clause 1 and give the Minister the opportunity of finding the best scheme and making the experiments which are necessary to see the effect of his pilot station, and also, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk suggested, take the best part out of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. That is what we suggest: that we keep Clause 1, subject to Affirmative Resolution, which gives your Lordships complete control over its operation; extract what we believe is best out of the proposal in sub- 978 section (1) of the Amendment of the noble Lord; and, with regard to subsection (2), wait until we have heard the noble Earl, Lord Howe, move his Amendment and seen which is the better of the two ways of dealing with the problem.
§ EARL JOWITT
May I ask a question, because this is an important matter? Does not the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack fear that, if he adopts that course and has both the periodical inspection and the spot check, he will spread his manpower even more thinly? He will not have enough manpower; and if part of it is taken up with periodical testing, will there not be less left for the spot check, and conversely? Is that desirable?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am grateful to the noble and learned Earl for drawing my attention to that point. I know that my noble friend had it in mind, although he did not mention it. However, it might be convenient for the rest of your Lordships if I drew attention to Clause 26 (2) (b). Clause 26 (2) says:This Act shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may by order made by statutory instrument appoint; and—(b) different days may be appointed for the coming into operation of subsection (4) of section one of this Act in relation to different classes or descriptions of vehicles:I should have thought that, whatever scheme is ultimately found, it would be necessary to delay the operation of the coming into farce of that scheme under Clause 1 until possibly the results of the pilot scheme had been considered and the best method found. In view of what had been urged by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I thought it would be a good thing to have the other scheme to cover any transitional period. The ultimate scheme which will be operated will depend, I hope, on the results and the success of both. That is what I suggest to your Lordships as being the best method of dealing with the problem. Let us send this Bill to another place with the possibility that the best may be got out of both schemes.
It is not as if we were adopting a non possumus attitude to the scheme of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. We are ready to try to get the best out of that, and we should like to get the best 979 out of our schemes. We are not stonewalling. We are asking merely that the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, should be considered before we make up our minds. I am sorry that we have not got further in the matter. Again, I respectfully ask your Lordships to consider the psychological effect of dropping such a proposal. I ask your Lordships to let this Bill go to another place for consideration with both these proposals in it, so that it may be further considered and, if Amendments are made, come back to your Lordships for an ultimate consideration later on.
§ 3.42 p.m.
THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, having listened to the debate, although I had not intended to take any part in it I venture to put forward the view of a large body of the public who are not represented in this House, and that is the pedestrians. I have been forced by lack of eyesight to become a pedestrian, and I can see the problem from that point of view. I believe that the mass of people would support the Government in introducing an annual test, as they propose. I cannot follow why, because a test is carried out on one day of the year, it is not advantageous to have that test. In the Services circuits and gunmountings are always being tested to see that they are in top condition. Nobody asks what is the good of doing that, because if you do not have a test at a certain time the effects may be cumulative. I am certain that people standing in the streets and having to cross the road would like to know that every car approaching them had been tested within a year.
My Lords, may I make one remark? The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, put forward as an argument against periodic testing the fact that the motorist or car owner would obviously—I think the words used were—"doll it up" before the test, so that when it went for examination it would be in good condition. Is that not just what we are aiming at—that he should, of his own free will and volition, keep his car in good mechanical order?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, the difficulty in which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and I find ourselves is that we are both sincerely trying to do the best we possibly can, but we have 980 a different opinion as to the way to do it. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said, "What are you trying to do? You are trying to extend a system which is operating in respect of only 160,000 vehicles." With great respect, I say that that is completely wrong. Section 17 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act which I seek to introduce into this Bill covers all A, B and C licences, and those amount to over 2 million. If the noble and learned Viscount will allow me to say so, he is confusing the public service vehicle examination, which is a different thing; that is quite outside the purview of the Road and Rail Traffic Acts. The noble and learned Viscount also said something about the psychological effect. The psychological effect of a spot check is far greater than that of a check on a date when you know you are going to take your vehicle to have it examined. I should say that a spot check would have a great effect on driving, because you would know that if you were summoned for careless or dangerous driving in the future, the first thing that would happen would be that the police would examine your motor car to see whether it conformed to the safety standard.
The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, really made my case when he talked about the tests and the opinions of the National Road Research Laboratory and the stopping distances of motor vehicles. That is the essence of the spot check, because the stopping distances of any vehicle—I should be glad if the noble Earl would allow me to continue without nodding his head; at least I speak about this from some practical experience—is conditioned by the load it carries. You can stop a motor car with only one person in it in a shorter space of time than if it is carrying six. You can stop a lorry loaded with one ton more quickly than one with five tons.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am glad to have corroboration from the noble and gallant Earl. Therefore, what I want done is to have the vehicle tested with the load it is carrying on a road at a specific time under the conditions in which it is travelling—perhaps with bald tyres with no treads on them. Do you think anybody in his senses is going to 981 drive a lorry into a testing station with four of the oldest tyres he can possibly get?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
May I ask the noble Lord whether people like driving cars with no brakes in them?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I can tell the noble Earl this: quite a number of commercial vehicles on the roads are carrying, for commercial considerations, loads which the brakes on their vehicles were never designed to hold. If you ask any of your transport examiners they will tell you precisely the same. I am not referring to the well-conditioned and well-used commercial vehicle. You can narrow the number of these vehicles which cause accidents not down to 6 million, but to very few. For the first time the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has talked about a "pilot" scheme. There is nothing in this Bill about an experimental or pilot scheme. Clause 1 of this Bill does not mention it. It gives the Minister power to set up testing stations all over the country; to fine people £20 or £50 for not having a current certificate; and to refuse to allow them to have an excise licence until they have a certificate. There is nothing about a pilot scheme in this proposal.
I will make this offer to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, because the concessions he has made in his speech show that he believes there is something in our case. As my noble and learned Leader said, the difficulty is manpower. It is no good having two or three of these stations. Are you going to ask a man to go from London to Newcastle, or Newcastle to London, to have his car tested? Unless you have a strategic number, what is the good of any of them? You need a pilot scheme. That is the nucleus which I suggest in my Amendment. If the noble Earl will accept my Amendment, or your Lordships will accept it, and delete Clause 1 with all this long-term policy, and the noble Earl likes to bring forward a subsection to Clause 1 giving the Minister permission to put up one testing station—I should not like to leave Scotland out, so let Scotland have one as well—to carry out this experiment, I shall be his most enthusiastic supporter. From my own practical experience I am convinced that you will never cure this evil unless you start in the manner I have suggested, and then build up from that. 982 If the Minister wants a pilot scheme, I will support a subsection in this Bill to give him authority to set up that one pilot station and then, after he has gained experience to measure against the experiment, we shall all be better off; we shall see the wood in spite of the trees, and we shall not be embarking on some extraneous and extravagant thing which will necessitate obtaining 15,000 testing stations and 100,000 men who are not available. I feel I must ask your Lordships to express your opinion upon my Amendment in the Division Lobby, with the proviso that, if the noble Earl likes to accept that suggestion and bring forward and tack on to this proposition a pilot scheme, I shall be a ready supporter.
§ LORD ELTON
My Lords, as one who for the last twenty years has been deeply interested in road safety, although I had no intention of taking part in these discussions, may I say, after listening to them, that I have been very much more impressed by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, than by those of the Government spokesmen. If it is the case, as I suppose we must assume it is, that manpower will be very thin on the ground, and if we have at some point or in some way to choose between the spot check and some form of annual examination, then it seems to me, on the basis of what we have heard, that the spot check has it every time, on the principle, so familiar in strategy, that when you have a small force you threaten the enemy with forces which you do not necessarily disclose.
There seems to me to be a close analogy here to the use of the uniformed "speed cop," which I have often besought your Lordships to supplement by the use of a certain number of plain-clothes "speed cops," for the simple reason that, with a plain-clothes "speed cop," nobody knows when he may be being tailed. Similarly, if you have a spot check, while there may be only ten men available to carry it out I, as a motorist, going along with my insufficient brakes, never know but that I may be stopped and my car examined. It seems to me that that is the sensible strategic principle for an army which is short of manpower: you make the maximum use of it by instilling into the mind of every motorist the fear that 983 at some moment he may be stopped, perhaps, as has been rightly pointed out, with an overload—at any rate, in conditions which might not reproduce themselves when the official examiner stumps round once a year to his garage. I must say that, so far as I have followed this
§ Clause 2 [Amendment of s. 59 (1) of Act of 1930]:
§ 4.0 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (LORD MANCROFT) moved to leave out all the words after "other" and to insert:
persons using the road or to appear to have been abandoned) after the word 'custody' there shall be inserted the words 'or for the moving from one position on a road to another position on that or another road,' and for the words 'or to' there shall be substituted the words 'or as to cause obstruction to such persons or as to'.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment and this clause, Clause 2, raise quite a different point. Your Lordships will remember that our object is to give the police the power to remove a vehicle from the streets when it likely to cause an obstruction. The reason for that is that we wish to make some attempt to ease the passage of vehicles through the intolerable congestion of our streets,
§ argument, I have been deeply impressed by what has been said by the two noble Lords opposite.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—
§ Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 36.983
|Camden, M.||Brabazon of Tara, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Milne, L.|
|Crook, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.|
|Jowitt, E.||Douglas of Barloch, L. [Teller.]||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Elton, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Hampton, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Jessel, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Kenswood, L.||Winster, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Kinnaird, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||St. Aldwyn, E.||Dovercourt, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Gifford, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Hawke, L.|
|Reading, M.||Furness, V.||Hayter, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Soulbury, V.||Leconfield, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Swinton, V.||Mancroft, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Milverton, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Carrington, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Howe, E.||Chesham, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Munster, E.||Coleraine, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ since the vehicles would otherwise have no chance at all of getting through. I gave as an example in my remarks during the Committee stage of this Bill the anxiety felt by fire brigades—in particular the London Fire Brigade, who have had the experience on more than one occasion in places like Soho of parking of vehicles in a street which has been so excessive that they have had considerable doubt whether they would be able to get their machines through. This problem equally applies to ambulances. But of course obstruction of this type is a problem to all road users. It is in order to give the police just that extra power to remove vehicles which are not causing a danger and have not been abandoned (in both these cases they already have power) but are causing obstruction.
§ That was the power which we intended the clause to confer, but since the introduction of this Bill two difficulties have been brought to the notice of Her Majesty's Government in the proposals in the clause as it stood. The first one was this. The 1930 Act empowers the 985 Minister to make provision for the removal from roads and for safe custody of certain vehicles, but does not, in so many terms, enable the removal of vehicles from one road to another or from one part to another of the same road. The existing provision, which relates to abandoned and dangerous vehicles, seems to contemplate that these vehicles would be removed to a garage or other place off the road, but what is contemplated in the case of vehicles causing obstruction is that they will normally simply be moved the minimum distance necessary to a spot where they will not cause obstruction. Accordingly, we desire to put the matter beyond doubt by explicitly enabling the removal of vehicles, not only from the roads altogether, but also from one position on a road to another position on that or another road.
§ The other point we want to clear up in this Amendment is the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and my noble friend Lord Teynham referred when we were discussing this matter in Committee. They both voiced the opinion that the Bill appeared to give the police rather wider powers than they really needed—for instance, they would be able to move any motor car on the street for obstruction, whether serious or not, or to clear the road of all parked cars. That is not the intention for one moment. It is not suggested that the police would spend an afternoon moving all the cars that they can. Their sole desire is to clear the street to enable the vehicle which is obstructed—for example, the fire engine—to get through. The suggestion was made by the two noble Lords that, in order to narrow the powers, there should be inserted some qualification of the word "obstruction," or some alternative phrase should be used. It is quite clear that the apprehensions that the police would effect a wholesale clearance are quite unfounded, and I think it would be useful to confine the powers of the police to the vehicle which is actually causing interference to the movement of traffic, or has been left at such a place as obviously to be liable to cause such an obstruction.
It has been felt that by amending the words "likely to cause an obstruction" so that they shall refer to vehicles which are actually causing obstruction would
simplify the matter and put it beyond doubt. Therefore the clause will read as follows:
The Minister may make Regulations
(c) for making provision for the removal from roads, and safe custody, or for the moving from one position on a road to another position on that or another road, of vehicles which have broken down, or which have been permitted to remain at rest on a road in such a position or in such condition or in such circumstances as to be likely to cause danger to other persons using the road, or as to cause obstruction to such persons or as to appear to have been abandoned, and of the loads carried thereby.
§ I hope that that meets the difficulties which the noble Lords voiced on the Committee stage, and accordingly I beg to move.
Page 3, line 40, leave out from ("other") to end of line 42 and insert the said new words.—(Lord Mancroft.)
My Lords, I am grateful to Her Majesty's Government for setting down this Amendment, which to a certain extent I think amplifies the word "obstruction" at present in the Bill. I was most anxious that there should not be any antagonism between the public not be the police in this matter, and I think the Amendment will go some way to prevent that. Unfortunately, my noble friend Lord Rothes is unable to be here to-day, but he has asked to be associated with my thanks to Her Majesty's Government.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, in Committee an Amendment to this clause was moved by my noble friend Lord Stonehaven. That Amendment was designed to permit the Minister of Transport to adjudicate on the reasonableness of a bill for the removal of a car from the road. I endeavoured to explain—and I was happy to be supported by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice—that the adjudication to which my noble friend Lord Stonehaven was referring was more appropriate to the courts, and I pointed out that the relevant portion of the Road Traffic Act read as follows:Expenses payable out of a police fund incurred in the execution of duties imposed by regulations…shall be recoverable summarily by or on behalf of the chief officer of police 987 as a civil debt from the owner of the vehicle, and sums so recovered shall be paid into the police fund.While it is clear that this provision would empower a court to reject a bill as altogether unwarranted (for instance, because the police had no legal right to remove the vehicle, or because the bill had been sent to the wrong person) there is some doubt whether it would enable the court to reduce the amount of a bill which it considered excessive. But by inserting the word "reasonable" before "incurred" it is hoped to remove this doubt. We think it is right in this way to give effect to what Lord Stonehaven had in mind. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 3, line 42, at end insert—
("(2) In subsection (3) of the said section fifty-nine (which provides for the recovery of expenses incurred in the execution of duties imposed by such regulations as aforesaid) for the word 'incurred' there shall be substituted the words 'reasonably incurred'.")—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:
§ Causing death by reckless or dangerous driving
§ ".—(1) Any person who causes the death of another person by the driving of a motor vehicle on a road recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition and use of the road, and the amount of traffic which is actually at the time, or which might reasonably be expected to be, on the road, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
§ (2) An offence against this section shall not be triable by quarter sessions; and where proceedings are taken before the sheriff the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed on conviction shall not exceed two years.
§ (3) Section twenty of the Coroners (Amendment) Act, 1926 (which makes special provision where the coroner is informed before the jury have given their verdict that some person has been charged with one of the offences specified in that section) shall apply to an offence against this section as it applies to manslaughter.
§ (4) If upon the trial of a person for an offence against this section the jury are not satisfied that his driving was the cause of the death but are satisfied that he is guilty of driving as mentioned in subsection (1) of this section, it shall be lawful for them to convict him of an offence under section eleven of the Act 988 of 1930, whether or not the requirements of section twenty-one of that Act (which relates to notice of prosecutions) have been satisfied as respects that offence."
The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, your Lordships will remember the Amendment moved on the Committee stage of the Bill by my noble friend Lord Merthyr, introducing a new clause to deal with causing death by reckless or dangerous driving. The clause that is now before your Lordships is the same as that proposed by my noble friend, with the exception of subsection (4). Your Lordships will remember that I said on Committee stage that if it were the will of the overwhelming preponderance of the House that such a clause should be introduced, I would accept Lord Merthyr's clause and consider whether improvements could be made in the drafting. The reason that we have attempted to improve subsection (4) is that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice, during his intervention, expressed himself as fearful that the right to convict of dangerous driving alone on an indictment for this offence might cause confusion to the jury and difficulty for the judge in his summing up. That point was very carefully considered, and subsection (4) was redrafted to make clear that the only event in which that would occur was when, in the words of the clause:
the jury are not satisfied that his driving was the cause of the death
§ I will not go through the clause again because the matter was fully debated on the Committee stage by your Lordships. I want only to draw attention to two points on which I was asked some questions during the Committee stage and which do not appear in the clause. It was suggested that in this clause we might deal with the question of the admissibility of evidence as to drunkenness or the influence of drink upon a driver in a case of this kind. I have considered that point and have come to the conclusion that it would be too difficult to lay down rules of that nature in the clause. It is very difficult to consider hypothetical questions and to deal with a matter of this kind in any other relation than in respect of a particular case. It is with great diffidence, therefore, that I put forward even an illustration of the difficulty which I have in mind, but I think that is due to your Lordships' House.989
§ There is one type of case in winch evidence of drunkenness, or the taking of alcoholic drink by a driver, is clearly relevant and a matter upon which I think no lawyer, or non-lawyer, would have doubt. Suppose that a man is found on the wrong side of the road and he puts forward the excuse that he was dazzled; in fact there is evidence that he was under the influence of drink and unable to deal with the situation. But there is another type of case, and, again most tentatively, I give it as an example where there may be no dispute at all as to the facts but a real dispute as to whether or not the driving that was taking place was dangerous. Suppose that there is a stretch of road on which a number of drivers—not only the defendant—think it right to drive at 45 m.p.h. and that it is possible for them, at that speed, to pull up in, say, 21 feet. Suppose that someone steps off the path within that 21 feet but not so near to the drier that, had he been going at 25 m.p.h., he could not have pulled up. The argument is then: was it dangerous driving or not to drive at 45 m.p.h.? There, the question of whether or not the man had had two whiskies-and-sodas before driving at 45 m.p.h. might be suggested to be irrelevant because in a situation such as I have envisaged the defendant could not have pulled up in time.
§ Cases may occur in which evidence of having taken drink would be highly prejudicial and would have evidential value. I do not think it is for legislation to instruct benches or judges how to deal with the situation. They must consider the circumstances of the case, and must be governed by the rule that they will admit the evidence if they think it relevant and will be careful to exclude evidence the effect of which they consider to be merely prejudicial. I have said this only because I should not like noble Lords to think that I have not dealt with a point which was obviously of interest to the House.
§ The other point was raised by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice, who said that he would not object, if some such proposal as this became the law, to the abandonment of manslaughter charges in cases where death results from reckless driving. I have of course considered that point, but I believe there is value in retaining the offence of manslaughter to deal with the class 990 of case which I have mentioned—namely, where jewel robbers have stolen a car and drive off and deliberately run down the police or other well-disposed people who try to stop them. In such cases I consider that manslaughter is the proper charge. But as I told your Lordships on the previous occasion, in the ordinary way, the prosecuting authority would proceed under the section unless there were remarkable features such as I have mentioned. I think these are all the points which were raised on the last debate. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD GODDARD
My Lords, I support this new clause in principle, of course, as I did that moved on the Committee stage, and I have only two objections to it. I quite agree with the views just expressed by the noble and learned Viscount about the undesirability of putting into this clause anything relating to the admissibility of evidence as to drunkenness. I confess that I cannot imagine a case in which, if it were part of the case for the prosecution that the man was drunk, and that was the reason why he was driving dangerously, that evidence would not be admissible. I also consider that the reason given by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor for not abolishing a charge of manslaughter where death results from dangerous driving of a motor car is right. Subsection (4), however, has troubled me and some of my brother judges with whom I have had an opportunity of discussing the matter.
As noble Lords are probably aware, at the present time the law under the Road Traffic Act, 1930, is this: On a trial for manslaughter (this clause relates to manslaughter under another name; and the advantage of the clause is that we do not have to use the word "manslaughter" so that juries do not get terrified—they are always so afraid of the word that they will not convict) there is an option to the jury of returning a verdict of guilty of dangerous driving only. Time and again they do so when they ought to return a verdict of manslaughter caused by wickedly dangerous driving that caused death. Yet for some reason or other juries have the greatest dislike of finding 991 a verdict of manslaughter, and no one has ever yet discovered a way of preventing a British jury from returning a perverse verdict if they want to do so.
§ LORD GODDARD
First of all I cannot believe that any charge (to quote the rubric) of "Causing death by reckless or dangerous driving" would ever be preferred unless the motor vehicle has at least hit the person who has been killed. I leave out of account the case where a man might be driving at such a pace that he caused an old lady with a weak heart who was standing on the pavement to fall down dead, because those cases just do not happen. But so long as this clause stands, there is an excellent opportunity of getting a professional witness—a doctor or somebody similar—to come along and say, "this man would have died anyway. He has a weak heart—or diabetes—and would have been dead in a week," or some such evidence. The judge will, of course, direct the jury that if this motorist has caused this man's life to be shortened by an hour he is guilty of the offence under the clause, but there is no knowing that the jury will obey that direction. My fear is that in these cases once a jury are given the chance of returning a minor verdict, they will always do it. I do not say that they invariably refuse to return a verdict of manslaughter, and return a verdict of dangerous driving. But, in fact in some of the cases which the Attorney-General showed me the other day, cases that have been taking place on the Midland Circuit, verdicts of "not guilty" were given in circumstances which seemed to be most horribly dangerous driving. If a jury are given the chance of returning this verdict of guilty only of dangerous driving, I am afraid that they will do it.
One has to remember the position when the judge has to sum up. He begins, I suppose, by saying to the jury: "The charge is causing death by dangerous driving. First you have to consider the question 'Was this man driving dangerously?'—because if he was not, there is an end of the case." Then with regard to causing the death of the person mentioned, there may be, I suppose, a good many cases in which the judge has to say: "If you are satisfied that he is guilty of dangerous driving you must find 992 that this death was caused by dangerous driving. Here, in this case, the accused has knocked a man twenty or thirty yards, and he was dead when picked up." On the other hand, in view of the decision of your Lordships' House which was given judicially some years ago, I am not at all sure that it will not be necessary for us to say to a jury: "Of course, you may come to the conclusion in this case that the man, though driving dangerously, did not cause death; in that case you can find a verdict only of 'dangerous driving.'" That is the sort of thing a jury invariably seize on, but it is not, I think, what your Lordships intend, and not what the Government intend.
What the Government, who are putting forward this Amendment, intend, is that there will be more convictions for causing death by dangerous driving than there are at the present time. I entirely agree with the clause except for that provision. If the Government have come to the conclusion that the clause must stay, I suppose that it must. I still think the clause would be greatly improved if this provision came out. I should be the last person to want to see speculation as to causation brought into the criminal law. We know full well the many difficulties which arise in civil actions in discussing the theory of causation, and I should be very sorry indeed if we had, in the criminal courts, to give long directions to juries on causation. I can only say that, whatever view your Lordships may take, I believe that it would assist in the administration of the criminal law if subsection (4) were omitted.
My Lords, I rise only to ask for an explanation. Subsection (1) of the Amendment refers totraffic which is actually at the time, or which might reasonably be expected to be, on the road, …When I am driving a car upon a road my mind is rigidly fixed upon facts. I take note of the people on the pavements, and their movements to determine whether they are likely to step into the road or not. I take note of every sort and kind of fact—including side turnings—and the conceivable possible changes that might take place in those facts. When I see a zebra crossing quite clear, with no-one standing on the pavement or anywhere else nearby, I do not hesitate to cross that zebra crossing. Yet it 993 might quite reasonably be thought that there might be a great many people on that zebra crossing—that is to say "which might reasonably be expected to be" on the crossing at that time. I therefore ask why this particular phrase is put into the clause, and what bearing it has upon the law. It seems to me a rather difficult point.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if I may, I will deal first with the point which has been raised by my noble friend Lord Saltoun. The words to which he refers, if my memory serves me aright, were taken directly out of a section of the Act of 1930—I think it is the section dealing with dangerous driving. They have, therefore, had a quarter of a century's consideration by the courts. They are intended to deal with a situation in which someone does drive dangerously when, at the moment, the usual amount of traffic may be off the road though there may still be possibilities of a sudden rush of traffic coming on—children coming out of school, perhaps, at an unusual time or something of that sort—which have to be borne in mind. I think the real answer to my noble friend is that Parliament evolved those words about a quarter of a century ago, and the courts have found them reasonably easy to work since that time.
I am very sympathetic with the troubles of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice with regard to the introduction of even the modest dose of causation which we have brought into subsection (4). Like his, my mind goes back over a period of decisions in many courts where causation was pursued almost as relentlessly as by the schoolman of old in the most metaphysical exercises. On the other hand, I felt that one had to deal with that situation where there was no doubt about the dangerous driving, but where arguments could be made about the causation of the death. All I can say is that, before the Bill goes to another place, I will consider again with my right honourable friend the Minister, my right honourable friend the Attorney-General, as well as with the noble Earl, what the noble and learned Lord has said. At the moment we felt that there was a debt of justice to provide for that possible collection of circumstances. That is why this clause put forward. I hope 994 that, with that assurance from me, your Lordships will now allow the clause to pass.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.28 p.m.
LORD WINSTER moved, after Clause 2, to insert the following new clause:
.Where a person is charged before a court of summary jurisdiction with an offence under section eleven of the Act of 1930 (which relates to reckless or dangerous driving) and the court is of opinion that the offence is not proved it shall be lawful for the court, if it is satisfied that he is guilty of an offence under section twelve of the said Act (which relates to careless driving or driving without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road), to find him guilty of that offence.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the reason I have brought this new clause forward is that different magistrates courts throughout the country deal in different ways with procedure in cases of dangerous driving and careless driving. Technicalities are raised by lawyers which make the court feel doubtful of the legality of certain of the procedures. I feel sure that if my suggested clause became law it would abolish the doubts which certain lawyers have of the legality of procedures. The present position is as follows. In the Metropolitan Police District—and no doubt in many country districts throughout the land—separate informations are laid by the prosecution for (1) dangerous driving under Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and (2), careless driving under Section 12 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930. In some courts, if the defendant agrees the magistrates decide to hear informations for careless and dangerous driving together. The evidence in both cases being the same, this is a convenient course to adopt and it leaves the magistrates free to decide which offence, if any, has been committed.
§ A doubt, however, has been raised by lawyers as to the difficulty which may be encountered if the defendant pleads "Not guilty" to dangerous driving but "Guilty" to the information of driving without due care and attention. It has been suggested by some lawyers that if he pleads "Guilty" to careless driving he becomes convicted of that offence, the result being that he can plead autrefois convict and he could not then be tried for the offence of dangerous driving. In view of this, some prosecuting solicitors ask that the information of dangerous driving should be taken first 995 and that he should be asked to plead only to that information. In such cases a plea is put to the defendant and the case is heard by the magistrates, and if he is found not guilty the information of careless driving is then put to him. As the bench of Magistrates has already heard the evidence, very often it is thought advisable for the case of careless driving to be heard before other magistrates. If, however, the prosecution, the defendant, and the magistrates agree, it is sometimes heard before the same justices and all the evidence is called again. That certainly seems a waste of time and rather a cumbrous procedure.
§ Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, provides, however, that when a person is charged before the magistrates court with reckless or dangerous driving under Section 11 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, and the court is of the opinion that the offence is not proved, then the court may direct or allow a charge for an offence under Section 12 of the principal Act, which relates to careless driving, to be preferred forthwith against the defendant. This section provides that the whole evidence need not be called again but a defendant or his solicitor or counsel shall be informed of the new charge and be given an opportunity of answering the charge and shall be entitled again to cross-examine the witnesses who have already given evidence with a view to answering the new charge which has been preferred.
§ This section is a straightforward way of dealing with the matter, but some lawyers have doubts whether this section can be put into operation where the prosecution have already laid an information in respect of a charge of careless driving, which information is before the court for hearing on that day. They have doubts about the procedure under Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, which appears to apply only where the court directs or allows a charge under Section 12 to be preferred forthwith against the defendant. It is argued that this section does not apply where the information has already been preferred by the prosecution. It appears at present that the most satisfactory way is for the prosecution to allow one information only for dangerous driving, leaving the court, if they find dangerous driving not proved, and if they think proper, to proceed with their powers 996 under Section 35 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934.
§ However, the police in the metropolitan district and no doubt in many other counties do not wish to proceed in this manner, but prefer to issue the two informations at the outset. If a new clause, such as I have suggested, became law, this would greatly simplify the old procedure, because whether one or two informations were laid and whether or not there was an objection raised by the prosecution or the defence to dealing with the two informations together, the court could proceed with the charge of dangerous driving and hear the whole evidence. Then, if the court were satisfied that dangerous driving was not proved but were satisfied on the evidence they had heard that the defendant was guilty of careless driving, they could convict him on careless driving without hearing any other evidence. This type of procedure is, in fact, well known in cases of trial by jury where the Statute particularly provides for it. One can refer to Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, where, upon the trial of a person indicted for manslaughter in connection with the driving of a motor vehicle by him, it shall be lawful for the jury, if they are satisfied he is guilty of reckless or dangerous driving, to find him guilty of that offence instead of guilty of the more serious charge of manslaughter.
§ In considering bringing this clause before your Lordships, I considered arguments which might be brought against it, and one matter which has been suggested to me is that if this new clause became law it might have the effect that magistrates would be more likely to find a person guilty of careless driving than of dangerous driving, even although the evidence warranted a conviction for dangerous driving. I think there is an answer to that, because under the existing procedure if the justices deal with the two informations together they know they can dismiss the case of dangerous driving and find the case of careless driving proved on the second information. If the information of careless driving is taken separately, the magistrates will know from the application of the prosecuting advocate or defending advocate to take the informations separately, and from the court list, that there is in existence an information for careless driving; and that, if they dismiss the case of 997 dangerous driving, they can convict for the offence of careless driving. If only one information is laid for dangerous driving, then the justices know their powers under Section 35 of the Act of 1934; and if they consider they would prefer to convict for careless driving, all they need do is to direct the charge of careless driving to be preferred forthwith against the defendant. That seems to me to dispose of the objection which has been suggested to me and which I have quoted.
§ Then again, it is asked, if indeed the clause were to be inserted in the Bill, whether the prosecution would be more likely always to prefer a charge of dangerous driving, even though the case warranted a conviction only for careless driving, knowing full well that the magistrates had power to convict of the latter offence if they found the offence of dangerous driving not proved. I think the answer is, No. I consider that the solicitors who advise the police in prosecutions of this type would act fairly, and if they thought that the case did not warrant an information of dangerous driving they would advise a prosecution only for careless driving.
§ It is suggested as another objection that if the clause became law the right of the defending advocate further to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution and further to address the court would be taken away. I think the answer there is, Yes. But this right would not be necessary, as the defending advocate would know that his client could be convicted of careless driving on the information of dangerous driving and would deal with that question in his address to the magistrates and in cross-examining the witnesses for the prosecution. I think it must be borne in mind that the facts put forward to the justices by the prosecution in the case of dangerous driving are identical with the facts put forward in the case of careless driving, and I submit it is not necessary for the witnesses to be recalled or the defending advocate to address the justices a second time. In cases where a jury have power to find a person guilty of a less serious offence than that on the indictment, no witnesses are recalled and counsel is not allowed to address the jury a second time. For example, Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, states that a jury on an indictment for manslaughter can dismiss a 998 charge and find the defendant guilty of reckless or dangerous driving. I think there are other examples in other Acts of Parliament of this procedure, so far as juries are concerned.
§ Then the question will be asked: Is this new clause likely to create a precedent for clauses of a similar nature in other Acts of Parliament, giving the power to magistrates courts to find a person guilty of a lesser charge on being dismissed on a more serious charge? I think a precedent might be created, but in many cases the jury have already this power and I can see no objection to giving magistrates courts the same power in proper cases. To sum up, my reason for proposing this new clause is to simplify the procedure in magistrates courts in connection with informations for dangerous and careless driving, and especially to introduce a simpler procedure, free from the technicalities and the doubts of the present procedure. It is clear that there is a difference of opinion upon the legality of the different procedures which I have outlined to your Lordships and I think that the clause I am putting forward will rectify the doubts which exist. It is not necessary for me, even if I could, to go deeply into the technical arguments for and against the present procedure. I say only that, as I know that doubts do exist, the procedure should be based upon a sound footing free from doubt. I believe that the clause I am asking to be inserted in the Bill would have that effect. I beg to move the Amendment.
After Clause 2, insert the said new clause.—(Lord winster.)
§ LORD GODDARD
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will accept this Amendment. It is an Amendment of the law which has been wanted for years. I suppose there are twenty or thirty crimes on the Statute Book on which a lesser offence can be found, and this is obviously one instance where it ought to be able to find a lesser offence. I do not think that many of the doubts which the noble Lord has said to exist among lawyers are well founded, but the procedure at present is archaic and ought to be done away with. If a man is charged with dangerous driving and if the 999 jury come to the conclusion that conviction for a lesser offence would meet the case, they ought to be allowed to so convict without its being necessary to issue another information there and then. I hope your Lordships will accept the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, I should like to say that I agree. I think this is a good idea and it ought to be carried out. I confess that I have had some doubt. I think there is a tendency on the part of juries and sometimes of magistrates not to convict of dangerous driving. There is a danger that magistrates will take the easy way out and get out of the unpleasant duty of finding a man guilty of dangerous driving by convicting him of careless driving. But, on balance, I consider the present confusion is so bad that it would be to the public advantage if the Government were to accept this clause or, if not this exact clause, a clause on these lines. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Winster, who, so far as I know, without legal training, dealt so adequately with all the legal differences which have been troubling the profession for so many years.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I should like to join the noble and learned Earl in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Winster, on his presentation of this matter with such a wealth of legal knowledge and forensic skill. I find myself in a very difficult situation in raising difficulties on this matter after it has been put forward so clearly by the noble Lord, supported by two such great legal authorities as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice and the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, but there are some difficulties in this clause as it stands which I feel it would not be right to omit from putting before your Lordships.
Your Lordships will see that the Amendment reads, in effect:Where a person is charged before a court of summary jurisdiction with an offence of dangerous driving (under Section 11 of the 1930 Act) and the court is of opinion that the offence is not proved it shall be lawful for the court to convict of careless driving.I do not know whether your Lordships have appreciated that the noble Lord, Lord Winster, limits his Amendment to courts of summary jurisdiction. That means, of course, that magistrates will 1000 have this power and juries will not. None of the noble Lords who have spoken so far has dealt with that point, but I should have thought it would be extremely difficult to hold that someone charged before the magistrates with dangerous driving can be convicted of careless driving, but that when he is tried on indictment for the same offence this cannot be done. If your Lordships are prepared to face that point and say that the same right should be given to juries, if the trial is on indictment, then we come to the clause with which your Lordships have just dealt—namely, the clause constituting the offence of causing death by dangerous driving. This may be an additional argument to those advanced by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice for the omission of subsection (4).
As it stands now, it is possible, on a charge brought up under the new clause, to convict of dangerous driving. Then one comes to the question: if it is possible to convict of dangerous driving, are juries in these circumstances to be given the right to convict of careless driving? I rely here on almost every word that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice has said in this context. His difficulty, and the difficulty of his brother judges, as propounded by the noble and learned Lord, is that, whenever possible, juries will take the softer option; and that softer option, which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, had in mind in his preliminary doubts, is to convict of careless driving. I should have thought that that was a real difficulty with which your Lordships are faced in this matter. I have inquired into the practice, and I understand that it is to bring summonses for both dangerous and careless driving and that, by consent of the defence, both are tried together. In such circumstances, of course, no difficulty arises and there can be a conviction of dangerous driving if the magistrates so find. That leaves the practical problem, and I realise that there may be a case where they do not agree to that course, and may ask for an adjournment at the end of the dangerous driving proceedings before the careless driving proceedings are taken.
There is another point, and I think it is important that your Lordships should have it in mind. One must not only consider the prosecution in this matter; one must also consider the position of the defendant. Fortunately, it is now rare 1001 in a case of this kind for the defendant to be unrepresented, and in most case I am glad to think that he is. But under the present procedure it is made quite clear, either by the existence of the second summons, or by the magistrates using their powers under Section 35 of the Act, to which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, quite properly referred, and telling him that there is this second charge and that he has, either at the first stage, if both charges are tried together, by consent, or when it comes to the charge of careless driving, to address his mind to the question of careless driving. There is the possibility, however—I do not put too much emphasis on this, because, as I say, defendants are usually represented—that that would not be brought to the defendant's mind.
What I should like to do is this. I would ask your Lordships who have spoken in favour of this clause to consider again whether you really think it would be a good thing to give this right, to convict of the offence of careless driving, in the case of trials on indictment which I mentioned a few moments ago. For my part, I should be glad to consider the points that have been raised by your Lordships, and if, on consideration, I feel that those arguments are so cogent as to overrule everything that I have in mind, to consider the introduction of such a clause in another place. We have discussed this matter fully in all the Ministries involved, and we were alarmed and worried by the transference of this idea to trials on indictment; and we did not see how we could hold the position for summary trials. I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Winster, would not press his Amendment to-day, but would give me and the other Ministers concerned another opportunity to consider it and, if necessary, have it brought forward on a later stage of the Bill.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am grateful to the noble Earl. As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chief Justice has said, there are many examples in the cases of offences triable on indictment. I 1002 speak subject to correction by my noble and learned friend, but I do not know of any other summary offence, where when a man is charged with one offence the magistrates can convict of another.
§ LORD GODDARD
I can tell you one at once. If a man is charged with indecent assault, the magistrates can refuse to convict him of indecent assault and can convict him of common assault. But this particular point that has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will not increase magistrates' power at all; it will only simplify the procedure. Careless driving, under the Act of 1930, is not an indictable offence and can only be dealt with summarily. I should certainly not welcome the idea of giving juries the chance, in charges of dangerous driving, of convicting only of careless driving. If the magistrates think the case is one of only careless driving, then they must deal with it themselves.
All this proposed clause does is to make it unnecessary for the police to issue two summonses, laying two informations, one for dangerous driving and one for careless driving. It will enable the magistrates, having heard all the case, to say: "We are not going to convict on the dangerous driving information, but on the careless driving information." At present, if only one information is laid, and the magistrates do not think the case amounts to dangerous driving, they can come back and say: "Issue another summons, and serve it at once." They then have to have the whole thing again, although they need not recall all the witnesses, except for cross-examination. This clause will simplify the procedure—that is all. The magistrates' powers are there now, and they will remain. Magistrates now hearing a dangerous driving charge can always say: "We are going to convict only of careless driving," but, unless two summonses are issued they have to go through this formality. This clause will mean that only one summons need be issued, and the magistrates' powers, which, as I say, they have at the present time, can then be exercised. I have not suggested that the matter should go to the jury because, as I say, careless driving cannot go to a jury now; they cannot bring in a verdict of careless driving. If the noble Earl, Lord Howe, would care to come with me to the Library I could show him in Archbold 1003 the number of cases in which a man charged with one offence can be found guilty by the jury of a lesser offence. Magistrates have not so many powers as that, but they have in certain cases and, as I say, in the case of indecent assault.
§ 4.57 p.m.
My Lords, I have listened with intense interest to this debate, because this is the type of case which often comes before the court of summary jurisdiction in Somerset in which I have the honour to sit. I hope that our procedure hitherto has been right. When a case of this sort has been put forward by the police they have put two charges, one for dangerous driving and one for careless driving, meaning, I have always taken it, that they certainly think an offence has been committed and that punishment should be meted out, but that they are not sure whether the magistrates will think it sufficiently serious to convict of the major offence. What the clerk has always done is to read out the two charges and ask the accused how he pleads, and he pleads, I will say, "Not guilty." I must admit that I have never envisaged the case which the noble Lord, Lord Winster, mentioned, of the accused pleading "Not guilty" to the major offence, but "Guilty" to the lesser one. What has occurred is that we have considered the case, and it may well be that we have decided to convict only of the minor offence. We have then come back into court and said that we find the accused not guilty of dangerous driving, but guilty of careless driving, and have proceeded accordingly. There has been no question of two informations, or anything of that sort. It may well be that this new clause, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, will simplify our procedure in future, and all I can hope is that we have not been acting ultra vires in the past.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I feel greatly fortified by what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice has said, and also by what was said by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and I thank him for the kind words he used about me. Praise from him in such a matter is praise indeed. I brought this clause forward because of what has been said to me in conversation by other magistrates of the difficulties they sometimes 1004 feel themselves in; and I feel that, even if it serves no other purpose, it will assist magistrates to have heard the expressions of opinion which have fallen from eminent legal authorities to-day. I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for saying that he will give consideration to this matter. I admit at once that I do not feel confident to enter into some of the points that he raised. I was never even a sea lawyer, and I certainly feel outgunned when trying to argue points of legal procedure with the head of the legal profession. I can only express my thanks to the noble and learned Viscount for the kind way in which he has met my proposal, and for his offer to give further consideration to it with a view to possible action in another place. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I will certainly give the matter consideration. I have not even been a sea lawyer, and those of your Lordships who have left the Bar may take consolation that we have left it before the noble Lord joins it in order to become a rival.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5 p.m.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA had given notice of an Amendment, after Clause 2 to insert the following new clause:
§ Amendment of s. 15 of Act of 1930
".The following proviso shall be inserted at the end of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section fifteen of the Act of 1930—
Provided that if on summary proceedings under this section the court, or on proceedings under this section on indictment the jury, are satisfied that the accused, though under the influence of drink or of a drug, had not driven and had no intention of driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs, he shall not be liable to be convicted of the offence".
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the Committee stage I raised this question about motorists being drunk in charge. Your Lordships will remember that we all agreed that anybody driving a motor vehicle while drunk deserved the most severe penalties that were possible. But we came to the conclusion that a situation in which a man who had arrived, say, at a party in his motor car, quite sober, and who then became drunk and therefore
made up his mind that he would not drive home yet was still liable to be prosecuted, was one which nobody thought satisfactory. I received a certain amount of sympathy from the Minister because he used these words (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 191 (No. 26) col. 586):
The clause which the noble Lord has so ingeniously drafted is a little too wide, I submit. It does not cover one point which it would seem ought to be covered—namely, that the person charged must not have driven under the influence of drink;…
Well, I have altered the wording from that in the original Amendment, and it now contains the words "had not driven," so that point is met.
Then there was the other objection raised later by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said (col. 587):
…even if this point were disposed of, there is the further difficulty of whether a provision can really be acceptable which rests wholly upon the mere existence of an intention on the part of a person charged not to drive whilst under the influence of drink or a drug.
I intend, if I may, to delete from the Amendment on the Paper the words, "had no intention of" in the fifth line, and to substitute the words, "is shown to have taken precautions against." I can appreciate that just to have had a good intention is not enough to convince the court, and if the man could show that he had taken precautions, such as throwing away the key or deflating the tyres, that might convince the court that he had no intention of driving.
§ This Amendment, and Amendment No. 7, both attempt to do the same thing. Your Lordships will remember that on the last occasion the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, felt difficulty about the drafting, although he said he was agreeable to the sense of the Amendment. He said that he would lend me a draftsman, and Amendment No. 7 has been prepared with the skill of the draftsman. Any deficiencies in Amendment No. 6 are due to the lack of skill of my own drafting. Frankly, I prefer the former, but your Lordships can "pay your money" and choose whichever you like: they both mean more or less the same thing, but I think the first one is more understandable. We have all agreed that on this point the law is an ass, and the object of this Amendment is to try to make it less of an ass. I beg to move.1006
After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
§ Amendment of s. 15 of Act of 1930.
(".The following proviso shall be inserted at the end of paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section fifteen of the Act of 1930—
Provided that if on summary proceedings under this section the court, or on proceedings under this section on indictment the jury, are satisfied that the accused, though under the influence of drink or of a drug, had not driven and is shown to have taken precautions against driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs, he shall not be liable to be convicted of the offence."")—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, since we had our last debate upon this subject, a most curious case has arisen. It was reported in various newspapers on March 9 that an undergraduate of Oxford went to a party keeping the ignition key of his car, and leaving his car outside a public place. He was charged with being drunk in charge of a car. It was urged on his behalf that he was on private property, and that he was not trying to drive the car at all. Furthermore, the moment the police arrived and found him he handed over the ignition key of the car. The report went on to say that he was none the less fined £20, ordered to pay £20 costs and disqualified from driving for twelve months. I join with everybody who has spoken on this subject: I have no use whatever for people who try to drive a motor car while under the influence of drink or drugs, and I yield to no one in my detestation of that offence. Nevertheless, I do feel that, under the existing law, it is possible for an injustice to occur, as has been so well put by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I hope that if these words in his Amendment fit, it will be possible for the Government to give them consideration.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I must confess that this matter has given me a great deal of concern. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in thinking that people convicted of being under the influence of drink while in charge of, or while they are driving, a motor car, or intend to do so, are not the objects of any great sympathy. I have said in your Lordships' House, and I repeat, that if I had my way I would never allow anybody convicted of such an offence to drive a 1007 car again. I have looked at both these Amendments. I wish I had known that they had a different father and mother, because I could not quite see the reason for the two. Although I sympathise with the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, I feel that the Amendments open the door a little too wide. I shall not try to be clever enough at putting my hand to draftsmanship in this particular case, but I should like to put my point of view, and the point of view which I think is held by quite a number of noble Lords, that upon this particular charge of being drunk in charge of a vehicle the law is an ass. There is no doubt about that, and it has come out in the case which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has cited.
The interesting point of that case goes further than the noble Earl has mentioned. It was a case of a young man who drove his motor car to a certain house completely sober, who went into the house and became so under the influence of drink as to be quite incapable of driving a motor car. He put through a telephone call to 999 and asked for an ambulance—that was his idea of a practical joke. The police arrived in a patrol car and saw this youngster who they considered was the worse for drink. After discussing with him the reason why he used the telephone for the purpose he did, one officer happened to say, "Is that your car outside?" The young man said, "Yes." The officer, very decently, then said to him, "You know, you are not in a condition to drive. You had better give me your key." The officer then went outside for the purpose of driving the car in safe custody to another place—a police station, presumably.
Upon that, the youngster rushed out of the house and said, "You cannot drive that. You are not covered." The policeman said: "Oh yes I am. It is quite all right. We are covered." But the young man replied: "You are not; you are not going to drive my car." He proceeded to raise the bonnet—I can only presume to allow him to take out the rotor arm. The policeman got out of the car to stop him. The young man got into the car, and as he had an infirmity he had a stick. He took the stick out of the car and the policeman thought that he was going to use the stick for purposes other than 1008 his infirmity. The youngster said to him: "Give me that key back. You must not drive my motor car." The policeman thought the time had arrived for him to intervene, and he arrested the man and charged him with being under the influence of drink while in charge of a motor car, as the law says, to such an extent as to be incapable of driving it.
The most peculiar thing was that, of all the things of which this man physically was not in charge, he was not in charge of the motor car. I suggest that he might have been summoned for obstructing the police in the course of their duty; he might even have been summoned for having driven, because he was sober when he started; he might have been summoned for attempting to drive a motor car, but, in the eyes of the layman, he certainly was not guilty on the charges stated, because he could not get possession of that motor car while the officer had the ignition key, and the officer was determined that he should not get possession of the motor car. That is one thing.
This case was heard at quarter sessions and the learned Deputy Recorder, in his summing-up to the jury (I will quote from the Oxford Mail because that is the only paper that I have seen which has used this precise expression) was reported as follows:The Deputy Recorder told the jury that the offence could be committed without the accused being 'rolling drunk'.We know that. The Recorder then turned to the question of being in charge of the car. This is what he said:After handing over the key did he behave as a person would behave who had divested himself of the charge of the car?That is a difficult thing to imagine. I cannot quite see how you do that. Of course, if you ask for it back again, that is not acting as if you had divested yourself of the charge of the car. The Deputy Recorder went on to make further remarks—and this is what disturbs me:He suggested that the jury should consider the similarity of the case of a man who took his car into a garage and handed the ignition key to the mechanic. Although he handed over the key he still retained charge of the car.I have no reason to believe that the learned Deputy Recorder has not stated the law precisely but, if he has stated it precisely, what does that mean? It means this: that if any one of your Lordships drives a motor car into a garage or, in 1009 the words of the Act, drives "a motor vehicle on a road or another public place" on to a parking lot, such as the noble Earl is going to persuade us to set up soon; and if he then goes into a hotel and goes to bed after celebrating something, perhaps unwisely, and is in a state of intoxication sufficient to render him incapable of driving a car, although he has gone into that garage and locked it up and given the garage attendant the key, technically he is still in charge of that car.
If one of your Lordships leaves his car in the road outside his house and goes to bed, then, although he has not the slightest intention of driving that motor car, and although he is in a private place, because he is still the owner and his motor car is on a public place he is liable. On the other hand, if he takes the car into his own garage—that is, on to a private place—he can do what he likes there. If this is the law—and I have not the slightest doubt that it is—it is thoroughly bad and needs altering. But when an attempt is made to try to alter it by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, then the door is opened too wide. The fault lies in the wording of this section, because Section 15 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, says this:Any person who when driving or attempting to drive, or when in charge of, a motor vehicle on a road or other public place is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle…and so on. It rolls three offences into one. There is the offence of driving the car; there is the offence of attempting to drive, and there is the offence of being "in charge of" the car. I can only suggest to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor that it might be advisable to take out of this particular subsection the charge of "being in charge of" and put it into a separate one and try to cover the case that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and I have just cited. If you give up the ignition key of your car, have you given up charge of it? Do you resume charge of it if you have requested the return of the ignition key without actually getting it back? Is there a difference in this Amendment between what is the law and what should be the law, and what is fact?
Then there is the case that either my noble and learned friend or the noble and 1010 learned Viscount on the Woolsack cited. This is perhaps a danger that the police want to avoid, but I am afraid that it is not avoided by this Amendment. A man gets into a car and realises that he is under the influence of drink. He does not drive it but he is sitting in it. The car is on the public highway and he is on the public highway; he is not in a private house and he has no intention of driving. Should be charged as being in charge of that car? The second case is where a man is sitting in the back of his car and the chauffeur is driving. The man who is under the influence of drink is not driving. He says to the chauffeur: "Take me to the station as fast as you can and do not stop for anything." Who is in charge of the car—the chauffeur or the man sitting in the back of the car?
What worries me, and what I do not quite like about the noble Lord's Amendment on the obverse, side, is the need to sort out the charges which can be brought against an allegedly offending person, because the stigma of the charge of being in charge of a motor car while under the influence of drink is too serious to be dismissed lightly. The only way to get over this difficulty is for the Law Officers of the Crown to have another look at this to see whether they can simplify that particular aspect. I do not want to make the task of the police any more difficult than it now is when there is either attempting to drive or driving under the influence of drink or a drug. I am seriously disturbed in regard to the words "being in charge of." If the learned Deputy Recorder is correct in his interpretation of the law as I have stated it from this newspaper report, there is something radically wrong, and I think we had better alter it as soon as may be. But I should find difficulty in supporting either of these Amendments as they stand at present, because I think they open the door a little too widely.
My Lords, I do not know whether or not this is the right Amendment, but I think something should be done about this matter, which is rather a scandal. There have been a large number of cases. I remember one that happened in a Scottish market town some considerable time ago. A farmer went to market to sell some beasts; he sold rather well and celebrated perhaps a little too much. Like a sensible man, 1011 instead of driving his car he went somewhere to sleep in order to get sober. Before he touched his car the police came along. They found his car there and wanted to know where the owner was. They found him, woke him up and arrested him for being in charge of the car. It is perfectly clear from what happened that he was determined to get sober before he drove his car. When things like that happen I think the law is in rather a difficult position and ought to be altered.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I feel a little nervous of the Amendment as worded, possibly without good reason, but it seems to me that it puts upon a magistrate the onus of deciding what was in a man's mind. The Amendment provides that if the court is satisfied that he had no intention of driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle there should be no conviction. It is sometimes hard to know what is in the mind of a sober man, but if one has to decide what is in the mind of a drunken man one may find oneself in a position of great difficulty. A man charged with this offence will undoubtedly employ a lawyer to defend him and, as is his bounden duty, the lawyer will defend him to the best of his ability. He may quite likely succeed in putting the bench of magistrates in great difficulty in deciding what was in his client's mind at a given moment. After all, one is only a magistrate; one is not a clairvoyant with a crystal ball on the bench. As things stand now, there is a fairly clear definition of the law to go by, but if you have to decide what is in a drunken man's mind at a particular moment you may frequently find yourself in considerable difficulty.
§ LORD GODDARD
My Lords, if there is to be an alteration in the law I hope your Lordships will be inclined to accept Amendment No. 7 in preference to Amendment No. 6. I think the drafting is clearer. I am certainly not going to discuss the recent case of the undergraduate at Oxford; first, because it is undesirable to do so while there is a chance of an appeal, as there may be, and secondly, because we have not the full facts. I happened to be in Oxford this week-end, and in view of the fine that I noticed had been imposed I thought that the very 1012 experienced Assistant Recorder who tried the case probably regarded it as a bad one. There are certain facts which I am not going to mention because I have not the shorthand note and I might misstate them, but there are certain facts which at any rate have not come out in the ordinary Press—the London Press—and which I think are proper to take into account. But there is one point here—and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, makes me remind your Lordships that if a drunken man leaves his car in the street, the difficulty in which the police very often find themselves is that they want the car moved. They want someone to move the car and they want the drunken man to move it, but he is too drunk to do so. That is one matter that ought not to be left out.
Of course, there is all the difference in the world between driving a car whilst under the influence of drink and merely being in charge of a car. The court has frequently said that the difference is such that it may be that justices will be justified in not disqualifying where it is merely a case of being in charge and they are satisfied the man is not driving. I think it is not a bad thing to lay down that if a man takes his motor car out he had better keep sober. I cannot help feeling that the more that is impressed upon motorists the safer the public will be and the better it will be for them. If the Amendment is accepted, the first thing magistrates will have to think about is whether the man has driven since he got intoxicated. The man goes into a public house and gets drunk or under the influence of drink, and when the police want the car moved they find that he is not in a position to move it. I am not sure that it would not be better to leave the law as it is, but that is another matter. If your Lordships think that the law should be altered I would suggest that Amendment No. 7 is better than Amendment No. 6; but, on the whole, I think I should leave it as it is. I do not want to discuss questions of law with Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but I hope your Lordships will not accept the law as being quite such an ass as he tries to make out.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I feel here that my colleagues and myself are under a certain cloud in the eyes of my noble friend Lord Brabazon 1013 of Tara, because although we have done the best we can for him we have not produced an Amendment which satisfies ourselves and we have not produced an Amendment which really answers the difficulties of this situation. Although I would ask Lord Brabazon to believe that we tried with all the skill and resources, human and otherwise, at our disposal, to find an answer to the point, I must confess to your Lordships that we have not found it. On the general point, I find that my view is very much the same as that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that this Amendment still leaves loopholes with which I do not think either of us would like it to leave this House.
The second of these Amendments is, in my view, in somewhat clearer form. Take the words:(a) that at the time at which the offence is charged as having been committed the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving the vehicle so long as he remained unfit to drive;The case which has been in all our minds is that of the person who realises that he is not in a fit condition to drive and who stops driving. He may sit down in the front seat, he may even go on the back seat, or he may sit down beside the car. But that is not an end of the danger. The danger arises when he wakes up again. How far is he recovered? Is he still drunk? Is he half drunk? Is he "muzzy"? For him to take the chance of being in the position of driving is to take the chance of being a public danger. I put it to Lord Blackford or Lord Winster who have spoken as magistrates in this debate: if they had to consider that case on these words:the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving the vehicle so long as he remained unfit to drive;and the man says, on getting sober, "I had no intention of driving the car until I was fit to drive again," how would be know that he was fit to drive? That man, who puts the public in danger, might still get off under this Amendment. There are refinements, but that is the broad view which has frightened us and why we ask your Lordships to keep the clause as it it. On his second point, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said that while he does not see the difficulty in regard to driving or attempting to drive, he is worried by the words, "in charge of." The noble Lord, Lord Erabazon of Tara, told 1014 the House on a previous occasion that there is some difference on this point between the High Court in England and the High Court in Scotland. That must press upon the minds and consciences of noble Lords. I looked into Scottish cases again and I feel that, even with that difficulty, the present state of the law is preferable to any suggested alteration.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
May I interrupt the noble and learned Viscount? The point I made about the corroboration of evidence in Scotland concerned being convicted on the opinion of one policeman as to speed. That is an entirely different matter, which had nothing to do with this.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The researches of the noble Lord into the law have been so profound that I thought he had this point also in mind. Even if the noble Lord has not discovered it, he may take it as a fact and a matter which your Lordships ought to consider in facing this very difficult problem. I apologise if I wrongly attributed it to my noble friend. The governing principle of being in charge of a car, implicit in the present law, is that if a man has the right to control his car (which generally flows from ownership), that right to control, and therefore the charge of the car, remains in him until he divests himself of it. Generally, that is workable and sensible, and I could quote passages from judgments of the Lord Chief Justice and others who have had to decide the point. The difficulty which people have felt lies in one case in Scotland where the man was so completely drunk that he was unconscious. His friends came upon him in that condition and took the rotor-arm out of the car, and the man was acquitted of being drunk in charge of a car The Scottish courts took the view that, although the man had made himself unconscious at the time, his friends had assumed the charge of the car. The other case was that of a man who made an arrangement with somebody else to drive the car home.
I am not going into detail nor attempting to lay down the law in any authoritative state, but merely trying to explain the surroundings of the doubts expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Broadly, the principle that a man remains in charge of his own car until he has divested himself of that charge 1015 will carry us through most cases and will prevent injustice from being done. There are one or two difficult situations where opinions might differ concerning whether it was right that the law should fall in a certain way, and the noble Lord has put one of them to us. It is a matter well worthy of consideration. We have to ask ourselves what is the duty of each of your Lordships in these circumstances. I respectfully suggest that it would be dangerous and unwise to adopt a form of clause which presents an escape-valve to the person who is doing something which is wrong, criminal and anti-social.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, mentioned the possibility of difficulty arising as in the case of a person who has left his car in the street and proceeded to get drunk, with every intention of remaining inside his own house. I can only say that I will not weary in research upon this point but will try again to find another way of dealing with it; but if I cannot find another way and your Lordships have to take a view as between there being a hard case on the one side of the law as distinct from the other, surely it is then legitimate for your Lordships to consider that over a period of a quarter of a century there have been few of these hard cases and that it is better that there should be a few hard cases in this field rather than that the law should be weakened to the immense danger of all Her Majesty's lieges. No one holds more strongly than I to the view that it is better that many guilty men should go free rather than that one innocent man should be condemned. That is an essential and basic principle of our Common Law. But legislation is another matter. When in our legislation we have to say what is a minimum standard of public safety in the country, then our legislation ought to be fair. For that reason I regretfully say that we have not yet found the perfect solution to what I consider to be a very difficult problem, and I prefer existing law to the suggestion of my noble friend.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, may I preface a question to the noble and learned Viscount by saying that I would not have cited a case had I not made as sure as it was possible to do that no appeal was pending; therefore there is no question of my saying anything 1016 about a case which is sub judice. May I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether, in his view, the correct interpretation of the law would be that if one gives the charge of the ignition key to another person with the intention that he shall keep it, one then divests oneself of being in charge of that car and does not resume charge of it again until the return of the key is requested? Is that right?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am not avoiding the question, but it would be regrettable to confine oneself to the ignition key. The point which I consider important is that the charge of the car should clearly be transferred to somebody else. In certain circumstances transfer of the ignition key may be the clearest way of showing that that is done; but the circumstances must be such as to show that the original owner of the car has divested himself of the charge of the car and has not tried to regain that charge or right to control the car. I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for the slightly altered emphasis.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, do I then understand the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack to say that he would prefer to have another look at this problem in order to see whether he can put what he has just said into something like Parliamentary drafting?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
To see whether it can be put better than it is—I am always prepared to try that. But though I recognise how much care has gone into them, I cannot advise your Lordships that the efforts that have been made here have reached anything better than the existing words. But I will certainly keep on trying.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ LORD REID
My Lords, I venture to intervene with some diffidence, in case anything I say may seem to suggest that I condone or excuse in any way the very grave offence of being, even remotely, in charge of a car when under the influence of drink. But I would make this plea to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, who I know will examine this matter again with great care: will he be satisfied with something a good deal less than a perfect solution of this problem? I venture to think that when 1017 considering minor offences, or even moderately serious offences, we sometimes do not fully recognise the harm that is done by cases reported in the papers which offend people's sense of justice. I believe that it is much more important that we should make the law a little easy—even a little slipshod, if you like—to avoid having cases of that kind, which people talk about and which influence them to a tremendous degree.
After all, particularly in this realm, the success of the law depends enormously—indeed almost entirely—on the support of the public. If offences are created which lead to a man's being fined, it may be, a considerable sum, and also being disqualified from driving; and if, as a result, people begin to talk and say, "This is just nonsense"; it is doing far more harm than if a dozen, or even a hundred, men are let off. It is true that we shall not find a perfect solution to this question. It is true that any clause will allow a certain number of people who would otherwise be convicted, and who would deserve, it may be, to be convicted, to escape conviction. But on balance, I venture to suggest to the Lord Chancellor that the new clause in Amendment No. 7 would, with those improvements which I am sure he will be able to make to it after a little more detailed examination, be much better than the present unsatisfactory position. I therefore beg him to endeavour to reach some solution which will avoid the kind of cases which come up far too often to-day.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if your Lordships will allow me to say a word in answer to the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid—which I am sure we are all delighted he has given to the House—I will certainly do what he has asked. And I shall be most grateful if my noble friend will give us the great privilege of addressing himself to the problem, and see whether he can help us to find a solution. I ask your Lordships to believe that my mind is not closed; I am not stone-walling on this matter. But I am very much afraid of opening the door to the sort of cases of which I have thought. If I can find better words, and it my noble friend can help me, I shall be very glad to adopt them.
§ LORD BRABAZON OF TARA
My Lords I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reid, for the really common sense speech which he made. It brought us all, I think, back to earth. It is a very serious thing when the law is looked upon with contempt over these particular offences. I cannot help thinking that when there is in existence a Statute which does not discriminate between driving a motor car when drunk and being in charge of a motor car when you are in your own house, something must be wrong. If we cannot come to an agreement here, I am certain that this question will be raised in another place: it is something which has agitated the public mind a good deal because people consider that injustice is being done. No one has brought to your Lordships' attention something which I think is exceedingly mischievous, namely, that if there is no difference between driving when drunk and being drunk in charge when not driving, there is a deliberate incentive to drive. It is a very serious thing for us to leave on the Statute Book something which is an incentive to a person to drive when he is drunk. This is the mischief of the Statute as it stands now. I sincerely hope that in another place there will be another effort to try to put this thing right. I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 4 [Duty of pedestrians to comply with traffic directions given by constables]:
§ 5.47 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "in the regulation of vehicular traffic in a road" and insert "on police duties,". The noble Lord said: My Lords I have put down this Amendment in order to draw attention again to what I consider to be a weakness in Clause 4 as set out in the Bill. Your Lordships will remember that on the Committee stage I wanted this clause to be widened a little and so to lilt on to the shoulders of any police officer on police duty the responsibility of attempting to influence the pedestrian not to commit the follies which have contributed to some 40,000 accidents in which pedestrians have been involved. If your Lordships will look at
the first two lines of Clause 4 on page 5, you will see that it says:
Where a police constable in uniform is for the time being engaged in the regulation of vehicular traffic in a road, any person…
I seek to remove the words "in the regulation of vehicular traffic in a road" and to insert the words "on police duties."
§ The reason is this. The clause as it stands appears to me to provide precisely that no police officer, except the policeman on point duty who is engaged in controlling vehicular traffic, can interfere—I will put it in colloquial language—with a jay walker. If your Lordships would care to look at Table 40 of the Accidents Statistics for 1952 published in 1954 (they are the latest that are available) by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, you will see in that table that the accidents in which pedestrians were regarded by the police as contributing totalled 44,750. Of that number, over 40,000 happened in positions on the streets where the officers on point duty regulating traffic would have no control whatsoever. Accidents attributed to what is described as "crossing road masked by stationary vehicle" amounted to 9,000; accidents due to "crossing road heedless of traffic" to 12,260; accidents resulting from "walking or standing in road" to 2,507; accidents due to playing in the road to 1,460, and accidents due to "stepping, walking or running off the footpath or verge of road" to 16,479.
§ I made some tests, and in all the tests I have made in some of the busiest places in London I have never yet seen a pedestrian deliberately cross the road ignoring the signal of a police officer with a white armlet controlling traffic on point duty. The officer engaged in controlling vehicular traffic is the only officer who is authorised to control pedestrians. I say that if we are seriously going to attempt to stop 40,000 of the 44,000 accidents, we should give this authority to any police officer on duty who can exercise a restraining influence on people who may otherwise dash madly across the road, very likely injuring themselves and causing accidents to others.
§ On the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, promised to look into this matter again. He made several observations concerning why he should not accept my Amendment. The Amendment now is differently worded because the noble 1020 Lord corrected me on one point. I wanted to change "police constable" to "police officer," and he told me that a police constable and a police officer are identical personages. I have now altered that and I have put down this simple Amendment. Lord Mancroft said that this Amendment would give the village constable walking in a country lane the power to stop a pedestrian or give orders to him. I do not know why the village constable should be so silly. But the village constable one day may be drafted to a thickly populated area and have put upon him responsibilities which will entitle him to interfere with pedestrians. I believe I am right in saying that nearly all the village constables of Berkshire have to go to Ascot during race week, and to the Royal Show when it is held in the county, so I do not see that what the noble Lord has said is any argument for ignoring the fact that if we are going seriously to tackle the experiment of controlling pedestrians sufficiently to prevent bad and flagrant cases of jay-walking all police officers in uniform must be given the power, and not solely the police constable directing traffic on point duty.
§ My last observation in asking your Lordships to agree to this Amendment is that this is an experiment. This is the first time we have tried it, and I think that the police, guided by their chief constables, will use this power very sparingly and in the spirit in which we want it applied. I cannot conceive that a police constable will, immediately this proposal becomes law, rush about hauling pedestrians up before the magistrates for ignoring his signals. But unfortunately, in my study of this problem, I have seen, even outside your Lordships' House, pedestrians struggling across the road, vehicular traffic ignoring all pedestrian crossings, and two constables leaning up against the railings of Westminster Abbey discussing I know not what. Obviously they do not think they have any power to interfere. If we are going to tackle seriously this problem of curing road accidents we must do something drastic now and again. I do not think that to give all the police this power would be going too far. I believe that the Home Office can guard against its drastic and unreasonable use by the directives that it can issue to chief constables. Therefore I hope your Lordships will accept this Amendment.1021
Page 5, line 2, leave out from ("engaged") to end of line and insert ("on police duties.").—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I do not think this is really a matter about which we need break our hearts. I have nothing fresh to add to what I told the noble Lord when he moved a practically identical Amendment at the Committee stage. All that we have sought to do in this particular portion of the Bill is to give the police no more power than we think is necessary for carrying out this task. I would ask your Lordships to agree with me that it is undesirable to take very much wider powers for the police, or indeed for anybody, than are required, merely because the powers might meet a need in an exceptional and isolated case. If I thought that I could agree with the noble Lord that it is essential for road safety that the police should have these additional powers, then I should agree to the Amendment; but I would ask your Lordships to look also at subsection (2) of Clause 4, which provides that a constable may in certain circumstances require any person committing an offence against the last foregoing subsection to give his name and address. In other words, subsection (2) confers certain powers on the constable on the side of the pavement.
What the noble Lord really is suggesting is that all jay-walking should be made a criminal offence, though he is not saying it in so many words. The point surely is this. If you are about to commit suicide in the street by throwing yourself under a bus that you have not seen, a policeman will naturally draw your attention to it, and in pretty forceful language. Surely that is enough. What the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is seeking to do is to make it an offence for a person to disobey. It is proposed to give the police enormous powers that they do not really want, and to turn all jay-walkers into criminals if they do not obey the instructions of a policeman or the advice of a policeman, whether or not he is on traffic duty. The power the noble Lord wants to give is very considerable, because under the noble Lord's Amendment the constable would have power, whether engaged in traffic regulation or not, to order any pedestrian on the road to stop anywhere. We think 1022 that is going too far. We think the existing power, coupled with subsection (2) to which I have drawn attention, and also with the fact that the policeman may always give advice to pedestrians, is quite adequate at the moment. I do not think the Bill would be strengthened if your Lordships agreed to confer powers which we and the police believe to be quite unnecessary; at the same time, I should like to stress that I sympathise with the purpose behind the Amendment which both the noble Lord and I have at heart.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, can tell us why the police constable on point duty is the man selected for this job. I should have thought he was about the last man who would be able to do it, because if he is doing his job of controlling the traffic he has quite enough to do to keep him busy, and he cannot possibly drop everything and go haring off after pedestrians who insist on trying to disobey all the rules of common sense and everything else. Can the noble Lord tell us why they have selected that particular man? I have listened to the noble Lord's reply to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who moved the Amendment, and it is sometimes difficult to believe that the Government are serious on this question of road accidents. Lord Lucas of Chilworth did not draw on his imagination in what he said. Your Lordships can see it for yourselves, outside this House, when people are coming out of Government offices at about the present hour. If any of your Lordships care to walk outside the Peers' Entrance you will see what goes on. You will see the traffic streaming past. If it does not matter about people being killed, all right, let them be killed. That is rather the attitude of the noble Lord—
§ EARL HOWE
I really feel that the Government ought to show a good deal more interest in the Amendment which has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, beause, rather than do something additional to try and help prevent people from crossing the road anywhere and doing just what they like, we are allowing them to go and be killed—almost conniving at it.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, as my noble friend cannot speak again, perhaps I may reply to the noble Earl on this point. This is the first step to be taken towards giving the police control of pedestrians on the road. We have confined it to policemen regulating vehicular traffic, who will have a right to control pedestrians, it does not matter where. They have an immediate right to do so.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, in this Bill a point-duty policeman is given the right to control vehicular traffic, but has he always the right to control pedestrians, even when he is not controlling vehicular traffic? Is that what the noble Earl said?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
When he is engaged in the regulation of vehicular traffic—that means, I take it, when he is on point duty—a policeman will have the right to do so. The noble Earl raised the question of how he could run after a pedestrian. Anybody else can do that. The offence is failing to obey instructions, and any other policeman can take the pedestrian's name or follow him up as may be necessary. I think that this is a step forward. I feel that the noble Earl is going a little far when he says that we are not trying to improve the regulations. We must be careful not to give the police too wide control, and that is what the noble Lord is suggesting we should do here. He would make it an offence for a pedestrian to disobey the instructions of a policeman proceeding across or along a road. That means disobeying at any time, at any place, an instruction to any pedestrian to proceed along or cross any road, regardless of safety or regardless of any vehicular traffic. I think that goes too far. I really think we have taken a step forward and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I am not going to die in the last ditch for this Amendment, but anyone hearing the noble Lord's reply will come 1024 to precisely the same conclusion as the noble Earl, Lord Howe. What is this Bill all about if it is not to prevent road accidents? The noble Earl's own Department give proof positive that 40,000 pedestrians are involved in accidents every year, and this clause will not stop one of them. Now we learn that the policeman on point duty is not going to run after a pedestrian; he is going to have a "stand-in" by him to do so. He will give "tic-tac" signs to one of his colleagues, who will then run after the delinquent pedestrian, because the point-duty traffic operator cannot leave his post. If that is the Government's idea of controlling pedestrians, then I am afraid that bitter experience must teach them that that is not the way of doing it. I do not think I will weary your Lordships by asking you to go into the Division Lobby to express your opinion on this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "twenty" [pounds] and insert "ten." The noble Lord said: My Lords, subsection (1) of this clause makes it an offence for a pedestrian to fail to comply with traffic directions given by constables and imposes on summary conviction a penalty of a fine not exceeding twenty pounds on the first occasion and on the second or subsequent conviction a fine not exceeding fifty pounds. These are the same penalties as those imposed for offences under Section 49 of the 1930 Act (which deals with similar offences by drivers of vehicles) except that in their case a second or subsequent conviction may involve imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months instead of the fine. So far as I can remember, no exception was taken to these penalties, nor was the point raised on Committee stage; but the Pedestrians' Association have complained that the penalties proposed for pedestrians are excessive, since disobedience by pedestrians is not normally likely to have such serious consequences as disobedience by drivers. I think there may be some weight in that argument. The Pedestrians' Association also point out that the proposed penalties are out of line with the maximum fine of £5 imposed on drivers who fail to give precedence to pedestrians on zebra crossings.1025
§ We propose by this Amendment to reduce the maximum penalties to be imposed under subsection (1) to ten pounds for the first offence and twenty-five pounds for the second or subsequent conviction. We also propose, in Amendment No. 12, which also stands under the name of my noble friend, Lord Selkirk, to raise the penalties for offences against the Pedestrian Crossing Regulations to the same amount, so that these penalties may be brought into line with each other. I think that the Pedestrians' Association have made a sound point and we are pleased to make some attempt to rationalise these penalties. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 7, leave out ("twenty") and insert ("ten").—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 5, line 9, leave out ("fifty") and insert ("twenty-five").—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 4 to insert the following new clause:
.In paragraph (a) of section forty-nine of the Act of 1930 as amended by section forty of the Act of 1934 and the Third Schedule thereto (which section among other things empowers a police officer regulating traffic to make a vehicle proceed in or keep to a particular line of traffic) after the words 'particular line of traffic' there shall be added the words 'or follow such alternative route as may he indicated to him'.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on Committee stage I drew your Lordships' attention to the need for the Minister to take powers to try to influence the flow of traffic through the by-pass roads which we hope are going to be built in the next four years. The point I made was that it was not worth while spending all these millions of money on new by-pass roads only to find the bulk of traffic going through our already over-congested cities and towns. In my researches into the Statutes, so far as my limited knowledge of the law goes, I found that the only authority that could divert traffic was the highway authority, unless there was special legislation, as there is in London, 1026 and that the highway authority could call in the police in order to carry out their instructions. I thought that at various periods of the year it would be feasible in many towns to divert what was obviously through traffic and so stop the congestion from which they suffer.
§ When I argued the case—and the present Amendment is precisely the same as the one I previously moved—the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that I had put my finger upon a weakness in the law and that something should be done about it. I have put this Amendment down again to find out what has been done and what Her Majesty's Government propose that they should do now. There is no Amendment down to rectify this in the name of the noble Earl who has charge of the Bill. May I take it that he will accept my Amendment? I beg to move.
After Clause 4, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord is not satisfied with the undertaking which I gave specifically on Committee stage, that we would go some way to meet him on this point. I repeat that we intend to do so. I must say that the noble Lord gives rather a terrifying picture. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, is constantly telling us that we should have new motor roads, and now the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, says that traffic will not go down the new roads but prefers to stay in our over-congested towns. I do not accept that. When we have good by-pass and through roads, the bulk of the traffic will use them. There may be occasions when they do not, but by and large the great bulk of traffic will use only the great first-class, through roads, and keep out of congested areas. With great respect to the noble Lord, I feel that he goes a little too far in this Amendment. If we interpreted it strictly, it would really mean that the police, under a penal sanction, could direct any vehicle over any length of a route which a police constable engaged in regulating traffic might consider wise. That really is too much. No doubt it would not happen, but it would, in fact, be giving the police power to make traffic follow such alternative route as might be indicated. That, I feel, is going too far and is unnecessary.
1027 What we propose to do—and I ask the noble Lord to believe this—is to give the police negative power; in other words, give them power to say that vehicles cannot proceed along certain roads in certain defined circumstances. I think that this is necessary and desirable, and I feel that it will meet the substance of what the noble Lord has in mind. It does not quite cover the point of making people go by by-passes if they do not want to; but I do not think that, short of a system of licensing, it is possible to do that. If someone says he wants to go into the middle of a town because he has business there (and heaven knows why he should go into a congested town!) it is putting an impossible burden on the police to say that he must not do so. It is too easy for people to give an explanation of that sort. A great deal can be done by good sign-posting, which I believe is steadily improving; whether it is improving fast enough I do not know, and I should certainly like to see a greater improvement. But I think that what I have said will, to a large extent, meet the point of the noble Lord. I assure him that we have not dropped the point, but we have not yet got round to it.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I get more puzzled. I thought I explained that the only reason why I put the Amendment down was to find out what the noble Earl was going to do and whether he had done anything up to date. The noble Earl says that he is going to do something, and then proceeds to abuse me roundly for putting down the Amendment. He then admits that I was right, because something has to be done. If the noble Earl will take a trip to Winchester one day he will then see what congestion is like—and there is a by-pass there that cost, I suppose, something in the region of £5 million. There is a queue of traffic on all roads in Winchester, sometimes stretching for a mile. The noble Earl says he is going to do something. May I ask him when?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I think that what the noble Earl proposes to do will be admirable. I admit that a lot of things cannot be done at once; but if you say in a negative way that traffic cannot go down a certain road, it can then in many cases only go the way you want it to go. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 [Amendments as to pedestrian crossings]:
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, this is the parallel Amendment about fines that I mentioned a few minutes ago in discussing Amendment No. 9. Therefore, I do not think I need bother your Lordships with the particulars of it, save to say that, with one or two procedural differences, it is in substance exactly as I have described. I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 5, line 42, at end insert—
("(4) For subsection (8) of the said section eighteen there shall be substituted the following subsection:—
'(8) Any person who contravenes any regulations made under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds.'").—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Amendment of safety provisions of 23 and 24 Geo. 5, c. 53]:
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, it may be convenient if I take Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 together, because they are really no more than clarification. They make it clear that the requirements under Section 16 of the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, which requires records to be kept about drivers' hours and so on, apply in respect of goods vehicles whether they are being driven laden or empty. This is to leave beyond doubt that the results of the cases of Woolley v. Moore and Blenkin v. Bell will no longer apply to goods vehicles. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 45, after ("section") insert ("and in section sixteen of the said Act of 1933").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I think the noble Earl has done very well here, if I understand the position correctly. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who does not happen to be in his place, took a more leading part than I did in this matter. I cannot quite understand which vehicles have been exempted from keeping records. Is it the van and the utility vehicle?
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
This is the authorised vehicle. I am sorry if I did not explain the Amendment fully. By and large, Section 16 of the 1933 Act is the enforcement section—the original requirements are laid down in the principal Act of 1930. All we are doing here is to make quite certain that the enforcement clauses come into play. It does not, as a matter of fact, touch the point which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, raised in regard to previous drivers. I think this Amendment is really pure clarification. It applies of course to A, B and C licence holders and to any goods vehicles, as such.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am not certain that I understand it, but I must give the noble Earl the benefit of the doubt. If I do understand the Amendment rightly it is clarification.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 6, line 46 leave out ("the said Act of 1933") and insert ("that Act").—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, this is to make it clear that Clause 6 applies to vehicles whether they are specified in number or whether they are hired vehicles limited by number but unidentified on the licence—what I believe is known as the hiring margin. But whatever their position, whether the vehicles are owned or in the possession of the holder under a hiring or loan agreement, he is responsible for seeing that the records are properly kept when they are being used by him. I beg to move.
Page 7, line 3, at end insert ("and whether it is specified therein as so authorised or, being of a type so authorised subject to a maximum number, is in the possession of the holder of the licence under an agreement for hire or loan or, if a trailer, belongs to him or is in his possession under an agreement for hire purchase, hire or loan.")—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 8 [Amendments as to provisional driving licences]:
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Burden, I beg to move the next Amendment standing in his name on the marshalled list.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 7, line 43, at end insert—
("(3) Any person aggrieved by the refusal of a licensing authority to grant him a provisional licence may appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction acting for the petty sessional division in which the applicant resides and on any such appeal the Court may confirm the refusal of the said licensing authority or may order the licensing authority to issue the said licence.")—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, we covered this matter last time, and I am sorry that the noble Lord did not accept the assurances which I then gave: that appeal is already provided by law; and further—and this is only reemphasis—that we will take administrative action so that the possibility of appeal is stated on application forms for provisional licences. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, speaking on my own behalf, it satisfies me completely, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 10 [Section 1 of Act of 1934 to be permanent]:
THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved to add to the clause:
(2) A length of trunk road or of classified road shall not be deemed for the purposes of the Act of 1934 to be a road in a built-up area by reason only of the system of street lighting provided thereon if the system was provided after the coming into operation of this section.
(3) The purposes for which the erection and maintenance of traffic signs may be required under subsection (7) of the said section one shall include the purpose of securing that adequate guidance is giver to drivers of motor vehicles as to whether a length of road is or is not deemed to be a road in a built-up area.
(4) Where no system of street lighting furnished by lamps placed two hundred yards or less apart is provided on any length of road but that length of road is deemed to be a road in a built-up area a person shall not be convicted of an offence under section ten of the Act of 1930 committed on that length of road in contravention of section one of the Act of 1934 unless the fact that it is deemed to be such a road is indicated by means of such traffic signs as are mentioned in the said subsection (7).
(5) In any proceedings for an offence under section ten of the Act of 1930 committed in contravention of section one of the Act of 1934—
(6) In this section the expression 'classified road' means a road classified by the Minister under the Ministry of Transport Act, 1919 in Class I or Class II or in any class declared by him to be not inferior to those classes.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this Amendment is put down to meet an undertaking given to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in two separate Amendments on the Committee stage. The effect of the Amendment is that the area of restricted speed limit will not be automatically extended with the extension of the lighting system on trunk and classified roads. This means that any extension of the present limits will require a direction by the local authority, confirmed by the Minister.
§ The second point is to meet the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, that additional guidance should be given to motorists within the 30 m.p.h. speed limit. This applies particularly to those areas where there are not lamp-posts and repeater signs, and it is intended that repeater signs should be put up where lamp-posts do not exist. When the new provisions are in force motorists can safely assume, first, that all lighted roads are subject to the 30 m.p.h. speed limit unless there are derestriction signs and, secondly, that all unlighted roads are unrestricted unless there are restriction signs. I think this is quite a considerable simpli- 1032 fication. I must, however, make one reservation with regard to this matter. This naturally affects local authorities. We have not yet received their comments in respect of this, and it may be that, in the light of those comments, the Government may have some suggestions to make at a later stage. I think this fully meets the point which the two noble Lords made. I beg to move.
Page 8, line 17, at end insert the said subsections.—(The Earl of Selkirk.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, speaking for myself—I should not be so impertinent as to presume to speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Hampton—I think the noble Earl has done a great service here. I should like to thank him, because the Amendment clears up a terrible confusion which has always, in my view, put the Minister in a difficult position. As I see it, the position now is that no road will be restricted by the automatic erection of lamp standards; it will have to be done by an affirmative act and not by a negative act, and all street lamps in such an area will have a derestriction sign.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
Yes, but it has to be done by affirmative act. Also, posts in every area not restricted will have a derestriction sign.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
I must qualify that a little. Not every area; there will be a derestriction sign if there are lamp-posts and the area is not restricted. I am not saying that there will be derestriction signs in all areas outside restricted areas.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
No, because you cannot have derestriction unless you have lamp-posts upon which to put the sign. Where you have a lamp-post, you will have a derestriction sign. That covers every point we made on the Committee stage, and I should like to thank the noble Earl for what he has done.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.1033
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 10 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 three and thirty 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 (such terms may include direction as to time of movement and route to be followed) 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 three of the Act of 1930."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we now return to the subject of trying to do something about the movement by road of vehicles carrying abnormal loads. I will not go over all the arguments again. I listened to all that the noble Lord said on the Committee stage, and if your Lordships will look at this Amendment you will see that I have altered it slightly from my earlier Amendment. Where I said that these loads:
shall be permitted to move by road only in accordance with the terms of a licence to be issued by the Minister
I have now put in the words
or other competent authority.
I have also added—
such terms may include direction as to time of movement and route to be followed.
Perhaps the Minister may have some objection to assuming all this responsibility himself, so I have put in the words, "other authority," because he might wish to bring in either the police or the local authority.
§ We on this side of the House regard this matter very seriously. All we ask is that the Minister may make regulations. We do not ask him to have positive power; we ask that he may make regulations to deal with this matter. One of the most difficult things with which I have had to contend is the fact that many interested parties in this matter, who should have made public representations and 1034 given the benefit of their advice to your Lordships, have for some unknown reason been silent. I will cite your Lordships a case. I had sent to me a copy of the annual report of the Chamber of Shipping, containing the presidential address. In it the President thought that the carrying of abnormal loads by road was a serious matter. He waxed eloquent about this, and complained of the ignorance that was displayed by those who interested themselves in this subject on the facilities of coastwise shipping. He did not think that people realised sufficiently the great inconvenience caused to the ordinary road users of this country by these abnormal loads.
§ I took it upon myself to address a letter to him in which I said, "Is it not a strange thing that the views of the shipping interests in your Lordships' House have been conspicuous by their complete absence?" I believe that to be correct. I believe there are quite a number of facilities which could be used, and I want some slight pressure brought upon those people who use the roads without thought—I do not say wilfully without thought—and who do not give sufficient consideration to the other important heavy industrial traffic. On two occasions the noble Lord has pointed out to me how the costs of export industry might suffer if delays were caused by some of these essential loads going by other means of transport. With that I wholly concur, but if the noble Lord could get a computation—which of course he cannot—as to the increase in costs of other heavy traffic that is subjected to delays by these abnormal loads, I think he would find that one would outweigh the other.
§ I remember that upon the last occasion I referred to a picture which appeared in the Press of a 14 ft. 6ins. propeller which was travelling by road. I do not know whether the noble Lord ever dug in the snow of London Colney and whether he found it, because on the last occasion he told your Lordships that it had been lost in the snow. That huge load went all the way from London to the Clyde, when it could have been taken by another method, on a low loader in a vertical position and not in a horizontal position. It would then have been no impediment to any other traffic. But there was nobody to say, "That is how it should go." Under present conditions, nobody has to ask permission to carry a load up 1035 to 20 ft. wide, weighing 150 tons and of no stated length. Permission has to be asked only for a load over those dimensions, and then permission has to be sought from the Ministry of Transport.
§ When we take into consideration the fact that some of our main roads, as I have pointed out to your Lordships many times, are only 18 ft. wide and have to carry a 20 ft. wide load, that inevitably means inconvenience to a considerable amount of traffic. Although the consignor has to notify the local authority and the police that he proposes to proceed through their area, there is no authority for anybody to say: "No; you must go by this route, and you must carry that load that way." I do not want to bore your Lordships on this subject. We have had three or four attempts. I want to ask the noble Earl: cannot he see his way clear to accept this Amendment now?
§ I have widened it and widened it. I am asking only for permissive powers to be given to the Minister. Somebody has to be in a position to be the arbiter. If the noble Earl can see his way clear to accepting this Amendment, it will ease this congestion; it will influence the carrying of these loads where they can be carried in other directions; and, perhaps more important, it will enable the loads to be broken down—and they can be broken down. I gave the noble Earl last time some photographs of a gib crane that never had the gib taken off—a simple thing to do—to be carried flat along that lorry. But because there was nobody to say that that was how it should be carried, it was carried in such a way that it inconvenienced every scrap of traffic on the whole length of its journey. I hope that we can see the end of this discussion between us. I cannot see any reason why the noble Earl cannot accept this Amendment because, as I say, it is only permissive. The noble Earl's right honourable friend the Minister of Transport can have as many discussions with as many people as he likes—for instance, with county councils who really are up in arms about this matter; with the police or with anybody else. Therefore, I hope that the noble Earl will accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
After Clause 10, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, in resisting and speaking against this Amendment, I am in somewhat of a difficult position because the points I wish to make are really in answer to what was said by the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition, and he is not here. However, I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that he is speaking on his behalf. In particular, I want to answer a series of speeches by the noble and learned Earl which have given the impression that the road hauliers are inconsiderate to everyone else; that as long as their loads, the abnormal loads, are below certain sizes and weights, they do not care anything for anyone else; that they just put them on the road, notify the police and the local authorities and go straight through with them.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, it is particularly unfortunate that the noble Lord should make this speech in the absence of my noble and learned Leader. I have no authority to speak on his behalf. If the noble Lord wants to attack anything that my noble and learned Leader has said, etiquette would demand either that he should have given him notice that he was going to say this or that he should wait until the noble and learned Earl was here to hear him.
§ LORD DERWENT
I took that line only because the noble Lord said: "Speaking for noble Lords on this side of the House…" It is in answer to that. The whole series of these Amendments and the speeches from noble Lords on that side of the House have been to the effect that the hauliers have adopted this rather ruthless attitude of planning these loads, which are not quite up to the size where they would require permission to be obtained, notifying the police and the local authorities and then putting the loads on the roads. But that is not true. When the loads are exceptionally big, and almost within the limits where they would require licences, the hauliers not only notify the local authorities and the police but also consult the police. Furthermore, every day they consult the Ministry, even on loads where they do not have to do so.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that there are loads which might well, on occasion, go by other routes. That question is considered 1037 by the hauliers before they put these abnormal loads on the roads. In this Amendment the noble Lord is asking that, for the use of the main roads of this country, the hauliers should be set apart from every other road user and pay a fee. They pay their taxes; they pay for their licences; they pay all the road taxes that are imposed. Now, in addition, this one section of the road users of the country are to be asked to pay a fee. That is an absurd situation, and I hope that on that point alone your Lordships will resist this Amendment and have nothing to do with it.
As regards loads that have to be carried, with or without a licence, the Minister today has all the powers he needs to make what regulations he likes as regards size and weight. If he considers that certain loads, from the point of view of either size or weight, should come within the terms of needing a licence to move, he can make that regulation. But this series of Amendments rather implies that road hauliers are not to be trusted to do what they can not to interfere with other traffic. If that is the case, why have any Amendment? Why not leave it to the Minister? He already has the powers; he is considering the matter all the time, and if he considers that the present limits are too high, he can lower then. That is well and good; but to ask a section of the population, the road hauliers, and, incidentally, the manufacturers, to pay a fee for the use of the roads is, in my opinion, not to be considered.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, from what I know of the coastal shipping industry, they are extremely anxious to get work. They feel that they are exposed to rather an unfair competition by road transport. If it is the case that abnormal loads, which coastal shipping could move more effectively and as cheaply, are moved by road, then I should hope that coastal shipping was on the look-out for such opportunities and had an organisation which would enable it to know when such loads were being moved so that it would have the chance to tender. On the general question, it would be a most serious thing for the industry of this country to forbid firms to move their goods by the cheapest and quickest method, unless, of course, it can be proved that what is meat for them is poison for some other industry or industrialist. Subject to that 1038 qualification, I think industry must be allowed to move its goods by the cheapest, quickest and most effective way for the industry in question. It seems to me that what is at issue here is not so much whether firms should be allowed to move their goods by road as that the roads should be made equal to the job which they have to face today. The trouble about these abnormal loads is that our roads and bridges today are not fit to carry them by the most direct route. The real remedy in this matter is to hasten as much as possible the making up of our roads to the modern requirements of industry.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is quite right. This is, I think, the fifth occasion on which we have discussed this difficult question of abnormal loads. I think there is little or nothing between the noble Lord and myself over this question. Certainly, over the gravity, the difficulty and the inconvenience that is caused to other road users and other industries, we are wholly at one. I hope we are now at one also with the idea that manufacturers do not send these loads on to the roads for fun. I certainly have never suggested that for one moment, in any of the four lengthy speeches I have made on this subject.
I can, however, tell your Lordships about one case where manufacturers did send a huge load for fun—it was a very large cake which set off on an advertising trip in the North of England. The police, with a slight amount of malice aforethought, succeeded in diverting it into side roads where it could do the least harm and very little advertising. The fact is that there is no other method of conveying these loads, and I think that all that is left is for us to try to find some means of persuasion, instruction or education to ensure that as many loads as possible go either by rail or by sea. I think that if you were to examine each load you would probably find surprisingly few which could be transported by rail or by sea and which would fall into the class of load causing the trouble that we are discussing at the moment.
I am going to ask the noble Lord opposite not to press me to accept this Amendment, for two reasons: the first is that I am not satisfied with the suggestion 1039 of levying a fee. I have expressed my own view on that matter at length, and my noble friend Lord Derwent has also expressed his view, with which I wholly concur. The other reason why I would not ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment is that it gives the Minister no powers that he has not got already. For those two reasons I ask your Lordships not to accept the Amendment. But I feel I am in duty bound to continue a little in order to try to satisfy the noble Lord, as I want to do, that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the urgent need for doing something about the problem. I want to enlist his support and ask him to believe me when I say that it is not easy to find the best solution. Even if we were able to find a solution, I believe we should only be able to make provision for a very small number of these indivisible loads.
As I see it, there are two questions to be asked about each load. The first of these relates to the load itself. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth has asked, can many of these loads be broken down into smaller components without causing undue trouble and inconvenience?—for instance, there is the case of the gib crane. The second is whether it is essential that the load in question should move from its point of origin to its destination wholly or partly by road. On the Committee stage the propeller of the "Empress of Britain" was mentioned. If I remember aright, the reason why that had to go by road rather than by sea was the urgency of the launching, which could not be delayed. I am not sure that I showed foresight in telling the noble Lord that the propeller was stuck in the snow on the London Colney part of the A.5 or A.6 road, because my telephone was ringing until about one o'clock in the morning with inquiries from the Press about where the propeller was at that particular time.
I think there is no simple answer to these questions. The first is a highly technical point, and the second obviously involves careful examination of the possible alternatives. But I think we should agree—I hope your Lordships will agree—that both those questions must be fully explored before any answer to the problem is to be found. I do not know how the answer to the question can be arrived 1040 at, but one possibility occurs to me as being worth exploration—namely, whether we could place certain additional powers either in the hands of the chief officers of police or perhaps in the Ministry of Transport, who would in this case probably act through their divisional road engineers. The general idea might be that for loads of such weights and widths as might be prescribed by regulation—these weights and widths might well have to be substantially lower than the existing ones—the manufacturer wishing to move his load by road would, a given period in advance, send full particulars of the load, its route and destination, either to the chief officer of police in the area where it originates or to the divisional road engineer concerned. The manufacturer would in particular have to give full answers to two questions: first, whether the load is in fact indivisible, and second, whether the possibilities of movement by some other method have been explored and, if so, with what result. On the basis of that information the police or the Ministry could decide whether or not the load could be moved by road. If permission were refused an appeal would, of course, have to lie, and it would be to the Minister of Transport.
I will not conceal from your Lordships that that is merely a cockshy as to the way in which this problem might be tackled. Frankly, there are many difficulties. There would have to be consultations with a large number of people who have an interest in this matter. But this strikes me as being a line of approach upon which we might advance to some solution of this problem. I would not pretend for one moment that if we should get a solution it would affect anything but a very small proportion of the loads which are causing inconvenience. There is one other point. I can inform your Lordships that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport looks upon this matter very keenly and has done so ever since it was first raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and he is bearing in mind a possibility of providing more lay-bys in the course of his new road programme. That may go a long way towards easing the problem from a practical point of view. Those are two ideas which I throw out. I do not pretend that they are anything more than an approach towards the solution. 1041 If your Lordships have any more practical ideas, we shall be only too happy to consider them most carefully.
I am sorry to have taken so long on this point, but I know that it is a matter which has caused a lot of trouble. I hope, therefore, that I have convinced your Lordships that these loads do not go on the road for no reason; very few could be diverted to rail or sea. Our problem is to try and find some means of diverting them where we can, or minimising the nuisance. We will press on with everything in our power to minimise this nuisance, but the noble Lord's Amendment will not do very much towards the minimising of the nuisance. I hope he will not press it.
§ LORD GLYN
My Lords, I would ask one question of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. We have not yet understood what "abnormality" of a load means. One point that concerns everybody and might be taken into account when he consults the Minister is that vehicles of abnormal length—60-footers, called "Queen Mary's"—cause great danger. They were an abnormal war-time user; they are now in common use in peace time. Over here the United States possess a large number of out-of-gauge vehicles which use narrow roads and carry heavy loads. They are quite unfit to operate on these roads; they are designed for roads in the United States. I hope that when this matter of abnormal loads is gone into, the question will be probed in regard to the Ministry of Supply and other Government Departments who have got into the habit of putting on the road loads which are unfit for carriage by these very long vehicles, and which cause considerable danger to pedal cyclists who find it utterly impossible to pass them when there are oncoming vehicles. In France nobody can operate a trailer behind a vehicle unless a triangular sign is carried on the cab of the towing vehicle. No such regulation exists here; therefore, there is no knowing what is behind a large vehicle, where the vision is restricted by its bulk. One may still have to contend with a trailer.
These matters are of tremendous importance, and, from the point of view of the chief constable it means that a large number of motor policemen have to be detached from other duties in connection with which there is already a shortage 1042 of staff, in order to accompany these loads and give due warning. It is possible that arrangements might be made with the Automobile Association or some other body of that kind to assist the police on these occasions. Perhaps powers could be given to allow them to do so.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, it is refreshing to gain some support on this matter from noble Lords opposite. The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has put his finger on one or two points which I shall deal with in a moment, because I do not consider the discussion of this matter to be a waste of time. This is the fifth time that noble Lords have discussed the question and the fifth time that the noble Lord has assured me that his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is entirely sympathetic. He now says the Minister is "fully alive." I keep on at this question because I want to know: when is talk going to end and action going to start? The noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has pointed out that some of the worst offenders are Service Departments. I should have thought that one Government Department could at least have a serious talk with another Government Department so that a start could be made in that way.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
With very little effect, so far as my observations go; but I hope the noble Lord will persevere. I must take the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, to task for he is quite wrong. The noble Lord should not attribut to me the castigation of road haulage. He cannot get out of an attack on my noble and learned Leader by saying that I stated that I was speaking for noble Lords on this side of the House. The noble Lord cannot construe that statement of mine as meaning that I can accept personal responsibility for anything which he alleges has been said by a noble Lord on this side. I have enough trouble answering for myself.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am not prepared to take on any heavier responsibility. The noble Lord is completely in error in saying that I want to charge hauliers for using the roads. He may say that I have suggested a fee, 1043 but if he will refresh his memory and go back to before the time when he felt he had to assume the rôle of official spokesman for the British Road Federation and to defend the hauliers, he will recollect that I suggested a fee because I wanted some reimbursement for the very heavy costs which, as the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, has said, fall upon the police who have to convoy these abnormal loads through various towns.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but when a policeman holds me up and then waves me on and helps me through a town I do not expect to pay a fee.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
If the noble Lord expected policemen in a patrol car to give him priority of route and wave everybody else off the road for a distance of 100 miles, perhaps he might think that the police officers' time was worth paying for. I gather he would not. That is his opinion; but do not let him exaggerate or turn what I have said, for that is what I have always maintained. Chief Constables tell me that this is a very heavy drain upon their police resources and that they cannot get enough policemen or enough mobility. There are times when county constabularies have to convoy twelve of these loads a day, all day, through their various counties, over tortuous roads in Cumberland and Westmorland, using about twelve policemen a day on the job. I believe that to be an unreasonable burden upon the police.
I do not want to turn any of these loads off the road. I fully accept the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that it is necessary for these loads to travel. I only want to see that they travel with as little inconvenience to other people as may sensibly be arranged. The noble Lord has said quite a lot. Perhaps he is now proceeding on an alternative which may bring as much fruit. I have never been wedded to this idea. The Minister might alter the regulations and bring down the abnormal load limits. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Glyn, and other noble Lords, I may say that an "abnormal load" is one which is over the permissive length of vehicle and load, at present nine feet. I understand that the Minister contemplates increasing this limit so that any load over 9 ft. 6 in. 1044 Would be an "abnormal load." An "indivisible load" is something different from an "abnormal load," but at present the regulations which the noble Lord's right honourable friend the Minister has on record on the Statute is that any load up to 20 ft. wide, and up to 150 tons in weight, of indeterminate length and of any height can go on the road. The Ministry, the police and the highway authorities may be consulted but no one can say nay, because the Statute allows this load. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, need have no fear that I shall press this Amendment to-day, but he has not answered my case fully and I would again direct his attention to the case of the propeller for the "Empress of Britain" which could have gone mounted on a low loader in a different way, thus causing no discomfort or inconvenience to anybody.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
Oh yes; and so could many of these loads. It would necessitate some ingenuity and special vehicles. The cost of special heavy mountings to carry such loads would not be out of the question. I do not feel disposed to go further with this matter now, but I can promise the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft that I shall occasionally ask whether his right honourable friend the Minister is still "fully alive" to the urgency of this problem, what progress his inquiries are making and when he hopes to take action. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 10 to insert the following new clause:
§ Control of dogs on highway
§ ". If owing to the presence of any dog not under proper control on a road an accident occurs whereby damage or injury is caused to any person or vehicle the owner of the dog, and the person for the time being in charge thereof and the person allowing the same to be on the road shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable to a fine not exceeding five pounds."
§ The noble Lord said: I return to this Amendment again after the discussion on the Committee stage. Noble Lords will remember that I wished to bring some sense of responsibility to dog owners 1045 in so far as stray dogs are responsible for about 2,500 road accidents a year. If noble Lords will turn to Table 42 of the statistics of road accidents, they will see that the total number of road accidents caused by dogs in the carriageway was 2,635 in a year. On the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, gave a number of reasons why this suggestion was completely unenforceable. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Jeffreys, interjecting that sheep worrying by dogs was an offence, and that on summary jurisdiction their owners could be fined, so he could not understand why this proposal could not be enforced. I was then tempted to delve into the Statutes, and the first of my two Amendments on this subject arises from that research. It is framed in almost exactly the same way as the present Statute affecting dogs—and this goes right back to 1904. There is a Statute which makes it an offence to allow a dog upon the highway without a collar bearing the name of its owner, and also makes it an offence if the dog worries sheep or disturbs animals.
The second Amendment, No. 20, was put down by my noble and learned Leader, Earl Jowitt, and I am sorry that he is not here at the present time. The object of that Amendment is to overcome the difficulty which the noble Lord opposite said that he was in. I have gone further than that; I realise the noble Lord's difficulties, and I realise the difficulties of the Government in this matter. I have been in touch with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and they support the action that I want the noble Lord to take. I think perhaps it may help the noble Lord if I just read out a little of what they say in their letter to me. They state:
The Society feels that the carelessness of many dog owners in not keeping their dogs under proper control causes suffering to other animals, as in sheep-worrying, as well as injury and death to the dogs themselves—quite apart from the risk of accidents to human beings using roads.
We often ask ourselves why some people keep dogs at all, as they do not seem to use them as companions or attempt to give them proper care. The problem is how to bring it home to such people that they are allowing accidents to be caused and are bringing about suffering to the animals themselves.
What the Society is afraid of is that there might be an epidemic of chaining up dogs. But, as it points out, there are
"running chains." This is an invention which makes things much easier for the dogs, but the Society says that some people contend that even the use of that is, in fact, chaining a dog up.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also written to me about this matter. They support the action that I want the Government to take, and they bring out one rather pertinent point. They write saying that it is a tragedy that
many dogs are callously thrown out to fend for themselves,
and they add that much of it is due to parents
whose children have outgrown their interest in puppies bought for their amusement.
I have also had some most distressing letters from people who have suffered injury. I have had distressing letters from members of the families of persons who have been injured by vehicles, the drivers of which have taken evasive action to avoid dogs and have mounted the pavement. There have been cases in which people have been killed, and others in which they have been seriously injured. I have a letter, which I will not read, from a lady who has spent twenty-four weeks in hospital with a broken hip as the result of an accident brought about by a dog. She is eighty years of age and she will never walk properly again. With all that mass of evidence, with all the support, as I have shown, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, I suggest that there is a strong case for this Amendment. I do beg the noble Lord to accept one of these Amendments. The first one is so worded that there has to be an accident before action can be taken against a dog owner. That, I thought, was one of the points which the noble Lord opposite made on the Committee stage. The second Amendment seeks to safeguard the position of the person whose dog strays inadvertently.
There is one other point I want to make. I view this matter seriously, and I think the noble Lord does also. I think the noble Lord realises that we must make some effort to stop 2,800 accidents a year. My noble and learned Leader, Earl Jowitt, when he was Lord Chancellor, set up a Committee to report on the law of civil liability in respect of damage done by animals. This problem even came before that Committee, and I should like
to read to your Lordships a few lines from their Report. The relevant passage reads:
We have been much impressed by the facts brought to our attention as to the number of accidents caused on the highway by dogs not kept under proper control, and if our recommendations are adopted we think they will give a much-needed remedy which may not at present exist. There is a considerable body of opinion in favour of compulsory third party insurance in respect of dogs, but whether this should be imposed appears to us to be outside our terms of reference.
Those eminent authorities had this subject under consideration, and they support me in this plea. I hope that the noble Lord will be sympathetic. I beg to move the Amendment.
After Clause 10, insert the said new Clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ LORD GODDARD
My Lords, I do not think I would recommend your Lordships to accept this suggested new clause. I know something about this subject because the Report from which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has just quoted was the Report of a Committee over which I presided. I know the difficulty there is about these questions concerning dogs. But for goodness' sake do not let us create more criminal offences than we can help. The first new clause begins:If owing to the presence of any dog not under proper control on a road an accident occurs whereby damage or injury is caused to any person or vehicle the owner of the dog, and the person for the time being in charge thereof and the person allowing the same to be on the road shall be guilty of an offence…The person who does not keep his dog under control, who lets it go out into the road, incurs no liability if no accident occurs. It is therefore purely fortuitous whether an offence is committed. But this clause would make it a criminal offence if a dog that was in a garden got out on to the road and caused an accident. That would be revolutionary of the Common Law of this country, which at least since the reign of Charles II has said that a person shall not incur punishment for the act of a dog. We know that there is a Dogs Act which provides damages if a dog worries sheep, but the difficulty is that no one can ever find out which dog has worried sheep. I daresay one might find it out in these cases, but 1048 I think it would be a great pity to create another criminal offence of this sort; it would mean a great incursion on the Common Law.
With regard to the noble Lord's second Amendment, that would, perhaps, be a little easier to enforce. Of course, every motorist knows that dogs are a nuisance on the road. But whether it is right to make it a criminal offence if a dog escapes from a person who is leading it and gets on to the road, or to make it a criminal offence not always to keep a dog on the leash—for that is what it would come to—I have the greatest doubt. So I should advise your Lordships, if I may respectfully say so, not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, in view of the advice given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice, I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will probably be a little reluctant to press his Amendment further. I will not waste any more of your Lordships' time, but I should like to point out to Lord Lucas of Chilworth and to Lord Jeffreys, who I am sorry to see has now left the Chamber, that the analogy of sheep-worrying is not quite fair. The noble Lord seeks to turn this into a criminal offence, but an action for sheep-worrying is a civil action for damages. So the analogy is nothing like so close as Lord Lucas of Chilworth has suggested. When he put down an Amendment last time I objected to it, and one ground on which I did so was that if the Amendment were carried to its ultimate conclusion it would make it a criminal offence to lose your dog. I certainly should be most unwilling to allow my name to be in any way associated with an Amendment which introduced such an offence into the law. But that does not alter the fact that I wholly agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, in all the arguments about the menace of the uncared-for dogs on the road and the need for doing something to minimise the effects that they have. I agree with him wholeheartedly on that point.
He has tried to meet my points and I think he appreciated what I was getting at. But he has now produced an Amendment which, as the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, has said, produces another result which I could not possibly allow to be associated with my 1049 name: that is, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, makes it a criminal offence not to put one's dog on a leash. That is what it amounts to. That is the only way one could be quite certain one would not be infringing the noble Lord's first, or indeed his second, Amendment. I cannot believe that the noble Lord wants that. He must by now realise that these two Amendments, however well intentioned they are—and of course they are well intentioned; we appreciate what the noble Lord is trying to do—are both unenforceable and there is no point in putting unenforceable provisions on the Statute Book. That would cause great offence to a large number of people, great difficulty in enforcement by the police, and ill-will between the police and the public.
The arguments advanced by the Lord Chief Justice are overwhelmingly powerful and I think your Lordships would agree with the sentiments expressed in the Highway Code, which I think is the right place for this sort of provision. It is a code of ethics and not of legal provisions and is therefore quite unenforceable. In paragraph 67 it says:Keep your dog under control when you take it for a walk or in your car. Do not let your dog stray.That is not in the law; it is in the Highway Code; and I think that is as far as we can take it. I hope that with those arguments your Lordships will, whilst agreeing with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, agree that his proposed solution is ineffective and, I think, a little undesirable.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I again should not fly in the face of the very weighty opinion of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice. The only thing I regret is that we do not appear to be able to do anything to stop the 2,800 accidents that are caused by straying dogs. I know that this matter is fraught with great difficulty, but I do not think it should be beyond the wit of man to make inroads on such a problem. It is the same with the other Amendments I have moved in your Lordships' House—for instance, the one where I tried to make some inroads on the problem of pedestrian accidents, amounting in number to 40,000. I wish someone would give his mind to seeing how these things can be done instead of directing all his 1050 energy and attention to showing why they cannot be done. I have a slightly different approach to this problem. However, I am not going to press the Amendment. I have voiced it and I have had the support of both societies. With your Lordships' permission I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, after Clause 10 to insert the, following new clause:
§ Exemption of pedestrian-controlled grass cutters
§ ".—(1) A mechanically propelled vehicle to which this section applies—
- (a) shall for the purposes of the Road Traffic Acts, 1930 to 1955, be treated as not being a motor vehicle;
- (b) shall for the purposes of the Road Transport Lighting Acts, 1927 to 1953, be treated as a vehicle propelled by hand.
§ (2) This section applies—
- (a) to any implement for cutting grass which is controlled by a pedestrian and is not capable of being used or adapted for any other purpose;
- (b) to such other vehicles controlled by pedestrians as may be specified for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Minister by statutory instrument.
§ (3) Regulations under this section shall not have effect unless approved by resolution of each House of Parliament."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I understand that we have arranged through the usual channels, having made such satisfactory progress with this Bill, that after this Amendment the House will be adjourned and that we shall not meet again this evening after dinner. I think that is a happy solution because I believe we are going to end on a very happy note. This Amendment arose from the grass cutter case, and I think we have found the solution. I do not think I ought to divulge here how we found it, but this will cure the evil that I pointed out to your Lordships, that if any of your Lordships were to take a motor mower outside his front garden and proceed to cut the grass on his verge he would require an excise licence for that motor mower, and a driving licence, and he would have to have third party insurance, would have to undergo a driving test and until he had passed it he would have to carry an L plate. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft (I think it was), said that I have put my finger on one of those things in which 1051 the law—and perhaps I can say this as the Lord Chief Justice has now gone—is a bit of an ass. But now I think the matter has been rectified, and so, without saying anything further, I beg to move this Amendment.
After Clause 10 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD MANCROFT
We do indeed end on a happy note. I shall be most pleased to accept the noble Lord's Amendment. As a reward for his ingenuity in having found this solution, he can now take his lawnmower on the verge outside his house without a test, without a driving licence—and I think that, if he so wishes, he can drive it under the influence of alcohol. Certainly he could not be charged with careless or dangerous driving. But I must point out that he is not allowed to drive it furiously and he is not allowed to hang a light on it when he goes home at night.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
May I thank the noble Lord. I do not want to sail under false colours. This is not really my Amendment. It was drafted by the Parliamentary draftsmen under the direction of the noble Lord, and was given to me to put down. I will not take 1052 any credit for it, because I think all the credit should go to the noble Lord and the Parliamentary draftsmen. I think they have gone even further than I would have gone, but they have done it very sensibly. I should like to draw attention to what the noble Lord has done. Not only has he cleared up the anomaly concerning the grass-cutter, but your Lordships will see that this clause in subsection (2) (b) applies tosuch other vehicles controlled by pedestrians as may be specified for the purposes of this section by regulations made by the Minister by statutory instrument.I think that will go a long way to clear up a great irritation that has been prevalent for years regarding pedestrian-controlled milk floats and vehicles like that, which were subject to the same regulations as mechanically propelled vehicles. If the Minister, in his wisdom, now wishes to bring those under this clause they can be freed in exactly the same way as the grass-cutters. I thank the noble Lord for accepting this Amendment and for his ingenuity in drafting, and I hope that it will have very beneficial effects.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past seven o'clock.