HL Deb 11 July 1960 vol 225 cc24-7

3.45 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, it will not be necessary for me to detain the House for more than a moment or two, because all that I should have liked to say against Clause 1 of this Bill has already been very adequately said by the noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth and Lord Somers. I came prepared to curse this Bill, and I still do not feel prepared to stay and bless it; but I think I am for going into that on the Committee stage when Clause I will no doubt be adequately dealt with. There is no need for me to go into the principles, because the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth—and I agree with what he said—has fully stated them. But surely in this time of road congestion, even apart from these principles, it is noteworthy that there is no adequate justification for adding another age group to those who are congesting the roads; and it is also, surely, no hardship to retain the limit of sixteen years of age for anybody who wishes to use a motor bicycle.

In relation to Clause 2, and this restriction that a holder of a provisional licence to drive a motor cycle shall not use a machine with an engine capacity in excess of 250 cubic centimetres, I have no doubt that that is all right so far as it goes, but the statistical figures would not induce one to believe that that will lead, in itself, to any great reduction in the accident figures. Perhaps a more substantial contribution to road safety would be the imposition of a safety limit, say, of 50 miles an hour, on the holders of provisional licences. They can quite easily be identified by "L" plates, and a rule of this kind would probably not add very much to the responsibilities of the police.

I do not wish to say any more, except heartily to agree with those noble Lords who have said that Clause 1 is not acceptable in its present form and that Clause 2 is in itself innocuous. I listened to the noble Lord who introduced the Bill when I came here. Having merely read the Bill, I had quite a false impression of what it really meant. When I listened to the noble Lord who introduced it I found that he threw a very different light on it; and, after listening to my noble friend Lord Chesham, I realised that everything which ought to be in the Bill is not in it, and the powers are not going to be used. So I finished in a state of complete confusion as to what, really, Clause 1 was doing in the Bill at all: and until the Committee stage I shall postpone any further comments on it.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, the criticism of the Bill has centred itself on Clause 1. I should like to repeat that this clause arose from a recommendation of the Committee on Road Safety, which consists of representatives of Government Departments, representatives of the police, and representatives of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and other bodies concerned with road safety. The object, I think I explained sufficiently, is to get this graduated scale. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, rightly says, this graduated scale can be put into operation by the regulations of the Minister of Transport, at the moment starting from the floor of sixteen.

It was suggested by the Committee on Road Safety that as a result of further studies which are being made now by the Minister of Transport, it might be desirable, and it might lead to more experience being gained by younger motor cyclists, if this basic age were to be reduced to fifteen. I hope that your Lordships will see it a little more kindly in the Committee stage, when we shall have another chance to look at it again. But I should think that the moped is not really as dangerous a vehicle as some of your Lordships have tended to make it out to be. My noble friend Lord Somers made play with his bicycling experience, but I rather doubt, really, whether a young person is much safer on our roads on a bicycle than he is on a moped. A moped, after all, is only a powered bicycle; and we have seen bicyclists swerving in and out of the traffic, or racing with their heads down, and we have seen the average moped rider chugging along quite safely on the left-hand side of the road.

The hope behind the sponsors of this Bill is that if these two clauses are passed, it will produce a graduated scale of experience derived, first of all, from the 15-year-old riding the moped. But, as has been said by the noble Lord who spoke for the Government, this clause requires further study. I hope that in saying that it was not going to be put into effect he did not imply that it will never be put into effect but merely that it would not be put into effect until further studies had been made, and on that basis I hope that your Lordships will agree to accept it.

I also hope that the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and the noble Lord, Lord Somers, will have an opportunity of reading the social survey which was made, which very much points the lesson that it is experience that really counts and that experience is more effective than age. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, suggested an age of 18 as a minimum, but this, I suggest, is not borne out by the conclusions of the survey, which show that the older person is no safer than the younger. It is merely a question of experience; and the survey points especially to the dangers of the first six months of riding a motor cycle. Most of your Lordships have been kind enough to accept Clause 2, which is aimed at the same thing—to ensure that a rider has some experience of a lighter type of motor cycle before graduating to a heavier one. I hope that your Lordships will consider this matter sympathetically when we reach the Committee stage.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.