§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Amendments reported (according to Order).
§ Clause 1:
§ Punishment without prosecution of offences in connection with lights, reflectors, obstruction, &c.
§ Enforcement and Administration of traffic Laws
§ I.—(1) This section shall apply to any offence created by or under an enactment and punishable on summary conviction, being an offence committed in respect of a vehicle—
- (a) by its being left or parked on a road without the lights or reflectors required by law; or
- (b) by its obstructing a road, or waiting, or being left or parked, or being loaded or unloaded, in a road; or
§ (2) Where a constable finds a person on any occasion and has reason to believe that on that occasion he is committing or has committed an offence to which this section applies, he may give him the prescribed notice in writing offering the option of payment of a fixed penalty under this section without prosecution for that offence; and no person shall then be liable to be convicted of that offence if the fixed penalty is paid in accordance with this section before the date on which proceedings are begun.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT (LORD CHESHAM)moved, in subsection (1) (a), after "road" to insert:
during the hours of darkness (as defined by the Road Transport Lighting Act, 1957)".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment which stands in my name is one that I undertook to move at Committee stage, having accepted the principle of an Amendment moved at the time by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. The principle was quite acceptable. It was a question of being certain that the words of the Amendment were sufficiently precise for the purposes of the Bill. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 9, after "road" insert the said words.—(Lord Chesham.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for inserting the words he has, because he has done precisely what I wanted. As 159 he might have told your Lordships, the hours of darkness as defined by the Road Transport Lighting Act are a regulated time, after sunset and before sunrise. I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think the Amendment has cleared up a slight anomaly, and I am happy to accept it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.10 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTHmoved, in subsection (1), to leave out paragraph (b) and insert:
(b) by its waiting in a road or being left or parked or being loaded or unloaded in a road, contrary to directions given by a traffic sign or by carriageway markings; or".
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an Amendment of substance. I cannot help regretting that, although the noble Lord opposite has met me in many Amendments—I think I can say almost all of them—that I withdrew for his consideration, he could not go so far as to meet me on this one. This is a matter of great principle, and I want to explain to your Lordships what the principle is. I shall be as brief as I can. I think the best way I can do it is by reading to your Lordships precisely what the noble Lord said on Second Reading of this Bill and also upon the first day of the Committee stage. These are the noble Lord's own words [OFFICIAL REPORT. Vol. 224 (No. 91), col. 408]:
Under Clause 1 it is proposed to introduce a standard penalty for certain minor offences in which there is no doubt of guilt.
In saying that, the noble Lord only repeated in precise language what all the Government spokesmen had said during the passage of the Bill through another place. Obviously, there was no intention to apply the ticket system of punishment to any offence which was in any way disputable.
He went on to say to me across the Table—I quote his words from Col. 983 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of July 4:
I am quite prepared to give him an undertaking that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, when he makes the first Order applying the ticket system to London, will exclude from it, under the powers he has in the proviso to Clause 1 (1), the offence of obstruction.
That is why in this Amendment, standing in the name of myself and my noble friend Lord Silkin, I have taken out the
word "obstruction". I will explain why I have done that. First of all, in having a car waiting or being left or parked or being loaded or unloaded in a road, there arises a question of fact. That is self-evident. But obstruction can never be a question of fact. Your Lordships will see that among the ordinary grounds for prosecution for obstruction as set out in Regulation 89 of the Construction and Use Regulations 1955, No. 1482, it says this:
No person in charge of a motor vehicle or trailer shall cause or permit a motor vehicle or trailer to stand on a road so as to cause any unnecessary obstruction thereon.
"Unnecessary" is a matter of opinion and not a question of fact.
Then, if your Lordships would look at Section 16 of the 1960 Act, you will see that it says:
If a person in charge of a vehicle causes or permits the vehicle or a trailer drawn thereby 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, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, or in the case of a second or subsequent conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months.
That is the top and the bottom of the law of obstruction. It can be a minor offence, or it may be a really serious one for which a sentence of imprisonment can be inflicted.
The noble Lord has met me on one point in a subsequent Amendment, when he has said that a traffic warden cannot issue a ticket for obstruction; so that clears that away. But I maintain that to leave obstruction in the ticket system is going against what the noble Lord said when he referred to there being "no doubt of guilt". And it is not a minor offence; it can be a most serious offence. He is not really putting into effect what he undertook when saying that
the Home Secretary, when he makes the first Order applying the ticket system to London, will exclude from it, under the powers he has in the proviso to Clause 1 (1) the offence of obstruction.
§ This question of obstruction is a serious one. I suppose that no prosecution for obstruction is brought that is not resented in the vast majority of cases by the vehicle owner. It is the cause of all the bad blood—what bad blood there 161 is—between the motorist and the police. I say, quite frankly, that not only is the Bill as it stands not carrying out the expressed intention of the Government to remove obstruction from the ticket system, but that obstruction should not be dealt with by means of a penalty of £2, because in some cases obstruction can be a most serious matter. That is my ease for removing obstruction from this Bill.
I have left in the words that I had in my Amendment on the Committee stage, namely:
by its waiting in a road, or being left or parked or being loaded or unloaded in A road, contrary to directions given by a traffic sign or by carriageway markings.
The basis of that is that we must try to snake the traffic laws of this country understandable to the ordinary individual. They are not now. An offence of waiting, parking, loading or unloading, or the words that are in this Amendment and are in the original clause, can only be self evident; there can be no doubt of guilt, only if it happens within a clearly defined area which is quite open for observation by the public. In point of fact, the law upon which the Government rely is contained in the Road Traffic Act, 1960. If your Lordships have in your possession a copy of that Act you will see that Section 14 says—I should like to read it because it is important:
Where a police constable is for the time being engaged in the regulation of traffic in a road, or where a traffic sign, being a sign of the prescribed size, colour and type, or of another character authorised by the appropriate Minister under the provisions in that behalf of this Act, has been lawfully placed on or near a road, a person driving or propelling a vehicle who
and the provision goes on to say, later:
and where the indication mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection is of the general nature only of the prohibition, restriction or requirement to which the sign relates a person shall not be convicted of failure to comply with the indication unless he has failed to comply with the said prohibition, restriction or requirement.
So the law as it stands to-day is that a person cannot be convicted in respect of a vehicle waiting, being left parked, or loaded or unloaded on any road where
there is not a clearly defined sign. That is my interpretation of Section 14 of this Road Traffic Act. Is it not right then, when we are dealing with a new system of issuing tickets for these offences, that we should, in all common sense, put in
contrary to directions given by a traffic sign or by carriageway markings"?
If I went on to talk for twice the length of time I do not think I could make that any clearer. I believe it is the sense of the House that we do not mind traffic wardens giving tickets in properly prescribed areas, but not in any area. But I believe I am voicing the opinion of the majority in the House in saying that we object to a ticket being given for obstruction by either a policeman or a traffic warden, because where action is taken on obstruction it should be taken by a policeman in the proper process of prosecution. I hope, therefore, that I have explained the reason for my Amendment and that your Lordships will accept it. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 11, leave out paragraph (b) and insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I am really very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, although he may be a little surprised that I am. The Amendment he has now put down has clarified a situation which I believe was badly in need of clarification. Although his previous Amendment, in effect, only moved obstruction out of the Bill by rendering any powers powerless, so to speak, his Amendment to-day makes it quite clear that he now wants to move obstruction out of the Bill. I am sorry that in our consultations we did not get further. I am going to claim that, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has recognised, I have gone a considerable way to meet the wishes of your Lordships on this. I say the issue needed clarification because when we discussed this point in Committee last Monday, the matter became inextricably confused between whether offences of obstruction should be "ticketable" (if I may use such a horrid word) and whether traffic wardens should issue tickets for such offences. I believe a careful study of Hansard will prove my point that confusion arose.
163 The main point of difference between the noble Lord and myself in our discussion was a difference of assessment of the feelings of the Committee in this matter. The noble Lord, as he has stated, took the view that your Lordships were worried about obstruction being a ticket-able offence. I took the view, which I still hold, that the Committee were worried about traffic wardens giving tickets for the offence of obstruction; and that is the basis upon which I have rested my view. Certainly the majority of noble Lords who spoke voiced opinions on the traffic warden aspect, and expressed misgivings and concern upon that.
We believe that we shall be able to recruit wardens of good character and ability. At the same time, I can understand that your Lordships would probably prefer to see what kind of men we get before accepting that the power to issue tickets for offences of obstruction should be granted to them; and that we should first see how they get on in the use of the ticket system for the simpler type of parking offences. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, specifically asked for this to be done. He was supported by my noble friends, Lord Hawke and Lord Waleran. Therefore, when we come to Clause 2, I am proposing to move an Amendment which will state quite specifically that the first Order made by the Secretary of State under Clause 2 (3)—that is, the Order which will be subject only to Negative Resolution procedure—cannot prescribe for wardens the duty of issuing tickets for obstruction.
Under paragraph (b) of that subsection, when the Secretary of State decides (if he comes to that conclusion) that the time is ripe to make an Order permitting wardens to operate the ticket system, that Order becomes subject to the Affirmative Resolution of both Houses. That is exactly what was asked for. Your Lordships will therefore have ample opportunity to discuss the question properly before that provision comes into effect. Traffic wardens, therefore, are out of the consideration that we are now giving to this matter and I do not propose to mention them again. Until a later stage, when the House gives approval by Affirmative Resolution, they are not to operate the ticket system for offences of obstruction. We can, if necessary, discuss the Amendment further when we 164 reach it, but I make that point now so that your Lordships may be perfectly clear on the position.
We are left with the straight issue of whether or not the regular police are to use the ticket system for offences of obstruction. In fact, the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, as he has said, goes rather further than that. Its effect is to omit obstruction altogether from offences which are ticketable. In addition, as he has explained, it provides that the ticket system can be used for offences under specific regulations restricting parking only if the nature of those offences is stated in traffic signs or carriageway markings. If necessary, I will state later my objections to this aspect of his Amendment; but for the moment I want to deal entirely with the question of exclusion of obstruction from the list of ticketable offences.
I believe we should think for a moment about the functions of the Bill. One of its primary or major functions—in this part at any rate—is to get the streets cleared for smooth and safe circulation of traffic by means of effective and speeded-up enforcement of the existing laws about parking, waiting and so on. There is a secondary result which arises from all this: by the ticket system we lighten considerably the load on the police. Not only is it lightened by wardens, which is another matter, but there will be a considerable reduction in the administrative work of the police if they use tickets; and it is most important to bear that point in mind.
I want to assess what is the size of the problem. In the Metropolitan Police district obstruction accounts for over 50 per cent. of all the parking offences—the static offences, one might call them—which are dealt with by prosecution or by caution. I do not want to produce a lot of figures, but in 1958 there were, in round terms, 27.000 summonses issued for obstruction, as against 17.000 for all other parking and waiting offences put together. In 1959 it had gone up to 37,000 for obstruction, and parking and waiting offences had gone up to 20,000. So those figures, I think, prove what I say about the seriousness of the problem.
I appreciate that obstruction is distinguishable from the other offences, because it is not in the same sense self-evident. I agree there, and that is one 165 reason why I am going on to talk about the delayed start, and I shall be returning to what the noble Lord said about my earlier words. But, despite the question of bad blood and resentment, and so on, caused by obstruction, it is a fact, as I said before in Committee, that 90 per cent. of those charged with obstruction plead guilty by post and do not contest the matter in court. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on the Committee stage, said that the fact that this was so did not mean at all that they were confessing guilt but merely that they did not wish to hang about the court, or they wanted to take a cheap way out, or some reason like that. I myself thought that he was being over cynical, but he may possibly be to a certain extent right. It does not matter in this case whether he is right or whether he is not, because the offender remains in exactly the same position with the ticket system as he did before. What we are doing is speeding up the process of clearing the streets of obstruction and, as I said, reducing the load on the police, which is very desirable, as your Lordships have said on many occasions.
The noble Lord and critics of the clause as it stands have argued that a motorist ought not to be prosecuted for a parking offence unless it is made clear to him where he may park and where he may not; and since, also, there may be room for argument as to whether he has caused an obstruction or not, that the ticket system should not be used for it. This is, I think, in substance, a criticism more of the existing law relating to obstruction than of Clause 1. I know perfectly well that it is convenient and desirable for a motorist to know where he may park and where he must not; and we shall certainly try to make additional specific regulations wherever possible so that there is not room for doubt. But there is a practical limit to the extent to which specific regulations can be used.
It is perfectly easy and all right to make regulations in some circumstances—and, let us face it, it is widely done to-day. They are applicable certainly to main roads and to areas which are constantly liable to become congested, such as shopping centres and so on, but outside those areas one does not want to impose on the lighter-used streets and residential areas a lot of restrictions which will be quite unnecessary for a lot 166 of the time. In some areas and sonic streets parking may cause obstruction on only, maybe, Saturday afternoons, or, as my noble friend Lord Teviot pointed out, only at certain times of day—in the rush hour or something like that. Wherever we draw the perimeter of an area covered by specific regulations, there will always be another area beyond it in which obstruction may occur, and, if so, it can be serious and must be checked.
We want to introduce the ticket system for obstruction because we believe that it is necessary if there is going to be adequate enforcement. In the light of the figures for the prosecutions over the last two years, which I have just mentioned, and of what I said on the limits and extent to which we can physically make use of specific no-parking regulations, we shall have to continue to rely on enforcement of the law relating to obstruction to maintain the free flow of traffic, which is what everybody wants. I believe that we really need to retain the provision for the regular police to use the ticket system for obstruction when this system has proved its worth for the simpler types of parking offence.
I spoke on Second Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has drawn attention to what I said. I talked about self-evident offences and the desirability of using tickets only for them. I have to-day laid stress on the necessity for tickets for obstruction; but, at the same time, I recognise that, to begin with, it is better to keep to the self-evident offences. Later, when there is more experience of how the ticket system is 'working, offences of obstruction—tickets to be served, of course, by constables only—can be brought in. I do not think that there is anything very inconsistent between what I am suggesting now and what I said on Second Reading about introducing the system solely for the other offences and bringing obstruction in later on.
I should like to repeat to your Lordships the undertaking that I gave on the Committee stage, and I would, perhaps, even venture to remind your Lordships that undertakings of Ministers are not just lightly given; nor do they merit being lightly brushed aside. The undertaking I gave, and which I repeat, was that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, when he makes the first 167 Order extending Clause 1 to the metropolitan stipendiary courts area (which, in short, is London), will exclude the application of the clause to obstruction. This will mean that, at the beginning of the ticket system, neither constables nor wardens will be able to use it for obstruction. It will be possible, when we have experience of how the ticket system works, to empower constables to use it for obstruction, by an Order of the Secretary of State, which will be subject to Negative Resolution procedure. But my right honourable friend has no intention of doing so until the system has been given a thorough trial; and, in any event, the Order would be subject to annulment by either House.
May I finally summarise the joint effect of the Government Amendment to Clause 2 and the undertaking which I have given as to Clause 1? The position when the Bill came into force would be this: the ticket system would be available in the metropolitan stipendiary courts area—that is what we generally know as London—in respect of the offences mentioned in Clause 1, subsection (1), other than obstruction. Neither wardens nor constables would be able to issue tickets for obstruction, and drivers who committed the offence of obstruction would be dealt with as they are at present. If the ticket system is found, as we believe it will be found, to work well, my right honourable friend, by an Order subject to Negative Resolution procedure, could make it available, for use by constables only, for obstruction—and, as I have said, either House could pray against it.
I hope your Lordships will agree that the Amendment to Clause 2 which I have put down, together with the undertaking I have just repeated as clearly as I can, go a very considerable way to meet the points of view expressed on both sides of the House on Committee stage. If this compromise proves, as I hope it will prove, generally acceptable, I will invite the noble Lord not to press the Amendment which we are now considering. I have no desire to lengthen this debate any more, but if he did press it I should have to ask for permission to speak again in order to deal with the practical difficulties which this Amendment would create in respect of the offences other 168 than obstruction—that is, the "No waiting" and similar regulations. I think that what I have suggested is entirely reasonable and in accordance with the feeling of the House, and I believe that your Lordships will agree with my views on this Amendment.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords. I rise to support my noble friend Lord Chesham on this occasion, because I am on record as having disapproved very strongly of extending the powers of traffic wardens to deal with obstruction, and I want to make my position quite clear. I have objected to that; I do object to that, and I have little doubt that in the future, after this scheme has been tried out, I shall still object to traffic wardens dealing with cases of Obstruction. But what the Minister is asking in the case of police constables is, I believe, reasonable.
First, permission will not be given for the ticket system to be used by a constable for obstruction offences until the ticket system has been tried out. That, I think, is important. Secondly, it is quite obvious that, not only where obstruction is a very serious offence but even where it is a moderately serious offence, we who break the law, if we do it in that way, will not get a ticket. I should hope that, if I caused a serious case of obstruction, I would get a ticket, but I am afraid that I should be prosecuted. In the case of what we might almost call a technical obstruction, I think it will save the time of the police and of the motorist if tickets are given; and, if one has an objection to a ticket, one can do what I did on the only occasion on which I was "run in" for obstruction. I was annoyed because I thought that the charge was unreasonable, so I went to court; and got off. But if I had not thought it very unreasonable, I should willingly have accepted a ticket and, speaking for myself, should have been glad that I was not prosecuted.
I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with whom I agree on most of these matters, is putting the case a bit too high. I think this power should be given to the Minister. I do not believe that it will be unfair to the motorist. It will not only ease the burden of the police, but may 169 well ease the burden of the motorist. If I were summoned for obstruction today, I Should be a little doubtful whether I was wise not to go to court, whereas if I was given a ticket I should know I need not do so; and, if I had committed an offence of obstruction, I would prefer a ticket. I suggest, my Lords, that we ought to support the noble Lord, Lord Chestham, in this matter.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I am very glad to be able on this occasion to support my noble friend. I sometimes am afraid that he must wonder whether I am not becoming a persistent renegade. I hesitate to question the view of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with his tremendous road experience, but he must remember two things. First of all, a constable is not forced to give a ticket. Subsection (2), as he will see, merely says that he "may give him the prescribed notice". Therefore, if he finds a very severe case which he considers worthy of a much higher fine, he need not give a ticket. Secondly, of course, there is the fact, as my noble friend Lord Chesham said, that this really is not doing anything at all to alter the law except to save a lot of paper work for the police, for which I am sure they, and we, should be most grateful.
As the law stands at present, a constable can always use his own judgment as to whether or not a car is causing obstruction. He has to do so, of course; and whether he decides to issue a ticket or whether he decides to prosecute does not seem to me to make much difference. So far as the ticket is concerned, it will be accepted, of course, only by those who, as my noble friend Lord Derwent has just said, are quite convinced that they are guilty. It will be very easy for them just to pay the standard fine. If they are convinced that they are innocent, then under the ticket system they will still be perfectly free to go to court and contest their case. So I cannot honestly see that this is going to do very much harm, and. I personally support the argument nut forward by my noble friend Lord Chesham.
I also should like to support my noble friend. The first point we have to keep well in mind is that this Bill is not only to keep the traffic moving but also to keep the police moving, if I may put it in that way—to 170 keep them on the beat, rather than standing around, having to watch carefully every car that stops, wherever it may be. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said that some of these cases of obstruction may be so serious that they might even warrant imprisonment. In that case, we must remember that the regular police, if I may so call them, are trained to decide in their own minds between what are serious cases and what are not serious cases. Of course, in a serious case they would not give a ticket but would prosecute in the normal way. I feel convinced that this system, when eventually it has proved itself, should be given to the regular police, just as much as I feel convinced that it should not be given to the wardens who, after all, will not be so carefully trained as the police. I support most strongly my noble friend Lord Chesham in this matter.
My Lords, I feel sure that the Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, ought to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. So far as I am concerned, it goes further than I should like to see it go. I greatly believe in and welcome the wardens, for I believe that, under any terms of pay or conditions of service, there is no chance that sufficient young men will be forthcoming to be recruited into the police for this particular job.
If there is going to be no ticketing by police or wardens, there seem to me to be only two alternatives. One is to cover every road in the country with signs as parking or non-parking areas. Incidentally, that would greatly reduce the parking areas, and would lead to great complication over occasional congestion and loading and unloading. The second is, as at present, to limit the number of prosecutions for obstruction according to the ability of the police to spare the time to appear in court to deal with them. The first of these alternatives seems most unwise and the second would completely hamstring the Bill. And I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, wishes to hamstring this Bill. I would entrust to the wardens the leaving of tickets for obstruction, but I understand the reluctance to do so, and I think that it would be right to wait until there has been more experience of the system. But I believe that it is vital to give this power to the 171 policeman very soon, because the Bill is going to be useless until the police get it. I hope that there may be some loophole by which, if the traffic wardens appear satisfactory in every other respect, this power can be extended to them in due course.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I should like to support what the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said, and say that I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. I deplore the fact that wardens will not be granted power to give tickets for obstruction, although I agree that they should be given that power only after it has been given to the police. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, I regret that the police will not be empowered to give tickets for obstruction. I think that it has been proved in a number of countries over the last 30 years that the ticket system is indispensable in regulating parking and the flow of traffic. There is one aspect of the system which I should like to mention, because it may go a little way to please the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with regard to his Amendment concerning obstruction. I have a copy of an ordinance of a city in Kentucky which provides for the impounding of vehicles parked in violation of the law. Under this, the offence of obstruction can be committed only if a vehicle is unoccupied. This is Commercial Ordinance No. 25 of 1957, passed on May 25, 1957. It says:Any vehicle parked upon the streets of the city at a place, in a manner and for a length of time prohibited by this ordinance is, if unoccupied, declared to be an obstruction on such streets and a public nuisance.If your Lordships do not wish to accept the noble Lord's Amendment, I wonder whether the Government would consider amending the Bill in such a manner that obstruction would take place only if a vehicle was unoccupied. In other words, a police officer could not give a ticket for obstruction if a vehicle was occupied. Perhaps the noble Lord would look into this point and deal with it at a later date.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I have listened carefully to the arguments on this Amendment, as I listened to a similar discussion on Committee stage. While not having anything like the 172 detailed knowledge of the Bill of the noble Lord in charge of it, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, I am not at all sure that the suggestion now made by the Minister is not to some extent going to defeat the object of the Bill. As I understand it, the noble Lords. Lord Chesham and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, are using obstruction in a technical sense, as something that can be punished under a definition in another Act, not in this Bill. It is difficult to see how anybody who is loading or unloading a vehicle in a road, unless it is a cul-de-sac, can be guilty of anything but obstruction. If a man is unloading a 3-ton vehicle, he must be obstructing the road. As I understand it, that is a purely technical offence. I think that it is going to cause a great deal of difficulty to those who have to interpret this Statute. Could it not be made more clear? I leave this, for the moment, merely warning the Government that it is going to cause a lot of "headaches" to magistrates and others, if they have to interpret this without any interpretation in the Bill.
My second point is more important. The Government have produced this Bill in order to keep the traffic flowing, and are introducing the system of tickets and wardens for this purpose. If a warden feels that a more serious offence than mere waiting is being committed, then there is an element of obstruction in it. Why cannot he give a ticket? I think that the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is right on this point. We are going to have the extraordinary position that a person who waits in a road for a short space of time and who does not technically commit an obstruction will immediately have a ticket presented to him by a warden and will be fined automatically, whereas a man who commits a serious obstruction—unless a policeman happens to come along (and there are many areas where it takes a long time for a policeman to come along, particularly when you want him), sees the obstruction and makes a case—is going to get away with it altogether. There will be no case because the warden cannot give the man a ticket for obstruction. The warden will either have to wait until a policeman happens to come along or he will have to give the motorist a ticket for something that is not technically obstruction.
173 Would it not be better to deal with this matter in a reasonable way? We have set up this system of wardens. Let them act and give tickets for any of the offences that are mentioned in the Bill. If a person who has been given a ticket thinks it should not have been presented to him, he has his right under the Bill to take the case before the court and have it tried there. What do we risk? If we accept the Government's proposal, we hamstring the Bill. These wardens will be so frightened that it may be a question of obstruction that in borderline cases they will be afraid to give a ticket at all; or, if they give a ticket in cases where it is really obstruction, the man will be getting away with a minor offence when he ought to be charged with a more serious one.
What do we risk if we allow the wardens to do as they should do under the Bill? All we shall risk is that someone who is not going to bother to take the proceedings open to him under the Bill may be charged with obstruction—and he may have committed obstruction—merely on the ticket of the warden and not of a police officer. I feel, in those circumstances, that if we want to keep the streets free and to keep the traffic flowing we should take the bull by the horns and give the power to the wardens straight away, and not wait for an undisclosed period. That will avoid chaos; it will avoid unfairness and it will enable the Bill straight away to be brought into effect, as I believe it ought to be.
§ LORD SPENS
My Lords, I have listened to all the discussions on this Bill on all its stages, and had I still been in another place as the representative for South Kensington I should undoubtedly have taken a very active part. I cannot let the Bill pass, and particularly this Amendment, without saying a word or two on it, particularly in regard to that part of the Metropolitan Area. The Bill creates no new offences whatsoever. The situation at present is that anybody who obstructs a road—and there are hundreds, if not thousands, who do so every day in Kensington—can be dealt with only by a police constable, who has either to give him a warning there and then or to summon him. Obstruction is a matter of opinion, but in many cases it is a quite obvious and patent offence. In a number of cases it is an offence 174 which the accused very often denies, and he thinks fit to go to court. But as the situation is at present, if the police want to take action in respect of a patent offence they have to go through all the procedure of issuing a summons to a person. I have not been guilty of the offence of obstruction; and on the two occasions when I have been summoned, the summons only reached me weeks after the offence was committed. My convenience was not consulted, of course, as to the day on which the case should be heard, and I was one of the many people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, referred on the Committee stage who preferred to send a letter and accept the fine (which was I think £2 on each occasion) rather than go to court.
It seems to me that the object of the Bill is to get rid of obstruction on the highways so as to keep the traffic flowing. I can only tell your Lordships that although after the Cromwell Road was broadened and opened the traffic flowed, and still flows, well, one still finds constantly that there is obstruction where there are bottlenecks—obstruction which does most serious damage and is a patent offence. I cannot believe that it is not highly desirable that the police should be given as soon as possible the right to give tickets in cases which are obvious cases of obstruction. While I absolutely support everything the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has said, my only hope is that the present system will come to an end fairly soon; that the police will be allowed to apply the ticket system, which I am sure they will only do in obvious cases—I think that will make an enormous difference to the flow of traffic—and that in due course trained wardens may be given the same powers. Only in that way, I believe, will the object of the Bill be achieved.
§ LORD CITRINE
My Lords, like a good many other members of the Committee I have been impressed by the reasonableness of the case put by the noble Lord in charge of the Bill; and like everybody else, I suppose I am a motorist who has some concern for the position of the other motorists who may be charged with an offence. While the discussion has been going on I have been exercising my mind as to where the balance of advantage lies in securing that 175 the motorist will not be improperly fined, or even imprisoned, for an offence which he is alleged to have committed. I think, in the first instance, there can be no argument at this stage, at all events, against the warden system as a system. First of all, it is in operation in quite a number of countries. I have seen it in operation in New Zealand where, upon an inquiry, I was quite satisfied that the system operated fairly. It is not at this stage a matter of argument as to whether the system ought or ought not to be introduced in this country. The real point of argument is: what are the offences for which this system can be used?—and that is the point in front of us now.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, feels strongly that obstruction should be kept out, and, in passing, I think we must all be impressed by his vigilance and his desire to see that the dice is not loaded against the motorist or that offences are committed in ignorance of what the regulations or the law may provide. The Minister has said in substance, that for a time obstruction will be eliminated from the offences on which prosecution can take place. That is what I understood him to say—I hope that I am right.
§ LORD CITRINE
I am referring, of course, to the ticket system. Obstruction remains an offence under the law and the offender can be proceeded against, as at present, by prosecution; that is quite clear. I was really addressing my remarks entirely to the option of issuing a ticket to the alleged offender in a case of obstruction. At the present time the motorist has no alternative at all; he has to go to court whether he likes it or not—or, at any rate, he has to go to court unless he likes to send a letter and plead guilty, which is not usually the best course for a man who feels that he is not guilty of the offence to adopt.
The reason why so much emphasis has been put by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on this point, as I understand it, is that obstruction is one of the arguable cases. A constable may allege that obstruction has been created, and 176 the motorist may feel strongly that it has not, and may prefer to go to court. I cannot see that that position is altered very much. If the ticket system is in operation, the constable, if he feels so disposed, can offer a ticket to the alleged offender; and if the offender feels that he is not guilty he will do the obvious thing and say: No fear! I will go to `court and argue this thing through." There, so far as I see it, is the first safeguard. Surely we all recognise that, on the balance of what I would call administrative convenience, there should be an alternative given to the motorist, apart altogether from the question of the administrative burden on the police. It is the fact, too, that probably in the realm of motoring offences more bad blood is created between the police and the public; and that factor, also, would be abated, in my opinion, by the incorporation of this ticket system.
But there still remains the point as to whether it should be exercised for the offence of obstruction. If there is a period allowed by which first the working of the ticket system is permitted, with the temporary exclusion of obstruction as one of the offences, we shall get a chance to see how the whole thing is going.
If it is thought that obstruction should be introduced into the ticket system, then, as I understand it, regulations will come before this House. That is right, is it not—a regulation will be brought to this House if it is proposed to introduce obstruction into the ticket system? Surely that is what the noble Lord has said.
§ LORD CITRINE
That is to say, we say "No" to it. But it comes before us, and we can argue the merits of it. Surely that is right?
§ LORD CITRINE
I am not sure of the degree of piety which my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has, but I feel sure that he would be one of those to make a Prayer if he thought that the introduction was wrong.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, may I ask whether this is new procedure; because in the past the Labour Party have never prayed in this way, so far as I am aware.
§ LORD CITRINE
I do not know whether one prays or not. That is a matter for individual conscience. I do not suppose there is any Party discipline imposed.
§ LORD OGMORE
But there is, and there always has been. I am asking whether the noble Lord is telling the House that the Labour Party are going to have a new procedure.
§ LORD CITRINE
What the noble Lord is telling the House is that he will speak freely on those matters where he thinks the merits of the case justify it. I think the safeguards are reasonable, and I see no personal objection to the view which has been put forward by the Minister regarding those safeguards.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, if you will not think I am being disrespectful, may I say that I think that this debate has taken one of the most amusing turns that I have ever experienced in your Lordships' House. I will tell your Lordships why. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, for his most lucid explanation. If he will not think me impertinent, I congratulate him, because it is the first time I have really understood what the Government view was. But in that explanation, and telling us what the Minister or the Home Secretary intend to do in future, there is not one word of what is set out in this Bill. This is the amusing part. If the noble Lord's right honourable friends bring regulations to this House in the form I anticipate, you will find me taking the 'advice of my noble friend and praying against them, because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that it is just—if I can use a vulgarism which I hope your Lordships will not mind—kicking the "guts" out of this Bill.
I have been labouring under a great difficulty. I must say this with respect. If Government spokesmen in another place had not been bending over backwards to assure everybody that they were not really going to do anything very terrible, and that this was only for very minor offences—and even the noble 178 Lord himself used language like that—I should not have taken all the trouble I have, because all I want to do is to try to interpret what the Government want to do. I do not want to cut down punishment for obstruction by the smallest extent. Obstruction is one of the biggest curses we have on the roads of this country. But, as I have tried to point out, obstruction is an arguable thing. I have always been taught that one of the basic principles of British justice is that the punishment should fit the crime. It has been blown out of the window by the ticket system. The noble Lord can contradict me when I am finished. If I leave my car for five minutes while I go into a shop, I can get a ticket for obstruction. It is the only ticket I can have outside a signed area. If I leave my car in a dangerous position which might put the life and limb of a pedestrian in danger, I can get a ticket for £2. The noble Lord himself said that a policeman can give me a ticket, and that one of the objects of this Bill is to save the policeman's time and paper work. The policeman can give me a ticket, and that is supposed to save a lot of time. I should think that that would be the natural inclination of the police.
It will be, if they take the views noble Lords have expressed, because this is where I 'have been able to understand what the noble Lord has been driving at. Would he tell me whether I am right, because I think this is in essence what he said? I will use my own words. The interpretation of "waiting, parking, being left, loading and unloading" is embodied in the Road Traffic Act, 1960. No motorist can be convicted of any of those crimes (I will call them) if he commits them outside a signed area. So the only alternative the police have is to bring a prosecution for obstruction for any one of those offences outside a signed area. The noble Lord said that, in effect, and I understand it, and I do not know that I disagree with it. Because you cannot or will not designate where a man cannot park his car to the satisfaction of the Act, it is necessary to have obstruction under the ticket system 179 in this Bill. Put like that, I do not know that I disagree.
But do not let us delude ourselves that in agreeing to this Bill we are carrying out what the noble Lord and his ministerial colleagues have said. Some of these offences need not be trivial offences. I maintain that we are making such a departure from recognised practice of having standard fines to fit any type of road offence—parking, waiting, obstruction and anything else—that experience will teach us that we are making a mistake. I am not going to labour this matter any longer. I am rather amused by the lack of support I have had on this stage of the proceedings, when I was overwhelmed with support on the other stage. And the Amendment is precisely the same. But noble Lords opposite have a habit of changing their minds—I do not blame them for it; they are at perfect liberty to do so—
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? What impressed me was this question of traffic wardens being taken out by a later Amendment. It certainly altered my view.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I just do not agree with the noble Lord. Many noble Lords argued the case against obstruction being a ticketable offence. One of the difficulties in which the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, and the Minister of Transport find themselves is that although you have hundreds and thousands of "No waiting", "No parking", "No loading or unloading" signs you have never yet seen a sign "No obstruction". That is the basic difficulty, and that is why I agree, after listening attentively to the noble Lord, that you must have the power of ticketing for obstruction, because if you did not you would be so hamstrung that you would not be able to do a thing outside a signed area. My intrepretation is correct is it not? If that had been said first of all, it would have saved us a lot of time. At the start of the scheme all that is going away, so what the wardens will do with their tickets and what the police will do with their tickets remains to be seen.
180 However, it has been most interesting. I think that for the first time since I have been in this House the traffic law of this country as it affects these offences of parking has, if I may be allowed to say so, been intelligently discussed, and it is far clearer now to everybody what is the law and what is not the law. I shall now reserve any fire that I have left on this matter for the regulations when the noble Lord brings them forward. I want him to consider one thing, if he will. The London regulations will be by the Negative Resolution procedure. If the regulations are extended outside London they would have to be by the Affirmative Resolution procedure, and even relating to London after October 1 they have also to be by the Affirmative Resolution procedure.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am not completely following the noble Lord. Is he talking about obstruction now as a ticketable offence, or wardens; because they are different?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am talking about both. The Minister does not have to make an Order, now that obstruction will be taken out of this Bill for a temporary time; he simply does not make an Order to bring it in. He can do that in both ways, for any area and any type of offence. He can make that Order in any area in London and for any one of these offences. The proviso to subsection (1) of Clause 1 says:Provided that this section shall extend only to such areas as the Secretary of State may by order specify, and he may by order exclude the application of this section to any offence.Subsection (11) says:The power of the Secretary of State to make orders or regulations under this section shall be exercisable by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.That is the Negative Resolution procedure. I am quite agreeable to the original idea that up to October 1 he should have powers to proceed in the Negative Resolution way. But if the Minister can vastly extend what these Orders can contain, I think the noble Lord should give consideration to that point between now and the next stage.
181 The Minister by Order can really rule out the whole operation of this Bill as regards Clause 1. I rather thought that the list of things which the Minister is not going to do had that effect. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps when I read in Hansard what the noble Lord said, I shall find it is different. The noble Lord might give consideration to that point, as to whether it does not alter the outlook as regards the Negative Resolution procedure. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have been patient enough and willing enough to take part in this discussion, and with those remarks I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.26 p.m.
LORD CHESHAM moved, in subsection (2), to leave out all words after "offering" and to insert instead:
the opportunity of the discharge of any liability to conviction of that offence by payment of a fixed penalty under this section; and no person shall then be liable to be convicted of that offence if the fixed penalty is paid in accordance with this section before the expiration of the twenty-one clays following the date of the notice or such longer period (if any) as may be specified therein or before the date on which proceedings are begun, whichever event last occurs.
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 is a rather lengthy re-draft, which I move because the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, expressed himself at the Committee stage as not being particularly satisfied with the wording of the Bill at that particular point with regard to the question of the option which is referred to as being offered to a motorist if he receives a ticket. No doubt, I should think that in the overwhelming majority of cases, if the fixed penalty is not paid proceedings will be taken; and for practical purposes, therefore, I suppose one could say that the choice before the driver is to pay or be prosecuted. But the Bill does not commit the police to prosecute regardless of the circumstances, and there may be exceptional cases in which, after they have inquired into them, they will decide not to prosecute. Therefore, a more accurate description of the choice offered to the driver is that he might pay and so avoid any possibility of prosecution and conviction or he might do nothing and 182 run the risk of proceedings being taken against him if the police think fit.
§ In the clause as drafted "option" was the word used in order to make it quite clear that the person liable was not bound to pay the fixed penalty unless he wished. It is arguable—the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth and the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, made the point in Committee—that the word "option" is not entirely appropriate here. More precisely what is offered is the opportunity to compound, or perhaps in more explicit words to discharge, the liability to be convicted of the offence by payment of a fixed penalty, and this is what the Amendment does. It is a more precise statement of what the effect is than what was in the previous draft. The liability to conviction which would have been discharged by payment remains if there is no payment. But it is a liability and not a certainty. I hope that this makes it clear to the satisfaction of noble Lords who wanted it in this way. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 9, leave out from ("offering") to end of line 13, and insert the said new words. —(Lord Chesham.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
Once again, I express my thanks to the noble Lord for meeting the point I made. He has put in "offering" because I objected to "option". That, I think, is much better and it sets the point out concisely. I think it is a better Amendment than the next one, which is in my name, and I would accept it and advise the House to accept it; and when we come to the next Amendment I shall not move it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, the next four Amendments in my name, Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9, are all drafting Amendments made necessary in consequence of the acceptance of Amendment No. 4. I beg to move Amendment No. 6.
Page 2, line 18, leave out from ("may") to end of line 19 and insert ("have been specified therein").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.183
Page 2, line 38, leave out ("of the option given by the notice") and insert ("during which, by virtue of subsection (3) of this section, proceedings will not be taken for the offence").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 3, line 36, at end, insert—
("(b) In subsection (2) the words 'before the expiration of the twenty-one days following the date of the notice or such longer period (if any) as may be specified therein or' and the words whichever event last occurs' shall be omitted.").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 3, line 38, at end insert ("and for the words 'have been' there shall be substituted the word be'.").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Traffic Wardens]:
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH had given notice of his intention to move, in subsection (1), to leave out "control and regulation of road traffic or with the enforcement of the law relating to road traffic" and insert:
enforcement of parking regulations other than the enforcement of regulations relating to obstruction of the highway".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise only to say that I do not intend to move this Amendment, because I prefer the wording of Amendment No. 11 which is to be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham. I think he will say that he has drafted that Amendment and put it down to meet the point I made. So, with your Lordships' permission, I will not move this Amendment.
LORD CHESHAM moved, in subsection (3) (a), after "sixty" to insert:
, not being an order authorising the employment of a traffic warden for the purposes of section one of this Act in so far as it relates to a vehicle's obstructing a road,".
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 11 is the one to which 184 I referred and which I undertook to put down in view of what appeared to me to be the desire of the House, whereby traffic wardens will not be able to operate the ticket system until such time as approval is given for them to do so by Affirmative Resolution in both Houses. Probably I need not go into this matter at any length. I think we have said quite a bit about it. I think it will come sooner; other noble Lords think it will come later; but we will deal with that when we come to it.
§ There is just one point which was raised by my noble friend Lord Derwent privately with me—namely, that as Orders are sometimes laid in batches, so to speak, it would be rather difficult to give one Order proper consideration. There would be no desire to throw it out—assuming noble Lords felt like doing that—if it was mixed up with a number of others that they wished to keep. My noble friend asked whether it would be possible for my right honourable friend to give an undertaking that such an Order would be laid singly. It is well known, I think, that no Government can bind its successors, but I am happy to give the undertaking on behalf of the present Government that such an Order will be moved singly. I do not think there is much more I need say. The noble Lord opposite has kindly said that he approves the wording of the Amendment, which I think does what your Lordships desired. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 32, after ("sixty") insert the said words.—(Lord Chesham.)
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for the undertaking that has been given on behalf of the present Government. Now that it is on the record I think it may well last for future Governments. I am grateful that this has been taken into the Affirmative Resolution procedure. There is always a little difficulty when one cannot turn out part of an Order and keep the rest. For the undertaking that has been given, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend.
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question before we part with this Amendment? I am probably being stupid, but I understood him to say, when dealing with the previous 185 Amendment, that the power to extend to wardens the ticket system for obstruction had been dropped out of the Bill in some way; yet here he is moving this Amendment, in which he seemed to refer to an Affirmative Resolution system in regard to that matter. Can he make quite clear, whether or not under this Bill it will be possible later to extend the power of wardens to give tickets for obstruction?
§ LORD CHESHAM
Yes, my Lords; it definitely will. I think I must have chosen my words badly if I gave my noble friend the wrong impression. What I intended to convey was that the use by wardens of tickets for obstruction was removed from our consideration of the offence of obstruction this afternoon. I did not say the power had been removed from the Bill, because indeed it has not. The power is there all right, subject to Affirmative Resolution.
§ VISCOUNT BRENTFORD
My Lords, may I add my word of appreciation to the Minister for having met this point, upon which I am afraid I was rather outspoken the other day. I still should have preferred not to have obstruction included in the Bill at all; but one recognises that the Government have their difficulties in getting legislation through, and I personally feel that the assurances which we have received as to the limits within which this power may be introduced are adequate protection. I personally think that it never will be introduced; but we shall live to see that result.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 12:
§ 12, In subsection (4) of section twenty-six of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, the words "if the restriction does not prevent loading or unloading for more than six hours in all in any consecutive period of twenty-four hours" shall cease lo have effect.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT moved to leave out Clause 12. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I owe an apology to the House, in that I did not resist this new clause, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth on the Com- 186 mittee stage. Through no fault of my own, I was not able to be in the Chamber. Had I been here at that moment, I should not, however, have resisted it, because I am in sympathy with the aims behind it. But I think it goes a lot further than the noble Lord anticipated. I did not realise at the time the implications of what has happened, and I must say that, reading my OFFICIAL REPORT I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth was extremely surprised himself that it was accepted in that form straight away by Her Majesty's Government.
§ Clause 12 purports to alter a section of the Road Traffic Act, 1960. That Act was a Consolidation Act. I would ask your Lordships to throw your minds back to the Act which brought in the subject with which this section deals, which was the Road Traffic Act, 1956. Those of your Lordships who took part in it will remember that in the debate on that Bill in both Houses, two points came very much to the front—I am stating the points broadly. One was that reasonable access should be given to all premises. That point was much debated, and was agreed to by Parliament. There was the other side; that where a local authority produced regulations and an order for limiting loading and unloading, parking, or whatever it might be, in relation to the question of access there should not be unreasonable objection to the order of the local authority and/or the Minister. It was a question of adjusting the two sides so as to get a reasonable compromise; and in the London area, of course, the Minister has very much wider powers than the local authorities have in other areas.
As a method of compromise, in that Act—and it was repeated in Section 26 (4) of the Road Traffic Act. 1960 (the Consolidation Act)—two things were decided by this particular subsection (4). The subsection is in two parts. The first part says that:
Subject to the next following subsection… no order shall be made under this section with respect to any road which would have the effect of preventing such access as may be reasonably required for vehicles of any class…
Parliament insisted on that: there was much debate, and it was decided that there must be reasonable access. Dealing with the other side of the question, the
second part of the subsection, which was quite distinct, said:
but for the purposes of this prohibition a restriction on the loading or unloading of goods"—
and it deals only with that aspect—
shall in no circumstances be treated as preventing such access as may be reasonably required if the restriction does not prevent loading or unloading for more than six hours in all in any consecutive period of twenty-four hours.
The second part of this subsection (4):
if the restriction does not prevent loading or unloading
is part of the second part of this subsection, because the words:
for the purposes of this prohibition a restriction on the loading or unloading of goods shall in no circumstances be treated …
mean nothing apart from the proviso.
I think I know why the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and Her Majesty's Government wished to cut out those words:
if the restriction does not prevent loading or unloading for more than six hours in all
and so on; and I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Chesham and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that that provision has not worked satisfactorily. In London, where the Minister has powers, it will be found that the most successful of his regulations regarding loading and unloading have been those forbidding loading and unloading within very short distances in particular streets—perhaps a distance of 25 yards at the corner of a street leading into, say, Oxford Street or something of that kind. Nearly all the regulations imposed by the Minister have been on a length basis. Under the Acts of 1956 and 1960 a local authority outside the London area cannot do that. They can work only on the time basis. Although he did not say so, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, probably had that in mind; and I am certain that local authorities ought to have those powers.
As amended by this new Clause 12, the original section does not make sense. It reads:
Subject to the next following subsection no order shall be made under this section with respect to any road which would have the effect of preventing such access as may be reasonably required for vehicles of any class "—
that is clear; and it goes on:
but for the purposes of this prohibition a restriction on the loading or unloading of goods shall in no circumstances be treated as preventing such access as may be reasonably required ".
What, in fact, that now means, if it means anything at all, is that when a local authority come to make orders as to loading and unloading they need not take access into account at all. That is not what the basic Act said or meant. One has only to read the debates to see that. Clearly, in my view, Her Majesty's Government ought to put into the Bill an amendment giving local authorities the powers they want those authorities to have, but preserving the right of access, which is reasonable, and which is taken away by this new Clause 12.
§ When this point was originally debated in both Houses, in 1956, it was often stated that it could happen, and in certain matters does happen, that regulations and orders are made by a local authority (not by most local authorities but by some, occasionally) which are based not on the public interest but on local politics. It has always been argued, and it may be argued by my noble friend Lord Chesham this afternoon: "Ah! but should that happen?" There is first the public inquiry, which in this case is held under the orders of the local authority and by the local authority. The public inquiry is held, and the local authority are the jury and the judge. They would almost certainly maintain their original order, and this would go into force.
I am sure my noble friend will say, because it has been said by every Minister: "But there is power of appeal to the Minister if the local authority have acted unreasonably." I am not a lawyer, but I am advised that if this Clause 12 is included in its present form the Minister will not have the power of review. There will be power of appeal to the Minister but he will be legally bound by the Statute which says:
for the purposes of this prohibition a restriction on the loading or unloading of goods shall in no circumstances be treated as preventing such access as may be reasonably required.
That is not what the original Act says, because there is the proviso. But if the
new clause goes in, the Minister will not have the power because the Statute says he must not take loading and unloading into account; and therefore the appeal to the Minister in practice is, or may be, of no effect.
§ I am not going to press this Amendment or divide the House on it to-day, for it was only on the Committee stage that the Government accepted this clause; but I feel that it should be looked at again, for it makes nonsense. What is more—and this is more important than anything—I am advised that if a local authority are unreasonable and play local polities, and the appeal to the Minister is on a ground of loading or unloading, the Minister, in fact, will have no legal power to alter the decision of the local authority. I may be put right about that, but that is what my legal advisers now advise me.
§ I would therefore ask Her Majesty's Government to do one of two things. First, I would ask them to have a look at this Clause again before Third Reading, to see if they can think of a form of words to be put in as an Amendment on the next stage, giving local authorities the power they want them to have but covering also reasonable right of access; because at the moment that is not covered in either the 1960 or the 1957 Acts. If Her Majesty's Government cannot find the words to do so—if that is too complicated—then I suggest that Clause 12 should be taken out by the Government, as I am not pressing this, and that on Third Reading an entirely new clause should be drafted to be tacked on to a Road Safety Bill—for it is part of road safety—which we understand the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Transport is to introduce in the autumn. But I should much prefer to see a proper Amendment put down by Her Majesty's Government on the Order Paper for the Third Reading. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 12.—(Lord Derwent.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord and the House that all these considerations were in my mind when I moved that Amendment. My advice is some- 190 what different from the noble Lord's. I have been advised by draftsmen that it is not nonsense; it is only a way to make sense. I think that the noble Lord is worried about two things: first of all, that local authorities who have this power may play politics. The only politics, in my experience, that local authorities have played in this context is in the direct opposite way to that which the noble Lord fears.
We have spent a long time this afternoon talking about the congestion on the roads of this country. The Minister himself said in a speech, not more than a week or so ago, that from a survey that had been made by the Ministry they realised for the first time what a grave contribution to the congestion of our roads was made by this indiscriminate allowance for loading and unloading of goods-carrying vehicles. I should not mind if it were only the loading and unloading; but, although the loading and unloading takes about five minutes, the vehicle is left standing on the highway all day. That is what happens. There is no greater factor in road congestion than these vehicles which are left standing. I think I cited in 1956 the case that The High, Oxford, is an eight-carriageway road in some parts; in others, it is a four-carriageway; and, in effect, it is never more than a two-carriageway because of the vehicles that are lining both sides.
There is another factor that weighs with me. Let us sometimes, instead of looking at vested interests, look at the pedestrian and the common citizen. Thirty per cent. of the casualties to pedestrians that happen to-day in the towns of our country are caused because when they cross the road their vision is obscured by parked vehicles and waiting motor cars. Let us look at that. As I have said when I moved the Amendment, if we are going to cure the congestion on the roads of this country, everybody must give something—the shopkeeper, and even the vested interests of the Road Haulage Association and people like that. We must all give something. If everyone is going to fight to protect his narrow vested interests we shall never cure this problem.
I am quite satisfied that experience since 1956 has proved conclusively—and 191 the noble Lord admitted it—that the present provision of six hours is a farce. The strange thing about it is that no voice has ever been raised against the Minister's having dictatorial powers over the entire London Traffic Area, without consulting anybody if he does not want to. He does not use them. I never envisaged a situation in which a local authority would ban all this—as I saw in a statement given to the Press by one of the haulage associations—and set up a dictatorship by a local authority. The Minister has been "dictator" for years and years on this matter, but has used his powers, I should say, with wisdom. He may have to be far more stern in the future.
The Minister has now overriding power. I can go hack to the arguments we had on this question in 1956, and my recollection—I may be wrong—is that there can be an appeal by any local authority; there can be a public inquiry, if necessary, and there can be an appeal to the Minister. If the noble Lord tells me that the Minister has not an overriding authority, then I should like to see him have one; because, perhaps, while the noble Lord and I share a dislike of, or lack of love and affection for, local authorities, they are a part of the system of this country, and while we have them I suppose they will have to be made use of. The Minister has said that one of the purposes of this Bill is to put all these responsibilities on the local authority.
I ask the Government not to accept this Amendment: I ask them not to delete this clause from the Bill. I ask them not to accept any suggestion of waiting for a Road Safety Bill. This is not a road safety measure; this is a traffic organisation measure: the Road Traffic and Roads Improvement Bill. It will have a marked effect on road safety. But I would beg the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who I always think presents his case with great fairness, to let us look at the whole picture of what has got to happen. Noble Lords on that side say, "We must clear the streets of these waiting vehicles. We must get rid of obstruction". Here is a glorious chance of doing it in a proper and orderly manner, and I hope that the noble Lord will not accept this Amendment.
§ LORD SPENS
My Lords, I have been asked, on behalf of the large dairy organisations, to express their anxiety as to the effect of this clause as now amended on their right to deliver large supplies of milk. I am all in favour of getting rid of the six-hours arrangement under the existing clause; it does not work and I think it is absolutely hopeless. But, at the same time, I am very puzzled by the fact that the words struck out of Section 26 (4) of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, are the words:…if the restriction does not prevent loading or unloading for more than six hours in all in any consecutive period of 24 hours";and there are left in the words immediately before, which are:…but for the purposes of this prohibition a restriction on the loading or unloading of goods shall in no circumstances be treated as preventing such access as may be reasonably required".I should have thought that if the clause had been amended by striking out everything in the second part of the clause, beginning with the phrase, "but for the purposes of this prohibition…", then everyone would be entitled to such reasonable access as a local authority thought fit to give them. I suggest that the whole of the second part of the section should go as well as the words struck out as the clause now stands.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I find myself in a slightly odd position on this subject. I think one must look at this matter as one faces it in the light of a situation which is considerably different from the situation five years ago, when, in fact, these provisions were considered. I do not think it is necessary or desirable for me to go carefully again through the argument of con, produced by my noble friend Lord Derwent, or the pro (perhaps I have them the wrong way round, but it does not matter) produced by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. They have both been very carefully adduced and I do not think there is any need for me to say much about either argument. For reasons which will be obvious, I agree with, and accept, the majority of the arguments advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on the Committee stage. The Government are certainly not anxious to oppose any extension of local authorities' powers in this particular field, where they show 193 every promise of being extremely useful in contributing to successful traffic schemes.
Equally, however, my Lords, we are anxious to safeguard the legitimate interest of commercial vehicle operators. Therefore, I think I should look at it in this way. I do not think I can do either of the things that my noble friend Lord Derwent has asked me to do. I think that, however long we look, it will be virtually impossible to find a form of words which will do what he asks. Nor do I feel particularly keen about excluding the clause and considering the matter later. I think the best way to approach it is perhaps through the powers of the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was not specifically correct in saying that there was an appeal to the Minister, because in fact there is not one on this matter; but, if I may tackle it from that angle and say a word about the existing position, it might solve the difficulty.
Under Section 27, subsection (3), of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, the Minister has powers, after giving notice to the local authority and holding, if he thinks fit, a public inquiry, to amend, or revoke any order made by a local authority. The snag about that is that the Minister is not in a position to prevent the local authority from making a particular order. If a mischief, so to speak, is created by such an order, he can undo it only after it has been done, and it must necessarily be some time before he knows what has happened and can give the necessary notice and make the amending order. But under Section 29 of the Road Traffic Act, the Minister has power to make regulations which prescribe the procedure to be followed by local authorities when they make traffic regulation orders under Section 26. The regulations which the Minister made in 1957 already say that a local authority shall cause a public inquiry to be held in any case where an order contains a provision for a loading ban, and where there is an unresolved objection. That is the position as at present. The noble Lord said that the local authority was judge and jury in its own case. It does not, I think, work like that.
§ LORD DERWENT
I do not want to interrupt my noble friend unnecessarily, but he says that at the moment the 194 Minister has not got power to review; but in fact he has, after a public inquiry. That, surely, is correct. I thought that was what my noble friend had just said. There may be a time lag before the order is enforced, I quite understand, but he can overrule it, surely.
§ LORD CHESHAM
Yes, at present he can do it. He can overrule it after giving notice to the local authority and after holding a public inquiry, if he thinks fit. He can then do it. But I went on to describe his power under the procedure regulations, intending to convey that because the local authority must hold a public inquiry in all cases where there is to be a loading ban and where there is an unresolved objection, the Minister is therefore likely to get to hear about it a good deal more quickly.
What I think I could do is this. I could consider whether the Minister could amend his procedure regulations to provide that, where there is an unresolved objection to any local authority order which provides for a loading ban to operate on any particular part of a street for more than six hours in twenty-four, the local authority must send a copy of the inspector's report on the inquiry (which they have already had by virtue of the regulations) to the Minister at least one month before they make the order. This would make pretty sure that the Minister was aware of the possibility of trouble, if there was to be trouble, in advance. He might be able to talk things over, and get a local authority not to make the order, if he thought it unreasonable. If they persisted, where he found it was unreasonable he would be in a position to tackle the matter with the minimum of delay. I should have thought that my advice to your Lordships should be to leave things as they are, and not to accept my noble friend's Amendment at this stage; and, if he is agreeable to that, I will consider the matter with a view to saying more about it at the next stage of the Bill.
§ LORD DERWENT
I am very grateful to my noble friend for saying that he will go into it again. I hope he will at the same time go into the question as to whether, in fact, by this clause as it stands—I am not asking, for an answer now; it is a highly technical and legal question—the Minister is not debarring 195 himself, by Statute, from interfering. It is beyond my legal knowledge to argue the point, but I am advised that that is so. My noble friend will, I know, look into that, and he will look into this other question as to what can be done by regulation. I know that, generally speaking, the traders would prefer the Minister to have as much power of interference, where he thinks it right, as is possible, under regulation or by other 196 methods. However, in view of what my noble friend has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Page 28, line 17, leave out ("subsection (9)") and insert ("(9) and (10)").—(Lord Chesham.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes past six o'clock.