HL Deb 21 July 1960 vol 225 cc608-12

4.30 p.m.

An Amendment reported (according to Order).

Clause 2:

Provisional licences not to authorise driving of heavy motor cycles

2. A provisional licence granted under section one hundred and two of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, on or after the first day of July, nineteen hundred and sixty-one, shall not authorise the driving of a motor cycle whereof the cylinder capacity of the engine exceeds two hundred and fifty cubic centimetres.

LORD WALERANmoved to add to the clause: other than a motor cycle whereof the cylinder capacity of the engine does not exceed 350 cubic centimetres and which has a sidecar constructed for the carriage of a passenger attached".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships will appreciate that two days ago, at the end of the consideration of my Amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Sinha, suggested that there was a possible way out of the impasse in which we found ourselves. Therefore, I have put down this Amendment, which I hope will satisfy my noble friend Lord Chesham and all your Lordships who thought that the Amendment which I had down at that time left the door too wide open.

I yield the right to nobody in my desire to see that the young and inexperienced do not get hold of a lethal weapon if it can possibly be avoided. On the other hand, I think the other day there was a lot of special pleading which may have misled us slightly from other aspects of what will happen if we allow the Bill to go through as it stands. I do not think there is much need for me to produce again my arguments about motorcycle combinations being extremely safe, as witnessed by the 50 per cent. reduction in premiums offered by leading insurance companies on the motor cycle combination.

But when the vehicle-testing scheme comes into operation I think it is reasonable to assume that quite a number of very cheap vehicles will go off the roads. We shall be left with people who are no longer able to use these vehicles and who very likely may not be able to afford to buy a more modern motor car in a condition to pass these tests. It may be that they will want to go back to the motor-cycle combination. They may even enjoy fresh air—which is not at all a bad thing for us in this country sometimes. If they have a car licence, they will have to take the test again to drive a motor cycle and side-car. They may be older men—in fact, they probably will be. Are we right in saying that they have got to buy a motor cycle and side-car that is wrong for their needs, for their wives and families? They are sensible people. I still maintain that the minimum size of engine for motor cycle and side-car is certainly 350 c.c. I may be told that this Amendment is badly drafted, and perhaps we can get some encouragement that the question may be looked at in another Bill.

There is one more point I should like to make, and that is: has anyone considered what happens in the Services? The Armed Forces have motor cycles and sidecars, and I cannot recollect one under 350 c.c. I do not know what Her Majesty's Government are going to do if they get themselves in this fix—whether they will ask for a special dispensation for the Armed Services. My noble friend Lord Chesham did say the other day that my arguments were forceful. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 5, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Waleran.)


My Lords, I should like to repeat what I said on the Committee stage of this Bill: that so far as the sponsors are concerned we have a certain amount of sympathy with those who wish to make exceptions in the case of motor cycles with sidecars. We are, therefore, fairly well disposed towards my noble friend Lord Waleran's first Amendment. I cannot, however, accept his second Amendment, which runs entirely contrary to the whole spirit of the Bill. But although we accept his first Amendment in principle, I understand that there are grave difficulties in practice from the point of view of Her Majesty's Government. I hope that, when we have heard what those difficulties are, my noble friend will not press his Amendment. So far as his remarks about the Armed Services are concerned, I cannot agree that our lives should be endangered by the Armed Services, any more than by those who are not in the Armed Services. I certainly think the Bill should apply to all those who use motor cycles.


My Lords, I must confess that I am still not happy about this situation. It may save your Lordships a few minutes of time if my noble friend Lord Waleran will allow me to reply to both his Amendments together, because my remarks are applicable to both, and it would perhaps be rather stupid to make them twice. The first thing I must say, as my noble friend pointed out, is that the drafting of both these Amendments, I am definitely advised, is not satisfactory. I agree that my noble friend's intention is reasonably clear but as drafted at present the Amendments do not fit into the existing structure of the Bill. At this stage it is, of course, very difficult to give the necessary consideration to the correct form of words which would be necessary to make sure that, if your Lordships should embody them in the the Amendments would have precisely the right effect. So much for drafting.

These Amendments, I realise, have been put down to try to meet some of the objections that I raised on the Committee stage. They go in the direction of doing that, but I am sorry to say they do not go nearly far enough. I aim glad, at this point, to be able rather to scope off my noble friend—and not only my noble friend but, I think, the OFFICIAL REPORT as well. I think I am correct in saying that it was the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, who made suggestions for the improvement of these matters, and not the noble Lord, Lord Sinha. But even these helpful suggestions do not go far enough. Of course I recognise that there is substance in what my noble friend Lord Waleran has put forward. At face value there is a certain logic in regarding the 350 c.c. side-car outfit as being suitably equivalent, in this context, to a 250 c.c. solo machine. And also, of course, there is some force in the point that he made, about older people requiring the family type of sidecar outfit. But while, as I say, I recognise that there is force in his intention, I rather think that, if it were carried out as suggested, it would probably lead to some anomalies, and disturb the balance of the safety measures which I apprehend is in the minds of the promoters of this Bill, and certainly in our minds.

I am not necessarily arguing these points, but the sort of thing that occurs to me is that if you learn on a combination, exactly, now fit would you be on passing your driving test, to go on to a solo? It seems to me that the Amendment as put down would tend rather to get round the intention, expressed by the Committee, of seeing that the rider acquires this skill on a gradual basis, starting on a light machine before going on to a heavy one. That is the way it seems to me. So far as the Army are concerned, as I understand it, if this Bill does become law, they will have to train, like anybody else, on 250 c.c. machines; and, frankly, I think that if they have not got any now they will have to get some. I cannot vouch for that because that is a Department for which I do not speak; but I understand that to be the position.

It is really just a question of assessing how big this problem is. I have no figures—I have been unable to get any out in the time—but one thing I can tell your Lordships is that the number of people who present themselves for a driving test on a motor-cycle combination is very few indeed. There is also the fact that, from what I have seen on the roads, quite a number of people are using, not family-sized side-cars, I agree, but side-cars with small machines, certainly of under 250 c.c. Therefore, in view of the time factor—the fact that we have not long left—I would suggest that if my noble friend Lord Waleran does not wish to press his Amendments to-day (or, if he does wish, that your Lordships do not accept them) I will draw what he has said to the attention of my right honourable friend and ask him to consider the whole situation, including the intention behind these Amendments, when further legislation dealing with road safety is in the course of preparation. Naturally, I cannot say when that will be, but we all know that it is bound to come. I would rather leave things as the Bill will make them and I hope my right honourable friend will agree to do that. Although, of course. I cannot give my noble friend any positive undertaking as to what my right honourable friend might, or might not, see fit to do, I can certainly ask him to consider it. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will agree that that may be the better way to do it.


My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for having referred to the noble Lord, Lord Sinha, instead of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, but I was reading from the OFFICIAL REPORT. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has scored off me. I only hope that at some time in the future, when he has been the speaker, he may not be glad that there has been a mistake. I do not really agree with his argument as to the number of people who present themselves for test on a motor-cycle combination. It is important that they are few in number but, as I have said, in the future we may find that quite a number will be doing so, if the smaller and cheaper cars go out of action. I hope that that point will Abe conveyed to his right honourable friend in another place. I think that what he has said is most reasonable, and, if your Lordships agree, I shall be pleased to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of July 14), Bill read 3a, with the Amendment, and passed, and returned to the Commons.