§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion for Second Reading moved on Thursday last by Lord Chesham.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I rise to resume the Second Reading debate on the Road Traffic Bill. Before I do so, I would, if I may, refer to the sad news that we read in to-day's papers regarding the noble Lord, Lord Gifford. It is not usual, as I understand it, to refer to a noble Lord who passes away, but the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, was due to speak last Thursday, and, unfortunately, he was not able to do so. I am sure I speak for noble Lords throughout the House when I express condolences to the family of the noble Lord.
My Lords, this is April, 1961; it is the month in which a man has gone into space. I refer to that to indicate the advances that we have made in the field of science. It is unfortunate, a sad commentary on our society, that we have not been able to make the same rapid advances in the field of social problems as we have done in science. We are to-day, in my view, discussing a Bill which deals with one of the greatest social problems, not only of this country but of any country that has a high density of population and, one might say, a high civilisation, with a large number of motor cars—if motor cars are a sign of civilisation. I think Parliament is at last waking up to its responsibilities. I certainly sensed that feeling last Thursday when we had the first day of debate on this Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, when he introduced this Bill, I thought put the issue very clearly before your Lordships. He then said that in 1960 we had on our roads 6,970 dead, 90,000 seriously injured 428 and 240,000 slightly injured. It is true that these figures do not compare with the terrible toll in the United States, but when one considers our own population they are very sizeable figures. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, also said that during the 1960s, if the present trend continues, over a million men, women and children will die or will be seriously maimed on our roads. Out of a population of 50 million one million people are under sentence. These people will have no appeal; there will be no mercy for these unknown people. In fact, there may be one of us in your Lordships' House who, in the next ten years will be under sentence. We must remember that, when we consider the task that we have to face if we are going to reduce this terrible toll.
Financially, the figure of cost is enormous, not only in the cost of our hospitals but also in the loss of production; but purely for the sake of reducing human misery, human suffering, definite and drastic action has to be taken. I therefore would ask the question: when we look at this Bill, is drastic action likely? Because I believe that the country and the mass of the people, would accept drastic action, even drastic curtailment of the rights on the road which they have to-day, if it would reduce the number of people who are killed or injured on the roads. If the Government have produced this Bill—which I do not think has been welcomed very warmly from any section of the House—and feel that this is the best they can do with public opinion, then I think it is up to the Government and to Parliament to bring the issue clearly before the people. I am sure that if our people fully realised the position they would support the Government in whatever drastic action they took.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said that most accidents in this country stem from one failure: impatience, intolerance, and he used the word "hoggishness". I am quite sure that is the case. I am sure that any noble Lord who drives will see flagrant acts of intolerance every day on the roads. It is surprising to me, because this is not the normal British human nature. The Britisher now will queue happily. He will do so not because it is regimented on him; he will do it because he believes it is an 429 act of good neighbourliness. And yet he somehow changes immediately he gets behind a steering wheel.
There are some who say that speed in itself is the cause of accidents. I do not think that speed by itself is a cause, but when you take it in association with the state of our roads to-day undoubtedly speed becomes a prime factor. I would suggest that 80 per cent. of the roads of this country are quite unsuited, in safety, to speeds in excess of 40 to 50 miles per hour. It is to me complete madness that you can go out of a town, with its well-lit, wide roads, on which you have had to drive at 30 miles an hour, to go into what is nothing more than a lane, and there you are permitted to go at any speed you wish. I am a driver; I do a fair amount of driving. I believe that the majority of people could conform to a national speed limit, if they were required to do so. I personally should like lo see the continuation of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in built-up areas. I should like to see a national speed limit of 50 m.p.h. But I would derestrict roads which have been constructed for, and are capable of taking, speeds in excess of 50 m.p.h. In other words, I am advocating a different approach, for at the present moment we derestrict all roads except those in built-up areas.
It is interesting to know that during previous holidays the Minister has designated certain roads to carry a 50 m.p.h. speed limit. These were trunk roads which in themselves were capable of taking high speeds. What was the result of that imposed speed limit? The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, gave it. He said that there was a reduction of 15 to 20 per cent. of accidents as against a rise over all the other roads, of 3 per cent. If, following a speed restriction, the effect is a quite big reduction in accidents on trunk roads, I ask what would have been the effect had we had a national speed limit of 50 m.p.h. on roads which, frankly, deserve a speed limit? But if it is not possible to have a national speed limit all the time, I hope the Minister will take powers to see that at week-ends and during the heavy traffic months of July and August we shall have a national speed limit.
We must face the fact that the number of vehicles coming on to the roads these days is tremendous. I see that in 1950 we had 4,409,000 vehicles on the 430 roads, and in 1960 it is estimated that there will be 9,739,000. With all this increase in traffic, increasing regularly every year, with hardly any extension of road building, obviously something is going to happen. There will be a continuous rise in the accident rate. I would say about this Bill that it could not be regarded as an attack upon the motorist. I believe that this Bill provides as much protection to the vast majority of road users, motorists, as it does to pedestrians.
The debate last Thursday was dominated by the first two clauses, which we can call the drink clauses. Speaker after speaker expressed concern, not that the Bill went too far, but that it did not go far enough—it did not have sufficient "tick." The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, expressed concern as a Judge. It is true that the number of accidents arising from drink is, percentagewise, not a large one, although it represents quite a considerable figure in itself. But, in my view, the magistrates have not dealt with that matter as seriously as they should have done. In 1959 there were 3,721 convictions. Admittedly, 170 people were sent to prison. The average fine was one of £24. It is true that one could criticise magistrates and the courts for not using the powers that have been given to them by Parliament. But I thought that the difficulty of the courts was very well put by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. She said that one of the difficulties of the courts was receiving hard, concrete evidence of an infringement; that there was a lot of dispute as to the evidence, and that therefore, whilst the penalties available to the courts were quite severe, they tended, because of the evidence, to give the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, if you regard the punishments available to the courts as deterrents, then these deterrents were not administered, purely on the question of the weight of evidence.
Therefore, when one looks at that matter and then at the Bill, one must ask oneself whether the Bill, as it now stands, will give this hard evidence that the courts require. I personally doubt whether that will be the case, and I would support the views of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and others that the Government should in this Bill make these tests compulsory.
431 I was quite satisfied from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who speaks with considerable medical experience, that these tests would in themselves be fair to the driver. If they were compulsory we should then have the hard information and evidence, and the courts would be able to convict and to administer the deterrent. I should hope that the existence of this deterrent would reduce the number of people driving under the influence of alcohol, but I do not believe that it is possible for this evidence to come purely from these compulsory tests. I regard it as essential that there should be stated in the Bill a definite amount of alcohol which should not be exceeded by a person driving.
Personally, I should prefer to delete the first two clauses, but I would certainly have included in Clause 1 the word "impaired" and let it be well understood that that referred not only to impairment from alcohol but also to impairment as a result of a person having long periods of driving when he has become tired, and certainly when he is indisposed. There was a remarkable Report the other day on the effects of Asian 'flu on a driver, and any noble Lord who has had Asian 'flu will know its effect upon him. Persons who are indisposed are just as dangerous on the road as the man with alcohol, and therefore if one had a first clause containing the word "impaired" the courts could take such a condition into account if there had been an accident. I would certainly wish to see, as a second clause, provision for compulsory tests.
I do not wish to speak too long on this matter, but I want to say one word on Clause 3, which deals with disqualification. I do not quite know how the Government have divided the disqualifications between Parts I, II and III. I fully support all those cases in Part I for which obligatory disqualification is provided, but I wonder why in regard to some of the offences in Part II disqualification should be purely discretionary. For instance, the first is for dangerous driving. If it is a first offence, it is subject to discretionary disqualification and also a fine, but the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, explained to us how the courts have regarded this particular offence to date. During 1959 there were 7,177 convictions, but less than 50 per cent. 432 of the drivers were disqualified; and the average fine was £15. Dangerous driving is obviously an offence that should have a pretty heavy deterrent, and I would definitely recommend that that particular offence should either be in Part I, which provides for obligatory disqualification for twelve months, or that there should be a different section under which there could be, if desired, automatic disqualification but for a lesser period.
Then in Part II there are provisions relating to careless driving. For this offence, again, disqualification is discretionary, but the maximum fine has been increased to £100; so obviously the Government recognise this as one of the serious offences. But during 1959 there were 55,000 convictions, in connection with which there were 3,000 disqualifications; and the average fine was £7. When one looks at the previous legislation and then at this new Bill, is there any reason to believe that the courts will take a different view of the matter after the passing of this Bill? They have not used their powers of disqualification which this House has always recognised as one of the biggest deterrents to road accidents. I would therefore recommend that, apart from the obligatory disqualification for twelve months, there should be a Part which provides for obligatory disqualification for at least six months, and in which these serious offences should be included.
Disqualification should also be obligatory for the offence of being in charge of a vehicle while tinder the influence of drink or drugs. Under this Bill the fine for that offence Chas been increased to £100, with provision, also, for a term of imprisonment; but if the offence is so seriously regarded I would recommend that discretion should not arise there but that disqualification should be obligatory for at least six months.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? I think that on this particular point he is being unfair to Her Majesty's Government. If he will look at item 4 of the First Schedule he will see that that makes disqualification obligatory in the case of drink.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I want to say something about lights on vehicles. The Minister is taking power regarding headlamps. I am not quite sure whether he has power regarding indicators. Vehicles which are coming into this country, or which are being produced here to-day, have a very wide range of indicators. Some vehicles have an indicator built inside their side-lamps, and on many occasions when the indicator is being used during the day time it is hard to recognise whether the indicator is working or the lamp is faulty. Also, many of the indicator lights at the rear of vehicles are so large that they tend to blind the driver behind. Therefore, if the Minister has not power to regulate the size and power of the light, or the position of the indicator. I think he should take such power under this Bill. If he already has that power I should like to know from the noble Earl who is to reply why he is not using it.
My last point concerns Clause 14 of this Bill, which deals with trailers. The Minister glossed over this when introducing the Bill. This clause makes it possible for the Minister to make regulations permitting a motor vehicle to tow two trailers. I do not know what is in the mind of the Government in this matter, but I certainly hope that it is not something similar to what one sees in Germany—a very heavy lorry towing two heavy trailers. Such a combination may be perfectly all right on the German autobahn, but the chaos that would arise on most of our roads in this country would be beyond belief. So I think the House should get from the Government a clear understanding of what they intend by that clause.
With regard to accidents, there are people who say that although some 6,000 people die each year, that total is not so high as in Germany or America; that it is approximately the same figure as in 1939, when there were only half the number of vehicles on the road. But when one sees personally the results of these accidents and learns, in many cases, of the madness which has caused them (because many, if not most, of these accidents need never occur), one realises that we shall never reduce these 434 figures purely by legislation or in any way other than by the provision of better roads. Nevertheless, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue with their propaganda efforts. I believe that recently those efforts have been rather genteel. I remember the shock that was caused (I believe it was by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth) through the display of the poster about "Death on the Roads". But I believe that that is the only type of publicity and poster which will impinge itself on people's minds. I hope that the Government will continue to use television and the Press, and will concentrate their teaching efforts in the schools with children. It needs far more realism on the part of the people, and I hope that the Government will continue to press the people to drive with far more care, because it is only by care that we can reduce the accidents of to-day.
§ LORD AMWELL
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I put this point to him? I think it is a very important one. He said that certain things could be altered only by the provision of better roads. Did he forget the fact that there is also the point of view that provision of better roads is an encouragement to greater speed? Does he not agree that we must include some kind of speed control as well as provision for better roads if we want to reduce the number of accidents? There is a case, in the part where I live, of the famous Spaniards road, where a large number of people object to the taking away of a tollhouse that is quite art anachronism. Granted! But they realise that if that tollhouse is taken away, the wonderful road over the Heath, the Spaniards road, going right up to the Gate House at Hampstead, will be another racecourse for the type of motorist we have in mind.
§ House adjourned during pleasure, and resumed by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ LORD SWAYTHLING
My Lords, after a full afternoon's debate on. Thursday, I think it could be readily acknowledged that practically every one of your Lordships welcomes this Bill as an attempt to make the roads of this country safer than they are to-day, but the majority seem to think that a great deal will have to be tightened up and 435 altered on the Committee stage. I fully agree with that view. So much has already been said, and there are so many others who wish to speak, that there are only a few matters to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention. It seems to me unfortunate to lay down in any Bill penalties which justices have to impose regardless of their own views as to the merits of each particular case, but I feel that we have reached a state of traffic in this country when compulsory disqualification may well be necessary for most of the serious offences such as are outlined in the First Schedule of this Bill.
Your Lordships may recall that prior to 1956 magistrates were able to limit disqualification to the type of vehicle involved in the offence. This was, I would submit, a useful power for the magistrates to hold. I will give your Lordships an example of a man who had a long and perfectly clean record of driving a van or a car for his living and then acquired a motor bicycle for his own use and pleasure when not at work. If he committed an offence while riding his motor cycle, an offence which probably was not a very serious one but one for which disqualification was justified, it might be thought the magistrates would consider that the correct thing was to disqualify him from riding a motor bicycle but allow him to continue to drive motor cars or vans, for which he had a long, clean record.
However, in 1956 this power was taken away and disqualification had to prohibit the use of any motor vehicle on the public road. Up to 1956 it was obligatory to disqualify a defendant found guilty of driving a motor vehicle while uninsured against third party risks, and numbers of the cases which came before the magistrates worried them considerably. While it was well realised by magistrates how serious an offence this was, in case a motorist had an accident and could not pay compensation for the damage he had caused, frequently the defendant could produce mitigating circumstances which, while not coming under the category of "special reasons" as defined by the courts, led the bench to consider that disqualification should not have been imposed. After 1956 this obligatory disqualification for this offence ceased, and I know that many magi- 436 strates welcomed this and, while still disqualifying in many cases, were able to use their discretion in each particular case. I am sorry to see that this offence is included in Part I and, therefore, disqualification again becomes obligatory.
I should like to support most strongly the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who pointed out that under the Bill a motorist can be found guilty, as a third offence, of a minor offence such as (he instanced) a side light going out, and have a compulsory disqualification of six months. I feel that this must be remedied at a later stage of the Bill. I should like to mention a curious provision in the law as it is at present, which seems not to be one that is generally known. The other day a motorist was found guilty of driving without due care and attention by the bench on which I have the honour to serve. After conviction, on inquiry as to the defendant's previous history we were told that he had first of all had a conviction for dangerous driving followed by one for driving without due care and attention. He had then been convicted again of dangerous driving and fined £30 and had to pay £30 costs and he was disqualified for three years. In the same month he had had a further conviction for dangerous driving and was sent to prison for four months and disqualified for ten years. The ten years had only just elapsed when the offence for which he was before the bench occurred again. But under the law as it is at present, in view of the fact that the last disqualification was more than three years previously, the bench were unable to disqualify him for more than one month. It had to be treated as a first offence of driving without due care and attention. I am glad to see that this Bill, when passed, will alter that.
I should also like to refer to the method of removal of disqualification as contained in Clause 4. I was very surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, say that he thought that 50 per cent. of those disqualified for a year got their disqualification removed. I should not have thought it was anything like that figure. I should not have thought it was even 50 per cent. of those who apply for its removal, and those who apply are only a proportion of those who are so disqualified. My experience 437 on the bench has been that a driving licence is restored only in cases where the defendant can show a change of circumstance since disqualification and make out a very good case.
However, there is another reason for which I dislike Clause 4, where it is laid down that all such applications must go before quarter sessions. In some counties quarter sessions' lists are very overloaded already. If, as is assured, the number of disqualifications are considerably increased by this Bill, I feel that the calendar at quarter sessions might become swamped. In these days when there is a school of thought that certain work should be taken from quarter sessions and added to the work of the magistrates at petty sessions, it seems to me quite unnecessary to ask quarter sessions to deal with these cases when they know nothing of what occurred in the original offence. I agree with my noble friend Lord Airedale that it would seem to many unnecessary that power should be given to a defendant to come back to have his disqualification removed. While application can be made for the removal of disqualification, I feel strongly that it should continue to be made to the magistrates' court which originally ordered the disqualification.
During the earlier part of 'this debate mention 'was made of the 50 miles per hour speed limit which was imposed last summer on Saturdays and Sundays and Bank Holidays—the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has referred to it to-day. While not supporting him in his idea for what he calls a "national speed limit" applied continuously, I would say that if this 50 m.p.h. speed limit was successful, as many people have suggested it was, in reducing the number of accidents, the correct thing to do would be not to impose this limit as it was last year but to insist on a 50 m.p.h. speed limit on every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday during the currency of British summer time, on all roads in the country. Under last year's method, vehicles on certain by-passes and new wide roads, where speed was very often safe, were limited to 50 m.p.h., but when they left these roads and entered older, narrower and more winding roads there was no speed limit. This seemed to me fantastic. The 50 m.p.h. Emit on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays in the summer 438 should, if applied at all, be applied to all roads, but not, of course, to motorways or, I think, to dual carriageways. A certain number of the latter have, of course, already got speed limits.
The other matter that I wish to draw attention to may not strictly come under this Bill, but I very much hoped when I first read the Bill that there would be such a provision in it. I would remind your Lordships that during the time that the Road Traffic Bill was before the House in 1956 I moved an Amendment which would allow people who park their vehicles in lighted streets to do so without turning on the lights of their cars, as is now permitted in London. I suggested that any chief constable might prohibit this in roads where he thought it was dangerous to do so, and would have to mark the roads clearly with a recognised traffic sign.
In moving this Amendment I explained to your Lordships that many magistrates took exception to having to fine motorists who came before their bench accused of doing something that in some other places they were permitted to do. We have frequent cases before us on my bench where the defendant says that he did not know it was not all right to do here what he was allowed to do in London. I was informed the other day that on the outskirts of London there are roads or streets partly in the London area and partly outside it, so that it is perfectly legal for a motorist to leave his car without lights at one end of the street but not legal for him to do so at the other end of the street. I do not know if this is a fact, but the information came to me through a fellow magistrate, and I have every reason to believe that it is correct. It is difficult enough for people to be expected to know the law as it applies to the whole country, but for them to have to learn also the law in any and every neighbourhood or parish seems to me entirely unreasonable.
In resisting the Amendment in 1956 the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who was speaking for the Government, said that they had only just made their regulations the other way round, permitting chief constables to give permission for parking without lights in places where they thought it was suitable. He went on to say that there was something to be 439 said for my Amendment, and added—I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 198, col. 1183:Let us give the present system a chance to work. We may come round to the noble Lord's thinking on this matter, but I have consulted the police on the question and the majority of chief constables wish to try the scheme I have been explaining to your Lordships. In due course, if we find our fears are not fulfilled and the matter is working more smoothly, then we can, by regulation, come round to Lord Swaythling's proposals".I know there is nothing in the present Bill to change the method round, but, in view of the very unsatisfactory way that the present method is working, I should like to hear from the noble Earl who is going to reply on behalf of the Government that they recognise that the time has now come to change round and to have a universal law concerning this matter for the whole country; and the chief constables who think that any particular piece of road should be excluded should contract out instead of, as at present, having to contract in. When they fail to do so—and I believe they have given permission in only a comparatively few cases—the motorist is left in ignorance of the true position, and is in great difficulty at present.
§ 2.44 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, in this debate on the Second Reading I propose to deal mainly with two topics: the provisions relating to drink or drugs and the proposed changes in the law about disqualification. The provisions relating to drink are the subject of the first two clauses, the first providing a new definition of unfitness to drive and the second providing for the use of chemical tests. Both these clauses have been criticised, and will clearly require detailed examination in Committee. In general, I strongly support both clauses, though I believe that some Amendments are desirable, and I am confident that Her Majesty's Government will carefully consider them. When the new definition at present contained in Clause 1 is discussed in Committee, we shall, I understand, have the benefit of the advice of my noble and learned friend Lord Denning and other Law Lords. In these circumstances I do not propose to discuss the definition to-day, but shall proceed at once to Clause 2.
440 My Lords, in my submission the case for chemical tests is quite overwhelming. Properly applied, these tests can substitute accuracy for inaccuracy and certainly for doubt. They can, indeed, provide the court with the best available evidence. Most of the English law of evidence is designed to secure that the best evidence shall be made available—hence, for example, our rule excluding hearsay. If the court is not to be allowed the benefit of chemical tests when available, then, in effect, the court is to be denied the best evidence. In my submission, the exclusion and not the admission of such evidence would be contrary to the principles of British justice.
I know that there are people, both in Parliament and outside, who are genuinely troubled by the idea that the admission of such tests may somehow conflict with the principle that an accused person should not be forced to incriminate himself. In my submission, this idea arises from a complete confusion of thought. The principle that a man shall not be required to incriminate himself means that a man cannot be required to testify against himself: the prosecution cannot put him in the witness box when they are bringing a criminal charge against him. The principle does not mean that the state of the man's body at a material time is something which cannot be given in evidence. Fingerprints are only one example to the contrary.
My Lords, may I mention, in this connection, a most interesting judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States in a case decided in the year 1957, and reported under the name Breithaupt v. Abram? The facts in that case were these. There had been a collision between a lorry and a car. The three persons travelling in the car were killed. The lorry driver was seriously injured, and had to be taken to hospital. A nearly empty whisky bottle was found in the glove compartment of his lorry. While he lay unconscious in the hospital the smell of liquor was detected in his breath, and the police asked a doctor to take a sample of his blood. This the doctor did while the petitioner, the lorry driver, was unconscious. The examination of the blood showed a proportion of 0.17 per cent. of alcohol. At his trial, an expert gave evidence that with this 441 percentage he would be under the influence of intoxicating liquor. He was convicted and sentenced for involuntary manslaughter.
The case came before the Supreme Court, as a result of proceedings with which I will not trouble your Lordships, and the question arose whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution had been violated. Counsel for the accused argued that taking the blood sample without his consent constituted "an unreasonable search and seizure", and that it "compelled him to be a witness against himself". The Supreme Court rejected this argument, and in a note it is pointed out that47 States use chemical tests, including blood tests, to aid in the determination of intoxication in cases involving charges of driving while under the influence of alcohol".The Supreme Court was not unanimous, but the judgment of the Supreme Court was given by Mr. Justice Clark, and with your Lordships' permission I wish to quote a few sentences. He said:The test upheld here is not attacked on the ground of any basic deficiency or of injudicious application, but admittedly is a scientifically accurate method of detecting alcoholic content in the blood, thus furnishing an exact measure upon which to base a decision as to intoxication. Modern community living requires modern scientific methods of crime detection lest the public go unprotected. The increasing slaughter on our highways, most of which should be avoidable, now reaches the astounding figures only heard of on the battlefield. The States, through safety measures, modern scientific methods, and strict enforcement of traffic laws, are using all reasonable means to make automobile driving less dangerous.As against the right of an individual that his person be held inviolable, even against so slight an intrusion as is involved in applying a blood test of the kind to which millions of Americans submit as a matter of course nearly every day, must be set the interests of society in the scientific determination of intoxication, one of the great causes of the mortal hazards of the road. And the more so since the test likewise may establish innocence, thus affording protection against the treachery of judgment based on one or more of the senses. Furthermore, since our criminal law is to no small extent justified by the assumption of deterrence, the individual's right to immunity from such invasion of the body as is involved in a properly safeguarded blood test is far outweighed by the value of its deterrent effect due to public realisation that the issue of driving while under the influence of alcohol can often by this method be taken out of the confusion of conflicting contentions.442 My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me for having read that extract from the judgment. but I think it is more directly in point than any judgment at present available in our own courts.
I therefore strongly support the Government on the general policy of Clause 2, but I should like to raise three questions about it. I am particularly glad that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is in his place, in case he thinks these points worthy of further consideration. The first point is one that I know is worrying many motorists and their advisers, and even the motoring organisations. It will be observed that in line 17 Clause 2 says:… if it is proved that the accused, when so requested at any such time"—that is, any material time—refused to consent to the taking of or to provide a specimen for analysis or measurement, his refusal may …and so on. The point to which I invite the attention of the House is this. The clause says "the accused, when so requested". There is no limitation of any kind on the circumstances of the request and on who may make it. If the police make it, refusal would, I suggest, be clearly unreasonable. But I should like the Government to consider whether there ought not to be some words of limitation in order to protect the driver from a wholly irresponsible request by some lay person. I know that there is at present in the Bill the provision that it would be open, to the accused to show reasonable cause for his refusal, but I think it is worth consideration whether we should not put into the clause something requiring that the request itself shall be a reasonable one.
The second question on this clause, which was raised by several noble Lords in the debate on Thursday, and also in the opening speech this afternoon, I think, is whether the test ought not to be compulsory. The Government have not made it compulsory, though refusal to submit to a test without reasonable cause may be given in evidence. This may, in effect, provide a considerable measure of compulsion. Let me say at once that, as at present advised, I have no strong views on whether the test should be compulsory, or whether the matter should be left as it is at present under this clause. I should only wish to say quite clearly 443 that I should have no objection whatsoever to compulsion in the matter on any point of principle.
In the case in the United States which I have cited, there is an interesting note showing that the State of Kansas has passed a law declaring that any person who operates a motor vehicle on the highway there shall be deemed to have given his consent to submit to a chemical test of his breath, blood, urine or saliva for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his blood. If he refuses to submit, his operator's permit is suspended. I give that merely as an example to show that there are other indirect ways of securing compulsion if, for any reason, compulsion itself is not desired. However, I know of no principle against compulsory tests, but I think that what the Government have at present in the clause is not necessarily at all ineffective.
Finally, on this part of the Bill, a great number of noble Lords, on the last occasion, and the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to-day, have questioned whether it is not desirable that the Bill itself should give some guidance on the significance of any figures which the test may reveal. There is obviously a great deal to be said for that. I think I am right in saying that, as the Bill stands, though the percentage of alcohol in the blood or the urine can be shown by the certificate and given as evidence in court, there is nothing that will enable the court to take judicial notice and to say that these figures show the accused to be under the influence of drink. Therefore it seems to me that, as the Bill stands, in every case the expert evidence of a doctor will be required. There may be something to be said for that. But, equally, I could understand that many might think it far more convenient that some sort of guidance should be given to enable a lay court to interpret the figures which the examination revealed.
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? How is he going to make such figures practicable? It is a well-known fact that some people can get drunk on one glass of wine, but others do not get drunk on half a bottle of whisky?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, while the figure may be open to doubt, I think that the medical profession would have no difficulty at all in saying that more than a certain amount of alcohol in the blood proved beyond the shadow of doubt that a man's ability to drive properly was impaired. That is the significance of this definition. I quite agree with the point which I think my noble friend has in mind: that even if a motorist had not so much as that stated figure, other evidence might still show that he was unfit to drive a motor car; and other evidence would not be excluded. I would only point out that, as the clause stands at present, it would be necessary in every case to call medical evidence.
Before I leave Clauses 1 and 2, may I mention two smaller matters? I agree most emphatically with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about the absurdity of the clause saying "water" when it means "urine". When I first read this clause, I felt that Mrs. Grundy had joined either the Parliamentary Draftsmen's Office or the Home Affairs Committee of the Cabinet. I cannot say which of these alternatives struck me as the more improbable. If the Government do not put down an Amendment on this subject, I shall certainly support the Amendment adumbrated by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.
There is also the point raised by my noble friend Lord Teynham, on which I can offer him some comfort and relief. He thought that the law was such that a motorist, who found himself unfit to drive on account of drink, and therefore properly determined to leave his car and hand it over to a responsible person, could be found guilty of being drunk in charge of a car. There was a time when the law suffered from that defect, but under the leadership of my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack we put that matter right in 1956, and if my noble friend will look at Section 6 of the 1960 Act, he will find that the law is now what he wishes it to be.
I pass from the first two clauses to the very important matter of disqualification. There was some argument in the course of the debate last Thursday on whether disqualification is a penalty—and, indeed, the most effective deterrent among all penalties—or whether it is the withdrawal of a privilege to use a dangerous machine, 445 a withdrawal justified in the interests of public safety, apart altogether from any question of punishment. That point was put most ably in an extraordinarily valuable speech contributed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, on the last occasion. I think that disqualification is quite clearly both. It is a deterrent, and in many cases the most effective of all deterrents. On the other hand, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, that apart altogether from punishment, it is frequently justified in the interests of public safety.
Nothing was made clearer than the value of disqualification in a series of speeches which my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack delivered in your Lordships' House in 1956, while the Act of that year was passing through this House. In a speech, which I shall not now quote but which has been frequently quoted, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor gave the strongest possible indication that he thought that disqualification should be used in proper cases. Since that date, his speech has been quoted by numerous people who take art interest in this subject in addressing magistrates. Magistrates were asked to mark his words, and in my opinion they certainly were beginning to do so at the time the present Bill was introduced.
I think that disqualification can be an admirable penalty. It is sometimes said that it is too severe where it interferes with a man's livelihood. That seems to me to involve a hopeless confusion of thought. Which of us would take that view if it were a question, we will say, of improper conduct by the pilot of an aeroplane? We rely entirely on the rules being absolutely observed by pilots of aeroplanes, and, if there were any misconduct by a pilot, who would say that his licence should not be interfered with on the ground that it would interfere with his livelihood? That is not a tolerable argument. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, that in general it is not a good thing to remove the discretion of the court. There are certain cases where it might be justified, but in general I agree completely with the noble Lord that it is not a good thing to remove such discretion.
I have three criticisms to offer of what the Government are doing on the sub- 446 ject of disqualification, and the third is much the most important. But let me give the others first. The first criticism is one which has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling. I feel some doubt as to whether offence No. 7, using a oar when uninsured, ought to appear in Part I of the First Schedule. I do not propose to argue that point to-day. I agree, of course, that that can be a very serious offence, but it can also be an offence where many rather difficult technicalities are involved. The reason I do not propose to say anything more about it this afternoon is that my noble and learned friend Lord Goddard will give us the benefit of his wisdom and experience in this matter when the Committee stage is reached.
Further, I have genuine doubts about Clause 3 (3), which provides that a third conviction for an offence in Parts I or II of the First Schedule shall automatically involve disqualification and that magistrates shall have no discretion. I should not be in the least against the court being able, when deciding on the length of disqualification for a third offence, to take into consideration all previous offences, but I am very doubtful whether this compulsory disqualification on a third conviction in a particular group of offences will necessarily have the result that the Government desire. I do not, of course, wish to express a final view on this point until I have heard the arguments of Ministers upon it.
I now pass to what I regard as easily and beyond all controversy the worst feature of the present Bill. It is a feature of which the public were wholly ignorant at the time this debate opened. Nothing is said about it in the Explanatory Memorandum. Nothing has been said about it, I think, by the Minister in any interview which he has given—and he is not incapable of getting some publicity when he wishes. This particular matter, I think, was wholly unknown outside this House at the time this debate opened. Indeed, it is so hidden that it is unlikely it would have been discovered, except by a lawyer. I will tell the House at once what it is. The fault is this: that the Bill removes from the courts the power to disqualify in the case of a whole series of offences, for which the courts are now disqualifying, without any objection to what they are doing having been taken in any quarter.
447 Perhaps it would be convenient if I were to tell the House how this comes about. If your Lordships look at the list of repeals at the end of the Bill (page 31) you will find in line 35 that one of the repeals is Section 104 of the Principal Act—that is, the Act of 1960. Disqualification at present takes place under Section 104 of the principal Act, and disqualification can be exercised for the offences set out in the Eleventh Schedule to the 1960 Act. The only way in which you can discover what powers to disqualify have now been withdrawn from the courts is to go through the list in the Eleventh Schedule, one by one, and see which offences have not been repeated either in Part I or Part II of the First Schedule to this Bill. That is the way in which numerous powers to disqualify have been swept away.
I am not going through them all, but I will mention three. I do not profess to know what, if anything, the Government had in mind in deciding on this wholesale removal of the power of the court to disqualify, but the reason cannot be that they wish to include everything that involves danger and nothing more, because one of the offences for which they have swept away the power to disqualify is, believe it or not, injuring persons by wanton or furious driving under Section 35 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861. Wanton or furious driving causing injury has been an offence since 1861, and when a motor vehicle is used to commit this offence there has been, very properly, a ground for disqualification. Then there is the question, on which I do not wish to add anything to what was said so admirably by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, on the last occasion, of disobeying the conditions of the provisional licence. A most admirable penalty for that offence, as the noble Lady said, is a short sentence of disqualification to remind the learner at the very beginning of his or her career that there are rules that have to be obeyed.
The third example I give is of taking and driving away without the consent of the owner or other lawful authority. What an offence to choose to take out of the category of those for which you can disqualify! Taking away a car without the consent of an owner is often the precursor of other crimes: the car is 448 perhaps to be used for theft; or it is to be used by a young man for driving a fast and powerful vehicle which he is wholly incapable of controlling. Of course, it is true that when he does this he may also do something else for which he can be disqualified, but, as the noble Lady pointed out, it is by no means certain. For instance, it is by no means certain that his insurance policy will not cover him, and therefore by no means certain that he will not be insured. But even if it were true that he will commit some other offence for which he can be disqualified, is that a ground for removing the power to disqualify for this offence? Why should two offences have to be charged in order to get disqualification?
In my submission to your Lordships, which I am confident will command some agreement, there is no reason whatever to remove any existing power of disqualification, unless it can be shown either that that power has been abused or that Her Majesty's judges have been consulted on this change of the law and have advised it—and I shall be very much surprised if I am given that information. I say that there is no justification for the withdrawal of these powers. I would submit respectfully to Her Majesty's Government that this change in the law, and this removal of the power to disqualify, which was condemned by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, by my noble and learned friend Lord Denning, by my noble friend Lord Molson and by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on the last occasion, and to which I have developed some of the objections to-day, is wholly wrong. I believe that the Government themselves ought to put it right by appropriate Amendments in Committee, and I hope that we shall hear in the final speech to-day that that is their intention. But if the Government do not elect to put this matter right, then I hope that this House will do its duty. I will certainly, if no such Government Amendments appear on the Marshalled List, do my best to put down my own unskilful Amendments. That is all I wish to say on the clauses in the Bill, but there is one other matter, not in the Bill, to which I should like to allude.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, is my noble and learned friend leaving that point?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have listened most carefully to what he has said and I should like him to consider one point. He mentioned wanton and furious driving. What has worried me greatly for years is the question of the different degrees of negligence on which juries have to be instructed by my learned brethren on the Bench. My noble and learned friend will realise that one starts with civil negligence; one then goes to careless driving (I am ascending the scale), then up again to dangerous or reckless driving under the old Act; and then one has two other categories of wanton and furious driving, which he has mentioned, and manslaughter. Manslaughter has, in fact, practically gone, except in cases which are akin (I use that word in the broadest sense) to murder. As my noble and learned friend knows, the charge has been inserted, by the almost unanimous wish of this House, of killing by dangerous driving. I should like him to consider (and I hope he will understand that I do not intervene to oppose him, but simply to ask him to reconsider his point) that if you had this other wording of "wanton and furious driving" above reckless or dangerous, careless and ordinary negligence, you would be making the task of summing up enormously difficult. I hope that he will not mind my mentioning that point. I wanted to do it at once, so that he could consider it before the Committee stage.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and needless to say I will respond to his invitation. I wonder whether he will add to it by allowing me, if necessary, to have a word with him.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, perhaps I may say what is my immediate reaction to what my noble and learned friend has said. I can quite understand that a prosecution under the Offences 450 Against the Person Act for wanton and furious driving is a very rare thing indeed. But supposing it does take place, and that there is a conviction, I can see no reason under the sun why the man should not be disqualified. That is my immediate reaction, though I will certainly respond to my noble and learned friend's invitation.
The last matter which I wish to mention, because I think it has some bearing on road safety, is traffic: signs. In this country traffic signs are grossly excessive in number; they are often obscure, and they are frequently unbelievably silly. In fact, for the number of traffic signs and their silliness, this country perhaps is now almost the worst in Europe, and possibly in the world. Any of us who have driven our cars in France know that the traffic signs there (there are quite a number of them, and you have to learn them), do not contain a great number of explanatory words, but they are well designed and are capable of being learnt. They always give clear information or instruction, and they are not excessive in number. I am absolutely astounded at the number of traffic signs of an obscure kind put up in this country.
When motoring in France, even in a district which I do not know, when I have reached a fork or a crossroads, I have never found myself taking the wrong turning. The sign has been absolutely clear. It is big enough; it appears at the right distance before the turning, and so on. In this country, even if you know the area, it is quite easy to take the wrong exit, even from a roundabout. And that is not put right by allowing a number of independent people to put a lot of new signs on the roundabout.
I do not wish to develop the full extent of the folly of some of this, but one of the follies is what I may call unnecessary letterpress. If you depict on a traffic sign a cow, most people of all nationalities, no matter how bad your artist is, realise that it is a cow. It really is not necessary to have underneath it, in small print, the word, "Cattle". If you do put in this unnecessary letterpress, people get the idea that the letterpress on any traffic sign can be ignored. Representations of children are also fairly clear on these traffic signs; nevertheless, they are labelled, "Children". The silliest of all 451 signs, I think, is the curious sign, "Hazard ahead". The beauty of this sign is that nobody has the slightest notion of what it means, not only at the time when they see it but afterwards. If they drive with great care for the next mile they will not have a notion of what the man had in mind when he put up the sign, "Hazard ahead". For any good it does you might just as well put up the sign, "Fun and games".
I saw a particularly clear sign as I entered Oxford the other day. Believe it or not, the sign here was the glorious expression "Watch the filter". I consulted a few strangers visiting Oxford, and they thought it had been put up by the Minister of Health to guard against certain waterborne diseases. I was able to reassure my friends, and assert that what it really meant was that if you wished to turn along Long Wall you should get into the right traffic stream for that purpose, and if you wanted to continue down The High you should keep to the left. I very much doubt if any visitor to this country can procure a document which tells him what "Watch the filter" means. I would ask my very intelligent friends on the Treasury Bench, and the Lord Chancellor, to suggest to the Minister of Transport that he might diminish the number of our traffic signs enormously, and also make them less idiotic.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, would he not agree with me that these signs which he has described as being used in France are, in fact, used throughout Western Europe, at any rate, and there is a great deal to be said for uniformity?
§ LORD CONESFORD
I believe that the noble Lord is quite correct. A great many of these signs are the subject of international agreement. The reason why I mentioned France is that I have had the actual experience of recently driving there, so I knew what I was talking about and could speak from firsthand knowledge.
My Lords, my noble friend did say, did he not, that the silliest sign he had ever seen was Oxford?
§ LORD CONESFORD
It was in Oxford, but I promise him I will visit Cambridge, and I have no doubt I shall find the equal.
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ LORD BEVERIDGE
My Lords, I have welcomed the chance of speaking on the second day of this debate because it has given me the opportunity of reading, in Hansard, the speeches made last Thursday. I have read them all, except one, that made by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in introducing the Bill, which I heard. I am content to have heard it as one of the most admirable speeches that I remember in my life. I wish to thank especially all the other speakers who supported or recommended particular matters. That will show where I stand, and where, I think I may say, most of my colleagues on the Liberal Benches stand—and, indeed, most people in the House to-day.
First, there was the support for chemical tests for alcohol. I noted specially what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. The suggestion for making tests compulsory came also from the right reverend Prelate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton. Then it was suggested that, rather than fine or imprisonment, disqualification as a driver for a definite period should be the normal penalty on conviction. A fine is apt to be ineffective, and the possibility of imprisonment sometimes has the most unfortunate effect, in that juries do not wish to convict for imprisonment. But disqualification, as well as being a penalty, puts a dangerous man out of the power to do danger during that period. That was recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. There should be no softheartedness whatever about disqualifying, either because some people carry liquor better than others (I think that that was the point put again by the noble Baroness) or because disqualifying may stop a driver from earning. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, gave us a particularly grim instance of that, where the killer of a mother and two children 453 was let off by a criminal court lest he should lose his earning power.
Then it was said that there should be no removal of disqualification before its named period on reconsideration either by the magistrates or the juries. My noble friend Lord Airedale put that point from these Benches. Then a request was made, for the guidance of drivers, for conversion of the alcohol content as expressed by statisticians, whether in blood or urine, into a published statement of the glasses of wine, beer or spirit that cannot be taken safely before driving. I think the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Carlisle, asked for that, and the answer was given in a quite invaluable technical speech by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. He gave what the necessary abstinence was, not only in terms of glasses and measures but also in time—three hours before driving. Let me go on just to thank the first speaker from this side, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for his view that excessive speed is a cause of accidents and for his suggestion of a limit, as in the United States of America. The Bill, though not doing that, gives increased power to the Minister to control speed. I should like, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would like something further and stronger on that.
Your Lordships appreciate from these thanks that I welcome not only the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, but also the Bill, though as something that could be made still better in Committee. There is any amount to be done in Committee, in some ways to make the Bill stronger, and in others, perhaps, to make it less strong. There may be some things that might be omitted. There are things that might, with advantage, be cleared up. Among the things that might be cleared up with advantage, I suggest, some of the points made by my noble friend Lord Airedale. He inquired, if the person is to be asked to submit to a test—that is, on the assumption that tests are not made compulsory—by whom is he to, be asked? Then he asked how we can make sure that driving test fees do not become a form of taxation. I do not know of anyone to whom one can apply for the answer to that question, except the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is busy at the moment in another place.
454 Another point for clearing up in Committee came from my noble friend Lord Swaythling; that is the law of disqualification, in relation to grounds for and removals of this penalty. He was for compulsory disqualification, as I am, but not for everything, not perhaps for a third trifling offence. That is all I have to say about other speakers.
I hope the House will forgive me if I still feel able to add something to all those speeches from personal experience or from the experience of friends whom I have consulted. My personal experience as a driver of cars covers 53 years, from 1908 to 1961. I bought my own car in 1909. Its maximum speed was 35 miles an hour, but that was also the minimum speed that I need go, because there were hardly any other cars on the road then. That is the difference between then and now. Perhaps I may add this, and I hope it adds to the force of what I have to say. In those 53 years I have never been in the hands of the police, though I occasionally only just escaped trouble about parking, and I have only twice lost the no-claim insurance bonus for things that were so trifling and so unimportant that I hardly claimed. But from my own experience and that of my friends, I can contribute something on what seem to me the three main causes of road accidents—drink, speed, and had behaviour—and finally, with a query, old age as a possible cause of danger to others as well as to oneself.
With regard to drink, on one occasion in my life I drove a car under conditions in which if I had been found by the police I should have been convicted under this Bill, if in force. That was a 10-mile drive in the dark after an excellent dinner in the North of England. I remember well I had with me in another car another person, who was very distinguished. We both found it rather difficult to keep on the proper side of the road. But, fortunately, the road was empty, though dark, and we both reached our destination safely. So I was not Incapable of driving, but it may be said my ability to drive was impaired, and I should have been hit by the chemical test under this Bill. I am not afraid to report that experience because I do not think that at that time I was a Member of this House though I may have been a Member of another 455 place. I was not incapable of driving, but what happened was an extremely salutary thing for me. My proceedings led to an excellent result—an instruction from my wife, which I observe rigidly to this day, that I must not drink anything at all just before I go driving. I observe that rigidly. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with his three hours, has lengthened my period of abstinence; but, on the other hand, he has made abstinence less total.
Having regard to some of the considerations that have been laid before me, I am bound to add that I have had from a friend concerned in the wine trade advice directly opposed to my wife's instruction about abstinence, with a legal opinion emphasising the difference between one man and another in reaction to alcohol and the injustice of trusting to chemical tests on which doctors disagree. I shall be willing to show these representations to any member of the Government who is interested. But I have had to reply to my friend on the lines that doctors often disagree, and that if I am going to err by taking a wrong doctor I would rather err on the side of unnecessary caution on the roads than on the side of danger. As a Liberal I desire freedom, but not freedom in using roads to which every other person has an equal right at risk of any unnecessary danger to them, whether through drink or through speed. Finally, on this drink question, as both a driver and a regular enjoyer of alcohol I know that I can enjoy all the alcohol I need and really want without breaking the rules laid down by my wife and Lord Taylor.
Like many others who have spoken in this debate, I want to strengthen this Bill, not to weaken it. Let me come to the question of speed. I find myself agreeing very closely with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, on speed as a cause of accidents only less than drink itself. This Bill should be made, if it is not already, strong enough to impose a speed limit in the neighbourhood of 60 or 70 miles an hour on all but very few roads. It may have to be followed by checking the manufacture of very fast cars, particularly those with bodies so light as to unfit them for their speed.
Meanwhile, one of the friends whom I consulted—a most distinguished busi 456 nessman and a constant driver—has made a proposal for relating speed to age in a somewhat unexpected way. His proposition is that the maximum speed allowed to any driver should be one mile per hour for every year of his own age. Up to twenty years old a driver would be limited to driving up to twenty miles an hour or less. He would have to be past thirty to get beyond the thirty mile an hour limit. The 100 miles per hour car, like the Jaguar, would come to be made only for centenarians. My friend's thesis is that the only people who want to drive fast are the young, and they would not be allowed to, and that the people who would be allowed to drive fast would not think of doing so in any circumstances. At 82 I know this by experience. I find that I once again must admit that, within the last few months. I have driven at 60 miles per hour continuously down the Great North Road, but that was very early on a Sunday morning, on an empty Great North Road when there were no lorries or anybody else about.
This brings me to my final point—age. I am sure that speed has to be dealt with effectively, but let me say at once that, to my knowledge, increasing age impairs one's skill with a car though not, I think, to the extent of making one dangerous to anyone but oneself. I find myself increasingly unable, as I believe most old people do, to park my car close to a kerb; I find it sticking out in the road and all the rest of it. I am unable to draw up to the kerb without several trials. I must say that I suffered the last damage to my car by turning round a bollard in the road near enough to scrape the door and the wings.
Let me come back to the final topic of bad behaviour on the roads as a cause of accidents—in Lord Lucas of Chilworth's words "bad manners, intolerance, hoggishness". One friend whom I consulted, who has driven about London a great deal, gave me as the most needed preventive of accidents the enforcement of the traffic laws by the police. In his experience he found cars continually 'pressing past him after he had stopped at the red lights, or getting out of line and pushing ahead of him. My own impression of London travel, based wholly on driving about in taxis, is pleasantly different—of the skill and the good manners and forbearance of 457 taxi-drivers, knowing to a quarter of an inch just where their wings are, giving way to others, trained to make an awkward turn when others are trying to make awkward turns or to pass them.
I may add that only this morning in a taxi I had an exactly contrary experience with two non-taxi drivers, who held up my taxi—a block built up behind us—and one another, because they could not decide which of them ought to retire a short way in order to leave space for everyone to move on. In the end, of course, the man who ought to have retired did not retire, and the other man had to climb on to the pavement to get past him. That is hoggishness and bad manners. I wish that the police had more time to deal with had behaviour in the London streets., but that means having either many more policemen or that those we have would spend less time in checking the exact number of minutes during which a car has been parked outside either the Reform Club or some other institution of that sort. They must spend a lot of time there.
My Lords, this is a necessary Bill and a good Bill, though it could be made better in a few ways. I ask for, and I have the impression that the Government will give us, plenty of time in Committee to make it stronger, and also for some omissions. Let us to-day pass the Second Reading and make the Bill stronger in Committee for the prevention of accidents. Last year, as the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, told us, nearly 7,000 people were killed on our roads, 90,000 or so were seriously injured and 240,000 were slightly injured. Everyone is entitled to risk his own life if no other person cares whether he lives or dies; but the pleasure which any one man may gain by drinking intoxicants or by racing along a road is less important than the life of any other human being, whether man, woman or child.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, last Thursday and to-day I have listened with the greatest of interest to the speeches of noble Lords taking part in this debate, and I am therefore tempted to say a few words on the Second Reading of this Bill, the aims of which I agree with, but I must say I am not in whole-hearted agreement with some of its clauses. Members of 458 the House seem mainly concerned with the provisions of Clauses 1, 2 and 3.
With regard to Clause 1, after hearing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, refer to it as being largely ineffective, whilst the noble Lord, Lord Silkin considered it much too vague and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor expressed complete satisfaction with it, I feel inclined to add a few further remarks. Whilst purporting to lay down a standard of unfitness to drive, through drink and so on, it does nothing more than change the words "unfit to drive" to "unfit to drive if his, the driver's, ability to drive properly is impaired." It seems to me that there is really no definition there. For instance, to what extent is it permissible for the driver's ability to be impaired? Surely, it should be when it is impaired to such an extent as to be likely to cause danger to other road users. That is not specified in the Bill in any form whatsoever.
One's ability to drive properly—that is, with due regard for others—can be equally impaired by a number of causes. First of all I should like to mention tranquillisers. I presume—in fact I have no doubt—that those would be covered by Clause 1 of this Bill; but if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, aright, their effect would not be shown up by any of the tests to which he referred. Your Lordships are well aware of other causes of impairment. There is annoyance, anger, worry, tiredness, haste and such more temporary causes as carelessness, bad manners and, with some drivers, the need for competition when on the road. All those may "for the time being" (as mentioned in the Bill) cause the impairment of one's driving ability.
I feel, therefore, that it is important to keep a sense of proportion in these matters. On page 27 of the publication Road Accidents, 1959 we see that of road accidents in 1959, 264 fatal or serious accidents were caused by the negligent opening of the door of a parked or stationary car and that 282 accidents were due to illness, fatigue or a physical defect of the driver; whilst 281 accidents were caused by an intoxicated condition—rather similar figures. If this clause and Clause 2 are not more precisely worded, there may be a tendency for the courts to conclude in all cases 459 where a test showed even a very small proportion of alcohol that this was the main contributory factor.
With regard to Clause 2, I should like to refer to the Medical Research Council Memorandum No. 38 and particularly an extract from its Introduction in respect of low levels of alcohol. It states:… the most striking feature to emerge from any review of the effects of alcohol on behaviour is the marked lack of agreement between authors, amounting, in many instances, to direct contradiction. This is especially true for the effects of smaller doses. Perhaps not surprisingly, doses large enough to produce clinical signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech and staggering gait, have been generally reported as resulting in deterioration of efficiency in almost all aspects of behaviour tested. For doses below this level, however, the picture is not clear.Summarising their experiments, the authors of this Report say that they found two differences in the extent to which alcohol affected the accuracy, speed and control-handling of individual subjects.
On Thursday last the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, stressed the relationship that exists between body weight and alcohol concentration in the blood, as well as the importance of the period after ingestion. That is why I should now like to turn to Appendix C of the Medical Research Council Report, page 86, and consider test subjects Nos. 28 and 30. Both were given 0.2 grams of alcohol per kilogram of their body weight. If one of them had been of my weight that would have represented, I believe, just over a double whisky. Thirty minutes after ingestion the first man had 6 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, whilst the second man had 60 milligrams per cent.; and two hours after ingestion the amounts had diminished to 1 and 4 milligrams respectively.
If I may say so with humility, I think the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was right in saying that, with greater penalties, there was a greater need for scientific accuracy. I would therefore warmly support his plea for standardised tests; but I am forced to the conclusion, as I believe other noble Lords were, that even with scientific accuracy there remains the very difficult problem of correctly interpreting the finding according to the individual—in other words, the 460 problem of correctly assessing its value in terms of impairment for each individual. That is why I am hoping that when the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, comes to reply he will be able to say something on that aspect of the problem—the assessment of the findings. At the moment, in view of the vague wording of this clause, I should opt, as have other noble Lords, I believe, for an alcohol-content figure to be stated in the Bill, as well as for compulsory tests, but not involving physical interference with the accused. I believe I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said the latest type of breathalyser could be considered as perfectly reliable. With a fixed percentage laid down in the Bill it would, in my humble opinion, be fairer to all. There would be no question of interpretation or assessment of the degree of impairment, so different in each individual. It would then be up to everyone to ascertain his or her degree of absorption of alcohol and adjust accordingly the period of time after ingestion during which he or she should not drive.
For instance, taking the second test subject to whom I referred earlier, if one considers the threshold of impairment to be 50 milligrams, one hour after ingestion the alcohol content of his blood had fallen from 60 milligrams per cent. to 46, and therefore he would have been below the 50 milligrams limit, if that were taken as the appropriate level; and in that case there would be a difference of only 30 minutes. Possibly the second figure quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, namely, 100 milligrams per cent., or that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Elton—150 milligrams—would be the correct one; but, whatever figure it is, I think it must be carefully studied. But as the noble Lady said, it should be one to which we could all conform provided it was a reasonable standard.
I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' time, but I should like to say a few words on Clause 3. At the outset, I should like to express my disapproval of this clause, for I feel that it will lead to a great deal of unfairness and hardship, as was stated on Thursday by my noble friends Lord Teynham and Lord Dement. Although I do not agree with all that was written by Robert Glenton in his article in the Sunday 461 Express on March 26 last, it seems to me quite unjustifiable to withdraw a driving licence for six months for three technical offences committed within a period of three years. In all probability the offences would have nothing to do with road safety in so far as it is concerned with the saving of life. It seems to me, as it has done to other noble Lords, to be a particularly harsh stipulation that there should be automatic disqualification for some of the more minor offences such as, in certain circumstances, parking without lights. I believe that that comes under offence No. 23. Then there is every likelihood that this provision would hit particularly hard, and unfairly, the professional man and the commercial drivers. Their mileage increases and the risk of their committing a lesser offence increases.
I should now like to quote an extract from the Sunday Express article to which I referred earlier, though there may be a certain amount of imagery in the wording of this article:To-morrow you mistake a policeman's hand signal. Next August on your way to the seaside you discover too late that the market square of a Devon village has overnight been made one way'.Take Auntie to London for the Christmas shopping and get lost.Three times you have broken the traffic regulations.The article continues by saying that, for that, the Minister of Transportsays you must lose your licence for six months.He will argue that this sort of case was never in his mind. But there it is in black and white in … [the] Bill.He will say he is after the road hog. But for every wild driver, he will net many more who are slow, lost and confused.And no magistrate will have the power to prevent injustice.My Lords, I welcome the Government's intention to impose in certain cases minimum speed limits with the purpose of improving traffic flow; and I presume that this will be done on certain traffic lanes of certain roads under the powers conferred by Clause 21. I would urge Her Majesty's Government seriously to consider appointing further "courtesy cops"; in other words, many more uniformed police on motor-cycles. The presence of police at danger spots and such patrols, the motor-cycle patrols, are two most effective road safety measures.
462 During these last few years I have increasingly noticed their effect in France as the number of police, gendarmes and C.R.S. have increased.
I think there can be no doubt that some of the more stupid actions liable to cause accidents that one sees daily on our roads would occur to a lesser extent if there were the deterrent presence of the police or a caution were given. At the moment it is manifestly apparent that there are far too few uniformed police on our roads—and in our streets, for that matter. To take just one example, I would refer to Cromwell Road, where I live, and the extensive speeding that takes place there late at night. In conclusion, my Lords, I am hoping that the noble Earl, when he comes to reply for Her Majesty's Government, will be able to say something constructive with regard to the appointment of further police as a deterrent to bad driving.
§ 4.4 p.m.
My Lords, I was unable to be present during the debate in your Lordships' House on Thursday last and I therefore crave the indulgence of your Lordships if I touch on points which were covered during the early part of the debate. I intend to raise only two or three points—which are really, I am afraid, Committee paints—but they concern matters on which I hope that the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, will give us some indication about the prospects of Amendments: how Amendments would be regarded by Her Majesty's Government.
On the whole I should like to say, first, that I think that the provisions as to the alcohol test are a very reasonable compromise. I personally should have been inclined to impose a compulsory test, but I appreciate the psychological difficulties into which the Government would have run had they done so. I think the solution they have found is an ingenious one which may well work satisfactorily. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, who has just spoken, in feeling that there should be laid down in this Bill a definite percentage of alcohol which would be regarded as culpable.
The Bill confers power to deal with lights, and I think there is also (though 463 I cannot at the moment point to the actual subsection) further power to deal with traffic indicator lights. There is a reference to headlamps, but it is to the traffic indicators that I wish to draw particular attention. I feel that something should be done to control the power of these lights. I do not think that anybody who has driven at night has not had the experience of coming forward from behind a car and being blinded by quite excessively bright traffic indicator lights. I think that this is a point which the Government should have in mind and which the Minister should take steps to control. Personally, I would say that it always seems to me that by far the 'best traffic indicator lights are those on taxis, which are on the roof on each side: they are visible from the front, from behind and from the side, and they would seem to me far the most effective and efficient type of light.
On the question of motor bicycles, I feel rather like the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. My own feeling is that, far from allowing people further relaxation of controls—and there was a perfectly horrible suggestion made in another place a little while ago that even younger people should be allowed to ride smaller motor bicycles, apparently to get them into training for the larger ones when they were sixteen—riders of motor bicycles ought to be prohibited until they are 60. The road casualties for motor bicyclists over 60 are, I understand, quite nominal. That the most dangerous implement on the road should be considered a suitable one for the very young, to ride is something I cannot understand; and, certainly, so far from lowering the age, I would increase it.
Clause 14 has dismayed me. It is the clause which deals with a second trailer. I hope very much that something will be done about this clause. Indeed, I shall certainly move an Amendment, if nobody else does, to delete this clause, because I think nothing can be more terrifying than the thought of these road trains which one meets on some Continental roads, from which, perhaps, the defects of our roads have so far spared us. I hope that this power will not be given to the Minister.
On old age, with great respect to the noble Lord, I cannot agree with him.
464 I am quite certain that I am nothing like so good a driver as I was when I was half my present age. One's reactions are certainly slower; and it is not only a question of parking. All I can say, speaking for myself, is that I am a very much more careful driver than I was 30 years ago, and I trust that caution will stand me in good stead and increase as I grow older. Personally, I would strongly urge that all of us, when we reach 60 or 65, and from then on at, say, five-yearly intervals, should have to pass additional tests. I think we become increasingly dangerous. Moreover, it is not only a small danger, such as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, pointed out, of parking too far out—which, I would point out to the noble Lord, is a danger not only to himself but also to other people. There are very few things on the road to-day which are a danger in themselves without being also a danger to other people.
On the question of speed, speaking frankly, I very much enjoy driving fast. On the othe hand, I think there is practically no road in England at all, with the exception of the M.1, which is suitable for fast driving. Personally, I consider that the building of motor roads is likely to have a beneficial effect on the general level of driving on ordinary roads. This I judge from my own reactions. I have driven quite a considerable amount on Italian and German motor roads, and the effect on me of driving down a road on which nothing can shoot out from around the corner and where I can see well ahead all the way is to make me infinitely cautious when I drive on an ordinary English road. Therefore I welcome the building of motor roads, and I believe that a by-product will be improved driving on ordinary roads.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who said, I think, that bad manners are bad driving; and I would point out that we are among the of your Lordships' House, but private worst offenders—I do not mean Members drivers. If I might make a sort of list of those whose driving is normally good, I would say that lorry drivers come at the top; bus drivers pretty close, if not equal; taxi drivers; and then, well below comes the ordinary, private driver, who is, as often as not, ill-mannered and in- 465 competent—and the two things go together. The only drivers that I know who are worse, perhaps, than the average, private driver are the drivers of small vans. As a rule, they are shocking, and the firms that employ them ought, I think, to be made to test their drivers. Private chauffeurs are "fair shockers"—I should have thought that, being professionals, they would have been good drivers. But they are not. They are, for the most part, I find, ill-mannered and pushing.
My Lords, I could not agree more with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, that one would like to see the traffic laws enforced. How we can do it I do not know. I would suggest that the warden system should be expanded, and that traffic should more and more be handed over to traffic police who specialise in this particular kind of work. But certainly something ought to be done to control the manners of drivers and, therefore, the quality of their driving. One of the things which I believe would do most to speed the London traffic would be if the police or the wardens could be given power to see that vehicles remained in the channel of traffic to which they belonged. As anybody who has driven in Paris will know, if you get into a right-hand lane or into a left-hand lane and want to go straight ahead or to the off-side, you are just not allowed to, but must go with the lane of traffic you are in. After experiencing this once or twice, you are much more careful. I support this Bill. As your Lordships will have gathered, I feel that it has one or two defects, but I am sure that they can be put right, and I hope they will be.
§ 4.1 5 p.m.
§ LORD SALTER
My Lords, in the middle of the second day of this debate, and conscious as I am that another speech on another subject is being made at this moment of rather more topical public interest than anything I can now say here, I shall try to avoid any repetition of what has already been said, and to confine myself to certain general considerations which seem to me appropriate to a Second Reading of a Bill as distinct from the Committee stage, in which we shall have an opportunity of discussing some of these questions rather more in detail at a later date.
466 I propose to touch upon only two general questions, drink and disqualification. As regards the first, I welcome most warmly the fact that the Minister, in introducing this Bill, has given such emphasis as he has to the problem of drink in relation to road safety, and that he has brought forward the question of tests of blood and breath. I do not propose to discuss—indeed, I am quite unqualified to discuss—the technical aspects of that question, but I am convinced that alcohol plays an immensely greater part in the casualties on the road (as indeed the noble Lord who introduced this Bill said in his opening speech) than can be inferred from any of the statistics that are available to us.
I remember a remark made to me many years ago by a great Judge who had many years of experience in dealing with motor cases. He said "I am convinced that a very large proportion, something approaching a half, of all the accidents that have come before me would never have happened if the drivers had not drunk before they drove on the particular occasion. Not that they were 'under the influence' in the ordinary sense, or intoxicated in any ordinary sense of the word. The great bulk of them had not sustained any effect from alcohol which would have been either noticeable or reprehensible in any other aspect of life. But," he added, "they had had just enough to have two consequences: one, that, in assessing a sudden emergency they made a rather more optimistic assessment of the crisis ahead of them; and, secondly, that, in dealing with it, their reactions were somewhat slower". He believed—and I think that if we look at the evidence, including that of those with long personal experience, we shall come to the same conclusion—that if it could become a social rule of behaviour, universally accepted, not to drink before driving, or not to drive after having recently drunk, the effect upon the casualty figures would be sensational.
I remember that some years ago I was invited to a cocktail party in Sweden, where the tests are severe and the penalties are also extremely severe where the presence of alcohol is proved. As I looked round this cocktail party I noticed two things. First, the men there did not seem to be at all the kind of 467 persons who were, on principle, teetotallers. Secondly, to my surprise all the men, but none of the women, were confining themselves to soft drinks—lemon-ade and so on. I inquired as to the meaning of this, to me, rather surprising phenomenon. I was told that what it meant was that the wives had insisted that their husbands should drive them home, and, therefore, that they were quite free at that party but their husbands were not. I thought that was an admirable rule, except that I should have liked to see a greater equality between the sexes than seemed to prevail in Sweden; I should have liked to see the habit of, let us say, alternation between the parties at which the husbands drank and the wives drove, and the parties at which the converse was the case. In any event, I am sure it is a very considerable part of the problem of road safety to find a way of encouraging the growth of this social habit of not drinking before you drive.
I come next to the question of disqualification. I regret very much that our motoring law and the practice of the law have so completely grown up within the framework and on the basis of the ordinary criminal law of the country, with all its traditions and implications. In some vital respects motoring offences are different from ordinary criminal offences. In the first place, in the ordinary criminal offence the offender has intended the result of his action. If a man kills another man, he has intended to kill him. That is not at all the case with a motor driver, even one whose driving amounts to criminal recklessness. It is at least true that he has not intended the result of killing.
In the second place, when you are dealing with any other offence you are presented with the fact that the offender can repeat his offence anywhere and that you cannot prevent him from doing so, except either by shutting him up and depriving him of all liberty, or, alternatively, by giving him the prospect of such penalty as will operate on his mind to induce him not to repeat the offence. In that respect, motoring offences are completely different. Motoring offences are not committed anywhere; they are committed only on the Queen's highway. Therefore, without depriving a man of his general liberty, and without 468 finding, with very great difficulty, a sufficient deterrent to frighten or prevent a man from again committing the offence of which he has been guilty, you can give the public all the safety it needs by refusing a licence to those who have shown that they are either temperamentally, or through habitual recklessness, unfit to drive a dangerous instrument on the public highway.
I should very much like to see a driver excluded from driving a dangerous instrument on the highway without the implication that that exclusion is due to his having been found guilty of a particularly heinous criminal offence. Apart from the people who are criminally reckless, there are many people who are temperamentally unfit to handle a high-speed and dangerous car on the public highway, and whose conduct in an accident which may have happened, and whose record as then divulged, will clearly show that they are, and will be so long as they drive, a perpetual danger to the public.
In the same way, that may happen even in the case of people who are ordinarily good and careful drivers, as my noble friend Lord Beveridge said, as their years increase. Here I should perhaps declare a personal interest, but in the opposite sense to that in which it is usually declared. I think that it would be reasonable that after a certain age it should be prescribed that a licence should not be given for a period of three years, but at the most for one year; and that, when applied for, the application should be accompanied by a medical certificate to the effect that there had been no impairment in the meantime of physical ability, sight, or whatever it may be, as to have rendered the applicant an undue danger to the public. I would urge that some way should be sought of excluding certain classes of people, whether unfit by temperament, age or illness, from continuing to be a danger to the public, without disgrace or discredit. My Lords, those are the only two general points that I now wish to make. I propose to reserve any further proposals or comments till I can discuss them in greater detail which is appropriate to discussions on the Committee stage of the Bill.
§ 4.27 p.m.
My Lords, I have no interest to declare except that I 469 am a driver occupied as such for some 250 to 300 hours a year, and hate nearly every minute of it. I want to deal with two matters only; the first is casualties, and the second concerns speed limits.
I think, in the first place, that we are rather apt not to give credit where credit is due for what has been done in the way of keeping down casualties on the roads. If one compares the present with the past, relatively the position is distinctly better. For instance, if we go back as far as 1926, we find, by comparison, that to-day the vehicles have quintupled, the population is up 15 per cent., and road deaths are up by one-third. The peak years for death were 1930 and 1934, not to-day; and at that time there were one-quarter the number of vehicles that there are to-day, and the number of deaths was still a little larger. Compared with the last year before the war, our population has gone up 10 per cent., our vehicles have multiplied by 2½ times, and our "kill" is down 1 or 2 per cent. Therefore, I think we can say that the efforts of the officials, the automobile engineers, the road engineers, the propagandists and the doctors have had a considerable effect over the last 20 years or so.
The booklet of statistics issued by the Ministry is interesting; and though I cannot always make the totals tally, I expect this is my fault. The figures must, to some extent, be academic, in that they were unaccompanied by the unascertainable figures of the vehicle mileage covered at each hour of the day or night, or the number of vehicles on the roads between each hour of the day or night. Nevertheless, browsing through the figures, I think that they confirm what one would logically expect, which is that most accidents occur when the most people are on the roads in the most hurry—in other words, during the morning and evening rush hours, the dinner break rush hour and the other subsidiary rush hour we have got between 10 p.m. and midnight, when all the amusements close down.
People seem to assume that the rise in accidents at that time of night, particularly on Saturdays, must be due to the effect of drink on drivers. But I would remind your Lordships that it is not only the pubs that close down; everything else closes down—cinemas, dance halls, 470 private dinner parties and the like. And it may well be that some of these people have been to the Band of Hope whist drive. Saturday night is a great night for entertainments and all forms of parties, and I suggest that the number of vehicles on the road on Saturday night is likely to be heavier than it is from Monday to Friday during the same hours.
Undoubtedly there are drivers who have had too much to drink, but there is no evidence to show what proportion of all drivers these constitute. I did a rough arithmetical exercise. I supposed that we could get the number of accidents between 10 p.m. and midnight down to the level between 8 and 9 p.m., though I am not sure that that is a fair target, because from 10 to 12 are peak hours, and from 8 to 9 traffic is slacker. But I worked out that we might expect to save about 8,000 out of a total of some 300,000 accidents in a year. If the number of deaths came down in the same proportion, we should have a reduction of about 17 on nearly 600 per month. I do not belittle these figures but quote them 'to suggest that those who believe they are going to effect a complete revolution in the casualty figures by making drivers more sober than they are to-day may be a little optimistic.
We need a new word or term for "drunken" if we are to accept the theory that driving after consuming a small quantity of alcohol is to be an offence. I cannot suggest a word, but "drink taken" is the type of thing required. The whole problem bristles with difficulties, because men vary in their power of absorption of alcohol without ill-effects. They are different even in their reactions. We find, from page 59 of the Medical Research Council's Memorandum No. 38, that introverts are less affected than extroverts. Frankly, I do not know what is the proper way to tackle this question within the limits of the practicabilities within our reach. Blood tests and breath tests tell only one thing: how much alcohol has been swallowed. They do not give a clue as to whether a man is drunk or incapable of driving. So the protagonists of these methods have had to fail back on the generalisation that a man is not fit to drive after a specified quantity of alcohol has been taken. Well, that is a very 471 wide and very rough formula. It is not an objective test in the least. To provide that, every person would have to carry round his own personal formula.
The only fair and proper test one could suggest would be some sort of reaction test on a machine that produced a written record. Even then, I have no doubt that the subject would be in a highly nervous state, after being dragged off to a police station and made to sit in an imaginary car or do whatever the test required. I am afraid, therefore, that I can contribute nothing constructive to the solution of this problem, because frankly I cannot see how to tackle it.
The other point I want to raise is on Clause 3 (3), which, combined with Part II of the First Schedule, provides for compulsory disqualification on the third offence under the Schedule. Disqualification is serious for everyone, but particularly serious for the professional driver. In Part II of the First Schedule, quite a few of the offences are rather technical ones—going down a street the wrong way by mistake, and that sort of thing—which I should hardly have thought were offences which could justifiably lead to ultimate disqualification.
This subsection raises particularly the question of speeding. I take that to mean not only exceeding the limit on restricted roads but also exceeding the limit on restricted vehicles. Whatever the merits of speed limits on restricted roads may be, we know that for many years the speed limit on restricted vehicles has been quite unrealistic, particularly on passenger coaches and the lighter forms of goods vehicle. I venture to think that there is no passenger coach or delivery van in the country which doer not exceed its limit of 30 m.p.h. for most of the time when road conditions permit. In fact, coaches are a menace on the road unless they keep up a speed considerably in excess of 30 m.p.h., and in many cases delivery vans and the smaller types of commercial vehicles have the same engine, the same chassis and the same brakes as private cars, and in the bulk of cases will not be carrying any more weight than a private car with several passengers.
I have lost track of the official argument for the 30 m.p.h. limit on these 472 classes. Perhaps my noble friend will restate it. But, unofficially, I know that at one time it was alleged that the trade unions objected because they felt that any change in the speed limit would lead to an unwarranted stiffening up on drivers' schedules. Personally, I should be reluctant to see the schedules of commercial drivers stiffened up, because I believe that in a majority of cases they have a sufficiently long day as it is, but I do not believe that the trade unions are so incapable of looking after the interests of their members that there need be any fear of that happening.
I suspect that there is another reason in the background, which is that the Treasury, having fixed different rates of purchase tax on commercial and private vehicles, are extremely anxious not to throw away any difference between the two or to remove any obstacle to the buying of commercial vehicles by private persons for their own private purposes in order to save purchase tax. By providing compulsory disqualification for a third offence of exceeding the vehicle speed limit, this Bill is providing disqualification for an offence which is being committed all the time by all drivers. I think that the Bill brings the matter to a head.
It seems to me that the Minister has two choices. He can maintain that to exceed the vehicle speed limit is dangerous. In that case it is up to him to see that law is upheld and enforced, and in so doing it is clear that he will slow down the traffic of the country to a perhaps disastrous extent. Alternatively, he must alter the speed limits as being no longer realistic in to-day's conditions of automobile engineering and actual practice. For the Minister it is "the moment of truth", and I am anxious to know what he is going to do.
§ 4.42 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I am afraid that I am in a minority of one, in that I do not like this Bill. We are faced with a great and a sad problem, and we had looked to the Government for a positive solution. What have we got? In the main, punitive and repressive legislation. There is hardly one constructive idea in the whole of this document. The aim seems to be to stop and to intimidate.
473 There are many things which could be done. For instance, insistence upon the standard fixing of safety belts by motor manufacturers. They save lives, as in aeroplanes; so why not make them compulsory? And really effective propaganda. My Lords, what sort of impact do you expect from 100,000 or 200,000 posters based on a play on the words "Be alive!"? What is needed is not epigrams, but epitaphs; photographs of the crudest and bloodiest of accidents in dayglow paint at every danger spot; more and more of those "gloomy widow" posters which upset the public so much ten years ago. These are the things which might do good. But they are small things. Nothing can cure this disease except the wholesale building of new roads and the improvement of existing ones. Anything else is merely a palliative. People are killed in thousands not so much because of bad driving, but because there is simply not room for the mass of swift, soft- skinned vehicles which charge forward on roads never meant for them. It is as though you were to drive 4 million express locomotives along a series of branch lines.
What amazes me, indeed, is not so much the size of the casualty figures as their relative smallness. There are 10 million driving-licence holders in this country, which is about one in four of the adult population. Taking two to a vehicle, this means some 20 million persons at least on the roads. In 1960 the deaths numbered 6,900. Appalling, you may say. But are your Lordships aware that before the war things were considerably worse, although the number of vehicles on the road was much smaller? In 1934 there were 2½ million vehicles and 7,350 deaths; in 1939, 3 million vehicles and 8,300 deaths; and last year, 9 million vehicles and 6,900 deaths. Thus, though there were three times as many vehicles last year as in 1939, the death rate was one-fifth less. I ask your Lordships to ponder those figures very carefully and perhaps to take comfort in them, Then again, what about accidents in the home? As we learned last week, 8,000 people died last year as a result of these accidents. But we never, or hardly ever, hear about them. There is no indignation, no Press publicity, for they are not newsworthy; they just happen, and we wrongly accept them.
474 My Lords, let us keep a sense of proportion about these things. Let us be shocked; and, indeed, deeply shocked. But if it is the people's wish to get speedily from one place to another, then I am afraid that under the present appalling conditions the price will have to be paid. A bad motor accident is a terrible thing: I have been in one, and I know —I had a broken back. The noise alone is something one never forgets; and the grief and suffering of the victims and their relations must be indescribable. Sometimes, of course, it is clearly somebody's fault: somebody was drunk, or showing off, or in too much of a hurry: the cause is obvious, the guilt inescapable. But I should say that in nine out of ten cases the accident would not have happened were it not for these cursed roads of ours.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Is the noble Earl suggesting that where an accident occurs through the state or condition of the road, but also due to the attitude of the driver, the innocent should pay the price for our ability to move quickly from one place to another?
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I am not suggesting anything of the sort. I am simply saying that I do not believe these accidents would happen if the roads were in better condition. I would not go so far as the noble Lord says he thought I was going. What do the Government offer? A paltry £118 million for the roads themselves and a series of increased punishments for the motorists who offend against the highly complicated laws for our roads.
I am not concerned here with the major offenders. A drunk or drugged man has no business to drive a motor car—though Heaven knows how you are to decide who is fit to drive and who is not! Some people are unfit after one whisky and soda, while others can absorb much more without their judgment being impaired. What does worry me is the minor offender. Henceforth he is automatically to be debarred from driving if within three years he three times exceeds the speed limit, or goes up a one-way street the wrong way—an easy mistake to make—or if one of his tyres is regarded as worn-out, or a three-fold mixture of these or other offences. If the intention is to get the people off the roads as quickly as possible, then this 475 is an excellent Bill. With any luck we should get rid of 10 per cent. of the motoring population in the next five years, although I fear that the remaining 90 per cent. may not be the best or the safest drivers. If the desire is really to limit the accidents, then limit the production of cars, and have done with it. Never mind the loss of revenue.
Think of the administrative difficulties this piece of legislation will bring about. Take speeding. Your Lordships may not know that there is at present no central register, no check on those who are convicted of breaking the speed limit. There used to be, but it had to be given up; not surprisingly, perhaps, because in 1959 there were 94,000 convictions on this count. How are these speeding convictions to be totted up henceforth? By endorsing them on the licence, apparently. But what is to prevent some scallywag from losing his licence and asking for a new one? He will have to sign a form stating that he has no endorsements. But he will know that if he lives in Essex and his endorsement came from Glamorganshire he will not be found out. To prevent this will mean more clerical work for the police. My Lords, the police are already overburdened with paper work; and they get things wrong.
Let me give one small example. Last month my son received a summons for an alleged parking offence in Oxford in June of last year. That seemed strange enough. But, in addition, under the heading of "Previous convictions", it was stated that he had been convicted of speeding in July, 1959. At that time he was on active service with his battalion in Cyprus. The conviction was, in fact, against myself. It seemed hard that the sin of the father should thus be visited upon the son. That was stranger still. But strangest of all was that the same conviction had quite correctly been brought up a week previously against me in another magistrates' court. In other words, the same conviction was used twice in two consecutive weeks against two different persons.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
If the noble Lord asks me to, I will specify the court, but I thought I would not do so. This 476 is not a complaint against the police. Indeed, they showed extreme courtesy in the matter. It is an illustration of what can happen as a result of the overwhelming clerical burdens which they are asked to shoulder. And this Bill is going to make their burdens heavier still. My Lords, it is quite unfair. We should not do this to them. And if we are going to do it, we shall have to give them extra staff, either at headquarters on in the local constabulary. How many extra staff: 50,100 or 200? Perhaps the noble Earl will give us some idea. Whatever the number, it is going to cost a lot of money. But these are points which can be considered in Committee.
What worries me, my Lords, is the whole tone of the Bill. To me it is one of defeatism and despair. All the Government are saying, in effect, is: "There is absolutely nothing we can think of doing, so we will just make it harder for everyone." Motorists are not a class on their own: they are the public. The present Act says that the maximum fine for such-and-such an offence is £20. So the Bill makes it £50: and it does this six times or more. The present Act says that you may have your licence taken away if you exceed the speed limit three times. This Bill says that you must have your licence taken away, and it is not left to the magistrates. The present Act has no formal provision for clinical tests for drunkenness. The Bill introduces them with a threat of "or else …" Little but threats and penalties. The principle seems quite simply "Hang the lot!. I find this disappointing. I think someone might have thought up something a little more constructive and practical. In the last resort, the only answer is new and better roads. People are deeply worried about this business. We ought to be able to put it right; and, frankly, one had hoped for a little more than this rather barren Bill.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD ALLERTON
My Lords, at this stage of a long debate it is difficult to bring any fresh thought to your Lordships' notice, especially in view of the large number of very able speeches to which we have listened. I feel that one can do little more than emphasise some of the remarks which have been made with which one is in agreement.
477 The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in his excellent speech, referred to the number of accidents due to drink, and remarked that the percentage was very small in proportion to the number of accidents as a whole, even though there may be many more accidents due to this cause than are revealed by the statistics. Great publicity has been given to the question of alcohol in the motorist, and it may well be for this reason that we are inclined to think that more accidents are due to drink than in fact is the case. The noble Lord also drew attention to accidents caused by fatigue. I am sure this is a real danger and must be the cause of a great many accidents, but I do not see that it is possible to legislate against it, other than with the drivers of commercial vehicles; and they are already provided for in this respect.
My own feeling is that many more accidents are caused by straightforward incompetence on the part of the drivers. Traffic conditions being what they are, a driver has to be very good if he is not to involve either himself or somebody else in some form of trouble. For this reason, I advocate more searching driving tests, and would even go so far as to call for periodic tests, as has been mentioned this afternoon. I also feel strongly on the subject of driving instructors. I consider that they should be at least up to the standard required by that admirable organisation, the Institute of Advanced Motorists. That is certainly not the case at the present time; indeed, I believe that it is possible to obtain a driving licence to-day and to set up as an instructor to-morrow. That cannot be right.
The Bill does not lay down what quantity of alcohol shall be treated as proving incapacity to drive, but it suggests that only a slight diminution of efficiency need be proved. The correct interpretation of the wording presents great difficulty, and there is a danger that we may be creating a new crime of what may be termed "academic drunkenness." There are many diverse opinions upon the value of the tests, and I have spoken to a number of doctors on the subject. It seems to me that these tests may corroborate the evidence of the prosecution. They may show the approximate amount of alcohol consumed by the accused, but they cannot show what effect, if any, or 478 what degree of impairment, if any, that quantity of alcohol had on the accused. I realise that I am treading on dangerous ground, and that more scientific minds than my own would, and do, disagree. But I am sure that I am speaking for quite a large number of people who, though regular drinkers, do not get drunk and can still drive perfectly safely.
The Bill refers to "unfitness to drive through drink or drugs". May I ask the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government what tests will be applied for the detection of drugs? The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has told us that drugs such as tranquillers and stimulants, the use of which, I regret to say, appears to be on the increase, can cause impairment. The detection of drugs can hardly be the responsibility of the police. So it would seem that the services of a doctor will still be necessary. Might not drugs produce symptoms akin to drunkenness and yet the tests not show any traces of drink? The test would not indicate that the accused was suffering from drugs. The legal aspect of that part of the Bill which lays down that the refusal of the accused to submit to providing specimens for test may be construed as evidence against him seems to me wrong. But I had better leave that to better legal brains than my own.
The introduction of compulsory disqualification for certain offences as set out in subsections (1), (2) and (3) of Clause 3 seems to me to remove the common-sense discretion which magistrates now have; that is to say, to make the punishment fit the crime. This would mean that the purely accidental commission of three very minor offences could lead to a period of disqualification without any discretion on the part of the magistrates. Furthermore, the magistrates are now relieved of their right to remove disqualification. If magistrates hear a case and the whole of the evidence, and then decide to impose a disqualification, the same magistrates, who know the case and the surrounding circumstances, are surely the appropriate tribunal to hear any application to remove that disqualification.
The Bill proposes that all applications for restoration of a licence shall go to quarter sessions. Apart from the inevitable delay, this could cost £50 or more in legal expenses, and it seems to me to be unfair to assume that all holders of 479 driving licences are rich men. Personally, I feel that it would be better if suspensions were shorter and that no possibility of removal of disqualification were permitted at all. Then everyone would know exactly where he was. However, I can see no argument in favour of legislation which assumes that a court is competent to remove a licence but is not competent to restore, and that, as I understand it, is the position at the moment.
The Bill deals reasonably and competently with a number of subsidiary questions, such as the Minister's power to fix speed limits. Any rationalisation of speed limits is welcome. I also welcome the provisions with regard to driving instructors and the raising and lowering of age limits for drivers. But other matters are left untouched. One of these is enforcement. My noble friend Lord Teynham and others have already mentioned uniformed police patrols. With this I am heartily in agreement, for I am certain that these 'patrols do more to ensure good driving and good traffic manners than anything else. Prevention of accidents must be preferable to heavy fines and sentences after the accident has happened. I believe that the motorcycle police, although admirable in the summer, present some difficulty in winter, owing to the severity of the weather. Although no motor-cyclist myself, I should imagine that those machines are very difficult to control on frosty or slippery roads, and that they may result in a high rate of sickness in the police force through adverse climatic conditions and the state of the roads. I suppose that, as in all things, the questions of expense must come in; patrol cars are more expensive and we could not have so many of them.
I should like to see courts make more use of their powers for compulsory retest of drivers. There is provision for this in Section 3 of the Act of 1960, but I suggest that these powers are not used nearly so often as they should be. There is also nothing in the Bill with regard to the requisite state of health of an applicant far a driving licence. I suggest that there are people driving to-day whose state of health does not warrant their holding a driving licence at all. Some form of declaration has to be made on the form upon which one applies for a 480 licence, but I imagine that, like a lot of other forms of that sort, they are signed in a fairly carefree manner. Would it be going too far to require that a medical certificate of health should accompany the application for a driving licence? Many people think so. It is done in the case of an application for a pilot's certificate, and I do not think it would be an intolerable imposition on a motorist.
The Bill gives no help to the motorist with regard to circumstances beyond his control. Drunken pedestrians and dangerous cyclists continue as before, and it would be foolish to assume that accidents are never caused by the careless, foolish and dangerous conduct of those other than motorists. I can give no figures as to the number of motorists who have been killed while trying lo avoid dangerous pedestrians and cyclists, but I believe that deaths have been caused in this way. The Report of the Road Research Laboratory on the accidents on December 24, 1959, made it clear that there was a considerable number of drunken pedestrians involved in accidents that night. The motorist was subject to heavy penalties whereas the pedestrians were not. The Bill does nothing to remedy this situation. The right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Transport, said in another place on July 28 last:We must get road safety into its proper perspective".I agree wholeheartedly. He also mentioned that the deaths in 1960 were fewer than those in 1938 despite the fact that the number of vehicles had more than doubled. There are many bad drivers, but there are not many criminal drivers. I do not believe that prison is the proper place for a motorist, except in very exceptional cases. Suspension of licence is a much more fitting punishment. It, indeed, has the effect of removing the danger from the road. Incompetence must not be confused with crime. The drinking driver is not necessarily the drunken driver. I believe that more severe penalties are no substitute for better roads, the segregation of cyclists and pedestrians and the unselfish cooperation of all who constitute the traffic problem as it is to-day.
§ 5.8 p.m.
My Lords, I hope I shall be forgiven if I repeat a good many remarks that have been made far better 481 and more ably by those who have spoken before me. That, I am afraid, is the penalty of being one of those less significant Members of your Lordships' House who come at the end of the list. I must confess that I find this Bill not a very satisfactory one as it stands, lit has dealt with one very severe cause of danger on the road, and the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Transport has my entire backing in attacking that, but it has left many other real causes of danger absolutely untouched. I also feel that it is directed entirely towards the motorist, as the noble Lord, Lord Allerton, has said. The drunken cyclist, the drunken pedestrian, who are both real sources of danger, are left completely untouched. I hope that in future there will be some penalty for pedestrians and cyclists who cause danger on the road.
I do not think that any of us can doubt that we have an energetic and very enthusiastic Minister of Transport. He has obviously got his foot hard down on the accelerator towards road safety and he is going as hard as he can. But is it not just possible that somewhere in his enthusiasm he has taken a wrong turning and is now going at a high rate of speed in the wrong direction? I rather think he has. In some way he seems to have a remarkably one-tracked mind. When he first took office his one idea was to attack the parking problem in London, To him, the heaven-sent panacea for this was the parking meter, so he devoted all his energies to erecting as many parking meters as he could, or as the Treasury would allow him to. He has been so successful in that that it is now practically impossible to park anywhere in the centre of London.
However, having found that preventing people from parking their cars did not seem to reduce substantially the casualties on the road, he is now putting all his energies into attacking another problem, that of driving while under the influence of alcohol. I wonder whether this problem is quite such a simple one as he seems to think it is. One must first consider, as has already been mentioned by others, the great variety of reactions to a given amount of alcohol between individuals. Because of this great variety he will, of course, eventually have to decide upon some mean which is suitable presumably for the average 482 person. But this is not mentioned in the Bill, and it seems to me that until it is mentioned the first part of the Bill is completely useless. What is that mean to be, and by whom is it going to be decided? That is another question I should like to have answered.
In any case, I wonder whether driving under the influence of alcohol is the greatest, or even one of the greatest, sources of danger on our roads. I think that a great many more accidents are caused by sheer bad-mannered driving. As I came up this morning—I drive 77 miles to reach your Lordships' House—I noticed on the way innumerable cases of people who were pushing past slower moving vehicles in front of them, regardless of whether it was safe to do so and sometimes blatantly going over the double white line. Those are the things that cause danger, and they are not necessarily due to drink at all; many of the drivers are completely sober. Bad manners are not so easily cured as one might think. According to modern psychological doctrine, from what I can make of it, it is simply not done to teach a child good manners, and if he has not acquired them by the time he leaves school he is not likely to have acquired them by the time he is driving a car. However, I must not diverge from the Bill too much.
We are not told, either in this Bill or in the principal Act, whether blood tests or other tests will be confined to cases where there has been an accident or where there is every reason to suspect from his behaviour that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. I think that point was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Conesford. I will give your Lordships an instance of the kind of thing I mean. If the House has not risen until after 6.30 on Thursdays I generally start home at once and have dinner on the way home. Will it be possible, under the Act, that when I come out of the hotel, having consumed half-a-pint of ginger beer, I shall find a policeman standing beside my car, and that he will force me to have a blood test before I go any further?—and I say "force me" because, since my refusal will constitute evidence against myself, it really amounts to that. If that were to be the case, I think it is a pity.
483 To turn to Clause 3, I should like to mention one thing that I find most satisfactory about it, namely, as has been mentioned by so many other noble Lords, the much wider use of disqualification as a penalty. It is so much more suitable than a fine, however high that may be. I have always been much in favour of making the punishment fit the crime. It is an obvious fact that no one who is in a financial position to own a car is going to mind much about a fine, even quite a heavy one; and, at the risk of arousing a torrent of opposition from those noble Lords who believe that corporal punishment is equivalent to the destruction of a man's soul, I would say that he would not even mind a few strokes of the birch provided he were allowed to go on driving.
I think disqualification is certainly the ideal punishment, but—and this is an important "but"—I think it should be confined, as it is not in the Bill, to those cases where the driver has caused danger to others. At the moment it is possible, though not compulsory, for him to be disqualified for driving at 32 miles per hour in a built-up area. Surely, that is out of all proportion. Equally, I think it most important that when a driver is convicted of driving dangerously the reason for his doing so should be ascertained. Sometimes this reason may be an obscure one. For instance, in cases of drunken driving the driver concerned may be someone who normally never drinks, but perhaps owing to some particularly unhappy event in his household or some great tragedy through which he has passed he has drunk more than is good for him, and, as a result, if convicted, would lose his licence. For a first offence disqualification should not be allowed, but after that it should be compulsory.
Looking at subsection (7) of this clause, I wonder whether the statutory driving test is itself satisfactory enough to warrant the cancellation of a disqualification order. I must admit that I have never had to pass the normal driving test because my licence dates from before it came into existence, but I have spoken a great deal to those who have, and what I have found out about it has convinced me that it is not a test which necessarily produces either a 484 skilful or a conscientious driver. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, pointed out, it is often conducted entirely in a built-up area so that the driver never exceeds 30 miles per hour. He is then given a licence which enables him to drive a car which will travel at 150 miles per hour, but he has given no evidence of being fit to do so. I have heard something about the test for motor cyclists. This is nothing short of ludicrous, if it is true. I believe that the motor cyclist goes to his testing station; the examiner says "Go down that road, turn right, turn right again, go round the block and come back from the other direction." If the rider is still on his motor cycle when he comes back, he has presumably passed the test, although nobody has ridden behind to see whether he has driven properly.
Can one wonder that some motor cyclists are such a menace? There is another point. A driver can be tested on a car which has automatic transmission, and if he can pass the test he is qualified to drive any type of car. If that driver is put into a car which has not got automatic transmission he will become a source of great danger on the road. I therefore feel strongly that if a driver is disqualified he should be forced to pass some much stiffer test before he regains his licence.
I now turn to Clauses 7 to 10, which deal with the very vexed question of speed limits. Although the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is not here to hear me say it, I may say I disagree wholeheartedly with everything he said on the subject, and I hope he will not take that as being in any way personal. The question of speed limits has been discussed at length in your Lordships' House many times, and, whatever one may feel about them, one fact remains painfully obvious: that is, they are more honoured in the breach than in the observance. This is a fact which I believe needs to be looked into. As a whole, we are a law-abiding race and we do not necessarily become the opposite simply because we are sitting behind a steering wheel. The main reason for the constant ignoring of any law can only be that it is unreasonable. I am not by any means suggesting that all speed limits are unrea- 485 sonable, for that would be absurd. The trouble is that so many of them are, and, as a result, motorists are beginning to regard them as simply another bit of legislation to which no attention need be paid. That is a bad thing because it tends to bring the law into disrepute.
I could quote many instances of the kind of thing I mean. For instance, on the A.30 just east of Camberley there is a long stretch—I should think nearly half a mile—of completely open road, certainly wide enough for three lanes if not four, and with no buildings whatsoever, but which is restricted. Why, and who observes the restriction? Speed limits, road signing and road marking, I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, should be in the hands of a national advisory committee and should not be left to local government to decide. It would be quite simple to appoint this committee, consisting of road traffic experts from all parts of the country. The statement in the Bill that local governments must have the Minister's permission before they make any regulations really means little at all, because has the Minister ever refused permission to a local government desiring to impose a limit?
§ LORD STONHAM
Very often. Many local authorities fail to get their plans passed for the imposition of speed limits.
I am very glad and relieved to hear it and I wish the Minister would do that a little more often. In any case, I do not think it is right that responsibility for any decision of such an important nature should rest on the shoulders of one man. There should be a committee to deal with it. I do not wish by that statement to cast any aspersion on the present Minister, whom I know to be a responsible motorist and a capable man, but it does not follow that his successors will be; therefore I think it is a pity that in subsection (1) of Clause 9 he has shaken off even the necessity to consult the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee before making a new Order.
Clause 13 deals with the question of lights and if I may just take up your Lordships' time a little longer I should like to make one or two suggestions which I hope the right honourable 486 gentleman the Minister will consider. One thing that I have always felt would be desirable is an overtaking signal, a green light at the rear of a car controlled by a push-button (to avoid any risk of leaving it on) because so often one does not get an overtaking signal from a car. Perhaps it is cold weather and the driver in front does not want to open his window, or he may just assume that you will pass him in any case. I believe such a signal would make for safety. Possibly the law might be tightened up to the point of making it a penalty to overtake without having had that signal, provided the fact can be proved. Then, I wish the Minister would establish a minimum candle-power for cyclists' rear lights.
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ LORD SOMERS
Innumerable times I have passed cyclists in dark clothes on country roads and have seen them long before I have seen their rear light. Cyclists should be made more aware of the fact that they also, and not only the motorist, are potential sources of danger on the road.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to all the speakers in this very interesting and important debate. I well remember listening to the debate on motoring which took place in this House and in which I was privileged to take part some eighteen months ago, just after the opening of the M.1 Motorway. There are a few points I should like to raise. Some of them have already been extremely well covered by those who have spoken before me, but I should like to continue on sometimes parallel, sometimes divergent, lines. I am not altogether happy about this Bill because it raises some doubts, although with certain aspects of it I am in complete agreement—for example, the provisions relating to serious offences to do with dangerous driving, and so on.
The technical aspects, such as the differing effects of alcohol on various people and things of that nature, have been gone into very thoroughly, and I do not intend to cover that ground at all. I believe that serious driving mistakes caused by drink are well catered for, and those offences should be attacked most strenuously. But I am not 487 very happy—and here I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken—about the possibility of disqualification for relatively technical motoring offences. I could not agree more with what he said. A motorist who exceeds the speed limit by a mile or two should not be disqualified. One realises that it is wrong to do that, but I should like to go a little further into this matter.
I have had a certain amount of experience of driving in other parts of the world, beside England, and one of the things one notices at once when driving to any extent in the United States, for example, is the entirely different feeling that exists there between the motorist and the police. With rare exceptions, the motorist in this country does not look upon the policeman particularly as his enemy. On the whole, if the motorist makes some small mistake the police are not waiting to pounce; but in America I would say they are Motorists there drive in fear and trembling of committing some small offence for which they will get a ticket. They are very nervous when they are driving, and a nervous motorist is never a good driver; he is frightened and keeps looking in his rear mirror and wondering if he is going to make a mistake. It may even be that he bolsters up his courage by a certain intake of alcohol because he is afraid of making that mistake. I do not want to see this state of affairs come to pass in this country through legislation aimed at the really dangerous and unthinking driver and rebounding, as it were, on someone committing a small technical offence.
A point which I raised when I spoke in the debate on motoring eighteen months ago, which I should like to raise again, and which I am very sorry to see has not been mentioned in this Bill, so far as I know, is the question of pedestrians. We have heard a great deal about motorists and the faults they commit, but in London, particularly, we have an extraordinary situation existing in which pedestrians, jay-walkers and people who cross against the lights, are not in any way apprehended or picked up for so doing. I drive constantly backwards and forwards across Oxford Street. What happens? The light goes green, but do the pedestrians stop? They do not. They continue to stream across, and if 488 you hoot they look angrily as if you were in the wrong and they were right. This situation does not exist in any other city I drive in, and I have driven in most of the capital cities. Woe betide the pedestrian who does that in New York! A large policeman would come along and he would be fined on the spot, as he would in any other city in the world. This is a point the Minister must look into. Many lives and limbs would be saved, and a lot of strain would be taken off drivers, too, who, after all, have a complicated and reasonably difficult machine to control, especially if it is raining or if road conditions are not too good. The pedestrian, after all—and I am often one myself—has only to think what he is doing and watch the lights and behave in a normal way.
I fully agree with certain speakers who have already criticised driving tests and the way they are conducted. I think that the whole question of preparing a person to drive a motor car must now be streamlined in regard to modern needs. To see young people at the wheel of a motor car carrying "L" plates, flapping their hands in a kind of vague manner, is quite ridiculous. That is what traffic indicators are for. We have modern cars with them for that reason. I think that the really important aspects of modern driving relating to motorways and so on, such as lane discipline, which we in this country have not yet learned to appreciate, have not been explained to beginners at all. This is a question of people being prepared to drive a motor car. It is very difficult to deal with the points raised by the noble Lord, about automatic gear boxes, and of driving a small car and then switching to a big one. I do not think we can legislate for this. But I think we must very seriously consider the Highway Code and how we train the people who teach driving.
Now, at the risk of boring your Lordships, I would turn to the question of speed limits, which has been "hashed over" in no small way in this House. I should like to say right away that I am in disagreement with the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who is obviously a great advocate of speed limits. Speaking from considerable driving experience, I do not have a great belief in speed limits.
489 They are very necessary in cities and built-up areas, but I think that to put them on the road as a panacea for all ills is a great mistake. It is slowly going backwards. If we were to have a small man with a red flag in front of motor cars restricting speed to five miles an hour there would be a great reduction of accidents. Doubtless, if we banned all jet aeroplanes no one would be killed in them. But progress would not go on. In a hundred years from now we shall have, I hope, a number of high-speed roads on which motors will travel at speeds we do not think about to-day, and motorists will take them as a matter of course. We have to go forward, and I think that speed limits are an example of defeat. They are an admission that our roads, our cars and our driving are not adequate for travel at higher speeds.
In America, speed limits are imposed on highways such as M.1, but the situation is rather different, because there most people drive motor cars of relatively equal power and they travel at relatively equal speeds. In this country, we have 90 per cent. of drivers driving small cars at a medium speed, and a few others driving very fast cars and going very quickly. Therefore, our whole position with regard to motorway speed limits is quite different. I am sorry to be "long-winded" about this subject, but I feel that it is an important point. Also, American cars are mainly designed to be driven on a straight, flat road. If driven at high speed they are quite dangerous. Therefore I think that the Americans are very wise to put speed limits on their major highways. However, they are not entirely wise in other ways. For example, I remember driving across Oklahoma, where the State speed limit is 60 miles an hour. On their new super-highway, this is ridiculously low; but on certain little country lanes to which the speed limit applies, because it is an overall State limit, it is equally ridiculously high. It just does not make sense.
Also in America there is a curious situation, in that in States where the speed limit is high—if there is a limit of, say, 70 miles an hour—that limit is very heavily enforced, and if you travel at 72 or 73 m.p.h. and you are caught, you are pulled in and fined. But in States where the limit is low, as in California, where it is 55 m.p.h., you may drive at 70 or 490 80 m.p.h., provided that you drive in a reasonable and competent way. If you observe lane discipline, do not weave in and out and do things you are not supposed to, you will not be stopped. The noble Lord who opened this debate said that the 50 m.p.h. limit which was imposed during holidays was effective and that the Government think that the figures of accidents were reduced. But any of your Lordships who has driven on busy, congested roads at Bank Holiday week-ends will know that there are very few occasions when it is possible to travel at 50 m.p.h. Cars are usually crawling along, bumper to bumper, at half that speed. I think we have to look at other ways of cutting down accidents.
In this respect I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that one of the major causes of accidents is the bad roads in this country. I think we have to go ahead and build new super-highways. If we are not in a financial position to do it, why do we not impose tolls? I have spoken about this before in this House, and if I may risk riding my hobbyhorse (though it may be dangerous to ride a hobbyhorse down M.1) I would say that tolls are a good idea. Any motorist would be delighted to pay for the opportunity of driving on a road such as the M.1, and it would serve the second purpose of tending to keep commercial traffic off the road. I think that this is desirable for two reasons. A road such as the M.1 is designed for high speeds, and lorries are not wanted on it. They go slowly and are a menace, and they cause the road to deteriorate. Let them go on the older roads, which would be freed of traffic, and let the motorists who are prepared to pay go on these super-roads which would be paid for by them.
My Lords, I believe that a very ruthless attitude must be adopted. We are going to have complete stagnation in this country if we do not do something very serious about it. And it is no good small vested interests kicking up a fuss and saying, "You are cutting through our back garden" or, "Our shop which we have owned for 100 years is to be pulled down." The answer is that last week we had an extraordinary scientific achievement: a man in space. I am not advocating the way of life that exists in Russia, but I think this was achieved by a certain sweeping aside of people who 491 were obstructive, and by a certain ruthless approach. Shortly, we in this country are going to have a very difficult and dreadful situation which will cripple us economically; and it must be dealt with ruthlessly and, I suggest, by any means. The Minister must take the broad view and spend enormous sums of money, taking it from the motorists, or anyone you like, to see that we have roads. Instead of being behind in the world as we are to-day, we should have roads which are equal to any, or better than any, in any other country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
My Lords, we have heard a great deal about this Bill, and I shall try to be as brief as I can. At the outset, I should like to congratulate the Minister on producing the Bill; on producing something which he hopes will go in some measure towards the saving of lives. The fact that I disagree with some of the proposals by means of which he intends to reduce accidents does not minimise my pleasure in the fact that he has produced the Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Arran, rather castigated the Government. He said, I think, that he did not like epithets, but that he wanted epitaphs. In passing I would say that I can give him one epitaph of which I was told as a child and which I thought was rather clear and to the point. It was simply:Here lieth the bones of Emily Bright, Who put out her left hand and turned to the right".In Clause 1 of this Bill we have the instruction that a person shall be taken to be unfit if his ability to drive properly is impaired. Like many noble Lords, I think that is far too loose a definition. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, gave us on the last occasion a clear and concise account of why he thought it was too loose, and I would merely say that I agree with his view wholeheartedly. Clause 2 deals with the blood and breath tests. I find this clause a rather difficult one to accept wholeheartedly. I should like to see action taken against drunken motorists, but I feel that the inclusion of blood and breath tests is more an action taken against a person because he has been drinking than because he is drunk—and those are very different things. The action is being taken against him because 492 he has been drinking, irrespective of the effects that that drink has had upon him. As we have heard, one man, having consumed a certain amount of drink, may be sober, whereas another man who has consumed the same quantity may be drunk. But what we have not yet heard, and what I think may well be true, is that the same level of alcohol can exist in the blood of one man when he is sober as exists in the same man when he is drunk.
To illustrate this point, I should like to recount a story which I was told by a friend of mine who is a doctor of high repute. He informed me that in one of the Scandinavian countries, where they take the blood tests very seriously, there was an eminent surgeon who had occasion to go to their equivalent of the local B.M.A. dinner, where, of course, he had his dinner and a certain amount of drink as well. Quite correctly, he hired a taxi and got somebody else to take him home. He went to bed, and he went to sleep. The next morning he got up and had his breakfast, went and collected the car out of his garage and drove down the drive. As he went out of his drive gate, he ran into a motor car, or the motor car ran into him. At any rate, there was an accident, and the police came along. They took the man to the police station, and took a sample of his blood. It was above the correct level, whereupon the surgeon was placed in gaol for 24 days, or whatever the period was. To my mind, that illustrates the difficulty of relying entirely upon the blood test; and also, indeed, of relying upon a categorical statement that where a person is found to be in default he should have a certain penalty placed upon him.
Now breathalysers are, I gather, inaccurate, and it would be difficult to accept the evidence of a breathalyser as conclusive evidence. Furthermore, the only really accurate one is very expensive: and not only is it expensive, but it is also difficult to operate. Again, the results of a breathalyser do not necessarily agree with the results of a blood test; they can differ up to a maximum of 24 milligrams per cent. in either direction. In other words, if you have a breath test and it is found that you have 100 milligrams per cent. of alcohol in your breath, your blood test can give a reading of anything between 76 and 124 milligrams per cent.—and that is a 493 very considerable difference. I confess, I do not greatly like the fact that if you refuse to give a specimen of your blood or breath that fact is to be taken against you. Of course, it may well be argued that you would agree to have your blood or breath tested only if you knew that you were sober, and that by refusing to allow a specimen the accused is automatically admitting guilt; and that, I should have thought, is undesirable.
I should like to quote from the leader of the Sunday Times of March 26, which phrases the point very much better than I can. It says:Everyone has the right to decline to give evidence against himself, and it is unwise either to circumscribe this right or to define the presumption to be drawn from its exercise in particular spheres.But if, as is actually the case, the tests in question are suspect in both lay and medical circles, then to make them, in effect, compulsory, and to imply that the courts should accept them as certain evidence, is contrary to justice.Indeed, even the police surgeons, I gather, are not very keen on this. The secretary of the Association of Police Surgeons was reported in the Daily Telegraph of April 10 to have said:The implications of the clause are that the law is unfairly biased against an accused person.A number of people have suggested that these tests should be compulsory. I find it a little difficult to accept that they should be compulsory, but even if I do accept it, how can you compel a person to undergo a blood test if he does not want to? Short of strapping the man down while you take a sample of his blood, it would be very difficult to do. Again, the blood sample gives no indication of tranquillisers. You may say that that is unnecessary, but if a small amount of alcohol is taken and is followed by the taking of a tranquilliser, or what is commonly known as a "pep pill", I believe the effect can be disastrous, and can render that person completely incapable of operating a motor car and make him, in fact, completely drunk. However, if you took a sample from his blood it would contain only a very small proportion of alcohol.
A number of noble Lords have said that they regret the fact that there are no figures in the Bill as to what should be regarded as the maximum quantity of alcohol which should be taken when driving. If we are going to have these 494 tests (which personally I would rather not see), then at least we should have some indication of what is supposed to be the dangerous level of alcohol in one's blood. I should also prefer to see magistrates retain the power to allow the punishment (as it were) to tit the crime. Many noble Lords have said that only 22 per cent. of the maximum fine has, on average, been imposed, but to my mind that is, in itself, a justification for retaining the power of the magistrates. If the magistrates, having been given all the facts and circumstances of a case, have, in their wisdom, decided not to levy the full fine, then surely that, in itself, is an argument in favour of then retaining that power.
I hope that if these blood tests are to be taken, they will not be allowed to be taken as proof when there is no other evidence of drunkenness, because under the Bill one mechanical test of an accused person, as I understand it, can, go against that person and may render him liable to a fine or to losing his licence, without any other aspect of the case being taken into account. There is also nothing in the Bill to prevent breath tests from being taken elsewhere than at the police station. If we are to have these breath and blood tests, there should, in my estimation, be something in the Bill to say that they can take place only at a police station, after a person has been taken there to be charged. There is nothing at the moment to stop an over-zealous policeman from standing, say, outside a public house or a cocktail party, or anywhere else, and, on seeing a person get into a motor car and about to drive off, going up to him and saying. "Blow into this machine". I am sure that is not the intention; but as the Bill stands at the moment it is possible that that could happen.
My Lords, I do not condone drunkenness in the slightest. A drunken driver should certainly pay for his drunkenness, and I should like to see heavier penalties. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who said that the one thing a driver does not want is to lose his driving licence; and, as I say, I should welcome heavier penalties. But I should not like to see a witch-hunt, as it were, against the drunken driver turn into a witch-hunt against the normal, average person, which I think under this Bill might be the case.
495 I would say one last word which is connected with, or has a direct relation to, this Bill, and which the noble Lord, Lord Som̃ers, mentioned. I think it is an extremely important point. I should like to ask the noble Earl who will be replying whether the Minister has any power whatever to alter the regulations with regard to the rear lighting of bicycles. Such lighting is totally inadequate. The majority of bicyclists ride along, and providing they have something which goes by way of being called a rear light on the back of their bicycle, they feel quite content, irrespective of whether it is possible for anybody else to see the light. The moment an oncoming motorist appears with his headlights on he totally eclipses this light from the view of anyone behind it, and it is impossible to see it. The noble Lord, Lord Som̃ers, asked whether it was possible to regulate the candle power of rear lights. I think that is extremely difficult, but what the Minister could do—and I should like to know whether he has the power to do it, and, if not, whether the power could be incorporated in the Bill—is to make it a law that bicyclists should carry a rear light of at least 2½ inches in diameter. We may not be able to regulate the candle power, but at least we could regulate the diameter of the rear light, and I believe that would be of great assistance and would save a great many accidents.
My Lords, would the noble Lord forgive my interrupting him? There is just one point there, and it concerns bicycles on which the lamps are lit by a dynamo. If the bicycle is travelling very slowly, the lamp is barely visible.
That is perfectly true. Worse still, if the rider has a dynamo fitted to his bicycle and wishes to turn to the right, he follows the Highway Code quite correctly and proceeds to the middle of the road. Then he stops to allow any oncoming vehicles to pass, and immediately his rear light is extinguished and he renders himself even more liable, so to speak, to the "death penalty". I would welcome an answer to that question by the noble Earl, because I think it is very important.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ LORD MONTAGU OF BEAULIEU
My Lords, rising, as I do, at the end of a long debate, I assure you that I shall not keep your Lordships long. There are, however, one or two points which I think have not been raised before and which I should like to bring to your Lordships' attention.
My first point concerns the question of clearways. Perhaps many noble Lords will not agree with me, but I feel that a person who stops his car at the side of a main road is committing just as serious an offence as if he was driving while drunk. In America and France it is an instinct in drivers not to stop at the side of a main road. This is not something about which one has to put up signs every quarter of a mile along National Route No. 7 in France, for example; it is absolute instinct to a French driver that he does not stop by the side of a main road.
Two years ago we were all delighted to see that the Minister had started a clearway system in this country; but personally, I am very disappointed that this has not been spread very much quicker than it has. I do not see why we have to experiment with this any longer. Surely this is a very basic, common-sense thing, and should immediately be spread to all main roads throughout the country. After all, one has a very serious situation arising now. People know they cannot stop on the M.1, but when they get on to another dual carriageway, on which they can go practically as fast, they are allowed to stop. This is entirely the wrong education, and the time must surely come when clearways become universal. I should very much like to see some legal provision in this Bill to give the Minister power to extend clearways very much more in this country.
The second question is that of provisional licences. One of the persons who is being much attacked nowadays is the young motor-cyclist who roars around the country. I believe the motor-cyclist has been made very much a whipping boy in recent months. Most motorcyclists are extremely good riders, and with the R.A.C. tuition scheme, which I am delighted to hear is being supported by the Minister, there is no reason why young motor-cyclists should not learn to 497 ride a bicycle properly and pass the test. The ones really doing the motor-cycling movement the harm are those who get their "L" plates and go on from year to year without bothering to take the test. It is quite different with a motor car driver, because he always has to take someone with him; and sooner or later his parents or his friend will say: "You jolly well pass your test. I am not going out with you every time, because I am getting bored".
Surely the time has come to limit the provisional licence to a certain period, and to say that the holder of a provisional licence will not get another one until he or she has at least tried to take the test. It does not really matter very much whether they pass or fail at that time, but at least they are making a genuine attempt to pass a test. If that were the case, it would surely deter youngsters from going from year to year without taking it. I spoke to a young man the other day, now aged eighteen. He had been riding for a whole year without taking a test, and I asked him: "When are you taking your test?" He said: "My father is giving me a car when I am twenty-one, so I shall not bother until then, as it is a waste of time taking one now". I am sure this is something that should be looked into.
Two other small points. I am delighted to see that legislation is being introduced concerning the lights of vehicles. At the same time, I should like to ask the Minister to consider, at some time in the future, laying down, in the Highway Code some guidance for people with regard to the use of headlights, or indeed rear lights, for signalling. A great many different methods of signalling are used and, though I appreciate that this will be a very difficult thing to legislate for, perhaps some guidance could be given in the Highway Code as to what the flashing of lights really means. I was delighted to note that in, his excellent opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, applauded the work done by county councils in realigning roads and carrying out minor improvements, both of which have done much towards reducing casualties. In view of what he said, I hope that the Minister will once again reconsider the drastic cutting of county council grants, which has resulted, in many cases, in the stopping of minor 498 work of this sort. In conclusion, I should like to say that, on the whole, there are many good things in the Bill, and I am sure that all of us concerned with road safety will wish to see it a success.
§ 6 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, in your Lordships' House five days ago, I initiated a debated on accidents in the home, and I wish to say that the emphasis which I placed on those accidents should in no way detract from appreciation of the seriousness of the problem we are discussing to-day. A grave responsibility rests on your Lordships' House in being the first of the two Houses of Parliament to discuss this vital Bill. I wish to confine my remarks to Clauses 15, 22 and 25. I would only say this about Clauses 1 and 2, which have already been fully discussed. I do not think that breath and blood tests are going to be effective, but urine tests may be. If there are to be tests on drivers suspected of being drunk, medical opinion confirms that urine tests will not only be the easiest to take but also the most effective.
I find Clause 15 extremely difficult to understand. As I see it, the proposal is that driving schools and instructors should be registered, but as has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Northesk and other noble Lords, there is nothing to prevent a man from passing his driving test one day and setting up a driving school the following day. That seems to me to be absolutely wrong. I must declare an indirect interest, as I am a learner-driver. I have a first-class instructor, a man who had 20 years' experience at the Police Driving School at Hendon. I have discussed this Bill with him and he fully bears this out. A driving instructor should be able not only to drive but also to teach; and I submit that a man who has taken a driving test is not qualified to teach the following day.
I suggest to the Government a possible time lag of six months to a year before such a person is allowed to establish a driving school. At present there are a good many driving schools, and quite a number have started and, for one reason or another, "folded up". The noble Lord, Lord Molson, said that members of the general public can choose their own driving schools and instructors, and I agree. Nobody wants to 499 have State driving schools or a kind of MI5 organisation to go into the character and ability of driving teachers. But I think that, since a driving instructor has to teach a pupil to control a lethal weapon on the roads, he should have a certain standard of proficiency. Organisations like the Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Association, both of which have contributed so much to road safety, should be empowered to look into the character and ability of driving teachers.
I agree with everything that has been said about the holder of a provisional licence who goes out on his own being heavily punished. Obviously, he is going to be a danger on the road. But I would say that learner-drivers are not the prime cause of accidents; most of them are careful. I think that every learner-driver should have at least half a dozen lessons at a driving school, because a qualified driving instructor is a much better tutor than a parent. He does not necessarily know the foibles of his pupils and is more impartial. Whilst I know that it would be difficult to have legislation to make people go to driving schools, I think that it is eminently desirable.
Clause 22, which deals with dogs, has not been touched on in this debate, so far as I know. I am a dog-lover and have always had a dog in my home, but I recognise that on the roads they are a menace, and I am glad to see that power is now given to local authorities to compel people to keep their dogs under control on the highways. I do not know the figures for accidents caused by dogs but they are still very heavy. The other day, in Surrey where I live, I saw a dog nearly cause an accident which might have been serious.
Clause 25 deals with cyclists. I am fond of cycling—indeed, much fonder of cycling than of driving a motor car. Those cyclists—I saw some of them on Sunday while having a driving lesson—who cycle three, and sometimes four, abreast are a menace on the road. I believe that there should be much severer penalties for cyclists who are caught indulging in this practice. I think that in general cycling clubs enforce discipline effectively, but there are some who do not; and I should like to see much more control here. Again, cycling 500 lanes are not always used. On the Kingston by-pass, there is a perfectly good track for cyclists. I travel frequently down that road and rarely see the track used. Kingston by-pass is one of the busiest roads in this country and there is nothing worse than to see two or three cyclists riding abreast and holding up a long line of traffic. Several noble Lords have touched on the question of lights on cycles, and I agree that many rear lamps are inadequate and that the number of cyclists out after dark with defective rear lamps is all too high.
I am in favour of speed limits generally, but what is extremely confusing—for instance, on the North Circular Road—is where you leave 30 m.p.h., go into 40 m.p.h., and then back into 30 m.p.h. This is particularly confusing for visitors to this country. I cannot help agreeing with my noble friend Lord Som̃ers that there are large areas where speed limits are not necessary; but there are also areas in the Home Counties where there are no speed limits and where there ought to be. I can name two or three places in my own area where there should be speed limits. I hope that the Minister will look into this question.
I feel that this is a very necessary Bill, but it is one which needs a great deal of tightening up, particularly so far as disqualification is concerned. I should like to see more disqualification and less fining. For example, taking a car away without the owner's consent is an extremely serious offence and should, I feel, be punished with a heavy fine, plus disqualification. Because not only does it cause great inconvenience to the car owner, but a youngster may be taking away quite a high-powered car, with little or no idea of how to handle it, and causing a nasty accident. But, as I say, this is a necessary Bill, and although I feel that in Committee a great deal of work will need to be done in tidying things up, I have no hesitation in supporting the Second Reading.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, we have almost reached the end of a two-day debate upon this Bill, which has been exhaustive and in which there have been a number of speakers. We have listened to many penetrating and informed speeches, quite a number of them of a critical character. I think 501 we were all much impressed with the speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor when he dealt with the biochemical aspects of certain provisions of the Bill. The title of the Bill is the "Road Traffic Bill" and not the "Road Safety Bill". I felt that, excellent as otherwise was the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in introducing the Bill for its Second Reading, he seemed to be more concerned, as, indeed, I submit the Bill itself is, with penalties than with taking preventive measures to avoid accidents and to reduce their number. That really should be the purpose of this legislation.
The problem of safety on the roads is, after all, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said, a matter of behaviour, and this Bill is partially an exercise, as it were, in behaviourism. That means behaviour not only as motorists but as pedestrians, because, after all, all motorists are pedestrians and about a quarter of the adult pedestrians at the present time are motorists. So it really becomes a question of behaviour of ourselves as citizens, combining the two attributes, as it were, of pedestrian and of motorist. Let us be quite frank about it; as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said, pedestrians are themselves not without blemish as regards the causing of accidents on the road. So many figures have been (may I say?) bandied about in the debate that I hesitate to add to them, but I believe it is the case that some 50 per cent. of the accidents can be properly ascribed to pedestrians. So it is as citizens, being pedestrians and motorists, that we should behave ourselves in the use of the highways of this country, which are supposed to be the inheritance of its people.
I do not think it is unfair to say that this Bill is a disappointing one in many respects. It really does not measure up to the need. This dreadful toll of death and mutilation on our roads and highways needs something more fundamental than the proposals contained in this Bill. As my noble friend Lord Silkin said on Thursday last, the majority of accidents are due to the inadequate, outmoded road system of this country. That has been said by people in authority and otherwise over the last 25 years, and yet, comparatively speaking, little has been done. Until we get an adequate road system of a modern 502 type, I fear that this toll of death and mutilation will go on.
The Bill does not deal adequately, I submit, with parking, which is a growing scandal, where motorists are appropriating large areas of public highways as places to garage their cars not only during the day but at night. There are, I believe, something in the region of 30,000 cars standing out at night on the streets of a, relatively speaking, small central area of London. That, I submit, is an abuse of the use of the Queen's highway. I should have thought that in connection with parking there was a case for considering the imposition of further restrictions upon loading and unloading at certain hours. I notice that one of the provisions of this Bill is to relieve the Minister of the necessity of getting the consent of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. I was a member of that Committee from 1934 onwards, and I can remember as far back as 1938 when we were considering with the then Minister of Transport and the police the question of restrictions upon loading and unloading in certain areas of London. We stirred up a nice hornet's nest, but I do not think much has been done, notwithstanding that there has elapsed all the time between 1938 and now.
It seems to us that these proposals, excellent though some of them may be, do not go far enough to deal in an adequate way with the problem that faces us. I do not propose to go into any details as regards Clauses 1 and 2. I am disturbed, like other noble Lords, at the inference that the provisions of Clauses 1 and 2 may amount to a serious infringement of the principle of law in this country that a citizen is innocent until he is proved guilty. If we are to have these clinical tests, I think it would be less dangerous to that important constitutional principle if they were made compulsory and not selective, as is the case in the Bill, with really serious penalties for refusal. But if they are to be made compulsory, then it seems to me that there must be evolved—I gather my noble friend Lord Taylor to say that it is possible so to do—a standard test, so that each person is subject only to the same test and not to varying tests; and, also having regard to what my noble friend Lord Taylor said, that the tests should be applied by persons 503 who are trained and skilled in doing that particular job and not generally, because I submit that there could be the most glaring inequities if that were not the case. I notice that in to-day's Times the point is canvassed as to whether it is possible for a standard test, as it were, to be devised of the level beyond which it can be assumed that there was an impairment of the ability to drive. The Times pointed out the difficulties of so doing, one of which—and perhaps the most important—is that alcohol can affect different persons in different ways. Whilst I have had no experience myself of drugs, I apprehend that drugs might do so also. But it is important to realise that these proposals really amount to an infringement of the principle of law as we know it in the country, and this is the second piece of legislation within the last six weeks which has done so. A similar provision was in the Affiliation Bill in regard to blood tests.
I do not doubt that some fundamental Amendments will be proposed to the Bill. A number of suggestions have been made in the course of the debate, and different speeches have been made critical of different aspects of the Bill. The Long Title is pretty comprehensive, and it seems to me that within it Amendments of far-reaching character, and additional provisions of a far-reaching character, would be in order. I myself should like to submit a proposal in respect of which I hope the noble Earl can give an assurance that it will receive the consideration of the Ministry and of Her Majesty's Government. The proposal is that the provisional licence which now terminates on passing the test, should continue, without the obligation for the driver to be accompanied by a licensed person, for a period of twelve months from the date of passing the test; and that during that period the provisional licensee should carry, on any vehicle which he is driving, in place of the "L" sign some distinguishing sign that he is, so to speak, an initiate driver whose only experience has been the preparation for his test. During that period he has been accompanied always by a person who is a licensed driver, often an instructor and, of course, in the end by the tester. The "L" sign is a notice to others using the highway that the person on whose vehicle it is dis- 504 played is a learner, and as such it is a valuable safeguard, both to the learner and to other drivers, who are put on their guard to be ready for the unexpected and also, often, for the wrong action by the learner. Also—and this is no less valuable—drivers are generally considerate and patient towards the learner, as much in their own interests as in his.
The learner then passes the test and thereupon goes on to the highway with a vehicle, large or small, high-powered or low-powered, alone, without the company of an experienced licensed driver, and without any notice to other drivers that he is an initiate driver. He loses the consideration he formerly enjoyed from other drivers when he was a learner, the comfort and confidence which came from having a licensed driver with him, and also the knowledge that if he were going to do anything wrong he would be corrected and/or stopped by the person with him. But now, after he has passed his test, he is alone. When the learner takes the official test he is keyed up, and the tester will tell him to do this or that, but only when it is proper to do it—and that is important. That is a position which is quite different when the learner is on his own. He has no advice and no special forbearance from the other drivers which the "L" sign attracts; nor are the other drivers being specially careful because of the sign.
As I have said, he is alone in charge of a potentially dangerous weapon, amid a multitude of other like vehicles, including some being driven by learners, and the safeguard he had of the "L" sign is no longer available to him or to the other drivers. This is no reflection on a person who passes the test. It would be to his benefit to continue to receive the consideration and forbearance of other drivers during the time that he would be gaining experience on his own account of road conditions.
What kind of sign is a matter to be determined, but I suggest a letter "P", of the same size and character as the "L" sign. "P" would signify to other drivers that the vehicle in question was being driven by a person who had passed his test. If, during the extended period of twelve months, the holder were found guilty of a serious motoring offence—and 505 I have left it in that vague way because it is a matter needing careful consideration—then he should revert to the position of the holder of an "L" licence, as part of, but not to the exclusion of, any other punishment. I ask the Minister to give his full consideration to this proposal.
I admit that it would be an important change in the licensing provisions, and there may be objections from holders, present and future, of the provisional licences, and from the motoring interests and their organisations. But we are dealing with a question of death and mutilation on our highways of a measure which is both indefensible and intolerable, and no personal or private interests, prejudice or pride, should be allowed to hinder our taking any proper steps if they be calculated to lessen this dreadful toll on our roads. I hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will be able to give your Lordships the assurance that this proposal, which has been very carefully thought out, will receive proper consideration. We will, of course, give this Bill a Second Reading, but the noble Earl is on notice that quite a number of important Amendments will be put down.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
My Lords, I have listened without interruption for two full days to your Lordships' debate, and I have done so with very great interest, especially because this is the first time that I have ever had the duty, either in your Lordships' House or in another place, of speaking for the Ministry of Transport, a Department in which many of your Lordships have a great deal of administrative experience, but I have not. I should dearly love to range at length over the 29 speeches which I have heard, but I have a strong feeling that your Lordships are now satiated with the oratorical orgy in which you have indulged. I think, looking round, that more than half of the 29 noble Lords who have taken part in our banquet have either driven home or walked home or been carried home, I hope without danger either to themselves or to anybody else; and I think it would be a merciful course of action if I were now to conclude our proceedings, not with two or three glasses of heavy vintage port but with a very quick round of light refreshment which may have no 506 adverse effect either on the blood or on the breath, not to mention any other tests which your Lordships might have to undergo—those of you who are strong enough to have remained until the final course.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I was hoping that it might be so light that no one could possibly suppose it would have any effect on anybody's sobriety, to whatever kind of test he might be submitted. I think that the first prize for endurance must go to the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who, like myself, has also sat through the entire debate.
§ LORD LATHAM
May I interrupt the noble Earl, for the sake of accuracy in the Record? I must admit that I did not sit through the debate very long on Thursday, because I had a motor trade function that evening.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am glad to see it has not had any of the untoward consequences which many of your Lordships apprehend as a result of this Bill. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Latham, in describing this Bill as "a legislative exercise in behaviourism", as he called it; and of course I agree that pedestrians, as well as motorists, can be to blame, and we must do our best to be as fair as we can all round. He said that it was a disappointing Bill. I find it very difficult to imagine any legislative exercise in behaviourism which is not disappointing, at least to some people. One cannot prevent people in considerable numbers from killing each other on the roads, and any piece of legislation which is designed to reduce the number of accidents, and to deter people from doing it quite so much as they are doing it now, must contain some elements of disappointment, because nobody expects the legislation to cure the evil entirely, or quickly.
The noble Lord did not proceed to make a great many proposals which might have remedied the disappointing character of the Bill. He spoke for a 507 little on the need for better parking regulations, particularly in relation to loading and unloading, in which I am sure he was well justified. I think these are matters which would not require legislation in order that better regulations might be made. But his main contention, like that of so many other of your Lordships who have spoken, was that the chief trouble was inadequate roads. That has been, in his case, and in the case of many other noble Lords who have spoken, the only remedy proposed for the present appalling size of the road accident figures.
Well, my Lords, I do not think anybody, whether in the Government or outside it, should ever be complacent about our roads. But in view of what both the noble Lord and so many other of your Lordships have said, I think it is legitimate to point out that we are doing now about ten times as much in road improvement as was being done even five or six years ago, and a great deal more than was being done if we go back a little further. In the financial year 1955–56 less than £9 million was spent on the road programme in England, Wales and Scotland. Next year the figure will have risen to £100 million, which is a more than ten-fold increase, and my right honourable friend has announced that major improvements and new construction, the total value of which will be £200 million, will be under way this spring. This is by far the largest road programme that Great Britain has ever seen.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said there was no long-term planning for our roads. But in fact we announced last summer a Five Year "rolling" Programme for classified roads and, in effect, a Five Year Programme for motorways. So far as classified roads are concerned, the Government have decided for planning purposes that Government expenditure on classified roads should be fixed over the five-years beginning 1961–62 at £150 million for England and Wales, and £31 million for Scotland, and this programme will be rolled forward by one year annually, so that there is always in being a five-year forward programme. So far as motorways are concerned, we intend substantially to complete five major projects over the next five or six years and at least to start 508 the Yorkshire Motorway in the same period. I think your Lordships will see that, in addition to an increase in the scale of the road programme, there has been also a notable change in the basis of forward planning.
§ LORD LATHAM
May I interrupt the noble Earl for one moment? Could he give us the figures on the basis of the value of the pound in 1951?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Yes, but it would take me two or three minutes to work them out, and there might be a rather tiresome hiatus whilst I was doing the sum. I do not think it is very difficult. Your Lordships can all do it on paper, if you take the trouble—£9 million in 1955; £100 million in 1960.
I will, of course, report to the Ministry Lord Latham's interesting proposal that there should be a kind of intermediate stage between the learner and the fully-fledged driver—a kind of chrysalis period of twelve months in which he is neither the one nor the other.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I was trying to summarise, perhaps a little lightly, what the noble Lord was putting forward. May I also try to summarise, very briefly indeed, one or two of the salient questions and points which have been raised in your Lordships' debate? I will do my best to leave out anything which can be more appropriately talked about in Committee.
Lord Airedale asked a question about Clauses 1 and 2 which I think was fundamental. He said, I think, that in the past it has always been a prerequisite of conviction for offences of this nature, driving when unfit through drink, that the person charged has shown unmistakable outward signs of intoxication.* If this Bill is passed as it stands, the Government do not envisage a situation arising whereby under Clause 2 a person having been tested for the alcohol content of his system may be convicted upon that evidence alone, irrespective of whether he has displayed any outward, unmistakable, visible signs of intoxication. I should like to make the answer perfectly plain: he cannot be convicted on the tests alone and, as has always been the case, if he is to be convicted of the offence he must have shown signs 509 of intoxication, or of bad driving which seemed likely to be due to intoxication, before the test can be taken.
Of course, the test is only corroborative evidence; the scientific evidence of the analysis of the samples is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive evidence of the guilt of the accused person. It is strictly circumstantial evidence; as my noble friend Lord Conesford said, evidence which the court ought to have if it is available but nothing to do with making the accused give evidence against himself. It is reasonable, circumstantial evidence—to show whether or not the accused had a high alcohol content in the blood—and it may contribute towards the establishment either of his innocence or of his guilt. It still remains for the prosecution to establish that the ability of the accused to drive properly was in fact impaired, and this can be done only by reference to the manner in which he behaved at some material time. I hope that is plain to your Lordships. My noble friend behind me, Lord Ferrers, was, I think, entirely mistaken in supposing that a policeman could take hold of someone and submit him to a test although he had not shown any signs of driving in a dangerous manner, and some other noble Lord suggested (I think it was Lord Som̃ers) that when he went out of this House he might be required by a policeman to have his ear pricked to provide a blood test. That is not so.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, if the noble Earl will permit me to intervene, may I ask whether it is then the case that the police would not take a man for a test unless he were involved in an accident? For example, if a man leaves your Lordships' House reeling and is obviously going to his car, could a policeman say, "I wish you to come to the station"?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I do not think an accident would be necessary, but he would have to be in charge of a car; and he would have to be, as the noble Lord says, reeling about or driving a car from one side of the road to the other. The noble Lord may perhaps have heard about some fellow countrymen of mine who were driving from Dundee back to Glasgow. That is one oil' the straightest roads in Scotland.
510 They were veering from one side of the road to the other, and the Dundee man who was sitting beside his Glasgow friend said, "For goodness sake, what are you doing?" The Glasgow driver drove into the side of the road, sat looking at his friend, and said, "Is it me that's driving, Sandy? I thought it was you." No accident was involved at all, but if they had been observed by a policeman he would have been entitled to ask them to come to the police station and, if this Bill is passed, to request them to submit to one of these tests.
My Lords, do I understand the noble Earl aright, that you can be asked to submit to one of these tests only after you have been taken to a police station to be charged with some offence?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Yes, that is so. I hope that also answers the question of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who asked whether we were creating a new offence. We are not. All Clause 1 does is to change the present definition of what constitutes unfitness to drive for the purpose of Section 6 of the 1960 Act. Lord Airedale also asked by whom a request to a driver to provide a specimen would have to be made. We certainly do not contemplate that it should be made by the driver of another car, which I think was in his mind. We will look into the matter to see whether any further safeguards are necessary in the wording of the 'clause, but I do not think that will be likely. What the clause does is to provide a new definition of the offence which already exists under Section 6 of the principal Act: driving while his ability to drive is impaired.
Same of your Lordships have proposed that the definition should be a little more exact. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, thought, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, did not agree with him, that the word "appreciable" should be introduced. Lord Taylor thought it was in order without "appreciable". The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, thought it would be clearer if "appreciable" were to be put in. That is a point we can discuss in Committee. I rather wondered whether Lord Denning would suppose, for instance, that the law relating to criminal libel would be much easier to administer if there were a statutory requirement that you ought to 511 prove appreciable libel, or that the law relating to indecency would be easier to administer if you had to prove that there was appreciable indecency. It seems to me that the difficulty of explaining what was, or was not, meant by the word "appreciable" might be just about as hard as the difficulty of explaining what was, or was not, meant by the word "impaired".
There are two main criticisms which most of your Lordships, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on Thursday, and a great many of your Lordships to-day, have made. One was that these tests ought to be compulsory; the other that some definite percentage of alcohol contained in the blood should be fixed, and that it should be laid down that anything over that would be wrong and that anything below would be all right. With regard to the possibility of making the tests compulsory, which I am sure we shall return to in Committee, I would point out to your Lordships that at present the only test which is used to any extent is the urine sample. I do not 'think there are many cases in which blood tests are taken, though possibly there may be a few; and there are no breathalysers at all at present.
With regard to the urine test, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, who I think wanted to make it compulsory, said he had never known a case in which an accused person had refused. If that is so, it seems a little doubtful whether anything would be gained by making it compulsory. One objection to doing so which strikes me is that there may sometimes be circumstances in which the accused person is physically incapable for the time of providing a test, and if the law were that the test should be compulsory, that might possibly lead to misunderstanding. I think it is better to have it as it is in the Bill: that his refusal should be treated as supporting evidence given on behalf of the prosecution, et cetera, unless reasonable cause is shown.
Then, with regard to blood tests, the Bill specifically provides that these must be done with the consent of the accused person, and I do not think your Lordships would really desire that a blood test should be compulsory. Of course it 512 does not mean, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, suggested, that we should have to strap an accused person down to take the test. It would mean merely that if he refused he would be guilty of the offence of refusing and possibly could be prosecuted for that. The blood test, although it involves only a slight prick, might be painful to a sensitive person, and I believe it would be wrong to say that a person must by law be obliged to have a blood test.
With regard to breathalysers, which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, thought were extremely inaccurate and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, thought were much the most satisfactory and accurate means of making any such test, I am afraid Her Majesty's Government do not know quite as much about this as either of those noble Lords, because there are no breathalysers in this country. We have not got the evidence we should like from abroad, from Canada and other places where they are used, with regard to their accuracy. In fact, the only reason why the breath has been brought into this clause is that my right honourable friend the Minister thinks it likely that in the course of a few years accurate breathalysers will be available, and he therefore wishes to provide for them in anticipation. But I feel it would be going a little too far to make the breathalyser test compulsory when we have not yet got any breathalysers and are unlikely to have any for some time; and, when we do, they will probably be only in big urban centres, and not immediately in all country districts.
A good many of your Lordships have raised questions about disqualification, and I should like to say how encouraged I was to hear the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, that disqualification should be considered not as a punishment but only as the removal of a privilege for which a driver had shown himself unsuited. Her Majesty's Government entirely agree with that way of putting it and I am sure that it is an entirely appropriate way of putting it in the present conditions of traffic on our roads. The noble Lady also asked about disqualification for causing death by dangerous driving and motor manslaughter. Both these offences are included in Part I of the First Schedule, and convictions for them 513 will attract obligatory disqualification for not less than twelve months. The reason why the principal Act is not amended in relation to these two offences is because it retells only to the level of fines and imprisonment, and not to changes in disqualification.
There were two criticisms about disqualification, in opposite senses; one was that the Bill was too severe, in that it provided for disqualification for three minor offences committed within three years. My noble friend Lord Chesham, I think, has already dealt with that in advance by pointing out that we do not want to disqualify people but rather to make them more careful; and there is a certain presumption that even if a man commits three only minor offences within so short a space of time, he is a bit too careless to drive a car. If he knows he is going to be disqualified for six months on the third offence he will be more careful not to offend a third time. There may be a few odd cases of genuine bad luck, but that will be just too bad. I think that for the sake of the majority it is a good thing to have this provision in the Bill.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The other criticism was that raised by my noble friend Lord Conesford to-day, and also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on Thursday last, with regard to the removal of the power of courts to disqualify for a number of offences for which they can disqualify under the principal Act.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, the idea is that disqualification should be imposed only for offences which are likely to involve some kind of danger, but my noble friend gave two examples where danger might obviously arise. One was answered by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor—about wanton and furious driving. I do not think I need go into that any further except to say, with respect, that, not having any legal training, I find it very difficult to see how anybody could drive wantonly and furiously without also driving either dangerously or carelessly, in which case he would be disqualified under the Act in any case.
514 The other example which my noble friend gave we shall no doubt have another opportunity of discussing. That was the offence of taking away somebody else's car without permission. I will be quite frank with my noble friend: I thought he made a strong case. I cannot promise I shall not think of an even stronger one on the other side at the Committee stage. But, to be honest with him, it seems at first sight that his argument on this point is worthy of further consideration, and it will certainly be considered further by my right honourable friend.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, I wonder whether he would deal with the third case of removing power to disqualify for breaking the conditions of a provisional licence. Would he not agree that if, for instance, a young man takes out a motorcycle on the first day he uses it with a passenger on the pillion he is in fact a danger?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, certainly all these points and all your Lordships' arguments will be fully considered by my right honourable friend. I do not want to take up too much time by going into every one of them seriatim. My noble friend Lord Chesham has explained the simplification of the method of imposing speed limits which we think will be achieved by this Bill. There are one or two questions arising out of that. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked whether we would consider imposing speed limits at week-ends as is done, for example, in France. Your Lordships will remember the 50 m.p.h. week-end speed limit which my right honourable friend imposed on certain roads at week-ends last summer. We are going to repeat that this summer on a major scale. Now, under the Bill, the Minister will be able to do that quickly, not only in the case of trunk roads but also on classified roads, and that will take place for 14 weeks between Whitsun and mid-September over a very large mileage.
§ VISCOUNT LONG
My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Earl one question on that point? He is referring to the speed limits which were imposed by the Minister over certain Bank Holidays, but will he tell us—and I ask 515 this as a magistrate of 38 years' standing—how we can impose these speed limits when we have not the police to do it?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I will say something about the police in a moment. Of course, we cannot catch everybody who breaks the speed limit, but the fact that they may be caught may sometimes be a deterrent. I was going to mention the criticism made by my noble friend Lord Derwent, that a speed limit might be hard on professional drivers of large lorries for which the speed limit is at present 30 miles an hour. He suggested that it might give rise to some hardship if people were disqualified from driving because they travelled faster than 30 m.p.h. I am sure that the professional driver is no less responsible; indeed, he is usually more responsible in his outlook on such matters than most of us.
But, my Lords, driving too fast is in itself dangerous, and if it is to be avoided we must have rules, even if they apply in a somewhat arbitrary way at times; and those rules must be observed. After all, as my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford said, if you are going to get on to an aeroplane would you not make sure that the pilot was observing all the rules? And would you think it a hardship if he had to look for some other kind of employment if he were found to have broken them? I think not.
§ LORD FOLEY
My Lords, I cannot agree with what the noble Earl is saying: that driving fast is of itself dangerous. Surely, driving fast is dangerous only when it is fast in relation to the conditions of the road. Driving down Oxford Street at 40 miles an hour is dangerous; but driving down the M.1 at 60 m.p.h. on a clear day is not dangerous. That should be borne in mind.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl about the famous judicial ruling of, I think, 30 years ago, that speed in itself does not constitute a danger?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I think that that is absolutely wrong. It is a matter of common sense. Sneed may not be the only cause of an accident, but how many fatal accidents are there which would not have been fatal if the cars had been going at 20 miles an hour? It is 516 not a question which I think we can spend time in arguing now. But I should like to complete the point which I was making and which is this. If the speed limits are too low, which perhaps they are for these heavy vehicles, they can be revised; and the Government are at present considering the possibilities of revision of certain vehicle speed limits.
Your Lordships may be assured that we realise fully that one effect of the new penalty provisions in the Bill must be that speed limits which apply to all classes of vehicles must be realistic, taking the country as a whole, and must be observed, even in places where, to all appearances, it does not look as if drivers would do very much harm by going over the speed limit. I maintain that speed limits must play their part. Although, of course, the exact manner in which they are applied may be varied and may be argued about, we must have power to impose these speed limits if we want to reduce the number of deaths upon the roads.
My noble friend behind me, Lord Long, asked just now about police patrols, and several others of your Lordships have said that you would like to see some mention of this matter. I think that my noble friend Lord Chesham made it clear in his opening speech that we have no doubt that the mere sight of a uniformed policeman, or a police car or motor-cycle on patrol, does have a salutary effect; and for this reason we welcome any steps that police authorities may be able to take to make more police available for traffic patrol duties. It is not a matter that we can legislate about. We realise that there are not enough police. We hope that the recent increases in police pay will stimulate recruiting. There are other steps, such as having traffic wardens, which may relieve policemen of certain routine duties and set more free for traffic control and enforcement. We entirely agree that it is desirable to have many more police patrols on the roads than there are at present.
I think, although it is a small point, that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, might like me to meet his apprehension about Clause 14, which was supported by several other noble Lords. It is not proposed by my right honourable friend to allow vehicles to tow two large trailers behind them. The clause is drafted as it 517 is only for a technical reason: that in certain exceptional cases what appears to the eye of common sense to be one trailer may legally be two. But my right honourable friend does not propose to authorise two completely separate trailers to be pulled by one vehicle.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
My Lords, I do not think I can go beyond what I have just said in reply to the point arising out of Clause 14. I should like to make a little more sure how that is related to the mechanical horse.
When my noble friend Lord Chesham moved the Second Reading on Thursday, in a speech which I think has been admired and appreciated in all sections of your Lordships' House, I was reminded by his introductory remarks of the debate on the first Road Traffic Bill to which I ever listened. That was the Bill of 1934 which was introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. Oliver Stanley. To refresh my memory I looked it up, and I found that Mr. Stanley began on much the same note as my noble friend did on Thursday. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 288, col. 167]:I wonder … if the ordinary man realises this one simple fact. It is now half-past three, and by the time Mr. Speaker, at Eleven o'clock, puts this Question. 'That the Bill be now react a Second time,' on the basis of the law of averages, 180 people will have met with injury on the roads of this country.That was in 1934. I am not going to spend time in contrasting what it was like then with now, which many of your Lordships have done.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Compared with the number of cars on the roads it is better now, especially, as my noble friend Lord Chesham pointed out, in respect of children. And, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said to-day, it is better here than it is in the United States and in Germany. But, my Lords, it is far too high to be tolerable. These road casualties, which go on year after year, are greater in any one week than the casualties in any minor war. Then what Mr. Stanley went on to say in 1934 was this [col. 169]:I do not believe that there is any possibility of finding any real solution of this prob- 518 lem unless all of us are prepared to bear burdens ourselves as well as to impose burdens upon others, and unless all of us are prepared in some degree to subordinate our personal convenience and our personal desire to the general need of public security.I think your Lordships will agree that these words are as true now as they were then.
A good many of us may think, sometimes rightly, that we are exceptionally safe drivers, or, if we are not egotistical, we may think so of other people, especially professional drivers, whose experience and skill is so great that they can do with perfect safety things which, if they were done by average or indifferent drivers, might involve some risk of an accident. But, my Lords, we cannot have two Highway Codes, two sets of rules of safety, with different standards for good drivers and indifferent drivers. We must have one standard, and the good drivers must be prepared to sacrifice some of their freedom for the sake of the general safety. I think that any of your Lordships who is accustomed to use a shotgun will be conscious of the fact that conventional standards of safety which are commonly observed among people who use shotguns are very much more cautious and more meticulous than the, conventional standards of safety observed among people who drive motor cars on our roads. Yet a motor car incautiously driven on the road may be a far more dangerously lethal weapon than a shotgun.
When the Bill goes into Committee I hope—indeed I am sure—that your Lordships will bear in mind that this continuing slaughter on the roads can be reduced, materially reduced, only if we have much better manners, much more consideration for other people, and much greater caution in driving than we have now; and that these and the higher standards of behaviour which are required must have behind them the backing of Statute Law.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.