HL Deb 31 July 1962 vol 243 cc212-22

After Clause 25, insert the following new clause:

Regulation of motoring events on public highways

("(1) A person who, after such day as the appropriate Minister may by order made by statutory instrument appoint, promotes or takes part in a competition or trial (other than a race or trial of speed) involving the use of motor vehicles on a public highway shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty pounds unless the competition or trial is authorised, and is conducted in accordance with any conditions imposed, by or under regulations under this section.

(2) The appropriate Minister may by regulations authorise, or provide for authorising, the holding of such competitions and trials as aforesaid, either generally, or as regards any area, or as regards any class or description of competition or trial or any particular competition or trial, subject to such conditions. including conditions requiring the payment of fees, as may be imposed by or under the regulations.

(3) Regulations under this section may—

  1. (a) prescribe the procedure to be followed, and the particulars to be given, in connection with applications for authorisation under the regulations; and
  2. (b) make different provision for different classes or descriptions of competition or trial.")

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, this clause gives powers to bring about control of motoring events, which would principally be rallies, reliability trials and treasure hunts, on public highways. It makes it an offence subject to a maximum fine of £50 to promote or take part in such competition or trial involving the use of motor vehicles on the highway unless the event is authorised in accordance with regulations made by the appropriate Minister. The regulations would specify the conditions for holding authorised events or for authorising without conditions, though they could, in effect, exclude any type of event or events in particular areas from the provisions of the clause. In his regulations the Minister could delegate to anyone he thought appropriate the power to authorise events, and he could enable the authorising body to charge fees as a condition of the granting of authority. The appropriate Minister will decide by an order made by statutory instrument when the clause is to come into effect.

Since the power to authorise events will be exercised by regulations, the provisions of Section 260 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, will apply, and these will give sufficient safeguards for consultations before regulations are made. The regulations will have to be laid before the House and will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. I think that the part of the clause which provides for charging fees is right, because it is not intended—and I do not see why it should be—that any extra cost arising from the administration of this system for authorising events should fall on the Exchequer, and I think the control system should be self-financing. It would, of course, control all competition events and trials involving the use of cars and motor-cycles on the roads. It is intended that it should operate only for rallies, treasure hunts, reliability trials and events of that kind. It may be that in some parts of England and Wales there is no need to control these events, and the regulations would authorise the holding of events in those areas without any conditions. Possibly there may be no need at present to control them in Scotland; and until there is need, the Secretary of State may withhold bringing the clause into effect there.

I should like to make it quite clear there is no intention of controlling rallies or treasure hunts or reliability trials or similar events out of existence. The object of the clause is to secure a reduction to manageable and acceptable proportions of the number of events that do take place, and to try to spread them out somewhat. We also intend that the regulations should authorise events such as the "Lorry Driver of the Year" competition and the "Motor-Cyclist of the Year" competition, both of which are road safety enterprises but which carry out part of their tests on selected roads. They would also authorise the kind of competition which local road safety committees organise in the interests of road safety. So far as these events are concerned, very few complaints are made on road safety grounds. The people who compete in them are subject to the road safety laws in the same way as anybody else is—indeed, the organisers often insist on a very strict observance of them.

I think it is generally accepted that rallies are probably, on balance, a good thing in the interest of road safety, because they encourage batter driving technique and skill and more interest. The only control at the moment, of course, comes from the R.A.C., and that extends only over the clubs which are affiliated to it, as the governing body of motoring sport in this country. They control these events in such matters as roads and timing, the number of fixtures they hold, and the areas they go in. They have certain black spot areas where they are not allowed to go at all. But that, of course, does not apply to events run by clubs which are not affiliated, and which may not even be motoring clubs at all—they may be social clubs, in the broadest sense, or clubs of some other kind which simply decide to hold a rally or treasure hunt or something like that.

There have been many complaints recently—mostly, in fact almost entirely, on amenity grounds—and the number of events that take place is increasing. I think it has now gone up to between 3,000 and 4,000 each year. Most of the complaints seem to come from the Home Counties, and relate much more to noise and disturbance in rural areas, probably from events held at night—not only engine noise, but noise at check points, such as slamming doors and Shouting directions and so on.

A meeting was held about this at which were represented the County Councils Association, the Rural District Councils Association, the N.F.U., the Chief Constables from the Home Counties, Scottish interests and the R.A.C.—almost Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. The meeting was strongly in favour of control with the R.A.C. designated as the body to do it, and of a motor sport advisory committee to be set up as well. I think that is what my right honourable friend would want to do, to set up an advisory committee, which is not a statutory committee but one Which advises him on the kind of event that ought to be allowed or on the delegated responsibility that would devolve on the R.A.C. whom he had in mind to do this particular job.

As I say, it is not that anyone is against this form of sport, which is extremely popular and useful. It is a question of taking the power to control it before it gets out of hand and gets worse, because while one does not want to interfere with this useful form of competition the comfort and convenience of people has to be balanced up with it. I think the time has come—I hope and believe that the proposed regulations will be successful in this respect—where those concerned can continue with their sport and those who are only indirectly concerned from outside will have the necessary safeguards, and all can live happily. It is better, I think, to do it now rather than to wait until something worse befalls. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Chesham.)


My Lords, I feel that this clause is highly commendable, and certainly I sympathise with its objectives. I have nothing against notification or the regulations which the Minister will draw up with regard to car rallies and reliability trials. But when the regulations are drawn up I foresee a difficulty in regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, referred to as "treasure hunts", which can cover a wide field of endeavour. There is not always treasure at the end of it, but there is some competitive element in working out the number of clues en route and arriving at an eventual objective. A number of these things are quite small and often impromptu. Often there is not an organisation which has been advertising for weeks ahead that they are going to hold a motor cycle or a car treasure hunt. Some of the social organisations to which the noble Lord referred—I have even known one group of Young Conservatives do this—quite suddenly organise a thing of this kind. Even a small one can be just as much a nuisance to inhabitants of rural areas as 10 other parts.

It seems to me that the difficulty is as to how the regulations are going to deal with that kind of thing. Is it going to be prohibited altogether? In other words, have you to get a licence or some approval for a particular function of that kind, however small it may be? The noble Lord said that in parts of Scotland or Wales there is no need to prohibit these activities by regulation, because the roads are not likely to be congested or much used. I appreciate that point, but equally it is the case that these particular treasure hunts are not likely to be held in such areas, because they have not so many people to take part in them. It is more likely that they will be held in more populated rural areas, or indeed that the treasure hunts may involve a rural area with young people coming from a town.

The noble Lord mentioned the number of some 3,000 functions of this kind. I have no doubt he referred to those we know about, those which are organised. But there might well be 10,000 small ones that we know nothing about, simply because they are on a local basis and were arranged with little fuss and bother. I imagine that we should wish to take regard of these things. But there are two difficulties. One is not to interfere with people's reasonable enjoyment, provided they behave themselves without danger or inconvenience to other people. The other thing concerning these small events is how the organisers, or indeed the competitors, are to know that they may be committing an offence. There is this question of notification. One can understand that the kind of people who organise major events, car rallies and so on, Will know all about these things, and will get permission and fix a date and a day and make their arrangements with the police. But I wonder how the regulations will be able to deal with the small, semi-impromptu affairs which take place all over the country?


My Lords as many Members on both sides of another place showed, there is a great necessity for some legislative provision of this kind, and for that reason I am glad that the Government have thought fit to introduce a clause dealing with this problem. I think my noble friend may have been quite right in suggesting that none of us wished to make illegal every event of this kind, but at the same time I think he under-estimated the suffering caused by some of the events that have been taking place. There are inhabitants of some villages whose life has been made intolerable night after night. They have even taken the extreme step of organising parties to sit down in the road and to bock it. I saw a statement in one organ of the Press, that they knew they had no legal rights but thought that their moral right was so overwhelming that they took this step. I nearly went so far as to suggest that they might even have some legal rights.

That brings me to one of my criticisms of the new clause. Had it been introduced at an earlier stage, or in this House, I am perfectly certain that various Members would have suggested some improvements. The particular doubt I have—I know it is not fair to press my noble friend on this because he is not a lawyer—is this. It seems to me not impossible that some of the outrageous events that have been organised, which disturb whole villages night after night, could possibly have been restrained under the provisions of the Common Law. There are provisions that deal with conspiracy and nuisance that might not have been found to be quite impotent. Whatever we do with the new clause, I should not like it to be said that we were enabling the Minister to authorise anything which could at present be restrained at Common Law, and I do not think that that is quite clear under the clause as it now stands.

The second matter on which I wish to question my noble friend is this. The Minister has said that he proposes to set up an advisory committee—not a statutory committee, I agree, but an advisory one. From some words that dropped from my noble friend, I thought he implied that that advisory committee would consist almost wholly of people interested in organising motor events. I hope that that will not be the case. The advisory committee should, without any doubt, have representatives of local authorities, and it should certainly, in my submission, have representatives of other road users. There are still pedestrians in this country. Some of the highways that may be proposed for these events may technically be highways, but nevertheless be very popular for use by walkers, ramblers, and others. I think that pedestrians should be represented on this advisory committee. I think also that amenity societies should be represented on it. This is of great interest, I think, to the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, in certain areas to the National Trust, and in all areas, I think, to the Noise Abatement League.

Therefore, while welcoming this clause, but regretting that it has been brought forward so late that neither House has had much chance to consider it in detail and amend it, I would express a wish on one point and a doubt on the other. The wish is that when the Minister sets up his advisory committee it will not prove to be a committee of those interested only in promoting this alleged sport, but also include representatives of local authorities, of amenity societies and of other road users.

The second matter which I personally deplore, but about which I quite agree the Minister can do nothing at this stage, is the fact that this clause does not make it clear, on the face of it, that the effect of the Minister's authorising one of these events will not make it lawful, if it could be restrained under the existing Common Law. I agree that, if we accept this Amendment, it is too late to do anything about that, but at least it may make the Minister a little careful when he comes to decide what it is he will authorise.

My Lords, I have ventured to put before the House matters I believe to be of considerable importance, but I certainly do not wish to oppose the clause.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has said much that I wanted to say, particularly on consultation (with local authorities, and in regard to the point that, when these events are authorised, they should be authorised only over suitable roads. It happens that about four years ago when in mid-Wales I was travelling in the opposite direction to one of these rallies, on a very narrow road. I was forced off the road, and two of my wheels went on to the verge on the left-hand side; my wheels started to sink, and they went down to the axle on that side. At least twenty of the competitors passed me, going in the opposite direction. Not a single one of them stopped to ask whether I wanted assistance, or whether they could send someone along to help. This was a society which had a London name—it may have been called the London Rally, or something like that. I admit, my Lords, that I was too lazy to write about that incident, although I felt indignant at the time, and I just let it pass. But it has always rankled in my mind that something ought to be done to stop these rallies if that sort of thing happens to ordinary road users.

The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, told us that these events helped to develop road safety and the proper usage of the roads. If that is so, that was a pretty poor example which I experienced of the decent use of the roads by people who regard themselves, I suppose, as good motorists. In any case, they did not have the ordinary courtesy to stop and say, "Can I help you?" or "Can I do anything about this?" I hope that the Minister will be pretty tight in these regulations to try to ensure that the sort of thing that happened to me will not happen to other ordinary road-users; that where these events do take place, there shall at least be room for other road-users to pass with reasonable comfort in the opposite direction. It is possible that the rally was organised on a time basis—I do not know; but they certainly did not have time to stop in order to help me out of my difficulty. Eventually one of my passengers had to go back to get help.


My Lords, if it had not been for the few words of my noble friend, I should have said we were dealing with associations and clubs that, in the main, try to be reasonable. It is true that they inflict on certain neighbourhoods a lot of hardship, but they do not set out to do that. The point that concerns me with this clause is the question of what one might call the unofficial clubs of motor cyclists. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, has been down Sidcup By-pass or any of our main arterial roads out of London on a Saturday or Sunday, but he will see, 25 to 30 miles outside London, 60 to 70 heavy motor-cycles proceeding along the road, making a great deal of noise, and usually travelling at a very fast rate. I believe there is a phrase "doing a ton". These people are as great a nuisance and as great a danger and inconvenience as any of these official rallies—in many ways perhaps more so. But it would not seem to me likely that that type of unofficial club will go to the Minister and say, "We are going out on Saturday. Can we have permission?"

Here we are dealing with, I think, relatively civilised people, but when one considers these groups of motor cyclists one feels that some control needs to be exercised over them. Obviously, the Police are not able to do it to-day. But these groups of motor cyclists are increasing. On the roads at week-ends they axe a complete menace and a danger, and certainly they make life very difficult in the villages. I hope that the Minister, if he cannot do this within this clause, will consider some future means of controlling this nuisance.


My Lords, may I start at the end? The problem which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has just raised is, of course, a different one. This practice may have the same effect in a way in that it is undesirable, or is having an undesirable effect on some people's lives, but it is a different one by virtue of the fact that it is unorganised and not an event of itself. When I was listening to the noble Lord, the thought came to my mind that it was rather like the kind of event which is fastened on to in some rather dictatorial countries, where people are not allowed to go about together more than two at a time. This is really another problem of how to tackle it. The difficulty is, as I say, the completely unofficial, unorganised aspect of the whole thing. This is primarily a problem for the police to deal with, and thought will have to be given to whether they require extra powers ox new methods, or whatever it may be.

To revert to our particular subject, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, asked what would be the position of little unofficial affairs in connection with something else. I think it is difficult for me to say to him to-day exactly what would be the position, whether they would be included or excluded in some way from the regulations, because what I thought was really rather more important was that the noble Lord asked how they would know. The answer is that it is intended to publicise the regulations as and when they are made, on television, through the motoring associations, and in the usual methods to which publicity gives rise. Otherwise, the position in this, as in many other cases, is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. I am bound to say that.

With regard to what my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford said, I should be extremely surprised to find that the Minister would be in a position to authorise something which might be restrained at Common Law. I think if I pursue this point it will get us down to a legal "niggle", if I may call it that, on the interpretation of the word "authorised". I do not want to indulge in that with my noble friend, not only because I should probably come off second best if I did, but also because I think that his feeling on that is stretching legal interpretative elasticity almost to snapping point. But I am glad to say that he did not pick me up quite correctly, in what I said about the advisory committee. I thought I said that at meetings that had been held, there had been many representatives of the interests concerned. I do not know whether I said it or not but I will say it now, to make it absolutely clear. It has already been said in another place that it was intended to set up the advisory committee representative of all interested bodies.


My Lords, I still want to know what the noble Lord means by that. That may be quite right, but "all interested bodies" might be taken to mean all interested in promoting this type of event. I wanted to make it clear that I mean all those also who are affected by it.


I think, my Lords, that is exactly what it does mean, as I have understood the matter at any rate.




There must, of course, be rather strong representation of the people concerned because otherwise they are unable to advise the Minister on the type of event he should include or exclude from his regulations. Nobody else would know that. Because I think we are going to find that that kind of expertise is going to be necessary, as in due course I think we are going to come across quite a number of events in which the interests involved will say, "You must not allow this kind of thing no matter Where it goes and when"; and I certainly would not want to think that there was no fairly strong representation of that kind. I will certainly see to it that what my noble friend has said is conveyed to my right honourable friend before he makes any regulations.

On Question, Motion agreed to.