§ 2.56 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would consider requiring all applicants for driving licences to take a high-speed driving test such as is possible on a motorway but of course is quite impossible in London and other large cities where most of the tests for driving licences are now taken.]
My Lords, the scope of the driving test is constantly under review, but it has never been thought necessary or practicable to extend it in the way suggested by the noble Lord. As he himself indicates, there would be very considerable difficulties in finding suitable roads sufficiently convenient to the 400 or so driving test centres on which to conduct such tests. And, since tests would take longer, the waiting period for them 1022 would be bound to increase. The noble Lord might be interested to know that in Switzerland, where a proportion of test candidates are taken on an additional "open road" test, the proportion of successful candidates is no different from the proportion who pass the normal driving test in towns. This indicates that a high-speed test would not, in practice, prove anything which the present test does not.
§ LORD BOSSOM
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that rather interesting Answer, may I ask whether he is not aware that his right honourable friend makes the licensing regulations and, as he himself emphasised yesterday, these regulations are not producing the behaviour in driving that he requires? Will he not now reconsider the regulations, whether inconvenient or not; or, if not, what does he intend to do to correct this situation?
My Lords, there are about 13 million driving licence holders and if, as the noble Lord wishes, all these licence holders were to take a high-speed driving test, it would take about seven years, apart from the normal work which driving examiners have at present.
§ LORD BOSSOM
My Lords, does my noble friend think there is no solution to this problem? Must we go on having the problem we had two days ago?
My Lords, the noble Lord knows perfectly well that the Government are more than anxious to stop the carnage which we have seen on the roads over the last few days. But, as my right honourable friend pointed out yesterday and on a number of other occasions, in the last analysis it is up to the individual who is driving the machine. Parliament can make the law to contravene which it would be an offence but within which it must be the responsibility of the individual driver. It is that that has been lacking.
§ LORD AILWYN
My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the fact of passing a high-speed driving test would do very little to ensure the care and control and judgment and road sense and, above all, the good manners that are so essential to-day for all drivers of every kind of vehicle on the roads?
§ LORD BOSSOM
My Lords, may I join my noble friend in agreeing with that last comment, but may I also ask whether he would inquire into what is being done in other countries, where these conditions are not allowed to exist? For example, in certain parts of the United States motorists are not allowed to drive beyond a certain speed on certain roads.
My Lords, the noble Lord has just said that people are not allowed to go faster than a given speed on certain roads in the United States, but that is a very different thing from requiring every licence holder to take a special high-speed driving test.
§ LORD BOSSOM
My Lords, I am sorry to rise again, but what is the alternative? What is the Minister going to do to try to help the situation?
My Lords, the Government have perpetually under review all possible methods of saving life, and if the noble Lord has any particular suggestion to make which it is reasonable to put into operation, I know that my right honourable friend will be only too glad to try it.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, is the Minister of Transport still setting his face against the suggestion that has been made so often of a two-tier test? There is no doubt that the advanced test, as it is known at the moment, does increase, not only ability, but also conscientiousness.
My Lords, the idea of a two-tier test is rather a different question from that on the Order Paper. I have answered, to the best of my ability, by telling noble Lords that it will take seven years to get everyone through an extra driving test.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, would not one of the probable effects of requiring people to take a high-speed test be to encourage them to drive on the road at high speeds?
My Lords, the corollary of such a test might be to require every person to take a driving test in fog as well.