HL Deb 19 March 1964 vol 256 cc948-50

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government their plans for dealing with the growing number of abandoned motor cars which are menacing the roads and the countryside.]


My Lords, SO far as roads are concerned, my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport made Regulations in 1961 empowering both the police and local authorities to remove and dispose of abandoned vehicles. On the question of abandoned vehicles in general, a meeting was held in January between representatives of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Transport, on the one hand, and of the local authority associations and the London County Council, on the other hand. Comments and suggestions which were then put forward are under consideration, and my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government hopes as a result that he will soon be able to give local authorities useful advice.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his helpful Answer, may I ask whether the Government are aware that over 6,000 motor cars were found abandoned in the Metropolitan Area last year by the authorities, and there is evidence that this rate of dumping is increasing each month; that this is taking place all over the country, and these abandoned cars are not only despoiling farms, woods and roadsides of the country, but proving so dangerous in town that they have caused injury and even the death of children? Would Her Majesty's Government not agree that the matter has now reached such proportions as to require handling at national rather than local level?


My Lords, the Government are well aware of the number of these abandoned vehicles, though I am not aware of any incidents of death. If the noble Earl knows of these I shall he glad to have the information. It is certainly a matter requiring urgent treatment, and it is receiving that. But certainly it will be possible to deal with this through the local authorities. That will, in fact, be the only way of efficiently dealing with it.


My Lords, I am surprised that the, noble Lord did not see the B.B.C. television programme which showed a case where a child had been killed in one of these old vehicles. Is it not a fact that a motor car owner registers his car and that his name is with the registration authorities? Surely there must be some way, when an owner discards his car and, obviously, does not re-register it, for the authorities to try to ascertain whether the owner has either sold the car or dumped it. There must be some check on this matter. It is an increasing problem not only in regard to the countryside, but in regard to the increasing danger to children, and I think this is sufficiently important for the Government to act quickly.


My Lords, this matter was, of course, referred to in a debate on an Unstarred Question on January 23, and perhaps the noble Lord will refer to my remarks on that occasion. It is being dealt with through consultation, and we hope to take action soon.


My Lords, it may be being dealt with through consultations—but not in fact. The statement of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, is correct. With reference to the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, talking about accidents, I had a case of a constituent—


Order, order!


Is the noble Lord aware that a child was killed, and when the police investigated they found three other cars in the street had no engines? May I ask the noble Lord why, if I leave my car in the West End in the wrong place the police tow it away and I get fined, yet if I leave a car in the street without an engine nobody has the power to do anything about it? It is hopelessly wrong, and it is about time that something was done about it.


My Lords, would the noble Lord ask his right honourable friend to give consideration also to the depositing of other forms of litter and muck along the roads? This is a much larger problem than that of motor cars and it is becoming a national scandal. When these instructions are given to the local authorities, may not a statement be made in your Lordships' House as to the nature of the instructions so that we can perhaps have a debate on the matter?


My Lords, my noble friend said he hoped the Government would be able to give advice to local authorities, but what the local authorities need is not so much advice as some more equitable placing of the financial burden. At the moment the mess and muck of the urban authorities is dumped, to be cleared at the expense of the rural authorities.


My Lords, I do not think I can answer so many questions without this discussion becoming a debate. I would rather accept the invitation of the noble Marquess that, in due course when the Government have taken decisions on this matter, we should inform the House and perhaps have a short debate on the subject.