HL Deb 19 July 1966 vol 276 cc372-6

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, the ultimate effect of this Order, the approval of which I am now moving, will be to make it illegal for a vehicle to which the Motor Vehicles Tests Regulations 1960 apply and which has been registered for three years to be used on the roads on or after the third anniversary of the first registration unless a test certificate relating to the vehicle is in force.

Section 65 of the Road Traffic Act 1960 makes provision for the periodic testing of motor vehicles and for the issue of test certificates when they are found to comply with certain statutory requirements relating to the condition of parts and equipment which affect their safe use on the roads. Section 66 makes it an offence, with certain specified exemptions, to use a vehicle which was first registered in this country not less than ten years ago, unless there is in force a test certificate relating to the vehicle. Subsection (3) of Section 66 empowers the Minister of Transport to make an Order substituting a shorter period for ten years and provides that any such Order shall be subject to an Affirmative Resolution of each House of Parliament. Three Orders have been made under these provisions; in October, 1961, substituting seven years for ten years; in July, 1962, substituting six years for seven years, and in April, 1963, substituting five years for six years. The Order now before your Lordships represents a further stage in the extension of the scheme by substituting three years for five years.

If your Lordships give the Order your approval, it will come into effect as respects vehicles four years old on October 1 next, and as respects vehicles three years old on April 1, 1967. It follows that any vehicle which becomes four years old on and after October 1 and before April 1 next year will similarly be required to have a current test certificate if used on the road on and after the fourth anniversary of its first registration. It is estimated that some 1 million vehicles will be affected by October 1, and a further 1,250,000 by April 1, 1967.

Your Lordships may like me to mention the latest available figures relating to the operation and value of the testing scheme to date. Analyses so far completed of the records of the testing stations show that, of 20,250,000 vehicles over five years old initially tested since the scheme commenced in September, 1960—that is, excluding retests after repair following refusal of a test certificate—between 5,500,000 and 5,750,000 failed to qualify. Sixty-three per cent. of the defective vehicles had inefficient brakes, 43 per cent. faulty steering and 31 per cent. faulty lighting. There is, however, indication of a slow but steady improvement, because the average proportion of vehicles which fail to pass the test without repair has fallen from over 40 per cent. when the scheme started to 27 per cent. at the present time. Evidence from roadside checks shows that a substantial proportion of vehicles four and three years old had defects of some kind in braking systems, steering gear and lighting equipment. These figures demonstrate the value of the testing scheme and justify its extension in the interests of road safety. I beg to move that this Order be approved.

Moved, that the Motor Vehicles (Tests) (Extension) Order 1966 be approved.—(Lord Sorensen.)


My Loads, may I thank the noble Lord for the very informative statement which he has made? I am sure all noble Lords will be glad that it has now proved possible to take these further steps, and that as from next April facilities will be available—the facilities available have been a limiting factor—for carrying out tests to vehicles three years old. He said that the proportion of faults found has fallen, which is, of course, what one would expect as more progress is made in reducing the age of the vehicle to be tested.

I wonder whether the noble Lord could amplify in any way what he has said. Could he say whether there is any breakdown to show what proportion of vehicles between, say, five years and six years old—that is, since the last expansion of the scheme—failed to meet the requirements? Secondly, could he say whether it is envisaged that the requirement of testing will be extended further to cars less than three years old, or is it thought at the present time that three years is the right period on which to insist automatically on a test?


My Lords, there is no finality about it, and I understand that careful consideration is being given to the question of whether the period should be reduced to one year. But it is felt that it is best to go one step at a time, and first of all, to secure this reduction, because obviously it will impose still further tasks on the testing stations. But, as I have said, attention is being given to the very important question of whether it should be an annual test.

In regard to the first question, it has been shown that certainly the older the vehicle, the more liable it is to have defects of one kind or another. Therefore, unless they fall within the class of veterans, in which case, no doubt, their owners do all they can to bring them up to a high standard of efficiency, one can take it that the older the vehicles, the worse they are when they come to the test.


My Lords, would the noble Lord ask his right honourable friend to consider whether it would be possible to make a slight alteration in this Order as regards new cars? In my own experience, there are two danger periods with a car; the first is when it is new and first goes on to the road, and the next—provided that any defect which shows up is put right—is not for about six years. Some new cars are very badly built and should be tested much more thoroughly even before they are sold, but after that it seems to me unnecessary to test a car until it is at least six years old. I should have thought it would be possible to make a slight alteration in the Order, to allow a car to go for its first six years without a test.


Of course, my Lords, the noble Lord will no doubt appreciate that a great deal depends on the driver. It does not matter what kind of car it is, if the driver is not up to the same standard as the car, or fails to look after it, obviously, all sorts of difficulties will arise. But I assure the noble Lord that I am throwing no kind of reflection upon his capacity.

I will certainly see that this point is brought to the attention of the Minister, who will no doubt consider it. It is a very important point, and I thank the noble Lord very much for mentioning it. So far as this Order is concerned, obviously it is based upon experience. We feel that as the test has had a certain success in revealing serious defects in cars of an age of over five years, it is now just as well to bring the figure down to three years. Therefore, the noble Lord's suggestion seems to run entirely contrary to the intention of this Order, and since that is the case it cannot be accepted.


My Lords, the noble Lord has reminded us that this test covers three types of defect. Would he not agree with me that faulty, out-worn tyres are a very common source of accident and constitute a real danger, especially when roads are skiddy? If it is possible to bring tyres into the testing, would he not agree with me that that ought to be done?


Yes, my Lords. I understand that this matter is being very carefully considered as well. Meanwhile, I understand, too, that it is within the competence of the tester at any accredited registered testing station to refuse to take a car out on the road, on the ground that itstyres are not roadworthy. In that case, of course, the owner of the car would not get a certificate. But I agree that something more than that may be required, and I can assure the noble Lord that this matter is being very carefully considered by the Minister.

On Question, Motion agreed to.