HL Deb 18 April 1967 vol 282 cc154-86

5.10 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD GRENFELL in the Chair.]


I am informed that the Question, that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill has not been put. I will now put it.

On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?


On the Question that Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill, I should like to raise a short debate, not only on the contents of this clause, but also on the contents of Clause 1, which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked that we should defer until after Clause 7. Clauses 1 and 7 together are really the major features of this Bill in laying down the new offence of driving under the influence of drink at a blood alcohol level of 80 mg. of alcohol per 100 ml. of blood. As I said on Second Reading, I support this, as indeed I think we all do; and although I have some doubts about the level, which I wish to discuss, I support the Government. This is a decision they have to take. They have to bear the responsibilities that flow from it. But I feel that it is a matter of such importance that it should not pass from this House without a little discussion and a little further elucidation, even beyond what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, was good enough to give us in reply to one of my Amendments earlier on.

The fact is that at the end of the day, the level at which the offence is set, 80 mg., is an act of judgment by the Government after weighing up the pros and cons. It could be set higher, or it could be set lower. I suggest that the issue of where to set this level depends on a consideration of the medical evidence, which is beyond challenge. On the last day of the Committee stage we had the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Platt's invaluable intervention on this subject, and I entirely accept the medical evidence. The medical evidence, of course, argues for a low level to be set. But I suggest that the sociological evidence, which is very sketchy, argues for a high level to be set.

The first point to be noted in this context is the levels at which other countries have set the offence, to which I referred on Second Reading and which I think bear repetition. Norway has a level of 50, Poland, 50; Sweden, with some differences, in that there is a higher level offence as well, at 50; Bulgaria, 30; Czechoslovakia, 30. But then Denmark has a level of 100; Finland, 100; Switzerland, 100; the State of New York, 100; Belgium, 150; some States in the United States, 150; Western Australia, 150; West Germany, 150, with 130 for motor cycles. I take those figures from the Parliamentary Secretary's speech in another place. So there is a fair inference there that the Government, in fixing a level of 80 mg., have set the level at a slightly lower one than other countries with similar living conditions to our own.

The next point I should like to make is to consider what we know about the drinking habits of our people. I think it is fair to claim—I think it has already been said in our debates—that nowadays we are not an intemperate nation; drunkenness is a very rare sight. But it is estimated that about half of all drivers at some time drink and drive. It is also estimated that about 4 million drivers make a call at a public house once or twice a week for a drink. These are very broad estimates, but nobody knows better. I suggest that at present we have no idea at all what percentage of these drivers have at times a blood alcohol of over 80 mg.—we simply do not know. The goal for which the Government are aiming in this Bill, to save the 6 per cent. of all accidents estimated to be caused by drink and driving—this is an estimate of some 18,000 to 32,000 casualties injured and killed per annum—is, of course, deeply desired by all of us.

I go further and say that the driver whose drunken condition has caused an accident where life is lost is an object of disgust by all of us. I would also suggest that the strong feelings we naturally have when we contemplate these conditions should not blind us from the very far reaching implications of this new law which we are now in process of approving. Your Lordships' House has a high reputation for the objectivity with which difficult problems of this kind are approached, and it is in that spirit that I am attempting to discuss the problem now.

I say frankly that I am concerned about the possible size of the number of people who may become guilty of this offence when it is put on the Statute Book. As I see it, the most immediate danger is to those who visit public houses which, after all, is a very normal thing to do, or cocktail parties, which is also a very normal thing to do, have a drink or two and then drive on—in other words, those who drink on an empty stomach. We know from what we are told by the experts that two or three pints of beer consumed on an empty stomach will be sufficient to put the blood alcohol level up to the 80 mg. for an 11-stone man, and I suppose at a cocktail party three or four cocktails would do the same. Of course, these amounts of alcohol taken with food and over a longer period would not take the drinker probably more than half way. In other words, you could probably drink twice as much if the drink was taken with a meal and over a longer period. The point I make here is that this level of drinking, although rather above average perhaps, is not at all uncommon and certainly would not be regarded as intemperate. If only 5 per cent. of the total number of people with driving licences who sometimes drink reach this level of blood alcohol, it makes a number of something of the order of 300,000 or 400,000 people.

At present the police do not normally prosecute unless a driver exceeds 150 mg. of alcohol—nearly double the new level. That, I would say, is broadly a level of obvious drunkenness. At present everybody knows that to drive when drunk is a crime, although, unfortunately, some people still do it. But it is a major new lesson for our people to learn that the offence now is driving with about half that level—that is, with a blood alcohol level of 80 mg. and a level, as I say, which would not normally be regarded as intemperate.

I do not want to leave the Committee in any doubt—I am not disputing the medical evidence of the B.M.A. at all. I am familiar with this subject from my days in the Ministry of Transport, and I fully accept that a blood alcohol level of 80 mg. would affect the capacity of the great majority of drivers to drive. It is not so much a level which causes a physical failing, as that it causes a state of "slaphappiness", where drivers will take chances which they would not normally take and then become "accident-prone". I do not dispute that for one moment. What I am suggesting to noble Lords is that this level is low, perhaps, in terms of the level of alcohol which most people would now think dangerous. In other words, my reflection is not on the physiological effect of 80 mg. but on the sociological effect.

I could be wrong—I hope I am—and so could the Government. We are all in the realms of conjecture here. But if my anxiety is well-founded very large numbers of drivers might be convicted of this offence, and I am sure that this is not the wish of the Government. It would not be good legislation to bring about such a situation. My hope, and I am sure the hope of all noble Lords, is that this Bill will enable police to get convictions when they prosecute drivers who are endangering the road by driving in drink; and that, at the same time, it will begin to educate the public as a whole on the dangers attached to drink and driving. But we know that public reaction to education, to change of human habit, is very slow. If one considers the reaction to the very considerable campaign with regard to smoking, the dangers to our lungs are well known but the trend of tobacco consumption still continues to rise.

This is the case which I feel we should discuss, and give the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, a chance to answer it even more fully than he has done already. I hope that when he replies he will tell us something more about the education campaign which is obviously basic to this issue. Perhaps he would also tell us the date at which the Government are thinking of making this Bill operative, and their thinking about the maintenance of the set level of 80 mg. There is also the point which the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, kindly made to me, in answer to a question, that the police will have their normal discretion in dealing with this offence, just as they have with any other motoring offence. I feel that this is important. The police have much experience of dealing with motoring offences of all kinds, and I think it very wise to give them a discretion here. It would be a good thing to have that said in public, as well as sent to me in writing.

Fourthly, I should like to add one other point which has arisen to-day, and that concerns the safeguards against incorrect analysis. I expect noble Lords will have seen in the Daily Telegraph a case reported of an incorrect analysis of a blood sample. The wrong analysis came from the forensic laboratory at Cardiff and was sent to a coroner in Carmarthen. The analysis showed a high blood alcohol of 206 mg. Some days later the mistake was discovered and rectified; in fact, the relevant blood sample had showed no alcohol at all. When this Bill gets on to the Statute Book the significance of a police laboratory analysis becomes decisive for an accused driver, and I would ask the noble Lord to tell us what steps are being taken to ensure that mistakes of this kind are not made.

With regard to the level at which the offence has been set, I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us that the Government will watch this most closely and will be prepared, perhaps after two or three years working, at least to make an objective survey to see whether this is the right level, whether it should be higher, or indeed, lower, so that in the light of experience it can be either confirmed or changed in order to meet the nation's needs. With those few observations, which are made quite dispassionately because I am content to support him with his Bill, I look forward with interest to the noble Lord's reply.


May I say just one or two words on this matter? With the greatest possible respect, I feel that my noble friend has put a slightly misleading picture of this case. It is not the roaring drunk man whom we want to catch by this Bill—the man who is "half seas under", as it were. We want to catch the man who has had just a little, just enough to make his judgment not quite so accurate as it was before. That is why i sincerely hope that the Government will not be persuaded to raise the level.

My noble friend stressed the sociological aspect—cocktail parties and so on. I go to many cocktail parties and I have been condemned to soft drinks for some years now. I invariably ask for them, and that is something which anybody can do. Drinking before one drives is a thing which anybody can avoid doing if he really wants to, or if he feels strongly enough that he is likely to endanger himself by drinking. So I sincerely hope that the Government will remain very strong on this point.

5.27 p.m.


I spoke at some length on this particular aspect at an earlier stage of the Committee on this Bill, because I thought it was very relevant to what we were then discussing—the question of penalties, the question of the deterrent. I am sure the Committee will remember that I laid very great stress on the fact that we should not regard an offence under this Bill as a technical offence, because the evidence which we have from our medical friends—and I was very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Platt, supported us on the last occasion—shows clearly that virtually everybody's driving ability is impaired at a concentration of 80 mg. or more of alcohol to 100 ml. of blood, and that in the vast majority of cases—and I think this should be stressed—it is seriously impaired.

In the case of a driver with an 80 mg. content, the risk of having an accident is, on average, twice that of drivers who have not been drinking. It is true that some drivers may not be significantly impaired at 80 mg., but I believe that they are exceptional. The Grand Rapids study showed that as a group even the least affected types of drivers—the middle-aged drivers and those who drink frequently—were affected at 80 mg. Some individuals in those groups might not be affected, but no one can possibly know whether he is one of those exceptions.

The Government gave very great consideration to the level which should be put into the Bill. Clearly, we did not wish to have a level at which the very large number of drivers who may take the odd beer are likely to become criminals. On the other hand, we recognized—and this came out in evidence—that in accidents due to drink it is only some 10 per cent. of drivers who have drunk less than produces a level of 80 mg., while some 90 per cent. have in excess of 80 mg.

What is also significant—and I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, of this—is the changed views of the Special Committee of the British Medical Association. In their report the Committee said this: The recent evidence also shows that although the degree of impairment and risk of accident involvement varies between different individuals at concentrations of alcohol in the blood up to 80 mg., the variable factors responsible for these differences are dominated by alcohol at concentrations in excess of this concentration. They went on—and these are the significant words: The Committee feels that its previous conclusions concerning driving performance at concentrations of 100 mg. and 150 mg. must now be qualified. There are very few persons in whom impairment of ability to drive properly and increased risk of being involved in an accident are not present to a significant extent at blood alcohol concentrations in excess of 80 mg. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, drew our attention to the prescribed standards in a number of other countries. There are some whose level is lower than ours, and some who have a higher level. But the significant fact is that where countries are making or are considering making changes in level, these changes are all downwards. For instance, in Sweden, where the level is very low (I think that at the present moment it is 50 mg.), I believe they are now considering moving to 30. As the noble Lord knows, in this Bill we have the power to make variations. I do not believe that, when a variation takes place, it is likely to be upwards. Personally, I think it is quite certain that it will be a downward movement.

The noble Lord also raised the problem of the number of persons likely to commit an offence and be convicted. One study, conducted by the Road Research Laboratory in Dorking in December, 1964, showed that just over 2 per cent. of the 1,700 drivers stopped at random had a blood alcohol concentration higher than 50 mg. I must say that I was rather surprised at the small percentage—and this is the number with which we are dealing. Once we get our big campaign going, before this Bill comes into operation, I do not believe that we shall find great objection by drivers. I have many friends in Switzerland and Sweden who have entertained me on occasions at business dinners and business lunches, and there has never been any difficulty there. They just come in a taxi. They would never dream of taking their cars out in the evening when they know that they intend (shall we say) to have a party.

The noble Lord also referred to cocktail parties. I think that these are occasions on which we should, if we go, exercise very great caution—and, if I may say so, I also think that on these occasions the hosts themselves should exercise great caution. Because my experience, for what it is worth, is that one of the difficulties [...]at cocktail parties, particularly if you are drinking cocktails, is that you do not know what is in the mixture. It varies. I believe there are some hosts who, to get a party going, give you a very powerful drink to start you off and then slowly reduce the alcoholic quantity. Furthermore, of course—and this, I must say, is one of the problems even on official occasions—one is not sure of the measure that is being given; and food is sometimes not very noticeable. We shall have to draw these points very much to the public mind, perhaps through our educational programme, because the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, was quite right when he said that there is a significant increase in blood alcohol concentration when alcohol is taken without food.

The noble Lord asked a question at an earlier stage, I believe, on the accuracy of breath tests, and I gather that my noble friend Lord Stonham indicated that he might deal with this on Report. However, if I deal with it fairly quickly now, that may save time on the next occasion. Clearly—and we have never disguised this fact—the devices that will be used will not be 100 per cent. accurate. This is why we regard their use merely as a screening test. They will not be used as evidence. It is interesting to see that in Western Germany and in Austria detector tube devices have been used for screening and have been found to forecast the blood alcohol content correctly in about 90 per cent. of the cases.

In 1961, when the 80 mg. limit was introduced in Austria, the Institute of Legal Medicine in Vienna compared the results of breath tests and blood alcohol analyses in a total of 1,001 cases. The tube devices forecast the blood alcohol concentrations correctly in 90 per cent. of those cases; in 8 per cent. of the cases the tubes gave negative readings when the blood levels were above 80 mg.; and in 2 per cent. of the cases positive readings were obtained by the tubes in cases where the blood levels were found to be below 80 mg. One could perhaps say, therefore, that if there be any error it is an error to the benefit of the driver.

In 1964 and 1965 an investigation of 1,148 cases distributed at random throughout the season in Sweden showed that false positive breath tube results resulted in 5.4 per cent. of all the cases, and false negatives in 11.2 per cent. of all the cases. The tubes used in this investigation were so calibrated as to indicate when the 50 mg. level (the limit set by the Swedish legislation) was exceeded. The Home Secretary and his advisers are now examining and testing with the greatest thoroughness a number of devices, and I am quite sure that the devices we decide to use will match these very high standards obtained in Europe.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, mentioned the error which occurred at Cardiff and which was reported in our newspapers this morning. If I may, I will deal with that in some detail, because I believe that public anxiety in this matter should be allayed. The recent publicity of an error which occurred in the Cardiff Forensic Science Laboratory last week may well call in question the reliability of the procedure for handling blood samples at the Home Office laboratories, and it may be suggested that there is a danger of wrongful convictions under the Road Safety Bill resulting from laxity or negligence at a laboratory.

The facts at Cardiff are, briefly, as follows. Under arrangements made by the Minister of Transport with coroners, a sample of the blood of each driver, rider or passenger of 16 years of age or more who dies within 12 hours of being injured in a road accident is taken and analysed to determine the level of alcohol, if any, in the blood. These arrangements have been introduced for a period of 18 months as part of the research programme of the Road Research Laboratory.

Two separate samples of blood from different areas in Wales, relating to two separate fatal accidents, were submitted to the Cardiff Laboratory on April 3. The result of analysis of one specimen was negative; the other was found to contain a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 200 mg. These results were entered in a ledger, and in transferring them to case files the officer concerned interchanged the figures. As a result, it was stated at the coroner's inquest on one of the deceased men that he had this high blood alcohol content. The father of the deceased contended that his son drank very little, if at all, and the laboratory officer, on hearing a news item which cast doubt on the reliability of his report, discovered his error and reported it. I think I should emphasise that the discovery was made by the officer concerned. The director of the laboratory immediately reported the error to the coroner and sent a corrected report which showed that the deceased had no alcohol in his blood. The director concerned has already offered his apologies, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, as head of the Department, shares that deep regret.

It may be suggested that this incident reflects adversely on the safeguards available to the accused under the Road Safety Bill. In the first place, the question of a laboratory blood test will arise only if preliminary breath tests at the roadside and at the police station indicate a level of blood alcohol at or above 80 mg. Therefore, there is no danger that a motorist with no alcohol, or very little alcohol, in his blood will have a blood specimen submitted to a laboratory. In other words, all blood specimens submitted to a laboratory for analysis will be attended by prima facie evidence derived from the breath testing device that the blood alcohol concentration is near or above the limit at which a statutory offence appears to have been committed.

The modern methods of analysis have a very high degree of accuracy, and the results invariably rely on more than one separate analysis. The most careful arrangements have always been made in the laboratories to ensure that specimens are correctly identified, and the importance of these arrangements is continually stressed. The error in Cardiff arose, not from confusion between samples, but at the subsequent stage as a result of a clerical error when the results were incorrectly transferred from a ledger to the case files. The best safeguard against clerical errors of this kind is a system of double checking, and all directors of laboratories are being reminded that this must be the invariable rule.

Finally, it is of course open to the accused motorist to challenge the prosecution's evidence. Under Clause 3(8) of the Bill, which attracts Section 2(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1962, there is a statutory requirement that the accused must be offered a specimen of the blood sample. This is sealed, and it is then possible for him to submit it to an independent analyst. If, therefore, the defence claims to have grounds for challenging the accuracy of the Home Office laboratory analysis or the reliability of the procedure for handling specimens within the laboratory, the certificate of an independent analyst would be available to support the case. It may be suggested that the accused might tamper with the blood sample as handed to him. The broad answer to this is that the sample would be sealed at the police station, and any reputable analyst would not only satisfy himself about the integrity of the sample but would also need to be in a position to satisfy the court that there had been no interference with the container.

Briefly, therefore, it may be said that the statutory safeguards; namely, the initial breath testing at the roadside and at the police station, together with the provision of the sample of blood for the accused, offer an extremely high degree of protection against any error or laxity within a Home Office laboratory. As a further administrative measure, instructions are being sent to all directors of laboratories to ensure that, wherever this is not already standard practice, a scrupulous system of double checking of clerical work connected with blood testing shall be introduced. I have been satisfied myself this afternoon by officials of the Department that the Home Office and the authorities concerned are now examining this point to see whether any other improvements can be made in this field.

With regard to the educational programme, we must lay great stress on this because I think the Committee will agree that we are dealing with a basically moral and social question. I cannot say what line this campaign will take. Certainly, there has been a very considerable response to the recent campaign of the Ministry of Transport, "Don't ask a man to drink and drive". But we need to get the approach absolutely right in this matter. To my mind, the campaign must be phased with the bringing into operation of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, asked whether we would undertake a far-reaching review of the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act. Clearly, in a major change of this sort, some time must elapse before one can make a fair judgment of its success. But I can repeat the assurance that I gave to my noble friends the other day when, in their view, they were seeking to strengthen the Bill in regard to random testing. The Ministry of Transport, the Home Office and the authorities concerned will be keeping the most careful watch on the way in which this Act will be working and on what effect it will have in the field of accidents.

I would hope, with other noble Lords who are interested in this matter—I see my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth is in the Chamber—that in due course we could have a debate when we could examine the various statistics to see whether the Bill has had the effect we all hope. If it has not, we hope that we shall have suggestions that might strengthen its provisions so as to produce the results we all desire.


The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, asked when this Part of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be brought into force. If I may say so with respect, I do not think the noble Lord has really dealt with that. I for one hope that it will be brought into force at the earliest practicable moment, because I regard the present law on this matter of drink and driving as highly unsatisfactory. Prosecutions under Section 6 of the Act of 1960, whether before the petty sessional courts or the quarter sessions, are really very unsatisfactory. They result in a great waste of public money and time—and time is money. The sooner they are replaced by prosecutions under this Bill when it becomes an Act the better it will be for all concerned.


I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, and to the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr. I would agree with him that the sooner the Bill comes into operation the better. But I think I should say this. As I have continually stressed, we are dealing with a social and moral question. It is not a question of how many motorists we can bring before the magistrates and how many we can get disqualified. The purpose of the Bill is to reduce drinking by drivers on the roads. I think, therefore, it is right that we should phase our programme, our publicity and educational policies, in line with the Bill. I am quite sure that if we were to delay bringing this Bill into operation for some months in order to carry out this policy, we should more quickly achieve the end that we all have in mind.

5.50 p.m.


May I briefly thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for the comprehensive reply he has given to the case which I put to him, and express my opinion that he has put the matter into balance. The noble Lord answered the formidable case which I put to him, and which I feel needed to be answered publicly, and I think that that will help to give confidence that the Government are approaching this matter in an objective and highly responsible way. I should like to make one technical comment on his reference to the Road Research Laboratory study of 1964, which I also considered very carefully. I would remind him that the fact that only 2 per cent. of cases exceeded the 80 milligramme level was not particularly significant when account is taken of the fact that 10 per cent. of the people refused to be tested at all. What they might have shown we shall never know.


This, obviously, is a case where statistics lie.


I should like to thank the noble Lord for what he has told us about the accuracy of the breath-testing devices. I think some anxiety was felt that drivers who showed a level below 80 milligrammes might be arrested and taken to the police station, which would be a very unpleasant experience for them. I wonder whether it would be too much to ask that in the annual police reports there might be included the number of innocent drivers who were taken in on a wrong reading of a breath-testing machine. It would be interesting to know this, and I hope that it would be a very low figure. We were all happy to hear the complete explanation given by the noble Lord about the disturbing incident at the Cardiff Forensic Laboratory. It was particularly reassuring to hear that the official himself discovered the mistake and rectified it. As the noble Lord has said, there is, under this Bill, the substantial safeguard that an accused person gets a sealed sample of his blood, and therefore it is up to him to see that this is his second check.

May I thank the noble Lord for the explanation he has given us of the overhaul of the administrative machine, and say that I feel reassured. While, with the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, I hope that this Bill will soon be put on to the Statute Book, in order to overcome a very unsatisfactory position which now obtains in the courts, I am anxious to see this education programme going at full blast as I feel that there is a very big job of educating to be done. Anything that I can do to help I shall be very glad to do. I thank the noble Lord.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Extension of powers to regulate the construction and use of goods vehicles]:

On Question, Whether Clause 8 shall stand part of the Bill?


This clause gives the Government power to make regulations regarding, among other things, the equipment of goods vehicles. I seek an assurance that the Government are satisfied that these powers are adequate, especially in respect of vehicle lighting. Under Regulation 13 of the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1964, and Schedule I which goes with it, the obligatory number of rear red lights on a goods vehicle is two; and they are to be no more than 3ft. 6ins. from ground level. Some vehicle owners see that more lights than two are carried, but only two are obligatory. As scientific analysis of fatal and serious accidents proceeds, I believe it to be more than likely that collisions with the rear of stationary vehicles, especially at night, will be shown to contribute substantially to the terrible toll of the roads and represent a far greater proportion of the fatal and serious accidents than those which stem from drunken driving. This cause of accident is, in my view, one which could be sharply reduced if more determined efforts were made to that end. An educational programme is much needed if the results of such accidents in the neighbourhood in which I live are to be treated as typical.

The low level of the obligatory lights means that they quickly become obscured or dimmed by mud, slush or snow. I think that consideration should be given to whether vehicles—including buses and coaches, though they do not come under this clause—should have additional red lights placed higher on the vehicle. The lights should be not only sufficiently high to be clear of mud and slush, but also high enough to be seen over hedges and other obstructions. They should also be on electrical circuits separately fused, There are numerous technical complications, but this is not the time to go into such details. I merely seek an assurance from the Government that the powers under this clause are, in their opinion, adequate. If the Government are not satisfied in this respect, will they consider an Amendment or a proposed additional clause at a later stage?


Before I reply to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, perhaps it would be of assistance to the Committee if I gave a brief comment on the structure of Part II of this Bill, for it is really quite separate from Part I, which gave rise to a series of deeply felt discusisons on a matter of social importance. Part II is grittily factual. To-day we are legislating in a limited field to try to make heavy goods vehicle safer. I should like again to make the point that, in relation to this matter, Part II is largely an enabling Part, which provides power to make regulations, under the principal Act, under this Bill, when it becomes law, and one or two other Acts. All these regulations will be made after consultation and will be subject to the Negative Resolution procedure in both Houses of Parliament.

At this stage it is impossible, in advance of consultations, to say precisely how all the various requirements of, and exemptions in, regulations will apply. But we are making firm legislative decisions on Clauses 16 and 17 where we allow the Minister to set up an appointed day in respect of spot checks; in Clauses 21 and 22 where the Minister is given power to set up weighbridges and testing stations; in Clause 23 to increase penalties and in Clause 24(4) in which we define good defences against the more Draconian provisions that we are bringing in under this Bill. Otherwise we are giving power to the Minister to legislate by regulation.

Turning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, may I say that I am in complete sympathy with him? I think that most of us have heard of disastrous accidents caused by stationary lorries being on the road at night with no lights, or with insufficient lighting. Her Majesty's Government are well aware of this problem, and I believe that the noble Lord raised it during the Second Reading debate. The Minister of Transport has full powers under the Road Traffic Lighting Act 1957 to make any necessary regulations to improve the lighting of heavy goods vehicles. There is at the moment a Ministry Working Party surveying all lighting regulations, in particular in respect of long and wide vehicles, and also regarding the use of reflectors. I cannot tell the noble Lord exactly when the regulations will be suggested by this Working Party, but I suspect that the time is not far off, because the Party has been working for some time. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, will be satisfied with that reply.


I thank the noble Lord for that reply, which is eminently satisfactory. I should mention, perhaps, that the same point arises under Clause 10, but having heard the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, I have no intention of raising the matter again.


Apropos the question of rear lights being obscured by mud, may I ask whether it is intended to make mud flaps on commercial vehicles compulsory?


I am afraid I cannot answer that question, but it seems logical that the Working Party must consider that as part of the whole.

Clause 8 agreed to.

6.0 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, after Clause 8, to insert the following new clause:

Provisions as to proceedings for contravention of construction and use requirements

"In any proceedings against any person for a contravention of construction and use requirements it shall be a defence to prove that he used all due diligence to secure compliance with those requirements and that he did not knowingly use, cause or permit the use of the vehicle concerned in contravention of such requirements."

The noble Lord said: I expect that noble Lords opposite will recognise that this new clause follows the form of the statutory defence in Section 26 of the Weights and Measures Act 1962. It seems, therefore, to have a respectable precedent, which I hope will commend it to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. It proposes that it shall be a reasonable defence for an employer of a number of drivers to show that he had taken every reasonable step to ensure that the regulations had been complied with, but that the employee had failed in some way to carry out his duty, with the result that the breach had been committed. It is a simple technical point and maybe therefore the noble Lord intends to deal with it in regulations. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


The noble Lord gave one precedent. There is another in Section 20 of the Road Traffic Act 1962, which allows an operator to plead "all due diligence" as a defence to infringements of the regulations concerning the keeping of records of drivers' hours. Because this precedent has proved unsatisfactory in practice, Her Majesty's Government feel that they must resist the noble Lord's new clause, although they understand clearly the reasons behind it. We are facing a problem. These great vehicles now travelling on our roads are lethal. It is true that they are driven by professional drivers of great skill and that their accident rate is lower than that of private cars. Nevertheless, the death rate is in the ratio of 15 to 9, nearly twice as high, because if one of these vehicles is involved in an accident, death often follows. This is the basic reason why these new legislative proposals are being brought in under Part II of the Bill. The limiting factors for safety, in weight and so on, used to be what our roads and bridges would carry. Now we are trying to determine a definition of the safe limits of performance of these heavy vehicles.

Our experience under the 1962 Act of allowing the plea of "all due diligence" has proved that this is unsatisfactory. Difficulties have been experienced in the courts, where the diligence expected of an employer is often interpreted as being of a minimal nature. The fact that an employer has told his driver to make certain that everything is in order has been taken in the courts as "due diligence". We believe that this is not enough. We feel that it is most undesirable that operators should be tempted or allowed to evade their responsibility by sheltering behind the man next down the line and by regarding their obligations as having been fulfilled if they merely put up a notice on a notice board. In our opinion, both driver and owner must be held responsible. Therefore we are opposed to this new clause.


May I thank the noble Lord for the answer he has given. I accept the cogency of his reply, that experience has shown that a provision of this kind, which on the face of it looks reasonable, has in practice proved too wide. I am entirely with him in wishing that these heavy vehicles, which, as he said, can become lethal if they get out of control, should be made safe, and I therefore accept the weight of his argument. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved, after Clause 8, to insert the following new clause:

Restriction on prosecutions for contravention of certain regulations

". Notwithstanding anything in the principal Act or in any regulations made under section 64 thereof as extended by this Act prescribing the maximum laden weight to be transmitted to the road or any specified area thereof by any part or parts of a motor vehicle or trailer of any class or description in contact with the road a person not being the owner or driver of any vehicle or trailer any part of which exceeds such maximum shall not be liable for any contravention of such regulations."

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Teynham, who is unavoidably absent this evening. As I have said, I am entirely in favour of the intention of these two new clauses to increase safety measures for these heavy vehicles and I hope that in the judgment of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, this Amendment will not reduce the measure of safety. The Amendment would leave the responsibility of the operator and driver absolute to see that the vehicle is not loaded to more than its approved gross weight limit, but the effect of the Amendment would be to relieve of responsibility the loaders of vehicles.

I suggest that loaders in a warehouse will be placed in a very difficult position if they are made responsible for the observance of these regulations. In big warehouses they will have vehicles of different sizes and of different capacity and design coming in daily, and it will he almost impossible for them to know the exact weights of the loads which vehicles of different kinds may take. Detailed weighbridge checking by loaders themselves would be difficult to arrange. It seems that to require loaders to take responsibility, as under the Bill as now drafted, would be both dislocating to their work and time-consuming. I suggest that the operator and the driver are the right people to take the responsibility and this will give the measure of safety we want. I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to look at this point.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


I venture to support the noble Lord on this Amendment. I think the Government should accept it, or something very like it, because as the Bill stands some unfair situations may arise. I sell corn in bulk—that is, loose corn which has not been weighed. It is taken to a store by a machine and poured out of a spout over the tanker lorry until the driver says, "Stop". I am not the owner of the vehicle, which is usually hired by the firm which has bought the corn from me. I have no means of discovering how much corn is in the lorry except by asking the driver.

My noble friend Lord Winterbottom may say that I am a moderately intelligent and well-educated person and did geometry at school, and if I multiply the length, breadth and height of the body of the lorry in feet, then divide by 46 for wheat, 50 for barley and 60 for oats, I should easily get the weight of corn on the vehicle. Maybe I can, but I do not think my men could, if I were not there and they were on their own. What is more, I do not think they should be expected to. The driver of the lorry is the one who knows, or should know, his vehicle. He is already responsible for trimming the load and securing it. It would be impracticable to try to make anybody else responsible. It seems right that in this case it is the driver and not the loader who should take the responsibility. I feel that my men should not be subject to prosecution for something, not over which they have no control, but which they are not equipped, and cannot be expected to be equipped, to judge.


I should like to make two points in reply to the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has moved. One is a simple argument on drafting, which is a trap into which any amateur draftsman can fall; and the second, which is more important, is one of principle raised by the noble Lord and by my noble friend Lord Raglan. Perhaps I may get the drafting point out of the way first.

The clause as drafted would very much widen the scope of the Bill. It says: Notwithstanding anything in the principal Act … the maximum laden weight to be transmitted to the road or any specified area thereof by any part or parts of a motor vehicle or trailer of any class of description in contact with the road a person not being the owner or driver of any vehicle or trailer any part of which exceeds such maximum shall not be liable for any contravention … I think the noble Lord will agree that the clause is not confined to exemption from liability in respect of axle loads. It is not confined to goods vehicles, but as drafted can apply to any vehicle, and the exemption from liability is to extend to any person not being the owner or driver. If this is so, the proposed new clause would in any case be unacceptable, because it would exempt from liability an operator who was not the owner—for instance, an operator who used the vehicle on hire—and it would exempt from liability a person using the vehicle without the consent of the owner. So the drafting is faulty.

I believe that the argument about trying to exempt the loader from responsibility, or part responsibility, is in itself faulty, and that is why the Government are resisting the Amendment. We believe that the owner, the driver and the loader all have a responsibility in seeing that the vehicle is correctly loaded, and that its correct loading is not only for the vehicle as a whole but also for individual axle weights which, of course, is really a question of distribution. We cannot expect that the owner should be present every time a goods vehicle is loaded. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Raglan is doing his duty here while his corn is being loaded. But at the same time, the owner cannot avoid his ultimate responsibility.

The two men who are directly responsible for seeing that a heavy goods vehicle is properly loaded are the driver and the loader. A conceivable situation can exist where overloading would benefit the driver, and the loader might aid and abet him in overloading the vehicle, so giving some sort of wrong weight ticket. It is equally important, if we turn to axle loading, that the loader and the driver should get together to see that the load is properly distributed on the body of the vehicle as a whole. Both these men are responsible for seeing that the lorry is properly and safely loaded, and for this reason we wish the responsibility on both of these indivduals to be fairly divided. We do not want to exempt the loader, because we think he has an important part to play in making sure that these heavy vehicles are properly loaded. It is for these reasons that we oppose this new clause.


I thank the noble Lord for explaining why he feels unable to accept this Amendment. I feel that he is being a little harsh on the loader, and I am still puzzled to see just how the loader will in practice discharge his responsibility. But am bound to recognise that he and the driver together will be putting the load on, in relation to both the quantity and the distribution, and that therefore they are directly concerned with it. If the noble Lord feels unable to accept the Amendment, I can only ask that this should be watched to see how it works out in practice; and if it proves to be an impracticable requirement, some revision might be considered. In those rather reluctant terms, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 [Determination of plated weights and other particulars, and goods vehicle tests]:

6.16 p.m.

LORD RAGLAN moved, in subsection (4), to leave out "again". The noble Lord said: I think it would be convenient for the Committee if Amendment No. 42 was taken at the same time as No. 41. Before I speak to the Amendments, I may say that I promise your Lordships that I will not bring forward Amendments of this kind on every Bill; but as I was bringing forward one Amendment of this description in Part I, I thought I might as well bring some more.

I feel that the reading of a Bill with a critical eye to this sort of thing serves a useful purpose. It makes one—it has certainly made me—much more appreciative of the skill of Parliamentary draftsmen, and gives one an insight into the difficulties they are up against. For their part, I am sure they think it healthy that their work be criticised. It is dull to have one's work taken for granted, and stimulating to have to justify it.

Both the phrases which I seek to amend here are, to my mind, tautologous. To "re-examine" means to examine again, and so one can do without the word "again". The intention seems to have been to distinguish the second reexamination from the first re-examination in the previous clause. I suggest that it is not necessary to make that distinction, or, at any rate, it is the wrong way to make it.

As for the difference between period and "interval", an interval is a space of time, and a period could be described as a regular interval, though it has also a colloquial meaning of "every now and then". What is intended here, I believe, is something which gives the inspector discretion to require the vehicle to be submitted for test either regularly or every now and then, and I submit that "periodically" serves the purpose excellently by itself. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11. line 4, leave out ("again").— (Lord Raglan.)


Although I think it is a good thing to examine the language of a Bill, I think it is equally important that we should not seek to amend what the Parliamentary draftsman has put in the Bill if we think it is correct. I propose only to deal with the first Amendment, because I think we should consider the two separately. In my submission, the Parliamentary draftsman is entirely right to put in the word "again" in this subsection. Otherwise, there might be a risk, even if only a small risk, of thinking that the re-examination mentioned in subsection (3) had been overlooked.

It is because a person is aggrieved by the decision of the gentleman who made the re-examination mentioned in subsection (3) that he asks that there should be a further re-examination. Therefore, I think the words be re-examined again by an officer are precisely what is required, and not to be criticised. These matters are quite separate. I think the first Amendment is definitely wrong, and the second Amendment is undesirable. I support the Parliamentary draftsman on both points.


May I move Amendment No. 41 separately?


The position is, as always, that noble Lords can move only one Amendment at once, and I can call only one Amendment at once. But, of course, there is no objection at all to discussing several Amendments on the first of them.


Due to my inexperience I find myself in the somewhat embarrassing position of wanting to accept my noble friend's Amendment and perhaps tripping over procedure in doing so. However, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has said, it is the opinion of the Government that this Amendment in no way detracts from the subsection, and it removes an ambiguity. For this reason we are very glad to accept it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move Amendment No. 42.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 17, leave out ("at periodical intervals") and insert ("periodically").—(Lord Raglan.)


Having given a present to my noble friend, I have to take it away in respect to this particular Amendment. We believe that this Amendment adds in no way to the sense of the subsection in question. If a drafting Amendment of this kind does not improve the sense, it is preferable not to go to the trouble of amending the Bill and that is where I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and I would agree. Moreover, although "periodically" and "at periodical intervals" are virtually synonymous, the latter wording has perhaps the advantage of bringing out more clearly the fact that power is given to prescribe tests at given intervals—for example, annually, which is the intention as from 1970. It is for this reason that we prefer the phrasing "at periodical intervals".


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 9, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, a question on the operation of this clause, which provides for vehicle testing? Later in the Bill, in Clause 22, the Government are providing for the setting up of vehicle testing stations. I wonder whether the noble Lord would tell us whether it is the intention of the Government to use existing vehicle testing stations where they are up to the necessary vehicle standard. I have in mind the testing stations which already exist in the possession of various firms with big fleets of vehicles. They have very fully and well equipped testing stations with complete and expert staff. It would seem to be a wise, practical measure to make use of them, where such exist, both in the saving of capital outlay and in the use of expert staff. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us that it is the intention of the Government to use them.


May I say how much I appreciated the letter I received from my noble friend Lord Winterbottom on this point? Your Lordships will remember that I raised this point on Second Reading. The noble Lord has certainly gone into the whole matter very fully, and I greatly appreciate his observations. Perhaps it would be as well if he would declare in public what he said to me in writing, because I am sure it will be for the benefit of all who are interested in this particular matter.


I am able to give the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, only partial satisfaction on this particular point. In general, the Government have decided that the testing of heavier goods vehicles should be carried out by themselves, rather than by making use of the trade, for the following reasons. First of all, the facilities for testing light goods vehicles are broadly the same as those for testing private cars. Heavier vehicles are not only larger but more complex, and require special testing equipment. What we are trying to do will be a massive operation of getting all existing heavier vehicles tested in a short time, something under three years; and then going on to annual tests really calls for production line techniques in specially designed testing stations.

Provision of the required facilities is going to cost money, whoever provides them. I understand that the noble Lord is concerned with saving capital costs to the nation as a whole. If we can save capital costs it is obviously a sensible provision; but this is going to cost a substantial amount of money—the estimate is in the region of £8¼ million—and we feel at this stage, with an amount of this kind involved, that placing the responsibility on the State is the only way of ensuring that a suitable number of testing stations are available by the dates required. In addition, production of facilities by the Government will probably make for greater uniformity of treatment. Of course, the facilities we are proposing to provide for testing will be used for other functions as well; for instance, the testing of drivers, vehicle plating and removal of prohibition notices on vehicles.

The partial satisfaction I hope I can give the noble Lord is in regard to remote areas, which is a separate problem. It may well be that the Government will use private testing stations if they are in a suitable location. The intention is that in remote areas vehicle testing of the type proposed will be dealt with by visiting examiners using suitable local premises. So I think we want to strike a sensible balance between the need for a substantial number of specially equipped Government stations at points of high traffic density, and the use of local facilities in remote areas. This is the balance we hope to strike. My noble friend Lord Popplewell has asked me to requote what I wrote to him. I wonder whether he could say, as it was a lengthy letter, which is the particular paragraph.


I agree that the letter is long—about three foolscap sheets—but at the moment I do not have it before me, so I cannot tell the noble Lord the actual paragraphs to which I refer. I only know they are in the letter.


My answer to my noble friend is not dissimilar to what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford. I have found the point. I wrote saying that I can assure him that the possible use of such premises—that is, private premises—if suitably equipped, has not been ruled out by the Government.

Clause 9, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 [Approval of design, construction etc., of goods vehicles]:


I beg to move this Amendment. It sprang originally from a personal dislike of the phrase "whether or not", which has passed into the language and is used by everybody, including myself when I am not thinking. But it always catches my eye, and indeed it appears twice more in the Bill. But here I thought I could erase it profitably, with three other words, and leave the sense originally intended. I submit that "or" is enough. It may incidentally give a slight widening of the scope of the clause, but if that is so I think it may be considered to be a useful Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 7, leave out ("whether or not they are applicable") and insert ("or") —(Lord Raglan.)


I know that my noble friend is intending to simplify the drafting, but if we accepted this Amendment it would change the power of the Minister to prescribe type approval requirements. My right honourable friend would, under the amended wording, be able to prescribe requirements applicable "before or after" vehicles were used on the road—but not necessarily applying both "before" and "after" use on roads. What Clause 10(1), as now drafted, seeks to achieve is a power to prescribe requirements which are only applicable both to the type vehicle (submitted for type approval) and to conforming vehicles before they are used on roads, or else are applicable both before and after the type vehicle and conforming vehicle are used on the roads. These are two separate vehicles. There is no point, under type approval, in a power to prescribe requirements, as this Amendment would provide, applicable only to vehicles after they are used on a road. That power exists already under Section 64 of the principal Act.

I hope that the following examples will illustrate how the existing wording is intended to apply to type approval in practice. First, it might be considered necessary to impose a requirement that the braking performance of the type vehicle and conforming vehicle (say, for the sake of illustration, 60 per cent.) be higher than that ultimately required for the same vehicles (say 50 per cent, as for new vehicles registered as from January 1, 1968) when they were used on the roads. I think I have made the point clearly to my noble friend that the type tested vehicle would be expected to have a higher braking efficiency than that same production vehicle on the road after, say, a year's usage. We should obviously expect a higher standard of braking in the type, which would be a safety factor covering that vehicle after it had been in use on the roads for a certain period. Conforming vehicles would therefore initially be capable of the higher braking performance, but there would be a margin within which the performance could fall away, due to wear and tear, to the levels laid down by the prevailing "use" regulations. This would be a case of a type approval requirement applicable before use on roads but not applicable after use on the road.


I thank my noble friend for his explanation. I shall have to read what he said before I can completely understand it, but I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Operators' duty to inspect, and keep records of inspections of, goods vehicles.]:


In the light of the reply which the noble Lord gave to me on Amendment No. 39, I shall not move my Amendment No. 44.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Supplemental provisions]:

6.35 p.m.

LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD moved to leave out subsection (7). The noble Lord said: It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I address my remarks to this Amendment and the following three Amendments at the same time, as they are all interrelated. Clauses 19 and 20 introduce the innovation of a special driving test for drivers of heavy goods vehicles, and make provision connected with this new form of driving licence. This is an innovation which I warmly welcome, and I congratulate the Government on introducing it. There is, of course, a world of difference between driving a private car and driving, say, a 20-ton articulated vehicle, and it is right that there should be a special driving test. Nevertheless, despite the comprehensive provisions in Clauses 19 and 20, a small gap or anomaly has appeared. As the clauses are drafted, a person who has passed the heavy vehicle driving test would not be qualified for an ordinary Part II driving test but would be obliged to take that test separately. As the heavy goods vehicle test will, in practice, be much stiffer than the ordinary test, this result would, of course, be quite absurd, and this Amendment and the following three Amendments set out to remedy the anomaly. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 29, line 28, leave out subsection (7) —(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)


The Government are grateful to the noble Lord for having brought to the attention of this Committee and, I hope, to the attention of people intending to take out heavy goods vehicle driving licences, a gap in the provisions. I think it is important that it should be said in public that this gap has been found and that we are hoping, by legislation, to close it. Some drivers—for instance, members of the Armed Forces, and employees of the British Railways Board—are trained ab initio on heavy goods vehicles: and very well trained, too. As the Bill is drafted such persons, who have been carefully trained, would be required to take two separate driving tests and to pay two separate fees in order to obtain a Part II licence as well as a licence to drive heavy goods vehicles. As the noble Lord has pointed out, this would be unjust and would cause resentment. For this reason the Government are glad to accept this Amendment.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.


I beg to move my first new clause after Clause 20.

Amendment moved—

After Clause 20, insert the following new Clause:— Common test of competence to drive for the purposes of Parts II and V of the principal Act . The Minister may by regulations provide that a person who passes a test of competence to drive heavy goods vehicles of any prescribed class for the purpose of obtaining a full licence shall, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, be treated as having passed a test of competence to drive prescribed under section 99(2) of the principal Act for any prescribed class or description of motor vehicle."—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— After Clause 20, insert the following new Clause:—

Interpretation of three last foregoing sections

". In the three last foregoing sections 'full licence' means a licence under Part V of the principal Act other than a provisional licence, and other expressions used in those sections and in the said Part V shall have the same meanings in those sections as they have in the said Part V"—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clauses 21 to 26 agreed to.

Clause 27 [Supplemental]:


I beg to move Amendment No. 48.

Amendment moved— Page 33, line 32, leave out ("sections 19 and 20 of this Act and").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 27, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Repeals]:


I beg to move the last Amendment, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Teynham, who unfortunately cannot be with us. The effect of this Amendment would be to repeal Section 72(2) of the Road Traffic Act 1960. This section, and the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1966, stipulate that an attendant must be carried on a motor vehicle whenever a trailer is being drawn and in certain prescribed circumstances involving the carriage of long, wide, heavy or projecting loads. Regulation No. 113(1) of the 1966 Regulations sets out 13 exemptions to these rulings, covering, among other things, articulated vehicles, certain two-wheeled trailers, works trailers and certain broken-down vehicles.

The need for a second man to help in the movement of vehicles carrying special loads is, of course, acknowledged. But technical progress over recent years, particularly in the field of brakes, makes a second man superfluous in the case of vehicles towing trailers, other than those carrying special loads, and I need hardly add that the wages of the second man would be a serious additional transport cost. I understand that this principle has now been accepted by the Ministry of Transport, and I also understand—and the noble Lord will tell me if this understanding is correct—that an Amendment of the law is now being considered.

I would suggest that there are two ways in which this could be done, either by the addition of a further exemption to the regulation I have quoted, Regulation 113(1), or by the repeal of Section 72(2) of the 1960 Act. This Amendment, of course, would do just that, and I suggest that it would be the better method because it would add Section 72(2) to the legislation to be repealed under this Schedule 2, thus automatically eliminating the basic cause of many of the exempting regulations. If the Amendment were accepted, it would be necessary for the Government to move a new regulation which would be framed covering circumstances when an attendant would be required on a vehicle or trailer combination. All this could easily be done under the existing terms of Section 64 of the principal Act. I hope that I have made plain to the noble Lord the purpose of the Amendment. I think it is a good purpose. He may prefer other ways of doing it, but I hope he will consider this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 39, line 5, at end insert— ("Section 72(2)").—(Lord Nugent of Guildford.)

6.43 p.m.


I hope that, in my answer to the noble Lord, I shall be able to satisfy noble Lords that the Working Party that I mentioned earlier is in fact working the whole time; that behind all our discussions there is a body of officials, aided by members of representative organisations, who are constantly reviewing the regulations governing heavy goods vehicles. I say this because noble Lords will remember we had been prepared to debate this particular Part of the Bill last week, and if I had answered this Amendment then I should have given the noble Lord, Lord Teynham, a moderately satisfactory answer. I should have told him then that his proposal, in our view, made sense in principle, and that I would give him a firm reply at Report stage. The proposal has been studied for a week, and I have an answer to give now to the noble Lord and to the Committee which, although not quite what he wants, will, I hope, be satisfactory.

The present position is that the whole question of these attendants is under review by the Government and there has been discussion of the subject in the Working Party to review the Construction and Use Regulations, on which many interested outside organisations, as well as the Ministry, are represented. Views expressed by the Working Party include one broadly in line with what would have been achieved by Lord Teynham's Amendment. If the current review, and wider consultations yet to take place, show that the attendant requirements should be changed in the sense of the Amendment, the change can be effected by means of regulations made under existing powers without the assistance of Lord Teynham's Amendment. It is undesirable that the one change should be made in isolation and in advance of full consultation on the whole range of proposed changes in the attendant requirements which emerge from the review. The review is going on, it seems at a reasonably rapid pace, and I hope regulations will be made soon after the passage of this Bill into law.


May I thank the noble Lord for his explanation of the situation? I am comforted to hear that this particular point is under review. I recognise that there are several different ways in which the point could be met and a careful balance has to be struck between safety regulations and the best economic use of labour. With the assurance that he has given that this point is being specifically considered, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Remaining Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with Amendments.