HL Deb 03 December 1968 vol 298 cc83-132

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this House takes note of the paper entitled The Highway Code, a copy of which was laid before the House on the 30th of October, and approves the revised Highway Code contained in pages 4 to 44 thereof. The new edition of The Highway Code was announced in the Government's White Paper, Road SafetyA Fresh Approach, last year. The edition of the Code which many of us are now carrying unread in the glove-boxes of our cars was first published in 1959, and a new version is long overdue. Your Lordships will ex pect the new Code to be very different from the last one, and it is. It has been completely revised and re-written. Looking round at the contemporary traffic scene I imagine that most people feel that many of the features which we see have been with us for a considerable time. In fact, a great deal of what we accept as usual has arrived only within the last ten years. There have been changes in the way we use the roads; the recent rules for roundabouts are a good example. Since 1959 traffic engineering techniques have come into their own, and there is hardly any busy town which is without one-way streets, lane lines, direction arrows and the like. Certainly, it is a strange town which has no parking controls, whether by meters or by yellow lines. Three years ago a new system of traffic signs, based on Continental standards, was introduced.

The cars themselves have changed. Semaphore signals now begin to look quaintly old-fashioned, and hand and arm signals are rapidly dying out. We prefer to use direction indicators and keep our hand warm inside the car. We have recently seen new regulations on the standards of safety for tyres and, in particular, on the depth of the tread needed. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has required seat belts to be fitted as from the end of the year on all cars first registered since the beginning of 1965. We also have a new overall speed limit of 70 m.p.h., and we have seen the introduction of lower tailor-made speed limits on stretches of road where the accident record suggests they were needed.

The new Code takes account of all this new material. Since the Code is a basic book of advice and information for all road users, it is right that it should hold as much up-to-date information as possible. Your Lordships will see that the new Code has 150 rules, compared with 94 in the previous Code. Something like one-third of the text and all the illustrations are new material. There was another important reason for rewriting the Code. It was discovered by the Road Research Laboratory that some road users could not properly understand the existing Code. It used too many long words; some of its phrases were so elastic as to mean anything or nothing, and in parts it was so concise that the not-so-bright road users could not possibly follow all the thought that had been packed into it. The present Code therefore tries to spell things out and to explain step by step. Unfortunately, this makes the text very much longer in places, but we think it is clearer and more easily understood. We have also explained technical terms, whenever we cannot avoid them altogether.

The new Code has been prepared by the Ministry of Transport. It takes account of a great many suggestions made over the years by ordinary members of the public, and more recently has benefited greatly from comments made by some 60 outside organisations which were specially invited to give their views. We are very grateful to everyone who helped in this way. There has been some criticism that the new Code is too long overdue, and I would agree with that. The present pace of change in road and traffic conditions means that we need to keep the Code up to date very briskly; probably at least every five years.

There have also been criticisms, particularly in another place, about the way the Code is revised. It has been said that it is not fair to Parliament that there is no opportunity to debate the Code, either in detail or in principle, until an occasion such as this. In particular, amendments suggested by your Lordships or by Members of another place cannot be considered on their merits by the Minister, since the Code cannot be amended while it is being approved. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport agrees that these are justified points, and said last night in another place that when the next version of the Code is produced, possibly within the next two years, he proposes to circulate a draft as a Green Paper so that Parliament may have a chance to discuss the draft and to suggest amendments which the Minister can then consider. The Minister would then, after weighing up all the suggestions, bring a revised version forward for approval. Noble Lords may well have their own views on the procedure for revising the Code, and I should be interested to hear them either this afternoon or, after reflection, later.

Your Lordships will see that the Code is divided into six main sections. They are: "The Road User on Foot", "The Road User on Wheels", "Motorway Driving", "Extra Rules for Cyclists". "The Road User and Animals", and "The Road User and Railway Level Crossings". That is almost the same as the basic pattern of the 1959 Code, except that the level crossing section is entirely new. During the revision it was suggested that the section for drivers should come first, and this was, in fact, fully considered. But even in this motorised age there are more than three times as many pedestrians as theme are people with driving licences—53 million as against 17 million. Forty per cent., or about 35,000 of the people who are killed and seriously injured on the roads each year are pedestrians, and learning to use the roads properly on foot is the first essential task for road safety. The section for pedestrians has therefore been kept first.

The advice for pedestrians in the present Code is sound and well tested. Very little has been basically changed in the new Code, but six rules—Nos. 3, 4, 9, 11, 12 and 19—are new. Rule 8, which gives advice on how to cross the road from behind a parked vehicle, deals with a serious hazard which accounts for nearly one-quarter of the pedestrians who are killed or seriously injured. I should, too, draw your Lordships' attention, particularly now that we are in winter, to Rule 4, which encourages pedestrians to wear or carry something white or light-coloured or reflective at night. Rule 11, which advises crossing the road near a lighted street lamp if possible, is also new. The point behind Rules 4 and 11 is that the accident risk in darkness is just about double the accident risk in daylight; so road-users should not only try to see more clearly in the dark (this applies particularly, of course, to car drivers) but, as pedestrians, should also try to give other road-users a better chance to see them. Hence the advice about crossing in lighted places or wearing or carrying something white or light-coloured or reflective. Rule 19 is also new. The signals shown here are those which will be used at the Pelican pedestrian crossings which my right honourable friend announced in another place on July 25 last. We hope to see them coming into use in 1969; that is, after this Code has been published.

The section for the road-user on wheels has been drastically changed. It is more than twice the size of the equivalent section of the 1959 Code. This reflects the increasing importance of good road behaviour by drivers on our increasingly congested roads, and it reflects, too, the measures which have been taken over the last ten years to improve safety and keep traffic moving. Rule 31 in this section introduces the routine mirror-signal-manœuvre which drivers should use when they are overtaking, turning, slowing down or stopping. It may seem to many of us an obvious little drill. It is, and anyone who has been taught driving properly will of course use it automatically. But there are still many people who do not know it or use it, and we therefore thought it best to put it in the Code.

My right honourable friend the Minister particularly sought the views of outside bodies on two rules in this section. The first of these was Rule 35, which deals with separation distances—that is, of course, the gaps which are left between vehicles travelling on the road. This, as your Lordships know, is very important. There would be far fewer multiple collisons, especially on motorways, if drivers kept safe distances apart. The Minister wished to consider whether the separation distances should be shown in yards for each mile per hour of speed, or one car length for every ten miles per hour, or in some other way. Opinions were evenly divided: but a yard is a standard length and car lengths can vary, so my right honourable; friend concluded that it was better to advise a gap of one yard for each mile per hour of speed as a normal working rule. But your Lordships will notice that the illustration of stopping distances on the back of the Code shows distances in feet and in average car lengths. I hope, therefore, that this will suit both camps—those who can reckon distances in yards and feet without any help and those who need something more actual, like cars on the road, to help them with their reckoning.

Rule 95 was the other rule on which the views of outside bodies were specially sought. Your Lordships will see that the rule says that the flashing of headlamps has the same meaning as sounding the horn—to let another road-user know that you are there. This may be a dis appointment to some. There has been considerable discussion about the advantages of having an approved code of headlamp signals. This is still going on in many places, and different views are, as we know, passionately held. But the general feeling of those that my right honourable friend consulted was against a special code and came down in favour of the proposition that the flashing of headlamps does no more than show other people that you are there. Rule 95 therefore maintains that line.

My Lords, there are other important additions in the section dealing with drivers. They deal with safety for pedestrians. Rule 39, for example, makes clear that the young and the elderly pedestrians are particularly at risk. Rule 41—and this is interesting, I think—picks out a particular current problem of child casualties near parked ice-cream vans. The special investigations made by the Ministry's road safety units show that the children are most often hurt when they have bought their ice-cream and are moving away from the van. They are so interested in the ice-cream that they forget the traffic. Rule 46 explains the significance of the flashing amber signal which drivers will see at the new Pelican crossings.

Rules 88 to 94, dealing with headlamps, are also very important. As I have already mentioned, the accident risk in darkness is almost twice that for daylight. It is therefore essential that drivers should, first, have lights which work and are properly adjusted; and second, should use their lamps sensibly and when they are needed. Rule 92, which insists on the use of headlamps on all roads where there is no street lighting, is in line with new regulations which my right honourable friend has proposed. Rule 91, about using dipped headlamps in built-up areas, is also necessary. Far too many drivers drive on sidelights alone. This is dangerous, because it often means that the drivers cannot see as well as they might, and it gives pedestrians and other drivers a much slimmer chance of correctly judging their speed or how far away they are.

The section on the road-user and railway level crossings is completely new. As your Lordships will see, there are many kinds of railway level crossings in this country and the Code gives advice on how to cope with all of them—crossings with gates or full barriers, open level crossings with or without warning lights and automatic half-barrier level crossings. The advice on automatic half-barriers in Rules 147 to 150 adopts recommendations of the court of inquiry into the accident at Hixon. My right honourable friend has announced that work is going ahead on the design of a new model of automatic half-barrier crossing, and this will include changes in the wording of the notice shown in the illustration on pages 32 and 33. Some other work is going ahead on modifications of existing crossings. For example, box junction markings and double white lines are being introduced. We carefully considered whether the Code should show a new crossing; but to wait for this—for the designer is still at work on the subject—would have held up the introduction of the Code, which many people feel has already been too long in appearing, for at least some months more. In any case, there are 200 crossings of the present design in use daily. On balance, it seemed better to show existing crossings, since this is the situation which drivers have to face, and to get the Code out for the benefit of the millions of drivers who need to use the other advice in it. But my right honourable friend is fully aware of the potential need for amendments and publicity when new-style crossings begin to come into use.

Your Lordships will observe (and, I hope, welcome) a shift in emphasis in the signals given on pages 34 and 35. Direction indicators signals are by far the most normal way of signalling now on the roads: arm signals are subsidiary. The Code therefore shows direction indicator signals and the meaning for them. The section on the law's demands has also been revised and brought up to date. It is not part of the Code proper which your Lordships are asked to approve, but it is traditionally included so that the road-user can see the most important parts of the law which affect him on the road. It is a quick guide for his convenience. If he wants the full story he must, of course, refer to the appropriate Acts and regulations.

My Lords, the new Code will have the same status as the present Code. We shall be maintaining the arrangements for giving free copies of the Code to, for example, learner drivers and children enrolling in the National Cycling Proficiency Scheme. If your Lordships approve the Code to-day and if it is similarly approved in another place we will go ahead with arrangements for bulk printing and distribution. We expect that at least 6 million copies of the new Code will be needed during 1969. Some 10 million of the last edition were sold, and 14 million issued free. The Code must have just about the largest distribution of any publication after the Bible, which is, of course, appropriate, since it is the road-user's "bible". It will not therefore be possible to have the Code on sale for some weeks, but we expect it will be available publicly in the first half of next February.

I now commend the Code to the House. One of our current road safety problems is how to keep up the momentum of the savings we have achieved with the introduction of the breath test. One way we can do this is by studying and learning the Code, and following its advice every time we use the roads. As my right honourable friend's introduction on page 2 says: The Code is not theory. It's a mine of practical, down-to-earth advice. It's a pocket life-saver". I commend it to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House approves the code contained in pages 4 to 44 of The Highway Code, laid before the House on the 30th of October last.—(Lord Winterbottom.)

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for his interesting and lucid discussion of the Code and in particular for the trouble he has taken to draw our attention to some of the most important points in it. I feel that he arid his noble friends on the Front Bench must have heard with some relief of the other place passing the Code last night. I understand that on the first attempt of the Minister of Transport to carry the Order through another place he was "apprehended for careless driving". However, he seems to have learned his lesson, to have conducted the measure 'with all necessary care this time and to have got it safely through. No doubt it will be dealt with in a similar way here tonight; it certainly has a welcome from me.

I should also like to welcome another matter to which the noble Lord has referred; namely, the intention of the Minister again to revise the Code within the next couple of years to bring it into line with the International Convention. May I particularly welcome the new procedure described by the Minister and by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, tonight, by which a Green Paper is to be published which can then be debated in both Houses. This debate will serve as a guide to the Minister and will enable him to take into account the views of both Houses as well as all the other advice he will receive before finally drafting his Order and putting it before the House. I am sure that this is a helpful and wise move and I welcome it.

I should like to congratulate the experts at the Ministry of Transport who have obviously done a tremendous job of work in composing this new Code. I had the privilege of introducing the last one nine years ago, and I can remember the intensity of the preparatory work on that occasion. This time it would appear to be even greater. I think it is worth saying that if everybody obeyed the simple rules in the Code—and they are simple rules; as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said, they are simply common sense—the appalling toll of killed and maimed on the road would end tomorrow. This would certainly be so. If only we could get everybody, drivers and pedestrians, to read and obey the code—and, incidentally, I wonder how the noble Lord is going to get the pedestrians to observe their share of it—this terrible loss of life and limb would be avoided.

Of course, when you are engaged on the re-drafting of the Code—and I can well remember this happening to me ten years ago—because of the urgency felt by the Ministers and their advisers there is a great temptation to put too much into it. I feel that the Ministry of Transport have fallen straight into that temptation. As the noble Lord has told us, this new Code consists of 150 rules compared with the 94 rules in the old one. It is now running to 44 pages of rules and diagrams compared with 25 pages before. This is a very big increase; and if this is going to happen every five or ten years, the Code will be too big to lift much less to read. Inevitably, as each new draft comes out, we shall see the need for a whole mass of new features that we want to cater for, all seeming enormously urgent. I remember on the last redrafting saying that if we put in anything new, we must take out something old; that, somehow, we must try to keep the Code at the same length. We did not succeed; but we did not fail on quite such a massive scale as has happened this time.

The theory is that everybody should read this Code and know it; but, inevitably, however good the content, the longer it gets the less it will be read in the home. I would suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and his advisers in the Ministry of Transport, and indeed to the Minister, that the Ministry really should start to think now on how it can be shortened because otherwise it will become so unwieldy as to defeat our own ends.

My Lords, I have three suggestions to make which might help in this particular field. First, there are some duplications in the rules. I daresay there are not many. I have not combed it through from start to finish but I have picked up a couple and I expect more can be found. For instance, Rule 32 is the same as Rule 111, and Rule 109 is the same as Rule 128. Therefore, one obvious suggestion is to cut out duplication. My second suggestion (and this is perhaps more difficult) is to avoid prolixity. The noble Lord told us that the Road Research Laboratory has found that not everybody can understand the old Code. I expect they will find that not everybody can understand the new one. This will be inevitable. But in trying to make the rules understandable they have made nearly all of them longer; more ideas, good in themselves, have gone into each rule and they have therefore tended to become longer and longer. I think one must exercise extreme self-control in drafting these rules to keep them as short as possible.

My Lords, my third point is a new thought, but it might have some value. In any case, I would suggest that it is worth considering. I would suggest that the rules should be differentiated into advisory and semi-mandatory and mandatory. I have marked a few rules which are obviously advisory. One, for example, is Rule 105, which says: Traffic travels faster on motorways than on ordinary roads, and you will need to sum up traffic situations more quickly. Using your mirror and concentrating all the time are doubly important on motorways. That is sensible advice, but it is advice. Similarly, there is Rule 110 which says: Drive at a steady cruising speed within the limits of your vehicle, and do not break the speed limits for the motorways or for your vehicle. On wet or icy roads, or in fog, keep your speed down. There is also Rule 111, which says: Driving for long distances may make you feel sleepy. To help prevent this, make sure there is plenty of fresh air in your vehicle, or stop at a service area, or turn off at an exit, and walk around for a while. These really are all advisory rules offering very good advice; and any sensible person will follow that advice. Although I would suggest cutting out some of them, I am not suggesting that they all be cut out. Although there is a bit too much good advice here, most of the advisory rules probably should remain. But where they do remain in the Code I suggest that in the next draft they be printed in light or small type while the semi-mandatory and mandatory rules are printed in large and heavy type. The mandatory and semi-mandatory rules must be kept; they are all of immediate importance; they are the ones we want everybody to know. I throw it out as worth considering that we must do something to keep the length of the Code more manageable because I am quite certain that in the next Code, in five or ten years' time, there will be a whole lot of new features; enthusiasts will want to put in more and more and it will become completely unmanageable. I hope the noble Lord and his advisers will give some thought to economy so far as the length is concerned.

My Lords, there are three innovations to which I should like to refer and on which to offer congratulations. First, automatic signals. It has interested me to notice that automatic signals are now to become standard. We had a long debate about this ten years ago, and I thought then that in putting in hand signals we were being a bit old- fashioned. And of course events have proved that we were, and that we should have gone over completely to the automatic signals. Hand signals are anything but standard, and there is often confusion as to what they mean; whereas nowadays pretty well every motor car has automatic signals which are far more visible and eliminate any sort of ambiguity. So I welcome this, and I am sure that it is absolutely right.

Another section to which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, referred is that on roundabouts. This has been very well done and I congratulate the drafters on the way in which it is set out; it is very clear. But I must make a point about roundabouts. I consider them a very inefficient form of dealing with intersections. All American traffic engineers—and they have had more years of experience than we have—would say the same. Roundabouts in towns are a great waste of space and do not facilitate traffic flow. Almost universally in America traffic lights are used as the control at intersections where there is much traffic moving. If there is too much traffic for lights to handle, there is a two-level interchange. I know that these things are very expensive but what happens at a congested roundabout is that these conventions inevitably break down. The roundabout gets full, and there is only one way to get round, if you are not going to sit for an hour watching the traffic going round solid, and that is to push in. That is what everybody does. Then they weave, and we get the various dangers and accidents which come from weaving. So I hope that the penny will drop at the Ministry of Transport. Although this is very good, so far as roundabouts go, they are not really very satisfactory traffic engineering features.

My Lords, the section on railway crossings was referred to very helpfully by the noble Lord who told us of the changes which are in view for the future. I think this is good, but I am also inclined to think that this aspect is getting a little out of perspective. Every one is very worried at the present time about the dangers presented by railway crossings, but in terms of the numbers killed and injured railway crossings are nothing like so dangerous as ordinary road crossings, and therefore this subject should not occupy too much space. I think it might be kept in perspective when the Ministry come to the next draft in two years' time.

One word about the section on lane discipline and overtaking. On this the Code has been expanded from nine rules in the old Code to 20 rules in the new Code. Here let me congratulate the inventor of the little rule, "Mirror—signal—manœuvre". I think this is first-rate and something which everyone can learn: "Donging" it in like that is first-rate, and I give full marks for that. I think it has become a little long, but I am so much in favour of giving more emphasis to lane discipline that I would almost forgive the extra length. In two weeks' time, when we come to discuss the Motion of my noble friend Lord Ferrier, I shall have a good deal more to say about lane discipline. It is one of the weakest features of traffic movement in this country, and I am quite certain that we ought to make mandatory offences with regard to weaving and bad lane discipline. On those matters the Code has done its best.

Two short points of criticism, my Lords. One was dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom—the complaint of the cyclists. In another place the Minister apologised for failure to consult, and I welcome that. The Cycling Council of Great Britain has taken grave umbrage to Rule 132 compared with Rule 60 in the existing Code. It found Rule 60 acceptable, but in the new drafting there is a change of emphasis about riding in single file. I am bound to say that to my eye it did not seem a very great change, but to the eyes of members of the Council it does. I hope that in the consultations which will take place on the draft for 1970 the noble Lord will see that this point is discussed with the Council. I think it is mainly a question of semantics: I do not think there is much substance in it.

The other point has a little more substance. It concerns Rule 139. The point has been made by the British Horse Society that Rule 138 advises that horsemen riding singly or leading a horse should keep to the left and that a led horse should be on the inside. This is accepted by the Society; but Rule 139 advises that where a horse is being led by a pedestrian the horse should not be led on the left of the road but on the right with the pedestrian on the outside of the horse—in other words, facing the traffic. The British Horse Society oppose this view. They consider the Minister has made a mistake and advance three reasons.

First, they think it confusing that some horses should be found on one side of the road and some on the other; and there, I think, they have a point. The second reason is that whether or not there is a footpath does not affect horses or ponies, since they must always go on the road. The third reason is that road users—that is to say, car drivers—should get used to expecting to find horses and ponies always on the same side of the road namely, the left hand side. They think that traffic coming at a horse will startle it more than traffic coming up behind the animal. I suggest that perhaps the Minister should consult the British Horse Society when making his re-draft for two years' time to see where the right balance lies. I think there must be a point about always having horses on the same side of the road. This would seem a point of safety for everybody. With those few comments, my Lords, I wish to welcome the Code and most earnestly hope that it will succeed in the objective of reducing the very serious loss of life and limb.

6.37 p.m.


My Lords, this evening we are being asked to approve this Code of Practice for the use of the roads. As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, there is probably no other book which affects so many of us in such a large way—or, if it does not, it certainly should do. I think that we must welcome any help that we are given to understand the increasingly complex business of using the roads, either with or without a vehicle. But I find myself echoing the main point made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, about the size of the present draft. To-day the matter is more complex, and I think we might look back to the early days when driving tests were first introduced. At that time, perhaps, the major portion of the test was an inquiry into the proficiency of a person in controlling a piece of machinery. With modern mechanics and road legislation the ability to control a piece of machinery is a minor part of the test. So much more important now is knowledge of the law and the requirements from persons who use the roads.

This new edition of The Highway Code—and I should like to add my congratulations to those who produced it—is a great improvement on previous editions; although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, that its length and complexity will probably mean that it will, to a great extent, defeat its object, in that the Code will not be read fully and learnt in its entirety. Although under the present procedure, which I am happy to hear is to be changed with the next draft, we are unable to make any amendments, I should like to add a few observations on some of the rules in this draft. They are by no means complete, and I am sure that other points will be picked up by noble Lords yet to speak.

Rule 19: one sign for pedestrian crossings has a red man and says, "Wait"; another has a green man and says, "Cross with care", and means, "You may go"; then we have a peculiar flashing green man which also means to wait. Why cannot we stick to the red one?

Rule 28: I am pleased to see that we are moving back to the standard wording which appeared in previous editions of The Highway Code, but which does not appear in the current edition. The present version is that when you move off into the traffic stream, you must do so "when it is safe to do so". The new draft goes back to the older wording, which was that you must move off in such a way that you do not cause other road traffic to change direction or speed. Admirable though this is, I think that it produces a difficult situation for bus drivers coming out from a bus stop. If traffic is heavy, they cannot possibly come out according to the rule. We all know what they do now. They are driven to do it. They just put on their flashers and come out regardless. I do not know whether we are right in allowing one class of road-users to do something which is considered highly reprehensible in others, but it seems to me that it is putting bus drivers coming out from a bus stop at a considerable disadvantage.

Rule 41: since Parliament allowed ice cream vans to play musical chimes to attract children (I think I am right in saying that they are the only people who are allowed to do this sort of thing by way of trade) it means that they are a potential hazard, as the noble Lord, Lord Winterhottom, has said, because of children crossing the road while intent on eating their ice cream. I think the noble Lord will agree that there is something wrong about the picture and the text. The text speaks of "behind a vehicle" and the picture shows a child coming out from in front of a vehicle.

Rule 46 now explains those amber flashing lights which used to figure on what I think I am right in saying are now the defunct Panda crossings. We had them for some considerable time but with no details in the then current Highway Code of what on earth all this meant. Now there is a new type of crossing. I did not catch what the noble Lord called it.




I thank the noble Lord very much. This Pelican crossing figures in The Highway Code together with an explanation of what these flashing lights mean.

On Rule 56, I should like to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said about lane discipline. Possibly there is no other activity on the road that causes more frustration and Possibly more accidents than weaving from lane to lane. Perhaps we could emphasise this point more strongly in future editions by using heavier print.

Rule 61 deals with getting into the correct lane. We tend to put down beautiful painted arrows on the load, indicating which line you have to get into to turn right or left or to go ahead; but if the traffic is dense and you happen to be a stranger in the area, the arrows are covered up by ether traffic and you cannot see them until it is too late. It would be more helpful, as is done in many cases, to have a sign saying that there are arrows ahead.

I come to Rule 81. Some years ago, speaking in a similar debate in your Lordships' House, I pleaded strongly that where there is a constriction on traffic, it is more sensible to apply the rule that the traffic in the constriction has the right to get out before, you pile more in—in other words, traffic on the circle has the right of way. I do not claim any credit for its being in The Highway Code, but I think it is a wonderful coincidence and I am pleased to see that traffic on the circle has the right of way. Again echoing a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, in that same debate I referred to roundabouts as "charming old relics".

In Rule 95 we have at last an authoritative statement on flashing headlights. It variously means, as at present used, "Come on; I am waiting", or "Look out; I am coming". Of course, if you misinterpret a signal that leads to disaster. Again may I suggest heavy print for that to rub it in.

On the question of signals, I am pleased to see that mechanical or electrical indicators are to take precedence over the old hand signals—though, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, I would say that the hand should be on the driving wheel driving the car and not just inside the car keeping warm. There is one signal, however, which I should like to think might be considered—it probably has been, but perhaps we could have a little assurance on this. There is only the ordinary slow-down or stopping signal for use when you stop to give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing. Unfortunately pedestrian crossings are often at points where there is a right turn and some drivers—often drivers of large and visually obstructive vehicles—signal that they are slowing down for pedestrians by pulling out towards the middle of the road and giving a turn-right signal.

There is nothing more dangerous, because that implies that it is probably safe to come up on the inside. It does not, of course, mean that, but it is often taken to mean that; and if the vehicle stopping is a large and obstructive one, it is often too late for a following car to stop for the pedestrians crossing. I know that The Highway Code also says that you should not overtake at a pedestrian crossing, but this does happen. I wonder if there is any possibility of some form of hand signal to fill what is obviously a gap, so that people do not give the right-turn signal when they mean that they are giving way for pedestrians.


My Lords, may I ask a question, for clarification? The noble Earl referred to either the inside or outside lane. On which part of the road is this lorry making the wrong signal?


To clarify that to my noble kinsman, I would point out that what I said was that very often zebra crossings are at places where there is a turning right, anyway, and the large, obstructive vehicle is often in the inside lane, when it ought to be in the outside lane or more towards the middle of the road. And then comes a turning right signal.


Which is the outside lane?


The outside lane is the lane which is not the nearside lane.


The outside lane is the right-hand lane.


I should like to make the suggestion that there should be some signals specifically for that purpose. There seems to be a requirement for it; otherwise people would not give these turning right signals when they really mean they are giving way to pedestrians.

I should like to see Rule 26 in heavy print: If you are giving hand signals, please give the correct signals. So many people tend to have their own variations. I think I am right in saying that in the first edition of The Highway Code some ingenious authors or author produced a little skit on it which was known as: You Have Been Warned. It gave examples in the same style—not the signs that one should give, but the signs that are given. If your Lordships look back at that now, you will be surprised to find that all the signals given to-day were in that book, published some thirty years ago. The usual hand signal for, "I am turning right", is with the index finger, not with the palm extended. Very often the driver goes one better than that, and the index finger is waggled in a sort of admonitory fashion at other drivers. Often one does not know what it means. If I remember rightly, the funny little book that I have mentioned referred to the index finger sign as a sign saying, "That is the house where cook's mother lives"; and the one with the admonitory wagging of the finger as, "I am shaking the ash off my cigarette". I should like to see in heavy black print: "Please give the correct signals as shown, and not your own variations".

I now come to the subject of traffic signs. Surely, we have far too many. Then, having waded through pages of them, we are told at the bottom of page 43 that these are only a few examples and there may be many more variations of them. These new signs are much more logical than the old ones. We have lost the old torch—the torch of learning—which represented the school, and we now have the picture of children. This is much better. These signs again tend to follow a logical sequence. If you have not actually seen that one before, it is possible to work it out. But unfortunately you then come to what might be called the irregular verbs among them. If you see a picture of a pedestrian, it means that you are likely to meet a pedestrian. If you see a picture of a pedestrian with a line through him, it means that there are no pedestrians. But then you see a picture of a motor car, and that should mean "Motor cars only"; and a picture of a motor car with a line through it should mean "No motor cars". But it does not. The picture of a motor car without a line through it means no motor cars. That is not very logical.

Another small point is this. Is it necessary to have direction signs in anything up to about three or four different colours, depending on what sort of road you are on? There may be some good point in this, but I find it a little difficult to follow. Then there is the matter of the height of these signs. I do not know whether the Ministry have considered this point—I know that it does not actually come in The Highway Code—but many of our signs seem to be put up at the right height for horse-drawn vehicles of a bygone age. In many small motor cars nowadays you cannot see these signs. You have to crane up, if there happened to have been a heavy lorry in front of you so that you could not see it further back. I suggest that we put our signs a little too high for most modern cars.

There now comes the point as to who puts up these warning signs. The classic example to-day is the triangular sign with a chap with a shovel shovelling earth, meaning that there are roadworks ahead. Pretty nearly every contractor who does anything near the roads now has these signs, and he just puts them up. All too often he puts them right across the job, and you come to the job as you are turning the corner and before you can see the sign. This is understandable, because very often if he puts the sign too far away somebody will forget it is there, and it may well be left there for weeks when the corn ractor has gone away. Contractors also make use of the "Keep left" sign or the "Keep right" sign, but unfortunately they usually seem to put up "Keep left" where it should be "Keep right"; also they often put the signs in places where it is physically impossible to comply with them. So often one sees "Keep left" signs where, if one did keep left, one would go straight across the pavement and into the chemist's shop. I think there should be some control of whoever puts up these signs, to make sure that they are taken away again. I am sorry to sound so critical on this subject. I think that, on the whole, The Highway Code, as produced, is a little long and complex—and it is 1ong and complex because it is about an increasingly complex subject—but, in spite of its little deficiencies, I think we should give it a wholehearted welcome.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, of any excuse for speaking on this Order is needed, the Report of the Special Orders Committee is sufficient to justify a few words. The facts are, of course, crystal clear. The first, as both the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, pointed out, is that I. new edition of The Highway Code is overdue; and the second is that the Government have chosen to put the draft before Parliament under this procedure. How I wish, with other noble Lords, that this one had had its Green Paper. With all its imperfections, it must go forward unless the Government withdraw it, which at one time I thought they should. But my view is to some extent modified by what the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said: how he appreciated that a measure of improvement is well within reach, and perhaps it might be possible to have a second edition even under this format.

It is obvious that endless care and trouble have been taken over this work, and the Ministry of Transport are to be congratulated upon it. But it is pardonable to suggest that perhaps a wider area of consultation would have resulted in a booklet with (shall I say?) fewer imperfections, although they are imperfections of detail. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, made the point about mandatory rules and advisory statements. But the adjourned debate in another place, and probably to-day's debate here, will be of service.

The importance of The Highway Code upon road traffic and road safety problems cannot be overrated. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, referred to the road safety problem and the accidents that arise on the roads as an appalling toll. I am sure that the noble Lord the Minister will accept that any criticism offered by us here is intended to be constructive. The Code's imperfections may be of detail, but the details are important. A number of them have already been referred to by speakers, and others doubtless will be referred to. One of them was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Shannon. It concerned the child running out from "behind" a vehicle. I am sure that the right words would have been "the blind side of the vehicle".

Take the photograph on page 20, in which I am particularly interested because I drove yesterday for some 340 miles, more than 100 in mist or fog, on the A.1 and roads further North. I believe that this illustration is not a particularly good one. Had the lorry got sidelights only? If it had, as it might easily have had, judging by what I saw yesterday, then they are invisible. A caption might improve it. I do not think I saw any instance of rank bad driving yesterday—perhaps only the most intrepid were on the road—but I was surprised by the number of heavy vehicles, particularly, that were being driven on sidelights only. I was also struck by the way in which, in middling light, the drivers of heavy vehicles were inclined to flash headlights at one if one was driving with dipped headlights and they felt that sidelights would do. I rather wish they would not, but that will come with time.

Another point which has already been mentioned is this question of the "outside" lane. It is most clearly set out in paragraph 114. The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, in his exchanges with the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, pointed out that "outside" might easily be altered to "offside", especially when referring to motorway driving. These and other points of criticism have been, and will be, developed and so I will go no further with detail. But the message, as I see it, is this. What a pity this handbook was not more widely discussed before its preparation had gone as far as it has gone. It is, of course, an absolutely essential handbook for the experienced, and it is complicated. But the fact is—and it struck me yesterday driving down the A.1 as it is to-day. and realising the enormous improvements that have taken place in the last two or three years—that driving is more complicated and it is inevitable that a fully comprehensive booklet of this kind will have to be lengthier than the old one, although I agree with the noble Lord. Lord Nugent, that there are here and there duplications which could be avoided.

The people of whom I think particularly are the learner drivers—and there are thousands on the waiting lists of the driving schools now—and the people who are addressing themselves to the problem of driving a mechanical projectile upon our roads. It really is a formidable book as it is at the moment, and I think of the remarks of one very experienced driver whom I know. Indeed, it is his profession to drive and he has teenage sons, one of whom has already taken his test and the other is a learner driver. His comments tempt me to suggest that if the Code goes through like this it could well be supplemented by a primer for the absolute beginner. It could be much briefer. So much of what is in this Code is hardly comprehensible to someone who has never driven. This is the point my friend made to me. It is all very well for all of us who are drivers to get the picture from the rules as they are worded to-day, but young people who have never driven find it difficult. It is possible that a shorter. cheaper handbook would be useful. It could be shorter by omitting the sections on pedestrians and motorway driving, for, after all, a learner driver is not allowed on a motorway. Perhaps the same applies to the level crossing sections if the signals are to be altered. These parts could be cut out in order to make a more comprehensible handbook for absolute beginners, so that when they are taking their lessons and coming up to the test they can grasp the full contents of The Highway Code.

For instance, I have mentioned the traffic signs and the road markings on pages 41, 42 and 43. They are extremely elaborate to memorise if one has never driven. I wonder whether such a primer could contain only basic signs, and perhaps only the very basic road markings. I should be interested to see whether the noble Lord considers my suggestion worth thinking over, and what would be the reaction of the Association of Motor Schools to such a suggestion. I feel it is a pity that the price of this booklet has to be as high as ls. 3d; t but, after all, ls. 3d. to-day is not worth much more than 6d. was in 1959. So, provided that adequate supplies are available without charge to all the officials (I think the noble Lord said that a large number are sent out) then I do not believe we can boggle at the price.

My Lords, those are my comments on pages 4 to 44. Perhaps it will not be going too wide if we turn to the following pages, because they are part of the book, although they are not covered by the Motion. With your Lordships' permission, I should like to say one or two short words about them. On pages 45 to 51, concerning drivers' responsibilities, I should like to develop the fact which is brought out in one of the rules: "Go slowly when driving past animals". That is Rule 49. I should have liked to see it say: "Go slowly when driving past or meeting animals". I should have liked to see these pages at the end of the book emphasise the fact that there is a big measure of responsibility upon drivers to be sensible with people who have animals. It is terrible to see how some people whizz past young riders on restive young racehorses and the like.

I believe it would be worth emphasising in these pages that a motorist really must be sensible. As a dog lover and a shooting man, I think it is terrifying how some motorists will drive at considerable speed past a party of shooters, who provide sufficient indication to the driver that there are bound to be dogs about. How that point can be embodied in these pages I do not know, but certainly in regard to horses the matter would be worth including. I say this on behalf of another noble Lord who expressed regret that he could not be here now. He asked me to make that point about the obligation on the driver when passing or meeting animals. Another suggestion he made is this. Although riders are not covered by The Highway Code, it might be worth reminding them that there are occasions when riding in poor light in the dark a horseman should carry—many do—a torch or some kind of light to indicate that he is on the road.

I end, my Lords, as I began, by regretting the procedure by which this important Code has been submitted without drawing on the resources of experience and judgment which exist in Parliament. But. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said, and I look forward to the debates which may follow, and indeed to the occasion when we come to debate road safety in a fortnight's time. There may well be other points brought out which could be embodied in a future edition of this booklet. But we must face the fact, as I said, that there is no practical alternative but that the House should let the Code go through as it stands, with the fervent hope that some of the points which have been dwelt on, both here and in another place, will before long be embodied in another edition.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask him whether he is not in a little confusion on the question of the offside and nearside of lanes? It is all right to say "offside" and "nearside" on one and two lane roads, but it is not right to confuse the issue in that way when there are three-lane roads, when you must have "inside", "outside" and "centre", because if you merely say "offside" and you happen to be in the inside lane there will be two off-side lanes, and if you happen to be in the centre lane there will be only one offside.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his inquiry. What I said was in fact based on the result of questions that I have put to a number of people, in all walks of life. I have said to them, "In a three-lane, two-way highway, which is the outside lane?" and almost invariably the reply has been, "The one next to the pavement". This is the confusion to which I was referring, and that is why I did not say the "fast lane". From my own inquiries the position seemed to me to be a little odd, and is an indication of the complexity of some of these apparently simple problems, which can only be threshed out and a decision made one way or the other. I do not know which is right.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, in case any of your Lordships has the original list of speakers I hope it will not be thought that I am intervening in the wrong place. It was a pure accident that my name was left off the list. I had put my name down and I was told that I should come here. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I agree with everything that has been said so far about The Highway Code, as to its great improvement on the current one, but I also agree that it is really rather a voluminous thing for a young learner driver to have to learn by heart. I think the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, that we should differentiate between the mandatory and the advisory rules, is an extremely good one. The mandatory rules should be put in one section by themselves, and the advisory ones could come afterwards.

I want to deal with just a few things in the Code itself which I feel could do with improvement in a future edition. In the first place, on page 6 there is reference to the X-ways or pedestrian signal-controlled crossings, as they are called. I must confess that I wish the Ministry of Transport did not pay so much attention to the Road Research Laboratory, because I feel sure that it was from there that the extraordinary idea originated of substituting a white cross for the green light with which we are all familiar. When that signal was first introduced it had no publicity whatsoever. I had to search for a long time before I found the official pamphlet on it. The Post Office did not have it, and I cannot remember where I eventually ran it to earth. But what was the idea of substituting this white cross for a green light? I can only say that on one occasion I saw a car pulled up in front of the white cross because the driver thought it meant that he must not go on. There was a queue of cars behind him, the drivers of which, needless to say, were all hooting furiously. I hear that the white cross is now to be superseded by the green light, and that is a great improvement.

As to pedestrians generally, I think that what has been said already about the necessity for pedestrians to carry either some light-coloured or reflecting articles on them when walking on roads at night is absolutely right. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, who suggested that, and I think it should be made mandatory.

I have recently been reading a most interesting book on railway accidents. It is an analysis of railway accidents from 1840 onwards, and shows just what we learned from each one and what improvements were made as a result. But one of the things that struck me was the fact that when a railway inspector said that the only way to prevent a certain accident was to introduce a particular mechanism, it was Practically always not less than nine years before the Government made that mechanism mandatory. I only hope that it will not be nine years before the Government decide to make it compulsory for road users on unlit roads to wear something reflective.

Turning to page 8, paragraph 33, I see that it says: Remember that there is a 30 m.p.h. speed limit where there are street lights, unless signs show otherwise. I think it is high time that we dissociated speed limits from street lights. They have nothing whatever to do with each other. Sometimes there may be a 40 m.p.h. speed limit where there is street lighting, and in other places there may be a 30 m.p.h. limit where there is no street lighting. It seems to me that the only hope is to rely purely on the speed limit signs, and if the limit continues for a fairly long section of road it should invariably be marked with small repeater signs, as is done in some places at the moment.

On page 11, paragraph 50 says: White lines on the road guide, warn, or give orders. Then paragraph 57 says: When coming to junctions, obey any lane indication arrows marked on the road. To deal with the first, perhaps we may turn for a moment to page 42, where the illustrations of those white lines are given. Some of these are mandatory; some are warning, some are merely for information. But they are not put in order. The first two are mandatory; the third is merely advisory; the fourth and the fifth are advisory; presumably, the sixth is a warning one—warning of a hazard ahead. What kind of a hazard? We have just heard about the ice cream van being an extreme hazard. The ice cream van does not stay still; it moves about, and one cannot move the road lines with it. Therefore it does not seem to me that this warning line of a hazard ahead can mean anything other than, probably, that there is a road junction in front of you, or a sharp bend. I think these signs should be grouped absolutely logically as mandatory, warning and advisory.

Compare paragraph 57 with the illustration just overleaf. It says When coming to junctions, obey any lane indication arrow marked on the road. You will see that in the right-hand lane there is an arrow pointing to the right. Apparently you must obey that, and whatever happens if you are in that lane you must turn right. On the other hand, paragraph 61 says: …choose the left-hand lane when going to the left and the right-hand lane when going to the right; choose any lane when going straight on. Therefore it seems to me that the arrow in the right-hand lane should be a double-headed one, as is the one in the left-hand lane.

I turn to paragraph 60 and other paragraphs dealing with this matter of inside and outside lanes. My attention was first drawn to this by my noble friend Lord Cork—I had not actually thought of it before. While to an experienced motorist the inside certainly does mean the left and the outside the right, to a learner driver that may not be so. If you have a dual carriageway with a reserve in the middle, obviously to him the inside lanes are going to be the ones on either side of the reserve, unless he has an extremely competent instructor who has toll him otherwise; and that is not, I regret to say, always the case. Therefore, it seems to me that throughout this Code it would be simpler to say "left-hand" or "right-hand" and not "inside" and "outside".

I turn to page 13, paragraph 53, on overtaking. I agree with what has been said by other noble Lords, that overtaking is probably the most dangerous thing one can do on the road. For this reason think that something a little more emphatic than what has been put n this paragraph should be given to the learner-driver. I believe that the instruction should be put in heavy print, so that the learner-driver may realise that when overtaking he does so at his own risk, and, what is more, that if he does it wrongly he is probably going to risk other people as well. On page 25, paragraph 113 (which deals with motorway driving) says: On a two-lane carriageway, drive in the left-hand lane except when overtaking. But suppose the left-hand lane is occupied by a good deal of relatively slow-moving traffic, say 45 to 50 m.p.h., and you want to go at 60 to 65. It is quite wrong that you should keep dodging back every time you pass a vehicle into the inside lane and dodging out again. There is nothing more dangerous than dodging about from lane to lane. Therefore, if you feel you are going to be able to keep at a fairly high speed I think most certainly, you should stick to the fast lane, and therefore I think that paragraph is a mistake.

I turn to page 28 and the illustration. This shows an arrow indicating the lane. Quite frankly, I was completely puzzled by the arrow in the right-hand lane, I did not know whether it was inter ded to point downwards to the lane underneath it or whether it was pointing to the middle lane. I took this point, incidentally, to the Institute of Advanced Motorists and consulted the Director of Tests there, and he assured me that it was pointing to the middle lane, which is of course quite right, and slowing the lane you should be in. But I do not think that anybody going Inn the motorway for the first time world be aware of that. I think there should be something a little clearer than that, some signal implying, "Do not use the overtaking lane"; or perhaps "No overtaking" would be enough.

I turn to page 33, the level crossing sign. You will see in the illustration there a small sign: In emergency or before crossing…phone signalman, And there is another small sign right over on the right-hand side of the road. Not many motorists have eyes which look in two directions at once, I am thankful to say. Therefore, I think that if there are to be two instructions one should be underneath the other, and both on the same side. Personally I think that instead of that notice: Another train is coming if lights continue to flash", it would be better to have an electrically controlled signal which comes on if they continue to flash and says, "Stop", because anybody can recognise that at once.

Now I am looking at the signals illustrated on page 35. One is: I intend to move in to the left or turn left. The signal that is given there is the vertical one, whereas in actual fact it ought to be a horizontal one: that is the recognised signal. The next one is: I intend to slow down or stop. This was raised by the noble Earl Lord Shannon, but he left out one point which I feel should be considered by the Ministry. I think it is a great pity that we have abolished the old sign for "I am coming to a stop"—namely, holding the hand straight up. There could he a mechanical equivalent of that; say, three vertical red lights on the rear of your car which could be controlled from a push-button. I can remember quite well an occasion on which a signal was given by the driver of a car which I thought was just slowing up. There was a lot of traffic, so I could not see what was happening in front. I pulled in behind him; there was not room to overtake. Much to my amazement, within a second or two the door opened and out he got. Well, there I was, and I had to wait until there was room to back a little and then pass him. So it seems to me that a mechanical signal would be a great advantage. There is a great difference between slowing down and stopping. If one sees somebody giving that time before I found the official pamphlet meant, one is rather inclined to overtake him regardless.

Turning to page 37, your Lordships will see that the fourth row of signs is: "All motor vehicles prohibited", "Buses and Coaches prohibited", "Lorries prohibited", and one prohibiting cycles. As everything else that is prohibited has through it a cancelling stroke, surely these should have the same. They should all have a red stroke through them. One last criticism relates to the last sign on that page: "One Way". It would be safer for both pedestrians and motorists if one way streets were indicated when you enter them and on every lamp-post along them. While one gets periodic indications of the fact that one is in a one way street, it is seldom that one realises it until one sees traffic going over to the right. An improvement might be made in that respect.

Those are all merely details of signs. Most certainly one has to remember that this is much more a book for the beginner in driving than for the experienced motorist. Therefore I think that the language which is used should be as simple and as brief as possible. The application form for a first licence says, "Have you read the Highway Code?". You may have read only one or two pages of it, but you will still say, "Yes". That is not enough. On your driving test you should be asked quite a number of questions in relation to various parts of it, to see whether you have really studied it. But, apart from that, I think that this Code is a great improvement on the one which we have at present.

7.33 p.m.


My Lords, all the noble Lords who have already spoken have accepted the rightness and properness of the new draft Code, and I shall be no exception. However, like other speakers I find that it is a large bulk of reading. I looked up the definition of "Code". It is: A systematic collection or a digest of the laws of the country or those relating to a subject. I honestly cannot feel that this booklet is either of those things. It is not a complete collection of laws and rules and regulations; neither is it a digest. I think that its very size will deter all but the most keen. In my view the Code should have been prepared as a digest containing the bare principles of good road conduct. Such a digest may have been more acceptable to all road-users. They may have read it and also they may have learned it. The learning of the bare essentials is important.

As a suggestion to counter that criticism, I think that the various sections contained in the Code could have been written quite separately, enlarged and put into quite good detail. In this manner a far wider distribution would probably have been effected, at far less cost. One envisages school children having their first introduction to road sense from the pedestrian section, which could probably have been produced in pamphlet form at a cost element of 2d. or 3d. In this way the various associations would have been more prepared to make a free distribution. Then, little by little, we could have moved on from school children, studying as pedestrians, to bicycling and so on. I think that the format lacks any kind of urgency. If your Lordships will look at Rule 102, which deals with the advance red warning triangle, you will see that it commences with the words, "If you carry an advance warning sign". There is no urgency whatsoever in that kind of message. This is repeated several times in phrases such as, "If you have a breakdown", and, "If you have to stop". I emphasise "If you have to". There should be some more positive direction. If we are to have red warning signs of the triangle type to prevent accidents, then there should be some element of compulsion in the way the rule is written.

I want to be brief on the rules. I do not like Rule 95 at all. Twenty years ago I was driving trucks for a living, and we had a quite simple light code. This has been in use for years, and suddenly there is a change from what has been a reasonably accepted practice and one which, so far as I am aware, has not contributed greatly to dangerous driving but to understanding of sensible road use by sensible road-users. It should not be changed overnight; or at any rate in only three months' time. In the section on motorway driving there is a description of lanes. We have already heard a great deal in regard to the confusion that is caused as to "who means what?" by "inside", "offside" and so on. Why cannot we be plain and simple and have "left" and "right"—always "left" or "right"—and "centre"? When we get to American standards and have six lanes in one direction on a carriageway, then we shall have to think up some new descriptions. In the meantime, I should have thought that just "left" and "right" would have been quite adequate.

If I may comment on the remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, in connection with the lane arrows, I have always understood that the arrow means that you will turn in that direction. He described the picture in the draft Code booklet as showing an arrow that indicates a turning to the right. This direction sign not only is a vital safety factor but keeps all traffic moving. If by chance you get in the wrong lane, then I am sorry for you; you must go on—you cannot afford to change direction. That is where the mistakes occur. It is not the fault of a weaver on a motorway, but the fault of the man who causes the weaving. Lane discipline is, I think, most underplayed and underrated all through. I am sorry about that.

Taking the booklet as it is, I would comment perhaps adversely on the last section. It does not strictly come into the subject under debate, but with the permission of your Lordships I would say a few words on it. That is the section dealing with "The Law's Demands". A fortnight ago, after a very late debate in your Lordships' House, I drove back to Southampton and passed, and was passed by, very little traffic. Your Lordships will probably recall the occasion when we debated the reform of this House. We were all very late, and there was very little traffic at half-past one in the morning, but 19 vehicles that passed me or were passed by me, or approached me, had inadequate lighting; one sidelight, one tail light, no middle light, or perhaps just one middle light on a truck which made one think that it was a motorcycle. I am sorry to see this section of the booklet tucked away more or less as an afterthought.

I have tried very briefly to illustrate this lack of urgency that I see in the booklet. Admirable though it is to serve to-day's purpose, I think it could do so very much better if it had more punch, more drive, and far more urgency. I hope that for the future we can adopt the suggestion that I have made, or that which has been made by other noble Lords in a similar vein, for a primer or an elementary pamphlet or something of that nature. It could be quite short, quite concise. With great respect to road users of all kinds, I think it ought to be pictorial rather than written, because it seems to me that those newspapers which catch the eye have all the pictures on the front page, and that people learn by pictures and not by reading the editorials inside.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him to define the truck driver's signal to which he referred, that is, the double flashed headlight to show that the over-taking vehicle can turn in. Is that the one to which he referred?


My Lords, the truck drivers' code of lights is really quite long, and as we have a written definition of headlight usage, I do not think this would be the place or the time to describe it. In essence a full headlight implies he is taking the right of way a flip on a headlight indicates that he will give you the right of way, and this signal repeated invariably means that there is a danger or a hazard, either when you are following or when you are approaching. Either when you are following a vehicle or a vehicle is approaching these signals mean precisely the same. They are the three basic signals.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, may I very quickly add my small word of congratulation to those which have already been offered to those who have been responsible for compiling this slim and handsome volume. There is a great deal in it, and most of what is in it I like very much. I also like the cover, the general layout, the graphics, and I only wish I could say that I like the use of the typography inside. In saying this, I take up some of the points made by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. They put it in slightly different ways, one talking about emphasis and the other about urgency, which really is the same thing.

The whole of this little book, with two exceptions, is written with a steady dead level of lower case, all of one typeface. There is practically no use of black or heavy type, no use of red ink, except an occasional headline, and no use of block capitals. Far more emphasis could have been given to more important points by using a different type, and I think it would have added greatly to the weight and value of the book. Heavy black type is used on only two occasions, "If in doubt—do not overtake", and "Mirror—Signal—Manoeuvre", which occurs a number of times. My noble friend Lord Nugent has expressed admiration for that particular slogan, and I wish I could go along with him. I do not altogether admire this slogan, because I am all too conscious of being behind people who may or may not use their mirror, but who signal and instantly manoeuvre, greatly to my detriment. There are many drivers who think that as soon as they have switched on their indicators to show they are about to turn right are in some mysterious way entitled to do so. I should like to see this slogan worded as "Mirror—Signal—Manoeuvre if safe". It may sound a slightly hairsplitting argument, but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, may think it is not.

I take up something that has been mentioned so far only by my noble friend Lord Ferrier, and that is this matter of sidelights in the fog, which appears on page 20. The photograph shows a situation perhaps as improbable as it is dangerous. As my noble friend has indicated, the lorry which is overtaking the car may or may not have its sidelights on, one simply cannot tell. I put this with some force. I feel that I have a certain right to do so, because it was just about a year ago, in fact December 11 last year, that I referred to this particular point of the use of sidelights in daylight fog by asking a Starred Question in your Lordships' House. By way of a supplementary question I asked the Minister who was replying—who was, need I say, none other than the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom—this question: Does he appreciate, I wonder, that in spite of the instructions in The Highway Code the vast majority of motorists use only their sidelights in daylight fog, and that this practice is dangerous because it is misleading?" [OFFICIAL REPORT, 11/12/1967, col. 853.] I have done a little observation of my own on this point, both while driving along the road in daylight fog and by sitting deliberately in a lay-by and watching traffic coming towards me. I am fairly certain I am near enough accurate when I say that of all the cars that drive in fog in daylight, where it is necessary to have some kind of light, most use sidelights only. Of those that use sidelights only, three or four out of five become visible as they approach you from the fog before their sidelights become visible. In other words, the sidelights are, as the noble Lord perfectly correctly told me in answer to my Question, quite useless in fog. I said in raising my Question that sidelights are dangerous, and I say it again for this reason. The driver who puts his sidelights on puts them on for some reason, and that reason can only be that he thinks they can be seen. Well, if his car is seen before his sidelights, he is grossly deceiving himself. He thinks he can be seen sooner than he can, and it is that kind of thing that gives rise to the situation in the photograph where this lorry, perhaps with its sidelights on, is overtaking a man that can u he seen while he cannot. This action is dangerous, and I think it should be said to be so.

May I quote the noble Lord's reply to my remark. He said: I think that that is an interesting observation. I will see that that point of view is transmitted to my right honourable friend the Minister of Transnort."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11 /12/1967, col. 853.] Perhaps the noble Lord would be kind enough to have another go.

Now I come to a matter which I skipped over because my noble friend Lord Somers had mentioned it, but I should like to add my support to what he said about the lines and lanes, and the instructions on pages 11 and 12. I base my criticism of this largely on the fact that the first sentence at the top of the page says that these "guide, warn, or give orders," and I think to say that and not to say which does which is ambiguous and misleading to somebody who does not know. It is all very well for us to say "We know": The Highway Code is written not for those who know but for those who do not know, and for those who think they know and do not, and I do not think they are going to find things very much use unless they are written with precision. My general attitude is that all instructions to motorists, whether printed in The Highway Code, or painted on a road, or stuck up on posts in the form of signs, should be simple, unambiguous, consistent and also necessary. I do not think I snail be seriously contradicted in those four requirements, although other noble Lords may have other ideas.

The next matter with which I want to deal is the question of the "inside" and "outside", "left-hand" and "right-hand". My noble kinsman, Lord Shannon, may have thought that I was being tiresome in trying to pin him down to a definition, and I was interested to see that his definition of "inside" and "outside" was precisely the same as stated by the Ministry of Transport in The Highway Code. But it has already emerged that there is some divergence of opinion as to which is the inside and which the outside. Let us get this absolutely clear. The Ministry of Transport has stated, not in so many words but by implication, that from now on the outside shall be deemed to be in the middle. This is a conception which is so totally novel that it will be very difficult to get it across to the uninstructed young motorist. I have never met anything, from an orange to a motorway, in which the inside is on the outside and the outside is in the middle. It cannot be done. I suggest that we should go straight back to Rule 60, where it says perfectly clearly that the inside is the left-hand lane, which I say is wrong, and the outside is the right-hand lane. Then one goes on to Rule 61 which says, "choose the left-hand lane", and in the next sentence it talks of "the right-hand lane," without any nonsense about inside or outside. I do not think we need offside or nearside, but I think that we all understand left and right. If anybody is confused about that he will not pass his driving test anyway, so we need not both about him.

I now turn to Rule 147, and may I add a little support to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, about the picture of the level crossing on pages 32 and 33. He drew attention to the notice which says "Another train is coming if lights continue to flash", and he suggested another electrical signal which might displace it or perhaps be used in conjunction with it. Motorists when driving cars are not required to read notices on the right of the road at all; and even if they were, it would be exceedingly difficult for them to read a notice as far off as that. This notice, giving a warning that another train may be coming if the lights continue to flash, is of vital importance. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has said that this is likely to be reworded, but there will be a sentence of that kind and I submit that it ought to be on the half-barrier, right in front of the driver, where it can be read by him, and not on the right, where he cannot reasonably be expected to see and almost certainly will not see it.

I now have one or two remarks, I hope constructive, about the traffic signs themselves on pages 37 and 38. My noble kinsman Lord Shannon and my noble friend Lord Somers have already mentioned the diagonal lines, and may I support what they have said? If one thing can be cancelled by having a line drawn through it, then why not another? If a line can be drawn through a walking man meaning "No pedestrians", why not have a line through a bicycle meaning "No bicycles"? And in the "No overtaking" sign, why not put a line through the right-hand car, the red one? I think that a sign of that sort exists in France. If one crosses out the right-hand car, it becomes clear to everybody that it means "No overtaking". It also, I think, makes unnecessary the sign on the next page, "Single file traffic". This appears to me to offend against three of my criteria: it is not simple, it is not unambiguous, and it is not necessary. I do not know what "single file" would mean to a foreigner; and perhaps that is not very important, though I think it is important but I am not at all sure what it means to an Englishman. What is single-file traffic? It is made clear what it is, although not very clear, by saying that it is "single file in each direction". What in fact it means is simply "No overtaking". Therefore, would not the "No overtaking" sign be enough, without having this extra sign? I think that it is a plate to be put on some other sign, but I do not see that it is altogether necessary.

In regard to the matter of roadworks, in the Highway Code one sees "Fred" with his shovel, digging away at a mound of earth. I am all for this sign if it is used sensibly, but when one has got past the roadworks there ought to be a sign. Roadworks ended "—not in the form of a sign saying, "Road clear", which exists on the next page and which must be used only by the police and probably only on motorways, but certainly a sign saying that one has passed those works. The sign that I suggest is to have the same picture of "Fred" and his shovel with a red line drawn through, which would make the matter clear. There is a sign in France which tells you that you have come to the end of roadworks. The point is that once you have passed an obstruction in a road announced in advance by a roadworks sign, you think that they are over; but you may come round the bend and find another one which was covered by the original sign, and that is dangerous. Every single obstacle in the road ought to have a sign which should be cancelled as soon as one has passed it.

I have a personal béte noir and that is the sign that says, "Reduce speed now". I have discovered that my own personal antipathy to this sign is not entirely peculiar to myself. A few days ago I was discussing this debate with a very distinguished motorist of my acquaintance, and indeed of some of your Lordships, and I said that I was proposing to say something about this sign. He said, "Oh, it doesn't bother me. When I see that sign I know that there is another hundred yards before I need slow down". The sign says, of course, "Reduce speed now"; but that comment is an indication of the sort of respect that is given to this particular sign. This offends against practically every criterion I can think of. It is not simply because you do not know what it means; it is not unambiguous for the same reason, and it certainly is not necessary, and it could even be dangerous. What speed am I doing when I am told to slow down. Am I doing 70 m.p.h. or 30? Is it raining? Is there mud on the road, or is it bone dry? What is "now"? Is it when I pass this sign or when I see it? I submit that the sign is totally unnecessary, and I very much hope that we shall see the end of it before much longer.

I confess that there is one sign which I ought to have known, but did not. I think that it was in the old Highway Code, and I excuse myself only on the ground that I have never seen it. I am enchanted to discover that there are two signs which are identical, except that one has a yellow background and one has a white background. One sign says "Stop: Children" and the other sign says "Stop: Police". Now that I have discovered this, I can hardly wait for the day when 1 am driving down the street and see the "Stop: Police" sign held up by a man in a white coat while a party of "Bobbies" goes scampering and skipping across the road. Perhaps that is rather frivolous. Perhaps it would be more dignified if they were marching tightly closed up together in single file. If only at the same time they could sing the Policemen's Chorus from The Pirates of Penzance, then my cup of happiness would be full. My Lords, I think that I see clearly ahead of me a sign with a red circle and a red triangle inside it and another red triangle beyond it! It reads "Stop—Give Way".

8.0 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to your Lordships for not having put my name down for this debate, but unfortunately I did not know whether or not I should be able to be present. Consequently, I shall certainly not detain your Lordships for many moments. However, I want to take the opportunity of congratulating the Government on achieving a very good job in the production of this Highway Code, which is a very great improvement on what has gone before. If one realises the purport and object of the production, and the fact that it is intended to be a source of information both for those who do not drive and for those who are experienced drivers, it necessarily has to cover a great deal of ground and I think it covers it very well indeed.

One thing which I should particularly like to say to the Government is that we appreciate very much the consultation which they had during the course of production of this Code with those organisations who are interested in road user-ship. I think all of us were able to offer quite a number of constructive suggestions, and it is evident that the Government have paid considerable attention to them. It was a great disappointment to me to realise that, as a Parliament, we were not going to he able to see the Code in draft. The new suggestion which the Ministry have put before us to-day, that it is proposed in future to publish the draft in the form of a Green Paper, is exceptionally helpful. That will be a very great advantage, because in this debate alone quite a number of exceedingly cons ructive suggestions have come forward, which the noble Lord would probably wish to include in the Code itself.

I would refer in particular to the great matter of dispute as regards inside and outside lanes, on which I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. I had myself spotted the solution in Rules 60 and 61, and I feel that that must be the answer, because there is no doubt that at least 50 per cent. of the people will consider that the outside lane is, in fact, what the Government consider to be the inside lane, and vice versa. But if you refer to them as the left-hand lane, the centre lane or middle lane, and the right-hand lane, it must surely avoid all confusion until we get to the point of six-track highways.

Of course, everything has gone up in price during the past four years or so, but a jump from 6d. to ls. 3d. in the price of The Highway Code strikes one as being slightly excessive. Nevertheless, one appreciates that this is a considerably bigger production than its predecessor. But there is one Point about which I should like clarification. Who is going to subsidise the free issues of this Code? It is being freely issued to those who obtain their provisional licences and also to all those foreign visitors who come into the country. I should like to know whether the subsidy which is going to meet the cost of this provision will come from the taxpayer as a whole or from those road users who buy The Highway Code at the price of 1s. 3d. if that price of 1s. 3d. contains a sufficient margin of profit to enable the free issue to those other classes, then I think it is very unfair indeed. If the Government decide to make a free issue to any particular section of the community they should accept the responsibility for meeting its cost out of the general body of taxation, rather than that it should fall to be a burden upon the shoulders of other road users.

I hope that the Government will maintain their programme in regard to the time when this Code will become available to the public generally. It has been stressed that it has been overdue for a very long time. I hope, too, that the Government will do their best to have much more speedy revisions and not take nearly such a long time before bringing out another edition. I am sure that would be a very good thing.

There is only one other question which I should like to ask the noble Lord, and that is with regard to the front cover. I noticed in the chart of signs that the sign on the cover is the one which indicates that a motorist is to keep left. May I ask whether there is any political significance in the cover?


My Lords, I hope your Lordships will not mind my intervening at this late hour, but there is one point which I should like to make. The rules for pedestrians are too few. There should be a Rule 22 which reads: You must not be drunk in any highway or public place. I mention this matter of drunkenness of pedestrians because I myself was once affected. Thirty years ago I ran over and killed a man, and after three days at the law court it was proved that he was a drunkard. Increased penalties for being drunk on the road are well worthy of consideration by the Minister of Transport, and I ask the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to mention that point to him.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I should perhaps apologise to the House that my name went down on a list which did not reach everybody. Nevertheless, I happily give way to my noble friend on this score. There are two reasons why I do not want to follow other noble Lords into criticism or otherwise, or comment in some detail, on the contents of the Code. They are, first, that I am one of the fortunate people who were involved in consultation with the Ministry, the R.A.C. being one of the bodies consulted. So I have had some opportunity to have my say in detail, and repetition is useless. But I should like to join in what my noble friend Lord Brentford said about the quality of these consultations, because, let us be fair, I have been critical of some aspects of consultation with Government Departments in the past, and it is only right that when something has gone well I should say so.

I, too, am very glad to see the inclusion of certain matters that we put forward, certainly with regard to roundabouts and the new signs for direction indicator signals, and I think we have both been able to be helpful on this occasion. I should point out that this little motif on the outside, to which my noble friend has drawn attention, is not of my doing, although it is of course a fairly familiar emblem on the outside of a number of R.A.C. publications. I disclaim that, as I also disclaim any influence in the little sign at the bottom right-hand corner of page 39.

The second reason why I am not going into detail is that our debate, though useful and informative for the future, is academic at the moment because, whatever may be suggested, we cannot change the contents of the Code. We are asked to approve. We can reject it or accept it. Therefore, I was most happy to hear the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, confirm what the Minister of Transport said last night in another place, that immediate consideration was to be given to revising the system. I certainly agree with him that there should be no question of holding up this new edition, which is required after so long, while this consideration takes place. Too much has gone on and there is too much requirement for that, although it has to be admitted that it is in some ways a pity that the Code has to go ahead with a number of things in it which we should have preferred to see changed.

I hope, however, that this consideration of a better system for the future will really be immediate. I shall look forward to communicating in due course, either with the noble Lord or with the Minister, on some ideas with which I will not waste time now. But I should like to say just this. I hope that, in that consideration which is to come, it may be possible to examine whether arrangements can be made so that the Minister of Transport will be able to alter part of the Code without having to come back to Parliament. I have in mind in particular the question of signs, which he can in any case authorise by regulations, subject to the normal scrutiny by Parliament. It seems to me that even if a new Code is to come out in two or three years' time it may be necessary to change some signs (I have particularly in mind the automatic half-barrier crossing sign, and there may indeed be others) well before that happens, and I feel it should be possible for changes of this kind to be made whenever there are reprints. I think it might even be worth considering whether it is possible to provide some kind of correction slip, preferably adhesive, which could be stuck in the Code in lieu of a natural reprint.

I think this brings up the point of the necessity for widespread and powerful publicity because, apart from signs and things, there will inevitably be in the future, as has proved to be the case in the past, many new developments starting before there is another edition of the Code. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take all necessary steps to ensure that everything possible is done—a point has been made particularly with regard to "X-ways"—to bring this to the attention of those who need it.

The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said quite rightly that it is a requirement for everybody, on renewing his driving licence, to write "Yes" in the space provided for the answer to the question, "Have you read The Highway Code?"—and he gave us impressive figures on the distribution of the Code in very large quantities, running into millions. I am sorry to say it, but it is my personal belief that that writing of "Yes" on the driving licence application form is probably the biggest instance of mass perjury in our national life. And it has to be admitted that, notwithstanding all this, The Highway Code will not reach a great many people; neither will those that have the chance bother to read it. This brings out the necessity for propaganda activities in this connection, to ram it down the nation's throat if necessary; and I hope the noble Lord may be able to say something about that when he comes to wind up the debate.

The noble Lord also mentioned the question of automatic half-barrier crossings, and I was glad to hear him say for the Government that they had taken up what the Hixon Tribunal had recommended. We, of course, have had regard to what the Tribunal said in regard to national publicity, that this should be pursued to the extent thought most effective with the aid of the motoring organisations". We are certainly quite prepared to do our best. My noble friend Lord Brent-ford mentioned this point, and it may be that he will want to say something more before I sit down. We tried hard 0 help by issuing a map containing advice and showing the location of all these things, but it has to be admitted (and I feel that here my noble friend may agree with me) that under the impact of S.E.T., and things like that, we are simply not in a position to support the Ministry over these matters in the way we should wish However, I welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, said—that sound education of the public is the best answer to this—and I hope very much that it is going to be really sound and, as with the other point I have just made, really powerful and effective.

My Lords, there is just one point arising from the Code which I should like to mention, and that is the traffic sign illustrated in the bottom left-hand corner of page 38. That is the sign depicting a level crossing with automatic half-barriers ahead. The sign itself is referred to variously, according to, taste, as "The hammers of Hell" or "The low-flying tin-tacks", whichever you choose. It is, of course, the sign which came in for so much criticism by the Hixon Tribunal, and I am rather sorry to think that it should go into the Code at this stage, although I appreciate the difficulty of taking it out because the matter is not decided. But I hope that the Government will not hold back on the speed of their decision and that it will be possible to amend the Code in future reprints in respect of this sign, which is now known to be, or has been pronounced upon as being, dangerous and ineffective.

My Lords, I have not much more to say, but on this point of education by means of propaganda I feel that I very good point was made earlier on (I think the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, himself mentioned this) about the necessity to preserve gaps between cars. Education by propaganda means is urgently required here, because at the present time if you drive at the correct distance from the car in front it will instantly be filled up by a couple of minis. There is no effective means of stopping this except by education, and I hope that this is what will happen.

There is another curious thing which has been completely omitted from this Code and which I should think is a great cause of confusion, particularly to less-experienced drivers. That is what I can only describe as the police "pointing" signal. That is the signal frequently used by policemen on traffic duty—it is widely used in London and, so far as I know, everywhere else—when they are about to halt the traffic. They point at the car they wish to halt and then put their hand up. It does not say anything about that in the Code. Also, it is a questionable signal at best, because if a policeman points his finger at somebody and you look you can see that finger pointing, but when you have it pointed at you all you see is a little blob and you cannot be quite sure what he means. I think there needs to be clarification on this point. This practice has crept in and is now very widespread. But, as I say, it is not mentioned here in the Code. I feel that at the earliest opportunity this practice should be regularised. Either it should be accepted as an official signal or the police should be stopped from using it, because I think it could very easily lead to a prosecution for ignoring a signal given by an authorised person.

My Lords, I think the noble Lord was quite right when he said that we shall see another edition of the Code in a couple of years or so, plus a little administration time, because I think that the present Congress sitting in Vienna will probably throw up something which will make it necessary. In the meantime, as an interim effort, though there are still a few details that need putting right, I wish it well.

8.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to intervene briefly, with apologies for not having given notice. I wish to take up one or two points and in particular one mentioned by the noble Lord opposite and by my noble friend Lord Chesham, namely, that of separation distances. It is obvious that there is room for a great deal of further education of drivers in keeping the correct distance from the vehicle in front. May I put forward for the Government's consideration a scheme which I have seen in operation in New Zealand? There, on certain roads, they have transverse lines painted on the road at intervals of so many feet. There is a notice at the roadside to the effect that the spacing of these lines is the correct spacing for vehicles travelling at, say, 40 miles an hour. I have never seen anything like that in this country and I think that its adoption would be worth considering. I put it forward to Her Majesty's Government in that spirit.

The question of driving in fog has already been dealt with fairly fully. I had intended mentioning that, having had only this morning a long drive from mid-Wales in varying degrees of fog. I was appalled by what I found in the way of lights, or lack of them, on most of the vehicles. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will use every means of publicity at their disposal to bring home to people the absolute folly—there is no other word for it—of driving in thick fog on sidelights alone. Part of the trouble arises from the term "sidelights". We ought to consider them purely as parking lights and to call them parking lights. I hope that we shall eventually see the day when if we see a vehicle with its sidelights (or its parking lights) on we shall know that that vehicle is stationary, and if we see a vehicle with headlights on, dipped or not, we shall know that the vehicle is moving. I am sure that that is the eventual answer that we shall come to. I am convinced of the value of having dipped headlights on all moving vehicles, even in built-up areas with street lights. One way in which we can start in that direction is to stop calling those silly things "sidelights" and start calling them "parking lights" instead. People will then be less tempted to rely on them alone when the car is moving.

My noble friend, Lord Cork and Orrery, mentioned people who do not know and think that they do. A far greater number on the roads are people who think that they know better; people who think that they know better than the painstaking draftsmen, for instance, who produced this booklet; people, in short, who invent their own signals. They are one of the biggest menaces on the roads to-day. Now that flashing direction indicators are being used more and more, people are using them for all sorts of purposes for which they were never intended. They are forgetting about hand signals altogether. A very widespread and pernicious practice is that of switching on the left side or nearside indicator to show that they are ready to be overtaken. About half the drivers I meet on the road—or half of those that I overtake—do that. It is bound to cause some confusion if you use a mechanical signal for more than one purpose. I even know drivers who use the right indicator for the same purpose, which is even worse. Here again, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will use all the means at their disposal to bring these lessons to the driving public.

There is one last, small point on behalf of visitors from abroad. So long as we continue to drive on the left side of the road there will be differences in practice between this country and the Continent; and I think some guidance is necessary for foreign visitors coming here. A short time ago I needed to get something of that sort for a girl who was coming to us and who spoke no English. I went to the A.A. and asked if they had any digest of The Highway Code in either French or German. No such thing! I hope that the Minister of Transport will produce some sort of précis of the traffic regulations in this country in other languages for the benefit of foreign visitors.

8.27 p.m.


My Lords, is a very strange experience to take part in a debate where Her Majesty's Government are almost constantly praised by all speakers. It brings a slight air of unreality to our proceedings. But may I say how grateful I am to noble Lords who have spoken so constructively about this particular new publication, or old publication in a revised form, and also for the congratulations which they have given to the devoted men and women who have produced this booklet? I think personally that it is an excellent piece of work and I know that your Lordships' congratulations to them will be appreciated.

Incidentally, I do not believe that there is any specific significance in the fact that the arrow on the cover is the "Keep Left" sign. Mine seems to have grown red—which perhaps makes it "Keep even Letter". But it is good typography, I am advised, pointing to the title of the booklet. There is another strange experience that I have enjoyed to-day: the pigeon post has been working very effectively throughout. It has indicated that the noble Earl, Lord Shannon, has come up with an idea that people have not as yet thought of. The suggestion that he has made about a different type of hand signals at a zebra crossing is, apparently, a new one and will be considered by the Ministry. May I congratulate him on the originality of his thought? The noble Lord, Lord Somers, suggested a sign of this type and I think that this is obviously sensible. As to the situation of pulling up at a crossing, and at a zebra crossing, where some such sign is needed, it is not as difficult as noble Lords make out—inside, outside, left hand, right hand. If you read the booklet carefully enough it is fairly clear. The passage about horses is a little obsolete now—


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting: but is "fairly clear" clear enough?


My Lords, the noble Earl is most precise. A thing is either clear or not clear. I am glad that he has reminded me of this fact. Incidentally, as noble Lords may know, there is a fairly substantial debate to follow this discussion, so I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not attempt to deal with all the points which have been raised. They will, of course, be studied by the officials. We shall all agree that it is not too early to start considering the next edition. The Minister has said that in two years' time we are expecting to start work on the successor to this document if not to bring it to a final form, so I think it would be wise, while this debate is fresh in people's minds, if organisations like the British Horse Society and the Cycling Council of Great Britain, and those noble Lords who have put a lot of hard work and thought into this matter, started to feed ideas into the Ministry of Transport now.

I should like to make one or two points which I think of importance. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, who courteously apologised for having to leave before the end of the debate, said that one of the major causes of mass perjury in the country was the need for people to sign a piece of paper when they applied for a driving licence, stating that they had read the Code. In fact this is no longer required, so we need no longer perjure ourselves in that way. The noble Lord, Lord Chesham, also said that publicity for the contents of the document was more important than the need to perjure ourselves by signing a form. There is to be a widespread campaign about its contents conducted by the Ministry of Transport, and I think that that is the best way to get the contents known by as many people as possible.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, made an important point about price. This links up with what other noble Lords have said about the size of the document. It is really a combination of two documents, the old Code and the old publication on traffic signs. Sold separately, they would each have cost one shilling. Printing costs have gone up, and so I think that the price of 1s. 3d. for this publication is not unreasonable. The noble Lord, Lord Swansea, mentioned the problem confronting foreigners who could not read the Code. The main points of the 1959 Code were contained in leaflets printed in French and German which were given to visitors from overseas. Probably on the occasion to which the noble Lord referred the supply of copies had run out. I am sure it is important that there should be a précis of this document in French and German, as there was of the 1959 publication. Incidentally there are leaflets in Hindu and Urdu, which is not unimportant today.

Suggestions have been made about a special précis for children and for learners. I think this is a good idea. There is in fact a very good publication for children. It was produced for deaf children, but was so good that it is used for general distribution to children of six to twelve years of ago. It is profusely illustrated and it has proved useful. I have no doubt that the suggestions made for special extracts to be taken from this document will be considered by the Ministry of Transport.

My Lords, I have only two other points to make. Various noble Lords spoke about the use of side-lights on motor vehicles. In fact it is made clear in the Code that when there is fog it is headlights which have to be used. Paragraph 94 says: Use your headlamps in day-time mist or fog or if the light is bad…". The other point relates to the barrier at level crossings and the existence of a flashing light indicating that another train is coming. This is one of the important elements under consideration—whether a different sort of light or indication should be given, for the benefit of someone standing at a half-barrier halt, that a second train is coming almost immediately. The positioning of the present sign is not, I think, so important. A few vehicles standing in line at the barrier would mean that there would be plenty of time for a driver to read a sign on the right hand side of the road. I am certain that the designer working on a revised lay-out of the half-barrier will consider the points which have been made by noble Lords.

As I said earlier, my Lords, we have another important debate to undertake. May I thank noble Lords for their courtesy and for their constructive analyses. I know they will be noted by the various individuals in the Ministry of Transport who I am certain are already preparing the next edition of this Code.

On Question, Motion agreed to.