HL Deb 08 October 1968 vol 296 cc976-1011

11.22 a.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 96 [Installation and operation of recording equipment in vehicles]:

THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY moved Amendment No. 71A: Page 127, line 36, after ("equipment") insert ("wholly automatic in operation and").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to tidy up a few ends that were left loose at the end of the Committee stage debate on Clause 96(1)(a) that is to say, on the functioning and specification of tachographs. I suspect it may turn out that the Government's thinking in this connection has progressed a little in the last couple of months, but I think it wise to probe a little as to how far it has got, for if the Government's thoughts as revealed by the noble Lord, Lord Hilton of Upton, on July 22 have not changed, or changed little, then there is a real risk of those thoughts defeating the object of this clause.

The noble Lord, Lord Hilton, acknowledged the undoubted truth that time during which the engine is idling while the vehicle is standing still, as in a traffic jam, counts as driving time and should be recorded as such. But I submit that the fact that the engine is running has nothing to do with it, because there is nothing to prevent the driver from switching his engine off and with it, if it is attached to the engine, the tell-tale tachograph. And he can do the same thing, switch his engine off, when coasting downhill, and even when his vehicle is running along under its own momentum on the flat. In fact, I should be greatly surprised if it did not turn out to be quite easy to bring a vehicle home at the end of a day's run with the instrument showing a considerable under-recording. Conversely, we should face the sad truth that there is a person so depraved as to be willing to pretend that he has done, not less work than he is believed to have done, but more. Such a one would perhaps leave his engine running when he should have switched it off, so that the faithful tachograph will go on clocking up driving time while he is having his dinner or snoozing in a lay-by.

Clearly, my Lords, each of these proceedings will render the tachograph useless and its records quite unacceptable as evidence in a court of law. To be of any use, I submit that the instrument must do its work free from interference by the driver; it must be "unfiddleable", or perhaps, in the slightly more orthodox words of my Amendment, "wholly automatic". It must be, I think, a chronograph, recording the passage of time, and also showing whether the vehicle was standing still or moving at any particular time. That could be done, no doubt, by means of a vibrator or some other means. All that would be required of the driver would be that he should be able to account for any lengthy stops that might appear on the record. Incidentally, my Lords, a tachograph is an instrument for recording speed. There is no particular novelty or difficulty about this, because I believe that such instruments have been in use for some time.

The noble Lord, Lord Hilton, was replying to an Amendment tabled, and later withdrawn, by my noble friend Lord Selkirk in connection with vehicles that have to use their engines for driving ancillary equipment. The noble Lord said that tachographs fitted to such vehicles would have to be capable of distinguishing between time while the vehicle was standing still, between time while the engine was being used to drive ancillary equipment, which does not count as driving time, and time during which the engine was merely idling, as in a lengthy traffic hold up, which does count as driving time. That, of course, is perfectly true. But the noble Lord went on to say: It has yet to be decided how exactly tachographs would be constructed to achieve this requirement, whether automatically from the drive to the ancillary equipment or whether by the driver pressing a button on the tachograph whenever he uses the ancillary equipment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/7/68 col. 667.] By a driver pressing a button ! My, Lords, a considerable part of the world's legislation is devoted to discouraging the injudicious pressing of buttons. But here we have something more; we have an injudicious button. The depraved or even forgetful operator might omit to press the button, and a deliberate sinner press it when he ought not to, the one inadvertently clocking up imaginary driving time, the other persuading his gullible tachograph (or whatever it is called) that he had been using a circular saw when in fact he was bowling along the highway: one, in other words, either cheating his employer or convicting himself of an uncommitted crime, the other deliberately breaking the law while at the same time providing himself with evidence that he was not; and both rendering the tachograph useless as a witness.

Surely there must be no question of buttoning and unbuttoning where these so-called tachographs are concerned; nor must it be possible for the driver to affect their readings by turning his ignition key. In either case the resulting recoil, will be liable to falsification by the driver, which means that it would be just as reliable and a great deal cheaper simply to furnish him with a notebook and pencil.

I do not claim that my Amendment is a gem of drafting, but I am persuaded that a tachograph (if I must call it that) must be an instrument that runs from the moment when it is switched on at the beginning of the day until it is stopped at the end, and entirely insulated from any possibility of "fiddling" by the driver: in other words, that it must be wholly automatic in operation. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment. Before the Minister replies may I say, apropos of ancillary equipment, that I should have thought it would be quite easy to get over that difficulty by circuiting the tachograph, or whatever it is, to the gear lever, so that when the gear lever was in neutral it could not record.


My Lords, I think I should start by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, on introducing so much delightful wit into the most unlikely subject of tachographs. I am not going to follow my natural instinct to call this a "tachograph" and start an argument. The fact that much of what the noble Earl said is not founded on fact did not in any way diminish my enjoyment of what he said. First of all, let me deal with the technicalities of the Amendment. I have no doubt that the word "automatic" conveys exactly the same meaning to the noble Earl as it does to me; that is, working by itself. I can assure him that the regulations to be made under Clause 96(1)(a) will require the fitting of recording equipment which works by itself, to the extent that whenever a vehicle is used, information as to such use will be recorded. But such equipment depends for its operation upon its being wound up, upon a chart being inserted upon which the record is made, upon an external signal of some kind being supplied to it in most cases, and, since it has no human powers of recognition, upon the turning of a key issued to the driver to enable his periods of driving to be distinguished from those of another driver. The equipment cannot, therefore, be "wholly automatic in operation"—the words used in the Amendment. To accept the Amendment, therefore, would merely serve the purpose of reducing the effectiveness of the proposals by excluding the use of sophisticated instruments of the type currently available.

The noble Earl envisaged two ways in which the situation might not in fact be satisfactory, either because of a forgetful or because of a dishonest driver. I was rather surprised, after the debate yesterday, that anyone should envisage such a thing as a dishonest driver. I thought after yesterday's debate on driving hours that drivers were all in danger of sprouting wings and that halos must be a standard part of their equipment; but apparently this is not always so. But might I point out that in relation to the possibility of "fiddling" through coasting, or free-wheeling, or moving on the level through the vehicle's own momentum, the tachograph records not only time but speed and distance. If, therefore, the driver were to turn off his engine while the vehicle was still moving the tachograph would still record the speed and distance covered. Moreover, due to vibration, whether of the engine or of the vehicle, the trace line is thicker when the vehicle is moving, whether the engine is off or on, than when the vehicle is stationary with the engine off. If the driver turns off his engine in a traffic jam it is of course not possible to distinguish between this sort of stop and, say, a stop in a lay-by, but there is no safety risk here. The tachograph is an aid to enforcement; we do not pretend that it is a complete system. Drivers' records are also important in recording total duty.

On the first point, about which the noble Earl made some play, about the use of the button when ancillary equipment is brought into use, may I say that this is necessary to distinguish between periods when the engine is driving the ancillary equipment and when it is running to drive the vehicle. But here again the fact that the tachograph records speed and distance would prevent any use of the button in the way the noble Earl has envisaged it, because if he pressed it to indicate he was driving ancillary equipment when in fact the vehicle was moving along the road the mileage and speed would continue to be recorded.

For these reasons, therefore, we are satisfied that the tachograph will do what we want it to do at this particular stage in time. If it should turn out that more sophisticated equipment — something fully automatic which did everything, without any human agency being involved at all—could be used, so much the better; but that is not a possibility at the present time. I hope, however, that I have satisfied your Lordships on two points: that it is impossible to have something which, in the words of the Amendment, is wholly automatic, although we can have something which is automatic; and secondly, that the abuses to which the noble Earl so wittily drew to our attention are in fact ones which he may enjoy talking about but does not need to fear.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question before he finishes? Is this machine coupled up to the road wheels, to the engine, or to both?


My Lords, I think, after I indicated at the beginning I even had doubts about how to pronounce the word, it will be no surprise to you when I say that I do not know.


My Lords, would it be possible for the noble Lord to find out? Because we are very ignorant here. My neighbour on my left tells me that it is coupled up to the engine, but from the noble Lord's reply it appears to be coupled up to the wheels.


My Lords, I am quite happy as to which of you I believe.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask a question about this machine, which is going to do just about half a job? What is its cost, and therefore its cost to the taxpayer?


My Lords, I understand—I am not guaranteeing this—that the cost is about £50, but this cost is expected to come down. The answer which has been given to me about the tachograph is that the machine could be coupled to the wheels, or to the engine, or to both, depending on type. So your Lordships will see how wise I was to express no preference as to which one I believed.


My Lords, this is a rather important point, because if it is coupled—


My Lords, may I bring the noble Lord's attention to the fact that we have agreed that on Report stage only one speech is in order?


My Lords, I must express gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for doing what I hoped he would do, which is to indicate that the Government have thought a good deal more about this question. I am not entirely certain that they did not do their thinking yesterday afternoon, but that is neither here nor there. This Amendment was intended, as I think I indicated at the beginning, to be a probing Amendment more than anything else, and as intended I hope it is understood to be constructive and perhaps even a little helpful. Perhaps it turns out that the help was not really required.

I would make one comment which seems apposite to me, and that is that puzzlement comes into my head when I hear the noble Lord describing the functions that this instrument is going to perform. He had a lot to say about the elaborate precautions and procedures which would have to be gone through to provide what I was asking for. He is going to produce something which may produce a fairly simple record of time, distance and speed; but who is going to work out all this information in the end? We have to provide for a ancillary equipment—a man working a circular saw or whatever it may be—and pressing his button with the result that the engine is shown to be running but the vehicle is shown to be standing still. And another time he is driving along the road and at one minute he is standing in a traffic jam with his engine switched off, and at another minute he is having his dinner with the engine switched on. All this information is recorded in the machine. But my head absolutely boggles at the amount of paper work which somebody has to do to sort out this graph which comes churning out at the end of it. Or is there going to be a built-in computer as well? Because I cannot help feeling that, much as I admire optimism, the noble Lord is going a bit far in his optimism when he says that this instrument is not only going to cost only £50 now but is going to become cheaper.

There is one other small point, and I shall mention it because it may in fact turn out to be a bigger one than I believe. We already have an instrument which is known as a mileometer, which shows how far a vehicle has gone, in the speedometer; already we have an instrument which records distance. Now we have what I think is known as a chronograph which is going to record time; and then I am delighted to say we are going to have a tachograph incorporated in this monitor to show speed. The noble Lord knows far better than I do what powers the Minister has to issue a regulation for the recording of speed. I do not think that those powers are conferred on him by this Part of the Bill, which is concerned only with the regulating of hours. But I foresee, I hope wrongly, that this extra "snooper" built into the monitor may well lead to a certain amount of industrial unrest among transport drivers. Having said which, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.38 a.m.

LORD HUGHES moved Amendment No. 73: Page 128, line 7, at beginning insert ("(i)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords. Amendments Nos. 73 and 74 rest together. They repair an omission from Clause 96(3)(a) which empowers the Minister to make regulations imposing on operators and drivers of vehicles in which tachographs are installed duties as to the working of the equipment and for preventing its misuse When the general provisions of Clause 96 are brought into effect, regulations will be made about the operation of tachographs, such as prescribing what must be done in the way of inserting new record discs, specifying that the driver must insert and turn a key to indicate his period; of driving, stating that it will be an offence for the driver to open the instrument without good cause, and so on. In addition, however, the Minister needs to be able to prescribe arrangements on two additional matters not at present covered by the wording of Clause 96(3)(a).

These arrangements concern, first, the need for a tachograph access key (that is to say, a key giving access to the internal mechanism of the tachograph), to be kept on the vehicle in a sealed container, so that the police and other authorised officers, but not the driver, can open the tachograph and inspect the current tachograph record, and, secondly, the keeping by operators of records of the issue by them to their drivers of tachograph operating keys, whereby each driver can cause the instrument to indicate his particular periods of driving. This is necessary when a vehicle is driven successively by different drivers. The Amendment accordingly provides for these matters to be prescribed additionally in regulations. I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD HUGHES: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 74.

Amendment moved—

Page 128, line 8, at end insert— ("(ii) as to any keys or other appliances used in connection with the equipment, including the keeping and preservation of records in connection with such keys or appliances;").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

11.41 a.m.

LORD TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 75: Page 128, line 31, at end insert ("or that the vehicle was being used to meet an emergency when no other vehicle was readily available.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as this Amendment is self-explanatory there is little for me to say, but I hope the Government will see their way clear to accept it. These machines have not proved reliable, and as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, has already explained there are many anomalies, and many defects which they could have. Therefore it would be unreasonable to keep a vehicle off the road in a crisis merely on account of a faulty recording machine. I beg to move.


My Lords, I was not quite certain what the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, intended by this Amendment, although he started by saying that it was self-explanatory. We foresaw two possibilities, and I think he intends to cover them both. The first was the situation where the tachograph on a vehicle was out of order but it was necesary to use the vehicle because no other vehicle was available for use in an emergency. It might also be intended to cover the case where the tachograph was entirely removed from a vehicle for the repair of the tachograph.

This may or may not be a sensible provision to make but fortunately there is no need to amend the Bill in order to achieve it. The matter may be covered by regulations as provided for in Clause 96(2)(6) or, where appropriate, by the last two lines of Clause 96(2). Under this subsection the Minister could, if he so decided, treat such a case as the noble Lord has in mind as one in which the requirement in Clause 96(1)(b) should not apply. The Minister would, of course, need to define "emergency" in the regulations.

In view of the fact that my right honourable friend will consider how best this problem can be dealt with in regulations I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment. He will note that I said, "how best this problem can be dealt with in regulations" and not "if the Minister thinks it should be dealt with in regulations". Therefore it goes a little further than such statements sometimes go. The noble Lord has drawn attention to a situation which will undoubtedly arise from time to time, and your Lordships should know that it is capable of being dealt with and that it is not necessary to amend the Bill.


My Lords, I hope the Minister will keep in mind to make his position exceedingly flexible in regard to these regulations, because there are two factors involved. First, there is the possible complete unreliability of these machines, and secondly there is the aspect of industrial labour relations. Already we hear that the petrol drivers in the North of England are on strike over the possibility of these machines being put into their vehicles if this Bill becomes law. What the situation might become if it were made illegal to drive a vehicle without such a machine being installed, I shudder to think.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies I should like to ask one question. If he will look at Clause 95 he will see that in the case of exemptions under that clause the traffic commissioners are empowered to grant a certificate that any particular case falls or fell within any exemption". In other words, they can give a retrospective exemption. I think it essential that the Minister should also be able to give retrospective exemptions in such cases.


My Lords, perhaps I may relieve the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Hawke. The Minister has already made it plain that he intends to give himself the maximum flexibility; he intends to introduce these new regulations without having introduced the regulations for the installation of the tachograph. Whether the tachograph will ever then be required is something that remains completely unknown.


My Lords, before I withdraw this Amendment I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his full reply. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, and with the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, that there will be considerable unrest, although perhaps it would be unwise to comment fully on the current strike. I can understand the feelings of the drivers concerned without condoning their action. These feelings are much the same as I expressed when I said earlier: The whole idea of having a machine-made snooper sitting in the cab beside him is to a driver complete and utter anathema. The very principle spells mistrust and I cannot help feeling that it sets up a new precedent for interfering with the individual's liberty."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22/7/68, col. 668.] With that comment I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 100 [Orders and regulations under Part VI]:


My Lords, Amendment No. 78 follows on Amendment No. 71, which has already been accepted. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 133, line 21, at end insert— ("() Before making any order or regulations under this Part of this Act the Minister shall consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit.")—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 102 [Interpretation, supplementary provisions, etc., for Part VI]:

LORD DRUMALBYN moved Amendment No. 79: Page 134, line 7, at end insert— ("'off duty' in relation to any driver includes any period during which he is enjoying a rest break statutory or otherwise.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to get an absolutely clear interpretation of what is meant by "off duty" in regard to the working day. I think I am right in saying that the industry has spent many hours in discussing exactly what is meant and there is still uncertainty. For that reason I think it is only reasonable to ask the Government to make the intention absolutely clear.

The working day of a driver under Clause 95(3) must not exceed 11 hours, and what the "working day" means is defined on page 134 as meaning any period during which he is on duty", If the definition had stopped there I think everyone would have known what was meant. However, it does not stop there it goes on and deals with the intervals for rest of not less than eleven hours, and in the case of a passenger vehicle driver of nine-and-a-half hours. I am trying to deal with this as summarily as I can, but it seems perfectly clear from this that the intervals for rest and refreshment which are dealt with in Clause 95(2) are quite clearly periods when a driver is not on duty and are not part of the working day. But then, unfortunately, subsection (3) of Clause 95 casts some doubt on this, because it says: … the working day of a driver … (b) if during that day he is off duty for a period which is, or periods which taken together are, not less than the time by which his working day exceeds eleven hours, shall not exceed twelve and a half hours". So there is a considerable amount of confusion about this, and it is necessary that this confusion should be cleared up.

Of course we are all anxious, both from the point of view of the health of the driver and from that of road safety, that reasonable hours should be laid down; but what are reasonable hours from the point of view of these considerations do not necessarily concern the amount of time for which, for example, a driver is paid. That is a quite different consideration. Here we are trying to lay down exactly what is meant so far as the restriction of driving hours is concerned under this Bill. It seems to me clear that intervals for rest periods should not count as part of the 11 hours of the working day, for two reasons. First of all, a period is laid down in subsection (2) of Clause 95, which says: Subject to the provisions of this section, if on any working day a driver has been on duty for a period of, or for periods amounting in the aggregate to, five and a half hours and— (a) there has not been during that period, or during or between any of those periods, an interval of not less than half an hour in which he was able to obtain rest and refreshment … there shall at the end of that period, or of the last of those periods, be such an interval as aforesaid."— that is, an interval of not less than half an hour; but it could be a longer period —one hour, two hours, three hours—and it would be quite absurd if the longer periods were included in the consideration of the working day.

The second reason is that if the maximum driving hours are limited to 10 there should be some interval left over for non-driving duties, quite apart from rest and refreshment. If the Government's idea was that the driving hours should be 10 and that there should be two periods of half an hour, or one of an hour, for rest and refreshment this would bring us up to the working day of 11 hours. I do not think that would be realistic, and I think that would conflict with the impression the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, gave when we were discussing driving hours yesterday evening. Talking of the maximum number of driving hours, he said that the driver could drive for up to 10 hours a day. Then the noble Lord recognised that there were also further duties to be performed, so that time has to be left for those further duties; and I think that such time can be left only if we make a clear distinction between on-duty and off-duty periods and the off-duty periods are not included in the working day for the purpose of the definition. I beg to move.

11.54 a.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that I cannot accept this Amendment, which is in fact the same as an Amendment which was moved by Lord Merrivale at the Committee stage and withdrawn after debate. The Government's case for not accepting this Amendment was fully explained at that time, so that I need not say a great deal—just enough to refresh your Lordships' memories about what the Government's case was then. I must say that one can sympathise with the objective of having a simple and unambiguous definition of "off duty" in the Bill, but all our experience with the present Act, where similar problems arise, leaves us to believe that there is no single definition which it would be fair or reasonable to apply in every case.

This can be illustrated, taking the case of rest breaks, by the circumstances that a rest break can be taken under conditions when the employee has still some duties to perform, notwithstanding that in other respects he is in fact able to obtain rest which it is the purpose of a rest break to afford. Thus, as was explained in the debate on Committee, the half-hour rest break required under Clause 95(2)(a) can be taken by a driver pulling off the road and into a lay-by, but in such circumstances the driver remains responsible for the security of his vehicle and is therefore clearly still on duty. On the other hand, as was also then explained, a driver might leave the vehicle at a depot and spend the half-hour statutory break in a café away from the vehicle, when he would clearly be regarded as off duty.

This much is clear, and therefore little doubt should exist in the minds of drivers and their employers as to when a driver is on duty and when he is not. "Off duty" in fact must include freedom from responsibility. However, because of the variety of circumstances which may exist when a driver is having a temporary break for rest, whether for the purposes of complying with the statutory requirements or otherwise, it is clearly preferable to leave it to the court in a particular case to determine whether the driver was or was not off duty.

I acknowledge that this is merely repetition of what has been said already. I repeat it for the simple reason that we have been unable to find a better way of expressing the doubt which must exist and which arises simply from the fact that a rest break cannot in all cases be defined as being off duty. If they were in fact synonymous terms, then of course the Amendment might be acceptable; but they are not, and for that reason the Government are still unable to accept this Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention once again to the difficulties inherent in this matter. I should not have thought it was beyond the wit of the Government to devise some means of allowing this to be settled by Statute satisfactorily. But in view of the fact that the Government have not been able to find a formula, I see no alternative to withdrawing the Amendment. Perhaps I might just refer to the fact that the same kind of difficulty of course arises under other Acts, where the courts have to decide whether something or another, an injury or something of the kind, arose "out of and in the course of" employment. This is very much the same kind of problem. I think it may be that the kind of decision that has been reached there has very largely been one of time; that by and large the courts have decided that where the time was relatively short, that is to say half an hour or so, an injury occurring in that time did arise out of and in the course of employment, but that where the interval was much greater it did not. This merely illustrates that in the end we have to come to some rule-of-thumb provision. I should have thought it would have been better for the Government to lay down that rule-of-thumb provision, but if they cannot do so, I have no option but to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, a question with regard to the position of the second driver when he is travelling as a passenger in a coach? The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, if I understood him aright, said that "off duty" included freedom from responsibility. Therefore, "on duty" must mean having responsibility. Should I therefore be right in presuming that the second driver while traveling as a passenger is not considered on duty. And how would this be defined in regard to his working day?


My Lords, I have something to say on this point on Amendment No. 80, if the noble Lord would be patient.


My Lords, if the noble Lord would pardon me, if this Amendment is carried then the definition might be altered.


This Amendment has been withdrawn.


I have asked leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.2 p.m.

LORD TEVIOT moved Amendment No. 80: Page 134, line 42, after ("employment") insert ("but shall not include any time for which he is not required to undertake any work and in particular any time during which he travels as a passenger in a public service vehicle")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Balerno. As my noble friend has just raised this point with the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I should like to say a few words about taking rest in a vehicle. Recently I have worked and travelled with two drivers, and all the drivers I spoke to agreed that it was quite reasonable to have a rest while the vehicle was travelling; in fact, they preferred to sit on a seat in the vehicle than on a hard chair in a cafe.

This Amendment will probably be of great assistance to operators in continuing certain long day tours which the public have enjoyed for many years, and also the operation of certain express coaches. Also, if this Amendment is accepted it will, as I explained yesterday, offset the loss which will affect the tourist industry. I think this is quite fair. As Lord Beswick mentioned yesterday, the 10-hour maximum would mean that two drivers would not be driving for even half that time; so therefore it would be quite reasonable, with a longer spreadover, for the driver to ride as a passenger. I beg to move.


My Lords, there is another aspect to this Amendment; namely, that concerning the drivers of small buses which take out school parties. Usually the drivers are members of the teaching staff of the school. They can well be employed by their local education authority, and unless this Amendment is carried it is questionable whether they would not be committing a breach of the law—in fact, it is almost certain that they would be.

These school parties go out on Saturdays and Sundays. They may go out on both the Saturday and the Sunday. The school teacher is therefore actually working, in that he must be employed by the authority to protect him financially; he has the children under his care when he is taking them out and, when it comes to the question of the definition of "working day", he is working for seven days in the week though he may be driving the vehicle for only two days of the week. For that reason, I support the Amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Teviot.

12.6 p.m.


My Lords, if I may refer first of all to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, has just made, this has been the subject of some correspondence which was sent to a number of your Lordships. Among those who received a Minute of the proceedings, I think on Saturday, were Lord Beswick and myself. This matter was referred to last night, and your Lordships will recollect that my noble friend then said that it raised some complicated matters, on the question, for instance, of whether a man is employed as a driver or as a teacher. These questions are being urgently looked into by the Scottish Education Department, not because this is exclusively a Scottish problem but because it was raised in a Scottish context. The same situation could apply anywhere in the country. I am sorry that I do not yet know what the position is, but I have no reason to believe that anything which will emerge is not capable of being resolved under the regulation-making machinery of the Bill. So I must leave that aside because I cannot usefully take it any further to-day.

The main purpose of this Amendment is to exclude from the time reckoned as spent by a driver "on duty" any time when he is travelling as a passenger in a bus or coach. Time so excluded would also not itself count as part of the working day and could be outside the limits for the working day laid down in Clause 95(3). This concession is given by the existing law, which provides that time spent as a passenger in a public service vehicle is not reckoned as time spent in driving or on work in connection with the vehicle. This has the effect of allowing time so spent by a driver as part of his duties, whether travelling to join his vehicle or travelling as a spare driver to be reckoned outside the limits on driving time.

We do not consider that this open-ended lattitude should continue. It is because of that that we are altering the position in the Bill and changing the law as it presently stands. There is nothing under present law to prevent a coach driver from having to travel for several hours as a passenger to pick up a vehicle, then begin driving and still be driving for a virtually unlimited period later. Under the present law, he could be driving up to 14 hours (and in certain circumstances 15 or 16 hours) later. The Bill does not allow travel as a passenger to be excluded except when a man is off duty.

As regards travelling as a spare or second driver, generally speaking the Minister does not consider it right that a man should be at the wheel of a bus or lorry as late as even 14 hours after leaving home if in the meantime his only "rest" is on a moving vehicle. Even sitting in a luxury coach is not necessarily restorative. Any exemption from the normal limits for time on duty should only be given where there is reasonable ground. If however a case can be made for it, to meet a "special need" in terms of Clause 95(10), the Minister will be quite prepared to consider providing for exemption. We hope that coach operators will apply their minds to identifying cases where the carriage of a spare driver is an essential feature of operations and let us know in what circumstances they suggest that it should he facilitated. This will help us to make quick progress in considering whether the Minister should use the exemption powers.

The Amendment, however, is not limited to dealing with the situations of drivers travelling as passengers in public service vehicles it applies to the definitions of "on duty" in all its applications. As such, it would damage the basic structure of this part of the drivers' hours provisions. We must, for the Bill, stick to the clear criterion that all times when a driver is acting under orders or is at his employer's disposal (except when he is merely on call at home, as allowed by the last four lines of Clause 95(4)) should be reckoned as "on duty" and as part of the working day. Otherwise, we should allow the working day to be extended in various ways (for example, hanging about waiting for a load or spare part, or travelling) without limits and in a way that it is difficult, if not impossible to check. Time spent between reporting for duty and signing off, is readily checked from time-sheets and so on: but if some of the time is not to reckon, the door will open to widespread evasion of the limits for example, the 1½hours "off duty" required by Clause 95(3)(b) could often be filled tin without the driver getting any private time at all out of a 12½hour day.

Further, if a man can be at his employer's directions and yet not "on duty" doubt is cast—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, would say further doubt was cast—on the meaning of "rest" and "off duty". It could be held that a driver can be expected by his employer to travel any distance as a passenger during the 24-hour period "off duty" required by Clause 95(6) once a week or fortnight. And all excluded time, though really on duty, would be excluded from the 60-hour weekday limit in Clause 95(5). For these reasons, although when I first read this Amendment, I probably had the same view as most of your Lordships, that this seems a very reasonable thing, when I was in due course provided with a brief starting off with "Resist" it was not difficult for me to accept that this was the only course which is in fact open to the Government. I therefore ask the noble Lord Lord Teviot, not to proceed with this Amendment.


My Lords, I must say that the noble Lord's answer leaves me feeling very uneasy. I wonder whether it is wise to make new laws without knowing what the practical effects will be. The noble Lord tells us that the Ministry feel that the operators should let the Ministry know in which circumstances a spare driver will be needed. Well, we know that spare drivers will be needed in certain circumstances. My Lords, is this the right way round to change the law? These coach trips are very important to large sections of the community and the tourist industry. Would it not have been better to find out about this first and adjust the clause coming before us now so as to cater for it? Inevitably, with the shortening of hours which this Bill intends, the need for spare drivers will be greater, and whilst I personally take the noble Lord's point that this has a balance, that there are pros and cons on each side and that there are possible loopholes which have to be guarded against, it is equally clear that spare drivers will be needed and that somehow or other they have got to be got to the coach. Are they going to be allowed to fly by aeroplane, or allowed to go by train, or is this going to be counted as "on duty" as well?

One really must address one's mind to the practical problem here, and I do not think it is fair for the noble Lord to ask this House to accept this matter purely on trust—that the operators have a duty to go to the Ministry and explain when they will need the spare driver and then the Minister will consider making exemptions under subsection (10). That really does not seem to me to be good enough. I think the Bill ought to make specific provision for something which we know is going to be needed. Spare drivers have to be provided in some circumstances. They will usually start from the headquarters of the coach operator or somewhere near them, and, therefore, they have to travel to the point where they will be wanted. I do not think this is at all a satisfactory way to put this proposition before the House.

I am not surprised to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Hughes—he is an essentially practical man—that when he saw this Amendment he thought it sounded like common sense, and so it did to me; but when he gets the brief from the Department he learns it is not at all. The Department expects us to accept something which is most un-common-sense. If my noble friend feels inclined to press the Amendment, I am bound to say I would support it.


My Lords, may I be permitted to reply, as the noble Lord has asked me questions and I do not think he has done the usual justice which he does in these matters? I have readily accepted that when I looked at the Amendment it looked like common sense, but when I read the brief I realised the defects of the Amendment and I have pointed these out. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has not really paid very much attention to the defects of the Amendment. We are not saying that the situation which the Amendment purports to deal with will never exist. We readily admit that there are circumstances which will exist, but to do it by way of the Amendment is to do a great deal more than create loopholes in the regulation of driving hours; it is to drive a coach and horses right through them. This Amendment is practically a charter for the evasion of driving regulations. Of course, if that is what noble Lords intend to do to drivers' hours—I readily accept that it is not so intended—then I can certainly recommend this Amendment as being one which will inevitably play havoc with the ability to control drivers' hours.

However, I do not believe that it is the intention of the noble Lords opposite to wreck this provision. It is for that reason that I cannot understand why, in this case, they do not accept what has seemed to them quite reasonable, if not necessarily the first choice in other circumstances: that where the situation is so completely one way you deal with it in the Bill, but where the situation which you intend to remedy is one which is not the standard practice, the correct way to deal with it is by exemption. The Minister is not going to be cluttered up with individual applications for an exemption for coach A, or an exemption for bus 143. If I may revert to what was said last night, what we have asked the industry to do is to provide the sort of case, the kind of category, in which it would be reasonable that an exemption should be applied for and operated. The industry then knows where it is over a wide range of operations. It then gets its objective without the Amendment, in those cases where it is proper to do so, without making an opportunity for the less scrupulous to wreck the drivers' hours provisions.


My Lords, I must thank my noble friend, Lord Nugent, for putting the case so clearly, and I shall press this Amendment. However, before I do so I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, one hypothetical question. If there is a journey between London and Glasgow and the half-way point is at Went Bridge, a driver could drive his own car to Went Bridge and then drive from Went Bridge in service to Glasgow. The other driver from London to Went Bridge could then get in that car and drive back to London and the following morning drive up to Went Bridge to meet his friend coming back and then drive this vehicle back. Does not the noble Lord think that this is far worse than sitting as a passenger on the vehicle?


My Lords, is it your Lordship's wish that I should answer? I agree that this is possible, and I would also agree that it is far worse. But one of the questions that comes into this matter is cost, and it is obvious that it would cost the employer a great deal more to do it in that way than to comply with the requirements of the Bill. Therefore the hypothetical case will not arise in practice, because people are not going to throw money away just for the sake of getting round the Bill.


My Lords, I hope that the House will give me leave to speak again. I am bound to say that the Amendment is widely drawn. On the other hand, the noble Lord has not sufficiently met my noble friend's case. I wonder whether my noble friends Lord Teviot and Lord Balerno would consider putting down on Third Reading something which might be acceptable to the Government. I feel that they should be able to meet this point. If the Government could give an indication that they want to meet the practical point and that they would look more favourably on an Amendment on this point which my noble friend will put down on Third Reading, then I would advise my noble friend to withdraw this Amendment.


My Lords, I cannot go further than to say that if something else is put forward we will look at it, in exactly the same way as we have looked at the present Amendment, to see whether it is workable. If it can accomplish the same object as would be served by exemption without wrecking the other provisions of the Bill, then it would be wrong for us to oppose just for the sake of opposing. But I must warn noble Lords that it will be very difficult to draw an Amendment in terms which would not destroy the whole purpose of this section of the Bill—in relation not to the honest and law-abiding, but to those who wish to evade the law. We must avoid giving them the opportunity to evade. I certainly readily undertake to examine very carefully anything that is put down on this matter and, if necessary, if it is put down in sufficient time, to express a view on it in advance.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. In the light of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment and will put down another one on Third Reading.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Part VIII (Bridges, Level Crossings, etc.):

Clause 114 [Duty of Boards as respects bridges carrying highways]:

12.24 p.m.

LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 116: Page 148, line 16, at end insert ("and, on main roads width").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, We now leapfrog ahead to Part VIII of the Bill, which deals with bridges and level crossings, and come to Amendment No. 116. Some of your Lordships may remember that when we debated this Part of the Bill in Committee there was some discussion of the width of road bridges where the road crosses the railway track or a waterway. Clause 114 of the Bill as it now stands (formerly Clause 113) places on the Railways Board or the other Transport Boards a duty to ensure that such bridges have sufficient load-bearing capacity to comply with standards laid down by the Minister and also [...] bear the weight of traffic ordinarily using the bridge.

In reply to an interesting debate, the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for the Government, undertook to look again at the arguments which had been advanced by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, by the noble Lord, Lord somers, and by myself in favour of adding the criterion of width of that load-bearing which is already in the Bill. The problems caused by exceptional width of some pieces of modern farm machinery (combine harvesters were mentioned in Committee), and the traffic congestion which can be caused by a narrow bridge, gave us some grounds for hoping that here, at any rate, in this vast Bill the virtues of good sense, allied with the considerable good will shown by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, might prevail. Now we come to the Report stage and, unfortunately, no concession has been made. The noble Lord has of course honoured his undertaking to look into this matter, and has written to my noble friend and myself; but there is no indication of fresh thinking and no change in the Bill has been proposed.

It seems that an artificial distinction is being created in the Bill between weight-bearing, which is to be a concern of the Railways Board and the other Boards responsible for the structure of the bridges, and width which is not to be a responsibility of the Boards. That will be the responsibility, as it is now, of the highway authorities. Yet logically it is difficult to see why this should to so. Both needs—the need to carry adequate weight of traffic and the need for a bridge to be wide enough—arise from the traffic passing on the road over the bridge, rather than from the railway underneath it. So if this change is made to take account of one consideration it is difficult to see why it should not be made for both.

As I have said, the highway authorities are already concerned with the width of bridges, but since in most instances it is difficult to see how a roadway on a bridge could be widened without altering the structure underneath, there is an opportunity here to give statutory recognition to the importance of taking into account the width of a bridge when construction or reconstruction is under consideration. This would be a permissive power only of the Minister, but it would mean that the concept of width would be incorporated in the Bill. It would not lay any absolute obligation on the Railways Board or any other Board.

The noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, made some play in Committee with the fact that there are some 11,000 bridges which might have been affected by the Amendments then tabled. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, picked up this point and asked how many of these bridges were on main roads. That figure has now been made available. The answer is that 1,800 bridges owned by the Transport Boards are on main roads—that is to say, former Class 1 roads. So this new Amendment No. 116 limits the general proposition that the width of bridges should be included in the Bill to this much smaller number of bridges where a main road is concerned. It may be assumed that these are the roads which carry the greatest volume of traffic. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment. I was most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for his careful and well-prepared reply to my letter. I should like to go into the matter of the responsibility for bridges which has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Windlesham. Surely there could be some regulation that the responsibility for the structure, width, design and everything else in relation to a bridge should be related to the traffic which passes over it. In other words, where a road passes over a railway it should be the responsibility of the highway authorities, and where a railway passes over a road it should be the responsibility of the Railways Board.

12.29 p.m.


My Lords, before I reply to noble Lords who have spoken on this Amendment, may I tidy up what is perhaps one small defect in the noble Lord's Amendment? I am afraid that it is a question of jargon. When we talk about 1,800 bridges, we are apparently talking of the principal roads and not of the main roads. We know what we mean, but the jargon in this particular case would refer to principal roads rather than to main roads.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for pointing that out. But for the Record may I say that the wording of this Amendment was taken directly from the noble Lord's own letter in reply to the points raised in Committee? The "jargon" which appears in this Amendment on the Order Paper, is the "jargon" provided by him in his own reply.


My Lords, I take full responsibility. I am sorry to have misled the noble Lord. The plain fact is that, as I tried to say in my letters to noble Lords during the Recess, although there is obviously an important problem here, we believe that this solution cannot immediately be achieved by statutory means. In fact, it has to be achieved by reasonable negotiation between the parties interested. As has already been said, there are these 1,800 bridges owned by the Boards on principal roads and if the Boards, which we are trying to make into profitable authorities, were required to meet the cost of widening their bridges to meet present day requirements, they could be involved in very heavy liabilities at a time when they are trying to get themselves on to a favourable financial course.

Even if contributions to the costs of widening were made by highway authorities, the Boards would still have to bear the higher maintenance costs of the wider bridges. But the costs of such widening to present day requirements, or of maintaining wider bridges, have not been taken into account in the new financial arrangements dealt with in the Bill: nor can they be in view of the potential for change in the requirements. Noble Lords will recall, on the other hand, that the costs of strengthening bridges have been provided for in these arrangements as part of the Government's move to ease the burden of the Boards' liability for services unconnected with their operations.

It may be argued that standards of width are needed, at least for new road bridges being constructed by the Boards. In fact, this is not so. New railway or canal construction, which does not happen very often these days, has to be authorised by a Private Bill, and highway authorities can therefore ensure in those cases that any new bridges to be built have adequate strength and width to carry the traffic of the day.

The Boards concerned—the Railways Board, the Waterways Board and the London Board—have been asked to discuss their proposals for strengthening sub-standard bridges with highway authorities, so that any proposals they may have for widening can be carried out at the same time. Discussions have to take place, and this question of widening will be discussed at the same time as the strengthening is discussed. Widening would have to be paid for by the highway authority, but on principal roads it would be considered for a grant of 75 per cent. in the usual way. Before the clause comes into effect the programme of bridge strengthening will be substantially complete, and so there will have been opportunities by then of carrying out any widenings of immediate importance.

I should like to tell noble Lords, that although we cannot help them in statutory form by amending this Bill, discussions are taking place at this moment between the Ministry of Transport and the National Farmers' Union, to see whether a more equitable way of splitting the cost of widening bridges, to make them more suitable for the more sophisticated equipment which is available, can be found. We cannot help in the field of Statute law, but we are trying to help in the field of practical administration. On this basis, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw this Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his reply, particularly for the sentence at the end when he said that the Department is in consultation with the National Farmers' Union over the question of heavy farm equipment. There is an illogicality in the Bill, and I am still not convinced that it is possible to defend the distinction between load bearing and width. But the noble Lord has explained the reasons is why he cannot accept this: that it might add considerably to the financial burden of the Railways Board, in particular; and that no financial provision has been made in the Bill for this expenditure. Therefore having returned once again to this point, and having underlined the importance that we believe it deserves, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 117: Page 149, line 20, at end insert ("46")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if the House agrees, perhaps I may take Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 together. These are Government Amendments which remedy omissions in the references to the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act 1845, and the equivalent Scottish Statute. The present liability of the British Railways Board, the British Waterways Board and the London Transport Board for the maintenance of highway bridges turns on Section 46 of the Act of 1845. That this liability will be augmented by Clause 114 is well understood by all concerned with the Bill, but to avoid any possibility of future argument about what the clause has done it is now thought necessary to add a reference to Section 46 and the equivalent Scottish provision to the other references in subsection (6) of Clause 114. This is purely a technical Amendment, and I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD WINTERBOTTOM: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 118.

Amendment moved— Page 149, line 22, after ("section") insert ("39").—(Lord winterbottom.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 118 [Application of foregoing sections to undertakers other than Railways Board, London Board and Waterways Board]:

LORD WINTERBOTTOM moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 154, line 25, at end insert— ("() Where an order made under subsection (2) or by virtue of subsection (4) of this section applies to all or any of the provisions of section 114 of this Act to any bridge to which that section has not at any previous time applied, paragraphs 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 of Schedule 11 to the Highways Act 1959 (which relate to the apportionment of expenses) shall apply in relation to that bridge as if—

  1. (a) the provisions of the said section 114 so applied were an order to which the said paragraph 15 applies; and
  2. (b) the bridge were such a bridge as is mentioned in the said paragraph 15; and
  3. (c) the highway authorities referred to in those paragraphs of the said Schedule 11 were the highway authority or highway authorities for the highway carried by the bridge;
but if the order made as aforesaid also applies to the bridge all or any of the provisions of section 113 of this Act and the highway carried by or giving access to the bridge has under the provisions of the said section 113 so applied become a highway maintainable at the public expense instead of by the owners of the bridge, then, for the purposes of paragraph (iii) of the proviso to the said paragraph 15, the share of the expense there referred to of those owners shall be increased by an amount equivalent to the amount of any saving to those owners, in consequence of those provisions of the said section 113, of expense in maintaining that highway. ( ) In the application of the last foregoing subsection to Scotland, references therein to paragraphs 15, 16, 18, 19 and 20 of Schedule 11 to the Highways Act 1959, and to paragraph (iii) of the proviso to the said paragraph 15 shall be construed as references to the following provisions respectively of the Bridges Act 1929, namely, sections 6(1), 6(2), 6(3), 7(2) and 15(b) and paragraph (c) of the proviso to the said section 6(1).")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I presume that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, is not moving his Amendment No. 119 because the Government have been attempting to do a little repair work in the same field. We feel—I hope without undue conceit—that with the help at our command we have perhaps done a slightly better repair job than the noble Lord attempted to do with Amendment No. 119. He will remember that criticisms of this clause were made in Committee during the discussion on Amendment No. 283B by himself and on Amendment No. 283C by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. These Amendments were withdrawn following a Government undertaking to look at the questions raised. The Ministry of Transport has subsequently consulted the local authority associations and the associations of docks and river authorities.

Criticism turned mainly on the fact that the bridge owner would be left to bear any costs arising from the imposition of higher standards of maintenance by an order under this clause. This was contrasted with the position when an order is made under Section 99 of the Highways Act 1959. The purpose of this clause is to give the Minister power to take the initiative in making an order to provide for the strengthening or reconstruction of a bridge carrying a highway. Under Section 99 of the Highways Act, he can make such an order only on the application of the bridge owner or the highway authority. When an order is made under Section 99, costs are allocated in accordance with Schedule 11 to the Highways Act. It therefore seems equitable and appropriate to apply the relevant provisions of Schedule 11 to an order under this clause. That is what this Amendment does, with only such modifications as are necessary to meet the different circumstances.

These provisions will apply except where Clause 114 has applied to a bridge at any previous time. Such an exception might arise, for example, if a bridge were transferred to a light railway company after the coming into force of Clause 114, and an order were made under the Light Railways Act 1896 reapplying Clause 114. In that event, the light railway company would have to bear the cost of maintaining the bridge to the standards required by Clause 114. But a light railway company already responsible for a highway bridge will benefit from the Schedule 11 provisions. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wakefield of Kendal, who is so interested in light railways, will read about this particular aid to their activities.

The general effect of the Amendment is that, apart from the exception just mentioned, private bridge owners, to whose bridges the provisions of Clause 114 are applied by order, will not be liable for any costs over and above their present legal liabilities. The additional costs will fall upon the highway authority for the road carried by the bridge, subject to an adjustment if the order also transfers liability for maintenance of the road surface from the bridge owner to the highway authority. I hope the noble Lord opposite will feel that we have met his requirements as best we can. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for explaining the purposes of the new subsection in Amendment No. 120.

As the noble Lord will have observed from to-day's Order Paper, I have withdrawn Amendment No. 119, and this I did because his new clause satisfactorily meets the needs of the river authorities, of the harbour authorities and of the drainage authorities. They all seem quite happy with this solution. As the noble Lord says, there has been a good deal of discussion in the last couple of months on this rather complex matter. This Amendment seems to provide a perfectly satisfactory solution, and I thank the noble Lord for the trouble that he and the Minister of Transport have taken on it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

12.40 p.m.

LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 121: Page 155, line 38, at end insert ("including the owner and occupier of the land for which the crossing is maintained.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, following the discussions on safety at level crossings and also at farm accommodation crossings during the Committee stage on July 22, the Report of the Public Inquiry into the Accident at the Hixon Level Crossing has been published (Cmnd. 3706). The Report recommends, as I urged in the course of our earlier debate, that the time cycle at unattended crossings with half barriers should be extended from 24 seconds to 32 seconds, with 5 seconds amber light warning before the cycle begins. This recommendation has been accepted, and the necessary improvements have been put in hand. It is to be hoped that greater safety, as well as economy, will now result from the introduction of unattended half barriers where public roads cross the railway track.

But the position of the private user, my Lords, remains highly unsatisfactory. After the present programme of rail closures it is calculated that there will be approximately 10,000 private farm level crossings. At a meeting between the Chief Inspector of Railways and representatives of the British Railways Board, the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Farmers' Union in 1963 it was calculated that at about 600 of these crossings some additional protection was needed. At that time it was thought that the cost of connecting a telephone to the nearest signal box would be of the order of £400 on average, and that British Railways might be willing to make a contribution towards this cost. As a result of re-signalling schemes longer distances are now involved, and the most recent estimates for the installation of telephones for this purpose have in some cases been as high as £1,600. That was in 1963: 10,000 farm level crossings in all; and 600 where it was thought that some special protection was needed.

Since then the Ministry of Agriculture has agreed to a 25 per cent. grant towards the cost of safety precaution equipment which is installed by the farmer, and in some instances British Rail have also made a contribution towards this cost. Yet, my Lords, the situation remains one of real—indeed increasing—danger. Trains have become faster and quieter, the costs of warning devices have mounted, and the expenditure which is needed is just beyond the means of most farmers. In any case, I would argue that this is a risk which in all justice should be shared with the Railways Board That this is not denied by the Railways Board is indicated by the fact that in a number of instances contributions have been made. So presumably the principle of contribution has been accepted. We should remember, my Lords, that many of these crossings date from the time when the railways were first built, often severing land holdings into two. The rights of the adjoining landowner or his successors, or the occupier of the adjoining land were recognised in the right of passage across the track, and surely this must mean the right of safe passage?

A number of cases have been investigated recently where safety devices have been the subject of negotiation between owners or tenants of adjoining land and the Railways Board. The figures I have—I think these have been made available to the noble Lord, or certainly to the Ministry of Transport—are very disquieting. In only one-third of the cases investigated had a satisfactory financial settlement been achieved (generally 50–50) between the farmer and the Railways Board. In another one-third of the cases the Railways Board were unable to make any contribution at all; and in the balance the contribution required from the farmer was beyond his resources. So it is clear that on a large number of crossings there is a need for additional safety precautions; and yet we know from these statistics that those safety precautions have not been installed in every instance—indeed, not in the majority of instances.

This matter has been viewed so seriously by the National Farmers' Union that on September 23 they called on the Minister of Transport to give his urgent personal attention to the problem of safety at farm crossings. Perhaps I may quote to your Lordships an extract from the statement made by the National Farmers' Union, who regard this matter as one of great importance. On September 23 they said as follows: The Union has come to the conclusion that only by Government directive and assistance can we hope to reduce the risk of collisions between express passenger trains and farm machinery at many of the 10,000 private crossings that are expected to remain after British Rail's line closure programme is complete. Having just completed an analysis of the report of the Hixon public road level crossing accident, the National Farmers' Union believes that many of the observations and recommendations it contains are equally relevant in the case of farm crossings—we have examples where as little as 11 seconds' warning is allowed from the time a 90 m.p.h. express train comes into sight to its arrival at a crossing over which farm machinery may be moving at no more than 10 m.p.h.

No one wants to add to the costs of British Rail—this is what we have just been debating on bridges—but I suggest that the balance between economy and safety is the hardest of all, and perhaps the most important of all, to strike. My belief is that the Bill as it is now drafted is too narrow, and that the protection of the public which is already contained in Clause 121 should be extended to cover private individuals where their land adjoins the track. Make no mistake about it, my Lords: there are increasing dangers here. A collision between a fast-moving passenger train and farm machinery could have results as disastrous as the Hixon incident. We have therefore proposed a carefully worded Amendment that on page 155, in line 38, there should be added the words: including the owner and occupier of the land for which the crossing is maintained".

My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I think that neither side of the House nor the Railways Board is insensitive to this problem. It is obviously a problem of real importance. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, mentioned the Hixon accident, but in point of fact quite recently, on September 29, there was a fatal accident which I think is much more significant than the Hixon one because it is the sort of thing we are talking about. This was a case where there was a cart-track type of road serving a farm, and, as usual at these crossings, it was unmanned and guarded by gates opening away from the railway. The gates would normally have been kept locked by the farmer but the key had been lost and the gates had been left unlocked. What happened was this. Four people in a car on their way back from a dance used this crossing in preference to two nearby manned crossings. The driver left the car to open the gates; the car was in the middle of the track and all three occupants were killed. This illustrates the sort of accident we are talking about. It is a subject that we have to treat very seriously.

But again there is this problem of balancing the desirability of creating the maximum safety on crossings of this type and the financial burden that would be placed on the railways if the railways carried the whole burden. If I may, I will read the exact Government attitude and then make one further point subsequently. I hope noble Lords will bear with me.

The purpose of Clause 121 is to empower the Minister to require the Railways Board to provide increased protection at level crossings where the railway crosses private occupation roads. In many cases these roads have, over the years, come to carry an increasing volume of traffic, and they have become, to all intents and purposes, public crossings. We think it right, therefore, that in certain cases the protection given to the public should be increased beyond what is historically and statutorily imposed on the Board. And in these cases, of course, the owner and occupier of the land would benefit just as much as the rest of the public from the improved safety measures.

But the position is different where the use of a level crossing is still entirely private; for example, where it is used entirely by an individual farmer. We do not see that on these crossings the Railways Board should be made liable to additional obligations. The Board have an obligation for the safety of their passengers, and we think that it should still be—as it is now—for the landowner to come to a mutually agreeable financial understanding with the Board for the provision of whatever additional safeguards are considered necessary. One is certain that the Railways Board will be reasonable because, assuming their responsibility for the passengers they carry, should a train hit a heavy farm vehicle the train may be derailed and substantial damage may be done to the passengers for whom the railways are responsible.

The noble Lord pointed out during the Committee stage and again to-day that it was rarely possible for such an agreement to be reached. This is a point which was put to my right honourable friend on September 23 by the National Farmers' Union. Their representations have influenced him and he intends, therefore, to discuss once more with the Railways Board and the N.F.U. ways and means by which the farmers and the Board can reach some standard basis of cost allocation. In fact, a letter went to the N.F.U. dated October 4 initiating these discussions. This again is a case where in the field of writing something into the Bill we feel we cannot do much to help, but in administrative terms we are seriously trying to meet the wishes of the N.F.U. for cost-sharing in what we agree is a most important field.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, in his answer goes some of the way, and meets in principle the substance of the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Windlesham. But I do not feel entirely happy with it because it does not do what I think it ought to do. I do not think the railways ought to be required to carry all the cost. My noble friend referred to the origins of these crossings. Most of them date from the days when the railways were first built when, in order to negotiate with the landowners or the farmers concerned, it was necessary to concede a crossing for each farm where the farm was divided. This was done for the convenience of the farmer on the one hand, and the arrangements made were such as were safe from the point of view of the railways in terms of the division and speed of trains.

But my noble friend rightly made the point that conditions to-day have altered considerably. The trains move much faster, they are much quieter, the signals are further away and so on. If we compare this situation with the building of a new motorway, I think we begin to get the picture into perspective. When a new motorway is built to-day inevitably it cuts through farm land; but where a farm is severed and it is essential to maintain the connection either a bridge or a tunnel is built. That is paid for out of public funds, on the Vote of the Minister of Transport—which is the proper place for it. I am quite sure that if the railways were being built a fresh to-day this would happen.

I do not for a moment say that 10,000 accommodation crossings will be conceded. I do not think that will be justified. But where they were considered to be justified, I am certain they would not be open crossings; they would be either bridges over the top or tunnels underneath, and they would be paid for out of public funds. Therefore I think the sense of this Amendment is correct; that although the railways have some of obligation in the matter undoubtedly the Minister and the public funds have some obligations as well. It is not going to be a sound solution to say that in cases where the crossings are entirely private and the public get no benefit out of it, arrangements must be made between British Railways and the farmer or landowner. This throws too big a financial burden on the railways and naturally, straitened as they are, they will not be able in every case to make the offer generous enough for the average farmer to be able to pay his share. My noble friend cogently made the point that the farmer's share, because the whole thing costs so much more, will often be quite large; it could be £500 or £1,000, which would be beyond his means.

I feel that this Amendment is right in principle. The Minister of Transport really must accept that he has an obligation here. The kind of settlement that ought to come out of it is probably to extinguish a number of these private crossings; but for those that remain the Minister should accept his share of the responsibility to put matters into a condition of safety in whatever way is necessary, so that the burden does not fall upon the railways. I would ask the noble Lord to address himself to this particular point which is what we are putting to him. This is really the substance of what we are asking for.


My Lords, I will undertake to make certain that the views of this House are referred to the Minister and to the N.F.U. before they start discussions in this field.

If the House will forgive me, may I interrupt proceedings to say that my noble friend wishes to make a Statement before one o'clock.

House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.