HL Deb 17 November 1977 vol 387 cc704-22

4.6 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN rose to move, That this House approves the Code contained in pages 6 to 45 of the Highway Code, laid before the House on 20th July. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this afternoon we are considering the fruits of a very long labour. The present version of the Highway Code was published in February 1969. During debates in this House and in another place before approval was given for its publication, noble Lords and Members were critical of the lack of opportunity given to them to express their views at a time which could have influenced the drafting of the Code. The Government of the day gave an assurance that such an opportunity would be provided before the Code was next revised.

In accordance with this assurance in January 1975, the Government published a Green Paper entitled, A Proposed New Highway Code. This served as a basis for our considerations and also for widespread consultation with interested organisations and members of the public. The Department of Transport prepared an amended draft of the Code in the light of the comments received on the Green Paper. This was included in the Paper for Parliamentary debate which your Lordships considered in December last year and which was also debated in another place in November last year.

When I opened the debate in this House, I explained the main changes in the text noble Lords then had before them—as compared with the text of the published Code and the earlier drafts. I am sure that your Lordships would not wish me to go over that ground again. Those noble Lords, who were present on that occasion—and I see many who were—will recall that we had a very full discussion. Many sensible and helpful points were made during the debate. Afterwards I wrote to those noble Lords whose suggestions I had not been able to deal with during our debate. I explained what we proposed to do about them. The Code that we are considering today—the final text at last—will therefore contain no surprises to Members of this House.

We have not, of course, changed the text to reflect all the points that were made in the last year's debates. That would have been impossible. The Code as you now see it has been influenced by a long and widespread process of consultation. All those points raised by your Lordships were carefully considered. We have accepted many of the amendments suggested here and in another place and incorporated them in the text now before your Lordships' House. Inevitably, my Lords, we received many contradictory suggestions, and also many, which, although sound in themselves were not suitable for the Highway Code. I hope noble Lords will agree that our purpose today is not to debate points of detail—we have already done that—but to decide whether the new Highway Code should now be published.

There are, however, several other general points that I should like to make. There has been widespread and strong criticism of the cumbersome nature of the process for revising the Highway Code. This stems mainly from the need to obtain Parliamentary approval for any alteration to the main body of the Code, however small it may be. I said last year that the Government would consider how best to change this. Legislation would be needed to make any substantial amendment to the procedure, and we shall need to await an opportunity for this. There is however one small change that it is proposed to make now. We are being asked this afternoon to approve the Code between pages 6 and 45 of the document we have before us. Noble Lords will notice that this does not include the sections on traffic signs, signals and markings which are dealt with between pages 46 and 60. The corresponding part of the existing Code is in the body of the text approved by Parliament.

The signs illustrated in this section are only a selection of the more important signs in common use. It has been found during the life of the current Code that it would be desirable to vary the selection of important signs from time to time in order to keep the information in the Code up to date. The signs in this section—and any others that might be selected—already have the force of law because they are prescribed in regulations or are authorised for use in special circumstances. There is therefore no change in the degree of Parliament's control over traffic signs; the only difference will be that in future the selection of signs and markings shown in the Code can be altered to reflect the changing pattern and uses of different signs.

During our earlier debate several noble Lords asked about the price at which the Code will be sold. You will see that on the front cover of the copy now before us the price is shown as "nought pence". This does not, I am afraid, mean that they will be given away free. It means that until Parliament has approved the new Code, and the Stationery Office has obtained tenders for the bulk printing, the price cannot be determined. It is clear that the new version will cost more than the 15 pence which is the latest price of the current versions, but I do assure noble Lords that the increase will be kept as small as possible. In our earlier debate I said between 15p and 50p, and I have no reason to change my mind now, and hope that it will be nearer the 15p than the 50p.

We have waited a long time for the new Highway Code; many of your Lordships would say too long. When we laid the Code before Parliament in July, we hoped that it would be published by now; but unfortunately it was not possible to find time for debate before the summer recess. In commending the new Highway Code to your Lordships I would say it is our hope that, subject to the approval of your Lordships and of another place, it will be on sale to the public very early next year. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House approves the Code contained in pages 6 to 45 of the Highway Code, laid before the House on 20th July.— (Baroness Stednian.)

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that other noble Lords in this House will join me in complimenting the noble Baroness and her Department on the way in which this whole matter has been handled and on her admirable introduction of this Highway Code today. If one examines the new Highway Code it is clear that, as she has said, many of the constructive suggestions made by Members of this House and by Members in another place have been adopted. The long labour which she mentioned has, in my opinion, been successful. The Highway Code in its completed form also owes a great deal to the various voluntary organisations in the field of road safety; the RAC, the AA, RoSPA, and other such bodies. I am sure that your Lordships will wish to join me in paying tribute to the selfless and dedicated work of these organisations.

There are one or two specific points that I should like to make about the new Highway Code. First, there is the point raised by my honourable friend, Mr. Norman Fowler, in another place. He pointed out that, under the present law, any 17 year-old can walk out, buy a motor cycle, a pair of L plates and a provisional licence. He can put the licence in his pocket and the L plates on his motor cycle, and drive straight off. I realise that it is not practical at the moment to make pre-road training for motor cyclists compulsory. En large areas of the country the necessary facilities do not exist. But surely everything possible ought to be done to encourage new motor cyclists to take such training. Excellent schemes exist. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the training programme organised under the auspices of the RAC/ACU. Frankly, I think that it is regrettable that the opportunity was not taken to mention this and other schemes in the new guide.

Another point concerns horses. The section of the new Code dealing with children is admirably written. For instance, drivers are instructed to take great care when passing near ice cream vans because children are much more interested in ice cream than they are in road safety. That is a very true observation, and because of the pithy form in which it is expressed in the Code it stays in the mind.

The British Field Sports Society suggested a form of words to advise motorists how to behave in the presence of horses. As you may remember, I read out their proposed draft when we were debating the Green Paper. I think I probably agree that their draft was too long for inclusion in the Code, but one sentence in particular stayed in my mind: Remember that the horse is an animal of spirit, and that your car is a machine within the competence of human control". I am not suggesting that this is quite as memorable as the point about children and ice cream vans, but it is unfortunate that it is not possible somehow to include it in the new Code.

Of course, my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth certainly had a point when he drew attention in the last debate to the great length of the new Highway Code. In its present form, the Highway Code is taking on more and more of the dimensions of a manual and losing those of a pocket book which is easy of reference. Frankly, I do not know how we can deal with this problem. I cannot think of anything in the new Code which ought to be excluded. I have already suggested two points which I think ought to have been included, and I am sure that other noble Lords will draw attention to further points in the course of the debate.

There was a time no doubt when it was possible to summarise the Highway Code in two or three sentences so that a motor car could proceed at a maximum of four miles per hour behind a man with a red flag, but there have been some developments in motoring since, and today we require rather greater length. I have one suggestion which might go some way to meeting my noble friend's point. It is to provide an index at the end of the Highway Code. Although there is an excellent summary of contents at the beginning, and full cross-referencing throughout the text, it may be that an index would be of use.

We know that the evidence suggests that, if seat belt wearing levels could be raised from 30 per cent. to 90 per cent. we could anticipate the prevention of the order of 1,000 deaths and 12,000 serious bodily injuries per year. I should like to agree and to draw attention to the fact that the section on seat belts in the guide is admirably expressed, and I would commend it to every motorist in the land.

I have just three small points to mention before I sit down. First, can the noble Baroness advise us as to whether she or her Department have come to any decision about the method of adopting further changes in the Highway Code? The suggestion was made that the Negative Resolution procedure might be used. There are obviously difficulties here. We might feel that changes under this procedure would deprive us of the opportunity to discuss the Code in its entirety. Also, there might be difficulty in establish ing exactly what the Highway Code said for legal purposes. Although the Code does not have the force of law, magistrates might reasonably be reluctant to bring in a conviction if a motorist or his solicitor could claim that the offence occurred simply because the driver's edition of the Highway Code was three months out of date.

Secondly, has the noble Baroness any further proposals on the vexed question of encouraging motorists actually to read the Code, which is surely the crux of the matter? However splendid a Code we produce, the whole exercise becomes totally pointless if it is merely another of the great unread classics. In the Green Paper debate I suggested that motor manufacturers should be required to issue a copy of the Highway Code along with the car instruction manual and that the police should be empowered to make a motorist produce his copy of the Highway Code as well as his driving licence and certificate of insurance, but of course none of this would ensure that the Code was read. The third point I was going to raise, about the cost of the new Code, the noble Baroness has answered. I have been slightly guilty of disobeying the noble Baroness's injunction not to mention details, but I thought it worth while to point out these items again to record my advice just in case it might become incorporated in any revised edition. In the meantime, I thoroughly endorse the Code and commend it to your Lordships.

4.22 p.m.

The Earl of DENBIGH

My Lords, I apologise for joining the fray so late in the debate. I was not present for the 9th December debate, although I read the report of it in Hansard and discovered that nearly every point I would have raised was raised by those who took part. I compliment everyone who took part in that debate, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, who handled it so competently, especially as this is a very emotive subject and we all have different views, some rather radical, about what should be included. However, it is a Code and if it covered all the legal points required of a motorist it would run to many volumes.

Driving is a skill and not a gift. Some years ago I achieved a certain amount of success as a racing driver. Unfortunately the same amount of effort applied to learning the piano has not done quite so well. As I say, I believe it is a skill, and something that has been overlooked—this is possibly not the moment to mention it—is that the driving test is fundamentally too easy and is not a true enough test of skill; that is why there are so many accidents. But that is not part of this debate and I will keep to a couple of points.

I echo what my noble friend Lord Mowbray and Stourton said about the wearing of seat belts, especially in view of the figures; namely, that more than 1,000 lives per year as a minimum could be saved. It seems extraordinary that this valuable piece of advice is stuck away in Rule 28 in only one small sentence. More prominence should have been given to something so important, and it should have been dealt with in large letters.

Coming to Rule 29, I speak as a motorcyclist who arrived at your Lordships' House today on a motorbike and, hopefully, will depart on one later. It says in Rule 29 that motorcyclists should wear light coloured or reflective clothing, and while I wholeheartedly endorse that, one addition could have been made—something which has become quite common practice—and that is the use of the main lights on motorbikes during daylight hours. I have been nearly sideswiped a couple of times and I recall the driver of one vehicle who nearly took me off saying, "Thank goodness you had your lights on. I hadn't seen you". That would be an important step forward which could be taken.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton mentioned sundry driving schemes and I believe the Government have come up with a new scheme. I am not certain whether it is compulsory, but I believe it should be, and presumably it could be done by a form in the logbook at the back of a provisional licence. However, I do not see how that would get by the rule which allows a car licence holder to drive a moped which has single gears up to 50 cc, yet they are possibly the people who need more education about motorcycles than people starting to ride for the first time.

I agree that the Highway Code should be quite long; as I say, driving is a complex matter and as the roads become more congested it becomes more complex. I do not see how the Code could be made any shorter and it covers fairly comprehensively most situations that are likely to arise for the poor motorist. I should have liked to have seen a section showing the most common causes of accidents with approximate percentages. New drivers reading the Code—these are the people it is mostly aimed at—are presented with some 185 rules with numerous subsections and they are bound to be a little confused, in spite of what their driving instructors (who, after all, are mainly concerned with getting them through the driving test) have told them about the most hazardous situations they will face.

If a section showed that turning right was infinitely more dangerous than turning left, which I believe to be the case, people might take more care when turning right compared with turning left. However, it is a bit late in the day to bring that up. I hope the Highway Code will be regularly revised and that we shall have an opportunity to discuss it at some time in the not too distant future. I would simply add that the Highway Code is an invaluable addition to road safety, provided, of course, it is read.

4.27 p.m.

The Earl of LYTTON

My Lords, in company with the noble Earl, Lord Denbigh, I too apologise for joining in the fray so late in the day. I shall endeavour to confine my criticisms not to points of detail that cannot be changed; if I do, I will refer to them quickly. The Highway Code is a substantial and difficult document. My last child, a girl of 18, is now taking driving lessons and I think she will have a great task in assimilating it. I do not complain about the quantity, just that it is not well arranged. It is in parts confusing, in parts deficient and in parts wrong.

I will deal first with one that is wrong. The cover shows the correct crossing of a roundabout when going forward. However, that is totally contradicted by a most dangerous illustration on page 27, which certainly does not show two separate lanes. It shows double banking on a single lane crossing, and that is one of the worst habits in summer time when traffic is coming in both directions; one gets queue-jumping at the roundabout and because traffic coming in the opposite direction leaves no room for two lines of traffic, there is cutting in and jostling at the end of it. The picture is wrong. There is not so much wrong with the statement, just that the picture is wrong and in contradiction to the cover, which is right.

Secondly, consider the instructions that are given. They are obviously the composition of many people; there are jaunty and peremptory instructions to cyclists and, in other cases, suave advice. There is complete confusion throughout the document about what is and what is not the rule. Mandatory warnings and advisory comments are all so confused that one does not know which is which. What action, if one does not comply with the rule, breaks the law, but may be taken into account if one has an accident and goes before the magistrates? And what is merely good advice? It is not possible to distinguish. The noble Earl who has just spoken referred to fluorescent clothing. I am a cyclist myself. I have done my 40, 60, 100 miles a day, and I am, with difficulty, taking it up again owing to the cost of petrol. What is my duty if I come to this House on a bicycle? Must I wear fluorescent clothing? Is that mandatory, advisory, or what? That is the kind of situation which proliferates. I give it only as an example.

There are matters which are omitted. Flashing lights are referred to. I think that the only legitimate signal they indicate is. "I am here", but in practice flashing lights are used for two different signals, and that ought to be dealt with. One is: "I am here, get out of my way". I am not saying what ought to happen, but what does happen. The other use of flashing lights is where an oncoming motorist intends to pull up and give priority to another motorist, and his signal of flashing lights means: "I give way; come on". Everybody knows that, but it is not referred to. It is no good giving an order as to what should be done unless one condemns as wrong what is a common practice.

I have a whole list of minor items. There is a total omission so far as speedometers are concerned. Speed is the greatest killer. I cannot find any instruction about the assistance of having a speedometer.

Almost everything else in the car is mentioned, but not the speedometer. I am among the 80 per cent. who try to drive within the legal speed limit. My eye is constantly on the speedometer. I do not believe that, with the variations of speed from motorways to country lanes, it is possible to keep within the speed limits unless the speedometer is in good order. After being on a motorway for some time, it is only too easy to think that a speed of 45 miles an hour is only 30 miles an hour. You look at your speedometer and see with horror the pace at which you are going. I am sure that everybody knows this.

There is a small item about stopping distance, under, I think, Rule 47, where the rule of thumb is expressed in yards, but the table immediately afterwards is in feet. This is a very minor matter, but it involves the kind of confusion that ought to be eliminated. Perhaps all the distances should be expressed in metres and millimetres. One is told in Rule 2 that it is safer to walk on the right of the road if one is a foot passenger. According to Rule 140, it is the duty of a horse rider to ride on the left. The opposite used to be the case. I do not know whether it should be said that it is safer to walk on the right of the road. Why tell the pedestrian that he is safer walking facing the traffic on the right, and then tell the horseman that he must go on the left without mentioning whether or not he is safer in that position? I am sure that these points have been argued before, and I do not want to dwell on them, but there is a contradiction between those two rules.

I came here with a special feeling of urgency regarding the horseman, and here I join with the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton. He said that he wished that something further had been said about the horse. I think that the entire section of the Code dealing with animals has been badly handled, and what should be done in the case of different classes of animals is not adequately explained. Is it possible that point could be introduced, briefly stating that respect for the horseman is a duty upon the motorist? The only point I have seen regarding this—I think it is in Rule 140—relates to a duty on the man in charge of a horse to control his horse in traffic. That is wrong; that is bias of the wrong kind. That cannot be insisted upon.

I should like to give an illustration here. I went to ride in the Coronation Procession, and I was to be nine hours in the saddle. I took over a black gelding from the Queen's Bays. A friend of mine who had trained it, said to me: This animal is not a beauty, but we guarantee that it is quiet. We have had massed bands marching past it, and it doesn't turn a hair. That animal was quiet until it got to Birdcage Walk. I went all over that part of London that day, and from that time onwards it was disturbed by something for which it had not been trained—the clapping and cheering of children. It jigged for nine hours. It never stopped jigging. I went backwards down Whitehall, and sideways along the Victoria Embankment. It was not my fault; it was not the fault of the Queen's Bays.

There should be a rule in the Code to make the motorist give way to the horseman. This summer, I have watched several riders—on one occasion it happened three times in one day—waiting and waiting to cross a tourist road where nobody bothered to let them through. When I stopped to let them through they were so nearly asleep that I had to shout, "Wake up! Your chance has come". And over they went.

Here, I must declare an interest. I have two daughters, and two young animals which they are training. We live in a built-up area near Crawley, and I am rather shocked at the disrespect shown to horses these days. Let us bear in mind that there are now more horsemen than there are football players. The horse is coming back—and a good thing too. One uses up energy which is renewable for ever and ever.

4.37 p.m.

Viscount MONCK

My Lords, what a Code! It has 70 pages, some of them in extremely small print. This has been referred to already by two noble Lords, so I had better confess at once that I am personally responsible for the inclusion of no fewer than 11 extra words, as compared with the prototype Code which we discussed in December. These words concern a point which I raised at the time; namely, that there was no mention of learner drivers not being allowed on motorways. After a somewhat unfavourable early reception, it has been agreed by the powers-that-be that something should be included, and so there are two words extra in one place in the Code and nine in another. Having apologised for that extra length for which I was responsible, I should say that I am very grateful that that inclusion has been made.

I made several suggestions on 9th December, and in the middle of February I received a letter from the noble Baroness. I have the letter here. It is couched in beautiful grammar, with impeccable punctuation, and it is set out with the kindly courtesy that one has become accustomed to expect from her. But as I expected, the noble Baroness and her minions threw out virtually everything that I had said, on some excuse or another. But there was one suggestion that I had made which she did not mention in her letter, but which has been complied with in the new version. In December I referred to the fact that in the Code we were then discussing, the illustration of the red light was not red at all. I think that I referred to it as an anaemic-looking dot. I am now delighted to see that the noble Baroness has persuaded Her Majesty's Stationery Office to print every red light in the most brilliant red that anyone ever saw, and she is to be congratulated upon getting the Stationery Office to do that.

My Lords, in her letter the noble Baroness talks about my suggestion that there should be incorporated in the Highway Code the fact that "L" drivers are not allowed on motorways. She says that they are looking into the possibility of doing that, but adds that it is included in the full list given in "The law's demands". I also made another suggestion, and that was that, where it says that small motorcycles are not allowed on motorways, then, for the sake of the poor motorcyclist, it should be defined what is and what is not a small motorcycle. In regard to that, the noble Baroness said: I see no need, however, to define a small motorcycle in this rule since this is already done in 'The law's demands '". My Lords, I had no inkling what "The law's demands" were until the other day, when I found them in this new document. If any of your Lordships have a copy and turn to page 61, it will be seen that there is a large heading "The law's demand" and that underneath there are listed no fewer than 23 Acts and regulations. If that means that, for anything which is not itemised in the Code, if you are not a Member of your Lordships' House or of another place then you have got to buy 23 Acts and regulations, nobody is going to do it, so you will not know where you are. It is too late to alter anything now, but, together with something I am just going to mention, perhaps that can be I thought of next time, as to what is or what is not a small motorcycle.

Now for the future. This is—and other noble Lords have said the same thing—a very long document. It appears from past history that we shall not have a revised one for another eight or nine years, by which time the noble Baroness will probably not be where she is now. She might be Chancellor of the Exchequer; she might be Prime Minister; she might even be sitting on the Benches over here. We do not know. But possibly in her Department there is a file in which this suggestion could be fossilised for reference when the next Highway Code is produced. My suggestion, which concerns shortness—this document really is too long for all and sundry to read—is that there should be three separate little documents, one for the motorist, one for the cyclist and one for the pedestrian. I think that would make it more certain that people would read what applies to them.

4.43 p.m.


My Lords, this is too good an opportunity not to intervene with one or two small points, but I have warned my noble friend that I will be brief. In the first place, there is reference to the pelican crossing, and I would implore my noble friend to ask her Department to look again—we have raised this before—at the fact that it is virtually impossible for blind persons to get across a pelican crossing before the light stops flashing. They have to wait for the indication; they have to wait for the sound. I have tested several of these crossings, and, though I move very smartly across the road, in most cases it is virtually impossible to get totally across the road before the lights revert to green. Most motorists are very reasonable about this, and I notice the injunction is: Do not harass pedestrians by revving your engines". But there is always the kind of motorist who will take notice of something only if it is absolutely mandatory, and I would ask my noble friend and her Department to look at this. Pelican crossings are in great use now, and they certainly do not give enough time for a disabled person, or indeed an elderly person, to get across.

In relation to the sign for the disabled, I would again ask my noble friend if she will look at the fact that there seems to be a curiously informal method of issuing these signs. It is very tempting to have a badge on the back which says "Disabled" if you get special parking facilities, even though you may carry dear Aunt Mabel (who, it is true, is disabled) only about once a year. There is no doubt about it—and, again I have recently had letters from doctors—that there is a misuse of this label. It is a very valuable label, intended for people who are disabled and for no one else, as I understand it, unless you are regularly carrying a disabled passenger. I would hope that the Department will look at this, though in fact the badges appear to be issued through the Department of Health and Social Services. I was very interested to see that, in this booklet, we have nice clear print until we come to "The law's demands", when for some reason it is written much smaller. This is probably to help those who come before us in the courts to say, "I could not really read that part of it, and therefore I was not quite sure whether I was breaking the law or not".

Finally, my Lords, on theft. There are several references in here to the car when it is in motion, but, of course, a car also has to be stationary, and more and more have cars to be put into car parks. One of the suggestions in here about the prevention of theft, which is reasonable, says: Lock valuables in the boot if you cannot take them with you". I am very sorry to tell my noble friend that I have had three cases in the last week in which people have done just that, have locked their valuables in the boot of their car, have left the car in a multi-storey car park and, when they have returned, have found the valuables taken. The car park authorities absolve themselves of all responsibility, and the police are unable to act; but the fact remains that here is a new area of theft. I would therefore ask that car parks, which are now very much part of the motorist's life, should also in some way be subject to some kind of investigation—jurisdiction, if you like, or legislation. There is a curious informality even about the kind of people who are able to set these up, and I feel that motorists, if they are paying quite high prices to park their cars, deserve some kind of protection. I am delighted to have this Code. I hope it is going to be very reasonably priced because it should be in the hands, not only of every motorist but of every pedestrian, too.

4.47 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I am most grateful to those Members who have taken part in our discussion this afternoon, and for the way in which the new Highway Code has been received. I should like to follow the last remark made by my noble friend Lady Phillips by saying that the Highway Code is not intended merely for learner drivers; it is not intended merely for motorcyclists; it is not intended merely for cyclists and it is not intended merely for pedestrians. There is something in the Highway Code which is the affair and the concern of each one of us, whatever our form of transport, whether it be two legs, two wheels, four wheels, or even a horse. This is something which we hope all sections of the community will look at and will try to make part of their general reading.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, came back to the point of training for young motorcyclists. I am sure he knows that the Department are concerned about the increasing accident rate among young motorcyclists, and we are going to run a publicity campaign next year which will be aimed at new riders and will encourage them to be trained. We already send out leaflets which mention the RAC scheme to all first applicants for a provisional licence to drive a motorcycle. Any other helpful suggestions which noble Lords can make which will enable us to get at these young people, and get them properly trained and taught how to handle their machines, we shall receive most gratefully.

We have not yet decided on the final or precise form of changes in the procedure for revising the Code. As I said when I was introducing the order it is a matter needing some legislative time, which we have not got; but we hope to be able to bring in some sensible means of revising the Code without having to go to all the trouble that we have had to go to this time.

There will be a publicity campaign to encourage drivers to use the Code as soon as the new version is published. The status of the Code in law—a point referred to by several noble Lords—is explained at the bottom of page 5. I apologise to my noble friend Lady Phillips: it is in very small print. Then, at the end we have the section on "The law's demands". I am sorry, but if the noble Viscount, Lord Monck, had gone on a little further than all these Acts of Parliament he would have seen that they are detailed (again in small print) on the following four or five pages. He need not buy all the Acts of Parliament. We tell him the section that is relevant.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, referred to publicity. We are using television and we shall be using the Press and leaflets and so on and shall give what publicity is possible once the new Code is published. We have arranged for certain short television films to come on and perhaps we can take up some of the points that noble Lords have made about aiming a short film at a specific group of people concerned with using the Code. I am sorry that the noble Earl, Lord Denbigh, was not here to join us in our major debate but we appreciate his comments this afternoon. We accept that driving is a skill and I made a note of his comments on the driving test. It is not absolutely relevant to the matter of the Highway Code, but we shall certainly have a look at it in the Department and see whether we can take up any of his points.

On the question of seat belts, we had two forays into this field last year, neither of them very successful. I accept that perhaps we have not given as much emphasis to seat belts as we might have done, but until this House and another place have made up their minds on them it is difficult for us to place a tremendous amount of emphasis on the matter, whatever may be our Departmental or personal views. The noble Earl referred to Rule 29; and here I must declare an interest. Strange as it may seem, I, too, ride a moped—not to this House but to the station to get me to the House. I hope I ride it competently and I am usually wearing something light so as to be seen. I have noticed the greater use of main lights in daylight hours. Personally, I should have thought it was a sensible thing to do. Certainly, we will look at it to see whether, perhaps at some future time, we can issue some advice on that subject.

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, was also, unfortunately, not here at our earlier debate but I was grateful for his contribution. He was a little concerned about which of our instructions were mandatory and which advisory. We have prefaced all the mandatory ones by the word "must"—you must do this or you must do that—as well as detailing what are the law's demands at the end of the Code. I accept his comments that there are certain private or public codes of flashing lights which seem to have grown up over the country which seem to imply certain messages to other drivers; but I must again point out that we deplore the use of flashing lights except as detailed in the Code.

The question about speedometers, I must confess, has taken me by surprise. I cannot answer that question at the moment. If the noble Earl will forgive me, I will write to him after I have had discussions on it. On the question of publicity about horse-riders, again, we had a very long discussion about this at the earlier stage. I hope that we have got it right this time and that it is something that horse-riders, those leading horses and those riding machines or walking will take note of. I noted the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Monck, as to why we could not have a shorter Code, or three Codes, one for motorists, one for cyclists and one for pedestrians. One always assumes that, one day, the pedestrian may progress to two or four wheels and the cyclist to a car. I believe that it is much better to have a general picture available for all to see.


My Lords, may I emphasise one point which the noble Baroness mentioned about horses and horse-riding? I should like to say that, although I and my family have no personal interest, I knew three people very well who are now dead because motorists or lorry drivers, as the case may have been, did not behave in a sensible manner when passing those friends when they were on horses. My friends are now dead. I can give the noble Baroness their names later, if she wishes. I speak from sincere personal feelings.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. This is one of the things that we might try to include in our television or Press publicity in order to give more emphasis to it. The noble Viscount, Lord Monck, referred to the fact that we had tried to deal with all his points. Our aim at the Department of Transport is to please. The noble Viscount has two letters and he has also now got good strong red lights in this Code. I hope that that means he will accept that we take notice of any comments made in this House.

My noble friend Lady Phillips referred to pelican crossings and to blind people. 1, too, have had this problem brought to me so I know that there are difficulties about it. I shall certainly ask the Department to look at the timing mechanism and see what guidance they can give to local authorities in the use or, perhaps, the alteration of pelican crossings. Also, we all of us deplore this misuse of "disabled" symbols. As my noble friend said, this is something rather difficult to deal with. The DHSS, the local authorities and all kinds of people are involved. We urge people not to use the "disabled" symbol when they are not themselves disabled or driving disabled people. It is very wrong that fit and well people should be driving around, taking advantage of the special parking spaces and facilities as if they were persons who were disabled.

I also noted the point made by my noble friend about thefts from car parks. This, again, is not strictly within the purview of the Highway Code except that we do advise people to lock articles in their boots; and now, apparently, things vanish from boots. It is something that we must ask my right honourable friend to look at again to see whether we can give any other advice and perhaps consult with those Departments concerned.

My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which everybody has received the order. I hope that it has the same sort of passage in another place and that we shall soon see it printed and in general distribution.

On Question, Motion agreed to.