HL Deb 23 July 1980 vol 412 cc459-81

6.27 p.m.

The Earl of K1NNOULL

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This somewhat quaintly titled Bill, which comes from another place, is in essence primarily concerned with road safety. It is, of course, a subject that the House takes very seriously and I am delighted to see that a number of other noble Lords have indicated that they will be taking part in the Second Reading debate. I very much hope that they are in support of the Bill.

The Bill follows a provisional power granted by Parliament in 1974 under Section 17 of the Road Traffic Act, which allowed the Minister of Transport to install humps on public highways—on an experimental, temporary basis—up to a period of one year to test whether this means of speed control was an effective means of reducing road accidents. The House will know that immediately after that Act the Ministry set up nine experimental sites—eight in England and one in Scotland—in collaboration with the area traffic authorities. The results of the first five sites were evaluated by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, and its findings were published in an excellent report last year. Copies of that report are in the Library.

The clear conclusion of those evaluation tests of the five experimental sites—two in London, one in Norwich, one in Oxford and one in Glasgow—showed that humps, properly designed and sited in residential areas, with proper road signs, are an effective way of increasing road safety. Vehicle speeds are reduced, more care is taken by drivers and, as a side issue, noise levels are reduced; and although accident changes are complex, the conclusions reached in that report stated that the road casualties in the immediate area fell by 61 per cent.

The experience of these five experimental sites has led the area road authori- ties, and indeed local residents in residential areas, to support permanent powers being granted as against, at the moment, only experimental powers to install these road humps at appropriate locations, and not have only temporary humps—after they have really proved their worth—withdrawn, as is laid down under Section 17 of the 1974 Act. This is a very small, important enabling Bill. It seeks to achieve that simple purpose.

Clause 1 would empower the highway authorities to construct, maintain or remove humps. I would add that this means that the humps would in future be treated as a highway. So if drivers ignore the warning signs, the very clear warning signs before these humps, and drive at speed over the humps and damage their cars, the authority would not be liable for misfeasance or obstruction or damage to the car. Also under Clause 1(2) the House will have noticed that the GLC's consent would be required before any London borough could construct a hump. I should explain that the GLC is the traffic authority in the area. Finally, under Clause 1 the House will have noticed the definition of "road hump". It means in the Bill either an artificial hump or a depression. In other words it could be a hump or an 'ump!

Clause 2 repeats the Minister's powers that at present exist under Section 17 of the 1974 Act. It repeats the provision for protection of the humps, including the responsibility for their maintenance by the highway authority. It differs from Section 17 by allowing the Minister to hand over the humps, as I have already said, on a long-term basis, particularly if they have proved successful in their experimental stage.

Clause 3 empowers the Minister to make regulations. This is obviously a most important clause in the Bill. This would specify the types of humps, the types of highway, the specification of the physical features of the humps, their design, and the warning signs. It is intended. I understand, that only designs of humps which have had a tested criterion or specification would be authorised. Clause 4 lays down the important duty of both the Minister and the highway authority to hold prior consultations before installing permanent humps or even experimental humps. They have to ad- vertise, rather like a planning application; they have to hold a public inquiry if objections are judged substantial enough. I hope that may allay any fears that humps will multiply by the thousands, unchecked, as a result of this Bill.

Clause 5 confirms that the regulations will have to be approved by Parliament and will come to Parliament as statutory instruments. Clause 6 confirms the Bill will cover England, Scotland and Wales but not include Northern Ireland. Clause 7 repeals Section 17 of the 1974 Act. In essence, those are the clauses of the Bill. I submit the Bill is a very valuable enabling Bill, a power to be used at the discretion of the highway authorities, designed to aid and combat the ever-increasing battle to make our highways safe. Experimental studies, as I have just described, have shown that road humps can go a long way to help cut down accidents on a limited scale. It may require a little more patience of drivers; it may require a little more diligence. But that is a small price, I submit, for the saving of injuries and even life. It is a price well paid and I commend the Bill. I beg to move.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, I would have preferred to call this Bill something of a nonsense Bill. It is a nonsense to bring forward a Bill of such importance in this particular manner and at this particular time. My noble friend Lord Kinnoull quite rightly describes this as another measure in the battle of safety on the roads, a matter in which your Lordships have always been interested. It is therefore grossly inappropriate that your Lordships should be asked to debate a Bill of this nature, that has Government support, when no more than the Private Members' view has been put before your Lordships; when no more than 57 minutes of debate have taken place in another place. That 57 minutes' debate took place in Standing Committee, and half the time was taken up with argument—perhaps I should correct myself to say discussion—about the position of the Greater London Authority. This is, as I say, something of a nonsense. It has been around since June of last year. There has been no debate on it on the Floor of the Chamber of the other place. It is, as I say, inappropriate that your Lordships should have this Bill at this time.

My temptation, frankly, is to ask your Lordships to refuse this Bill a Second Reading. We are right at the end of a heavy session. Is this matter of road safety going to be something put before us at 11 or 12 o'clock at night or some insignificant Friday afternoon? If it is that important, it should have proper time and proper consideration. Because of the way in which it was introduced, we do not even have the opportunity of hearing the Government's view. It will be for my noble friend Lord Long to answer as many questions as he can at the end of the debate, under very, very difficult circumstances, not of his making or indeed of the Government's making, in that we find ourselves in this Chamber with the limited facilities.

My noble friend appeared to base the justification of this Bill upon those experiments that have taken place under the 1974 Act, those nine sites that were picked out for trials, of which five have been reported on in what he described as an excellent report, that of the TRRL. He says there were clear conclusions so far as the residential areas were concerned: increases in safety, speed reduced, and although the accident statistics were somewhat complex he claimed a rate of 61 per cent. improvement.

I am going to turn to the report in a few moments, and I regret that I shall have to ask your Lordships to bear with me for perhaps longer than is usual. The only excuse I can offer you is that the subject is important, and because we know so little about it. My noble friend said that the residents in the five areas, the subject of the report, supported the use of humps. We all support restrictions that preserve our particular patch and push the problem somewhere else. If you turn to the report you will see that the decrease in traffic in these areas was merely a matter of transference to somewhere else. So some other block of residents had the problem. I would put it to you that, if you look at the Bill, you find almost anybody can put up a hump or—not to be too facetious—dig a ditch. The Bill provides for it. So we find in one road all the residents are going to be happy. Traffic has moved across to another road. There, they are not going to be happy—"Why should the traffic come down my road?" We shall have humps. We shall all have humps. I have got a hump this evening on this Bill!

Again my noble friend spoke in some detail, on the various clauses. I want to pick one or two of the points that he made. Clause 1 makes the hump a part of the highway. It absolves the highway authority for any responsibility thereby as a result of accident or damage to a motor vehicle, whereas under the 1974 Act there may be some liability there. Jolly good: push it over to somebody else. But it is the duty of the highway authorities to provide a fair passage. One might ask at this juncture how, with road construction and maintenance costs being severely, savagely restricted we can put up a Bill that enables somebody to spend another lot of money which could, and might, cause a hazard.

Clause 3 provides for regulations specifying the humps, on which highways, what signs, and the test of criteria. These are exactly the kind of things that we should be hearing of now so that we may discuss them. What are they? Are we going to have a long debate on the regulations when they come out? Clause 4 provides for consultation, as my noble friend said. The consultations should have been carried out by now. This is—and I use his words —a major piece of legislation and one which another place has not even debated.

The Earl of KINNOULL

My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend I think that he has misunderstood Clause 4 on consultations. If a highway authority or the Minister wished to impose a hump, consultations would then have to take place. Consultations, therefore, have not taken place so far. If, for instance, on the noble Lord's road outside his home a hump is to be placed down, there will be procedures as laid down in Clause 4 which could involve a public inquiry.


My Lords, I am sure that we are grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. My point was that the consultation should already have taken place with regard to these matters in principle. My understanding is that they have not taken place within the formality of this Bill. I may be wrong, but that is my understanding.

May I turn to the report itself?—the TRRL Report 878. I am going to just pick out a few bits. I shall try to put them in their proper context so that I do not mislead your Lordships. In the introduction it describes the' five sites. On the one near Oxford it says: Before the installation it had a high record of accidents; particularly to young children. On the second site in Norwich: Although having a low traffic flow, it was considered dangerous by local authorities as children used the road as a play area. In Haringey: It is a link between two distributor roads and is used as a short cut. In Kensington: …traffic uses it as a link…". In Glasgow: …many children on the estate regularly cross it to get to the bus route on the A8…". These five experiments included 3,167 metres of road. I do not know how many humps were in them. The pictures and the descriptions do not give any indication. These are all roads which, if it were the wish of the highway authority to reduce traffic because of the reasons given, there are means already open to them. It is nonsense then to suggest that as a result of these five experiments there is a good case for opening up the whole thing.

It is said that the cost of these varies widely. It ranges from £271 to £718 per hump. The average cost is £500 per hump. But how many humps per hundreds of metres? What is going to be the cost of making an effective deterrent? My guess is £3,000 to £4,000. I do not know. It is quite an expensive little piece of road construction when potholes are appearing in roads causing danger and damage and are ultimately going to cost a lot more to repair in some years' time.

In that final part of the report dealing with traffic flow, it is stated: The best estimate of the average percentage reduction in vehicle flow due to the installation of humps is 37 per cent.", but it does not give anywhere the subsequent increase in the other roads. Incidentally, the average reduction in speed is around 12 miles per hour.

The tables include that on residents' comments. Residents who want something will invariably give the right answers to any kind of questionnaire put before them. Indeed, when I was at college we were taught how to write a question for this type of questionnaire that will provide you with the answer. "67 per cent. thought the position of the humps was satisfactory; 62 per cent. thought the signing was satisfactory; 80 per cent. thought the visibility of the humps was satisfactory; 84 per cent. thought the humps served a useful purpose; 82 per cent. were in favour of humps on their road."

Of course they were. But what alternatives were offered to them? What did they make that judgment against? Zero. I do not think that that is a conclusive kind of argument.

In one of the tables dealing with drivers the following appears: On the whole are you in favour of keeping the humps on this road? Yes, 55 per cent. No, 31 per cent. Then 14 per cent. said that they did not know. It is not very conclusive. On the accident casualties, to which my noble friend referred, there is quite a lot. In essence, yes, he is right, there was a 61 per cent. reduction on those roads. But 61 per cent. of what? There are no figures. It does not say. But it does say that there was an increase in accidents on the fringe roads. So we just move it from one place to another place.

Where it deals with the question of pedestrians, it is stated: After the installation [of humps] 51 per cent. of pedestrians crossed on the humps". Where are we going to build? If we want people to raise themselves above the level of the road, let us build bridges for them. What will happen to the other crossings, pelican crossings? Make a tunnel for them? Perhaps that is what the ditches are for—the depressions which are allowed for in the Bill.

I am not really being frivolous. These are the kind of questions that the other place should have asked and been given answers to. I am afraid that the report is not conclusive. The very last paragraph says: If a more widespread use of humps was envisaged similar care to that outlined above should be taken in the selection of the sites and the specification of the installations". We had better know a bit more about it. I think we want to know a good deal more about it before we go further with this Bill.

I shall listen carefully to what other noble Lords have to say. I must tell your Lordships that, when my noble friend puts the Question as to whether this Bill should be read a Second time, I shall make up my mind whether I shall agree with him or not. This is not the most urgent piece of legislation that is before your Lordships, demanding hurried deliberation, and long days or late nights —and there are a few left of those—but if it is the intention of those who manage the business of your Lordships' House to have the Committee stage perhaps in the overspill period in October, we shall be hard-pressed then. The Bill is probably a useful addition to safety, but it should be dealt with at another time when full and proper consideration can be given to all the points in it. I ask noble Lords to listen and not to make up their minds immediately as to whether the Bill, which, although it has Government support, is essentially a Private Members' Bill, should be given a Second Reading at this time.

6.51 p.m.


My Lords, I admit to a slight feeling of inferiority in speaking following my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth in view of his technical ability. It may be because T am older that I have greater practical experience, and because I have just had the unfortunate experience of driving over a couple of humps in a very small Italian motorcar, and I felt rather like Evel Knevel must feel when he gets airborne. In a small machine with a short wheelbase it is not a pleasant experience going over humps. I have also had experience of humps at Brook-lands, and sometimes they can leave a painful memory.

There seems to be a feeling that humps will improve road safety, but I do not agree with that. They are a very expensive gimmick and I cannot imagine that motorists will be pleased at having to bounce over these obstacles for years to come. It should be remembered—my noble friend referred to this—that we are in a period when resources for road construction and maintenance are greatly restricted. Local highway authorities are handicapped by the small share they get of the block grant. Most of that grant goes to the main spending committee, which is invariably the education authority. I well remember my experience of that from the time when I was chairman of a county education authority; all the cash went to my committee and very little to highways, and I was torn between highways and education at the time.

It is Government policy to cut public expenditure, and therefore maintenance is a terrible problem for highway authorities. We cannot fill in all the potholes on our roads, let alone construct road humps or further depressions. In any event, there seems to be a terrible rush over the Bill, and my noble friend referred to that. Undoubtedly the Bill is being rushed through, and I cannot for the love of Mike think why. Starting at 10.30 one morning, there was a short debate on it in another place and that, so far as I can see, was all the discussion that took place there. A full investigation of all the implications is needed and we need far more information. That is certainly the case before I will support the Bill.

Has there been any discussion as to the class of street or road on which humps should be installed? How many will there be on a lengthy stretch of road, what distance apart will they be and at what speed can they be taken with safety? Motorists want the answers to those questions. The TRRL have said—this has been mentioned but I repeat it because it is quite extraordinary—that pedestrians are using these humps to cross the road. Can that be considered a safety measure? To me it is quite extraordinary. I can imagine some motorists accelerating hard between humps or coming to a sudden halt with a chain reaction behind them.

The siting of these "sleeping policemen" as they are sometimes called, should be on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less or where there is good evidence of those speed limits being exceeded in residential areas, with a high accident rate. In time, motor cars' suspensions, springs and shock absorbers are bound to suffer and, as for the motor cycle, the leap would be really dangerous for both motor cyclists and pillion passenger, unless they land in a straight line. Although I have great admiration for motor cyclists, some are a little fierce in the way they handle their machines and they might take these humps at rather higher speeds than should be the case, with disastrous results.

The Earl of KINNOULL

My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl to be more specific? At what speed would it be dangerous for either a motorist or motor cyclist to go over them?


I do not have the technical ability to answer that, my Lords, and I should have thought it would depend on the individual motor cyclist and how he handles his machine. In any event, surely it is up to the Government to give us some idea of the speed that is expected to be permitted to cross these humps.

The Earl of KINNOULL

My Lords, if my noble friend has read the report, which I am sure he has, he will have noticed that it is quite safe to take them at 30 mph, as is indicated in the report.


My Lords, there are other matters that need looking into, such as the question of mopeds. All the points that I am endeavouring to rub in raise questions which are bound to be in the minds of motorists and motor cyclists, yet here we are having the Bill being pushed through on a Wednesday evening at a late hour with few noble Lords present to hear what is being said. I am sure many noble Lords feel, as motorists do, that they would like more information.

How do we know that the various contractors in the counties will construct the humps to the same specifications? It is bound to take time to educate the road user to the warning signs, and such signs can often be hidden by hedges overgrown because of the present highways maintenance problems. The RAC, the motorists' friend, is not happy with this Private Member's Bill, and I am sure the same view is taken by the other large motoring organisations. Frankly, I do not believe there has been any consultation between those organisations and the Minister of Transport concerning this proposed fresh experimental legislation, and that is a pity.

At a conference of road safety officers over which I presided earlier in the year Mr. Fowler was our guest of honour. I rather hoped he might have taken the opportunity of mentioning road humps in his excellent opening speech, but he did not do so. He did not even refer to seat belts, but that is another matter. Bearing in mind the huge revenue which motorists hand to the Chancellor annually, they are entitled to receive better treatment from Government in return. There is much in the Bill that needs to be properly ventilated. I hope the next stage, if we have one, will provide more information.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, the hour is late, so I shall be brief in discussing this Private Member's Bill which comes to us from another place. It is significant that although there were 18 Members on the Committee, only 12 were present when this very important Bill was discussed in another place for only 53 minutes, as has been pointed out. I am deeply unhappy about the Bill, one reason being that, as a very long-term motorist who has tried to do as much as I can for safety, I read the Bill and discovered that the only place the word "safety" occurred was in Clause 3(2)(c). If the Bill is about safety, I suggest that the word "safety" should appear in it more often. Much is made of the question of speed, but noble Lords present who are motorists will know as well as I do that slow speed is as dangerous as fast speed when vehicles are in the hands of inexpert drivers, whether they are on two wheels, four, eight, 12 or 20; it can be dangerous.

I fail to see how the humps will prevent more people from having accidents. There is a requirement that a notice has to be put up. A notice is not necessary if one lives in the road where the humps are placed, but if, as my noble friend pointed out, one is a stranger to the road, and the notice is hidden by a lorry or an overgrown tree or hedge, what happens? The motorcyclist or car driver will go along the road at whatever speed is permitted and if he has not seen the sign, he will either fall into a ditch or go over the hump. Like my noble friends, I feel that if it were normal practice in this House to throw out a Bill on Second Reading, I should certainly try to do so on this occasion. We are not told in the Bill, for instance, how big the hump is likely to be. We are not told that it must be lit, that it must be painted, or that it must have posts positioned at both ends—all points that I consider to be vitally important if people are not to meet with accidents caused specifically by the humps.

Reading through the Bill, I feel that whoever drafted it was sitting in an office looking out on the kind of English weather that we all hope to see, though it has not been this year; in other words, a fine day, with the sun shining. But the English weather is not like that all the time. A hump can be enveloped in autumn leaves and therefore unseeable. It would certainly be unseeable in the dark, even with headlights on. It would be equally unseeable, and therefore very dangerous, if there is snow and ice on the roads. In my view, even if the speed limit were 30 miles an hour, it would be very dangerous indeed for motorcyclists to go along a road on which there was a hump covered by ice or snow. In my opinion as a longterm motorist, if the hump is covered by snow, there is no way in which anyone can see it. For even those reasons I feel that the Bill could be a danger. I appreciate that the ideas are good in theory, but I believe that in practice the Bill would add to the dangers on the road.

Like my noble friends, I consider that this Bill is far too important to be rushed through with practically no consultation in another place, and with only a few noble Lords here this evening. It would be a vitally important piece of traffic regulation and law. Until we can put down a great number of amendments—which perhaps we shall have to do at a later stage—I cannot wish the Bill a speedy passing, and I should certainly do my best to stop it.

Viscount SIMON

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has kindly allowed me to intervene for a few moments, since I failed to catch the eye of the noble Earl before he sat down in order to ask him one simple question—and that is all that I now wish to do. When he replies to the debate, can he tell us whether the experiments that were carried out involved depressions, as well as humps?

7.5 p.m.


My Lords, I feel that I should rise to say that in general I support the Bill, since I have heard so much criticism of it from Back-Benchers on the other side of the Chamber. These humps—or "sleeping policemen", as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, calls them—are very common indeed on private estates. In particular one finds them all over the United States. Many a jealous landowner builds humps in order to protect his expensive tarmac surface from speeders. I should have thought that everyone is familiar with them; and I do not know what all this tremendous row is about.

I take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, about the necessity for making the humps visible. They must be visible both at night and in snow; people must know that they are there. However, on the other hand, there is the fact that most of the streets where the humps would be constructed, one supposes, are used by locals, who very quickly would familiarise themselves with the positions of these obstructions. I should like to hear from the noble Viscount, Lord Long, when he winds up whether the siting of the humps would be undertaken with the same care as is now given to panda crossings, pedestrian crossings, and the like, which are subject to a long and very complicated procedure before construction goes ahead. I know that on the whole, the Ministry is quite loath to agree to more pedestrian crossings, and it is even more loath to approve extra panda crossings, since they are not only tricky, but also expensive. I note that the siting would be subject to ministry approval, and not merely to the approval of the local highway authority. Provided there is an assurance that the ministry will take very great care in the siting of the humps, I do not see what is the objection, at least to trying them out, with a view to reducing speed, in many more parts of the country than they have been tried in already, so that we can see how they work.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he tell us on what premise he bases his supposition that the locals will soon get used to the humps? The noble Lord supposes that the humps will be constructed in residential roads, yet there is nothing in the Bill to prevent anyone from supposing that a hump might be constructed on a motorway, let alone in a residential road.


My Lords, I fancy that the noble Lord is exaggerating somewhat. Panda crossings and pedestrian crossings, for instance, are not constructed on motorways. One must assume that the Minister and the public highway authority have more sense than to construct one of these "sleeping policemen" in the middle of a motorway.

7.10 p.m.


My Lords, I want to give general support to the principle behind this Bill, but in giving it that welcome I want to make it clear that it is a cautious welcome, because there are a number of points which I wish to raise for clarification in the course of my remarks. I can see three reasons justifying the Bill. The first is to stop what the Minister, in the Standing Committee in another place, referred to as, short-cut-type rat-runs in suburban areas that are used as high-speed short cuts". I am sure that all of us have had experience of the selfish drivers, the impatient ones, who cannot wait at traffic lights and who seek to go round quiet suburban roads in order to dodge the traffic lights. Then what happens? They then cut across the traffic and impede normal people who are driving on the main roads. Anything which stops that will, I am certain, be welcomed by residents and by those users of the main roads who are proceeding normally.

The second reason is to preserve some degree of quiet near hospitals, old people's homes and schools; to avoid the noise of fast-moving vehicles, and to provide some sense of safety for young people and elderly people.


My Lords, I wonder whether I may interrupt the noble Lord? In actual fact, if you have to change down at a hump you create more noise.


My Lords, I may not have had the same experience as other people—I have been driving for only 40 years—but my first experience of humps on public highways was only this Easter, when I was in Rotterdam driving in the vicinity of a very large and excellent old persons' home. I can assure noble Lords that I slowed down, and I am certain that other people did so. What is more, it provided that degree of quietness and safety for people in that particular area.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, argues that if this Bill is carried into effect all we shall be doing is to shift the problems from one area to another, from one road to another. That could be an argument against any single provision at all on the highways. That could be an argument against closing a particular road, against having a one-way sign and against having all sorts of signs. Not far from where I live there is a sign. No motorist can ever read it unless he is crawling along. The sign says something like this: The attention of drivers is drawn to the fact that to proceed through the whole length of this road is an offence". Nobody can read it. I am certain that a hump with a sign in front would be far more effective than that particular sign.

My Lords, in welcoming the general principle of this Bill, there are a number of points which, although this is a Second Reading, I want to put forward, because the answers of both the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the Minister may enable decisions to be taken on whether or not amendments will be tabled, assuming the Bill is given a Second Reading.

I can understand the different situation in London as compared with the rest of the country, because in London the GLC is the traffic authority although the boroughs are the highway authorities, whereas outside London the same authority, the county council, is both the highway authority and the traffic authority. Therefore, I can understand that it is necessary, as proposed in the Bill, for the Greater London Council to be consulted. But it would appear from my reading of the Bill that the GLC will have the power of veto, and I would suggest that, surely, that is not right. In the Standing Committee in another place the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport, expressed the hope that in practice the London boroughs will initiate the ideas for the provision of humps but will then consult the GLC. He added—and I quote from col. 6— one hopes that there could be some kind of understanding that road humps could be proceeded with unless it seemed to the GLC that an overwhelming traffic problem would be created thereby Surely it is not sufficient for this envisaged sensible practice to have to rely solely upon hopes; surely something should be written into the Bill. Similarly, outside London we have the situation where the county councils are both the highway authorities and the traffic authorities; but in that case there is no provision whatever in the Bill for the district authorities to be brought into consultation. In view of the size of some county councils, it is surely open to question as to whether the final decision on what is a local matter should rest with the county council.

Again, in the Standing Committee the Minister expressed a somewhat similar hope in col. 12—and I quote— But I certainly commend the practice whereby the boroughs, or the districts when borough status has not been taken, normally come forward with proposals and their wishes are closely heeded by the county councils. Districts or boroughs should be closely involved in decisions about where to put road humps, because there is a local context to any such decision". I am sure your Lordships who support the general aim of the Bill would agree with what the Minister says: it is just common sense. A district council will of course know the local problems, the local circumstances; and I would suggest that the county council will be concerned mainly with the problems of through traffic. As I said in relation to Greater London, surely we cannot just rely upon hope that county councils will act properly towards district councils; somehow this should surely be written into the Bill.

My Lords, I shall he grateful if the Minister or the noble Earl will clarify a point under Clause 2. The Minister is to have power to, construct, maintain and remove road humps with the consent of the highway authority. Does this mean that the Minister has no power to act without that consent; in other words, that the highway authority has the power of veto? Also, does subsection (3) of this clause relate solely to trunk roads, for which the Minister is the highway authority? Incidentally, the Minister has said that this clause retains for the Minister the power to conduct experiments. Is the Minister really to have this power? Is that in the Bill; or is it subject to the consent of the highway authority?

I also note that in the Standing Committee the Minister accepted that there was one point of inconsistency in the Bill. Under Clause 1 the GLC will have the last word although not being the highway authority. They have the last word because they are a traffic authority. But if the Minister wishes to install a road hump in London, consent has to be given by the highway authority, which is the London borough, and not the Greater London Council. In the Standing Committee of another place the Minister said he would look at this inconsistency when the clause came before your Lordships' House. I would hope that any amendment that is to be introduced to straighten out that inconsistency would also take the opportunity at the same time to insert into the Bill the appropriate relationship between the county council and the distrct council (or, in the case of London, the London boroughs) so that we can deal with the point that I raised earlier on in my remarks.

My Lords, Clause 1 defines the road hump as being an artificial hump or a depression. It would appear to me that the Minister must arrange that the appropriate regulations will provide that there is one type of road sign to signify a hump and a different one for a depression. Otherwise, we shall get into difficulty if people are expecting a hump and all of a sudden they do down. Therefore, it would appear to me that there must be some difference in the signs. Presumably there will be international signs of some kind where there is general agreement. In my opinion it is essential that the signs be sited sufficiently in advance of the humps—maybe two signs, one some way in advance and then one nearer the hump itself—otherwise, there could be some difficulty in the matter. But common sense will get us over what are the difficulties in the way of a sensible proposal without destroying the whole thing by criticism. I also hope that regulations will make it clear that this sort of sign must either be one which is illuminated or one which is in the close vicinity of street lamps, so that it can be seen quite clearly; otherwise, we could find some difficulties.

Clause 4 provides that a suggestion to install a hump shall be the subject of consultation with the chief officer of police. That would appear to me to be a sensible proposal. But it then adds, and…such other persons or bodies of persons as may be prescribed". This may be where it is possible to insert provisions in relation to the necessary consultation by the county council with the appropriate district council. Perhaps the Minister could give us an assurance on that. It seems to me that there should be some direct provision and not merely such vague terms as: such other persons or bodies of persons". Clause 3 relates to regulations concerning details of the construction and siting of humps and the placing of road signs. I should like to ask why the word "may" is inserted in line 1 of subsection (2). Surely regulations will be essential. Why, therefore, the word "may"? This matter was raised in Standing Committee in another place. The Minister's reply stressed the desirability of flexibility in the content of regulations. I cannot understand why "shall" is not inserted for the making of regulations. I look forward to hearing the Government's reply.

My last point relates to Clause I where it states that the provisions of the Bill cover only, any highway maintainable at the public expense". A quick reference to the Highways Consolidation Bill recently before the House makes clear that the appropriate local authority is the highway authority for all highways, whether or not maintainable at the public expense. I am sure that one could think of instances where the installation of road humps on private roads may be desirable. In Standing Committee, the Minister spoke of possible legal problems that could arise; but, on this point, he said that he would like to consult the local authorities about the extension of such a power. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether such consultations have taken place and the result of those consultations.

I am sorry to have raised so many points on what appears to be a small Bill. As I said at the outset, we regard it as a useful Bill; but if it is to become law it must be put right. That is why I have put questions to the noble Earl and to the noble Lord.

7.23 p.m.

Viscount LONG

My Lords, I rise, first, to repeat the welcome that my right honourable friend Mr. Kenneth Clarke gave this Bill in another place. I should like also to thank my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for bringing this Bill before us tonight. I gather from speeches from all quarters of the House that my noble friend and I have but two friends left, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. Nevertheless, we will press on in trying to put the world to rights. No one is advancing road humps as likely mass life savers, but it has been shown that the right kind of humps in the right locations can reduce accidents. Humps, therefore, can be a weapon in the armoury of accident prevention devices used by highway authorities; and we want that weapon to be available to them if they should need it.

I should now like to turn to what I detected as the suspicions that have cropped up in this debate—suspicions that the Commons had not done their work properly, that this Bill had been hastened from the other place and that we were having to push it through as fast as we could do so. I might remind your Lordships that we are a revising Chamber. I hope that this Bill is accepted for Second Reading and that it will go on to Committee stage as does any other Bill that comes before us. I hope that the suspicions may now disappear and that we shall be able to do our work without having to worry about what had gone on previously. In other words, we must "do the corrections".

I felt that I ought to look at Section 17 of the Road Traffic Act 1974. It is on this section, I think, that a lot of the problems in the debate have centred. It has been suggested that the existing power to construct road humps is adequate. This is completely wrong. There is at present no power whatsoever to construct road humps as a lawful part of a public highway, except that power contained in Section 17 of the Road Traffic Act 1974. This power is defective in three respects. First, as my noble friend has said already, it requires that any hump constructed under it be removed not more than one year after construction began. This is the case even where experimental humps were successful. It is, of course, shockingly wasteful besides being understandably resented by people who see their roads which have been made safer, then made less safe—and at the public expense.

Secondly, even if this defect were lacking, the Section 17 powers may be used for experimental purposes only. But providing for the installation of humps of a tested and proven type to be permanent parts of the highway is not an experiment and it would be ultra Tires to use for that purpose a power defined as experimental. Clause 2 of the Bill repeals Section 17. Thirdly, the Section 17 power is available only to Ministers, which in so far as it is experimental is reasonable. Now experiments have been undertaken and have succeeded; so that the highway authorities can he enabled to construct humps that conform to tested and proven criteria.

Highway authorities wish to have this power, and the Government wish them to have it. In many cases we know through correspondence from local residents that they, too, want humps installed. The power to construct humps in accordance with the criteria to he laid down by the Minister (which criteria will reflect the findings of our successful experiments) is given by this Bill. It would not otherwise exist.

Having said that, if I may I will try to catch up with some of the questions and worries of certain of my noble friends and noble Lords. My noble friends Lord Lucas and Lord Howe were worried about the speed with which the Bill went through the Commons. I have partially answered that point. I may say that the Commons found the Bill on balance, satisfactory. A longer period could have been devoted to Committee there had they so wished. They did not so wish because, as I have said, they considered that the Bill on balance made satisfactory provisions and this was endorsed by the whole Committee.

My noble friend Lord Lucas and the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, were worried over the matter of consultations and whether there was provision in the Bill for consultations. The answer to that question is: Yes, representations have been made from local government, the Institute of Motor Cycling, the Road Haulage Association, the AA, the RAC and main road hauliers. They have all been consulted about this Bill. The answer to the point about the agreement is, Yes; but they will wait to see or lobby those who are going to table in the Committee stage about any worries that might arise from what we are speaking about tonight.

My noble friend Lord Lucas is—and I am drawing on his questions more than others—an expert on transport and worked on the 1974 Transport Act. He feels that anyone can lay humps on roads or private roads. I believe that was his worry. Under the Bill, highway authorities may put down road humps only after consultations and holding an inquiry. Humps can only be put down in the circumstances specified in the regulations which will have to be approved by the House. Obviously your Lordships in Committee will consider these problems. These matters will need further debate and there is no better time than in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, raised a question on consultations between the Minister and the highway authorities. The answer is, Yes, Clause 2(1) requires that the Minister consults the authorities. I agree with the noble Lord that when it comes to speeding, the whole object where humps are used is to bring down speed and to make roads safer. My noble friend Lady Macleod felt that the changing of a car's gears would make a noise. I hope that the modern car has now grasped the fact that it must not make a noise with its modern technology!

My noble friend Lord Howe was interested in the problem of speed. He and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull had a slight cross between them over the Transport and Road Research Laboratory's Report. He asked whether humps should be allowed only on roads with a limit of 30 miles per hour. This is a good question. It should be looked at when we go into Committee. There does not seem to be a specific speed limit laid down. This subject should be given a considered debate because the speeds are the governing factor as to why we are looking at humps. My noble friend Lady Macleod felt that humps must be properly signposted. I believe that that is in Clause 3(2). It provides that warning signs should be erected to let the motorist know that there are humps being placed in the road.


My Lords, that brings in the point which I raised under subsection (2)—regulations so made may include; the word is "may". It is permissive; it is not an instruction.

Viscount LONG

My Lords, Yes it is. The noble Lord is right. It is using the word "may" in that context. Having tried my hardest to answer some of the questions that your Lordships have raised, I hope that I will be forgiven if I go onwith the rest of my brief. I will look in the Official Report tomorrow and then give the rest of the answers, because a lot of questions have been raised tonight.

The Bill provides for my right honourable friend to lay down in regulations the requirements that hump installations must meet. My noble friend has said, and I agree, that this arrangement strikes the desired balance between the need to ensure that any humps constructed on our highways are to criteria proved satisfactory, and the need to give local authorities the freedom to construct humps when they think right. The drafting of the regulations, if the Bill is enacted, will probably take a little time.

We shall have to translate experience with the experimental humps into draft statutory requirements, and then we shall of course have to consult outside organisations, which I have already mentioned and who know that this Bill is now in your Lordships' House. That includes representatives of local government, as I have already said. We shall have to consult them on our proposals and consider whatever points they may raise. But we are ready, and will be glad, to play our part if your Lordships give the Bill the unamended passage which alone will get it on to the statute book this Session, and I join my noble friend in hoping that you will.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could he reassure us on this matter of the number of humps likely to be installed by local authorities? He said, as I remember, that these humps will only be constructed where local authorities want them to be constructed. But supposing that they want to construct far too many?

Viscount LONG

I was not able to hear the noble Lord's question clearly. Local authorities, as I understand it, will not want to erect hundreds of these humps. They will not be laying these humps in private roads. The Minister and the authorities will have to consult each other before any move is made. I think I did say that earlier. I also said that I think the Committee stage will be very important from the point of view of bringing out some of the points that are still lacking.

The Earl of KINNOULL

My Lords, I should like to thank all noble Lords and all my noble friends for making this Second Reading such a lively debate. I do not object to the "anti-humpers" putting their case so forcefully, but one was rather surprised, on a Second Reading which normally considers the principle of a Bill, that so many detailed questions should have been fired at one. I would say to my noble "anti-humper" friends that they have had a very good run. I accept, of course, their sincerity and I hope that they will understand me when I say that they are off course and off target and, if I may offer a word of advice to my noble friend Lord Howe, I would suggest to him that the next time he finds himself driving over a hump he should not be driving an Italian car but a British one!

I should like also to thank my noble friend Lord Long for his stirring and formidable defence. I think he has answered almost every point, but there was one point which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, raised about depressions, and perhaps I might write to him later. I think it is very unusual for this House to reject on Second Reading a Bill, however small, unless the House is wholly against the principle of the Bill. That principle, I would remind your Lordships, is already embodied in the 1974 Act. A further point is that this is a road safety measure and, as such, is worthy of consideration in Committee. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that is so, and I hope that we shall be able to ventilate all the points we wish to raise during the Committee stage, which is the appopriate time.

On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.