HL Deb 08 July 1981 vol 422 cc718-61

4.30 p.m.

Report stage resumed.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 30: Page 73, line 1, leave out ("has either") and insert ("either has").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the aim of Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 is to correct a grammatical error, and of Nos. 32 and 33 is to define the word "drug" for the purposes of Section 5 offences—that is, driving while unfit through drink or drugs. Conventionally, we think of drugs as substances used for a medicinal purpose to give a beneficial effect but which can unfortunately also impair a person's ability to drive; for example, by making him drowsy. However, other substances which are not used medicinally are taken by people because of their effect on the central nervous system; for example, glue sniffing. These substances can equally affect their ability to drive and this definition ensures that, if that should happen, the person concerned could be prosecuted under Section 5. I beg to move Amendment No. 30.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 31: Page 73, line 3, after ("or") insert ("has been").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have spoken to this just now, together with Amendments Nos. 30, 32 and 33. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 32: Page 74, line 20, leave out ("6") and insert ("5").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 33: Page 74, line 27, at end insert (" "drug" includes any intoxicant other than alcohol").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27 [Compulsory wearing of seat belts]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 34: Page 20, line 23, after ("persons") insert ("under the age of twenty-five").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 34, but, before arriving at the substance of it, I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, whether he will be kind enough to confirm or deny the rumour that the Government intend unreservedly to accept Amendments Nos. 69A and 69B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford? As I understand it, these would have the effect of applying the affirmative resolution procedure to all the regulations made under this clause as it is now. If that is the case, it will not be necessary to divide on most of the earlier amendments, with the possible exception of No. 38.

Secondly, may I ask whether it is the Government's intention to accept Amendment No. 72, which provides for a Green Paper or other consultative document to be issued three months before the regulations are brought into force so as to give plenty of time for discussion of the regulations? If that is the case, then we need not spend very much time in ventilating all these earlier amendments. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I can and do gladly confirm that these amendments, which will ensure that all regulations under the new section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure and will thus require the approval of both Houses of Parliament, are acceptable to the Government. Regarding Amendment No. 72 to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, referred, I am able to say that we are not unsympathetic to this and would most certainly want to consider it.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, may I just add a word or two in case the Marshalled List may have been unintelligible to any noble Lords who were not initiated? The disappearance of my Amendment No. 57A, which was on the Marshalled List yesterday and which had the intention of making all the regulations subject to affirmative resolution, was due to the fact that I knew noble Lords generally wished to see the regulations made subject to affirmative order; and indeed I agree with that wish myself. Naturally, consultations with the Government were necessary, and the parliamentary draftsman, who moves in a mysterious way, found my amendment to be defective in the form in which it appeared on the Marshalled List. He therefore advised that I should put down the two amendments to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has referred. These have the effect of amending this Bill so that Section 199(4) of the 1972 Act, which defines what shall be subject to affirmative resolution, shall apply rather than subsection (3) of Section 199, which refers to the negative procedure. I just give that explanation because, on the face of it, the two Amendments Nos. 69A and 69B might not be intelligible without it.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, which I imagine he is going to do, I should like to suggest that no intelligent debate should ever take place with a view to making laws in relation to age, sex, colour or creed. If we are referring to drivers or to persons in vehicles, it seems to me that if you introduce these pieces of nonsense you have already got a lot of exemptions. We all know the way insurance companies operate. At one stage women drivers had to take out a greater amount of insurance, on the assumption that because they were females they did not drive as well as males. That can easily be disproved. Equally, if we are to have people of different ages, some having to wear seat belts and some not, the next thing we shall have is people who have just arrived in this country and who may not be used to driving on the left side of the road, subject to seat belts, whereas residents of long standing are not. I would suggest that it is not a serious way of making laws ever to introduce these matters, which are totally unrelated to any law which is to refer to drivers in vehicles.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for his reply. The first part of it is very welcome and will be extremely helpful to the House this afternoon. I am not happy about the second part of his reply, indicating that the Government are not too happy about Amendment No. 72.

What the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, has just said makes it all the more important to explain the raison d'être of these amendments. There has been a suggestion, which received a great deal of support in another place, that compulsion should be confined to learner drivers on the grounds that it is legitimate to impose special restrictions on L-drivers and also on the grounds that once you get used to driving in a belt, that habit tends to stay with you throughout your driving career. I very much like that idea, but I did not feel it would receive much support in your Lordships House this afternoon. Therefore my amendment goes rather further and confines compulsion to all those under 25, whether they be L-drivers or not. My own view has always been that an adult is an adult is an adult, and that people between 18 and 25 deserve their freedom just as much as older people. However, I do recognise that there are those who take a different view, namely, that the state has a special duty to protect young adults: hence the rationale behind the laws relating to motor cycle crash helmets.

One must also acknowledge, for instance, that the freedom conferred by the 1967 Sexual Offences Act has not so far been extended to those between 18 and 21, and also that sentencing policy for young adults differs from that applicable to older people. Further, it is perfectly true that drivers between 18 and 25 are those who are most at risk. Insurance companies nearly always impose a higher premium for those within that age group, and car hire firms make it very difficult for those in that age group to hire a car. That is really the reason behind this amendment.

There is yet a further school of thought—I mention this because it is possible that the next amendment may not be moved—and that is that my amendment goes a little bit too far and that exemption should be confined to those over the age of 60 years. If I guess correctly what is in the minds of the noble Lords who tabled that amendment, they believe that anyone who has been driving for more than 40 years gets set in a certain pattern and it is almost cruel to change overnight the driving habits of a lifetime—habits which have been perfectly legal and legitimate up to that point. But I shall not say any more about that, because it is possible that other noble Lords may have something to say. Before I withdraw this amendment, I hope that the Minister will take note of what has been said on it this afternoon. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 35 not moved.]

4.40 p.m.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 36: Page 20, line 23, leave out ("driving or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 36 and, with the leave of the House, I will speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 40 and 51. The purpose of these three amendments is to confine compulsion to front seat passengers—in other words, to exclude drivers from compulsion—and to allow seat belt wearing to be purely voluntary so far as drivers are concerned.

There are several reasons, both libertarian and practical, why this would improve the clause. First, it is somewhat less illiberal than applying compulsion to drivers, because, in most cases, if passengers detest wearing belts and find them uncomfortable, they can sit in the back seat. This option is obviously not available to drivers. Of course, it is not available to passengers in two-seater cars either, but there is nothing much one can do about that.

The second point is that the front seat passenger is definitely more at risk. It is not for nothing that the front passenger's seat is commonly known as the suicide seat. Next, we have heard in debates, both in this House and in another place, that there are some front seat passengers who are hesitant about belting up, because they fear that the driver will take offence; that it will be regarded as a slur upon his driving ability. I find this rather curious, but then one has to recognise that everybody is different and, we being the tolerant party, I like to think that we must cater for all cases. This may be a valid argument for some people.

The fourth reason is that a driver in a hurry—and I have seen this happen quite often on the Continent—may jump into his car, drive away and start to buckle on his seat belt while he is on the move, holding the steering wheel with one hand and tugging the belt across his chest with the other. It goes without saying that that is extremely dangerous, and could endanger other road users.

The fifth and final reason—and this is both a practical and a moral one—is that there is absolutely no question, but that many drivers drive less well when they are belted up, whether because of a sense of false security, irritation, imbalance or whatever. We did not need Dr. John Adams to point this out to us, although we are grateful to him for giving us statistical confirmation. In this context, I should mention that my Amendment No. 46A is a possible alternative to this one. it is a milder amendment; it permits drivers who testify that a seat belt impairs their driving ability to be exempted.

I hope that the Minister will study this argument carefully. Given that the country is so bitterly divided over the whole issue of compulsion, it seems a good compromise—not wholly satisfying both sides, but perhaps striking the right balance—to apply compulsion to front seat passengers but not to drivers. I wait to hear what the noble Lord has to say in reply, before I withdraw the amendment. My Lords, I beg to move.

Viscount Simon

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord who moved this amendment could help me in one respect. He spoke as though, if you left out the driver, you would be dealing only with the front seat passenger. But the clause does not say any- thing about the front seat passenger. The clause includes anyone riding in a motor vehicle, does it not?

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will deal with the interesting point raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. The effect of the noble Lord's amendment would be to reverse by 50 per cent. the decision which this House took on the Committee stage of this Bill, and I cannot believe that noble Lords would really wish to do that. It would, of course, automatically remove half the people who would be subject to the law, if we made the wearing of seat belts compulsory only for front seat passengers. The number will automatically be halved if we take out all the drivers. In fact, rather more would be taken out, because a good many people drive on their own without passengers. So the effect would be substantially to reverse the decision which we took before, and I feel sure that noble Lords would think many times before wishing to do that.

Just to deal very briefly with the noble Lord's technical points, he said that a passenger would be frightened to belt up because it might offend the driver who had not done so. There is another amendment about this later. But I cannot see that that is a fear which would loom very large in the minds of most people. Certainly, whenever I get into a car I always put on the seat belt and I have never known a driver take offence at that. Indeed, if it is made the law of the land that drivers must belt up as well, it might even be of assistance to the driver and remind him that he has an obligation, too.

On the noble Lord's point that drivers drive less well when belted up, that is completely unproven. The noble Lord must know that already there have been some authoritative comments and Professor Adams' paper is by no means proven. It is an interesting idea, but no more than that, that wearing seat belts makes people drive with less care than if they do not wear them. I think most of us would shake our heads over that, and I should be very surprised if, when it is time to make a complete analytical study of Professor Adams' figures and his thesis, they are found to stand up to any serious argument.

On the noble Lord's point that the passenger seat is the suicide seat, of course this depends on the driver. For myself, I feel quite happy with most of the drivers whom I go with, especially if they put on a seat belt before they start. This would seem to me to be good evidence that I was in the hands of a cautious driver. Returning to my first point, I would urge noble Lords, and, indeed, I would urge the noble Lord, Lord Monson, not to press this amendment to a Division, in the light of the earlier decision by the House.

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, may I support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent? It would, to my mind, be quite unthinkable that your Lordships should reverse a decision earlier made. I want to voice an objection to the use of the word "illiberal", as applied to compulsion in wearing seat belts. What would be illiberal would be to allow people not to wear seat belts, when the results are known to be disastrous both to the driver and to his passengers. The case is proven.

As I am on my feet, may I make an answer to what I regarded as a very important speech made at an earlier stage by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which was not answered in the debate then, and which I was not able to answer owing to my grevious defects of sight and hearing. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made two points to which I took great exception. He said that some members of the medical profession have stated that road accidents are a handicap to the medical services of the National Health Service. It was not "some members of the medical profession". I think that to use that phrase—with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—was a grievous misrepresentation of the facts. It was the British Medical Association which drew up an official memorandum, which it sent to members of this noble House, and which said that the toll of surgical work imposed on the National Health Service by road accidents was an extremely grievous handicap to the surgeons of that service, because it meant that they had to postpone surgery on other patients who urgently required it. This, for the National Health Service, was a matter of the highest importance.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I wonder whether I could interrupt the noble Lord. We are on the Report stage at the moment and should be speaking to the amendment that we are now dealing with. We have listened to what the noble Lord had to say on the Ntaional Health Service. if he wishes to continue, I hope he will speak on this amendment.

Lord Noel-Baker

I do wish to continue, my Lords, because the point is one of very great importance. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, spoke slightingly about what he called the so-called serious cases of injury and mutilation due to road accidents, and implied that a very large proportion of the serious accidents were not serious at all; they simply had to be reported to hospital and were then dismissed. With great respect to him and with, as I think, vital relevance to the Bill which we are discussing, the 200 cases of serious accidents which happen every day impose an appalling load of suffering and economic loss upon the victims of the accidents and upon the community as a whole. In their memorandum, the British Medical Association speak of brain injury, facial disfigurement—

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, if the noble Lord would kindly give way, may I observe that this is not the Second Reading?

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, I bow to the authority of the noble Earl, but with respect and with consent, I will briefly finish the point I am making. Accidents which are called serious accidents impose the most appalling burden of suffering and economic loss on the victims and on the community. They include, as the British Medical Association have said, brain injury, broken necks, facial disfigurement, breaking of the pelvis, crippling for life and ruination of life for a victim and for his or her family. This is a matter of vital importance. I trust that the decision previously made will be maintained and, if possible, strengthened by the inclusion of compulsory seat belts for children on back seats.

Viscount Cross

My Lords, I should like to support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for the reasons which he has given. The effect of his amendments are compulsory seat belts for front seat passengers only. That is very desirable. It would be accepted by the public. It has the further advantage that if in an emergency a passenger is wearing a seat belt the driver can put on the brakes really hard if, say, a dog crosses the road and he has to stop suddenly.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I should like to make three very brief points. In an earlier debate we talked about driving a coach and horses through legislation. This surely we should do if we passed this amendment. I am certain that it is not the wish of your Lordships that today we should overturn a clear decision which was taken during the Committee stage. On the other point suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, that drivers wearing seat belts drive less well, I am certain that the motoring organisations would not accept it. Even the RAC, which does not support the compulsory wearing of seat belts, as distinct from the AA, believe in the value of wearing seat belts. Therefore, that point has got to be emphasised. I am certain they would not say that they do not believe in the value of seat belts for all occupants of a car. My only other point is that there are cases of severe injury when drivers who are not wearing seat belts hit the steering column very forcibly. I believe that the wearing of a seat belt can assist in preventing that happening.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, could I say to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, about Amendment No. 72, if the House will allow me to do so as I think it has relevance to this whole series of amendments, that I ought to put right a misapprehension which he may have as a result of what I said before. Although we feel the amendment will need checking and altering for drafting purposes, and although we feel that it adds little to what we should do, anyway, we have no objection to it in principle. I felt that I should say that now, because I hope it will be helpful as our proceedings continue.

Turning to Amendment No. 36 and speaking also to Amendments Nos. 40 and 51, I suppose that in fairness it can be argued that there is a difference in applying compulsory seat belt wearing to drivers and passengers in that the driver then has no option but to wear one while the passenger at least has the option of travelling unbelted in the rear seat. On the other hand, to exempt drivers would surely substantially erode the potential benefits of compulsion. The statistics are very revealing. Every year the statistics show that about 1,500 drivers are killed and some 18,000 seriously injured, whereas the number of passengers in both the front and the rear seats is less than 1,000 killed and some 14,000 seriously injured. In fairness, I would have to say that exempting the drivers does not raise the same practical problem over enforcement as do the earlier amendments which the noble Lord withdrew, but it is part and parcel of the compulsion issue. For myself, I could never accept that drivers drive less well when belted up. I just do not know how anybody can say that. Certainly in my own experience and knowledge—not of myself but of many others—I have never found this to be so. If anything, it has been quite the contrary. However, it is a personal view, and I had better stress that it is a personal view!

We understand the purpose behind the amendment as, frankly, we do about a number of other amendments of this kind. However, after much debate your Lordships' House decided to go along with compulsion being written into the Bill. That having been said, there must be room for discussion as to reasonable exemptions. That is right. However, this amendment certainly goes far too far, as I see it, against that principle. That is why I think, speaking for myself, that it should be left as it is.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Monson, as the mover of the amendment, why he feels that his amendment is necessary? His idea was that a driver would be intimidated if his passenger put on the seat belt. One might just as well argue that the pilot of a plane would feel rather hurt if all the passengers on his plane belted up.

Lord Monson

My Lords, with respect to the noble Baroness, I did not say that the driver would be intimidated. I said that it had been said in this House last December by pro-compulsion speakers that an argument for compulsion was that many passengers felt unhappy about putting on belts. It was the pro-compulsion people who put forward this argument, not me.

Lord Spens

My Lords, I put down my name to this amendment, so I must explain the reason: that I am utterly opposed to compulsion in the wearing of seat belts. In my case it is a personal reason, but I think I ought to give it to your Lordships. My eldest son, some years ago, turned his car over on an icy road. He was flung from the car and is still alive. If he had been wearing a seat belt, he would be dead. That is sufficient reason for me to support this amendment.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, it is not very often that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, but since I do on this occasion I would like to mention one or two reasons why. My noble friend Lady Phillips spoke about pilots of planes not being belted up when their passengers are. I think she is mistaken, in that whenever there is turbulence in the air, the pilot puts on his safety belt.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I did not say that. In fact, I did not get an opportunity to elaborate what I was saying, which is quite usual for the females in this establishment who speak much less frequently but much more to the point! I would only say to the noble Lord that I was making the point in order to answer the curious idea that the driver of a car would feel hurt if his passenger belted up. I said that a pilot would not feel hurt if he thought his passengers were using their belts. I did not mention anything about the pilot not being belted up.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, I am very sorry if I misrepresented my noble friend. I took up her point because from my own personal experience, not as a car driver but as a pilot in the Navy during the last war, I wanted to give two examples following my noble friend's account of his unfortunate son. During those years I was unfortunate enough to have four total engine failures and in two of those, one over land and one over water, I suffered quite severe injury, although as a pilot I was wearing a safety belt. On the first occasion, when I landed in the Firth of Forth, despite the wearing of the belt I was struck by the instrument panel and lost consciousness, the plane began to sink and I only recovered consciousness as I disappeared under water. It then took me over a minute to get out of my cockpit—and a minute is rather a long time in those circumstances. Therefore I would advise all noble Lords that if they do wear seat belts they should not drive into rivers.

In the second example I was flying a dive bomber over Oxfordshire and experienced engine failure at 800 feet, which meant that I had to come down in rather a hurry. The only available landing spot was a potato field, and having rumbled over that for about 100 yards the 'plane turned over and I was hanging upside down in the cockpit, only slightly hurt. But fortunately I remembered—because I had been trained—that if you are hanging upside down by your safety belt you must be very careful how you undo it; that if you undo it quickly you will break you neck. It is important to go through that training, preferably with a dummy run because you should put up your hand on to the floor above you, then removing your safety belt and then lowering yourself gently on to the potato ground. That is another lesson for noble Lords, that they must be very careful with safety belts if their cars turn over after accidents.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am very grateful first to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, for what he said about the Government's favourable attitude to Amendment No. 72 and I am grateful to all the other noble Lords who have spoken. In reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, it is my understanding that there is no intention at the moment to require rear seat passengers to wear belts. This may come about but it will surely take many years, for reasons which perhaps we may come to when we discuss the next amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, implied that I had said that all drivers drive worse when they are wearing seat belts. I never said anything of the sort, nor would I ever do so; what I do say and I shall continue to say it, is that many drivers do. I have received countless letters on the subject and I have spoken to innumerable people, and I would estimate that about 33⅓ per cent. fall into that category. Those who are not adversely affected by wearing seat belts would tend to do so voluntarily anyway, but those who are adversely affected surely ought to be exempted.

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said that the Adams' thesis was completely unproven; but we do not need it to be proved when we know subjectively that this is so in our own case. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, has a curious interpretation of the word "liberal". Presumably he would classify the introduction of prohibition and the banning of tobacco as liberal measures, but we will let that pass. We have had a good debate on the subject and perhaps we may return to it again when the regulations are introduced; but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.5. p.m.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 37: Page 20, line 25, at end insert ("by the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment (because many of your Lordships may not understand it) would be to prevent any obligation being imposed upon car owners to install at their own expense rear seat belts or improved designs of front seat belts; in other words any obligation of that sort would apply only to new and hitherto unregistered cars. It would be particularly onerous, particularly for those less well-off sections of the community, to oblige them to spend £50 or more on installing rear seat belts, for example, when they find it hard enough at present to pay the annual road fund licence. This is an important point. I do not imagine that it is the intention of the Government to impose this obligation on the owners of existing cars, but I should like an assurance from the Government that I am correct in this assumption. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the power to prescribe is defined in Section 196(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1972 and it simply means prescribe by regulations made by the Secretary of State. The power to prescribe descriptions of seat belts is already found in Section 40(5) of that Act and the Construction and Use Regulations already contain provisions as to seat belts. But there are other regulations which stem from that subsection and other regulations will stem from this new clause 27. The manner and location in which the relevant descriptions are prescribed is, I think, one of form which I suggest is best left to be determined in the future. It may be, for example, that it would seem most appropriate to have one self-contained set of regulations applicable to this clause alone. However the Government would of course ensure that there was no conflict between different sets of regulations. There is no intention to use Clause 27 to impose the obligation on cars which already have seat belts compulsorily fitted and I hope that the noble Lord may perhaps feel that he need not go further with this amendment.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that reply, the last sentence of which entirely satisfies me, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 38.

Page 20, line 25, at end insert— ("Provided that such regulations shall not require the wearing of seat belts on private roads or private property.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment provides that such regulations will not apply to the wearing of seat belts on private roads or private property. It is generally assumed—and it was certainly assumed by me to up a few weeks ago—that the word "road" whenever it appears in a road traffic act refers to a public highway, but curiously enough that is not so. A road is defined as any road to which the public has access. This would include, therefore, a farm road which for all or part of its length was also a public right of way; the entrance drives to stately homes open to the public, or any other place similarly open to the public; roads on private housing estates; large car parks which can be found round hypermarkets and discount stores; public house forecourts, possibly the forecourt of the House of Lords, although I am not so sure about the forecourt of the House of Commons; roads on light industrial estates, and so on.

I cannot believe that it is the Government's intention to permit this. It seems to me to be an extremely unconservative thing to apply this sort of law to private roads and private property, but I wait to hear from the noble Lord who is to answer on this particular point. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I think this amendment is based on a misunderstanding of the extent of the present clause. This makes it an offence not to wear a belt when driving or riding in a vehicle on a road. By virtue of Section 196(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1972 a road is "any highway and any other road to which the public has access, and includes bridges over which a road passes".

While all roads are not highways, a road would not be within the statutory definition unless there were a sufficient degree of public access. This is a point which I gather is well settled by litigation and an attempt to distinguish between roads within the statutory definition and those outside it would lead to confusion. I have in front of me, and, if pressed, will quote the examples in point, but I suspect that may not be necessary. I understand, for example, that a person's drive would not be considered a road unless the public had access to it for a considerable period. This would not be the case if for a fee the public were allowed to enter on certain days of the week between certain times. In those circumstances the public would only have an implied consent to using the drive. Similarly, reference to private property also seems misplaced, as the clause is only concerned with roads. In effect, the amendment is not necessary and may in fact lead to some confusion. For that reason I hope the noble Lord will take the point and feel there is no need to press further.

Lord Monson

I am not entirely reassured by what the noble Lord says. I am reassured in so far as he refers to the drives of stately homes and other places open only on certain days of the week between certain times, but he has said nothing about farm roads which also happen to be public rights of way, nothing about roads on private housing estates or on light industrial estates, for example. I feel quite strongly about this, but I think it is perhaps something we should both go away and look at, and return to it, if necessary, at Third Reading. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 39A: Page 20, line 34, leave out ("such") and insert ("local rounds of").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in previous debates on the issue of compulsion over the years the Government have always been prepared to say how they would use the regulation making powers should Parliament decide to grant them. A category we have said we would consider for exemption is people involved in delivering goods or mail when they were engaged in such activity. Obviously the reason for this is that people who are frequently getting into and out of such vehicles would otherwise need to belt and unbelt themselves every few minutes. Clause 27(2)(b)(i) spells out the possibility of exemptions for such people, but in the Government's view it goes too far. We are surely concerned with the local roundsmen, the people who are stopping and starting outside every other house or in every other street. The same grounds for exemption cannot be mounted for delivery men who have to travel long distances between each stop. We therefore think that this subsection should be restricted to local rounds. This would not, of course, preclude the possibility of other exemptions if they could be justified. I beg to move.

Lord Stone

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether this applies to doctors on their rounds?

Viscount Simon

My Lords, before the noble Lord replies to that, from time to time we have been castigated for having drafted our amendments badly. I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us what is the definition of "local rounds".

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, can I say first of all, with the leave of the House, that I understand that this does not apply to doctors. With regard to the definition of local rounds, I tried a few moments ago to draw a distinction between rounds where there is a need to stop frequently every few yards and those where there are long distances to travel between each stop; yet a delivery man could be said to be a person in charge of a vehicle that was having to stop. I think it is a question of the regularity of the stops, distance between them, that is the distinction. Like much in this legislation, this amendment is an attempt to try to meet a very fairly raised point, that it does not make sense to have compulsion on people where clearly it is not practicable. We want legislation that makes sense. It is an attempt to meet that; we are trying to find a form of words that will achieve that.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, could the Minister kindly answer two questions on this? If he cannot answer now, can he say that the answers will appear in the regulations to be issued in the future? The first is with regard to milk floats; do they come within the definition of "goods"? My second question is: Can he define what is a short delivery, because Harrods send out their vans to Fleet, to Basingstoke, to Brighton. Is distance going to be defined in terms of mileage? If so, I can understand it. But I cannot accept entirely in my mind the general vagueness of "short distance".

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I wonder whether I can be of help to my noble friend, since he has been very helpful to me. I would refer to Amendment No. 72, the consultative document. I would have thought that the answer to Lord Balfour of Inchrye's question could very well be contained in that kind of document, when the various representations of milkmen, doctors, Harrods and any other person can be made to the department. It would seem to me that if we press my noble friend this afternoon he is going to have to write for us a series of regulations and make certain decisions on questions which have not yet been discussed by the interested parties. That is what is behind my Amendment No. 72. I think my noble friend might be able to rest behind the assurance he has given earlier, which is unlikely to be challenged when we get to Amendment No. 72.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, not for the first time I am grateful to my noble friend for coming to my aid on this matter, and as a general principle I entirely endorse what he said. It is in the regulations that we shall have the answers to lots of these points. Nevertheless, I think I would go back, on the particular question put to me by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye, and repeat what I said; that we are surely concerned here with local roundsmen, people stopping and starting outside every house in every other street. Once we go beyond that we are coming to something else. Nevertheless, as my noble friend Lord Lucas said, there is clearly much area here for further definition and clarification in the regulations.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, is a milk float under the heading of "goods".

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am told the answer is yes.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he will bear in mind, when it comes to the consultation, the unfortunate enforcement officers who have to determine if the person is really telling the truth? Everybody, from my experience as a magistrate, will be on a local round, whatever they are delivering. I would warn him that we do not want any more legislation which makes it impossible to define what was in the mind of Parliament when making the law.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, would the noble Lord bear in mind the unfortunate housewife doing her shopping in the local town or village? She is not delivering; she is picking up, because no one now will deliver.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I hear what the noble Lady says. When my noble friend Lord Balfour asked "What is a short delivery?", I was very tempted to say that now the Test Match is over I do not think a definition is required.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 40 not moved.]

Baroness Macleod of Borve moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("The Secretary of State for Transport in consultation with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Services and any other bodies he might think fit shall provide official guidance on the medical grounds upon which such certificates should be issued.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, first, may I say how very grateful I am, and I am sure others are, to my noble friend the Minister for agreeing to Amendments Nos. 69A and 72. It seems to me that if we speak very briefly—and I intend to do so—to amendments this afternoon, because of his agreement to those two amendments we can move on a little more quickly. With your Lordship's permission, I will speak to Amendments Nos. 41 and 42 together. If I had known that the Government were going to agree to Amendments Nos. 69A and 72, I would not have put down this amendment, because it is quite obvious the Secretary of State and the Minister of Transport will definitely consult with the people mentioned in my amendment. Therefore, I will, of course, withdraw it in a moment.

Amendment No. 42 is slightly different. I do feel it is very serious and quite right that pregnant women and nursing mothers must automatically be exempted from wearing seat belts. This also, presumably, will come under Amendment No. 41, but it has had a good deal of publicity and I wanted to make certain that the Minister would look at this particular point separately from all the others.

I have no knowledge myself and I am wondering whether the spokesmen for the BMA have knowledge when they say, as I gather one or two of them have said, that it is not necessary to have nursing mothers and pregnant women exempted. If that is not correct I hope that they will say so. However, I doubt very much if the spokesmen for the BMA are nursing mothers or have been pregnant or have tried to wear seat belts when they are pregnant. That is why I do not think that they know completely what they are speaking about. I suppose that I should not have said that, but I feel rather strongly about this matter and I have been asked by several young people to make certain that when they are pregnant they will not have to wear seat belts. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, as regards Amendment No. 41 I should just like to say that I am grateful to my noble friend for what she has said. The point which she has raised is an interesting one. Apart from what I have said about the ultimate need for the regulations, I want to give her an assurance that guidance in one form or another in any case will certainly be issued.

As regards Amendment No. 42 I should like to say that as a mere male I hestitate to become involved in arguments about pregnant women. But my understanding is that many medical and safety experts take the view that it is better for pregnant women to wear seat belts than for them not to do so. I gather they take that view on the basis that wearing a seat belt may at least save the life of the mother to be, whereas not wearing one may result in the loss of both mother and child. I imagine that their belief in the desira- bility of nursing mothers wearing seat belts would be even stronger. But let me immediately say "Enough, no more" as regards this matter at this moment. I can only lose, I cannot win by saying anything further on that point. I gladly give the assurance that, yes, of course we would have to have and would expect to have the utmost consultation with the medical profession on this matter.

Lord Monson

My Lords, as it seems possible that Amendment No. 42 may not be moved I should like to point out for the Minister's consideration that I have done a little investigation into the statistical aspects of this matter. During the eight months that a woman is aware that she is pregnant—because obviously she is not aware from the start—compulsion would have the effect of reducing the number of moderately severe and severe injuries sustained from eight per every 10,000 pregnant women to five per every 10,000 pregnant women who travel an average of about 170 miles a week. As regards nursing mothers, where obviously the time involved is shorter, the reduction in injuries would be down from four per 10,000 to two per 10,000—that is to the nearest whole number, of course.

Every injury saved is worthwhile, but let us bear in mind that the other 9,997 women who are not affected by this during their pregnancy will suffer severe discomfort in hot weather and at other times as well. The average inertia-reel locks, in my experience, about once every 500 miles, under relatively sharp braking at a roundabout, or perhaps when a dog or cat runs into the road. In those circumstances they will be thrown up against the locked belt. We must not just pay attention to what doctors think; it is the women themselves who have a right to be heard on this matter. I hope that the Minister will take that into account.

5.25 p.m.

Lord Balfour of Inchrye

My Lords, will the Minister clarify a little more one or two points as regards this very excellent amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve? It seemed to me from listening to the Minister that he was almost encouraging pregnant mothers to wear seat belts. He was quoting medical science saying that it is really excellent. I do not know what medical advice the Minister will obtain, but certainly I hope that someone who has been pregnant several months will not fall under that category.

Secondly, we are to introduce, particularly so far as nursing mothers are concerned, a new form of exemption certificate—a certificate of limited time. The doctor is to give a certificate that during pregnancy the mother has no obligation to wear a seat belt. How is the doctor to judge for how long the mother intends to feed her child? Will the exemption certificate have a limited time, expiring on the date which the doctor agrees with the patient? Will the woman be compelled to produce that certificate to any policeman to whom at once it will be revealed that for a limited time she is a pregnant woman? Pregnancy is something rather personal to many women.

Those are small points but they are points of great importance to the women who may be affected. All that I would ask of the Minister tonight is to make sure that such points, and probably many other points which other noble Lords may wish to raise, will be dealt with adequately in the regulations.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, I should just like to say a word or two in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve. First, as regards the wearing of seat belts by pregnant women, I personally have tried to wear a seat belt—an intertia-reel seat belt—when pregnant and it was extremely uncomfortable. I can speak to that matter from personal experience.

As regards Amendment No. 41, there are a number of disabilities which could make the wearing of seat belts a misery. However, a great many of these—and pregnancy, too—are not necessarily matters which a woman, or a man, would wish to be publicly known. May I ask that exemption certificates will simply give exemption without saying the reason for the exemption?

Also, where the disability is permanent will it be possible for the certificates to be granted for life? For example, a woman who has had a mastectomy will not grow new breasts. I know that this is something which is, not very sensibly, done in the case of medical certificates for disabled drivers to enable them to get disabled parking discs. If you have lost a leg you have to apply again every now and then for a new medical certificate to get a new permit. Nobody who has lost a leg will grow a new one. I think that it would be a lot cheaper if a little common sense could be brought into this aspect of the matter.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the medical authorities with whom there will be consultation on this particular matter. Will they include the Royal College of Midwives?

Lord Porritt

My Lords, I feel, as has already been said, that one speaks with considerable trepidation after what one has already heard. I hate to differ from the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, but I feel that it is only right that we should look at the other side of the matter. I am not an obstetrician and I never was, but I have had a good deal to do with obstetricians over a long life both inside and outside the Royal College of Obstetricians. I have no difficulty or doubt in saying that the consensus of their opinion would be what I was taught, and what I have always believed ever since, that pregnancy is a normal physiological process.

If we decide that it is right to pass this amendment then we are turning pregnancy into a pathological condition and very nearly, as far as I can see, into a secret society if you do not say why you are getting an exemption. I think that that is a great pity because pregnant women are ordinary people, but very special people and we should pay them the compliment of only exempting them from seat belts if they have a genuine medical complaint. Pregnancy is not a medical complaint—a discomfort, yes. Have your Lordships ever thought of the gentleman who perhaps has reached the age of 50 or 60 or even a little more and is far more rotund than many pregnant women? Are we to exempt him too? He does not have a pathological condition: he is just too greedy, or does not take enough exercise.

I think that a pregnant woman is far more important than that, but I do not think that she should be spoilt by being made to be exempt from wearing seat belts. I think that she should be treated in an ordinary, straightforward way. If she has some condition that makes it uncomfortable or impossible, then let her get an exemption certificate, and be proud of it.

Viscount Cross

My Lords, I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister a question. This point was raised by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye. How are the police to tell who has been granted a medical certificate, and is there to be a licence on the windscreen of the car when a certificate has been granted? How are the police to tell who has had a certificate and who has not?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, with such a list of questions posed to me I think that your Lordships would agree that the best thing I can do is quickly to retreat behind the magic word, "consultation". That I do, I readily confess. It would be fair to say that, in fact, under the proposed regulations medical certificates could be for either a limited or an unlimited duration of time, for specific periods or not. We would not envisage that they should state the condition on them which has justified the issue of the certificate. However, as I say, we shall read very carefully what has been said. We shall ensure that the points raised will be included in the consultations which have to take place with the medical profession.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister very much for what he has said and to thank those who have contributed to this debate. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Porritt, that pregnancy is a fact of life and, as he rightly said, it is one of those things to which perhaps one looks forward, but I can assure him that it is a jolly uncomfortable nine months. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 41.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 42 not moved.]

5.33 p.m.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("(iv) drivers or front seat passengers whose physique would make the wearing of a seat belt unduly uncomfortable and impractical, or whose seat belts are designed or fitted in such a way as to make it dangerous or difficult for them to be worn").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 43, briefly. The purpose of this amendment is fairly straightforward. It is to exempt automatically: drivers or front seat passengers whose physique would make the wearing of a seat belt unduly uncomfortable and impractical, or whose seat belts are designed or fitted in such a way as to make it dangerous or difficult for them to be worn". This, basically, is something which should be dealt with under the regulations. But I should like to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, so that he can pass it on to the Minister, that, for example, in West Germany exemption can be obtained for drivers or passengers who are under 1½ metres tall—that is to say, about 5ft. tall—and also for those drivers or passengers who are more than 1½ metres tall but for whom the positioning of anchorage points is such that the protective effect of the seat belt is not achieved. I think that it would be wise if we were to follow West German practice in this respect. I hope that the noble Lord will give an assurance that this will be passed on to the Minister.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, with equally commendable brevity, might I say that this is a difficult area and is certainly another which must be left for regulations. However, it would be fair to say that it could be open to much criticism on a number of counts; for example, impracticability is one thing, mere discomfort is quite another. However, I think that we might leave this one with the assurance that the Government are aware of this particular problem and would consider how best to deal with it under regulations.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Macleod of Borve moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("(iv) military personnel, fire service personnel, ambulance service personnel or police officers while on duty.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall be brief. The reason for this amendment is that all these personnel—military personnel perhaps to a lesser extent—but certainly the fire service personnel, the ambulance service personnel and police officers are, respectively, all in a hurry to quench, we hope, a fire, to help someone in distress after an accident or perhaps to chase burglars or deal with other crime. They will all be in a hurry to get into their vehicles; they will all be in a hurry to get out of their vehicles. Therefore, I am asking my noble friend to ensure in regulations that when they are on duty they should be exempted. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, again—and I keep saying this because it is the position—we shall look at this in regard to regulations. But it is right to say that the police, for example, may feel that they do not want to be exempted. In fact, when enforcing a law they might feel very inhibited if they are not themselves wearing seat belts. But we are talking about compulsion, are we not? Even so, we must look at this and the other categories referred to in the amendment very carefully, and we certainly will do so in the regulations.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, as a result of what the noble Lord has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 45:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("( ) driving test examiners and professional driving instructors; ( ) any qualified driver sitting in the front passenger seat and accompanying a learner driver.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that this is a matter which is best left to a later stage and, therefore, I do not propose to move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Lord Monson had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 46:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("(iv) persons who from genuine anxiety are unwilling to use seat-belts subject to such conditions, financial or otherwise, as the Secretary of State may require").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as my name is also down to this amendment, I think that I had better speak briefly to it. Again, this is a matter which could well be left for the regulations and, therefore, we do not propose to move it.

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 46A:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("(iv) drivers of vehicles who have made a statutory declaration before a Commissioner for Oaths that they conscientiously believe that their driving ability is materially impaired by wearing a seat belt.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 46A which deals with conscientious objections. In many respects this amendment is a watered-down version of Amendment No. 36 which exempted drivers in toto. This amendment confines it to drivers who find that wearing a scat belt adversely affects their driving ability and, therefore, not only endangers them but, far more important, endangers other road users. I estimate these drivers to amount to about one-third of all those who are regular drivers.

The conscientious objection question is rather interesting. With the leave of the House, at the same time I shall speak to Amendment No. 46C, which is a much expanded version of this. It does not confine the exemption to drivers but to all persons—that is to say, to drivers and passengers—and it follows closely the closed shop exemption provisions. Although I am told that there are a number of misprints in it, it does not really matter because I have no intention of pushing it to a Division this evening.

On the question of conscientious objection, I think that it is worth noting that the spokesman for the British Medical Association recently equated compulsory wearing of seat belts with compulsory vaccination and made the point that there had been compulsory vaccination in mid-Victorian times. I think that he omitted to make clear that the compulsory vaccination applied only to destitute people in workhouses, and I think that mature, literate, able motorists today would take rather unkindly to being regarded by the pro-compulsion lobby in the same way as the mid-Victorian bourgeoisie regarded the mid-Victorian destitute poor; but that is another point.

He also omitted to point out that from 1898 onwards it was open to parents of children, who hitherto had had to have their children vaccinated, to opt out by means of a declaration, first, before a magistrate and then subsequently, in 1907, before a commissioner for oaths that they had a conscientious objection to vaccination. It is only right that the same should apply, if we are doing this equation with vaccination, to the wearers of seat belts. Again, I think this is something with which we could deal at a later stage, but none the less I should like to hear the Minister's reactions to what I have just said.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before the Minister replies—

Lord Denham

My Lords, I think that we are out of order unless the Question is put.

The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

My Lords, amendment proposed, page 20, line 41 at end insert the words as printed. The Question is, That this amendment be agreed to?

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, before the Minister replies, I should like to ask the noble Lord on the Cross-Benches what particular type of religion he has in mind which would inhibit people from wearing a seat belt? I understand that there are people who, on religious grounds, object to vaccination on the theory about the putting of noxious substances into the body. Although I do not happen to share that particular view, understand it. Perhaps the noble Lord would illumine my mind and tell me what type of religion exists that has religious conscientious objections to wearing a seat belt? At the moment I am rather puzzled.

Lord Monson

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will reply to that. It was suggested in another place—it may have been after the noble Lord left there—that Calvinists, who believe in predestination, ought to be exempted.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I think that is a most effective reply, if I may say so. I would just make two brief points on these amendments. First, it seems to me that they really would have a rather dramatically adverse effect upon compulsion because they would potentially enable all drivers to obtain exemption if they wanted it. The amendment provides for no kind of test of the declaration, and indeed I do not see how one could be provided. If very large numbers of drivers obtained exemption, the consequence would be, as I have said in relation to earlier amendments, that the law would be impossible to enforce effectively.

The noble Lord, Lord Monson, may well feel justified in proposing his amendment on driving ability because of Professor Adams's thesis that the failure of countries with compulsion to make the expected savings in casualties can only be explained by changes in driving performance brought about by seat belt wearing. Our view on this is that while Professor Adams has raised some questions which require further study, he has not proved that his own particular thesis provides the right explanation. Furthermore, if there were anything in his thesis, this seems to me to be an argument against the introduction of compulsion as a whole rather than for leaving decisions to be made by individuals.

In any case, how many of us are capable of really making an assessment of our own driving performance. I think we would all perhaps have different ideas from those which others may have of it. I think that, rightly or wrongly, it is only human nature to put the blame for all sorts of problems on things we dislike. As we know, people even blame the Government for the weather, but not today, I hope. The noble Lord wanted to hear what was the Government's feeling at this stage, and I hope I have given him that.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am interested to hear what the noble Lord says, but am rather disappointed. I have always felt that there has been a certain failure of imagination in the pro-compulsion camp. Everybody is different; that is the point. Every single motorist is of different build, different psychology, and so on. What is good for one person may not be good for another. There is no reason why this particular exemption could not be dealt with at a later stage. By that time perhaps we can amass more evidence to prove our point by testimonials and declarations from people, and so on and so forth.

As regards Amendment No. 46C, which I do not propose to move, it was evident in earlier debates that there are a large number of people who are mildly opposed to compulsion, and they would not go to the trouble of going to a commissioner for oaths, which costs a certain amount of money and takes a certain amount of time. It would be only the hard core of people who would testify thereby, and therefore you would get almost the same results (because a lot of people who oppose belts will not wear them anyway) and you will probably get perhaps a 75 per cent. wearing rate instead of an 80 per cent. rate. You would achieve almost all you have set out to do in the first place but without the aggravation. Be that as it may, I can only beg leave to withdraw this amendment for the time being.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 46B:

Page 20, line 41, at end insert— ("(iv) a person who before being apprehended for an offence under subsection (1) above has entered into a valid policy of insurance or is otherwise in possession of funds sufficient to ensure that the Costs resulting from any driving accident for which he may be held liable do not fall upon public funds.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 46B. It is clear that the only legitimate interest that any third party can have in what another individual does is the financial one: I do not think "Do goodery" on its own nowadays is acceptable. It is totally insulting for the person at the receiving end. Therefore, it seems to me that if a person insures so as to cover the consequences of an accident he ought to be exempt. Again, this is something I do not propose to press tonight because time is getting on and there are other and more important things. But this is again something that might be considered by the Minister as a possible compromise. If there is no compromise made by the pro-compulsion lobby the bitterness in the country will remain very strong. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I do not dissent from what has been said about the cost of accidents. However, I should like to point out that such a provision would give rise to a number of difficulties. What would happen, for example, when a person who had suitable insurance cover or, for that matter, a large enough bank balance, decided he did not therefore need to wear a seat belt but was then involved in an accident which was not his fault? If the intention is that he should still pay his own bills, then the amendment is obviously defective. But if not, then who pays when, for example, a claim cannot be made upon another driver? This amendment may also have an adverse effect on everyone's insurance premiums if the companies are going to have to provide cover for such circumstances. One could enumerate a series of other such hypotheses, but I think perhaps at this time there is no need to do so. I hope that the noble Lord would feel similarly.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. With reference to his point about insurance cover, of course it is the drivers who opted not to wear belts who would pay considerably increased insurance premiums of their own free will, and that would seem to cover the point made by the noble Lord. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 46C not moved.]

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 47: Page 21, line 4, after ("amount") insert ("not exceeding £2").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 47. It has been suggested that it is possible that penal rates may be charged for the issue of a certificate in order to deter people from applying for them. I very much hope that this is not the case, and that it would be the intention to keep the charge for issuing the certificates as low as possible. A £1 fee was suggested to me; I built in 100 per cent. inflation and raised it to £2, but I hope the noble Lord can give an assurance that something in the order of that figure is in fact contemplated.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I would imagine that the purpose of this amendment is basically to provide a safeguard against the possibility that fees for medical certificates may be unreasonably high. I gather that is what the noble Lord is saying. I certainly understand this feeling, but in our view the power in this subsection is very much a reserve power which we would not wish to use. Fees must be decided by the medical profession or at the very least in agreement with them. If we attempted to impose limits which were totally unacceptable to them, they could simply refuse to issue certificates and we would have no power to compel them to do so.

In fact, I understand that there have been discussions with the profession in the past on this issue. Basically the size of the fee would depend on whether an examination were required. If it were not, and this would probably apply to the majority of cases, then the likely fee would probably be less than £2, though what it might be in years to come would presumably depend on the rate of inflation and who knows what. Where an examination was required, then I think the fee would certainly be more than £2, perhaps in the region of £5 to £10, and rather higher, I suppose, if the examina- tion were by a specialist. In general, therefore, fees should be modest, but there could possibly be rare cases of hardship and we would certainly consider what might be done to meet these, though at this stage I could give no undertakings. I hope that your Lordships might agree that this is a matter which would really best be left for the Government to negotiate with the medical profession.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his assurance that there would be no question of any penal element being built into the fee. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.49 p.m.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery moved Amendment No. 48:

Page 21, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) Notwithstanding subsection (2)(a) above, regulations under this section shall include a requirement for the fitting to each and every seat belt of a quick-release device having the following characteristics—

  1. (i) it shall be actuated by the simple pulling of a conspicuous loop or handle; and
  2. (ii) the said loop or handle shall be attached to the seat belt so as to be visible to and easily reached by a person situated outside the car and at either side thereof.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, if one thing is more certain than another in connection with this part of the Bill, it is that a large proportion of people do not wear seat belts. A great deal of research has been carried out into finding out the reason why this is. I have been supplied with a lot of reports of such research from the Transport and Road Research Laboratory. It has in my opinion a curious picture of extraordinary diversity. I say there is a lot of research. There have been a great many attempts at research of different kinds, and any noble Lords who have studied this material would probably agree that they do not in fact add up to much in the way of a coherent whole at the end. The reason for not wearing seat belts is what is referred to, though rarely, as "entrapment". Whatever researchers may say, I think it will be agreed by most people that many drivers and passengers do not like wearing seat belts because they feel they will be trapped. It is not a phobia—there is no "beltophobia" or whatever word one might construct —but a perfectly rational fear, the fear of being trapped.

There are of course many other ways in which people fear being trapped. When you get into a lift and shut the doors, you are fairly certain that they will open and you will be able to get out on arrival at the desired floor. But that is not always the case. You are almost certain that, when you press the button, you will be able to release yourself from your seat belt and get out at the end of your journey, but that does not always happen either. This apprehension is in the minds of many people and it highlights a great shortcoming in the design of seat belts, of which there are I do not know how many different sorts. In the last five motor cars I have owned I have had five different sorts of belt with five different sorts of fastening, and the fastening is usually down on the floor between the seats, which is about as inaccessible a position as you could find.

However, I am not particularly concerned with the fastening, though in my view that should be standardised. I am more concerned with the unfastening. It is all very well for me or anybody else who drives a motor car to put on his seat belt and, without thinking about it, unfasten it and step out of the car at the end of his journey; he would be able to do that even if he had an accident because he knows how to get out of the seat belt. But what do you do if you get into somebody else's car and you are strapped in by a belt of a different sort from your own? First of all you do not know how to fasten it, though that does not matter much because you can be shown how it is done. More important, you do not know how to get out of it; that is much more important if you have an accident because there is no automatic reaction which will get you out.

Furthermore, you may possibly be unable to release the belt if you have an accident. It will not necessarily be the case that you are unconscious, which will obviously make it impossible; you might be turned on one side, on either side—if noble Lords think about it, it does not matter on which side the car is lying—and it will be difficult to undo the seat belt if the fastener is at the bottom, between the seats, whether you are lying on top of it or whether your driver or passenger is lying on top of you. Furthermore, nobody else can come to your help, and your neighbour on your right or left will probably find it no more easy to undo it than you will.

Suppose you are unconscious; suppose you are the only person in the car; suppose you are old and infirm; suppose you are just naturally dotty; or suppose you are an ignorant child or a child who has not been properly instructed. How would anybody else get you out of that car? They would not know how to do it, particularly if the fastening was down between the seats, as I have postulated. They would not even be able to reach it, much less know how to work it when they had reached it. Bearing all that in mind, the amendment proposes that there shall be a quick release device and it says that the unfastener—or fastener, because it is the same thing—should be actuated by the simple pulling of a conspicuous loop or handle". That does not have to be on the fastener mechanism itself; it can be somewhere else, but it has to be somewhere where it can be easily found and easily seen by anybody, including by somebody outside the car (for example, a would-be rescuer) and it must be the same in respect of all seat belts so that whoever is wearing it or whoever comes to undo it will know exactly where to put his hand to find it—and what he will find is not a metal knob, which might cause injury to the wearer, but, as I have described it, I think with some sense— a conspicuous loop or handle". The amendment says that it shall be attached to the seat belt, although whoever drafted it might have been better advised to have said "connected to the seat belt" or "connected to the seat belt mechanism"; I do not mind which is chosen. The point is that it has nothing to do with the actual act of fastening it. It would probably be on the chest, but it would be for the experts to find out the best place. Perhaps it should be on the dashboard, or on the roof of the car, but it must always be in the same place so that anybody would know exactly where to find it in an emergency.

The final point to which I would draw the Committee's attention in relation to the amendment is at the beginning of it, where it says: Notwithstanding subsection 2(a) above, regulations under this section shall", which is different from other regulations, in that it is mandatory. The subsection in the Bill says that regulations "may" make different provisions and so on for different kinds of belt and different people, whereas the amendment says: Notwithstanding subsection 2(a)…regulations under this section shall". We might as well accept straight away that, if the amendment is accepted, the Bill, or this part of it, is bound to be held up until the necessary standardisation has been achieved by the department and the makers of seat belts. That would be worthwhile because if that standardisation is not done before the Bill passes into law, I do not believe it will ever be done. If there is any doubt about that, it might be as well to consider for how long we have been using seat belts, yet even now we have not managed to standardise the method of doing them up. What the amendment proposes should be done, and I suggest that it should be done straight away. I beg to move.

Viscount Cross

I support the amendment because it would achieve an important improvement. In this country in the winter months there are many multiple accidents on motorways and often there can be fires. Rescuers using the device described by my noble friend would very easily be able to undo the seat belts and get the people out.

Baroness Hylton-Foster

I too support the amendment but I have reservations about the type of release device. I think one would have to leave that to the experts, but, with respect, I suggest that the release device selected must be something which both the rescuer and driver can get hold of in a crisis, so probably it should be connected at the point where the seat belt is attached to the car, on the left- or right-hand side of the car according to where it is fixed, and not down between the seats. As noble Lords will agree, some seat belts are difficult enough to unfasten anyway. Indeed, it is sometimes almost impossible to get out of them in the dark, particularly if one is in a strange car. I therefore feel that if some quick release device were invented and standardised, then, if we are to have the compulsory wearing of seat belts, that would be a considerable reassurance to those who have to wear them.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

I too support the amendment, though not the sort of device my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery has in mind—a string loop or something of that sort—though I agree it must be possible to release the seat belt not only from a position on the floor of the car but at the door post as well. What I have in mind is an ability to unhook the seat belt at the door post at three points. I would, therefore, have three hooks at different levels down the door post. If, then, people must wear seat belts—which I am against, but your Lordships have decided we shall wear them—then if there were three hooks, anybody could undo the hooks at the door post, and the lowest hook could accommodate a child's seat belt.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I should very much like to support my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery, but I cannot. I believe the amendment is defective, in that it would not do what he wants it to achieve because he is attempting to put design criteria into a requirement. Indeed, were he to press the amendment and win, we should find that he has inhibited all advanced design, which I do not think is his intention. If I take the more generous view that the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, put forward the amendment in order to draw attention to the difficulties which are being experienced with current and different safety belts, then I can support him along those lines, but I have to tell the noble Lord that it would be absolutely wrong to force on to motor vehicle manufacturers a design feature of this nature because, again, one would inhibit their experimental work.

I have recently visited Volkswagen and Audi in Germany, where I talked to their safety engineering people. They showed me a new passive restraint system—which is just a way of calling a seat belt a different name. It is a very good system—vastly superior to and very much more comfortable than almost anything to be found on any United Kingdom motor-car currently being produced. We want to encourage this kind of development. The Americans also have an alternative passive restraint system—in fact, the Americans have developed three or four new systems over the past 15 or 20 years. What we have to do is impress upon my noble friend the Minister that he must have the Department, the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, the belt manufacturers and the car manufacturers and anyone else who can be involved devise more acceptable and safer seat belts. If that is what really lies behind the amendment, then I am with it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, spoke about fitting a device to the door pillar of the car. With respect, I do not think the noble Baroness means that at all, because in a passive restraint system one end of the belt is attached to the door. It would be quite wrong to tell designers what they are to do. It is right for your Lordships, in this debate, to tell designers what we expect their products to achieve. We cannot tell them the design factor but we can tell them the result we want to achieve and ask them to design something that will achieve it.

In conclusion, I should like to remind your Lordships of the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in respect of price. Two noble Lords have asked me about replacing parts of a seat belt. One was told that it was going to cost £34 to replace a part and the other noble Lord said that the cost of the part would be £48. This is nonsense, and the department must talk to belt manufacturers and to car manufacturers to get the right balance of price for original equipment and for replacement equipment. It is, of course, part of the MoT test to prove that the seat belt is effective, but many older belts are now becoming defective and customers are finding themselves involved in very heavy expense. It is to the whole of this area that I ask my noble friend to give very careful consideration.

6.4 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, may I join with other noble Lords in asking my noble friend the Minister to make progress in this particular field. If the compulsory wearing of seat belts is to be the law of the land then a major improvement in their design is very much needed. My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery has provided us with a useful debate which calls attention to this point. All of us are very much aware of how slow progress has been and how much scope there is for improvement. I was interested to hear what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth had to say about the Volkswagen development. The American experience is turning away from mainline and air bag safety arrangements and turning back to belts.

Whatever happens, we too want progress in this field and if the wearing of seat belts does become compulsory, this should give a big impetus to manufacturers and designers. It will certainly strengthen the position of the Ministry of Transport in dealing with manufacturers and designers to make real progress in this field in terms of comfort and safety and particularly in the very important area of the release gear. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some encouragement to believe that we may expect to see some progress.

Lord Bowden

My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord the Minister whether it is possible to obtain any help from the experience of the armed services? On the rare occasions when I have been driven by an official army driver my experience has been that the driver has insisted on the wearing of a seat belt by both himself and the front seat passengers. This has been the practice for several years and I wonder whether there are any statistics available relating to accidents involving service vehicles, and whether any experience has been gained in the relative merits of seat belt designs.

6.6 p.m.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, we all want seat belts to be of the very best possible design and no one would claim that present designs are the ultimate. However, in the context of the Bill my concern is that the devices called for in this amendment do not exist at the present time. I imagine that their development and fitting to all cars would take many years. My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery was fair enough in saying that he appreciated that, should this amendment be pressed and accepted, then implementation of compulsion would have to be shelved for a long time. How long it would have to be shelved I do not know.

That position might have to be accepted if there were at present no requirements for seat belts to be easily released, but, in fact, seat belts already have to comply with very strict regulations. Under the EEC directive which applies to all seat belts now fitted to new cars, the release mechanism must be coloured red and be clearly visible to and be within reach of the wearer. The belt must be capable of being released by the wearer with a simple, single movement of either hand in one direction. Also, the buckle must be located in such a position that it is "readily accessible to a rescuer".

That is not to say that we should not seek to go beyond that, as, for example, in the way described by my noble friend Lady Macleod of Borve. I take the point made by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford to the extent that manufacturers will have an expanded market and will therefore have a tremendous incentive to step up their development work in this field. I hope that they will do so.

To return to the amendment as such, the fact is that even if the amendment limited itself to new cars manufactured after a specified future date, it would almost certainly be impossible to achieve its object for many years. My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth very fairly made the point that the amendment as it is drafted applies to all cars. The term "all cars" would include existing vehicles and in many cases conversion might be impossible and compulsory wearing of seat belts might never be implemented. As your Lordships' House has come to the decision that the compulsory wearing of seat belts should be so, then I am sure that the implications of the amendment will be appreciated. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery, is well aware of this fact and I am hoping that his intention in putting forward this amendment was to bring out the points which have been very well brought out in this debate and which will make a contribution to the whole debate on our attitude towards seat belts.

The Earl of Cork and Orrery

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I have the impression that, on the whole, there is approval for the intention that lies behind the amendment, faulty though it may very well be; I do not pretend otherwise. I am slightly puzzed by the criticism of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who accuses me of making a design requirement, which of course is not the right thing to do—I think that that was the phrase he used. I was so greatly aware of the impropriety of placing on the manufacturers a design requirement that I drafted the amendment with the deliberate intention of not doing so, and I thought that I had succeeded. As I reread the amendment now I do not see in it any requirement on a manufacturer, telling him how to do anything. The amendment states that there is required a simple device for releasing a seat belt—one that is easily accessible and can be easily understood by everybody, including someone standing outside the car. How the manufacturer achieves that is his business; I do not presume to lay down a design requirement for anyone.

My noble friend the Minister referred to the EEC requirements. I would say, with great respect, that perfectly well understood and excellent though they are, they are requirements and not standards. I know that the seat belts are required to be designed in accordance with various restricting limitations. The fastening or unfastening device must be positioned where it can be easily found by the wearer or by a rescuer. The release point should be easily seen, and it should be possible to release the belt by one stroke of a finger. But there is nothing to say where the release device should be, and so the wearer of the belt, if he is in a car that is strange to him, or the rescuer, must first find out where the device is. He then has to find out which of the EEC requirements the device follows, and how it works.

I believe that there is some point behind my amendment. In my introductory remarks I said that I thought the delay would be worth it, but in point of fact I do not think that it is worth it. The Bill ought to go through and should not be totally frustrated by this particular point. However, I hope the case has been made sufficiently strongly for the Minister to take it away and use it as best he can in the future so as to encourage this kind of proposal to be implemented—and the sooner, the better. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 49:

Page 21, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) Any applicant for an exemption certificate shall be entitled to appeal to the Secretary of State for Transport against refusal to issue a certificate. ( ) The Secretary of State may order any person who refuses to issue a certificate to pay compensation to the applicant in respect of any expenditure incurred or other losses resulting from an unjustified refusal.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 49, the purpose of which is to ensure that there will be adequate safeguards to protect the motoring public against unjustifiable refusal of exemption certificates and, secondly, to achieve uniform policies in all parts of the country in relation to the issue of certificates. This is a worry. For instance, we know that the abortion laws are applied extremely unevenly. In some parts of England and Scotland one can get an abortion quite easily, while in other parts it is almost impossible. I believe that there is a fear among motorists that the ease with which exemption certificates are obtained might be equally patchy, and I hope that the noble Lord can give an assurance in this respect. I beg to move.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I have to say that I am not in favour of the amendment. With regard to the first part of it, it seems that it is rather unnecessary to set up a further piece of bureacratic machinery. If a doctor refuses to issue a medical certificate, there is nothing to stop an applicant going to as many other doctors as he wishes, and I cannot believe that if several doctors concur in the view that he should not be issued with a certificate, the Secretary of State would decide otherwise.

With regard to the second part of the amendment, I find it hard to imagine what would constitute an "unjustified refusal". Grounds for medical exemption are bound to be matters of medical opinion, and it would be something of a slur on the medical profession to suggest that they would not give such an opinion fairly and reasonably. Furthermore, I doubt whether the profession would agree to issue certificates at all if its members were under constant threat of proceedings from disappointed applicants, many of whose views might be coloured as much by their fear or dislike of seat belts as by the medical issues involved. If the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will look at the matter that way, perhaps, like me, he will feel that his proposals are impractical in terms of what the Bill is trying to achieve. I hope that on reflection he will agree with me.

Lord Monson

My Lords, of course I take the points of the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, but what he has said adds to my fears about the implications of the clause as a whole. In practice, the result might be more disharmony and irritation than one could imagine. With those remarks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.16 p.m.

Lord Drumalbyn moved Amendment No. 50: Page 21, line 7, after ("who") insert ("without reasonable excuse").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, by inserting the words proposed in my amendment the subsection of the Bill would read as follows: Any person who without reasonable excuse drives or rides in a motor vehicle in contravention of regulations under this section shall be guilty of an offence". In other words, if one has a reasonable excuse, one is not guilty of an offence. This provision of the Bill is somewhat contentious, and it is very difficult to know exactly how it will work out in practice and what effect it will have on the morale of both drivers and the police. Therefore, it is just as well to ensure that if there is a reasonable excuse for not wearing a scat belt in the particular circumstances of the time in question, that should be a consideration. Thus the police would not then bring a prosecution, simply because they would be convinced that there was a reasonable excuse, or if a prosecution were brought where there was a reasonable excuse, the court would discharge the accused.

In this connection I wish to point out the opening words of the new Section 33A of the Road Traffic Act 1972, which appear on the previous page. The opening words are: The Secretary of State may make regulations requiring, subject to such exceptions as may be prescribed, persons who are driving or riding in motor vehicles on a road to wear seat belts of such description as may be prescribed". Immediately after that the section states: Regulations under this section— …may make different provision in relation to different classes of vehicles, different descriptions of persons and different circumstances". Can anyone seriously claim that the regulations will be so framed that all the circumstances in which it would be reasonable to hold that there was a reasonable excuse could be foreseen? I simply cannot envisage anyone having such omniscience and being so far-seeing.

On the other hand, it seems to me that there is no provision at all for letting off an accused if there is a reasonable excuse. There ought to be such provision. I think here of an example related to what was said on the last amendment. A man might drive to the doctor to get a certificafe stating that it is inadvisable for him to wear a seat belt, and that would be a reasonable excuse. Bearing in mind what my noble friend said on the last amendment, the man might be refused a certificate by the first doctor, and so he would go on committing an offence by driving around, visiting a number of doctors to try to get a certificate. One can easily carry the point to a ridiculous absurdity, but the fact remains that such cases are bound to crop up.

Another thing worries me about this question. If a person knows perfectly well that he has a reasonable excuse for not wearing a seat belt in particular circumstances—and I agree that this is a matter of morality, rather than of law—he will be extremely angry if he is brought before a court. Such a situation would reflect adversely on relations between the police and the public, and I should certainly not like that to happen. So I hope that if my noble friend feels that this is not properly drafted, or something of that kind, he will at any rate take the point into consideration and see what can be done about it. In a free society you cannot really be treated in the same way as people in the army were during the war when they did not wear a steel helmet. It just will not do, though the arguments are the same. You should have worn a steel helmet, but there may have been good reasons why in particular cases it was not practical for you to do so; you may have had a reasonable excuse. I maintain you can have a reasonable excuse in this case, also. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I should very much like to support my noble friend's amendment. I do not know whether it is worded correctly, but the principle behind it is, I think, absolutely right. I hope that if my noble friend the Minister cannot accept it he will at least make it clear to us that in practical terms a reasonable excuse would be accepted.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, when my noble friend conies to answer this, while I sympathise with the intention, I cannot believe that a law drafted in this fashion would be enforceable, and this law is not going to be effective unless it is enforceable. After all, anybody sitting in a motor-car without a seat belt on can say, "It seemed quite reasonable to me; I was feeling a bit warm today and so I did not wear my belt", or, "My belt is a bit tight today, so I am not wearing it", and so on. There have to be definitions. My noble friend Lord Drumalbyn is, I think, not right in his dialectic when he complains that there is no mention in the Bill. This kind of point, in so far as it can be dealt with, must be dealt with in regulations. It may be that regulations will not cover everything, but they have got to try to cover everything so far as they can.

Let me give my noble friend an example. If he looks at Amendment No. 54, which is in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson—and I am bound to say that, although I have not agreed with all the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, I think he has a point there, and I suspect that my noble friend the Minister will think so, too—that would be a reasonable excuse. An attempt must be made in regulations to show what would be a reasonable excuse; but just to put the words "reasonable excuse" into the Bill—in other words, what the driver thinks is a reasonable excuse—would make it unenforceable. So I hope that my noble friend, while he will be helpful and sympathetic in explaining to your Lordships what he hopes to put into regulations, will invite my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I really do not think I can accept what he has just said, that it will be up to the person himself to judge whether the excuse is reasonable. That is certainly not what the amendment says. He would have to prove that the excuse was reasonable if it went to court.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, following on what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has said, I respectfully agree and I think that for once my noble friend Lord Nugent is wrong, because "reasonable excuse" in the amendment, or in any statute, must not mean what the person concerned thinks is a reasonable excuse but what in the last resort he can convince a court is a reasonable excuse. The example he gave—"It was a hot day and I was not feeling like it"—I think would be laughed out of court, even in the simplest court of magistrates in the most remote part of the country.

But may I suggest a possible solution for meeting what I think is a real point that my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn has introduced? The Bill as it stands creates the offence of travelling in a motor car without a seat belt in contravention of the regulations. If my noble friend the Minister could say here and now that, whatever else the regulations may contain, they will contain a provision that where there is a reasonable excuse for not wearing a seat belt—a reasonable excuse in the view of the courts—then the offence will not be committed, then I think it would meet the very reasonable apprehensions of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, which I personally happen to share. If my noble friend the Minister is not prepared to say that at this stage, then perhaps my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn may wish to take the matter further.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will not withdraw the amendment. May I give what I think is the most cogent reason for accepting it? We are looking at page 21, line 7. If your Lordships cast your eyes down to the bottom of the page and look at line 39, your Lordships will see precisely that phrase "without reasonable excuse" in the next clause. So if it is acceptable in Clause 28, which refers to children wearing seat belts, why on earth should it not be acceptable in Clause 27?

The noble Lord, Lord Nugent, has referred sympathetically to my Amendment No. 54, which I am speaking to now because it is embraced by this amendment. We all know cases where the inertia reel jams. There is nothing you can do about it; you tug and tug, and it refuses to come out. If you drive half a mile, it may loosen itself, but not until you have driven half a mile or so. Suppose one drives to the coast and gets very bad sunburn. "We should be so lucky!", some of your Lordships may think, in a summer such as this, but it could happen. Now, would it be reasonable to compel somebody with a second-degree burn on his shoulders to drive back with his seat belt on? What happens if somebody breaks his arm and has it put in a sling by an ambulance driver, who, of course, is incapable of issuing a certificate of exemption? It is not reasonable to compel a man with his arm in a sling to drive with a seat belt on. So I think that, particularly in view of the fact that the very phrase used by the noble Lord appears at the bottom of page 21, in the next clause, it really ought to be accepted in Clause 27 as well.

6.25 p.m.

Lord Parry

My Lords, those of us who are not lawyers are from time to time confused by the erudition of those who are. It has seemed to me, listening to the support for this amendment, that it might well have been put forward against the amendment. Clearly, any law to which we are subject in this country has within the defence of those people who suffer under it the right to prove that they had a reasonable excuse. If they can in fact convince the court on that day—and expensive salaries are earned in convincing courts—as to a reasonable excuse, they can in fact have mitigation of the offence. That is as I understand it.

Certainly, if that is wrong, it seems to me that here in this case the people who have argued for the reasonable excuse defence should put that phrase into other contexts. I imagine that the use of such an argument would sit very well on the lips of people convicted osf drunken driving, for example—that they had a reasonable excuse for celebrating a family event. The argument might appeal to them, but it would hardly convince a court.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, in looking at this clause I have tried to think the whole time of the difficulties of enforcement, and the short debate that we have just been listening to brings out how great difficulties could in fact emerge from what seems a very small point—just a very few words being added or not added to the Bill. I should like to put in a plea here that if the words "reasonable excuse" are not considered by the lawyers to be adequate to meet my noble friend's very proper point, as I think it to be, then I should like to appeal to the Government that, when it comes to the drafting of the regulations, they should take very great trouble over this point and, if necessary, even go to some length in describing what might or might not be the sort of points argued frequently before magistrates' courts, and not only in magistrates' courts a very long way from the capital, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, cynically mentioned.

Lord Wells-Pestell

My Lords, may I ask the Minister a question? It may well be that I have missed the point, and it may well be that the noble Lord the Minister will not want me to refer to Clause 28 at this stage, but I am concerned about the phrase, "without reasonable excuse". Who in fact would determine that somebody was doing it without reasonable excuse? Would it be necessary for the defendant or the person to be summonsed and then to plead in court that he had reasonable excuse, or is there some procedure in the Bill for determining it without taking the person to court?

Baroness Phillips

My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, on behalf, again, of those who will have the unfortunate task of trying to deal with this in the courts. I think all magistrates detest the "reasonable excuse" argument, and, as has already been said, even in criminal cases people will argue that they had a reasonable excuse. I am sure the looters who have been in the shops recently would say they had a reasonable excuse: they were hungry, or they needed a television set. One man's reason is not another man's reason, and I think the sooner we get rid of this "reasonable man" and this "reasonable excuse" out of the legislation the better. It is most difficult. What one person considers a "reasonable" excuse is certainly not always what another person considers a "reasonable" excuse.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, it is not without some trepidation that I endeavour to say what "reasonable excuse" really means. My understanding of it has always been that in fact it is not of itself a defence, but that it can be used in mitigation as to the extent of penalties or whatever. If 1 may say so, as a magistrate of many years' standing, that has always been my understanding of it, and if you want to have it in legislation you had better put it in as said.

I would say here that the Government quite accept there will be occasions when the wearing of seat belts should not be compelled under the law, and that is why the clause is an enabling provision, and certain exemptions have already been specified. Although I note the reservations and the doubts of my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, the fact is that the regulations should provide for all those with reasonable excuse. Moreover, if we were to provide a defence of "reasonable excuse", it would certainly, as I think my noble friend Lord Inglewood, said, make enforcement very difficult for the police. It would lead to considerable unnecessary argument in court, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, said, and would entail motorists trying to flout the law.

However, if someone who was not in an accepted category was not wearing a seat belt they would have it open to them to explain their case to the police, and in fact I think this is the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell; it is the police who would have the discretion over whether or not to prosecute, or whether just give a caution. It is their duty to decide, and, if they decided to prosecute, it would be for the magistrate to decide to impose a nominal penalty if they thought the facts of the case warranted it.

Having said all that, clearly I could not accept the amendment. I hope my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn will not feel that he wants to press it. Certainly, I take the point that the term "reasonable excuse" is mentioned elsewhere in the Bill, and I certainly would want us just to think about this. I certainly cannot do otherwise, and I hope my noble friend will not later on say I had done otherwise. I would only say I think some of the points made are such that we would want to think them over and consider them, but I hope that my noble friend, with that, will feel able not to press the amendment as it is. It is a very dubious assurance I can give him, and I readily acknowledge it may not be satisfactory, but it is very probably the best I can do at the moment.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, before the noble Lord intimates what he wants to do on this, can I ask the Minister this question. When he is looking at this would he look both at this clause and then refer to Clause 27 and look at that as well? Both of them are possibly identical, both of them provide for exceptions both in or out of both.

Lord Monson

I think that is absolutely fair.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend and I am sorry to embarrass him in this way, but what I was trying to get at was a means of drawing the attention of the police to the fact that they do not have to prosecute in every case where the seat belt was not fastened. This is what I was really trying to get at, whether or not there is a strict provision in the regulations. I am sure there will be many cases where the police will say to themselves, "It is really not worth prosecuting in this case". If a good reason is given for not having fastened the seat belt, I would like to make certain their attention is drawn to this, and that they do not have to prosecute if they are convinced there is a reasonable excuse.

This will save an immense amount of court time, and an immense amount of hard feelings. So I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has said. I appreciate that at the moment he has not given any assurance on this, but he has said that he will think about it again. So in those circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 51 not moved.]

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 52: Page 21, line 9, at end insert ("but it shall not be an offence to aid or abet or to permit the commission of such an offence").

The noble Lord said: I am going to move Amendment No. 52. This is an extremely important amendment. When I sounded out those noble Lords who had voted against compulsion on 11th June about which amendments they would most like to see introduced at that stage, this was one of the three or four which received the highest degree of support. Basically the intention is to ensure that a driver is not responsible for a passenger's refusal to wear a seat belt, and the passenger is not responsible for a driver's refusal.

I do not think it is the intention of the Government or of the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, to make the passenger or the driver responsible for each other. Certainly, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in 14 countries and Australian states that I have been able to look at, in only one case is a driver responsible for a passenger, or the other way round. But none the less there is a danger, unless we agree to this amendment, that this might creep in, perhaps unexpectedly.

One could visualise situations where a driver with his mother-in-law, perhaps, or—a little more down-to-earth—a chauffeur driving his employer, and the chauffeur would risk losing his job if he told his employer to belt up. There are all sorts of other situations that one could envisage where this might happen, and I am sure it is not the intention of the Government that this should happen, that persons should be responsible for each other's refusal; and it does not happen in other countries, with one exception. This is an important point, and I hope the House will accept it.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

It might help the noble Lord and the House if I said that, from my point of view, I would welcome this amendment, and I think it is reasonable that it should be accepted.

Lord Underhill

I should like to suggest to the House that there are some difficulties here. First of all, how does one prove what is laid down in this amendment? One might think of one or two examples where one could prove it, but how do you get proof that if a person had been wearing a seat belt this would have happened? It could be held to be an encouragement to certain people deliberately to refuse to obey the law, if it became law to wear a seat belt. And deliberately refusing to do this because they believe they could then prove that failure to wear a seat belt had led to saving someone's life—

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, may I interrupt? I am addressing my remarks to Amendment No. 53.

Lord Underhill

You are on the wrong track!

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the noble Lord is doing very well. The Government is pretty neutral on this. We will be prepared, if that is what the House feels, to accept this amendment. I understand that some drafting changes may be necessary, in that the words "aids", "abets" and "permits", are the terms which may not actually be correctly used here; but if that is what the House decides it wants we will accept it in the attempt to be helpful to the noble Lord.

Lord Drumalbyn

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether this will mean that if a passenger, or a person that the driver takes as a passenger, refuses to fasten his seat belt and the driver is faced with the difficult situation of saying, "I will not go unless you do so" or of pitching the chap out, that is the sort of case that this amendment would exempt from any liability for the driver not fastening his seat belt?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, I wonder if the noble Lord, Lord Monson, would care to comment on that.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I did not entirely hear what the noble Lord said. The essence of the matter is that each individual is responsible for belting up himself. If he refuses, then he must take the consequences. Nobody else is blamed. The passenger cannot be blamed by the police for the driver refusing to wear his seat belt, and also the other way round. On Lord Bellwin's suggestion of some technical difficulties, may I suggest to the House that we accept the amendment and then it can be rectified at Third Reading by a technical drafting amendment?

On Question, amendment agreed to.

lord Monson moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 21, line 9, at end insert— ("( ) It shall be a defence to any prosecution brought under this section to establish that failure to comply with the requirement to wear seat belts saved the life of at least one individual or materially lessened the severity of injuries sustained as a result of a road accident.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 53. We are frequently told that hardly anybody is ever harmed by wearing a seat belt. I have a file of cuttings of reports of coroners' inquests and of statements by the police which confirm that people have been killed by wearing a seat belt or that a life has been saved by not wearing a seat belt. The police are not generally fools in this regard. I have studied over a number of years the debates in both Houses on the whole seat belt question. I do not want to go into a lot of statistics, but, going through all the debates, it appears from honourable Members in another place and noble Lords in this House who have spoken on the subject that in about 5 per cent. of cases seat belts have done more harm than good. I accept that in the case of the other 95 per cent. the position is reversed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, told us in December how her life had been saved by not wearing a seat belt. Had this law been in force we might not have had the pleasure of seeing her tonight on the Opposition Front Bench. She had a car accident and her life was saved because she was thrown out of the car, the front of which was crushed. If this law had been in force and this amendment had not been accepted the police would have arrived and congratulated the noble Baroness on her lucky escape, since the front of the car had been concertina-ed, and they would have said, "I am afraid we will have to charge you with not wearing your seat belt". (She would have been inside the crushed part of the car if she had been wearing one.) It is an impossible state of affairs. The amendment is simply to dot the i's and cross the t's. It makes it clear that there are many other circumstances—and I do not want to bore the House with examples—but in those instances the onus of proof will be on the person concerned. The driver or the passenger would have to prove that the failure to wear a seat belt had saved his life, or saved him from serious injury. This is a reasonable amendment and I hope the House will accept it.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, as the amendment is drafted it appears to have the effect that a person charged with not wearing a seat belt has a defence if he can show that any person whatever, whether or not he was involved in the circumstances leading up to the prosecution, was saved from death or suffered less serious injury as a result of not wearing a belt. This would mean that only one such incident need be established and no prosecution thereafter could succeed. I am sure that this would not be a sensible result. I suspect it is not what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, intended. But it would be the effect of it. Having said that, it remains the case that even one case would be difficult to prove because, if a person was actually not wearing a belt when an accident happened, it must always remain a matter of speculation what would have happened to him if he had been wearing one. Speculation is all it could be.

If it is difficult to prove one case, it would be an impossible task for the courts if they were asked to determine for numerous individual accidents in which accused drivers or passengers had been involved whether anyone had benefited through not wearing a belt, which I assume is, in fact, the intention behind the amendment. I hope I am right in suspecting that Lord Monson perhaps had not appreciated the significance; although it is not for me to suspect that, but to us it seems to be a major reason why we would not be able to accept the amendment.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, mentioned the car accident. It is true that this happened and for some time this made me wary of the idea of wearing seat belts. On the other hand, in the same debate it was pointed out by two of the distinguished doctors who spoke that the chances of being killed when thrown out of a car were higher than being killed if you were wearing a seat belt. In this case it would have been unfortunate but I would have been a statistic of the road fatalities. The chances of being thrown, as I was, on to the grass verge are not very high and I was lucky. But I do not think that one can base law on this. In the same debate, I pointed out that there are a certain number of unfortunate deaths each year from the use of anaesthetics when people undergo operations. But, on that basis, we do not decide that anaesthetics are lethal and stop using them. This becomes a very difficult question. I agree with the Minister. If something like this should happen—and I am "sticking my neck out" here—and as a magistrate it came to my court, then I am confident that in such circumstances the magistrates would dismiss the case.

Lord Spens

My Lords, I put my name to this amendment for the reason I gave earlier. This thing has happened to my own son. He was thrown out of a car, having turned it over on an icy road, and he is still alive. I believe that my son is going to find it difficult to comply with this compulsion to wear a seat belt. Although that accident happened before provisions like those in this Bill became law, I do not suppose under this drafting that it could be held to be a defence in his case; but if it were to happen again to him—and it might do so if he does not wear his seat belt—then I think he ought to have a defence.

Lord Parry

My Lords, I was about to leave the Chamber when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Monson, return to what is the basic argument against the original proposition about wearing seat belts. Although properly introducing the amendment, it is not, I think, something which should be at this stage part of the argument. In the same way, the argument put forward by Lord Spens, to which we listened with respect and sympathy, surely is begged by the fact that his son would be able to register a case of nervousness, of being unable to drive comfortably—of having his driving affected by nervousness because of his previous experience. He could get a medical certificate to that effect. It would be a pity if, in discussing an amendment setting out to secure simply an alteration of the Bill, we argued the case for the negativing of the whole proposition.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is technically right. There are cases where men and women survive accidents probably—for one cannot prove it—because they were not wearing seat belts. The Transport and Road Research Laboratory did a study on this. They made an estimate, a very broad one, that it is probably something like one in 1,000 cases, but such things do happen. On the other hand, as we all know, wearing a seat belt roughly doubles one's chances of surviving. That is the whole justification for proceeding with the law.

The noble Baroness' argument or analogy on anaesthetics was a good point. Sometimes there are fatalities on the operating table. This is inevitable. However, because that is so one does not stop proceeding. If this amendment were accepted it would only be necessary to gather together the evidence of one survivor and bring that before the court and every single case of prosecution would be defeated.

I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, wants to destroy the whole effect of the Bill. If this provision were put into the Bill it would only be necessary for any opponent of seat belt wearing to find such a case and everybody could use the same case afterwards and every time they would have to be found not guilty. I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment although he made his point which is a valid one. There are such cases; they do exceptionally happen, and I am only too delighted that they happened in the case of the son of the noble Lord, Lord Spens.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. May I take up the point regarding anaesthetics which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Nugent? Nobody is compelled to submit to an anaesthetic; everybody has the right to refuse to have an operation if they wish. That is the great dividing line between anaesthetics and immunisation and the compulsory wearing of seat belts.

I confess that it is clear that my amendment is defectively drafted. I did not mean it to have the effect that apparently it has. It was not any attempt at a trick on my part: I genuinely believed that it was merely confined to the people in the car at the time, whether the driver, front or back scat passengers, or whatever. I took some eminent but hastily given legal advice on the drafting and that is probably where the slip occurred. I reserve the right to introduce a better drafted amendment at Third Reading, but I now beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 54 not moved.]

6.53 p.m.

Lord Beliwin moved Amendment No. 54A:

Page 21, line 21, at end insert— ("(5) Regulations under this section requiring the wearing of seat belts by persons riding in motor vehicles shall not apply to children under the age of fourteen years (to whom the next following section applies).").

The noble Lord said: At the Committee stage, I promised to look very carefully at the effect of this new seat belts clause on the clause accepted by the Government in another place and dealing with children in the front of vehicles. We have decided that the two clauses should be kept distinct as they do deal with two separate issues.

Clause 27 makes it an offence for anyone to ride or drive in a car without wearing a seat belt. Clause 28 makes it an offence for anyone to drive a car when there are children under the age of 14 unbelted in the front. In the first case the responsibility lies clearly on the individual to comply with the law by wearing a belt. In the second case it is the responsibility of the driver, the adult, to ensure that children under 14 do not travel unbelted in the front. Only at 14 when they assume legal responsibility for many of their actions will children be made responsible for ensuring that they wear a belt. This amendment makes it clear that the two clauses and offences are to be kept distinct. I urge you to support it.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, on a point that he raised earlier, that this is a distinction between the two situations when we were talking before of reasonable excuse? In the one case it is a decision that you make for yourself; in the other case it is a decision you are making for somebody else. I shall come back to him as I promised. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, may I with trepidation suggest to my noble friend that, while it is entirely his business if he has two regulations instead of one, he kindly said, when we noted that he was going to accept Amendment Nos. 69A and 69B, that he would listen with care to all the amendments that we have been discussing over the past two or three hours? He said that he would take note of them with a view to their being incorporated in regulations if that suited him. Some of these points would be relevant to both sets of regulations in relation to the clause which we are considering and also the one relating to children. Though the regulations might be separate, when considering the points we are raising in the debate under the general headings of these amendments, could my noble friend give me an assurance that, where relevant, he will consider the points for both the regulations if they are applicable?

Lord Beliwin

My Lords, I want to read carefully what my noble friend has said. At first hearing, it sounds as if that would be a fair undertaking to give. But I want to consider it carefully. At the moment, as I stand here, the answer is "yes", but I may have to come back to my noble friend. I hope that I do not.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, there is a manuscript amendment in substitution for Amendment No. 55.

Lord Inglewood had given notice of his intention to move a manuscript amendment in substitution for Amendment No. 55:

Page 21, line 21, at end insert— ("( ) Any power conferred by this section to make regulations shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which

  1. (a) shall not be made unless thereof a draft has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament; and
  2. (b) shall expire after a period two years from the date on which they are made unless renewed by a further resolution in each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must explain—and I am sure that it is my fault and I should not like to put any blame on the Public Bill Office—that my amendment in the first Marshalled List was never printed in the second Marshalled List. Instead, they printed Amendment No. 55A a second time with a very small variation. I believe that most noble Lords have the original Amendment No. 55 in their hands on a loose sheet or in the first Marshalled List. I wonder what, in the circumstances, it is best to do.

They are two very simple points in Amendment No. 55. The first is covered by certain other amendments and I would not want to speak at any length upon it. Other noble Lords may think that a general debate would be a convenience. My second point is in fact repeated in Amendment No. 55A.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the affirmative resolution point is dealt with in, as they have now become, Amendments Nos. 69A, 59 and 71. On the question of making regulations under Clause 27 subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, the Government agree in principle that this should be done in resepct of regulations which introduce compulsory wearing or extend it to new classes of vehicle or seating positions. This result is effectively achieved by Amendment No. 69A, tabled by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford. I therefore commend that amendment to the House rather than paragraph (a) of amendment No. 55, or Amendments Nos. 59 or 71. The Government are neutral on the question of the expiry and renewal of regulations—

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, may I be allowed to move my amendment? I am grateful to the noble Lord on the Front Bench who has virtually said he has accepted the first part of it.

Several noble Lords: No, he has not.

Lord Inglewood

But, my Lords, my noble friend has accepted the principle of it, which is repeated in a later amendment where he prefers Lord Nugent's words. Having heard the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, I would not want to say anything else on that point, and I shall not move Amendment No. 55. I follow up by moving Amendment No. 55A, which is a new point and a short one.

The Deputy Speaker

Amendment No. 55, I understand, is not moved by the noble Lord.

[Amendment No. 55 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 55A:

Page 21, line 21, at end insert— ("( ) Any power conferred by this section to make regulations shall be exercisable by statutory instrument which shall expire after a period two years from the date on which they are made unless renewed by a further resolution in each House of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 55A as printed on the first Marshalled List. I have paid great attention through this Bill, as I mentioned a few moments ago, to the question of enforcement. It frequently happens in Parliament that we define and create offences without always thinking of the problems that we are making for others in the matter of enforcement. That has been brought out a number of times during the short debates on the amendments that we have just been discussing.

The police undoubtedly always do their best when Parliament gives them fresh duties, and we heard during the Committee stage that their responsible leaders had said they had no great objection to the seat belt provisions as printed in the Bill. In fact, the police would always do their best and would not object unless they were being put in a quite impossible situation.

But my contacts—I have a good many and I have sounded a number of them since the Committee stage—from the rank of inspector downwards, have all said that the fair enforcement of these provisions that we are considering will be impossible. One only hopes that when it comes to the question of enforcement the police will move very slowly. Of course, we talk about "the police" but in fact there are between 40 and 50 different independent police forces in this country, and it is going a little far to assume that they will all interpret the regulations which we shall see later in the same way.

There is a practical side to this and there is also the very important side of the relations between the police and the public, which has been mentioned this evening. On the practical side, I would only say that it is no less an offence to drive without a seat belt in the dark, but in fact in the dark no police constable will be able to see whether you are committing an offence or not.

Regarding the relations between the police and the public, here I think we are taking a great risk because the internal combustion engine has already done much to damage the relations between the police and the public; and once this Bill is on the statute book neither Parliament nor the Home Office or the police authorities will have any further responsibility or be able to do anything unless there is some amendment to the regulations. Yet it is going to be the responsibility of every PC or WPC every day and every night to enforce the regulations. Whatever the guidelines laid down by the ACPO, I do not think we are likely to see uniformity across the country.

Likely "offenders" will not be those who deliberately commit an offence but those who may be stopped because they have a faulty headlamp and the police constable then notices that they are not wearing a seat belt. In the first instance, they will be the people who are pulled in or who get their names on a sheet. I do not think that is entirely fair, but it is human nature that it should work out in that way.

The amendment I have put down is to the effect that the regulations which the Minister intends to lay would lapse after two years unless they were extended by a further resolution of Parliament or else the Minister were to produce amended regulations asking Parliament to approve them in place of the original regula-. tions I am sure there are precedents galore for this sort of procedure. These particular regulations will affect every one of Her Majesty's subjects—not just car drivers but passengers as well—and their enforcement is going to be part of the responsibility of every single police constable, young or old, on every single day of duty.

This is a situation where there are bound to be teething troubles or rubs of different kinds. If your Lordships accept what I propose, then after two years the Government will be able to remove these causes of friction. It is asking to much for us to suppose now that these regulations are going to be drawn in such a way that there will not be any grouses, grumbles or rubs. I base that last sentence on the debates we have been listening to during the past half-hour. I think it is very much the duty of Parliament to minimise the possibility of friction which could arise, particularly at this time, and to do nothing which would make the task of the police in their relations with the public more difficult.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, may I briefly support my noble friend Lord Inglewood, especially over what he was saying about the relationship betweeen the motorist and the police. During the earlier stages of this Bill we heard a great deal, especially from the Front Bench, to the effect that we did not want to antagonise that relationship any further because it would make it far harder to bring in all these new things regarding road safety and so on. I would go a long way with what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said, certainly on the relationship between the public and the police.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I, too, would like to support my noble friend Lord Inglewood, for the reasons that he and my noble friend Lord Brougham have just given.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, the Government are quite neutral on this question of the expiry and renewal of regulations made under Clause 27. As far as we are concerned, it is up to the House; if the House decides that this is acceptable, we are content.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I think this is probably an appropriate time to break for the other business that is to be taken at the dinner hour, and I think that perhaps we might reassemble on this Bill at eight o'clock.

I beg to move, That further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved, That further consideration on Report be now adjourned.—(Lord Denharn.)

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, may I ask a question? What is the procedural significance of this break? If the business to come on during the dinner hour by any chance exceeds the time allotted, what is the position of the House? Do we automatically go back to the Transport Bill, or what? I ought to be aware of what happens, but I am sorry to say that I am not. I am not thinking of speaking for the whole hour, but I should like just a modest part of it.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I understand that the Armed Forces Bill is not expected to take very long. The short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, is that if business during the dinner hour exceeds the allotted hour then the business manager concerned, who happens to be myself, has miscalculated. I hope I have not done so in this case, because I think it would be generally to the advantage of the House if we could get through the intervening business within the hour. But in the hypothetical case, if the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, still has a very great deal left unsaid—more than could probably be allotted in about five minutes—then we might have to think again and have discussions between the usual channels. That is the way in which things are usually conducted in this House. However, I hope that I have not miscalculated on this particular occasion, and I do assure the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that there is no attempt to gag.

On Question, Motion agreed to.