HL Deb 15 July 1982 vol 433 cc517-66

7.16 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Bellwin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 111: After Clause 53, insert the following new clause:

("Rear seat belts.

. In section 40 of the 1972 Act (regulation of construction, weight, equipment and use of vehicles) the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (2A)— (2B) Regulations under this section shall require, subject to such exceptions as may be prescribed, every motor car manufacturered on or after 1st July 1984 and registered on or after 1st January 1985 to be equipped with rear seat belts.".").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to have regulations made that every car manufactured on or after 1st July 1984 and registered on or after 1st January 1985 shall be equipped with rear seat belts. There is a powerful case to be made for rear passengers having to wear seat belts, but I want to emphasise that this amendment is not seeking to make compulsory the actual wearing of rear seat belts. But, unless rear seat belts are made standard equipment, there will be no freedom of choice on the wearing of seat belts available to rear passengers in some cars.

This is crucial for adults who may wish to place children in rear seats but who do not want them to be unrestrained—and I am not now referring to children who are young enough to have child restraints. It is also essential for adults who are used to wearing seat belts when riding in front seats but who may have to ride in rear seats and desire to have a similar protection of seat belts—and they may be in cars which are not their own.

Research conducted at the Accident Research Unit at Birmingham University in 1980 covering some 4,300 fatal and seriously injured rear seat passengers concluded that the use of seat belts in rear seats would have saved some 73 per cent. of all the fatally injured rear passengers in that sample on which they worked. Of course, I am not basing this amendment purely on the accidents which may occur but on the freedom of people who want to wear a rear seat belt and who may not be able to do so because there is not one installed. Therefore, there is a sound case for persons wishing to have the use of rear seat belts as much as they wish to use front seat belts.

A somewhat similar amendment was moved at the Committee stage in another place, and the Minister then said that to make rear seat belts mandatory may be a little in advance of what the British driving public may be prepared to take. That might be so if this amendment were seeking to make the wearing of rear seat belts compulsory; but it is not. It is wishing to make mandatory the installation of rear seat belts as from the dates T have mentioned. It is only the making of rear seat belts a standard fitting that we are seeking in this amendment.

I understand that rear seat belts are fitted as standard in many of the more luxurious cars manufactured in this country. The amendment will make them available to those who purchase cars in the lower price range. It may be of interest to your Lordships that countries which already have the fitting of rear seat belts as mandatory by legislation include Canada, the United States of America, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, West Germany and Brazil—and I understand that in South Africa it will be mandatory from later on this year. The Under-Secretary of State in another place undertook to go away and take a further serious look at the issue and what had been said in debate. I hope that that has taken place and that, based on that review and on what I have said, the Government will find it possible to accept the amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

May I ask the Minister, as in this amendment we are talking about seat belts, whether coaches and lorries are going to have them fitted? Also, after what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, have the Government any information from countries like Germany which now fit seat belts in their rear seats? My noble kinsman has a Mercedes car which has fitted seat belts on the rear seats.

Lord Airedale

I dare say that we shall be told that the argument against the necessity for rear seat belts is that the main purpose of the seat belt is to prevent the person sitting in the front from hitting his head on the windscreen and that this hazard does not apply so much in the case of person sitting in the back. But there are those grand chauffeur-driven cars which have a glass screen between the driver and the people sitting in the back. I should have thought that it was worth considering that it might be advisable to make seat belt wearing compulsory in those few instances.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I wonder if I may speak before my noble friend the Minister responds. I hope that the Minister will reject this amendment at this particular time. There are quite serious and positive reasons for a rejection at this time, notably that we in this country have not yet had the experience that we are looking forward to receiving of compulsion to wear seat belts in the front of motor-cars. If I may remind the Committee, we have not discussed the regulations to that measure and it may be that those regulations are not passed. It seems to me that we are jumping the gun and that this is an inappropriate time to apply compulsion to the manufacturing industry to spend more than is vitally necessary in a highly competitive business.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has made it clear that he is not seeking compulsion for the wearing of the seat belt, but we know that it would not be very long, having got this through, before he will be asking for compulsion to be applied. We are particularly anxious about young children being free and rolling around in the back of a car. This can be adequately looked after, to British standards, at the choice of the consumer. That, I think, is where the matter should rest at this moment. To impose this requirement on the industry for two or three years hence is wrong and ill-conceived at this time. I hope that the Government will resist this amendment.

Lord Bellwin

The draft clause suffers drafting defects. There seems to be a strange confusion between primary legislation and secondary legislation. Secondary legislation of this kind is made under enabling powers. The clause is dressed in the guise of a mandatory requirement. This is more apparent than real as the most limited provision which was at once revoked would seem to satisfy it. Nevertheless, the requirement would be incompatible with its context. For example, the mandatory requirement could not be grafted on the discretionary powers in Section 40(1) and incompatible with the purpose of secondary legislation of this kind, which requires genuine consultation and adaptation to new developments.

As it happens, the clause would not add anything to the powers that we already have contained in subsection (1) and (3) of Section 40 of the 1972 Act. Those powers have for many years been exercised to require the fitting of seat belts for certain front seats of certain vehicles. They would suffice to require scat belts to be fitted for certain rear seats. Since October 1981, new cars have had to be fitted with rear seat belt anchorage points and those drivers who wish voluntarily to fit seat belts may now do so without difficulty.

Should the Government be convinced of the desirability, on safety grounds, of fitting rear seat belts they will consider doing so, subject to the restrictions in Section 41(3) of the 1972 Act. However, we are unconvinced that it would be wise now to make rear seat belt fitments mandatory from 1st January 1985 for new vehicles. We prefer to wait and sec whether a clearer picture of the necessity to fit rear seat belts emerges from the early experience of compulsory front seat belt wearing. If that should be the case, it may be undesirable to wait until 1985.

Without going on at too great length on this matter, perhaps I could sum up the position as we see it. First, the amendment, as I hope Lord Underhill will agree on reflection, is unnecessary because the Government already have adequate power under Section 40 to make regulations requiring rear seat belts to be fitted. These powers are subject to the safeguards of giving proper notice and consultation, which I am sure your Lordships will agree is right. Perhaps ironically, this amendment would not allow these to be exercised.

Second, because it would remove the Government's discretion, it could be a retograde step since it would prevent the Government from requiring rear seat belts to be fitted in cars manufactured before July 1984. I suspect that that is not what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, would wish. I am sure he will appreciate that cars manufactured since October 1981 have had rear seat belt anchorages fitted, and it may be, in the light of experience from compulsory front seat belt wearing, that it would be desirable for the Government to consider fitting rear seat belts to cars made at an earlier date than the amendment would allow, or, I have to say, equally, at a later date.

To comment on the points raised by my noble friend Lady Masham about coaches, I would tell her that we shall not require seat belts in coaches and lorries. At least as yet, that is not the intention. As to her other points, the results of investigations into the benefits of rear seat belts in Sweden concluded that there would be a 28 per cent. saving in injuries. This is dependent on rear seat occupancy and the extent of front seat belt wearing. I think there is nothing further I wish to add. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, in view of what I have said will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Underhill

What the noble Lord has said about the drafting of the amendment would appear to be forceful. I shall certainly take that into account. But the other arguments put forward against it, frankly, seem to me not to have any logic at all. Before I pass on to that, on the question of regulations there surely must be some provision for Parliament to be able to say to a Government, "You have this power. We want you to use it"—and not just rely upon when a Government feel that they will introduce a regulation. I shall therefore to have look at that aspect.

On the other point about the logic of the argument, not being there, Government and Parliament have said, "We are going to introduce compulsory wearing of front seat belts". As the noble Lord the Minister has said, time will tell whether that has benefits. In the meantime, we want to encourage people to wear seat belts. Let me suppose that I am a passenger in somebody else's car. I am used always to wearing my own seat belt—not because it is the law, as it will be when the regulations come effect, but because I believe in wearing a front seat belt. I am a passenger in a friend's car. I cannot ride in the front seat because someone else is there. I am used to a front seat belt and I want to continue wearing a seat belt in the back of the car. But there is not one there because it is not a standard fitting. Surely logic is on my side? It is freedom of choice. I want to wear a seat belt but it is not a standard fitting.

I shall to look carefully at what the noble Lord the Minister has said about the wording of the amendment. In view of the strong logic on my side in regard to freedom of choice for the passenger in somebody else's car, we shall look to see whether or not we can find for Report stage an amendment that fits in with what the noble Lord has said about the regulations. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 112: After Clause 53, insert the following new clause:

("Laminated windscreens.

. In section 40 of the 1972 Act (regulation of construction, weight, equipment and use of vehicles) the following subsection shall be inserted after subsection (2A)— (2C) Regulations under this section shall require, subject to such exceptions as may be prescribed, windscreens in every motor car manufactured on or after 1st July 1984 and registered on or after 1st January 1985 to be laminated meeting prescribed standards.".").

The noble Lord said: This deals with windscreens. The amendment seeks to modify Section 40 of the 1972 Act so that laminated windscreens shall be a mandatory fitting on all cars manufactured on or after 1st July 1984 and registered on or after 1st January 1985. I am advised in this matter that a laminated windscreen is basically a piece of plastic with glass on either side. The argument for the high penetration resistent laminated glass is that it does not shatter. It is estimated that in Britain about 1,000 serious eye injuries are caused each year by the use of toughened glass, not laminated glass. This is because the toughened glass has shattered as a result of the collision.

Members of the Committee will no doubt have had experience of a windscreen shattering without impact. I have two personal experiences. One was leaving a car in a garage overnight and the next morning finding the windscreen shattered. Obviously, a pebble must have hit the glass and the change of temperature overnight caused the windscreen to shatter. The other experience was while travelling on a main arterial road. Again, a pebble must have hit the glass and it shattered in front of me. There was glass all over the place. Fortunately, I was not one of the thousand cases with serious injury.

At least nine countries already have legislation for the compulsory fitting of laminated windscreens by manufacturers. These include the United States, which I believe is still the world's largest car manufacturer, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, USSR and Italy. My information is that these countries all report no incidence of eye injuries of any consequence following the mandatory fitting of laminated windscreens. That is a very important point.

This principle was raised in a different amendment at the Committee stage in another place. The Minister on that occasion was very sympathetic but put the view that there had been insufficient research work on the issue. The Under-Secretary, Mrs. Chalker, confirmed that in four years the cars manufactured in Great Britain with laminated windscreens had increased from 10 per cent. to a current 70 per cent. Presumably the manufacturers of cars in this country must themselves be satisfied with their own research into this, otherwise we would not have the figure of 70 per cent. windscreens installed by car manufacturers.

The problem is that once again it is the cars at the lower end of the market, the cheaper end of the market, which tend to be fitted with toughened glass windscreens, I understand that the car manufacturers seem to have varying policies with different models. At least one car manufacturer, I understand, has all the models with laminated windscreens. The issue is how to close the gap from 70 per cent. to 100 per cent. so that everyone has the protection of laminated glass windscreens. It appears that this can only be done by legislation. Obviously, there is no problem with the British glass manufacturers because they can already cope with 70 per cent. I understand it presents no problem at all to them.

In the Committee in the other place the Minister questioned the drafting of that amendment. The amendment before your Lordships this evening has been redrafted to meet some of the criticisms that were made. The amendment does not seek to lay down any actual specification for the laminated glass and its installation. This is a matter which the amendment would leave entirely for the Secretary of State to prescribe; but there would appear to me to be a sound case for this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Platt of Writtle

I shall wait to hear my noble friend the Minister regarding whether or not this should be mandatory. I very much favour the fitting of laminated windscreens. Whenever we, our own family, buy a car which we find is not fitted with a laminated windscreen, we have it altered before we drive it.

On several occasions a stone has hit the windscreen but it has not shattered—we still have a chip on the windscreen to show that that is what happened—whereas with the normal windscreen there would be a million pieces of glass flying into one's eyes. I am interested to hear Lord Underhill's statistics of the increase from 10 per cent. to 70 per cent. That in itself is encouraging. I should like to see it reach 100 per cent. I shall await to hear from the Minister before deciding whether to support the amendment.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I should like to support this amendment. It is perhaps even more important now that seat belt legislation is coming in. Very often when there is an impact of two cars the windscreens fall in on top of the passengers. When they are wearing seatbelts they will be held in position and maybe they will not slip down underneath the dashboard, which sometimes happens when they do not wear a seat belt. The risk of eye and facial injuries could be greater. Therefore, I think that laminated windscreens are essential. I strongly support this amendment.

The Earl of Kinnoull

I, too, should like to support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, forgot to mention one fact. This covers two aspects, one is the production of new cars and the other is the refit to existing cars. I do not think that he has said what it will cost for existing cars to have a refit of their windscreen or whether there have been other investigations by the industry as to whether the laminated windscreen can be further improved. His evidence on the medical side and the fact that other countries have introduced this element shows a great deal of common sense. I hope that my noble friend will give this amendment a fair wind.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Not for the first time—nor I suspect for the last—I wish to oppose an amendment. We are wrong in making it mandatory to fit a laminated screen. I do not disagree with any of the figures that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has produced. There are, however, some very serious drawbacks to making this matter mandatory. The first is that there is a growing practice with even the lower priced motor-cars to go for electrically-operated windows. In the unhappy event of there being an accident—and there is a documented case of this—if the doors jam and the electric system fails, a large person, if he has the wit and presence, may break the side windows but would still be unable to get out of the car. The laminated windscreen would make it impossible for a person to get out.

If one moves to a mandatory system in a motor-car it would not be very long before we had it in a truck. Truck drivers are always extremely nervous of fire breaking out in a cab. How do they get out? Normally it is by breaking through the windscreen. Furthermore, we have the matter of cost to consider. It costs about £8 wholesale to fit a toughened screen in an average motor-car. It costs around £16 to fit a laminated screen—that is, wholesale, on the production line. The doubling of price is reflected at the retail end; so that if you buy a laminated screen for an average car it is something like £70 and a toughened one is £35. It is not true to say that in an accident or crash a toughened screen shatters so that you are showered with little pieces of glass. I do not know of a toughened screen that has not got, in front of the driver at least, a safety zone, and that crazes in rather a different manner and in different sizes.

There is another drawback, I believe, to this amendment. It says "laminated", and while the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has explained what he means by "laminated", and I think that description is probably very acceptable, if one accepted that as the description, even though the amendment says "so prescribed", I believe it could inhibit the development of other types of safety glass. The Committee are probably aware that Pilkington and Triplex did develop a screen known as the 10–20. It was a highly advanced screen. It was extremely effective, but it was also extremely expensive; and purely on commercial grounds production has now ceased for mass-produced motor-cars. There is a French screen which has been developed and which I understand is made of glass with one skin of plastic on the inside. It is not quite so strong as a fully-laminated screen but it has some of the safety elements the noble Lord talked about.

I believe that we should move towards more freedom. Custom does change. Thirty years ago a laminated screen was the rage, so to speak. Laminated screens were fitted very popularly and it was found that on certain impacts the inside glass did in fact splinter. It is generally recognised that chunks of toughened glass do less damage than splinters of laminated glass, and this can still happen. So I believe there are very good reasons for not altering the construction and use regulations to accommodate this.

I know that the industry is prepared to fit glass if demanded, and Triplex tell me they could move from a position of five years to supply to something like 12 months. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders tell me there has been no clear evidence—a number of papers have been written but they are rather contradictory—to support a legal requirement for laminated glass in place of the currently used toughened glass. So until there is greater proof of the necessity for bringing compulsion into this area, I think it is better left to the industry and to the individual choice of the consumer, which is there, as we can tell from what my noble friend Lady Platt of Writtle said: she chooses it and she pays for her choice. I think that is where the matter should rest.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him a question? If people in lorries are worried about being trapped, and other people about the possibility of being trapped in cars with electric windows, would it not be a good idea for a little hammer to be fitted such as one has in a sleeping car on a train? Following the tragic disaster when the sleeping cars went on fire and many people were killed, it is now statutory to provide a hammer with which one could break a window. When the noble Lord mentioned this point, I thought as I sat here of my noble kinsman, who has a Mercedes with electric windows, and it seemed that perhaps it would be a good idea to supply him with such a hammer.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

May I just respond. It is my understanding that apart from the sliding glass in the door of a railway carriage, which is laminated, other glass is either toughened glass or annealed glass, and the little hammer is there to save you from actually putting your fist, your shoe or whatever it may be, through the glass. But that little hammer will not go through a piece of laminated glass. Even if your noble kinsman were to have one attached somewhere in his car, he would not be able to get out with it. He would have to cut his way out, and it might be too late.

Lord Airedale

In the course of this short debate we have heard the two sides of this argument and we have heard much expertise from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas; but we are surely entitled to say that this is indeed a very serious problem and to hope that before too long the Ministry, having continued its research into this question, will arrive at proper prescribed standards for windscreens—but probably not, or possibly not, within the time-scale laid down in this amendment. The situation that I think we want to avoid is one in which the Minister, wanting to prescribe standards for windscreens, finds that he has no power in the existing legislation to make regulations and that he has to await the opportunity of a future transport Act before he gets that power. If that is the case, let us at least take the opportunity in this Bill to enable the Minister to make construction and use regulations about standards for windscreen construction, so that as soon as he is satisfied that prescribed standards can be laid down they can be put immediately into regulations, without having to wait for a parliamentary opportunity for another enabling Act.

Lord Bellwin

Let me explain the Government's view on this matter, if I may. This clause attempts to compel the Minister to introduce regulations outlawing toughened glass windscreens and making only laminated ones lawful. I am sure the intention is to be helpful in so far as it is based on the commonly held but nevertheless mistaken view that laminated glass is always superior on safety grounds to toughened glass. The evidence, on the contrary, is inconclusive. At present there is insufficient data to show beyond reasonable doubt that in British operating conditions laminated glass is superior. I should say straightaway that investigations on this matter are being made by the Transport Road Research Laboratory and by the department's engineers. The first investigations are almost completed and the latter ones are well under way. A report will be made in September of this year. If I may take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, I can reassure him that there are powers already under Section 40 of the 1972 Act so that if action needs to be taken, action can be taken. I think that was really his concern.

The views of manufacturers, users and research bodies regarding the relative safety merits of both types of glass are divided. As my noble friend Lord Lucas pointed out, hauliers, in particular, stress the advantages of toughened glass in an accident, when the simplest means of driver-escape may be through the windscreen. This could indeed be a vital escape route should a turned-over lorry be carrying highly inflammable or toxic loads. I am told that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is the fourth public figure—I should be fascinated to know the definition of that—who has been involved in an incident and came out unscathed. I am glad to add myself as the fifth who has had not one, but several, such incidents. I happily confirm that, although it was a frightening experience, with the enormous bang and everything going opaque, I did not suffer any ill effects.

That is not in any way an attempt to say that that makes the case for toughened glass as against laminated glass. I am not saying that at all. Nevertheless, it is a point which should be made. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, there is an increasing trend towards fitting laminated windscreens in motor-cars, and a leading glass manufacturer estimates that by 1984 voluntary fitment will be in excess of 80 per cent. in new cars. This is despite the financial drawback that laminated glass is more expensive than toughened glass, although increased use should lead to marginal diminishing costs.

As I have said, the Government have recently arranged for fresh research to be made into the merits of toughened and laminated windscreen glass. Although the majority of newly manufactured motor-cars are fitted with laminated glass windscreens, most existing ones are fitted with toughened windscreens. Accident data findings are inconclusive and the research tests should be helpful in enabling the Government to decide what further action is necessary.

To sum up, I say again that investigations carried out in the past have not indicated a clear preference for either laminated or toughened windscreens on road safety grounds. But there have been significant changes since those investigations were made. For example, it is estimated that, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, properly reminded us, over the last four or five years the fitting of laminated screens to British-made cars has increased from some 15 per cent. to over 70 per cent., and this figure may go up to 85 per cent. by 1985. However, the majority of cars on the roads have toughened glass windscreens and the effect of this change in accident terms has yet to be assessed.

On the point about the position in other countries, I am advised that developments abroad show that feelings about the merits of either type of glass are not unanimous. My noble friend Lord Lucas mentioned France, which will require laminated screens from next year, although I noted the qualification which he added on that. But, as yet, they have not published their reasons for doing that. On the other hand, a recent Dutch-report concludes that there is little to choose between the two types. That is why the Government feel that they should await the results of the the test, which are not far away. In order to assuage any anxieties, may I again confirm that, if the case is made out, then the powers are there for something to be done. In those circumstances, perhaps the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Kinnoull

Before my noble friend sits down, can he say whether his department will publish the report of the tests which they are at present carrying out? Secondly, what triggered off this report?—because it seems fascinating that other countries have taken a different view from that taken by the Ministry.

Lord Bellwin

I am sure that there will be no problem about publishing the report. It is a matter of such general interest that it is surely only right that it should be published. As to why we are not, as yet, taking a line, I hoped that the reasons I gave would explain that. Here is something which, in our view, is not clear-cut. I am sure that those who argued the case for either side do so with absolute conviction and sincerity. But we feel—not least in the light of other people's experiences—that the case has yet to be made firmly, one way or the other. But the report should not be long now.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I wonder whether the Committee will allow me to correct a response that I made to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I am fairly sure I said that the glass in the sliding window of the door of the car was laminated. That is not so; it is more probably toughened. The side window is likely to be toughened glass or double glazed soft annealed glass.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am mainly disappointed with the Minister's reply, but encouraged in one direction, that the Transport and Road Research Laboratory are conducting an investigation and, with with the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I hope that it will be fairly quick in reporting. I am grateful to those noble Lords who have supported the amendment. I believe that, of the six speakers who joined in the debate, four supported the amendment. It is said that there is no conclusive evidence. Why have British car manufacturers installed laminated windscreens to the tune of at least 70 per cent.? Surely, they have done that based on their research—and the British car industry has done quite detailed research. Why do practically all models of one British car manufacturer have laminated glass windscreens? They must be satisfied that it is a great improvement and a development which ought to be encouraged—

Lord Tordoff

I wonder whether there are some historical reasons for the development of this process. It seems to me that about 25 years ago many windscreens had laminated glass. One of the problems was that if, in an accident, people put their heads through the windscreen, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, the way in which that glass shattered was much more damaging, because it tended to go into long slivers or daggers which were very destructive. I remember later being quite pleased at the thought that in front of me was a windscreen that would break into small pieces, and would not do so much damage. With seat belts, and the hope that fewer people will be going through their windscreens in future, it may be that the move should be back to laminated glass. These are considerations in a dynamic, developing situation in the technology of windscreen manufacture.

Lord Underhill

I do not think the Committee would wish me to re-open the debate. I am just trying to deal with the points which have arisen. Both the Minister and I referred to personal accidents, and I believe that his was the same as mine. Mine was not as a result of impact; it was as a result of splinters on the road. If there is impact, the small pieces fly towards you, and that is why there are so many cases of very serious eye injuries. Another factor is the inconvenience of driving through rain without a windscreen and trying to have a new one fitted on a Sunday. That can be very difficult. There is also the fact that small pieces of glass may get into the heating apparatus of the car and do considerable damage.

I have already referred to the fact that there is a considerable amount of evidence to justify this amendment. We shall await the TRRL report. I did not refer to France or the Netherlands. The nine countries which I mentioned did not include them, but there are another two which are considering this matter. Therefore, the figure is going up. The point I was making was that none of the nine countries has stated that there have been any serious eye injuries since the compulsory fitting of laminated glass, and that is a very important consideration.

The Minister has made it quite clear that the Government do not wish to act on this matter at this stage. This is another case where I believe that Parliament has the right to say to the Government: "We want you to do it". They have the powers and I am very pleased to know that. I shall consult further on this matter and take into account what the Minister and others have said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 54 shall stand part of the Bill?

7.59 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I rise to acquaint the Committee of a rather technical inclusion in this Bill—what I might almost describe as a pretty sneaky piece of practice. Clause 54 removes from the 1967 Act the imposition of a speed limit on a trunk road or a classified road by virtue of street lighting being put into place. May I refer to Section 71 of the 1967 Act? It says: (1) It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour". Subsection (2) provides that the Minister and the Secretary of State can alter that speed limit. Subsection (1) of Section 72 provides: Subject to the provisions of this section, a road is a restricted road for the purpose of section 71"— that is the speed limit to which I have referred— of this Act if there is provided thereon a system of street lighting furnished by means of lamps placed not more than two hundred yards apart". Subsection (2) says: A trunk road or classified road is not a restricted road for the purposes of the said section 71 by reason only of the provision thereon of such a system of street lighting as aforesaid unless such a system was provided thereon before 1st July 1957". Clause 54 of the Bill reverses that position. At this stage I cannot see any reason for this clause to be inserted, particularly as the 1967 Act quite specifically exempted the trunk or the classified road. This was no accident. It was included on purpose in the 1967 Act. Looking back over the record, a good deal of debate and thought went into the matter.

If we reverse the 1967 Act—and it appears to me that this clause does that—we arrive at the paradoxical situation of ensuring that certain stretches of road which are currently free of speed limits will be brought under a speed limit provision while at the same time they will be made safer only by the provision of increased lighting. It might be argued that if the road to be improved was previously not a restricted road, such an improvement should allow the non-restriction to obtain.

If Clause 54 stands part of the Bill, I understand that this would allow the authorities to impose speed limits, purely by providing lights, without having to go through all the safeguarding regulatory procedure of applying for an order. That seems to be wrong and that is why I say that it looks, on the surface, as though it is a pretty sneaky thing to put in. I suppose it is not unfair, on the same argument, to suggest that there will obviously be much more administration and public expense in connection with action to be taken, as provided for by Clause 54, which is not going to have to be proved to be necessary or justified.

That is what I understand Clause 54 to mean. I should be obliged if my noble friend the Minister would tell me whether I am correct in my understanding of Clause 54 and why it has been put in.

Lord Airedale

When a clause like this links speed limits to the provision of street lighting, it is rather important that the street lighting should be working properly. This enables me to mention briefly an experience of mine which I feel sure is shared by other noble Lords. I regularly travel on a certain route and I can be fairly certain that on a given evening one or other section of the street lighting will not be working and that that section of the road will be in total darkness. This affects not only road safety. It also plays into the hands of muggers. When I make the journey in the opposite direction the next morning, the chances are that that particular section of street lighting will be ablaze, competing with the bright sunlight.

I have mentioned this problem to senior police officers. They point out that, whereas the motorist commits an offence if he does not display the lights on his vehicle, a highway authority is not guilty of an offence if it fails to ensure that the street lighting is working properly, and no officer of the authority is guilty of an offence, either. Perhaps it would not be much sense to make it an offence, because the bill would presumably be footed by the taxpayer or the ratepayer. However, this is a serious problem. I would urge the Government to investigate the frequency of street lighting not working on our roads and seek a solution to this problem. I do not pretend to know the answer, but it is a problem which I think that the Government ought to try to tackle.

Lord Davies of Leek

Clause 54 is a little ambiguous. One does not know where one really is once one starts driving around. The position now is that, where there is street lighting, 30 miles per hour is generally the maximum speed. As has just been pointed out, there is no penalty imposed upon a local authority if lights are not working. However, lights may not be working in most dangerous places. But if I drove my car with one lamp out of order, although in 99.9 per cent. of cases police officers, who are intelligent individuals, would just say that I should get my lights put right, nevertheless I should technically be liable. No penalty, though, is imposed upon local authorities who neglect in some places—indeed, in some very important places—their lighting system. I do not want to be awkward or to make a long speech, although I could easily do so, but this is a vital point. I do not expect cataclysmic changes to the Bill as a result of our discussion this evening, but I think that the Government ought to look again at the matter and try to find a constructive answer.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for raising this point, because the Committee will want an explanation from the Minister of exactly what it means and what its effect will be. I am the last person to want to increase speed limits where they should not be increased. All those of us who are motorists know that there are many roads on which there is a 40 miles per hour speed limit. If you have to go down to 30 miles, you will be the only one doing it, but you will get a fixed penalty notice if the police are around.

We want to know what the effect of this clause will be. I was very grateful to the Minister for the notes on clauses, which are detailed and very helpful on this point, but they still do not tell us exactly what will be the effect of the clause. It seems to me that there will be a vast number of roads where the position will change. The point which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, made was that you can have a road which has now got a 40 mile per hour speed limit and no street lighting. What will happen if street lighting is installed? Will it still have a 40-mile per hour limit, or will the limit come down to 30 miles per hour? We ought to know exactly what will be the effect of this. Where a 30-mile per hour limit is essential there ought to be a 30-mile per hour limit, but where that is unnecessary, on roads where one can travel quite comfortably at 40 miles per hour or even 50 miles per hour, where there may be street lighting, we ought to know what will be the effect of this. On the last page of these notes on the clauses, reference is made to local public opinion which is often biased in this direction.

Lord Davies of Leek

Will my noble friend give way for one moment? A concrete example of the point he is raising occurs in that famous little town of Banbury. If one is driving through Oxford to Warwick and once gets on the Banbury road, watch out! There is one stretch of it where there is a sign showing "30 miles per hour" in great big letters. In your car, purring away on a lovely evening when the sun is still shining or the moon is bright, you come, within a distance of a few hundred yards, into a 40 mile per hour area—although both stretches of road are lit all the way along. There will be a lot of expense on local authorities rushing to change 40 mile per hour signs to 30 mile per hour signs. They had better be forewarned about the cost of this clause.

Lord Underhill

My noble friend has almost concluded my speech for me. I will just draw attention to the last few lines in these notes on the clauses, where it says: The drawback is unlikely to have consequences anything like as serious as those which led to the introduction of the distinction between unclassified and other roads in 1956". So the Government recognise that there are going to be drawbacks; they just say that the drawbacks will not be as serious as those of 1956. If it is obvious that there are going to be drawbacks, we ought to know the scope of them.

8.12 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

As my noble friend said in his speech, this is an extremely complicated amendment. I would say right away that there is meant to be nothing sneaky about it and I am surprised that it has generated so much discussion. Clause 54 does serve a useful and desirable purpose and I will try to explain why. It would eliminate the existing divide as regards the relationship of lighting to speed limit status—a divide which the ordinary road user can hardly be expected to appreciate—between on the one hand unclassified roads and trunk and classified roads lit before 1st July 1957, and on the other trunk and classified roads lit after that date.

It would do this without altering any speed limits as shown at present to exist by the speed limit signing of the road in question. And it would do away with any doubts as to the legal status underlying such signing. Here I might say that, without Clause 54, the only means of removing such doubts would be by the making, in every case of doubt, of an individual order to impose—I stress the word "impose"—the limit already signed on the road. This would entail a considerable extra demand on the resources of local authorities and also on my right honourable friend in his capacity as highway authority for trunk roads. This is why we need it.

Now to try to get rid of some doubts. This clause should not result in any application of 30 miles per hour limits on trunk or classified roads where such limits would be inappropriate to the particular road. On roads that are already lit, of course, it would not, because of the clause would establish the existing speed limit status of these roads as already signed. This issue could arise, therefore, only on new trunk and classified roads lit from the start, and on existing ones which are currently unlit but on which lighting is installed in the future. As regards trunk roads, I can of course say positively that it will not; my right honourable friend is highway authority for these, and will see that the speed limits upon them, whether they are lit or not, will be those appropriate to the conditions of each.

The speed limit which is appropriate to any particular road depends on many factors, including the volume of traffic using it, the speed of vehicles, the accident record, the environment through which it passes, the frequency of junctions, and so on. The national limits—30 miles per hour at one end of the scale and 60 or 70 miles per hour at the other—are simply the starting points from which authorities make any adjustment that may be necessary. The department has supplied local authorities with guidance as to how to determine the speed limit appropriate for any length of road. It has also, for many years, reminded local highway authorities of the importance of keeping their speed limits under constant review and of adjusting them if necessary, whether up or down, according to the requirements of individual roads, which needs to be done if speed limits are to make the most effective contribution possible to road safety. These principles will apply to newly lit classified roads—and to trunk roads, on which we practice what we preach—just as they already apply to all roads.

Here, perhaps I might point out that they apply equally to lit unclassified roads—which are subject by virtue of the lighting to 30 miles per hour limits unless and until different limits are imposed. Many lit unclassified roads have notwithstanding this automatic restriction had their speed limits raised above the 30 miles per hour limit—because, we must assume, the highway authority has deliberately and conscientiously considered what is the right limit for the road, and applied it. We have no ground for expecting that authorities will do otherwise with newly lit classified roads. We shall of course be reminding local authorities of the need to look carefully at the speed limit consequences of installing lighting—on classified roads, in future, as well as, at present, unclassified roads.

I do not think there is anything very much in this clause except a tidying-up measure which is highly complicated and relates, as the Committee can see, to the legal standing of the roads before 1st July 1957. I hope that when my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth has read this I shall have assuaged his doubts. If he wants to come back to me on it, I know he will do so. I recommend this, I think, fairly harmless clause.

Lord Mishcon

The noble Earl the Minister was good enough to mention the words that this was a "tidying-up" clause. May I beg of him, in the name of the Committee, to tidy up the wording of the clause, if it is meant to be a tidying-up operation? May I give him just one example of really dreadful draftsmanship from the point of view of interpretation? I will choose the shortest and simplest example but I could refer him to other parts of this clause. Will the noble Earl and other members of the Committee look with me at subsection (4), which could obviously be worded in a very simple way. I will just take the Committee through its three lines: (4) For the purposes of subsection (3)(a) above, a maximum speed limit is one in respect of which no sign is required if it is one in relation to which Section 75 of the 1967 Act does not apply I, as a humble pupil of English at school, was taught to avoid a double negative if I possibly could. That is only because a double negative taxes people's brains in finding out what the affirmative is. I do not believe that members of the public ought to be taxed to this extent, nor should our courts, nor should the poor person who is trying to read this clause, even if he does not have a professional training in order to do so. I ask that before Report stage, whether this clause stands part of the Bill or not, the tidying-up operation to which the Minister referred be extended to its wording.

The Earl of Avon

I take note of what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, says. I would equally like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for his kind remarks on the Notes on Clauses where the explanation of subsections (3) and (4) is not much clearer.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his explanation. He and, I am sure, the Committee will appreciate that I could not take in the whole of that verbal explanation and I shall want to read it. One thing worried me very much—and the noble Lord. Lord Mishcon, just touched on it. My noble friend used the expression "tidying up". I do not like tidying-up operations because they usually mean sweeping things around and sweeping things under other things. A little shiver went through me when my noble friend said that some trunk road speed limits may have changes but that this was not greatly material. What does he mean? What are "some"? What are "not very material"? What are the changes? I shall want to have a careful look at this clause. I cannot say I am very happy with the explanation the Minister has given, but I can do no more at this stage than beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Clause 54 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 113 not moved.]

8.21 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 114: After Clause 54, insert the following new clause:

("Speed measuring devices.

. In section 78A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 (Speeding offences generally) the following subsections shall be inserted after subsection (2)—

The noble Lord said: I hope the Committee will bear with me. This is a very important amendment. While I do not want to detain the Committee unduly, I shall have to explain exactly the reasons why it has been introduced. It proposes a new clause and it relates to the speed measuring devices commonly known as radar guns. Hand held radar guns are used by many police forces to provide corroborating evidence in prosecutions for speeding offences. Each individual chief constable selects the type of device to be used by his force from the variety of guns of different design which are currently available. No standard has been laid down to govern the accuracy of these devices, and tests have shown that certain guns are susceptible to interference. The effect of interference, or the incorrect use of the device, may result in the display of an inaccurate speed reading which, if not dected by the operator, may lead to wrongful prosecution and conviction. Therefore this issue is one of justice.

The amendment in no way seeks to prevent the use of radar guns. Its purpose is to provide that evidence of the speed of a motor vehicle obtained by means of a radar gun or any other speed measuring device should not be admissible in court proceedings for speeding offences unless the device used is of a type approved by, and operated and maintained in accordance with, requirements specified in regulations made by the Home Secretary. Such regulations would introduce a British standard for speed measuring devices, regulate their operation and maintenance and ensure that such equipment is adapted to eliminate suspectibility to interference. I again emphasise that at present there is no standard whatever laid down.

In the absence of a common and approved standard it seems necessary for a motorist disputing the accuracy of the gun to arrange for an electronics expert who has examined the device to give evidence. For example, I have here a newspaper report of a recent appeal against a speeding conviction in which a Mrs. Ann Skelton of Whity successfully applied to the Teesside Crown Court for an order requiring the North Yorkshire police to allow a Sheffield University electronics expert to test a radar gun. It has often been difficult to obtain a radar gun for such testing in this type of case. Both the AA and the RAC have, I understand, arranged legal representation of members in cases which have resulted in decisions of courts not to accept the evidence in support of prosecutions, or have led to the abandonment of the prosecution, when the accuracy of the evidence of radar equipment has been challenged.

I have the transcript of a judgment by His Honour Judge Pitchford in R. v. Desmond Hughes on 24th March 1981 at the Newport Crown Court. This case was referred to in the other place, and it is a very important judgment. It was an appeal against conviction for speeding by the Newport Magistrate's Court when considerable attention was given to evidence on the radar equipment. Evidence for the Crown was given by Mr. Selby, and by Mr. Halford for the defence. I am assured that both these gentlemen have great experience and high qualifications in radar electronics.

I would like to refer to two statements made in the judgment. I am quoting from page 8: The result of their evidence —that is the evidence of Mr. Selby and Mr. Halford— is this: not only can moving objects give readings upon this radar device but also things that are not objects and are not moving, namely, radio impulses of different frequencies and nature, in particular, wireless transmissions. It has been abundantly shown and proved beyond a shadow of doubt that a wireless transmitter, either by a voice or by electronic sound, can induce a reading of speed in the Muniquip … that is one of these devices. Another statement made by the judge was: Both Mr. Selby and Mr. Halford agree that if in this patrol car parked at the bottom of Waterloo Road the wireless transmitter was being operated at the time when Constable Knight was taking his reading, they it is possible that a false signal could have been produced in the Muniquip. It would have overcome in intensity the signal give out by the Ford Capri towards the limited range of the device". If I may make one other quotation from page 12, the judge said: We find that the machine may have been showing a false reading in the circumstances, and therefore it could not corm-borate his impression of the speed. It is very important that the machine should be reliable and not make mistakes. He allowed the appeal.

The Under-Secretary, Mrs. Chalker, said in Committee that, in her view, the judgment was because of the manner in which the equipment was used and not necessarily the nature of the equipment. But the judge did say that a machine may misbehave in tracking moving objects even though it may not misbehave in the laboratory when tested. Then again, he referred to the source of interference in the air and the need for greater insulation of the equipment. Therefore, he was drawing attention to two points of the actual equipment, as well as making other references to its use.

There have been made various independent tests, and I know that the AA, for instance, has carried out considerable testing of radar equipment, and its views have been based on the results of this particular research. Since 1978, the AA has persistently sought to persuade the Home Office to take action to implement a common standard specification which such devices would have to meet before being approved for evidential use. As recently as 19th March this year, the association wrote to the Home Office that, following discussions with other organisations and in the light of recent developments, the Home Office should arrange for representatives of all those directly concerned to meet to discuss the need for a standard. I will not read the whole text of the Home Office reply, but it is to the effect that the Home Office take the view that it is not appropriate for them to be involved in testing radar devices, that this should be left to the individual chief officers of police, and the responsibility for evaluating particular equipment is left in their hands.

The subject of speed check equipment was raised by Mr. Donald Anderson in an Adjournment Debate in the other place on 24th April this year. During that debate Mr. Anderson also advocated the introduction of a common standard, and the Minister of State, Home Office, replied that the Association of Chief Police Officers working group recognised that confirmation by a BSI standard would enhance public confidence, and consequently the Association of Chief Police Officers' had contacted the BSI to see whether a standard could be devised.

The matter was raised again during the Committee stage of this Bill in the other place, when the Under-Secretary stated that such equipment, "must be properly used by a trained officer". But she went on to say that she hoped that, we shall see a speedy move to a device which everyone respects, resulting from the meeting between the Association of Chief Police Officers and the BSI. Although discussions have taken place since then, as far as I am aware, no progress has been made. All this seems to confirm the need for the terms of the amendment which I am now proposing. I should also like to point out that Amendment No. 124 is consequential to this amendment.

What is against having a standard approved by the Home Office in this matter? It is argued that it is not the job of the Home Office and that it should be left to chief police officers. I ask the Minister why, in the Transport Act which we passed last year in this House, I find Section 8(1)(a) referring to what we commonly term "breathalysers": to provide two specimens of breath for analysis by means of a device of a type approved by the Secretary of State". Parliament considered that it was such an important matter in the course of justice that the breathalyser machines must be of a type approved by the Secretary of State.

All we are asking for in this amendment is that there shall be a national standard and that the interests of justice are such—and I refer your Lordships to the case which I have mentioned—and that this should not be a matter that is just left to the chief police officers to determine but there ought to be a national standard. I beg to move.

The Earl of Kinnoull

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is very correct in saying that this is a serious matter. I am sure that the whole Committee is grateful to him for bringing forward the amendment. We are dealing with a criminal offence; we are dealing with convictions which are entirely based on the supposed accuracy of machines. We are dealing with machines which have no conformity throughout the country. We are dealing with evidence which has been challenged in the courts. Doubts have been expressed and cases have been dismissed. I hope that my noble friend will now see that it is no good saying, "We are considering the matter; we are taking more evidence and we are having further discussions". He should either accept the basis of the amendment in the Bill now, or he should withdraw for the time being the use of the radar gun. I fully support the amendment.

Lord Davies of Leek

I should like fully to support my noble friend's amendment dealing with these speed measuring devices. The amazing thing about man is that he is a gullible creature. Murphy's Law tells us that nothing is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious. I am sure that many of us have had elementary dealings with electronics. I knew an old woman who used to say that she could get Austria on a cooking stove at certain times when she was boiling something. It was quite true. Nobody could explain it. It was one of the idiosyncrasies of the electronic and mysterious world in which we live.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

I thank the noble Lord for giving way. He was referring to the gullibility of the human race and I was wondering whether what he was saying possibly had a bearing on that?

Lord Davies of Leek

Yes, I was referring to the gullibility of people who believe that machines are always accurate. We now find that millions of pounds are being made by men who know how to use computers and diddle the public. Let me explain a little bit about this. As the RAC and AA say, there has been considerable controversy in recent months and years about the use of radar speed measuring devices, because that is what they are. During the Committee stage in another place, unfortunately, an Opposition amendment to require such devices to comply with a British standard—and, as my noble friend said, to be approved by the Home Office—was defeated on a Division. That was rather sad.

The RAC has arranged legal representation of members in cases which have resulted in decisions by the courts not to accept such evidence in support of prosecutions or abandonment of prosecutions by the police when the accuracy of the evidence has been denied. This has attracted widespread publicity and widespread knowledge of the fact that these things can go wrong.

These machines increase the aggro between the motoring public and the police—of that I am quite convinced. A little more courtesy on the roads on the part of the motorist and a little more courtesy on the roads on the part of the police, always helps. But when we have a machine like this that is outside the judgment of human beings, we are confronted with something that needs attention. One does not need much knowledge to know about this. If one drives down to the House day in and day out there are motorcycles around without suppressors, then the reception on one's radio of music or whatever, is altered. I have heard may a policeman say how right that is.

I assure the Committee that one's future, when one is brought before a court for speeding, should not depend solely on these radar instruments. Whether or not we force this matter to a Division—which we may not do—I hope the Minister will say that the matter will be looked into in depth. It is a matter which the police, representatives of bodies like the RAC and the AA and representatives of the Government and the motoring public, should look into in depth if it is only to do one thing for us all; namely, to increase the confidence between the motorist and the police.

Lord Mottistone

Perhaps I may briefly add a bit of technical interest. As an ex-naval signals officer who did some time in a research establishment in liaison between the Navy and its scientists, I can assure your Lordships that what the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, was saying about the possible interference between radio transmitters and radar sets, is very real. Therefore, I very much back up paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment.

As regards the question of accuracy and the British standards, that is obviously essential. I am absolutely appalled, if it is true, that the Home Office is saying, "Leave it to the chiefs of police to buy it off the shelf". If we do that, we cannot get a standard which is common throughout the country; we cannot guarantee it. It is extremely important from the point of view of all the factors that other noble Lords have mentioned that there is a central authority like the Secretary of State, and the device must have a scientifically proven basis like the standard produced by the British Standards Institute. It sounds to me absolutely appalling to take a type of laissez faire view and to say, "Let the chief constables go and buy them in the shops". It is quite dreadful.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

I rise to support the amendment. In everyday life, a housewife or a husband buys an appliance or a piece of clothing which complies with a British standard. Even in hotels we have standards—British standards. We have those standards in electrical appliances; in every field of life we have British standards, and I do not see why we cannot have that as regards this gun.

Lord Mishcon

I referred a moment ago, when I addressed the Committee, to what I learnt as a pupil at school in regard to English. I also learnt as a pupil in the law that if you find that the court is with you, then for Heaven's sake shut up and do not go on speaking. It looks as though, from the views which have been expressed so far, that the court, as it were, or the Committee, is with the mover of the amendment and, therefore, I want to add very little in case something I say disturbs the unanimity in the Committee in a wrong direction.

I want to emphasise only three short points. First, it must obviously be wrong for chief constables to be allowed to choose for themselves a type of equipment upon which a conviction can follow, which conviction obviously—and we have been referred to this very often in our discussions—can lead to a disqualification, quite apart from ruining a driver's reputation if he has a clean licence.

The second point I want to make—and I was glad to hear the expert voice of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, tonight, in the most courteous terms, leading the Committee in the right direction—is that it is obvious that the technical faults that occur here have made courts decide that certain devices are not fair. The third point I want to make is a fresh point. Discussions have gone on and have so far achieved no results. The Minister may well be tempted to reply that while those discussions are going on—and they are going on—this Committee ought to be content, the amendment ought to be withdrawn, because no doubt regulations will come out of the bag one day.

We have a duty. We have come across, not for the first time, something which ought to be put right. There is nothing to stop the Minister, if this is what is in his mind—if I may be permitted the impertinence of endeavouring to read it in advance—from saying that he would agree to this amendment if this subsection was not put into force for a reasonable period—and it could be six months—in order to allow those discussions between the British Standards Institute, the Chief Constables' Association, the Home Office and anybody else who wants to be brought into it, to be finalised and for some positive result to be achieved from those discussions. So I hope we shall not hear that discussions are going on, therefore the Committee's mind can be relieved and there is no need to deal with this subsection.

Lord Elton

I am already aware that the noble Lord's amendment touches upon a matter which is the subject of very widespread and real concern. I am aware of that, not only from the careful and persuasive speech with which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, introduced the matter and from those noble Lords elsewhere in the House who spoke in support of his amendment, but also from the very considerable post bag which I have received on the subject. Another indication, of course, was the extensive debate held on this subject in another place. Indeed, I must ask those of your Lordships—and they may be many—who have read that debate, as I have, to forgive me if a little of what I say seems to be somewhat familiar and repetitive for that very reason. For the benefit of noble Lords, whether in the Chamber or reading Hansard tomorrow, who have not read those interesting clauses, I must repeat some of the vital and important points made by my right honourable and learned friend in another place. It would be incomplete if I did not and my case would go by default.

It is very undesirable for either Parliament or the public to lose confidence, and I am anxious to lay to rest the doubts that have been expressed about the equipment—doubts which have inspired the amendment. As the House will know, radar speed checking devices have been used by the police for some considerable time. This is perhaps the first important point to get across: we are not talking about new technology in the way, for instance, that we were then we considered the introduction of evidential breath testing equipment in last year's Bill. Similarly, it would be quite wrong to assume that things were appearing to go smoothly in the past simply because nobody could tell that they were going wrong. It cannot be emphasised too often that the case of Mr. Desmond Hughes, which was the starting point of the concern that has been expressed and which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, demonstrated not that the equipment was not working properly, but that the operator had made at least one, and possibly two, mistakes in his use of the device. Indeed the judge in the case did not recommend withdrawal of the device. Instead he recommended four guidelines for the police to use when operating it. Three of these were already included in the ACPO's Instructions; the fourth, that the equipment should be checked against a vehicle travelling at a known speed, was adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers, although they did not feel that it was technically necessary. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has quoted the judge as saying that it is very important that the machine should be reliable and not make mistakes. We are not at variance on that.

This brings me to my next main point: no matter what equipment we use, we shall always be dependent on an operator; this is something which goes far wider than speed-measuring devices. Certainly we must give the police the best equipment we can; certainly we must make sure that they receive proper training in its use, but beyond that we have to leave it to the individual officer. You simply cannot legislate out human error: the last time we tried to do that in this field we found ourselves in a morass of unmeritorous technical defences to the drink and driving law. Subsection 2B(b) implies that we should take that fruitless path again, with the consequence that the slightest defect almost in the style of an officer's conduct of the speed check will render the evidence obtained from the device invalid. Surely what the case of Mr. Hughes shows is that the courts are quite capable of discriminating between good evidence and evidence which is not so good but which has been obtained by the same hand-held radar. We do not need to make regulations to achieve this, and, as I have said, we may make difficulties for good law enforcement instead if we do.

My next point is the question of radio interference, at which subsection 2B of the amendment is aimed. As my noble friend, in his customarily courteous manner has said from behind me, it is quite true that radar devices can be affected by nearby radio interference. It does not happen that often and, indeed, I have tried to procure this effect myself in London's streets with this equipment, in order to satisfy myself, but without success. But when it is procured, it produces a quite different and easily distinguished signal on the machine. It operates in a different mode and you do not actually read the radio signal as if what we you are reading was bounce-back from an approaching motor car.

Lord Mishcon

I wonder whether the Minister, with the usual courtesy which he shows and which he ascribed quite correctly to the noble Lord behind him as well, would kindly deal with this point. He is talking about having used a machine. I have no doubt that the machine he used was a very good one. The point of this amendment is that there is no standard machine and there is, therefore, no point in the argument that some machines are very good and some machines are very bad. The noble Lord, the Minister, has been using some very good ones, I have no doubt. I want to see a standard, good machine. At the present moment diverse kinds are being used.

Lord Elton

I take the noble Lord's point absolutely. It was, in fact, the sort of machine that was used in the Hughes case, which I thought was the most appropriate. But I shall come to the noble Lord's point in due course. I shall doubtless flounder a bit, because I think I have taken off the cuff, as it were, a bit of speech that lay further ahead.

As I was saying, what has not perhaps been given sufficient prominence in previous discussions is that the false speed reading which shows as a result of radio interference is highly characteristic and easily detected by a trained operator. Indeed, the standard procedures approved by the Association of Chief Police Officers require him to make sure that the reading is not attributable to radio interference. It is most unlikely, therefore, that false readings will lead to prosecutions. In spite of this, however, the issue of the accuracy of the device and its use have caused the anxieties that have been expressed here tonight.

But we and the Traffic Committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers recognise the need to raise public confidence in this equipment. Some of the committee will be aware that to that end the Association of Chief Police Officers Traffic Committee decided to hold discussions with the British Standards Institute to see whether a standard could, in fact, be devised for the equipment. The Committee will be aware of the high esteem in which this organisation is held; indeed, the amendment before us acknowledges as much. These discussions have been taking place, and the Traffic Committee was able recently to put their preliminary findings before the full Council of ACPO for its view. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that the Council has formally accepted the need for impartial evaluation of the devices and has instructed the Traffic Committee to enter into discussions with the Home Office about this. In the light of this, I hope that the noble, Lord Underhill, will feel able to withdraw his amendment. We are all concerned with road safety. I entirely accept that the supporters of this amendment are concerned to see justice done. I hope that I have persuaded them that justice is, in fact, being done, and that steps are being taken to reassure the public on this point, that they can see it is being done.

8.50 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

May I ask my noble friend a question, since I am a signatory to this amendment? He said, in effect, precisely what his colleague said to me last year during the passage of the 1981 Act, when I had down a somewhat shorter amendment in exactly the same terms, and argued in similar terms to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I do not disagree with any additional argument he has volunteered. My noble friend the Minister gives an explanation, on the face of it very acceptable, but he has done nothing more than to repeat the promise, "Yes, we are moving forward, and, yes, steps are being taken, and I am quite sure that the public will in the fullness of time be totally satisfied".

The public are not satisfied now, and I do not think that it is reasonable that we should be put off with what I can only describe as a delaying tactic. If my noble friend would care to say to the Committee, "Yes, recognise there is now a great urgency in this matter. I will deliver some goods this time next year"—let us put a time on it, six months hence, or something of that nature—then I think that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, may feel justified in withdrawing his amendment. I do not know; I cannot answer for him.

I am not worried about BSI. What I know is that there are experts in the Home Office, because I have been to Aldermaston and seen some of the work they have done on evidential breath testing devices. They can establish a machine that has a variable tolerance which is acceptable. They can invite quickly, within a matter of weeks, all the machines available in the world, perhaps 40, or 100. Twenty may come up. Within a matter of weeks they can produce three which have the characteristics which the RAC, the AA, and the police and everybody else wants. It can be done if there is a will. My noble friend should show a little more willingness to meet the Committee's genuine anxiety on this matter.

Lord Mishcon

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, for having paraphrased what I tried to say in regard to what I anticipate might be the Minister's reply. I now direct a question to the noble Lord the Minister, which I hope he will be able to deal with in a helpful way. I think the Committee expects this.

In view of the fact that we have now been informed that it looks as though there will be a conclusion to these discussions leading to an acceptable standard for the device we are talking about, what is the Minister's objection, if any, to this amendment being passed, this clause being put in the Bill, subject to such time limit that he might wish to suggest for the subsection to come into force? I take Lord Lucas's period of time, which I myself suggested. If he wanted to make it six months, or nine months, or whatever it was, we would then know that the public were being satisfied, that the Minister had been positive and helpful and that these continual discussions which have been before Parliament have under his reign ended in a satisfactory manner.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

If we are talking about the relations between the police and the public, would the Government consider withdrawing these machines until there is a standard?

Lord Elton

My noble friend always urges difficult courses as though they were easy, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, always makes what may be a thorny path appear rosy. I have told your Lordships that progress is being made in the search for an acceptable standard. I cannot put a date upon its conclusion because the question of a standard has to be achieved by consensus.

The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, suggests that if we achieve the consensus and a satisfactory standard—there is no earthly use in having a standard which is unsatisfactory and does not cover all the aspects of the operation of the equipment which at present give rise to concern among not only your Lordships but many motorists—it would not be appropriate then to proceed with the regulations unless we were so convinced. Furthermore, it is debatable whether the regulations then would be necessary.

The precedent has been quoted of the breath testing equipment. That is not entirely apt. First, the equipment is not itself subject to regulations, merely to approval, which is a much less laborious process. Secondly—and perhaps I did not emphasise this enough at the opening of this debate—unlike the radar equipment we are now discussing, the evidential equipment would be the sole evidence given on which a conviction is based. The function of the radar speed checking gun is to confirm, or otherwise, the estimate of the speed of the motorists made by the policeman carrying out the check, or by his associate or colleague by any other method, whether by the subjective method of an experienced eye or a stop watch, or a pneumatic line across the road, or whatever, The penalty, moreover, is much lighter, and the evidence from a gun is merely corroborative. So it is quite open to a court to accept evidence from a stop watch or another officer, or whatever.

I must also address myself to the noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, who suggested that the equipment should be withdrawn. I cannot accept that the equipment is as defective as your Lordships seek to suggest. Nor can I accept that courts are not quite capable of distinguishing between cases where there is proper evidence and cases where there is not proper evidence. Therefore, I do not propose that such devices should be withdrawn, whatever the interim period may be.

I should like to hear the reaction of the noble Lord to what I have said to the point that we are approaching, I hope, a consensus and consequently a British standard and that that standard will be satisfactory for the purposes we want, and that having that standard, regulation will be elaborate and costly and unnecessary and that it therefore would be rather precipitate to put this into this Bill at this stage.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the Minister for putting his position clearly. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have given support to this proposal, and, as my noble friend Lord Mishcon said, to have the expert confirmation from the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, of what the radar electronic experts said in the case to which I have referred. The Minister said that Judge Pitchford was dealing mainly with the method of use. I do not want to weary the Committee but I have three places marked where the judge referred to the equipment itself and not its use. He referred to the way it was used as well, but he referred to possible defects in the equipment.

While it may be that the courts will use the radar gun evidence as additional corroborative evidence, surely the fact that we have instruments—and it need not be one instrument, there could be a number of instruments approved as standard—makes it easy to determine that the regulations, or any additional amendment, could still enable them to be used as corroborative evidence. I am not happy with what the noble Lord suggests.

The fact that discussions are taking place confirms what I have said and the advice I have been given about that. But even if those discussions had, as we were told tonight, resulted in the Association of Chief Police Officers and the BSI agreeing on two or three pieces of equipment as standard, why cannot it be written into the Bill that the the equipment used must be that approved by the Secretary of State? If my amendment is too detailed, then so long as the Minister will say that he will bring forward an amendment on Report which, if it does nothing else, says the equipment shall only be that approved by the Secretary of State, or words to that effcet, that would be acceptable. And if he wishes to attach to it a date in the future for when it will apply, I shall be happy about that.

I do not want to divide the Committee on an issue of this kind, but unless I am given a firm assurance that something will be written into the Bill—I do not mind if the whole of my amendment is taken away, so long as such an undertaking is given—which will lay on the Secretary of State the responsibility for approving whatever the standard is, that will be the only way to satisfy us and the public on this issue. It should not be left to the chief police officers and the BSI together. We want the seal on this to be the Secretary of State, whoever he or she may be.

Lord Elton

I am obliged to the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, for giving me an opportunity to reply to what he said in conclusion to the debate on this amendment, and I would refer first to his reference to the words of the learned judge in R. v Hughes. He referred to the performance of the machinery in the context of its inaccuracy induced by other influences not having been detected because it had not been properly used. The noble Lord has given a fairly clear map of what he would and would not find acceptable in the way of a modification of his amendment, and I hope he will be kind enough to give me from now until Report to consider whether it would be possible to move some distance towards what he wants, and to decide at that stage whether to divide, having seen whether what we can come up with will satisfy him.

Lord Underhill

I should be ungenerous and unwise not to accept that offer. I will consult those advising me and I may as a precaution, have to table a suitable amendment on Report in case the Minister finds he cannot do anything. I wish to make it clear that I want the Minister to come forward with a proposal, but I give notice that we shall probably table a precautionary amendment at Report in case he decides not to move. I hope his attitude tonight means that he will.

Lord Elton

Perhaps I could take the noble Lord's mind on one idea, which would be some form of procedure such as he suggested, or part of it, based on a satisfactory BSI certificate. That, presumably, is the sort of thing he is talking about? I am not making an offer—I should be rash to do that—but trying to take his mind so that, in the relatively short time that remains to me, at least I know in which direction he is thinking.

Lord Underhill

If it were a BSI certificate approved by the Secretary of State, we might possibly approve that; but I want something in the Bill to the effect that the Secretary of State approves the equipment, be it BSI equipment or otherwise. I think the Minister understands my view on this and that of noble Lords who have supported me. We hope there will be movement but, as I say, we may have to table an amendment for Report as a precautionary measure. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.4 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth moved Amendment No. 114A: After Clause 54, insert the following new clause:

("Temporary speed restrictions.

. In section 12(3) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, after the words "of this Act" or there shall be inserted the words", where there is considered to be a likelihood of extreme danger to the public,".").

The noble Lord said: To avoid delaying the Committee, I am wondering whether my noble friend, who is aware of the substance of what I wanted to discuss, agrees that we could possibly resolve the point outside the Committee, so enabling us to move rather faster.

The Earl of Avon

I think that would be entirely satisfactory.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 [Amendment of certain penalties in the 1972 Act]:

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 115: Page 65, line 27, at end insert— ("( ) In column 5 of the entry in Part I of Schedule 4 relating to section 1(1) of that Act (causing death by reckless or dangerous driving) after the word "obligatory" there shall be inserted the words but not less than two years to commence after the completion of any period of imprisonment ",").

The noble Lord said: This arises from correspondence referred to me by a Member of Parliament, one of whose constituents had been in touch with him over the prosecution of a driver responsible for the death of her brother. I understand that the Member has been in touch with the Secretary of State for Transport on the matter in relation to the general question of penalties for causing death by reckless driving. The Secretary of State, if I may respectfully say so, correctly stated that it would not be proper to comment on the particular case, but he pointed out that a person may be imprisoned for up to five years, or two years if convicted by a sheriff court in Scotland, and fined an unlimited amount. Disqualification is obligatory for at least 12 months, and the licence must be endorsed unless there are special reasons why the offence was committed. The Secretary of State added that if the court decides to order imprisonment, it will be for them to judge the appropriate length of disqualification bearing in mind the period the offender spends in prison.

The amendment would require the court to impose a driving ban running for not less than two years beyond the period of imprisonment. There are many cases where Parliament decides on minimum sentences and the amendment seeks to do just that. In other words, when a man has served whatever period of imprisonment it may be, there should be a driving ban of at least two years after that in order to protect the public. I beg to move.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

Would the amendment include children? I have known of cases where children have taken a car, sometimes their parents' car, and might have this type of accident. Does the noble Lord mean to include children?

Lord Underhill

I must bow to the greater knowledge of the Minister in answering that. The amendment refers to those who are liable to imprisonment, and a child would not normally be so liable. As to the age limit of those liable to be affected, perhaps the Minister could give the Committee some guidance.

The Earl of Avon

It is always saddening to hear of tragic accidents, and of course I am aware of the case to which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has referred. However, I should like to confine my remarks to the amendment before the Committee. Disturbing though any fatal road accident is, the court has a duty to consider the individual circumstances of each case, to reach a conclusion on that basis, and to impose the penalties that it sees fit within the range available to it.

I think the Committee will agree that it is a fundamental principle of our system of justice that within a maximum fixed by Parliament for each type of offence (not only traffic offences), the courts have the discretion to determine appropriate penalties according to the individual circumstances. As the noble Lord has said, the effect of the amendment would be to direct the court in the punishment that it may impose by determining when a minimum period of disqualification should commence. Clearly that could not be easily reconciled with the principle which I have just mentioned.

The penalty available to the courts for the offence in question is substantial; the noble Lord has stated what it is. A person may be imprisoned for up to five years (or two years if convicted by a sheriff's court in Scotland) and fined an unlimited amount. Disqualification is obligatory for at least 12 months, but many courts disqualify for longer periods, and the licence must be endorsed, unless there are special reasons why the offence was committed. In 1980, of 226 cases where disqualification was imposed for offences involving death or bodily harm, only 34 were for a period of one year or less. The remainder ranged up to a life ban, though most lay between three and 10 years. It is our view that there are sufficient powers to enable the courts to deal effectively with offenders according to the degree of seriousness of the particular offence. I do not think that we can go further than that in directing the sentence that the court should impose; only it can judge what is appropriate according to the individual circumstances, which can of course cover a very wide range.

If the court decides to order imprisonment, it will be for it to judge the appropriate length of the disqualification, bearing in mind the period that the offender spends in prison. It is unlikely that any court would order a period of disqualification to run concurrently and for the same length of time as a period of imprisonment.

I hope that I have been able to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, that the penalties available for the offence are adequate and that any attempt to direct the courts in the sentences that they impose would not be acceptable to us in principle. I shall be interested to hear his reaction to my remarks.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the noble Earl for the explanation. Of course there are some offences for which there is laid down a minimum period of imprisonment, and, if we were to refer to various Acts, we should find that clearly stated. Naturally, I shall have tomorrow to read very carefully in Hansard what the noble Earl has said, to see whether his explanation is as satisfactory as it seemed when I heard it just now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 55 agreed to.

9.11 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 116: After Clause 55, insert the following new clause:

("Proceedings in respect of offences in connection with Crown vehicles.

.—(1) In section 188 of the 1972 Act (application to the Crown), for subsections (8) and (9) there shall be substituted the following subsections— (8) Where an offence under this Act is alleged to have been committed in connection with a vehicle in the public service of the Crown, proceedings may be brought in respect of the offence against a person nominated for the purpose on behalf of the Crown; and subject to subsection (9) below, where any such offence is committed any person so nominated shall also he guilty of the offence as well as any person actually responsible for the offence (but without prejudice to proceedings against any person so responsible). (9) Where a person is convicted of an offence by virtue of subsection (8) above)—

  1. (a) no order may be made on his conviction save an order imposing a fine;
  2. (b) payment of any fine imposed on him in respect of that offence may not be enforced against him; and
  3. (c) apart from the imposition of any such fine, the conviction shall be disregarded for all purposes other than any appeal (whether by way of case stated or otherwise)."

(2) The subsections substituted by subsection (1) above for subsections (8) and (9) of section 188 of the 1972 Act (referred to below in this section as the 1972 Act subsections) shall also be substituted—

  1. (a) for section 97(4) of the 1967 Act; and
  2. (b) for section 102(3) of the Transport Act 1968; renumbered in the former case as subsections (4) and (5) and in the latter case as subsections (3) and (3A) (and taking the reference in each of those subsections to the other as correspondingly renumbered).

(3) As inserted by subsection (2) above in section 102 of the Transport Act 1968, subsection (8) of the 1972 Act subsections shall have effect with the substitution of the words "this Part of this Act" for the words "this Act".").

The noble Lord said: The amendment seeks to put right an unsatisfactory situation whereby, through no fault of his own, an officer nominated as departmental representative in court proceedings in respect of a Crown vehicle in the service of the department may be personally prejudiced. In the normal course of events, an employer who owns a vehicle driven by an employee may be prosecuted—for example, for defects discovered during the vehicle's use on the employer's business. The employer may be convicted, and penalties, which may include endorsement of the employer's licence, or even disqualification, may be imposed. Where a corporate body, such as a limited company, is the employer, the penalties will attach to the body, and cannot therefore include licence endorsement or disqualification. Where however a specific individual within the organisation can be shown to have had personal responsibility, it is open to the authorities to prosecute the individual in his own right.

However, because the Crown is immune from prosecution, the position regarding Crown vehicles needs to be specifically provided for. Section 188 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, and similar provisions in other Acts with which the amendment deals, provide for the department in the service of which the vehicle is used to nominate a representative for the purpose of any proceedings under the Act. In effect, that puts the Crown in substantially the same position as any other corporate employer. Unless the courts are satisfied that only the driver was responsible for the offence, the person nominated is deemed to be the person actually responsible. Because he stands before the court in his own right, he may have fines imposed on him personally, as indeed has been the case, and that could have the effect of putting his personal motor insurance at risk. Indeed, he could even find that his own driving licence was endorsed for certain offences. As your Lordships may imagine, there are not many volunteers for that dubious privilege. It is clear that a better way needs to be found of solving what is essentially a procedural problem. I think that the amendment provides a better way, and I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

May I ask the Minister just two questions arising on this Government amendment? First, in subsection (8) of the proposed new clause it says that the person so nominated (which is, of course, the notional defendant) shall also be guilty of the offence as well as any person actually responsible for the offence …". That could mean that the driver as well as the notional defendant could, in certain circumstances, both be held responsible.

The other point arises on the new subsection (9), where paragraph (a) says: no order may be made on his conviction save an order imposing a fine". Does this whole clause in any way affect or limit the rights of any other driver, a third party, who may be involved in an accident in respect of a Crown vehicle? Would it not be advisable that under paragraph (a) to which I have referred, in addition to the words "save an order imposing a fine", there should be added, "or compensation to any injured party", or words to that effect? Because, surely, a court should have the authority to do that as well as to impose a fine.

Lord Bellwin

I am not sure whether I can clarify the matter to the extent that the noble Lord requests. I think the answer to the first point he made is, yes, that is so. At least, that is the interpretation I would give. On his second point, I would think the answer is, no, because it really has nothing to do with civil liability. That is the interpretation I would give, but if it should prove to be otherwise, then of course I will tell the noble Lord.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 117: After Clause 55, insert the following new clause:

("Builders' skips.

. In section 139 of the Highways Act 1980 (control of builders' skips) the following paragraph shall be substituted for paragraph (a) of subsection (4)— (a) that the skip is properly lighted during the hours of darkness and is equipped with such fluorescent and retro-reflective diagonal markings as may be prescribed in regulations made under this Act by the Secretary of State in such positions as may be prescribed;".").

The noble Lord said: This amendment deals with the question of builders' skips, and I think I can save the time of your Lordships as this seems to be such an obvious thing that ought to be dealt with. I am referring to the skips that people have outside their houses while building operations are going on. Many noble Lords will have used them. Only a few months ago I used a builders' skip to take away lots of rubble which I had. These often cannot be distinguished at night. I know that they are supposed to have lights attached to them after authority for them is given by the local authority, but lights can go out. All we are really asking here is that there should be the fluorescent and retro-reflective diagonal markings—the type of thing one has on lorries. It seems such a sensible thing in my view that I will not elaborate on it. I hope the Government will accept it or decide to do something about it. Therefore, I will refrain from saying anything more until I hear the Government's view.

Lord Bellwin

I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving this amendment, which, as he says, seeks to improve the conspicuity of builders' skips left on the highway at night. We think there is much merit in this amendment. As drafted, the clause is in fact deficient in one or two respects, but without going into detail as to what and why, may I say that we shall be glad to draw up a revised provision to cater for the object which really both we and the noble Lord seek to achieve. Therefore, if he would agree to withdraw his new clause, I will undertake to table a suitable amendment for consideration by the House at Report.

Lord Airedale

One thing that the Minister may have in mind is: do we need to use the word "builders'"? There are skips which are run by people who organise what I believe are called bottle banks for collecting non-returnable bottles, and their skips ought to be covered by the amendment. That can be done by not insisting on the word "builders'".

Lord Bellwin

We shall certainly take note of what the noble Lord says.

Lord Underhill

I am very grateful to the Minister for giving the assurance that he has, and welcome it. I very much appreciate his decision on this matter on behalf of the Government, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.18 p.m.

Lord Underhill moved Amendment No. 118: After Clause 55, insert the following new clause:

("Provisional licences for motor-cyclists.

. In section 23 of the Transport Act 1981 (provisional licences and driving tests) in subsection (5) after the words "remain in force for such period" there shall he inserted the words "not exceeding one year".").

The noble Lord said: I am certain the Committee will appreciate that on some of these matters I am advised by different organisations, and on this one I am advised by the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety, known as PACTS, who have looked into this matter with a great deal of serious consideration. A two-part motor-cycle driving test was introduced on 29th March this year. The 1981 Act will allow a person to ride a motor-cycle with a provisional licence for up to two years before passing both parts of the test.

The two-year period is unlikely to decrease significantly the number of motor-cycle accidents, about which many noble Lords have expressed serious concern in various debates in your Lordships' House. Surveys have shown that riders are most likely to be involved in an injury-producing accident within their first six to 12 months of riding. I am sure that there is general agreement on this. There is much evidence available. I was going to quote from the TRRL, from their Working Report numbered 913. But the Government will well know the contents of it and therefore I will not do so. That makes quite conclusive the points that I have made; that it is the lower age groups that suffer from these serious motor-cycle accidents, and it confirms that most of the serious accidents take place in the six-months to 12-months period.

For myself, I am concerned—and I expressed this when we debated the 1981 Bill—with the first-time rider, and I should like to see some training provision before a new driver takes a motor-cycle on the road; because they do not have to be accompanied by a proficient driver as does a person with a provisional licence for a car. I had a probing amendment to that effect to the 1981 Bill. The PACTS which advised me on this matter consider (and I support them in this) that the urgent necessity, one capable of realisation, is the reduction of the testing period to one year as proposed in the amendment.

If we are serious on the need for training and testing new riders during the first six to 12 months, then it is wrong to adhere to the two-year provision. Therefore, in dealing with the amendment I would appreciate it if the Government could give the Committee some indication of where we now stand on the question of training and testing organisations.

I was going to give the Committee some information —they may know it—on the working of the scheme of the RAC and ACU which has been going on for the best part of 35 years and for which they have received only limited Government financial assistance. In a Question in the other place on 16th June this year, we were told by the Under-Secretary that for the current year, 1981–82, the amount of financial assistance towards a big training scheme carried out by the RAC and ACU was £69,000. The Minister said that another £80,000 to cover the shortfall in the funds provided by the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation to carry through the STEP scheme had been made for this year. The RAC and ACU said that £350,000 was needed to carry through an effective scheme, and they generously offered to put in £50,000 of their own money to cover the cost. The Government, unfortunately, offered only £143,000, and that on condition that the RAC and ACU accepted responsibility for the Part I testing at their own training centres and emphasised that this would be a once-and-for-all payment and that the scheme must be made self-financing in future years.

I understand that the Government said in respect to another question, that the financial help which was given to the RAC and ACU will now be transferred to the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation because regretably the RAC felt they had to withdraw from the scheme that they had carried out all these years, using enthusiastic motor-cycle volunteers to carry it out, and this money was therefore transferred to the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation. We understand that RoSPA has now offered to come into the motor-cycle training scheme. Therefore I must ask this: Will the money which has gone to the Motor Cycle Safety Foundation be transferred to RoSPA? What will happen in future years?

I want my amendment to be accepted by your Lordships, but we must know where the present scheme is. Is it in operation? Can it carry out the two-year period? I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell me that, despite what I have said, there are good alternative plans and therefore he will be able to accept the amendment so that we can concentrate on the six-month to 12-month new riders, which everybody says is the group at risk.

9.25 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

The object of the limit on the duration of provisional motor-cycle licences, together with the introduction of the two-part test, is to ensure that learner riders take training and pass their tests. I am sure no one will quarrel with this objective. We recognise a certain amount of criticism of the means that we have taken to achieve it. Nevertheless, a proposal was passed and we are now in the process of laying the necessary regulations to implement it. I understand some will come out, I think next week. These regulations are necessary because, as the Committee will recall, we did not specify in the Act either an "on" or "off" period. We said that we expected the "on" period to be two years and the "off" period to be one year. We also said that we should prefer not to specify the periods in the Act itself because circumstances could change. The "on" period has to be short enough to encourage a rider to start thinking about the need to take training and pass his test at the outset of his riding career when he needs training most. At the same time, it must in fairness be long enough to ensure that he has a reasonable chance to take his test more than once, given that even the best of riders can for one reason or another fail the first time. And remember that a rider now has to pass two tests: part 1 and part 2.

There is therefore a nice judgment to be made, and making this judgment is not any easier because one factor, the length of the test queues, is changing all the time. At present, the waiting time is, I am glad to say, being steadily reduced. In the Metropolitan area, for instance, it remains at 18 weeks. It only needs an occurrence outside our control, such as a prolonged spell of bad weather, to put it up. Our judgment is that in present circumstances a two-year period is about right. It may be that in future we could reduce the waiting time for tests still further; we could reduce the period to something like that which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, suggests. We do not think that we have reached that point yet. While I have every sympathy with the intention behind the noble Lord's amendment—indeed, I have sympathy with the case that he mentioned about motor-cyclists generally—I should not wish the Committee at the moment to accept this amendment.

The noble Lord went on to ask me about the present situation. The Government have been contributing towards the running cost of the RAC/ACU scheme for the past 20 years. We have never made any secret of our belief, with the introduction of a motor-cycle safety measure in the Transport Act last year, that motor-cycle training can and should operate on a self-financing basis. Training has not been self-supporting in the past simply because of the low throughput of trainees. Only about 15 per cent. of riders have actually taken formal training. However, the Transport Act provides much stronger incentives for new motor-cyclists to take training courses and we therefore expect that in future training will become something which the majority of riders take rather than the present small minority.

We had long and detailed discussions with the RAC about how they saw their role in the new system of training, in the course of which we made an offer for substantially increased grant for the current financial year to help the RAC adjust. Unfortunately, they came to the conclusion that without the assurance of long-term financial support from Government they could not continue to take part in motor-cycle training. We heard of this decision with considerable regret. The RAC have a long and distinguished involvement with motor-cycle training schemes and the RAC/ACU scheme has made an important contribution to road safety.

I should like to express my gratitude to the RAC and the many other volunteers who have so generously given of their time and experience. I hope that they will continue to play just as important a role in training as they have in the past. Many individual RAC/ACU centres have already taken the initiative and applied for appointment to conduct part 1 of the new motor-cycle test in their own right. Over 100 such centres have so far been authorised. There is every reason to believe that we shall have sufficient facilities available to cope with the expected increase in demand for motor- cycle training in the future. Indeed, we have so far appointed bodies to conduct part 1 of the test from over 570 sites up and down the country. They include motor-cycle training organisations, both large and small, local authorities and driving schools. Further applications for appointments to conduct the tests are being considered. More organisations are applying each week now that the scheme has begun.

We recognise that some training organisations, particularly the smaller ones, may have difficulty over the initial cost of participating in the scheme. We have therefore made available to the British Motor Cycle Safety Foundation a significant proportion of the grant originally allocated to the RAC this year, which the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned. This will enable the foundation to help defray the initial expenses of those training organisations—and the noble Lord mentioned both RoSPA and STEP—including the former RAC/ACU centres, who would like to take part in this scheme but lack the necessary financial means to do so. I have tried to indicate that the new scheme that we debated last year is getting off the ground and going well. We hope to see a great general improvement in motor-cycle training.

Lord Underhill

I am grateful to the Minister for the information he has given. I am also encouraged by what he has said about the development of the scheme. We shall have to wait for a review—presumably there will be a review presented to Parliament in due course as to whether this has proved successful. I hope that any suggestion of making schemes self-financing will not make it difficult for some organisations to carry this through, because we must get the young motor-cyclists trained as quickly as possible. I still should have liked to see a one-year scheme, because, although the two-year scheme will enable people to take the test more than once if they fail the first time, it is the six to 12-month first-riders that we want to catch and the present scheme may not catch them. In begging leave to withdraw my amendment, I hope that the Government will keep that in mind and, if they find that the present scheme is not really affecting the six- to twelve-month new riders, that I hope they will reconsider the matter of the one-year scheme. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 119: After Clause 56, insert the following new clause:

("Extended pension provision for members of transport Boards.

. In paragraph 8 of Schedule 1 to the Transport Act 1962 (salaries, pensions etc. of members of Boards of nationalised transport industries), in sub-paragraph (1)(b) (Minister may determine pensions to be paid on the retirement or death of members of Boards), for the words "on the retirement or death" there shall be substituted the words "in the case'..").

The noble Lord said: With permission, I should like to take with this Amendment Nos. 23 and 137. These are technical amendments and are designed to rectify a problem which has come to light in connection with the procedure for contracting pension arrangements made for board members in the transport industries under Schedule 1 to the Transport Act 1962 out of the state pension scheme. It has been the policy of each Government since the current state pension scheme came into operation to contract out the pension arrangements made for members of the nationalised industry boards and similar bodies, in the same way that the great majority of occupational pension schemes are contracted out.

I have here some quite detailed notes on this, but I will not go into them fully at this stage unless I am asked to do so. I want to emphasise that these amendments would not provide access to a pension for any person who did not already enjoy it under existing legislation. They would simply remove an anomaly and bring the provisions of the 1962 Act into line with those of more recent legislation applying to the pensions of Board members.

The first amendment would achieve this by replacing the specific reference to "retirement or death" by a more general form of wording. The second would extend this provision to Northern Ireland, in line with the coverage of Schedule 1 to the 1962 Act. The third makes the necessary consequential amendment to the Title. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 57 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 119A had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

9.35 p.m.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 119B: After Clause 57, insert the following new clause:

("Payments in respect of applicants for exemption from wearing seat belts.

.—(1) The Secretary of State may make payments out of money provided by Parliament in respect of the examination of applicants falling within any class mentioned in subsection (2) below, being applicants for medical certificates required as a condition of any exception prescribed by regulations under section 33A or 33B of the 1972 Act (wearing of seat belts).

(2) The classes referred to in subsection (1) are—

  1. (a) those in receipt of—
    1. (i) attendance allowance under section 35 of the Social Security Act 1975 at the higher rate referred to in subsection (3) of that section;
    2. (ii) mobility allowance under section 37A of that Act;
    3. (iii) disablement pension under section 57 of that Act at a weekly rate increased by virtue of section 61(1) of that Act (constant attendance needed); or
    4. (iv) an allowance under article 14 of the Naval, Military and Air Forces etc. (Disablement and Death) Service Pensions Order 1978 (constant attendance allowance) at a rate increased by virtue of paragraph (1)(b) of that article;
  2. (b) those in receipt of—
    1. (i) family income supplement; or
    2. (ii) any benefit under the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976;
    and their dependants; and
  3. (c) those whose names are in the register of disabled persons maintained under section 6 of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944.

(3) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (2) above (whether as originally enacted or as previously amended under this subsection) so as to omit any of the classes mentioned in that subsection or add to or substitute for any of those classes other classes of any description.").

The noble Lord said: some of your Lordships present here today will remember that last year the noble Lord, the Lord Nugent, introduced a clause into the Transport Act 1981 during Committee stage, which enabled my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport to introduce regulations requiring the compulsory wearing of seat belts. The draft regulations were, in fact, laid before Parliament on 6th July—indeed, relaid with a minor correction on 13th July—and we shall be having the opportunity to debate these provisions in due course.

Some of your Lordships will also remember that the Transport Act provides for some specific exemptions from compulsion, and one of these is for medical reasons. For people to be exempt in this category they must hold a valid exemption certificate, signed by a medical practitioner, to the effect that it is inadvisable, on medical grounds, for them to wear a seat belt. The Medical commission on Accident Prevention has produced guidelines for the profession on medical exemption, which we shall be circulating to doctors along with copies of the forms for certificates. The guidelines cover physical conditions, such as pregnancy, and mental conditions, such as claustrophobia. However, the Medical Commission has said that few, if any, medical conditions are aggravated by wearing a seat belt and that exemption is most likely to be necessary because of a temporary condition or the combined effect of more than one condition.

Doctors will be able to charge a fee for examining applicants and the British Medical Association has recommended to its members that this sum should be £19. We expect that most people will apply to their own GPs for exemption, and we hope that GPs will consider applications from those on low incomes or disabled, without charge or, at least, at a nominal charge. However, if this were not possible, it would clearly be wrong for someone to have to wear a belt which might be detrimental to his or her health simply because he or she could not afford the fee for an examination. The Government therefore believe that they should assist certain people who are on low incomes, or who are disabled, so that they may apply for medical exemption. Since this will be an ongoing service, it is not proper for the expenditure implications to be covered by the Appropriation Acts. The Secretary of State is therefore taking powers in this clause to make the necessary payments.

Subsection (1) enables the Secretary of State to make payments for examinations. The present proposal is that this should be done by providing examinations through the auspices of the DHSS Social Security Medical Service. Subsection (2) sets out those people who will be eligible for help. This will, I am sure, be the aspect of this new provision of most interest to your Lordships. It is also the part which has involved the most difficult decisions. Clearly, it would have been inappropriate and excessively bureaucratic and time-consuming to set up new categories of eligibility. We have therefore had to look at existing schemes for those on low incomes and disabled and decide which should be used as "passports" into these new arrangements. In deciding which "passports" should be included, we had to bear in mind the possible number of applicants involved, the time available to process a reasonable proportion before compulsion is introduced, the ease with which eligibility can be checked and the likely cost.

We therefore decided that those eligible for examination on low incomes would be those in receipt of Supplementary Benefit or Family Income Supplement and their dependants. The disabled who will be eligible will be those in receipt of attendance allowance at the higher rate (that is, for 24 hours); or mobility allowance; or a disablement pension with a constant attendance allowance (for 24 hours); or a war pension with a constant attendance allowance (for 24 hours); and those registered as disabled with the Department of Employment.

A total of about 7 million people will therefore be eligible for free examination, although, clearly, only a very small number will be eligible for exemption in view of the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention's advice. Subsection (3) of this clause enables the Secretary of State by order to change the list of eligible applicants. Whatever your Lordships' views on compulsion as an issue, and however you think it should be applied in practice—and as I said before, we shall be able to debate the latter point in due course—I hope your Lordships will agree that this clause should be inserted into the Bill, so that, should the regulations be approved, the Government can proceed immediately to make the necessary arrangements. I commend it to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

I am certain that there will be general satisfaction that the Government are introducing this clause to provide for exemptions under certain circumstances. I should declare an interest as a retirement pensioner—but one who, I hope, will not have to apply for medical exemption. Retirement pensioners are included in the list of persons who are exempted from payment for medical prescriptions. It might be argued that if a retirement pensioner can afford to drive a car he can afford to pay for medical exemption, but there will be pensioners who wish to travel as passengers who may want to apply for medical exemption. It should also apply to those pensioners who wish to drive themselves. If they want to apply for medical exemption on real medical grounds, £19 is a lot of money for a retirement pensioner with no other source of income. I wonder whether the Government can tell me if there is a special reason why retirement pensioners are not included in this list of exemptions.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I should like to follow up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. There is a parallel with the charges made for dental services. In no way, I understand, will it ever be possible to give people all dentures entirely free. There are people who do not come into the categories listed here and who manage reasonably well on the basic pension which they receive but who would find that a sudden charge for dentures—£35—or £19 in this case might be too much for them. There is a special application form for both dental and medical services. An application can be made to the Department of Health and Social Security specifically for a payment to meet either optical or dental charges. I should have thought that a similar provision would be appropriate for this category. It seems that it may already be covered by the words in subsection (3) of the amendment. The Secretary of State for Social Services could introduce some type of application form which would require various questions to be answered. May I ask the Minister whether this category is already included in subsection (3) or whether words would need to be added to that effect? I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is asking that every pensioner should automatically have it free, because many pensioners have no need for assistance and are well able to meet the charge.

May I take up another point which my noble friend Lady Lane-Fox has asked me to raise tonight, as she is unable to be here? It is whether the orange badge holders will be included in the category of being able to get help if it is needed. I should also like to make the point that if people have already been through a full medical examination for the disabled driver's orange badge which, under the new regulations, will be much more strictly controlled and the badge issued only to cases of genuine need—not rather loosely as might have been the case in the past—it is surely unnecessary for these people to have to submit to a second medical examination and provide a second certificate or other proof of their need for the badge. I should like the Minister to comment on that point.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

I hope that as few people as possible who are disabled will be asking for exemption. I have already received one or two letters from disabled people who are worried about wearing seat belts. I have written back to them and said how important it is to wear a seat belt wherever possible. I know that there are going to be some problems over this. May I ask the Government whether this will be a once-and-for-all examination and exemption or whether it will be required at regular intervals? Would the Government consider, since the orange badge scheme is to be tightened up, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, has said, including these people?

There is a category which has not been included; namely, the people who drive the three-wheeled invacars. As your Lordships will know, disability is a very expensive thing and if one is just above the supplementary level, life can be very expensive—and this £19 might be a great worry to some disabled people.

One other point that worries me, as chairman of the Spinal Injuries Association, is that people wearing seat belts without the benefit of a headrest can suffer a whiplash injury and break their neck. This is something that some people who are disabled might worry about, and they might apply for exemption because of this. I hope that the Government will encourage makers of cars to include headrests, because this is a very important point. I should like an answer from the Government, especially about the people on the orange badge scheme. RADAR—the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation—covers a large selection of organisations for the diabled and it, too, is worried about this point.

9.46 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I am quite sure that the Committee would not wish to dispute the necessity for this new clause, which deals only with exemption from paying the fee. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the reason why this clause is even necessary. Is it not true that the Government totally abrogated their responsibilities under the 1981 Act? Section 27 of the 1981 Act states: (d) The Secretary of State may prescribe cases in which a fee of a prescribed amount may be charged on an application for any certificate required as a condition of any prescribed exception. In the press release issued by the department on 6th July, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport was quoted as saying: I am pleased to say that arrangements are being made for people on low incomes and the disabled to obtain free examinations through the DHSS Social Security Medical Service if they need medical exemption and cannot afford to obtain it from their doctor. The British Medical Association are recommending a fee to doctors of £19 for considering an application for medical exemption. In view of this rather high figure, I believe it is only right that those least able to afford such sums should have access to a free examination. One does not, of course, argue with the sense: In view of this rather high figure, says Lynda Chalker, I believe it is only right that those least able", should have some help. Fair enough—but why is this a "rather high figure"?

There is little doubt in my mind, because I have seen nothing to the contary, that the Government have failed to reach an agreement with the medical profession over this figure. I cannot remember how many years we have been discussing seat belts, but certainly we have discussed fees ranging from £1 or £2 to the last figure I can recall, which was £5 or £6. Now we have arrived at a figure of £19. I am almost tempted to suggest that the medical profession have behaved in a manner of which I should not have thought them capable. They have held us over a barrel for £19, for considering—just for considering—a certificate.

It is late. This clause has not yet been to the other place, so obviously it will have to be fully debated there. The regulations to which the Minister referred, of which this is a part, are due to be debated in the other place, I believe next Thursday. I have little doubt that when that Chamber debates the regulations they will have in mind this new clause. I hope they will. Certainly we shall have it in mind when these regulations come to your Lordships' House to be debated. If it were any other body, a commercial body, the Committee would howl with rage. There can be no justification whatever for this figure of £19. The Government should have found a satisfactory sum, which may or may not have needed the insertion of the new clause now before the Committee. I find a grave disappointment in the behaviour of the medical profession and the BMA in this matter.

Lord Bellwin

May I take up some of the points made as to the extensions that would be required to the list of exemption? Of course it was inevitable that there would be groups which would be brought to our attention as perhaps worthy of inclusion in the list. I said that drawing up the list is a judgment, and one always has to bear in mind the possibility that further categories may be included. I should be going beyond my remit if I were to say that the chances of further inclusions are fairly remote; but, having said that, I also hasten to say that I will certainly want to discuss the examples given today.

As to the individual recommendations drawn to our attention, the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, first of all, asked about retirement pensioners. Well, those pensioners who are on supplementary benefit, as I said earlier, will of course qualify. The remainder come within the category of those where one has to come to a judgment in making the list and putting some limit somewhere. My noble friend Lady Gardner brought to our notice specific cases that both she and my noble friend Lady Faithfull are concerned about. Certainly we shall have to look at those and see whether anything can be done about those. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, asked about drivers of three-wheeled invalid cars. I understand that in any case they would not be within the compulsion list and therefore they would not have the problem of compulsion being applied to them.

Baroness Masham of Elton

But could they not be passengers, like the pensioners the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, mentioned?

Lord Bellwin

But even as passengers, if compulsion does not apply to them then the choice of wearing the seatbelt or not would be theirs. Therefore they do not need to have exemption in the form of a medical certificate. So they certainly do not have this problem.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

But because they are disabled should not mean that they should not wear a seatbelt. Surely they must have a special need. Being disabled, one should wear a seat belt.

Lord Bellwin

Indeed, but then if they choose to wear the seat belt, which I agree with the noble Baroness would be a wise thing to do, we are faced with the problem of who will be exempt from a medical charge for a certificate to make them exempt. Therefore, the problem does not apply to them so far as I can see. As regards the other point which she made, she asked whether the list was a once-and-for-all exemption. I would always hope that there is no such thing as "once-and-for-ails" in matters of this kind. That must be right. I have said that it will not be easy to have the list extended for the obvious reasons, but to say that it should be once-and-for-all, is much further than I would want to go. However, I will consult on that and write to the noble Baroness.

I also want to look into the point which she raises about headrests. Before I come to the point made by my noble friend, Lord Lucas—which I shall leave until the end—I should like to refer to my noble friend Lady Gardner, who raised the orange badge point. I said a moment ago that we would want to look at that matter. The difficulty is that not all badge holders need to be exempted. Even so, I undertake to look into that and to take the matter further.

My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth used terms such as, "the Government having failed to come to an agreement". He said, "the medical profession have held us over a barrel", and, "there can be no justification for £19". He said that it is a grave disappointment. I would not attempt to be so arrogant as to say that this is or is not a correct figure. It is not for me to justify the figure or otherwise. The fact is that it is a figure. It is correct when he says that it has been negotiated and discussed over a long period of time. There always comes a moment when one has to say, "Yes", or "No", this is the figure. As he also says, it will be discussed and debated elsewhere. It will probably come back and be debated here also when we come to the regulations. But I do not accept his criticism in the way in which he put it. Had he put it in another way, I might have felt more kindly disposed towards it. Frankly, I am not kindly disposed when it is put in that particular way, but he will not mind whether I am disposed kindly or not, as he has so readily said in the past when he has not agreed. That is entirely his prerogative.

I think that this is a very good clause. I think that it has the approval of the Committee. I recognise the concern that we should look carefully at the additional suggestions which have been made, and that I undertake to do, although in doing so I stress that I fear that there will be limits on the extent to which I can get further movement. However, it is in that spirit that again I beg formally to move this clause.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 58 [Regulations and orders]:

9.59 p.m.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 120:

Page 67, line 22, at end insert— ("( ) Before making—

  1. (a) an order under section 28(2) or (5) of this Act; or
  2. (b) regulations under section 48(1) of this Act;
the Secretary of State shall consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit.").

The noble Earl said: The Government were happy to give an undertaking in another place to bring forward an amendment to require the Secretary of State to consult as he sees fit before making orders or regulations in connection with the fixed penalty proposals in Part III of the Bill. This will in fact merely put on a statutory basis what we would propose to do in practice anyway. I therefore have no hesitation in recommending this amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Underhill

I do not want to make a big issue out of this particular question, but I hope that the Secretary of State will keep in mind that any consultations of this kind must be meaningful consultations. Without going into details, I understand that there have been two cases in recent weeks where only two weeks were given for consultation. When one considers that the consultation involves the need to examine very carefully what the regulation is and perhaps the need for some organisations to have their own consultations before replying, two weeks is not sufficient. I hope that this matter will be kept in mind in any future consultations.

The Earl of Avon

Indeed, I shall undertake to do that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 121 not moved.]

Clause 58, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clause 60 [General interpretation]:

[Amendment No. 122 not moved.]

Clause 60 agreed to.

Clause 61 [Citation, commencement and extent]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 123: Page 68, line 35, leave out ("section 56") and insert ("sections 56 and [Extended pension provision for members of transport Boards]").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this amendment and I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 61, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

[Amendment No. 124 not moved.]

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 125: Page 87, line 12, leave out from ("functions") to ("and") in line 15.

The noble Lord said: This is purely a technical amendment, necessary to make Schedule 5 consistent with Clause 8, which was amended at an earlier stage in another place. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 126:

Page 87, line 20, at end insert— (". The provisions of the Transport Act 1968 requiring transport managers for operating centres for authorised vehicles under goods vehicle operators' licences (which have not been brought into operation and have since their enactment been largely superseded by other provisions) are hereby repealed; and accordingly, in section 85(2) of that Act, for the words "Schedules 9 and 10" there shall be substituted the words "Schedule 10".").

The noble Lord said: With this amendmnet I also want to take Amendments Nos. 129, 131, 132 and 136. These amendments relate to the proposed repeal of Section 65 and Schedule 9 and related provisions of the 1968 Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 126A: Page 87, line 21, at end insert— (". In section 33(6) of the 1972 Act (protective helmets for motor-cyclists) there shall be inserted after the word "headdress," the words "visor or other equipment intended for use in connection with a helmet,".").

The noble Lord said: In order to protect their eyes against grit, insects and other small objects, motorcyclists often wear visors on their helmets, When a visor is sold with a helmet it is regarded as being part of the helmet and must then comply with British Standard 4110 on eye protectors for vehicle users. However, if a visor is sold separately from the helmet, it is not required by law to comply with the British Standard, or, indeed, with any standard at all.

In practice, a visor is often not supplied with the helmet, so the motor-cyclist buys the visor separately. As I have said, this visor may well not comply with the British Standard. Even if the visor is supplied with the helmet, the motor-cyclist will find it necessary to replace the visor quite frequently owing to damage by abrasion from normal wear. Indeed, it is generally considered advisable to replace the visor after as little as six weeks of regular use. So the replacement market is considerable.

It is vitally important for a motor-cyclist to be able to see where he is going. Medical authorities and others responsible for dealing with motor-cycle accidents have identified two major hazards for motorcyclists wearing visors on their helmets, particularly at night. The first is the use of tinted material for the visor. At night, in particular, this can result in a failure to distinguish objects, and certain motor-cycle fatalities are attributable to this. All motor-cycle visors made to British Standard 4110 must be made of clear material. The standard effectively prohibits the use of tinted materials. But visors sold separately from helmets may be of any density of colour or tint that happens to be fashionable.

The second major hazard is the effect on vision of surface scratches on the visor. In the course of even normal wear, visors are liable to damage from scratching. Scratches result in a substantial reduction in clear vision during the day, and at night the motorcyclist, faced with oncoming headlights, can be totally blinded by what is called the star effect, with fatal results. Evidence from the Accident Research Unit at the University of Birmingham provided further corroboration. The unit recently sent to the Consumers' Association who, I might say, are advising me on this matter, two motor-cycle helmet visors. Both, rather macabrely, had been worn by motor-cyclists involved in fatal accidents. They brought them and showed them to me here. One was heavily tinted, the other was made of clear material but badly scratched. The scratched one in daylight, or even in the light of the Peers' Lobby, looked adequate, but you could imagine that if you looked at a light you could see this starring occurring.

At present the Road Traffic Act 1972 enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to cover visors only when they are sold with helmets, but there appear to be no powers under the Act to make regulations to cover visors sold separately from helmets. Such powers could exist under the Consumer Safety Act 1978, which makes provision for safety regulations. Indeed, the Department of Transport in a consultation document circulated in May 1980, has suggested that it might use the provisions under the Consumer Safety Act to regulate visors sold separately from helmets. However, it seems inappropriate to deal with helmets and visors sold with helmets under the Road Traffic Act, and then to deal with visors sold separately under the Consumer Safety Act. It would be far simpler and more appropriate for comprehensive regulations to be made under a single Act of Parliament to include all visors, regardless of whether they are sold with or without a helmet. Hence the need for the present amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Airedale

The word "intended" is often ambiguous. In this amendment does it mean intended by the manufacturer or intended by the motor-cyclist? It might be worth considering making it clear in the amendment who is intended.

The Earl of Avon

For some time the Government have been aware of possible shortcomings in this primary legislation. While Section 33 gives the Secretary of State powers to prescribe helmets which will offer protection to motor-cyclists in the event of accident, it does not extend this power to control accessories which may be fitted to helmets. The Government have been concerned that visors which are either excessively tinted or scratched impair vision, particularly at night or during inclement weather. They have been a contributory factor in accidents.

In 1980 the Government considered making regulations, but decided, because at that time the problem of abrasion had not been fully explored, to wait until the standard had been revised to include abrasion resistance. This is now nearly completed. The Government also welcome the proposal to cover other equipment intended for use in connection with a helmet. For example, with the recent developments in CB radio, intercom sets have been produced for use with motor-cyclists' helmets. While the Government have no reason to believe that those at present offered by helmet manufacturers for use with their helmets seriously compromise the protection offered by the helmet, there is the possibility that in ignorance the motor-cyclist may be tempted to remove part of the protective energy absorbing inner lining of his helmet in order to fit the intercom set, and action may need to be taken about such points later.

The Government welcome this amendment, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, will be happy to know that we would like my noble friend to withdraw it so that we can produce our own amendment at Report stage. The amendment itself does not really fit where it now is, and we should also like to consider combining wearing and selling. Otherwise, I would very much go along with what my noble friend suggests.

Lord Mottistone

I am grateful to my noble friend. I look forward to seeing his amendment at the next stage and have pleasure in withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 127:

Page 88, line 22, at end insert— (".—(1) In section 93(4) of the 1972 Act (extended period of disqualification in case of certain previous convictions), for" 6(1) there shall be substituted 6(1)(a)". (2) For the purposes of section 93(4), as amended by paragraph 3 of Schedule 9 to the Transport Act 1981 and by subparagraph (1) above to refer to sections 6(1)(a) and 8(7) of the 1972 Act (which are among the new provisions substituted by the Transport Act 1981 for sections 6 to 12 of the 1972 Act), a previous conviction of an offence under the corresponding provision of the old law shall be treated as a conviction of an offence under the new provision. (3) In the case of section 6(1)(a) of the 1972 Act, as substituted by the Transport Act 1981, the corresponding provision of the old law for the purposes of sub-paragraph (2) above is section 6(1) of the 1972 Act, as it had effect immediately before that substitution. (4) In the case of section 8(7) of the 1972 Act, as so substituted, the corresponding provision of the old law for those purposes is section 9(3) of the 1972 Act, as it so had effect.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. Its purpose is simply to rectify an anomaly which has arisen from the re-ordering of the drinking and driving offences in Section 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 by Schedule 8 to the 1981 Transport Act.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 128:

Page 90, line 46, at end insert— (".During any period when Schedule 7 to the Transport Act 1981 (penalty points for offences) is in force but Schedule 8 to that Act (new provisions substituted for sections 6 to 12 of the 1972 Act) is not, Schedule 7 shall have effect as if for the references in column 1 of Part II of that Schedule to sections 6(1)(b), 7(4) and 8(7) of the 1972 Act (which refer to the new provisions mentioned above) there were substituted references respectively to sections 6(2), 8(3) and 9(3) of the 1972 Act (which are the provisions in that Act as it has effect apart from Schedule 8 to the Transport Act 1981 that correspond to the new provisions mentioned above).").

The noble Lord said: This, too, is a technical amendment, also intended to deal with a slight anomaly raised by the Government's intention to bring Schedule 7 to the 1981 Transport Act into operation in advance of Schedule 8.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 6 [Repeals]:

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 129:

Page 91, line 11, column 3, at beginning insert—

("In section 59, in subsection (1) the words "and by Schedule 9 thereto", and in subsection (2) the words "and the said Schedule".
Section 62(3).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 130:

Page 91, column 3, leave out lines 15 to 20 and insert—

("Section 64(2)(b)").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 131:

Page 91, column 3, leave out line 21 and insert—

("Section 65.
In section 67(5), the words from "and a licence" to the end.
In section 68, subsections (1)(c) and (4)(a).
In section 69, in subsection (1)(a) the words "section 65 of this Act or", and in subsection (4)(b) the words "or Schedule 9 thereto" in subparagraphs (i) and (ii).
In section 82(6), the words "or Schedule 9 thereto".
In section 84, the words "or a transport manager's licence" in paragraphs (a) and (d).
In section 87, the words "or Schedule 9 thereto" in subsections (1) and (4) and in paragraphs (b) and (c) of subsection (5).
In section 88, the words "or Schedule 9 thereto" in subsections (1) and (3) and the words" and Schedule 9 thereto" in subsection (2).
In section 89, in subsection (1) the words from "and respect" to the end and in subsection (2) the words "or Schedule 9 thereto".
In section 90, the words "and Schedule 9 thereto" in subsections (1) and (3)(b).
In section 91, in subsection (7) the words "or Schedule 9 thereto" and in subsection (8) the words "or the said Schedule 9".
In section 92, the words "and Schedule 9 thereto" in subsections (1) and (5).
Section 94(3).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 132:

Page 91, line 22, column 3, at end insert—

("Schedule 9.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 133: Page 92, column 3, leave out lines 35 and 36.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 134:

Page 92, line 49, at end insert—

("1980 c. 34. Transport Act 1980. In section 66(2), the words from "and" in the second place where it occurs to the end.").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this, and beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 135:

Page 92, line 49, at end insert—

("1980 c. 62. Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980. Section 31.").

The noble Lord said: This is a purely technical amendment. It repeals Section 31 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, which is re-enacted in effect in Clause 57 of the Bill. Section 31 is therefore redundant and can be repealed. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 6, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 136: In the Title, line 14, leave out from ("licences") to ("; to") in line 16.

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to this, and beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Bellwin moved Amendment No. 137: In the Title, line 18, after ("defence;") insert ("to extend the power under Schedule 1 to the Transport Act 1962 to determine pensions for members of certain Boards;").

The noble Lord said: I have spoken to this. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Title, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with the amendments.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Are we not still in Committee?

Lord Sandys

No, my Lords.