§ Motion made, and Question proposed.
"That a sum, not exceeding £203,530, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Transport, including expenses of the Railway Rates Tribunal, of the Road and Rail Appeal Tribunal, and of maintaining Holyhead Harbour, the Caledonian and Crinan Canals; annuities in respect of Light Railways; and other services." [Note:£180,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Burgin)
May I presume that it will meet with your approval, Captain Bourne, and the convenience of the Committee, if we discuss this and the Vote for Roads, etc., together? They are separate Votes and will have to be put separately from the Chair, but that practice was adopted last year, and it enables the Minister's review to be somewhat more general.
I am, of course, in the hands of the Committee, but it would seem to me to be to the obvious convenience of all sides of the Committee to follow the course suggested by the Minister. Otherwise, I am afraid I should have to stop every Member who referred to a road, and that would be very unsatisfactory. If this course is adopted, it will be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), if he wishes to move a reduction, to postpone it to the end of the Debate.
§ Mr. Burgin:
I am obliged to you, Captain Bourne, for adopting a practice which will facilitate our discussion. I am sure the Committee will realise that any active 582 Department of State with a record of achievement which it wishes to bring to the notice of the House must welcome the opportunity which Parliamentary procedure affords for a general review of the activities of the year. If I attempt in a reasonably short address—for I am conscious that many hon. Members would like transport facilities—to give the Committee an account of the more important matters dealt with in the last 12 months, I must adopt a policy of selection. The Ministry of Transport is the creation of Statute. Its powers and obligations are the subject of Act of Parliament. The Department deals with every form of transport other than civil aviation and transport at sea. Bearing in mind the ever-increasing part which communications play in national and international development, no words of mine are necessary to emphasise the magnitude of the task and the possibilities inherent in it.
Let me deal with the actual Estimates before the Committee. In the Civil Estimates, Class VI, page 133, the Estimate for the Ministry of Transport will be found. It shows gross expenditure £997,970; appropriations-in-aid £614,440, leaving a net charge on the Exchequer of £383,530. Compared with last year, there is an increase of £70,000 in gross expenditure, arising chiefly under general administration, and a decrease in the appropriations-in-aid of £40,000, making a net increase in the Estimate of £10,000. Ninety per cent. of that expenditure is in general administration, that is, salaries, wages, travelling, incidentals, departmental committees, telegrams and telephones. The Trunk Roads Act, 1936, combined with the general development of the work of the Ministry and of the area traffic organisations has meant a substantial increase of staff of all grades. Subhead A of the Estimate, on page 141, provides for a total staff of 2,822–200 more than in the Estimate for 1937. To this figure must be added the staffs of the Railway Rates Tribunal, the Appeal Tribunal under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, and the staffs employed on the undertakings vested in the Minister. These number 188, making a final total of 3,010, excluding casual labour employed as and when necessary at Holyhead Harbour and on the Caledonian Canal.
The other Estimate is the Roads, amp;&c., Vote, which will be found on page 147. By Section 33 of the Finance Act, 1936, 583 the old method of financing the Road Fund out of the proceeds of motor taxation was abolished as from 1st April, 1937. This did not affect the purposes for which the Road Fund was established, and highway authorities continue to be assisted to meet their expenditure by grants from the fund. The money required to meet these grants and to meet the cost of trunk roads is provided in sub-head A of this Estimate. The provision is made in the form of a grant-in-aid, that is to say, sums issued out of the Exchequer to the Road Fund are carried forward from year to year in the fund, and if not actually expended are not surrendered to the Exchequer. Details of the estimated payments out of the Road Fund during the year to highway authorities, Head A, for trunk roads, Head B, and miscellaneous purposes, Heads C to F, are set out in Appendix I on page 149, while Appendix II contains a list of the major works of road improvements. It is not a complete list, but a selection of the principal and more important works of construction. They represent new construction, authorised or in progress at 31st March, 1938. The grant-in-aid for the current year exceeds the corresponding provision for the previous year by £6,500,000 owing to estimated increases of about £2,000,000 for grants to highway authorities, £1,000,000 for expenditure on trunk roads, and a decrease of £3,500,000 in the estimated balance in the fund at the beginning of the year. Sub-head B provides for the Menai Bridge. The other sub-heads cover charges previously borne on the Road Fund, but now transferred to the Exchequer. On page 148 the appropriations-in-aid are fines under the Roads Act, 1920, and the Road Traffic Acts, 1930–34.
Let me resume consideration of transport generally. The Ministry of Transport is not merely a road Ministry. It covers a wide field of other forms of transport by land, such as railways, tramways and trolley vehicles; and by water, such as canals, inland navigation, harbours, docks and piers. The statutory functions of the Minister are of a varied character, including the authorisation of construction or abandonment, inspection, and sanctioning for public traffic of new works, receiving and considering reports of accidents and the holding of inquiries into such accidents, sanctioning of loans, 584 examining accounts and compiling statistics, making and confirming regulations and by-laws, while certain harbours and canal undertakings are actually vested in the Minister. It is quite easy and all too simple to take the familiar and long-established for granted and to undervalue the importance of such services, but any Minister of Transport must speedily be impressed by the vital character of the railways as the transport core of the country and the high degree of efficiency and enterprise with which the railways are operated. I have little to say about railways, and little to say, too, about the equally vital dock services, because their story can be epitomised, so far as I am concerned, in the phrase, "They are getting on with their job." Nor are we as a Ministry concerned merely with peacetime conditions. A highly important responsibility rests upon this Department in connection with the planning of all that comes under the heading of transport should an emergency arise.
But the mind of the Committee and of the general public in all matters of transport focuses its attention, and rightly, upon the safety of travel, and perhaps the best service I can render to the Committee this morning is to put safety in the forefront. No Minister holding the office of Minister of Transport can ever be complacent with regard to the total of road casualties, fatal and nonfatal, which come to his notice as a daily continuous toll. It is a melancholy fact that, in spite of an ever-increasing degree of close attention and sense of responsibility given to this problem, the aggregate figures of death and injury are appallingly high. Here and there there are encouraging signs, but time and time again disappointment is our lot. I express my gratitude to all corporate bodies and individuals who are users of transport or are onlookers who are in any way devoting thought or action to helping me in the solution or diminution of this tremendous problem.
Experience has shown that it is impossible, humanly speaking, to attribute the cause of accidents to any one particular source. Physical barriers preventing the possibility of certain users of a highway from approaching it at all do something to lessen the total, and there is much to be gained by progressive segregation of traffic, but without wholehearted co-operation on the part of all 585 users of the highways, whatever physical exclusion there is, whatever rule, regulation or action we take, whatever measure of care be imposed, however much the skill of the driver is tested before he is allowed at large on the highway, there will—and the experience is universal throughout the world—continue to be casualties on a scale and at a rate frightening to the intelligence. In my judgment there is a challenge to humanity adequately to impress itself with the stupidity and cruelty of allowing these totals to continue.
During the past year my Department has completed and published the results of the biggest and most detailed investigation into the circumstances and causes of road accidents that so far has ever been undertaken in any country. The investigation covered the 12 months ended 31st March, 1937, analysed 200,000 accidents involving personal injury which occurred during that period, and the results are available for us. The road accident figures for the first five months of this year, although they show a welcome reduction in the number killed as compared with the corresponding period of last year, are still woefully high. There is, however, a hopeful sign in the reduction of pedestrian casualties, both killed and injured. We are striving unremittingly with the problem and naturally giving close attention to the evidence which is being given before the Select Committee on Road Accidents appointed in another place. I will not anticipate or forecast the findings of that committee, but I note the emphasis which every witness lays on the need for systematic and continued education of all classes of those who use the roads.
On this aspect of the problem I have been glad to note the work done by the School Children's Safety Committees. The recommendations as to education in road conduct and the setting up of children's safety committees by the Inter-Departmental Committees on Road Safety among Children have been carried out by 206 education authorities in England and Wales out of 315,65 think the matter can be dealt with by the watch or highways committees, and the remainder have not intimated their decisions. In Scotland 15 out of 35 have taken equivalent action to that recommended, and the remaining 20 have not yet set up special 586 committees, although they encourage instruction in road safety.
Hon. Members will be aware of the appointment of accident officers. Eight accident officers were appointed at the end of 1936, one attached to each divisional road engineer in his area. Their duties range from investigating causes of accidents to definite propaganda work. Their work has proved most valuable. Their activities have included the investigation of accident causes, securing the coordination of authorities, police and highway, in taking remedial measures, and assisting in the education of children and adults alike in better road conduct. Their reports, while they reveal that there is room for physical measures of a remedial nature, in the way of road improvements, pedestrian crossings, signs and lights, confirm the opinion that the greatest cause of accidents is human error in the form of carelessness or lack of consideration.
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. Member may have his own views, but the information before me enables me unhesitatingly to tell this Committee that the human factors of carelessness and lack of consideration are responsible, and that with a little more thought and a little more care down would come our road accidents. May I refer to the mobile police? In order to try the effect on road users of persuasion and advice I agreed, in conjunction with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and in collaboration with seven selected police forces—the Metropolitan, Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, Cheshire, Lancashire and Essex—as an experiment to meet the cost of increasing the mobile police in those areas by a gross total of 800 men. While this has had some effect on the general enforcement of the law, it was intended primarily to facilitate the education of the public using the roads. It is too early to form any precise estimate of the results, but I am hopeful that it will lead to an improvement in road conduct, in road manners and in road courtesy, and a consequent diminution of road accidents.
Every user of the road knows something about the problem of the cyclist, a body of road users on whom the toll of accidents falls heavily. In September, 1936, as a result of the growing number of accidents to pedal cyclists, the Trans- 587 port Advisory Council were asked to examine the problem. They have now reported and made a number of recommendations. Perhaps the most important of these are the building of cycle tracks of a particular type, and, where such tracks are built and are satisfactory, the making of the use of them compulsory; the carrying of a rear light and a small disc with the name and address of the owner; an obligation to report accidents; prohibition of riding more than two abreast except in special circumstances; proper brakes, and a restriction on careless riding. The council considered other suggestions—an age limit, riding tests, warning devices, road signals, third party insurance, registration—but have not made recommendations on those matters. The report raises wide and, as every Member of the Committee knows, highly controversial issues, and these recommendations are receiving my careful consideration, but cyclists are a large factor in the total road problem, and no Member of the Committee will expect a hurried decision upon the considered report of a well-informed body of men.
§ Mr. Burgin
It is quite recent—I should say within the last two months, but I will give the actual date later.
Now I would say a word about driving tests. What I want to do is to make the roads right and the vehicles right, to try to educate the public using them and instruct the driver up to a reasonable degree before he is let loose. I believe that every one of those considerations will help. As an aid to road safety, provision was made in the Act of 1934 for driving tests. Some 800,000 drivers have now passed the test. The total number of licenced drivers in 1937 was approaching 4,000,000, so that a substantial proportion of the drivers now on the road have passed this modern, somewhat rigorous and extremely helpful test. The proportion of failures at the present time is about 37 per cent. The failures are about 36 per cent. among male drivers and 41 per cent. among women drivers. We have only to mention those figures to indicate the need for proper training and practice before a driver is competent to handle a motor vehicle with safety under modern traffic conditions. The tests are, obviously, 588 going far to establish a high standard of driving among the new entry of licence-holders. New drivers will at least have some knowledge of the Highway Code and of its proper interpretation.
There is not a great deal that one can do that has not been done already with regard to the improvement of construction of vehicles and their equipment. Action has been taken on two matters. First, a certain minimum standard of visibility is to be adopted by manufacturers. Second, there is reason to believe that a certain number of accidents have been caused by failure or temporary obscuring of the existing single rear light of a vehicle when moving or stationary. I have asked the organisations concerned for their views on the suggestion that a red reflector should be carried on the offside, or whether there is any alternative suggestion to make. I can now inform the right hon. Gentleman who asked me the question about cyclists, that the report on the cyclists will be in the Vote Office on Monday. It has reached me quite recently, and will be available on Monday.
The Committee will understand that I am endeavouring to give a report on some of the methods adopted to improve safety on the roads. A good deal of progress has been made during the past year with schemes for obviating dangerous traffic conditions and promoting easy flow; siphoning of traffic from one end of a street, for example. Outside the trunk roads and the London Traffic area the initiative in these matters usually rests with the local highway authority. In regard to the speed limit in built-up areas, the effect of orders made or confirmed up to 31st March last was that just over 1,000 miles of lighted roads, out of a total of 40,000 miles, have been de-restricted and that just over 1,500 miles of unlighted roads, out of nearly 140,000 miles, have been restricted. The main factors which have been taken into consideration have been building development, schools, institutions, the volume of traffic and the physical characteristics of the road and its accident record. Progress has been made with pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and guard rails, which are a physical prevention of people stepping off a kerb at a particular spot. At upwards of 2,000 places outside schools, guard-rails have been put up to prevent children rushing across the roads when 589 they leave school, and at 700 places guard-rails have been erected where large numbers of pedestrians congregate, such as outside railway stations and in shopping streets. In collaboration with the police and the highway authorities, detailed investigations have been made into the roads in the Metropolitan area which have a bad accident record. Up to the present, 34 roads, varying in length from 1¼miles to 23 miles, have been subjected to special investigation and a number of improvements have been recommended to the highway authorities for adoption by them. In some cases the work has been carried out, and in others it is proceeding.
Perhaps the Committee will allow me now to pass to the general question of road construction and road development. I imagine that the Committee will desire to have information about national and local road development and road construction. May I make clear the position with regard to the five-year programme? There has been some misconception with regard to the origin and meaning of this programme, and there has been a tendency to suggest that the performance has been relatively slow. I would like to give the Committee quite baldly the facts. The programme was initiated as a result of representations made by the County Councils' Association and other bodies, to the effect that the existing procedure under which applications for improvement grants could be considered only in relation to an allocation from the Royal Fund for this purpose, determined from year to year was inconvenient. It was said to render difficult the estimation of local expenditure and to impede or prevent the planning of road works in advance. The Minister, with a view to meeting those representations, invited the highway authorities in 1935 to submit programmes of the improvements they proposed to undertake during the following five years. Schemes have been submitted by highway authorities to an estimated total cost of over £129,000,000, of which works to the amount of £93,500,000 have been approved up to date. Those are gigantic figures, and I call the attention of the Committee to them. Standing at this Box last year I gave the figure £66,000 000 as the amount approved.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Does the figure given by the right hon. Gentleman represent 590 approval in principle or approval of the schemes?
§ Mr. Morrison
This is a very important difference, because to approve in principle does not necessarily mean a great deal.
§ Mr. Burgin
Approval in the sense in which I am using it means approval. I will have the details elaborated, and the right hon. Gentleman will have all the information he desires.
In the last 12 months, no less than £27,500,000 of work has been added to that which was approved this time last year. Expenditure lags behind commitments and the amount actually spent under the programme up to 31st May was. approximately £23,000,000, of which £14,000,000 has been contributed by the Road Fund. The estimate this year provides for a further payment out of the fund during the current financial year of £7,000,000, representing a total expenditure of £11,000,000. By the end of the present financial year the total expenditure under the programme will have reached £34,000,000.
§ Mr. Burgin
It represents the expenditure actually disbursed.
It has been assumed in some quarters that this programme is to be completed in five years from 1935, but that view is based upon a misconception. It was never supposed that so vast an expenditure on highway development could be completed within five years. The intention was that it should be initiated within that period. The rate at which those works progress depends upon the highway authorities themselves. A programme of these dimensions affecting road construction involves a great expansion of the organisation of the authorities. At the outset, land has to be acquired, plans and estimates prepared and negotiations conducted with interests concerned, as well as all the other miscellaneous matters which arise in operations of this kind. The programme started slowly, but I can give figures showing how it is gathering way. I want to give figures of the payments out of the Road Fund in each of the last five years. I will give the figures 591 for all improvements in millions of pounds sterling for each of the last five financial years:
The only deduction I want to draw from these figures is of a gathering and growing momentum.
1934–35 3.5 1935–36 4.3 1936–37 6.4 1937–38 8.9 1938–39 (estimated) 12.8
§ Mr. Burgin
That is so. If the hon. Member wants it a little more specifically at a later stage, perhaps in his speech he will mention it, and the Parliamentary Secretary will have an opportunity of going into the matter in detail. My reason for quoting the figures is to show the progressive increase in the numbers of millions of pounds sterling actually disbursed.
Passing to the trunk roads, on 1st April, 1937, so far as England was concerned, and six weeks later in Scotland, the trunk roads came under national control—not including, of course, those parts which pass through county boroughs. Trunk roads 4,500 miles in length represent 30 main arterial routes. Of these, II radiate from London to Folkestone, Brighton, Portsmouth, Penzance, Bristol, Gloucester, Holyhead, the Midlands, the Great North Road, Norwich and Colchester, going, in fact, right round the clock. A Department faced 15 months ago with the acceptance of the rights and duties of a highway authority for these main arterial roads might have made some dramatic change. We might have demonstrated the scenic effects of the sweeping of a national new broom. But there are few experiences in engineering which justify leaping before you look. Almost every engineering achievement in history in any part of the world has been carefully thought out and planned before being constructed. The trunk roads of this country, by their change of ownership, did not cease to be the means of communication, and my Department, besides being entrusted with their improvement, was also responsible for keeping them open, free from obstruction, and available for the ever-increasing demands of modern road traffic.
592 The less spectacular decision was taken to have a reconnaissance survey made of these roads, and, of that reconnaissance survey, 90 per cent. has been carried out. How wise the decision was to look at the matter in this way is shown by the fact that on three-quarters of the mileage of the whole trunk road system of this country no serious deviation from the existing line appears to be necessary. On about a quarter of the total mileage—something between 1,000 and 1,200 miles in all—where roads pass through built-up areas or are exceptionally winding, new construction will sooner or later he necessary. The Committee may be interested to know what such a reconnaissance survey involves, and I would like to tell them what has been done. We have visualised a standard which should be aimed at for all improvement or new construction, the principle being that so far as possible each class of traffic should be segregated, not only according to the direction in which it is travelling, but in accordance with its character and its speed. Dual carriageways, separate footpaths, separate cycle tracks, and adequate margins are generally desirable, though, of course, the physical conditions of each locality have to be taken into account in deciding how far that ideal is practicable. A width of from 80 to 120 feet, and in some cases 140 feet, between fences, is necessary to achieve this object. These dimensions cannot be obtained overnight, but the policy was laid down that any improvement which is now to be put in hand at any particular point shall be of such a character as to fit in with the standard agreed upon for the road envisaged as a whole.
Our survey is practically complete. Maps have been prepared on a scale of 6 inches to the mile, to show in detail, not only the existing conditions, but the manner in which the existing road can be improved to agree with the standard adopted, the places where diversions or by-passes are necessary, and tentative routes for those diversions and by-passes. The Committee will understand that a map on the scale of 6 inches to a mile of, for instance, the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh, 400 miles long, is a prodigious undertaking, and we are doing that with each of the 30 trunk routes, so as to be able to visualise, not here a by-pass and there a by-pass, 593 but the complete road from London to its destination. That, in broad outline, is a comprehensive orderly plan for the modernisation of each of these 30 main traffic arteries.
The second step is to determine the diversions and by-passes, and what should be the line of the future road. I am not sure that the Committee are all aware of the way in which we proceed once a survey has shown that a new bypass or diversion is necessary. We make an Order under Section I (3) of the Trunk Roads Act, and, by the end of the last financial year, formal notice had been given to county councils of intention to make 76 such Orders. The number has now grown to 125. Nearly every major proposal of this kind has attracted correspondence from local interests of one sort or another. Either a proposal is unnecessary, or it interferes with some particular property or some other point is raised. Agreement to have the by-pass is universal, but there is never agreement that it should pass through any particular place. These Orders are not made without full investigation of possible routes, and what may seem to be merely a minor modification may involve a complete recasting of the whole route. There are limits to the extent of a curve; these matters are based on science. The Orders are being made as rapidly as possible, even though there may be little prospect of a new route being constructed in the actually immediate future. This course has been taken so that planning authorities, estate developers and local authorities may know where it is intended that the road should go in the future, and that the land may be protected from building development.
The actual work of reconstruction is also being undertaken on a progressive plan. Schemes are arranged in an order of priority according to traffic needs. Where congestion exists or danger arises, plans are drawn up for immediate improvement, but always these improvements have regard to the future character of the road as a whole. Plans for reconstructing on a wider basis are in preparation. At 1st April, 1937, there were in various stages of preparation 300 schemes requiring an expenditure of £4,500,000. These schemes, including many which have been in contemplation for several years, are being continued. As regards new major schemes, local authorities in 594 1937–38 agreed to execute schemes representing a total estimated expenditure of nearly £5,000,000, and the Committee will observe that in the Estimate for this year there is provision for further commitments of twice that amount. The Committee may be interested to know that, along a mile of road, there are often as many as 150 interests involved, and, although I have powers of compulsory acquisition, I cannot exercise those powers until I have failed to reach agreement with the landowners concerned. That may involve constant negotiation. For even small schemes, as much as 12 months is sometimes occupied before the right of entry on the land is obtained, and in the case of larger schemes, where the owners are more numerous, the length of time is greater.
At present, 10,000 interests are in course of acquisition. The figure in September last was 3,000. I quote that figure for the purpose of showing the activity that prevails. In a highly developed democratic country, these initial stages are necessarily lengthy, but, by the adoption of a progressive plan for improvements, I hope to have a succession of correlated schemes sufficiently far advanced for constructional work to be put in hand at short notice, with due regard to their relative importance and to national financial circumstances. Progress during the past year has been real and substantial, and I am confident that the results of a progressive plan will be far more satisfactory from the point of view of traffic and economy than spasmodic if more spectacular schemes would be.
Once a road is built it has to be maintained. Apart from repairs to the surface of the carriage-way the road must be cleansed, drainage provided, gulleys cleaned, trees cared for, hedges and grass verges trimmed, guard posts and traffic signs painted and automatic traffic signals maintained. Many highway authorities are obliged to devote far more of their normal time to maintaining existing roads than towards any proposed addition or alteration; and maintenance is an important topic, therefore, so far as trunk roads are concerned. During the past 12 months 338 miles of trunk roads have been resurfaced, 12,000,000 square yards of surface dressing has been done, and £2,250,000 has been expended on this necessary task of upkeep. I mention 595 these figures because a highway authority with 4,500 miles of main national road is something which has never before existed in history, and the magnitude of the task should be appreciated.
An interesting event in the history of road planning was the visit to Germany of a delegation, including a large number of Members of this House, who inspected the Autobahnen motor ways under construction in that country. I had the opportunity of examining the most interesting report which the delegation have prepared as a result of their visit, and in addition I have had the advantage of hearing their views at first hand. I have also inspected the system myself, as a guest of the German Government, whose courtesy I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging, and the Parliamentary Secretary and the Permanent Secretary of the Department have had similar opportunities. The construction of roads restricted to one form of traffic is quite foreign to our conception of the King's highway, and would require legislation. It would, of course, be out of place for me on this occasion to discuss the question of the desirability of embarking on such a scheme in this country, having regard to the fact that such a proposal would involve legislation, but I can assure the Committee that the Government have the matter under consideration.
May I now deal with the Bressey Report? I think the Committee will naturally expect me to make some comment upon Sir Charles Bressey's magnum opus.
§ Mr. A. Jenkins
Does that mean that the Minister has now finished with the subject of provincial roads and bridges?
§ Mr. Burgin
It means that I do not propose in this review to deal further with the provincial roads.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Can the Minister say anything about the Severn Bridge? We expected a decision by the Cabinet long before now.
§ Mr. Burgin
I am sorry to learn that the hon. Member was expecting some decision long before now. The whole problem of the bridges is under consideration. I am not prepared to make a statement on that now. It has been the subject of Par- 596 liamentary question. It has been prominently before me. I am familiar with the details. But the Severn, the Humber and the Forth are major bridge projects—matters for dealing with by themselves. They come somewhat outside what I am attempting to cover, and I wish the hon. Member would raise them separately.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
This has not only been a matter of Parliamentary question and answer in this House; it has been the subject of several inquiries. It is definitely the railway interests that have stood in the way. The last Minister actually granted 75 per cent. of the cost, and the scheme was turned down by the Committee and not suggested to the House. It is not only a major scheme but a vital link between the two countries, and in the West of England at the moment this is the only road capable of carrying all the traffic.
§ Mr. Burgin
I must not be taken as assenting to all the hon. Member has said. I was only saying that these major schemes fall outside the review I am making to-day. If hon. Members will raise the matter separately at a later date I will give some indication of when we will deal with it. It is not quite fair to group all three bridges under the inquiry to which the hon. Member has referred.
With regard to the Bressey Report, I was going to say that the publication of the Highway Development Survey of Greater London is an event of the greatest possible significance, and I must not only express my tribute to the authors, but my pleasure at the very genuine and widespread interest and appreciation which has been evident in so many quarters, resulting in this report being a national "best seller." It is a 30-year development plan. It is a great project intended to serve as a guide for the future. The recommendations are far-reaching, planned on an audacious scale. I intend that they shall all receive the consideration due, and I recognise the qualifications and the sense of responsibility of their authors. Such a document requires study—expert study—and detailed examination, and it is having it. The programme embodies much that is beyond immediate realisation. I am, however, hopeful that the authorities concerned will, on the one hand, do all they can to make their development plans conform as nearly as possible to the lines laid down 597 in the report, and, on the other, proceed as quickly as circumstances allow with the more urgently-needed schemes recommended in it.
It may be assumed that the London County Council, the City Corporation and the other highway authorities concerned will, as the responsible improvement authorities, not only welcome the report as an authoritative guide to their future activities, but be anxious to implement its recommendation. In so doing, they may count upon the whole-hearted support of my Department, a support which, as the House is well aware, takes the very substantial form of grants from the Road Fund, representing a large part of the cost. I have already asked the highway authorities concerned to give the report their urgent and careful consideration. In conjunction with the London County Council, certain of the schemes recommended in the report have already been agreed upon as those which should be adopted as constituting a first and substantial instalment. We are engaged in discussing ways and means, and this shows that the Government, and, I believe, the councils, are anxious to proceed as rapidly as circumstances permit. Of course, a due sense of proportion must be maintained. There are many other competing calls upon the financial resources not only of London but of the country as a whole, and, consistent with them, it is, I believe, a common policy to devote our energies and resources in large measure to the implementing of a selection of the more pressing schemes during the next few years.
It is a little difficult to give the Committee our views with regard to the probable gross cost of development, because in such a survey as this so rapid is the progress of London's transformation that any estimate must necessarily be liable to be upset by unforeseen developments in the future. The precise methods to be adopted in promoting the schemes are not known. The rehousing problem, redevelopment areas, and the precise location for any particular improvement are all difficult matters, but, subject to the qualifications and reservations, I put forward the following figures with a large margin for contingency and variation. You cannot work on a mileage basis; some of the schemes are not capable of being dealt with in that way. It is estimated that the approximate cost will be 598 somewhere between £60,000,000 and £230,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps be interested to know that within the London County Council area there are 123 miles of improvement at a cost of somewhere between £80,000,000 and £1,20,000,000. I have given those figures as approximate, and the Committee will appreciate the number of different factors which have to be taken into account.
I am anxious not to delay the Committee by too long an opening address, but having gradually shortened the focus, nationwide, trunk roads, Greater London, may I say a word about London traffic? Eight million persons residing in and immediately around London, constitute of themselves the greatest traffic problem of the world. It is impossible to overestimate the complexity of that problem, which is before the Ministry at every hour of every day in one form or another. I am going to say a word about three things—noise, waiting vehicles, and parking. Noise is not a problem peculiar to London, but it is one in which those of us who live in or near London are particularly interested because we have extensive experience of its effects. The noise caused by mechanically-propelled vehicles and by warning devices has been investigated by a Departmental Committee. I have obtained six measuring instruments and a portable instrument has been evolved; these have been made available to manufacturers for tests. All manufacturers are voluntarily endeavouring to reduce noise, and the motor cycle manufacturers are carrying out research into the question at the National Physical Laboratory. A further 12 portable noise-meters are being acquired, which will provide greater facilities for tests and the accumulation of data.
The problem of the waiting vehicle does not relate to the vehicle which is parked, but that which is kept waiting possibly only for a short time on a busy and congested road while the owner pays a brief visit for shopping or other purposes to premises fronting on the road. On the one hand, it is argued that something must be done to enable the movement through the streets of London to go on, and, on the other, it is contended that these restrictions will interfere with the trade of those whose premises front on the streets. There are special restrictions applicable to certain streets in London, 599 Oxford Street, Wigmore Street and Piccadilly Circus, and short lengths of the connecting side streets. In September, 1936, notice was given in the "London Gazette" of intention to make similar regulations to apply to some 60 or more of the main thoroughfares in Central London. A large number of representations was received and these were referred to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee for consideration and report.
I have received the report, and I have decided to give effect to the recommendations for an experimental period. The committee recommend that the "no waiting" restrictions should be extended so as to apply to the congested sections of important roads required for through transit in the area north of the River bounded by Hammersmith in the West, Euston Road in the north and High Street, Shoreditch, in the east, but not including the City of London. So far as the City of London is concerned, I am satisfied that these restrictions are not necessary at the present time. The regulations will involve a greater number of streets than was contemplated, and a new notice will be necessary, and will be served. If you are to make more restrictions with regard to waiting vehicles, the problem of parking becomes even more acute than it is to-day. The whole question of waiting vehicles is bound up with the appointment and provision of further parking places. Under existing conditions additional accommodation where vehicles may wait will have to be provided in unobstructive positions on the highway. I much regret this, and I hope that all local authorities will give earnest consideration to the possibility of exercising their powers under the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act to provide parking places off the highway.
In endeavouring to make a very drastic selection of subjects and at the same time give a proper review, I can take only two more topics. I propose to take goods vehicles and war emergency plans, and then perhaps the general Debate can ensue, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will reply. The reorganisation and improvement of the road transport industry: Is it not clear to all that the road transport industry has developed to 600 such an extent that it is now a major industrial consideration? Strong representations were made about the period of validity of carriers' licences, and the regulations for the extensions which have been announced, it is hoped, will be brought into force, so that when the next renewal period for the application of the "A" and "B" licences commences in the autumn, all new licences will be for the extended periods of validity. My decision to increase the currency periods for carriers' licences was made on the advice of the Transport Advisory Council, but the council prefaced their recommendation by saying that all the interests concerned thought that it was of paramount importance that steps should be taken to correct the extent to which the law was being evaded. The licensing authorities last year recorded over 40,000 convictions for breaches of the conditions of carriers' licences, including 8,000 convictions for excessive driving hours.
I need not deal with the question of wages, for that has been dealt with by a separate Bill. Rates are an extremely important matter and much more difficult. The problem has been investigated by the Transport Advisory Council, and a most interesting and constructive report has been received. The Government have accepted the principles of that report, and legislation will be introduced in due course. The Transport Advisory Council expressed the view that the road transport industry should be given time to create its own rates structure, and the position at present is that the different organisations have the problem under consideration, and are in touch with the Ministry.
§ Mr. Burgin
The hon. Member will not expect me to say that without notice, but I will have the number ascertained. The hon. Member is suggesting that the penalties inflicted were not adequate, and that, of course, is a matter upon which it would be improper for me to express an opinion.
§ Mr. T. Johnston
I would also ask the Minister to say whether or not it is the case that his reporters have expressed to him that there is continuous and repeated falsification of the records in order to avoid the Act?
§ Mr. Burgin
I do not want to be too precise in the answer to that last observation. One of the difficulties has been undoubtedly the widespread tampering with entries. I have no doubt of that at all, and I am most anxious that these practices, which are deprecated by the better road users, should, as far as possible, be reduced very considerably. But I cannot express an opinion on the adequacy or otherwise of the penalties inflicted by magistrates. That must be a matter for the local administration in the enforcement of the law. I was trying to say that I hope the industry itself will go a long way towards building up its rates structure, because obviously to impose a rates structure upon an industry is one thing, and to give legislative effect to one evolved by it now is another. The Government have determined that there should be a rates structure, and legislation accordingly will be introduced.
I am nearing the end of my review, and perhaps every Member of the Committee will be profoundly thankful, but I want to end by saying a word about emergency plans. The Estimate for this year includes for the first time a small section described as the Port and Transport (Defence Plans) Section, engaged in the consideration of Home Defence plans as they would affect transport. The formation of this special section is an indication of the important part which transport plays in questions of Home Defence, as in national activities in peace time. The size of the section does not represent the full extent of the attention which the Ministry is giving to these important matters, as the various Departments and branches of the Ministry are also involved in the work as it affects the activities—railways, roads, harbours, canals and electricity—with which they normally deal.
Apart from the importance of ensuring that rail, road and other inland transport services should be adapted to meet the abnormal conditions which would arise in time of emergency, the plans which are under consideration by other Government Departments, such as air- 602 raid precautions, food supplies, medical and hospital services, depend in a very real degree upon the existence and availability of adequate and suitable transport. I have already indicated in this House that among the important matters under my consideration are those which would arise should it ever become necessary to divert shipping from the East Coast to the West and to distribute imports from the West Coast ports, and also the control of road transport through the Chairmen of the Traffic Commissioners. The important part which railways and inland waterways would take in such an emergency needs no stressing. All these matters are under discussion with the companies responsible for those undertakings. I can assure the Committee, in accordance with modern thought, that plans are in hand to adapt the transport industry for those emergency purposes with which Government Departments are concerned.
I do not propose on this pleasant Friday to say anything more upon the manifold activities of my Department. On some of them the searchlight of public interest does not often fall, but they are none the less essential. Of such, the duties of any great public department is in large degree necessarily composed. Hon. Members will no doubt wish to raise in the Debate a number of points to which I have been unable to refer in my necessarily selective review; but the Committee will have the advantage later of hearing my hon. and gallant Friend and colleague the Parliamentary Secretary, himself a London Member of great experience and an expert motorist, and he will gladly give to the Committee any information in his possession upon any points that may be raised by hon. Members.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
The Committee would like me to express our thanks to the Minister of Transport for the survey he has given covering the work of his Department in relation to the Estimates now before us. He has told an interesting story of the varied and important activities of the Ministry, and we are obliged to him for it. There are, I am afraid, some gaps in the account on which we shall have to cross-examine him, and on which we shall expect full and complete, if not convincing, answers from the Parliamentary Secretary. There are some 603 matters over which the Minister skated with great care. He was on thin ice, and I think he was conscious of the fear of tumbling into the water at any moment as he went along. Before I come to highway matters there are one or two subjects affecting other branches of the Ministry's administration to which I wish to refer. We cannot speak on matters which would involve legislation, and I shall observe that rule of the House.
In regard to electricity, there is some apprehension in municipal quarters that they are not being given altogether the consideration that might be given to them in relation to proposals as to the extension of areas and proposed amalgamations between companies and municipalities. It seems to them that in some cases—I would give Oxford as an instance—a certain amount of pressure, which is resented, is being brought to bear with a view to the absorption of municipal undertakings by company undertakings, in the course of administration. If the Parliamentary Secretary can say anything about that as to the Government's point of view, we shall appreciate it. We take the view that publicly-owned electricity undertakings have proved their great value to the country. Generally speaking, they have shown great initiative and enterprise in this industry, and ought to be encouraged rather than discouraged.
There is another point on which the Minister has powers to determine the general level of the operation of electricity undertakings. A very considerable proportion of private electricity undertakings are making unreasonably high profits out of their consumers. I hope very much that the Minister and the Electricity Commissioners will use all the powers they have, not with a view to confiscating these undertakings, but with a view to keeping their profits down to a reasonable level, certainly a level which is consistent with their public utility status. This is a matter of importance for the future because some day British electricity supply will become entirely a public concern of one sort or another. It is possible, in accordance with British traditions, that that Socialistic act may be achieved by a Conservative Government, but perhaps not as well as we should do it.
§ Mr. Burgin
I did not mention electricity in my opening review because I felt that that subject was really worthy of a Debate entirely on its own. I felt it a little difficult on a Friday, with the limited time at our disposal, to embark on the subject of electricity as well as transport matters. That was the only reason why I excluded it.
§ Mr. Morrison
I appreciate that, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I embark upon it, and if the Parliamentary Secretary embarks upon it later. In the administration of this branch of industry the control of profits is important, because it may well affect, and may involve difficulties in connection with, the question of compensation at some future time. The same point arises in regard to omnibus profits in various parts of the country. Profits which are on a high level are regularly being earned by omnibus undertakings. Ten per cent. is quite common, and 15 per cent. and 17½ per cent. is also earned. We must face the fact that passenger transport throughout Great Britain is a regulated monopoly largely a private monopoly and in some cases, fortunately, a public monopoly. These undertakings are guaranteed substantially against competition. They hold a licence, an annual licence, which the Traffic Commissioners have a right to withhold if they think fit, but that is rarely done. They are running a public service. They are in the position of public utility undertakings, and I say with emphasis that 10 per cent. is an unreasonably excessive profit for an undertaking in that position—a quasi-monopoly which is guaranteed by public legislation. Some of them are making much more profit than that. In the London passenger transport area before the London Passenger Transport Act, some of the independent undertakings were making profits in excess of 60 per cent. Tillings were making anything in the region of 35 per cent. and they asked to be compensated on the maintenance of that 35 per cent. profit for all time. It is time that big firms like Tillings and other great omnibus concerns were made to understand that they have no right to make profits and dividends of this kind.
§ Mr. Macquisten
Why did the right hon. Gentleman, when he was Minister of Transport pass an Act, which put an end to the little men who were making reasonable profits, and put the business into the hands of a monopoly?
§ Mr. Morrison
I would ask the hon. and learned Member to realise that those poor little men were making profits in the region of 60 per cent. It was because of these impossible profits on the one hand, and because other transport undertakings were in a difficulty on the other hand, that it was necessary to bring them together. I am willing to eliminate from the business anyone who is making 60 per cent. profit out of the community. Such people ought to be restricted and their profits ought to be diminished. The hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) should not be totally irrelevant to the point I am making, which is that these profits are unreasonable and that it is the duty of the Minister and of the Traffic Commissioners to get them down to a reasonable level by modification of fares or otherwise. Some of the profits are, of course, hidden. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention the prospects of railway electrification. There was a committee, presided over by Lord Weir, which examined the problem and made a report. Little has happened. There were discussions with the railway companies, who were difficult about it, but I would like to know whether there are prospects of that policy being applied.
I want to go on to questions connected with the roads, and first of all to discuss the question of road safety. I agree with everything the Minister said as to the tragedy of fatalities and injuries and as to the necessity of all classes of road users co-operating amongst themselves and with the Minister and local authorities, with a view of getting the very big and worrying figures down. But frankly, in the light of experience, it is not altogether easy to be dogmatic about some of the major points of policy involved. In these matters I shall speak entirely for myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) intervened on the question of speed, and he will not agree with me on that point entirely, and I shall not agree with him. But it is not too easy to be dogmatic as to the effect of changes in major lines of policy. Take the question of the speed limit. I was 606 responsible, in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, for abolishing the speed limit throughout the country.
§ Mr. Morrison
To his credit, but to his regret, my hon. Friend voted with me. I agree that in regard to the abolition of the speed limit it is quite legitimate that there should be doubts as to whether it was a wise step or not. I thought it was a wise step at the time; I am not altogether convinced now that it was a wrong step. The speed limit was abolished on the ground that speed of itself, as a single and isolated factor, was not necessarily a determining consideration as to dangerous or furious driving, and that there was some danger in concentrating the mind of the motorist on that single aim of speed, possibly to the exclusion of other considerations. It is the case, undoubtedly, that even 20 miles an hour may be definitely unsafe in certain traffic conditions and that 40 or 50 miles an hour may.be completely safe in other traffic conditions. But let us see what has happened to the fatalities. I am taking them at surface value and I realise that there are other factors to be remembered, such as the growth in the number of vehicles. But that growth does not necessarily involve an increase in the risks of accidents. The fact is that the number of fatal accidents in Great Britain in 1930 was 7,074.
On 1st January, 1931, the abolition of the speed limit came into operation, and I conducted a campaign amongst all those concerned, particularly among the motorists, on the basis that I had taken my political life in my hands, by abolishing the limit, and I appealed to them on moral and ethical grounds, in the interests of the nation, to play the game, at the same time informing them that a Section in the Act dealing with dangerous or careless driving would be rigorously enforced. I believe there is a wide field to be explored in the matter of dangerous and careless driving. I tried, I do not know with what success, to be, so to speak, a moral leader of the road-using community and to get into them a sense of responsibility, and to make them co-operate. It is remarkable that whereas the fatal accidents in Great Britain were 7,074 in 1930, in 1931, 607 which was the first year of the abolition of the speed limit, they fell to 6,499. It is equally true that non-fatal accidents rose from just under 150,000 to 174,500. But let us compare the accidents in 1931 with the accidents in 1937; that is to say the first year of the abolition of the speed limit with the latest year of the 30 miles an hour limit in built-up areas. The figures are 6,499 fatal accidents in Great Britain in 1931, compared with 6,433 in 1937—a slight decrease on the earlier figures. The non-fatal accidents have increased from 174,500 to nearly 190,000.
It is possible to argue these figures inside out. The figures in relation to the abolition of the speed limit and our experience of its resumption, are not conclusive as to whether it was wise or not to withdraw the limit, but in any case we are all agreed that the figures are serious, and we must also agree that the figures of the fatalities and injuries would be infinitely worse if it were not for the activities of the Ministry of Transport, the police and the local authorities in various ways. But a concentration on speed to the exclusion of other considerations is not only a mistake; it may well be mischievous in its effects on road safety, although I agree that speed in relation to the circumstances of the case is a consideration that cannot be ignored. I am asking only that it should not be taken out of proportion. Regulations are important, but mere regulations in themselves, without the earning of the good will, the co-operation and the sense of personal individual responsibility to the community, of every class of road user, is a matter of very great importance.
All kinds of expedients have been tried in this question. Traffic signals and traffic lights, I think, have been all to the good and of considerable advantage. Beacons I am not really quite so sure about. In London there is a case for them at particular points and junctions, and they should be used with circumspection in relation to the circumstances of any particular junction, but it really is the case, when one goes through London, that one finds these beacons scattered all along the road. They are nearly everywhere. It must be remembered what the motorist has to do. He has to watch his traffic beacons, and he must watch for the coming pedestrian who may be contemplating stepping from 608 a path. He has to watch for a child which may suddenly come out into the middle of the road, and the movements of other traffic, some of which are of the greatest uncertainty. He has to look at the traffic signals, and he will be wise to keep a sharp look out for the police. And he has to drive his car in his spare time. I am a driver, and I do not want to get into trouble either under the regulations of the right hon. Gentleman or under the regulations which I made myself, but with all the good will in the world it is not reasonable to expect a motorist, with all these other obligations upon him, to keep a sharp watch on every one of these beacons scattered up and down the streets of London. I think they have been overdone, irresponsibly scattered about.
I do not know whether my theory is right or wrong, but it may be that the predecessor of the right hon. Gentleman found that there was an enormous publicity value in the beacons. The Press jumped at them straight away, and whether it was the suggestion of the late Minister of Transport or some ingenuity on the part of the Press they were called "Belisha beacons," and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, with his first-class sense of publicity, may be saw that they were a first-class stunt, and said that the more beacons he could put up the more often the public would think of "Belisha." I confess that he succeeded to some extent, but if the late Minister of Transport came to the conclusion that headlines are really more useful than solid work, I think the present occupant of the office will be wise to reconsider the matter, and if he can do it gently, and without too much friction with the War Office, consider whether they are not overdone. On the other hand, you will get a case like St. Thomas's Hospital and Westminster Bridge Road, where you need a guaranteed path in order to get across, where you dare not utilise your right and have to wait for a break in the traffic. There is Hyde Park Corner, where, notwithstanding the presence of beacons, which give the pedestrian a complete right, there is actually a policeman on duty to see that he can get through. The thing is becoming an administrative mockery. These beacons should be put in places where they are useful and should be enforced, but if you scatter them whole- 609 sale in the streets you are going to increase rather than reduce the difficulties.
There are certain provisions in the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in relation to safety which have not been operated at all, or have been very inadequately administered. There is a provision for the disqualification of motorists by cancelling their licence or endorsing the licence. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is not entirely responsible in this matter. It is within the courts of law and comes under the Home Secretary, who has some sort of responsibility, although not too direct. But it is undoubtedly the case that there are instances of motor offences on the part of drivers who come before the courts in which it is abundantly apparent that the person who is charged with the offence is temperamentally or otherwise unsuited to be in charge of a motor car. The capacity to drive a motor car, and keep out of trouble is as much a matter of temperament and nerves as anything. That is why I am exceedingly doubtful about all these driving tests. The real problem of getting rid of motorists who are unsuited to drive is not going to be solved by tests.
§ Mr. Morrison
The real problem is that of temperamental unsuitedness. Where the motorist is shown by the nature of the case that he really is temperamentally unsuited to drive, has been in serious trouble before, and it is obvious that if he gets into a traffic jam his nerves go bang, it is not only right, but it is the duty of the court to withdraw the licence, to cancel it, and get that person off the road altogether. It may be rough luck on the individual, it may be serious, but courts of justice have no right to leave on the road people who are temperamentally unsuited to be in charge of a delicate and possibly dangerous mechanism. The same is true of being drunk in charge of a motor car. It really is amazing in some cases the way in which people are let off. One can hardly help feeling that in some cases the social status of the person concerned has something to do with the decision, but a person who is drunk in charge of a motor car is a person so lacking in a sense of social responsibility that he should be cleared off the road. The powers are there in the Act, and it really 610 is the duty of the courts not to play the fool, but to realise that it is their duty gently but firmly to eliminate from the road drivers who ought not to be there.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is conducting an experiment in the increased use of mobile police. I believe there are great possibilities in that direction, not so much as a means for prosecutions, but in the not less important duty of pulling up motorists and addressing to them a friendly word of advice and caution. I believe this will have very beneficial effects, and I shall be interested to know the results of this experiment. Certainly there is more need for the enforcement of the Section of the Act which deals with dangerous and careless driving. Section 48 of the 1930 Act also provides for standard traffic signs. There has, I believe, been a considerable improvement in traffic signs—I am talking now about the ordinary signs—but that Act was passed eight years ago and there is still a great deal of differences in siting, differences in places and designs in traffic signs which are objectionable. The quicker a motorist can pick up a sign, the less he has to look about and find the signs, the less likely is there to be an accident. It is rather sad that when Parliament has conferred these powers on the Minister there should have been real slowness in putting them into operation. There is another provision in Subsection (4) of Section 48 whereby unathorised or misleading traffic signs can be removed. My feeling is that this provision has never been operated at all. As a matter of fact, I put it in the Act on the suggestion of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson). The point was that you get some gentleman with a country house who puts up a notice, "Drive slowly," "Concealed turning," just as if the man who comes out of the concealed turning is not as responsible as anyone else. If there is a case for such a sign to be put there it is for the local authority to put up the sign; otherwise it should go.
On every arterial road, on every main road in the country, you will find signs advertising something or other, some hotel at Bedford, or at Luton. The motorist is given the impression that these are signs directing him to those towns. Any such signs which confuse the motorist are a source of danger, and that Sub- 611 section was deliberately included in the Act for the purpose of enabling those signs to be removed. I wish to know from the right hon. Gentleman what he and his officers are doing in this matter. Parliament was very generous and cooperative in that Act, notwithstanding the fact that there were four months of anxious work in the Committee upstairs, and if Parliament gave these powers, it is shameful that the Minister should not be using them adequately.
§ Mr. Burgin
They are extensively used, although there may be room for using them on a greater scale.
§ Mr. Morrison
No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has not got the figures with him, and unless those figures are available, I cannot very well judge whether that is so; but I am bound to say that, from my experience of the roads, I have not noticed much difference. I have seen a great many new signs go up, and I think there is room for better administration on this point. The Act contained a provision regarding the leaving of vehicles in a position likely to be dangerous. The main point I have in mind in that connection is when a man, particularly in an unlighted road, leaves his vehicle the wrong way round, so that an oncoming vehicle may tend to pass him on the wrong side—on the pavement side, if there is a pavement—instead of on the roadway side. I am not sure whether anything has been done about that, or about the matter of leaving vehicles on corners, and so on, where they are likely to be a danger. I think that here is room for a great deal of improvement. Section 58 dealt with the provision of margins and footpaths, and indeed declared it to be the duty of highway authorities to provide them. There has been a considerable improvement in the provision of footpaths and margins, but there is need for further improvement.
I have been alarmed by the figures that have been given about breaches by vehicle owners of the conditions in regard to hours of labour. The figures as to the number of prosecutions that have taken place for excessive hours are very alarming. My view is that if the hours are excessive, the men become tired and thus unwittingly become a danger to other motorists. In the case of an offender who is known to have a bad 612 record in this respect, the Traffic Commissioners ought to take his licence away, for he is evidently incapable of proper social conduct. If that be so, and particularly if he falsifies the records, the licence ought to be taken away, and if that were done, and these people knew that it would be done, I am sure there would be a very big improvement.
Another point which I wish to mention is that of street lighting. The standards of street lighting vary a great deal. Undoubtedly, on the whole there has been a substantial improvement in the technical qualities of street lighting during recent years, but in the great cities, particularly in London, where there is a large number of local authorities, the standards vary greatly. It is a source of danger if the lighting is inadequate, or if there is a sudden contrast in the standards of lighting in some street through which the motorist is passing. I suggest that the Minister should consider making a grant-in-aid, probably on a percentage basis, towards street lighting from the Road Fund, not so much to relieve the rates of the local authorities, although that is always a matter which is appreciated, but primarily for the purpose of giving the Minister a locus in forcing local authorities to maintain a proper standard and in helping them to get up to it. I do not believe that that would place an impossible charge on the Road Fund, but it would be valuable if the Minister had some power of this sort in regard to street lighting, and I think that a State grant-in-aid would be the best means of securing it and of getting uniformity, as far as possible, throughout the country.
I come now to the question of the construction and reconstruction of roads and bridges, which is a very important one. While I do not wish to decry the standard of British highways, which I think is a very good one, and while I am not ashamed of British highways as a whole, I am ashamed of some of them and of some aspects of them. It would be unreasonable to write down unduly the standard of British highways, since a large proportion of them have reached a very high standard, but improvements are needed. These improvements must go on in relation to traffic needs, which are important and extensive. They are necessary also in relation to safety, particularly in the matter of blind corners and dangerous bridges. They are also 613 important in relation to unemployment; and in that respect I beg the right hon. Gentleman to remember that it is unwise to wait for a slump in trade before getting that programme under way, because in our experience, as my right hon. Friend the Member for West Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston) will bear me out, it takes about two years to get these things going. That, indeed, was confirmed by the right hon. Gentleman this morning.
I should like to have further information about the trunk roads scheme, as it appears to be going rather on the slow side, despite the flourish of trumpets with which it was launched some time ago. On the five-year plan, the right hon. Gentleman had to be careful this morning. He said that the Government had never stated that the five-year plan would actually be completed within the period of five years, arid indeed I gathered that he did not think that it would be substantially completed within that period. The apprehension, the feeling, that a five-year programme can be launched but cannot be carried out in five years is really a new doctrine on the part of His Majesty's Government and their spokesmen in these matters. It may be another case of somebody having been the victim of a keen sense of publicity when that programme was launched. What the right hon. Gentleman said this morning was totally inconsistent with what was said, not only by the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War, but what was said in his broadcast speech at the General Election by the present Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is reputed to be cautious in what he says. The present Secretary of State for War, when Minister of Transport, made a speech at Birmingham on 26th January, 1935, and he did not say what the right hon. Gentleman said this morning. I will quote from his remarks:Within five years the Government aims at eliminating all those weak bridges in the possession of railway and other statutory owners which most seriously limit the free flow of traffic, and wherever the traffic conditions require, at providing dual carriageways, footpaths, and cycling tracks; at removing blind corners, circumventing the dangers of cross roads, reducing camber and effecting super-elevation.The present Parliamentary Secretary was Parliamentary Secretary at that time, so that he has even more responsibility in 614 this matter than his right hon. Friend. The present Secretary of State for War said that in five years the Government aimed at doing all these things—will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether they are going to do them? The Secretary of State for War then said:Our five-year programme will make provision for the improvements which highway authorities, thinking and arranging ahead, can reasonably be expected to carry out in that period.I would add that it was the same right hon. Gentleman who was Financial Secretary to the Treasury at the time when the National Government, in 1931, slaughtered over 6,000 schemes for road improvement or new construction which had been evolved by the Labour Government. On 2nd November, 1935, the present Prime Minister, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a broadcast speech during the General Election, announced that the Government had decided to embark on a £100,000,000 five-year plan of road improvement. He stated thatin addition to the normal grants payable special assistance will be given from the Road Fund to ensure the improvement of trunk roads, the provision where necessary of dual carriageways and cycle tracks and the elimination of weak bridges and level crossings.At a luncheon held by the Mansion House Association on Transport in London, on 8th May, 1936, the present Secretary of State for War, said that under the Government's programme for roads £130,000,000 was to be spent during the next five years. The right hon. Gentleman was not content with the Prime Minister's £100,000,000. Not he—he put another £30,000,000 on to it, and added to the headlines. That sum of £130,000,000, he said, was to be spent during the ensuing five years in addition to the sums which were normally spent. The programme, he said, should eliminate all weak bridges and provide for 850 miles of dual carriageways and 500 miles of cycle tracks. Will the Parliamentary Secretary be so good, in the name of his present right hon. Friend and out of respect for his late right hon. Friend, as to tell the Committee whether all the weak bridges are to be eliminated in five years, and whether 850 miles of dual carriageways and 500 miles of cycle tracks are to be provided and whether £130,000,000 is to be spent during that period?
§ Mr. Morrison
Oh, yes, the right hon. Gentleman was very precise—remarkably precise for a Member of the National Government—and we expect the Parliamentary Secretary to be equally precise in his reply to-day. The truth is, however, that this five-year programme has gone wrong. The goods have not been delivered. This is what is said, not by the "Daily Herald," but by the "Financial News" of 23rd March, 1938:The net cost of British roads has been stabilised for some years at approximately £55,000,000 a year. This compares with over £62,000,000 in 1932 when the number of motor vehicles using the roads was some 35 per cent. less than to-day. More serious however than the smaller total expenditure is the decline in new construction and major road improvements in recent years. Expenditure on these amounted to over £22,000,000 in 1932"—That was despite the economies of the National Government and was the persistent overflow of the energetic activities of the Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is perfectly true. I would not make any claim beyond our deserts. The "Financial News" goes on to say:But by 1936 it had fallen to under £11,000,000. No later figures are available. The decline in actual expenditure on new construction and major improvements is in striking contrast to the promise given at the time of the 1935 General Election when an announcement was made by the present Prime Minister that the Government proposed to embark upon a £100,000,000 Roads Plan to be completed in five years. Actual expenditure under this plan has only amounted to some £15,000,00o in three years and there is no indication that a speeding up is being undertaken for the balance of the period which will enable more than a fraction of the whole plan to be completed within the time limit.I do not under-estimate the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman has put before the Committee. I know them as well as he does. The troubles about which he has told us, the multifarious cases which he has to deal with where he cannot coerce but must use patience and individual negotiations—all this is an indication of the state of chaos which prevails, and will provide material, no doubt, for many Socialist orations by hon. Members on this side of the House as well as by others. As I say, I appreciate all the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. He, like us, is the victim of capitalism. He deserves it. We do not. He believes in the system. We do not. But, taking all 616 these difficulties into account, I say that this business has gone on much more slowly than it need have gone. The brakes have been put on somewhere—for all I know, by the very Minister who made the promise. In any case, if the defence now is that it could not be done, then those promises ought not to have been made—the promise, in the first instance, of £100,000,000, which was later irresponsibly increased to £130,000,000 by a Minister who ought to have known better. It is shameful to mislead the country and to make these statements merely for political ends and publicity purposes, and then to come lamely along to the House of Commons and explain that there has been this, that and the other difficulty in the way of carrying out the promised scheme. These difficulties were known before the programme was launched. People who make these reckless promises must know either that they can be carried out or that they cannot be carried out, and when the difficulties in the way of carrying them out are known, such promises ought not to be made.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the three big bridge schemes about which we asked were relatively minor matters, not to be dealt with in a major statement of the kind which he made this morning. Had the right hon. Gentleman been able to come to this Committee to-day and say, "I have made arrangements whereby a bridge is to be built over the Severn, another over the Humber and another over the Forth," it would have been the main feature of his speech. It would have been a major development, and it is only because he cannot make such a statement, or say anything hopeful about the matter at all, that he has told my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) that this matter is of minor importance. These great bridge works which are so vitally important to trade and commerce in the West and in the North East and in the case of Scotland to tourist traffic also, are not minor matters, but issues of major policy, and there ought to have been some pronouncement from the Government on them to-day. They are not new matters; they are schemes which have been knocking about for a long time. We had got the Humber Bridge scheme well on its way when this Government came in and slaughtered it. I admit that at that time 617 I was not agreeable in the then existing circumstances, to the Forth Bridge scheme. I do not say that my hon. Friends from Scotland necessarily agreed with me. But the proposed cost then was about £6,000,000, and in relation to the economic benefits which were likely to accrue to Scotland, I could not see that a capital expenditure of that amount was a sound business proposition. Many of the Scottish authorities were strongly in favour of the scheme, but were not willing to contribute more than 2½ per cent., and 2½ per cent. enthusiasm is not good enough for me. There has been, however, a material change, and I understand that estimates which are in principle accepted by the Ministry, of round about £3,500,000 have been evolved. I think that brings the scheme much nearer the field of practical politics. I think these three schemes ought to be proceeded with, and I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give us some further information on that point.
I wish to refer next to the Bressey Report. It must be recognised, as Sir Charles Bressey said, that this is a long-term job. He said that it would go on for about 30 years, and I think that is a fairly optimistic estimate. It may be that important modifications and serious alterations will be required during that time. Since the publication of the report, as the Minister said, it has not been possible to give detailed consideration to the London schemes, but I think the most practical thing would be for the Minister and the authorities concerned, in the first instance, to select and concentrate on two or three major schemes admittedly urgently required. We are ready to do that, as far as the London County Council is concerned. Indeed, some preliminary work is already being undertaken, but there is, rightly, the important and essential question of grants to be settled by negotiation between the council and the right hon. Gentleman. We are exceedingly anxious to co-operate with the Ministry and to handle this thing in the most businesslike and practical way.
The truth is that there are going on already in London more major highway improvements than have hitherto proceeded for very many years past. We are making substantial developments and schemes, but there are other claims upon 618 the council's capital expenditure, including housing and slum clearance—which I think we have got to put first—education, hospitals, and so on. But the right hon. Gentleman may be sure that we are anxious to co-operate with him, and, indeed, I am happy to be able to place on record the mutually helpful and harmonious relations which now exist between the London County Council and the Ministry of Transport. We are very glad that the Waterloo Bridge controversy, which was a source of difficulty, has been removed, and it is our honest desire that, hand in hand with the Ministry, we shall proceed at the earliest possible date with at any rate two or three major schemes of importance, provided we can agree as to the degree of financial grant involved.
I would like to say that I think it is very necessary that a clear decision should be reached with regard to Charing Cross Bridge. I personally agree with the view expressed by Sir Charles Bressey that there is not a strong case for that bridge being proceeded with. I think it would bring into London an enormous amount of traffic at a point where in fact there is already too much traffic, and I believe there are other, more beneficial, and more economical ways of solving that problem, because the cost of that venture is really terrific; but it is important, in the interests of the railway company, as people interested in that part of the world, and of the council that a clear-cut decision should be reached.
I want to say, in conclusion, with regard to highway finance, that we have been running along on the basis of percentage grants for highway costs, excepting in the boroughs, where they are made part of the block grant, but I think the Minister must face the fact that in the towns as well as in the rural parts the cost of highway improvements, if they are to be carried through on an adequate scale, cannot be met in the degree that they have been met in past years by local authorities. Already he has taken over on a zoo per cent. basis certain trunk roads running through the rural counties, excluding the towns, but when you get to the towns this fact has to be faced, that, despite their greater resources, property costs, compensation costs, are very high. The making of a big highway improvement in London is a terribly costly affair, owing to the 619 property costs. The same is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and, indeed of all the great cities. And there is a pressure on the local authorities by all the State Departments to spend money. There is hardly a Minister on that bench who is not squeezing me to spend more money from time to time, while denouncing me at the same time for spending it. The pressure is going on, and it is only a person like myself, who has sound financial principles, that can resist this squander-mania urged by the front Bench on the local authorities.
There is this fact to be faced, that the highways of our country are increasingly motor highways. The motor people claim to have a big say in regard to them, and I do not blame them, but if that is so, they ought to pay, and indeed they are paying and are willing to pay. The trouble is that the fund which was contributed for this purpose is being diverted to other purposes by the Treasury. I say that it is an increasingly sound principle that highway improvements, needed almost exclusively for the convenience of motor transport, should be met by the users of motor transport. I do not believe they are unwilling to contribute. The real trouble is that the Government are not willing for it to be done, but as long as you put a substantial burden of the cost on the local authorities, you are bound to slow down the whole business of highway improvements, or, in the alternative, you will have to restrict certain forms of private car traffic from entering busy town areas. I think there is additional thought needed upon those lines.
I do not wish to continue any further, because there are many hon. Members who desire to take part in the Debate, and, indeed, I apologise for having spoken at such length, but there was a good deal of ground to cover. I hope that the observations that I have made may not only be helpful to my hon. Friends on this side in making the case that they would wish to be made, but, with certain reservations, that they may also be of service to the Committee as a whole.
§ 1.1 p.m.
§ Captain Sir William Brass
I should like first to say that the speech of the 620 right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) to which we have just listened, must have given very great pleasure not only to Members on the right hon. Gentleman's own side, but also to Members on this side. His remarks were extraordinarily constructive and helpful in every way, with the exception perhaps of one remark, when he talked about election promises, and there I seemed to remember that in 1923, and also in 1929, at those two elections, there were rather reckless promises made by Members of his party, and when they came into office those promises seemed to vanish into thin air. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the speed limit were extremely interesting. I remember the occasion when he was Minister of Transport and I happened to be sitting on the Standing Committee that was considering the Bill of 1930, which became the Act of 1930. Into that Bill he inserted a Clause to the effect that local speed limits could have been imposed with the approval of the Minister of Transport. I always felt that it was a great pity that when the Bill of 1934 was brought in, a Bill which imposed the 30-mile limit over such a wide area—50,000 miles out of about 175,000 miles —the Minister would not experiment with the right hon. Gentleman's Act of 1930 and try local speed limits in different areas, with different speeds, instead of making the 30-mile limit so universal as it is at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of punishment for dangerous driving, and I entirely agree with what he said on that subject. I think that if more punishment were meted out, and more severe punishment, to people who drive dangerously, it would have a very good effect, and I would like to make one suggestion in that regard. It seems a pity than when a man or a woman is prosecuted and fined for dangerous driving, his or her licence should not be automatically taken away and substituted by a learner's licence once again. I think such people should have to have a learner's licence for, say, a period of three months, and at the end of that period, when they had been driving about with an "L" on the back of the car, and with somebody accompanying them, for having driven dangerously, they might pass the test again and get back to normality. I think that if the 621 magistrates would do something of that kind with people who are prosecuted and fined for dangerous driving, it would act as a deterrent to them.
The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned beacons, and I agree with him that the beacons have been greatly overdone. It seems to me that they have been a great waste of money. I do not think the beacons are in the least necessary, and the sooner we get rid of them the better. I know one place in London where within a circle of 50 yards there are no fewer than seven beacons. The whole thing has really been useless as a safety device. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the courtesy policy, and I entirely agree with him. A great deal more can be done by advice than by prosecuting, especially in cases of purely technical offences. In cases of that kind, exceeding the speed limit and so on, advice is much more likely to lead to a reduction of offences than prosecution, and a fine of £1 or so. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman also on the question of street lighting. We want the Ministry of Transport to find out the best kind of lighting available and to adopt it as a standard. I consider that the best kind is the light which is shielded downwards. When one is driving in the rain and there are spots of water on the windscreen, it has a blinding effect on the driver if the lights are visible instead of being shielded. There are certain roads near London, Purley Way, for example, where the whole of the light is shaded downwards so that there is no reflection on the windscreen and the whole of the road is lit up. It would be an advantage if the Minister would standardise that sort of lighting and encourage all local authorities to go in for it.
I want to make one or two suggestions about what might be done with regard to safety on the roads. I am entirely in agreement with guard rails, but I think that light controls are another safety device which has been overdone. There are far too many of them and I hope they will not be increased. Careful examination ought to be made at the junctions to see whether these lights are really necessary. Then there is the question of pedestrian crossings, about which I have put a suggestion to my right hon. Friend. I have suggested that the studded pedestrian crossings should be moved from the light controls because I want the crossings 622 to have a special significance; I want them to be, in fact, pedestrian rights of way, which they cannot be where light controls exist. That is a suggestion I put to a committee in another place recently. I have also suggested to my right hon. Friend that experiments should be made with pedestrian lights. In certain places where the lights are shielded and show towards traffic, the pedestrians cannot see whether the red, green or yellow light is showing. I suggest putting on to the column of the traffic lights the opposite lights with the word "pedestrian" in small letters showing on them. When the traffic light was green, the pedestrian light looking in the opposite direction would be red; when it was yellow, the pedestrian light would be yellow; and when the traffic light was red, the pedestrian light would be green. I do not suggest that they should be installed everywhere; they should be put in places where the pedestrian does not see properly the main traffic lights. I have often found myself looking at the lights and not knowing when traffic was going to start or stop. If there were pedestrian lights I should know what was happening to traffic. This experiment has been made in Paris, and I sent my right hon. Friend a photograph of it.
Then there is the question of the sounding of horns. There seems to be an idea in this country that the expert driver should go about and not be heard at all. It was rather encouraged by my right hon. Friend the late Minister of Transport, who was ready to consider favourably silence zones for the whole 24 hours in various parts of the country. I think it is a most dangerous thing. I feel strongly on the subject. I have driven for nearly 35 years. I have driven all over the Continent and in various parts of the world, and I find that a little use of the horn when overtaking a vehicle is absolutely essential. It is not so necessary in London because one does not want to overdo it, but in the country it is necessary that anybody about to overtake a vehicle should blow the horn. Another time when it is necessary is when passing a stationary tramcar or lorry at the side of the road, because often, if you do not give a warning, just a small pip on the horn—
§ Sir W. Brass
Yes, if you like. If you do not give a warning children and pedestrians will often come out from behind the stationary vehicle. I think a little warning is most necessary, and I am convinced that during the long period I have driven I have saved a great number of lives by giving it. Another suggestion I want to make is in connection with lorries While I was on the Continent I noticed that lorries that are over two metres wide have to have width lights. They are placed on the sides and rather high up on the vehicle so that when another driver is approaching from behind or the front he can see that it is a lorry and is of a certain width. When you are driving along a road and see a headlight coming towards you and you do not know whether it is an Austin Seven or a lorry with a trailer, these lights enable you to tell, and it makes a great deal of difference when you want to overtake it. That would not be an expensive thing to adopt. If my right hon. Friend looks through some of the drawers at the Ministry of Transport he will find some of these width lights, because I sent some a few years ago to my right hon. Friend the late Minister of Transport so that he could experiment with them. They have not been returned to me, and he may be able to find them and fit them to a lorry and note the effect for himself.
Regarding cyclists, I think it is most important that they should be registered. In view of the number of cyclists who get killed annually it is absurd that we have no means of ascertaining what percentage they form of the number of cyclists who are on the roads. We have statistics of motor cars and motor bicycles and we know the population of the country, but we do not know whether there are 5,000,000 or 10,000,000 cyclists. As accidents to cyclists are a very large proportion of the accidents on the roads, it is all important that we should know whether accidents to them are increasing relatively to the number of cyclists or not. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear that point in mind. Another important point which I wish to make is concerned with safety glass. The present regulations state:Safety glass. Safety glass means glass so constructed or treated that if fractured it does not fly into fragments capable of causing severe cuts.That is the description of what is allowed as so-called safety glass. There are two 624 kinds of safety glass. There is safety glass which is laminated, that is to say, it is like a sandwich: two sheets of glass, with a centre of either acetate or celluloid, stuck together. Apart from that there is some glass, made by Triplex, which is called toughened glass. It is not a laminated glass, but what I might describe as case-hardened glass. It is cooled off in a certain way so that it is always under stress. If it is in a windscreen and a stone happens to hit the windscreen when the car is going at any speed the whole of the windscreen bursts into small pieces, obliterating the vision so that one cannot see through the windscreen. I have here a piece of this toughened Triplex glass from a windscreen which has been hit by a stone and has broken into small pieces. I do not object to this glass in the least for use in side windows.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
Has not this piece of glass suffered through variations of the weather? Very often such glass becomes quite obscured.
§ Sir W. Brass
No, that glass is Triplex toughened glass, and what has happened to it is that a stone has hit the windscreen and the whole screen has burst. The great disadvantage is that you cannot see through the windscreen after that has happened. Another disadvantage is that it breaks into such small pieces that if you are travelling at a high rate of speed the high pressure of the wind will blow in the screen and blow the pieces of glass into your eyes. This particular kind of glass, toughened glass as it is called, is fitted to quite a large number of vehicles in this country, and I think it is really a danger. Most of the Rovers, Wolseleys, Austins, Morrises, M.Gs.—all the cars of the cheaper kind—are fitted with windscreens of this particular type of glass. This glass is not allowed to be fitted in windscreens in the United States or Canada; it is illegal there for the reason, obviously, that it is very dangerous indeed. I hope that the Minister will realise that there is a great danger here, and will so frame a regulation that the particular type of glass which breaks into small pieces, making the windscreen so opaque that you cannot see through it, may not be used in windscreens in the future. He ought to allow only laminated glass to be used in windscreens, and not any of that toughened glass.
625 I will conclude with one or two suggestions on how we can reduce the number of accidents. As my right hon. Friend said, I think the chief way is by education—the education of the children and of pedestrians generally by means of the cinema, lectures, and so on. But there is another way of doing it which was tried in Ontario, Canada, not long ago. The accident record in Ontario was going up very rapidly; it rose, I think, from 65 a month to about 'or. They decided to have a big advertising campaign throughout the Province of Ontario and it was continued for about six months. It was a campaign in which most ghastly pictures of the results of accidents—real accidents—were shown on posters, in the Press, in the cinemas, and elsewhere. As a result of that campaign the number of accidents was reduced from 101 to about 63. I think that is a method which is worth considering, because if the public see pictures of these awful accidents—I confess that I do not like seeing them—it does serve as a warning to them and they are more careful than they would otherwise be. That is all I wish to say, and I am very grateful for having been given the opportunity of saying it.
§ 1.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
We have listened to some very interesting speeches in this Debate, and I regret that only half a day has been given for the discussion of this subject. I recognise that it will be absolutely impossible for the Parliamentary Secretary to reply adequately to all that has been said and will be said, and if I may throw out a suggestion to those who sit on the Opposition Front Bench and to my friends on these benches it is that we should have another day for further discussion of the work of this Department. I must compliment the Minister upon his speech. When listening to him I could not help thinking that, whatever the subject he tackles, he can always make it interesting whether one agrees with what he is saying or not. A few years ago a suggestion was put forward seriously that we should do away with the Ministry of Transport. Since that date I believe that it has become one of the most important Departments in the State. I wish to begin by referring to what the Minister emphasised in the early part of his speech, the importance of this Department in a time of national emergency. The main part of what I 626 have to say will refer to that aspect of the subject. I will make a passing reference only to what the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has said, concerning his remark about election promises. I agree that no promise ought to be made at election times unless it is sincerely felt that there will be an opportunity of fulfilling it. I cannot help thinking that that applies not to only one party in the State, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney might bear in mind the words which he has used in the Committee this morning when he is giving his approval to the election programme of his own party.
§ Mr. Holdsworth
I believe that it is recognised on every hand that one of the great dangers in a time of national emergency will be if the railway termini in London are destroyed. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell me whether the co-ordination of transport is in the hands of the Ministry? I am given to under-that Service Departments are largely making their own arrangements, and that they are telling people who possess lorries that the vehicles will be needed for particular Departments. They may take vehicles required for vital purposes; for instance, vehicles which are now distributing food. I understand from information by one firm that a warning is being given them that their vehicles will be required by the War Office.
What sort of co-ordination is it that takes away from a vital service of distribution to allocate vehicles to a particular Service Department? If each Department is to act independently, chaos is inevitable. I suggest that the Ministry of Transport should be solely responsible and should be the authority to allocate to the different Departments vehicles according to supply and need. Another suggestion is that there should be cooperation with road organisations, which I believe are waiting and willing to respond to an invitation for co-operation, if it is extended to them by the Ministry of Transport. Is advantage being taken of co-operation with those who are acquainted with the everyday problems of road transport? I recognise that the Department is efficient. but I venture to say that it is not so fully acquainted with 627 all the difficulties of every-day running as are people who are actually engaged in transport as their day-to-day business. It is vital that there should be consultation with men engaged every day in the practical side of the business.
As to the provision of adequate roads, whatever the Minister may have said about the promises made in the election of 1935, the ordinary elector, listening to the Prime Minister's broadcast speech, took it as a definite promise that within five years the road programme would be carried out. It is true that when one reads the actual words used by the Prime Minister different ideas may be given as to whether it meant the expenditure. within the specified period, of a global sum irrespective of what had previously been spent; but surely we are all willing to acknowledge that the real purpose of that broadcast speech was to get votes for a Government who were giving the people the impression that they were going to take on something that had never previously been taken on before. We were told in that speech—I took down the words of the Prime Minister—that we could now go ahead with increasing expenditure on the roads because of the general improvement in the national finances.
Further to this point, I asked a question in this House on 19th February, 1936. I will read it:Whether the £70,000,000 to be contributed by the Government to the £100,000,000 five-year plan for the roads, is to be in substitution of, or in addition to, the sums normally spent on this purpose?This is the reply which I received:Grants towards the works comprised in the five-year programme are in addition to the grants made from the Road Fund for the maintenance and minor improvement of Class I roads and bridges in counties, to certain previous commitments, to long-term schemes such as the Dartford-Purfleet tunnel, the Severn Bridge and the Cromwell Road extension, and to several other purposes."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1936; col. 1801, Vol. 308.]That is to say, the £100,000,000 was to be in addition to the normal expenditure on the roads and to what had previously been spent on new roads and major improvements. In a further reply, the Minister of Transport stated that the amount expended in the last eight years from the Road Fund upon new construction and major improvements, was £7.4 millions 628 per annum. I suggest that it is fair for the people of the country and for this Committee to assume that the five-year plan was to be over-and-above the annual amount of £8,000,000 per annum mentioned by the Minister as the normal expenditure. Interesting figures were given this morning for two years of the five. We were told that one figure was £8,900,000, and that expenditure had been £12,000,000 for the last available 12 months. If you take away £8,000,000, given as the normal average expenditure over the previous eight years, as mentioned by the Minister, practically nothing extra has been spent towards this five-year plan. If you take £8,000,000 from £8,900,000, you have less than £1,000,000 extra, and if you take it from £12,000,000 it leaves a total extra expenditure of £4,000,000. Has anything extra been spent at all? I have the reply, which is that practically nothing extra has been spent. I suggest that it was misleading to promise an extra expenditure of £100,000,000 to take place in five years.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will give me the actual meaning of the statement made this morning when the Minister spoke about the approved figure. Perhaps the Committee would like to know exactly what has been approved. Could he possibly tell us how many of these schemes, and what percentage of the amount approved, have actually been put into work, and whether it is possible to give us the figures? I am aware that it takes time to prepare a plan and I do not want to be unreasonable. I am not enamoured of the sort of cheap sneer made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney. I prefer that we should take a little longer time rather than give absolutely dictatorial powers to any Ministry to take what they want. There has got to be negotiation. I recognise that plans are essential, but I also recognise that, three years having passed, it is time we started actual work. The money can be found; labour is available; the unemployment figures have been mounting month by month for the past two or three months, and it has always struck me as wrong, when these essential works are waiting to be carried out, that there should be so many men who can find nothing to do and are losing their self-respect. I believe that financially, morally and in every other way it would 629 be worth while to try to find these men something to do. I do not want to see them doing things which are non-essential, but the Prime Minister himself said, in his broadcast speech, how important it was that sums of money should be spent on road improvements. The one essential is speed of determination.
Reference has been made this morning to the visit of certain Members to Germany to see the road development in that country. I am not going to say a great deal about that, though I was one of those who were fortunate enough to be able to go and see those roads. I recognise that they have powers under a dictatorship which we do not possess, and which I do not want to see us possess; but there is all the difference between the use of dictatorial powers and the sort of shuffling that seems to characterise democracies. We ought to find some means of proving to the world, not only in this but in other matters, that we can act with speed and determination. There is a need for implementing by performance the promises which have been made.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney referred to the cost of the roads in comparison with the licence duties and fuel taxes paid by motor users. When one looks at the slow, almost slothful, way in which we are getting on with the job, and the growth of the amount that is paid year by year.by motor users in taxation, one sees that, in the year 1936–37, if one adds together the vehicle and licence duties and the taxation upon fuel, the total figure was £75,406,000. In 1937–38 it was £79,000,000, and in 1938–39 it is estimated to be £88,000,000. There is no comparison between these figures and those which were given to us this morning as representing what has been spent on major improvements and new roads. I suggest to the Minister that there should be some acceleration of the programme, and some attempt to carry out what everybody believed to be a genuine promise to put into the space of five years a tremendous programme of new road construction.
I want to mention particularly the tremendous highway rates of certain county authorities, the terrible handicap whcih they suffer from those high rates, due to the low rateable value of their counties, and the burden which they have 630 to bear because of through roads traversing their areas. It is very interesting to study the list issued by the County Councils Association giving an analysis of the rates for the year ending in March, 1938. In the county of Middlesex that particular rate is 8.38d., but in the county of Holland, in Lincolnshire, it is 8s. 9d. In some of the Welsh counties also the figures are particularly high. Why should Holland-with-Boston have to pay that high rate, when Middlesex can get away with a very small rate? It is largely Middlesex traffic that passes through the county division of Holland. I would suggest to the Minister that it would be useful to institute an inquiry into the effect on the provision of roads of this terrible burden on certain county authorities. I believe that many of these authorities would be quite willing to make better roads in their counties, but the burden of this financial provision absolutely stops them. I know that certain grants are made, but, even when the grants are made, they are prevented, by their low populations and high rate burdens, from making what might be an adequate development of the road system in those counties.
Can the Minister tell me to what extent plans for the construction of what might be called strategic roads have been completed or approved? Reference has been made this morning to the Severn Bridge. I want to mention another bridge—the Tamar Bridge. That would be vital if, in an emergency, our eastern ports could not be used. What about the motor roads to the west? There is no Tamar Bridge in Devon, and a very long detour has to he made to cross the river, the first bridge being, I believe, 40 miles from Plymouth. I do not think the Committee have any doubt as to the necessity for a Severn Bridge. It seems to me to be essential if South Wales is to revive in peace-time, and the necessity for it will be greater still if South Wales ports have to be used in time of war. Further, would the Minister entertain the building of a strategic road from London to Birmingham? Birmingham is a vital area in a time of emergency, and the present road from London to Birmingham is in many places very narrow indeed. It would be absolutely inadequate if there were any damage to the railway system from the air. A properly constructed road would allow heavy motor traffic to travel much 631 more quickly than is possible to-day. One of the things that struck me about the German roads was that they were only used for motor traffic, which could quite safely travel on them at a pace we should never dream of in this country, simply because pedestrians, cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles are excluded from them. On the question of strategic roads we ought to be making our inquiries now. We have always said that this country has "muddled through" in times of emergency; let us take steps to see that we have some real plans in our minds, and some real strategic roads now, before we have to face the emergency if that time should unfortunately come.
Another point connected with this question is the effect of repressive restrictions on preparations for emergency. There came to see me about three weeks ago a young fellow whom I have known for many years. He began in the motor haulage business with one lorry which he drove himself. He has worked up that business, and now has seven lorries. Unfortunately, in Bradford and district to-day we are suffering from a tremendous recession in trade. Bradford has to add only a few more to its total number of unemployed, and it will come within the definition of a depressed area. Because of this recession, this man, who, when business was good, could find adequate employment for his seven vehicles, can find employment at the moment for only four of them; but he is afraid that if he does not take out licences for the whole seven, the next time he has to appear before the traffic commissioners they will take away the other three licences from him.
It seems to me an absurdity that a man with seven vehicles who can employ only four of them, has to pay duty on each of them at 30s. a week; also he has to insure them all, another expenditure of 30s. a week for each; making a total of £9 a week, which absolutely sweeps away any profits that he makes out of the other four. The reason I mention that is that we shall need every vehicle if there is an emergency. We cannot afford to scrap those vehicles. Transport will be the very life-blood of this district. I suggest that some instruction should be given to the traffic commissioners to act in a manner that would take away this burden of fear from men 632 who are trying to conduct a legitimate business. It ought not to be possible for a man like that to have to throw away £9 a week because of the fear that his licences may be taken away from him when he appears next time before the court.
I want to refer to duplication of road service vehicles. I had several complaints last year from constituents of mine who could not travel as they desired because of inadequate services. The services were inadequate not because of a lack of vehicles, but because of the restriction of freedom which is growing day by day in this country. I listened last night to a very fine speech by the Minister of Transport. He was addressing an international conference, and, with that marvellous phraseology which he commands, he said there could have been no more appropriate place for an international conference than this great city, which was the heart of an Empire which believes in liberty of thought, liberty of speech and liberty of action. I have spent seven years in Parliament, and almost every week of those seven years I have seen some liberty taken away. These constituents of mine very rarely get a holiday; if they do, if they are going a long distance, they like to get a seat in one of these splendid coaches which are now provided, and their holiday starts from the moment they leave home What does the Minister say? He says, "You may apply to the traffic commissioner for extra vehicles to run." The application may or may not be granted. If it is granted, the railway companies put in their appeals; the appeals come before the Minister. He says, "No, you people who live in this country which gives you marvellous liberty of action shall travel by train. It is true that the railway companies may not have sufficient trains to take you in comfort, but that does not matter. This is an age of planning, not of mere chaotic running of A and B anywhere they like. It is an age when we put everybody into a compartment."
Next I wish to refer to two decisions. The Minister is well aware of them. Certain operators in the northern traffic area applied for an extension of facilities with regard to the duplication of services by express carriages between Newcastle and London. It was granted by the northern 633 traffic commissioner. The railway company then appealed to the Minister, and the appeal was granted. I object strongly to some words used by the Minister in conveying the decision. He referred particularly to the opinion expressed by the gentleman holding the inquiry—I do not want to use names, but I can give the name of that gentleman. This is what he said:The railways ought to have another chance to prove that they can adequately and efficiently deal with the holiday traffic.The Minister, in beginning his speech this morning, said he did not want to deal with the railways: that they were carrying on efficient services. But the inference to be drawn is that the railways have not dealt adequately with the requirements in this country, and the reward of inadequacy and inefficiency is to allow their appeal. I am always told by believers in all this planning that the other system is so inefficient, but the Minister says, "I confirm this appeal. It is true they have been inefficient in the past, but the railway companies should just see if they can really deal with this traffic." But he said to those who had been efficient from the beginning, "No, you shall not carry on with your efficiency; we shall give a further opportunity to the inefficient unit." The result is that this thing has become a monopoly in the hands of the railway companies. I have said more than once in the past few years that it is a crime in this country for an individual to be efficient. I believe my constituents ought to be free to travel as they choose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney talked this morning about the profits which were being paid by individuals. I can give him more than one case where, under his own 1930 Act, people were not allowed to lower fares; where certain licences were threatened because of the lower fares they were charging. I know a case where one can travel from Morecambe to Bradford for 5s. The man, who, by the way, drove the vehicle himself, was told that he could not charge that low fare. All these restrictions are a penalty upon enterprise, a premium upon efficiency and the denial of freedom in the choice of transport. These restrictions should be taken off, and I appeal to the Minister, who, if he is not now present may read my words, to live up to his 634 belief in the freedom of movement. I can pay him this tribute. Of all the Ministers of Transport, he has been the one most ready to listen to all points of view. Let him continue in this way, and I for one will wish him a happy journey.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Leach
I agree with my colleague the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) when he said that we had listened to three very interesting speeches, and may I make a correction and say that now we have listened to four such speeches? I want to devote my remarks to the greatest, most important and tragic side of the responsibility of the Minister of Transport—the toll of the road. I have listened to the speeches of the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), as well as to the Minister of Transport himself, and in none of those speeches did I see any crumb of hope or comfort that the dreadful annual toll of deaths and accidents on the road is being in the least degree seriously tackled. I hope to make good those words. In the past 12 years, the Committee will probably be well aware, 77,911 persons have been killed on the roads and 2,328,000 injured. During this period the record year was in 1934, when there were 7,343 deaths and 231,000 persons were injured. Last year showed a reduction in the number of deaths.
What are we doing in regard to these ghastly figures? I cannot for a moment pretend that we are doing nothing, because a great many things are being done, but, unfortunately, we can say that, in spite of the large number of things that are being done, no really effective result is accruing to us. Perhaps we had better look at some of the things which are at the present moment being done. My right hon. Friend the ex-Minister of Transport referred to the fact that in 1930 he abolished the speed limit and that for two years the number of deaths dropped, I think he implied, as a result of the abolition of the speed limit. I do not believe that anybody could say that this was the cause and result at all, for the simple reason, among others, that the speed limit itself had never been observed. There came a new Minister of Transport, who gave as the Belisha crossings which have been referred to this morning. They 635 were supposed to be in the interests of pedestrians. He put up poles surmounted by orange-coloured balls, and these have been erected by the hundred thousand out of public funds. They mark the place where an effort is being made to restrict the pedestrian to certain places where he might cross the road. Miles of highly slippery steel plates have been fixed in the roadways to indicate to the pedestrian the path he may take.
It could be shown, I think, that not a single pedestrian's life has been saved as a result of that remarkable invention. It is true that as a pedestrian you are given the right to cross at the Belisha crossing supposing you arrive there first, but it is so dubious a right that it is rarely exercised in the face of motor traffic. If you are hit by the oncoming motorist, you have the knowledge that then you may cause him trouble. He will probably be fined, but you will not be there to see his punishment, so as a consequence of that knowledge, presumably, you refuse to exercise your Belisha rights. In London and in the busy streets of the Provinces you wait while the stream of motor traffic goes by, and probably by the time you are able to cross, the motor car, which, when you arrived was a mile-and-a-half away, has crossed before you.
Enormous sums have been expended in the making of new roads, in the widening of existing roads, in the straightening of curves and the removal of corners. Trees and hedges have ruthlessly been cut down, walls have been levelled and cross roads have been plastered with signals. The practice of barricading the streets is well under way. A few days ago I was in the territory of the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and had the pleasure of traversing that great new highway from York to Malton, some parts of which, apparently, are between two and three hundred feet wide. It is one that the Minister refused to take over for some mysterious reason. Its cost must have been prodigious. I was told that it had slightly reduced the accident rate on that road, but that what accidents did occur had become more bloody and fatal. Most of the cars were doing 70 miles an hour. I would like to invite the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton to inquire how many acres of rich, highly cultivable land has been appropriated in 636 order to make that rather useless and monstrous highway?
The Minister has told us to-day that 1,000 miles of road have been derestricted, but I did not catch from him any explanation of a satisfactory kind as to why that derestriction has been made. While, since 1934, the rate of deaths among pedestrians has gone down from 8 per cent. the death rate of motor cyclists and pedal cyclists has remained pretty well stationary. Barring this single alteration of the law restricting the speed limit to 30 miles per hour in built-up areas, we are faced with the distressing fact that not a single thing that we have done in respect of this problem has been attended by any scrap of result in the saving of life. Two very interesting reports have been issued recently, one by the Ministry of Transport and the other by the Home Office. The report of the Ministry indicates that in 30 years, deaths and injuries have multiplied by 650 per cent. Thirty years ago motor cars, which were then, I presume, about 10 years of age, were incapable of a speed, generally speaking, of anything more than 30 miles an hour, if as much. To-day, lots of them can do 100 miles an hour on the road. When we examine the deaths in 1937 we find that out of 6,632 persons killed, 3,002 were pedestrians, 1,416 cyclists, 1,151 motor cyclists, 749 miscellaneous persons, such as drivers of horse vehicles, passengers, conductors, horse riders, etc., while 315 were persons in cars or mechanically driven vehicles.
The outstanding fact of those figures is the remarkable immunity of the motorist. Unless he goes over a precipice, or runs into a building, a tree, or a vehicle much heavier than his own, he can kill without much risk. The death rate of motorists is 5 per cent. of the total of road deaths. For every motorist or lorry driver killed, 10 pedestrians die. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the motorist to take at least 10 times as much care as the pedestrian or the infant on the road or the cyclist. But he does not do that. I have heard speeches this morning mostly from the motorists' point of view. Nothing has been said from the point of view of the pedestrian or the cyclist, and I am endeavouring to the best of my ability to remedy that neglect.
At the present time there are on the roads 3,000,000 motor vehicles, including 637 the slowly disappearing motor cycle, of which 2,000,000 are private motor cars. We are turning out cars at the rate of 500,000 a year. In sorting out the cause of accidents the Ministry has made a statement that only 1.2 per cent. are due to road conditions. Every pedestrian and every unprejudiced observer will agree with that statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Certainly, it strikes me as being an accurate diagnosis, but it has aroused fierce hostility from the motoring interests. The Oxford county surveyor, Mr. G. F. Bennett, in a much quoted report claims that 76 per cent. of the accidents in his area in four years were caused by road defects. I will not worry the Committee with the examples he gave to prove that remarkable statement, but they simply demolish his own case. They make it clear to me that speed and recklessness cause six out of every seven accidents, and probably more.
I desire, most of all, to call the Minister's attention to what is going on. The tremendous increase of motor vehicles has built up the largest united vested interest in the country. With the motor vehicle manufacturer are allied the garage, repair, petrol and oil interests. With them are the goods and passenger road transport concerns, and along with them the cement, asphalt, quarry, tar, and other bituminous interests. Following up, every newspaper in the land is eager to receive some share of the enormous advertising which those interests put out. A battle is on to reserve the main highway for motor traffic exclusively. We have seen evidence of that in the speeches this morning. Those interests are busy in and out of Parliament directing action in regard to accidents into channels of footling futility. Everybody recognises that something must be done and propositions of this character are being made.
Powerful interests are demanding the segregation of cyclists and motorists—for cyclists, registration, rear lamps, white suits, separate roads; for pedestrians, codes, limited crossing rights and tests, and for horses, abolition. All these three users of the highway are under grave disadvantage in our law courts. They supply 80 per cent. of the casualties, but they get very inadequate redress in the courts. Let hon. Members look at the Home Office report which was published last 638 month. In 1937, some 6,600 people were killed. How many prosecutions for manslaughter followed? One hundred and twenty-eight. What happened to the 128. There were 77 acquittals, 34 dismissals or withdrawals, and only 23 convictions. What happened in the case of the 23 convictions? Two were bound over, one had his licence suspended for five years, 12 were imprisoned for a year or less, four were imprisoned for 18 months or less, and four were sent to penal servitude for three years. The latter represent the maximum punishment of all who were indicted. Does anyone either in this House or outside think that these results in the courts represent fair justice? Of course, they do not represent any such thing.
Let us look at the other facts in this interesting and illuminating report. Eighty-one thousand motorists were summoned for excess of speed in built-up areas. In these cases the magistrate has very little to do with the issuing of the sentences. If the facts are proved in the court the magistrate has no option but to convict. We find them convicting 73,000 out of the 81,000, but having convicted them what did they do with them? None went to prison and the fines on those convicted averaged 25s. 10d. There were 10,000 summonses for reckless or dangerous driving, and 4,900 were convicted. How many went to prison? Not the 4,900 who ought to have gone to prison, but 93. Some 3,000 persons were summoned for driving under the influence of drink, and 2,400 were convicted. How many went to prison? Not the 2,400 who ought to have gone to prison, but 141. The outstanding fact of the situation is that at least 95 per cent. of the magistrates are motorists. That explains everything.
The modern motor car is a triumph of engineering research and human devilry. Its designers are fashioning it as near to the shape of a high explosive shell as they can get it. None but a very small child can stand up in it. Passengers have to wriggle in as best they can and assume a certain recumbent position, and that fact may have something to do with the curious change in mentality which overtakes the average individual when he begins to drive a car. The first motor car of 40 years ago was frankly a touring and holiday vehicle of small speed. It was open to the four winds of heaven, and passengers in it saw everything of 639 the country through which they passed. The pretence that fresh aid and beautiful views are the objects of motor touring to-day has long since been given up. The build of the modern motor car prohibits either of those things. A car's approach is signalled by a high-powered syren audible at five miles. These svrens promote deafness and nerve irritation among non-motorists, but the passengers in the cars are protected against these things by the closed structure of the cars. The speed in the case of certain monstrosities specially built now rivals that of the aeroplane which flies at 300 miles an hour. That rate has been accomplished by certain monstrous motor cars.
We get in the daily newspapers lyrical motoring notes referring to cars which can do 100 miles an hour on the road. The various offensive odours and other exhalations which come from the engines are cleverly kept away from the passengers and reserved cunningly for cyclists and pedestrians and vegetation. The fast modern car strews the roads with dead dogs and cats and birds and cattle, as well as human beings. It leaves a trail of filthy grease wherever it goes. It has caused the highways of all civilised countries to be plastered with hideous, highly coloured contraptions for the sale of oil and petrol. It has totally reorganised the social life of the people by making the motor industry the greatest on earth. Its tentacles are everywhere and particularly in both Houses of Parliament. It needs a determined Minister of Transport to handle it. Have we got such a Minister? I am hoping against hope about that. The ghastly road toll is his problem. He is not to be envied.
Let me make a few suggestions. First, let the Minister ignore the oft-made suggestion that cyclists, pedestrians and small children have great responsibility for deaths and accidents. Let him ignore that suggestion; it is not true. The term "jay walker" was invented by the motorist to shift his own terrible guilt. Secondly, let him ponder the fact that if we put the law back to where it was when motoring began we would save 5,500 lives per annum. It is true that no one is demanding a four miles an hour limit and the man with a red flag. Nevertheless, it should be clear by now that we are treating roads too much as if they were railways; the faster things move on them the 640 more we think we are progressing. The present road speeds are evidence of human lunacy, and the Legislature should recognise the fact and act accordingly. Thirdly, most of the heavier goods traffic should be taken off the high roads and put back on the railways, where it properly belongs. The Royal Commission recommended that very thing not yet 10 years ago.
Fourthly, no road vehicle should be built capable of a speed of more than 20 or at most 25 miles an hour. If that were done the cost and running charges could be greatly simplified and reduced. Fifthly, all licences should depend on a guarantee of abstension from alcohol on the part of the recipient. Sixthly, all motor offences should be tried by non-motoring magistrates. [Laughter.] I gather from that laughter that non-motoring magistrates are unheard-of things. Perhaps the Lord Chancellor's attention might be drawn to that idea. Seventhly, all mechanically-propelled road vehicles should be fitted with the equivalent of tramway wheel guards. In that case no person knocked down could afterwards be run over.
It is quite certain, from the reception that is being accorded to these suggestions, that each and every one of them would be bitterly and vigorously opposed by the motor interests of the country, but a courageous Minister would have vast public support if he put them forward and sought their adoption. Let me make one last point. If these suggestions were adopted the Minister might find that some of that much-discussed idea of spending £100,000,000 or £130,000,000 on making roads more like race tracks would not in the long run be necessary.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Higgs
Adam Smith said 200 years ago that man spends three-quarters of his time in moving materials from one place to another. That being so, I think it has not been reduced to-day. The office of Minister of Transport is one of very great importance, leaving only 25 per cent. to the other Ministers. We have listened today to four speeches, some of them too long. I am not going to fall into the same error. I wish to make a few remarks concerning coal gas as used for industrial vehicles. Some time ago I asked the Minister of Transport a question and he gave me the reply that he would welcome the opportunity of studying the further developments. Since then 641 I have unfortunately heard nothing from him. The Birmingham Corporation have lone an enormous amount of work in connection with coal gas for commercial vehicles. We remember that during the last War we had to resort to that type of vehicle. We had a gas bag on the top of a motor car. We could not get sufficient supplies of liquid fuel.
If coal gas were properly supplied it would not in any way replace petrol, but in a case of national emergency it would be an additional form of power, and we must remember that it is a home-profiuced fuel. The electric vehicles would be non-existent to-day had it not been for the consideration with regard to the taxation of the battery. This is not the time to advocate an alteration in the law, but, on the other hand, it is within the power of the Minister to grant a concession. He has done so in regard to other things, and I see no reason why he should not encourage the development of the gas vehicle by granting a concession in taxation. The gas vehicle to-day is suppressed by taxation and by the absence of any encouragement to develop. Developments have taken place recently in various countries. Within the last two years 23 omnibuses are running in Berlin on gas, and there are in Germany 38 filling stations. Refuelling is no more difficult with gas than it is with petrol; it takes only five or six minutes. Hanover has a well-developed system, and experiments of great importance are being proceeded with in the United States of America. Moscow has an experimental station running and Munich has 40 vehicles on the streets.
The position is that the gas-containing equipment is included in the weight of the vehicle when arriving at the taxable weight. I would remind the Minister that under our present method of taxation of the automobile we have a distorted engine design, and that the method of taxation in the case of the gas vehicle is prohibiting the possibility of experiments being conducted. We are subsidising home-produced fuel. I have already referred to the fact that the weight of the accumulators on electric cars is not included in the weight of the vehicle when arriving at its taxable weight, and in this country steam vehicles get a rebate on the first ton before they are taxed. That type of vehicle is not common, but it has its uses, and I say that the gas vehicle has also 642 its uses, and in the case of national emergency might become of great importance. That will not be the time for carrying out experiments. I am not asking for a wholesale alteration in the law, but that the Minister will give his assistance to the development of this type of vehicle. The argument has been put forward that if gas containers were exempt there would be an agitation for not including the weight of the petrol in the weight of the car. That is a ridiculous argument, because no sane person will consider the small weight of a petrol tank as being comparable with the bottles necessary to contain compressed gas. A vehicle weighing four tons fitted with a gas equipment has to pay an increased tax of £20. The cost of running on gas is less than that of running on petrol. The Government subsidise hydrogenation; why should they not assist the use of home-produced fuel in another direction? Lorries on delivery work cover probably 40, 60 and 100 miles a day, and it is quite possible to construct gas vehicles of an economic size which will travel 100 miles with 6ne charge.
§ Mr. Higgs
I am pleased to hear that some countries have done even more than Germany. The cost of running on gas is equivalent to petrol at 10d. per gallon. The Birmingham gas department have done a considerable amount of research work on this matter, but they gave up two years ago because they got little or no encouragement from the Minister. It necessitates only a slight modification in engine design. The gas department of Birmingham have spent several thousand pounds in modifying vehicles and in installing fresh plant. I ask the Minister to grant complete exemption of licence to a limited number of vehicles, say, 50 or 100 for a period of 12 months, or two years, or the life of the vehicle, with the object of encouraging their development, and I would also ask him kindly to allow the Birmingham gas department the benefit of working with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. It is very advisable that we should develop this matter now rather than wait for the time when we are compelled to do it. I am convinced that it would be found useful to-day. I am not going to say that gas will take the place of petrol, but I think 643 there is a distinct demand for this type of fuel.
I want to refer to what the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) said. His speech was very sound criticism, and we appreciate what he had to say. I do not take exception to his remark about reducing profits by reducing fares or other means. We get that type of argument from one side or the other, but how would the right hon. Gentleman reduce profits? Does he not give the organisation credit for efficient management? He seemed to miss that point. Why reduce profits by reducing fares? Are these fares any higher than in any other part of the country. I think he overlooked the point of efficiency which is so necessary for the good running of an industry. He gave statistics with regard to accidents, but I do not think he did the Minister and his Department justice. There were practically the same number of accidents in 1937 as there were in 1931, but the right hon. Gentleman omitted to point out that the number of vehicles on the roads was much greater in 1937.
§ Mr. Higgs
I am sorry I did not hear him. The right hon. Gentleman referred to beacons. In the provinces, the majority of beacons are absolutely useless, as they are put on roads where there is very little traffic. It should be remembered that the studs and the beacons cost about £17 for every crossing, and in the majority of cases I do not think they save 17s. There has been reference to traffic signs. These signs are improving in quality, but unfortunately the same height is being maintained. In a modern car it is exceedingly difficult to see a traffic sign when it is eight or ten feet high, and I think that the Minister should, if possible, regulate the height of traffic signs. There are many other things that I could say, but I will conclude now in order to give an opportunity to other hon. Members to take part in the Debate.
§ 2.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Tinker
I shall follow the example of the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), and not take up too much of the time of the Committee; but I would remind hon. Members that the Minister 644 took an hour to make his speech, which was a very good one, and that the speech which followed, also a very good one, lasted another hour. Those speeches took up a great deal of the time of hon. Members who wish to contribute a little towards what is a very big question concerning everybody. For that reason, I think those responsible ought to ask for another day in which to discuss these matters, so as to give other hon. Members a chance of speaking.
The Minister referred to waiting vehicles, which stop at the roadside in congested places without there being any control. To give an instance, I was walking in West Kensington the other day when, near a Belisha crossing, there was a vehicle drawn up, and it took me a long time to cross the road. The oncoming vehicles had to go round the stationary car, and that obscured the view of anybody who wanted to cross the road. I went to a policeman and drew his attention to the fact that the vehicle was impeding the pedestrians' view, and asked him whether he could do anything to take it away. He replied that it had not been there long, and he had no jurisdiction unless it had been there for a certain length of time. I asked him what time, and he did not know; and he seemed to resent an ordinary citizen trying to advise him as to what he should do. That is one of the things which makes it very difficult for pedestrians to use these crossings.
It is bad enough at any time, because when a pedestrian tries to cross the road there seems to be competition between the oncoming vehicles and the pedestrian. Sometimes I hold up my hand and stop the traffic, but there is always a risk as to what will happen to one if one does that. For instance, I held up my hand once, without noticing that there was a policeman in charge of the crossing. He called out to me: "I want a word with you." Having great respect for the law, I went to him, and he said, "That is my job." I replied, "I realise that it is your job, but I wanted to get across and I did not see you; I apologise to you for taking over your business." He said, "All right, pass along." So I got away with that. These crossings were made for the purpose of enabling pedestrians to take advantage of them in getting across the road, and I hope that the Minister will consider the question of waiting vehicles, 645 and whether, for instance, they should be 20 yards of 30 yards from the Belisha crossings. Something ought to be done to ensure that these waiting vehicles do not obscure the view of pedestrians who wish to cross the road.
Another point which I wish to raise is the lighting of trunk roads, and on this I venture to give a word of advice to the Minister. When trunk roads are being constructed which later on will become busy roads, why cannot some arrangement be made for lighting them when they are being constructed? I have in mind the Liverpool-Manchester road, which is 27 miles long and passes through highly-congested areas. When the road was made, there was no provision for lighting. Various authorities are trying to light it—at the Manchester end, the Swindon Council is dealing with the lighting, and at the Liverpool end, it is being done by the Liverpool authority—but there is a great length of the road on which there is not lighting, and this presents great dangers. There are about 10 central points at which there are lights, but between those points there are stretches of darkness of two or three miles, and when travelling along that road, one has the impression that the motorist, when he is clear of one of the central points that are lighted, thinks he is entitled to go at top speed until he gets to the next lighted point. Suddenly, out of the void, he comes across a cyclist, badly lighted with a rear light, and he has to swerve suddenly. This has been the cause of many accidents. It may be said that the cyclists ought to take greater precautions, but at the moment they have the right to be on the highway, and it is the job of the motorist to look out, but that is not possible when there is bad lighting, as on this East Lancashire road.
The Minister has said that the authorities through whose areas the road passes can appeal to him to do something if they so desire, but when the road passes through the districts of half a dozen authorities, it is a question of one of them taking the lead. The Lancashire County Council, which is a backward county council, composed largely of the Conservative element, does not seem to have any idea or any system for getting the interested authorities together to deal with the lighting of this road. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he will use his power to call these various authorities— 646 the Leigh, St. Helens, Ashton-in-Maker-field and other local authorities that are interested—together and to suggest to them that something might be done. If accidents are taking place, it is not sufficient for the Minister to say that it is the job of the local authorities to draw his attention to the matter. If we are satisfied that accidents are taking place—and they are on that road—it is for the Minister to use his powers, to get these various authorities together and to suggest to them that they ought to get the whole of the road lighted. From time to time I have put down questions on this matter, and I thought that this was an opportunity of asking the Minister to examine it, and to see what could be done with a view to saving many lives and making the road a better one by lighting the whole of it.
§ 2.44 P.m.
§ Mr. Turton
I agree with the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) that more time could well be devoted to this Vote, and I shall do my best to be as brief as I can. The original purpose of these Supply Days, as hon. Members will remember, was to give the House of Commons an opportunity to examine how the nation's money is being spent. Although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison) has an Amendment on the Paper to reduce by £100 the amount which the Ministry receives, he and every subsequent speaker, with the exception of the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach), who went back to more prehistoric times, wished to have large increases in this expenditure. I ask those hon. Members to realise what they are suggesting to-day. The Ministry of Transport Vote this year shows an increase of £6,600,000, an increase equivalent, in the duty on tea, to 4d. a pound. They want expenditure to be even further increased. It was remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney who at times was pressing on the Committee that the expenditure should be increased by £100,000,000 said, when he came to deal with expenditure by the London County Council, that they had other expenses which they had to put first. I suggest to the Committee that there are other expenses which we ought to put before road expenditure at the present time, There is the expense of the development 647 of our Defences. I am alarmed by this large increase in road expenditure at a time when we ought to be devoting every penny we have to building—[An HON. MEMBER: "Battleships."]—I was about to say in building aeroplanes, and the essential provision of air-raid precautions for this country.
I wish to ask the Minister for a little more information about the trunk road scheme with which he dealt in his speech. There is shown in the Vote an expenditure of £5,500,000 this year and an estimated new commitment of £12,500,000, and in an appendix details are given of the expenditure which has already been approved. I have looked through that appendix with some care, and I cannot find in it any of those schemes about which we have heard so much in the North of England in connection with the Great North Road. I find no mention of the Catterick by-pass, the Leeming by-pass, the Boroughbridge by-pass, the Wetherby by-pass and the Doncaster bypass. Surely if those schemes have been approved we ought to have details of them in this Vote. Some of these schemes are causing grave disquiet to those who live upon the Great North Road, and in the case of a scheme like that of Doncaster which is to cost £3,000,000, I think we ought, at least, to be given the details.
I am concerned particularly with the by-pass scheme in the township of Boroughbridge, a small town which was built in order to look after people who travel on the road. It is a town of hotels, cafes and garages and me road traffic is the main purpose of its existence. Two-thirds of its 862 inhabitants are devoted to businesses connected with road traffic. The Minister at this time, when we should be spending all we can on our Defence, proposes that that town should be by-passed at a cost of £370,000, which is more than the total value of Boroughbridge. It could be bought for half that sum. The people of the town unanimously object to the scheme, but the Minister has paid scant attention to their objections. An inquiry was held at which they were not allowed to have their witnesses examined and cross-examined as is usual at inquiries held in other branches of the law.
The inhabitants put forward an alternative scheme which would have cost 648 only £30,000, but the Minister thought so lightly of their views that when I asked him a question on the matter this week, he could give me no details of that alternative scheme except to say that it would involve demolition of some buildings. But the Minister's £370,000 scheme will involve the doom of this town. It is a town of six hotels and four garages, and of those six hotels, five would be cut off from the road by the Minister's proposals while the lucky one hotel would be enriched. As regards the garages, three would be completely doomed under this scheme. If I wished I could give similar details concerning the Leeming by-pass and also the Wetherby by-pass which is in the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner). I am content, however, to give those details of the Boroughbridge case, and to claim that this expenditure is an unwarrantable extravagance at a time when we should be devoting all our energies to our Defence. To by-pass Boroughbridge will not make any difference to the defence of England. It will not make any difference whether these hotels are or are not on the Great North Road, and the traffic through that town is not very extensive.
May I refer to the Minister's general policy towards road expenditure as carried out not under the trunk road schemes but by the county councils. In my view the Minister is stimulating expenditure by the county councils far too keenly. He is making the county councils embark on large road schemes in order to qualify for higher road grants. I find in my own area hills being decapitated and great broad verges being laid out on the sides of the roads which are of no use to anybody, and are indeed cumbering road traffic because farmers when there is not much grass in their fields are now taking their cattle out to graze by the sides of the roads. The whole object of the Minister's policy of wider roads is thus being defeated. I do not believe that this policy of decapitating hills and speeding up the traffic through the countryside will make for greater safety on the roads. I agree with the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) when speaking of the Malton to York road, he said that the accidents on that road were far more bloody than before. This is not the time to go in for large expenditure of the sort 649 that is now being proposed. There is another aspect of the question. It is true that there is unfortunately a recession in trade in some respects but there is no shortage of labour in those districts where road schemes are being carried out. To take the case of Boroughbridge two new aerodromes are being built in the vicinity and there is a great shortage of agricultural labour at the present time.
§ Mr. Turton
I entirely agree with the hon. Member about paying them a decent wage, but will he give us proper prices so that we can pay them a decent wage?
§ Mr. Turton
Again I agree with the hon. Member that the National Government has done more for agriculture than any other Government. But the fact is that at the present time county authorities are able to give people more money for working on the roads than the skilled agricultural labourer can get for working on the land. I believe that to be entirely wrong and I believe that the reason why local authorities are paying higher wages to men working on the roads than the wages which the men could get by working on the land, is because we are encouraging this vast road expenditure and discouraging the activities of the farm workers on the land. For that reason, I ask for the whole policy of the Ministry of Transport to be reconsidered. I can see that grave financial crises are going to come upon this country if, while we are spending £343,000,000, as we are this year, on the defence of the country, we add still more to our expenditure upon the roads. Such expenditure ought to be kept for a time when there is money for happier tasks than rearmament and when we can afford to devote more money towards improving the roads of the country.
§ 2.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) takes the Minister to account for endeavouring, as he said, to increase expenditure on roads, and he complains that every speaker other than the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach), and himself, I presume, has enjoined upon the Minister increased expenditure. He then 650 cites various by-pass roads that are contemplated to come under construction shortly, and follows it up by saying that the money would be much better spent on aerodromes. May I say to him, if he does not know it, that every aerodrome means a road and that the money must be found for building that road? When we are claiming that money should be spent on roads, it is because in its origin this money is found by the motorists for the purpose of building these roads. The Road Fund was created specifically for that purpose. There is no question about that, and when the old Road Boards were set up under Sir Charles Gibbs, I think his name was, they spent the whole of their revenue on the roads, but since then, with multiplying taxes, there has been a greater yield of revenue from people driving mechanically propelled vehicles on the roads, and our claim is that the Government have diverted it from that purpose for a purpose for which it was never intended. That is our case, and that is why we demand that a revenue of something over £70,000,000 a year should be used in giving the motorist the roads that he pays for.
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Transport said that goods traffic to-day is a huge industrial organisation, and it is, for in passengers and in goods it employs upwards of 1,000,000 people.
§ Mr. Smith
Yes. But when dealing with safety matters, the right hon. Gentleman pointed out that in the very section with which he was dealing, namely, goods traffic, there were 40,000 licensing convictions of which he had a record, during last year, and 8,000 convictions for excessive hours. May I call his attention to the fact that the 1933 Road Traffic Act was called a Roads Safety Act, and that the Section which governed the hours was put in for the avoidance of fatigue on the part of the driver, so as to render him a safe driver on the road; yet 8,000 convictions have taken place—and they are only those that have been caught—in the period of a year, and I think I am right in saying that in no case has a licence been revoked for these convictions. With regard to the 40,000 convictions, these, I presume, have affected the licences of the owners of the vehicles, but I want to call attention to the number 651 of people who have been convicted and who have been forced either to work excessive hours or to drive at dangerous or excessive speeds in order to keep their job, and have found themselves convicted by the courts, which does not appear in this figure at all. That is a very important thing. These are the convictions of the drivers, and there must be many, many thousands of men who, for driving overloaded vehicles or for driving at excessive speeds or dangerously, have been convicted, and mostly it has meant the loss of their job.
If I am right in saying that there has hardly been a single revocation of a licence during the period since 1933 when goods vehicles were first licensed, I say that the Minister is one of two things; he is either remiss in his duty in exercising the law as it is, or he has not sufficient staff to see that the vehicles are properly examined and that the conditions of his Act are carried out. I hold the view very strongly that either an Act is a good Act or it is a bad Act, that either it is a just Act or it is an unjust Act. If this Act is a just Act, as I think the House believes it is, he ought to ensure that the Act should be carried out in its entirety, whether a man be a small or a large licence holder. We have had a body sitting, known as the Baillie Committee, which has gone into the question purely of wages and hours, and in its report it deals with various phases of the question, one of which is the falsification of records, in regard to which it says:We have had many allegations of neglect to keep proper records as required by Section 16 of the Act. It has been repeatedly stated that the records are frequently falsified. It is hardly necessary to point out how important these records are. We have considered whether we should not recommend a substantial minimum penalty for a second offence within a given period of time, but such penalties often defeat their own objects. We have, therefore, confined ourselves to drawing attention to this important matter and to expressing the hope that the courts will inflict penalties commensurate with the serious nature of the offence.I am not so anxious that the courts shall increase the penalties. I do not believe that any penalty that this Government would impose upon an employer for falsifying records would have any really deterrent effect. The only thing that will deter him is the knowledge that he would 652 lose his licence if he did this sort of thing. Then again the committee which I have mentioned suggests that in order to see that records might be better covered, there should be a form of mechanical recorder on the vehicles. Up to now the drivers have been all against these mechanical recorders, because they have thought that they have been put on to vehicles, not for the object set out in the Baillie Report, but in order to trick a man as to whether he has stopped with his vehicle unduly, but if they are used as they should be used, in order to see that effective checks and records are made, I believe they will be a good thing in themselves.
As to driving hours, they suggest that steps should be taken to amend the Act or otherwise to secure a more effective measure of control. I suggest that the standard record form is the first essential for that, one issued by the Ministry with the licences, so that the records could be properly kept for a definite period and under continual scrutiny as and when the examiner wants to see them. I therefore suggest to the Minister that, purely from the point of view of road safety, if he would have these vehicles properly examined, and if in the case of almost every serious accident that took place—I know there is an inquiry into every fatal accident, but I am talking now of every serious accident—he would have the vehicle examined as to its efficiency, carrying capacity, and whether or not it was overloaded, it would be a very good thing. A Ford van is allowed under the law to carry 12 tons when four tons would break its back. You cannot blame a man for overloading a vehicle when the law allows him to put 12 tons on a 30-cwt. lorry. Vehicles should bear not only the specification of the manufacturer, but what it is permitted to carry.
In that way you would do away with what I know to be a fact, that is, vehicles coming from the docks night after night overloaded by as much as eight to ten tons per vehicle. That is a great danger. I suggest that as a factor of safety the Minister might utilise the powers that he already has. I suppose that I shall be in some measure of disagreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when I say that I believe in a test for driving. There are 10,000 London taxi-cab drivers in the most congested metropolis in the 653 country, and he has fewer accidents than any other type of driver. He is a professional driver and has to pass a serious test in driving and in knowledge of London. Omnibus drivers and drivers of heavy goods lorries also have to pass tests of their efficiency. The statistics show that the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents are pro rata much less for the professional driver than the private driver. I do not believe, like the hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), that when you get a man into court you should put him into prison. I believe the conditions should be such that it should be unnecessary for the man to get into court because it was possible for him to carry out the law.
Can a man carry out the law to-day? If we look at the lighting systems, there are not two borough councils or county councils which have the same system of lighting continuously over any particular area. In the case of traffic lights, at some the pedestrian is presumably given the precedence over motor traffic and at others he is not. Then, too, the method of fixing stopping places for omnibuses and trams at the lights is such that they stop behind the lights instead of the stopping place being projected beyond the lights. With regard to the private driver, if a simple statement were made to him when he got his licence to the effect that, "It is up to you to avoid accidents; you are the chap with the machine," that would be impressed on his mind and he would feel a greater sense of responsibility. Instead of that, rules of the road are issued in such large numbers that the driver hardly knows what is required of him. There are too many regulations. Compared with the job of the driver of a railway engine, the job of the driver on the road is ten times more arduous All that the engine driver has is the road and the signals. The motor driver has every form of obstruction that can possibly be applied to him, and every form of homily is issued from official sources. I put in a special plea that the Acts of Parliament should be properly administered. If they were, many of the accidents would be avoided.
With regard to road construction, in the case of London—as of any other part of the country—the Minister gives a grant, the London County Council give a grant and the borough council also contribute. 654 Through the Rotherhithe Division of Bermondsey, which I represent, passes practically the whole of the food and the timber of London and we are asked to construct great roads to provide for the ready flow of traffic, and yet a penny rate in Rotherhithe yields only £3,400, while in Westminster a penny rate will bring in approximately £40,000.
§ Mr. Smith
This discrepancy in the yield of rates in different boroughs of London is in itself holding up proper road construction in London, and I would ask the Minister to look into the matter from the point of view of getting some equalisation of costs in developing any of the plans suggested by the Bressey Report.
The last matter with which I wish to deal is the question of the Severn Bridge. I am hoping that this country will never be involved in war again, but if that should happen and the whole of our overseas trade had to come through West Coast ports, there are only two effective roads, the Pontypool Road and the Severn Tunnel, which could be utilised for traffic to the rest of England. The Severn Bridge would give a physical connection between Wales and England—
The hon. Member cannot pursue the subject of the Severn Bridge, because it would necessitate legislation.
§ Mr. Smith
I suggest that it is a little late in the day to say that, Captain Bourne, since the matter has been under discussion by other Members and by the Minister himself. I am only mentioning it in connection with the question of essential road construction, and it could be a matter of negotiation with the local authorities. What I am suggesting is that a road across the Severn for emergency purposes and for ordinary traffic purposes is a most essential thing.
Finally, I would suggest, in connection with the traffic problems which would arise in a national emergency, that the co-ordinating authority ought to be the Ministry of Transport. At present the Navy has its own scheme, the Army its own scheme and the Air Force its own scheme, and various other bodies will come along, and I am afraid there will 655 be an unholy rush to get facilities if an emergency arises. I ask the Minister to consider seriously getting the advice of the Transport Advisory Council on this matter at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to bring in an effective and co-ordinated system of transport.
§ 3.13 P.m.
I wish to call the attention of the Minister to an important matter which is causing great anxiety in the borough of Paddington, and that is the proposal to extend the Western Avenue through the borough of Paddington. An official scheme has been put forward which would carry that road through the residential part of Bayswater, and that would involve destruction of trees and small gardens, the pulling down of houses and the destruction of the amenities of that residential part of Paddington. We want to conserve the amenities of the people living in London so far as possible, and that scheme is bitterly opposed by the borough council and by the vast majority of the inhabitants of Paddington. An alternative scheme has been put forward which would carry the extension of Western Avenue through to Westbourne Grove, which is the main shopping area of Paddington. That is the more direct route and is the route which is favoured by the borough council and the inhabitants. I would ask the Minister whether he can give his personal attention to these schemes and his sympathetic consideration to the scheme which is favoured by the borough of Paddington and its inhabitants, and not allow the question of cost to be the prime consideration in it.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Johnston
We are having an exceedingly interesting Debate, and from all parts of the Committee valuable contributions have been made to it, not excepting the minority opinion so eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach). I trust that the Debate will be kept open to-day and that some further opportunity will be provided before the end of the Session for adequate discussion of what is now one of the most important Votes taken in this House. We are discussing to-day not merely economics but questions of life and death. We are discussing conditions which involve a major war per annum. In that war there are 656 over 200,000 casualties of life and limb to British subjects, and, therefore, in the opinion of the Opposition, it is vitally necessary that every possible step should be taken by the Government and by Parliament to minimise those casualties.
I propose to intervene in the Debate only for a very few minutes because the Parliamentary Secretary will need adequate time to reply to many of the points raised. I should like to emphasise one or two of the points and to add suggestions on my own behalf. In the first place I have to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) for the emphatic and courageous way in which he faced the question of the alcoholic driver, the man who is putting alcohol into his stomach instead of into his engine. This matter is long past the stage of argument as to whether it is a mere hypothetical contributory cause of accidents on the road. The Minister's predecessor got a committee of the British Medical Association to inquire into the matter in July, 1935, and they reported unanimously that the driving of a motor car involved a series of highly-skilled muscular movements which were dependent upon rapid and accurate coordination between eyes, hands and feet.
The committee made tests, including shooting at a target 200 yards away. They gave people three ounces of whisky. They got them to type a letter and noted the margin of error after the whisky had been taken and compared it with the margin of error before the whisky had been taken. They made unanimous recommendations to the Minister. I am sure that the present Minister knows all about it. The Minister has also received recommendations from some of the chief magistrates. I have here some of the remarks made by Mr. Dummett, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, who said, less than a year ago:People are being mown down in the streets, not in platoons, not even in companies, but in battalions a week. That is not rhetoric, it is plain fact. People are being destroyed; even worse, maimed, perhaps for life, and a very large part of it is due to bad driving by drunken or semi-drunken drivers.We have known for a long time that here, at any rate, is one contributory cause—I put it no higher—of the accidents on our roads, and the Ministry and the House will require sooner or later to face up 657 to the fact that no man should be permitted to be in charge of a motor car on the road if he has taken alcohol.
The Minister will be aware, from the reports of his own officials, that in the South of Scotland alone—I take only one area; I can give the figures for the others if necessary—there were last year 3,559 offences of asking drivers to drive for more than 5½hours continuously. That is an offence against Section 19 (1) of the Act. There were 1,146 offences of asking drivers to drive for more than II hours in a period of 24 hours. No one can drive with consistent accuracy for over 11 hours in a period of 24 hours without unnecessary risk and danger on the road. In the same area there were 139 cases known to the Minister's investigators in which drivers did not get 10 consecutive hours for rest in a period of 24 hours.
Not only is there exploitation of drivers on the road, in open defiance of an Act of Parliament, but the Minister's own investigators report that there is consistent, deliberate, and repeated falsification of records by the proprietors of these motor haulage corporations, with the object of evading the Act. In view of these two points I suggest that it is time that the Minister and the Law Officers of the Crown stepped in with greater emphasis and force than they have done in the past, to ensure that the Acts which have been passed by Parliament shall be observed. I do not wish to elaborate these two points, although I could do so, but the Minister's own commissioners say that sometimes the records of a carrier company show hundreds of offences—that is not my language; it is the language of the right hon. Gentleman's own reporters—and in no case known to me has any holder of an A licence ever been asked to surrender his licence because of deliberate falsification of his records and exploitation of his workmen, involving added risk to life and limb on the roads.
In 1930–31, I had some responsibility for endeavouring to put into speedy operation measures for the relief of unemployment, and I beg the Minister now, politics apart, to inquire into the records of the situation that then existed. Unless he takes time now, and, in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour, prepares his scheme for emergencies which will come in this land, so that he may be ready to 658 put his schemes into operation quickly, he will find that the Government of the day will have "dud" schemes thrown at them, involving grave waste of public money, and he will find, as I found, that the Government will he under the very disagreeable necessity of stopping relief schemes altogether on the ground that they cannot be justified, whereas, if time had been taken by the forelock, valuable schemes of great economic advantage to the country could be prepared, ready to be set in motion, to the benefit of the taxpayer and the unemployed workman alike. I suggest to the Minister that he should get the Ministry of Labour on the job quickly; not delay his initial preparations for such schemes as the Forth, Severn and Humber Bridges, but have everything ready when the time of economic necessity arises to put these schemes in operation, to provide work for the steel factories, for the unemployed labourers, and so on. If he planned that kind of thing in advance he would save many millions of pounds to the nation, and give an assurance that when the day of calamity comes we shall not be found unready as we were in 1930 and 1931. A message of hope to that extent would be given to hundreds of thousands of our fellow-citizens.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney referred to the Forth Bridge. The Minister this morning did not belittle it, but he dodged it. He said it was not really ripe for discussion. Why? Here is a scheme which would provide work for a great number of men for five years, a scheme that all his engineers and local authorities will tell him is desirable; and I beg him not to delay. I am not asking him to start the bridge now, but to have all his preparations made, and not to allow a waiting period of two years, as will be necessary if he is to start when the slump period comes. Secondly, I should like the Minister to do something about underground parking places. Towns like Hastings have got them, and other towns ought to have them.
I beg the Minister to do something to get rid of the last remnants of the toll-bar system in this country. It is no good the Government spending money in assisting tourist development associations, both in England and in Scotland, if you are going to perpetuate a system under which a man who takes a motor car 659 across the Minch and lands it at Stornoway Pier is mulcted of 15s., and if he goes to Loch Etive he is asked for 6s. being allowed to take his motor car across a railway bridge only a short distance in length. It is quite true the railway has reduced its tariff, which was 10s. a year ago and is 6s. now, but it is a handicap, and a bad one, and it ought to be cancelled. I see the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. MacDonald) sitting there. His constituency is rotten with it.
§ Mr. Johnston
I think I can count about 15 places in his constituency where they charge you anything from 2s. 6d. to 5s. or 6s. to get your car across a narrow strip of water. It is no use the State building roads up to the edge of that waterway and somebody—a private individual in most cases—stepping in then with this sort of thing.
I should like to say a word about another menace on the road. It is the financial menace. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary to-day is in a position to make any statement regarding the attempt that is being made by Mr. Szarvasy and his financial group to get control of the haulage corporations in this country and to create a national haulage trust. I beg the Minister to take whatever steps are in his power to prevent this kind of thing operating. We know that as a result of what happened in the old railway days, zoo years ago, the British investing public lost £78,000,000 in one year. The shares were unsaleable and the public ever since have had to pay unnecessarily high rates and fares because of the financial manipulations which were then permitted.
We know that—it has appeared in the financial press, and I have the cuttings here—Mr. Szarvasy has a strong financial backing in the City. He is the chairman of the Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries, chairman of the Anglo-French Banking Corporation, a director of the "Daily Mail," a director of Dunlop Cotton Mills, a director of Dunlop Rubber Company, a director of the Guardian Assurance Company, the Hellenic and General Trust, Martins Bank, Nineteen Twenty-Eight Investment Trust, and heaven knows how many others. It has been announced in the financial press of the country that he 660 has got a £4,000,000 financial corporation, that he has been in touch with the haulage corporations and has got 51 per cent. of the shares in those corporations, and is going to call his new corporation the National Transport Trust. I do not know what hon. Gentlemen opposite think about these machinations, but they are certainly not designed to reduce fares or freights. The venture is not in the national interest. There is no question about that. The operation is for plunder and booty, and it is the duty of this House and of the Government to see to it that, if the haulage corporations fall for this kind of thing, the House will promptly take whatever steps are within its power to prevent such an operation being proceeded with. I hope that we shall have some indication from the Parliamentary Secretary that this kind of thing will not be permitted.
When we have another opportunity of debating the Vote of the Ministry of Transport, I trust that some attention will be paid to the disparities in electricity charges in this country. One place charges a 1d. and 2d., and over an imaginary line somebody else charges 6d. and 7d. That kind of thing has to be stopped. I trust that we shall have an indication of the policy of the Government about terries, and that particular steps will be taken in the national interest to stop the slaughter on the roads, in so far as that slaughter can be stopped by operating the existing law on the hours of labour of transport workers on the road, and by preventing people from holding A and B licences who have once in their lives been convicted of being under the influence of alcohol while in charge of a motor vehicle on the road.
§ 3.35 P.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Captain Austin Hudson)
I should like to join with right hon. and hon. Members in regretting that the time is so short. I feel in some difficulty, because if I do not get up now I shall offend those who want answers to their questions, and by getting up now I shall offend those who want to speak. There is only one point that I wish to make which was not mentioned in the Debate and was not covered by my right hon. Friend's speech, and that is in regard to the consolidation of the highway law. One or two hon. Members have said that it is extremely difficult for those 661 engaged in the transport industry to know when they are committing an offence. Some of the Statutes go back for 100 years. My right hon. Friend, in conjunction with the Minister of Health, has appointed a Committee, under Lord Amulree, with the following terms of reference:To examine the existing law relating to highways, streets and bridges in England and Wales and prepare one or more Bills codifying the law, with such amendments as they may consider desirable to secure simplicity, uniformity and conciseness.
§ Captain Hudson
It will be a Consolidation Bill, but with Amendments. It is to codify and make amendments in the highway law. As to the exact procedure when the Bill comes forward, I should require notice. I am informed that the Committee have already made substantial progress, but the task is bound to take some time owing to its very great magnitude.
§ Mr. Mathers
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say why Scotland is not mentioned? The Chairman is a Scotsman. Why is Scotland ruled out?
§ Captain Hudson
I think the reason is because of the difference between Scottish and English law, but I will find out and let the hon. Member know. In the time at my disposal I will endeavour to answer the questions which have been put to me. The first question relates to the revoking of licences, which was raised by a number of hon. Members. I am informed that from the period 1st October, 1936, to 30th September, 1937, 12 carriers' licences were revoked and 20 suspended. The reasons for these revocations are not stated in all cases. In some further cases the authorities have not revoked the licence altogether but have reduced the number of vehicles authorised. I am informed that the Traffic Commissioners are sometimes very loth to revoke a licence, because revocation entirely ruins the person whose licence is revoked. I do not think that any of us has much sympathy with people who are charged with this serious offence, but at the same time revocation, while it means that the man whose licence is revoked loses his job altogether, also means very great hardship for the employés. The Traffic Commis- 662 sioners are, as the Committee is well aware, independent. I can say for my right hon. Friend and the Ministry that we have no desire whatsoever that the law should be broken easily, and if we can think of ways to tighten it up so that these large numbers of cases, in which men are made to work long hours and in which the records are falsified, can be reduced, nobody will he more pleased than my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
What you have done is that you have extended the period of the licence for a number of years to the individual licence holder and given him a longer time in which to commit these offences before he is dealt with.
§ Captain Hudson
I gather that it is the wish of the industry as a whole, both employers and employed. With regard to the five years' programme, I can assure the Committee that there is no desire, and there has been no desire, to deceive the country or the House. What happened was, as my right hon. Friend said, that the Minister of Transport at the outset invited highway authorities to submit to him programmes which they proposed to undertake for the next five years, and the Prime Minister stated that he anticipated those programmes would amount to £100,000,000. Later my right hon. Friend's predecessor changed that figure to £130,000,000. My right hon. Friend gave the figures to the Committee. That is to say, the schemes that have been submitted amounted to £129,000,000, of which £93,500,000 have been approved up to date. Let me refer to the word "approval," because that is what hon. Members have asked me to explain. The highway authority responsible for the work, when approval has been given, has been informed that the Minister will make a grant towards the cost of the scheme in question. It may be that the responsible authority has submitted only an outline of its proposals, with a provisional estimate of the cost. It may be, on the other hand, that detailed plans and estimates have been worked out and submitted. In either case the Minister has committed the Road Fund to a grant. The total cost to which we are committed is £93,500,000, of which £54,500,000 will be borne on the Road Fund. It rests with the responsible highway authority to put the work in hand.
663 In his last remarks the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) lamented the fact that big burdens were put on local authorities. I would point out, however, that the Minister may only propose and it is for the highway authorities to dispose. All that could be done at the beginning of this five-year programme was to ask for local authorities' programmes and to say that we envisaged a sum of £100,000,000. Since that time the trunk road programme has come into being, and in those cases the co-operation of the highway authorities must be sought. But I assure the Committee that as far as I know—I have now been some three years at the Ministry—there has been no breakdown in the five-year programme, and what we envisaged is now being carried out. It is quite true that performance is often disappointing, compared with what one hopes for when starting a scheme.
I want to say something about the three bridge schemes for the Severn, Humber and Forth. I assure the Committee that these schemes have by no means been dropped but are now under very active discussion at the Ministry. I cannot say more than that. Several hon. Members have mentioned the Severn Bridge scheme. I cannot develop my statement about that. That scheme was put before the House at one time, and it was not because of any action by the Ministry that the scheme was then dropped; it was decided for various reasons that it could not go forward. A number of hon. Members have spoken about road safety and reference has been made to beacons and studs. I have always understood that beacons were not for the use of the motorist. The motorist was supposed to look at the studs in the road and to stop at these studs if someone was crossing at that point. The beacons were intended for the pedestrian, and I have always been given to understand that their appearance was due to the fact that it was desired to have something striking by which it would be possible to teach the ordinary pedestrian, and more particularly the child from school, to recognise the one place at which a road should be crossed, and not to cross elsewhere.
The question has been raised of temperamentally unsuitable drivers. I 664 think it is true that there are few habitual offenders on roads to-day, and at any rate we have come to the conclusion that after some years of driving tests we are getting off the roads a number of people who otherwise would have been a great menace. As regards the lighting of roads my right hon. Friend has offered 50 per cent. of the cost of lighting trunk roads to any local authority who may enter upon such a scheme, and negotiations are going on with several local authorities at the moment. As regards other roads, legislation would be required before this could be done. We will consider favourably the sensible suggestion of the hon. Member that when new roads are being constructed arrangements for the ultimate lighting of the roads should be made.
§ Captain Hudson
A committee has been considering this matter and one or two standards of lighting for roads have been advocated. We shall certainly do every thing to encourage local authorities to use these standards. As to what the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) said about toughened and laminated glass, I understand that about 75 per cent. of cars are now fitted with toughened glass. Laminated glass is liable to discoloration and is very difficult to fit. It is true that toughened glass does become obscure when broken —it has happened to my right hon. Friend —but we are told by the makers that it can be easily removed by pushing it by hand, and that no harm will result. We have had some correspondence as regards the danger of such glass, but there is no evidence to show that it has been a factor in causing accidents. But I may tell my hon. and gallant Friend that a committee of the British Standards Institution, on which the Minister is represented, has been studying this question and we hope that specifications will be available very shortly. When they are available, the Minister will consider whether he will issue fresh regulations defining the glass which is compulsory on all front screens.
The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) made an interesting speech and asked a specific question as to whether the Ministry was alone responsible for transport in an emergency. I can give him the broad reply that it is 665 the responsible authority, but that it will be in close touch with the War Office and other fighting Departments. The hon. Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Leach) also made an interesting speech, from which I gathered that he does not like motor cars. We do not always get the pedestrian point of view, but he made a number of suggestions which are worthy of consideration. He asked why roads were derestricted. I can assure him that when applications come before the Ministry for restriction or derestriction they are considered with the greatest possible care. Some roads are derestricted because they are not, in our opinion, built up according to what was meant by the 1934 Act. Moreover, if you restrict an unsuitable road, for example, a bypass, it is found that traffic which would otherwise use that road is driven on to an old road, which may be much shorter, in which case more accidents occur on the old road than on the road which is subjected to restriction. If the road is in the London area, advice is sought from the London Traffic Advisory Committee. We consider that the power of making restriction or derestriction orders must be exercised with the greatest possible care.
I have noted the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) on the subject of coal-gas vehicles. My hon. Friend will know that recently the Minister received a deputation on the subject, and although we cannot hold out a great deal of hope, we will consider what my hon. Friend has said, and particularly his request for some form of co-operation on research work. All I will say is that these vehicles do already get some advantage in that their fuel, which is coal gas, is not taxed, as is the case with a vehicle using oil in any form. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) asked whether we would use our good offices to call together certain local authorities to deal with the lighting of the Liverpool-Manchester trunk road. I cannot give him a definite answer now, but I will see whether something of the sort can be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) asked why certain major improvements to the Great North Road which need to be carried out are not in Appendix II this year. The answer is that they were not ready in time; they will, I think, come into Appendix II next year. Incidentally, we hope 666 that we shall be able to simplify Appendix II next year, so that it will give all the information which hon. Members want about the roads in a more simple form than it does at the present time. As regards the Boroughbridge by-pass, I think my hon. Friend's speech showed the difficulty we should have if we tried to get a completely new system of roads Northto-South and East-to-West in this country. As has been stated in the Debate, in principle hon. Members are very keen on bypasses, but they are never in agreement on the exact line. What has happened about Boroughbridge is that a recent survey has shown that a by-pass is necessary, because widening the road through the town would be so expensive, and the bypass will be put in hand in due course, while considering at the same time the needs of other trunk roads and the financial considerations, which were mentioned by my hon. Friend.
§ Captain Hudson
I could not say without notice, but it would be more expensive to widen it. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put down a question on that.
§ Captain Hudson
I will see whether I can do better. Certainly, if the information is available I will let my hon. Friend have it. There is one other point which I wish particularly to mention to the Committee, and it is the question of overloading, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith). The Transport Advisory Council has been considering this matter and has recommended, with the concurrence of representatives of the manufacturing and commercial interests concerned, first, that all new goods vehicles shall, after a date to be determined, bear a plate stating the maximum laden weight which the manufacturer deems to be safe. All vehicles already registered shall, in the course of approximately two years, have such a plate fitted either by the original manufacturer or by a committee set up for the purpose by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. After a date approximately two years from now, it shall be an offence to load a vehicle beyond the plated 667 weight. Regulations to give effect to these recommendations are now being drafted in my Ministry, and will, of course, be circulated to the organisations concerned for their comments. I think that is a big step forward, because I think everybody on all sides of the Committee, realises the danger of the overloading of vehicles which has taken place in the past, and we are hoping, by means of regulations agreed within the industry, to make a step forward in that respect.
§ Captain Hudson
I think the regulations will have to be laid, but, according to the Act, my right hon. Friend has to consult the interests concerned. The hon. and gallant Member for South Paddington (Vice-Admiral Taylor) referred to Western Avenue, but that is primarily a matter for the London County Council. I was present when a deputation was received from the London County Council, the Paddington Borough Council, and others concerned, and I hope that before long agreement will be reached between the London County Council and the Paddington Borough Council.
As to the final speech of the right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston), he covered a great deal of ground in a very short while, and I thank him for hurrying on my behalf. He had some very striking things to say about alcohol.
§ We agree that the drunken driver is a menace, and should be kept off the roads, but the statistics which we have in the Department do not show—and I want the Committee to realise this—that a great proportion of accidents do occur from the use of alcohol. I say that because we all want as far as we can to prevent deaths and accidents on the roads, and we do not want to emphasise something which statistics show is not one of the major causes. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned, to turn to another subject, underground parking places, and there we are in agreement with him. Powers were taken under the Ribbon Development Act to allow local authorities to make underground parking places, and it has been a great disappointment to my right hon. Friend that they have not been able to take advantage of those provisions. I am afraid my time is nearly up, and I will only say, in conclusion, that I apologise to those Members whom I cannot answer owing to lack of time. I assure them that we will consider very carefully their suggestions and that, if we find it is possible to adopt them with advantage, that will be done.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £203,430, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 89; Noes, 115.669
|Division No. 239.]||AYES||[3.59 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, J. (LlanoIly)||Paling, W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Groves, T. E.||Parker, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Pearson, A.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Poole, C. C.|
|Batey, J.||Hardie, Agnes||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hayday, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ritson, J|
|Bevan, A.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Silkin, L.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Daggar, G.||John, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dalton, H.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Kelly, W. T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Thorne, W.|
|Day, H.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dobbie, W.||Lathan, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leach, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walker, J.|
|Frankel, D.||McGhee, H. G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallagher, W.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Messer, F.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Montague, F.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. Adamson|
|Grenfall, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Duggan, H. J.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Eastwood, J. F.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Eckersley, P. T.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Apsley, Lord||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Assheton, R.||Ellis, Sir G.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Furness, S. N.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Gluokstein, L. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Brass, Sir W.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hannah, I, C.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Channon, H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'Id)|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Higgs, W. F.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Chorlton, A. E. L||Holdsworth, H.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Holmes, J. S.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Cherry, Sir Reginald||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Turton, R. H.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Hulbert, N. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Leech, Sir J. W.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Crooke, Sir J. S.||Locker-Lampoon, Comdr. O. S.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Cross, R. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Maonamara, Major J. R. J.||Wise, A. R.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Denville, Alfred||Markham, S. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Mr. Munro and Major Harvie|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Watt.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Four of the Clock and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.670
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 20th June.