§ EARL OF RUSSELL had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government how many convictions there have been of heavy motor vehicles for exceeding the speed limit, and to move for a Return showing for the month of February, the number of prosecutions of heavy motor vehicles other than omnibuses, and the number of convictions in the Counties of Surrey and Middlesex.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, you may recollect that a few weeks ago a Question was raised by my noble friend Lord Rathereedan about the speed at which heavy motor vehicles travel and the damage that they do to the roads. A discussion ensued, and I thought, I confess, that the Question was a little cavalierly dealt with by the noble Lord who then replied for the Government. He asked whether more police were required, and stated that it would be an expense. He also suggested that everything was done that could be done. He did not seem to me to meet the real point, which was whether prosecutions are, in fact, undertaken to any extent against these heavy vehicles for exceeding their statutory speed limit which, as your Lordships know, is twelve miles an hour, and I believe sometimes less in the case of the heavier vehicles. It is, of course, the excessive speed of these vehicles which does the enormous damage to the roads and causes the immense expenditure to the ratepayer and the great drain on the Road Fund, on money which might often be very usefully spent on improvements, and so on, instead of upon making up roads which these vehicles have destroyed.
§ No one wishes to prevent this road transport from continuing. No one 1083 wishes to prevent it from competing with railway transport, although it is tending to make our railways non-paying, but I think that the public at large, who pay for the roads, are entitled to ask at any rate that that traffic shall be conducted with some regard to the law as it stands, and I confess I am inclined to think that prosecutions in respect of these heavy vehicles do not, in fact, take place. The noble Lord who is going to reply to my Question tells me that he cannot give me anything like an accurate figure as to the number of convictions for exceeding the speed limit without an expenditure of time and research which would not be worth while, so I will not press him for it, but I am anxious to have a Return, which seems to me to be a not very difficult Return to make, for one month—and I have chosen the month of February—showing the number of prosecutions of heavy motor vehicles, other than omnibuses, and the number of convictions in Surrey and Middlesex. Neither of those counties is very large, but both have considerable heavy vehicular traffic, and enormous damage is done to the roads. I am sorry that my Notice on the Paper does not specify prosecutions and convictions for exceeding the speed limit, but that is what I intended. It seemed to me that such a Return would show whether, in fact, the police are active in this matter or not. Light cars are in some counties prosecuted, very often quite unnecessarily, but they do not damage the roads in this way.
§ The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who would have supported me if he had been here, also feels this very strongly. If that Return were to show, as I rather feel it might, that these vehicles are left to work their sweet will quite unchecked on the roads of this country, then I think that something might be done. I think your Lordships would feel that the matter ought not to be left there, because we are wasting money and we are destroying good roads illegally and unnecessarily. I understand that the Home Office may find it difficult to give these figures, but I should be very glad to take to-day any figures that the noble Lord (Lord Desborough) can give me. But if those figures are limited, and do not include some rural counties, I feel that I might have to recur to the subject, because figures relating only to London would not give us the information we 1084 want, which is as to the destruction of the country roads. I think this is important, for the purpose of founding further argument upon the same Return.
§ Moved, That there be laid before this House a Return showing for the month of February, the number of prosecutions of heavy motor vehicles other than omnibuses for exceeding the speed limit, and the number of convictions in the Counties of Surrey and Middlesex.—(Earl Russell.)
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
My Lords, my noble friend opposite previously put his Question to the Ministry of Transport, but this time I think his inquiries, as they refer to prosecutions, would be more appropriately directed to the Home Office. His Question is divided into two parts. First of all, he asks His Majesty's Government how many convictions there have been of heavy motor vehicles for exceeding the speed limit. That, of course, is a very wide inquiry and it gives no limit of time or space as far as I can understand it. It refers to the whole country, and perhaps to Northern Ireland, from the way in which it is worded. I have also tried to find out what is a heavy motor vehicle and it is defined in an Order made in 1904 under the Motor Car Act of 1903 as a motor car exceeding two tons in weight unladen. That opens a very wide field. I expect that my noble friend's Daimler, if he has one, will come within it. Some Daimlers, I know, are over two ions in weight unladen, and whether my noble friend wants returns as to these I do not know. Anyhow that would open up a very wide field of inquiry, and I do not know whether my noble friend wishes this rather arduous and rather difficult inquiry to be made in reference to the whole country. I am afraid the Department I represent have no definite information at present on that subject and they would have to get a return of the convictions, as I suppose they could, throughout the whole country. Whether that would be a very useful basis of comparison, I do not quite know.
With regard to the Motion for a Return showing the number of prosecutions of heavy motor vehicles other than omnibuses, and the number of convictions in the Counties of Surrey and Middlesex for the month of February, I am afraid I cannot give the whole of those details. But I can give the figures in regard to the Metropolitan Police district, though 1085 I am afraid they will not quite satisfy my noble friend. These figures have been supplied by the Metropolitan Police and they show that the total number of prosecutions of heavy motor cars, other than omnibuses, for exceeding the speed limit during the month of February, 1925, was 86 and that 83 convictions resulted.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
Those are the figures supplied by the Metropolitan Police in regard to the Metropolitan Police area for the month of February, for the Counties of Middlesex and Surrey.
The noble Lord will not misunderstand me. There is a portion of Surrey which is not in the County of London and there is a portion of Middlesex which is in the Metropolitan Police area. The Metropolitan Police area, of course, also includes London. I do not know whether those figures exclude London.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
These figures have been supplied by the Metropolitan Police for the areas and for the time stated in the Question, as I understand. That is what they were asked to supply and I think that is what they have supplied. Included in the latter number are thirteen convictions obtained in the County of Middlesex, that is, in the Metropolitan Police area, and six in that portion of the County of Surrey which is in the Metropolitan Police area.
§ LORD DESBOROUGH
This is the answer from the Metropolitan Police. I do not know whether it is satisfactory or otherwise, but if the noble Earl would like me to pursue the researches I think I might help him a little further. If I can possibly avoid it I do not wish to embark upon a roving commission all over Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but I would give him further information upon anything within limits of time and space. I could provide it privately if he wished. The Home Office do not desire to undertake a roving commission; it is rather too big and too expensive in these days.
I have not, of course, asked for any roving commission except 1086 as to the first. The figures the noble Lord has given relate to the Counties of Surrey and Middlesex and as I understand the noble Lord's answer, which I think he is not quite clear about, this 86 presumably refers to the whole of the Metropolitan Police area while the thirteen and six, making the nineteen convictions, refer to that part of the County of Middlesex which is in the Metropolitan Police area. Records are kept of convictions in police courts, the number of these convictions is obviously fairly small, and it does not seem to me to be very difficult to obtain the figures for the balance of the convictions for Middlesex and Surrey. I shall be quite willing to take any other counties if it is more convenient to the noble Lord. If he would prefer to give the return privately and see whether he can satisfy me. I need hardly say that would suit me just as well.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
My Lords, perhaps I may he allowed to make a suggestion. I know from experience of Quarter Sessions that when the Chief Constable makes his report upon the amount of crime there has been in the county during the preceding quarter he classifies the various offences which have been committed, and it is fairly easy, as a rule, for one who attends Quarter Sessions to gather the nature of the chief cases which have been brought before the police courts for the quarter. I cannot help thinking that if the noble Lord were to write to the Chief Constables of Middlesex and Surrey they would refer to their books and would be able to supply the information which the noble Earl is seeking. I do not think there would be any difficulty about the matter.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
There seems to he a litle confusion about the area involved in the Question. If the noble Earl would be so good as to confer with my noble friend as to what it is he wishes exactly, I am sure that my noble friend would be most happy to do what he can.
I am very much obliged to the noble Marquess. I am sure we can get at these figures. As the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, has just said, there is no real difficulty about it.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.