§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH)
My Lords, I beg to move, That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under subsection (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the 9th instant, be approved. I do not think that it will be necessary for me to detain the House for any length of time in recommending this Resolution to your Lordships. The question of safe conduct on the roads is not a matter which can easily be governed by rigid statutory provisions or regulations. These can deal only with specific acts or omissions which are a clear menace to safety, and the avoidance of accidents depends in a large measure on the observance by road users of common sense precautions, the neglect of which could not in many cases be punished as a definite offence, but which would be likely sooner or later to lead to an accident. Parliament recognised this in 1930 by putting into the Road Traffic Act of that year a provision of a somewhat novel character, which enabled the Minister to issue a code of directions for the guidance of road users. This code, as your Lordships know, is known as the Highway Code.
Three elements had to be provided for—elasticity to meet changing conditions on the roads; some kind of sanction, so that the Code would not degenerate into mere pious expressions of opinion on the 1073 Minister's part; and the retention of Parliamentary control over the directions. The necessary elasticity is provided by allowing the Minister to amend the Code from time to time. With regard to sanction, the necessary sanction to enforce the provisions of the Code is provided by the fact that, although a contravention of the directions contained in it is not an offence in itself, it can be taken into account in any civil or criminal proceedings by a Court of Law. That means that if an accident occurs owing to a driver not obeying the provisions of the Code, he has a prima facie responsibility for the accident. Then, in the third place, Parliamentary control is retained by the provision that the first issue of the Code, and the alterations subsequently made in it, require approval by both Houses of Parliament before becoming effective.
The Code, from its very nature, necessarily deals with a number of matters on which there is room for a great deal of divergence of opinion, or at any rate for sonic divergence a opinion. I think it is quite fair to say that in all probability no two individuals, working independently, would produce the same Code. Since the first Code was issued in 1931 there has been an accumulation of fresh experience, from which it has been sought to profit as far as possible and there have been a number of changes affecting the use of the road generally. The Minister of Transport therefore asked the Transport Advisory Council to review the provisons in the old Code in the light of this new experience, and he wishes gratefully to acknowledge his indebtedness to the noble Lord, Lord Goschen, the Chairman, and the members of the Council for the invaluable assistance which they have rendered to him, and especially does he wish to thank Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen, who presided over the subcommittee on whom the bulk of the detailed work fell. Representative bodies of road users throughout the country were consulted and their views carefully examined and collated.
It is a matter of interest that much of the old Code remains in the new, which I think is definite evidence of its essential soundness; and in this connection we must pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, the Leader of the Opposition in this House, who was largely responsible for the production of the old 1074 Code. But, taking it all round, there has been very little criticism of the new Code, and I think that in the circumstances the best thing that I can do is to draw attention to the main points on which the new Code differs from the old. In the first place, in the new Code will be issued Supplementary Notes which draw attention to various regulations, illustrate a number of more important traffic signs, and explain the significance of traffic lights. These notes are not a part of the Code itself, and merely draw attention to a number of matters which it is desirable that road users should know. They can, if necessary, be varied from time to time in the light of experience, or to deal with new regulations or new traffic signs. Another point of difference is this. In the existing Code a separate section is addressed to motor cyclists, whereas in the new Code the directions to drivers of motor vehicles are applied also to motor cyclists.
Paragraph 4 of the new Code enjoins all users of the road to be sure that before using the road their alertness or sense of caution is not affected by alcohol or fatigue. In Paragraph 14 drivers are enjoined not to drive in a spirit of competition with other road users, and not to retaliate if another driver shows any lack of care or good manners. Though I am not a driver myself, I can sympathise with drivers on this point, because from my own experience as a passenger I know how irritating it is when cars flash past you in circumstances which are entirely unjustifiable, and I fully realise that it must require a great control to be able to withstand temptation on that score. But it is undoubtedly a very important point indeed. Then in Paragraph 21 drivers are directed not to open the door of vehicle without first making sure that they will not endanger or inconvenience any one on the road or footpath. Obedience to this rule will be of particular benefit to cyclists.
In Paragraph 24 the driver is directed, when turning from one road into another, to go slow and to give way to any pedestrians crossing the road out of which or into which he is turning. In Paragraph 25, which deals with the conduct of drivers entering a major road from a minor road, drivers are enjoined to stop unless they have clear view of the major road in both directions. The Minister proposes to authorise a new 1075 sign requiring vehicular traffic to pause at the entrance to a major road where this is desirable. The proposed sign is illustrated on page 23 in the Supplementary Notes. The provisions of the Code with regard to entering a major road from a minor road are applied also to cyclists and to horse-drawn vehicles.
In Paragraphs 53 and 54 drivers are enjoined to give regular attention to their brakes and to maintain their tyres in a safe condition. Paragraph 70 is addressed to cyclists. Cyclists are directed not to carry parcels or other articles which may interfere with their control of their cycles. Then a new rule directs pedestrians on a pavement or footpath not to walk alongside the pavement or kerb in the direction of the nearer stream of traffic. In Paragraphs 94 and 95 pedestrians are directed to make use of pedestrian crossings, subways or refuges where they are available, and to bear in mind that moving vehicles require time to slow down or stop, particularly when the road is wet or slippery. I would like to say a word about the Appendix. The Appendix follows the lines of the existing code except in one important respect. The signal at present to be given by drivers to indicate an intention to slow down, or stop, or turn to the left will, when the new Code is issued, indicate merely an intention to slow down or stop, and the intention to turn to the left will be indicated by a rotation of the extended right arm in an anti-clockwise direction. So far as that part of the Appendix is concerned, that is the only change, at any rate of any substance.
I think I need add little more before I ask your Lordships to agree to this Resolution. I would like in conclusion to say that there can be no doubt that the existing Code has not been as widely known as it should have been. Copies were issued free when the Code was issued to every applicant for a licence to drive a motor vehicle, and were subsequently issued to all new drivers. The general demand for the Code was not great, I am sorry to say, although the price was written down to a penny, and therefore the number of people who are fully acquainted with the Code must, I am afraid, not be large. But it is the intention now to distribute the new Code, when it has been approved by Parliament, to every householder in Great 1076 Britain, and free copies will be made available. Further, such additional measures for the distribution of the Code and for bringing home its provisions to road users generally will be taken as experience shows desirable. New drivers who, under the provisions of the Road Traffic Act, 1934, are required to undergo driving tests are being required to satisfy the examiners as to their knowledge of the existing Code, and after a suitable interval a knowledge of the new Code will be substituted for that of the old. I have dealt with those points which I think are more important in the new Code, and I hope that, with this explanation, your Lordships will be prepared to accept the Resolution.
§ Moved, That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under subsection (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the 9th instant, be approved.—(The Earl of Plymouth.)
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, as part author of the authorised version of the Highway Code, I should like to say a word or two about the revised version that the noble Earl has placed before us to-day. I may say at the outset that the Minister of Transport was courteous enough to let me have a view of the draft of this Code some weeks ago, and therefore I have been able to study it carefully. I think it is a very great improvement, and it really covers as much of the ground as it is possible to think of, although, again, it may require revision in the future. It is not exactly any criticism that I want to make, but I should just like to call attention to one or two quite small points. I am rather sorry that the motor cyclist is not dealt with separately. I consider that the accidents and trouble caused by motor cyclists deserve a special page or paragraph being devoted to them in addition to the general advice given under the heading "To drivers of motor vehicles," because I believe they are addicted to certain faults on the road which cannot be included under the general instructions to drivers of motor vehicles.
Another even smaller point to which I should like to call attention—although the Code is set up in type, it might be noted for any future editions—is on page 9. Paragraph 70, addressed to 1077 cyclists, says: "Never carry parcels or other articles …" I could have wished that coats had been mentioned specially there as being much more important than parcels. When an accident arises parcels will be scattered on the road, but I know of a fatal accident that occurred because a young lady had placed her coat on the handle-bars, which, I think, is a common practice. The coat so suddenly impeded the cycle when it was going down hill that she was precipitated on the read and killed. I am very glad the Minister of Transport has put a special sign for a halt at a major road, because I believe such signs will be of great value to people who carelessly conic into major roads without being aware of the amount of traffic that may confront them.
I do not know that I am completely satisfied with what the noble Earl said with regard to the circulation of the Highway Code. There is no doubt at all that in the case of the former Code, although it certainly had its merits as a first attempt, our difficulty was to know how to reach the pubic, and that appears to me to be the difficulty to-day. These admirable sentences of advice to pedestrians and cyclists do not reach them. They do not read them I have met very few people indeed who have studied the old Highway Code; it did not come their way. I think the noble Earl said that the new Code was to be circulated to all householders. I doubt if even that is sufficient. Advice is given in this little book to farm labourers—excellent advice about cattle coming out on the road—but that advice will very likely never reach the people chiefly concerned.
In addition to circulation to all householders, this booklet should be placed, not only in post offices but in bookstalls, in railway stations, and in every available public place, in proper receptacles, with "Please take one" printed above them so that the whole public may be reached. No doubt it will cost a certain amount of money, but if the whole public really gets to know the advice given in this book it will make some difference. It will make them understand that they have to proceed with some caution whether they are driving or walking on the main roads to-day. I have nothing more to say about the Code except this one very small detail. The draft that I 1078 received was in a blue cover, rather stiff, and I think it was peculiarly suitable. It had a sort of official air about it. It had the regulation blue tint, and also it would not soil or bend quite so easily as the one that appears in circulation here. I am not quite certain whether the white paper one or the blue stiff paper one is the one which is actually to be circulated, but I hope it will be the blue one, because that is far more important-looking and far stronger for anyone to carry in his pocket or in his car.
The temptation might be, on an occasion of this sort, to enlarge on the whole question of road accidents, but I feel that that is too grave a matter to be entered into on this occasion as a side issue. It is a question which we have debated in this House on several occasions, but not recently, and I hope there may be another opportunity, because I am perfectly certain the present Minister of Transport is only too anxious to receive advice and suggestions from all quarters. I must say I think he has shown a disposition to explore every conceivable method by which he may reduce the number of accidents on the road. I wish his efforts had been attended with greater success, and I am very much afraid that the general public, even with these weekly returns published in the newspapers, are getting apathetic and are beginning to regard this as a necessary evil which they have got to put up with. I do not intend to embark on that discussion. The whole question of the mania for speed is so far-reaching and so rapidly extending that I feel it requires the greatest thought and consideration; but if this small effort can be really popularised, if this book can be brought home to a vast number of people in this country—and I think every effort should be made with regard to its circulation—some good effect may result from it.
§ LORD HUTCHISON OF MONTROSE
My Lords, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Transport on the production, of this Highway Code, and I hope the noble Earl will convey the congratulations to the Minister on his effort in this direction. I think it is an admirable beginning. It is badly needed in the country, and, especially for young motorists, it is very desirable that these short maxims and rules and indications of how they should behave should be published 1079 in this form. It is a curious thing that one of the most important signs of our roads to-day from a safety point of view and from the point of view of assisting traffic is not mentioned in this Code. I refer to the white lines which, on dangerous bends and other places, are painted near the middle of the road. It seems to me that that omission ought to be dealt with. I always feel that it ought by law to be prohibited to any vehicle to remain stationary between the edge of the road and the white line. The white lines are put there in order to draw the traffic into alley ways in approaching other traffic; yet time and again, where the road is not too wide, you find yourself driven over the white line on to the other man's alley way in order to get past a standing obstruction. I know the argument is used that vehicles very often have to stand for trade purposes beside this white line opposite shops and other places. All I can say is that if a shop or business place is so situated that a vehicle can cause obstruction to the road, then a little carrying of goods might be done from a place beyond the white line. By that means the safety of traffic would be very much improved.
Another point I wish to make is in relation to Paragraph 88 which gives the warning: "Always maintain your tyres in a safe condition." I think that might have been amplified, and directions given that all tyres ought to have proper indentations on them in order to grip the road. The fine roads that have been produced in our country are all the more dangerous, especially in wet weather when the tyre is dead smooth, and that particular danger ought to be specially mentioned in any code of driving. A great many accidents occur from the skidding due to the application of brakes on very smooth tyres on wet roads. My last point is this. I think more direction might be given in this Code as to the behaviour of heavy vehicles. Heavy vehicles, especially on some of our country roads, very often make such a noise with their gears and other parts that it is very difficult indeed to attract the attention of their drivers, and something, such as an amplifier close to the driver's seat or some such device that would indicate the noise of a horn from behind, ought to be added in the Code in order to facilitate traffic. Beyond that I can only say that I think this first beginning of the 1080 Highway Code is admirable, and I am quite sure the Minister would welcome any criticism of any omissions from the first issue. I have great pleasure in supporting the passing of this Code.
My Lords, I do not want to take up much of your time, but I should like to say how much I think the ordinary practical motorist will welcome this Code and how grateful he will be for it. The criticism that I have to make, and that I think he will have to make, is that the Minister of Transport has been too kind. He has not been nearly severe enough. That is probably the result of all the committees to which this Code has been submitted. It has been watered down in a quite unnecessary way in two or three directions. Take, as an example, Paragraph 43, on page 6. It says:—Never, if it can be avoided, leave your vehicle facing the wrong way in foggy or misty weather …It can always be avoided. If necessary, turn the vehicle round. The words "if it can be avoided" are unnecessary and do away with the whole point of the paragraph.
You get the same thing in the instructions to pedestrians in Paragraph 89, which says:Never walk along the carriageway where there is a pavement or suitable footpath.It is a sort of Alice in Wonderland question: When is a footpath not a footpath? If it is a footpath it is a suitable footpath. If it is not a footpath then the local authority ought to deal with it and make it suitable, and let people walk on it. Then, in Paragraph 92, we have the direction:Cross the road at right angles whenever possible.Here again we have the word "possible" It is in little things like this that the Code could be strengthened without doing any harm to anyone.
Another point which I hope will be incorporated in the next Code is one to make the instructions to pedal cyclists apply also to motor cyclists. The motor cyclist is a very good fellow. He is keen to do what he can for road safety, but in a great many cases he is a very young man who has not got great experience, and who does not do a great deal of thinking. A great many of these points of advice to cyclists apply also to motor 1081 cyclists; in fact I think you can say every one of them applies. Carrying parcels on a motor bicycle is a very common cause of danger. The motor cyclists who will wander up between a car and the pavement and then shoot out so as to get through another gap between cars, just as a pedal cyclist often does, is a cause of accidents. I am sure the motor cyclist would not object to being included as a cyclist, and I am absolutely certain that if he will only obey the Cyclists' Rules he will be safer himself than he would be otherwise.
One other suggestion I should like to make is in regard to Paragraph 94, which says:Where there is a pedestrian crossing, subway, or refuge, make use of it.I suggest that that does not emphasise the pedestrian crossing nearly enough. The pedestrian crossing ought not to be included with the subway or refuge; it ought to have a little place to itself. I would suggest that something like this might be made as an addition to the paragraph:In roads where pedestrian crossings are provided, cross between the lines, and if not doing so be careful not to impede any vehicles.I add those last words for this reason, tint you cannot expect an ordinary person to walk possibly one hundred yards down the road to a crossing and then one hundred yards back to get to a spot immediately opposite that from which he started. But you do want to caution him that, when he is not crossing at a recognised crossing, it is his duty to let the moor vehicle or horse-drawn vehicle or any other vehicle have the road, just as the vehicle has to let him have the road on his own crossing. I have a hope that this Code is going to do an infinity of good, but I believe that if it is strengthened after being watched in action it will do still more good.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I cannot help regretting that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is not present this afternoon, because I have often listened to him with considerable interest, perhaps not for the reason that the noble Lord who now sits near me (Lord Sandhurst) imagines. The noble Earl who represents the industry is apt to tell us that motorists are a sort of persecuted race who are persecuted 1082 by pedestrians, bullied by the police, denied justice in the Courts and intolerably taxed. My impression of motorists is a totally different one. I do not speak with any animosity against them, because I own a motor car myself; I even drove one for a time until I discovered that that was a source of danger to myself as well as to everybody else and so I gave up the practice.
What I notice is that in every court of justice, every jury, every Judge, every Stipendiary, everybody you can think of, is always doing his utmost to get the motorist off and the most extraordinary excuses and pleas are continually accepted. Somebody says that either he or a relative some years ago suffered from shell-shock and that the impression remains, and that therefore if he drinks a glass of beer or has a couple of glasses of whisky between lunch and dinner the effect upon him is perfectly different from that experienced by everybody else. These pleas are solemnly accepted and the judicial authority, whoever it may be, seems to take the greatest possible pleasure in allowing them to escape scot free. The fact is that we are all the victims of the mania for speed. The climax of the practice of which I have spoken is afforded by the example of the present Minister of Transport, who, I observe, attended a banquet in honour of one of the so-called speed kings and speed queens—who after all are only super-scorchers—and he actually presented the gentleman who was being entertained, a distinguished man no doubt in the motoring world, with the amount of his fine as a sort of public apology. I cannot imagine anything which is more calculated to make justice look foolish than an incident of that kind. I repeat that the nation is obsessed with the mania for speed.
When I read of the ovations and triumphs accorded to racing motorists and people of that kind, they always seem to me incredibly foolish and show an extraordinary absence of a sense of proportion. I remember an Eastern tale which I think is rather appropriate to this subject. There was once a person who passed his time learning to throw a grain of barley through the eye of a packing needle. He attained such proficiency in that occupation that he was 1083 taken to the Persian Court and performed the trick before the Shah, expecting to receive a substantial reward. Instead of his getting the Persian equivalent of the K.B.E. or the O.B.E., the Shah presented him with a bushel of barley which he said was quite sufficient reward for a man who had wasted his time to that extent. I cannot help thinking that if I had the disposal of these cases I should like to give the speed kings and speed queens a present of, say, a can of petrol, and I would reserve all substantial honours, money rewards and so on, for people who had a clean licence and who had not done any harm to any pedestrian or anybody else during the course of ten or twelve years. I believe that would be a far more sensible practice and that it would be attended with very beneficial results.
I do not think that anybody who has read the figures which have been recently published, not even the noble Earl, Lord Howe, if he were here, would venture to deny that speed has proved to be the source of nearly all the trouble. You have only to look at the figures to realise that. I do not attach much importance to the number of people killed, because that gives no indication of the position. What you really ought to look at is the number of accidents, and I observe that there were 2,000 fewer accidents during the last nine weeks than in previous periods. That shows that the legislation of this present Minister of Transport is on the right lines. In spite of his exhibition at the banquet of which I have spoken he seems to me determined to do his best and his efforts have been attended with very considerable success.
It seems to me that there are a certain number of things which might be done and which would minimise the number of accidents that take place. The first thing is that the law should be enforced more strictly. The second is that if you really want to preserve pedestrians' lives there ought to be footpaths everywhere, and I do not see why the motoring industry should not bear the bulk of the expense of making them. Another suggestion I would make to my noble friend is that it is very desirable that a special tax should be put upon what I believe are known as sports car. Sports car are of no advantage to the community at all as far as I can see. They belong, I presume, to the leisured class; that is, 1084 to people whose time cannot possibly be described as being valuable. They are very fitting objects for taxation and I believe considerable benefit would result if this proposal were adopted.
I would like to call attention also to the directions to pedestrians given on page 11 of the Code. For a long time I have urged in this House and elsewhere that the practice of walking on the left should be adopted but I have found no support. Now it is in the Code, but it is only a recommendation. What is the good of that? What is required is that the Minister should summon up sufficient courage to enforce the recommendation which he has made. I know that there are many people who say that it is no good issuing orders because the British people are so constituted that they will not obey them, and I distinctly remember the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition—who, after all, speaks with authority as a leader of democracy—saying that British people refused to be regimented and that you could not even get them to cross the road at specified places. He has been shown to be completely wrong. The regulations made by the present energetic Minister have been more or less obeyed every day in spite of what the noble Lord said. I cannot help thinking that the position will continue to improve if the law is properly administered. If there is really sufficient desire to save life and protect people from accidents these suggestions which I have ventured to make would be shown, I think, to be of great use, and we might eventually find that the toll of accidents and deaths, which is a disgrace to this country, would be considerably diminished.
§ LORD ELTISLEY
My Lords, the noble Earl who moved the approval of this Code invited criticisms and suggestions and therefore I venture with great respect to say a word or two on it. In the first place may I point out that the first page is at present blank and we have not been told what form the foreword by the Minister of Transport is likely to take. Presumably, the Minister, if I may respectfully anticipate, will be governed to some extent by the need of carrying out this Code strictly, and a warning may be conveyed by some reference to the enormous number of accidents which take place yearly on the 1085 roads. With regard to the criticism of motorists made by the last speaker, I feel that it must not be forgotten that the roads are for motorists and for the use of motor cars, and the motorists are for the roads. The time has gone by for pinpricking the motorist. He is the main user of the roads and he provides the main source of income for building our great highways. I should like, if I might, to draw attention to the fact that there is no reference in this Code to the need for keeping dogs under strict control on our great highways.
§ LORD ELTISLEY
I am very glad to think that such a reference has been made; I overlooked it. My only other point is that, on the last page of the Code, reference is made to a "No. 2" sign, for use in speed limits in built-up areas. In practice that sign, as attached to various lamp-posts, is very small and difficult to see. I do hot know whether it is at all possible to make the sign more visible where it is used; but it should be possible to give it equal prominence with the "No. 1" sign.
My Lords, before the Minister replies, might I make a suggestion to him which I believe will be helpful? I have come to the conclusion, from driving a great deal about the roads of this country, that tremendous help could be given by the motoring public themselves in dealing with a, minority—I believe a small minority—of inconsiderate, reckless and unreliable users of motor vehicles on the road. My experience, driving intermittently since 1906, is as follows. The best-behaved drivers on the road are the professional motor-lorry drivers, and in London, I think, the motorbus drivers. Next are the general run of professional chauffeurs and the average, owner-driver. Then you have a rather reckless class in certain tradesmen's assistants, errand boys and drivers of tradesmen's vans, and. you have a very careless class in the drivers of the motorcars referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, the sports-car owners.
What happens is this. One of these inconsiderate or reckless drivers commits a serious offence which does not actually lead to an accident; he cuts in round a corner or crashes across a crossing and 1086 endangers the lives and property of other drivers. They are very angry at the time and swear that they will do something about it, but then they cannot be bothered and let the whole thing slide. If the motoring public could be informed that they themselves can lodge prosecutions against these inconsiderate, reckless and sometimes almost criminal drivers, a great deal of good would be done. The ordinary man does not know that he can himself launch a prosecution through the police in the district; that all he has to do is to take the number of the car and report the whole of the circumstances. The Ministry of Transport might very well consider, in the foreword to be inserted in the Code by the Minister of Transport, some such advice and information for the general motoring public.
I had a case of this kind the other day. Fortunately the man had to go into the same golf club into which I was going, and I was able to take his name and address. I did not know myself what to do about it, and so I telephoned to the Ministry of Transport itself. The officials at the Ministry were very glad to help with information, and said they wished more motorists would do this. They told me exactly what to do and what my solicitor should do. I acted accordingly, and I hope that motorist will be taught a lesson. That is a really constructive suggestion which I make to the noble Earl who speaks for the Ministry in this House. The general public does not know what its rights are against breakers of the law. What is said on the first inside page of the Code, about "a failure on the part of any person to observe" the Code, is rather weakening it. I suggest that a paragraph should be added in the foreword by the Minister of Transport, telling the public what their rights and duties are to assist the police, who cannot be everywhere, in prosecuting these dangerous drivers.
I must add this. All these Codes will help, and the public by co-operating with the authorities can help too, but you will not get down this terrible toll of accidents until, as the noble Lord opposite has said, you remodel the whole of the roads of this country. I suggest to your Lordships that it is quite absurd to expect roads which were built originally for ordinary horse-traffic to be turned into high-speed motor-ways, 1087 which is the case to-day, with all kinds of motor and other traffic upon them, and not to be certain of having serious trouble with loss of life and damage to the public. Until you embark on a complete remodelling of the motor roads of this country and confine them to motor vehicles only, you are bound to have these accidents. You might just as well try to use the railway lines for general traffic—express trains, pedestrians, road vehicles, animals, cattle and school-children—and expect to escape accidents from and to the trains. But there it is. We started off on a great road programme after the War, and one of these wretched waves of economy came over the country. The land which was bought was used for making roads which in some cases were only a quarter of the width that had been intended. An immense amount of money still needs to be spent on the roads, doing away with blind crossings and corners, weak bridges and narrow turnings. The money has not been spent, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer takes from the Road Fund, which is contributed to by motor-drivers, money for the general relief of the taxpayers of the, country. This is the Government's fault, and the fault of the voters who do not insist en these reforms.
Perhaps I might add one word to what the noble Lord said who has just sat down. I hope, if his suggestion is accepted, that it will be made very clear to the police by the Home Office and Ministry of Transport that they are to take action in suitable cases brought to their notice. I have known of a perfectly scandalous case reported to the police in which they utterly refused to take action. This appears to me to be a most important point.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords, a very large number of points have been raised. They were so numerous and were delivered so quickly that I was not able to make a note of them [...] but I will try to deal with some of the more important points that were raised by the various noble Lords who took part in discussing and criticising the new Code. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition asked me a number of questions. I think the first was why, in this new Code, motor cyclists were dealt with 1088 together with motorists and not, as they had been in the previous Code, separately. As far as I understand it, this matter was gone into very carefully by the Advisory Council, and they came to the conclusion that all these provisions were applicable to both motorists and motor cyclists and that they saw no good reason for dealing with the two separately. Of course all these matters are matters of opinion, and no doubt different points of view may be put forward with a certain amount of justification; but I am advised that this matter was very carefully considered and that, on the balance of opinion, it was thought better to deal with motor cyclists and motorists together.
Then the noble Lord dealt with the circulation and issue of the new Code. He still felt that provision was not made for as large and complete a circulation as was desirable in the circumstances. As I understand it, some 15,000,000 copies of the new Code are going to be circulated and delivered without charge. That represents one for every three of the population in Great Britain. I venture to say that this is about as complete a circulation as one could devise. Nevertheless, I am prepared to admit that there are possible loopholes, and it may be that a certain few people may not be reached by the Code who are at the same time closely affected by it. I am in a position to say that the Minister has at the moment under consideration the question of placing these Codes upon bookstalls at railway stations, as the noble Lord suggested. The only other point which I think he raised was the question of the cover of the Code, and I am informed that the cover will be just the same as that of the advance copy which he has, which I think will prove satisfactory to him.
Then Lord Hutchison asked why there was no mention of the white lines throughout the Code. There are, as I understand it, certain technical difficulties about this matter, although the Minister has the question of the white line very closely in mind and under consideration. Although the white line is not specifically mentioned in the Code, I would like to inform your Lordships that all traffic signals, and lines generally, are referred to, I think, in one or two parts of the Code, and particularly in Paragraph 36. Lord Sandhurst drew attention to a 1089 number of redundancies. You will realise that it is not possible for this House to amend the Code at this stage—it either has to be accepted or rejected—but I can assure your Lordships that all points of criticism which have been put forward this afternoon will certainly receive consideration, with a view to examining them and seeing whether they should be included in any revised edition of the Code later on.
I would like to point out that a certain number of additions and alterations have been suggested during the course of this debate. On the other hand, there are people who take the view that the Code, generally speaking, is too long and ought to be even shorter than it is, and more concise. It is quite easy to argue the case on both sides, and to put forward a very good case either for cutting down the Code or for elaborating it. I would like to point out that very careful consideration has been given to the whole question, and the Minister came to the conclusion, on the advice which he had been given, that this Code as it at present stood was that which suited the purpose best as, after all, the object was to give within the shortest possible compass a comprehensive guide to road users on all questions as to their conduct. It was felt that a shorter series of rules would not fulfil the purpose, and at the same time it was felt that if the Code were elaborated to any considerable extent it would merely lead to its not being properly read and studied. I desire to assure the noble Lord that the matter did have the very fullest consideration.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, regaled us with a speech which was, as usual, full of humour, interest and common sense, but I would humbly venture to say that much of it was not perhaps very germane to the Highway Code which we are discussing this afternoon. A good many suggestions have been made this afternoon which perhaps are not very intimately connected with the Highway Code, but are matters of more general interest and will have to be dealt with by some other method than inclusion in the Code. All debates in this House on the general question are always very carefully studied, and. can assure your Lordships that all the suggestions which have been made this afternoon will, as usual, receive consideration. I can assure your lordships that, as the noble 1090 Lord opposite said, the present Minister of Transport is only too anxious to avail himself of any advice and suggestion which may be given, in order to do everything he possibly can to keep down the very appalling loss of life which there is on our roads.
A number of other suggestions I may mention have been made by various noble Lords. Lord Strabolgi, for instance, suggested that some allusion might be made by the Minister, in his foreword, to the fact that it is possible for motorists themselves to take proceedings in the event of reckless driving which comes to their notice. I do not know if it be possible to do that or not, but that is the kind of suggestion which the Minister will consider. Whether it is possible to include it in his foreword I am not able to say. I have tried to deal with the main points which have been raised this afternoon, and I hope that after what I have said your Lordships will be prepared to accept the Resolution on the Paper.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.