§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I beg to ask the next Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when it is proposed to publish the White Paper setting out the operational details of the vehicle testing scheme, when it is proposed to lay the regulations before Parliament, and how long it is proposed to allow Parliament and 28 the public to become acquainted with the details of the scheme before the regulations come into force.]
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend, who is abroad, may I say that I am grateful to the noble Lord opposite for asking this Question? The reply is somewhat like a cinema trailer announcing forthcoming entertainments for the following week. I am glad to be able to tell the noble Lord that my right honourable friend will lay a White Paper describing Her Majesty's Government's vehicle testing scheme before both Houses of Parliament on Monday next, May 12.
There will be three main sections of regulations. The first, containing regulations made under Section 1 of the Act. as the White Paper will bring out, will deal with the conditions of appointment of garages and authorised examiners, and will contain provisions for the designation of local authorities who will be involved with the scheme. This first section will enable progress to be made with the appointments and designations, and it is expected that there will be some 15,000 to 20,000 applications to be received. That, in itself, will take a considerable time and will require safeguards which I believe the noble Lord opposite would like to see under the scheme.
Before there is any question of commencing compulsory testing, all the applicant garages will have been inspected by the Minister's technical staff, first of all to make sure that their standard of equipment, layout, efficiency and supply of technical staff and mechanics is satisfactory to my right honourable friend, and, secondly, to satisfy my right honourable friend that all areas of the country will be adequately provided with potential testing stations. When he is so satisfied, regulations under Section 2 of the Act, specifying the classes of vehicles which will be subject to the test and the relevant ages, will be made. The final provisions of Section 2, which make the production of a test certificate a condition of obtaining a licence for a vehicle in the specified category, in the same manner as it is necessary to produce a certificate of insurance at present, will not be brought into force until my right honourable friend is satisfied that owners of vehicles have had a reasonable opportunity to 29 have their vehicles tested at the appointed stations.
My right honourable friend is fully aware that he is, by this Act, restricting the liberty of many individuals. For that reason, he will be as reasonable as he possibly can. Nevertheless, he firmly believes—and I am certain your Lordships will agree—that the driver of an unsafe vehicle is as much a public menace as a criminal at large with a loaded lethal weapon.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, may I first of all thank the noble Earl, and express my gratitude that at least the Government seem to appreciate Questions put on the Order Paper. Secondly, may I say that I am grateful for the delays, and I wish he would take note that when the regulations are laid they will be objected to, and the programme he has just outlined to the House will give everybody a chance to study them before they are put into force.
§ EARL HOWE
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware that most of the vehicles affected under this scheme—or, at any rate, a great many—will be the property of wage-earners who have bought them second and third hand, and who have not great resources behind them? May I also ask him whether there will be arrangements for appeal, and whether those arrangements will be as easy and as cheap as possible from the point of view of the people affected?
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that that point is fully appreciated, but I would emphasise the last statement in my reply: that an unsafe motor car, no matter in whose hands it may be, is a lethal weapon.