HL Deb 03 December 1973 vol 347 cc333-430

3.36 p.m.


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

Moved, that the House do again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 6 [Prohibition on stopping of vehicles at urban junctions]:

EARL HOWE moved Amendment No. 24: Page 9, line 41, leave out ("30") and insert ("15").

The noble Earl said: This Amendment concerns the new distance regulations for the stopping of vehicles at urban junctions to improve the driver's range of vision. I approve of this in principle but I must admit that I quarrel with the actual distance specified in the proposed regulations. Extensive prohibition will greatly reduce the available street parking space with junctions in close proximity, especially when street parking to-day is at a premium. In this regard, some years ago, during the passage of the Transport Bill, with the great help of my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, I managed to get an Amendment through the House which provided that surplus monies after parking meter maintenance had been incurred through the fines paid to meters was put towards extra parking facilities in London. Unfortunately local authorities and Governments have paid not the slighest attention, and no effort has been made, so far as I can see, to provide the extra parking facilities we so badly need.

That is one of the reasons why I feel very concerned about the actual distance of 30 yards, because any space of this nature is very important to a motorist when he experiences difficulty in finding a parking space at the present time. Successive Ministers, I think I am right in saying, have already suggested 20 yards and 15 yards; and now it is back at 30 yards. I would say that a sensible compromise would be something like 15 yards. That is the distance that I should have thought would adequately provide sufficient vision on either side of the junction and at the same time would enable motorists to find that extra little bit of parking space that is so important in a crowded city like this, and also would enable tradesmen of different kinds to find space to park their vehicles. I am therefore hoping that Her Majesty's Government will consider whether it is necessary for this proposed parking ban to be quite so extensive as 30 yards, and I beg to move that it be not more than 15 yards and not less than 5, which is already in the regulations.


May I just say that I entirely support this Amendment. I think that 15 yards is adequate; it is quite a fair distance. Anyone who cannot see past a car 15 yards away to note whether there is other traffic approaching ought to have an eye test.


I support my noble friend in his Amendment, mainly on the question of delivery vans. Real problems are caused over deliveries in city centres, and these would be considerably aggravated were the distances set down in the Bill maintained. It is disappointing that only last week it was announced that the Government were going to reduce the amount of money to be expended on urban road development and we all admit that most of the congestion occurs in the urban areas. The limit as set down in the Bill would add greatly to such congestion. It would appear that a delivery van driver may have to park his vehicle at such a distance that he would have as much as 70 yards to traverse in order to make a delivery. Whether the goods are carried that sort of distance or wheeled on some kind of a barrow would result in the delivery van remaining in a waiting position for that much longer. If the Government could see some way to reduce the distance I think that a considerable amount of congestion could be avoided.


The noble Lords who have spoken to the Amendment have made the point that they regard 15 yards as being more than a sufficient distance on either side of a junction. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, made the particular point about the parking of cars. This is not necessarily what many people are considering. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, about delivery take-ups is one which common sense demands must be kept in view. We have to bear in mind that what we are trying to do is to reduce the number of vehicle-to-vehicle accidents which, as my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross said during the Second Reading debate, caused 6,270 casualties in 1972 alone.

When we say in this clause … such distance of an urban junction as may be specified in the regulations, being a distance of not more than 30 and not less than 5 yards it must be remembered that these regulations may prescribe the actual length of the ban on different classes of junctions. The distance is not fixed at 30 yards. It is envisaged that the ban will normally run for 15 yards from a corner on Class A and B roads and for 10 yards on other roads, that is C roads and unclassified roads. It is considered that for some junctions a normal length of 10 yards or 15 yards may not be sufficient because of the character of the junction layout. For example, at a widely splayed junction the normal length would not reach adequately into arms of the junction. Therefore in subsection (2)(e) provision is made for the regulations to provide in this type of case that the appropriate authority should have power to increase the length of the ban where road safety considerations made this desirable, but not for longer than the maximum of 30 yards.

Local authorities will to be allowed to use their discretion in the procedure adopted for exercising their powers to extend the length of the stopping bars but they will be required to consult the police. Already, authorities have similar powers to decide local traffic orders, such as where and for what length yellow-line parking restrictions may be necessary, and there is no reason to think that they will use this new power in any other but a responsible way. I hope that on reflection the noble Earl will consider that this is a flexible matter and that the local authorities will use their powers sensibly and not to the detriment of the general public.


I fully acknowledge that this idea is more flexible than I thought. I do not even like the idea of an authority being given permission to extend the parking distance to 30 yards. That was the point I wanted to make. I do not propose to press the matter further, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

3.47 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 25: Page 11, line 28, at end insert ("or in order to show reasonable consideration for other road users").

The noble and learned Lord said: This raises a small point not wholly devoid of principle, but it is not a point on which I would think it justifiable to take up much of the time of the Committee. Noble Lords have just been reminded of the object of this clause. In subsection (4) one finds that the regulations which may prohibit stopping within a certain distance of an urban junction are not to prohibit stopping in certain defined circumstances. The circumstances are defined in paragraphs (a) to (e). Then there is another, as it were, sweeping-up provision with which the subsection ends. I draw attention to the last two situations. The first is: Where the driver is prevented from proceeding by circumstances beyond his control. That is rather an extreme situation. I do not know what is contemplated; whether it is assumed that the driver may have got into a skid and is unable to stop the car however hard he tries. That perhaps is the sort of situation. The last one is: or it is necessary for him to stop in order to avoid an accident. That surely posits that unless he does stop there will be an accident. That again is rather an extreme situation.

All I seek to import is what I may perhaps describe as a "safety valve". I submit that it is open to consideration whether it would not be desirable, in order to prevent tempers being frayed and to permit reasonable courtesy in the user of our roads, to say that a regulation is not to insist upon a driver not stopping if he wants to stop and thinks that he ought to stop in order, to use the phrase in the Amendment, to show reasonable consideration for other road users. It may be said against me that that is rather a vague phrase and it may be difficult to determine what is the precise effect of the regulation. If so, I hope that a more precise phrase may be found to substitute for it. I began by saying that the point was a short one, and I do not wish to take time on it. I certainly would not press it to a Division, but I should like to leave it as a thought with the Government, in order that they may consider whether it is possible slightly to tone down the rather extreme qualities of the situation which they describe in the language they use, in which a driver is permitted to go on notwithstanding the regulations.


All I would say in addition to the point made so well by my noble and learned friend is that I think every driver of a motor vehicle is aware from time to time of circumstances arising where, without actually offending against the Highway Code or any regulation, he stops in order to show courteous consideration to other road users. I am sure that we have all done that in our driving careers. Such action, in my opinion, is invaluable and tends very much towards road safety.

I do not know what other noble Lords feel about it, but I must admit that when a lack of consideration is shown to me by other road users I tend to have feelings of annoyance and frustration arising from that lack of consideration. Those feelings, in my opinion, tend very much towards causing road accidents. If I drag along for miles and miles behind a vehicle arid find that I cannot pass him, eventually frustration gets the better of me, and unless I take a very tight grip on myself I tend to take a chance and pass that vehicle—I say that I tend to, but of course I do not, being a good driver and conscious of the fact that it is up to me to show a good example. But these feelings definitely exist, and I think my noble friend Lord Stow Hill is absolutely right in asking that there shall be imported into this clause the words that he is proposing.


I have in mind a specific example which I think justifies this Amendment. Supposing a driver is driving along and sees some way ahead of him a pedestrian crossing the road—the pedestrian may be elderly and not have the best of eyesight, and it may be after dark. The motorist can see quite well that merely slowing down will be satisfactory and that no accident will occur, but he can also see that the pedestrian is not happy about the situation, and he is quite sure that the only way to make the pedestrian happy about it is for him to stop. That situation would seem to me to justify the Amendment.


At first sight, this is an attractive proposition. To show due consideration cannot be anything but admirable, and even the noble Lord, Lord Champion, after driving for many miles behind his juggernaut is still showing due consideration in restraining himself. But in this Amendment we are concerned with a clause which deals only with the position at urban junctions. In this case I think there is no question of overtaking between thirty and five yards short of the urban junction—at least, I hope there is not. Although the idea is attractive, we feel that this Amendment is unnecessary as the situations to which it could relate are already covered in the general dispensation to stop in order to avoid an accident. If, for example, to refer to what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Stow Hill and Lord Airedale, when giving way to a pedestrian who is crossing the road or teetering just in the road, or even to another vehicle which wishes to cross his path, a driver stops he can quite truthfully say that he is stopping for the sake of road safety and only secondarily out of consideration for the other road user. Road safety is an excuse which will always be accepted under Clause 6.

I submit to your Lordships that the Amendment as worded would also require a definition of "reasonable consideration". If the Amendment is inserted, how are we to define "reasonable consideration"? It is not an easy thing to do. It would be interpreted differently by different motorists. Therefore we feel that such a position would be not only difficult to enforce, but possibly open to abuse; that is, avoiding a ban. The drafting of an Amendment which embodied the intention of the present Amendment, but avoided its pitfalls, would, I am advised, pose considerable difficulties. Provision of this kind has never been considered necessary in similar legislation —for instance, the ban on stopping at pedestrial crossing regulations, and motorway regulations—and there is no reason to believe that the legal climate has changed in any way in this respect. Therefore I hope the noble and learned Lord will not consider it necessary to insist on this Amendment.


Perhaps I may deal at once with the two arguments put forward by the noble Lord in opposition to this Amendment. His second point was that to import these words into the Bill would present the courts with difficulty because it is difficult to interpret the words "driving with reasonable consideration" and to define what is "reasonable consideration". I do not foresee any difficulty of that kind, because already under the section in the Road Traffic Act dealing with careless driving a person can be convicted either for driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. If it is possible for magistrates' courts, as they do daily in great numbers, to decide whether a person has been driving without reasonable consideration for other road users, what is the difficulty confronting them in deciding that a person has driven with reasonable consideration for other road users? There is no greater difficulty in the one case than in the other.

Then the noble Lord said that if, in the circumstances referred to by my noble friend, a person stops, he would be excused under this clause for doing so because he would be stopping in the interests of road safety. Unless I have misread this subsection completely, there is no such defence in the subsection. There is nothing in it to say that you are justified if you stop in the interests of road safety. What it says, in the material part, is that you are justified if it is necessary to stop in order to avoid an accident. That is quite a different matter, and it does not cover the case put forward by my noble friend; that is, to stop not because it is necessary to do so to avoid an accident, but to stop in order not to increase the apprehension or anxiety of the imaginary pedestrian who may be crossing your path. Therefore, on both grounds it seems to me that the answer put forward by the Government to this Amendment is inadequate, and I hope the noble Lord may even now be prepared to reconsider the matter.

3.59 p.m.


I hope the noble Lord will think a little more about this Amendment. I agree with the point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Foot. I was rather surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, say that courtesy was secondary to avoiding accidents. I should have thought that courtesy was the basis of avoiding accidents. I should like to put to the noble Lord a particular example which has become fairly normal practice in this country. If you come to a place where cars are crossing, it is a common practice to put on your lights to indicate that a car in a side road may pass in front of you. As I say, this has become rather the normal practice; but under this clause it will be illegal, because you are not doing so in order to avoid an accident, but merely as an act of courtesy. You are putting on your lights and indicating that if the other driver wants to come in from the side road on to the main road he is free to do so. There is no question of avoiding an accident; it is merely to allow a car to get through which otherwise will be held up. That is an act of courtesy which I suggest under the wording here will be made improper.


I will certainly consider what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and my noble friend Lord Selkirk have said. As the noble Lord, Lord Foot, will be aware, I am not a lawyer, but to drive dangerously or carelessly is in itself an offence which I do not think this clause would excuse in any way whatsoever. I do not think that we are in conflict with what he said. To avoid an accident, as I thought I had said, is to be concerned for road safety. If you think an accident could occur because a pedestrian is a waverer or a "haverer", whichever word you may care to choose, you would take road safety into consideration in order to avoid an accident. Courtesy is vitally important—it is a matter of manners—but I should have thought that avoiding an accident should be put above courtesy in this context, purely because the one could involve mutilation, if not death, and it is obviously a vital thing.

As to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Selkirk, we must remember that the main purpose of roads is for the transporting of traffic. At many road junctions there are lights which are geared to sensible controls, and it is unusual for pedestrians not to get a fair chance to cross. If every motorist proceeding down a street in traffic saw somebody for whom he felt sorry—perhaps an injured or an old person—and took his own line on this, it could cause unnecessary hold-ups. The Bill is designed to avoid this sort of thing. Subsection (4) gives various reasons for stopping, and this seems to me to be reasonable. Most junctions which need them have crossings for pedestrians. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Foot, I should have thought that avoiding accidents is included in the intention behind the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Champion.


With great respect, I do not think that the noble Lord has answered the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foot—that is on the definition of "reasonable consideration". As the noble Lord said quite rightly, if it is an offence to drive without reasonable consideration, why should it not be possible to define "reasonable consideration"? I do not think the noble Lord has answered that point.


I said earlier that I was advised that to put the word "reasonable" into legal language would be very difficult, because it could be interpreted differently by different people. I shall certainly ask my right honourable friend and his legal advisers to reconsider this matter, but at the moment I am advised that it is difficult to see how this could be satisfactorily worded.


I wonder whether I may put to the noble Lord another type of road user, who is not necessarily a pedestrian. I refer to the disabled driver of a three-wheeled vehicle who is returning home after a heavy day's work in a sheltered occupation. There may be no question in this case of avoiding an accident, but it may be necessary to have an additional clause in the Bill in order that perhaps rather more than reasonable consideration may be exercised in a case such as I have outlined; that is, where stopping would relieve the driver, who is disabled or returning home after a day of considerable strain, of added nervousness or anxiety. As I say, there is no question here of avoiding an accident, but why add to the strain which a disabled driver may be undergoing if he were using the road in these conditions?


I really do not see why a disabled driver in his car should be treated differently from other drivers. He must be able to drive, otherwise he would not he given a licence, and therefore I do not see why he should be felt to be endangered if he tried to stop. If exceptions were made, it seems to me to be going against exactly what we are trying to stop. I am not quite sure whether the noble Lord is asking that he should be able to park and get out or whether, if he has some special sign on his car, he should be given some special priority because he is disabled.


I am sorry if I did not make my point quite clear. It is not a question of avoiding an accident, but I think some extra provision should be made to enable a driver to exercise due consideration in exceptional cases even when an accident is not involved.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but I am still not quite clear as to his point. I am not quite clear what the noble Lord is asking me to consider, because so far as I can see avoiding an accident would apply to all vehicles and even to property. "Avoiding an accident" is a very wide phrase. I am not quite sure what special point in regard to the disabled driver the noble Lord has in mind.


Simply that his is perhaps a special case in comparison with that of a pedestrian, where due consideration ought to be given to this type of road user, even where there is no question of an accident being likely to occur.


If I may say so with respect, I think this is a trivial point. It does not follow, even if a driver is driving a three-wheeled car, that he is necessarily disabled. If he is in the traffic flow moving with other traffic, he has to obey the traffic laws just as any other driver. If you are at a junction and a driver wishes to cross over in front of you. I think perhaps you would not be exercising wise judgment in giving way unnecessarily and thereby holding up the traffic behind you.


If I may say so, I do not really think that the answer we have had from the noble Lord is a satisfactory one. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, pointed out language very like the language which, in the event, is actually used for creating the offence of careless driving, and if the courts are expected to interpret that sort of language in order to adjudicate in a particular case whether the offence of careless driving has been committed, I should have thought it was perhaps not asking too much to interpret similar language in this context. I think that the considerations urged by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, were very relevant and cogent in this regard. However, the noble Lord who answered for the Government said that he would give further consideration to this matter and that he would consult his advisers further upon it. I should be grateful if he would do that.

I do not really agree with him that the language in the subsection covers the case of exercising reasonable consideration for other road users. I would again, if I might, remind him of the actual language which is used. The relevant words in the subsection are: It is necessary— —and I stress the word "necessary"— …for him to stop in order to avoid an accident. A truthful and honest driver may have to admit in cross-examination that he thought that if he did not stop he would be inconveniencing other people, or that perhaps if he did not stop there might have been a slightly greater risk of an accident taking place than if he had stopped. If that is all he can say in his own defence then, under the wording that is used, he will be guilty of an offence if this language is important. In order to excuse himself, with the language which is imported into this subsection, it has to be shown on his behalf that it was not necessary—and again I stress "necessary"—to stop. The logical corollary of that is that had he not stopped there would in fact have been an accident: in other words, it could not have been said that it was necessary for him to stop. The word is not "desirable" for him to stop, or "prudent" for him to stop, or "wise" for him to stop—the word is the extreme word "necessary". If he did not stop there would have been an accident, so that the stopping was the inevitably necessary step he had to take in order to avoid an accident. That is extreme language, language which I submit to the Committee ought to be modified and qualified in this context. I hope that, when the noble Lord considers the matter with his advisers, he will give serious thought to that language see whether it cannot be qualified in some sense so as to require the regulations to make provision to excuse the driver who, while he cannot say, "I had to stop because if I had not done so there would have been an accident", is in a position to say, "It would have been extremely discourteous of me not to stop; tempers would have been frayed." Anxiety could be caused—for example in the case mentioned of the elderly lady crossing the road some distance ahead, who was not in fact in danger but might have thought she was. I press upon the noble Lord to think carefully about this language which, in my submission, is not appropriate language.

Having said that, as I intimated when I moved the Amendment, I hope that I may have the permission of the Committee to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 agreed to.

4.12 p.m.

THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON moved Amendment No. 26: After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:

Prohibition on stopping of motor vehicles on footways

(" . Any person, who without lawful authority, drives, draws or parks any motor vehicle of any description, or any part thereof, on a foot ay shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50.

The term "footway" in the above section means a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public has a right of way on foot only.")

The right reverend Prelate said: The purpose of the new clause is to give statutory protection to the public against the growing nuisance caused by motor cars being parked on footpaths. I am President of the Pedestrians' Association for Road Safety, and there is no subject about which we receive more representations from the public than the irritation caused by the growing practice of parking motor cars on footways. This is not only something that causes a great deal of irritation, it is also a cause potentially of danger. It often happens that the pedestrian is forced to walk out into the highway in order to get round motor cars that have been parked on the footway. This becomes even more necessary when prams are being pushed, or when there are invalid chairs being moved along the footpaths. It often happens that people have to go out on to the highway in order to get round motor cars that have been parked on the footway. This is a growing danger and I am sure that your Lordships are from time to time aware of it. It is something on which in my view the public are entitled to have the protection of the law.

I am instructed that the law on this matter is difficult to define. I am told that if a motor car completely blocks a footway then it is held that an obstruction has been committed; but in the case of Absalom v. Marlin it was held that where a motor car was only partially blocking a footway no offence had been committed. The law on this matter goes back to Section 2 of the Highways Act 1837 which lays down that an offence has been committed if anyone wilfully leads, or drives any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine or cattle or carriage of any description on to a footway. It does not deal with the question of parking, and I am told that the courts will not accept that a car which has been parked on a pavement has necessarily been driven there, though it is not revealed how it got there. In any case, I suggest that in these days, when the circumstances of the road are so entirely different from the circumstances 135 years ago, that this matter ought now to be clearly defined in the law.

I hope we shall not hear the argument that the state of the roads and the number of vehicles upon them are such that a vehicle must park on a footway in order that there can be any passage on the highway. This seems to me to be a completely illogical argument, as illogical as it would be to suggest that someone who cannot find space to build his house has therefore the right to pitch a tent on the highway. The footway is that part of the area provided for movement which is the prerogative of the pedestrians. I would contend that the motor car driver has no right to park his vehicle on that part of the freeway, and I hope that the law can be so adjusted as to give that kind of protection.

Last March, my right reverend friend the then Bishop of Hereford, asked a Question on this subject. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, replying, said: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government will consider legislation making it an offence to park on the pavement as soon as a suitable opportunity arises."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8/3/73; col. 1279.] What better opportunity could there be for legislation on this subject than in this Bill? My Amendment gives opportunity for implementing the assurance that was given last March, and I trust therefore that the new clause will prove acceptable to Her Majesty's Government.


I agree with a great deal of what the right reverend Prelate has said; and, as one who belongs to both the notorious classes of pedestrian and cyclist, I have a certain amount of sympathy with it. But I must point out that in cases where the road is very narrow it is much safer for a car to be put at least half-way on to the pavement in order that other cars may get by. Some roads are so narrow that if cars were parked entirely off the pavement it would be impossible for cars to pass, and certainly impossible for two cars to get by at the same time. There are many roads like that. Consideration of that fact must be given. The right reverend Prelate said that he was President of the Pedestrians' Association, and I wish that many pedestrians were as conscious as he is of the necessity for road safety. They seem utterly to disregard it; they seem to be unaware that anything else is on the road except themselves. But, of course, while everybody on the road is a road user, a parked car takes up a good deal more room than a passing pedestrian.


I should like briefly to support the right reverend Prelate. While I recognise that motorists draw off the road and on to the pavement in an endeavour to give traffic more room on the road, I agree that pedestrians should have the entire right of way on the pavements. In this area of Westminster, at least, there are many institutes for the blind. These people are used to counting their steps and know their route by heart. When they come across vehicles in their path they are frightened and sometimes hurt. This is so to my knowledge in West-minister, and I am certain that the same applies in many other parts of the country. I should like to support the Amendment.


I wish very strongly to support the right reverend Prelate in his Amendment. I had not intended to speak, but I know that my noble friend Lord Terrington, had he been able to get here in time from the City, would have wished to support the right reverend Prelate very strongly and to give the example of what happens nightly in the street in which he lives. Perhaps, therefore, I may quote the example given to me by my noble friend, who lives in a street that may be known to some noble Lords; Radnor Walk in Chelsea. As a matter of interest, I may add that the Poet Laureate also lives on the same side of the same street and suffers from the nuisances which I am about to describe.

Radnor Walk is a narrow street which is "one way" from South to North. On the one side of the street there are parking places. It would obviously be quite impossible for cars to park on the other side of the street and to leave any space for traffic to go down the middle. Therefore, in effect, the whole street has been made a parking lot. Every night those who wish to enjoy some of the amusements of the King's Road leave their cars in a continuous stream almost wholly on the pavement in front of the houses of Lord Terrington, the Poet Laureate and everybody else living in that street.

I often agree with the arguments used by the noble Lord, Lord Somers, but I did not agree with a word of what he said to-day, for the simple reason that he seemed to think that what he said justified parking. Of course it does nothing of the sort. If one cannot park without going on to the pavement, thus being a nuisance to the inhabitants of the houses and endangering the pedestrians, who as my noble friend has just said, may be blind, then although this Bill is not, like the Bill we were discussing the other day, specifically designed to save the environment, we do not want to legalise, or to fail to find a remedy for, something that in effect is lowering the quality of life for everybody living in one of the smaller streets in London. If a stream of cars is left on the pavement it is an intolerable lowering of the quality of life in that street. Apart from that, the right reverend Prelate, who is such a master of the law on this subject that I should not dream of adding anything to his legal argument, presented a very cogent argument in quoting the answer given by Her Majesty's Government, who said that they would consider legislation when opportunity offered. Opportunity now offers. The right reverend Prelate has given the reason why this provision should be made law.

I should like to add one other thing. It is insufficient to make a new law unless the police are going to enforce it, but unless we make this change in the law there is nothing that it is in practice possible for the police to enforce. I am informed by the noble Lord, Lord Terrington, that in the case of Radnor Walk the quality of life of those who dwell there has been lowered by this practice, but the police will not, in the present state of the law, take any action whatsoever. I believe that if the law were to be amended as the right reverend Prelate asks that it should be amended, the police would enforce it, or Questions in this House would make it almost impossible for them not to enforce it. Unless the Government produce arguments against this provision which have not yet been put forward, I hope that the right reverend Prelate will not withdraw his Amendment but that we shall make this very necessary amendment of the law.


As one who has listened to all those who have spoken and has much sympathy for the Amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate, I suggest—perhaps in ignorance, but moving around I find reason for it—that with cars parked, whether on pathways or on roadways, in areas where there is poor lighting or no lighting at all, and in foggy weather, the absence of any lighting of the vehicle so parked constitutes a great danger to traffic. Therefore I hope that when my noble friend replies to this Amendment he will deal with the point about the lighting of vehicles parked on pathways or on roadways and whether there is any distinction about it. I cannot help calling to mind that in this House some years ago, on the passing of the Countryside Act, the Minister refused to indicate in the designation of the right of passage on common land, whether it should be on foot, on wheel or on horse. The ambiguity was a deliberate one, and in this case, as my noble friend has just said, I hope that whatever may be the decision there will not be deliberate ambiguity.

4.27 p.m.


From this side of the Committee I should like also to support the right reverend Prelate. Indeed I had agreed in his absence to deal with the Amendment last week. I have not the privilege of living in Radnor Walk, but I do live in the humble borough of Hammersmith, and I have the misfortune to live near a factory where double banking—and I think we must use the correct local colloquial term for this—is a constant menace. This is double banking not only of small cars but of large goods vehicles. Indeed, as I was leaving home last Thursday morning, with the idea of moving this Amendment, a large juggernaut nearly ran me down as I was walking along the pavement near the factory, in order that it might double bank on the pavement. That experience, of course, put me in exactly the right mood to move the Amendment in the House a little later.

I should like to emphasise one thing that the right reverend Prelate said: that, the present law is out of date. As a magistrate, one is confronted by this fact as other magistrates will know; that if a vehicle is wholly on the pavement one can possibly deal with it as an obstruction or in regard to a road junction, but it is extremely difficult to deal with vehicles that are half in the road and half on the footway. As I understand it, this is particularly the burden of the plea made by the right reverend Prelate to put the law right in this connection. This is an opportunity which I feel sure the Government will not miss. We in this House have an opportunity that we do not often get to change a Bill because we are dealing with it before the other place. So often we are told that we cannot interfere with a Bill which has gone through the Chamber of the elected representatives of the people and that we cannot dabble in these matters as they have dealt with the Bill satisfactorily. This is our opportunity, and I plead with the Government to pick up this very small but important clause in order to bring the law up to date.

I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, that I usually agree with him, but I was rather startled when he seemed today to attack pedestrians. He seems to feel that most of them think of no one else. While pedestrians sometimes act as if they think they are the only people around, many motorists also are guilty of this. But we cannot legislate against other sections on those grounds. If there are narrow roads this would seems to be an argument not for banning double banking, but for stopping cars from using them at all; or at any rate to have a one-way restriction. I plead with the Government to use this opportunity to include this new clause.


As the right reverend Prelate knows, I do not always agree with what his Pedestrians' Association says and does. The pedestrian can be a perfect menace to the motorist. Not only does the pedestrian seem to want the right of way of the pavement, but he appears to want it also on the highway. But I agree with this particular Amendment purely from the point of view of road safety. It is not generally known that when a car approaches a pavement with a particularly high kerb, that kerb can damage the side wall of a tyre to such an extent that within another 4,000 or 5,000 miles that tyre will be useless. Throughout our cities cars are driven on to the pavement, over the pavement and down again. It causes damage to the tyre and reduces the mileage. From that point of view I support the Amendment.


I must disclose the fact that I am Vice President of the Pedestrians' Association, an Association I joined many years ago because, although I have been a lifelong motorist, it seemed to me that, in a conflict between a vehicle and a pedestrian, while the pedestrian was not likely to do a great deal of damage to the vehicle the motor car is still the biggest agency for causing death and injury in this country. I joined secondly because it seemed to me that the motorists were adequately protected by the Automobile Association and the R.A.C., and this very small Association is the only body representing pedestrians.

As I was coming to the House this morning, I started to count, but eventually gave up, the number of vehicles I passed which were parked, wholly or partly, on the pavement. It seems to be thought nowadays that if there is a road with a yellow line, it is all right to park provided that most of the car is not on the road but is on the footway. This seems to me wrong. For over 130 years we have had highways, and these highways are divided into the "carriageway" and the "footway". We are still using the old terminology of the Highway Act 1835. While pedestrians sometimes have to cross roads, the proper place for vehicles is the carriageway and the proper place for pedestrians is the footway. As the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, said, the practice of parking cars on the footway is particularly dangerous to the blind. I know that the Pedestrians' Association have had a letter from the Secretary of the Law Commission (I think in his personal capacity) in which he says: Your proposal seems in principle to be eminently reasonable and an improvement of the existing position. At least it is clear that they do not oppose it. I hope the Government may accept the Amendment.


I should be most grateful if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, before he sits down, would be kind enough to put my mind at rest. I think he said that more deaths and injuries are caused by the motor car in this country than by any other cause, whereas I believe it to be a fact that most deaths and injuries are caused by accidents in the home, completely unconnected with the motor car. I trust that the noble and learned Lord will forgive me for putting that question to him.


In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, the great majority of deaths of males from the age of 15 to 24 years are due to accidents, and three-quarters of those are due to motor accidents. If the noble Lord cares to read the Decennial Report of the Registrar General, which is 500 pages long, he will come across that piece of information. Although I am in general sympathetic to this Amendment, I think we have to take into consideration two quite separate circumstances. First, there is the motorist who, as noble Lords have said, thinks it is all right if he parks pretty well on the pedestrian part of the road, out of the way and not causing harm to the pedestrian. He parks his car there for as long a time as he likes. But there is another, quite different, circumstance: the case where a motorist breaks down in a country road. His car does not stop immediately, he has a certain momentum, and the first thing he does is to drive on to the pedestrian way. There it is safer. If the Amendment is going to be accepted, there should be some wording in it which makes an exception of the situation where, for emergency purposes, because he has broken down, the motorist drives on to the pedestrian way.


This is a matter in which I am interested, because I am in sympathy with the Amendment, but a problem does arise from the fact that many parts of London, as well as in other towns, there are narrow streets where parking is allowed officially on one side, leaving an area of road not large enough to allow two cars to pass. This means that if anyone has, for instance, to unload a vehicle in that road, that vehicle must be put partially on the pavement. It is right that one should not be allowed to park there; nevertheless, there are times when one needs to unload or pack a vehicle. At such times the vehicle has to be partially on the pavement in order to allow other cars to pass. The road in which I live, not far from here, is a one-way street. There is a great difference between parking, which should not be allowed for long periods, and the fact that vehicles must remain in the street for a short period when unloading. I am sure this point has been considered by those who have brought forward this Amendment, which is excellent in itself, but there are real problems of this kind all over the country where narrow streets still exist in old towns.


I hope it will not be misunderstood if I seek to come to the assistance of the Government on the assumption that the Minister will seek to resist this Amendment. I see the Minister nodding his head. I am in entire sympathy with the objects of this Amendment and do not dissent from it in any way on its merits, but I am doubtful whether the form of words used here is not going to introduce considerable difficulties for the interpretation of the law. All that the Amendment says is that: Any person who, without lawful authority, drives,…or parks", and so on, on a footway, is then committing an offence. He is committing a summary offence to be dealt with and to be decided on by the magistrates. I suggest that in cases where a charge of this kind is brought, the magistrates will quite often be confronted with difficult legal considerations. Nowhere in the Amend- ment is there any definition of what constitutes lawful authority for parking a car on a footway. I do not know whether the right reverend Prelate and his Association have given consideration to this matter, but may I give just one illustration of the sort of difficulties that may arise, difficulties which will have to be resolved by magistrates?

Under the law of this land, as I understand it, if one is a freehold owner of a piece of land and has a house on it which abutts on a highway, in the ordinary way one is the owner (and this is a very complicated field of law) of the highway in front of the house up to halfway across, and is presumed to have dedicated the right of passage along the highway to pedestrians and indeed to vehicle owners. They have the right of passage over that part of the highway, and as long as they do not obstruct it but merely exercise their right of going up and down, they are all right. But suppose the owner of the house chooses to park his car in front of his own house on the footway, either wholly or partially on the footway, is he doing that with lawful authority or is he not? I suggest it could well be argued that he is doing it with lawful authority.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, shakes his head, but may I try to develop the point for a moment. If he is indeed the owner of the highway up to halfway across, then I suggest that the act of parking his car on the footway or on that part of the highway is not being done without lawful authority; it is being done with lawful authority, although it may offend against the criminal law because it constitutes obstruction of the highway. The actual parking is being done with lawful authority, because it is being done with his own authority; he is the legal owner of the land. Therefore, while I am in sympathy with the objectives which the right reverend Prelate wants to achieve, I very much doubt whether this is the proper way to do it. I certainly think that if this Amendment were to be carried in principle we should need to have some better definition of what constitutes lawful authority.


It had not occurred to me before the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, spoke that I ought to declare an interest. I think I am and always have been a vice-president of the Pedestrians' Association.


I should like to support the right reverend Prelate and my noble friend Lord Howe. I think this habit of parking on the pavements is not only bad for tyres but also imposes dangerous strains on the steering gear, the steering arms and stub axles and other vital parts of the machinery. I am all against it.

4.43 p.m.


The right reverend Prelate can certainly congratulate himself on having caught the interest of the Committee with his Amendment, as I had a suspicion he would. I think the noble Lord, Lord Platt, hit the nail on the head in his speech when he pointed out that this new clause would make it an offence to park a vehicle of any kind on a footway anywhere in the country. This Amendment does not just limit the prohibition to urban areas; it has no limits at all. As the right reverend Prelate said, there has been intermittent pressure for making parking of motor vehicles on footways an offence. As he said, in March, 1973, his right reverend colleague the Lord Bishop of Hereford got the answer which he said I gave, that the Government would consider legislation making it an offence to park vehicles on the footway as soon as a suitable opportunity arose. Following on that commitment which I gave, the position was reviewed and discussed with representatives of the Home Office and the police. The outcome of that review is a recommendation that the proposal should not be pursued, for the following reasons.

The most important reason is that local authorities already have powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 to introduce orders banning parking of vehicles on pavements either throughout their areas or on particular problem streets. That is in Section 1 for the country as a whole and Section 6 in the G.L.C. area. We have heard about Radnor Walk. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, did not read us an ode from the Poet Laureate giving us more details about it. There is one point I am slightly surprised about. We have heard that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, are both vice-presidents of the Pedestrians' Association. I am sure your Lordships will find that all these streets have single or double yellow lines down them. Unless the Pedestrians' Association all go rambling after 6.30 at night and before 8.30 in the morning they will not find these streets encumbered with vehicles, because generally where there are yellow lines it is forbidden to park after 8.30 a.m. and before 6.30 p.m., let alone on the pavement. So let us limit what we are discussing to reality. It is during the hours of night or evening or early morning in these very congested streets. Parking on pavements, I have already said, is illegal; local authorities can, if they wish, ban parking on pavements even where there is no restriction on parking in the road, so the powers are available. It is really up to noble Lords, honourable Members in another place and members of the public who feel themselves aggrieved, to make their feelings known to the local authorities who represent them, because they have got the power.

A national ban does not necessarily make sense. The noble Lord, Lord Somers, made a useful point, for which I am grateful, that there are streets with wide pavements and narrow roads where parking on pavements not only helps the traffic flow but contributes towards road safety. There are many cases, such as narrow roads through pre-war council housing estates, where there are no garages, and many cars are parked half on and half off the pavement. The noble Baroness, Lady Northchurch, also made this point, for which I am grateful. In such streets the effect of a national ban would be to cause the local authority to ban parking altogether on the street, or at least down one side of it, which would be unpopular with the residents, or to risk a situation in which the street might become so blocked up by parked cars that access by an emergency vehicle could be delayed. For these reasons the police, who were consulted, were unanimously against this unlimited proposal. The Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act has already made it an offence for lorries to park on pavements except in certain specified and restricted circumstances. These vehicles were, of course, responsible for most of the damage and inconvenience which was done. I cannot help but sympathise with the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. If I understood her aright, she must live in a very grand area where there is room on pavements for double banking, including that of juggernauts.


If I may interrupt the Minister—there is no room; that is the point. The vehicle mounts the pavement irrespective of whether there is room or not. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, before he enlarges his argument too much, that I find it rather pathetic if he thinks that nobody parks on double or single yellow lines because people are all so law-abiding. Let him take a ride down the Kings Road, Chelsea, any night and see how many people obey these laws. With regard to vehicles going on the pavement, the whole point is that drivers do not look to see whether it is narrow or wide. I see now that I have the misfortune to live in a special area.


I said that after 6.30 p.m. and before 8.30 a.m. the single yellow line generally does not apply. I think that reduces the point the noble Baroness is making. I was saying that if during the hours of daylight any car parks on the pavement where there are single or double yellow lines there is obviously an immediate offence. If it is causing an obstruction the police can tow the vehicle away, and the driver can be brought to book and to the courts. I apologise for misunderstanding the noble Baroness about her pavements and double banking. Where double banking obstructs traffic it is already an offence, and where the juggernaut goes on to the pavement, that is already an offence under the Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act.

As with many other matters concerning transport, this is an issue which should be dealt with locally because local authorities understand the local problems. A national ban would restrict the present freedom of these authorities to allow or prohibit parking on pavements according to the needs of the local situation. On this issue, the arguments for local flexibility are strong both from a practical and political point of view. At a time when the emphasis is all on giving local authorities freedom to make their own decisions, this would appear a retrograde step. The right reverend Prelate said to me the other day, when we were discussing matters in general, that he felt local authorities did not use the powers they have, and in situations which cause danger or inconvenience to pedestrians a ban would be appropriate. This is really a matter for local opinion to force the council to act. This does not make it a matter for national legislation because the powers are already there.

However, we can undertake to take the first opportunity of drawing this issue, and the steps which it is open for local authorities to take to deal with it, to the attention of these local authorities. This we are willing to do, and I am willing to give the guarantee that we will do that. I think that the assertion that the pavements are for the people and the roads for the vehicles, although a nice-sounding phrase with popular appeal, is not really a just one. It is a matter that should be dealt with locally, and let us encourage the local authorities, where necessary, to use this power and not use this heavy, sweeping juggernaut of an Amendment to deal with what is a comparatively small problem.


May I tempt the noble Lord to make a reference to the point that I raised? If there is opposition to the Amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate—which, from the speakers who have given their views, appears to find much favour in the House —and the Government resist it and it does not succeed, does it not appear that the danger which may come from parking is in a different category if it is parking on a highway as against parking on a pathway? As is advanced by some, the absence of lighting at night on a parked vehicle in, say, foggy weather, can constitute danger, so is it likely that there would be any classification by the Government so that a vehicle parked on a pathway might be obliged to have lighting but this would not be imposed on a car parked on a highway?


I did not answer the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, because the whole of his speech, which he has re-emphasised, dealt with lighting regulations and not particularly with parking. I can answer any question on parking, but at the moment I am not able to answer him on lighting. If he would put his point on a more appropriate clause, I will answer him.


There seems to be a genuine difficulty over this. I have much sympathy for the right reverend Prelate in his Amendment, and at the same time I have a great deal of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who feels that the Amendment is too ambiguous to be allowed to go through in the way it is. Undoubtedly obstructing footpaths, particularly in towns, is absolutely absurd and something should be done about it. Then there is the point put forward by my noble friend Lord Somers about B roads, or even on some A roads, where a vehicle pulls up on the roadside so that the driver can go into a cottage or a house. In this case he really creates some difficulty, because the road is barely wide enough to take two passing vehicles. There are genuine difficulties on both sides, which perhaps some of us do not fully appreciate. The noble Lord said that the Government have discussed this matter consequent on the promise the noble Lord gave to the right reverend Prelate some time ago. Then he went on to say that, although they had discussed this matter with the local authorities, there was some suggestion of drawing the attention of the local authorities to this difficulty.


Not to the "difficulties"—to their powers.


Surely the difficulties would have arisen during the discussions at that particular time, so how much is that worth? Is there not a genuine difficulty here, and would not the noble Lord agree to look at this matter again to see whether a way can be found to meet these difficulties? This Bill is starting in this House, and before it goes through to the other place surely some thought can be given to all the implications involved, and some regulations devised that would meet the situation and the difficulties that we all know exist. The right reverend Prelate referred to a law of about 130 years ago which governs this type of situation. This law was passed long before motor cars were even thought about. Now, surely, is the time, particularly in view of the pledge that was so specifically given, for some further consideration to be given to defining more exactly the position of the law at the present moment, having in mind both the difficulties for the pedes trian and the difficulties for the motorist. Very often, particularly in some of these B roads, it would be less dangerous to park partly on the footpath than it would to park on the road. On the other hand, on many occasions it is more dangerous to park partly on the footpath rather than wholly on the road. This seems such a simple matter when we talk about it, but the more we get involved, the more difficulties there are. I hope that the Government will agree to have another look at this point before the next stage of the Bill.


On one small point, I think that the right reverend Prelate referred to the Highway Act 1837, but it is in fact the Highway Act 1835. With regard to the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, as to having a further look at this point, it may not be known to most noble Lords that there are at the moment discussions going on with the G.L.C., who are well aware of their powers. But as it is such a complicated matter they are in the process of producing a Private Bill which would have as its purpose the banning of parking on pavements in Greater London. This is being discussed at this moment with various bodies, such as the police, so it may not be necessary for the Government to take any action. We are talking about London, of course.


I appreciate the difficulties about London, but I am thinking of Corner Street in York, which the noble Lord will know. It is a beautiful and narrow street, and I want to preserve its character. As the noble Lord knows full well, it is a common occurrence for heavy vehicles to travel along the footpath the whole way along Corner Street. This does not apply only to London, but to everywhere.


I do not think that the noble Lord has referred to the road safety angle, which is terribly important. When I mentioned tyres, I meant tyres after 5,000 miles of use reaching such a state of imperfection from being continually run over kerbs that they can burst. My noble friend Lord Thomas, who is not here, has also referred to suspension and steering. The local authorities have great powers to look into questions of road safety, and I hope that if any discussions are to take place with the Government as a result of this, attention will also be paid to the road safety angle.


Would the noble Lord the Minister also bear in mind the disadvantage of relying upon local powers in a matter of this kind? Unless we are going to have a notice on every footpath saying whether a motorist can park there or not, then the motorist will not know what the parking conditions are not only in each town, but in each part of the town. That is a chaotic way of operating.


I am very grateful to those noble Lords who have spoken in support of my Amendment. I readily accept that there may be one or two aspects of it that need tidying up, such as something suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Platt, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot. As regards the words in the clause, "without lawful authority…" I understand they were inserted in order to accommodate the

rights of certain local authorities and statutory undertakers who, in certain circumstances, have the right to go on to the footpaths. Generally speaking, I find myself in principle in conflict with what the noble Lord speaking for the Government has said. He is suggesting that in certain circumstances the prerogative of the pedestrian should be invaded by vehicles driving and parking on the footway. I hold that the pedestrian has as much right over the footway as the vehicle has over the highway. I cannot accept that in other than very exceptional circumstances vehicles should be allowed to park on footways. I am very sorry that the noble Lord has not been rather more flexible in his reply to my Amendment. Therefore, I am afraid I have no alternative but to press it.

5.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 26) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 52; Not-Contents, 54.

Airedale, L. Gardiner, L. Ogmore, L.
Auckland, L. Garnsworthy, L. Peddie, L.
Balfour of Inchrye, L. Greenway, L. Phillips, B. [Teller.]
Barnby, L. Hanworth, V. Popplewell, L.
Berkeley, B. Howe, E. Reigate, L.
Birk, B. Hoy, L. St. Davids, V.
Blyton, L. Jacques, L. Segal, L.
Brockway, L. Killearn, L. Shepherd, L.
Brown, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Slater, L.
Champion, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stow Hill, L.
Chorley, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Summerskill, B.
Clwyd, L. London, L. Bp. [Teller.] Swaythling, L.
Collison, L. Loudoun, C. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Conesford, L. Macleod of Borve, B. Ward of Witley, V.
Davies of Leek, L. Maelor, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Erskine of Rerrick, L. Mancroft, L. White, B.
Fiske, L. Milverton, L. Willis, L.
Gaitskell, B.
Aberdare, L. Gowrie, E. [Teller.] Monson, L.
Amory, V. Grantchester, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Annaly, L. Granville of Eye, L. Northchurch, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Grenfell, L. Platt, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Grimston of Westbury, L. Rankeillour, L.
Courtown, E. Hailes, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Craigavon, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Sandford, L.
Crathorne, L. Selkirk, E.
Daventry, V. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Stamp, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Kilmarnock, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Denman, L. Lauderdale, E. Strathspey, L.
Derwent, L. Limerick, E. Teviot, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Long, V. Thomas, L.
Elles, B. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Trevelyan, L.
Elton, L. Mansfield, E. Tweedsmuir, L.
Foot, L. Merrivale, L. Vivian, L.
Garner, L. Molson, L. Windlesham, L. (L. Privy Seal.)
Glasgow, E. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Wise, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 7 [Extension of offences to which fixed penalty procedure and duty to give information apply]:

5.11 p.m.

EARL HOWE moved Amendment No. 27: Page 12, line 38, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Earl said: Paragraph (b) of Clause 7(1) appears to be applying the fixed penalty procedure to contravention of certain orders, involving perhaps reserved bus lanes. Some of these lanes are reserved for taxis and buses only. Instructions to this effect are painted in white on the road surface, and in a low-slung car they are very difficult to read. Few motorists, in my experiences seem to pay much attention to the lanes. They are pushed into them by traffic on their offside going the same way. Drivers are certainly confused by this addition to the multitude of new regulations.

We have heard a great deal about Radnor Walk. I am going to refer for a moment to an experience of mine in Park Lane, at the southern end approaching Hyde Park Corner, on the way to your Lordships' House. I entered a lane which has been a bus lane for some considerable time and which is now, apparently, a taxi and bus lane only, about two-thirds of the way down. I followed two taxis on the understanding that it was a bus lane only because I had not noticed this rather absurd method of painting the distinctive marks on the road. I was stopped by a sergeant plus one at the end of the road, who told me that I had broken the law. I asked him how long this had been an order on the road, and he said for a very short while. This seems to me to be most confusing to motorists. It is very difficult because if you happen to be in a motor car which is of a very low-slung nature (that, I think is the technical term) you cannot see this mark very well. Also, there is the fact that apparently this road is in use as a bus and taxi lane only between the hours of, I think, seven o'clock in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon. I wonder how many motorists actually know that.


It is from four o'clock in the morning to seven o'clock in the evening.


I thank my noble friend for that information. I wonder how many motorists actually know these times. It seems to me that this is adding to the confusion. I do not know whether it is possible to stop this being the subject of a fixed penalty, but in the interests of motorists one should really try to do something about making these signs a little more plain so that they can understand when they may use these lanes and when they cannot use them. These regulations are complicated, and disputes will undoubtedly arise. These disputes will involve our police in extra duties at a time when our police force is rather short in numbers. Having myself had the experience of making a mistake, and being someone who is reasonably observant on the road, I think it must be very difficult for other motorists not to make the same unfortunate mistake.

I am hoping that my noble friend will look rather carefully into this Amendment to delete this paragraph and will reconsider, it may be with his right honourable friend, whether the application of the fixed penalty procedure to bus lanes really is desirable. I beg to move.

5.14 p.m.


I hope that we always consider very carefully Amendments which are put down by any Member of your Lordships' Committee, and certainly my noble friend Lord Howe has accurately described the purpose of this slightly obscurely drafted, but nevertheless correctly drafted, paragraph. Of course, bus lanes are comparatively new, at any rate in this country. It so happens that my knowledge, if it happens to be accurate, about the hours during which the bus lanes in Park Lane operate is derived from my own observation driving what is, I should think, a pretty low-slung car, which I have thankfully now got rid of because it was so low-slung that one could not get in or out of it. I dispute with my noble friend that it is really as difficult as all that for motorists to find out when bus lanes are being used or, indeed, which part of the road is designated as a bus lane. But of course I am entirely in favour of making these lanes as clear as is possible so that people do not by misadventure get into a conflict with the law; and obviously it is right that the local authorities—because this is a matter for local authorities—should do everything they can to mark these bus lanes clearly.

But that is really as far as I go with my noble friend, because there can be no doubt that experience has shown that bus lanes are extremely favourable and useful as a method of speeding up public transport. I remember arguing at great length at the London Development Plan Inquiry how advantageous it would be to have a large increase in the number of bus lanes. Now, indeed, this is coming about, certainly in London, and in other towns as well, and it is found that the lanes speed up public transport and enable it to have the advantage over private traffic which sometimes it otherwise significantly fails to have. It gets blocked up in a great traffic jam and hence people do not find it attractive; then it runs down, so there is a nasty, vicious circle very much to the disadvantage of the people who live in the town. I should have thought that anybody who has studied traffic engineering is by this time likely to be convinced that, as a principle, bus lanes are a good thing.

Now, how do you enforce them? The way to enforce them at the moment is to prosecute a person for an offence. My noble friend said that we need to economise as much as we can on police time. That is another point on which I wholly agree with him. All we are doing is saying that, where you have an offence of this sort created, instead of the policemen actually having to take the case to court and prosecute, we should use the well-established fixed penalty system under Section 80 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act, by adding these bus lane offences to a whole lot of other ones, involving both moving and stationary traffic, to which fixed penalties apply. The offender then gets given his ticket and has to be prosecuted only if he does not pay. This we were discussing the other day. I should have thought that that is highly economical of police time, and is likely to commend itself to the Committee.

I would conclude by saying that I agree with my noble friend that we should make as clear as possible the areas and the times when bus lanes are in operation and other people should keep out; I think that bus lanes are a good thing and should be encouraged; and I would suggest to the Committee—and this is the point of this Amendment—that the fixed penalty system of enforcement is likely to be efficient and economical of the use of the police, and is thoroughly desirable. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree with me in resisting this Amendment.


May I ask the noble Viscount whether it rests with the local authority as to the number of hours per day that a lane is used as a bus lane? (Is it within their discretion to lay down the number of hours? Can they vary the hours?


Yes. These are local matters. They are operated by scheme under the 1967 Act. It would be for the highway authority to say which part of the road is affected; and if there is going to be some time of the day when the road is open to all and some time of the day when it is used by only buses or only buses and taxis, then it is for them to decide on those hours.


I do not think my noble friend, to whom I am grateful for that reply, would expect me to agree with him; otherwise, I should not have moved the Amendment. I still feel that the police will have to stop motorists before they can deal with this fixed penalty.


Yes, they will.


That will obviously involve policemen from time to time in standing at the foot of bus lanes to catch a number of motorists. It will not just be a number of motorists; it will be almost every motorist. Perhaps the noble Viscount does not realise how often this rule is abused. These bus lanes are used continuously by motorists in the same way as the speed limit is always being broken, not only by people outside your Lordships' House but possibly by every Member of this House. It is something that nobody likes to admit. It is breaking the law, but we all do it from time to time. To my way of thinking, more publicity and propaganda are very necessary in this case, and if it is possible to I get the Greater London Council, or whoever is responsible, to give more publicity and propaganda so that the motorist is helped in some way I think that should be encouraged. With those remarks and, as I say, my thanks for the reply, and the fact that I am not very happy about it, with the indulgence of the House I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Duty of local authorities to promote road safety]:

5.21 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 28: Page 13, line 14, after ("shall") insert ("in consultation with the police authority for the area").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment has a quite simple purpose. On the Second Reading when discussing Clause 8, I mentioned that in future there was to be an extension of the duty of local authorities in respect of road safety. Subsection (2A)(a) provides that local authorities: shall carry out investigations into accidents arising out of the use of vehicles on roads or parts of roads, other than trunk roads, within their area; I asked on Second Reading whether it is the case that in future we shall see two bodies, the police and the local authorities, carrying out an indentical investigation into the same accident. To that question the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, did not reply—and I make no complaint of that, for a Minister at the end of a long debate cannot answer every little point raised in a Second Reading debate. If he had replied to us all, on all the little points raised last Thursday, we should have been here until midnight. Fortunately, he did not do so, which gives me the opportunity of raising the matter on Committee.

It seems to me that to have two public bodies having their representatives turning up at the scene of an accident with their notebooks and measuring tapes, viewing the skid marks, if any, and making separate reports to their employers would make a nonsense of both bodies. The Amendment has the simple purpose of ensuring that consultation by the local authority with the police shall take place, and certainly it is our intention that unnecessary duplication shall be avoided. I believe that our Amendment would have that purpose, that it would indeed ensure that these bodies would actually work together in the examination at the scene of an accident, both making separate reports to their authorities, but as the result of a single investigation. I beg to move.


I think I can assuage the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that there will be dual overlapping of purpose in this consultation by local authorities on road safety. It is not envisaged that local authorities should investigate individual accidents as and when they occur. The purpose of the provision is to place a duty on local authorities to investigate accidents which occur repeatedly on roads or parts of roads with a view to identifying a common factor or factors which suggest local remedies of a publicity, road user training or engineering nature. That is what this is intended to do. It in no way duplicates the work of the police. In fact many requests for an in-depth investigation into an accident situation by local authorities are initiated by the police. The starting point for all such investigations can only be the information supplied to the local authorities by the police, so therefore in practice the police will be automatically consulted at the outset. There have previously been many bodies responsible for advising on safety factors. This is placing on the local authorities a statutory duty to take their place and act as a global consultant adviser to take action. I think I can go on further and advise the noble Lord of circulars we have sent out on this matter, but I think I have probably said enough.


I would ask the noble Lord whether I heard aright that the task of investigating repeated accidents was laid on the local authority. Is it not possible that if Clause 8(2A)(a) goes through, some individual who has witnessed an entirely trivial accident of no great importance will be able to insist that the local authority under this part of the clause carries out a detailed investigation?


I do not think that necessarily members of the general public would know who was investigating what. They would see officers there, whether in plain clothes or in uniform. The main point is that the authority concerned will get the information because the police will report to them. If accidents occur more than once at a certain place, the noble Lord will know that it is usually because it is a dangerous area due to some particular facet of that area. It may be, as I have said, an engineering factor, it may be a bad geographical area which gets icy patches; it could be one of many things. This is a road factor which is there to be looked at perhaps as a general purpose. It is not to put onerous duties, or duplicate the work of the police. I do not think that the noble Lord's point would arise in practice.


My noble friend has made it perfectly clear to us that the intention is that the local authorities should not have to investigate each accident. All the same, I am wondering whether anybody reading those words might, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and the noble Lord, Lord Brown, have said, not think otherwise than that a keen local authority's duty was to investigate all accidents. I am wondering whether the addition of a word or two might make the point crystal clear, as my noble friend has said, that that is far from being the intention.


May I ask the noble Viscount: is not the local authority also the police authority? The Act of 1972 defines local authorities which are responsible for the particular section in the 1972 Act. There is no definition here either in England or in Scotland and the subsection, and indeed the "crib" which the Government kindly provided in the Vote Office, indicates that this is probably the county in England and I suppose it is the region in Scotland. But is it not the same as the police authority, or is it supposed that the local authority will have an entirely different organisation which will carry out investigations apart from the police?


I do not think it would always be the case that it is the same authority, though they would often be so because again this is a duty that would make for road safety in general. We are not looking at the particular accident each time. This is a big measure. Up to date there have been two or three and even more advisory bodies on road safety. We are now pulling them together under one hat and the police will continue to advise on this matter. If noble Lords are worried about this, let me read out Circular on Roads 39/73, paragraph 8 which reads: Close co-operation with the police continues to he essential. The police are responsible for inquiring into individual accidents, the control of traffic and enforcement of the law. Local authority accident investigation needs access to police accident records, including the statements of witnesses and those involved in accidents; these are the only sources of clues to some accident factors. Moreover, most local accident problems can only be solved by a mixture of engineering, education and enforcement measures. The police should therefore be associated with the problem solving process. Many police forces are creating traffic management sections and can contribute experience relevant to accident prevention in this field. Given their many contacts with road users the police can also support local authorities' efforts in road safety publicity education and training. The work of local authority staff and that of the police should be planned jointly as an integrated programme. I think that noble Lords are reading too much into this point. I do not envisage, nor do I think that any local authority or the police would envisage, the problems arising which noble Lords have thought out for them.


Will the noble Lord please get a legal interpretation of the words, shall carry out investigations into accidents."? I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that those words might be interpreted as meaning every accident. It might not be interpreted, as the noble Lord suggests, as repeated accidents. Here we are dealing with the law and it is no use reading out general comments and instructions to the police. The courts will interpret these words and I am afraid that they may interpret them in an unfortunate manner. Surely this is worthy of a little further investigation.


I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Brown, that I shall get a legal interpretation. So far as I understand it from my notes, the fact that the police will be supplying the local authority with detailed information and statements of facts and figures —information about skid marks, et cetera—will enable the local authority to fulfil its function. But I will certainly do what the noble Lord asks.


I should have thought from what my noble friend has said that his interpretations are precisely what was meant by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, when he referred to consultation with the police.


It is clear that there is a function laid on local authorities, but have the Committee taken account of the fact that as the highways authorities local authorities are expected to increase and enhance their safety devices? Purposely this Bill excludes trunk roads, but the highway authority may be laying gas mains or dealing with subsidence which may occur suddenly in a road in a mining area. If there is a sudden subsidence that may cause a major accident it should be taken into account that the local authority, as the highway authority, will keep in consultation with the local police and will make major efforts, when digging holes or where earthworks are involved, to see that the road is properly defined and that everything necessary to prevent an accident is done. I think it would be their normal duty to consult the police and I see nothing wrong in accepting the phraseology of my noble friend.


If I understood my noble friend aright, the local authority will consult the police; indeed, a local authority is obliged to do so. I cannot see any objection to putting in these words again. If an authority is already obliged to do that, why not emphasise the fact in this paragraph?


If the Amendment were accepted it would limit consultation with the police to the investigation process. In fact their interest extends to remedial measures, so the Amendment would not have the effect that the noble Lord intends.


The circular which the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton read out was issued before this Bill was presented to us. I think we have to try to make perfectly clear the intention explained by the noble Lord. It is obvious that a number of noble Lords have some doubts about this matter. While we accept that the Government's intention is absolutely right, it seems to us—certainly to me, and I am sure also to the noble Viscount, Lord Amory—that the instruction in the clause as it stands is mandatory. The word "shall" is used. I am strongly of the opinion that the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, ought to tell us that he will consider with his right honourable friend the possibility of importing words into the Bill to make the intention perfectly clear; words that will prevent us from thinking that the whole thing is to be mandatory on local authorities and that they might carry out a duplicate investigation, which would be a shocking waste of manpower. If the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, is prepared to give an undertaking that he will consider it, I will seek leave to withdraw the Amendment. I do not ask for an undertaking that he will come back with an Amendment. All I seek is that he should give the matter further consideration, with his right honourable friend, in the light of the discussion that has taken place.


I should like to support what has been said. Let us be clear about what procedure will be adopted when an accident takes place. It is the duty of those involved to report the accident to the police. It is the duty of the police to make an inquiry to see whether anyone has been guilty of an offence. They come to the scene of the accident as soon as possible to carry out an investigation. The purpose of this clause is that the local authority also shall make an investigation in order to satisfy themselves that there is not some defect in the road, or lack of warning, or something of that kind, which has either caused or contributed to the accident. The local authority have no machinery for making the necessary inquiry about exactly how the accident happened. That is carried out by the police who arrive on the scene as soon as possible. Clearly, it would be undesirable and unsatisfactory if two entirely different investigations were carried out, and the investigation by the local authority would almost certainly be unsatisfactory unless the authority obtained information from the policeman who was first on the spot about how the accident happened.

I see no reason at all why it should not be an obligation on a local authority to carry out an investigation into the state of the road in consultation with the police. I have no doubt that in nine cases out of ten they would do so. I see no reason why Parliament should not indicate that in the view of Parliament that is the only way in which it could properly be done; and that to hold two entirely separate investigations into the same accident, one to ascertain the responsibility of individuals involved and the other to find out whether there was some defect in the road surface, would he a waste of effort and not likely to be satisfactory in the outcome. Therefore I see no reason why such a provision should not be incorporated in the Bill. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has suggested, my noble friend will say that he will look into the matter sympathetically, with a view to inserting something of this kind into the clause on Report stage, I feel that he would be taking a wise course.


I think that we are all at one in knowing what we want. I have already given an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Brown, that I will look at this from the point of view of seeing that a local authority do not have to go to the scene of an accident every time one occurs. I will of course give an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and to my noble friend Lord Molson, that I will see whether we can either convince noble Lords that what they are asking for is in the Bill already, or, if necessary, add something to the Bill. I will certainly give an undertaking to look at it.


I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, for that undertaking and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.40 p.m.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved Amendment No. 29: Page 13, line 16, after first ("roads") insert ("including level crossings").

The noble Earl said: Three or four years ago I asked a Question of the Government—not the present Government, but the previous Government—as to whether the railway company had any obligation to keep local authorities informed in the event of an accident taking place. I was informed that they had no obligation, and that if the local authority inquired of the railway company they could reply as briefly as they saw fit because some accidents might be concerned only with the railway. We are now putting an obligation on the local authority to investigate, and the noble Lord has said that they have to draw their investigating information from the police. In the event of an accident on a level crossing, they will have to draw the information from the railway company. It seems to me that it should be made absolutely clear that the railway company should inform them fully of what the information is.

The only Road Traffic Act that has been passed since I asked that Question is the 1972 Act. I have looked through that Act, and there is no reference to level crossings or, indeed, to any obligation on the part of the railway company. Whether there is some general clause which can be interpreted to cover this point, I do not know; I have been unable to find it.

I put this Amendment forward because I think it is important that in respect of the remaining level crossings in this country—and there are still too many—local authorities should have full authority to get the information they require. It is only when they get it that they can form a judgment as to whether the engineering of the highway for which they are responsible can be in any way improved or altered so as to make such an accident less likely to take place. I beg to move.


I should like to support the noble Earl on this Amendment. In the North Staffordshire area within the last two or three years there was a terrible level crossing accident because of the slow speed of a huge lorry crossing the inter-city express road. There was enormous damage and death. We are going to re-invest money in the railways, and I can think of country railway lines in beautiful parts of Britain, Wales, Scotland and England included, that have not been used much up to now, but which may be used much more in the future. Consequently, the noble Earl's Amendment may be one that will improve the Bill if it becomes an Act. Without expanding on my argument, because it is almost self-evident, I have pleasure in supporting this Amendment.


Before I answer the noble Earl, I should like to inform him that the definition of "road" in Section 196(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1972 is considered to include level crossings over which the road passes. Therefore technically the Amendment is unnecessary. But if I may expand a little, under the proposed provision a local authority could investigate an accident on a level crossing. In doing so they would need to consult the Railways Board about the latter's statutory responsibilities for the crossing, including any stemming from order made under Section 66 of the British Transport Commission Act 1957 and Section 124 of the Transport Act 1968. If the Department considered that the action taken by the local authority was inapproriate, the Secretary of State could exercise powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967 to have removed, for example, normal road traffic signals installed at the approaches to level crossings.

In practice, this is academic, because it is not envisaged that local authorities should inquire into individual accidents as and when they occur. The purpose of the present provision is to place a duty on local authorities to examine the accidents which occur repeatedly on certain roads or parts of roads, in order to identify any common factors which suggest local remedies of a publicity, road user training or engineering nature. The investigations carried out by local authorities in no way duplicates the work of the police or other bodies such as the D.O.E. Railway Inspectorate—and this is the point that I think the noble Earl was really fishing for. The clause simply places an obligation on local authorities to carry out work which they already do in some measure under existing permissive powers.

I hope that the noble Earl will think that I have explained this sufficiently.


I do not feel much enlightened, I must admit, by the explanation that I have received. It is said that local authorities will not inquire into accidents. But this is part of their duty. I do not know what Section 196 does, but I should have thought that it was their duty to do this. The noble Lord is suggesting that it is only a matter of interest to the local authority when accidents repeatedly take place. I do not think this is an interpretation that can fairly be put on it. An accident may take place, and as a result it may be clear that certain engineering works should be carried out. There may be one accident on a level crossing, and it may well be clear that some engineering work could have made it less likely to occur. If the local authority are to do their job properly, then I should have thought they were entitled to information from the railway company. From what the noble Lord has said, I am not at all clear whether that is so. If the noble Lord says that they are entitled to information, I am content; if they are not entitled to information, then I am not content.


I thought I made it clear what their duty is in regard to investigating, and that they would get information from the railway inspectors.


I take it that the railway inspectors are obliged to inform the local authority as to the details of the accident, and in that case I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.48 p.m.

THE EARL OF SELKIRK moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 13, line 28, at end insert— () shall ensure that adequate and correct traffic signs and signals are provided; and")

The noble Earl said: I suppose, in a sense, this must be regarded as an inquiring Amendment to see what the Government have in mind and what is the intention behind this provision. I have included here quite specifically, because I think it is most important, the whole matter of traffic signs and controls. I do so because I believe that the basis of safety on the road is discipline, and one of the ways of having discipline is clarity and correctness of signs. One of the dangers that we face to-day is that of incorrect signs; signs which are left standing on the road when the particular purpose of the sign is no longer necessary. What is the result of this? The result is that people take little, if any, notice the next time that they see the sign. I agree that there has been an improvement in recent years, but there are still far too many incorrect signs erected.

Secondly, I say that signs should be clear and adequate. They are not always clear, and they are not always adequate. We have at the present time something like five or six different speed limits. If they are to be enforced, they should be clear—and (may I say?) they should be cleaner in certain places—and spaced more frequently so that there should be no dubiety in the mind of the driver as to whether or not he is exceeding the speed limit. In fact, there is dubiety. Coming to London, I am certainly dubious on occasions as to which particular section I am in.

I mention, further, the subject of white lines on the road. I am wholly in favour of a double white line. I am very doubtful about the white line which is broken on one side or the other. I would say (and my noble friend Lord Monck referred to this on Second Reading, although because of lack of time it was not answered) that in many cases the broken line is a temptation to pass when there is really not adequate room to do so. I would say that, on the whole, the broken white line is set at too low a standard. I say this because I want to know who has the responsibility. Is it the responsibility of local authorities? If so, do they work it out properly? Or is it the responsibility of some other organisation? Is it left to them to form their judgments as to what in point of fact is right or wrong? I refer here to the broken white line and the general clarity of signs. Quite recently I have seen an arrow pointing the wrong way round a roundabout. That has remained there for a matter of weeks and it must of itself be dangerous. Who carries the responsibility for that? I want these words to be put in here to make it abundantly clear that the local authority does carry this particular responsibility. I beg to move.


I should like to support this Amendment, which I consider to be an important one. In doing so, I would draw attention to a fact that follows as a rider to it: I refer not only to the provision of signs but to the need to see that they are not obliterated, in the Springtime, for example, by the overgrowth of luxuriant vegetation from trees. This may seem comic to some people, but it could be of fundamental importance to a driver who is a stranger in a particular area where signs may be obliterated because trees have not been trimmed—of course I do not suggest that they should be cut down. There is another point. As one who drives thousands of miles over the roads of Britain, like many of your Lordships, I would say that nothing could be more exasperating or more dangerous than when road contractors do not take the trouble to remove from the roadway at night many of their signs and some of their dangerous machinery. This should be made compulsory, because the motorist gets into enough trouble for the slightest accident. If he is brought before anybody he is always the victim, and sometimes one is inclined to bring an action against the police, the road authority, or road contractors, because they themselves create hazards. In putting this Amendment down, the noble Earl has drawn attention to the importance of this matter. It is, as he said, a searching Amendment and I shall listen with interest to what the noble Lord has to say in reply.

Finally, I should like to draw attention to a quirk in driving. I myself nearly lost my life through driving through a red light. I was a complete stranger to the particular road and I said to my wife who was with me, "What on earth is the matter with everybody?". She told me that I was in the wrong because I had driven through a red light. Actually, I thought I had seen a green light—but the green light was the reflection of a large green bottle in a chemist's shop which was in a direct line with the red light. I saw that 25 yards beforehand and I drove straight through what was in fact a red light. This is a quirk, and one cannot allow for it; but it just shows that the plethora of signs we have to-day sometimes bewitches, befogs and befuddles a driver rather than helps him. With all respect and gratitude to the Road Research Laboratory, there is still a need for research in depth into the hazards faced by modern drivers.


The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has clearly justified, I suggest, an addition to this Amendment of words such as "and kept free from visual obstruction". There is the additional point of overgrown verges, because these can lead to great danger. At this time of year when farmers are trimming hedges because they cannot get on to the land and do other work, a driver may come to a sharp corner but it will not be dangerous because he can see round the corner over the low hedge and short grass. But come the summer-time, when the hedge has grown and the grass is probably waist high, the driver will come to what is, in his memory, a very safe bend; and then he will find he cannot see one yard round it.


There is another circumstance, which is not quite as startling as the one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, but it is a rather more frequent occurrence. That is a situation when you are driving along a piece of road that is treated with a double line system which, without warning, suddenly becomes the subject of a single line system. Under one system you have a dotted line on your right which means you may overtake when it is safe, and shortly afterwards you find a similar line, not backed up by another one, which means that you are approaching a hazard and you should say on the side of the road where you already are. In daylight and times of clear visibility, this is a condition one can cope with quite easily; but it is dangerous in fog. I wonder whether it would be possible, in reviewing the clarity of road signs, to establish some uniformity or a code of practice which would ensure that one stretch of road is treated in the same manner throughout its length, or that one standard of road throughout the country is treated in the same manner, or otherwise that some indication should be given of the end of the double-line section when one is approaching the single-line section. At present this system can be quite dangerous.


I entirely support the terms of the Amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, particularly as regards the cleanliness of signs. This is something which is constantly overlooked, whether it is the responsibility of local authorities or of central Government. There is also the fact that signs are often completely hidden by overgrown bushes and similar things. Often nothing is done about this. From my experience of road traffic matters, a road—whether it be a principal road or a B or C class road—is the responsibility of a particular authority. I should like to stress the importance of an Amendment of this nature, particularly when it relates to the cleanliness of signs.


Little has been said on this subject with which I could disagree. I would totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, that this would be an important Amendment, if it were necessary; but I shall hope to show to your Lordships that it is not in fact necessary, because the clause, as we have heard, requires local authorities to take such measures as they think will prevent accidents. These measures include those taken in the exercise of their powers for controlling, protecting and assisting the movement of traffic on roads. These words embrace the use of traffic signs and signals. If necessary, this can be emphasised in a circular to local authorities when the legislation comes into effect. Local authorities already have powers to provide such signs and signals, and these must conform to the designs prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1967, or as otherwise authorised. The provision and siting of such signs and signals is regulated by the comprehensive advice arising out of the above Act and issued to local authorities by the Department. The Secretary of State also has power to direct that specific signs be provided or removed.

This clause puts the onus on local authorities and now that they will be bearing the sole responsibility for dealing with road safety, draws attention to the fact that they will be giving much more of their time to these matters. Cleanliness of signs is obviously of prime importance. Similarly, in a case such as that which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, drew to our attention, of a confusing sign, the local authority has power to persuade the offending chemist that he is unwittingly causing danger to the public. My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked which roads were concerned, It is of course all roads except trunk roads and motorways. In reply to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Elton, the Minister may lay down standards for what local authorities should do. The same point arises on verges. I think my noble friend will accept that the Ministry roads are very well looked after, and it is only in a few country districts in the winter, when tractors are passing, that verges get somewhat blurred. During the post-war period there have been periods of "Stop-Go" and verges have sometimes suffered—for instance, some of the nice white stones that would have been placed alongside a bend are not always there. Those are some of the things that have suffered. I agree that these things are important, and this clause is designed to bring them to the attention of local authorities.


I am grateful to my noble friend. I take it that this clause makes no change whatever in the responsibility of the local authority for dealing with the signs and the engineering on roads. Is that correct?


It merely puts the onus on them. They must not wait for other safety bodies to advise them. The onus is put fairly and squarely on them to advise in their own areas.


To which local authorities is reference made here? In subsection (2)(a) a duty is placed on each local authority. Does that mean the counties and districts, or only the counties? Does it mean the regions and districts in Scotland? In Section 38 of the 1972 Act it is clearly placed on the counties. Is there any alteration?


It will be the authority which is responsible for road matters in that area. It will probably be the first tier one.


As it is in the 1972 Act, could we not say what the authorities are? I take it that my noble friend is referring to counties and districts. If that is true, that is a change.


I should like to take this point away with me and possibly write to my noble friend. If necessary we can consider whether it needs specifying further.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 agreed to.

6.2 p.m.

LORD AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 31: After Clause 8 insert the following new clause:

Driver of motor vehicle to report damage to roadside wall etc. caused by his vehicle

(". The driver of a motor vehicle who causes damage to a roadside wall, hedge or fence shall report the accident at a police station or to a police constable as soon as reasonably practical, and in any case within twenty-four hours of the occurrence thereof.").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Henley I beg leave to move the Amendment standing in his name. This is to introduce a new clause to make it the duty of a driver to report damage done to roadside walls, and so on, in the same way that he is already under a duty to report injury to people or animals. We know we are under some difficulty because my noble friend moved a similar Amendment at the Committee stage of the Animals Bill in November 1970. As my noble friend explained to your Lordships (and this is reported in Hansard of November 12, 1970, at column 897), the then Ministry of Transport had given it as their opinion that the matter was not suitable for a Road Traffic Bill since such Bills dealt with traffic on the roads but not with traffic which had trespassed off the road on to private land. They also said it was not suitable for a highways Bill, because that would deal with highways but not with traffic on or off the road. So one wonders to what Bill this would be pertinent. Perhaps it would be pertinent to a revision of our law of trespass. One wonders how long will elapse before we get round to that matter and how many walls are going to be damaged by motorists in the meantime.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor replied in that debate to my noble friend. He quoted a letter to the Lord Chancellor from the Home Secretary in which the Home Secretary said that he was doubtful whether the advantages that would accrue from implementing the suggestion would be worth the price of extra enforcement and reporting burdens that would be placed upon the police. I must confess that I do not understand that argument at all. The police surely are going to allocate their resources according to the seriousness of an incident when a roadside wall has been damaged. Surely it is going to save the police time and not increase it if the offending otorist is under a duty, on pain of con mitting a criminal offence, to go to the police and admit he is responsible for doing that damage. I do not understand the argument and I hope that we shall not hear it again this afternoon.

This Amendment is too narrow; it would be rather absurd to make it necessary for a motorist to report the damage to a roadside wall but not necessary to make a report if he charged into somebody's roadside cottage. Perhaps the appropriate words should be, "substantial damage to property". If noble Lords do not like the word "substantial" and say, "How do you define that?", the answer is that the courts would define it. Knocking two stones off the top of a wall would not be substantial damage. But if you made a great hole in a wall so that animals could escape on to the highway that would be substantial damage.

I am aware that this new clause carries no sanctions. There ought to be another subsection making it an offence not to report damage, and we would need a penalty. But that, no doubt, could be added at a later stage. I have criticised my own Amendment sufficiently to make it no more than a peg upon which to hang the argument that I have advanced. It is now time to compel drivers to report damage to property as well as injury to persons and animals. I beg to move.


On a number of occasions we have been urged to introduce this requirement on motorists to report damage to roadside property. I well remember the amount of time we spent on this subject during the passage of the Animals Bill, and what my noble and learned friend said in that debate. After that occasion the proposal was examined very thoroughly. I fear that I have to inform the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that no way was found of overcoming the practical difficulties of enforcing such a law. In 1971 the Home Office, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, discussed this problem in detail with the National Farmers' Union. The main objections to requiring motorists to report damage to roadside walls, hedges and fences to the police are, as the noble Lord suggested, that damage occurs very often in remote rural areas with no witnesses. Such a law would be virtually impossible to enforce and would probably be widely disregarded. There would be considerable difficulty in defining the necessary distinction between serious and trivial damage. The noble Lord suggests the word "substantial". One understands that heavy walls are substantial, but if you tear up a hedge it would be hard to define the damage. I agree that is a point for the courts.

In reporting damage, motorists might not be able to identify clearly the location of property, especially in rural areas and if the incident took place at night. The police would frequently have great difficulty in discovering the owner of the damaged property in such circumstances. It would be anomalous to single out only walls, hedges and fences when all other roadside property, such as lamp posts and traffic signs, are similarly at risk. It would be equally anomalous to single out motorists, who are by no means the only members of the public who damage walls, hedges and fences. Landowners would not derive much benefit from a law that would be so difficult to enforce and with which it would be so difficult to comply. If there are witnesses to a particular accident or incident the owner already has a civil remedy. Under the present law motorists must stop if they are involved in an accident, with another person being injured. If one goes on increasing the matters that have to be reported to the police it will not help the law at all. I do not think that this clause would have any practical effect.


The noble Lord is dismissing the possible benefits of this Amendment rather too lightly. Everybody in the Committee will agree that if there is no witness to the accident then it will not do a great deal of good; but suppose there is a witness then, as the noble Lord said, the person whose property is damaged has a common law claim. I wonder whether the noble Lord has ever been, as I have, in the position of witnessing damage to his own property. Somebody smashes the gate in and one says to the individual, "You will have to pay up". He lives 300 miles away, and one is left with the prospect of bringing a common law claim which will cost a good deal more than putting right the damage that has been done. He is an irresponsible person, and he says, "To blazes with you," and drives off. If that person had to report the incident to the police that would at least be a deterrent and would cause him to think much more seriously about the course he was taking. The incident might have led to a prosecution by the police for dangerous driving. There is a deterrent value in an Amendment of this kind. Of course it does not help the case in regard to damage to property if there has been no witness, but it certainly helps the case where there are witnesses and it relieves the individual of the onerous business of making a common law claim, which he probably will not do. In view of the amount of irresponsible damage that is done by a tiny minority, I think this Amendment might help as a deterrent in future.


I should like to support this Amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Brown, I too am a sufferer. In the summer, on the main Glasgow road which runs through my land, nearly every day somebody goes through a fence or a wall and, as the noble Lord has just said, it is often almost impossible to catch the culprit, and if you do catch him it is extremely difficult to pin him down. I think that walls, fences and hedges constitute quite a sensible definition because in nearly every case these are the means of enclosing the stock. If you knock down a lamp post you are not actually letting sheep out. I should like very strongly to support this Amendment because I think it is most necessary.


I listened with care to the reasons given by the Minister for opposing this Amendment, and as I did so it passed through my mind that every one of the reasons which he gave for objecting to the Amendment could equally well be applied to the law that there is a duty upon a motorist who is involved in an accident in which an animal is injured, to report the matter to the police. Every one of the arguments given by the noble Lord could be used equally to justify the rescission of the existing law, which has been in existence for quite a long time, that where a motorist is involved in an accident with an animal and the animal is injured, he is under a duty to report it within 24 hours.

What were the arguments advanced by the noble Lord? First, he said that it is virtually impossible to enforce the requirement. It is no more impossible to enforce a requirement that a person who has damaged a wall shall report it to the police than it is to enforce the requirement that a person who is involved in an accident with an animal shall inform the police. Indeed, one would think perhaps that it was more difficult to enforce the law regarding injury to the animal because the animal is a moving object whereas the wall, after all, is stationary.

The second argument adduced by the Minister was that it is difficult to distinguish between the serious and the trivial injury. I do not see why we should try to make a distinction between serious and trivial injury. I do not see why one should not accept the Amendment as it stands and say that one must report any damage. After all, if you are involved in an accident with an animal although the injury may be trivial you are still required to report it under the present law.

The third argument adduced was that it might be difficult at times to identify the place where the damage to the hedge or wall occurred. How much more difficult it is to identify the location of an accident to an animal. After all, the animal may be only slightly injured and may run off. It would not be possible to identify such a location. Then the fourth argument was that it was anomalous to single out motorists because other people also damage walls and fences. So may other people do damage to a dog: they may run over it with a cart, I suppose. There are all sorts of ways in which one can damage an animal, and there are all sorts of ways in which one can damage a wall. So this would not be singling out motorists any more than they are singled out in the case of injury to an animal.

Therefore, all the arguments advanced by the noble Lord against this Amendment are arguments for the rescission of the existing law, by which we require that damage done to animals shall be reported by the driver to the police. If it is right that there are no other arguments against it, how can the Government continue to adopt this anomalous position of saying that it is right in the case of animals but wrong in the case of property?


I assure the noble Lord, Lord Brown, and the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, that I too am a sufferer. I have some land through which runs the A.94 Aberdeen-Perth road. The road is straight as it passes my land, and if conditions are icy very often one of the speeding vehicles crashes into something. For instance, I have a lodge which has suffered damage on many occasions. Curiously enough, the more serious the damage done the more likely I am to discover who has done it because he has probably injured himself, and in due course the insurance company pays up. What I find so particularly annoying is the person who consciously damages a hedge. For instance, with a field of roots or stubble or corn without stock a driver, seeing a hedge which is not particularly substantial, solemnly backs his motor car through and spends five or ten minutes, or even half an hour in the field, and then drives off. He has completely wrecked that hedge for a little while, and it is very frustrating. Therefore I have sympathy with the points which have been raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Foot, has rather shaken me because I cannot see the fault in his argument about the animals' being injured and having to report such an accident within twenty-four hours. Indeed, I find this is similar to the provision which we have here and, because of what he has said, I should like to consider this and to find out what my right honourable friend has to say on that point. Without putting any onus on the other side in regard to putting this Amendment down again at the next stage, I should be grateful if they would enable me to check on this point.


I am grateful to the noble Lords who have supported this Amendment. I do not think it would be right for me to try to take it to a Division now because I have already criticised it as being not entirely satisfactory as it stands. If the Minister will go to his right honourable friend and will express this doubt; if he will say to him that it is nonsense to maintain the law as regards reporting injuries to animals (one thinks of the difficulty of tracing a motorist who kills a sheep on the roads in the Highlands of Scotland); that if the law in regard to animals is enforceable it surely could be equally enforceable with regard to roadside walls, and so on: if the Minister will consult his right honourable friend and will put that point forward, perhaps we shall be able to get somewhere, if not at the Report stage then before very long; because I have found that in your Lordships' House if one has a good point, and one goes on and on pressing it, sooner or later the law is changed. But for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I have to announce that in Division No. 1, early this afternoon, the figures for the Not-Contents should have been 53 and not 54.

Clauses 9 and 10 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Extention of prohibition on dealing in unroadworthy vehicles]:

LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON moved Amendment No. 32: Page 17, line 30, after ("is") insert ("or is likely to be").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Aberdare, I beg to move this drafting Amendment to identify more precisely the scope of the particular Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations, contravention of which makes a vehicle unroadworthy for the purpose of Section 60 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 which has a ban on the sale of unroadworthy vehicles. The Amendment brings the description of the Regulation precisely into line with Regulation 90 which is intended to act as the existing list.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

6.21 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 33:

Page 17, line 30, at end insert— (" () After subsection (1) of that section there shall be inserted the following subsection:— (1A) Subject to the provisions of this section it shall not be lawful to sell or to supply or to offer to sell or supply or expose for sale any motor vehicle in respect of which there has not been issued a valid test certificate pursuant to the provisions of section 44 of this Act." ")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment anticipates at some time changes in the Ministry of Transport certification system. The sole intention here is to provide that any used motor car should have a valid test certificate. Too often, used motor cars are offered for sale without such a certificate, more particularly with a certificate that could become out-of-date before a sale is completed, in which case, of course, the buyer has to make necessary arrangements to get it tested. Section 61 of the 1972 Act provides that the Department's inspectors can examine any motor vehicle offered for sale at any premises. If such an inspection should take place, we arrive at a situation where the roadworthiness is the subject of an inspector's opinion, whereas if the valid test certificate is attached to the motor vehicle, it shows clearly to the intending purchaser that at a certain and particular time—any time within twelve months—the motor car was, according to the examiner, sufficiently fit for the purpose. This would have two advantages: it would provide initially some consumer protection, and secondly, would ensure that there can be no possible reason for supposing that a vehicle is being offered or exposed to sale by virtue of there being a certificate immediately available. I beg to move.


Testing vehicles on change of ownership has been proposed many times in the past. It has many attractions. It might well improve the protection of the consumer, and would probably reduce the cost which the present testing scheme imposes on the car owner. It would probably enable the testing scheme to concentrate on cars used more extensively in their early life than at present is the case. However, the proposal suffers from two very great disadvantages: first, the M.O.T. test is designed to concentrate on the items vital for road safety. It does not offer any check on the other aspects of the vehicle. There is a good deal of evidence that consumers are often misled into believing that an M.O.T. certificate is evidence of the general good condition of the vehicle. If we add a legal requirement that a test certificate should be produced at the time of sale, it would be more likely to increase this belief to a certain extent than otherwise. Secondly, a large proportion of the existing authorised examiners are themselves dealers in second-hand cars.

Because of complaints about discrepant standards, the Minister for the Transport Industries has instituted an inquiry into ways of ensuring higher and more uniform standards in the test, the results of which are expected soon. To introduce change of ownership and testing by dealers able to certify the roadworthiness of cars they are selling, before the structure of the testing system and the method of supervision has been revised and has been shown to be working more efficiently, would worsen the present problem. Nevertheless, the Minister for the Transport Industries is considering this in the context of the general review of the M.O.T. testing scheme. Change of ownership testing cannot be introduced, however, until it is clear there is greater benefit to be obtained from it than the cost and other disadvantages, such as public confusion about the meaning of the word "certificate". That the public would accept a change is another point; they would expect there to be in existence a system of ensuring high and uniform standards more effective than the present. These conditions are not yet fulfilled and legislation for the proposals would be premature.

There is one last point. The drafting of this Amendment is defective, because it would apply to all motor vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles and buses, for which the M.O.T. test is not appropriate. It would also apply to cars in the first three years of their lives, during which period the test does not apply at all. The wording would seem to allow one certificate to do duty for this purpose throughout the life of the vehicle. In the light of what I have said, and of the view of my right honourable friend, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his Amendment.


The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, said the Department are now considering the sale of second-hand vehicles. I wonder whether that consideration will end in time to get something included in this Bill before it leaves either this place or the other place. I am bound to say there is considerable merit in the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I recognise the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, has mentioned, particularly the fact that some vehicles are sold within the first three years when no test certificate would apply to them. That is a demerit in the drafting of the Amendment. But it does not alter the fact that this is something which must receive serious consideration. I would urge upon the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, that he brings to the notice of the Department, and of course of his right honourable friend, that there ought to be something on the lines of the noble Lord's Amendment before this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament. I can well understand that for the moment the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth will withdraw his Amendment—at least, I imagine he will. Nevertheless I think our feeling on this matter ought to go from this House.


I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, will forgive me for interrupting now and making a second intervention from this side of the House. But he did say—or at least I understood him to say—that the test was not a test of the general condition of the vehicle, but a test of its roadworthiness. I am a little puzzled. What is the difference? If it is not roadworthy, surely it is not in good general condition.


The test concentrates on one or two vital things, like brakes or lights. The general roadworthiness of the vehicle would include things like rusty chassis not necessarily covered by this.


I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton for making yet a third intervention from this side of the House. While being im- pressed by the merit of the Amendment, I can equally recognise the difficulty of the Minister. Does the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, appreciate that one of the difficulties in legislation is finding time? If we miss this opportunity we may have to wait a number of years before another opportunity arises? Would the Minister consider whether a clause could be put into the Bill that would give the Minister power by regulation to bring in some form of regulations which the noble Lord has in mind? This would give flexibility. It would avoid delay until the Government have an opportunity of introducing a new piece of legislation.


I take the noble Lord's point on the timing of the matter. I do not know how far we are away from the production of this thing which I have been talking about. If there are regulations which could be introduced without a Bill, I will have talks with my right honourable friend; and then, if I can come back to the noble Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, before Report stage—and I hope to do it in a matter of days rather than weeks—to tell them what I have found out, I will do so.


I am grateful to my noble friend for his answer. I must confess that I had not anticipated quite the support for the intention behind my Amendment that has been evidenced. I accepted certain imperfections in the wording of the Amendment in the hope that should the Government see merit in it they would tidy it up. My noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu also asked me to ensure that, in considering this Amendment, vehicles of historic and antiquarian value would be exempted, because such vehicles had possibly never been put on the road, although they might have been sold at auction or in showrooms. I am grateful to my noble friend for telling us that the whole position of Ministry of Transport tests is under review. Your Lordships will know that I have been very keen that a number of other matters should be included in the tests. I cannot see that too much time should be allowed to pass before such changes in these regulations are brought about. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for guiding me along the path of this Amendment, and in the circumstances which have been explained to me by my noble friend, I now beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.32 p.m.

LORD STOW HILL moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 18, line 3, at end insert: ("(6) Section 60 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 as amended by this section shall have no application to a person who sells or supplies or offers to sell or supply or who disposes by way of part exchange of a motor vehicle used by him for private domestic pleasure or professional purposes to a person who conducts or is concerned with the management of a business which consists of or includes the sale of motor vehicles to the public and who acquires the motor vehicle in the course of such a business.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is, in a sense, linked with the Amendment which your Lordships have just been considering. It is designed to raise with Ministers the position of the owner of an ordinary private motor car, the ordinary private owner who has used it for his ordinary private purposes and the private purposes of his family, and who wishes to acquire a new car. I suppose that over and over again a private owner goes to a motor dealer, a showroom, and selects a new car that he wishes to purchase. In the course of the transaction he trades in the vehicle which he has been using, perhaps for some years. The question which I desire to raise with Ministers is what is the position of such a person in the light of Section 60 of the Road Traffic Act 1972.

It may be that I have misunderstood the position, but if I have understood it correctly it is as follows. Under Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1972, the Secretary of State is given a wide regulation-making power; and he can by regulation prescribe requirements as to motor vehicles that are sold, their equipment and particular parts of their equipment. Section 60 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 makes it a criminal offence to sell or to offer for sale a motor vehicle which does not comply with the requirements contained in any such regulations. Clause 11 of this Bill enlarges the obligation which is placed upon the proposing seller of a motor vehicle, because it includes among the obligations that the motor vehicle must conform to an obligation (to be imposed, I suppose, by one of the regulations made under Section 40 of the 1972 Act), as respects the maintenance of vehicles, their parts and accessories in such a condition that no danger is caused". If I have understood the position correctly, therefore, it is this: that, supposing you have a regulation which requires that a vehicle and its equipment, or parts of its equipment, are to be maintained in such a condition that they will not cause danger, and you sell a motor vehicle which does not comply with that requirement, you commit a criminal offence.

I can well understand that such a criminal provision can be placed upon persons who carry on a business which consists in the sale of motor vehicles, and in particular I can well understand that such an obligation should be put upon persons who in the course of business—motor manufacturers, motor dealers, motor distributors and so on—sell heavy motor vehicles, motor vehicles which, if not kept in a satisfactory condition of maintenance, can cause considerable danger to other road users. But is that really a satisfactory state of the law so far as the ordinary private owner is concerned?

One takes the countless families who have a motor car. They are not people who exchange a motor car every year. It is a motor car of a modest character. They have had it perhaps for two, three, four or five years. They have used it perfectly reasonably. At the end of that period they think they ought to trade it in, to use the familiar expression, and buy a new motor vehicle, because it is beginning to wear out. The ordinary private owner of a car may in those circumstances trade in his family car, which he uses entirely for private family purposes. The brakes in that car may be fairly badly worn; the steering of that car may be worn. The owner may have had no sort of indication that it is so worn that with a little more use it may cease to function, collapse; that the brakes may go, or the steering may go. The car, without his knowing it or having any reason to know it, may be precisely in that condition.

When he takes it, quite unsuspectingly, to the dealer's showroom and selects his new car, he asks the dealer what he will give him in part exchange for his old car. The transaction is entered into, and the old car is traded in by way of part exchange for the new car. I may have misunderstood the effect of these sections, but if I have understood them correctly, if he does that, and if the car that he trades in can be said to be at the time a car which as regards the maintenance of its parts and accessories is in such condition that danger could be caused by it (and those words would certainly be true of the car I have just instanced, the steering of which may go or the brakes of which may go) although he may not know it, may be entirely ignorant of the defects of the car, the fact that it has reached the condition that it will not last much longer, means that he commits a criminal offence. If that is right, I submit that it is not a very satisfactory state of the law. If one looks at Section 60 it creates a criminal offence, an offence which. I submit, should not be one which an ordinary perfectly respectable car owner can commit quite unsuspectingly.

But, in addition to that, the section says that the person who sells the car shall be under all the contractual liabilities he would have been under otherwise; in other words, under Section 60 the private car owner would be liable for all the contractual obligations in the sort of case I have instanced, which would be imposed upon him by the Sale of Goods Act—for example, he might be liable in damages. But it surely cannot be right that the private car owner, a perfectly respectable person with a family, who has used his car perfectly normally, and then trades it in, without having the least idea that he is at risk of committing a criminal offence, should be liable to be brought before criminal courts and fined. That is the position that I desire to raise with the Minister.

If the noble Lord tells me that I have misunderstood the effect of Sections 40 and 60 of the 1972 Act and Clause 11 of this Bill, then I will ask leave to withdraw the Amendment and apologise for troubling your Lordships with it. However, I do not think that I have misunderstood it; I think that in their ordinary connotation they would apply to the case of a private motor car owner who, in the sort of circumstances that I have described, trades it in when he buys a new car. If it does apply to him, I submit that it is quite enough that he should be liable to pay damages under the ordinary contractual obligations that he would be under now, and that it is not in the general public interest that he, in addition, under Section 60 of the 1972 Act as amended by Clause 11 of this Bill, should remain liable to criminal proceedings. I beg to move.


Before the Minister replies, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, a question in order to make sure that I understand the effect of this Amendment? The question I should like to ask is this. When he was addressing us about this matter he was dealing in particular with the case of the ordinary individual who trades in a motor car when he is perhaps buying a new one, but as I read his Amendment it goes a good deal further than that and appears to cover the case of any individual who sells, or supplies, a motor vehicle to what I might call a motor trader, a person whose trade it is to sell vehicles to the public. Am I right in thinking that the noble Lord intends that his Amendment should cover the case of an individual who has a car of his own, takes it down to a motor dealer and has a straight sale of that car to the motor dealer? Does the noble Lord intend that his Amendment should relieve that person of any criminal responsibility if the vehicle happens to be defective?


The answer to the noble Lord's question is "Yes". I quite agree with him that the Amendment is so drafted as to cover the case of a private motor car owner—I emphasise "private motor car owner"—who sells his private car secondhand to a dealer. If the noble Lord says, "Yes, but aren't you going too far?" my answer to him, whether satisfactory or not, would be that I would submit not, because I should have thought that in 999 cases out of 1,000 when an ordinary private owner of a car disposes of it he does it because it is part of a transaction under which he acquires a new car. I accept that my Amendment would apply to a case where he does not do it as a trade-in but just sells it, but I would submit that that does not go too far. He may be slightly financially embarrassed, he may have to pay his income tax and he may want to sell it for one reason or another to a dealer, and if, in the vast majority of cases, it happens in the trade-in position that I have described I would submit that it is not contrary to the public interest that if a private motor car owner sells a secondhand car to a dealer in order to raise money he should not commit a criminal offence, although of course he would be contractually liable under the Sale of Goods Act.


May I say that the noble Lord has removed all doubt. The matter is now clear to me, and may I say that I agree that this is not carrying it too far. I am glad that his Amendment is intended to cover the case of the person who just makes a straight sale to a motor dealer.

6.45 p.m.


I feel very humble trying to explain to two such learned noble Lords as the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, matters on which they themselves are seeking advice. Although one sees merit in the proposal that private individuals should be freed from the ban on the sale of unroadworthy vehicles when they sell the vehicle to a dealer, that ban extends to vehicles which are unroadworthy only because they fail to meet a limited number of the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. These are the regulations of particular importance from the point of view of road safety: the requirement for brakes, lights, steering, tyres, weights and dimensions, and, to be added by Clause 11 of this Bill, the requirement that vehicles should not be in a condition whereby any danger is, or is likely to be, caused to a member of the public; for example, a rusty chassis, as we have already discussed. It is already an offence to use a vehicle on a road if it offends against any of these requirements, and the Department does not want to weaken the incentive for the public to keep their vehicles in good working order. This is really an incentive to the people who are not yet selling their vehicle but will be selling it, say, at the end of the year.

In addition, Section 60 already provides for the case where a private seller is faced with the problem of disposing of an unroadworthy car, by giving a special defence against the charge of selling an unroadworthy vehicle that the seller had reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle would not be used on the road while it remained defective. We think that this provides adequate protection for the individual. If the noble Lord looks further down Section 60, he will find that sub- sections (4)(b) and (c) will give him the points that I am making. I hope that, with this explanation, the noble Lords, Lord Stow Hill and Lord Champion, will be reassured.


I am extremely sorry to say that I feel that that is an answer that is far from being reassuring. I look at Section 40 of the 1972 Act: that is not limited to heavy vehicles, or anything of the sort. It begins by saying: The Secretary of State may make regulations generally as to the use of motor vehicles and trailers on roads,… That applies to any motor car. It would apply to a Morris, an Austin, or any private car, so that the first point that the noble Lord made I should have thought was not well founded. Secondly, he says that the private motor car owner already has the protection that he wants, and refers me to Section 60(4)(c) of the Road Traffic Act 1972. With great deference to him, I do not know what language in that subsection he is referring to. It is quite a long subsection, and I will not trouble your Lordships with it.


I said paragraph (b) as well as paragraph (c).


Well, discard paragraph (c) and look at paragraph (b). This is quite short, and I will trouble your Lordships with it as it is so short. It says: that he had reasonable cause to believe that the vehicle or trailer would not be used on a road in Great Britain, or would not be so used until it had been put into a condition in which it might lawfully be so used,… That is a very sorry consolation to him. He might not have the faintest idea what the dealer was going to do. He might think that the dealer was going to trade it straight to someone who walked in and wanted it. It might be very difficult for him to establish that defence in ordinary circumstances. If he could say, "Dear Mr. Dealer, would you please give me a positive assurance in writing on paper, supported by an affidavit, that you will not dispose of this car to anybody else until you have thoroughly overhauled it and have been through all its parts and its equipment and made sure that they comply with regulations", then, if he got that affidavit, I dare say that he would have a good defence, but not without. I am hound to say that that answer —and I say this with great respect to the noble Lord because I know that he takes great trouble with these questions—falls far short of an answer that satisfies me. I hope that he will think again and take this matter seriously, because it affects millions of citizens in this country, millions of perfectly ordinary, decent people, who live within their incomes, drive a modest car and like to take their families to the seaside at the weekend—perhaps it is a little difficult at the moment, but at some time in the future it may be easier. I ask the noble Lord to take this matter seriously and not just to take some note that his advisers have given him without really going into it properly. I am rather disappointed, I must say.


I wonder whether I may come to the help of my noble friends, although not in any manner connected with the law. Perhaps I can help your Lordships in a matter of fact, and in a matter of practicality. The noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, talks about the modest man ignorant of the state of his car when, for a variety of reasons, he goes to trade in it. From 20-odd years' experience, I assure you that there are very few modest men in ignorance of the state of their motor car; and often it is because of their knowledge of the state of their motor car that they come to trade it in. The most reputable dealers in motor cars will make an appraisal, and will make the owner aware of any defects. If such defects are so serious that the value of the motor car drops far beneath that which the owner thinks correct, he usually takes it away and tries somewhere else. Often he sticks a piece of paper in the back window which says, "This car for sale, apply within", or sometimes with a telephone number. Many motor cars change hands quite privately in the full knowledge that there are defects; and they are sold in this manner because the reputable motor car dealer will not accept them.

So far as concerns the vehicle which is sold knowingly to be unroadworthy, certainly in the motor trade, were it to be sold on, perhaps, to the motor trade or to a dealer, the order form which the buyer would be required to sign will contain a particular clause in which he ack- nowledges the condition of the motor car so that it would be virtually impossible for a reputable trader to pass on a car knowing it to be faulty. The practical aspects of this matter surely are that an owner of a piece of machinery should make himself aware of its condition and should offer it for sale under precisely the same conditions as any other person, whether that person is in business or not. If the Amendment which the noble Lords, Lord Champion and Lord Stow Hill, seek to press were made part of the Bill, one can see that motor cars nominally belonging to business houses would find their way perhaps to persons employed in that business, but in their own name, and offered as a private sale. Indeed, many motor cars owned in fleets are registered in the name of the secretary, and are sold privately, purporting to be private motor cars, although, in fact, they are nothing of the sort. So it would seem to me that the Amendment as it is set down would not safeguard anybody at all.


I am most grateful for that helpful interjection, and would like to reply if I may. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, speaks from 20 years' experience, but I can speak from 45 years of active experience driving motor cars. In addition to that, for 40 years ago or more I more than once have appeared in the courts for people who had been driving when their steering had suddenly gone, or the brakes had suddenly gone. They had not had the slightest idea that that was likely to happen. I would like to assure the Committee that in those cases, so far as I can remember, I was successful in my defence.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, in his Amendment. Consider the case of a motorist who has a front-end collision on a motorway or some other road, to the extent that the vehicle is unroadworthy and has to be towed away; and the garage that tows it away happens also to be owned by a motor dealer. He rings up the motorist later on in the day and says: "Look here, your car is in a pretty poor condition and it will cost a lot of money to put right. I'll tell you what, I will give you £50 or £100 for it. I think I can make something on it." As I understand it, unless this Amendment is carried, this will not be possible.


I think that the object behind the Government's thinking on this issue is generally understood. What the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, objected to was the innocent man being deprived of his cause of sale. If, in the noble Lord's case which has just been cited, there is a car which everyone knows is unroadworthy and it is sold to somebody who says that he thinks he can make something of it, I should have thought that under Section 60(4)(b)—which I was sorry to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Stow Hill, decry so much—he would have protection if he had a witness. I should not have thought that he would need to get the letter, "Dear Mr. Dealer …" I think that most people, when they sell their car prior to buying a new one, do not regard it as being in an unroadworthy condition. If they have been fulfilling their legal obligations they will have kept the car in good repair, anyhow, to fulfil the provisions of this Bill. I should have thought that it is usual, rather than the exception; and that, although dishonest and untrustworthy garages always make good heading, good copy and good stories, the average dealer probably wishes to have a reputable name. His long-term interests in trading will be enhanced if he is honest and above board rather than if he is quick and sharp and doing a shady deal.

There are cases, and I see them, as the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, points out, but I prophesy that paragraphs (b) and (c) would provide protection, defence, for the genuine man. I will certainly find out from my advisers again if that is the case. There is no intention to trip people up unnecessarily, but one wants, in the interests of all of us and of road safety, to stop people from selling something, knowing it to be unroadworthy, and deceiving the person to whom they sell it. I would not agree with what my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said, that there are a few people who own a car and drive it regularly who are not really aware of its defects. I accept it in regard to something like a steering column which might be about to snap. That is one of the exceptions to this rule. If such a person were taken to the courts on such a case he would probably have a good defence and it would be explained. I do not think I can say any more on that matter; I have said all that I am able to.


If the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, says he will give serious consideration to this matter, I shall be quite content, and I shall be grateful if the Committee will allow me to withdraw the Amendment, on the understanding that it will be seriously considered.


I would certainly undertake to consider it: but this is a matter of the legal interpretation of the defence, a subject on which I am not adequately able to reassure the noble Lord myself. He will appreciate that point. But I will certainly get confirmation from people who are better equipped to give him that information with authority.


That being said, I am grateful to the noble Lord. May I ask the Committee's permission to withdraw the Amendment?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 18, line 32, at end insert: ("In Part I of Schedule 4 to the 1972 Act (prosecution and punishment of offences) in the entry relating to section 84(1), in column 5, the word "either" shall be omitted and the words from "offender" to the end shall be omitted.").

The noble Baroness said: I feel certain that the noble Lord will be ready to accept these Amendments because they are in the nature of tidying up, rather than vast changes.


May I suggest to the noble Baroness that we discuss Nos. 35, 36 and 37 together? They rather hang together.


Yes, I was going to suggest that. Amendment No. 35 is a paving Amendment; obviously Amendment No. 36 is the meat of the matter, and Amendment No. 37 is consequential. Also with permission, I should like to point out that the first line of Amendment No. 36 should of course read: in section 88 of the 1972 Act", as I have no doubt the noble Lord has already spotted. There is a measure of injustice which arises from the fact that the offence of failing to comply with the conditions of a provisional licence applies only to a person who in fact holds a current licence. If a person is entitled to only a provisional licence and then drives without obtaining one, or after allowing his provisional licence to expire, he can be convicted only of the offence of driving without holding a driving licence. It is true that, when convicted, a person who thus evades the requirements of a provisional licence will be subject to endorsement of the licence and the possibility of disqualification, but it still frequently happens that he is fined far less on the one charge than someone who, although he ignored the conditions of his provisional licence, at least had one.

Amendment No. 35 seeks to make a person who has not passed a driving test or otherwise become entitled to a full licence to drive a motor vehicle subject to the conditions of a provisional licence to drive such a vehicle, whether he actually holds a current provisional licence or not. If the Amendment is accepted it will no longer be necessary to distinguish between cases of driving without a licence according to whether the offence amounts to an evasion of the provisional licence regulations. It would therefore be possible to reduce the number of cases in which endorsement or disqualification for offences would need to be ordered, and the Schedule to the 1972 Act would be amended accordingly. This is a very small point, but it is one which has caused some real injustice in the courts. I beg to move.


I found the wording of these Amendments and the wording of the original clause extremely complicated. What the noble Baroness has tried to do is, in effect, I accept, fairly simple, but I am advised that this proposal is unnecessary because in both cases there are adequate powers to fine and endorse, which is obligatory, and to disqualify, which is discretionary. These powers are the same for both offences. It is for the courts, as a matter of sentencing policy, to avoid inconsistencies by applying the appropriate level of penalty in the Section 84(1) case.

The effect of these proposed changes would also be that the discretionary disqualification and obligatory endorsement would be applied to a driver who, although entitled to a provisional licence, had not obtained one, and who was in breach of provisional licence conditions for an offence under Section 88(6) of the 1972 Act (as proposed to be amended by Amendment No. 37) instead of for an offence under Section 84(1)—that is, driving without a licence. A new offence is really unnecessary, and this Amendment is therefore not required. If your Lordships will look at the matter—in fact I had a table prepared for my own convenience—you will find that what we propose is that if a driver has no licence we are "upping" his fine from £50 to £100. If he has no "L" plates or no supervisor, at the moment, as I have said, he has not committed a further offence because the provision of "L" plates and a supervisor depends upon his having a licence. But what we have done under the Bill is to increase the maximum penalty to a fine of £100 and disqualification. In practice, it is highly doubtful whether courts will want to go above that figure just for the offence of driving without a licence. What the noble Baroness has done in her Amendment, as I understand it, is to add another £100 fine for the man without a licence if he has no "L" plates and yet another £100 fine if he has no supervisor with him, making possible, in all, a fine of £300 and disqualification. This, I think, is really over-egging the pudding, putting too much in, and I do not think it is necessary. The magistrates already have the power to fine £100 and disqualify, and I should have thought that that was sufficient without creating these new offences.


I thank the Minister, particularly for his rather lovely expression, "over-egging the pudding". He makes it sound very simple, but I would point out that these are maximum fines, which very few magistrates ever use. I still do not think he has quite got round the point that the man who has no licence is actually dealt with more lightly than the one who has a licence and then commits an offence. But I will look at what the noble Lord has said, and, if I may, perhaps come back again on this point at a later stage of the Bill. At the moment I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.5 p.m.

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 18, line 40, at end insert— ("(6) (a) In subsection (1) of section 101 of the 1972 Act where the words "where a person is convicted of an offence" occur there shall be substituted the words "where a person is convicted of and sentenced for an offence". (b) In subsection (4) of section 101 of the 1972 Act the words "and the court makes an order under subsection (1) above" shall be omitted and for the words "for endorsement" there shall be substituted the words "for examination".")

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 38 is on a different point. I expect the Minister will have an explanation for this as well, but I will present the case and see what he has to say. Those of your Lordships who are magistrates will know that when a person is convicted of an offence which involves an obligatory endorsement there are certain conditions which must be present. It is essential that the court is informed whether or not there are previous convictions, so that it may be known whether or not the case falls within Section 93 of the Road Traffic Act 1972—the totting-up section. It is also desirable that the court should be informed whether or not there are previous convictions so that they can assess the appropriate penalty. The law as it now stands does not require the defendant to inform the court of previous convictions, and it is doubtful whether the court ought to look at a defendant's licence to obtain this information. This Amendment would have the effect that the Statute would be so worded that it would clearly state the purpose of production of the licence: first, to examine the licence—that is, after conviction—for endorsement, and second, to endorse the licence if the defendant is convicted. I beg to move.


The argument which underlies the noble Baroness's Amendment here is rather abstruse, but it has some practical importance since courts currently depend on the production of licences in determining appropriate sentences, and the alternative is to seek information from the licensing authorities, who are not staffed to deal with the number of inquiries that would be needed. Subject to further consideration of the legal arguments which have been put forward to us by the justices' clerks, it appears to the Government that there is force in the legal difficulties indicated in certain of the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, but not in all of them. What we should like to pro- pose is that there should be further discussions with the noble Baroness and her advisers, and that if the outcome of the discussions are fruitful and indicate that we can make progress then a Government Amendment should be tabled at a later stage.


I thank the Minister for that reply, which is extremely useful. With that proviso, I am happy to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to ask one small point here. I have not given notice of it, so I shall understand if the Minister prefers to write to me. This seems to me an extraordinarily age-conscious Bill. It reduces the age at which it is possible for drivers to take heavy goods vehicles on the roads under certain conditions, which may or may not be a very good thing. Here it mentions the age of 70 as being an age when certain things have to take place in connection with driving. I would only ask what in fact has caused the Government to suggest this in a Statute? Do they have the statistical evidence to prove that more accidents are caused by drivers over 70 than under? Frankly, I would doubt this, but I am quite willing to be convinced if we can be told why this particular age was chosen. There must always be a reason for the inclusion of a clause of this kind.


There is indeed a reason, which I have in my notes, but I have not got it with me. The figures are given rather quaintly in Civil Service language of "million man miles" and the accident rate above that age does considerably increase. The point about "million man miles" is rather difficult to understand, but I can show the noble Baroness that the accident rate above that age does considerably increase. Also, the medical profession have advised that that is the age at which our faculties begin to get dimmer and therefore our ability to drive should be looked at again.


I hope the noble Lord will remember that when he passes 70, as I have done.


It might prove that a man was the exception to the general rule.

Clause 12 agreed to.

7.11 p.m.

LORD SWAYTHLING moved Amendment No. 39: After Clause 12 insert the following new clause:

Restriction on display of "learner driver" distinguishing mark

(" .—(1) A person authorised to drive a motor vehicle by virtue of his holding a licence (not being a provisional licence) granted under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1972 shall not drive the vehicle while there is displayed on it a distinguishing mark of a kind prescribed by regulations under section 85 of the said Act such as would have to be so displayed if the person driving the vehicle were the holder of a provisional licence: Provided that this subsection shall not apply if there is present in the vehicle another person who would be authorised to drive the vehicle by virtue of his holding a provisional licence.

(2) A person who contravenes the provisions of the foregoing subsection shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.")

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is to ensure that L-plates are used on vehicles only when the holder of a provisional licence is in the car either as driver or as the passenger presumably under instruction. The Amendment is very much the same as one which I moved to the Road Traffic Bill in 1961 but which was not accepted by the Government. Since then I have heard many others comment on why such a provision is not in the road traffic laws. Use of L-plates is a valuable means of helping to ensure safety on the roads. Those who meet or pass cars bearing L-plates exercise special care. But at present there is no provision in the law that L-plates should be removed when there is no learner driver in the car. If the plates are kept on the car in these circumstances it may well become a case of calling "Wolf!" too often and the value of the safeguard is thereby considerably reduced. People who have passed their test have been heard to say that they keep their L-plates on either to get through the traffic more quickly or to get better treatment from other road users.

The second reason why I think this Amendment should be accepted is to assist the police. If there are L-plates on a car and there is only the driver and no passenger in the car, it should be the duty of the police to stop the car as, on the face of it, an offence has been committed. When they stop the car they learn that the driver has a full licence and that they have been wasting their own time, so preventing them from carrying out other duties. On the last occasion when I moved this Amendment it was stated that it was thought that people were keen to remove L-plates when they had passed the test, but on my way home from the House on that occasion I counted nine cars bearing L-plates but each with only the driver in the car. It may be said that when a car is used for teaching people to drive it would be difficult frequently to remove the L-plates and put them back again, but I see no difficulty in making arrangements, if not to take them off at least to cover them up. Therefore, in order to maintain the safety factor of L-plates and also to assist the police, I beg to move the Amendment.


The suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, that there should be an obligation to remove L-plates unless a learner is actually driving has been made before, as he rightly says. It is based on the argument, in itself not unreasonable, that the L-plates which all learner drivers are obliged to carry are designed for the specific purpose of warning other drivers and to encourage them to extend extra care and consideration and courtesy, but that if such a plate is displayed by a qualified driver the currency is debased, to the ultimate detriment of the purpose of the warning. Most previous proposals of this kind have ignored the difficulty which an absolute ban on the display of L-plates on a vehicle driven by a qualified driver would create for driving schools and instructors. The majority of L-plates on driving school cars are permanently fixed, and although they can reasonably easily be covered by a hood the need for an instructor to change places with his pupil and to drive himself for demonstration purposes could create some difficulty.

The proposed new clause avoids this difficulty, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, on doing so. But in avoiding it he has, perhaps incidentally, largely destroyed the purpose of the clause. The great majority of instances of qualified drivers using vehicles displaying L-plates arise on family cars where a member of the family is learning to drive. When the qualified driver takes over the learner is very often present in the car—it may be on a holiday, at weekends or during an evening out. The effect of the proviso would be to remove any need to cover or remove the L-plates on all those occasions. Where the qualified driver is driving solo, the fact that he is doing so, and the presumption that he is not in fact a learner, is nearly always obvious to other drivers. If they consciously react to other drivers according to whether they are learners or have qualified status, this gives them the opportunity to do so.

The Government do not want to see the value of L-plates debased, but the respect which most drivers accord to them is not likely to be increased; nor, more particularly, is road safety to be improved by a measure of this kind. In short, the reasons are that the terms of the proviso, in itself necessitated by the recognition of the problem of the professional driving instructors, are such that the family car with L-plates could still be driven by a qualified driver so long as the learner member of the family is present, and this situation would account for much. Where the qualified driver is alone the fact is obvious. Therefore, our view is that the creation of new offences, and with them new enforcement demands on the police, is to be avoided unless there is very clear evidence of consequent benefit in terms of accident saving. There is no evidence that the measure proposed here would have anything other than a tiny effect, and probably it would have no effect at all. There are, needless to say, small technical defects in the drafting of the clause—I will not weary the noble Lord with that. The new clause is not acceptable for the reasons I have given, and I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.


While thanking the noble Lord for his answer, I would point out that when the family car is going along the road with L-plates and the learner driver is in the car, the learner driver is still under instruction and being shown what he should do. I feel that the time of the police, if they did their duty and stopped every car to inquire whether it was a learner driver or not, would be considerably wasted. But in view of what the noble Lord has said, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.19 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 40: After Clause 12 insert the following new clause:

Wheel weight of motor vehicles

(" .Section 40 of the Road Traffic Act 1972 (Secretary of State to have power to make regulations affecting construction, weight, equipment and use of vehicles) shall be amended by inserting the following proviso to subparagraph (d) of subsection (1) of that section: Provided that any regulation made under this subparagraph shall also require that any vehicle or trailer to which it relates shall be fitted with equipment constructed so as to indicate the weight whether loaded or unloaded transmitted to the road by each wheel of such vehicle or trailer in contact with the road."")

The noble Lord said: With permission, may I suggest that we discuss Amendment No. 40 and Amendment No. 53 together. Both these Amendments cover exactly the same point but they approach what we regard as something necessary to be done from a slightly different angle. On Second Reading, I called attention to the unsatisfactory state of the law relating to vehicle axle weights and to the concern felt by the Transport and General Workers Union about the number of prosecutions suffered by their members because, they assert, of their inability always to satisfy themselves in loading their vehicles that they were not committing an offence under Regulation 121 of the Construction and Use Regulations. Although most of the drivers concerned are experienced in the loading and distribution of their load, from time to time they are in danger of breaking the law relating to axle weights. The overall weight may be all right, but when it comes to the axle weight they occasionally break the law and find themselves in court. This is because in many cases the driver has no mechanical means by which to satisfy himself that his load is properly distributed and that he is not committing an offence.

I suggested on Second Reading that axle weight mechanisms which are available should be fitted to vehicles of this class. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, replying to the debate said, at column 878 of Hansard of November 15: In fact, the devices that the noble Lord wanted can already be required under the existing powers of the 1972 Act—or rather the Construction and Use Regulations made under it. Later the noble Viscount said: I do not think any further powers are needed to provide this equipment.

Those words seem to indicate that a vehicle owner can be required to fit devices which would be a measure of safeguard for the heavy vehicle driver. The complaint of the Transport and General Workers' Union seems to make quite clear that although vehicle owners can be required to fit this mechanism, they do not do so in all appropriate cases. We believe that the Bill ought to go beyond "can be required" and that the fitting of this sort of equipment should be mandatory on a vehicle owner. Our new clause is designed to that end.

Amendment No. 53, to Schedule 4, is an alternative to this proposed new clause. If the noble Lord indicates that he would prefer the method outlined in Amendment No. 53, I will accept that and withdraw this proposed new clause, and later move Amendment No. 53. I think that this Amendment has merit; I know that it has the support of the Transport and General Workers' Union, which caters for lorry drivers, is aware of their difficulties and from time to time defends them in court proceedings. In such a Bill as this I think that we should make provision so that drivers have the protection which it is possible to give them by ensuring that this mechanism is fitted to appropriate vehicles.


This is an important point, and not least because it causes worry to the Transport and General Workers' Union and to many drivers. The check that an axle load is within the legal limit may be carried out in two ways. One is by positioning the axle on a weighbridge designed for it, weighing only one axle at a time. This is the most accurate method and is the one used for enforcement purposes. Secondly, it can be done by fitting permanently to the axle a device called an axle load indicator which registers on a dial in the driver's cab an indication of the axle load by monitoring electrically the deflection of the springs of the vehicle. At least two leading manufacturers market these devices, which cost from £75 to £110 fitted per vehicle, depending of course on the number of axles. They are increasingly being fitted, in their own interests, by operators who carry loads which are both heavy and also difficult to distribute evenly.

For some time the Transport and General Workers' Union have been pressing the Minister for Transport Industries to make the fitment of axle load indicators compulsory, so that after loading drivers would be aware of their axle loads before going on the road. Their contention is that if no weighbridge is available, drivers may unwittingly offend and be prosecuted. The Minister is in favour of their voluntary fitment by operators who carry loads which are difficult to assess and he has encouraged the union to make representations to such operators on behalf of their drivers. But he has not adopted a policy of compulsory fitment for the following reasons. Many operators carry loads which are bulky rather than heavy and never approach the maximum legal limit. They would therefore be penalised by having to incur this heavy expenditure. Many responsible operators use the most suitable vehicles for difficult loads; that is, multi-axled vehicles which have ample tolerance on each axle within the maximum permitted gross weight of the vehicle. The use of unsuitable vehicles is a frequent cause of axle overloads. Moreover, drivers are professionally trained and should in most circumstances have the requisite skill and knowledge to load, or to supervise the loading of, their vehicles legally and safely.

Thirdly, and probably the most important point of all, to fit all vehicles within the operators' licensing scheme, numbering about 550,000, with axle load indicators would cost some £50 million, which is quite a frightening figure to impose compulsorily on an industry for something which affects only a small section. Because the problem arises mainly from the type of load carried and the particular vehicle used for it, it is not practicable to define a smaller category of vehicles most at risk. Some designs are more vulnerable than others, but it depends on how the vehicles are being used and the type of load carried. It would not be justified to impose such a financial burden on the whole road transport industry when a large part of it is never at risk, and a further part of it keeps within the regulations by using suitable vehicles for the loads carried and by exercising professional judgment in the acceptance and correct distribution of loads. In these circumstances, compulsory fitment would mean imposing unnecessary financial burdens on the many for the sake of the difficulties or failings of the few.

The Minister could take the line in Committee, as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, apparently would wish, that he supports the voluntary fitment of axle load indicators. The Minister for Transport Industries wishes to encourage the voluntary fitment of indicators by operators and he is prepared to do everything he can to get the union to help to argue with the few owners on this point.


I see the difficulties. I cannot wholly accept what the noble Lord has said. The fact is that it is possible under existing regulations for the union concerned to press the lorry owners to fit these devices. The fact that a number of drivers have gone to court as a result of their inability properly to adjust their load means that owners have not responded to the request of the Transport and General Workers' Union. That difficulty is immediately apparent and is understood by everyone concerned. I accept what the noble Lord has said about the difficulty that many loads carried in heavy goods vehicles are of such a nature that no one could distribute them so badly that they would offend against the axle rate regulations. I also accept that it would be a nonsense to require a vehicle owner whose lorries are carrying loads of that type to fit to his vehicles mechanisms costing, I think the noble Lord said, up to £100, which is a considerable sum. Taken over the whole industry, that would amount to a great deal of money.

The noble Lord said that drivers should have the skill necessary to enable them to ensure that their loads are distributed in such a way as not to offend against the regulations. This is not always possible, I am advised by the drivers concerned. It is not always possible, try as they will, and despite all their experience, always to ensure that the load is dis- tributed properly. I wonder whether it would not be possible to make regulations which would single out the type of load and type of vehicle where the danger of offending against the axle weight regulations exists and to make the regulations of such a nature as to make it compulsory to fit these devices to that type of vehicle and the loads carried in that type of vehicle. I wonder whether this has been considered by the Ministry and if the noble Lord can tell me anything about it.


I am afraid that, without notice, I cannot tell the noble Lord anything.


I feel that I must lend some support to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, on this Amendment. My noble friend talks about the skill of the driver in loading his vehicle. It is well known that, despite all the skill used, loads move; that despite all the skill in sheeting up and so on, bad weather conditions can affect the weight of loads; and notwithstanding the most careful loading to provide for axle weight regulations within a total gross tonnage allowable, weights could be on occasions, were axle weighing regulations brought in, a load patently in excess of that permitted, although the gross weight of the vehicle is well within the permitted figure.

Equally, it is grossly unfair that a driver should be party to the malperformance of his employer. Under the regulations suggested in the Bill, a driver could be convicted and could lose his livelihood. While my noble friend suggests that compulsorily to require owners to fit these expensive weighing mechanisms is not acceptable to his right honourable friend, it is obvious that some kind of tolerance for the driver and for the exceptional situation must be provided. If my noble friend is not prepared to agree to Lord Champion's Amendment, then I quite seriously put to him that he must provide an alternative suggestion, because the number of occasions on which there is an excessive weight on an axle due to a specific load would be too many for the normal run of drivers, whose livelihoods, as I say, could be in jeopardy. Voluntary acceptance by an owner of the suggestion to fit the equipment will not, I think, go far enough to protect not only the driver but also the owner from a possible infringement of the law.


While the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has been speaking, it has occurred to me that although the regulations about which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, asked are legally possible, in practical terms it is hard to see how it could be done.


If it is possible, it can be done. I quite see the difficulty here. Clearly, I must consider what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, whom I regard as an expert on these matters of heavy goods vehicles, and indeed on many other things associated with motor industry and the freight-carrying part of it. In the circumstances, I do not propose to press this Amendment. I will read carefully what the noble Lord has said, and perhaps return to this on Report with another Amendment. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 [Amendments to Part III of Road Traffic Act 1927]:

LORD MOWBRAY AND STOURTON moved Amendment No. 41: Page 37, line 19, leave out ("refers") and insert ("relates").

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is purely drafting. Two parallel references, on page 37, line 19, and page 38, line 26, which both concern applications for driving licences, have been drafted differently, although the intention is that they should have the same meaning. I beg to move.


While we are on this particular sub-paragraph, I should like to draw the attention of the noble Lord to something that appears to me to be almost grammatically meaningless in the first three lines of this sub-paragraph. It is sub-paragraph (7)(a) which reads: an applicant shall be treated as having passed a relevant test if, and on the day on which, he has passed a test of competence to drive which"— and so on. I am not asking the noble Lord to explain now what this means. I do not think it means anything and, if it does, I do not think it means what the Government intend it to mean. I only ask the noble Lord whether he will be good enough to have a look at this wording before the next stage to see if it is a grammatical solecism and whether it cannot be made better.


I will certainly look into it as the noble Lord suggests.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

7.38 p.m.

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 42: Page 41, line 36, at end insert ("and for the word "three" there shall be substituted the word "four" and for the word "ten" there shall he substituted the word "eleven".").

The noble Baroness said: Spurred on by the heady success of having got a half-acceptance to one Amendment, I hope that the Minister is in a benign mood. This is a tidying-up point, and it is suggested because evasion of the law occurs when a person who knows that he is going to be prosecuted for an offence involving endorsement and disqualification takes advantage of Section 10 of the Road Traffic Act to obtain a licence free of endorsement which was ordered within three years before the commission of the offence with which he is then charged.

I think an example may suffice here. Take the case of a person who has two endorsements for exceeding the speed limit on his licence, one on January 1, 1971, and the other in January, 1972, and on November 1, 1973, and who is again stopped for speeding and a summons is issued. Now despite the timing of coming to court, the magistrates must disqualify in the absence of mitigating circumstances, since he has had two endorsements in three years. However, if the summons is not returnable until after 1974, or if he is able to delay the hearing, or does not produce his licence, as is often the case, he is able to obtain a clean licence and therefore does not appear to be subject to the totting-up provisions. The Amendment would have the effect that the period after the licence free from endorsement could be obtained would be increased, so that it is not until a year after the totting-up licence has expired that such a licence can be obtained. This is, as I say, a tidying up process which I hope the Government will accept. I beg to move.


I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. We agree that in principle her argument has great force. But at the same time I must say that the initiation of any change in the law would be complex and therefore we would wish to give further consideration to these matters before deciding how the anomaly put before us by the noble Baroness might be dealt with. What we shall hope to do is to table a Government Amendment at a later stage to give effect to what is contained in this Amendment.


I should like to thank the noble Lord and perhaps I might at the same time congratulate him, without any presumption, for the way in which he is carrying out the very great task of piloting this Bill through the Committee. We admire and appreciate his efforts. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 13 [Weighing of motor vehicles]:

7.41 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 43:

Page 19, line 22, at end insert— ("Provided that any such regulations shall take into account tolerances applicable to the part or parts of the vehicle or trailer so weighed in relation to the gross plated weight thereof.")

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment has been largely fulfilled by Amendment No. 40, standing in the name of Lord Champion and his noble friends. It provides a way out of a particular difficulty. Both the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and myself are concerned, I think, not with the wilful overloading of a heavy commercial vehicle but with the possibility of accidents occurring because of overloading in the event of axle re-weigh loads being introduced. It seemed to me that one of the ways out of this difficulty would be to allow a certain tolerance on each axle, commensurate with the total gross plated weight of the vehicle. I have always been worried about the lack of attention given to the total gross plated weight of a vehicle. It has always seemed to me that this is the main criterion within the con- text of road safety, as we normally understand it. If, on a three-axle vehicle, you add the total sum of each of the axles, you will not necessarily achieve the total gross plated weight. There are various technical reasons for this, for which I suppose the most common is what is called "axle wind-up"—that is, where the springs wind up as you approach a weighbridge and tension is directed down through the springs on to a particular axle, which could result in a false weight being shown.

Where there are exceptional loads—particularly steel, which tends to move, or grain which can get wet, especially if the sheeting on the tail end is a little short, and one is called in for a re-weigh, with an axle system the rear or third axle can easily be overweight, although the total gross weight of the vehicle is well within the permitted allowance. Therefore where there are mistakes in loading, load shifting or alterations in load conditions during the course of a journey, it would seem to be sensible to give some kind of relief to the driver (who is the first person to be prosecuted). Were we to have what I think the industry call "a due diligence clause", but what I should prefer to call a tolerance allowance or clause, on each axle weight, which must be related to the gross total weight of the vehicle, everyone could be reasonably satisfied. After all, nothing is completely finite and if, as is set down in the Bill, there are to be tolerances on the machinery to weigh, so also should there be tolerances on the goods to be weighed. I beg to move.


As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said, we have really covered a certain amount of ground concerning this matter in our previous discussions. When this Amendment was put down we were not absolutely sure as to the purpose my noble friend hoped to achieve. As your Lordships will know, we are at this moment engaged in a very heavy argument with our European colleagues over weights of vehicles—and not only weights of vehicles but axle weights. It is a fairly regular occasion in your Lordships' House to hear speakers from all sides—and the same thing happens in another place also—exhorting the Government to stick to their guns and not to allow the weight to go above 32 tons and, above all, not to allow the axle weight to go above 10 tons.

If I have understood my noble friend aright, if the vehicle has four axles it is perfectly practicable for it to keep to the gross plated weight it is allowed to carry in this country (32 tons) with—shall we say?—a 6-ton weight on one axle, two 7-ton weights on the next two exles and then perhaps a 12-ton weight on the fourth axle. Where some particularly bulky piece of machinery is placed or where the bulk of the corn may be, as my noble friend said, having shifted from its original position. If that is the sort of thing he is asking the Government to allow, the answer must be a very firm "No". Not only are we fighting for a principle because we have made up our minds, but this is a question of the safety and the conditions of our roads. Once we allow axles weighing over 10 tons to become a possibility, we are going to open a very wide floodgate. All Members of the Committee will have heard the estimate that if we had up to 11-ton axle weights, this would cost us something over £200 million annually in extra road repairs. So if that is what my noble friend is asking for—that we should allow tolerances to go above 10 tons—I am afraid I must disappoint him by saying firmly that my right honourable friend is not prepared to consider that.

However, if my noble friend is putting the proposition that when a vehicle is weighed on the new dynamic axle weights that will be introduced, and when you are going over a weighbridge at a certain speed something happens to the load so that you get a slightly different reading each time (there is a phrase for this which escapes me for the moment) or if there is a Small deviation caused by a different way of driving, we might give some small tolerance—if my noble friend is asking for that amount of toleration, we might be prepared to consider it. But assuming that the purpose of his Amendment is the former case as I have stated it, then I should prefer him not to press this Amendment.


I am immensely grateful to my noble friend for his very forthcoming answer. I realise that he might have been put into a rather difficult position. I certainly would not wish to be a party to any Amendment which opened the floodgates to any great difficulties which Her Majesty's Government might experience in dealing with the claims of their European colleagues. But I am concerned with the latter point that he mentioned. I should like to see in the regulations some tolerance of axle weights related to the method by which the vehicle is weighted. There is obviously a physical limitation in placing the vehicle upon the weighting device, and provided he can assure me that such regulations will embrace a tolerance on axle weights to take care of this factor I shall rest quite content.


I am bound to say that on the overall tolerance I think the Government are absolutely right in sticking to what the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, has said; but I see the point that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has made, and is now pressing on his noble friend to consider. As I said before, I regard the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, as being particularly expert on these matters, and I support every word he said in this connection—although I do not support him in what appeared to be his original contention—and I ask the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, to ensure that these points are further considered.


If it is possible to meet my noble friend's wishes we shall do so. The sentence I was looking for was that the inertia forces stored up in the suspension of a vehicle cause some variation in the recorded axle weights if the same vehicle is moved over an axle weigher a number of times in succession. If that is the point at issue, the noble Lord can be assured that the extent of these variations due to natural causes on a properly maintained vehicle will be established by an extensive series of trials with axle weighers and a wide variety of vehicles held in conjunction with the Weights and Measures Inspectorate. The proposed regulations will then set limits of accuracy of recorded weights for enforcement purposes which would allow for this factor.


I am most grateful to my noble friend who has put the matter so well for me. With his assurance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 agreed to.

Clause 14 [Reduction for trainee drivers of Minimum age for driving heavy goods vehicles]:

7.52 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved Amendment No. 44: Page 20, line 31, leave out subsection (1).

The noble Lord said: With permission perhaps we may discuss Amendments Nos. 44, 45 and 46 together: they are very much on the same point. We are not at all happy about this proposal in Clause 14. We are of the opinion that permission to drive a heavy goods vehicle ought not to be given to anyone under the age of 21, despite the fact that 18 now seems to be regarded in law as the age of maturity for many purposes. The driving of heavy goods vehicles requires other qualities than the ability to cast a vote or decide what to do with one's property. We ought not to make any mistake about it; the driving of heavy goods vehicles in to-day's conditions on motorways, when pressures are on drivers to secure the maximum use of expensive lorries, and in their load deliveries, requires the use of very mature judgment on the part of the driver.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in an intervention in my speech at column 832 of Hansard of November 15, said: May I just reassure the noble Lord? It is a graduated process between 18 and 21, with a full training programme. If a person passes the requisite tests he will be able to drive lorries of gradually heavier sorts until he is 21, when he can drive the really heavy lorries. I found that statement somewhat reassuring, but so far as I can see the process described by the noble Lord does not find expression in the Bill. Subsection (1) of Clause 14 seems to me to fall a long way short of restricting persons under 21 from driving unsupervised a heavy goods vehicle. I have read the appropriate part of Section 4 of the 1972 Act, and I realise that regulations under this addition to that section may be made, though they must not exceed in their intent the words in subsection (1) of this clause. I still feel, however, that the words in that subsection would definitely permit the making of regulations which would enable a person under the age of 21, having been through the prescribed course, to drive unsupervised a heavy goods vehicle. Our Amend- ments are intended to have the effect of ensuring that no person shall hold anything other than a provisional heavy goods licence before he attains the age of 21. If he had such a provisional heavy goods licence he could—of course supervised—drive a heavy vehicle. I suggest that if the Government want to give effect to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare: If a person passes the requisite tests he will be able to drive lorries of gradually heavier sorts until he is 21", then subsection (1) of this clause should specify the types of motor vehicle graduated for age of the trainee driver between the motor car, on the one hand, and up, through the intervening types, to the heavy goods vehicle, on the other.

If the intention is to restrict persons under the age of 21, then the Government should ensure that no regulations are permitted to be framed under this Bill which would violate that intention. Our Amendments to this clause would ensure the main purpose of the clause, as described by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, by permitting the under-21-s to have a provisional heavy goods licence, but not a full licence until they attain the age of 21. If the Government really want the young person, after suitable training, to drive vehicles intermediate between the motor car and the heavy goods vehicle, the Bill should make explicit provision for just that, and for nothing more. I beg to move this Amendment which I think ought to be accepted by the Committee, having regard to all the responsibilities that fall on the drivers of these heavy vehicles.


I hope I can satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the assurances I gave him on Second Reading really do make sense. But his own Amendments would go very much further and would prevent the very scheme which we are trying to put into practice, because under his Amendments nobody under the age of 21 would be able to drive any form of heavy goods vehicle. In fact my notes tell me that the Amendments we are considering are clearly wrecking Amendments. But, knowing the noble Lord as I do, and that he would never wish to wreck anything, I regard them much more in the sense of probing Amendments.

I am sure the noble Lord agrees that the growing demand for heavy goods vehicle drivers adds point to the need for measures to improve both the quality and the supply of recruits to the industry. Detailed discussions have been held between the Department of the Environment, the Department of Employment and both sides of the industry. Agreement has now been reached on this training scheme which will provide for the recruitment and progressive training of young people from the age of 18 onwards The essential features of this scheme are, first of all, a proper training programme to which both employer and employee will be bound. Secondly, training, and driver training in particular, to an extensive syllabus under a properly qualified instructor. Thirdly, progression at yearly intervals from the smallest to the largest class of heavy goods vehicles. Fourthly (and this covers the point the noble Lord was anxious to establish regarding where the control was on what vehicle drivers of different ages could drive) strict control through the heavy goods vehicles drivers' licensing scheme. This is where the control comes in. Fifthly, no unaccompanied driving of vehicles with trailers, including articulated vehicles, below the age of 21, except for the small articulated vehicles for which the minimum age is already 17.

We are well aware of the greater chance that young drivers can be involved in accidents, and for this reason alone we should certainly not be proposing this age reduction unless we were satisfied that the proposed scheme, by providing the necessary framework for a full and proper training of young people, would more than counteract this tendency. Heavy goods vehicles have a better than average accident involvement rate and their record has improved in recent years following the introduction of various road safety measures, including the introduction of the Heavy Goods Vehicle Driver Licensing and Testing Scheme, and we should not wish in any way to throw away the benefits of that improvement.

If I may go into a little more detail about the actual scheme which has been agreed, I think this will probably go even further to reassure the noble Lord. It will be administered by a National Joint Train- ing Committee for the road goods transport industry. Without going into all the details of the scheme, perhaps the most significant part is the way in which the progression is planned to take place from the age of 18 onwards. If the trainee has had at least three months' satisfactory experience in driving for the employer under a full ordinary licence for motor cars then he may take the Class 3 test at any time after the issue of the provisional trainee's licence, and the Class 3 test is one that covers the use of four-wheeled vehicles only. Otherwise, if he has not had this three months' experience of driving motor cars he cannot take the test earlier than three months from the date of issue of the provisional trainee's licence, and only after he has passed the heavy goods vehicle Class 3 test will he be permitted to drive Class 3 vehicles unaccompanied. So there he is at the age of 18 plus, once he has passed the test, able to drive the Class 3 vehicles.

Twelve months then have to elapse after he has passed the Class 3 test before he can obtain a provisional trainee's licence for Class 2 vehicles. These are the heavier vehicles with more than four wheels. So by this time he is 19 plus and then, after passing the Class 2 test he can drive these vehicles unaccompanied. A further 12 months then has to elapse, by which time he is well over 20, before he can obtain a provisional trainee's licence to drive the top class—the Class 1 vehicles. These are articulated vehicles. He may take the Class 1 test, but in this case he will not be permitted to drive vehicles in this class before the age of 21 years unless he is accompanied by a qualified driver. So that is the three-stage progression from the beginning of his training at the age of 18 until he reaches the age of 21 when finally, if he has passed all those tests on the way up, he will be allowed to drive the heaviest class of vehicles. As I have said, all this will be closely controlled through the heavy goods vehicle driving licensing scheme. I hope that reassures the noble Lord.


With great trepidation I rise to intervene in this discussion because I have tabled Amendments with the noble Lord opposite. But on this Amendment I must support my noble friend because this deals with the question of young drivers aged 18 to 21 and the very great staff shortage. My noble friend has outlined the scheme with great care, and I think it is necessary. I may he speaking entirely "out of school" but I gather that this Amendment is very much against the wishes of the Transport and General Workers' Union. I can see that point very well, but I will come back to it later.

As my noble friend has rightly said, with specialised training for heavy goods vehicles (and also Amendment No. 46, which deals with P.S.V. vehicles which, I think it is right to say, refers to Clause 15 as well as to the clause with which we are dealing) the drivers, when they reach the age of 21 will be very much better than other people who have had different experience. I am going to stick my neck out in this connection. The Transport and General Workers' Union operate a great service to their members by providing an insurance. If their members get into any trouble with the courts the union help their members by paying their legal expenses. One can look at the figures and see that between the ages of 18 and 21, the callow youth driving his private car is possibly showing off to his girlfriend, but if he is driving a heavy goods vehicle or a P.S.V. on which his livelihood depends it is a different matter. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, may refute this, but I think that the Transport and General Workers' Union might be very concerned if they had to pay high bills for these people. One sympathises with that and I put it to the Committee quite impartially. Your Lordships may think that this is not a very good course but I think that the training schemes, as my noble friend has suggested, should be tried out and perhaps after that the Transport and General Workers' Union can adjust their subscriptions for those between the ages of 18 and 21. I hope the noble Lord will not be offended by my putting forward this point.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for the care that he has taken in considering these Amendments and providing the Committee with additional information that I am sure will be welcomed by them. I am bound to say at the outset that I was shocked that his advisers should even think that I was moving a wrecking Amendment. How dare they think such a thing! I would never dream of doing anything of that sort: I am too tame, too mellowed. But we wanted to establish the point that the noble Lord has made. In this he is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, who also has knowledge of the driving of heavy vehicles, although not necessarily goods vehicles.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, said that agreement had been arrived at about training. I take it that this agreement can be said to apply not only to the training itself but to every stage that he has mentioned up to the age of 21, when the full licence will be granted. If that is the case, then clearly I have little more to say. I certainly found the fact that the system of training is to be administered by a joint training committee very reassuring, and I am positive that my Amendment was worth while in order to get on to the Record what the noble Lord has said. In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.10 p.m.

LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 22, line 5, at end insert— ("() In section 126 of the 1972 Act (instruction for payment to be given only by registered or licensed persons) in subsection (1) for the word "car" there shall be substituted the word "vehicle".").

The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment may I again apologise for any imperfections there may be in drafting. I would ask my noble friend on the Front Bench if he will kindly pay regard to what I have to say rather than to what I have written down in the Amendment. In moving this Amendment, I should like to get away from what we have been talking about because when I raised this particular point during the Second Reading on November 15, my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, said (at column 866): "It is not necessary." Later in that same column he went on to describe to me why it was not necessary, but I am suggesting that perhaps he misunderstood me, in that in this Amendment I am not seeking to concern myself at all with the 18 to 21-year-old driver or trainee driver whose activities and training are to be undertaken by a totally different body. I have not very much information about the constituent parties of that body, or about the syllabus of the course. My concern is with what we might call, in educational parlance, the mature heavy goods vehicle driver. I am particularly concerned as to how this man receives his instruction.

It is well known that there are too few heavy goods vehicle drivers in the country. The employment ranks are wide open. Many men from many walks of life are moving into this sphere of occupation. The remunerations are extremely high. It is a good life. So we find there are applicants for instruction to get the Class 3, Class 2 and, above all, the Class 1 licence—for the really big, heavy lorry, possibly the transcontinental lorry, which adds excitement to the job. Hitherto, the Road Transport Industry Training Board accepted some responsibility for the training of drivers, but they have gradually moved out of this field. Now, their only participation is in the provision of trainee officer and heavy goods vehicle driving instructors within group training schemes. The Road Transport Industry Training Board also train a number of instructors.

It may well be that a commercial company who do not rank for grant may prefer to send a potential driver for instruction to a commercial undertaking. That commercial undertaking needs no approval from anybody at all. All that undertaking needs are men, current holders of a Class 1 H.G.V. licence. This is patently wrong. Only one third of drivers are trained through the Road Transport Industry Training Board scheme. I know that there is a certain amount of jealousy between the various training boards as to who shall train their drivers. The Road Transport Industry Training Board claim that they should train all drivers in road transport. The petroleum industry's board suggests they should train their own. Thus, we get these divergencies through which slip the completely commercial companies.

Section 126 of Part V of the 1972 Act, which deals with driving instruction, sets out quite clearly that: No instruction, for the giving of which payment of money or money's worth is, or is to be, made by, or in respect of, the person to whom the instruction is given, shall be given in the driving of a motor car unless the name of the person giving the instruction is in the register of approved instructors established in pursuance of section 23 of the Road Traffic Act 1962 and so on. As I understand it, this means that no person who has not satisfied the Department of the Environment as to his technical or other abilities may give instruction in the driving of a motor car for money. He cannot set up a school and give instruction unless he is so registered, but this does not apply in the case of heavy goods vehicle driving instruction.

It was said at the time of the 1962 Act that there were two prime motives for the inclusion of this provision. One was that it was some protection to the consumer of driving lessons that he was not going to be taken (and no pun is intended) for a ride in these matters, but would be taught properly and would be brought up to the right standard to enable him to offer himself for examination; secondly, that there would be a road safety factor, in that he would have not only the mechanical ability to move a motor vhicle around but also the expertise that a fully qualified instructor could pass on to his pupil. This was accepted. But it is not accepted in the case of a heavy goods vehicle driver. This seems to me most peculiar. Indeed, it seems to me absolutely wrong in that, if the heavy goods vehicle and its pilot cause our environment so much distress, as apparently they do—and in another context I might contest that argument—then it behoves us to have the very best of people we possibly can. If one starts at 18-years-old and moves through the training scheme which my noble friend outlined, we may arrive at a 21-year-old or 22-year-old with the right kind of experience. But what about the 35-year-old to 37-year-old who decides to jump into heavy goods vehicle driving as an occupation?

However my Amendment is worded, the intention is that nobody may set up a school, whether it be grant-aided or otherwise, for the giving commercially of heavy goods vehicle instruction unless he is upon a central register, preferably the register of the Department of the Environment which can co-ordinate all the driving instructional activities of all the various and different boards and other interested parties, so that there may be a common examination, a common set of criteria that an instructor must satisfy before he is permitted to give instruction. It is of no use for a man simply to take a course of instruction and satisfy the whim of the examiner of the day in his physical ability to move a vehicle around. This is just too easy. Driving heavy goods vehicles, Class 1, is a very skilful job, demanding a good deal of knowledge and a vast amount of experience of various and different conditions which can be passed to a potential applicant only through a thoroughly experienced person, experienced in the art of piloting a machine and in the art of instructing as well. It is for these reasons that I have set down this Amendment requiring a central register. I beg to move.

8.20 p.m.


I have listened with the greatest interest to what my noble friend has said on his Amendment, and although he prefaced his remarks by saying they were not going to have anything to do with his Amendment, they seemed to me highly relevant to what he put down as an Amendment. I should like to discuss the points with him later and in more detail than I understand the matter at the moment. So far as my information goes, at present the training of drivers of vehicles for industry other than motor cars is the statutory responsibility of the industrial training boards set up under the Industrial Training Act 1964, and the Board principally concerned, as my noble friend said, is the Road Transport Industry Board. Among its functions the Board sets standards for the training of vehicle drivers for industry, and much of its interest is with the heavy goods vehicles. The Board is the main training organisation for heavy goods vehicle driving instructors for industry through its own instructor training centres, and some 1,500 instructors have qualified in this way.

On a number of occasions the Institute of Heavy Goods Vehicle Driving Instructors, or its members, have written to Ministers asking for the registration of heavy goods vehicle driving instructors, as my noble friend has to-night. We have frequently asked for evidence of cases where instruction has been provided by unqualified instructors, but so far this evidence has not been produced. If my noble friend can help me any further in this, perhaps we can discuss it between now and Report stage; I shall be very willing to listen to every- thing he has to say. But as we see the position at the moment, we do not think that the inclusion of instructors of heavy goods vehicle drivers in the registration scheme can be justified on the ground that the present training arrangements are insufficient or inadequate. To include them would involve duplication of control, because it would mean having the two different controlling bodies, the registration scheme and the Industrial Training Board, without raising instructional standards, and would be wrong in principle having regard to the Board's statutory responsibilities.

There is just one other point about the register. The registration of car driving instructors is not only a matter of road safety and good driving practice. The register of approved driving instructors was also designed to provide a measure of consumer protection, by ensuring that learner drivers who pay for tuition get it from instructors who are properly qualified. In the field of commercial driving the industry is in a position to protect its interests through its links with the Training Board, and registration for the sake of consumer protection is therefore unnecessary. So my advice is that the Road Transport Industry Board particularly, and the other Industrial Training Boards, are the statutory bodies responsible for the quality of training. I should like, in view of what my noble friend has said, to have further discussions with him on this matter, if I may, because he mentioned one-third of drivers who, he said, were trained through this scheme and others who were trained outside it. This is something of which I am not aware, and if he would allow me to have conversations with him perhaps we could arrive at some satisfactory solution between us.


I am grateful to my noble friend and will gladly accept his invitation to talk with him about these matters. I beg leave, therefore, to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

House resumed.