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Commons Chamber

Volume 302: debated on Friday 24 May 1935

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House Of Commons

Friday, 24th May, 1935.

The House met at Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair..

New Writ

For the University of St. Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Edinburgh, in the room of John Buchan, Esquire, C. H. (Chiltern Hundreds).—[ Captain, Margesson..]

Private Business

Metropolitan Water Board Bill,

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Leigh Joint Hospital District) Bill,

Portsmouth Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Provisional Order Bill,

Sheffield Corporation (Tramways) Provisional Order bill,

Read the Third time, and passed.

Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Corporation (General Powers) Bill

Reported, with Amendments [Title amended]; Report to lie upon the Table, and to be printed.

Bill, as amended, to lie upon the Table.

Orders Of The Day

Unemployment Assistance (Temporary Provisions) (No 2) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]

Clause 1—(Grants To Local Authorities In Consequence Of Postponement Of Second Appointed Day)

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.7 a.m.

I raised a point on Second Reading with regard to payments to local authorities and expressed the hope that it could be arranged that they should be paid month by month, subject to a final allocation. As Sub-section (3) now stands, the matter is purely in the hands of the Treasury, and local authorities do not know the extent to which they are to find money the reimbursement of which may be delayed. Perhaps the Minister of Health will enlighten the Committee on this point.

11.8 a.m.

I could not answer the right hon. Gentleman's question during the earlier stage of the proceedings because the arrangements had not been completed, but now I am glad to be able to give him a reply. We recognise that it is for good administration by local authorities that payment should be periodic, so that the arrangement will be, first of all, that there shall be a payment more in the nature of a lump sum to cover the initial period, and that then we shall proceed by a system of monthly payments such as that to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There will, of course, be the necessary adjustments in accountancy.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment.

11.10 a.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

The House will remember that a promise was given by the Government that local authorities should be put in the position financially as if the second appointed day had taken place on the 1st March, and this Bill seeks to achieve that object. A calculation is made as to the cost of relief borne by local authorities, the total of which is £6,000,000 in England and Wales and £2, 400,000 in Scotland. That calculation is arrived at by estimating the expenditure on relief in respects of the three winter months, December, 1934 and January and February, 1935. Having arrived at that estimate of relief expenditure, it is assumed that that will continue for the next seven months. From that total are deducted the contributions that local authorities would have made under Section 45 of the Unemployment Act.

The House will remember that the expenditure on relief in the standard year 1932–33 has been calculated, and local authorities, by paying 60 per cent. of the then expenditure, are relieved of the whole of it. That bargain has turned out very much to the advantage of the local authorities, because everywhere the expenditure on relief has gone up, and local authorities are relieved of the total charge by payment of the same sum as they would have paid, calculated in relation to a lower expenditure. In point of fact, local authorities in England and Wales and in Scotland, faced with a cost of relief expenditure of £8, 400,000, are being relieved of no less a total than £5, 600,000. That is the grant for England and Wales and Scotland.

These grants will be made, as my right hon. Friend has just promised, month by month. When this Bill is passed and the Supplementary Estimate is agreed, there will be a grant for the three months down to the end of May and thereafter month by month. The House will notice that this arrangement is provisional for seven months, until September, 1935. That provision was put in at the special request of the local authorities, but I hope the House will agree that we have carried out to the full our promise to the local authorities that they shall not in any way suffer by the postponement of the second appointed day. In so far as their hopes were disappointed and they expected that their financial responsibilities would be taken over earlier, we have enabled them, under a later Clause in the Bill, to borrow and spread over the next five years the expenditure of which they hoped to have been relieved as from the 1st October last down to March. I trust that the local authorities as a whole will accept this as a generous settlement.

11.15 a.m.

I do not wish to go over the ground which I covered on the Second Reading of the Bill. I think that we are bound to accept it, because it is handing over to local authorities money to which they axe morally entitled. I should have liked the Parliamentary Secretary to say something about future intentions, because this is a purely temporary measure extending only until the 30th September and, with the present trend of rising Poor Law expenditure, the understanding which it contains will probably not be applicable when the winter months arrive. I regret very much that in the discussions on this Bill, which is primarily a finance Bill, we have not had the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I made this complaint on the Second Reading of the Bill, and one would have thought that before it passed to another place the Chancellor of the Exchequer would at least have come to the moral assistance of his colleague on whom has been put the responsibility for introducing the Bill. There is nothing that we can do about the Bill unfortunately, and, so far as I am concerned, it can pass to another place. I would, however, like formally to thank the right hon. Gentleman for making this small concession to the local authorities in regard to their immediate payments.

11.18 a.m.

I am sorry that the Postmaster-General is not in his place, because he has really some interest in this Bill by reason of his propaganda work. I hope he will state that there has been a large increase in the amount paid in out relief since 1932–33. Then we shall be able to get a bit of the truth on those hoardings all over the country for which the Postmaster General is responsible. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the full amount is £8, 400,000 and that the Treasury will meet £5, 600,000. That leaves the local authorities to find £2,800,000. We on this side of the House feel that the local authorities should have to pay nothing because the care of the able-bodied unemployed is a national business and the national Exchequer should bear all the burden. I trust that the Parliamentary Secretary will see that the Postmaster-General is kept busy this week-end getting these figures out and putting them on the hoardings for next Monday morning.

11.19 a.m.

It is impossible for us on this side to divide against this Bill for we recognise that it is some little concession to the local authorities, but the local authorities will not be satisfied until either this Government or some other Government takes over tile full financial responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed. I was not converted to this principle to day; I have held it since the first time I took part in an unemployed agitation as far back as 1884. Along with many of my colleagues at that time, when unemployment was not so deep-rooted as it is to-day, that is to say, when there were not so many workpeople out of employment in proportion to the population, I made a declaration that the money paid to the able-bodied unemployed should be a national charge. Either this Government or the Labour Government, if we come back at the next general election—I do not know whether we shall, but time will tell—will have to deal with this problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and many other members on this side have declared over and over again that there was an understanding, even if it was not actually implied, that the obligations of the Government should be recognised from the 1st October, 1934. We still adhere to that proposition.

At the present time the local authorities are called upon to pay 60 per cent. That is another question that will have to be dealt with shortly. The Scottish members are much concerned about it, and there have been several meetings recently to deal with it. The hon. Member for one of the divisions of Liver pool has called one or two conferences, and there are to be some more, for the purpose of declaring that the local authorities are not altogether satisfied with the monetary provision that is now being made. Local authorities have many obligations. West Ham is one of the highest rated boroughs in the country. Our rates are 19s. 4d., which is due to the fact that we have so many unemployed and so many people on public assistance. It is one of those unfortunate boroughs which has no source of income of any kind, as many other local authorities have. We shall not divide on this Bill but the time must arrive when either this or some other Government will be compelled to take over all the obligations for the able-bodied unemployed.

11.23 a.m.

As I come from one of the distressed areas, I would like to say a word on this Bill. It is good in parts and bad in parts. The good part is that which takes over the responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed from the 1st March, although one regrets that that responsibility is limited to the 30th September. That is a mistake because there does not seem any prospect of the appointed day being made the 1st October, and, if that be so, it means we shall have another unemployment Bill. One of the things about which we have to complain is the large number of unemployment Bills which have been brought before the House. This is the second Bill that has had to be produced because of the blundering of the Government in their 1934 Unemployment Insurance Act. But for those blunders this and the former Bill would have been unnecessary. The other part of the Bill which cannot be described as good gives power to the local authority to borrow for the money they spend from the 1st October to the end of March.

The local authorities, especially those in the distressed areas are entitled to complain of being put in the position of having to borrow for this expenditure. Although there had been no definite announcement, they were entitled to expect that the Government would fix the appointed day at 1st March at the latest. I wonder sometimes what was in the mind of the Minister of Health on 12th April, 1933, when he made an important pronouncement to the House respecting the Government taking over the able-bodied unemployed. We were discussing a vote of censure which had been tabled by our party, and the hon. Member for Sunderland (Sir L. Thompson) moved an Amendment to the effect that the Government should accept responsibility for all the able-bodied unemployed. The Minister of Health accepted that Amendment, and thereby gave the impression that the Government were going to take full responsibility for all the able-bodied unemployed. He made this rather remarkable statement:
"the central Government shall accept responsibility, both administrative and financial, for assisting all the able-bodied unemployed who need assistance. "— [OFFICIAL. REPORT, 12th April, 1933; col. 2607, Vol. 276.]
That was bound to create an impression—

That is the whole of the quotation I have copied out. It is quite sufficient. The Minister, when he replies, can finish the quotation. There is difficulty in understanding what was in the mind of the Minister that day, because he delivered a rather long speech arid wound up with this peroration:

"I am confident that when, 10 years hence, this plan being completed, we look back upon its completion."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 12th April, 1933; col. 2611, Vol. 276.]
What had the Minister in mind when speaking of the completion of the plan 10 years hence? Did he think it would take 10 years to complete the plan to deal with unemployment? If that be so I think he will prove to have been right, because that was in April, 1933, and we are now in May, 1935, and the Government are no nearer to completing the plan to-day than they were then. At the pace they are going it will take the Government 10 years to complete the plan. When, that day, he agreed to take financial responsibility for the unemployed he did not expect that two years later he would have to bring a Bill like this before the House to give local authorities power to borrow in order to meet their expenditure between 1st October last year and 30th March this year. Those who submitted that Amend ment to the House in 1933 never expected that the Government would not be long in shouldering responsibility for all the able-bodied unemployed, because the hon. Member for Sunderland said:
"I am satisfied that…. the able-bodied unemployed will be taken over by the State and the cost of their maintenance discharged by the State."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1933; col. 2637, Vol. 276.]
And here we are to-day making provision for the local authorities to borrow in order to meet the money they have spent between 1st October last year and the end of March this year. As one from a distressed area where the rates are already very heavy, I submit that that is not fair to local authorities. Up in the County of Durham our burdens are already heavy enough, without this addition to them. It is said that by the de-rating of agricultural land the County of Durham must have lost no less than £1, 20,000 per annum, and the rateable value lost through the derating of machinery under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925, was estimated at no less than £200,000, and even the Derating Act of 1929, although there was an allowance made by the Treasury, added to the burden of the ratepayers in the County of Durham.

I hope the Minister will reconsider this matter, in spite of what is in this Bill, having regard to the burdens upon local authorities in the distressed areas. A gentleman who, I believe, is an authority on the subject, made the statement not long ago that the result of the various reliefs in the matter of the payment of local rates had been that about 90 per cent. of the rates in the County of Durham are now paid by householders, where as a few years ago they bore only about 55 per cent. of the burden. In his report on that area the Civil Lord of the Admiralty said that no less than 76½per cent. of the dwelling houses in the County of Durham were rated at £10 a year and less and 3 per cent. at more than £20 a year. The burden is gradually being thrown on the small householders in the County of Durham, and we have a right to expect that the Government should come to the rescue, that they should not be content with giving the local authorities power to borrow, but shoulder the responsibility themselves and find the money from the 1st October last year. We cannot too often remind the Minister that the Government sent commissioners into the distressed areas. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty visited the North-East Coast and made a report on this question. So far the Government have ignored that report and have done nothing in connection with it. He said, in the Report:
"For the year 1933–1934 the cost of public assistance in the administrative County of Durham was £1, 223, 169 net, which, even after deduction of the special distressed areas grant, represented a rate of 8s. 6¼d. in the pound, as against 8s. 5d. ….This figure compares with an average of 2s. 8½d. for England and Wales for the year ending 31st March, 1932."
Then he goes:
"Eighty per cent, of the money disbursed for public assistance was expended upon outdoor relief—able bodied and ordinary. Although the Unemployment Assistance Board will shortly become responsible for able-bodied relief, Durham County Council will still have to make to the Board an annual contribution."
Later he says:
"The remedy which would achieve the best results would be to grant from the Exchequer such further relief as would reduce the cost of public assistance still falling upon the rates to the average level obtaining throughout the country. It is recognised that such a step would raise complex questions of why implication, and would involve an annual subsidy which upon present figures must be estimated at over £700,000."
Then he deals with economies. I suggest that the Minister should re-read that report upon the position existing in the County of Durham. He would realise that what we want is, not power to borrow from the Exchequer, but a larger Treasury payment in order to relieve the county of the burden that is falling so very heavily upon them.

We have allowed the Bill to go through without intermission because of the good part that is in it, but the other part, which throws upon the local authorities the power to borrow in order to meet their expenditure, is of no help to the county, because the county have to repay the money sooner or later. The position of local authorities in the north-east part of the county demands that the Government should not treat them in the same way as local authorities are treated in more wealthy areas. The Government should give special consideration to them and be prepared to help them to meet expenditure, which they contracted under a false impression. The Government are responsible for the impression made upon those local authorities that they were taking over the whole financial responsibility from the able-bodied unemployed. If the Government cannot do it for the whole of the country, the local authorities in distressed areas should have special consideration. I hope, even though the Bill passes to-day, that the Government will take this matter into consideration, and that they will try to help the local authorities in the, distressed areas.

11.39 a.m.

I rise to deal with one or two matters raised in debate and to set right some misapprehensions. I will not follow the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey), because most of his points were covered on the Second Reading. Lest it should be thought that any lack of consideration exists on the part of the Government in respect of the conditions of the special areas to which the hon. Member referred, on this or on any other occasion, let me point out that the assistance given in relief of rates by the Exchequer to such areas is in excess of that given to other areas. I find that in Durham no less than 63 per cent. of the expenditure of local authorities borne by the rates is found by the Exchequer. In those conditions, I am sure that the House will agree that very great help is already received from the National Exchequer by those areas. Let me clear up also a misapprehension which I think is in the mind of the hon. Member with regard to the seven months' limitation imposed in the Bill. That limitation is not inserted in order to limit the concession which the Government recognises is necessary, but at the express request of the local authorities, who say that circumstances may change and make the present basis of financial settlement unfair in the future, and that it is right that there should be this limitation which is secured by the seven months.

There are two other statements to which I would make reference, because they are inaccurate and should not come to be believed by the mere force of repetition. In the first place, we never undertook that the second appointed day should be on 1st July last year, and it is not contended that that is so by any responsible party. If local authorities formed an opinion that that was so, they did it without any undertaking from the Govern ment. The second matter of that sort is the assertion that the Government ever at any time undertook to discharge the whole financial responsibility for the able-bodied unemployed under the new arrangement without any contribution from the local authorities. That is not so. The House might well think from the quotation read by the hon. Member for Spennymoor that it was so, but I wish his eye had side-slipped and that he had seen that the subsequent sentence, which I will now read, was material to the argument which he was putting before the House. The sentence is:
"The acceptance of this responsibility by the Central Government will necessitate a readjustment of the present block grant paid to the local authorities by the State, since they will be relieved of a liability to which they have hitherto been subject. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1933; col. 607, Vol. 276.]
Throughout all the statements on this subject by myself and subsequently by Lord Rushcliffe, who was then Minister of Labour, it was made clear that acceptance of financial and administrative responsibility was undertaken for the first time, but in consideration of that relief to the local authorities from financial liability, which, in meal or in malt, would be paid by the Exchequer, the form of contribution may have to be changed from time to time. The principle, however, remains. I welcome the support which this Measure has obtained from all sides of the House, and I trust that the hon. Member for Spennymoor may come to see that the Bill is good throughout.

11.45 a.m.

I cannot understand how an unemployment assistance Bill comes to be in charge of the Minister of Health. This is a very serious matter of principle. It may be remembered that, in the original Insurance Bill of 1911 one part of which related to unemployment insurance and the other part to health insurance, adivision of function was decided upon, by which the Minister of Health looked after the health insurance section and unemployment assistance which became part of the unemployment problem, which was under the separate Ministry of Labour. Many of us who are concerned with health have, over and over again, felt that the health side of the Ministry of Health is being swamped by their taking over administrative provisions. It is very largely swamped by having to deal with questions of local government administration, and it is also swamped by having to take over the very controversial question of housing, which is not directly a question of health. Now it is being given this extra work in connection with unemployment assistance under the present Bill. To add all these different matters to the work of the Ministry of Health—I do not know whether it is because that Ministry is supposed to have more time than the Ministry of Labur—is wrong. The subject of health needs all the time that can be given to it, and not nearly enough time and attention is given to it at the present moment. I want to know why it is that this particular business is given to the Ministry of Health instead of to the Ministry of Labour.

11.46 a.m.

I warmly welcome the kindly effort of my hon. Friend to reduce the labours of the Ministry of Health, but I am afraid that the answer to his question is really quite a simple one. He is quite right in pointing out that the general administration of the law relating to assistance to able-bodied unemployed is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, but this Bill relates in its first line to a question of local authority finance, and the financial relations between the local authorities and the central Government. The Minister of Health, among his varied functions so well described by my hon. Friend, is responsible to this House for all matters of local government finance, and he is, therefore, the appropriate Minister to deal with a Bill the central purpose of which is a matter of local government finance.

Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time, "put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Herring Industry Act, 1935

11.48 a.m.

I beg to move,

"That the Herring Industry Scheme, 1935, which was laid before this House on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, under Section 2 (5) of the Herring Industry Act, 1935, be approved."
The Herring Industry Scheme under the Herring Industry Act, 1935, now falls to be considered by the House. The scheme comes before us as a whole, and has to be sanctioned or refused by the House. I think that that is inevitable, since the scheme has involved many months of discussion with all the technical interests concerned, and I think we may say that it has gained their approval. It now falls to the House of Commons to consider whether, the various interests having been adjusted, the scheme as a whole commends itself to the House or not. Just to run very briefly through the circumstances which have preceded the submission of the scheme the Act passed on the 14th March enabled the scheme to be drawn up, but, before the passing of that Act, we had the investigation of the Sea Fish Commission for the United Kingdom and the exhaustive and masterly report known as the Duncan Report, upon which the Act and the provisions of the scheme have been based. I wish again to repeat the thanks of those connected with the Fishery Departments, both in England and in Scotland, to the Duncan Commission for the labour and skill which they expended on behalf of the herring industry. I have said before, and I say again, that I know of no example of a highly technical report, involving the most drastic recommendations, which has received such general acceptance at the hands of those chiefly concerned. Whether the scheme succeeds or whether it fails, it is a very remarkable achievement that it comes forward with so much good will as is the case to-day.

The scheme, based, as I have said, upon the exhaustive inquiries of the Duncan Commission—the Sea Fish Commission—elaborated in terms of the Herring Industry Act, 1935, was submitted to the Secretary of State for 'Scotland, to the Secretary of State for the Home Department as representing the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, and to myself, by the Herring Industry Board which was set up under Section 1 of the Herring Industry Act, 1935. Under that Act, the Board have to be satisfied that there is a prevailing opinion in favour of the preparation of a scheme of this kind, and the Board, I think with full justification, came to the conclusion that there was a prevailing opinion in favour of the pre paration of a scheme. It is true that the expression?prevailing opinion? was subject to challenge in the House and in the country as unnecessarily vague language to insert in a Statute; but, like so many other illogical things which have been done in Great Britain, the illogicality of saying that a prevailing opinion was to be a condition precedent to the introduction of the scheme into this House has been justified, and I think all will say, as in the case of the definition of a gentleman, that, while we cannot exactly define a prevailing opinion, we all know one when we come to it.

That is not to say that the prevailing opinion in favour of the scheme meant that the scheme when published did not meet with some very severe criticism. It was the subject of the most minute examination throughout the whole industry, and, indeed, by others not connected with the industry; and, whatever may be said about some other schemes which have been brought before this House, I think we can say confidently that those engaged in the industry know what this scheme means. They have examined it, they have criticised it, they have put up their amendments to it, they have discussed it for long periods both among themselves and with the Herring Board and the Government Departments. They are not buying a pig in a poke. Whether it is a good pig or not we shall not know until eventually we take it to market, whether as a bacon pig or as a fat stock animal, but at any rate they know what they are buying, and are doing it with their eyes open. I will not detain the House with a description of the process of examination through which the scheme has gone, but I think we may say that all the associations connected with the industry are in favour of the scheme save the curers and exporters, who have reserved their opinion on certain points; but I think it is also true to say that even they do not desire the scheme to be held up on account of the objections which they have found it necessary to register. It is, I think, desirable that we should have the benefit of any criticisms which the House may wish to make, and either I or my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will have pleasure in replying to any points of criticism or further elucidation which the House would like dealt with.

The herring industry has been in a state of grave crisis for longer than any of us here care to look back upon, and some degree of reorganisation has been felt to be urgently necessary for some time. This scheme makes a start towards that reorganisation. The essential feature of the reorganisation is that it is done under a code passed by this House, and administered by a Board nominated by the Government and not elected by the industry. At the same time, however, arrangements have been made for a change-over to a system of election if and when a reasonable scheme can be worked out. Wide provision is made for decentralization and for the operation of area committees, since there are many areas—for example, Cornwall and the Clyde—which do not fall within the ambit of the great movement of the herring shoals down the eastern coast of this island which has been a feature of its maritime life, and, indeed, of its economic life, for many centuries. But the herring industry is on the whole one industry, and it has freely accepted that it should be administered under this code and by nominees proposed by the Government

The industry would wish that the proposals had gone even beyond those which have been submitted. In Scotland particularly the fishermen have made a plea that some provision for minimum wages should, in some way or other, be secured to them. All I can say is that certainly it does not find any place in the governing Act and therefore could not be in any way put into the Scheme. Whether wages could or could not be guaranteed by statute to an industry as hazardous, both in its operation and its market, as the herring trade is a matter upon which we all must feel a certain amount of doubt. But be that as it may all that the Act gives power to do has been either implicitly or explicitly placed in this scheme. The Act fulfilled in a re markable degree the provisions of the Duncan Commission Report and the very far-reaching ideals which they held out as desirable in that report. Whether this scheme will be a success or not, none of us can say. The herring industry is governed by many things far outside the power even of both Houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and, therefore, all that we can say is that the men of the sea, especially the men who get the harvest of the herring shoals are greatly loved by the nation. One of the most moving songs in our great collection of ballad literature is the song?Caller Herrin?. It is almost an epic of breadwinning under perilous conditions. We and indeed the House wish them well. We hope that the scheme will be to their advantage. We shall spare nothing which may be necessary to make it turn out as we desire that it should turn out in order to secure more stable conditions and a more prosperous life for the hard pressed men of the sea.

11.58 a.m.

May I echo the sentiment of the right hon. Gentleman of good wishes to our herring fisheries, and I say at once that we have no intention of opposing the Order now before the House. We recognise the plight of this most difficult industry, suffering from all the meteorological difficulties and other difficulties which have been referred to by the very efficient Commission who examined this industry, and we should be loth to do anything to prevent them from reorganising their industry so that they may derive a better livelihood and far greater security than they have been doing for a long time. But this is an opportunity when one ought to draw attention to the extraordinary situation that frequently confronts the House as a result of the lethargy or indifference of those connected with an industry, namely, the responsibility of Parliament for all our industries when they are passing through a time of very great crisis. The Commission referred to by the right hon. Gentleman produced a very sound report. They were not only highly efficient, but they were very courageous too. I want to try and show why it is not sufficient for the Government to stand or sit idly by watching one industry after another go to their ultimate ruin, and then only when the condition is such that it is almost impossible to resuscitate the industry, for Parliament to step in. On page 7 of that Report the Com missioners say:

"The individualistic industry of pre-War times with a ready sale for its product had no need to develop a marketing technique, and it now has no means of meeting adequately the economic difficulties of existing markets, or of opening up new markets. "
On page 8, they continue:
"In every direction, therefore, the problems of the industry call for organised action. It should, in our opinion, be based on the following principles which underlie our concluding recommendation "
— and they proceed to outline a series of principles of certain action which they think ought to be taken. They say:
"Under modern conditions, unless there is responsible and collective organisation, there can be no fair chance for the units participating in the industry or scope for individual effort."
That decision was reached after having examined the perilous decline of the industry not only from 1913 forward, but with increasing rapidity since the war. They tell us, for instance, that the average annual catch and sale from 1911 to 1913 was 10,800,000 cwts.; by 1929 this had fallen to 7, 700,000 cwt. and by 1933 their catch only amounted to 5, 100,000 cwt. That resulted in more than distress among the fishermen. It resulted in certain economic changes which made it well nigh impossible either for the owner of the boat or the workmen on the boat to derive a livelihood worth calling a living. It failed to put out of action a number of boats consistent with the decline of sales either in the home market or the export market. Their cost for coal in 1929 amounted to 20 per cent. of the value of the catch, but by 1933 the cost of coal amounted to no less than 30 per cent. of the catch, while the remaining expenses entailed on the gross takings in 1929 amounted to 30 per cent., and by 1933 they had reached 45 per cent., so that the total cost for expenses had increased from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. It is obvious that in those circumstances the net income to the fisher men was so small that they could neither repair their ships, buy new ships, renew their nets, nor do any one of the things required for a really efficient industry, with the result that when this Report was issued 6 per cent. of the fishing vessels were ten years old, 28 per cent. between 10 and 20 years old, and 63 per cent. between 20 and 30 years old, and there was no possibility in existing circumstances of any of these vessels being either renewed or really made seaworthy. That condition has existed in the indus try for a long time, and the Commissioners on page 37 of their Report conclude,
"Our survey of these problems will have made it clear that the industry stands in urgent need of re-organisation, and that both a governing body and a basic structure are indispensable pre-requisites if the fullest economic results are to be obtained from reorganisation. "
All the facts clearly indicate that the Commissioners were justified not only in levelling criticism at the existing organisation, but by implication, levelling critism at government after government who had allowed the situation to develop. In their recommendations they are by no means hesitant. They tell the industry and the Parliament and the country that there must be a complete reorganisation if there is to be any chance of the industry surviving. On page 40 they say that there should be a Board which should have power;
"to license the boats that may catch her rings for sale, prescribing standards of efficiency and suitability, with special regard to seaworthiness; the licences to be held subject to compliance with such requirements as the Board may from time to time determine. "
They also suggest that the Board should have power to fix starting and stopping dates for the various fishings, to allocate boats to particular fishings or periods of fishings, to apply close seasons and prohibit fishing in certain areas at certain times with a view to the preservation of stocks; to prescribe the size of mesh for nets and the number of nets per boat and various other things. They recommend that the sale should be conducted by persons who are licensed, whose remuneration is determined by the Board, and that an exporting board should be established, who should have power to compel the fishermen to sell their herrings to the board for export purposes or for curing and kippering. They would also have power to deal with the home market as well. All these things are very necessary, but the misfortune is that it remains for Parliament in 1935 to take steps which should have been taken by the fishermen themselves voluntarily in 1925, which would have pre served the industry and enabled them to make a much better livelihood than they have been making during the past five or six years.

The Order gives the industry complete home rule. They have full powers to determine the size of the catch, when it shall be caught, how it shall be sold, to whom it shall be sold, and at what price. They can deal with the shipment of herring to places abroad. I am delighted that the Minister who is hostile to import boards does not object to an export board in the case of the herring industry. I agree with an export board. If they are to get any portion of the export trade in herrings it can only be done by a central organization acting on behalf of the whole industry, instead of the matter being left to individuals who apparently have not been able to preserve the export trade. We are not averse to the Order. We are as anxious as the Minister that the herring fishermen shall rescue themselves from the pre sent morass. The first part of the Order allows the Government to make a loan to the herring industry for certain purposes. When the Board has been established they will be able to review the possibilities, and I hope that the Government will not be hesitant at granting the requisite loans to enable the herring fishing people to repair, or renew their vessels, to conduct their export sales in a thoroughly efficient manner without being embarrassed by lack of capital. We want to see the fishermen, who live a very perilous life, enjoying much better times, and if as a result of this Order they are able to establish the basic structure of a new organisation, plus the loans which the Government are willing to concede, I hope that they will be able to do themselves justice.

I know that the fishermen have accepted the Order for what it is worth. They have expressed certain doubts with regard to paragraph 6 (a), but are prepared to give it a trial. They reserve the right, if they suffer any injustice as a result of the provision, to approach the Minister, who I hope will not be averse to receiving representations and amending the Order if it is necessary. They have also expressed doubts about paragraph 18 (d) and (g), for fixing minimum prices for the sale of cured herrings of any class, quality, grade or selection with a view to shipment to places abroad. They suggest that this provision is utterly impossible to administer, but here again they are willing to give it a trial in the hope that the Minister will be sympathetic should it be found that the pro vision is being evaded in any way. The provision in (g) is:
"for prohibiting or restricting, for the purposes of market control, the shipment of herring of any class, quality, grade or selection on consignment."
I am not an expert in these matters, but practical fishermen have expressed doubts on this matter. I hope they are not well founded and that the scheme will prove eminently successful, and instead of the continued deterioration since the war we shall find, as a result of this reorganisation, progress, improvement and more security in the industry.

12.13 p.m.

I am glad to say that there was nothing in the speech of the Minister of Agriculture to which I could take exception. I was glad to hear his reassurance that the Government would do all they can to assist this industry, which indeed requires a great deal of assistance at the moment. I associate myself with what has been said about the Duncan Report. The herring industry is under a debt of gratitude to Sir Andrew Duncan and his colleagues for the efficient way in which they have carried out their work. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. H. Williams) seems to be under a misapprehension in thinking that the scheme provides for an export marketing board to undertake the export of herrings. That indeed was the recommendation of the Duncan Commission, and I regret that it has not been adopted and cannot now be put into the scheme. I should like to have seen the experiment made, and I hope that in the future it may be possible to make some attempt to organise an exporting marketing board in that way

The issue which is before the House is, indeed, a very simple one. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we have no power to amend this scheme. We cannot change individual Clauses, and, in that case, it seems to me, perhaps, a little unprofitable to go into questions as to amendments which might or might not be made. The broad question seems to me this: Does this scheme offer a reasonable hope that the Board will be able to pilot this sorely-tried industry back to some measure of prosperity? Is it worth trying? I am quite certain there can be no difference of opinion on that score, and I look forward with confidence to a unanimous acceptance of this scheme by the House to-day. What we have got to do, therefore, it seems to me, is to tell the Board to take these powers and get on with their job without any further delay. After all, it would be a very great surprise if this scheme were perfect at the first shot. Experience, I should think, will almost certainly show up defects, and show also where improvements can be made, and, in the course of time, I have no doubt, we may have an amending scheme. In the meantime, I feel certain that the Board will do all that they can to keep in close touch with representative organisations of the trade, and do everything they can to work it in harmony with them, and give due weight to any proposals of reform they care to make. I feel sure that if all the organisations address themselves to this new scheme with the desire to work in harmony, good will come out of this scheme to the industry.

That is all I desire to say in that respect, but I think the right hon. Gentlemen might take this opportunity to give a little encouragement to the industry, and give it a little information, if it is possible to do so, as to how the Board is to work in the near future. As I say, there is a certain amount of despondency still abroad, and some information which might be given at the present time might go a long way to get rid of that particular feeling. What is it that the Board when they get their powers are going to do? I quite understand that the Board, who have only been in existence for something over two months, have been very busy getting this scheme out, and it may very well be that they have not yet bean able to survey the situation sufficiently to enable them to give the industry any guidance as to what they are going to do in the near future, but if they could give any guidance, I am sure it would be very heartily welcome. After all, it is a platitude to say what is required for the herring fishing industry is new and extended markets. I am not going to repeat what has been often said by myself and others as to the necessity of improving the markets in Europe—Russia, Poland and Germany. I have nothing new to say upon that subject, but it will not be sufficient if the new Herring Board content themselves with merely trying to develop old markets. I hope they will go out into the world and look for new markets.

I was in Palestine recently on a visit, and I took occasion to try to see what the prospects were for fish, and particularly herring, in that market. I saw a good deal of Scottish herring for sale. I was very much impressed by the poor condition that they seemed to be in, and the unattractive conditions in which they were sold, and I felt that if herrings could be sold as they were being sold there under those conditions, they could be sold in very much greater quantities if they were sold in better condition and in more attractive form. I found that there was an enormous consumption of fish there, and that there were large imports via Turkey from the Black Sea, and even across the desert from Persia and Iraq. It was an amazing piece of information to me, and I feel certain that if the Herring Board, and not only the Herring Board but any organisation that may hereafter be set up to deal with white fish, will address itself to trying to meet the special needs of a market of that kind, they will be able to do something for the solid advantage of this industry.

There is another point. It has often been said that cured herring—pickled herring—are of no good to tropical countries. I am not quite sure that is really the case. I should like the Herring Board, if they could, to put that matter clearly to the test. After all, 100 years ago one of the main markets open to the Scottish herring fishing industry was in certain parts of the West Indies, and if it were possible for large quantities of herrings to be consumed then, surely it could be possible to-day. I have had representations made to me since these schemes were mentioned that India provides a real opportunity for expansion in this matter, and, in view of the fact that the herring in the past has had a large sale in tropical countries like the West Indies, it does seem to me that there may be possibilities even in a country like India. If India could come into the market for herring, there would be real possibilities which would be of the very greatest advantage to the industry. We look, therefore, to the Herring Board to tackle questions like these with energy, and, we hope, with success.

The fishermen—and I have been in touch with some of them in the last week—are in a little doubt as to how this scheme is going to affect them, and, in particular, how soon it is going to affect them. There is the licensing system. I hoped it might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to say a word or two to guide fishermen as to whether they may all expect to get their licences as a matter of form, and whether they will be able to have them right away. Then there is a question which, perhaps, more than anything else, is vexing the fishermen—the system or method by which the loans which have been promised are to be given. Fishermen, as is well known, are in a bad financial position at the present time, and they are looking for loans to help them to restock their boats with gear, and also to enable them to re-condition their boats. In the matter of gear the question of assisting them is easier than helping them to re-condition their boats, because it can be done in a very short time. I presume that for the present fishing season, which has already started in some places, it may still be possible to assist fishermen who desire to take advantage of the gear loans, and I hope the fishermen may be able to get some information as to the terms on which these loans will be given to them. I take it for granted that the re-con ditioning part of the scheme will not operate very much, if at all, for the present summer fishing. It may be that in East Anglia something may be done.

I do not know whether the Board have been able to survey the situation sufficiently to give the industry any guidance as to whether they think it desirable or possible for any cutting down of the industry to be made this year. It seems to me that what is required in the re-conditioning of the industry is that it should be guided back to the position in which it was a generation ago. At that time there were very few, if any, fishermen who were herring fishermen all the year round. They were herring fishermen for about six months and white fishermen for the other six months of the year. The fact that the herring market has gone down makes it uneconomic probably for fishermen, at any rate in the numbers of the immediate past, to try to be herring fishermen all the year round. If that is the case they must equip themselves with boats which will be adaptable readily for white fishing. That points to the fishermen coming back to smaller boats which can more readily take part in the inshore white fishing in which so many of them engage in the winter at the present time. I hope it will be possible for the Board to assist fishermen who have drifters and wish to exchange them for smaller motor craft. If they are able to do that I feel certain that they will make a very great contribution to putting the industry in a better position than it has been in hitherto.

There is another point which is to some extent relevant to a discussion of this kind, although not directly so. For a long time we have had the same Minister responsible for both agriculture and fisheries. Agriculture is bound to take up most of his time, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is getting more and more work of a departmental kind put upon it on account of all the Boards and quotas and things of that kind. I feel that the fisheries are becoming more and more a sort of poor relation in the lord's mansion. It is worth while considering whether the time is not coming when some sort of separate representation can be made for fisheries, so that fisheries will not always be dragged at the tail of agriculture. There is in Scotland a Scottish Fisheries Board, and it does appear to have a certain independence, but still the Minister responsible for it in this House is the Secretary of State for Scotland, who of course is responsible for almost everything under the sun which comes from that country. I hope the Government will consider whether something cannot be done to give fisheries a better status in the Government departments.

Like everyone else who is connected with a constituency in which the fishing industry plays an important part, I have been intensely interested in all the steps which have led up to this scheme, the end of the first chapter of re-organisation of the herring fishing industry. Although I have had some little criticism to make at times, yet I am glad that we have now come to the end of that chapter, and I only hope that the work of the Board will be crowned with the greatest success. I can assure them that they start on their difficult and arduous task with the good wishes of everybody connected with the industry.

12.32 p.m.

The right hon Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture introduced this Motion in a very sympathetic manner, as one would naturally expect of a Minister who has taken such interest in the whole of the herring industry, and a Minister who comes from a country where the industry bulks so much more largely in the social structure than it does in England. The right hon. Gentleman was very guarded as to the amount of support which had been given to the proposals now before us. He spoke of the difficulty of ascertaining what the prevailing opinion was. Of course we all realise how difficult it is to assess what prevailing opinion may be, the amount that may be necessary to make it prevail. He said that the scheme might be said to have gained the approval of those concerned. Without putting it too high, I think it is rather a guarded approval. We all realise that we are embarking on an enormous experiment, and the amount of approval that will be given hereafter will depend very largely on how far that experiment succeeds. All of us who are interested in the herring industry are anxious to see the experiment succeed, and I think it may generally be said that those people who have put forward criticism and objections to the scheme are willing to hold those objections in reserve and will do their best to make the experiment a success. If that line is adopted on all sides, we shall have the best chance possible of making the scheme a success.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) said, it is somewhat difficult now to say anything that would be useful, because we cannot amend the scheme and must either reject it or adopt it. I assume there is no question that it will be adopted unanimously. How successful the scheme is going to be in future will depend largely on the policy that the Board adopt within the four corners of the scheme. On that point I know that the Board has in many respects and particularly in financial matters to apply to the Ministers who are interested as representing the fisheries. But in other matters I take it the Board will have practically a free hand and that the Government will wish to interfere as little as possible with the lines of policy on which they work. At the same time, I take it there will be no desire for any line of cleavage to appear between the sympathetic attention of the Government and the energetic actions of the Board.

While I am on that point, I should like to ask the Minister whether he or his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to answer questions put by Members in this House in regard to the actions of the Board. We know that, touching other boards, particularly that in connection with the milk industry, when certain searching and rather difficult questions have been proposed to the right hon. Gentleman he has smilingly replied that those are matters for the Board, that the Board is responsible for them, and that he cannot give any answer. It ought to be made clear that this Board is being set up, with considerable powers, by this House and is being financed very largely out of the public purse and that its actions should be made subject and properly made the subject of answers to questions put by Members in this House. I am sure that all who are interested in the industry will be glad if the Minister can give an affirmative answer to that question.

I, like other Members representing fishing constituencies, took a recent opportunity of visiting my constituency and consulting with both fishermen and curers there as to the way in which they regarded the proposals in the scheme. There is one point which I would stress and which was put to me by some very experienced and leading fishermen in Shetland. One of them said to me that the charges for licences were obviously too high. I am glad, and we are all glad, that these charges for licensing boats have been materially reduced in the scheme now before us from the charges which appeared in the scheme which was originally put forward. But, in addition to the licensing charges for boats, there are also charges for licensing curers, salesmen and exporters and then there is the levy. As the fishermen very shrewdly said, You have a number of these charges put on the industry and, in the end, they all come back to the man at the bottom, namely, the fisherman. I hope that the Board will bear clearly in mind that a small charge here and a small charge there may appear slight when taken separately, but they amount to a considerable burden on the industry when they are totalled up and that burden is bound, eventually, to fall on the shoulders of the fisherman. I referred just now to the levy. A great deal of anxiety is expressed as to the amount of the levy and the way in which it will be collected. I would be glad if the Minister would explain how paragraph 23 (2) of the scheme works out. I am not a very good arithmetician myself, and I would like an explanation of this part of the scheme which states:
"The rate of a levy shall be such that the aggregate amount levied under this paragraph does not exceed, during any of the three years from the date when this Scheme takes effect. one-fortieth, or during any subsequent year, one twentieth, of an amount equal to the aggregate of the proceeds of first sales in respect of which levies are made during that year together with the value of the fresh herring landed and not sold in respect of which levies are so made."
I think hon. Members will agree that it is rather difficult from that, to understand how the levy will work out, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever replies, will give an answer on that point. Another point about which the fishermen were exercised concerns the conditions that may be attached to giving a licence to a boat. The power of making conditions is very wide. I refer to paragraph 13 (5 b), which states:
"The Board shall endeavour so far as possible to secure that in the grant of boat licences an equitable distribution thereof is made amongst places at which boats are registered. "
It would be very difficult for the Board to make such an equitable distribution because, although a boat may be registered at one place, it may be fishing at an entirely different place. I shall be glad if the Minister can tell us something of the principles which are to guide the Board in making that distribution. Then again, there is the condition that a boat may have a licence to fish only in such localities or from such ports as may be specified. It seems curious that if a boat has obtained a licence to fish, say in the Shetland area, and if there should be no fish there, if the fish should have moved away to the Orkney area, the fishermen have to go ashore and apply to the Board and get a new licence to go elsewhere, especially when we have the modern system of wireless communications by which, if it were not necessary to get a licence for a different locality, a boat could immediately go and fish where the fish were.?It seems extraordinary,? one fisherman said to me, "that we should be compelled to go to fish in a place where we know the fish are not, and that we should have to get another licence in order to fish where the fish are. "

I hope that the Board in such circumstances will be able to make arrangements so that it shall not be an offence for fishermen to follow the fish. We have to begin with the idea and to keep it in our minds that it seems a very peculiar thing to the fisherman who has always had the opportunity, like all His Majesty's subjects, of going to the sea when he wills in order to catch fish that he should for the first time be subject to a licence. If the conditions of the licence are made onerous it will make him a very strong opponent of the scheme and if the scheme is to be a success, as we all hope it will be, it is obvious that as far as possible all sections of the industry should be carried along in a sympathetic manner and that no action should be taken which is likely to engender hostility in any section.

There is one point on which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give a specific answer. That is with regard to the early fishing in the Shetlands, which is about commencing now. The Duncan Commission recommend on page 4 of their report that exemption might be granted by the Board from their requirements, in whole or in part, in the case of particular cures and they mention the matje cure. As hon. Members know, that is a very special fishing which is in the northern seas. The fish are early fish, lightly cured and sent to the Continental markets mostly to Germany, and there is considerable apprehension both by curers and others in Shetland that it would be exceedingly detrimental to the fishing industry there if any steps were taken to limit that fishing in the islands which is peculiar to that area and which has its own special market. I notice that in the scheme before us there is a provision that matje already under cure may be exempted from control and exporters may export them at once. I should also like to ask whether it is the intention of the Board in its early operations to allow such special fishing for the benefit of particular markets to continue for the present in the same way as it has been carried on in the past. Where the industry has been built up by connection with special markets the people dealing with it have acquired the accumulated knowledge of past years and know exactly what is wanted, when it should be supplied and how it should be supplied. I hope that nothing will be done to interfere with a market of that sort, which may be very easily upset by anything in the way of general distracting or prohibition.

My hon. and gallant Friend who preceded me spoke on the question of markets. He said that he might be accused of making use of platitudes. In the Debate on the Finance Bill the other day I referred to the question of markets and currency and the Chancellor of the Exchequer took occasion to make fun of me for talking platitudes. Platitudes are very often—

They may be the foundation of speeches but they contain truths, and those truths are apt, some times, to be forgotten. I do not say that the Marketing Board are going to forget or leave out of their view the importance of present markets but I hope that they will take every step to look for new markets. My hon. Friend ranged over the world and spoke of the East, the Near East and India. I think that Africa offers great opportunities. I know that the Africans love fish and the more tasty and the stronger flavour it has the higher price they will pay for it. I believe there are great opportunities for opening up markets in the interior of Africa, in getting the fish cured, and packed in such a way that it can be carried conveniently, and taken in 60 lb. packages carried on men's heads. There are opportunities out there which might be most profitably explored.

While on the subject of markets I should like particularly to refer to currency difficulties We know of the currency difficulties which exist in Germany at the present time. Some dealers who sold herrings to Germany last year have so far only received 50 per cent. of the price of those herring. If arrangement could be made by the Board either alone or in conjunction with the Ministers concerned and the Treasury to get over some of these currency difficulties not only for the future but possibly to clear off the outstanding debts for last year it would make it more easy for the curers to finance the present year's dealings and go a very long way to expand our export market, certainly with Germany. I hope that special consideration will be given to that matter, and if the Board are not in a position to do it themselves that the Ministers will undertake to give them every assistance they can to get over these currency difficulties. As there are other hon. Members who wish to speak I 'will not detain the House further. As I have said already, everything will depend on the policy of the Board. They have enormous power under this scheme, and we all wish that the scheme will be a success. It is an excellent thing to have a giant's powers but it is tyrannous to use them like a giant. We all hope that the Board will not use them like a giant but will use them in a gentle way and take the trade with them the whole distance.

12.51 p.m.

There is no one engaged in the industry who would dare to take the responsibility of rejecting or in any way hindering the immediate passage of this scheme. I should like to make a confession and an apology to the Minister. The Duncan Report proposed that the Bill should also contain the scheme but His Majesty's Government decided differently. They decided to pass the Act and then to put forward the scheme. I criticised that decision at the time on the ground that it would cause delay, but I am sure it has had exactly the opposite effect. If the scheme had been embodied in the Bill and all the different sections of the trade had criticised the proposals, as they would, line by line, the Bill would have taken months to pass.

There have been objections by various sections of the trade to the scheme. There were objections made by the English Herring Catcher's Association, for whom I am authorised to speak, but I should like to say that those objections were met to a very great extent by the Minister and that they now accept and support the scheme. Other objections were made. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred in particular to paragraphs 6 And 18. He mentioned that there were objections by the fishermen. I think he is under a misapprehension. There were objections by the curers, and it is as well that a few words should be said about those objections. The first is with respect to paragraph 6 (a) which says that the Board may
"make and carry into effect arrangements for, or in connection with, sales of herring to foreign Governments or to combinations or associations of foreign buyers and sales for the opening of new markets."
I understand that the curers took up this attitude, that they would not have objected to that Clause being passed in its present language if it applied only to Russia, but that they objected to the wide powers given. I think the answer to that objection is this, that Germany to-day may easily get a position in foreign trade where exports and imports will become a government monopoly or entirely under government control, and if that happens, as it may happen very suddenly, the Board must have powers to deal with it. I believe the curers' answer is that if that happens the scheme could be amended to include Germany, but I would suggest that by the time the amendment had passed through the House irreparable damage and disaster might be caused to the trade.

Another section of curers object to paragraph 18 where very wide powers are given especially in paragraph (b). I think the objections are really based on a misunderstanding. Any Board that has to deal with the appalling difficulty that faces the herring trade to-day must be armed with the fullest possible powers. If you give to anybody very full powers to examine the proposals line by line and word by word you can say that they are capable of abuse. But it is necessary to give them that power and you must trust your Board not to abuse it

In this case we have an admirable Board, consisting of the three representatives appoined by the Government and six representatives of the trade. I criticised the extra appointment made the other day to the trade representatives on the ground that it gave one English representative out of six. But the English herring catchers recognise that the new appointment is an admirable appointment and that the individual appointed does represent in an excellent manner the actual catchers of the herring, and they have confidence in the Board. I feel that many of the objections to and criticisms of the powers given to the Board would vanish if the critics could realise that you have in the six trade representatives men who are universally respected, men holding the highest positions in the trade and men who have had lifelong experience of it, and that it is certain that they will not do any thing foolish, The last speaker pointed out various things that might be done, but surely the one object of these trade representatives, whose whole interest, capital and life are wrapped up in this industry, will be to exercise their powers only for the good of the trade to which they belong.

I feel that it is almost an impertinence on my part to suggest to a Board containing such men any ideas as to future policy, but perhaps I might put it in this way, that I thoroughly agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) that the great thing is not only to expand existing markets but to search for new markets—I will not go into that in any further detail—and that the last thing to be considered is any policy of restricting the number of boats till every possible effort has been made to develop new markets. I understand—I hope that the Minister will confirm it when he replies—that the Board, although they have no powers yet, have been and are in communication with the Russian authorities as regards a contract with Russia. I hope that that con tract will materialise. I believe that it would be of inestimable benefit to the trade if we could obtain from Russia large, substantial contracts spread over a whole season even if it were not at such a remunerative price as we could have liked. I believe that the spread of a large contract over the whole season would be a very great help to the industry. As regards Germany, the hon. Baronet who spoke last referred to the difficulties of German exchange. Again, I hope and believe that the Board has that in view to-day and are working at that very difficult problem. I would point out that Germany under the trade agreement undertook to buy from us 55 per cent. of what we bought from her. During the first three months of this year Germany has actually bought far more from us than 55 per cent.

There are just three other points which I would like to mention. Perhaps the Minister in his reply will give us some indication as to the general effect of the reports received by the Department of Overseas Trade. They have been conducting an investigation in all countries of the world except North America, and I understand that the reports are beginning to come in. If he could inform us whether the reports are hopeful, it would have a cheering effect on those engaged in the trade. The second point is this. There have been efforts made to use surplus herring for conversion into oil, and three or four factories were erected in Scotland. They have failed. I hope that the Board will investigate the new methods. I believe that there are new methods which will enable the herring to be used for some such things as oil and meal. I understand that the new methods may give better results and enable better prices to be given. My final point is that I trust the Government will enable the most valuable experiments in freezing now being carried out to be continued. I regard their continuance as essential. If they are a success—and there is every indication that they will be a success—then our home herring may easily displace Norwegian imports.

I have nothing more to add except to wish the scheme every possible success. I welcome it as providing a directing staff for the industry. I shall never forget last October day after day going about Yarmouth and Lowestoft, seeing thousands of men standing about idle, and having them come up to me and asking for something to be done. I remember also meeting the owners of the industry. Again there was a lack of control, a lack of leadership, a lack of staff. The whole industry was stricken, and had no centre to which to rally. That was an experience which I hope and believe will never be repeated, because here we have a board with six men possessing the confidence of the industry. There are dark and difficult days ahead. Nobody except those in touch with the industry realises the difficulties and dangers even during the coming year. They have an enormous task before them and whatever happens they will be a rallying centre for the industry in times of trouble. What we can do in this House to-day is to ensure that they have our confidence and that they will have our utmost support in carrying forward the very difficult task which faces them.

1.5 p.m.

The function we are called upon to perform to-day is little more than a ceremony of blessing. We have to confirm and bestow good wishes on this scheme. We cannot amend it in any particular: it must be accepted entire or not at all. And as we have already passed the major Act, there is no alternative to passing this. In any case I do not think there is any need to discuss the details, for that has already been done for us by those most competent to do it, namely, the leaders of the industry themselves. They have examined every paragraph and page of the 37 Clauses, and we are entitled to assume, despite what has been said by an hon. Member, that so far as draftsman ship can express an industry's will, this scheme reflects the deliberate finding of the herring trade. Therefore, I think, on the grounds both of Parliamentary procedure and of practical necessity, it is not necessary to waste any time in debating the details of this scheme

I wish to make an observation or two, not upon the scheme itself, but upon its application. I feel bound to examine the question with great care, because this is the last occasion when the House will have any opportunity of expressing an effective opinion upon the new machine that we are setting up. When this scheme is passed to-day, it, will become the law of the land, and it will then be too late to make any complaints or suggestions. This scheme will affect intimately the life and livelihood of not far short of 100,000 people in the country, if you include the wives and families of the fishermen and those in ancillary occupations. It may make or it may break their industry, and, therefore, it is right and proper that those of us who represent the fishing divisions should consider how this scheme will affect them.

I am not sure that the House or even the industry itself realises quite the full extent and character of the changes which this scheme may bring about. We set up a Board recently, and to-day we are investing it with powers, powers which it is no exaggeration to call revolutionary, powers greater, more extreme, and more severe than those given to any other industrial organisation throughout the whole country, powers to develop markets and to license those engaged in the industry, powers to say when boats shall operate, where they shall operate, how they shall operate, powers even to pre vent individual fishermen and crews from attempting to earn their daily bread. I am not afraid of these powers if they are wisely used. Indeed, whenever I have taken part in these debates I have pressed for just such an authority as this Board with just such powers, and I am in full support of the scheme.

But it is one thing to possess powers, and it is quite another thing to apply them in the proper way, and I want to make an appeal, with all the earnestness I possess, to the Minister and, through him, to the Board to exercise these great powers with the maximum of caution and restraint. It has been said often and often, until it has become almost a platitude, that the herring trade is composed of communities of independent men. That is true, but you must understand the meaning of that independence. It is not such as to prevent them from making application to the Minister and receiving from him funds to help them in their daily existence, and we have had, not once or twice in the rough story of the last two years, requests for very urgent assistance. The significance to the Board of their historic independence is that herring fishermen work as a number of independent units. In iron, steel, cotton, and coal, you have a different organisation, a series of large groups, factories, conglomerations of workpeople, where men think and work as a body, whose functions fit in one with another, and where you can introduce a change of direction or policy without having an immediate or, it may be, even an indirect effect upon the workers engaged in the in dustry. Even in agriculture, as I think the Minister of Agriculture himself will admit, when you introduce a marketing scheme you are dealing not with each of the million persons employed, but only with farms staffed by two, three or more men, to whom the interest of the scheme is remote.

It is different in the case of herring. This is the proposition that I put to the House to-day. The peculiar feature of the herring trade is that every regulation of the Board will have an immediate and vital interest to each of the 16,000 men engaged in the industry, not only the skippers who engage these men, but to every one of them individually. I am not for a moment saying that workers in factories, workers in coal and iron and steel, have less stake in their industry than have fishermen, but fishermen have an additional property and directional interest in their own business. They are part owners of the boats and in some cases complete owners of the boats' equipment and nets. They have been accustomed for generations and centuries to pursue their calling as and when they have individually thought fit and without direction from any outside authority.

What is the effect? It is that the fishermen of Scotland, at any rate—I cannot speak for those of this country —will, display an immediate and deep-seated prejudice against any restriction of control imposed upon them, more especially against restrictions upon what they regard as their inalienable right to lift their anchor and set sail when they think fit. Moreover, the history of marketing schemes in the last two years has not been such as to cause them to be in love with such schemes. In these circumstances, and in view of the peculiar features of the industry, if the Board were to attempt anything more than the most gradual application of its restrictive powers, I think it would raise an immediate, almost implacable, hostility throughout the trade. If I were chairman of the new Board—and I am not likely to be—I should for the present season confine these restricting and con trolling powers to the minimum, and I should attempt to the maximum to win the confidence of the trade. It is vital in the next few months that the Board should win that confidence. I should set myself the single task from now to the end of the Yarmouth season to sell more herring. I am satisfied that if that were done, if even some small addition were made to the earnings of fishermen, you would gain their confidence with more strength than in any other way.

The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) mentioned the inquiry that has been conducted overseas. I hope that it will show great openings, but there are great opportunities at home; in fact, I see in what are described roughly as marketing functions enough work to keep this Board engaged for 24 hours. every day. There is a vast field of enterprise for them in that direction alone without their doing other things. With regard to the home market, I hope that the Board will give more attention than the House and the country have given to that part of the Duncan Report which dealt with the consumers' inquiry. I have a special interest in that, because I suggested to the Minister before the Duncan Commission started that he should conduct such an inquiry. He did not find it possible to do so. I repeated my suggestion to the Duncan Commission, and I am glad to say they accepted it and carried out such an inquiry. There were some remarkable results, which convince me, as one who has some knowledge of the selling of foodstuffs, that there is a very large immediate market at home for herring.

I ask the Board to forget for the time being its functions of administration, control and restriction, and to concentrate upon its functions as a business organisation selling goods. That would be the best way of building up the faith and confidence of the fishermen in this new organisation. Having won that faith and confidence, the Board could very well start next year its functions of organisation and control. I do not deny that there are too many boats in the trade and that there must be many great changes, but it may be found after a year or a two years' working of the scheme that such drastic restrictions as were recommended in the Duncan Report may not be necessary. The next few months will be a testing time for the new Herring Board. I support this scheme on the definite understanding and condition that the powers which we give shall be used with wisdom, caution and care. The people in this industry are sensitive creatures. They have never in the past tolerated interference from any body, save in the War when they obeyed the commands of their superior officers. They resent from their hearts the whole idea of orders imposed from above. Let the Board recognise those special qualities of the men. Let them also recognise that they are ready to play their part if the Board proceeds in a cautious and business-like way.

1.21 p.m.

Unlike the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, my observations, instead of being of a general character, will be devoted strictly to the scheme presented to us to-day. With regard to the White Paper embodying this scheme, it would have been of great assistance to hon. Members and those who have to examine it if there had beers an index and marginal references such as are found in Acts of Parliament, because without such aids it is difficult to find one's way in the scheme. I had hoped for a fuller scheme describing more what the Board is intending to do, for there is not much more in it than there is in the Act. I am rather inclined to think that the scheme is not a very full one, because it is obvious that many changes may have to be made in future, and that it is there fore wiser not to make out too precisely what the Board's policy will be. With regard to exemptions, there are certain provisions in which some of us who sit for the long-shore divisions are particularly interested. I am glad that pro visions have been made for exemptions, but I hope that the area committees which are proposed in the scheme will be set up at the earliest possible moment so that it will be possible for the Board to consult these committees, particularly with a view to obtaining their opinion whether the scheme is required in the rather more remote areas, which these committees will, in part at any rate, represent. There is a small point on which I should like to ask my right hon. Friend's opinion, in Paragraph 13 (b), which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton). It says:

"The Board may attach to a boat licence conditions for securing that whilst it remains in force the boat shall be used for herring fishing only in such localities or from such ports as may be specified therein."
That provision can be read in two ways. It may be read as if it meant that boats shall be used for herring fishing only. I do not think that that can be the intention, and I hope the Minister will make it clear that it means that a boat can only be used in such localities or from such ports as may be specified in the licence.

Another rather strong objection is to be taken in regard to paragraph 14 (4). I hope that this particular power will be administered with great care and considerable reserve. It practically gives power to the Board to say that the trade is a closed trade and that no new entrants can be accepted. I therefore hope that that very wide power will be exercised with care and discretion, because I know there is a movement. in the country, under the various schemes that have been put forward, to regulate industry to such a degree that it will be almost impossible to get in new entrants unless the organising body is prepared to accept them. There is one other possible objection to the licensing. Under the licensing paragraphs boats of 20 to 30 feet will be licensed and will have to pay a fee. These boats are very small, and extraordinarily few in my part of the world are engaged in the herring industry at all. I had hoped that they might have been left out, and I hope it will be possible for the Board not to exercise the powers which they have been given of charging fees and granting licences to these comparatively small boats.

Under paragraph 23 the Board are entitled to make a levy on all fish landed at the ports. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said he was not quite clear what that meant. I understand that the levy will be a maximum of 6d. on all herring landed in the United Kingdom. I think that is not too much, although complaints have been made that it is rather too high. Out of that 6d. one penny will be devoted to a compensation fund to pay off redundant boats. I wonder on what basis 1d. was fixed, because I feel that it will not provide a very large amount of money for that purpose; but perhaps it is premature to discuss that question at all. I believe that the very wide powers which are being given to the Board, this setting up of a compulsory co-operative scheme, for that is what it amounts to, may be very dangerous indeed, and in common with many other Members I hope the Board will go very cautiously at first. I hope they will feel their way and not jump in too quickly to exercise their power to scrap redundant boats, but will concentrate above all things on marketing.

I am convinced that there are markets to be found for herring, cured and otherwise, which have not been touched at the present time. I hope it will be possible for the Board to appoint at any rate one first-class salesman to go abroad to open up new markets. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) that in the old days the West Indies used to take a lot of herring and, indeed, the market for salt fish in the West Indies is very great now, and why should we not get a share of it? I hope the scheme will be successful. I have been critical of it in the past, but I hope that I shall not have reason to be critical of it in the future. As representing a long-shore division which cannot hope to gain very much from the scheme I hope that it will be of great benefit to the rest of the country.

1.28 p.m.

I am sure the House has done useful service by the business like fashion in which it has addressed itself to the examination of this scheme, and I can assure hon. Members that the criticisms and warnings which have been issued will not lose any of their force by reason of the fact that they cannot be forthwith embodied in amendments to the scheme. After all, the scheme remains subject to review in Parliament, and the fact that it does come under the criticism of this House is in itself a powerful influence in the framing of the scheme. I hope hon. Members will not feel that there is any derogation from their powers in the fact that the scheme comes before them once and for all, because to sum up in advance the collective verdict of the House is one of the duties of Ministers, who make such modifications as seem necessary in view of the infinite variety of unofficial representations that are made. That is one of the duties of Ministers who have to bring forward a scheme which comes up only once for acceptance or rejection. It is clear from the discussion this after noon that that duty has been performed in a reasonable degree to the satisfaction of the House. It is true that hon. Members urged the advisability of the Board working with caution, with wisdom and with forbearance, and I am sure that Ministers and, indeed, the Board themselves, would unreservedly accept the necessity for taking such a course. They will have to ride rather upon the snaffle than upon the curb. They are dealing with independent men, who may very easily, as the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) said, regard their actions as savouring of undue interference.

At the same time, there is no question that the Board represent the trade. The Board is the trade. It is a producers' organisation, which is soaked through and through with the views of the fisher men. I was most glad to have the testimony of the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) on behalf of the English herring catchers, to the capacity of the representative who has been added to the Board, that he is representative if an important element, the actual men engaged in the catching, and will be a useful member of the Board. In view of the fact that this representative was chosen from across the border it was very interesting to have this declaration on the part of the English herring catchers. They might have looked a little ask once at the fact of another representative coming from North of the Tweed.

I said I was authorised to accept the scheme on behalf of English herring catchers, but I think my statement about the individual member was that he was respected and had the confidence of the trade. I feel the Minister went a little further in his references, because there still remains a sense of grievance that the English have only one representative out of six.

I will not stress the point beyond what my hon. Friend has said, that this representative is respected by the trade and has the confidence of the trade. I realise that there are still feelings of grievance persisting which the Board will need to rub away in its day-to-day work. But one big step has been accomplished. The Board has been set up with the confidence of the trade, and in order to retain that confidence it will need to work skilfully and diplomatically. The Board must not act unskilfully, harshly or undiplomatically. Many questions were asked on points on which hon. Members desire particular information. The hon. Member for Banffshire (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) said he was anxious for some indication of how the work of the Board should proceed in the near future. He gave some valuable in formation as the result of inquiries he had been able to make in countries such as Palestine, and brought forward suggestions, which were also mentioned by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) that the great tropical countries of India and Africa might well provide a market to replace the European markets which in the past took so large a proportion of the fish but are now, to some extent, closed. That is a most valuable suggestion and I shall in a moment give some indication of the replies which have been received to the inquiries sent out by the Department of Overseas Trade. Then I was asked how far I could give information as to the terms upon which loans would be made. The Board is at present discussing with the Treasury a scheme for advances for the purchase of nets. It follows from this scheme, and is on the lines of the Government scheme last year. I hope that it will be possible to make an announcement within the next week or fortnight.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland whether the policy of the Board would come under review by this House. The answer to that is?Yes.? The Board receives money from public funds, and, as was laid down in the Act, the actual finance is administered by the Secretary of State for Scotland after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Secretary of State for Scotland will actually carry these sums upon his Estimates. The actions which govern the expenditure of the sums will be subject to review, as is every service which comes under an Estimate.

No, not at all. I may not have made myself clear. I was speaking simply for the convenience of hon. Members who were desiring to know to whom they should address questions. The Secretary of State is the officer responsible for the finances and is the Minister upon whose Estimates the Vote will be carried. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland suggested that it would be Anomalous if licences were issued in respect of places where there was no fish, and the men were prevented from fishing in a place where there was fish. That is true. The principle governing the issue of licences has been the subject of discussion in the trade, and the whole of the objections have been met. It was explained very thoroughly to the trade—I would like to give this assurance again here—that there is no intention of tying the fishing business to particular ports, although they might sometimes be restricted generally as to areas of fishing. One of the main purposes is to enable the Board to know from what ports and in what localities various vessels of the fleet are to be found. It is more a matter of organisation than of restriction, and clearly it would be liable to abuse. There, again, we must trust to the practical men on the Board who have had experience of sea fishing not to impose conditions which would be onerous to their comrades in the fishing trade. The hon. Member also raised the question of meshes. That was gone into at very considerable length. That, too, will be a matter of practical work. Unless the Board have power to take this big section under review, it might be that a hole would be driven into the scheme through which all the benefit might run away.

The hon. Member for Lowestoft spoke about the Board acting independently, and he mentioned Russia. I shall refer to that question in a moment. He asked questions about the reports of the Department of Overseas Trade, and so did the hon. Member for East Fife. It can be said that on the whole, although the reports do not show any vast market open for herring from this country, they are not unhopeful, and they give indications of various possible expansions. I am not able to say what is the practice of the Department of Overseas Trade in regard to trade reports, but very likely they are confidential to the Department. As a whole, therefore, the reports them selves are not likely to be published. Two points in regard to factories for oil extraction and freezing were specifically raised by the hon. Member for Lowestoft. We shall examine the first question, although there are very considerable difficulties in the way of any action. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are continuing their experiments in freezing. These matters will certainly be pressed on. A large experiment is going on at Grimsby which is by no means uninteresting and the advances in refrigeration in recent years have been so striking and remarkable that we intend to press on with the examination and application of new methods to herring in every possible way.

I propose to refer in a moment to the general question but there is one more point of detail raised by the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) and it brings us back to the format of the document. An index and marginal note might be of assistance to unlettered men who may occasionally have to examine the schemes.

The hon. Member says to himself also. A great English author once said that anyone who published a book without an index should be condemned to spend eternity ten miles beyond hell where even the Devil cannot get, for stinging nettles. I would not put it as severely as that but I would say that an index is of very great convenience when you are dealing with a technical document. Area committees will be set up at the earliest possible moment. As to the licences, they will deal not with applications for herring fishing but with ports and localities specified in the licence; that is to say, they will be of an area character rather than of a functional character. The hon. Member asked how the penny levy for compensation had been drawn up and on what it had been based. It was based upon what the practical men thought the trade would be able to afford in the way of compensation. It was an arbitrary figure chosen with reference to what the trade might be able to find rather than to what the needs might be in the way of compensation. I think the English fishers considered that the trade would have great difficulty in finding any sums at all for compensation. It would be very foolish to put the sums for compensation so high that they could not be exacted, and therefore the penny is, roughly speaking, what it was thought the trade would be able to pay.

As to the particular point on the finances, the levy is not 6d. but a maximum of 6d., and I hope that in practice it will turn out to be very much lower. As to the way in which the financial calculation works, the words read out by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland simply mean that there is a maxi mum levy of 6d. in the pound on the two classes mentioned in paragraphs 23 (la andb) of the Scheme, namely,
"first sales of fresh herring, and the use or disposal of fresh herring landed in the United Kingdom and not sold on a first sale."
I hope that will be an adequate explanation.

Let me give a very short review of the actual operations of the Board to date. The Board devoted considerable time to a survey of foreign markets, as a result of which it is anticipated that the export trade with countries other than Germany and Russia will be about the same as last year. So far as Germany is concerned, it is anticipated at present that the amount will be slightly less. Until a very short time ago the trade was confronted with serious obstacles arising from the regulations made by the German government, but, at the instance of the Herring Board, the Board of Trade have taken the matter up with the German government, and the House will be happy to hear that they have succeeded in getting those restrictions removed. Negotiations for a block sale to Russia are proceeding—

Can the Minister give an assurance on the question of currency payments, which, in my estimation and that of others, has been of extreme concern to the industry in recent months?

I am afraid that the question of currency as between this country and foreign countries would scarcely come within a particular review of the herring scheme, but no doubt the Board will act in close conjunction with the Board of Trade in this matter. It is a general matter of trade, which it is almost impossible to isolate in the case of one particular industry. As I was saying, negotiations for a block sale to Russia are proceeding between the Board and the Russian Trade Delegation, which, it is hoped, may have the result of securing a larger export to that country than last year. The Board are engaged in an intensive survey of the home market, and are endeavouring to discover the causes which have led to a reduction of some 50 per cent. in the consumption of herring per head here as compared with the pre-War period. In that connection all branches of the trade are being consulted.

The question of making advances for reconditioning vessels is being deferred for the time being until the Board obtain more information as to the general condition of the fishing fleet. It is the intention of the Board to institute as soon as possible the system of licensing set out in the scheme, covering boats, sales men, curers and exporters. The question of licensing kipperers and other processers is being deferred, and such licences will only be instituted after consultation with the trade interests concerned. As regards the licensing of boats, it is not proposed during the summer herring fishing this year to refuse licences on grounds of either redundancy or inefficiency. Licences will be issued to all boats without restriction. As far as salesmen, curers and exporters are concerned, there is, of course, no power, even under the scheme, to refuse licences to persons already in the trade, except, of course, on grounds of misconduct. The Board are already discussing the establishment of area committees and their constitution with the parties concerned, and hope to have them constituted and in operation before the Board institute any system of control. No date has been fixed for the commencement of curing, and it is doubtful whether it will be possible to fix any date for the coming summer fishing, since curing will probably have commenced before the work of the Board in the exercise of their powers. The governing assurance of the Board, which they desire me to repeat here in the House, is that in the whole conduct of their business they will act in the closest co operation and consultation with all branches of the industry through the existing trade organisations, and that governing assurance really covers, I think, the basic apprehensions which have been expressed in the House this afternoon.

Finally, as to the status of the industry, I should like to refer to the interest of the Government and of all sections of the community in the industry, of which a very remarkable invitation which has been issued to the herring fleets may be taken as an earnest. The King himself has issued an invitation to the fishing fleets to send representative contingents to the Naval Review which is to be held at Spithead on the 16th July. The Departments are in consultation with the organisations representing the different branches of the industry, and I am very hopeful that there will be a good muster. The fleets of this country do not consist merely of the great armed ships which are so often the subject of vehement controversy, both as to their expense and as to their usefulness, in this House. The Fleets of this country include the fishing fleets as well, and they are as indispensable to the country as the great naval strength which will be represented at Spithead. Indeed, from the point of view of service, from the point of view of actual fire undergone and of risks run, the representatives of the fishing fleets will be able to feel that they represent a service not inferior to any of the great Services which will be reviewed by His Majesty during the Jubilee year.

There is one point on which I should like to ask the Minister a further question. The Duncan Report suggested that the head quarters of the Board should be in Edinburgh, but there is some appearance that the Board is settling down in London. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any decision has been come to on that subject, or whether it is still expected that the headquarters will be in Edinburgh.

I hesitate to give an opinion off-hand. My impression is that the headquarters of the Board will be in Edinburgh, but that the Board, as a business organisation, locates itself from time to time where it may most efficiently carry on its work. I think it will inevitably to some extent be a peripatetic body. It may find itself even at Aberdeen.

I think its registered offices will be in Edinburgh. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh is its chairman, and I think that that is assurance enough that it is going to be, I will not say a pretty good Scottish Board, but at any rate that there will be adequate representation of the Northern Kingdom as well as of the Southern in the whole of the Board's transactions. I hope, however, that there will not be any question of nationalism arising; there is no question of any differentiation of nationality.

Question put, and agreed to.


"That the Herring Industry Scheme, 1935, which was laid before this House on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, under Section 2 (5) of the Herring Industry Act, 1935, be approved."

Road Traffic Acts

1.54 p.m.

I beg to move,

"That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under Sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved."
Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, in Sub-section (1), directs the Minister of Transport to prepare a code comprising such directions as appear to him to be proper for the guidance of persons using roads, and enables him from time to time to revise that code. Sub-section (2) requires that the code itself shall be approved by Parliament; and Sub section (3) directs that it shall be printed and issued to the public at a price not exceeding one penny. Sub-section (4) of Section 45 gives the Code its legal sanction when it lays down that a failure on the part of any person to observe any provision of the highway code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind, but that any such failure may in any proceedings, whether civil or criminal, be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or to negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings. That is the statutory basis of the Motion which I now move.

The original Highway Code was first published in April, 1931, and was a carefully compiled document which commended itself to Parliament at that date. Since then it has been possible to gain much experience. New laws have been passed and new regulations have been promulgated, and we have sought to profit by them. There has become apparant the need for a new and up-to-date Code. Since 1931 the Minister of Transport has been provided with a Transport Advisory Council, upon which all sections of trans port industry are represented, and I accordingly invited this Council under the Chairmanship of Lord Goschen to review the old code. Every road using interest was invited to submit its suggestions, which were carefully collated and examined. The detailed work was done by a sub-committee under Sir Arthur Griffith Boscawen, to whom I would like to express on behalf of the Ministry, and, I hope, on behalf of the public, our extreme indebtedness for the painstaking, thorough-going, and, I trust, successful manner in which he has discharged that duty.

As to the Code and its publication, it is printed for Parliamentary purposes in a white cover, but it will, in fact be in a blue cover when distributed. The Code itself stresses, as regards vehicles, the need for silence to which people have come to attach a good deal of importance in our modern civilisation, and the necessity for paying attention to brakes and tyres. If everyone gave regular attention to his brakes, on which, after all, he depends in an emergency, it would not be necessary for the police to deal with about 20,000 cases in a year. As regards the road user, stress is laid upon the necessity for caution, and in paragraph (4), which is a new paragraph, he is asked to be sure that his alertness is not impaired by alcohol or other cause. I desire to direct the attention of the House to certain new provisions, and I would here mention that all the paragraphs have been numbered for convenience. Paragraph (25) gives precedence to the major road. The requirement is that
"unless you have a clear view of the major road in both directions, stop just before entering the carriageway of the major road."
Much argument has been used in favour of such a rule, and I am sure that the House will wish to concur in its adoption. This will necessitate the approval of a new sign which is a modification of the old slow sign. The new sign is to be found on page 23:
"Halt at major road ahead. "
Considering that about 20 per cent. of all the fatal accidents happen at cross-roads, the requirement to stop before entering a major road should tend towards a reduction of one of the principal dangers. The other provision to which I would desire to call particular attention is No. 90, which is an improvement on the "Keep to the Left" rule for pedestrians, and which reads:
"On a pavement or footpath do not walk alongside the kerb in the same direction as the nearer stream of traffic. "
That is valid on all roads, including one-way streets, in a manner in which the?Keep to the Left? rule is not valid, and I hope that it will also be considered an improvement on the present position, contributing towards safety. The whole of the Code itself has been rewritten in more succinct form and there are many new provisions in it, to some of the principal of which I have called attention in referring to particular paragraphs. I do not think that the House would require me to read all the new provisions because they are numerous. In the Appendix we have made one change, which is to be found on page 18, in the No. 4 signal:
"I am going to turn to my left.

Extend the right arm and rotate it from the shoulder in an anti-clockwise direction."
The signal for turning to the left in the old Code was the same as the signal for slowing down or stopping, and I think that the alteration meets with the approval of most motorists who, despite the old Highway Code, actually use the signal which is now approved in this Code. We have added supplementary notes which were not in the old Code, and indeed do not form part of the Code at all. They direct attention to some certain legal requirements, to the sequence and interpretation of traffic lights, and to the chief road signs. That is the document.

In the old Code there were advertisements, and it is indeed the practice now to include advertisements in Government publications, but many representations have been made to me that it would detract from the judicial character of a document intended to guide all road users if advertisements were included. I approached my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he has agreed that in this particular case it would perhaps be advisable to exclude advertisements, and I imagine that that will meet with the approval of the House. The old Code, excellent as it was, never obtained a large circulation. In the whole of the period since its first publication only 5,000,000 copies have been emitted. As this Code is intended to guide all road users, it is obviously a public advantage that they should all possess a copy of it, and accordingly, with the co-operation of my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General, who is always ready to assist in these matters, we propose to deliver a copy free of charge to every householder in the country.

I observe that while the Code itself appears to be generally approved some of my hon. Friends are perplexed that I should have left a blank page, at the top of which is written "Foreword by the Minister of Transport." When I was at Oxford I remember a publication of the?Isis? which appeared and at the top was the headline?What Oxford is thinking?—and nothing else appeared on the page. In this case there is no intention of being facetious. Indeed, the intention is to pay a compliment to Parliament by leaving the page blank in order to incorporate any suggestions which may be made in the course of the Debate. I can assure the House, that nothing will be added to the Code itself in my foreword; it will merely call attention to what the Code is and make an appeal to the public to observe its provisions. I hope the House will be content with that assurance, particularly if I asseverate that there is no sinister intention. Numerous suggestions have been made as to the matter to be put on this page, but I want the Code to go out to the public with the feeling that Parliament and the nation are united in a, determination to secure greater care, courtesy and method in the use of the roads. I do not want any atmosphere of controversy in regard to the object which we all have at heart, and I can give the House my assurance that I will endeavour to interpret their wishes in my foreword.

The foreword is not part of the Code itself and has no legal or parliamentary authority. It will be merely an appeal. If the public observe the provisions of the Code I have no doubt that we shall be able to obtain a reduction in the number of road accidents. The measures which we have taken, coupled with the growing traffic consciousness of the community, have produced very good results. As the House is aware there has been a considerable reduction in road accidents, fatal and otherwise, during the current year, despite the phenomenal increase in the number of motor cars on the roads. In London, where the safety measures have been more particularly applied, the reduction in fatalities in the last nine weeks has been no less than 30 per cent., and in injuries 15 per cent.; and this at a time when there has been an increase in the number of motor vehicles licensed of 12 per cent. The Code is another effort to con tribute to public safety. It embodies suggestions made from every quarter. It may be defective in certain particulars, but I know that hon. Members will not hesitate to call attention to such opinions as they hold in order that in any subsequent revision we may embody in the Code the best wisdom we can obtain.

On a point of Order. I want to ask in respect of the presumed legality of the note on the cover whether one may ask the Minister of Transport whether the Law Officers of the Crown have assured him that this is not a statutory enactment—

On a point of Order. The Minister during the course of his remarks said that he does not propose to put anything in the foreword—

That is not a point of order; it is a matter for debate. Hon. Members will have an opportunity of raising these points in the course of the debate.

2.12 p.m.

Every one will be delighted with the statement of the Minister regarding the number of accidents. We are now reaping the fruits of the labours of the Minister of Transport during the time he has been at the Ministry. I feel sure that the Highway Code has never been understood by motorists and cyclists and pedestrians as it should be, and I welcome the statement that the Minister intends to send a copy to every home in Great Britain. There are many points in it which should be brought home quite definitely to the people. For instance, there is No. 4:

"Before using the road be sure that your alertness or sense of caution is not affected by alcohol or fatigue."
I am not going to emphasise the question of alcohol, but I believe that fatigue is the cause of many accidents, and now that it is being stressed I think that drivers and employers will pay more attention to the question of the physical and mental condition of the people in their charge. In No. 14 it says:
"Do not drive in a spirit of competition with other road users."
These are two main causes of accidents, and I am delighted that the Minister is paying particular attention to them. There may be some things in the code which are open to criticism but taken as a set of instructions and advice they will be very acceptable. There is one thing which is prolific of a large number of accidents, and that is the motor cyclist. I think that sometimes motor cyclists rather abuse the speed at which they can use their machines; they seem to become intoxicated with the speed they are going and do not pay strict attention to where they are going or what they are doing. You cannot be certain of the movements of pedestrians. Some times they hesitate and sometimes plunge along and become involved in accidents. I am not blaming either the pedestrians or the cyclists, but I want to bring them together, if possible, in an atmosphere of common sense in the use of the roads. The use of the road will certainly become a more involved procedure than it is to-day. The number of motor vehicles is going to in crease. It is already increasing, and it is absolutely necessary that everybody using the roads, and that even the pedestrians who are using the side walks, ought to be acquainted with the Code. There is another point in connection with cyclists. It is contained in paragraph 66 which says:
"Ride in single file whenever road or traffic conditions require it. "
I think that that is another suggestion which will be accepted by cyclists. We see breaches of the Highway Code probably every time we go out. Some, of course, are done quite innocently; others with the idea of doing something which a friend or a neighbour could not do.

Taking the Highway Code as a whole, I think it is a great improvement on the last one, and will be welcomed throughout the country. I believe that when every house in the country gets a copy of the Code it will at least create an impression in the country that Parliament, the Minister and the people do want more care taken on the roads and many of the dangers removed, and people will become acquainted with the dangers in a way which they have not taken the trouble to consider. When the Minister puts in the foreword —probably he does not yet know what he will put in —if any particular point can be stressed to bring the necessity of greater caution to every user of the road and every pedestrian, I sincerely hope he will stress it, because the great number of accidents on the roads must be reduced by one means or another. I am sure that the House will in no sense blame the Minister for the number of accidents. I believe that since his appointment he has done all that is humanly possible in order to bring safety upon the roads, and I am sure that the House accepts every step he has taken as an effort in the direction of reducing the number of accidents, of bringing greater safety to our people and making them feel more assured when on the roads. I also feel sure that there will be no severe criticism of the Highway Code. From our point of view, we accept it as a step in the right direction, and another effort of the Minister and his Department to bring that safety to our people to which they really are entitled.

2.18 p.m.

I should like to join with my hon. Friend in congratulating the Minister, and repeat what he has said, that we are quite convinced the Minister is most anxious to do everything he possibly can to reduce the number of accidents on the roads. I feel that every effort he makes is directed to that end, and I am very glad he told us that there would be no advertisements in the Code itself. I congratulate him on the success he has had with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think an official document of this kind is very much better, and looks far less cheap, if it has no advertisements in it. I am also glad to think that the cover is to be blue instead of white. Again, I agree with the remarks which have been made by my hon. Friend below me. I think that the advice in this Code is very excellent advice. Taking it all round, I think it is a considerable advance on the advice which is given in the old Code, and I am very glad to think that there are two particular signs mentioned. One was referred to by the Minister himself, namely, the sign when the driver wishes to turn to the left. There is no doubt a great deal of confusion existed under the old Code, because the sign was different from that in the Safety First publication, which is more or less the same sign in the new Code. I pointed that out some time ago.

I am also glad that the Minister is going to put a sign?Halt at major road ahead.? I think it is a great improvement, which will save a large number of accidents. I do not want to blow my own trumpet, but it was in 1924 that I first raised this question of trying to have the main road marked, and I am pleased to think that that is going to be done. So far as the fore word is concerned, I think that the explanation of the Minister is a satisfactory one. I have read the foreword note of introduction in the old Code, and I must say that I hope the foreword by our new Minister will be more illuminating than the introductory note in the old Code, because that merely reiterated a certain portion of what appears in the new Code itself as to the legality of the Code. I hope that the Minister will make it a little more instructive than the old one.

If I am critical of certain sections of the Code, I want the House to realise that it is purely constructive criticism I am making. I am not trying to be destructive in any way, but I do feel that there are in the new Code certain omissions of things which I would have liked to have seen in. The first one is in connection with the blowing of horns. On page 7 of the new Code these words appear:
"Horns and Noise. —Make as little noise as you can. Do not sound your horn unnecessarily."
We do not want to sound horns unnecessarily, and we do not want to make unnecessary noise, but that is a very different thing from what appears in the old Code. On pages 8 and 9 of the old Code these words appear:
"Remember that your horn is intended to be used as a warning …. Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake. "
My own view is that the advice which appears in the old Code is very much better than the advice which appears in the new Code. I think that one of the great dangers on the road at the present time is the general idea that you have got to drive along as quietly as possible without giving any sign of warning to anybody, which results, I am convinced, in a large number of accidents. I have driven a good deal on the Continent, and I think that there people do use horns a great deal too much. At the same time, there is no doubt that the number of accidents on the Continent is far lower than in this country, and I attribute it, to a large extent, to the fact that people on the Continent when going round a corner, or about to overtake another car, always blow the horn. I think it very much better in this Code to insert the words in the old Code which said:
"Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake".
I do not know whether it can be altered —I suppose it cannot—but I think it frightfully important—and I speak with a good deal of experience of driving—to use the horn, not to force one's way through anything, but as a warning when about to overtake another vehicle, or when there is any chance of somebody stepping out from the pavement. That is one of the criticisms I have to make, and it is purely constructive criticism of the Code itself. The second criticism I would like to make is this. On page 10 of the old Code, these words appear:
"To motor cyclists."
This is a very important matter, because the number of accidents relative to the figures of motor cyclists in the country is very high indeed. I think it is a mistake not to give a special word of warning and special advice to motor cyclists as apart from the general drivers of motor vehicles. In the old Code there was advice to motor cyclists separate from the advice to the ordinary motor vehicle driver. This is what appeared in the old Code:
"The small space you occupy, your capacity for high speed and your reluctance to stop dead may tempt you to?cut in 'by threading your way between other vehicles. This is a frequent source of accident."
These words also appear in the old Code.
"Make no attempt to gain a forward position in a traffic block by means of the narrow spaces between stationary vehicles. They may start suddenly, and you will impede them and endanger yourself."
That is very good advice indeed to the motor cyclist. It is a very common practice for motor cyclists to come up on both sides of motor vehicles, especially at the lights, and make their way through. They are a great danger and are apt to?cut in.? I should have liked to have seen the motor cyclist treated separately in the code from the drivers of ordinary motor vehicles. Taking the Code as a whole, I am afraid I must be a little critical of it as it is produced. In the old Code I find a lot of the important points are brought out in heavier type or in capitals. On page 4 of the new Code we should have brought out in capitals or in heavier type the words never accelerate when being overtaken. That is a very common thing. Then there are the words,
"Never overtake on a blind corner or bridge or when approaching the brow of a steep hill."
Those things should be brought out in heavier type, as in the old Code. They would then appeal more to the people who will read the Code. That is my criticism of the way in which the Code is printed. There is another suggestion I wish to make to the Minister. In the old Code, when there was a reference to any regulations or to any law, the reference was put underneath the particular part referred to. For instance, on page 7 of this Code we see at the top,
"Make as little noise as you can. "
That is No. 51 and there is an asterisk against it. Then in No. 53 we find:
"Give regular attention to your brakes and see that they are always efficient."
Then in 54:
"Always maintain your tyres in a safe condition."
On the page on which these paragraphs appear there is a footnote?See notes, page 27.? In the old Code it was not done in that way. In this new Code you have to refer from page 7 to page 27 to see what it all means, to see what the legal position is. That is not very satisfactory. On page 9, of the old Code, we find this:
"Sound your horn when approaching a danger point or when about to overtake."
Almost immediately underneath that there appears these words:
"It is an offence under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to sound a horn when the vehicle is stationary, except when necessary on grounds of safety."
That gives an indication of the legal position with regard to horns. It would have been better to have put in that statement close to the regulations, instead of in a footnote referring to a later page in the Code itself. I would make one more suggestion. Having read through this Code very carefully I have come to the conclusion that it would be better if split into two, the advice to pedestrians and cyclists brought together in one Code which could be circulated all over the country to 15,000,000 people, and the other containing the advice to the drivers of motor vehicles and motor cyclists, which could be sent out with the licences to the 2,000,000 odd drivers in the country. The advice to pedestrians should be circulated in much larger quantities, and that advice I would alter slightly. If any one in a household, an ordinary person who does not drive a car, receives a booklet like this and sees on the cover,?Highway Code,? and then sees all sorts of drawings of cross roads, and slowing up, what a policeman does and the way to pass and overtake, it is quite likely that he will say, "This has nothing to do with me; it has to do with the driving of a motor vehicle or a motor cycle."

It would be better to have?Advice to pedestrians and cyclists? in large letters on the outside of the Code that is to be circulated in large quantities throughout the country, and to have the Highway Code as it is circulated to drivers of motor vehicles. I do not think it is possible to split up the Code now because it is already printed, but I make that suggestion for the future. I suggest, further, that the Code should be illustrated on the screen at the cinemas of the large cities. Potential accidents might be reproduced on the screen. In every school the Code should be taught.

You could have Government cinemas in the schools if you like. There is no reason why it should not be circulated in the cinemas, and I an sure that the owners of the cinemas would only be too pleased to accept it. My last point is, perhaps, a novel one. I suggest that the police on duty on the roads should be supplied with large numbers of copies of the code and that they should also have, as they had during Jubilee week, loudspeakers. When they get to points on the road where they find drivers are driving badly, they should stop the offending drivers by means of the loud speakers, tell them what they are doing wrong and present them with copies of the code, pointing out the particular respects in which they have been infringing it. I think that would be more useful than a great deal of this silly prosecution of motorists for travelling at 33 miles an hour instead of 30 miles an hour. I believe it would do a great deal more to educate drivers than the police trapping which is taking place at the present time. That is the advice which I would give to the Minister. Obviously, he cannot take it all, and I can only assure him that it is tendered in a friendly spirit.

2.36 p.m.

Like my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken, I rise to speak on this matter in no hostile spirit and the few remarks which I intend to make will, I hope, be of a constructive nature. I think the Minister has done a very good work in producing this Highway Code, most of which is extremely valuable. First I would like to ask him why there is no reference in this Code to anything in the nature of signs painted on the road way. We all know the white lines on the roadway and the inscriptions calling on drivers to stop or slow down. If their is no mention of these things in the Code, it may convey to some people the idea that they are of no importance and perhaps when the Parliamentary-Secretary is replying he will give us some information on that point. I join with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) in congratulating the Minister on having for the first time included a?Stop? notice to traffic coming from minor into major roads. I feel certain that will result in a, considerable reduction in the number of accidents. There is no greater source of danger than sudden emergence from side roads particularly in the case of cyclists. They come tearing into main roads very often without looking.

I am not attacking cyclists as a whole, but any body who drives a car must know that they frequently offend in that respect. I myself have often seen cyclists coming out of a side road at great speed and sweeping across the main road without giving anybody a chance. If they had to stop as well as the motorists—and I am emphasising the case of the motorists as well—it would be a very effective method of preventing many of the accidents which at present occur at these road junctions. On the question of noise, I quite agree that we must not give the impression to the motorist that never in any circumstances should he sound his horn. I know myself how often accidents can be prevented if a motorist when approaching a corner round which he can not see sounds his horn. It does not mean that he expects everything to get out of his way, but it gives a warning that be is coming, and, if there is any body on the other side who is not taking proper care, it gives that party a chance to take precautions and so avoids accidents. But it is not desirable that any body should feel, on account of anything in these regulations, that motorists are not to sound their horns when coming to corners.

It is an offence under the Code—page 27—not to have properly silenced engines, and I hope the Minister will see that that regulation is enforced. We all know the type of motor car, very often a small car, sometimes a high-speed sports car, which tears along the roads causing great disturbance to the slumbers of hard-working people. We all know the horrible noise of engines with no cut-outs. Another regulation is that people are not to accelerate their engines in a noisy and offensive fashion. Again, we all know how people coming out of a cinema or a theatre on a winter night and finding the engine cold start racing the engine in the street, causing a great deal of disturbance. That is an abomination which I hope the Minister will stop. People at any rate ought not to start their engines in such a way as to wake up a whole neighbourhood.

I am glad to see that pedestrian crossings are referred to in the Code, and I take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for the way in which he has dealt with that question. I was one of those who always recognised, with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe, the importance of these crossings. If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me to say so, he has really been responsible for introducing a good many excellent road regulations during the time that he has been in the House by persuading various Ministers to adopt his suggestions. I think these crossings are a great advantage to people who are walking about the streets. I am not going to say that I admire the beacons, and I dare say there are rather too many of them, but at the same time, for ordinary people walking about London, these crossings have been most valuable. I hope, therefore, the Minister will not be put off them, but that he will continue to encourage their use, perhaps in some modified form. If we are to get rid of accidents such as we suffer from on the roads at present, it will have to be put into the minds of everybody that they are road-users primarily and not motorists or cyclists or pedestrians. If we all realise that, if we realise that we have duties to everybody else on the roads, if we are not selfish we shall do more to abolish accidents than could be done in any other way. I hope the Minister will continue in his efforts to get road sense into everybody using the road, whether walking or riding a bicycle or driving a motor car. A drunken pedestrian rolling off the footway can be just as much a cause of danger in his own limited sphere As a drunken man at the wheel of a car and in the same way the cyclist who wobbles may be just as much a danger as the careless motorist. But, as I say, if we all try to remember that we are, first of all, road-users I am certain that we can bring about a great reduction in the number of accidents. I welcome these regulations.

2.34 p.m.

When I heard that a new Highway Code was being introduced I felt apprehensive. I feared the Minister might have given way to the clamorous demands of certain people in this House that cyclists should be compelled, for example, to use cycle tracks in this country. I am glad that the Minister has resisted that demand, especially in view of the fact that less than one per cent. of our roads are equipped with such tracks. I am also glad that the Minister has not done what at one time was threatened and made compulsory the use of rear lights for cyclists. All experience has shown that the provision of such rear lights has no effect on the reduction of accidents.

At the same time, there are one or two slight criticisms which I would offer. I cannot understand the remark of the last speaker about cyclists being especially responsible for danger by coming out of side roads. A famous motorist recently described coming from Birmingham to London, 120 miles, in two hours. Supposing that statement to be accurate, he must have travelled at 70 to 80 miles an hour on stretches of the road slowing down to 50 miles an hour at cross roads. That high-powered car coming at that speed, round turnings and across cross-roads, must have been enormously more dangerous than the frail cyclist spoken of by the hon. Member opposite. There are some cyclists who do stupid things, who come out of side roads in a foolish manner, but the very fact that they are such a danger to themselves is a safe guard against those stupidities which do not exist in the case of the motorist. The motorist who comes out of a side road in that fashion may be immune from injury, such as the cyclist is liable to suffer. In such a case the cyclist may hurt himself but the motorist may escape. Now I come to a criticism of the Code itself. Regulation 56 says:
"Always keep a good look-out, especially when riding with dropped handlebars."
That regulation applies to cyclists. I have ridden a good deal with dropped handlebars. Is it the implication that those who ride with dropped handlebars keep their eyes on the wheel, or is it suggested that they do not keep as good a look-out as cyclists with other types of handlebars? The average cyclist who rides with dropped handlebars goes at a greater speed than the other cyclists, and consequently keeps a better look-out. Is it meant by Regulation 56 that these particular cyclists do not keep a good look out? Surely not. Commonsense would suggest stopping at the word?look-out.? Let the advice be:
"Always keep a good look-out."
What more is needed? Why put in the qualification:
"especially when ruling with dropped handlebars."
Why not leave out that phrase? The limitation does not strengthen the regulation but seems to say that if you have not dropped handlebars you need not keep a good lookout. To tell cyclists to keep a good look-out always is good advice. Let the advice stop at that. Regulation 67 says:
"Keep a straight course and do not wobble about the road."
There are some cyclists who wobble. I do not know about wobbling about the road. Some motorists picture cyclists as going from this side of the road to that side and crossing and recrossing to their heart's content. That is a fanciful, exaggerated picture, and it is one which we never really see. If any cyclist does wobble about the road in that way, he is not going to wobble about very far before he lands himself into the hospital. The same logic applies to the advice in regulation 67 as in regulation 56. It is true to say that the average cyclist can not keep as perfectly straight a line as the motorist, but why should the advice not be:
?Keep a straight course.?
If they keep a straight course, they will not wobble about. Why add the words:
"and do not wobble about the road."
If you keep a straight course you are not wobbling. It seems to me that the language is rather wobbly. Why not make the English better, the regulations simpler and leave out ambiguous words by simply saying:
?Keep a straight course.?
and stop at that? I cannot agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) in wanting to have the Highway Code book issued separately for pedestrians and motorists. It is a good thing that it should go out to all classes. It is well for pedestrians and cyclists to know that not only are they being given good advice but that motorists are being given good advice. We must not divide motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. Motorists at times are pedestrians, cyclists are pedestrians, many pedestrians are cyclists, many cyclists are motorists any many motorists are cyclists. Millions of people come into the three categories. It is therefore a good thing for cyclists and pedestrians to know that the Minister of Transport is telling motorists to look out what they are doing. I am very glad that the Minister has inserted Regulation No. 4:
"Before using the road be sure that your alertness or sense of caution is not affected by alcohol or fatigue."
That advice is addressed to all users of the road, and it is one of the most important of the regulations. I am certain that a great number of drivers of commercial lorries are involved in accidents because of their fatigue, due to long stretches of driving. None of us really understand the large proportion of accidents on the roads that are due to alertness having been dimmed by the use of alcohol. I should say that 10 per cent. of our fatalities on the roads are mainly due, I do not say to drunkenness but to some slight diminution of alertness by even a slight extra dose of alcohol. It is a first-class thing that the Minister should have had the courage to put this regulation into the new Highway Code.

I should like to congratulate the Minister on the new Code, and I hope that not only will it be sent out to 15,000,000 homes but that some means will be devised—and they will have to be extraordinary means—to make the people read and understand the Code. It is one thing sending out the Code but it is another thing to get people to read it. Those of us who send out political leaflets know how difficult it is to get people to read them. If you send out 40,000 leaflets—jolly good ones, as I do, and as I expect my opponent does—it is not easy to get people to read them. I am certain that probably 90 per cent. of the people do not read them. As a schoolmaster I know that you can give to a class of 40 a really good lesson and sit down thinking that it has been jolly fine, but if you only knew the truth the important things that you have tried to teach have gone astray and only the illogical little trimmings have gone permanently into the heads of some of your scholars. That is true of life generally. You can have fine lessons, such as this Highway Code, and it is a jolly good lesson, but it is one thing having a jolly good lesson in a book, and another thing getting it into the minds of the people. If the Minister of Transport, after having produced this jolly good lesson could get it into the minds of the people he will have deserved well of every section of the community, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

2.54 p.m.

I think we have all enjoyed the last speech very much, but I think the hon. Member was rather modest when he said that not 10 per cent. of the electorate read his election address. I am sure there is a better reason for his presence here than that. I congratulate the Minister on his regulations and especially regulation 25, which gives precedence at last to the major road, but I am not sure how that regulation will work out in practice. We are told at the beginning of the Code that it is not a legal offence to break any of the provisions of the Code. I should like to know whether if anybody crossing from a minor to a major road is prosecuted by the police for dangerous driving and it is a fact that he has broken the code in that way, that that will be taken into account.

Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, makes it an offence to ignore the sign.

I am glad to know that. I think it is the most important regulation we have had in these codes. I hope that the Minister will adopt the suggestion of the last speaker, and of the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe and underline some of these regulations. I know he is very innocent of the subject, but there is such a thing as the art of publicity, and perhaps he can ask his friends to advise him so that there can be a lot of publicity in the press, especially in regard to these provisions.

The hon. Gentleman who spoke last rather took up an attitude at one time, though he modified it at the end, of the cyclist versus the motorist. I do not think we want to do that in this House. The law at the moment allows a side road as much right as a main road. This can be dangerous to a cyclist where there is a hill. He and I know that the nicest thing in bicycling is to free-wheel. When free-wheeling down a hill on a good road and that road passes a main road, it is very tempting to go on right across that main road. That is the cause of a lot of accidents to-day, and I hope the Minister may make it even clearer that there ought to be a halt when coming to a main road. In paragraph 25 it says:
"Unless you have a clear view of the major road in both directions stop, before entering the carriageway of the major road."
I do not think he ought to have those words?unless you have a clear view?, because people vary as to whether they have a clear view or not. Anybody entering from a minor to a major road ought to stop, and I hope the Minister will take that point into consideration. I would like to ask him one or two questions. One page 4 in paragraph 27 in regard to tramcars it says:
"Subject to any local provisions to the contrary, tramcars may be overtaken on either side."
The difficulty is that it is very hard for a stranger when he is in a big town to know whether or not there is a local rule. Sometimes you can overtake on either side; sometimes you cannot, and you do not know that you are breaking a by-law. I believe in practically every town in America you have to stop when a tramcar stops and that ought to be enforced in some cities here. Lots of accidents take place by people over taking a tramcar when it is at a stand still. I suggest that where there is a by-law that only allows you to overtake on one side, there ought to be some sign put up which would enable the motorist, who may be a stranger, to know what the law is.

I have only one or two other criticisms to make. I do not think paragraph 39, which deals with what is called filtration, is very clear. I confess I never knew the term?filtration? was used to mean turning to the left. In Section 105 the Minister deals with people riding and leading a horse. The section says that the duty is to keep the led horse between the traffic and the edge of the pavement. That is true but it must be remembered that to-day owing to tradition, the rider always rides on the near side and the horse, if led, is always on the offside so that this regulation means that a man riding one horse and leading another will always be going against the traffic. The Minister ought to consider whether we ought not to alter the old custom, so that a man leading the horse will have to ride on the off side and have the led horse on the near side. It would be very unpopular and a very awkward thing to do, but it is merely a matter of custom, and we could do it in time. The final question is in the supplementary notes on page 27 in regard to the sounding of horns. I would like to endorse what the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe said that, although we do not want unnecessary noise, do not let us try to make motors so silent that there is an increase of accidents. We must have a balance between the two. On page 27 it says:
"It is an offence under the Motor Vehicles …Regulations, 1934, to sound a born fitted to a motor vehicle between the hours prescribed by the Regulations on any road furnished with a system of street lighting."
Is it an offence to sound a horn on one of these roads, that is, a road which is lighted, when that road bas been de-restricted? With these few words, I should like to congratulate the Minister and to ask him again if he can give every publicity to the Code, so that everybody in the country knows that a major road has the right of way.

3.2 p.m.

We have heard this afternoon the champions of the motorist, of the pedestrian and of the bicyclist. I should like to put in a word for the tricycle. The tricycle, to me, is a symbol of propriety and respectability, and I do not think it should be left out of the Highway Code. My real reason for rising was to make a suggestion to the Minister with regard to the sign that indicates that there is a school in the neighbourhood. The sign would have more attention paid to it if it were only in operation during the hours in which children are liable to cross the road. I would suggest that a sign be erected outside schools rather like a railway signal, and when the school hours are over or before they begin, the teacher, or some other individual, should raise the arm of the sign. Thus motorists would know that they had to take particular care. I think the fact that this suggested sign is there the whole time during the day and night may tend to get it ignored by motorists who are not familiar with school hours. I should only like to say in addition that on the whole I congratulate the Minister very much on his successful efforts to mitigate the accident rate.

3.3 p.m.

I want to make a plea for the child rather than for the motorist, the bicylist or the pedestrian. I want to make that plea more in regard, perhaps, to the foreword the Minister is going to write, than with regard to the regulations. I am not a motorist although I sometimes motor, and, as one who can during these motoring periods sit back and observe things, perhaps I am like the person who sees most of the game when he is not playing. I listened with a good deal of attention to my hon. Friend the Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. West), the specialist in cycling, and I was thinking, when he was speaking, of a picture I saw of him attached to a very interesting article he wrote for one of the evening papers. What struck me most about that was not the article but the fact that he himself was riding a bicycle with one hand, while the other was engaged in another way. I wondered, when he was speaking to day, whether it would make the slightest difference if he had dropped handle bars, straight handlebars, or only half handle bars, to ride in that position.

I want to ask some questions particularly with regard to the publicity to be given to the new Code. I accept the Code as a very great improvement on any Code that we have had before, and I think it will minimise the number of accidents on the road. I think I understood the Minister to say that it was proposed to send a copy of the Code to every house in the Kingdom. I hope he will go further than that and send one at least to every family in the United Kingdom, because there are a great number of houses in which there are two, three, four, or even five families living, and if one of these Codes is pushed through the letter-box in the ordinary way—where there is a letter-box—the first person who comes along may get hold of it and appropriate it, and nobody else in the house will know anything about it.

After that first distribution, how are people who desire to get copies, having lost their copy or desiring other copies, to be able to get them? One of the difficulties in regard to Government publications to-day is that of knowing how to get hold of them. People usually have to write to His Majesty's Stationery Office, and in 99 cases out of 100 people do not know where that is. With regard to some Government publications, anyone can get them in a post office. The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) suggested that a number of these Codes should be delivered to policemen in bundles—I do not know why he wants to inflict them on the police—but I should like to know why they should not be available for sale or free distribution in post offices.

With regard to children, the Minister has had conversations, apparently, with the Postmaster-General as to the distribution of the Code, but could he not have some consultation with the President of the Board of Education, and possibly with some of the associations representing local authorities, so as to get a knowledge of the Code into the schools? I do not think you can expect all children to read the Code, but I see no reason why the Code should not be for a time part of the curriculum in the schools and why lessons should not be specifically arranged for the children to understand the Code, which could be explained to them in simple form by teachers or others in the schools. I think that would minimise the number of accidents on the road.

May I make one other suggestion? It has been pointed out that the printing of the Code is all of the same kind, with out any variation, and that nothing is brought out as being of particular importance. Why not print it in colours? People are attracted by printing in red, and most people think a thing is important if it is printed in red. I have some of my election literature printed in yellow, and that is why 90 per cent. of the people in my constituency read mine and only 10 per cent. do not. Would it not be advisable in this connection to print the forewood in red? When I saw it at first I did not like giving the Minister a blank cheque, and I was anxious to know what he was going to do with it. Apparently he is even more anxious than I was, but I think he might use that foreword space for the purpose of putting in something that would induce people who otherwise might not read the Code to realise its importance. The Code appears to me to be sufficient, and it covers, I think, all the points of importance with the exception of the tricycle, that road users desire to know. if the foreword could be used to induce people to see the importance of the matter, I think it would be the best possible use to which it could be put.

3.10 p.m.

I want to thank the Minister for giving the House the opportunity of considering what to some folk may seem small and unnecessary details. Those of us, however, who practise in the courts, in running down cases and cases of land collisions know how difficult of interpretation the law may be and how inequity and injustice may be suffered by those who have not sufficient money to proceed to the higher courts. May I ask if the Law Officers of the Crown have accepted the paragraph that appears on the flyleaf? I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, whom we are delighted to see called to his high office, if this type of phraseology is sufficient to enable the lay magistrate to understand that this book is purely for guidance and is not law in the statutory sense. In its setting in the Act it may be sufficient to compel users of the road to use them in a normal way which will not be a danger to others. As these words stand on the flyleaf of the Code, however, they may be to a lay magistrate something on which he will hand very severe penalties on poor cyclists who have not sufficient means to protect themselves in the higher courts.

I would ask the Minister whether, before he puts this book into the hands of the public, he will consult the Law Officers again, even if they have already given some thought to the matter, and consider whether that paragraph should be eliminated so that there will be no danger of a lay magistrate or some coroner interpreting it too widely. Some of us who have both read and heard the judgments of some of the coroners and magistrates feel that it is necessary, before they administer the law, that they should undergo a course of legal training so that some of the inequities that happen may be prevented. I know that the Minister will not think me impertinent or critical of his high standard of public service and duty if I say that if the paragraph on the flyleaf gets into the hands of some of the laymen of whom I have been speaking, in nine cases out of ten they will accept it ipso factoas absolute law and apply such suggestions in a penal sense to the people who come before them. We have heard this morn ing about the righteousness, the benevolence, the kindliness and the generosity of motor users, and about the inquity, unthoughtfulness and carelessness of cyclists in their use of the roads.

I shall not enter into that interesting controversy, but I claim that the 9, 500,000 cyclists ought to receive as much consideration in these democratic days as the 2, 250,000 motorists. —[An HON. MEMBER:— More.]—They deserve more consideration I agree, because they come mainly from the humbler classes. Turn ing to paragraph 66 I see that they are commanded never to ride more than two abreast, and when I mentally estimate the space occupied by two cyclists riding abreast and then think of the dimensions of some of those gigantic and magnificent cars to which the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Mr. W. Brass) sometimes introduces us in Palace Yard, I ask why it is not laid down that motorists also shall not drive more than two abreast. What is sauce for the goose is good enough for the gander, and those of us who have ridden cycles for many years know sometimes that in turning corners it is impossible to avoid going three abreast and occupying rather more of the road owing to the radiating angle. I do not want to criticise any members of the Committee who have, in a public-spirited fashion, been devoting their attention to this matter, and have drawn up this Code, but I really should like to know whether they had advising them equally powerful experts representing all the different sections of the community as those representing the lucrative motor car trade, because I do suggest that the wording of this Code suggests a distinct leaning towards those who have the backing of the more powerful financial and press interests.

Another point to which I would wish to draw attention is paragraph (xiv) of the Supplementary Code, where it is laid down that it is an offence for a cyclist to carry a passenger on a bicycle not constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person. Those of us who have lived in industrial areas know that on a Sunday morning it is the pleasure of a young father—if he has not gone to church, and I hope most young fathers do go to church—to take out the baby in some little carrier fixed to his bicycle. In that way father and baby take an outing together. The words of this paragraph may be improperly interpreted by a magistrate as to the construction of the carrier, and I think there ought to be a more generous and elastic provision such as will not interfere with a cyclist taking his child with him on a little trip. I remember that in the old days my father used to put me on a little cushion on his bicycle, and I did not come to any harm. That simple method may not be possible in these days of rush and hurtle and speed and speed-lust, but I want to be certain that the manufacturers of cycles will not feel impelled to make the carrier such an elaborate gadget that it is too expensive for a working man to put on his cycle. On the whole I think the Highway Code is necessary, because there is no Member in this House who is not determined to reduce the toll of death which the roads are taking, but I suggest that the Minister should guide those of his Committee who draw up these rules, and which he has the power to alter as may be convenient, in order that the 9, 500,000 or 10,000,000 cyclists may not be subjected to legal inequity, as against other users of the roads who are driving vehicles costing anything from £120 to £4,000.

Very little has been said about the pedestrian. I want to protect the elderly and infirm users of the roads who cannot proceed in so swift a fashion as others. I have even heard magistrates and coroners refer to such elderly folk as?jay walkers.? Could not the police be given instructions, not necessarily from the Ministry of Transport but from the Home Secretary's Department, for the regulation of traffic near almshouses, hospitals, institutions, and other places where elderly people are likely to use the road? Some provision of that kind might be included in this Code. It is a good suggestion that, in order to bring the Highway Code to the notice of as large a number of people as possible, it should be available in Post Offices, in addition to the house-to-house circulation. Would the Minister also consider whether instruction in the principles of the High way Code could be given in the schools'? Teachers might perhaps give a half-hour lesson in road sense and road instruction to the children. I do not, of course, suggest that that would relieve the authorities from the duty of making the roads absolutely foolproof.

People, whether they are old or young, have a right to use the roads in such fashion as is legitimate for pleasure and proper exercise, which is one of the objects for which the cyclists use the roads although also many use them for proceeding to their work also. The younger generations must be taught road sense in a way which older people have not found necessary. If the number of motor cars on the road is to increase at the rate of the last 10 years, it will soon be pure luck when a man 50, 60 or 70 years of age gets safely across a road. I hope that the Minister will do his best to alter the Code so that all sections of the public may have full and equal protection in respect of the right to use the roads from old age even to childhood.

3.24 p.m.

I wish, first of all, to thank the Minister for this publication, which will be of real value to road users. As has already been said by other hon. Members, its value will depend upon the extent to which it may be read and absorbed by road users. I understand that all motorists and cyclists are to be given copies with their licences, but it is much more difficult to ensure that all pedestrians and ordinary cyclists will read and take in the valuable advice given in the Code, and I hope that the Minister will take careful note of all the suggestions that have been made to that end. My principal criticism of the Code is in regard to the question of giving emphasis to certain points. The Code gives luminous advice on very many points, some of which, however, are in finitely more important than others. For instance, the question of silence, although it may be very important, is obviously less important than, for instance, the question of cutting in, and, if the whole of the advice is mixed up together, the less important advice rather detracts from the value of the advice given on points which really matter. I do not think it should be impossible to pick out certain points which are of such importance as to require underlining, such as cutting in, acceleration when being over taken, blind overtaking, and cyclists riding three or four abreast. These are just a few instances of common faults which are not, perhaps, appreciated as they should be by road users, and I would suggest that the advice on such points might perhaps be underlined, or printed in heavier type.

Again, some of the advice given to pedal cyclists might, I think, also be included in the advice given to motor cyclists. For instance, the advice given in paragraph 70 with regard to the carrying of parcels on cycles is only given to pedal cyclists, but I think it also applies to a considerable extent to motor cyclists; and the same is the case with paragraphs 56 and 61, to which I will not make any further reference now. With regard to pedestrian crossings, the treat ment of this matter in paragraph 94 seems to me to be much too vague. It simply says:
"Where there is a pedestrian crossing, subway, or refuge, make use of it. "
That is the advice given to pedestrians. I should prefer to see it pointed out clearly that, whereas pedestrians have the right of way on their own crossings, it is expected, particularly in districts where these crossings are frequent, that pedestrians should give way to motor vehicles if they choose to cross where there is not a pedestrian crossing. I should like to see paragraph 94 strengthened in that direction if it is possible to do so.

The Minister, in the course of his speech, asked for advice as to what he should include in the Foreword. I have not heard any particular advice given to him in this regard, but I should like to suggest that the Foreword might perhaps be used to point out to motorists the duty, which I think they have, of instituting prosecutions against other road users when they see dangerous actions on their part. It often happens that one is cut in on, or sees someone behaving dangerously on the road, but does not take the trouble to report it. It may be that many road users do not know how to set about it, to whom to apply, or what evidence is necessary, but I think that, unless road users will assist the police in catching the dangerous drivers and other dangerous road users, it will be practically impossible to stop some of the practices which are going on and which are the cause of so many accidents to-day. I do not think that better use could be made of the Foreword than to point out that duty which rests upon all road users. I should like to say that it is apparent that the Minister has given the most careful attention to the drawing up of this Code, and I believe that it will prove to be of real use to anyone who can be induced to read it.

3.29 p.m.

The Minister has been given plenty of advice, which I think he appreciates. I do not remember many subjects coming before the House on which everyone seems to be so willing to help. We all realise the value of the Code, and are glad that something is being done to bring it to the notice of the public. I notice that the pamphlet is entitled, on the first page,?The High way Code,? but I think that, in the minds of the public generally, The Highway Code means a Code for the motorist. Wherever a copy of this Code goes to a household, unless the members of the household are motorists, very few people will examine it carefully. I therefore ask the Minister if he cannot introduce some thing in the foreword to attract the attention of all classes of the community and point out that it is not merely motorists who are dealt with but everybody who uses the roads. If he could do something on these lines, I believe that it would have a great effect on the public.

There is one thing I should like to emphasise from the point of view of the pedestrian. The points of view of motorists and cyclists have been put forward. I am one who very seldom rides if he can avoid it, and I am probably therefore in a position to take notice of things that happen. Paragraph 90 is most important in reference to pedestrians. I should like it to be emphasised more than anything else. It says:.
"On a pavement or footpath do not walk alongside the kerb in the same direction as the nearer stream of traffic."
A common source of danger to pedestrians is to walk along with the stream of traffic on a narrow pavement meeting on-coming persons, and it is more dangerous still if you should happen to step off the footpath to give way to other people. If that be done the would-be gallant may be swept into danger from the on-coming road traffic. I have seen that sort of thing done and have known of one or two fatal accidents from that cause. If, instead, it could be emphasised that pedestrians should walk on the footpath nearer the on-coming traffic, I believe that it would help to avoid accidents. There are so many things which are good in the proposed Code that if the Minister raises certain special points, it is a question as to whether sufficient attention would be paid to other points, and I should-like the Minister to give full consideration to that matter. When I pick up a newspaper or a book and see that something is printed in larger type I pay too much attention to it and not enough attention to the other matter, and I hope that the Minister will be careful in this connection in dealing with the new Code.

I do not want it to be taken for granted that less noise from motor horns will be of great value. It is possible that if this sort of thing is carried too far people will become unaware of traffic. I always listen when crossing the road for the sound of the motor horn, and if I do not hear the horn and the motor passes me it surprises me. I should like the Minister to deal with the question of the silencer. If noise from the engine could be prevented, I would agree. I do not know whether I can help the Minister, but it is always a great difficulty for benches of magistrates to determine what noise is a nuisance and to what extent the law is being broken. I have sat on the bench on a number of occasions when I have been very doubtful as to the extent to which the law could be applied. In regard to cyclists and the number that should ride abreast, we have a new road called the East Lancashire Road, and on Sunday mornings there are thousands of cyclists going along that road riding five and six abreast. I speak in the interests of cyclists themselves—

Five and six abreast. You will find groups of men and women going along quite easily and chatting together, but that number riding abreast is inviting danger. I think that two abreast is quite sufficient. The Code has been issued not for the benefit of one particular section of road users but for the benefit of all, pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. It is on the right lines and very little objection can be taken to it. I think that the Minister deserves the thanks of the House.

3.36 p.m.

We are extremely grateful for the courteous and helpful way in which the Debate has been conducted. It has been one of those occasions which are now becoming more frequent than they used to be when we can get right away from party disssentions. We hope that this same spirit will be shown by those to whom the Highway Code is directed, and that they will get away from the idea that there are any particular classes of road users, either cyclists, pedestrians or motorists, but that they should all have the same aim—safety for all. Let me deal with the points which have been raised during the Debate. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) paid my hon. Friend the Minister a compliment which is deserved, and for which he is grateful. He dealt with the question of tiredness, fatigue, which is often a cause of accident. In the Road Traffic Act of 1930 and later in the Road and Rail Traffic Act of 1933 we tried to deal with a side of this matter in the hours in which we allow lorry drivers to drive on the roads. I entirely agree with the hon. Member that tiredness is a frequent cause of accidents.

The hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Sir W. Brass) said that he was glad advertisements are not to be inserted in the Code. We entirely agree, and are glad that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has seen his way to waive the extra amount of money which would have been obtained from advertisements, be cause we are certain that the Code itself will greatly benefit by the fact that even the small Advertisements which were found in the last Code are not to be inserted in the present one. The hon. and gallant Member also agreed that the new halt signs are an improvement. He raised a point as regards the sounding of horns. We have considerably altered that part of the Code which deals with the use of horns, because we have had great experience since the last Code was issued. The one thing we want to avoid is what is called driving on the horn, going as fast As you can and relying on the horn. If he will look at the instruction he will see that we say:.
"Do not sound your horn unnecessarily.? "
That does not mean that a motorist is not to sound his horn at all, but that he should not sound it unnecessarily. We did not want to put in the other old section also, because that rather cuts across the regulation as regards not hooting at night. Generally speaking, we want people to become more silent, to rely less on their horns, and that is the reason for the alteration of the wording. With regard to the point raised both by my hon. and gallant Friend also by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Conant) as to not having a separate section in the Code for motor cyclists, that was very carefully considered by the Transport Advisory Council, who recommended that it should not be done. But suggestions have been made to us not only here, but also a suggestion has been made in another place, that we might include in the foreword a recommendation for motor cyclists to read care fully that section which deals with pedal cyclists, because in that section there is not a single paragraph which would not be equally good for the motor cyclist as well. We shall be very glad to consider whether that is not one of the things that should be put into the foreword.

As regards heavy type, the question was raised by a number of Members as to whether the new system of having all the Code in the same type or the old system of having some parts in heavy type was the more effective. I do not think I am giving away any secrets if I say that the original proofs which we had of this Code were in the old heavy type, but we came to the conclusion that it did not make it more clear, but rather added to the confusion. It is really a matter of opinion. What I consider the most important thing in the Code is, perhaps, considered of very little importance by some of my hon. Friends. On the whole, if you look at the two Codes, I think it will be agreed that the type as we have it at present in the new Code, with no heavy type, is clearer, and will make people take equal notice of all the different provisions.

With regard to the supplementary notes, my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that the system in the old code where a note was Code attached at the bottom of the paragraph was the better. In the old Code there were no supplementary notes, but at the end of the present Code we have grouped together all those regulations which it is so necessary that motorists and others should know, and we call attention to them by means of asterisks and footnotes. As to the suggestion that the Code should be split into two parts, one for pedestrians and cyclists and the other for motorists, we think it very much better that that should not be done, and the reason for that is to be found in paragraph (6) of the present Code, which perhaps I may read, because it is so important:
"Every person who uses the road should learn thoroughly those rules in the Code which apply to him in particular, and should make himself familiar with those which concern other classes of road users."
We do think it most important that all pedestrians should know some of the difficulties of motorists, and that all motorists should know some of the difficulties of pedestrians, and if they both read each other's paragraphs we shall help to bring about that very desirable state of affairs. We have taken, and are taking, careful note of the different suggestions for popularising the Code. We have taken certain steps in regard to schools. The hon. Member for Aberdeen and Kincardine (Mr. Barclay-Harvey) said that there was no reference in the Code to traffic signs such as?Stop? and lines in the road. If he looks at section (82) he will see there a distinct injunction to.
"Keep a good look out for all traffic signals, signs and lines."
If he also looks at paragraph (51) he will see we have put in there a paragraph telling people not to race their engine or make unnecessary noise.

The hon. Member for North Hamer-smith (Mr. West) referred to certain points with regard to cyclists, as did the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden). The advice in the Code has been drawn up with one object in mind only, and that is to get safety on the roads. Therefore, when we ask cyclists not to ride more than two abreast we do it both for their own safety and for the safety of other traffic which may be coining up behind. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston) asked whether there was any penalty for disobeying a traffic sign. If he looks at the top of page 23 he will see the answer to his question:
"Under Section 49 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, it is an offence for any driver or cyclist not to go slow or to come to a stop before entering a major road from a minor road if there is a traffic sign which requires him to do so. "
That is a definite portion of the Act passed by Parliament which makes it an offence to disobey traffic signs. My hon. and gallant Friend then made a point about tramcars, and I gather that he would like to see places where local by laws are in operation marked with some sign. I had a question asked me recently about that, and we came to the conclusion that we must if possible minimise the number of signs put around the roads. As regards the places which have by-laws, speaking from memory I think there are only three, namely, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and I think that the local residents in those places know that the by-laws are in operation, and that no very great difficulty has arisen. The hon. Member also asked whether it was an offence to sound a horn on a road which is lighted but which has been derestricted. It is an offence to do so. If he will look at the end of the book he will see the words:
"You may not sound your horn between the hours prescribed by the regulations on any road furnished with a system of street lighting."

Between the hours prescribed by the regulation, that is between 11.30 at night and seven o'clock in the morning. But when that regulation came in there was no 30 miles an hour speed limit and there were no restricted or derestricted roads. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. MCEntee) made a very interesting speech. He desired to make sure that the Code goes to families as well as to houses. The first distribution will be 15,000,000 copies, or one copy to every three persons in the country, but we will see whether some wider distribution can be under taken. The Minister gives an under taking that there will be supplies of the Code in all Post Offices, in order that anyone who wants a copy can obtain it there. The hon. Member asked about fuller information being given to children. A committee has been set up and is now sitting, in conjunction with the Board of Education, to draw up a curriculum for road safety, and that committee will do a lot of good, I think.

Is the Ministry doing anything to bring home the Code to magistrates because the last Code was quite unknown to a large number of magistrates in this country?

Every magistrate is to receive direct a copy of the new Code. With regard to the instruction of children, we would like to thank those teachers who have already taken such a great deal of trouble in the schools, particularly in London, in order to instil the principles of road safety into the minds of the children. In reply to the hon. Member for West Leyton (Sir W. Sugden) the quotation on the fly-leaf of the Code which he mentioned is taken direct from the Act. I cannot make it any more plain or any less plain. I think it sets out in pretty clear terms exactly what the Code is and what legal sanction it has.

The question of pedestrian crossings is the last one raised by hon. Members to day with which I need to deal. The hon. Member for Chesterfield complained that the directions in this respect are not sufficiently precise but if he looks at the instructions to pedestrians he will find that it is not only paragraphs 89 and 90, but several of the subsequent paragraphs which deal with this important point. Again, on pages 26 and 27 he will see in the supplement set out fully what a pedestrian crossing is and what are the rights respectively of pedestrians and of drivers of vehicles. I think I have now dealt with nearly all the points that have been raised. I would only say in conclusion that for years past the public conscience has been deeply stirred by the appalling toll of the road. Energetic measures have been taken—and a tribute has been paid in the House to-day to the Minister for taking them—to lessen that toll. This revised code is a step in the right direction. I would emphasise that there is nothing in it which the good citizen does not know and practise already. It is to those whom I may term not so good that the Code is primarily directed. For these reasons I ask the House to pass this Motion and allow us to proceed to print and circulate the Code at the earliest possible moment.

3.53 p.m.

I much regret that in the few minutes at my disposal it will be impossible for me to develop the suggestions which I had hoped to make during this debate. As the oldest motorist in the House, having been driving for 38 years, I am speaking from a practical and not a theoretical point of view. I shall resume my seat before 4 o'clock in order to give the Minister an opportunity of replying to the suggestion which I am about to make. The solution of this traffic difficulty is the abolition of the horn—with the sole exception when one vehicle is passing another. I have driven in all parts of the world, and I am not boasting but merely stating the facts when I say that I have done so without a single warning, or prosecution or accident. That may be put down to my expert driving but I would rather put it down to the fact that not using the horn has necessitated that I should use the roads with respect for every other user.

The Minister has, to a certain extent, adopted my suggestion in regard to the silence zones, and must thank him personally for the free access he has given me to his department, and the consideration he has given to all the remarks I have had to make on this burning subject. There are 615 Members of this House, and if the death rate on the roads were confined to Members of this House, we should be wiped out every five weeks. Perhaps some people would say that that would not be a national calamity but if we had 24 corpses laid out on this Floor every day we should realise the magnitude of the slaughter which is taking place on the roads to-day. My suggestions to the Minister are these. Let him experiment further than he has done, let him give me the opportunity of testing silence in a county for one month. I will give him my assurance, although it is sometimes dangerous to prophesy, that I will save 1,000 lives every year in this country if he will adopt my suggestion. It needs one month's preparation by notices in the Press, by notices at the limits of the county, by school teachers taking up the matter for half an hour a day with the scholars, by the police being instructed, and the whole of the people being brought to realise that on themselves depends the safety of every person who uses the roads in Great Britain.

What is the horn to-day? It is a licence to kill.?Did you sound your horn???No.? Then the prosecution wins every time. If you did sound your horn you are free and the horn has killed the pedestrian, who is startled at the sudden noise and dashes into danger. Thirty-eight years is a long time. When I began motoring there were no horns. The motor car itself made sufficient noise; it could almost be heard in the next county. In 1903 I was compelled by the law to affix a horn to my car but I never used the confounded thing because I had no use for it. I am told that if the pedestrian was not warned he would step into the road. That is not so. If the pedestrian knows that there is no horn he will not cross the road without looking both ways. If you wait for the blast of the horn you are a dead man and in heaven or elsewhere before you have heard it.

Seriously I ask the Minister if he will put in my hands for one month, one county, Staffordshire for preference, to carry out my experiment. He has already said that he will agree to this being done if the request comes. Why does not the request come? In the words of the hymn:.
"They stand shivering on the brink
And fear to launch away."
They have not the pluck to make the re quest, in spite of my advice. Let the Minister, therefore, give me one county for one month and I will be responsible for the rest. Do not let it be thought that I am speaking lightly. I realise the fact that there are between 7,000 and 8,000 people killed every year on our roads. One every hour. It is said that we must have silence. One's nerves are shaken to bits by the electric horns, the noise of which penetrates to your very marrow We want silence. There are times when silence is golden. Yes, but this is the exception which proves the rule. I want the Minister to give me an opportunity of testing out my suggestion. It cannot do any harm; it will do nothing but good. Another request. Will the Minister make fire extinguishers compulsory on every motor car. It is compulsory for every public service vehicle, for every taxi-cab and omnibus, but the private vehicle is allowed to go scot free. I have just allowed one minute to enable the Minister to reply.

Question put, and agreed to.


"That the Highway Code prepared by the Minister of Transport under Sub-section (1) of Section 45 of the Road Traffic Act, 1930, which was presented on the tenth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-five, be approved. "

Water Resources Andsupplies


"That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on measures for the better conservation and organisation of water resources and supplies in England and Wales."
— [ Sir George Penny.]

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith, and to desire their concurrence.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No.2.

Adjourned at Four o'clock until Monday next, 27th May.