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Lords Chamber

Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 15 October 1952

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 15th October, 1952

The House met at half past two of the clock, The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.


The Earl of St. Germans—Took the Oath.

The Viscount Cross—Took the Oath.

The Lord Carnock—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his brother.

Foreign Travel Allowance

2.37 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government if they intend to make an increase in the Basic Travel Allowance when the present one expires on 1st November, and whether an early announcement could be made to enable travel agents to prepare their programmes for the winter holidays and for 1953.]

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer appreciates the desire of the travel agents to know on what basis to prepare their programmes, and hopes to announce very shortly what the new basic travel allowance will be.

My Lords, arising out of that answer, I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government realise that any increase, however small it is, has a considerable moral effect overseas on sterling and the stability thereof.

My Lords, I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have in mind all the relevant considerations.

Road Accidents

2.38 p.m.

rose to call attention to the continuing tragedy of Road Accidents; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, after I put down this Motion, some time before we rose for the Recess, I was exercised in my mind as to whether, possibly, I had not over-dramatised the title, but after reading several reports, police and otherwise, on the subject of road accidents I came to the conclusion that I had not; and I hope that your Lordships agree with me. The last occasion upon which we discussed road accidents in this House was at the end of December of last year on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Howe. I return to the subject to-day, not because I have anything original to say about it, nor because I can claim to be in any way an expert on the subject of road accidents—indeed, I am speaking, if I may say so, as a man in the street, or, put more properly, perhaps, as an ordinary man behind the wheel, with, I hope, average powers of watching and making up his mind from what he sees. I put down the Motion because I felt that your Lordships might welcome once more an opportunity of discussing a matter of great concern to all of us, and probably to the majority of the nation, a matter which, I feel, if it is not brought fairly constantly to the public notice, is in some danger of being relegated to the background of the national conscience as one of those phases of national life, very regrettable, of course, but unavoidable, and perhaps even beyond repair. Unavoidable I am afraid it is to a certain degree, but I do not believe that it is beyond considerable improvement if only we can set in motion those ideas on the part of road users which will make them improve the present state of affairs, as I believe it can be improved.

The Road Safety Week which we had at the end of the summer was, in my view, a move in the right direction. I have not heard that this is to be an annual feature, but I feel that it would be a good thing if it were. The results may not have been outstanding, but I believe that they did bring home to the public the dangers of the roads. The problem will need the united efforts of all road users, and all others who have in any way to do with transport on the roads, if we are to get the permanent improvement which we all so much desire. My impression in driving about the countryside—I do not know if it is in line with the impression of others of your Lordships—is that the standard of driving in the country is not too bad, and that cases of really reckless and dangerous driving are very rare—personally, I cannot remember when I last saw one. I have sometimes thought that it would be interesting if it were possible to compute the number of miles covered in this country in any one period of twenty-four hours by every type of motor vehicle, and to set against that the number of accidents during the same period. Of course, the ratio would be infinitesimal, and would, if anything, redound to the credit of road users, rather than otherwise.

Admittedly, this type of reasoning does not get us very far, but to my mind it does point to one fact—namely, that although there are many contributory causes to road accidents (one has only to read the admirable and detailed reports on the subject to realise how many they are)—the real heart of the matter lies in three factors. These are: first, the immense volume of traffic which our inadequate roads have to bear; secondly, the congestion of our population; and thirdly, the unfortunate fact that, not being blessed with the acute instinct for self-preservation of most animals, human beings are subject to periods of what may be called small blackouts—thoughtlessness, inattention, and lack of concentration, often when concentration is most necessary.

This fact is rather borne out by a statement in one of the more recently published reports, that 85 per cent. of accidents on the road are due to human, as against mechanical error. I am afraid that it is equally obvious, therefore, that at least for some time to come we have to look forward to the fact that accidents on our roads will continue to occur in distressing numbers. That they happen to such an alarming extent to-day is, I suppose, part of the price we have to pay for speed, for trying to do in a day what our forefathers took a week or more to accomplish. This may sound rather like a counsel of despair. In a way it is, but that is not to say that much cannot be done, I believe now and certainly in the future, as more money becomes available for those improvements which we all want to see on our roads to make them more suitable for the traffic they have to bear, and by education and continually stressing the fact that road users should become more sensible of their own personal responsibilities in accident avoidance.

I do not propose to inflict a mass of statistics upon your Lordships this afternoon. As we know, the bare details are published regularly in the Press and broadcast, and there are, of course, the many excellent reports available for those who wish to see them. Sometimes these announcements induce in one a ray of hope. Sometimes they seem to make the problem more incapable of solution than ever. But taken by and large, I am afraid that they do not show a very great improvement, at least during the post-war years—I say the post-war period because it is interesting to note that there was a rather remarkable improvement as between 1938 and 1951. These are the only statistics I propose to give. In 1938 the population exposed to risk was 46,208,000. This rose by 6 per cent. to nearly 49,000,000 in 1951. In 1938 the number of vehicles licensed was 3,052,000, which rose by no less than 41 per cent. to 4,296,000 in 1951. During the same period, the quantity of motor fuel consumed rose by 27 per cent.* This makes the latest report of the Metropolitan Police District all the more disappointing.

A great deal of the decrease between those two years is put down to the three Es—education, engineering and enforcement. Education, as we all know, has gone on, and is going on, in our schools, and I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the teachers, and particularly the police, in that work. They have done a magnificent job, and I think we see it in the reduced number of child casualties. Engineering, of course, is another matter altogether. As I said just now, we can only hope that as more money becomes available we shall get that improvement in our roads which will, I believe, make a very considerable difference, as it has already during the years between 1938 and 1951. Enforcement is now more difficult, owing to the fact that the police force is still far below strength, though it is good to know that

* See Col. 715

more road patrols will be on the road shortly.

I think it was during our last debate that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, brought up the question of plain clothes patrols. I realise that this is a method not very popular in many quarters, especially among the motoring associations, and one has heard the criticism—I think it was in this House—that it is not quite in keeping with our traditional way of doing things. I would, however, venture to ask those critics whether it is in keeping with our traditional way of doing things that we should hesitate to try out any expedient that may lead to an improvement in this vital problem. As a matter of fact, I have been in correspondence with the chief constable of Oxfordshire, asking him whether he had any definite data as regards the experiments in that county. He informed me that there had hardly been time as yet to form a considered judgment, but that he hopes to have more data ready by the end of the year. As he says, if we could flood the roads with uniformed police there would be far fewer accidents. He points out that these plain clothes patrols—of which, by the way, due warning is given at every entrance to his county—are not concerned with small breaches of the law but only with definitely dangerous driving. He adds that he believes that other chief constables are making experiments on the same lines, and he is generally satisfied that these patrols can serve a useful purpose.

It is, of course, obvious that an experiment of this kind must have a considerable period of time before one can come to a considered judgment on the matter. I personally hold no brief for the use of plain clothes patrols; I only suggest that they should be tried out thoroughly. Not long ago we had in your Lordships' House a debate on a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on road construction. I do not propose to say more about that subject except to make two small points. I hope, first, that when new roads are built and road improvements generally are made, more attention will be paid to the banking of bends and corners. I have an impression that they have a better idea of this matter on the Continent than we have in this country; many roads in France are magnificently banked, and it does give a feeling of con- fidence and of safety when one is turning a bend, especially in slippery weather, if the roads are properly banked at bends and corners. I think more attention should be paid to the lopping of hedges at corners and road junctions, particularly, perhaps, on secondary roads, which do not get the attention that the main roads get. Many of your Lordships will know in your own county really dangerous spots due to this cause. These roads are almost always narrower than the main roads. The improvement could be made for a comparatively small expenditure by just trimming the hedges or even, in some instances, taking them away and replacing them with fences.

There was recently a short debate on the question of whether the speed limit should be done away with. The debate was raised in your Lordships' House by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Elton. I am glad that the Government showed on that occasion no sign of giving way, because I feel that, although the speed limit is very much honoured in the breach these days, it has at any rate a definite, restraining influence in built-up areas, and is very valuable in small towns and villages upon which one may come unexpectedly. I believe that if it were taken away a valuable restraining influence on many drivers would be lost. I should like to mention one or two points regarding streets. Guard rails are excellent and I am glad to see that more are going up—though it has always puzzled me why so many of them are often so constructed that anybody, child or adult, can climb over or through them with the greatest of ease. A case in point is Trafalgar Square. Not long ago a man came under the railing right against my car. I pulled up; he stood up and apologised and said he had not seen me. I said, "Of course you could not see me, since you were bending over the guard rails." However we parted the best of friends and no harm was done. I suggest that the addition of stressed wire netting in all cases would make these guards more effective. Stressed wire netting is at present the exception and not the rule.

One other important matter will have been in the minds of many of your Lordships in these days; I refer to zebra crossings. Personally, I think the introduction of zebra crossings is a move in the right direction, if only to show some drivers that pedestrians have an equal right on the highway to their own and at the same time to provide an efficient test for brakes. But I am inclined to think that there are too many of these crossings. For instance, at the junction of Church Street and Kensington High Street, which is a very busy traffic centre, within a little over a hundred yards there are three such crossings. It is a question whether these are necessary, especially in a place where it is so important to get the traffic moving away as quickly as possible. This point is the junction of two important streets and the exit west from a bad bottleneck. I imagine the traffic authorities know more about this than I do and take this sort of thing into consideration, but it strikes me that this is a case where these crossings have been slightly overdone. When all these crossings display their flashing beacons—I do not know how bright these beacons will be—three beacons within one hundred yards, flashing on your windscreen, especially on a wet night may make confusion worse confounded.

Possibly "flashing beacons" as an expression is somewhat of an exaggeration of what may actually be in use; but I think it is important that the crossings should be marked better by day. These beacons are often dirty and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them between the lights. As I drive through towns my attention is often caught by the scarlet letter boxes and telephone kiosks. I think that in planning our signs and warning marks and so forth it is important to rake into consideration the average colour background of our big towns. They are roughly ambers, whites (usually dirty whites), browns, blacks and occasional blocks of dull red. We want something that will stand out against that, and I suggest more experiments might be made in changes of colour in our streets. I do not know whether scarlet would not be as good a colour as any to paint the globes of the Belisha beacons. At any rate I feel that something should be done in this direction, in order to avoid the necessity of sudden pulling up which often arises at present when a pedestrian wishes to use a zebra crossing.

Perhaps I may be allowed one or two suggestions with regard to the, lighting of vehicles. Shortly before we rose before the Recess there was a brief debate or a question on the matter of the lighting of lorries, and I feel that this does call for attention. Surety it is not right that a lorry should have merely a single rear light which would hardly do justice to a pedal cycle; surely they should have twin lights of suitable power, showing the whole breadth of the vehicle, and all should be fitted with adequate warning stop lights. That is all the more necessary in view of these zebra crossings. I hope that that matter is being looked into and that regulations will be made.

Talking of pedal cycles, I have the greatest sympathy with pedal cyclists. They have the cheapest and most trouble-free form of transport yet devised, and yet they usually have a very precarious ride, especially at night. Too many ride at night either with no rear light or with one so dim as to be ineffective. I frequently find this as I drive home at night from your Lordships' House. It is not always the cyclist's fault: these battery lamps have a way of going out without warning. But it is still compulsory to have a white enamelled rear guard, and I suggest to cyclists that this is a very good safeguard if their lamps go out. A pot of enamel does not cost much, and it may mean a good deal of increased safety.

Another small point to which I wish to refer is that of the indicator that keeps on indicating when the driver has no intention whatsoever of turning. That is to my mind an indication of a lack of concentration on the driver's part. In modern cars these indicators are made self-returning and generally they do "self return"; but with older cars that is not so, and the driver is not as careful as he might be. It is very important to avoid anything which distracts other drivers from driving properly, and though this is a small distraction it can and should be avoided. While I am on this subject I should like to mention the matter of high trees in built up areas at road intersections. Near my house there is a row of fine chestnut trees, fifty to sixty feet high. Like all your Lordships, I am a lover of trees, but there are places in our streets where high trees can be a danger. In this instance the trees overhang an important road at an important road junction for half its width. During the last twelve months there have been at least six cases of dangerous skidding there. Fortunately, none of them caused a very bad accident. That was, of course, on wet blossom and wet leaves. We all know how difficult it is to counteract a skid on wet leaves. It is a small point and it is, of course, only a seasonal one. I just mention it, like all my points which I do not claim to be very important ones, because I feel that if we are to get a permanent reduction in these road accidents, it can be done only by the united efforts of all road users, coupled with the gradual and piecemeal elimination of every contributory cause, so far as this is possible, and however trivial that cause may appear to be.

In conclusion, I must confess to occasional spasms of wishful thinking—I suppose that we all have those, at times. I have sometimes thought what a blessing it would be if every driver of a motor vehicle, on opening his garage door in the morning, would think of himself as a rider about to compete over the jumps in a show ring and resolve, so far as in him lay, to complete a round without blemish; and if, when he closed his garage door in the evening, he could truly say that his mount was as well fitted for the job as he could make it, that he had taken no risk whatever, that he had judged pace and distance accurately, that he had shown consideration and courtesy to every other road user—that, in fact, he had completed a faultless round. While all have their contribution to make to the greater safety of our roads, the major responsibility must always rest surely with the driver of the heaviest and fastest vehicle—the bus, the lorry, the van, the private car and the motor-cycle. He must know, or should know, that he himself has these occasional lapses into lack of judgment and lack of concentration, and has to be constantly on his watch against this. He knows, too, or should know, that all other road users have the same failing, and he has to be prepared, if the need arises—as it so often does—to save them from themselves.

In the admirable material issued by the Metropolitan Police Driving School for training police motor-cyclists, these words are used:
"Concentrate all the time, and you will avoid accidents."
That word "concentrate" is surely the key word to all good driving and, for that matter, to all safe use of our roads. During the war this nation accomplished many wonderful things. One of the prime secrets of this accomplishment was determination to get the job done, co-operation and the sinking of all petty differences in a common cause. It is true that to-day we have not the urgency of war, but we still have, surely, the urgency of the dead on our roads, the maimed in our hospitals and the misery of bereaved homes. The toll of our roads is, indeed, a very heavy one. There are to-day, as your Lordships know, many societies and associations charged with the lightening of this burden, so far as they are able to do so—notably the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents with, I believe, its 1,000 branches throughout the country. All road users—and that comprises the entire active population—should be grateful for these efforts on their behalf. They can best show their gratitude by co-operating with them in every possible way. I beg to move for Papers.

3.6 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has kept alive the tradition of your Lordships' House that at least once every Session we return to the subject of road accidents. He has added to the long line of eloquent and distinguished speeches that have been made upon this subject. Some were made with the object of arousing the Government of the day to a proper sense of their responsibilities; others were made to try, as the noble Lord has tried this afternoon, to awaken the public conscience. I hope that I am not too pessimistic in expressing the thought that the noble Lord is going to be doomed to the same failure as all those previous speakers have been. That, my Lords, is the crux of this matter, the very heart of it; because until the Government of the day will treat this matter seriously, and until the public conscience will demand action from the Government, long after the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and myself are interested in this subject your Lordships' House will go on debating it.

In general terms, those who have to deal with this day-to-day problem have really nothing to learn as to the cause of accidents on the roads. It would be quite possible, without any working of miracles, for a very large degree of road safety to be gained in not too long a time. But, again, I repeat that we shall never get it until the Government of the day—and, thank goodness! this is no Party matter—accept the responsibility and until the British public have a conscience upon this matter. There is one ray of hope—to me it is more than a ray of hope, because, for the long time that I can think of, one of the chief handicaps that we have suffered in this matter is that we have never had in the Cabinet a Minister responsible for road safety. We have one now. If the noble Lord the Secretary of State will allow me to say so, it is very heartening to think that he should have troubled to come here this afternoon, to stand here and take his responsibility in this matter, and has not delegated it to a junior Minister. The noble Lord's plate is full, and over-full. Of course, I could suggest how to take some of it off—but that is the subject of a debate which will take place in the not too distant future.

I would refer your Lordships to this excellent Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. It is worth everybody's reading. At this juncture, I would pay a great tribute to the police. Their major concern is how to stop these deaths upon the roads. The Chief Commissioner uses some wise words on page 15 of this Report—I quote:
"What constantly surprises those dealing with the problem from the police angle is the apparently ready acceptance by so many people of the view that road accidents on their present scale are inevitable, that motor traffic has stolen a march on us and that we are incapable of devising measures to keep up with it. I do not subscribe to this view. Road safety can be bought, and if the necessary money and works priorities are forthcoming and sufficient drive and energy are applied to the problem, I see no reason why a much greater degree of safety should not come about within a measurable time."
My Lords, those words are perfectly true.

This debate takes place at a time when we are all suffering from the dreadful shock of the tragedy at Harrow. We learned yesterday from the mouth of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, that 110 lives had been lost; the total has since been added to by one. But that figure equals only one week's toll of the roads and on the roads it does not happen for one week in the year; it happens with monotonous and terrible regularity for all fifty-two weeks in the year. The other day the country was stunned by another tragedy, that at Lynmouth, where thirty people lost their lives. My Lords, that equals only two days' toll of the roads—that is all. The tragedy at Lynmouth brought Ministers of the Crown hurrying down to take an on-the-spot view of all the circumstances and, if the Press of the country is to be believed, hurrying back to London to report to the Cabinet. I would hazard the guess that never in the history of this country has the question of road accidents been thought of sufficient importance to appear upon a Cabinet agenda. Yet last year 5,250 people were killed on the roads, and 52,369 were seriously injured.

I have said some brutal things, but unfortunately they are true. I have said them to try to put before your Lordships the problem as I see it, because at the heart and root of this problem is the same thing which is at the heart and root of all our ills to-day—money. I hope the noble Lord will not think I am being too brutal, but what the Treasury or the Cabinet have really to decide is what priority money and the saving of human life have. At the present time and for a number of years, we in this country have relied far too much upon exhortation. So far as I can see, the only value of exhortation is that it is cheap; but it has not proved very effective.

I said earlier that those who have to deal with this day-to-day problem have little to learn. I ask your Lordships to consider the perspective of this. In any other form of transport—upon the railways, in the air, or upon the sea—if one person loses his life there is an immediate inquiry, and woe betide any Minister or official who does not immediately act upon the recommendations put forward by that inquiry for the prevention of a similar type of accident! I know that it is impossible to have an inquiry every time somebody is killed upon the roads, but in this country we have a sitting Committee of Inquiry set up by the Minister, the Ministerial Committee on Road Safety, which consists of all the experts of the country. It is always the duty of the Parliamentary Secretary of the day to preside over that Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, was once its chairman, and I have been its chairman. It changes its chairmen at frequent intervals, but only because Parliamentary Secretaries come and go with great rapidity. If, in all seriousness, I wanted to strengthen that Committee, I do not quite know in which direction I should do it. It is an admirable Committee. It has the best brains—the police, the technical experts, and Ministry experts. As the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, knows, within the Ministry itself there are men who have grappled with this problem for twenty years and know every facet of it.

Then we have the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which I think is one of the best institutions of its kind in this country, and over which the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, presides with great distinction. Since he has been President, the Society has gone from strength to strength. There is also the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. I doubt whether any Minister of the Crown is so well served with expert advice, and I doubt whether any Minister of the Crown is so ready to take it, as the Minister in charge of transport. But he is so often baulked in taking it by other and more oppressive and powerful Departments of Her Majesty's Government. I am going to say, quite frankly, that all my sympathies are with the noble Lord the Secretary of State. Upon his shoulders, and upon those of his junior, the Minister of Transport, rests the entire responsibility for the safety of the roads of this country; yet he has not one fraction of authority to carry out anything. On the one hand, he has to look to the Home Office and the police, and on the other to the Treasury for the money. Until that state of affairs is put right I have no hope at all that we shall make any spectacular move in the direction of preventing accidents. As the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, quite rightly said, with a foresight which I commend, we have to nibble, nibble, nibble at this problem; we have to try to effect a little improvement here and a little improvement there, until such day as the Government wake up to a responsibility which must rest very firmly upon their shoulders.

Since over 80 per cent. of the accidents happen to-day in built-up areas, let us take that as the starting-off point. I would say that the chief cause is congestion. Congestion is the greatest factor in accidents in built-up areas—not speed, because in some of these areas the traffic has slowed itself down to about ten miles per hour. On page 17 of the Report to which I have referred, the Chief Commissioner, in dealing with Central London, says:
"At peak periods such movement as there is can only be maintained by lavish use of police who can ill be spared from other pressing duties."
He goes on to say:
"But if nothing is done, it is only a question of time before the central area is strangled by the traffic it generates."
So the police have a very difficult task, in the absence of any structural alterations to some of the streets as recommended by the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, who took full cognisance of the financial state of the country, and whose report was accepted by the then Minister. While, on the one hand, you may be saving money by not having some of these improvements carried out, you are wasting it in another direction by—as the Commissioner puts it—a "lavish use of police."

I want to ask the Secretary of State what action is being taken to relieve this congestion by the adoption of the recommendations for off-street parking, underground car parks, and unilateral parking. Some progress, I understand, is being made. What we have to do in the centre of London is to take thousands of cars bodily off the roads for parking and put them underground. We shall have to do that one day. I know that fanciful suggestions have been made as to ways of solving the congestion problem in the centre of London. One such suggestion is not to allow cars to come within a range of ten miles of the area. To adopt that would result in strangling the commerce of London. Local authorities, by and large, in the provincial cities and towns throughout this country, have neglected and shirked their responsibility in this direction. They have not provided tile parking places which the amount of traffic in their towns and cities has warranted. If they had spent as much money providing parking places as some of them have spent bespattering their street with obelisks, that, I suggest, would have done a great deal of good. Frequently, on these obelisks one reads the injunction "Keep left." That is a very sensible direction to advertise, I grant them that. But that is about the only useful purpose some of these things serve.

I have referred to the position of the Ministry of Transport. When I was at the Ministry, and had responsibility in this matter, I was convinced that one of the greatest things we could do was to increase the strength of the mobile traffic police—not from the angle of punitive action, but from the educative angle. I am certain that if we could bring the traffic police and the mobile police patrols up to higher strength there would be a diminution of accidents, because of the inherent respect of the average Britisher for a police uniform. I understand that after a struggle, after twelve months of blood, sweat, toil and tears, at last that is going to happen. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has already said that he deemed it one of his first duties to bring his mobile traffic police up to strength and that he would like to increase it above that figure. I would ask the Secretary of State to try to break down the prejudice which many of the forces in this country have against motorcycles. Cars are expensive as compared with motor-cycles. I believe that, by and large, a motor-cycle patrol is just as effective for the prevention of accidents and the maintenance of orderly behaviour traffic as a motor-car with two officers in it. I believe that that is a phase with which we could go ahead.

An innovation which I am certain has saved a great many lives, and will save more, is the school crossing patrol. I should like to see these patrols extended, and also to see something more done in the matter of pedestrian crossings. Some of us were rather sceptical as to whether the "zebra" crossing would be a success. I am prepared to say now that it has been a success, and I think it will be a greater success when it is lit at night, either by a flashing beacon or by some other method of illumination. It is an interesting point in the Report of the police that 30 per cent. of the accidents to pedestrians occur within 50 yards of a pedestrian crossing. I suggest that greater use of guard rails should be made compulsory upon local authorities. The pedestrian is the biggest menace on the roads to-day—I say that quite advisedly. He is an ignorant menace, not a wilful one; but he is a danger to himself and to every other road user, and lie must he disciplined. I hope the day will come when it will be an offence for a pedestrian to cross the road at any other place than a pedestrian crossing, where traffic congestion is heavy.

That is what he does at the present time, to the tune of 5,000 a year. But I say that in this respect the public have got to be conditioned. It is no good trying to force through such a reform, for the public would not have it to-day. They have to be gradually guided. So I would put guard rails for fifty yards on either side of pedestrian crossings and in highly congested thoroughfares I would increase the length of these rails to 75 or 100 yards. Indeed, I would have all the street guarded in especially dangerous places, such as Hammersmith Broadway, where it is done to-day. I believe that that is the only way in which we can stop people from doing what amounts virtually to committing suicide.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, raised again what I think is a very important point—the tragedy arising from the lack of co-operation which still exists between the various interests concerned, when road safety should be a common aim and a common interest. If I may be forgiven for again referring to it, may I say that when I was at the Ministry of Transport I set up a sub-committee of the Road Safety Committee to make a special inquiry into the problem of motor-cycle accidents. These are one of our biggest tragedies. The ratio of such accidents to other road accidents is high, and they take some of the best of the youth of the country. The highest proportion of those killed in motor-cycling accidents are boys of twenty-two or twenty-three years of age. The motorcycle is the most dangerous vehicle on the road, by far. I insisted that on this sub-committee there should be co-opted motor-cycle manufacturers, because I wanted them to accept a share of responsibility—Which all vehicle manufacturers rightly should accept—for the safety of the roads. If one reads their report one can only be aghast at what stands out blatantly—the non-co-operation of the manufacturers. The report says, in short: "Hands off the motor-cycle. The motor-cyclist shall not be obliged to do this or to do that." It does not show a very great spirit of co-operation. One of the most sensible statements in the report, although it merely draws attention to the point, is the effect of dogs on the number of motor-cycle accidents. I would prohibit any dog being allowed to stray in a built-up area. If people want to keep dogs in built-up areas they should be compelled to keep them on leads. I would go further and say that it is cruelty to a dog to keep it in a built-up area—but perhaps dog-lovers will not agree with me there. But loose dogs running about in a built-up area are a menace.

I should like to give your Lordships another case of lack of co-operation. During the time I was chairman of the Road Safety Committee I held a Press conference one day on the question of motor-cycle accidents. The editor of a well-known motor-cycling journal was present and impressed upon me how he had written a column in his paper for years impressing on the young motorcyclist the great necessity for safety. When I went back to my room, I sent for the latest copy of the journal and saw, as the editor had said, that a splendid article on safety appeared; but on the other page was a double-spread advertisement of a motor-cycle guaranteed to do 100 miles an hour. Fancy putting a lethal weapon like that in the hands of the youth of this country, and then saying, "But, of course, you must not drive it fast: that is dangerous!"

I should like to commend to your Lordships the latest Report of the Committee on Road Safety to the Minister of Transport on the Highway Code. I do not intend to raise the whole subject, because it is a big subject in itself, but I should like to say that I thoroughly agree with the recommendations of that Committee and with their view that it would defeat the whole object of the Highway Code if we gave it the force of law. I would draw your Lordships' attention to one item in the Report—and I am sure the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, will be interested in this. In one part of the Report, dealing with the application of the Highway Code to all classes of road users, I was struck by these words:
"Any steps in this direction should, we suggest, be the subject of experiments, which we understand are under consideration by the Departments concerned, in the light of the recommendations made by the earlier Committee on Road Safety in paragraphs 185 and 186 of their Final Report."
The Report to which that refers was published in 1944, about the same time as they were still considering similar recommendations of the Alness Committee. Surely that is a long time.

I have given your Lordships my views on this subject, but there are so many details which could be mentioned. Perhaps I could make this final point, which shows the need for individual precautions every day. There is a growing number of heavy vehicles on the roads; they carry heavy loads and are powered by diesel engines which spew out a smokescreen of oily fumes which obscure the vision of, and nearly suffocate, the drivers of the queue of cars behind. The greater the load and the slower the speed, the greater is the offence. It is not necessary for any diesel engine to emit such a cloud of smoke. If it does, it is a badly adjusted engine. As the emission of exhaust smoke which could be avoided by taking reasonable care or which endangers the safety of other users is an infringement of the Construction and Users Regulations, I sincerely hope that the Minister of Transport will ask the police to take action against offenders, because making one or two examples, I am convinced, will soon cure what is becoming one of our biggest nuisances on the roads to-day. I hope that my desire to see the Secretary of State inspire his Cabinet colleagues with a sense of urgency in this matter will not be entirely vain.

3.36 p.m.

My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, for raising this matter to-day and for the way in which he has done it. For myself, I liked his idea that every road traveller ought to go out of his own garage determined to do a faultless run. I am certain that if more people did that every day accidents would greatly decrease. I should like to thank both him and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, for their kind references to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It is not the President but the staff there who do all the good work, and it is they who deserve the thanks of us all. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, that Governments can solve this problem. I know that he was not being Party political when he said it, but I do not think that Governments can solve this problem. Of course they can help to get better grants for roads, and it was a step in the right direction when £3,000,000 was granted this year to get rid of danger spots—the "black spots" on the roads. I should like to see that sum increased, and I hope that next year more money will be available.

The Government cannot do everything, It is the individual responsibility of all road users. Do not let anything said in this House relieve the road users of that personal and individual responsibility. We cannot do it by having a mass of police. That would be a lavish use of police, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. I should like to see road users of all sorts copying this House. Often in another place there has to be a lavish use of the Speaker to keep order. Here, as we all are responsible for keeping order, we all try—I think successfully—to keep ourselves in order. If all road users would follow our example and keep themselves in order, believe me, the road casualties would decrease enormously.

It is a solemn thought that in the last fifty years there have been no fewer than 7,000,000 road casualties—not necessarily fatal accidents, but accidents which involve injury or death to persons. And now, on an average, 5,000 people are killed on our roads every year. How are we going to get over that problem or improve matters? I think we have brought it home to people much more than was ever done before. There are a large number of organisations trying to do that, of which I am proud to think that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is perhaps in the forefront.

The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, gave a few figures when he moved this Motion, but perhaps I may give one or two more. Let me take three particular years, say, 1935, which was the year when the Road Traffic Act was passed, 1938, which was the full year immediately before the war, and 1951, which is the last year for which figures are available. As regards the total population, the deaths per million of the population in 1935 were 143, in 1938 they had gone up to 144, and last year they were down to 107. If you take the numbers of children killed, per million of the population, the figures were 27 in 1935, 24 in 1938, and 19 in 1951. Taking another test, based on the number of motor vehicles licensed, there the deaths per 10,000 motor vehicles licensed were 25 in 1935, 22 in 1938, and 11 in 1951. Perhaps an even more accurate test—and it is the last figure with which I will burden your Lordships in this connection—is the road casualty trend based on motor fuel consumption. There, for every 10,000,000 gallons of motor fuel used 49 people lost their lives in 1935, 42 in 1938, and 26 in 1951. Therefore, the tendency is in the right direction.

At the present moment there are two factors which may tend to put up the road accident rate. Noble Lords who, like myself, are over fifty years of age will possibly realise that they are getting into one of the danger areas The main danger area is from about the age of five or six up to fifteen. From fifteen to fifty-four or fifty-five you are in a comparatively safe age group; but when one gets above fifty-five—this is according to the figures, at any rate—you begin to get into another vulnerable area. In 1901 there were only 4,000,000 persons over fifty-five in this country, and now there are 10,500,000. The percentage of the population over that age is now 21 per cent., compared with 17 per cent, twenty years ago. So there is a greater proportion of the population, including some of us in this House, who are getting into the more vulnerable age group. Because of the number of additional births just after the war there are at the moment 1,000,000 extra children under fifteen years of age, and a large number in the vital five-to-six years age group where the most accidents occur. I believe that to a certain extent education and exhortation have helped to bring these figures down, and I should like to pay my tribute to the teachers and the police who are carrying on such excellent work in our schools, teaching the younger generation. Even if we fully educated every person, above say, the age of seven years in road safety—and of course we have done no such thing—there would still be need for education, because another 200,000 people come into the field every year to be educated for the first time.

Although it is a good thing to congratulate ourselves a little on the fact that road accidents are tending to decrease compared with the number of motor vehicles on the roads, this is not a time for complacency. The figure I gave for the number of fatal accidents every year is one that we must all endeavour to get decreased. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas—as indeed did the Minister of Transport this morning, at a meeting at which I presided, and about which I will say a word in a moment—used the instance of the accident at Harrow which caused so much concern. Yet every week of the year there are on our roads the equivalent number of deaths to those which occurred in the Harrow accident. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to the fact that a number of organisations concerned were rather looking after their own interests and pulling in their own different ways. Your Lordships may remember that last July His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh suggested that these organisations should not work in water-tight compartments, but should tackle the matter as a joint operation. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and I as its President, thought that something ought to be done to follow up the suggestion made by His Royal Highness. This morning I had the honour to preside over a meeting of representatives of thirty-eight different organisations. Their names make a formidable list, and I believe that it covers everybody concerned in this matter. Every one of those organisations accepted the invitation to come, and sixty-three delegates were there this morning. Let me, in passing, say that it was a great help to our meeting that the Minister of Transport, my right honourable friend Mr. Lennox-Boyd, came down to give us an encouraging word, supported also by the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Alfred Barnes, his immediate predecessor as Minister of Transport.

The meeting felt that by combined action more could be done. The representatives present thought the reduced figures were very encouraging but should not give rise to complacency, and that the majority of road accidents should and could be eliminated. With no dissenting voice they decided to co-operate in trying to formulate a joint agreed programme. They also decided that they and their organisation would follow up such a programme, when it had been agreed, by action on their part. They are all going to think out the points that they should raise, send back their suggestions within a month, and in about two months' time, when the suggestions have been circulated, another meeting will be held. I hope that in that way all these organisations will work together to try to get rid of this evil from our midst. I hope that when they come back—this may be wishful thinking, but I hope it is not—all these organisations will not come with points that others can remedy in their sphere of action, but with points which, through their members, they themselves can remedy. I hope that it will be a case of taking the beam out of their own eye, rather than of seeing the mote in the other fellow's eye. If that is the way in which all these organisations look at this problem and come back with their suggestions, I believe that this getting together may do something to further the cause which we all have at heart. I am glad that we have had this discussion in this House. I think it is a matter to which this House should pay attention from time to time, because something always results from the deliberations of your Lordships' House. I trust that out of this debate may come an even greater lessening of the accidents on our roads.

3.52 p.m.

My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships this afternoon for the first time, I crave the indulgence which I know you are kind enough to give to speakers making their first speech in your Lordships' House. I speak this afternoon with no special qualifications. Like many other of your Lordships, I am a road user. Like many of your Lordships, I use the roads in several different capacities. I use them, and have used them, as a pedestrian, as a cyclist, as a driver of a car and of a motor-cycle. In each of those capacities, I consider that the roads of this country are very dangerous indeed. They are bound to be dangerous—they were not built for motor traffic.

I should like to raise my voice and add my plea to the plea of the noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Lucas, in asking the Government to provide better and safer roads. We cannot put the clock back. Machines have been built which are capable of travelling at 100 miles an hour and more. Those machines can be bought in the shops; they can be taken on the roads, and they can be used with horse-drawn traffic and with bicycles travelling at a walking pace—every sort of traffic all mixed up together. There is little traffic segregation. Honestly, I am not astonished that there are so many road accidents in this country; I am amazed that there are not very many more. That sounds a terrible thing to say, and I know that everything which can be done must be done to reduce that number. It is everyone's responsibility to do something—as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin has just said, everyone has some responsibility. But, human nature being what it is, I do not think that a great deal can be achieved in this direction. Somebody will always be in a hurry, and as a result an accident may be caused.

I believe that the Government know the answer to this problem. They at least know the answer which would produce the most effective results—for with every road accident there is more than one cause. The Government know that there is a direct connection between road accidents and bad roads. This theory has been proved time and again. It has been proved in two counties in this country, in Oxfordshire before the war and in Lancashire. It has been proved in Germany, and it has been proved in the United States of America. In those two counties, and in those two countries, safety features have been built into the roads, and the hazards which cause human errors to be made have been eliminated. As a result, accident figures have dropped to a very encouraging extent. I have not the figures for Oxfordshire with me this afternoon, but the county council there carried out experiments before the war. I think I am right in saying that in their county approximately 59 per cent. of all accidents were found to be due to ordinary road defects, and it was established that if a modernised road lay-out had been provided as many as 75 per cent. of accidents in Oxfordshire could have been avoided. Those are striking figures, and they have been proved in practice.

There is a strong case for the building of motor ways. I know that they will cost a great deal of money, but only one thousand miles of such roads—it is not a lot—are required in this country. With motor ways, as many as four out of five accidents which occur on ordinary main roads could be avoided. That, again, is rather striking. If the Government know the answer to the problem, if it is as simple as that, why do they not do something? Why do they not take decisive action? They have begun. They are to be most heartily congratulated on spending quite large sums of money on the elimination of black spots in different parts of the country. It is only a beginning, but it is a very welcome beginning. Of course, there are many thousands of dangerous places all over the country, and much more money is required. I believe there is a strong case for that money to be provided. County surveyors know only too well what safety features they would like to provide if only they had the funds. They know about the desirability of banked corners and they know about sunken or sloping kerbstones, dual carriageways and lay-bys, and the value of reflecting studs in the middle of the carriageway. If only they had the funds they could do very much more in that direction.

I am told that country councils are not allowed at the present lime to buy land for road-widening purposes. That, of course, is on economic grounds. Well, my Lords, if the Government cannot spend the money at the present time because of economic circumstances does that mean that nothing at all can be done? I am certain that it does not mean anything of the kind. Here I should like to make quite a simple suggestion. I am convinced that if every owner or occupier in any part of the country of land adjoining a main road or secondary road where there is a dangerous corner were asked to give just a few yards of land in order that that dangerous place may be made safe, that land owner or occupier would be only too willing to give it. The trouble at the moment is that these people are not even asked whether they would be willing, and therefore the question does not arise. After all, these very people would derive the most benefit from road improvement, because, living as they do in most cases close by, they use that road more often than does anybody else.

These same landlords and land occupiers would, I think, be willing to do much more than they do at present in the way of cutting back fences, bushes and boughs of trees which overhang the carriageway and obscure the sight-line on the road. The road could be made much safer if each of these people would do something in that direction. It would not cost much and would, I am sure, lead to a great reduction in accidents, because drivers and other would then be able to see that the road was clear. I should like to give your Lordships an example of what I mean. Near my own home in North Lancashire there is at the present moment a small road improvement scheme being carried out on what is called a main road. It is nothing more than a very narrow, winding country lane but it is classified as a main road. What is happening is that a thick hawthorn hedge has been removed and iron railings put up in its place. The hawthorn hedge stood on an extremely dangerous corner and in a bottleneck—and the railings are going up in exactly the same place. The railings may improve the sight line slightly; but I know that the tenant farmer of the field concerned was not asked if he would mind the road fence being put back a little. I also know that he would be very willing for this to be done if he were asked. I believe the landlord would be equally willing if he were approached in the right way.

Before leaving the subject of roads, may I say one word about the surface of the road itself? In many towns there are manhole covers for electricity, gas and water mains, and also stop taps, which are not sited flush with the level of the road surface. They are either sunk into the carriageway or raised above it, and I suggest that such a state of things is very dangerous to motor traffic and particularly to motor-cyclists.

I should now like to say a word about pedal cyclists. These cyclists, despite the provision requiring a compulsory rear lamp, are still not as visible at night as they should be. I should like to suggest that manufacturers should be asked to build reflecting studs into the pedals of bicycles, as is done in Sweden. In that country these studs are built into the pedals and as the pedals revolve the light from the lamps of motor vehicles is caught and reflected by them. I know that they are extremely effective. I do not think that the fitting of the studs would add much to the price of the bicycle.

Motorists are frequently urged to drive with more consideration for other road users—and it is very valuable that they should be so urged. But there will always be somebody in a hurry who will take a risk, and an accident may be caused. I would say to motorists that while the roads are in their present state, while the density of traffic on the roads in this country is so very great—greater than anywhere else in the world: about seventeen cars for every mile of road throughout the country, which is a very high figure—every motorist should drive on the assumption that a child or a dog will run out from every house he passes. I would say, further, that he should assume that every child and every dog he sees may run out into his path. That is not, of course, to say that such an untoward occurrence will necessarily come about; but if it does the motorist will be ready to cope with the situation and an accident may be averted. In the same way the motorist should, when approaching a dangerous corner or the brow of a hill, assume that someone is coming round that corner or over the brow of the hill, perhaps on the wrong side of the road. If he assumes these things there is much more chance of his being able to deal with the situation.

I think that accidents involving pedestrians are perhaps the most difficult problem of all to deal with. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has suggested that pedestrians should be confined entirely to the pavement or the footpath, where one exists, in the same manner as motor vehicles are confined to the carriageway. At the present time, that quite obviously is not possible. Pedestrians must cross the road, and I think that "zebra" crossings are a step in the right direction, even if they are something of a corn-promise. Until bridges or subways can be built at busy intersections, I do not think that much progress can be made. As a pedestrian I myself would take as many precautions in crossing the main road to-day as I would if I were crossing an unguarded and busy railway line. It is as dangerous as that. I think that pedestrians should conform to traffic lights, in the same manner as other road users do. I remember in Copenhagen trying to cross a road when the traffic lights showed green in favour of the traffic—I said "trying to cross." I received a tap on the shoulder from a tall policeman, and that one tap was enough to make me remember to watch those traffic lights in future when crossing the road. In America I believe it is an offence to cross the road in the wrong place.

In conclusion, may I say just a word about mobile police patrols and road safety education, both of which I think are extremely valuable? In my view, the mobile policeman, known as the "Courtesy cop," does good work, first, by his very presence on the road, and also by the warnings he gives when road regulations have been infringed. On the subject of education, I am certain that the lives of many children have been saved by teachers in the schools promoting road safety in that way. But I believe that much more could be done in the way of educating the adult population of this country. Very much more could be done by means of the wireless, television, the Press and the cinema. Take the wireless, to give one example. The sort of programme I have in mind is a short five minutes' programme, which would be given as regularly as the weather forecast in the morning. It would take the form of a series of questions addressed to all road users. It would say: "Are your tyres smooth? Do your brakes require adjusting? When you cross the road, do you look both ways? When you drive, do you use your driving mirror and wave on other people who wish to pass you? When you stop your car on the road, do you pull right off the carriageway and leave the roadway clear? On a dark winter's afternoon, in foggy weather or at dusk, do you turn on your side-lamps and give other vehicles a chance of seeing that you are coming?"

The programme, I suggest, should also include the giving of short casualty lists, in the following manner. A statement would be made that, say, in the last three years fifteen people had been killed in a certain street. The broadcast would then add, "Do not be the sixteenth." I believe that if propaganda of that nature and publicity of that kind were used, there would be such a public outcry in this country for the elimination of those dangerous places that the money required would, in fact, be spent. The Government have a splendid road construction programme. They have a wonderful programme for the improvement of existing roads. They have the help of the Road Research Laboratory. They have the help of many experts in the British Road Federation, who know about road matters. I beseech the Government to spend the necessary money on the roads, and so reduce the terrible number of road casualties which take place to-day.

Persian Oil Dispute

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I desire to make two statements, the first a short one on the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Persian oil dispute, and the second upon the case of Herr Alfried Krupp.

As regards Persia, on August 30, joint proposals for a solution of the dispute were communicated to Dr. Mossadeq by the Prime Minister and the President of the United States. The Persian reply to these proposals was received on September 24. It contained, in addition to a counter-proposal which offered no hope of a solution, many inaccurate statements which showed that the joint proposals had not been correctly understood by the Persian Government. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs therefore sent a message to the Persian Prime Minister on October 4, in the name of Her Majesty's Government, with the object of correcting these misunderstandings. Mr. Acheson sent a similar message on behalf of President Truman. In spite of these messages, the Persian Government, on October 7, repeated their counter-proposal, and in some ways misrepresented what my right honourable friend had said by way of clarification of the joint proposals. All these communications will be laid before the House and will be available to noble Lords this afternoon. In the meantime, I would inform the House that Her Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires, acting on instructions, last night delivered a Note to the Persian Government placing the views of Her Majesty's Government on record in terms of which the following is a summary:

First: Her Majesty's Government and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company accept the nationalisation of the Persian oil industry as a fact, but in return Her Majesty's Government claim just compensation on behalf of the Company.

Second: Her Majesty's Government consider that the question of compensation should be referred to the impartial adjudication of the International Court.

Third: Her Majesty's Government claim compensation on behalf of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company for the unilateral termination of the 1933 Concession Agreement, contrary to the explicit undertaking in the Agreement that it will not be so terminated.

Fourth: Neither Her Majesty's Government nor the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company seek to revive the 1933 Concession Agreement in any other respect.

Fifth: As soon as agreement is reached as to the terms on which the question of compensation is to be adjudicated, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company will be ready to open negotiations as indicated in the joint proposals. As already stated, neither Her Majesty's Government nor the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company insist on the Company securing a monopoly of the purchase of Persian oil.

Sixth: Pending agreement as to the terms on which the question of compensation is to be adjudicated, Her Majesty's Government on their own behalf, and on behalf of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, reserve their full legal rights.

4.24 p.m.

My Lords, in the absence of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the Opposition, and on behalf of my noble friends sitting on this side of the House. I should like to thank the noble Marquess for making this statement. It is not my intention to raise any question in relation to this statement in view of the fact that I understand that a White Paper is available at the present time.

That being so, the Paper will have to be studied, and we shall reserve the right to raise the matter, if necessary, at some time in the future. All I would say is that, after a close study of the terms, I should have thought that the statement formed a reasonable basis for discussion, at any rate in relation to this dispute.

May I ask whether the White Paper will contain information or alleged information, of which we have heard a good deal during the Recess, about the various non-British business men, financiers and others, who have been attempting to buy and ship oil from Iran, such oil being the legal property of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company?

My Lords, the White Paper is not a detailed history of what has been going on over the past weeks. It is the presentation to the House of various documents which have past connection with this dispute during that period.

That was the answer I expected. In that case, is there any information in the possession of the Foreign Office which the noble Marquess can give to the House in connection with reports about the various interests which are supposed to be buying the oil?

My Lords, upon that matter I have no information which I can give to the House.

Awards To Herr Krupp

4.27 p.m.

My Lords, the second statement is concerned with the case of Herr Krupp. Alfried Krupp is the son of Gustav Krupp, who was arraigned as a major war criminal by the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg, but found unfit to plead. He succeeded his father as head of Krupps at the end of 1943. Alfried Krupp, together with a number of other industrialists in the British Zone, was handed over towards the end of 1946, by the authority of the late Government, to the United States authorities for trial in the American Zonal War Crimes Court. He was tried and convicted in 1948 of having employed slave labour and of having plundered occupied territories. He was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment and to confiscation of all his property. On the other hand, he was acquitted on charges of crimes against peace, and of conspiracy.

In January, 1951, the American High Commissioner reviewed the sentences imposed by this American Court. He decided to reduce Krupp's prison sentence to the six years already served and to revoke the confiscation of his property. As Mr. Attlee, the then Prime Minister, said in his statement in another place on February 12, 1951, the review of Krupp's sentence was entirely a matter for the American High Commissioner, who was under no obligation to consult His Majesty's Government. In reviewing Krupp's sentence, the American High Commissioner found that this was the only case in which a war criminal had been sentenced to forfeiture of property (this was not done even in the case of Goering and Ribbentrop). He felt that confiscation in this instance was not justified by any special considerations attaching to Krupp.

Under an Allied High Commission law of May, 1950, approved by His late Majesty's Government, the French and the United States Governments, the whole German coal and steel industry was to be reorganised so as to break up excessive concentrations of economic power. Under that law, the Krupp coal and steel complex is being broken up into independent units; and an Order is to be issued under which Krupp will be compelled to sell his securities in the coal and steel companies. No provision was made under that law by which Krupp's holdings in these companies could be confiscated, either in whole or in part. On the contrary, in view of the decision to revoke the confiscation of Krupp's property, the effect of this law was to provide him with compensation for all his holdings. No reliable estimate can yet be formed of the amount which the sale of Krupp's securities will realise, but it will run into many millions. Needless to say this money will be drawn entirely from German sources.

So much for the past. As to the future, we are seeking to ensure that Krupp shall not be allowed to use the proceeds of the sale of his holdings to buy his way back into the coal and steel industries or otherwise to acquire a controlling interest. The means of achieving this end are under discussion in Germany between the High Commission and the Federal Government.

4.29 p.m.

My Lords, in again thanking the noble Marquess for making this statement to your Lordships' House I would say, as is generally known, that this is a matter of very great controversy. I am not going to raise the controversy here to-day, but it may give rise to a debate at a later date. I have no objection at all to a debate on this subject being raised, and will certainly consider the matter in the light of this statement. Having done so, we on this side shall then decide as to whether a debate is necessary.

Would the noble Marquess accept a suggestion—namely, that our Chargé d'Affaires in Teheran should be asked to draw the attention of Dr. Mossadeq to the treatment of Herr Krupp and his interests?

I do not think the noble Lord expected me to accept that suggestion, and I do not.

Although the present Government are not responsible, can the noble Marquess say for what reason Herr Krupp was handed over by the British High Commissioner to the American High Commissioner?

No, my Lords, I am not in a position to say that. It was done, but I am bound to say that I have been unable to find out what was the reason for doing it. He was, I think, resident in our zone, but for some reason at the time he was handed over for trial by the American authorities.

May I ask the noble Marquess if he is in a position to say anything about the plunder in respect of which Herr Krupp was found guilty. Is it not likely that the forfeiture of his estate was the consequence of the acquisition of the plunder, which is rather different from the case of Goering? Is not that a matter upon which we might have some information?

I am afraid that I do not follow at this stage the point of the noble Lord's question. The American High Commissioner has reversed the original decision that Herr Krupp's property should be confiscated. What does it matter now to discuss whether that property included loot or anything else? There is no order for confiscation.

It is, of course, a matter in which we might have some interest. And I suggest that it does arise from the question of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, with regard to the handing over of this case to the Americans.

I do not think I can follow what is in the noble Lord's mind at all.

Road Accidents

4.33 p.m.

Debate resumed.

My Lords, may I be permitted to continue the discussion on Lord Hampton's very interesting Motion? If so, I should like to begin my few remarks by offering sincere congratulations to the noble Viscount, Lord Cross, on the extremely interesting and, I believe, helpful and constructive maiden speech which he made. He obviously knows his subject well, and several of his suggestions will, I am sure, be very useful. In that, I am confident your Lordships will agree. You will also agree that his contribution has shown that the noble Viscount is a great asset in your Lordships' House, and we shall all hope that he will take part frequently in debates in the future and with as good effect.

I should also like to take the opportunity of expressing my great appreciation of what we were told by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin—I am sorry he is not here at the moment—about the Committee over which he presided this morning. From the account which he gave, I thought it sounded a most useful and helpful body, and I would ask Lord Leathers, the overlord who, I understand, will reply to this debate, if this Committee is to be a regular one, a more or less permanent Committee. We heard from Lord Llewellin that certain questions had been circulated to the various bodies and societies and that when answers are received they will meet again. I should like to know whether it intended to keep the Committee in being permanently, as a co-ordinating body for all these various associations and societies. I do not know whose idea the setting up of the Committee was. If it was the idea of Lord Leathers, then it is one more example of the fertility of his imagination, and I congratulate him.


If I may be allowed to do so I will answer that point at once. The formation of this Committee was not due to me in the first instance. It was prompted from outside, and it had my approval. It has certainly proved in its initial employment a very useful body, and I gather that it is to remain "on tap" for whatever may be required of it later.

I take it that that means the Committee will be available in future as required. At any rate, Lord Leathers approved of it and I congratulate him on his judgment, if I may be allowed to do so. With regard to the Motion, I agree with what Lord Lucas of Chilworth said about the useful part Lord Hampton has played in bringing it forward, and how helpful the discussion may be. But my noble friend Lord Lucas seems to have two enemies in life—pedestrians and motor-cycles. I sympathise with him particularly in the matter of motor-cycles but not so much with regard to pedestrians. After all, they have the right to be on the King's Highway as much as anyone else, including horsemen and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles and mechanically-propelled vehicles. The thing to do is to provide them with suitable footpaths and, where we can, with other safety devices such as special railings. We must also continue, by all means open to us, the process of education of old and young. That is a matter upon which practically every speaker has already touched.

My points—and I shall be very brief—are as follows. First of all, with regard to the terrible state of affairs in London, especially in relation to parking and congestion of streets, I do not think that it is good policy to put off the building of underground garages. We shall have to provide these on a large scale sooner or later, and in my view the sooner the better. If we are making preparations for Civil Defence, they are an important factor to be considered, for they will certainly be of use in time of war, as well as in peace. I see no means of getting these vehicles out of the way in congested areas except by putting them underground. It is quite impracticable to park them above; and the demands on space being what they are, the only thing to do is to put the parking places underground. I have seen figures which have been worked out showing that the cost of large schemes could be recovered over a period from parking fees and from fees for services provided for the motorists who would use these places.

My next point—and this also is a matter to which Lord Lucas has referred, though I take a somewhat different line from that which he has taken—is the danger arising from loose dogs on the roads, particularly in built-up areas. I think it should be made an offence in law, punishable by the magistrates, for people to allow dogs to stray on the roads. I do not mean by that only allowing them to stray on roads in the built-up areas. I believe that to allow a dog loose on a busy arterial road, an arterial road such as the Brighton road, for instance, at a week-end, is just as cruel and just as dangerous as to allow a dog to roam at large in the streets of Bayswater or Paddington. I see that in the most interesting Report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police it is shown that in 1951 accidents caused by dogs alone—that is, accidents caused by dogs straying on the roads—in the Metropolitan Police District led to 486 casualties. This figure does not apply to damage to properties but to casualties to individuals, and it includes three deaths. There is no statement as to the number of dogs killed or hurt, but I imagine that their numbers were considerably more. I wish that Lord Dowding, who interested the House so much by the speech which he made yesterday, would address his energies to this question, as well as to that of vivisection. I should like also to see the countless animal lovers in this country—and the British people are almost all animal lovers: it is one of our most notable national traits—address themselves to this matter, for, in the absence of special legislation. I suggest that a good deal could be done by utilising the force of public opinion and by exhortation.

With regard to legislation, I imagine that there is long overdue a revising Bill dealing with the whole of our motor law and road traffic law. I suggest that there might well he put into such a Bill some provision making it an offence to allow animals, including dogs to roam loose on the roads anywhere in this country. They should be kept under proper control.

Another thing that might be dealt with—I feel very strongly about this matter, as, I believe, do other noble Lords; Lord Hampton has referred to it—is the number of accidents which result from people drinking alcohol to excess. The drinking habits of many motorists are a fruitful cause of accidents. In spite of exhortation and propaganda this drinking still goes on. As we see from the latest statistics of road accidents, the Saturday night period is the most dangerous of all. Saturday night is, of course, a night when many people go out drinking. In the Reports of both the Alness Committee and the Departmental Committee on Road Safety this matter is dealt with very clearly indeed. It is proved not only that many cases of death and mutilation, and damage to property, are caused by drivers under the influence of drink, but that there are many others where, although no actual proof is brought forward of drink being the cause, in the words of the Departmental Committee, referring to the primary causes of deaths and injuries:
"There is little doubt that alcohol was a contributory cause in very many other cases."
There is no doubt about this. Everyone who knows the condition of affairs is aware that drinking just before driving, perhaps at night, in bad weather and on crowded roads, is a wicked and criminal thing to do. I notice from the Report that in the United States a special study was made of motor vehicle accidents in 1942. There it was found that in one out of every five deaths the driver or the pedestrian had been drinking and that one out of every nine drivers and one out of every six pedestrians involved in fatal accidents had been drinking. It is to be noted that the percentage of pedestrians is higher, because the pedestrian usually gets killed and the driver does not. The driver probably damages his vehicle and kills the unfortunate person on the road, but does not suffer himself.

What is to be done about this? I have quoted before in your Lordships' House the example set by Sweden, and the noble Viscount, Lord Cross, in his maiden speech, referred to another example set by Sweden in illuminating the pedals of pedal cycles. I hope that that will be looked into here. The Swedes have made it a criminal offence for the driver of a motor vehicle to take any alcohol at all. If a driver is involved in an accident, great care is taken to show whether he has had any drink on the day of the accident. He must produce evidence of where he had his last meal, and if it is found that he has broken the law by ignoring the prohibition of drinking alcohol while driving or being about to drive, then the punishment is very severe. If and when new legislation to control road traffic and motoring generally is introduced, I hope that something can be done along those lines in this country. It should be an offence to drink at all before or during a motor-car journey. When I had the honour of commanding one of His Majesty's ships at sea, my rule, which was accepted and respected by all on board, was that once the anchor was up nobody drank any alcoholic liquors of any kind. Conditions at sea are very different from conditions on the roads, as your Lordships know, but that is a very salutary rule and a good one. If the motoring public did this voluntarily, so much the better; but I hope that the question will be looked into from the legal aspect. We should study whether we cannot follow the Swedish example, which has been most successful. The number of fatal accidents in Sweden have shown a steep decline since this law was introduced.

Your Lordships probably know the story of the two motorists whose cars collided. Both vehicles were badly damaged. The driver of one car was knocked senseless but the other, who happened to be a Scot, was not. The Scot dashed out of his car, produced a large flask of whisky and forced some of it down the throat of the other man. The onlookers thought he was a good Samaritan, but when the police came up and wanted to know what had happened, the Scot still kept his head and said, "I am saying nothing at all. Just examine that man's breath." In that story we have an extreme case of what I have in mind. While there is this carelessness about drinking by motorists, especially those who have to take a journey at night in built-up areas, I believe we shall have many accidents which otherwise could be avoided. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, and the Government will see what can be done by additional means of propaganda and education to discourage this undoubtedly dangerous habit.

4.46 p.m.

My Lords, I intervene solely to follow up the point that the last speaker, Lord Strabolgi, has just made. When we realise that in 1951 in Great Britain no fewer than 5,250 persons were killed on our roads—in other words, over 100 persons a week, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, told us earlier in the debate, were slaughtered last year, and that the number has been reduced this year by one a day—can we wonder that my noble friend said the drop might seem small. Think of it! In the first eight months of this year no fewer than 3,248 persons have been killed on the roads and 137,599 have been injured. The incredible thing is the complacency with which this carnage is allowed to continue. Until the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, spoke, in my opinion no one had put his finger on the right spot. Let n tragedy happen like the disaster at Lynton or the terrible disaster at Harrow last week and the nation is stirred to its depths, and rightly stirred yet with a similar number killed every week on our roads, complacency reigns.

The efforts of safety committees, teachers and the police are making scarcely any impression on this tragic loss on life. Why? Let me give what I believe, with the fullest conviction, to be the main cause of this continued slaughter. In my judgment it can be summed up in one word—alcohol. The distressful tolerance extended to the moderate drinker on our roads is almost unbelievable. We allow drinking drivers unhindered access to our highways. Yet it is an established scientific fact that even small amounts of alcohol give a deterioration of between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. in the driving performances of expert drivers, and after the consumption of small amounts of alcohol the driver's vision deteriorates by as much as 30 per cent. The researches of Dr. H. M. Vernon, an adviser to the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, proved that some motorists, after drinking, only one half glass of mild beer, could become dangerous drivers. Small doses of alcohol, he found, not only impaired judgment and concentration, but produced slower physical responses to eyes, hands and feet.

Perhaps your Lordships will forgive a personal allusion as an illustration. Earlier this year my wife and I were involved in a motor crash. It had been raining and we were coming down a slight decline on a somewhat narrow country road when we saw parked outside a public house and café ahead of us on our near side a large timber lorry, and behind that two or three private cars. The lorry was facing the same way as we were, but the private car immediately behind it was facing the wrong way—almost bonnet to bonnet, as it transpired. Suddenly, just as we drew level with the tailboard of the lorry in passing, without any warning the private car facing towards us drew out from behind the lorry broadside on to the narrow roadway, thus almost completely blocking it so that it was quite impossible to get by. Fortunately the driver of our car was a life abstainer—I had seen to that. In a split second he jammed on all the braking power he had, both hand and foot brakes, with the result that on the slippery surface we swung right round and crashed against the offside of the lorry and came to rest facing in the opposite direction, with no one hurt, but the lorry damaged and the offside of our car smashed and shattered. The police agreed that it was only the instantaneous reaction of the driver of our car that prevented a major disaster, with possibly fatal consequences to the stupid man who had pulled out his car astride the road. All we suffered was delayed shock. That no one was actually hurt was the result of having an abstainer at the wheel of our car.

The potential merchants of death on our roads are tolerated because of a widespread false conception of human freedom. But freedom is not liberty to kill others, or licence to do wrong. It is now thirteen years since your Lordships' Select Committee on Road Accidents pointed the way to effective action by means of the scientific blood test for alcoholic drivers which is in force in Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and other countries. Let me read one or two vital passages from paragraphs 39 to 42 of that Committee's Report. They say:
"The effect of even moderate quantities of alcohol on drivers is not generally realised … It should be emphasised that, even where there is no question of drunkenness, a small quantity of alcohol is for many drivers most dangerous. … The percentage of alcohol circulating in the blood at any given moment can be calculated with scientific accuracy. The Committee recommend that blood tests should be recognised and that arrangements should be made to carry them out on a voluntary basis. … They hope that at a later date the public will be so educated as to agree that these tests should be made obligatory in appropriate cases."
In other lands where chemical tests for alcohol in the blood are made it has been revealed that from 30 to 50 per cent. of road deaths are attributable to the prior consumption of alcohol by either one or other of the parties involved. So long as we in this country continue to tolerate incentives to drink, so long will this carnage go on, for such incentives affect both drivers and pedestrians alike. I have been a magistrate for forty-five years, and I say that few things sicken one more than to sit on the Bench adjudicating in these cases of motorists driving under the influence of drink, and then to come out and see flaming advertisements disfiguring our hoardings with such palpable and scientific untruths as "Beer is Best," and that somebody's stout is good for you. If there was a particle of truth in these statements, why were there in this country no fewer than 3,644 convictions in eighteen months for driving offences while under the influence of drink? Why, too, are the railway companies so strict in requiring engine drivers to abstain while on duty? And why is it that the B.O.A.C. insist that those who have anything to do with the flying of their aeroplanes not only take no drink while they are engaged in their work, but have nothing to drink for at least eight hours before taking on duty on an aeroplane? Even a leading firm of brewers, when advertising for a lorry driver, stipulated that none but teetotallers need apply. A representative, too, of the brewers who gave evidence before the Royal Commission on Licensing admitted that his own chauffeur is not allowed to have any beer when driving him in the car. Yet blatant, palpable lies by the drink trade continue to disfigure our hoardings, and the slaughter on our roads goes on unabated. I cannot understand the psychology of people who, with the aid of lying advertisements, are willing to make money out of the blood of their fellows. In Norway it is a punishable offence for a licence-holder to supply drink to anyone in charge of a car.

I make the Government this constructive proposal: that they should try the experiment of seeing how far such a restriction in this country would lead to a reduction in the appalling and agonising death roll on our roads. The time is long overdue when a clear choice for motorists should be enforced: they should be compelled to choose between driving or drinking. The slogan should be: "If you drink, you must not drive. If you drive, you must not drink." During the recent Recess my wife and I stayed for two or three weeks at a hotel on the South Coast where we found after arrival there were two drinking bars, and twice a week a public dance was held for which they were granted an extension of permitted hours up to 11.30 p.m. It so happened that our rooms overlooked the carriageway leading to the garage of the hotel, and every Wednesday and Saturday night it was chock-a-block with cars, and many more were parked in the road outside. Then, near midnight, the people from these dances and crowded bars streamed out and started up their cars, and so on to the roads. I am not going to suggest that they were drunk—far from it—but from the nature of their departure they were, many of them, less capable of the most immediate reaction to any crisis that might present itself; and such occurrences can be multiplied a thousand-fold the country over. We all know that it is scarcely possible to pass licensed premises on the outskirts of our cities and towns without seeing cars parked every evening, and especially just before closing time.

It is not necessary to overstate the case, for the danger is quite apparent for all to see. That many of those who take alcohol render themselves accident-prone by so doing is a scientific fact and cannot be gainsaid. The Chief Constable of Nottingham said recently:
"A driver who is obviously drunk can be restrained from driving off in his car by his friends. But the man or woman who is only a bit 'lit up' and is apparently quite sober, because of the toxic effect of the alcohol on his or her reactions can be just plain hell on the roads."
Why hide from ourselves that every drinking driver is a potential killer? It can hardly be only a coincidence that an increased consumption of alcohol amounting to 16⅔ per cent. one year was accompanied by a 17 per cent. increase in road accidents. Every non-abstainer from intoxicating liquor has a meed of responsibility for what happens on our roads. We do well to remember St. Paul's words:
"Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak."
Until the Government take action to require motorists to abstain from intoxicating drink when driving, the lives that continue to be sacrificed on our roads remain the measure of the Government's guilt in failing to save the lives and limbs of the victims. Far better a man should be condemned to go without his drink if he wants to drive, than that he should become a potential killer.

5.2 p.m.

My Lords, in these days I think every self-respecting motorist is frightened before he takes the road. I cannot imagine any more appalling thing than to be responsible for the death of a child or the injury of any person. Therefore, after our debate to-day, and especially after what we have heard from the last two speakers, I hope that the Secretary of State will give our police and our police patrols more power. From what do we suffer, as motorists? Cyclists coming up on the near side; coaches being driven long distances, and well known now as the fastest traffic on our roads; lorries, nominally not allowed more than twenty miles an hour, going at at least double that speed, with no rear vision when they are fully loaded and no mirror so that they can wave on other traffic: the flash of the motorcycle at night—by far the most dangerous thing on the roads of this country.

In our built-up areas, and particularly in London, we see taxicabs turning against the traffic without any traffic indicators. Turning against the traffic, and most of the other things I have mentioned. including what the last two noble Lords said about drink, are punishable by law in other countries. Then the "Flying 52's," the buses, not stopping at the recognised stopping places, scheduled to run faster than they can possibly run, are a source of great danger, especially to elderly people. There is also the complete ignoring of traffic lights, put up at great expense by the ratepayers. It was only last Saturday, at 10.20, at the top of North Audley Street, crossing Oxford Street, that two policemen on their beat, not pursuing smash-and-grab raiders, crossed against the lights, a third policeman on the island seeing them, and a crowd of 200 following them. If it had not been for a very fine piece of driving by an American visitor to this country, two or three people would have been injured. I believe that all these regulations must now be enforced by law.

Of course, there is a shortage of police. Could not policewomen be used on traffic and lights control? Could not filtering, as in other countries, be made the complete responsibility of the motorist? And could not the "zebra" crossings be placed in the correct positions and not, as for instance at Tooting and Brighton, on corners so that drivers do not know they are there? Finally, could not these "zebra" crossings be indicated, as they are in Canada and elsewhere, by a large white notice board, visible over or beyond parking lorries, with the three words in black painted on them "Stop when occupied"?

5.6 p.m.

My Lords, this is a vast subject, and. I propose to confine myself to just three aspects of it. In the first place, I believe that we shall all agree that the great majority of drivers of motor vehicles or motor-cycles are reasonable people. The great majority have no wish to get hurt themselves, far less to die. They certainly do not wish to hurt or kill other people. It is my impression that it is ignorance and forgetfulness, with a certain amount of carelessness, which is responsible for a great proportion of the accidents which occur to-day. The great majority of drivers are prepared to learn and to be taught, but the opportunities for doing that at the present time are few and far between. You cannot expect to find out from one short driving test whether a man or a woman is a capable and accomplished driver. The gentlemen who have been referred to in your Lordships' House this afternoon as "courtesy cops" do wonderful work, but they cannot be everywhere.

That leaves only one method of getting across to every class of people what they ought and ought not to do—I refer to the Highway Code. We know that a great deal of instruction is given in schools, but we are not all still at school. The Highway Code is the only means of getting across to all and sundry what they should and should not do. I suggest that we make more use of the Highway Code, and I think there are two things which should be improved. The first is the circulation and distribution of the Highway Code, and the second is the Highway Code itself. With regard to circulation, some of your Lordships may have heard one of those entertainments which the B.B.C. are good enough to give us, called "Twenty Questions." The other night I was listening to that programme, and one of the objects which the team had to guess was the Highway Code. In answer to one of the questions which the team put to him, the question master, to give them a clue, said, "I have seen it, I have heard of it, and I think about it all the time." If only everybody who used the roads to-day would be like that question master (who is a very remarkable man, and he must be a more remarkable man than we thought him) then we should see far fewer disasters.

With regard to the distribution of the Highway Code, I should like to make two suggestions to the noble Lord who is to wind up this debate. First of all, there should once again (I think one took place in 1946) be a distribution of the Highway Code to all householders. This of course, would involve expense. Anybody who wants can pay a penny and buy the Highway Code at the present time, and although I am sure the noble Lord would welcome all the 40,000.000 people who are standing on their hind legs (not allowing for babies) going into the Stationery Office and buying the Highway Code, since that would bring in only 40,000,000 pennies he would not lose much if it were distributed free. I suggest that a copy should be sent to every driver or motorcycle rider on each occasion that he applies for the renewal of his licence. If every county authority is as kind to people as my own county, who send me a re- minder every year when my licence is due, it might be better if a copy of the Highway Code went with the reminder, because then at least, as your Lordships will appreciate, we could sign with a clear conscience that little paragraph which asks us whether we have studied the Highway Code before we are able to get our licence.

Now I come to the question of the revision of the Highway Code. I feel that it is necessary in any publication which is of importance—and the Highway Code, used properly, is a publication of the highest importance—to cut out or amend anything which is either obscure or ridiculous. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to one or two extracts from the Highway Code. In paragraph 36, for instance, we are exhorted as follows:
"Do not rely on signals to proceed given by unauthorised persons."
The first question which any reasonable person asks himself is: Who are unauthorised persons and who are authorised persons? Surely this should be amended to say that only police signals should be regarded as authority to proceed. We all know that we get signals, particularly from lorry drivers and sometimes from pedestrians and others. They are trying to be helpful, but often if we followed those signals without making sure for ourselves, there would be disaster for us and for other people. Then, paragraph 42 of the Highway code says:
"Do not leave your vehicle near the brow of a hill … at or close to a bend …"
or at various other spots. Why not "stop" as well as "leave"? I nearly missed my train this morning because of a gentleman in a car on the brow of a hill. At a dangerous spot it is even worse if there is someone inside the vehicle. The person himself might be injured, quite apart from the possibility of an accident being caused to other people. I suggest that this should be made clear.

Later, in paragraph 43, we are told:
"If your vehicle will be stationary for more than a few minutes, put it in a parking space."
Having listened to the debate this afternoon, I have been struck by the fact that parking spaces in London and other big cities are not too plentiful. But in the country there are none at all: there are virtually no parking spaces, except in big cities and perhaps a few in some villages. Why tell people to do something which they cannot always do? They cannot put their cars in a parking space if there is not one. The whole matter should be perfectly clear and understandable. In the Highway Code, on page 23, there begins a long list of things which are called "The Law's Demands." I find myself in some difficulty here, because if the law has been quoted rightly in the Highway Code then I can only suggest that the law should be changed—and I should be even more frightened of trying to do that than I am of addressing your Lordships this afternoon. I can only hope that the law has been wrongly expounded in the Highway Code, but I am prepared to risk a few suggestions.

The first matter upon which I would venture to say a few words concerns motor-cyclists. Following the extracts from "The Law's Demands which relate to motor vehicles there comes on page 26 of the Code, the following passage relating to motor-cyclists:
"Most of the foregoing requirements apply to you.…"
If you want to impress a point on someone and you say in effect "Here is a list of requirements, most of which apply to you" you leave it to him to find out which apply to him and which do not; you will not easily in that way get what you want, which in this case is a safe driver. Here I think there is a curious anomaly. According to the Highway Code the law states that drivers of motor vehicles must not drive if "under the influence of" drink. But if you are a cyclist or if you drive a horse-drawn vehicle you are all right, unless you are completely drunk. That is an anomaly which should be corrected. I fail to see why a man "under the influence" when driving a horse and cart should be free from arrest, whereas if he is in the same condition when driving a motor-car he is liable to a term of imprisonment or to a large fine. I suggest that this is a paragraph which should be amended to make sense. Here is another extract, of which I must say the same:
"You must … not be so far away from your horse that you have not control over it."
The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said just now that he had been a magistrate for forty-odd years. I have been one for only a very short time, but heaven preserve me from having to adjudicate in a case where the driver of a horse-drawn vehicle has been suspected of having been too far away from his horse to have control over it! How far away can you be and retain control if a car back-fires and frightens the horse—or if the horse is stung by a horse-fly? That paragraph needs amending.

The first paragraph in this section is, if I may use a colloquialism, a real gem, It again is addressed, of course, to the driver of a horse-drawn vehicle, and says:
"You must hold the reins, unless your horse is conducted by someone else."
I do not wish to cause any unpleasantness for anyone, but I feel that the gentleman who was responsible for writing that paragraph had probably had no closer acquaintance with a horse than seeing the image and superscription on a bottle of White Horse whisky. There is also one exhortation to cyclists which borders on the ridiculous. It occurs in paragraph 63 and says:
"Do not wobble about the road."
Who wants to wobble about the road? Sometimes, of course, we see a cyclist who does—possibly because he is getting near being "under the influence." But wobbling occurs particularly when a small child is riding its father's or its mother's bicycle. It is surely no use exhorting cyclists in general not to wobble about the road. Such an exhortation would merely make them furious, and perhaps cause them to ignore the Highway Code. But parents should see that children do not ride a bicycle which is too big for them.

I should like to make one reference to an artistic illustration which appears in the Highway Code which, again, refers to drivers of horse-drawn vehicles. I do so because I feel that, if we are to get people to take this matter seriously, we must get away from anything which can be laughed at or which causes contempt. I should like to see everything which borders on the ridiculous removed from the Highway Code. If your Lordships have studied your Highway Code you will have seen on page 18 the illustration to which I refer. If we were to take a Division on this matter I am sure that we should be pretty equally divided about what was meant by this illustration. It suggests a gentleman expressing enthusiasm for the Cup Tie, and one half of your Lordships' House might take that view. The other half might take the view that it depicts a fisherman in trouble with his line in a high wind. Actually it is the driver of a horse-drawn vehicle announcing to all arid sundry that he going to turn. I feel that it would take a very intelligent person to understand this.

My second point refers to the question of road signs. Here again, one thing we must try to avoid is contempt for road signs. These signs are supposed to tell us what dangers there are, what we can do, and what we must not do. I think there are certain anomalies in our road signs to-day. I can give your Lordships three instances. First, there is the sign which indicates a double bend. In the Highway Code a picture of it is given and underneath it merely says "Bend." I think that that is incorrect. As we know, there is a sign which illustrates that a double bend is in front of us. You see that sign, whether the double bend that you are approaching is a very gentle bend, almost leaning in one direction and then leaning back in another, or whether it is a hairpin bend in both directions. My point is that if a driver passes two or three of these signs and then finds that there was nothing very much to worry about, he will not take care when he comes to the next sign, and it may be impossible for him to get round that corner unless he slows down to about ten miles per hour. I think there ought to be more discrimination in the way those signs are placed. The next matter I would turn to is that of road repair signs. Flow often have we come across signs warning us that here are road repairs—"Drive slowly," "Caution," "Keep left," and so on—only to find that the repairs are finished, the men have gone home and the sign has been left behind. I suggest to the noble Lord that a rather strong manœuvre should be made towards the local councils to make certain that no signs are left standing which do not mean what they are meant to mean.

Thirdly, when we come to a major road ahead, there are two alternatives which we may be told to do. One sign says "Halt at major road ahead," and there is another sign which says "Slow—major road ahead." I am all against doing anything to slow up the even flow of traffic, but I do feel that in many of those cases where the sign says "Slow—major road ahead" it should really be "Halt at major road ahead." There are few instances where a minor road crosses or comes up to a major road when you can see far enough to either side to allow you to proceed into or across that major road without stopping. I suggest that, when surveys are made, as I know they are from time to time, these points should be watched and. where necessary, the "Slow—major road ahead" sign should be altered to "Halt at major road ahead." I believe that there is some indication that the Highway Code may be revised. I would stress strongly that one most important point which is made a certain amount of, but not sufficient of, both in the Highway Code and in instructions elsewhere, is that one of the main things in driving is to keep to your nearside at every possible moment unless it is essential to go to the offside. That applies in all sorts of cases. I would mention particularly overtaking. I suggest that the rule for overtaking should be that, when it is found safe to overtake, you should get past as quickly as possible and back to your nearside as quickly as possible, without, of course, scraping the other fellow's bumper.

As I said at the start, this is a vast subject. It is also one of the few which directly affect the future of every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom. It affects their future, not only as between happiness or misery, but as between life or death, with, as perhaps worst of all, life in a maimed and crippled body. This is a human cost which it is not possible to estimate in terms of mere pounds, shillings and pence, and never will be. But there is a material cost as well, the amount of which can be and has been computed in national currency. It is a stupendous and frightening figure. Therefore, both on humanitarian and on economic grounds, I feel we can venture to hope—and, more, we are entitled to expect—that the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate will satisfy us that extensive, bold and progressive measures are contemplated in order to make our streets, roads and lanes safer for all who use them.

5.25 p.m.

My Lords the noble Viscount who has just sat down has made a most valuable contribution to this debate, and his speech has displayed a considerable knowledge and study of this important subject. I have not his knowledge and I have not studied this subject as he has, but, before the noble Lord, Lord Leathers, replies, I. should like to emphasise just one point that appears to be most important. It has been mentioned during this debate, but I do not think sufficient emphasis has been placed upon it. I hope that, when the noble Lord studies this debate, he will bear it in mind. My point is the complete lack of indication on the part of most drivers of heavy vehicles, and a great many drivers of light vehicles, of what they intend to do. That, I consider, is the greatest source of danger on the roads to-day. The complicated system of arm-wagging and hand-wagging laid down in the Highway Code is all very well, but it is thoroughly unreliable. Take for instance, the lady driver who, when rain comes on. winds up the window of her car; then again, the driver of a lorry who on a cold day puts up the window of his cab, and nothing will induce him to open it until he comes to the end of his journey. I consider that indication by the hand is thoroughly unreliable, and that indication by mechanical means is far more reliable: it should be much more encouraged and should be enforced by law.

It is ridiculous that heavy vehicles are not forced to carry proper mechanical indicators, as they are in France. In most foreign countries, and particularly in France, heavy vehicles must have mechanical indicators which show clearly which way the heavy vehicle is going to turn, and when it is going to stop. How different from the situation on our own roads, where, in a built-up or a suburban area a bus on its route will turn to the right or to the left and the driver will never dream of putting out his arm. He thinks lie does not need to put out his arm because he believes that everybody using the road should know that that is part of his route. How can a stranger to that district possibly know that it is part of his route? And if you argue with the bus driver and suggest that he might put his arm out, he looks at you and says: "Why should I put my arm out? This is my route." Exactly the same thing applies to many drivers of lorries and other vehicles. I think that more discouragement should be given to the system of arm-wagging and more encouragement, both legally and in other ways, should be given to modern systems of mechanical indicators showing both when the vehicle is going to turn and when it will stop. I hope that the noble Lord will bear that point in mind.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, first I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, for having introduced this debate. I think it has been most helpful. I have indeed a great number of notes. There have been so many suggestions made that I should not like to miss any of them from examination, and I shall, in addition, read Hansard to make quite sure that I have not missed anything.

This is a problem which transcends all Party divisions. It is a complex and an urgent problem the solution of which requires the fullest assistance and effort from us all. We must have that combined arrangement in thought and action to take us to some success. The present price of road accidents, both in personal suffering and in economic loss, is a terrible one. I recently saw a statement in a leading article which said—
"There is too much lethargy about tackling the causes of road accidents."
I do not think that that is in the least fair. Many organisations are concerned in this matter, and in my view they are one and all seized with the proper sense of urgency about it. We have heard to-day of their meetings. They are constantly being held. When I was previously in the Ministry of War Transport I knew from experience that they were constantly at their work with a sense of urgency and purpose, and they were producing all they could in those days. We hope for better as the time goes on. Indeed, there is constant activity on the road safety front. For example, last week there was the National Road Safety Congress, held under the auspices of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. This was most valuable. To-day, as we have heard, the Royal Society, through its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, began a special conference of road users to promote closer co-operation between all the different interests.

Now I turn to what the Government are doing. Here, again, I hope I can convince your Lordships that we are dealing with the matter with a great sense of urgency. In fact, in the past year, we have either initiated or pressed forward six major lines of action which, as I hope to show you, have done a very great deal to reduce the horrible toll of accidents. First, we have made the special allocation of funds and resources for dealing with black spots on the roads. Second, we have pressed ahead with the "zebra" crossings and we are now getting them lit up. Third, we are increasing the number of mobile police patrols. Fourth, we are extending the use of school crossing patrols. Fifth, intensive experiments in the matter of road research are being carried out. Sixth, we are continuing to employ all reasonable means of education and propaganda to imbue the public with that social conscience in this matter which should rightly arouse them.

I should like to say a few words on each of these points. About black spots I shall not say a great deal as I tried to cover this matter when I spoke in the Roads Construction and Maintenance debate which was held in your Lordships' House in July. Suffice it to say that there have already been approved 130 schemes on trunk roads at a cost of over £500,000, and on classified roads nearly 700 schemes at a cost totalling over £2,000,000. Altogether £3,000,000 will be spent on black spots this year and next, £2,000,000 of which will come from Government, funds. Now I take for my second point the "zebra" crossings. These have caught the public imagination and can fairly be said to be a real success. The number of deaths and the numbers both of seriously and of slightly injured are significantly down as corn-pared with those for last year; and the trend of accidents, which had been steadily rising since the end of the war, has actually been reversed. I should not, of course, say that we can attribute to "zebra" crossings the whole of this fall, but I have no doubt—and I know that this view is shared by many others—that they have been largely responsible. Arrangements are now well in hand for the lighting of the beacons, and before long the flashing beacon will become a familiar sight.

I come next to the mobile police patrols, or "courtesy cops." I am sure that a sizable increase in the number of these patrols, and particularly motorcycle patrols, would be one of the greatest factors in increasing road safety. All your Lordships will know what attention is paid to driving when it is known or suspected that these policemen are somewhere behind, and what an improvement these men can get from road users by good example, by checking bad driving and, where this is unfortunately necessary, by securing prosecutions for serious offences. Initial discussions between the Government and the local authorities have begun, and will be pressed on in the future, to bring about an increase in the mobile police patrols. The Minister of Transport is ready to increase substantially the amounts paid out of the Road Fund towards the cost of these patrols it now only remains for the local authorities to do their part.

Let me refer now to the extended use of school crossing patrols, by which I mean adults specially charged with the duty of seeing children across the roads on their way to and from their schools. These helpers are also provided with large notices calling upon road users to stop. These patrols have proved very valuable. In places where a road is crossed, in the main, at certain times of the day only, such as outside a school, it is our view that an adult patrol is far safer than a crossing which, after all, is only a legal safeguard. Children, and especially young children, ought not to have to rely when crossing a busy road on a "zebra" crossing, but ought to have the positive help of an adult to see them across the road. Her Majesty's Government have therefore decided that the system of adult patrols should be quite considerably extended, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, issued a circular on the subject to all local authorities only the day before yesterday.

As for research, the Road Research Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which reports, of course, to my noble friend the Lord President, continues to probe these questions with great thoroughness. Their investigations played quite a part in formulating the "zebra" crossing experiment, and more recently they have been doing valuable studies into such problems as rear lighting and brakes. There is, it is found, no doubt that the lights and brakes of pre-war cars leave much to be desired, and I do wish that owners would pay more attention to these matters. For example, it has been established that prewar cars with single rear lights are six times as likely to be involved in collisions as post-war cars fitted with two bright rear lights. And in the matter of brakes a recent random sample of cars and commercial vehicles showed that most of them could not brake to a stop within the distances recommended by the High-way Code. Further researches are going into such problems as dazzle, crash helmets and road surfacing.

Turning now to education and propaganda, I shall refer first to the Highway Code. This, of course, is a most valuable booklet of guidance and common sense—I say that in spite of the matters which have been called to my notice, and which do not quite seem to correspond with my description. But on total this is a booklet of guidance and common sense. Although the lessons which it tells are still sound, there is a need to reproduce the Code in a form more likely to command weight and popular appeal, and I assure noble Lords that when this is being done all the points which have been raised will receive due consideration. For this reason we have decided, on the advice of the Road Safety Committee, to re-write the Code in a more crisp and effective manner and to issue an entirely new edition.

We could not agree with a complete change in the status of the Code, such as giving it the force of law, as has been suggested in some quarters. This would be unreasonable to road users and in any case very difficult to enforce, and would tend to bring the Code into disrepute. The Committee on Road Safety have, however, made a further suggestion that the Code could become a more effective weapon than it is if greater use were made of it in court proceedings. They have suggested that it should be possible to use a breach or observance of the Code as prima facie evidence in the courts. At present, breach or observance of the Code can be relied upon in the courts only as "tending to" establish or negative responsibility. Experience has shown that this rather tentative wording of the Road Traffic Act of 1930 has proved inadequate. This suggestion of the Committee is most interesting and we are studying it with great care: but it would involve amending legislation, and your Lordships will not, therefore, expect me to be more definite on this occasion. A wide range of other propaganda and publicity steps are also being continued, in order to bring home to all concerned their individual responsibility in this matter.

I have dealt with the positive steps which we have taken over the last year, and considering the limited amount of money available—I am sorry that I have to introduce that note, but it must appear occasionally—I do not think it is a bad record. Indeed, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the important fact that whereas in 1938 the total number of deaths on the road was 6,648 the number last year was down to 5,250, a reduction of over 20 per cent. And this over a period when the population has risen by over 3,000,000 and when the number of road vehicles has gone up by 50 per cent. But despite this improvement I should not like anyone to think that I or the Minister, or any one of my colleagues, are complacent about the present state of affairs. Who could be with an annual death toll of over 5,000 and an annual total of injured of over 200,000? The Government are doing their part, as I have tried to show. Finally, perhaps I may be permitted to say that this is not solely a matter of Government responsibility, as is so often presumed. Even if we had unlimited money for road works and other items, even if we legislated on the hundred-and-one aspects on the problem, we should still he dependent on the human factor. It is, of course, at bottom, a matter of individual responsibility. Every single person, be he motorist, cyclist, or pedestrian, must cultivate that sense of awareness of what road accidents mean. To a man who has not suffered it is not easy to make the necessary effort of imagination. But it must he done. Everybody on the roads must realise that he has a duty to himself, to his family, and to his fellows which he can discharge only by constant vigilance. One absent mind may mean an absent member of a family circle. The terrible implications of sudden death or serious accident should be more deeply impressed in everyone's mind. I make no excuse for making once more this all-important plea.

I am going to study all the points that have been raised to-day. Some of them may not at first blush seem to be of great importance, others, clearly, are. In fact, they are all worthy of full consideration. I want to leave upon your Lordships' minds a very deep sense of our awareness, and of our anxiety to move forward all the time. This move must never be stopped. We must go forward all the while. That leads me to say that. although I have to come here and deal with your Lordships on these matters, probably when I am very busy in other regards, yet I will come every time. So I say that I welcome the opportunity of coming to-day, and I assure your Lordships of my best efforts to secure results from this discussion.

Before the noble Lord sits down, would lie not say one word in support of what has been said by several noble Lords with regard to the drink menace as it affects safety on the roads? That, I think, is an important matter upon which some observation from the Minister would be welcome.

I. was including that in the list of points Which, as I have said, I shall study. I will study all these matters, and this one for a very important reason. Some people will show the effects of a small amount of drink very quickly and very acutely. In other cases it is not like that. All these matters require a great deal of study, and they are in process of being studied now. It would be wrong of me to embark upon this matter now except to strike that note, and to say that there is no easy foot-rule by which to measure the effect of alcohol in this connection.

5.44 p.m.

My Lords, I need take only a very short time in replying. First of all, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Secretary of State very much for his informative reply. I am glad, if I may say so, that he mentioned the importance of personal responsibility, because, whatever is done, however much money may in future be spent on the roads and on what I may call mechanical improvements here and there—such as bringing into use more patrols and so forth—the personal responsibility of every road user will still remain. Before sitting down I feel that I owe your Lordships an apology for leaving out of the only statistics which I gave to your Lordships a most important point. The matter has been called to my attention by Hansard, and, if I may have your Lordships' leave to do so. I will now repair the omission. After giving you the figures for the great increases in fuel consumption and in the numbers of vehicles on the roads between the years 1938 and 1951 I left out the result, which was that total road casualties in 1951 were down by 7 per cent. as compared with 1938. while deaths were down by 21 per cent. Some mention of this has been made by the noble Lord the Secretary of State. I should like to add my congratulations to those which have already been tendered to the noble Viscount, Lord Cross, and also to express my hope that we shall hear him on many future occasions. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Hamilton Burgh Order Confirmation Bill

Brought from the Commons; read 1a , and (pursuant to the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936) deemed to have been read 2a and reported from the Committee.

Lerwick Harbour Order Confirmation Bill

Brought from the Commons; read 1a , and (pursuant to the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1936) deemed to have been read 2a and reported from the Committee.

House adjourned at twelve minutes before six o'clock.