Breathalysers (Random Tests)
1. Mr. Arthur Davidson
asked the Minister of Transport what is his present policy regarding random breath tests.
2. Mr. William Price
asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has to introduce proposals for random breathalyser tests.
The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)
I have no plans for any change in the law at present.
Is there any evidence to suggest that some drivers are becoming more complacent and “slap-happy” about driving and drinking than they were soon after the breathalyser was introduced, and, if there is such evidence, [column 2]short of introducing random breath tests, which my right hon. Friend is right to turn his mind against, in my view, has my right hon. Friend any plan to halt such a regrettable tendency shortly before Christmas?
Casualty savings are still very high. In September, for example, the saving compared with September last year was 7 per cent., and deaths were down 15 per cent. Any drivers who are becoming careless about it are very foolish, because these are savings which we could not afford to lose.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
Will the Minister confirm that, in spite of what he said at a meeting a week or two ago, the police intend to prosecute only those people whom they genuinely believe to be suffering under the influence of drink?
I have never said anything different from that which the hon. Gentleman has just said. The police are responsible for enforcing the law. The only point that I made was that the law makes no exception for people driving away from public houses. The public sometimes assume that a driver doing that is in some way sacrosanct.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear that, so far as his Department is concerned, he does not retreat in any way from the assurance given on the Second Reading of the second Road Safety Bill, that there was no question of the police setting up traps [column 3]just round the corner from public houses and waiting to pounce? Does he stand by that?
The position is perfectly clear. Random tests were not contemplated and they are not the case now. The only point I was making in the discussion which I had with a journalist was that, if a person is moving away from a public house at night and seems to be unsteady on his feet, it is at least as likely that he may have been drinking as if he were coming from a church.
7. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Minister of Transport what research is being done at the Road Research Laboratory on the effect of speed limits on car design.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)
Will the Minister ask it to do so? Is he aware of the immense importance of car exports to our balance of payments? There is a danger of our cars becoming less and less suited to Continental conditions rather than more and more suited to them.
I am aware of the views of the industry, but we cannot yet see any clear effects to show that more research is really necessary.
31. Sir B. Rhys Williams
asked the Minister of Transport what study he has made of the effect of different features of the designs of private cars currently in production in Great Britain on the safety of passengers.
Mr. Bob Brown
Work on the principles of safe design and on features of cars currently in use is continuously undertaken in the Ministry and Road Research Laboratory, by the Motor Industry Research Association, and by motor manufacturers and many other people.
Sir B. Rhys Williams
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are hundreds of fatal accidents on our roads every month? Why is it not worth while to examine the information available from these accidents and draw conclusions from them?[column 4]
The Question refers to the safe design of cars. I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that British cars are the safest designed in the world.
8. Sir R. Russell
asked the Minister of Transport if, in his reconsideration of speed limits, he will consider imposing higher limits on uphill sections of road in built-up areas than on the same sections of road downhill.
Mr. Bob Brown
No, Sir: this could introduce too many changes in the level of speed limit within any one built up area.
Sir R. Russell
Does not the Minister agree that cars going uphill pull up much more quickly than cars going downhill? As that is generally understood, it would not be difficult to differentiate between one direction and another.
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, but a speed limit should be applied over a fairly lengthy section of road and not short stretches.
London Transport (Local Government Control)
10. Mr. Sheldon
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the Government's plans for the integration of transport in London under local government control.
The Government's proposals were set out in the White Paper “Transport in London” (Cmnd. 3686) published in July. The Transport (London) Bill, designed to give effect to these proposals, is now before the House.
Whilst I welcome the Bill, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that marked concern is felt by many people outside London for the subsidies that London Transport has received? Can he hold out any hope that the subsidies will now end, because people outside the London area do not like paying for the congestion of London?
With a Londoner's hat on, I should say that there are special circumstances in relation to London as the capital of the nation, but the whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure that Londoners pay for their own transport.[column 5]
Could the right hon. Gentleman be a little more explicit? Do his plans include an increase in fares for London Transport to make it a viable unit?
The hon. Lady has seen the London Transport White Paper and the Bill. We shall no doubt have a fascinating discussion on Second Reading.
(Testing and Plating)
11. Mr. Gordon Campbell
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on progress with the scheme for testing and plating commercial vehicles.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Neil Carmichael)
The scheme was introduced in England and Wales on 1st October and in Scotland on 1st December. The oldest classes of motor vehicles and trailers are now being plated and tested at Ministry testing stations. The arrangements for carrying out the inspections are working well. The results of tests conducted to date are encouraging.
In view of the delay in starting the scheme and the comparatively small number of vehicles tested so far, have the Government done enough to publicise the requirements? What action will the Minister take if many of the appropriate vehicles are not submitted for testing by the target dates?
The Government have gone to great lengths to publicise this in the newspapers, trade magazines and the technical Press. A number of television appearances have also been made, and as the new stations were opened I and my right hon. and hon. Friends have made a point of stressing their importance. If vehicles have not been tested after a certain date, the owners will be liable to prosecution.
In view of the shortfall of £900,000 in the winter Supplementary Estimates, what will be the revised estimates for receipts next year?
I need notice of that question.
Bus Fares (North-East Essex)
17. Mr. Ridsdale
asked the Minister of Transport what was the result of the [column 6]appeal under section 143 of the Road Traffic Act, 1960, concerning the increase in bus fares in North-East Essex of between 30 and 40 per cent.; and what action he has taken.
We have received the report of the independent inspector who held an inquiry into this case and my right hon. Friend will announce a decision shortly.
As this severe rise took place in May, surely it would have been quicker to send it to the Prices and Incomes Board? Is not the scale of the increase outside the Government's prices and incomes policy? Will he expedite this matter as quickly as possible?
The standstill provisions of the Prices and Incomes Act do not apply to decisions made by traffic commissioners. My right hon. Friend will publish the report as soon as he studies it.
Foreign Lorries (Insurance and Licensing)
32. Mr. Ronald Atkins
asked the Minister of Transport what action he proposes to take to ensure that foreign lorries using British roads are insured and licensed.
The licensing and insurance laws are well known by foreign hauliers and we are not aware of any particular problem requiring other than normal enforcement action.
Is there not a case for foreign lorries contributing to the cost of British roads, just as British lorries do on the Continent generally?
They do. Through the international agreement, they must have permission and a green card to travel on our roads. It is a mutual agreement between the various nations whose vehicles use roads in other countries.
Mr. Gordon Campbell
What action will the Government take to ensure that British lorries have Excise licences, now that the carrier licensing system is no longer applicable to vehicles of an unladen weight of 30 cwt. and less, and in that way to eliminate pirate vehicles?
This is one feature which we are hoping to deal with by means of the new Bill which goes to [column 7]Committee tomorrow. Because of the new computerisation of Excise licences, evasion will be more difficult than hitherto.
National Freight Corporation
41. Mr. Webster
asked the Minister of Transport if he will announce the name and salary of the chairman of the National Freight Corporation.
I have appointed Sir Reginald Wilson as Chairman of the National Freight Corporation for two years with effect from today. His salary, which has been assessed on a personal basis, will be £16,000 a year.
Is the Minister aware that we are delighted that at last, as a result of long probing from this side, this excellent appointment has been made—[Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) is not pleased with the appointment. I am sure that it is an excellent one. Can the Minister say that the transition is taking place in a smooth manner?
Yes. Under this Government all transitions take place in a smooth manner.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it will come as a surprise to many Members on this side that the hon. Gentleman welcomes the announcement of the appointment and salary today, because we understood that he and his colleagues were against the appointment and the National Freight Corporation?
With respect to my hon. Friend, he has been here long enough not to be surprised by the schizophrenic attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
42. Mr. Webster
asked the Minister of Transport if he will announce the name and salaries of the members of the National Freight Corporation.
I have, after consultation with the Chairman, appointed the following as members of the National Freight Corporation with effect from today:
Rt. Hon. Frank Cousins. Sir Andrew Crichton. Mr. F. Lane, B.E.M. Mr. F. S. Law. [column 8]Mr. R. L. E. Lawrence, O.B.E. Sir Robert MacLean. Mr. D. E. A. Pettit. Mr. G. W. Quick Smith, C.B.E.
Mr. Quick Smith, who will be the Chief Executive of the Corporation, has been appointed a full-time member for two years. His salary will be £10,000 a year, on a personal basis. The other appointments will all be part-time for three years, at a salary of £1,000 a year.
Can the Minister tell us how many of these appointments are part-time, how many are functional—[Hon. Members: “The Minister said so.” ]—the Minister said that one was part-time. Perhaps he can tell us more about it. Could he also say to what extent they are functional—whether, in the case of Mr. Cousins, this will be to look after the labour relations side—or can he give us any further details?
It would be an extra-ordinary business to have part-time functional members on boards such as this. The Answer was that Mr. Quick Smith, who will be the Chief Executive of the Corporation, has been appointed full-time member for two years. The other appointments will be part-time.
British Waterways Employees (Conditions of Employment)
50. Mr. Henig
asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give a general direction to ensure that employees of British Waterways have the same rights as employees of British Railways in the event of retirement through ill health.
No, Sir. But if my hon. Friend has a particular case in mind and will send me details I will ask the Board to look into it.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. The British Waterways Board has looked into it. But is my hon. Friend not appalled, as I was, to find that a constituent of mine who, after many years of good service with the British Waterways Board, when he became ill and fit only for light work, was dismissed and given an insulting pension of 7s. 6d. a week? Is it not about time that the nationalised industry did better than that?
As my hon. Friend knows, there have been discussions within [column 9]British Railways about the various staff pension schemes. It depends which scheme the members happen to have been involved in while working with the Railways or which particular Railways Board the Waterways Board came under. I agree that the pension is small, but it was agreed on a contributory basis.
British Standard Time Act
56. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Minister of Transport what evidence he has to date of a reduction in road accidents to schoolchildren resulting from the passage of the British Standard Time Act.
No accident figures are available yet.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this outrageous Measure, imposed upon the people of Scotland and Northern England by the callousness of the Government, can be justified only by immediate evidence of a rapid reduction in the number of road accidents? As all the evidence points in the opposite direction, will the right hon. Gentleman go back to his colleagues and get them to remove this Measure from the Statute Book forthwith?
There are many issues out of which one makes political capital. Accidents to children is not the most attractive of them. Unfortunately, a tragic number of people suffer accidents, and suffered them before there was a change to B.S.T. We are now seeing what the figures are. There is no justification for the sort of comment which the hon. Gentleman has made, nor is it particularly attractive that he should have raised it in that way.
Mr. J. T. Price
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on this side of the House are extremely indignant that such a disgraceful effort should have been made from that side of the House to make political capital out of this most unfortunate situation, bearing in mind that the leaders of Her Majesty's Opposition, and many of their supporters behind them, supported the Bill for which the hon. Gentleman is now claiming the Government are responsible?
We are looking at this problem because clearly we want to see [column 10]the effect of this Measure. One of the things which should be borne in mind in considering recent events is that it is highly dangerous for children of five and six years' old to be out on busy roads, whether B.S.T. is in operation or not.
Sir R. Cary
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree, at least, that the House of Commons has made a mistake in introducing this Act, and therefore there should be an opportunity for the House to have an early look again at this problem?
Accident figures take some time to process. I hope to have some early in the new year. On the last information that was provided on this from the Road Research Laboratory it was felt that, while more people would be travelling in the dark in the morning, a greater number would be travelling in daylight in the evening. It is this sort of thing which is difficult to assess.
The problem of accidents to children, is, unfortunately, one which has been with us for a long time. I repeat, without offence to anyone, that allowing small children to be free on busy roads, with or without changes in summer time, is a very dangerous practice indeed.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a great need for more parental responsibility for children going to school in the morning, and coming home in the evening? Whether or not there are crossing keepers, parental responsibility should be accepted in this matter.
That is the point that I was making.
Earl of Dalkeith
Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will study what happens during the course of the next month or two before he decides, with his colleagues, to keep this absurd experiment in force for one year longer?
I think that the House having decided upon this change, it would be absurd for the House to change its mind before it has any evidence upon which to do so. The present plan is for three years, but the Government are not rigidly wedded to that. We shall look carefully at the evidence during this winter, and if there is conclusive evidence that the experiment was a mistake, [column 11]obviously we shall take action. A lot of publicity has been given to some of the regrettable accidents, but, tragically enough, similar accidents could have happened—and did happen on a large scale—without any change in the time.
Mr. William Hamilton
Has my right hon. Friend any statistics for previous years showing the number of accidents which occurred between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.?
Not without notice.
Several Hon. Members
Order. We have passed Question Time.
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, as the Minister chose to make a personal and unjustified attack on me of trying to make political capital out of this issue—[Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear the point of order.
—which neither I nor my hon. Friends have attempted to do at any time, may I be given an opportunity to set the record straight?
I think that the hon. Member has attempted to set the record straight. It is a point of argument; not a point of order.