Clause 39. — [Penalty for drunkenness while in charge of motor car and for reckless driving.]

Orders of the Day — Criminal Justice Bill. – in the House of Commons on 20th November 1925.

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Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

I beg to move, in page 33, line 4, to leave out the word "drunk", and to insert instead thereof the words in a state of intoxication whereby his capacity to act is impaired. It will be within the recollection of the House that this Amendment was put down by one of the hon. Members on the other side of the House. To-day the question of the dangers to our roads owing to carelessly driven motorcars has become a national one. Matters are far more dangerous than on the railways, which have all along been safeguarded by having notices put up that trespassers will be prosecuted. With the rapid movement of motorists we have a situation that is becoming deeply fixed in the public mind, and one which calls for a stronger application of the law. In some case we can find that even where there has been a previous conviction a comparatively small fine has been imposed, because in the case of an aristocrat the person could easily lay down £ 1,000. With this particular phase of the matter we ought to have no difficulty at all if the word "drunk" were removed and the words I have proposed were substituted. Feeling strongly as I do that these words really are necessary I urge upon the Government to make the change.

The trouble is that we have such cases as that which has just taken place at Royston, Yorkshire, in which a driver, according to the Coroner, had too much to drink, but was completely absolved and cleared, although a life had been taken away, that of a, miner 62 years of age. I submit that where there is evidence, as was particularly emphasised by the Coroner, that a driver has had too much drink, it is not necessary to go through those elaborate tests which are sometimes applied to ascertain whether a man is drunk; it is sufficient to say that if his capacity for controlling the machine has been in any way impaired, there should be no excuse and a severe penalty ought to be imposed. There is no doubt that the cry in respect of drunken motorists is a warrantable one, but I do not see that those cases are any more serious than the whole range and catalogue of disasters that is falling on the nation because of the provision of this particular concoction from which the Government is deriving what they call revenue. But it is worth while emphasising that in cases of this kind we get a general agreement among the public that some action must be taken. In other classes of cases the view we put forward is treated as a mere sentimentality, but I do not reckon that the knocking down of a man in the street by a motorist who is under the influence of drink is any more serious than the case of a man knocking out some of the members of his family and having to go to the scaffold. I reckon, to say the least of it, that the one case is equally as important as the other; but we cannot get these motoring cases dealt with in the only way in which they ought to be dealt with.

In this Bill we are making a law for settling questions arising through drink which have to be dealt with in the Courts. Cases of furious driving, apart from the question of drink, are being dealt with and one can get evidence to prove by the rate at which a man is driving, and the manner in which the machine has been proceeding, that there is ground for conviction; but all over the country, as some of us know by actual experience, a travesty of justice is going on. Any poor individual brought to the bar of a police court can be convicted by two police constables of being drunk and incapable, but I would not advise anyone, supposing he had twenty witnesses, to try to prove that a police-constable was drunk. I advise him not to try it, because he would find out by experience, as some other people have done, that he would fail. These are circumstances which have got to be faced. Customers of the liquor business have no right to talk about the liberty of the subject if that liberty is to become a licence to smash the lives of his fellow men, and we must get over any legal or technical difficulties there may be in proving a case against them, and the whole range of experience in the courts has proven that this word has been a. safeguard for dangerous persons. What we have to do is to see that where a man driving a machine has in any way had his capacity for controlling that machine impaired, so that he endangers the interests of other people, that wherever that can be established and, by the simple use of the English language, it can be shown that he has been affected in that way, the Courts ought to be able to register a conviction against him. Those of us who have looked into the effects of drink know that they go to the brain, and if from that point of vantage they exercise any impairment, as there is impairment, then we are liable to have such dangerous consequences as those of which we have been speaking. The Government are anxious to defend the interests of the people, and here is an opportunity where, by a simple re-arrangement of the English language, we can avoid many of the serious troubles which have afflicted people in the past; and undoubtedly a much more formidable case will confront the man who runs risks from drink before he starts to drive his motor car. In moving this Amendment I hope we shall be allowed a free, full and frank vote in the lobbies of the House.

Photo of Mr Herbert Grotrian Mr Herbert Grotrian , Kingston upon Hull South West

I rise to second this Amendment, though possibly not for quite the same reasons as those which actuate the Mover. I do think the words he suggests are an improvement. No doubt the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) in framing this Amendment, had in his mind the Order in Council of 26th June, 1923, amending the Air Navigation Order, 1922, where similar words are used. As the hon. Member said, the word "drunk" is a horrid word. It has a horrid past, legally speaking. Probably no two persons agree as to when a man is or is not drunk; certainly no two doctors seem to agree about it. We have had all sorts of ridiculous tests applied to ascertain whether a man is drunk or not, tests to see whether he can walk along an imaginary line that is not there, or stand upon one leg with his eyes shut, which is not a very easy thing for some people to do when they are sober. We have all these tests to find out whether a man is drunk, and then the other day a stipendary magistrate decided in a case that came before him that a man was neither drunk nor sober. No doubt he was perfectly right, but what I want to point out is that he would have been able to say whether a man's capacity to act had been impaired by the drink he had taken. It may be said that "in a state of intoxication" and "drunk'' mean exactly the same thing, but there is some distinction, and there is some authority for that distinction. Hon. Members will recall that Mr. Boswell, the chronicler of Johnson, was a man who habitually took too much drink. He promised his friend Temple upon one occasion that he would reform, and in future would take only one bottle of hock for dinner. Unfortunately, however, he exceeded that allowance, and in writing to his friend Temple, in a state of great contrition, 'he uses this expression, I did not get drunk. I was, however, intoxicated. Even in those days there was some distinction. I know that we shall be met with the objection that this Amendment enlarges the powers of the police. I think that is in its favour, because everyone admits that the phrase "the quick and the dead" would soon cease to have any meaning because they would all have passed into the category of the dead, except some of the very quickest. Therefore I do not regard that as any objection at all. I am aware that the Government have promised a Bill to amend the law relating to road vehicles, and to carry out those recommendations in the Second Interim Report of the Departmental Committee appointed by the Ministry of Transport. I would like to point out, however, that if this Amendment is carried and this proposal we are discussing is found to work badly, the matter could be remedied in that Bill. I admit that this proposal is rather an excrescence on this Bill, and that we might have waited until the promised Bill is produced, but here we have a chance of trying this proposal now, and then if it is not successful the Home Secretary can introduce a Clause dealing with the matter in his Bill.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

It is quite true as the hon. Member for South West Hull (Mr. Grotrian) has pointed out that this Clause is, to some extent, an excrescence on the Bill, and that the Bill to be brought in by the Ministry of Transport ought to deal with this case. It has been urged that there should be a more severe penalty for a man who is drunk in charge of a vehicle than for a man who is charged with being drunk in the ordinary case. My own view is that a man who is drunk in charge of a motor car should be subject to a higher penalty. Now my hon. Friend (Mr. Scrymgeour) comes forward with a definition as to the meaning of the word "drunk." An authority which has been quoted by the hon. Member for South West Hull declared that in one case the man was not drunk and yet he was not sober. Would that man be "in a state of intoxication"? I have tried to find out what a state of intoxication means, and according to the Oxford Dictionary "intoxication means—

  1. "1. The action of poisoning; administration of poison; killing by poison; the state of being poisoned.
  2. "2. The action of rendering stupid, insensible or disordered in intellect with a drug or alcoholic liquor.
  3. "3. The poisoning of the moral or mental faculties."

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

That is dealing with the law which enables a man to have the right to sell intoxicants.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

That really has nothing to do with the Amendment, because we are discussing not the licensing laws, but whether the word "drunk" ought to be changed, and the phrase "in a state of intoxication" substituted for it. If you are going to change the definition in that way, a man will claim to be charged with the new charge—that he is in a state of intoxication. I do not think there is any reason why you should change the meaning of the word, and I suggest that we are only wasting time on this Amendment. I have introduced a clause dealing with motorists driving when they are drunk. I think it is an abominable offence, and that my object is to make the penalty more severe for this particular offence.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I think the word "drunk" is capable of several meanings, and I claim to speak rather as an expert on the point in this way. As a naval officer who spent many years in the Navy, I have been called upon on many occasions to judge whether a man is drunk or not. We had a rule in the Navy which I commend to the Home Secretary. We did not call in the doctor to decide in such a case at all. "When a man is brought up for drunkenness in the Navy medical evidence is not admitted, and the executive officer is the judge, and the test generally applied is whether the man is capable of performing his duty. If it is the case of a man returning from leave, and not being required for duty until the next morning no notice is taken because he is not likely to cause any trouble, and the wise officer turns a blind eye on him. One of the secrets of discipline is to be able to turn on the blind eye occasionally.

The main test in the case of a bluejacket is whether he is capable of working aloft or on the sails. If he is not, he is drunk. If he is a stoker, the test is whether he is capable of taking care of a fast running engine. If he is a marine, the test is whether he is capable of being put sentry over a broached rum cask, which is an even more severe test. There you have three distinct offences relating to the lower deck hands. Take the case of the motorist. The test ought to be, is he capable of performing his duty, because he has to perform the most intricate and difficult duty. I think an altogether different test is required in the case of the man referred to by the Home Secretary as drunk and disorderly. We know that policemen do not take men into custody when drunk if they are going home quietly, because that would be quite intolerable. Men are not taken into custody when they are walking along quietly and are not a danger to anyone else. But when they interfere with the comfort of others, then quite rightly they are apprehended and taken in charge by the police.

But the case of the motorist is not on all fours with that. I put it that the Home Secretary is taking this action on altogether false grounds, because the word "drunk" is capable of many interpretations on account of its uncertainty, and as the hon. Member for South West Hull (Mr. Grotrian) has already pointed out, doctors often disagree as to whether a man is drunk or not. For these reasons, if the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) presses his Amendment to a division I shall support him, because the case of the motorist is different from that of anyone else. He is in charge of a dangerous vehicle; we want a good definition, and I think the definition of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee is much better, and I shall therefore support it.

Photo of Sir Henry Slesser Sir Henry Slesser , Leeds South East

I think that there is some misunderstanding about this Amendment. As I read it, it is much narrower and not broader than the proposal. The word "drunk" and the phrase "in a state of intoxication" are substantially the same, but the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) has given to the driver an extra defence, enabling him to say, even although he be in a state of intoxication, that his capacity to act is not impaired. Therefore, if the hon. Member for Dundee wishes to have very drastic legislation against this type of person, surely the Home Secretary's phrase is broader, and not narrower, than that of the hon. Member. I am not an expert on drunkenness, but I, like many others, have had experience of interpreting words, and, whatever the intention of the hon. Member may be, it does seem to mo that under the Bill, once a man is shown to be drunk in charge of a vehicle, he commits an offence, whereas under the Amendment it is not enough to show that he is in a state of intoxication, but you must go on and show that his capacity to act is impaired. Therefore, a man whose capacity to act is not impaired is liable under the Bill, but is not liable under the Amendment, and the hon. Member for Dundee, inadvertently no doubt, has produced an Amendment which is in favour of the drunken motorist.

Photo of Mr Alexander MacRobert Mr Alexander MacRobert , Renfrewshire Eastern

I agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), but I suggest that he should withdraw his Amendment. Having had some experience of prosecutions, I know full well that these words "whereby his capacity to act is impaired," will be a constant defence, and in many cases the prosecution will forget to prove these vital words and the man will get off I agree with the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser), and I appeal to the hon. Member for Dundee to withdraw his Amendment.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

It was put up by a lawyer on the other side.

Photo of Mr Cecil Wilson Mr Cecil Wilson , Sheffield, Attercliffe

I think the Home Secretary should pursue his investigations a little further. He gave us the Oxford definition of "intoxication," but he did not give us the definition of "drunk." The Oxford definition is that has drunk intoxicating liquor to an extent that affects steady self-control: intoxicated, inebriated, overcome by alcoholic liquor. If the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to go a little further, and see that those who have to administer justice understand that, by the Oxford definition, "drunk" is that they have drunk intoxicating liquor "to an extent that affects steady control," it will very largely accomplish what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) desires.

Photo of Sir Rhys Morris Sir Rhys Morris , Cardiganshire

I agree with the object of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour), but I think that that object has been very well stated by the hon. and learned Member for South-East Leeds (Sir H. Slesser). A man will put this up as a defence, and it will be very difficult to prove that his capacity is impaired, and to secure a conviction at all. It is true that the word "drunk" is very unsatisfactory. We all know the difficulties that result from it at the present time, but I feel that the Amendment, instead of securing the object of the hon. Member, will really defeat it, and, in the circumstances, I hope that he will consent to withdraw it.

Question put, "That the word 'drunk' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 194: Noes, 30.

Division No. 379.]AYES.[11.40 a.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-ColonelBridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveCooper, A. Duff
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield. Hillsbro')Briggs, J. HaroldCouper, J. B.
Alien, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)Brocklebank, C. E. B.Cove, W. G.
Ammon, Charles GeorgeBromfield, WilliamCraik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry
Applin, Colonel R. V. K.Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.Crooke. J. Smedley (Deritend)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)
Attlee, Clement RichardBrown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey, Gainsbro)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyBullock Captain M.Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardCurzon, Captain Viscount
Barnes, A.Campbell, E. T.Dalkeith, Earl of
Barnston, Major Sir HarryCassels. J. D.Davies, Or. Vernon
Beamish, Captain T. P. H.Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonDavies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)
Bennett, A. J.Christie, J. A.Dixey, A. C.
Berry, Sir GeorgeClayton, G. C.Drewe, C.
Betterton, Henry B.Clowes, S.Edmondson, Major A. J.
Blades, Sir George RowlandCluse W. S.Edwards. C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftCochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Elveden, Viscount
Brass, Captain W.Connolly, M.Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston. s.-M.)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh VereShepperson, E. W.
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanSitch, Charles H.
Falle, Sir Bertram G.Lunn, WilliamSlaney, Major P. Kenyon
Fanshawe, Commander G. D.MacAndrew, Charles GlenSlesser, Sir Henry H.
Fenby, T. D.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)Smith, Rennle (Penistone)
Fermoy, LordMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Fleming, D. P.Macintyre, IanSmith-Carington, Neville W.
Foxcroft, Captain C. T.Mackinder, W.Smithers, Waldron
Ganzoni, Sir JohnMacmillan, Captain H.Snell, Harry
Gates, PercyMcNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald JohnSomerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Gee, Captain R.Macquisten, F. A.Spender Clay, Colonel H.
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George AbrahamMacRobert, Alexander M.Sprot, Sir Alexander
Grace, JohnMaitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)Manningham-Buller, Sir MervynSteel, Major Samuel Strang
Grotrian, H. BrentMarch, S.Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Groves, T.Margesson, Captain D.Sutton, J. E.
Grundy, T. W.Marriott, Sir J. A. R.Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Gunston, Captain D. W.Meyer, Sir FrankThomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)
Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Tinne, J. A.
Hall, Capt. W. D. A. (Brecon & Rad.)Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Tinker, John Joseph
Hannon, Patrick Joseph HenryMontague, FrederickTownend, A. E.
Harrison, G. J. C.Moore, Sir Newton J.Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Hartington, Marquess ofMorris, R. H.Viant, S. P.
Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Nelson, Sir FrankWallace, Captain D. E.
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)Warne, G. H.
Henderson, T. (Glasgow)Nuttall, EllisWarner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)Palin, John HenryWarrender, Sir Victor
Hennessy, Major J. R. G.Paling, W.Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Herbert, S. (York, N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)Pease, William EdwinWatts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Hilton, CecilPerkins, Colonel E. K.Wells, S. R.
Holt, Capt. H. P.Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Howard, Captain Hon. DonaldPeto, G. (Somerset, Frome)Williams, C. P. Denbigh, Wrexham)
Hurst, Gerald B.Plicher, G.Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Jacob, A. E.Potts, John S.Winby, Colonel L. P.
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)Price, Major C. W. M.Windsor, Walter
John, William (Rhondda, West)Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. PeelWinterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir WilliamRemnant, Sir JamesWise, Sir Fredric
Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)Womersley, W. J.
Kennedy, T.Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
King, Captain Henry DouglasRussell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)
Knox, Sir AlfredSamuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Lamb, J. Q.Sandeman, A. StewartWright, W.
Lee, F.Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipSavery, S. S.
Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Scurr, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES.-
Loder, J. de V.Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)Major Cope and Lord Stanley.
Lord, Walter Greaves-Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
NOES.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)Stamford, T. W.
Baker, WalterKelly, W. T.Thurtle, E.
Barr, J.Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Batey, JosephKenyon, BarnetWatson, W. M. (Duntermilne)
Beckett, John (Gateshead)Lansbury, GeorgeWedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)Westwood, J.
Briant, FrankMurnin, H.Wilkinson, Ellen C.
Cape, ThomasOliver, George HaroldWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)Ritson, J.
Day, Colonel HarryShiels, Dr DrummondTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Hardie, George D.Smillie, RobertMr. Scrymgeour and Mr. Cecil
Wilson.

Photo of Mr James Cassels Mr James Cassels , Leyton West

I beg to move, in page 33, to leave out from the word "vehicle" in line 6 to the word "shall" in line 8.

The object of this Amendment is to remove from this Clause that part which relates to the offence of reckless driving. I understand that we are promised comprehensive legislation next year to deal with motoring offences as a whole, and I suggest that this Clause should be left to deal with the matter to which it substantially relates, namely, that of being drunk in charge of a motor car. I understand that this Amendment is going to be accepted, and, therefore, I need say no more.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so I should like to point out that it is suggested in this Bill that the Act of 1903 should be perpetuated. The last Section of the Act of 1903 states that that Act will last until 1906, but it has already lasted until 1925. The point I see in it is that, while reckless driving is not something that anyone in this House can support in any way at all, the wording of the Act of 1903 is so loose that anyone who exceeds the limit of 20 miles an hour at the present time could be prosecuted for driving recklessly. Sub-section (1) of Section I of the 1903 Act states that If any person drives a motor car upon a public highway recklessly or negligently, or at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition and use of the highway, and to the amount of traffic which actually is at the time"— this is the important point— or which might reasonably be expected to be, on the highway, that person shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. The point is that it is not that the traffic is actually on the road at the time, but that it may reasonably be expected to be on the road. Consequently, anyone who exceeds the speed limit on a certain road when there is no traffic on it at all, might quite easily be prosecuted for reckless driving and be sent to prison for four months under this new clause, when no reckless driving existed at all.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I think that this is an Amendment which I can reasonably accept—

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

As I said to the House a few minutes ago, everyone agrees that the offence of driving when drunk is an abominable one, but at present the penalties for reckless driving which as my hon. and gallant Friend (Capt. Brass) has said, is really what is involved here, are fines and also imprisonment for the second and third offence. I think that, while we are engaged in the whole reconstruction of motor-car law, and, as I said just now, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport hopes to bring in a Bill to deal with the whole question of motor legislation next year, it would be unfair if I were to single out this one particular offence. I admit that the argument I am using might be used in regard to drunkenness, but that is so exceptional that I think I was entitled to single it out, as it is such a very bad thing; but to single out this particular offence by a motorist, and say we will give imprisonment for four months for the first offence, is not right, pending the reconsideration of the whole question of motor legislation and the bringing in of a considered Bill by the Minister of Transport. In these circumstances I think that, although the hon. lady (Miss Wilkinson) may have objections, she will realise that her interjection was, perhaps, not very partinent to the argument I am addressing to the House, which is a serious argument, namely, that, as a Bill is going to be brought in, I hope early, during the course of next Session, that I should suddenly come down at the fag end of this Session and increase the penalty so enormously, making it four months' imprisonment for the first offence, is too much. In the circumstances I am prepared to accept the Amendment.

Captain BENN:

I think the House is entitled to be a little surprised that this Amendment, put down by private members, is suddenly accepted in the way it has been, because the Home Secretary no doubt, in what time he can spare from his various prosecutions, has given his best attention to the Bill. Presumably the Government thought it was right to impose, not indeed a certainty of imprisonment, but an additional probability of imprisonment on people who are guilty of this wicked offence, and I think it is shameless for hon. Members opposite to seek to prevent a very slight addition to the penalties for reckless driving. The speed, the number of motor ears, and the danger of motor traffic have enormously increased since the Act of 1903 was passed. I cannot think hon. Members in any part of the House can resist an Amendment which does not say a man who drives recknessly shall necessarily be sent to prison, but merely gives the magistrate an option to send a reckless driver to prison on the first case. I hope hon. Members will divest themselves of mere obedience to the word of command, and vote on the merits, because, speaking quite sincerely, I think the Amendment has no merits and a slight measure of increased rigour, introduced by the Government themselves, has every reason to secure the support of everyone who wants to protect pedestrians and particularly little children in country districts. Everyone who has been in a motor car knows it is not a question of the Act of 1903 or of the amount of traffic that may or may not be on the road. The danger is not one of motor cars in collision.

That is a very serious thing, but to me a much more appealing thing is a little baby that runs out of a cottage gate. That is not traffic on the road. All that is asked by the Government themselves is that the magistrate in such a case shall have the option of imprisonment for a first offence. The right lion. Gentleman said there is no need for such an option. On the merits there is no case for the Amendment, and I trust it will be rejected.

12.0 N.

Photo of Mr John Rawlinson Mr John Rawlinson , Cambridge University

I am always pleased-when the Liberal Party step out of the breach, and express their real opinion, but it is only when they are losing a chance of sending someone to jail. How far is it really genuine on this occasion? The hon. and gallant Gentlemen knows as well as I do that if a man is driving recklessly, and knocks over or kills a child, he is guilty of manslaughter and can be sent to for the first offence. This Clause was brought in for the purpose of dealing with the very exceptional case of a person who is drunk in charge of a motor-car. It was not intended to deal with the whole of motorcar legislation. I ask the House to accept what the Home Secretary has said. No one knows more than I do how bitterly we complain of insufficient discussion of a Bill, but the Government have treated us fairly on this Bill, and it is a bad reward if we are going to take up the time of the House with points like this. The Government have met us on Clause 31 and various other matters. This point can be dealt with already in serious cases under the ordinary law, and as far as details are concerned, they can be dealt with by the proper Bill when it comes before us. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) invariably rushes in on these occasions to defend personal liberty. I feel sure that he will defend the personal liberty of those whom the hon. Member wishes to put into gaol. I hope the House will not take up time over this very small point.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Middlesbrough East

I cannot understand why the Home Secretary proposes to leave the population of this country at the mercy of reckless motorists until some Bill, about which we know nothing yet, but which may arrive in the next session, if the Government is there to bring it in, and we are to wait while the toll of accidents every week grows larger and larger. There are very many more oars on the road to-day than there ever have been before, and there seems to be a complete decay in any kind of motoring manners. You have any young fool in charge of a car dashing round corners, not troubling to sound his horn, dashing in on traffic, and on less experienced drivers. I can speak quite feelingly on the matter. It may not necessarily mean that someone is killed, but a man can go on like that, putting people in peril of their lives and finally landing in a smash-up. It may be his first convicted offence, but he has been offending for a very considerable period before that. People who are in charge of cars ought to be made to realise their responsibility to the unfortunate people who have to use their feet, and that is certainly not the case at present. In my constituency a very great feeling of resentment was caused by a driver like this dashing into a cyclist, leaving him by the road dead and not troubling to stop. These are things that are going on. It is no use people on the other side saying, "Oh!" You only have to pick up your newspaper to see the growth of this type of thing. There are people in charge of cars whom only the real threat of prison will ever make decently responsible. I know there are people for whom no threat is needed, but those are not the people for whom laws are made. A Clause like this is needed for those road hogs who are making our country roads an absolute bugbear for every one. The seconder of the Amendment spoke of roads where there was very little traffic. That again is just the danger. You have long stretches of country road bordered by cottages or farmhouses, and people feel they can speed along at any old miles an hour, and people crossing the road or coming out suddenly, if the horn is not sounded, and it is a very modern silent car, may find themselves in a very serious position. I hope we shall have a Motor Transport Bill. Goodness knows it is very badly needed. In the meantime, what is to be done? Would anything be lost by the Home Secretary having this Clause in his Bill while the other Bill is being prepared? This would give magistrates more power than they have, and it would be a warning to those in charge of cars driving to the danger of the public. I hope the Home Secretary will not withdraw the Clause, but continue it until such time as we have the other Act.

Photo of Sir Frank Meyer Sir Frank Meyer , Great Yarmouth

I wonder if there is any single Member of the House who could get up and honestly say that he has never exceeded the 20 miles speed limit? It seems to me that the whole attitude of certain hon. Member towards the question of motoring is on a wrong basis. You cannot look on the motorist to-day as a single class, and picture him as a rich man in a fur coat, smoking a cigar, as was done 20 years ago. Everybody is a, motorist now. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] Yes. Those who do not go either in private or hired motor cars go in omnibuses or chars-a-banc, and I do not think that many hon. Members opposite would please their constituents if they suggested to them that any bus in which they travelled should not go more than 10 miles an hour in the towns, or that chars-a-banc on which they travel in the country should not go at more than 12 miles an hour.

It is no good being hypocritical about this. We must face the position. In this question of motoring we are all at the present time law breakers, and we shall be law breakers until the law is codified and brought up to date. Every taxi driver, as the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. B. Smith) would emphasise, if he were here—he is with us on this point —and every driver of a commercial vehicle who exceeds a speed of 20 miles an hour is liable under this Section, if two policemen are prepared to swear that he drove dangerously, and if he gets before a bench of magistrates who are not friendly disposed towards motorists he can be sent to prison for four months. Already he can be heavily fined and his licence taken away indefinitely. That seems to me to be a severe penalty for any man who has to get his living by driving a motor car, whether it is a taxi-cab, a motor car or a motor vehicle. I stand up for those who have to earn their living. The private motorists can look after themselves. They can pay fines, they can engage counsel to defend them, and they can afford to appeal. I am thinking of the democracy of motor- ing, which is growing very much and will continue to grow.

This Clause is most unjust. Every motorist wants to do away with reckless driving. Surely hon. Members will have enough common sense to agree that 90 or 95 per cent. of motorists are not reckless drivers. It is a small percentage who cause the danger, and the great majority of motorists want to do away with that section. But you will never do away with them unless you enlist the support and sympathy of the motoring public as a whole—a public which is expanding every year, and will continue to expand. We must have their support and sympathy, and the support of the associations, commercial or private, which represent them. We must frame legislation in sympathy with the motoring public, business or private, and when we do that we shall be able to get their sympathy, and put down the small minority of reckless drivers.

At the present time every motor driver feels that he has the police against him. We are a law abiding people, and most of us look on the police to help us and protect us, but as soon as we are driving a motor car the policeman is down on us because we drive over 20 miles an hour on the open road, where there is no danger, or over 10 miles an hour in a 10-mile speed limit area, where it is safe to drive 15 miles. While we are doing that the policeman is our enemy.

Until you get the motoring public feeling that the law is framed to prevent reckless driving and not to deal with minor offences, you will never get the motoring public to help you to put down reckless driving. It is for these reasons that I strongly urge the Committee not to be led away by prejudice. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith has been a little unworthy of the skill with which he usually puts forward any case which he has to present. The question of the risk to children has been disposed of by the right hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) [HON. MEMBERS: "NO"]. The ordinary law will deal with any accident where a child, woman or man is injured. This will not strengthen the law in any way in cases of accident. There are penalties for reckless driving. This merely gives magistrates extra power to put people into prison for the first offence on the evidence, perhaps, of one or two policemen. I hope that the arguments of Hon. Members opposite which might, on the face of them, appear to appeal to our sympathies will not lead the House away from the common-sense point of view. The great motor industry, with the expansion of driving, and everybody using mechanicaly-propelled vehicles, will and must progress, and we must not deal with it in a narrow and petty spirit but in the large way which I hope the Government will adopt in the near future. I am very glad that the Home Secretary has seen his way to accept this sensible Amendment.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

I do not think the hon. Member who has just spoken represents in the least, the ordinary democratic motors. He says that the motorists' worst foe is the policeman. I sometimes drive a two-seater, and I regard the policeman as my best friend, because he guards me from the reckless motorist who, in my experience, is generally the wealthy motorist with a very high-powered car. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I am only giving my own experience as a driver of a low-powered car. In my experience of about seven months or so, the worst offenders are the owners of the very high-powered cars, very expensive cars, who claim the right to the crest of the road, and anyone else can go into the ditch. I have had that experience. We want to be saved from the reckless motorist. The hon. Member has put up the case as if under this Clause any tiny breach of the motoring law would render one liable to be sent to prison. In my experience, as long as a person is driving carefully they are protected by the police. It is only the reckless driver who is caught up.

The whole mass of motorists would welcome this Clause. It is the reckless driver who interferes with the pleasure of people on the road, whether they are driving or walking. The increased number of accidents is due mainly to the minority of motorists, who have no care for anybody else. If the Clause is as silly as has been put forward, why was it originally put in? It is said that this is something quite special—that the case of the drunken motorists is an excrescence on the Bill, and that this is a little further excrescence that has come along. Presumably, it was originally put in because the matter was urgent. We are all agreed in regard to the drunken motorist; let us be agreed with regard to the reckless motorist. In the interests of the ordinary driver, we must strengthen the law. It is the wealthy driver of a car who does not care; he can pay all the fines that can be imposed upon him. The only person whom this is going to touch is the wealthy road hog, who does not care anything for fines or for other people. I hope that the House will retain this provision.

Photo of Mr John Palin Mr John Palin , Newcastle upon Tyne West

It is very proper for my hon. Friends on this side to take all steps to protect the lives of little children, and to make road transport safe. I am concerned not about the road hog or those who drive motor cars, but about some 70,000 or 80,000 pople who get their living on the road, workmen who are subject to conditions which may bring them within the law, and get them four months' imprisonment for something over which they have no control. A great many road transport companies allow their drivers a certain limit of time in which to take their goods, say, from Newcastle to Liverpool. No matter what happens on the road they are paid only for a certain amount of time. If the vehicle goes wrong they can repair it in their own time, and if they carry out their instructions there will be frequent infractions of the law if they are to keep their jobs.

The same thing happens in the case of chars-a-bane and motor coach drivers. There are certain time limits within which the journey say, from London to Brighton, has to be done. The company make no allowance for any delays that have to take place. They know that the drivers will break the law if they adhere to the schedule. From that point of view alone an ample case could be made out before there is any legislation upon this subject. I am a firm believer in the principle that prevention is a great deal better than cure. The fact that you send a person to gaol for four months does not restore life, but a great many safeguards could be included in such a Bill as the Minister of Transport has promised to-day. Not only could there be co-operation between the Law Officers of the Crown and the Transport Officers of the Crown, but also those organisations such as the organised road transport workers could suggest proper safeguards such as we find in some parts of the country which may prevent a child getting on the roads. I think in all the circumstances that the Home Secretary should be committed to withdraw this Clause so that the matter may be further considered.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

The point made by the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Mr. Palin) is a very good argument in favour of hon. gentlemen opposite. It was brought up by an important deputation which waited on the Home Secretary last year. We were accompanied by the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Captain Brass), who is well known as an advocate of the speedy motorist.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

I emphasised the fact that I was very much against any reckless driving. My hon. and gallant Friend will bear me out in that.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I said the "speedy" motorist. However, I gather that the hon. and gallant Member is not a champion of the speedy motorist, though, judging by his questions, he seemed to be attacking the police, and I found it necessary to complain to the Home Secretary against these attacks. I am sorry that the Home Secretary did not observe that I was in the House, as in that event he might not have given way on this Amendment. The hon. Member for Newcastle has raised a point which must be cleared up. You have the employer who makes his men run to schedule. I have taken the trouble to go into this matter. I have consulted a great many men who work for their living on the road. These men are actually fined, and if they are late and if anything occurs the real culprit escapes and these men go to prison. It is the unfortunate driver and not the real breaker of the law who suffers. That is a very unfair state of the law, and I hope that, when the Bill is brought in next year, that will be remedied though what sort of reception it will get after the speeches made by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) and others, I cannot say. I hope that this matter will be carefully legislated for so as to deal with the growing evil of the char-a-banc companies in many parts of the country and of the commercial vehicle owners. But I am astonished when the hon. Member for West Newcastle says that steps should be taken to keep the children off the road. They have no proper gardens and the road is the only place where they can play.

Photo of Mr John Palin Mr John Palin , Newcastle upon Tyne West

I am sure the hon. Member does not desire to misrepresent me. But there are certain safeguards that can be adopted to prevent children getting suddenly on to the road such as having a fence so that they may be protected when they run clown steep places, side roads leading to main motor roads, and so on.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

That is a different proposition. But we do not want to have to tie children by a rope to the front garden fence. The children have a right to be on the road and the pedestrian has a right to be on the road. It is the King's highway, but now apparently it belongs to the motorist. I think that the mind of the representatives of the motorist has been expressed by the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth. When I went with the hon. Member to see the Home Secretary on this matter of improving the law, I had a great many letters from all over the country. But the hon. Member apparently is going to object just as strongly to this clause being in the new Bill. The reason for accepting this Amendment is said to be next year's Bill. It is said that we are to have a Bill which will include this Clause and therefore, it is not necessary to deal with it now.

Photo of Sir Frank Meyer Sir Frank Meyer , Great Yarmouth

In the new Bill there will be a definition of reckless driving, and I shall be only too pleased to have a proper Bill.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

The definition with which we are dealing, which is given in section (1), sub-section (1) of the Motor Car Act, 1903, says that if a person drives a motor car on the public highway, recklessly or negligently, or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public, having regard to the circumstances of the case, and so on, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act. If the Government can improve on that, which is in a Conservative Act, apparently they will have opposition from hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for West Yarmouth said, "We are motorists and the police are against us, they are our enemies." He is one of the members of the party of law and order. I wonder whether the great heads of the Communist party in Moscow have really mended their ways and secretly enlisted the sympathies of hon. Members opposite? It would, perhaps, be much more effective. Then he complains that a conviction can be obtained on the small evidence of one or two police constables. [HON. MEMBERS: "One."] No, he said "one or two." Since when does the party opposite impugn the veracity of police constables? Apparently when the police constables arrest members of their own class.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

The point is that the police have never driven cars, and do not know at what rate a car is going.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

That does not tally with the suggested democratisation of motoring. The hon. Member does not accept the veracity of the police, but their evidence can be accepted when it is against working men. The Home Secretary will bear me out when I say that in the present state of the law the policeman's task is often very difficult. The police throughout the country are carrying out their duties towards motorists in a very careful and sympathetic way, and I do not think it is right to talk of them as the "enemies" of the motorist. I have read to the House the definition of reckless driving. I challenge the Home Secretary to improve on this definition next year. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take administrative action at once after what the hon. Member for West Newcastle-on- Tyne (Mr. Palin) has said, and what was said by a deputation last summer about employers who forced their employés, in driving commercial vehicles, to break the law. I hope that that matter will be taken up very seriously by the Home Secretary. I can see that the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe is going to fight any tightening of the law against reckless motorists. This is a little piece on account, and hon. Members opposite are going to resist it. This Clause gives the option of ordering imprisonment of a man who is so skilful that, while being a very nuisance and scandal on the roads, is fortunate enough not to damage life or limb. You can get that man under this Clause. It is a great pity that the Home Secretary has allowed himself to be browbeaten by his supporters.

Photo of Mr Samuel Roberts Mr Samuel Roberts , Hereford

We have just been entertained by the usual kind of tirade from the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy). His speech has been amusing, though he tried to preach the class war from the Liberal Benches. The speech was amusing as an attack on the aristocracy by an hon. Member who himself, in the course of nature, will go to another place. Unfortunately he seems to have entirely missed speaking about any acts which are relevant to this issue. The whole point is that, although there is a certain amount of dispute in Courts as to whether an individual is drunk or not, yet on the whole, looking at it from the point of view of the magistrate hearing the evidence, it is fairly easy, comparatively, to come to a decision with regard to that point and not to convict people unjustly. With regard to reckless driving, the matter is very much more difficult. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have been in, or witnesses of, a motor accident. They may be certain that each side in that accident immediately starts to say that the other side was driving recklessly. In every case that gets into the County Court, the same thing is said. The difficulty in accepting the evidence is enormous, and the danger of wrongful conviction is very great.

Hon. Members opposite seem to think that it would be right for hon. Members on this side to be wrongfully convicted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] That is exactly the kind of feeling I would have expected from them. It would give them pleasure to see my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Clitheroe wrongfully convicted. Out of their mouths shall their charity be judged. The whole point is that the danger of wrongful conviction is so great, that it is not right to put into the hands of two magistrates sitting together the right to send a man to prison without the option of a fine, to force him to appeal and get the conviction quashed at Quarter Sessions at the cost of very great mental agony and strain. That, surely, is a case where the punishment does not fit the crime. If you get the law ahead of public opinion, as in America, the law will be brought into contempt. We must wait until we get the motoring law brought up to date, get offences properly defined, and then there will be no one in the motoring world who will object to serious penalties when the Jaw is broken.

Photo of Mr William Mackinder Mr William Mackinder , Shipley

I suggest very seriously that the Home Office would not have asked for this Clause to be inserted unless there were some real and specific reason why it should be in the Bill. When a drunken man is in charge of a car on the highway, the public is in very great danger that he may drive that car. I have a very strong feeling of dislike of the motorist who is in possession of the car on the highway. I suggest to hon. Members that if there is a motor oar, and a drunken man in possession of it, there is every likelihood that he will drive it, and if he drives it there is every likelihood of an accident. Prevention is better than cure. That man should be fined for being in charge of a. car which he is not fit to drive.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

That argument is relevant to one of the other Amendments.

Photo of Mr William Mackinder Mr William Mackinder , Shipley

I understand that the proposal of the Home Secretary is to withdraw the whole Clause.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

No. May I explain that I have accepted the penalty for drunkenness.

Photo of Mr William Mackinder Mr William Mackinder , Shipley

There has been great stress laid on reckless driving, consisting of speeding. I would like the attention of the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe on this subject. The point is that reckless driving consists mainly of speeding. I suggest that any person found going round a corner where a white line is marked at an undue speed should be convicted of reckless driving. The white line is placed there to ensure that a reasonable speed is observed going round the corner. The driver knows that he cannot go round and keep within the white line, unless he is travelling at a reasonable speed, and any driver exceeding a reasonable speed ought to be prosecuted. I hail with a great deal of pleasure, as a user of the road, the introduction of the white line at various parts of the highway. I hope it will be more extensively used and that any who disregard its use will be convicted of reckless driving. I hope the Home Secretary will allow us to vote upon the Clause and I for one shall certainly support it.

Photo of Mr Richard Deans Mr Richard Deans , Sheffield Park

I am not myself a motorist. I am simply one of the public. It has been said that to the motorist people are divided into two classes— "the quick and the dead." At present I am one of the quick. I only rise to say that the hon. baronet the Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) does not express my opinion in what he has said regarding police. The police are the enemies only of the lawbreakers, and the policeman is only doing his duty if he arrests or brings to justice anybody who is breaking the law, whether motorist or anybody else, and I strongly deprecate that any Member of this House should talk about the police as my hon. Friend has talked about them. This is the place where the laws are made and we ought to have respect for the law and for all the people who administer it from the judge to the policeman. I support the omission of this part of the Clause because, as one who has had as much experience of these cases in the courts, I think, as anybody else, I can assure hon. Members opposite who take such a strong view that the question of what is reckless driving is extraordinarily difficult to decide. I venture to say that if 50 of the hon. Members sitting opposite were to hear a case of alleged reckless driving, 25 would come to the conclusion that it was reckless driving and the other 25, on the same evidence, would come to the conclusion that it was not reckless driving. I think it is a very strong step to empower two magistrates—very often gentlemen who give their services to the country, but who are quite without training in the matter of weighing evidence— to convict a man who is driving a motor lorry and send him to prison for four months for a first offence on what is very often simply a matter of opinion.

Photo of Mr Samuel March Mr Samuel March , Poplar South Poplar

I support the removal of this portion of the Clause as one who has had some road experience. I have driven on the road myself for 25 years before becoming an official of the organisation of the men who are now driving on the road, and I desire a consolidation of the laws and regulations relating to the use of the road. I think some of my hon. Friends here do not quite understand the position. The road law is split up among so many different Acts of Parliament that one can scarcely get at it. The Ministry of Transport is the proper body to bring forward road regulations and they should introduce a comprehensive Measure instead of having them in the present complicated state spread over different parts of different Acts. If these regulations were unified it would be beneficial not only to the drivers of mechanically propelled vehicles, but to foot passengers as well. We are all desirous of preventing accidents on the road and of preventing any people from monopolising the road. Reference has been made to the white line as though it is going to prevent drivers from occupying more than a certain share of the road at corners. I would point out that we are now getting on the roads very large mechanically propelled vehicles, quite different from the fast two-seaters to which reference has been made. We are now getting six-wheeled vehicles which require careful working round corners and we must have wider roads if the driver is to have an opportunity of keeping within the line. I hope that matter will be provided for in the Bill which is to be brought forward by the Ministry of Transport.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

I wish to direct the attention of the Home Secretary to a matter concerning the action of the authorities who control the use of postal vans. In Glasgow, recently, there have been four serious accidents, and I have had to communicate with the Postmaster-General in regard to them. In the ordinary course the drivers of these vans would have been taken up and the owners of the vans would have got into trouble, but in the case of the Post Office no action can be taken since the Crown cannot be sued. This is not the fault of the men driving the vans. If there is a late arrival of a train at one of the terminal stations in Glasgow the driver has to make a dash with the mails—

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

I understand that if the driver cannot be sued, the matter is not relevant to this Clause.

Photo of Mr George Hardie Mr George Hardie , Glasgow Springburn

I am speaking of the owners, and I am pointing out the position which arises if any Government Department is to be allowed to do what it likes in this respect. I wish the Home Secretary to take this matter up and to direct the attention of the proper authorities to it, and if there are not regulations to deal with the matter, I hope that in consideration for the public some steps will be taken.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

I think this is a very brazen Amendment, and I am not surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Clitheroe (Captain Brass) should be supporting it. He is the champion of the motorists who own high-powered cars, and he has sought to extend their license at the expense of the liberty of the ordinary pedestrian.

Photo of Sir William Brass Sir William Brass , Clitheroe

I have not done anything of the kind.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

I leave that to the House. I have a lively recollection of the hon. and gallant Member having taken upon himself the work of propaganda in order to increase the powers of motorists and decrease the ordinary liberties of the people. An hon. Member opposite has said that we on this side want to get motorists convicted unfairly. We do not want to do anything of the kind. We do want to see that when they are convicted they shall be properly punished. The proposal which the Home Secretary declines seeks to impose what I think is a reasonable penalty. After all, what is a fine to the well-to-do motorists? They can pay any amount in the way of money without feeling it at all seriously; but when it comes to a matter of imprisonment, they are very much more reluctant to face that kind of punishment. I am sorry my hon. Friend on my right supports this proposal, because from my knowledge of the working people—and I come into contact with them much more closely than do hon. Members opposite—I can say that they really resent the way in which more and more the motorists of this country are arrogating to themselves the exclusive right to the roads. The ordinary people, and children especially, have to scuttle like rabbits time after time when high-powered cars come along, with a quite reckless disregard of the interests of these ordinary people, and this proposal that they should suffer four months' imprisonment is not, in my opinion, adequate. I would like the see the four months' imprisonment made four months' hard labour, and people who commit the offence of reckless driving, and thereby endanger the lives of their fellow citizens, ought to be made to enjoy the privilege of picking oakum.

We are often told in this House that there is not a class war on. Listening to this discussion this morning, I could not help feeling what a clear illustration it was of the fact that there is a class war on, because, in the main, this discussion has been looked at by hon. Members opposite from the point of view of the wealthy motor owners.—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Colonel Day?"] There are one or two exceptions on this side, but in the main the Members on this side are looking at it from the point of view of the great mass of the people, who do not own motorcars, and are never likely to, until we get a more equitable system of society.

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

What has this to do with four months' imprisonment?

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

I cannot understand why it is that the Home Secretary has made this concession. It seems to me that he has been guilty of a gross betrayal of the rights of the ordinary pedestrian public, and I think there must have been very powerful influences brought to bear to influence him in this way. I cannot help thinking, for instance, that his friend the noble lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon) has had something to do with this particular decision, because there are members of the public about, including the Noble Lord, who like to go along the roads at a very high rate of speed, and who do not wish to have adequate penalties imposed upon them if their going along at a high rate of speed endangers the safety of the general public. I protest very strongly on behalf of the ordinary people, the people who have a right to walk across the roads, and the people whose children have a right, as they have nowhere else to play, to play upon the roads, against the Home Secretary agreeing to this proposal and not making the punishment for reckless driving properly fit the crime.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

I wish to protest very emphatically against the right hon. Gentleman's method of treating the business which we have had to handle in the Committee. He has judicially presented his view that it was absolutely essential to take both of those factors with which we have been dealing, the two types of Amendments, dealing with separate circumstances, and he has judicially arrived at the conclusion that in both cases it was imperative to tighten up the penalties. Ho has severely condemned the man who is termed drunk, and said it is a very bad crime, whether it is in the morning, the afternoon, or the evening. It is a process that is arrived at simply by intoxication. But with this particular Amendment you have a man in full sobriety, who knows, or ought to know, what he is doing, and he is pursuing a course recognised by the law as utterly objectionable and calling for additional penalties.

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

On a point of Order. If the hon. Member is making a personal attack upon myself in regard to something I said in Committee, I have here the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Committee stage on the Bill, and the discussion on this Amendment, and I was not present that day.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

Of course, I was not referring to a particular quotation from yourself. What I was referring to was the fact that your Department—

HON. MEMBERS:

Order!

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Scrymgeour) must really address me.

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

I accept the correction, but I am endeavouring to clear up what apparently is a misunderstanding between the right hon. Gentleman and myself. As a Member of the Committee I had to do with a Bill presented by the Home Office, and on some occasions we had the Homo Secretary, and at other times we had the Under-Secretary present, and one or other was dealing with that Bill. Certainly the Department was supporting the Clause, naturally enough, with which we are dealing now. Pressure was put on to drop the previous Amendment, with which we have dealt already in the House, and here again we find that additional pressure has been brought to bear to cut out that particular phase of it where there is no excuse for talking about intoxication at all, but where there is complete sobriety; and you find hon. Members on the other side deliberately standing up to the position that there ought not to be imposed these additional penalties. I submit that that points more clearly than ever to what the country is feeling, namely that the powerful influences that are behind those who utilise the majority of those cars over the coun- try that are speeding at such a terrific rate are of such a nature that we are going to have the greatest difficulty in protecting human life in the country. The fact that the Home Secretary is now, whether he did in Committee or not, announcing his acceptance of this Amendment proves what I am saying, that all the time there is the influence, and we hope it will be defeated in the Lobby today.

Photo of Mr John Potts Mr John Potts , Barnsley

In the interests of the public at large, let me say that, as a matter of knowledge and experience, on the King's highway to-day it is always a question of the public having to jump out of the way of the motor car, or else being killed or injured. What I want to put to the Home Secretary is this: Is it not a fact that, under the 1835 Highway Act, the public have a prior claim to the highway to that of the vehicles, and in case of danger, is it not the case, strictly in law, that the vehicles ought to pull up for the safety of persons travelling on the highway? If that be so, will the Home Secretary issue instructions to the authorities to have that carried out in the country, which will prevent accidents?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I think the hon. Member put the law a little too far.

I think the public have an equal right with a. vehicle on the highway.

Photo of Mr John Potts Mr John Potts , Barnsley

I will put the question again. The Home Secretary is trying to get away from the point. Is it not a fact that in law the public have the prior claim -never mind equal?

Photo of Mr William Joynson-Hicks Mr William Joynson-Hicks , Twickenham

I have just said I think they have not. The Law Officers of the Crown are not here, but I believe my answer is correct. Now may I ask hon. Members to come to a decision? We have got on so far without having to ask for the Closure. We have had a very fair discussion of this matter, and I appeal to the House to come to a decision.

Photo of Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy Commander Hon. Joseph Kenworthy , Kingston upon Hull Central

I do not want to delay the proceedings. The point I wish to put is, whether there is any means of obtaining the attendance of the Law Officers of the Crown?

Photo of Mr James Hope Mr James Hope , Sheffield Central

That is not a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member has exhausted his right of speaking.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 183.

Division No. 380.]AYES.[12.59 p.m.
Adamson, Ht. Hen. W. (Fife, West)Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)Sexton, James
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')Hardle, George D.Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
Ammon, Charles GeorgeHenderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)Sitch, Charles H.
Attlee, Clement RichardHirst, W. (Bradford, South)Sesser, Sir Henry H.
Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)Smillie, Robert
Baker, WaiterJohn, William (Rhondda, West)Smith, Rennle (Penistone)
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)Snell, Harry
Barnes, A.Kelly, W. T.Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles
Barr, J.Kennedy, T.Stamford, T. W.
Batey, JosephKenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.Sutton, J. E.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)Kenyon, BarnetThorne, W. (West Hum, Plaistow)
Briant, FrankLansbury, GeorgeThurtle, E.
Broad, F. A.Lawson, John JamesTinker, John Joseph
Bromfield, WilliamLee, F.Townend, A. E.
Buchanan, G.Livingstone, A. M.Viant, S. P.
Cape, ThomasLunn, WilliamWalsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen
Clowes, S.MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J,R.(Aberavon)Watson, W. M. (Duntermline)
Cluse, W. S.Mackinder, W.Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)MacLaren, AndrewWedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Cove, W. G.Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)Westwood, J.
Dalton, HughMitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)Montague, FrederickWilliams, David (Swansea, East)
Day, Colonel HarryMorris, R. H.Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Dennison, R.Naylor, T. E.Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)Paling, W.Windsor, Walter
Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.Ponsonby, ArthurWright, W.
Greenall, T.Potts, John S.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)Robinson, W. C.(Yorks, W.R., Elland)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Groves, T.Scrymgeour, E.Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.
Grundy, T. W.Scurr, JohnCharles Edwards.
Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southward, N.)
NOES.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)Grace, JohnPease, William Edwin
Applin, Colonel R. V. K.Grotrian, H. BrentPeto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.Hacking, Captain Douglas H.Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. StanleyHall, Capt. W. D 'A. (Brecon & Rad.)Pilcher, G.
Barnston, Major Sir HarryHannon, Patrick Joseph HenryPownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton
Beamish, Captain T. P. H.Harland, A.Price, Major C. W. M.
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)Harrison, G. J. C.Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel
Bennett, A. J.Hartington, Marquess ofRawson, Alfred Cooper
Berry, Sir GeorgeHarvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)Remnant, Sir James
Betterton, Henry B.Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)Rentoul, G. S.
Birchall, Major J. DearmanHenderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.
Blades, Sir George RowlandHerbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar. & Wh'by)Rice, Sir Frederick
Bourne, Captain Robert CroftHilton, CecilRoberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)
Bowater, Sir T. VansittartHoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. C.Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Brass, Captain W.Holt, Captain H. P.Salmon, Major I.
Brassey, Sir LeonardHoman, C. W. J.Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William CliveHopkins, J. W. W.Sandeman, A. Stewart
Briggs, J. HaroldHoward, Captain Hon. DonaldSassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.
Briscoe, Richard GeorgeHurd, Percy A.Savery, S. S.
Brocklebank, C. E. R.Jacob, A. E.Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)
Broun-Lindsay, Major H.Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)Slaney, Major P. Kenyon
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks, Newb'y)Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir WilliamSmith, R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Bullock, Captain M.Kennedy, A. R. (Preston).Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir AlanKing, Capt. Henry DouglasSmithers, Waldron
Cadogan, Major Hon. EdwardKinloch-Cooke, Sir ClementSomerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Campbell, E. T.Lamb, J. Q.Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Cassels, J. D.Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir PhilipSpender Clay, Colonel H.
Cautley, Sir Henry S.Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)Sprot, Sir Alexander
Chadwick, Sir Robert BurtonLoder, J. de V.Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)
Christie, J. A.Lord, Walter Greaves-Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
Clayton, G. C.Lougher, L.Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh VereSteel, Major Samuel Strang
Cooper, A. DuffLuce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard HarmanStorry Deans, R.
Cope, Major WilliamLumley, L. R.Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.
Couper, J. B.MacAndrew, Charles GlenSueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir HenryMacdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)McDonnell, Colonel Hon. AngusTempleton, W. P.
Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)Macintyre, IanThompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)Macmillan, Captain H.Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)
Cunliffe, Joseph HerbertMcNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald JohnTitchfield, Major the Marquess of
Curzon, Captain ViscountMacquisten, F. A.Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Dalkeith, Earl ofMaitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Davies, Dr. VernonMalone, Major P. B.Wallace, Captain D. E.
Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)Manningham-Buller, Sir MervynWarner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Dixey, A. C.March, S.Warrender, Sir Victor
Drewe, C.Marriott, Sir J. A. R.Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Edmondson, Major A. J.Meyer, Sir FrankWatson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)
Elliot, Captain Walter E.Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-Wells, S. R.
Elveden, ViscountMitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dairymple
Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Fairfax, Captain J. G.Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Falle, Sir Bertram G.Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)Winby, Colonel L. P.
Fanshawe, Commander G. D.Moore, Sir Newton J.Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Fermoy, LordMoore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Forrest, W.Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)Wise, Sir Fredric
Foxcroft, Captain C. T.Murchison, C. K.Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Fraser, Captain IanNelson, Sir FrankWorthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Ganzoni, Sir JohnNewton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George AbrahamNuttall, Ellis
Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir JohnOrmsby-Gore, Hon. WilliamTELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Glyn, Major R. G. C.Owen, Major G.Major Hennessy and Captain
Goff, Sir ParkPalin, John HenryMargesson.

Question, "That line 13 stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.