In the first place, may I make a protest against the Committee stage being resumed to-day? It will be remembered that on 8th February I moved to report Progress on the ground that the Law Reform Bill, which we have just been discussing, ought to be in its final form before we considered this Bill. The Law Reform Bill has now received its Second Reading, but that does not mean that it may not be altered later in Committee, and I think it is really treating the Committee a little unfairly to take the proceedings on this Bill this afternoon. I am certain that in normal times the protest would be a much stronger one than the one I feel inclined to make now.
This first Clause, which I think we ought to vote against, really deals with the main principle of the Bill. It is a marvellous example of how not to draft a Bill. Everything has been done backwards, at least that is how it looks to me, and I hope that in due course the Solicitor-General, or the Attorney-General, or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport, will assure us that, after having read the Bill, he really understands it. It looks to me that it says, in a rather complicated way, that on a bicycle there must be a white patch, a red reflector and, in addition, a lamp, which is presumably alight. I know the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) is not much worried whether the light is on or off, but we will come to discuss that later. His interest has somewhat diminished, but obviously because he wants to make sure that his friends carry one of Lucas's—
I will refrain from my reference to the firm of Lucas until we reach the new Clause. With great respect I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary was quite as open with us as he should have been. I made some reference in the previous Debate, which I think was last week, to the fact that statistics had not been made as fully available as they should have been to hon. Members. As a result of that protest, the figures month by month for the last two years were brought to light. I do not want anybody to think that those reports by any means represent a satisfactory analysis. They are a very poor analysis, because they have divided the day into hours of darkness and hours of light, but what we really want to know is what happens, say, about eight o'clock in the morning when the workmen are cycling to work; what is happening in a lesser degree round about the mid-day meal time, when about half of them are on their machines again; and what is happening somewhere between five and six in the evening. These are the periods when there are lots of bicycles on the road and, if my observation is correct, when the bulk of the accidents take place.
So far as these figures can be analysed, bicycle accidents in the main take place in daylight. That is the first interesting point. Then, there are more in summer time than in winter. It may be that there are more bicycles on the road then, and more vehicles to cause the injuries to cyclists, but there is no doubt that in summer there are more accidents than there are in daylight and at night in winter. Every month there are over 100 tragedies on the roads. The reports do not indicate at all what is the cause of these accidents, and to what extent they are due to one vehicle overrunning the other, which is what we want to discover to-day. There is no information at all about this in these reports. There is an analysis made by the police which shows that the vehicle principally concerned in, I think, about 13 per cent. of the cases is the bicycle. It does not indicate whether it was the bicycle which killed somebody or whether it was the cyclist who killed himself through his own fault. It is really a deplorable analysis.
The point is that the bulk of the accidents happen at eight in the morning, round about mid-day, and between five and six. That is what I said. It is obvious that the Noble Lady, who is so anxious to talk, did not trouble to listen. If she did listen, she did not understand. I do not think the Minister was candid in this respect. He led us to believe that if we studied these statistics we should be forced to the conclusion that the case for the rear light had been made out.
Yes, in the pre-war reports, which were issued at two-yearly intervals, the last being in 1937. They contain a good deal of information which is of real value. The figures obtained during the war amply cover the point, but they are very imperfect. We receive them through the police, who are so heavily over-burdened with other duties that we cannot ask them to do more than they are doing.
It is not because the police are over-burdened, but because they are not instructed to analyse the figures properly. What is the use of having statistics unless the causation is shown? There is no indication of causation. The police know perfectly well that if 80 cyclists have been killed in a month, their reports should come under such headings as "Ran into an obstruction," "Ran into a vehicle ahead," "Overrun by a vehicle," or "Tripped in a tramline." There are half-a-dozen main causes, and if we had reports which gave some indication—
May I read what my hon. Friend might have found in the documents in the Library?
The term 'vehicle primarily involved' means:
In neither case does it imply that the driver of the vehicle was culpable. To make a closer analysis than that would involve a heavy burden on the police. I know, because I have been studying the matter for new arrangements to be made after the war, and it is impossible to ask them, with their present resources of manpower, to do what my hon. Friend suggests should be done.
That is very interesting, because we are told when the bicycle appears as the primary cause of the accident, but we are not told whether the bicycle has killed a pedestrian or whether it has killed a cyclist. We have been told that the bicycle is the primary cause in 13 per cent. of the total, and, as the number of cyclists killed is 13 per cent. of the total, these figures lead to the conclusion that the cyclists killed themselves. These preposterous figures are put before us and this Bill is based on them. I protest against the lack of candour with which we have been treated. There are no figures in the Library and Members can only get them by consulting the records of the reports in the Library and then signing a green form and buying a copy from the Stationery Office. We do not even have a few copies placed in the Vote Office so that Members could have easy access to the pre-war figures. I thought it would be useful to find out what inquiries have been made. In the Second Reading Debate the Parliamentary Secretary said that this Bill was being introduced partly on the advice of the Road Traffic Advisory Council, a body of some 30 people all but one being persons not interested in cycling. What did that body do? We were not told this in the Debate. They appointed a Sub-Committee of 13 persons to carry out experiments on the roads, under varying conditions, to show whether it would be a good or a bad idea to have a rear light on bicycles. The Parliamentary Secretary did not tell us about that. He did not tell us that by a majority, I believe a very small majority, that Committee, which spent months on tests, advised against the rear light.
Certainly. Let me read the answer to a Question, No. 89, which I put down for to-day, but which was not reached. The Question was:
To ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he will place in the Vote Office copies of the report of the Sub-Committee of the Traffic Advisory Committee on the question of rear lights for cycles.
The reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, which was given as a written reply, was:
The Sub-Committee to which my hon. Friend refers were all members of the Traffic Advisory Council, to which their report was submitted. The full Council considered this report and drew up their own findings, which they submitted to the Minister of Transport and which were published as a White Paper in 1938. The Committee did not transmit the report of the Sub-Committee to the Minister, who was, therefore, unable to publish it in the White Paper. Plainly, therefore, my Noble Friend could not publish the report now.
Why could be not? What right has he to introduce a Bill based on a report which, in turn, was a reversal of a report of experts? Parliament ought to see that report, and it is discourteous to this Com-
mittee and to another place not to produce it. Some of the youngsters who have just come to Parliament and have no belief in Parliament, do not understand what democracy means and do not care, but some of us do, and we think that legislation ought to be based on an adequate supply of information. Anything else is disrespectful to the House of Commons. I am going to say that by a majority the experts who examined this matter were against rear lights.
Is it not true that four years further back, in 1934, a further committee refused to make such a recommendation as is now suggested in the Bill? I believe that there was a proposal by one member of the Committee, but if members refused to support the proposal and would not recommend it.
Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will reply to that point later on. Those of us who are opposing this Bill are doing it in the sincere belief that this proposal will increase the risk of accidents and not diminish it. The general assumption is that if we pass a law that there shall be a rear light, there will be one. On Saturday I was on the South coast where lots of people ride bicycles, and I inspected as many as I could. I will hazard a guess that at least one half of them had no rear light. I was looking at them during the day, and perhaps it meant that many people never ride at night, and are perhaps wise in not doing so. The fact remains that a very large proportion of the bicycles on the road to-day have no rear lights. We were told that rear lights are marvellous and have vastly improved. In order to establish that fact the Parliamentary Secretary read a letter from the manu- facturers. If I make a thing and the Government ask me: "Are your things good?" I naturally reply with a decisive affirmative. That is what is called good advertising. If I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Gretton) whether Bass's beer was good, he would say: "Certainly," and if I asked the Noble Lady if Plymouth soda water was good, I should have a similar affirmative.
But I am not a producer of whiskey. I am talking about those who produce the goods. Naturally anybody will say that the article he sells is good. I would not be in the least surprised if my old friend the managing director of that firm who, as we all know, is a Member of this House, smiled with appreciation when he saw the letter which the Parliamentary Secretary addressed to the company of which he is chairman. I am not surprised that he is smiling now. He thinks what a good secretary he has. We know that we cannot buy a car without being full of Lucas's stuff, but that does not say that every rear lamp for a bicycle is a good article.
I think accidents will be increased, despite the provisions of the Bill which we have just been discussing, under which in many cases cyclists may get no compensation at all. It is clear from that part of the Debate on the earlier Bill to which I listened that there are elements of uncertainty. I would ask the Government not to press this Bill during the war. Let us have a proper investigation by an impartial body of people. It would not be difficult; one was carried out by a body of interested people, and even they, by a majority, came to the conclusion that this proposal was unjustified. There is no hurry for this legislation: so long as we have the black-out and the Emergency Powers Act, which will last for a couple of years, we can still have the temporary war-time restriction, and I ask the Government not to enact permanent legislation before there has been a proper investigation of the position.
I am very much in favour of the suggestion so admirably stated by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) that the Government should not press this Clause. I would like to assure the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe), who I think was very unkind and, indeed, rude in his suggestion that I was either speaking for a vested interest or reciting somebody else's words, in my objections to the Second Reading of the Bill, that in the remarks I am addressing this afternoon to the Committee I have nobody behind me, nor shares in any battery company. I have certainly no interests in any way connected with any cycling union, cycling club or wheelers' club. They are my own views that I am expressing, and nobody else's.
I appeal to hon. Members to approach this matter not as cyclists or motorists but as Members of Parliament and to judge it in the spirit in which the British Parliament always acts when examining proposals for legislation. It is not the cyclists who are asking for this Measure. In 1934 the committee that was examining this proposal refused to make such a recommendation. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to answer that point. The hon. Member for South Croydon has referred to further evidence of another body or committee which endorsed the opinion of the committee in 1934. Let us look at the position of the motorist. Progress has been made in regard to rear lights. We may remember that 30 years ago even a motor car carried an oil lamp that often went out in a gust of wind. Indeed, ordinary carts on country lanes did not carry rear lights in those days. Nobody bothered about the bicycle having a rear light 30 years ago or about motor cyclists having a rear light 25 years ago. There may have, been a law to the effect, but it was frequently broken.
There have been mechanical improvements which have resulted in almost all motorists, whether driving along a country lane, along a by-pass or across London, being sure that the rear light is working. They can be sure that they are not breaking the law, because science, invention, electricians, motor engineers and those people who make motor cars and lamps, have made the position safe and certain. I ask anyone in this House who has a car to question his conscience, or that of his friend if he likes, and say whether that statement is contrary to the facts or not. I hope hon. Members will judge the arguments dispassionately in regard to what the Bill intends towards cyclists. I believe that the average cyclist has not more than a 50 per cent. chance of observing the provisions of the Bill, if it becomes law. In making the law it is very important to remember that point. We are here as legislators and not as magistrates or policemen. We are making an Act of Parliament to be applied to the ordinary citizens, and the police have to act for us. Consequently we should examine what is likely to happen as a result of what we may decide. I believe that every Member of Parliament will recognise the validity of that appeal. The hon. Member for South Croydon said that various cycles which he saw on Saturday somewhere on the South coast did not have a rear light at all. I would add that in most of the industrial towns, if the wartime order were enforced by the police, 50 per cent. of the war workers would not bother in the winter months about going to work at all. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was a little severe in one of his newspapers towards those who have been pleading the cause of the cyclists, but I believe that 50 per cent, of the miners in South Wales and Yorkshire who have to rely on bicycles would not go to work on some clays of the week if the police were to do their job. The reason would be partly because of the ineffectiveness of the rear-lighting system.
What is the most efficient rear lighting system, such as is being demanded by the Parliamentary Secretary and by this Measure? I am not advertising any particular firm but am speaking as an old cyclist. I would again bring to the notice of the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton the fact that I am not speaking for any club. I believe that the most efficient system is the dynamo set. In the main it works efficiently. It is reliable—provided that nobody steals it when the cycle is parked. Nobody ever stole the rear light of a motor car. [An HON. MEMBER: "They steal the car."] They may take the car, but they do not take it because of the rear light, and for every motor car that is stolen there are 10 bicycles stolen.
I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to find out the num- ber of cases reported in the last 12 months of motorists fined for having no rear light or no means of providing a rear light. I question whether there is one in 10,000 or one in 50,000. These figures do not mean a thing. What is involved here is the efficiency of the rear light, or the ability to provide the light we are demanding. The dynamo set is efficient so long as there is one in working order on the cycle, but in the winter months, when there are ice, snow and frost, it is doubtful whether that set will work efficiently, because the wheel of the dynamo slips, and the rear-light does not provide any more efficient indication than a reflector. There is uncertainty, therefore, in regard to the most efficient method, which is the dynamo.
What is the type of equipment provided on the average cycle to-day? Ninety-five per cent. or more of cycles to-day are equipped with batteries of a kind which, before the war, were mainly provided by Woolworths, because in the main the average cyclist is not a rich person. To the average cyclist his machine is a cheap form of transport, a means of getting out at the week-end, and a means of getting to his work and back home, which saves bus and train fares. Consequently, a few coppers one way or the other makes a lot of difference to the average cyclist. That being so, Woolworths cater for that class of trade, for which the manufacturers produce a very cheap and nasty and inefficient lighting set. Many people who have been carrying torches in the black-out during the last five years, have been as doubtful about them as about their petrol lighters. They have never been certain that they would work when they were needed. Similarly, when a battery set of the type I have described is fixed on the cycle, there are many doubts about its efficiency, which is demanded by this Clause.
The first doubt, if one works at a factory or mine, or goes to school, is, after one has left the machine, whether the light or the lighting set is there at all. Somebody may have stolen it. My two boys had two dynamo sets stolen in one month, when they were at the public baths. In the third month the cycle was taken. Here I wish to make one point clear, because the Parliamentary Secretary may try to catch me behind the wicket by saying, "If the rear light does not work, why is it the front light does?" Most cyclists are able to detach their front light and take it with them into their work and deposit it in their lookers, or some other place of safety. The rear light is screwed or bolted on to the rear of the machine and cannot be detached by the owner in the same way as the front light. Consequently, there is first a doubt as to whether somebody who has not a rear light, has not been along with a spanner to detach one's rear light. To is doubt No. 1. Doubt No. 2, if there is a battery and nobody has stolen it, is whether the battery is working. Doubt No. 3 is whether the bulb is working. Everybody has used torches in the last five years, and many have experienced such a failure, and that is the experience of cyclists in every works in every part of the country to-day. Consequently the cyclist has fears and misgivings. He cannot be sure that the battery will work satisfactorily, or that the bulb will work. In a word, he cannot be sure of his rear light at all.
Assuming the rear light is working when the cyclist starts on his journey home at night—and most of the argument is concerned with night time—that the container, battery and torch are in proper order at the beginning of his journey, there are so many doubts and misgivings and so many uncertainties about the rear light that it is fairly obvious the cyclist has not more than a 50 per cent. chance of observing the law. Evidence is asked for, and evidence is to be found. I challenge any Member of this House to ask the chief officers of police of their towns, especially if they represent industrial areas, about what happens. Such officers maintain, as I have already indicated, that not more than 50 per cent. of the cyclists have been bothering about rear lights, and they add that they dare not take them to court because it would interfere unduly with industry.
May I here express my gratitude for the sincerity of the Minister in correcting a wrong impression he gave during earlier proceedings on the Bill? He then said that there were ample and sufficient supplies of batteries. He has since written a letter to three or four hon. Members, including myself, acknowledging that he was ill-informed or misinformed, and that he found there was not only a scarcity, but a tremendous shortage, of batteries, through circumstances over which we have no control. But this Measure is for peace time. I am not putting the argument on a sentimental basis. I am trying to show to the Minister and the House that if the cyclist wishes to be a good honourable citizen, if he wishes to avoid prosecution, to avoid the punishment that follows from this Measure, his chances of doing so are not more than 50 per cent. It is more than likely that if the police become insistent on doing their job, there will be a big increase in the number of people brought before courts of summary jurisdiction.
That carries one to the question of the alternative. I believe that while the inventors, scientists and motor manufacturers have stood by the motorist, they have let the cyclist down. The cyclist has not had the benefit or advantage of all the improvements that have been devised to aid locomotion. For example, on the main roads to-day one may see very fine reflectors known to the local authorities as "cats' eyes." Many motorists know them; they are indeed most effective as reflectors. Why have bulb manufacturers or cycle manufacturers not produced something as efficient as these "cats' eyes" for rear reflectors for cycles, knowing full well that the lamp battery does not work, and the dynamo is uncertain, and that the old oil lamp is as out of date as the candle? Even modern cycles which I saw on Doncaster Station yesterday showed no attempt to provide something up-to-date, something as efficient and satisfactory as a rear light. I make this appeal to manufacturers: "You have tackled the job of bringing about streamlined cars and other wonderful inventions for the motorist. For goodness' sake tackle this job of providing something efficient for the cyclist," so that the cyclist does not have to rely on something that is doubtful, inefficient, fragile, and, in the main, unworkable.
I question whether we really have examined this issue of supplies. I am terribly suspicious—and I do not like being suspicious—about certain trade interests. After the war very few people will be carrying these confounded torches. It had been suggested to me, not by evil-minded persons, but by citizens of good will, and even by magistrates, two of whom wrote to me the other day, that this is going to be a fine thing for the manufacturers of batteries, because it assures them of a market for 50,000,000 batteries after the war. [Interruption.] The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would be suspicious of the brewers if such a thing affected their interests. I suggest that a case has been made out this afternoon, which is unanswerable. If we pass this Bill into law—and I am not preaching sentiment, such as was objected to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brighton or by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and his colleagues in the "Tribune," but stark, naked facts—the average cyclist has not much chance of observing this law. It would be wrong for us to place on the Statute Book a law under which, we know beforehand, people have not more than a 50 per cent. chance of avoiding being prosecuted by the police.
My only desire is to assist my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. We know that this Bill is not his; he is the foster parent. It was more nobly born; it comes from the gilded surroundings of the other House. I think it was conceived in impetuosity by Lord Leathers. The Parliamentary Secretary is loyal to him. He has put up his case splendidly, as he always does.
I was coming to the most unsatisfactory feature of this child, which is this Clause. It seems to me that everybody will agree with the Parliamentary Secretary—and certainly the Clause refers to this point—that a red light is an additional safeguard. "Cats' eyes" would possibly also be an additional safeguard, but there is this trouble. Under the present custom, the motorist is responsible for driving safely at night. If there is an accident, and the cyclist is in a condition to-make his case for compensation, he simply says, "My light was lit." The motorist says, "It cannot have been lit; I would have seen it." That is an impossible legal situation. No matter how you examine a case like that, there is no possible basis on which you can give judgment. It would be much wiser if the Parliamentary Secretary would advise the Minister of Transport to let us have a little time to consider the and this Clause especially. We all know, as cyclists and motorists—we on this side are naturally cyclists, and Members of the party opposite are motorists—that the real danger on the roads at night is the dazzle headlight. Why the Ministry are not dealing with that question, I do not know.
I am one of your unfortunate victims, Mr. Williams. You very often advise me, and I am always humbly grateful for your advice. Therefore, I shall not delay the Committee if I cannot infer that a better child could have been born, and should have been born. I must bow to your Ruling, but, with great respect, if we are asked to pass a Clause in which a red lamp is indicated as a cure-all, am I not in a position to say that the Minister would be wiser to withdraw the Bill?
It is perfectly true that this Clause may be the body of the Bill, but in my Ruling I must take the Clause as a unit, and not consider what will happen to the Bill if this Clause is killed.
The wisdom of the "Tribune" was coming to me. I was beginning to realise my mistake, but a Clause by any other name means just as much. It is obvious that the deep seriousness of my remarks is not appreciated, and, therefore, I will content myself with this observation. I stand before this nation as an enemy of the rear light. I realise that the pedestrian is also involved. We bring the innocent pedestrian into this tragedy we are discussing, and therefore I suggest that the Parliamentary Secretary should listen to the wise advice of the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams). I hope he will realise that this Clause, which is the body of the Bill—the Deputy-Chairman was good enough to reinforce me in that—was unfortunately conceived, and should never have been born.
I have been very much agitated about this Bill from the very beginning. I think the Committee will acquit me of coming to the rescue of a Government Measure, merely on the grounds that it is a Government Measure. Therefore, I have been at some pains to try to make up my mind what I ought to do about this Clause. It seems to me that the opponents of the Clause have been trying to prove too much. In the first place, surely, in regard to the proportion of cyclists killed during the hours of darkness, to those killed during the hours of daylight, it has never occurred to them that, because 60 per cent. are killed during the hours of daylight, and 40 per cent. during the hours of darkness, there is any reason why we should not try to save the 40 per cent.
No, it indicates the distribution of the causation of accidents. It would still be open for us to prove that many of the 40 per cent. would be alive if the machines were sufficiently illuminated. There is nothing in that point at all. There are a number of other elements which my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) indicated, because he himself, with his usual sagacity, realised on what extremely thin ice he was treading. I suggest that the reason why more cyclists are killed by day than by night, is that there are more cyclists abroad by day. That may have some relevance, because, as a general rule, cyclists prefer to cycle by day rather than by night. More go on the roads, and more are killed. I do not understand why all these statistics have been introduced into the matter, and why the Parliamentary Secretary was accused, with such heat, of having withheld from the Committee information which would not have served us at all, if we had had it. All of us have enough experience to guide us upon this matter, and, of course, nothing arouses greater passion than this business of whether you are a motorist or a cyclist or pedestrian. If you are a pedestrian, you hate both cycles and cars. If you are in a car, you hate cyclists—
Yes, and pedestrians; it depends where you are. I have found the most passionate feeling in every category. Therefore, we have to try to make up our minds how we can devise a system by which all who have access to the roads can enjoy that right without being unnecessarily slaughtered. It is no use for hon. Members to argue that reflectors are adequate. Anyone who has driven a car on English roads and lanes, especially during the twilight hours, knows what real nonsense that is. In going round a left-hand bend, how can you get your own lights on a cyclist on the edge of the road? Your own lights are diverted away from him, and you are on top of him before you can see him.
Because nobody has yet suggested that it is not an additional safeguard. All these things are additional safeguards. Of course they are, and, therefore, everything which, itself, makes a contribution to safety, ought to be included, but nobody will argue that that is an adequate protection, because we know very well that it is not. Consider once more the point I was making. If your car is going in the direction of a left-hand bend, and there is a cyclist on the left, you cannot put your lights on him. Take the other case, which I have found over and over again, though I have been fortunate enough not to have been involved in an accident. I have been frightened — really frightened — when driving a little car because cyclists going home from work usually dress in dark, working clothes. They do not normally wear their best clothes for work, but either grey or black clothing, which is almost indistinguishable from the gathering shadows around them. They are going at four, five or six miles an hour, and you are going in a car at 20, 30 or 40 miles an hour, and the difference between the two speeds is so great, that you are on top of the cyclists before you see them. Surely, it is folly to suggest that the House of Commons ought not to try, if it can, to protect the cyclists against this. I suggest that we should approach this matter in a spirit of more seriousness. If I were the father of children, I should be frightened to send them on the roads, as cyclists, unprotected.
Would the hon. Member, as a father of children, feel confident that, in turning them out on to the roads with a battery set, they were adequately and properly protected by the red rear light?
I am coming to that in a moment. It is not a relevant interruption at all. It would not be less safe for them. Even if you argue that the battery is inadequate, you cannot argue that the cyclist would not be in greater danger without one, than with it. The point does not arise. The fact is that, at the present time, cyclists and motorists are on the roads and we must try to devise some way in which they can enjoy themselves safely. There is the other matter of the lights of the oncoming car. If you take off your own lights—
The point is this. My hon. Friend spoke of doing something about the dazzle from the lights of other cars. I am not dealing with that point. All I am saying is that, if reflectors are regarded as adequate for cyclists, then when you take off the lights of your car the effect has gone. I am speaking precisely of the relationship between the headlights of a motor-car and the reflector. The motorist is in a double difficulty. At the moment when he has already been sufficiently worried by the lights of an oncoming car, he has got to dim his own. His eyesight is affected at the very moment when he needs it most by his own dimmed out lights. At that very moment he is almost on top of the cyclist, whom he cannot see because of the practice in operation.
I am ready at any moment to go privately aside with my hon. Friend to assist him in knowing how to make a speech relevant. The case is overwhelming for us to try, if we can, to make the cyclist provide himself with adequate lights. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) addressed himself quite properly to the question, Are these rear lights adequate in quantity?
I am afraid I do not follow the point of that interruption. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is necessary to have lights if it can be shown at all that there is a suitable light on the market for the cyclist. You cannot impose an unreasonable obligation on the citizen. [Interruption.] I am not going to be a party to an argument between the cycle manufacturer and the battery manufacturer.
The point is, are these contrivances available? We were told by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster that the scientists and inventors have not addressed themselves sufficiently to the question of providing a proper light for cyclists. Why? The answer is obvious. We had to have a rear light on motor cars long before there was an effective rear light. It was necessary, in the interests of safety, for fast-moving vehicles—and when they were standing—to have some kind of warning rear light. It is a necessity to have a rear light if you can produce a good rear light.
My hon. Friend is not with me but against me. He is saying that the adoption of an effective rear light by cyclists would be a good stimulus to the inventor. If the provision of a good rear light is made compulsory in the case of cyclists, there would develop a market sufficiently large to induce the scientists to produce a good rear light.
My hon. Friend is not meeting the point at all. The point is that if we have to wait until a 100 per cent. efficient rear light has been invented before we impose the rear red light on cyclists we will not get it. If, in the meantime, we make it compulsory to use the best type of rear red light, then a better rear light will subsequently be evolved as in the case of the motor car. On most grounds a case has been made out. I have seen terrible casualties on the roads among cyclists. Some of the circulars and communications we receive go to show that many of the cyclists' organisations, and some of the cyclists, have developed an almost pathological hatred of fast-moving vehicles. I take an objective view of the situation, and it is the duty of Members of the House of Commons, while listening to all the things that are said by their constituents and carefully weighing all the views of people outside the House, to come down on the side of safety.
I have listened to all the arguments so far, and the real question is, Will rear lights on cycles reduce acci- dents? That is the point to which we have to address our minds. I do not claim that Members of Parliament have a monopoly of intelligence. I am suggesting, with great respect, that among the millions of cyclists there are many who are as intelligent as Members of this House—in a number of cases they are more so. I have received letters from every cycling association in my constituency. My constituency is a county constituency and bicycles are used in it very extensively. In the majority of the villages and towns, there are cycling dubs and associations and often in the summertime cyclists return home late in the evening. I am prepared to give them credit for having sufficient common sense in their own interests and that, if they thought that a rear light was essential to their safety, they would provide it themselves, whether there was a law compelling them to do so or not.
Further, if they felt that this red light was essential to their safety it would not require a law. I have not received a single letter advocating my support of the red lamp. Every letter, without any exception, has used reasoned arguments as to why it is unnecessary. I am a motorist and I contend that the reflector is ample to pick up the cyclist. I join issue with my hon. Friend opposite in his suggestion that when the light is dim, you cannot pick up the reflector. As far as my car is concerned—
What I said was that at the time when you dim your own lights, your eyes have already been partially dazzled by the oncoming lights of the car, and since you are not throwing as much light on the reflector of the cyclist, you therefore cannot see him, which I should have thought was self-evident.
If your eyes are dazzled by the oncoming lights, you would not be able to see anything anyhow, because you cannot see anything much then. I say that with great respect and humility and I am not trying to score any cheap points. The letters I have received are "agin the law" so far as these red lights are concerned, even assuming they could be purchased, and I must agree that the battery red lights would be ineffective and inefficient in the majority of cases.
I am addressing myself to one simple point—whether the red light would be beneficial in preventing injury and accident to cyclists. That is all I am concerned with. If I thought that this House, by bringing in an Act to compel all cyclists to have a red light, would defend the people against themselves and would save even a few accidents to cyclists, I should be for it. As a motorist, however, I do not believe it will have that effect, and I am supported in my contention by every cycling club and association in my constituency. Those clubs and associations represent a good many thousands of people, and they cannot all be fools. They are not so stupid that they want to go out on bicycles and run the risk of having accidents if a lamp at the rear would prevent it. It does not make sense. Let us give these thousands of cyclists credit, in their own interests, for using it if they thought it was wise and would prevent accidents. It is no argument to say that the motor-car has a rear light, because that is the overtaking vehicle. You do not often see cyclists overtaking motor-cars, unless they are standing by the side of the road, or going very slowly indeed.
If I am right in my submission, another point which is very material is: If you bring in a law, whereby contributory negligence will effect an accident and it is contestable, when that accident occurred, whether the light was or was not there, you are putting the cyclist in a very invidious position, and you have no right to do that. Therefore, I suggest, with great respect, in view of the fact that two committees have sat on this particular issue, and that both by a majority have ruled that this red light is not necessary, that my hon. Friend should withdraw this Bill. I think further investigation is required and certainly the cycling associations and cycling dubs are entitled to be consulted and to be heard. If there is to be a vote on whether there shall or shall not be a red light, I shall vote against it.
I think the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) has made a very cogent plea. The brilliance of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) in spite of his bright headlights may have prevented him from receiving some very good reflections aroused by the speech of the hon. Member for Elland. But we do want to get away from brilliant repartee and argument and concentrate on the big issue, which is whether the compulsory rear light will be effective in reducing the large numbers of road accidents which at present we all so greatly regret. I think we have had most cogent arguments from the hon. Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) and the hon. Member for Elland, who are convinced that we have not had sufficient reasons for making this rear light compulsory. It has been pointed out that cyclists generally are opposed to this, and that they would not be opposed to it simply on the ground of a little additional expense. It is because they believe it would be an expense that would be wasted in many cases, an expense that would not provide an effective remedy because at present we have not a sufficient supply of effective red rear lights which could be relied upon in all circumstances, and those that are effective are expensive; it would mean a very heavy burden for a very large number of people even if the lights could be bought, and the lights cannot be bought in the market to-day, there are not enough.
Then I think we have to remember that not only when this Bill was read a Second time, but since the introduction of the Bill, the Pedestrians' Association have made their views perfectly clear. They consider that the passing of this Bill would make the position of the pedestrian more dangerous than it is at present. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I think on Second Reading, suggested, in reply to an argument that it would be necessary and logical to have a rear lamp for every pedestrian if we passed this Bill, that, after all, the pedestrians could run up into the hedge by the roadside. But they are not all able to do that; a great number of pedestrians are older people. Some of them are handicapped in one way or the other, and it is exceedingly difficult for many of them suddenly to run into the hedgeside as a motor car rapidly approaches. As a result of the passing of this Bill, we may fear that there will be an increase in careless driving on the part of a certain number of motorists, who are at present a danger to the public. They will feel that they have additional security, that there is no likelihood of anybody being in the way, and a pedestrian who would not otherwise be run over will be run over because reasonable care has not been exercised by the motorist. The real remedy is that the motorist should preserve the caution enjoined upon him by the Highway Code, always to keep well within the limit of his lights.
If motorists keep well within the limit of their lights then there will be protection against serious accidents. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give heed to the expressions of opinion which have come from this Committee, and from representative bodies all over the country, and will reconsider this Clause. I dislike it. If we remove the Clause we shall remove the principal danger, and the Bill will become comparatively harmless.
I am never happier than when I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), and I was equally happy yesterday to be completely in agreement with the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy). To-day, however, I am not in agreement with them. I am in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), and. as that does not always happen it makes this Debate all the more intriguing. I am pleased to say that there has been no suggestion to-day that we should be influenced by electoral considerations. Some of the journals of the cycling Press have tried to put up that bogy, and have been urging their readers to write to Members of Parliament about this question. I have received 15 letters, and there has been no substantial evidence that there is very much amiss with what we-are doing.
We have been told that there are 10,000,000 cyclists. As I say, I have received 15 letters. Next to the Parliamentary Secretary, I have been held too be the villain of the piece; I have been held up to some ridicule in the cycling Press, yet I have received only 15 letters. So, as Queen Victoria said, "I am not impressed." But I have been rather impressed by one sentence in to-day's issue of "Cycling," which bears out what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said about the peculiar mentality of some cyclists. They seem to be obsessed with hatred, which is a dreadful obsession. We do not sing hymns of hate in England, and I hope we never shall. I do not hate motorists, although they make me jump out of the way sometimes, and I certainly do not hate cyclists or pedestrians. I do not keep or drive a car, although I am often driven in one. This journal let slip a few words which show the extraordinary mentality of some of the people who are working up this case. It said:
Because vehicular traffic is permitted on public roads there are walkers and animals sharing the same highway.
The assumption there is that only walkers and cyclists are to be permitted on the roads—a most extraordinary state of mind. If I could talk to the person who wrote that I would ask him to be like the American lady who doubted very much whether the universe was real but who eventually became convinced and said, "I will accept it." In the same way I hope these people will accept the fact that there is traffic and the internal combustion engine, and that it will not disappear.
However, the point at issue is whether-it would help or injure a cyclist to use a red light. My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities suggested that it was far from being a help, but I have no doubt that if it could be demonstrated that it would be a help in promoting safety we would vote for it. Is it or is it not? I have been particularly studying the matter for the past three weeks, and I would not support the Bill if I were not convinced that the Government view was the right one. Some weeks ago many of us received a memorandum from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which used to be the "Safety First" Association, on the Executive Committee of which I was at one time a member. This memorandum gives accident statistics in considerable detail and I am sure everybody who objects to the Bill will be impressed by what appears in Table 7. It shows that the number of adult cyclists killed in daylight runs to about 700 a year, or about two per day, with a much fewer number killed during the hours of darkness. Far more cycles are being used now than before the war—
Yes, according to the hon. Gentleman's own statement. What is the good of talking like that? Cyclists are moving in great numbers at all times, although, obviously, there are far fewer at night. This Table shows that since the red light has been required to be used fatalities have fallen by Too each year. I think that is worth while.
Surely the hon. Member knows that in war-time there is a flood of bicycles on the road between 5 and 6 p.m. It is dark at that time in the winter and, thereafter, cycle traffic is negligible as compared to what it was in peace-time.
I do not think there is much in that point. In the summer months there are fewer deaths and in the months of darkness there are more. But where the table is very impressive indeed is that, whereas in 1939–40 there were 360 cyclists killed in the hours of dark-ness, and in 1940–1 393, in the following years, 1941–2, 1942–3 and 1943–4. they fell to 260, 282 and 283. The average in the two earlier years, when this requirement was not in operation, was 376, and in the succeeding three years, during which the Regulations have been in operation, it has fallen to 278. I think that is-convincing evidence and I am sure we can accept it. We all know that this very honourable body is anxious only to save life in these dangerous days. That is what impresses me more than anything.
It is said that only 50 per cent. of cyclists are carrying lights. In the little village in Surrey where I live there are no street lamps, and I walk over a common to my home every night. Coming out of the station, the road runs straight across at right angles and goes one way to Little Bookham and the other way to Great Bookham. Opposite the station is a factory, and the workers come out and go, some one way and some the other. One or two cars run out of the station yard and, day and night, buses run each way. As far as possible they try to meet the trains. There is no lighting except for one lamp at the entrance to the station. I watch the cyclists particularly and I agree that now and then there is one who has not a red lamp. When he has gone about 30 yards I do not see any more of him because he has turned to the right. A car comes out from the station yard and goes in the same direction. It could have seen the bicycle when it came out of the station gates if it had a red light, but it has gone round the corner and he has not seen it. It is when the cyclist is being caught up round the corner that is the danger point. Cyclists with rear lights are much safer than those without. The little red disc is a feeble thing, liable to get covered with dust and mud, and my observation goes to show that it is very ineffective. I am sure that cyclists would be better protected if they had a red light.
I have had letters from pedestrian associations as well as from cyclists. They seem greatly concerned, but I tell them that their position is quite simple. If they will walk on the right, they will see the coming car, whatever light it has, and can always step on to the grass, as I do. I do not think the pedestrian has much of a case. The notion that the red light will increase accidents is untenable. I think we have to save these people from themselves, and we have to do it to-day. The Clause had better be carried, and the Bill had better be carried. It is madness to defer it. We must do it now. We ought not to play about with it day after day, wasting the time of the House. We ought to do our duty rapidly, conscientiously and effectively in the interest of the whole community, and particularly of the people who are directly concerned.
It is not because of letters that I have received from my constituency that I oppose the Bill. The letters that I get come not so much from private individuals as from organisations. These cyclists are mainly of the working classes. If I thought they were wrong, I should not hesitate to say so. The hon. Member says we ought to get on with the Clause to-day and not defer it. Why not? The Government have the power now, under the Emergency Regulations. There is no need at all for the Clause to-day, however many Members support it. They have all the powers that they want. They are quite ineffective, because it is impossible for every cyclist to be equipped with a red lamp. It is not being done, and it will not be done if the Clause is put through to-day. The Minister only seeks power to bring the Act into effect at some future date.
I stand corrected, but the Minister still has the power that I refer to without the Clause, a power which exists as long as the Emergency Regulations exist, and I hope that the Minister of Transport will remain all the time a Member of the Government. There is one thing that is important. The House has never been put in possession of the facts on which two representative bodies are against this proposal, and no answer has yet been forthcoming to the points put against the Clause by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams).
I understand that it is not contradicted that the council which was dealing with this matter set up a subcommittee which, by a small majority, made a representation against this pro- posal which the Government have thought fit to keep from Members of the House. We have not been able to see the decisions that they reached, nor the evidence on which they based them. We were told that four or five years previously another Committee made representations to the same effect.
We heard of this to-day for the first time from my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon, who made these very points and was never challenged by the Minister. Before we discuss the Clause it would be much better to give us the findings and the evidence upon which they based their decisions.
The lighting of rear lamps has been required under the Defence Regulations for a long time, but a point I want to make to-day is that there are no lamps available, and they are not likely to be available. I have not yet learned that anything has been done or can be done to overcome the battery shortage, a shortage which must be overcome if there is to be appropriate lighting. The Government cannot lose by waiting, and there is no need for them to have this Clause, because they have enough powers at the present time it they want them. The whole House would readily welcome any Measure if it would stop accidents, but no case has been made out that this Bill would stop any accident. We do not see any reason why this Clause should be passed to-day. We have discussed this afternoon a Bill which might have the greatest bearing upon this Clause and upon its implications. I would add my appeal to those already made to the Parliamentary Secretary and ask him whether he would not defer this Clause until we have had time to consider and complete the other Bill.
It is said that the agitation against this Bill was worked up. I do not think it was, and I do not think there was sufficient agitation against it. The more we consider it the more objections there are to it. I therefore venture to ask the Committee to come to the conclusion that this Clause does not give the Minister any more power than he has at present, and if the Clause goes to a Division I shall vote against it.
Like other lion. Members, I have been considerably exercised in my mind as to what I ought to do on this Bill, and I have come to the conclusion that I ought to vote for the Clause. I wish very briefly to give the reasons which compel me to make this decision. Like other hon. Members I have been subjected to a certain amount of pressure from cyclists' organisations, and I cannot help noting that same of these representations are in the spirit which was mentioned by the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) and show a resentment of the use of the roads by faster vehicles. To cyclists I would recommend a verse that I came across in America not long ago, and which goes to the pith and core of this whole business:
Here lies the body of William Jay
Who died maintaining his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he rode along,
But he's just as dead as if he were wrong.
I cannot help thinking that that illustrates the whole point.
That is precisely the issue that we are discussing. I want to say that I am both a cyclist and a motorist and sometimes a pedestrian. I have never killed anybody on the road, but, if I have not, believe me, it has only been by the mercy of Providence. The truth is that there are certain conditions in which the cyclist is absolutely invisible to the motorist if he is without a rear light. The circumstances in which he is invisible are as follows. First at dusk, when the motorist has not got his lights on, or when there is not enough blackness to pick up the lights from a reflector. The second is when one turns a corner. I would impress this on the attention of the House. Our headlights are always forward. If they swivelled round, there might be a different answer. So long as they point forward, when turning a corner, there is an area of 20 to 30 yards in which any cyclist, unless he has a rear light, is completely invisible. The third is that the cyclists seem to imagine that if they are compelled to have a rear light there will be a temptation to motorists to increase their speed. There are, I think, two answers to that. The first is that the motorist's speed is governed by law, a maximum of so many miles per hour in the built-up areas. The second is that speed is not the dangerous thing on the roads.
I think I should have every motorist with me, and most Members of this Committee, in saying that the most dangerous thing on a road is not speed. The lack of visibility is one of the biggest dangers on the road and we cannot put that right, in my opinion, except by making the use of rear lamps compulsory. For these reasons, if this Clause goes to a Division, I shall vote with the Government.
I should think that after all this Debate the Committee would probably want to come to a decision about this Clause. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am prepared to give way to hon. Members if others wish to speak. I was interested, during the whole of this Debate in the contention, which has been put forward very much in discussions outside this House since the Second Reading stage, that we are rushing the Bill. It has been called: "Hell-for-Leathers legislation," and "an attempt to get through by snap methods what would be repugnant to any fair-minded Member." It has been urged—I rather think the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) urged it—that we need not press for this Clause to-day because under the Defence Regulations we have the power to make cyclists carry lights for perhaps two years more. That really is a misapprehension. All this lighting business is covered, as I said on the Second Reading, by Defence Regulation 24, and as soon as the fighting in Europe is over there will be a very general demand and a very strong case for the immediate withdrawal of Defence Regulation 24.
Defence Regulation 24 is the one I am talking about and its subject is lighting, which is what we are discussing now. If it is argued that we can by another Order carry on this obligation, I think we should be straying very far from the intention and indeed from the terms of the Emergency Powers Act, if we were to do such a thing. The terms allow Orders:
Securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order, and the efficient prosecution of any war in which His Majesty's Government may be engaged and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.
Could it honestly be said that we ought to carry on this obligation by a Defence Regulation under the Emergency Powers Act? I do not believe any Hon. Member would say so. If there is not to be a hiatus in the obligation to carry lights, we need this Bill, and we need it pretty soon. The House agreed on Second Reading that it was desirable there should be no hiatus, and I think, therefore, the Committee ought to agree to this Clause.
Has it really been rushed? I do not want to repeat what I said before, but this business has been very extensively discussed ever since 1939. I do not believe that the cyclists have anything whatever new to say, and I make that remark after having had a good deal of experience in the last two months, indeed, in the last six months, of what they have to say. Has the Bill been rushed through the House? There were articles in the Press as long ago as last July which indicated plainly that it was under consideration. It is more than two months since the Bill was introduced in another place. There has been an active campaign in the cycling Press and widespread notice in the ordinary national Press. Over the last three months the cyclists have had very ample warning and time to make their case, and hon. Members have had ample warning and time to establish contact with their constituents if they so desired.
I come to what my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) said about statistics. He complained that I was not as candid as I might have been. Others have not been as candid as they might have been about the statistics, which have been very seriously perverted in discussions outside. Responsible people have written to me saying I made a grave mis-statement when I said that the total number of deaths in darkness had come down from 448 in peace-time to 273 during the war, and that I ought to have pointed out that the real comparison was with 133 people who were killed by collision from behind in peace-time, and that the total was 273 in the war years, that is, more than double. If 273 had been the figure of those who were killed by collision from behind, I should, indeed, have been guilty of the elementary mistake of seriously misleading the House by saying that there had probably been a reduction of deaths by collision from behind, in- stead of admitting that it had doubled. Of course, the 273 was not the figure of those who were killed by collision from behind. It was the total of those killed during the hours of darkness.
We do not know. That is one of the things which, during war-time, we cannot ask the police to do. The Pedestrians' Association took it on themselves to say that the vast majority of the 1,770 cyclists who had been killed in the hours of darkness since the war had been run down from behind. That was pure assumption, and I do not know what evidence they had to go on. We have none. All we know is that in peace conditions, when rear lights were not obligatory, the figure was well under one-third of the total deaths, 133 killed by collision from behind out of 448 killed in hours of darkness, and we submit that the proportion of those killed by collision from behind is now probably less than before, because they have carried rear lights. My hon. Friend said that I had quoted figures which were not properly analysed and that this Bill was based on those figures. I want to quote what I actually said:
Certain it is that statistics of road accidents are a very imperfect science. I would not try to prove very much from any statistics I have ever yet been given."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1945; Vol. 407, C. 1804.]
I then spoke of the figures with which I have been dealing, and I drew the conclusion that at least they did not prove that rear lights during the war had failed, as the deaths in daylight had remained the same as they were in peacetime, while the deaths at night had been reduced by more than 40 per cent. Then I said:
It has been said very freely that the figures of accidents during the war have proved that the rear lights are no good and that they have failed in their purpose. That conclusion I rebut, though I do not want to draw any other conclusion from what I am about to say."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1945; Vol. 407, C. 1804.]
Then I gave the figures I have just quoted. This Bill is not based on these statistics. It is based on the reports of authoritative bodies which have dealt with the question over the period of the last seven years. There have been three such bodies. My hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. Levy) asked why we did
not consult the cyclists. There was the Report of the Transport Advisory Council, and no one complains that the cyclists were not consulted in the preparation of their Report.
I am going to deal with my hon. Friend's observation. There was also the Alness Select Committee of the House of Lords, which took exhaustive evidence. It has all been published and is in the Library. Then there is the present Road Safety Committee, which has an extremely able spokesman of the cyclists as a member. We are told that two committees have reported on the other side, one in 1934. This was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Leicester (Colonel Lyons). I can trace no such committee, unless my hon. Friends are referring to the committee stage of the Transport Act of that year. There was no committee which made inquiry and took evidence.
That was not the kind of committee we are discussing now. It was a Committee of this House on a Bill, and the discussion on this subject lasted for 40 minutes. When it was over the Minister concerned said: "Let us try the white patch and the reflector first before we make red lights in the rear compulsory." That is what we have done. We have tried it for 10 years, and we are convinced that experience has shown that it is not right to trust to the reflector and the white patch alone. I come to the Committee of the Transport Advisory Council. On this my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon used very hard words, accusing me of lack of candour and gross discourtesy to the House, and of suppressing documents which I ought to have published. Let me deal with the question of publication. The Transport Advisory Council is set up by the Minister of Transport under Statute. It is an independent body. It is not part of the Ministry and its documents are not in the Minister's possession. It is true that it set up a Sub-Committee which made a report and that the full Council then drew up its own findings and sent them to the Minister, who published them in a White Paper.
The Sub-Committee made a recommendation in one direction after conducting a series of experiments. The people on the Council, who had not seen the experiments, and who were hostile to cyclists, reversed the decision of those who had carried out the experiments.
I am coming to that point. I am now dealing with the question whether we ought to have published the report. It was plainly not possible for the Minister then to publish that report in the White Paper, as the Council had not sent it to him, any more than it would have been possible for him to publish many other memoranda and documents which they received. It is plainly not possible for my Noble Friend to take that document now and publish it to the world. If he did that these bodies would never know whether their proceedings would be confidential in times to come. I think that is perfectly plain.
Was it the case, as my hon. Friend said, that the experts who looked into this thing were out-voted by the non-experts on the Council? There was one cyclist on this body, and if you like to call him expert or mare expert than the others I do not object. Broadly, I should say that all—cyclists, motorists, the member who is now the Minister of Labour and all the rest—were either equally expert or equally non-expert. They were all people who had given their lives to traffic problems.
I am coming to that, if I am only allowed to do it in my own way. This is what happened. The committee of 13 members carried out certain tests and, on the basis of their experience of rear lights, seven were against rear lights and six were in favour of them, a majority of one. What happened then?
If my hon. Friend had read the White Paper he would know. This report was considered at length by all the members of the Council, who stated:
We are agreed that the recommendations … represent in present circumstances the most practicable measures which might be adopted for the better protection of cyclists and other road users. We have considered the matter very carefully, and our recommendations are based on the results of our own experimentation and lengthy discussions, as well on the opinions submitted.
Not every member saw the actual tests but they all heard full reports of them and they all knew everything that had resulted from the tests. They all had both sides fully presented by the seven and by the six respectively. It was all there, and they went on for a very long time, and they came to the conclusion
that the value to all of a rear light on cycles should outweigh the consideration of trouble and cost to the cyclist.
They also said that it was their duty to advise the Minister:
to adopt the method most likely to reduce the number of accidents, and if this involves imposing upon the cyclist some cost through the obligation to carry a rear light, such imposition is amply justified by the additional safety thus to be secured, not only to the cyclist himself but to all users of the highway.
I am only saying what the Committee reported, and it was raised then. I am very glad that it has not been raised in the Debate as I think that is an important advance. The view I have quoted was adopted in the Council by 19 to 11. It is impossible to argue that the 19 who voted for it were not fully conversant with the tests, which had been at their disposal quite as much as at the disposal of the 11 other members, or with the full results of the experiments that had been made.
There is another point: Those who were against rear lights, the 11, put in a minority report, a reservation. Their whole case is set out here and printed in this same document. They were at liberty to include anything they liked. The rest would not have objected, whatever they said. In fact, there is a very full argument of their case.
I think I am entitled to say that the Transport Advisory Council has very fully considered the merits of the matter. They had the evidence at their disposal and they were an expert body—for if any of them were experts they all were—and their 19-to-11 vote was a decisive majority in favour of rear lights. They so advised the Minister then.
There followed the Alness Report, which was unanimous, and then followed the Committee on Road Safety, whose conclusions I summarise and do not quote. They have only gone over the ground that the Alness Committee covered. They have come unanimously, but for one cyclists' representative who is a member, to the same conclusion. They were a varied body, but an expert and very able body. That is the evidence on which the Bill is based. It is because of those recommendations that we bring the Bill forward, and I venture to say that no Minister of Transport in these days could disregard recommendations of that kind, put to him so forcibly and with such remarkable unanimity of opinion on such a point.
I now come to the question of equipment, which has been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. E. Walkden) said that manufacturers ought to try to get a red reflector as efficient as the Cat's-eye. My reply is that the red reflectors on cycles are optically efficient. They have to conform to minimum standards which have been laid down under Regulations made under the Act of 1927, and if they fall below those standards they are rejected. Where they fail is in the way which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) so admirably described. They fail on corners, on curves, and on undulations. They fail when lights have to be dipped because of the dazzle of an on-coming vehicle. There are many conditions in ordinary traffic—and 80 per cent. of all accidents happen in towns—where the reflector is not sufficient to save the life of the cyclist. We believe that the experience of the last 10 years since the committee discussion in 1934 has proved that truth.
With regard to shortage of batteries, I have written to my hon. Friends who raised the matter on the Second Reading to say that I did unintentionally, and because of inadequate information rather mislead the House. My Department had then received no information that there was a shortage in any part of the coun- try. We have now heard that in some places there is a shortage, and we have done our best to put it right. The President of the Board of Trade has promised his full co-operation to that end and we hope that much may be done. While that is an important matter, I suggest that it is irrelevant to the Bill. The Bill imposes no new obligation on cyclists to carry a red rear light. The obligation exists now and no hon. Member proposes to abolish the existing Order because there is a shortage of batteries. In peace time, when the Bill will really be of practical effect and when it is really required, it will only be a very short time before the shortage of batteries is put completely right. I do not believe that any hon. Member thinks there will be a shortage of battery equipment in peace time. I would apologise again for having been inadequately informed before the Second Reading, but I do not think that that in any way affects the merits of this Clause.
Now I come to the question of other forms of lighting equipment. In our last discussion I quoted from a communication which I had had from Messrs. Lucas. I think I did right to do so. It is right that the House should know. I am quite ready, if the hon. Member for South Croydon desires it, to nationalise the Lucas industry, but until we do so I think I am obliged to take the evidence of those who supply the goods to the public.
I am fully justified in quoting this important evidence from the Lucas firm that they are convinced that the technical problems of proper equipment for the cyclists can be and are being overcome, and that after the war much greater progress will be made. I have another letter which I should like to read, from my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Harmon), in which he says:
You may be interested to know that the B.S.A. experts have developed a device which will give front and rear light in continuous contact with a tiny tell-tale light on the front lamp to indicate that both lights are in working order. I saw a bicycle furnished with this contrivance on Saturday morning.
Perhaps I might add the last paragraph of the letter:
My own view is that there is far too much fuss made by the cyclists, and that if once they could be persuaded that by making a very small expenditure their safety on the road would be assured, the present opposition would disappear.
Does my hon. Friend realise that while this is a good advertisement for the B.S.A., that invention actually came from Holland over nine years ago, and that it has not been satisfactory in Holland?
I have not time to advertise anybody. If I may quote the words used by the hon. Member for South Croydon, "Joking apart," lights are becoming better. Of course they are, and of course we can look forward to new progress, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) said, "The Bill will produce the lights."
One last word about equipment—on dazzle. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) asked: "Why do you deal with this before dealing with dazzle?" We are dealing with dazzle.
Perhaps in one sentence, subject to your Ruling, Major Milner, I may say that I can conceive that it would be a good argument o in discussing Clause 1 in Committee to say that rear lights ought not to be introduced until the problem of dazzle had been dealt with. But dazzle is a very complex and difficult matter. We have not got the answer, but we are determined to get it. The hon. Member's argument seems to me to be: "Do not do anything you can do until you can do everything you want to do." If we do that we shall never solve the problem of road safety.
There was an anti-dazzle light 20 years ago which threw a light below the horizontal for 200 yards, and which was sold to Germany, where it was sold in very large quantities.
I know about that, and I know also the grave objections there are to it. As I say, we have not got the proper answer yet, but I hope we are going to get it. The whole of the cyclists' case against this Clause was stated by a man who wrote a letter to the Press, in which he said:
Some day a wise statesman will wash out rear lights altogether from every vehicle and decree simply that the law will punish those who do not look where they are going.
I have examined every bit of evidence the cyclists have ever given, and I have listened to the cycling Member of the Road Safety Committee. Their whole case is exactly that. But it is against the experience of every country. Every Parliament and legislative body in the world has imposed red rear lights on moving vehicles, and, of course, they are right.
How much opinion is there against this Clause? Judging by my postbag, not very much. I compare my experience with that of the hon. Member for Elland. Cycling organisations have been urged officially in their journals to write to their Members of Parliament and to my Noble Friend and to me. That has been urged in emphatic terms, and many energetic club secretaries have gone round to get letters written. Out of 10,000,000 cyclists my Minister and I have had 115 communications. That figure speaks for itself. We have a fearful problem of road safety to deal with after the war. I desire to say a word to the cyclists and to all other road users as well. The deaths from air bombardment in this country throughout the war, up to the end of 1944, were 58,000. Deaths on the roads were 41,051. The seriously injured from German bombing, V.1 and V.2, numbered 81000—and serious injury is often worse than death. There were 30,000 more seriously injured on the roads—117,000.—[Interruption.] About 1,700 cyclists—1,700—were killed at night. That is the relevant point. We are going to solve the road safety problem by a great number of measures, from each of which we get a small result. Anyone who looks for a sovereign remedy is utterly ignorant of the problem to be solved. We believe this Measure will produce a real and significant result. Very soon we shall ask for many other Measures which will bear much more onerously on other classes of road users—
If this Clause is defeated I venture to think that any further attempt to deal with road safety will be gravely imperilled. I therefore beg the Committee to accept this Clause, and I appeal to them, and to everybody outside as well, to ensure that a new and better spirit shall prevail.
The Parliamentary Secretary has made an extremely able speech as to why this Clause should be accepted, but I think he rather exaggerated in his last sentence. I only wish he had waited a few minutes before getting up, because there were certain arguments which have been put forward by the cyclists and pedestrians which have not been answered by the Minister or any other speakers this afternoon. I speak not as an expert motorist, nor as an expert cyclist. I can hardly claim to speak as an expert pedestrian. In fact I have almost got to the stage of the late Joseph Chamberlain, who, when he wanted to cross a road, took a cab in order to do so. My main exercise is to walk from the Library or Smoke-room to this Chamber and back again.
Although I am not an expert on these things, I had, like everybody else, a superficial feeling when I saw this Bill, that it must be safer for cyclists to have a red light than not to have one. It is the sort of thing that appeals to everybody at first sight. If it is necessary for cyclists to carry a red light for the sake of safety, there is nothing to stop them from doing it. There is no Act to prevent them. Every cyclist can do so voluntarily. They do not seem to think that a compulsory red light is a good thing. They have put forward certain technical reasons; I do not know whether they are good reasons or not, which have not yet been answered, or fully answered, in this Committee. For example, they say that a reflector is very much more efficient than a red light. Certainly these "Cat's-eye" reflectors one sees on the road seem to me to be very bright indeed. They say that the red light, although you can see it a long way ahead, gives no sense of distance or position, and you do not know whether it is coming nearer to you or not; in fact, that the nearer you approach the red light with your own lights the dimmer it becomes, until, when you are almost upon it, it almost disappears. They say that the reflector does just the opposite, and the nearer you approach to it the brighter it becomes.
They give this evidence. There was a test carried out by the Ministry of Transport in 1937. Two neutral motor cars, each carrying a Ministry of Transport observer, were sent to chase two cyclists, riding abreast, one of whom carried a live rear light while the other carried only a reflector. Both cars reported that they picked up the man with the reflector first, and that as they got nearer to him the beam from his reflector got brighter. The cyclist with the live rear light, while not so quickly discernible in the darkness, disappeared from a light point of view, as the same headlights which increased the power of the reflector, quite naturally diminished the live rear light, being much more powerful. That point has not been answered by the Minister, but perhaps he could answer it. On the other hand, the motorists say that the reflector is liable to be obscured by mud and dust, while the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) gave some very good reasons why at certain times, such as at dusk, or when certain things are happening, or at a certain angle of the road, a reflector becomes almost useless. As a result of those arguments, I feel that cyclists should be obliged to see that their reflectors are kept clean, and there may be a case for having bigger reflectors, or for mounting them in a different position from where they are at present. I should like to see further inquiry made before this Clause is passed.
I have no intention of repeating the legal arguments used on the Second Reading, but it seems to me that the cyclist is at a disadvantage, when the motorist can say that his light was out, and the cyclist can only say, "It was burning when I last looked at it." It is difficult to see how this can be overcome unless the cyclist frequently dismounts, or unless the bicycle is equipped with that famous device from Birmingham, which we have heard about, which will show in front whether the light is on or not. The cyclists say that motorists should be compelled to drive well within the limits of their lights, and Mr. S. F. Edge, who is a cyclist as well as a motorist, defined this by saying that the headlights should show an obstacle at least twice as far ahead as the distance in which the car can be pulled up. They say that if rear lights are made compulsory there will be a tendency for motorists to speed up and to disregard everything between them and the red light—to disregard any obstacle which has not a red light. This will include pedestrians, who do not carry a light, although they may be occasionally lit up. I think that that is a real danger.
In spite of the very strong superficial arguments in favour of making a red light compulsory, the fact remains that this proposal was always resisted. Even before the war, when there were so many motor cars on the road that it was said you could walk from Croydon to Brighton on their roofs, without touching the ground, this rule was not applied. We have heard about Sub-Committee 13, which opposed the compulsory application of the red light, but we have not heard what they said. Let me quote what they said:
While agreeing … with the recommendation that steps should be taken to ensure a higher standard of efficiency of the existing compulsory reflector, plus white patch, on pedal cycles, we cannot concur in the recommendation that in addition the use of a rear light should be made compulsory.
That was overridden by the main Advisory Council, but I think it is significant that the Committee which heard evidence should have decided against the proposal, even if only by a majority of one. I think it would he a mistake to press this Clause without a further inquiry, perhaps by a Select Committee of this House. I think, on further inquiry, it may be shown that the red light is the correct proposal, but I am not yet satisfied of that on the evidence, and, therefore, unless I hear any other argument in
answer to what I have just said, I propose to vote against the Clause.
As I very much want my hon. Friend's vote, I will answer in two or three sentences. The advantage of the light against the reflector is that it is seen first. The motorist has more time to slow up. In some circumstances, the reflector is more efficient than the light; therefore, under this Clause, we propose to keep both. I add, for the final conviction of my hon. Friend, that I hope that Parliament will do many things after the war which have been successfully resisted in times gone by.
I intend to speak, and if other Members have dinner appointments it does not matter. we have 10,000,000 cyclists in this country. We have no evidence that batteries and lamps will be available for them. If you read your insurance policy you will find that the fact that you have not got a light, for any reason, will go very strongly against any claim that you have. We are all anxious to lessen the number of accidents, but there are 10,000,000
It is very important that we should know. We are told that there are twice as many accidents, but if there are twice as many bicycles on the road that is natural. I think the Committee would do well to delay this Clause. We require more information.
I have listened to the Debate, and I have felt that we do not know enough to take the responsibility either of voting against the Clause or for it, and, if the Minister could see his way to delay this Clause and bring it in at a later stage, when we could have more information, I think he would be wise, I think he should indicate, after he has stated that there are 10,000,000 bicycles now, how many there were seven years ago, because that might destroy the value of a number of the statistics that have been given to-day.
|Division No. 8]||AYES.||[5.53 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Edmondson Major Sir J.||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Marlowe, Lt.-Col. A.|
|Apsley, Lady||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Martin, J. H.|
|Astor, Visc'tess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fermoy, Lord||Mothers, G.|
|Beechnman, N. A.||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N. (Cardiff, Central)||Grant-Ferris, Wing-Comdr. R.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Greenwell, Colonel T. G.||Morrison, Major J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Benson, G.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)|
|Bevan, A. (Ebbw Vale)||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Nall, Sir J.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Guest, Lt-Col. H. (Drake)||Neal, H.|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T. (Gleveland)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckross)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Herbert, Petty-Officer A. P. (Oxf'd U.)||Prescott, Capt. W. R. S.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Hogg, Hon. Q. MoG.||Prior, Comdr. R. M.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Hopkinson, A.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Bull, B. B||Horabin, T L.||Salt, E. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hubbard, T. F.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||Hudson, Sir A. (Hackney, N.)||Savory, Professor D. L.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hughes, R. Moelwyn||Scott, Donald (Wansback)|
|Charleton, H. C.||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Shaw, Capt. W. T. (Forfar)|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S.||Jennings, R.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir D. B.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||John, W.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Conant, Major R. J. E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Spears, Maj.-Gen. Sir E. L.|
|Cox, Captain H. B. Trevor||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Comdr. Hon. L. W.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Critchley, A.||Keatinge, Major E. M.||Storey, S.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Lawson, H. M. (Skipton)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lipson, D. L.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Drews, C.||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Studholme, Major H. G.|
|Duckworth, W. R (Moss Side)||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Dunglass, Lord||McNeil, H.||Suirdale, Colonel Viscount|
|Summers, G. S.||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Wakefield, Sir W. W.||Woodburn, A.|
|Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.|
|Tasker, Sir R. I.||Ward, Col. Sir A. (Hull)||York, Major C.|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'd'ton, S.)||Watson, W. McL.||Young, Major A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Watt, Brig. G. S. Harvie (Richmond)|
|Thorneycroft, Maj. G. E. P. (St'ff'd)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:-|
|Tinker, J. J.||Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen||Major A. S. L. Young and|
|Tomlinson, G.||Willoughby, de Eresby, Major Lord||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Harvey, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Levy, T.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Loftus, P. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lt.-Col. G.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Lyons, Colonel A. M.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F||Montague, F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:-|
|Glanville, J. E.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W. (Rochdale)||Mr. E. Walkden and|
|Sir H. Williams.|
Question put, and agreed to.