Orders of the Day — ROAD TRAFFIC BILL [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1955.

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Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East 12:00 am, 5th April 1955

If I thought that that would ensure the rules being observed, I do not know that I would have any particular objection to it. I want to see the laws observed and the best methods that can be found of securing their observance. It is necessary that we should have a much stronger police force engaged in this task of regulating road traffic than we have at the present time.

The next point I want to make is in connection with the same problem, and it concerns the attitude of the public. In Clause 20, the Minister proposes to stiffen the penalties for a number of offences under the 1930 Act, such as speeding, reckless or dangerous driving, careless driving, driving while under the influence of drink, and so on. I think we can legitimately argue that increased penalties do no more than restore the original value of the fine, which has declined because of the fall in the value of money.

The significant feature, as I understand it from the statistics which have been produced, is that nothing like the present maximum penalties are imposed in any case at the present time, so that doubling or even trebling them will make no difference, or very little difference. I see that the Minister disagrees, and no doubt we shall have discussions on this in Committee, but that, at any rate, is my view. Stiffening the financial or monetary penalties is not likely to have any substantial effect on the number of offences that are committed as long as the penalties imposed by magistrates are so small.

This leads me to the point that it is quite clear that in a great many cases the law is held in lower repute by people outside the House than by those who made the original legislation, and that is why we get these small penalties. I take another example. I see that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) looks askance. It has been reported on reliable authority that the speed limit of 30 miles per hour is widely ignored in certain cases. If that is so, that shows that people outside do not regard the law with the same degree of respect as those who made it.