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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Spencer Summers Sir Spencer Summers , Aylesbury 12:00 am, 5th April 1955

I have no experience of these portable testing devices, but there are a limited number of hours in the day; and whether a portable device is taken to the car, or the car is brought to stationary device, there could be only a limited number of checks that a team of people could perform in a given time. If the portable testing machinery is to travel all over the country to suit the convenience of a limited number of people, I think it would still be such an expensive affair that the cost would be out of all proportion to the purpose which it was designed to fulfil.

Reference has been made to a figure of 10s. per test. Where an adverse decision was given, no doubt a second fee of 10s. would be charged for another test. I think that £1 a year in -such circumstances would be a considerable addition to the cost of motoring for people who use their cars on a comparatively few occasions, but who very often own cars which would need to be tested.

No one should interpret what I am saying as an attempt to ignore roadworthiness of vehicles as a contribution to reducing accident figures, but I consider that this method of endeavouring to make cars roadworthy is not the right one. Of the methods already referred to, both in previous speeches in this House and in another place, the method of increasing spot checks is to my mind likely to be far more effective than the method contemplated in Clause 1, with its immense expense in capital, maintenance, and technical manpower.

If someone had had his car checked, and shortly afterwards became involved in an accident, it might possibly be argued that the responsibility had to some extent been shifted from the driver of the car to the organisation which tested and passed the car as roadworthy. I am no lawyer, but I think that argument might be advanced in a court.

If, for example, it were alleged that the brakes of the vehicle were faulty, and marks on the road and other evidence demonstrated that the driver should have been able to stop in a shorter distance than in fact he did, he might say, "Oh, but my car was tested only a week ago." An opportunity might be afforded for such a driver to escape the responsibility which properly he should bear. The responsibility might be passed on to the person who tested the car a few days earlier. That is an aspect of the matter which should not be ignored.

If, in the last resort, despite the many protests which have been made—I hope there will be more—against this attempt to introduce compulsory testing, if the Government are determined to go on with it, I hope they will make certain that there is a link between the certificate obtained by the motorist from the testing place and the authority which issues a licence to him the next time that he applies for one. Reading the debates in another place, I did not detect any link between the certificate and the issuing of a licence which seems to me quite essential.

In other words, a licence should not be issued for the type of car for which a test is to be made compulsory—if it is so made—unless the certificate is produced at the time of the application for a licence. That appears to me to be an indispensable safeguard against people applying for licences and getting them notwithstanding the fact that their vehicles have been recently tested and found to be not roadworthy.

I say that only if the Government are determined to try out this method. The limit to which I would go would be to put some form of compulsion on the owner of a car to ensure that his vehicle had passed a test for roadworthiness before he sold it. I should prefer to rely upon spot checks, which have a far more deterrent effect.

Once a motorist has had his car examined in the manner provided for in the Bill he can say, "I am all right until this time next year," and he can ignore such matters as defective lights and brakes. If, however, his car is a little wobbly in some respect or another, and he knows that he is in a county where the police employ people to go about making spot checks, he is never free from anxiety, and that provides an incentive for him to go back home and have something done about his car. That is a compelling reason for relying upon spot checks—but spot checks must be carried out far more frequently than has been the case in recent months.

I should reinforce the other provisions of the Bill by imposing some form of test upon the seller of a second-hand car, which would be much more convenient and more satisfactory to the buyer—but that would be the limit to which I should go in the sphere of compulsory testing. I should prefer the money which the Government feel justified in spending in carrying out this method of testing to be spent in carrying out spot checks, so that that method could be built up in order to provide a real deterrent, and so improve road safety.