asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the estimated annual cost of operating the vehicle testing station at Hendon; the number of vehicles tested to date and the number of persons employed; and what further similar stations it is proposed to open.
The estimated annual cost of the station, including overheads, is about £9,000. Up to 5 p.m. last night 1,893 cars and vans and 104 motor cycles and combinations had been tested on the one inspection lane which has been in use since 12th October. At present one supervisor and ten inspectors are employed. At present I have no plans for opening further similar stations.
Does not this very useful experiment show that compulsory inspection of private vehicles is possible? Can the Minister explain the change of Government policy in this respect? He will recollect that in the original Road Traffic Bill there were proposals for the compulsory inspection of private vehicles. These proposals were dropped in the second revision of the Bill and the Minister is now introducing this voluntary scheme.
So far as compulsory inspection is concerned, I have nothing to add to the Answer which I gave when the hon. Gentleman raised precisely that point during at least two debates on the subject in this House. The present experiment started on 12th October, and I prefer to see it worked out before drawing any conclusions.
The right hon. Gentleman, or his Joint Parliamentary Secretary, told the House at an earlier date that inspection of vehicles was contrary to public opinion, but does the fact that so many people have volunteered to have their vehicles inspected not make him modify his previous statement?
No. What my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said was that compulsory inspection of vehicles was contrary to public opinion. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, this scheme is wholly voluntary. That is the difference.
According to newspaper accounts it was found, on inspection, that the Minister's own car was defective in some respects. The Minister is so careful in such matters, yet a defect was found. Is it not therefore clear that the cars of those who are less careful probably have many defects which make them a danger on the roads?
The object of this station is that we may learn certain lessons in the operation of such stations. To put it on a payment basis might prevent our getting the data and experience we want, and I prefer to keep this station, at any rate, on a free basis. I may add that I think it is the best free value in London.