I wish to associate myself with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's congratulations to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas), because no one has done more in this House towards furthering the great development in reflector materials and drawing attention to the experience gained elsewhere, where the use of reflective number plates has reduced considerably rear-end accidents.
This is an all-party matter. Hon. members on both sides are tremendously interested in the subject. That is why we joined together originally in putting a Motion on the Order Paper, which was followed by the presentation of a Ten Minute Rule Bill by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West. This Bill is designed to resolve doubt and to establish the status of this material, particularly where it is used as a safety device, for its status must be clarified.
The Parliamentary Secretary made the important point that, with the amount of chromium plating modern cars carry, it seems ludicrous that the law is such that chromium plate, which could act like a mirror and have dangerous effects, is permissible whereas material which is only capable of reflecting an image could be considered to be outside the law.
When the earlier Acts were introduced, there was not sufficient development or enough known about reflective materials to make them part of the law but the important thing is that one could now, I understand, use a reflective material on a number plate at the rear, provided it was red. But that would conflict with the normal test plate used by garages for moving vehicles from point to point and therefore could lead to more confusion if used on cars.
As the hon. Gentleman has said, the main thing is to prove whether these new devices are beneficial to road safety and that the Ministry should be able to control their quantity and quality. Experience elsewhere has shown a great reduction in the number of rear-end collisions by the use of these devices and that is of great importance.
Another point which impresses me is that with the use of reflective number plates, even on the front of a vehicle, one is capable of reading the number even with the headlights shining at one. This should surely be more helpful to the police. They will be able to read a number plate whether the car is approaching or departing.
I believe that this is a good Bill because it seeks to resolve doubt and makes certain that any motorist can adopt these number plates in future. As the hon. Gentleman has said, they will not be compulsory. Obviously, one hopes that many people will use them and that we shall then be able to start compiling some figures of accident rates to see whether there is any change. In the light of those figures, no doubt we can decide in future whether stricter measures are or are not needed. I believe that it is right that there should not be compulsion at present.
The hon. Gentleman also commented on certain types of vehicles on which a reflective material might be helpful to road safety. This point has been raised by a number of hon. Members before in relation to very long vehicles turning. There is no requirement under the law to show a light on the side or even to have a reflective material for use when such a vehicle is turning. This has led to accidents. I hope that the Minister, in making orders under the Bill, will take into account the long articulated vehicle and require a reflective material at some point along the side of the vehicle. This would reduce the danger of accidents in situations where a car approaches a long vehicle which makes a turn.
I fully support the Bill because it clarifies a doubt. I believe that, once it is passed, many people will supply themselves with these plates and that, as a result, we shall find that the Bill is helping to reduce the appalling accident rate.