Orders of the Day — ROAD TRAFFIC BILL [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th January 1974.

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Photo of Mr John Hannam Mr John Hannam , Exeter 12:00 am, 30th January 1974

I have no evidence of such extensive law breaking, but I have made suggestions in the past to my right hon. Friend that we should include in the details on the car disc information regarding insurance and road fund licence. I hope that at some stage, as is done in other countries, that idea will be introduced.

The hon. Gentleman referred to me as a law-abiding citizen. I hope that he will still agree with that description when I have finished my story. I was dealt with in that instance, but it was confusing to me, as I am sure it must be to many others, to know exactly where one may park at a time when lighting-up restrictions come into force. At the moment double yellow lines end at a certain point in a side road. People park there thinking that they will be exempt from the lighting-up restrictions. I hope that those areas will be clearly marked in future.

My other motoring fine in 25 years of driving occurred four and a half years ago, when I was summonsed for doing 51 mph. on the Great West Road. I do not grumble about that, although I was slightly put out a week later when I found that my car was one month over three years of age and I had not obtained the necessary MOT certificate. That was charge No. 2. The final blow, which leads me to Clause 14 and Schedule 3, came when my driving licence was found to have expired because the usual county council reminders had ceased to be sent out and I was caught.

I found myself in court making an impassioned plea to the magistrates. I asked whether they themselves would lend weight to a campaign to have all these different certificates and licences recorded on one licence form. To strengthen my case then, I asked half a dozen Members of Parliament to check their own driving licences. Three of those licences were found to have expired, too.

I welcome Clause 14 and the proposal to grant licences until the age of 70. My only query relates to the cost to those who obtained their licence a year or two before that age. The charge of £1·65 which my right hon. Friend mentioned would, I believe, be a reasonable and sensible charge to make.

Clause 7 refers to parking on pavements and footways. Although the general purpose of this clause is worthwhile, I question—as do many other hon. Members—its application to rural areas and to quiet streets with wide pavements. In country areas where roads are often extremely narrow, it is prudent and sensible to park slightly off the road when stopping. Even in towns we often find restaurants, shops and flats where the pavements are several yards wider than the road itself. I am not convinced that this clause is necessary, but if it is retained I hope that the clause will allow country areas to be exempted and that latitude will be given for those streets with very wide pavements. My right hon. Friend has intimated that powers will be given to local authorities to amend this rule, but some uniformity will be necessary if we are not to get confused by a variation of restrictions.

I come to Clause 10 and the question of seat belts. I really cannot say whether I feel the time has arrived for the introduction of compulsion in the wearing of seat belts. I confess to being a forgetful and lazy driver who does not use his seat belt more than half the time. Probably the time is nearly right for a decision on this, and I am happy to give the Minister the necessary power and authority to do so. The problem of enforcement will be the major worry.

However, there is a group of people who need special exemption from such a compulsory measure. There are people who suffer from disabilities and illnesses which prevent them from being able to strapped in. One such group are sufferers from claustrophobia. Some people cannot stay in confined spaces, and panic sets in if a seat belt is strapped across them. I hope allowance can be made for these people if such a regulation is brought in.

I express my support for this Bill and my admiration for the excellent way in which my right hon. Friend and his Department have approached the whole area of motoring and transportation, safety barriers on the motor ways and new road schemes for the urban transport proposals.

I make one final suggestion. My right hon. Friend has taken some extremely sensible steps to promote road safety. I believe he now has a further opportunity. We would all agree that the speed at which we drive has a direct bearing on the severity and the number of accidents. The lower speed limits introduced during the present fuel crisis are proving the validity of this point. I do not think, however, that it would be sensible or practical to maintain a 50 mph speed limit on our motorways and dual carriageways. I suggest, therefore that the Government should permanently maintain a 50 mph speed limit on all roads other than motorways and dual carriageways where a 70 mph. limit would apply. Most people would consider this to be a sensible law and would obey it.

I believe this to be a good Bill in principle. It should help us in keeping the motor car and the lorry in its proper place as our servant rather than our master.