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Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you, like me, have always admired the skittish sense of humour of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden), exhibited once again this afternoon. In respect of the point that he made about my own interests, declared in the Register, it certainly would not be in the interests of opencast coal producers in this country to encourage imports of coal. Therefore, unlike the hon. Gentleman, I can hardly be said to be a slavish follower of my own pecuniary interests.
I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) has said : it is appalling that Labour Members should seek to impugn the integrity of other hon. Members, in whatever part of the House, for outside interests that are properly declared. I hope that, in speaking about the various policies that we have to debate, we do so untrammelled by personal interests. For instance, I do not impugn the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) for accepting a roof over his head from the Transport and General Workers Union, nor the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), whose roof is provided by the same body. I certainly do not believe that, in their opposition to the Government's proposals for the docks, they are influenced in any way by the financial advantage that they gain from union sponsorship.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) rose --
The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) has now said that he is happy to associate himself with the proposed dock strike that is being organised by the Prime Minister and her Front Bench. Everybody in the country--at least most people--recognises that it has all been set up. As the hon. Gentleman seems so keen to declare his association, as he does not deny my hon. Friend's comment that he relishes the idea of a dock strike, and as he is quite happy to talk about the declaration of interests, of which I have none, perhaps he would be happy to tell us how much money he gets from all his interests.
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Two seconds ago you heard--indeed, we all heard--the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) refer in disparaging terms to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox). It used to be the custom of the House that, when one Member wished to say something disparaging about another, he gave that Member notice. I wonder if you can tell us whether that is still the convention and will you invite the hon. Gentleman to say whether, in this case, he did give notice to my hon. Friend?
Column 1071all hon. Members will read the recent report of the Select Committee on Procedure on this matter and on the question of the conventions and of good order in the House. So far as the Bill is concerned, I trust that the debate on Monday will be carried on in the best parliamentary traditions.
Mr. Madden : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gave general notice to the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) in early-day motion 702, which points out that the hon. Member, who is Chairman of the Committee of Selection, holds seven directorships and four parliamentary--
Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information Systems) Bill [Lords]
Order for Second Reading read.
Driver licensing is designed to improve safety and reduce casualties. May I quote "Another Voice" :
"Others have lost sisters before. Every day people lose husbands, wives, parents, children and friends they have loved, whose loss reduces every perspective to dullness, misery and pain. In many cases they carry the pain around with them for the rest of their lives. At moments like this, one realises that under the surface of a polite society there is a great well of sadness and bereavement, an aspect of the human condition which is as inescapable as it is seldom remarked, yet looming larger in many people's lives than any of the things they pretend to think important. The only excuse for allowing my own howl of anguish to be heard is to give those as yet unbereaved a glimpse into the hellish blackness lying under the surface of their lives before they sensibly turn away and think of something else." Those words, written by Auberon Waugh, come from the Spectator of 15 February 1986.
This Bill, introduced in another place at the beginning of December, makes provision for a number of improvements in road traffic law. It should again be widely welcomed as a sensible and largely uncontroversial piece of legislation. This debate will give the House a chance to discuss broader issues of transport policy. Some were highlighted during our consideration last Friday of the Parking Bill. We welcome each opportunity to publicise the Government's sensible policies for traffic management.
The Bill is in two main parts. I shall start with the reduction of road casualties which is relevant to two proposals in part I. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has today announced provisional road casualty figures for 1988. These show a fall of 2 per cent. in deaths compared with 1987 and a 1 per cent. drop in serious injuries. To put that in a more historic context, since 1975 there has been an average reduction of deaths on our roads of 30 a week. With just over 5,000 people killed on our roads last year and over 63,000 seriously injured, that reduction is not enough. Over 400 children under 14 were killed last year, with nearly 8,000 seriously injured. Of those aged between 15 and 59, more than 3,200 died and nearly 47,000 were seriously injured. Of those aged 60 and over, nearly 1,400 were killed and over 8,000 seriously injured. Parents, relatives, neighbours, colleagues and friends shared the tragedy of over 68,000 loved ones lost through death on the roads or with lives wrecked by serious injury. Over a quarter of a million more people of all ages were slightly injured. More than 320,000 people suffered directly last year as a result of accidents on our roads.
In July 1987, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set the target of reducing road casualties by one third by the year 2000. Overall, deaths are now down 10 per cent. on the 1986 figure of 5,600 a year. That is encouraging when set against a 25 per cent. increase in
Column 1073traffic over the same period. Overall, for deaths and serious injuries, casualty rates have fallen by 20 per cent. but we still have a long way to go to meet the target in the year 2000. Clause 6 deals with training for new motor cyclists. It will make a significant contribution. Motor cyclists are one of the most vulnerable groups of road users. Motor cyclists' casualty rates are the highest for any type of vehicle. Motorcycles and mopeds make up less than 2 per cent. of road traffic. A seventh of all deaths and a fifth of all serious injuries are to motor cyclists. In 1988 that meant that over 670 motor cyclists died and over 12,000 were seriously injured.
Lack of skill, lack of experience and inadequate defensive riding techniques are the reasons. I do not want to hide the fact that in many accidents involving motor cyclists another road vehicle is involved and the driver of that vehicle often was a contributory fault. In the past five years some 40 per cent. of all motor cyclist casualties were under 20 years of age. That means that over 100,000 families have been affected.
There is no requirement for motor cyclists to take any training at all. Learners can ride for two years on a provisional licence. If they wish to carry on riding, they must pass both parts of the motorcycle test. In practice, many riders take neither training nor tests. They simply give up riding after two years--or sooner, if they have a serious accident.
Clause 6 will make training of new motor cyclists compulsory by introducing new limitations on the condition of use of provisional motor cycle and moped licences. It will become illegal to ride on the road unless the motor cyclist has successfully completed the prescribed basic training course or is in the process of being trained.
This proposal has been widely welcomed by road safety organisations and the police, by motor cycle manufacturers and dealers, by training centres, individual motor cyclists and by motor cycling groups and their representative bodies. We are discussing the content of the new course with training groups. We shall introduce the new system as soon as possible.
Our road safety record may be the best in Europe but it is still not good enough. Accident rates are falling but not fast enough. This proposal will make one good contribution to the reduction of deaths and injuries on our roads.
Clause 2 deals with a different road safety issue. It provides that in future licences to drive any prescribed class of goods vehicle or fare- paying passenger-carrying vehicle will generally need to be renewed every five years once drivers pass 45 years of age. Drivers of more than 65 years of age will need to renew their licences annually. A medical report will be needed with each application for renewal. This change will ensure that drivers of large vehicles are subject to regular medical checks. It will reduce the risk of the driver of a lorry or a bus collapsing behind the wheel and endangering a great many lives.
The remainder of part I paves the way for a new unified driver licensing system in Great Britain.
At present, the familiar car licence is issued by the Secretary of State through the driver and vehicle licensing centre at Swansea. Licences to drive heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles are issued through independent
Column 1074traffic commissioners in 11 traffic area offices. One professional driver can therefore have two or even three separate licences and is answerable to two different licensing authorities- -the Secretary of State and the traffic commissioners.
Professional drivers who go abroad can face problems. Authorities in other Economic Community countries are not used to the idea of dual licensing. Virtually all other member states use a single licence showing all driving entitlement.
The Bill provides for the United Kingdom to introduce a single licence showing all driving entitlement. The Secretary of State will become the sole licensing authority. All driving licences will be issued centrally from Swansea. Professional drivers who go abroad will have the benefit of an internationally recognised licence. All drivers will benefit from a more efficient streamlined licensing system, because the DVLC's lower costs will be reflected in the fees charged for all licences.
The introduction of the new licence will enable the United Kingdom to meet its commitments under the first Council directive on driver licensing. The Economic Community initiative to harmonise driver licensing systems was fully debated by the House on Tuesday night. As I explained then, this Bill does not compromise our position on the Commission's proposal for a second directive to complete harmonisation.
In particular, this Bill enables us to maintain our opposition to the proposal that drivers of minibuses and light goods vehicles should take two tests and meet higher medical standards. I repeat that we are distinguishing here between professional drivers of minibuses with fare- paying passengers and the non-professional drivers of minibuses whose passengers do not have to pay fares. We shall continue to press the Commission strongly on this issue. The firm support which the House expressed for the position will be helpful. The Bill is drafted on the assumption that we shall win the arguments in Brussels. If we were unsuccessful in Brussels and had to adopt any of their proposals, we should need to come back to Parliament before we could implement further changes. I am not contemplating failure.
Part II of the Bill provides for the licensing and regulation information systems. These are systems which give drivers, through special in-vehicle equipment, route guidance and warnings on traffic conditions. The best known example of a driver information system is autoguide. Some hon. Members have had an introduction to autoguide through the demonstration scheme which the Department of Transport is now running in the Westminster area. I take this opportunity of inviting other hon. Members who would like to see the demonstration to let me know. We believe that autoguide and systems like it can do much to ease congestion and speed up traffic.
Road spending has increased substantially under this Government. Provision in this financial year for motorways and trunk roads is over £1.2 billion. New roads alone will never provide the complete answer to congestion.
Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North) : Can my hon. Friend tell the House now, or ensure that it is told in the winding-up speech, the answers to the following questions? First, in the explanatory memorandum at the beginning of the Bill, page iii, under the heading "Financial Effects of the Bill", in the second paragraph,
Column 1075should not the reference be to clause 10 and not clause 9? Secondly, on the subject of clause 10(8), can my hon. Friend tell the House why the Government feel it necessary to regulate the charges that may be made by a licence holder to motorists for information from a driver information system? Does this not smack of Socialism? What is wrong with a free market operating in this area?
Mr. Bottomley : I am tempted to remind my hon. Friend of the various other Bills and Acts of Parliament which have gone through recently and which seem to me to do a bit more on regulating charging by various larger bodies which do not face an enormous amount of competition. But it may be better to take his invitation to answer his questions in winding up.
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : On the second of the two points which my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) raised, am I right in thinking that it is planned that the Government will make a choice of which system is to operate, that it would be very difficult to have competing systems operating in this country and that therefore it is inevitable that there should be some kind of regulatory regime?
Mr. Bottomley : My hon. Friend is right to say that it is not likely that two people will set up a pilot scheme in London, or a full scheme in some part of Derbyshire, for example, or on the Airedale route. I do not think that I am regarded as one of those who are most likely to want to regulate the price of these things. Perhaps it is a detailed point which, if not today, could be discussed in Committee. Perhaps we can reach a conclusion if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading today.
I was saying that new roads alone will never provide the complete answer to congestion. Scope for new roads in the middle of towns and cities--where congestion is worst--is strictly limited. New roads will not solve the problem of the lorry that overturns on the motorway and causes a 10-mile tailback.
Autoguide was conceived in the United Kingdom by the Government's transport and road research laboratory. TRRL has estimated that an autoguide system throughout London could help drivers to reduce their average journey times by about 10 per cent. and reduce mileage by about 6 per cent. The system has the potential to make even better use of existing roads and cut congestion. The success of autoguide will depend on co-operation between a number of different interests. The Government have been involved in the early development of the system and in promoting this legislation. Under clause 9, my right hon. Friend will be the licensing authority for autoguide and other driver information systems.
The future development and financing of autoguide will fall to the private sector. The success of the system depends on commercial development and marketing. It should therefore be promoted and financed by the private sector. My right hon. Friend has invited the private sector to make proposals for a large-scale autoguide pilot scheme in the London area. If the scheme were successful, the operator would have the right to upgrade it to a fully commercial system to which the public could subscribe. Proposals are due to be submitted to the Department by 21 April.
The autoguide pilot scheme will involve participation by local authority associations and the police. They will want to be sure that the system will not prejudice road
Column 1076safety or good traffic management. So will the Government. A special group is being set up, comprising representatives of local government, the police and the Department of Transport, to oversee the monitoring of the pilot scheme.
Autoguide involves collaboration with our European partners. There is already an Anglo-German draft standard covering an important part of the technology. Discussions with other member states are starting. An experimental autoguide-type system is already operating in West Berlin. Trade barriers within Europe are disappearing. In time, and with further successful collaboration, it may become possible to drive from London to Paris, Rome or Berlin, receiving route guidance all the way.
The fact that part II of the Bill is concerned with autoguide-type systems does not mean that we are pursuing advanced technology at the expense of other approaches. The Department of Transport is engaged in a number of initiatives to improve information to drivers. At the other end of the technology spectrum from autoguide, we are doing a major review of the statutory traffic signs regulations. We have designated 1989 the "year of the sign".
Part II of the Bill is necessary for two main purposes. An operator of autoguide--and possibly of other types of driver information system--will need powers to install roadside beacons and certain other apparatus. Much of the infrastructure will be installed by the existingpublic telecommunications operators--currently British Telecom and Mercury. Other parts will be installed by the operator of the system, using the new powers in clause 12.
Legislation is also necessary to ensure that the introduction of advanced driver information systems can be properly controlled. Clause 10 will enable my right hon. Friend to attach conditions to licences to operate driver information systems. A licence could, for example, provide that a particular system could direct traffic only on certain roads or classes of roads. The proposed autoguide pilot scheme will give us a good idea of what licence conditions are necessary for a commercial system.
Perhaps I could take this opportunity to spell out our policies for transport in London. It is our policy to improve the quality and capacity of rail and underground links into and around central London. It is our policy to secure more reliable bus services which are better matched to the needs of customers. It is our policy to make the best possible use of existing roads, through good traffic management, support for enforcement of parking controls and the use of advanced technology such as autoguide and like systems, now being extended to most of outer London, which give buses priority at traffic lights. It is our policy to provide through traffic with good alternative routes around London. It is our policy to build new roads to relieve the very worst congestion black spots and to provide for better orbital movement and better access to poorly served and developing areas.
It is equally important to state what are not our policies. It is not our policy to drive new motorways through London. It is not our policy to build any new roads unless they can be justified within the normal planning procedures which provide for consultation with local residents and others. It is not our policy to pander to those who wish to commute to central London by car in
Column 1077traffic jams when they could get to work more easily and safely by rail. It is not our policy to write a detailed master plan which would be out of date before the ink was dry.
The more vociferous commentators and pressure groups should take note of these policies. In particular, groups such as the Association of London Authorities should stop misleading people with visions of a new motorway box being cut through leafy suburbs. That is emphatically not our policy.
Mr. Bottomley : If the hon. Gentleman would listen with his ears rather than with his mouth, he might hear what I am saying. Radio stations such as LBC, which cannot distinguish between motorways and other roads, needs to listen clearly because its listeners are interested, and I suspect that many others in London are interested as well.
We can consider the details of the Bill in Committee. This is not a major piece of legislation. Its provisions will be of benefit to many road users. Drivers of lorries and coaches will be able to obtain their licences quicker and at lower cost, new motor cyclists will be properly trained and less likely to be killed or injured and all road users will benefit from less traffic congestion and fewer delays when systems such as autoguide are in use.
I hope that the House will agree that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) : I thank the Minister for his explanation of the Bill's provisions. As he knows, I am quite new to this brief, though I am having to learn quickly this week. Indeed, such is the speed of political events, if not of the traffic around Westminster, I thought that I should have to ask for a statement this afternoon.
I am delighted to learn that the Department has today denied that it has ordered an inquiry into Sir Keith Bright's allegations about the London emergency services which so sullied the debate on the Fennell report yesterday. We believe that Sir Keith's allegations had more to do with his contract than with anything else, but I shall be writing to the Secretary of State about the matter.
As I said, I am new to this brief, but even as a lay person I had grasped what were the major transportation concerns and problems of this country, and certainly of London. In my naivety, when I saw that the Government were introducing a new piece of legislation, I thought it just had to be the Road Traffic (Integration of Transport Policy) Bill that we had all been waiting for. Might it, I asked, be the measure to set in motion the backlog of proposals necessary to bring some order to our transport chaos? But that was not to be. We are delivered instead of the Road Traffic (Tinkering with the Problem) Bill, not to mention the Road Traffic (Private Funding Solution) Bill.
None of the measures in the Bill is necessarily objectionable and, as the Minister pointed out, its provisions, by excluding non-commercial minibus drivers,
Column 1078protect our common position of opposition to regulation of the voluntary sector. Most of the measures are commendable, but we have grave reservations about aspects of part II. Together, however, the measures are unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on our transport problems, particularly in London, which will be the location of the pilot scheme for autoguide. I hope the Minister can give an assurance that, as parliamentary time is being made available to facilitate commercial transport schemes, it will be made equally available to provide for and resource public transport improvement. The first part of the Bill is consequent on the EC directive on the Community driving licence and will centralise the issuing of drivers' licences, bringing all forms of licence entitlement together in one document. This part of the Bill also lays down more stringent requirements for the renewal of vocational licences. Drivers with those licences will have to seek renewal from the age of 45 every five years and from 65 annually, accompanied by mandatory medical checks. In general, we support this part of the Bill, although I have some questions for the Minister.
The Government estimate that savings of 100 jobs or £1 million per year will be made by centralising the process at Swansea. I questioned the Minister about that on Tuesday but as he failed to give a concrete answer, I shall ask him again. Will he take the opportunity to increase the number of staff at Swansea so that delays in obtaining licences are reduced?
My second question relates to the medical tests proposed for all holders of vocational licences. I am aware that many drivers already complain about the appeal system and I foresee apprehension among drivers about the new proposals. Perhaps in Committee the Minister will give us some comparisons about how such procedures are carried out in other European states. It is clear from the proposals that some drivers who undergo more rigorous medical tests may find that they are debarred from driving and thus lose their livelihood. The Minister will remember that, in 1984, his Department's medical advisory committee recommended paying compensation to drivers who were prevented from working because they failed medical tests. What is the Minister's attitude to that? As he has not taken this opportunity to introduce compensation arrangements at the same time as imposing more severe requirements on drivers' ability to do their jobs, what does he plan to do? We shall return to this question in Committee if we fail to receive a satisfactory answer this afternoon.
I turn now to clause 6, which implements one of the Government's proposals on motor cycling as set out in their White Paper, "Motor Cycling Safety". As the Minister said, increasing motor cycle safety must be a top priority. Motor cycling has by far the worst accident risk, as the Minister outlined so clearly. However, many motor bike accidents result from other drivers paying insufficient attention to bike riders and there is clearly a need for car, bus and lorry drivers to be made more aware of road safety in relation to bikes. One of the encouraging signs for us--and I am sure for the Minister--and one which we applaud is the way in which the motor bike organisations are now encouraging riders to take training courses. I hope that the Minister will consult the motor bike organisations thoroughly, because we politicians often disregard too easily the needs, problems and aspirations of young people. The fact that
Column 1079those organisations opposed the introduction of crash helmets in the past and that they were clearly wrong to do so has meant that many of us have perhaps not given them enough credit for a more positive attitude today. I understand that the motor bike groups, as well as safety organisations, are readily supporting the Bill's compulsory training course to replace part I of the motor bike test. We are delighted that that is so and wholeheartedly give our support to the measure.
However, concern has been voiced by the organisations that are responsible for safety and for running the courses which the Government failed to meet in the debate in the other place. I take this opportunity to raise those concerns here, although, again, we shall doubtless return to them in Committee. First, there is concern about the number of training places available. In the other place an assurance was given that there are over 900 training centres. However, an informal survey shows that the centres are by no means evenly distributed throughout the country and there are gaps, especially in rural areas. In some places, therefore, aspiring drivers will be unable to take the course that would allow them a provisional licence. Does the Minister agree that the scheme should not come into effect until it has been ascertained that there is adequate national provision for the courses?
Secondly, I hope that the Minister will give the House an assurance also that the instructors on the courses will be of a sufficiently high standard. The instructors have an examiners' role, so they should be tested themselves. I understand that every training centre must be authorised by the Secretary of State and I suggest that a scheme similar to that for car examiners should be introduced, with every examiner having to be qualified. It is important at the outset of a scheme to ensure that the highest standards are obtained and that there is uniformity of testing throughout the country. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what arrangementss he is making for regular monitoring of the training centres.
Has the Minister any ideas about the likely level of charges? He has the power to set the maximum charge for the course. Perhaps he would like to comment on an unofficial suggestion that a course might cost up to £50. As he will realise, that is a lot of money for a young person, and the course lasts only one day. As no minimum figure is set, the cost is likely to be less in areas where there are more training centres according to the rules of supply and demand, but in rural centres the cost may be near the maximum permitted figure. I am sure that many motor cyclists who read the reports of our debate will want to know what sort of figure the Minister has in mind. Clearly, it will be desirable for motor cyclists to continue training beyond this inevitably cursory one day. What steps is the Minister taking to encourage more people to take up advanced training courses? Will the Minister give us an idea of the likely time scale for the changes in the length of the provisional licence, the right to carry pillion passengers and the entitlement of car drivers to ride motor bikes?
We have some disagreement with the Government over autoguide. The Minister has explained to the House how autoguide operates and I do not propose to repeat his explanation. I acknowledge that autoguide could have some useful effects in helping drivers find a quick, less congested route to a given destination. It would doubtless be useful, as the Minister suggested, for longer journeys and for journeys throughout Europe. It would be
Column 1080especially valuable for diverting motorists from accidents on motorways, and it could therefore clearly contribute to preventing the motorway snarl-ups with which we are all so familiar. I am aware that the Transport and Road Research Laboratory in its original research suggested that autoguide could result in 500 fewer casualties a year and a saving of journey time of about 10 per cent. Naturally, the Opposition, like the Minister, are in favour of such reductions. However, I suggest that it is impossible to judge the effects on casualty figures of one specific proposal in isolation. Ministers have not always favoured schemes because casualty figures would be reduced. I remind the House of the Government's attitude towards the GLC's low fares policy which was specifically designed to take people off the roads and put them on public transport to reduce accidents, which it did.
Where is the Minister's strategic plan for dealing with the chaos and congestion on our roads? We have heard nothing about that today. It is extraordinary that, of all the measures which the Minister might have brought to the House, he has prioritised this measure. As the impact of autoguide will be felt principally in London, at least in the first instance, I want to consider its likely effect here while accepting that it will be useful on long-distance journeys outside the capital city.
The scale of the traffic problem in London can scarcely be over-estimated. According to Government figures, about 160,000 people commute into London every day by car. About 3 million vehicles are registered in London and the home counties. People sit in traffic jams every day, get impatient and try to make progress by driving via residential roads and rat runs. They park illegally, thereby aggravating the problems and the dangers. In 1986, about 500 people were killed and 50,000 injured on London's roads. The emergency services are now severely affected by delays, sometimes with fatal results. In 1975, the average speed of an ambulance was 25 mph. Now it is little more than 11 mph.
Public transport in London has become less reliable and more overcrowded. The Minister talked about his hopes for improvement. I was delighted to hear that, and I look forward to those hopes being realised. Because of the difficulties with public transport, especially with buses, people are tempted to drive to work, and that leads to increased congestion. There is widespread agreement between the Government and the Opposition that urgent action is needed. A recent Confederation of British Industry report said that London was "strangling itself to death". That report draws special attention to the need to move quickly on repairing roads, on completion of road works and on cracking down on parking offenders. The difficulties caused by such matters could be eased by proposals that are already drafted and agreed by the relevant organisations and that are waiting in the queue for parliamentary time.
The Minister says that autoguide will help to ease London's traffic problems. I doubt it. There is even a danger that autoguide will encourage greater use of the car. That was denied in the other place, but will a measure designed to aid the motorist through London not encourage more people who might previously have decided to make the journey by public transport to attempt car journeys? The Minister must assure the House that, if it appears from the pilot project that more people will be interested in using their cars as a result of the autoguide, he will reconsider authorising its use. At the
Column 1081very least, autoguide will do nothing to discourage the use of the car and the Minister has said that there must be such discouragement.
I accept that, in their consultation documents, the Government have acknowledged the danger of encouraging the use of rat runs. I appreciate that the Secretary of State has the power to tailor licence applications to the needs of particular areas. We think that that safeguard is insufficient, especially given the lack of prior consultation and participation by local authorities. I shall return to that matter.
The Minister will be in something of a dilemma when he comes to license different routes. He will be under pressure to agree as many roads as possible. If only the main trunk roads are authorised, the usefulness of the scheme will be severely limited, but there are major problems in authorising the use of unclassified roads in London. The primary problem is safety, to which the Minister gives top priority.
Several organisations have already expressed concern about the safety aspect of autoguide. The Department of Transport document entitled "Transport In London" draws attention to the fact that about 48 per cent. of accidents here were among the most vulnerable road users--pedestrians, cyclists and motor cyclists. The majority of child pedestrian accidents occur within 400 m. of home. That means that they occur on residential roads. Any measure that increases the likely use of residential roads increases the possibility of accidents on those roads, even if accidents on trunk roads were to decline as a consequence.
A further danger may arise from the expectations of people who purchase autoguides. The motorist who buys it will do so in the expectation that he- -I expect that the majority of purchasers will be men--will have a quicker journey. That will give rise to the danger of cars speeding down unsuitable roads and the drivers paying less attention to road safety than they would have done if they had not been directed to a specific road. There are ways to control the use of residential roads and the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety and local authority organisations have said that the involvement of the highway authority is absolutely crucial. Our concern has been heightened by reports emanating from a recent consultation by GEC, which is a member of the RAC consortium, with London boroughs. I understand that the boroughs were told that autoguide would be commercially viable in London only if it included roads other than categories A and B and aimed at 20 per cent. of the traffic flow. Perhaps the Minister will tell us if that is an accurate assessment and just how many vehicles that would be. In my constituency I am dealing with a strong residents' protest movement in Gellatly road where residents face the passage of 15,000 vehicles a day. It is a typical south London rat run. Lewisham council and I are desperately seeking a solution to the problem, but we see it immediately being exacerbated by autoguide. The Minister must tell us how he would view such a case.
The response of a local authority to a newly created rat run is likely to be environmental measures to slow down the traffic and restraints to limit it. What will happen when a local authority publishes a traffic order to that end and
Column 1082autoguide objects? Arguably autoguide could show traffic going back to the designated network, thus bringing the Department of Transport into the argument. How does the Minister propose to adjudicate in such cases when the Department is so wholeheartedly behind the autoguide proposals?
I give notice to the Minister that in Committee we shall seek to give the highway authority statutory involvement in the planning and monitoring of the system. Only in that way do we think that the needs of ordinary people can be protected from the development of more rat runs and more danger in their neighbourhoods and more difficulties in their homes. At least the rights of the authority should be guaranteed. The minimum should be the right of an authority to intervene if something goes wrong. We shall table an amendment to that effect. I hope that the Minister will take on board the concerns of local authorities in that respect.
I have explained in detail our misgivings about the autoguide system. We are aware, of course, that a similar project is being carried out in Berlin, but there is one crucial difference. That project is being carried out as part of a set of traffic management measures, financed predominantly by the public sector and integral to already existing traffic management schemes. That is not the case here. None the less, despite our misgivings, I assure the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and I will take the opportunity that he has offered us to see autoguide in operation for ourselves.
There are other measures in the pipeline that could have a real and lasting effect on London's transport problems. We welcome the publication of the White Paper, "The Road User and the Law", following the North report. I hope that legislation will be brought forward on that in due course. However, the Minister will be aware from the debates in the other place that there is a strong feeling on this side of the House that no more time should be wasted before bringing forward legislation on the Horne report.
New street works legislation becomes more vital every day as the level of building activity in London increases. New legislation is needed desperately to deal with the problems caused by holes in the road. Hon. Members will appreciate the irony of giving priority to the measure before us rather than to street works legislation. By providing the operator of a private information system with power to install apparatus in the highway, the Bill will add to the problems and complexities that the Horne recommendations are designed to tackle.
I have concentrated on our differences in approach and on the contentious points in the Bill. No doubt we will return to those in Committee. It will help the whole House if the Minister can give a further account of the Government's attitude when responding to the points that I have raised.
Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale) : I want to concern myself with one part of the Bill, clause 6. I think that everyone is in favour of training for young learner motor cyclists. I have had discussions recently with the Motor Cycle Association of Great Britain Ltd., so I think there are various points that it is important to raise at this stage. I begin by declaring an interest ; I think that I am one of the few Members who ride a motor cycle
Column 1083regularly--in the summer months, I hasten to say. I often use a motor cycle to go to and from the House during that period. Motor cycles, especially big ones, are potentially very dangerous machines unless they are treated with the greatest respect and concentration. If one rides a motor cycle, one soon learns that there is very little between oneself and the road, and one remembers that an accident is nearly always more damaging to a rider of a motor cycle than to a driver of a car.
I well remember being in the Isle of Man, and riding with the marshals around the 37 mile track between races, "sweeping up" after a great parade of the champions of the past. I came to Braddon bridge after one of those great heroes had spurted oil all over the track. I found myself arriving at the bridge at 50 miles an hour on my bottom, an extremely uncomfortable experience. I think that I was Chief Whip at the time, so that was probably the least that some hon. Members would have liked to happen to me.
We must always remember that riding a motor cycle is one of life's most exhilarating experiences. I hope that no misplaced zeal by any Government will reduce further the enormous pleasure that motor cycling brings. I applaud very much the Government's desire to encourage better training through clause 6. According to the explanations that we have had up to date, the provisions of clause 6 will lead to serious problems in rural areas. The hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) said that it has not been made clear how many training centres will be established. I have heard a similar figure to the one that she heard.
Let us say that there are to be 1,000 training centres around the country. I understand that that would be one for every 80 square miles. Even then, in many parts of the country there would be only one for every 150 square miles. I shall be surprised if many people in my constituency, for instance, do not live more than 20 miles from a training centre. That will cause a major problem for those who have to travel long distances to training centres from their homes or from wherever they purchased their motor cycles.
I am told that the courses may last between four and six hours. No doubt at certain times of the year it will not be possible always to fit in the course in one session. If there have to be two sessions to complete a course in a rural area, a considerable distance may have to be travelled within the triangle of place of purchase, training centre and home. Especially, there will be the problem of the person who fails to satisfy the examiner and who finds himself, perhaps fairly late at night, more than 20 miles from home, with no public transport available. What is he to do? It is a serious problem to which the Minister must address himself.
The Motor Cycle Association of Great Britain believes, as I do, that there is only one solution. There must be a special exemption for those who live, let us say, more than five miles from a training centre. There is a dispensation in the MOT test for cars when the previous MOT certificate is out of date. The Government will have to think about making a similar dispensation in respect of motor cyclists travelling directly, on a single occasion, within the three-cornered route that I described.
An amendment was made to clause 6 in another place to allow certain exemptions. That may be the means by which the Government will be able to meet my point. It is important that, during the Bill's passage, the Government