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By Our Special Parliamentary Correspondent
MINISTER DEFENDS SILENCE ZONES.
TN the House of Commons 'Sir W. 'Brass asked the Minister of Transport whether he had consulted any motoring organizations on the matter of experimenting with silence zones during the whole 24 hours, before he came to his decision to give favourable consideration to applications from local authorities on this subject. Mr. HoreBelisha said it was not his practice to consult motoring organizations before answering questions in the House of Commons, although he was glad to have their suggestions. He pointed out that, of the 250,000 persons killed and • injured on the roads annually, only' a very small percentage were motor drivers. There was, therefore, a large volume of other opinion to be considered. If any responsible local authority made an application on behalf of its citizens for an experimental extension of the silence zone, or for the trial of any other experimental safety measure, it could not but receive his favourable consideration.
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE EXPERIMENT.
1N the course of discussion, he promised to consider the point raised by Colonel Sandeman Allen that at nighttime the silence zone was practicable because lamps indicated the approach of a vehicle. He also remarked that, on the institution of the original silence zone, he was advised against it by every motoring organization in the country, except one, but they now unanimously approved it. Replying to Sir W. Brass, he said he did not consider necessary the au thorization of signs to mark the zones. If the motorist were uncertain, he could give the benefit of the doubt to the public and not sound his horn.
LORDS DISCUSS SILENCE ZONES.
THE subject of the 24-hour silence zone and the Minister of Transport's statement were debated at some length in the House of Lords. Earl Howe, in moving for papers, strongly opposed the attitude of the Minister, to whose courage and enterprise, however, he paid a tribute.
Whilst he regarded the night ban on motor horns as perfectly proper, be cause a driver could still giite a warning. with his headlights, the conditions in daylight were different. He pointed out that the Highway Code advised the giving of audible warning of approach. He thought the Minister was embarking upon a reckless experiment, and he was authorized .to,, say that the R.A,C., the A.A., and the British Road Federation were entirely opposed to his action. , A DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS.
THE use of a motor horn, said Lord Reclesdale, was at times absolutely
essential. Viscount C.ecil thought a local authority should have the right of proposing the abolition of horn-sounding in its district. The Earl of Kinnoul's view was that it would lead to blocking of traffic. A• traffic expert had told him that a hold-up of a few minutes in the Strand had its effect on the traffic at Watford. How were they to warn children playing in the streets, he asked, if the horn could not be sounded?
The Bishop of Winchester desired to see the 24-hour experiment tried. He said he had observed that the best motorists used the horn least. Lord Elton hoped that such an experiment would induce some of the motoring organizations to change their views, as they had with regard to the existing silence period. Lord Mount Temple's opinion was that the entire prohibition of the use of motor horns would not diminish the danger of accidents.
Lord Ponsonby considered that there were frequent occasions when a reminder from the horn would prevent an accident, or compensate fox an error of judgment. Viscount Elibank doubted whether any focal authority would dare to ask for the creation of a 24-hour silence zone in its district.
GOVERNMENT'S REPLY ON HORN SOUNDING.
THE Earl of Munster, who replied on behalf of the Government, said that the terms of the Minister's statement made it apparent that he was prepared to examine the question, if a local authority were to submit such a scheme to him, and to go into the merits of that one scheme. It would be obvious that he could not at present say whether, in the event of an application being made, the Minister would immediately give an unqualified assent. It would first be necessary to examine the scheme on its merits.
EXPERIMENTS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES.
HE pointed out that experiments were in operation in a numehr of European countries. In Paris, hooting was prohibited between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m, and it was understood that an extension of the period had recently' been considered. There had been a notable reduction in street accidents. In Germany, regulations were brought
Into force, in October last, enabling the authorities to prohibit hooting in any part of the country. Experiments were being tried in Berlin and elsewhere. Hooting had been forbidden at all hours of the day and night in Stuttgart, except in cases of urgent necessity, and it was claimed that the prohibition had so far worked with great success.
A complete day and night ban was now imposed in Rome, and the Italian authorities stated that the experiment had resulted in a large reduction in the number of accidents. Similar experi-. ments had been tried in Spain. In Helsingfors, Finland, the 24-hour ban had been in force for four years, during which period the street accidents had been reduced by 60 per cent. That was an extraordinary reduction, but he was advised that there was not the slightest doubt that the prohibition of hooting had had an astounding effect. The system of silence zones was also in operation • in Belgium and, he believed, in other countries.
MEANING OF "FAVOURABLE CONSIDERATION."
IN the course of further discussion, lEarl Howe elicited from the Earl of Munster the information that " favourable consideration" of an application by a local authority did not mean automatic agreement, but that the Minister would take up the matter on its merits and examine it before giving a definite answer. Earl Howe said he realized that the importance he attached to the word " favourable " was perhaps overdone, as it now appeared that the Minister's expression meant "consideration on its merits." He withdrew his motion for papers.
UNLIGHTED HORSED VEHICLES.
A TTENTION was called to accidents PIwhich had happened in the neighbourhood of the Mersey Docks by collisions with unlighted horse-drawn vehicles, and it was suggested that, as inexpensive safety lamps were now obtainable, it should be made compulsory for all horsed vehicles, in the dock areas, to carry lights.
Mr. Hore-Belisha said that in special dock areas, where inflammable or explosive goods were handled, vehicles .—horse-drawn or otherwise—were exempt from the obligation to carry
lights. His attention had recently been drawn to a fatal accident in Bootle, in which an unlighted horsed vehicle was involved, and be was in communication with Bootle Corporation on the matter.
BIGGER BUSES FOR FULHAM AND CHELSEA SERVICES.
COMPLAINTS as to the bus services ‘...linking Fulham and Chelsea with Central London have been brought to the notice of the Minister of Transport, who is informed by the London Passenger Transport Board that it is enlarging a garage at Putney to take larger buses which, when brought into use, should improve the service.