ROAD TRANSPORT MATTERS IN PARLIAMENT.
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Chief Constable Bassom Not Yet Replaced. Pneumatic Tyres for Omnibuses. Petrol Pump Legislation. Tax Rebate on Pre-1913 Engines. The Net Produce of Motor Fines. The Best Date for Motor Tax Payments.
By Our Special Parliamentary Correspondent.
NTO steps have yet been taken to fill the vacancy IN at Scotland Yard caused by the death of Chief Constable Bassom. The 'Home Secretary has stated that the rank held by Mr. Bassorn was personalto himself, which means that the same rank may not be conferred as a matter of course on the new traffic officer.
Pneumatic Tyres for Omnibuses.
R. WALTER"BARER has called the attention of
the Home Secretary to the fact that tile DePartmental-Committee on the TaXation and Regulation of Road Vehicles strongly supported pneumatic tyres up to an unladen weight of -3i tons, and pointed out that pneumatic tires were fitted on omnibuses in Edinburgh and many other 'Centres. He asked whe1her the Home-. Secretary would %consider the desirability of permitting the London General Omnibus Co. to fit pneumatic tyres ' to their double-deck fleet. The reply was in the following terms :—" The Home Secretary is advised that few, if any,, of the 'double-deck omnibuses licensed in the. Metropolitan Police district come .within the scope of the Committee's recommendations, and he is not aware that any such omnibuses fitted with pneumatic tyres are at present in use anywhere in Great Britain. A 'number of single-deck omnibuses fitted with pneumatic tyres have been licensed by the Commissioner of F:olice as an experiment, but until the present trials, which must necessarily take some time, are completed there can be no question Of extending the trials to omnibuses of the double-deck type."
Steel Tyres ,and Road Damage.
SEVERAL questions relating to road damage, caused by steel and solid tyres, badly sprung vehicles, and trains of caravansdrawn by traction engines, have been addressed to the Minister of Transport, Whostates categorically that the revision of the rates of Iieence duties payable for mechanically propelled vehicles is now under consideration, although he cannot anticipate. any decision that may be arrived at with regard' to the particular types of vehicle referred to. With regard to steel-tyred vehicles, he has made representations, pending legislation for regulating the construction and use of vehicles, to the Shm.vrnen's Guild and to the National Traction Engine Owners' and Users' Associalion, with a view, to ensuring the substitution wherever practicable of rubber-tyred wheels for steel tyres.., State of Road Fund Balances.
THE cask and investment balances of theJload Fund at December 81st, 1925, are officially given as £11,932,713. This figure had temporarily increased to about £19,250,000 at January 31st as the result of the high collections of duty in the early part of the year. The total payments out of the Road Fund during the ten months ending January 31st amounted to about £14,163,000 and the cash balance at the end of the current financial year is estimated at £17,000,000.
More Road Fund Inquiries."
COLONEL ASHLEY has been asked to cease -utilizing the Road Fund for the construction of new roads and bridges and to concentrate on assisting local authorities in the maintenance of existing roads. His reply was that, in view of the continuous .growth of traffic, a reasonable expenditure on the widening of existing. roads and the construction of new bridges and of by-pass and other new roads was necessary to pre vent the overloading and congestion of existing roads. Local authorities required assistance in carrying out these necessary works as well as in maintenance. Another question was designed to discover whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to. limit fresh expenditure on the construction of new ..roads and bridges over and above those to which the Minister of Transport was already committed during the next two or three years, and whether an undertaking would be giVen that existing .commitments would be carried out The Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. R. M'Neill) referred the questioner to replies given by the Chancellor on .February 4th—incidentally, they did not specifically deal with these points—from which it may be gathered that the brief general statement of that date smitinarizing the speech to'a deputation of" road authorities was apparently intended as the last word before the Budget statement.
• An Inconclusive Debate...
rilinS conclusion was borne out in the debate on the _L 17th inst. on Mr. Dixey:s motion declaring' that. no money should be taken, alrocated, or spentout of the Road Fund for any purposes other than for the purpose Of construction, repair and maintenance of roads and bridges. 'An amendinent was moved :—" That this House, being prepared to accept the assurances which have already been given, that the amount of money assigned to the upkeep of roads; and particularly of rural roads, will be increased and not diminished, and will not be a fixed but an expandinzamount, and also that a wider measure of discretion will be given to local authorities in their expenditure, is of opinion that it should await the full statement of the policy of His Majesty's Government in accordance with constitutional
practice." . .
Mr. Churchill, in a Witty speech, said nothing whatever about his proposals, • butdenounced. the constituticinal novelty of the House of Commons passing resolutions on Budget matters before the Budget-was presented. No decision was come to, as at 11 o'cleck a closure motion was defeated-and no time remained for the continuation of the debate, which accordingly was adjourned. One useful purpose was served, which was to demonstrate very clearly to the Prime Minister and Mr. Churchill the very substantial body of opinion existing among their own followers against any tampering with the present use of the Road Tax revenue.
TaX,.Rebate on Pre-1913 Engines.
AREQUEST was put forward by Brigadier-General Clifton Brown that, in view of the fact that motor: ears of 1913 pattern are allowed a rebate of one-fourth annually from their motor licences, the same -rebate should be extended to 1914 and 1915 pattern ears, and that, in future, all cars over 10 years old should obtain a rebate. Colonel Ashley could not recommend any alteration of the present. arrangement. The rebate, he said, was granted not on the ground of the age. of the engine as such, but because ..at that time there was a general change in the trend of motorcar engine design and engines'were constructed to develop much greater actual horse-power than that arrived at under the Treasury formula for taxation purposes.
• Tests.for Drunkenness. • DUR1NG the recess a good deal of attention was given to the question of tests for drunkenness, following upon the appointment b37 the British Medical c25 Association of a committee to investigate the subject, and the heavy penalties incurred under the Criminal Justice Act of 1925 for being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle. All sorts of views were expressed in the daily newspapers regarding the dependence to be placed on existing police methods of deciding whether a man is drunk or sober. There is certainly no uniformity of practice or a standard set of tests, and although it is admitted that few mistakes are made, the possibility of mistake makes necessary an investigation, with the object of devising, if possible, uniform and generally established methods of determining the condition that is somewhat loosely described as "drunk." Probably influenced by the knowledge of the existence of this very representative committee appointed by the 13,M.A., the Home Secretary stated the other day that he did not think the matter required the appointment of an official committee.
Large Revenue from Fines.
THE net amount of lines for breaches of the Motor Car Acts, transmitted after certain deductions for costs, etc., for payment into the Motor Tax Account in 1925, was £142,272. Further arrangements for audit are to be considered by the Home Office in consultation with other departments concerned.
Supervision of Petrol Pumps.
THE Weights and Measures Amendment Bill, which was introduced towards the end of last session but not further advanced, has again been presented in the House of Lords and the second reading fixed for to-day
Reintroduction of the Petroleum Bill.
THE Petroleum Bill, which deals with the carriage of petroleum, and which was dropped at the end of last session, is again to be introduced—most probably in the House of Lords.
First Scheme of Tree Planting.
THE first grant from the Road Fund for the planting HE trees on highways is a 50 per cent, grant towards the expenditure of £4,202 proposed by the Middlesex County Council for planting a stretch of 24 miles of arterial roads. The cost works out at £175 a mile.
The Best Date for Tax Payments. The Best Date for Tax Payments. THE suggestion has again been made that, owing to the financial demands made on the business community in the month of January, the date for payment of the annual tax in respect of registration of motor vehicles or Road Fund licences should be changed to May or June. Colonel Ashley considers that if a change were made, May or June would not be satisfac-, tory, because Easter would fall towards the end of the licensing year.Abetter date would be October 31st, when many vehiclesare laid up for the winter, but, taking all the circumstances into consideration, be is of opinion that the balance of advantage is on the side of keeping the licensing year coincident with the calendar year, as at present.
Solution of the Traffic Problem.
THE Ministry of Transport have been .offered " a solution of the traffic problem" by an inventor residing in Brighton who, according to Sir A. Cooper Rawson, is prepared to deposit £100 or more, if necessary, to be forfeited under given conditions if the invention is not adopted. It is claimed that many accidents and thousands of pounds in .street improvements can he saved by the adoption of the invention, and Sir A. Cooper Rawson asked whether the Minister of Transport would confer with the Treasury with a view to entering into a contract with the applicant to investigate the process. Inventors have not usually an easy passage with Government departments. Colonel Ashley stated that the inventor was informed in October last
c26 that he would be glad to receive any suggestions which would assist in solving the traffic problem in London, but the inventor subsequently intimated that he was not prepared to submit his scheme unless the Minister first entered into an agreement that he should be paid for his invention in the event of its being used. He (Col. Ashley) was not prepared to enter into any such agreement_ If the inventor desired to protect his invention, he should take steps to have it patented, after which it would be open to him to submit .it, when it would receive careful consideration.. Another invention, not quite so ambitious, has been brought to the notice of the Home Secretary by Colonel Day, who asked whether a constable in " B " Division, Metropolitan Police, had received any reward or gratuity for suggesting the new type of white detachable sleeves for traffic duty policemen. Sir Wm. Joynson-Hicks observed that the white detachable sleeves were gradually evolved and were not invented by a constable of " B " Division. An apparently useful modification of the idea suggested by a "B" Division constable was, however, at present ander consideration, and no question of reward or gratuity had arisen. •
Traffic at Elephant and Castle, London.
THE Minister of Transport states that, owing to the presence of tramways at the Elephant and Castle, it would not be practicable to adopt the gyratory system of working traffic there. A scheme is before the Ministry for the improvement of conditions in that neighbourhood, but, as it involves certain street improvements, some time must necessarily elapse -before it can be put into operation.
• Policemen or Signposts ?
THE Home Secretary has announced that he is not prepared to set up a special branch of the Metropolitan Police for traffic regulations, era new force, in order to release more men todeal with crime. A suggestion was made by Captain Brass that some policemen might be saved in the Metropolitan district if signposts were substituted for policemen to indicate the single direction road, but the Home Secretary pointed out that, before. the new directions—which were experimental—were made permanent, he wanted an investigation made to see whether they were a success.
White Discs on Cycles.
ON Sir Harry Brittain requesting that the Minister of Transport should inquire into an experiment, recently made by cyclists, of carrying a small white disc at the rear, Colonel Ashley stated that he was aware of the suggestion that the rear mudguards of bicycles should be painted white for the purpose of additional safety at night. Experimentswere now being carried out to test this and other proposals put forward for a similar purpose.
The Grant for Rural Roads.
THE £750,000 grant from the Road Fund for unclassified roads in rural areas is limited to England and Wales, as assistance to Scotland on at least an equivalent scale is rendered under other heads.
Land Values and New Roads.
N°oPportunity is lost by the land value taxers to reiterate the demand for legislation to ensure that the enhanced value of land contiguous to new roads should go i to the public. Colonel Ashley, without committing himself to the support of , such a plea, points out that, where any power exists for the purchase of lands adjacent to the new roads, expert advice is taken as to whether such purchase would be financially advantageous. Where possible, he is also taking steps, in co-operation with the local authorities concerned for the application of their town-planning powers, to secure the line of new roads on the most advantageous and economical terms.