ROAD TRANSPORT MATTERS IN PARLIAMENT.
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The Prospects of a Government Bill Amending Road Vehicle Legislation. Suggestions for Diminishing Road Risks.
THE Association of County Councils have approached the Ministry of Transport urging the preparation of comprehensive consolidating and amending legislation relating to the construction, use, iegulation and taxation of road vehicles. On the basis of this, the Minister of Transport has been interrogated as to his intentions, but all the Minister could tell the House was that the promised-Bill would be introduced "as soon as practicable.' Considering the somewhat heavy sessional programme of the Government, it is improbable that progress can be made this session with such legislation, even if it is introdueed. If the Department is successful in producing a draft of the Bill before the House is prorogued towards the end of the year it is conceivable that the Government may adopt the procedure previously adopted in connection with important Bills affecting local authorities, such as the Rating and Valuation Bill, and formally introduce it so that its provisions may be well stedied and criticised before progress is attempted in the next session.
As London traffic becomes more unmanageable so does the crop of weird proposals for coping with it. In the debates of the past few days the boldest scheme propounded was to divert the River Thames to the south in a line from some convenient point in the West of London to the vicinity of the Tower Bridge, so that the existing bed of the river might be converted into a wide highway for traffic. As may be imagined, the Ministry of Transport have not yet sat down to examine the merits of such a plan, and probably never will. Another suggestion is to build more underground roadways, but the Minister of Transport holds out little hope of embarking seriously upon this difficult and expensive policy ; at any rate, in the near future. He has informed the Rouse that the Advisory Committee have under eensideration the construction of an underground road from Berkeley Square to the Mall, but in the stress of other business they have not come to any decision.
Another primosal for ameliorating present congestion is the circular system at such --radial centres as Trafalgar Square, mid its practicability is now being -investigated by the London Traffic Advisory Committee in connection with the examination they are making of the traffic conditions at that important hub.
The gritting of the road surface on the new Great West Road at cost of between £2,000 and I3,000 will be watched very carefully, high hopes being entertained of its efficiency in overcoming skid in wet weather. When the Roads Improvement Bill becomes law, as it will do very shortly, a more intense canipaign of road experiment will be entered upon. . Meantime, the Minister of Transport receives verious suggestions from Members of Parliament which are not likely to improve the temper of motor drivers. Rough surfaces at the approach to danger-points is a mild specific compared with the caniveau system, which involves something like a ditch running across the roadway. Whatever other countries may do in the way of "radical: cures" for high speed. it is contrary to British notione of fair-play to visit mistake or ignorance with the certainty of accident. Cob Ashley rightly has turned down the suggestion.
Cyclists a Danger.
Although the Home Secretary has received a representation from the National Cyclists' -Celan protesting against the issue by chief constables of posters calling upon pedal cyclists to carry rear lamps or reflectors, he is not in a position to interfere with chief constables in sending out documents. This is his official attitude. When asked by Col. Day whether he thought cyclists, without rear lights, were a great danger to the public, he promptly replied that they were a danger to the public, and even a greater danger to themselves,
Motor ,Taxation to be Revised.
During the Budget debates this year very little attention was given to the proposal to revert to taxation of motor spirit in place of taxation on cubic capacity. There was an amendment on the paper, but the silk tax, super-tax and death duties crushed out this and many other topics. Major Crawford, however, had an opportunity on the third reading Of the Finance Bill to urge that a tax on spirit would be more fair, equitable and revenue producing. He was insistent on the reduction of the taxation of the lower-powered vehicles, including the small commercial vehicle. Incidentally, he mentioned that, although the Road Fund revenue had increased in the past four years from £11,400,000 to over £16,000,000, expenditure on roads was often stationary or.actually decreasing. This does not appear to square with Sir Henry Maybury's statement before the Royal Commission on local government that the commitments of the Ministry of Transport will absorb all the revenue of the Fund up to 1930-31, including the estimated increase of theannual revenue to £20,000,000 three or four years from now. Major Crawfurd's intervention was most useful in drawing from Col. Moore Brabazon the very definite statement on behalf of the Ministry of Transport that the Government intended to go into the reorganization of the taxation of motorcars "from top to bottom," on the basis of damage done to the roads, and that they did not intend to revert to a tax on petrol.
Passing Stationary Vehicles.
When Mr. Groves submitted the suggestion that the County Borough of West Ham should be empowered to set up local by-laws to regulate traffic and prevent vehicles overtaking stationary vehicles on the near side, he was ignoring an important principle of the London Traffic Act of last year, which treated the London traffic area as one unit. It was frequently pointed out in the debates before that Act was passed that regard must he had to uniformity of practice within the London traffic area, and that it was even impraeticable to insert certain amendments because they would isolate the London traffic code from that of the rest of the country. Cob Ashley, in reply to Mr. Groves, contended that the law relating to dangerous driving was: adequate to deal with the passing of stationary tramcars.