Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 11 Nov 1931

Vol. 40 No. 10

Road Traffic Bill, 1931—Third Stage (Resumed).

Proof that a person charged with an offence under this section was, at the time at which such offence is alleged to have been committed, driving a mechanically propelled vehicle at a speed exceeding thirty miles an hour shall be prima facie evidence of the commission of such offence.

I move amendment 43:—

"To delete sub-section (3)."

This amendment proposes to remove one of the most serious defects in the Bill, as it is a provision which would be frequently disregarded no matter what steps were taken to secure its enforcement. We have already discussed at considerable length the principle in connection with heavy bus traffic and heavy lorry traffic. The arguments put forward by Deputy Myles seem to me to meet with approval from all quarters in the House. As I pointed out in that connection there seemed to be a special reason for treating heavy motor traffic differently. We all know that in places it would be not alone a danger to the public to drive at thirty miles an hour, but that it would be dangerous to drive at even ten miles an hour. But on the open road no one would say that a person driving at thirty miles an hour is driving at a speed dangerous to the public. I doubt if there is any driver in this House who does not habitually break that regulation on the open road in safe places.

It seems to me that the strength of the Bill lies in emphasising the point that anyone driving at any speed, whether less or more than thirty miles an hour, to the danger of the public, is doing something which would be prohibited and for which that person should suffer penalties. It is foolish to put into the Bill something which will not be habitually obeyed and which cannot be habitually enforced. My amendment is that sub-section (3) which suggests that anyone driving at thirty miles an hour shall be prima facie supposed to be driving to the danger of the public should be deleted. I think it puts an onus on the driver that is not fair. It puts him in the position of proving that he was not driving to the danger of the public, a thing that it might be quite difficult to prove in law although it might be indisputable in fact. I do not want to speak at length because we have discussed the principle, but I would like to hear the views of other Deputies. I have heard the clause universally condemned by motorists as a bad one.

It is not intended that there shall be a thirty miles an hour limit for private cars. I have indicated that I am prepared in Section 42 to put in a thirty-five mile limit for buses. That speed on the type of road and in the type of circumstances most suitable is not unreasonable. There has been so much misunderstanding with regard to this that if I sensed the opinion of the House rightly, that there should not be such a clause in the Bill, I would be prepared to accept an amendment and to leave it that dangerous, careless, and inconsiderate driving are things that are going to be offences. The Inter-Departmental Committee that went into the matter were against a speed limit for private cars and the Roads Advisory Committee, when they saw the draft of the Bill, were against this clause. If there is a Deputy to speak in favour of retaining the clause I should like to hear him. If no Deputy will speak in favour of retaining it I am prepared to accept the amendment.

Are we to understand that there will be no speed limit for private cars?

Or light motor vehicles?

Mr. Wolfe

None at all?

Mr. Wolfe

The criterion will be whether the driving was dangerous or not.

I would like to ask the Minister whether it is the intention to set up thirty-five miles an hour as a speed limit for buses in urban areas.

I am not going to discriminate here as to the basic law for our speeds between urban and rural areas, because there are many urban areas that are more suitable in certain circumstances—for instance, in the early morning—for a speed of thirty-five miles an hour, than some country roads would be. There is ample opportunity in Section 43 for local authorities, considering the traffic circumstances of their areas, to deal with the question of speed inside the urban area, whether on particular roads or in the urban area as a whole.

That is the intention and the Deputy can comment by amendment or otherwise on the Report Stage on that intention.

Am I to take it that the Minister is willing to allow the amendment to pass?

I object to the clause apart from the point made by Deputy Thrift. I object to the futility of suggesting that proof could be obtained. A man is not going to say that he was driving at thirty miles an hour, and a person in the street is not able to prove it.

I am accepting that amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 46, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I should like to refer back, in line 49, Section 46, to certain words to which Deputy Lemass drew attention. The phrase there occurs "or might reasonably be expected then to be in such place." The section refers to every person who drives a mechanically propelled vehicle in a public place or in a manner which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the nature, condition and use of such place, and the amount of traffic which then actually is "or might reasonably be expected then to be" in such place. I suggested that I might on Report take out those words, "or might reasonably be expected." I have decided that on Report I shall not move to take them out. This phrase refers to certain types of places—schools, side roads and other places along a road—where a certain set of circumstances might reasonably be expected to exist. Children might reasonably be expected to run out of a school or traffic might reasonably be expected to emerge from a side road. The phrase would also apply to a corner in an urban district where a motorist would be expected to move in the light of things reasonably expected to be met there. The words have already been used in legislation, and I think it would be unwise to drop them. If the Deputy still thinks that the words ought to go out, he should put down an amendment for Report Stage. After consideration, I have myself decided that I shall not move to delete them.

My suggestion that these words should be deleted was due to the belief that they confused the issue and, in fact, restricted the phrase which is used outside the brackets—"having regard to all the circumstances of the case." Everything the Minister has referred to—the possibility of children coming out of school, additional traffic being met in urban areas, the possibility of other vehicles coming out of side roads—appears to be covered by the words "having regard to all the circumstances of the case." The insertion of these other words is going to lead to confusion. The Minister has said that the words are used in existing legislation. They have led to confusion in the past, because the word "reasonably" places a very heavy burden of proof upon the motor driver. In fact, it is so difficult to understand what it means that the only safe course for the driver, if that word remains in the Bill, is to assume that always at every corner and every byroad another car is immediately about to emerge and to get out and look round the corner.

I think there should not be one word of that section left out. Motorists of long standing, as some of us are, know that a driver should proceed as if everybody else were in the wrong. There is no question that the words are perfectly correct. At every corner and on every part of the road, the driver should be on the look-out. Now that the speed limit is removed, it is up to every motorist to take every precaution at every place on the road.

I agree with the principle enunciated by Deputy Myles. The best maxim is to assume that every other driver is coming along on his wrong side. But just for that reason I agree with Deputy Lemass. I think the retention of those words tends to confuse the point. The point is that attention should be paid to "all the circumstances," and not to the words within the brackets.

Section 46, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That Section 47 stand part of the Bill."

The maximum fine to be imposed on a driver of a vehicle so defective as to be dangerous appears to be very low in comparison with some of the other penalties prescribed by the Bill—for example, the penalty for driving without a licence, which offence is not dangerous at all.

I said I would look into the question of penalties.

Under this section, I think the Minister should take bigger precautions to see that vehicles, especially buses, carrying passengers are inspected periodically.

That is dealt with in other sections.

To a certain extent it comes under this section, because you are placing penalties on people who drive defective buses, while your inspection is not adequate. There is not the inspection in the Free State that exists in the Six Counties or in England, Scotland and Wales. Last week I quoted a case in County Donegal where vehicles plying for public hire were condemned in Northern Ireland. Owing to the laxity of the inspection system here these vehicles are allowed to ply for hire to the danger of the lives of passengers. If you are to impose certain penalties you will need to perfect your inspection system.

Question agreed to.


(1) Every person who orders, directs, or induces a person in his employment or under his control to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is a contravention of this Part of this Act shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof, in the case of a first offence, to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or, in the case of a second or any subsequent offence, to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.

(2) The driver of a street service vehicle and also the driver of a mechanically propelled vehicle hired on terms under which the services of such driver are included in the hiring shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be under the control of the hirer of such vehicle.

(3) Where the owner of an omnibus instructs the driver thereof to observe a time-table and such time-table is so framed that such driver could not observe it without driving such omnibus at a speed which would be a contravention of this Part of this Act, such owner shall for the purposes of this section be deemed to have ordered such driver to drive such omnibus at a speed which is a contravention of this Part of this Act.

For the purposes of this sub-section the distance between any two places named in a time-table may be proved by the evidence of a person employed in the Ordnance Survey giving evidence from knowledge acquired by him in such employment notwithstanding that he had not himself measured the said distance.

It may help to shorten discussion if I say that of this section I propose to delete sub-sections (1) and (2), and to remodel somewhat sub-section (3), taking into consideration in the remodelling the suggestion contained in Deputy O'Connell's amendment, No. 46.

Would the Minister indicate the reasons which induce him to move the deletion of sub-section (1)? That is a sub-section to which we have no objection.

This matter is covered by Section 22 of the Petty Sessions Act, 1851.

This is a codifying Bill. Would it not be better to leave the provision here and delete it in the other case?

This Bill does not codify all the normal law. The matter referred to in sub-section (1) can be dealt with by the ordinary law.

When Deputy Lemass says that we have no objection to the sub-section, that is, of course, provided that "under his control" is not applied to a person hiring a taxi.

That is another section.

The penalty to be imposed under the section as it stands is not an effective one. I could quote the Minister cases where drivers of motor buses have been fined £2 and £3 for carrying out the orders of their employers. Under sub-section (1), the person who gives an illegal order of this kind is to be subject to a penalty of only £10. I think that penalty is very moderate compared with the penalties in other sections of the Bill.

Amendments 44, 45 and 46 not moved.

The question is that Section 48 stand part of the Bill.

Is the Minister sure that he has the support of the House on this section?

I just thought that if there was to be criticism I might shorten discussion by saying what I did say. I am prepared to hear a case as to why I should leave sub-section (2) of the section in the Bill.

As far as that sub-section is concerned we are satisfied if it is deleted.

Are we to understand that, when this sub-section is deleted, the law the Minister refers to will remain operative, and that it will be illegal for the hirer of a taxi to urge the driver to cover the distance in a certain time?

If the hirer of a taxi induces or incites the driver to commit an offence against the driving regulations he will be liable in the same way as a person who incited another person to commit a crime in any other way.

Is that law operative at the present time?

And is it intended to continue in operation?

Might I ask the Minister if he can say whether many offences of that kind have been brought into court?

I am not able to say.

It seems to me that if that is to be continued you are opening the way for the creation of a record in the matter of cross-swearing, perjury and all the rest.

I think it might be well if the Minister were to get particulars from the Gárda authorities as to the number of prosecutions which have been brought to court within the last year and as to the fines that have been imposed on the owners of buses for offences of the kind dealt with in sub-section (1) of the section. In view of what has been going on for the last couple of years, I think there is justification for leaving the section as it stands. I hope the Minister will reconsider his view-point on that.

If the Deputy looks at sub-section (3) he will find that it deals particularly with buses. I propose to let that sub-section stand.

I think that is a valuable sub-section and should be left in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
(2) Where a person is charged with an offence under this Part of this Act and the act constituting such offence consists of driving a mechanically propelled vehicle in contravention of a provision of this Part of this Act, such person shall not be convicted of such offence unless or until the court is satisfied either—
(a) that such person was warned at the time of the commission of the offence or immediately thereafter that he would be prosecuted therefor, or
(b) that within such time, not exceeding fourteen days, after the commission of the offence as the court shall consider to have been reasonable, notice in writing of the time and place at which the offence is alleged to have been committed and of the intention to prosecute such person therefor was given to such person or to the person registered as owner of the vehicle in relation to which the offence is alleged to have been committed.

I move amendment 47:—

In sub-section (2), line 58, after the word "therefor" to insert the words "together with a statement of the details of the occurrence upon which the charge is based or a copy of the information, if any, upon which the summons was granted."

This amendment applies to a case where the driver receives notice some time after the event has taken place that he is summoned for driving the wrong way at a certain place and at a certain time. He may find it extremely difficult to get any information of what particular occurrence is referred to in the summons, not hearing anything of it at the time that the offence, if such occurred, took place. He may be in complete ignorance of the charge against him. He may know nothing about it until he goes into court to answer the summons. I think it is only reasonable to provide that at the time the summons is being issued the defendant should get some intimation of the charge that is going to be made against him. That is what my amendment aims at.

In summary cases of this kind written informations are usually lodged in the court. I would be prepared to accept an amendment somewhat on the following lines:—To insert after the word "therefor" the words "together with a brief statement of the occurrence upon which the charge is based."

I am prepared to accept the amendment suggested by the Minister, and I ask the leave of the House to withdraw my own amendment.

Does the Minister propose to move his amendment now?

No. I will leave it over to the next stage.

Amendment 47, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 49 stand part of the Bill."

On the section I wish to raise a point with regard to sub-section (1). The sub-section provides that "uncorroborated evidence of one witness stating his opinion of the speed at which such person was driving such vehicle on that occasion shall not be accepted as proof of such speed." If such evidence were not denied by the defendant would there not be reason for accepting it? Therefore, would the Minister not consider that the word "may" would be a better word to insert in the sub-section than the word "shall"?

We are speaking here of witnesses. I think that if a man admits an offence in court that closes the case.

I am not clear as to what the effect of this will be. Take it that two people are walking along the road and that a motorist who is driving a car dangerously knocks down and kills one of them. The other man comes forward to prove that the car at the time of the occurrence was travelling at 60 miles an hour on the wrong side of the road. Must the court rule out that evidence, or will it be obliged to take it into consideration, even though the question of speed is not under consideration at all?

It certainly can take that into consideration, but on a charge that a person has exceeded the speed limit pure and simple, the evidence of one witness will not be sufficient.

But it is not merely a matter of exceeding the speed limit because it relates to an offence under this part of the Act which includes driving dangerously or driving a defective vehicle or something of that kind.

I do not think the section means that if there is only one person prepared to say anything on the question of speed, that that person will not be heard in court. On the question of speed alone the testimony of one person will not be accepted as complete evidence. But, in a matter relating to a general traffic offence, say that a car was being driven at 40 miles an hour, there is no doubt that evidence dealing with that would be taken into consideration. It cannot be ruled out by the court.

But if there is only one witness available, will the position be as already stated by the Minister?

That is a rather funny state of affairs.

I think the Minister is quite right in insisting on corroboration.

It would be impossible for one witness to give evidence of speed. It must be done with a stop watch, and it would require a second person to do that.

I think that if a provision of this kind were not inserted in the Bill a regular impasse would be created. The accused person, for instance, might say that he was driving at 30 miles an hour, while the witness on the other side might put the speed at 50 miles an hour. Corroboration is, I think, essential.

I think it would be much better if the section were amended to read that proof of the commission of the offence should come under Section 44 which relates to speed.

You will have cases under Section 46 which deals with dangerous driving. Part of the dangerous driving may be affected by the speed at which the car was travelling so that if the section were to be amended on the lines indicated by the Deputy it would be necessary to have a reference to Section 46 as well. You cannot dissociate speed from other factors.

The evidence for instance might be to the effect that a person driving at 30 miles an hour was in the opinion of the witness driving too fast in the particular circumstances that prevailed. But on a charge of exceeding the speed limit proof must be given of the actual speed at which the car was travelling.

If I were dealing with a case in which a person was charged with driving too fast at a particular place, the first thing I would ask, in order to deal with the case, would be what speed was the person driving at?

In that case the Minister had better put in one witness with a stop watch.

There will be no such thing as dangerous driving if this Bill goes through in the way that the Minister wants it.

Question put and agreed to.
(3) Where a person charged with an offence under this section is the owner of the mechanically propelled vehicle in respect of which such offence is alleged to have been committed, it shall be a good defence to such charge for such person to prove that on the occasion on which such offence is alleged to have been committed such vehicle was being used or driven without his consent and either that he had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent such vehicle being used or driven on such occasion or that the person using or driving such vehicle on such occasion was his servant and in so using or driving such vehicle was acting in contravention of his orders.

On behalf of Deputy Haslett I move amendment 50:—

In sub-section (3), page 25, lines 3 and 4, to delete the words "and either that he had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent such vehicle being used or driven on such occasion."

I think that this is a very reasonable proposal. The effect of it simply would be that the owner would have to prove that the vehicle was used without his authority. I think that should be sufficient.

If that is to be taken out all the owner of the car would have to prove was that the person who took out the car did not come to him saying, "I am taking out your car," and did not get the owner's permission for that particular occasion to take out the car. The whole insurance position would go by the board in every case in which the car was used where the person using it had not actually gone to the owner and asked him. "May I take the car out now?"

If you leave in these words it would be open to argument as to what was considered reasonable precaution. It might be removed some part of the magneto in order to make it impossible to drive the car. My point is that if the owner of the car gave no authority whatever to any person to use the car that should be enough. Otherwise, the whole clause is capable of being stressed too much. The owner would have no redress unless he makes it impossible to drive the car at all.

Is any part of this sub-section required at all? Would it not be the duty of the justice or judge if a prosecution were taken under sub-section (2) to take into consideration the circumstances under which the offence was committed, and if it were proved that the car was used without the owner's consent, and that he had taken all reasonable precautions, would it not be his duty under sub-section (3) to give a decision acquitting the defendant in such cases?

The owners of cars are asked to insure themselves here. They are asked to insure themselves for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of third parties who may be injured by the cars they own. The insurance will, according to the circumstances of the driver, secure that the car is insured as long as it is driven by certain persons who are specified in that insurance policy. A member of the person's family, some visitor or some friend, not covered by the insurance policy, may come along and take out that car. This puts the onus on the owner of the car, whose policy is limited to the condition that it shall be only driven by certain persons, to take all reasonable precautions that none other than these persons shall drive that car. If we are protecting, by this measure, third parties who may be injured by motor cars, we must impose upon owners of motor cars the obligation that they will take all reasonable precautions that their cars will not be driven by persons, who if they met with an accident while driving would leave an injured third party uncovered. Therefore I think it is absolutely necessary that should a case occur in which a person is injured by a car which is driven by a person who is not covered by the policy, that the person who was responsible for the car should prove that the car was driven without his consent and that he had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent it being so driven.

Would the Minister give us some idea of the interpretation likely to be placed on "reasonable precautions"? If I leave my car with the engine running close to the kerb while I go into a tobacconist's to buy a box of matches and somebody comes along and drives away the car without my knowledge, can it be said that I have taken reasonable precautions to prevent that person taking the car away?

I do not think it can.

Must I lock the door and shut off the engine every time?

If you kept the car in a garage opening on the street and that the garage was left unlocked on the outside door, you would not be taking reasonable precautions to prevent its being used.

Would the Minister give an answer to the case put up by Deputy Lemass in regard to leaving his car outside a shop?

I am not acting as judge here. If you think it may not be unreasonable to have it, leave in that section and put in an amendment that it shall not be unreasonable for a person to leave his car in a side street and to into a shop or put in a list of other things that a motorist may do without being unreasonable, but do not think that you are protecting third parties by allowing owners to take out policies, limited to the car being driven by certain people, and then not requiring them to take reasonable precautions that it will not be used by certain other people. It all depends on the circumstances. If we had to define what was reasonable in respect of every action that might occur in the day, we would take a long time to discuss this Bill and the draftsman would have a hard job.

My objection to the sub-section is that it puts the owner in an impossible position. He might leave his car quite in an ordinary way and yet it might be said that if an accident occurred he had not taken reasonable precautions. I contend that the clause as it stands puts the ordinary motorist in an impossible position.

The only thing we have heard against the sub-section is that it would be reasonable for a motorist to leave his car alongside the street while going into a shop. Are there any other cases?

I am a particularly absent-minded person. I never lock up anything. I never lock up a garage.

Do you lock up your money?

My overdraft takes care of that. Take the case of a garage which may be a little away from a house. If you fail to lock the garage somebody may take out your car. I see the difficulty in which the Minister is. The Minister is in the difficulty that he cannot define the expression. He puts in vague words in the hope that the court, by a series of leading cases, will decide what they mean. It is really difficult to get a word to cover it, but the mere fact that it is difficult to get a word does not entitle us to put in absolutely slipshod language.

Does Deputy Thrift wish to say that it shall not be considered unreasonable if an owner leaves his car unlocked every night?

I think the opinions expressed about the sub-section are unduly alarming. After all any court administering any branch of law practically every day has to consider the interpretation to be placed on the word "reasonable." It happens every day in ordinary common law actions and the standard to which the court has to address itself is what the ordinary man would do in the particular circumstances before the court. I do not think it is a very severe question for the court in any particular case. With regard to the example given by Deputy Lemass of leaving a car outside a shop, it strikes me that there are two very different standards which might be applied to that case. First of all you might consider the nature of the street in which the car was and you might consider whether it was a switch key car or not. It would be a simple thing for a man to take the key out of the car and leave it harmlessly outside and if he failed to do that the court might hold that he had not taken reasonable precautions. If he had not such a switch key he might be held to have taken reasonable precautions. If there is to be no question of leading cases and it is simply on the broad facts of any case brought before the court that it is decided whether the steps taken by the man who has committed or is alleged to have committed an offence are steps which an ordinary human being would have taken in the circumstances I do not think that is a difficult question for any court to decide.

I disagree entirely.

I think Deputy Finlay is overlooking the fact that although he may be prepared to trust the court the motorist is in this position that if the court holds he is not taking reasonable precautions he is under this Act liable to an offence punishable by a fine of £50 and imprisonment for three months, and what is more he is liable to pay compensation to any person who may be injured by the person driving his car without his consent. We should try to limit it to this extent. We should try to give him some standard on which to judge what are reasonable precautions or what are not. No reasonable standard has been given. There should be some attempt to define some way or another the term "reasonable precautions," so that the average motorist will have some idea of what is expected of him.

It is quite clear the ordinary motorist would not know where he stood.

I think life is too short for any Minister to put in an interpretation, without a specific offence being quoted, of an offence likely to be committed under this Section. The case will be tried before a court and evidence will be given on the offence before the court. If I had Deputy Flinn before me, if I had been put in a position to judge on the case stated, by himself, knowing that Deputy Flinn has already stated on a previous section of this Bill, that he has driven at 70 miles an hour I would not have much hesitation in putting a proper interpretation on the section.

In the circumstances you will see that I will have to oppose this, not on my own behalf, but out of respect for the advantages of this country. Facing the fact of my being put in prison by Deputy Radamanthus Davin, I think some further definition will have to be made. It is not reasonable to say that in relation to our cars we should take more care than we take in relation to our children and we do not lock up our house or our granary or a lot of other things.

You must lock up your guns and the motor car is much more in the nature of a gun than a child is.

If you are going to drag in guns I will have to give up.

I cannot see that any standard can be laid down or that a better standard can be laid down than what the ordinary person would do in the circumstances. Deputy Flinn in the last sentence which he used as an argument against this provision in the section said that it is not reasonable that it should be retained there. If I ask him what is the standard there to apply to the word "reasonable" without advocating the omission of the section, he would perhaps say that it was not fair to the ordinary man. The same word is retained in the sub-section and the ordinary man would be in the circumstances safeguarded, and I fail to see what better standard could be laid down as to the precautions which should be taken as provided in this Section.

Is not this House to decide what they mean by the Bill? Are we merely to put in a clause in the hope that somebody else will find a meaning we have not got? Does the House mean, in relation to a garage on one's own premises, that you must lock that garage or that you must be unreasonable or are we leaving it to a judge to decide it? This business of putting in a lot of clauses which will enable a particular profession to have a good time now in a series of cases is very nice, but it is not legislation.

I will put the case this way. Frequently it happens that a person takes no precautions whatever and it is quite reasonable that he should not take any precautions whatever, and yet he would not be obeying this Section. I may drive home to dinner and leave my car standing outside my house. While I am inside someone comes along, drives off in my car and knocks somebody else down and I am liable under this section for any damage that has been committed. Is that proper?

Was not the owner of a car always liable for any damage he committed with that car? Is there any real change in the law since 1903?

Under the 1903 Act he was not liable unless he himself was responsible for negligence in the actual accident.

Was not the onus on him to clear himself that the car was being used without his knowledge?

Might not the section stop very well at the word "consent"? If the car has been driven without his consent is not that a reasonable precaution?

But a motor car is a thing which you take on the road and which may cause death or accidents, and we are imposing on people who own motor cars——

What are you imposing on them?

——and whom we are forcing into insurance for the protection of third parties that as well as entering into their insurances they must also take into consideration that drivers who have not entered into insurance in respect to it will not be able to drive their cars, and that they will take reasonable precautions that others will not use their cars.

There is such a vast amount of elasticity for a judge to determine what the words mean that you will have oceans of law. It will mean a grazing ground and a fattening ground for the legal profession. I think the section might stop at the word "consent" and begin again at the word "or" at the top.

Perhaps the Minister will reconsider the matter.

I want to be clear about this. A motor car is a thing which is causing accidents to such a degree that we are here introducing legislation imposing on the owner the necessity for insuring third parties in respect of that car. The insurance policy that a man will take out and the price he will pay for it will depend upon the conditions under which he normally uses that car, involving amongst other things, a range of different persons who will use that car. If he enters into an insurance policy restricted in respect of the people who will use that car, we impose on him also the duty of taking reasonable precautions that other people will not be able to use that car. You may or you may not be able to define reasonable precautions, but we certainly must insist that the person who has the car in respect of which we impose on him the obligation of paying out certain moneys for the insurance of third persons, must also take reasonable precautions to safeguard that property against misuse. When a person gets a licence for a revolver or a weapon of some kind he is expected to take reasonable precautions that that weapon will be safeguarded and that it will not be used in a way in which it should not be used.

The thing is two edged against the owner. First of all he is forced to insure and secondly he is forced to take reasonable precautions so that the insurance company does not suffer. He is penalised in two ways. These words would not by any chance have been suggested by the insurance companies? For instance if I was driving a car and I did not happen to have my battery working I might leave the engine running while walking into a shop to get the matter attended to. What would the court hold in that case?

You would pay up.

I would pay up. The words here could be considerably abused and probably would be by most judges. The Minister certainly ought to give the matter consideration.

I hope the Minister will retain this clause or put in some words that have no lesser meaning than the words he has here. At present what is required is that the insurance policy be kept valid as regards third parties, that a person who enters into an insurance policy shall not break that contract to the detriment of the public. As regards the suggestion that a person might go into a shop and leave his engine running he could be fined for doing such a thing at the moment. If you leave your engine running in Dublin you will very soon hear about it if there are any Guards within reasonable distance. I hope that that is so in Kilkenny and other places. I know of a case where an engine was left running in a country village, smaller than Kilkenny, the car got into motion, went through a shop window and killed somebody inside. That is the sort of thing that we want to guard against.

The car will not run away because the engine is left running.

Yes, it does.

Would the Minister tell me if I were to change all my habits and put a lock on the door, and if that happened to be a lock which I bought at Woolworths, in other words, one of the stock locks—there are only about ten different padlocks altogether—any one who chooses with the assistance of ten keys can open it, what extra precaution am I taking in putting on a lock of that kind unless it be some patent lock? My contention is that this House, which ought to know what it means in relation to legislation, is letting a clause through that it does not know the meaning of. If the position is that the House does know the meaning of it and wants to put it through, however violent the interpretation of it is, that is one thing. We can deal with that and vote on it, but the idea of letting a clause out obviously knowing that we do not know what we mean by it is absurd.

I would like to say that personally I would rather make the insurance compulsory for any driver than have a clause like this in the Bill.

In case of a person being injured by a car that is driven without the consent of its owner or without the owner taking reasonable precautions what redress has that injured person to get? The object of the Bill is to secure redress for such an injured person. Where will that person be legally if this provision is not allowed to stand?

I cannot see that responsibility rests on him. I want to ask the Minister a question. Has he inquired what the actual difference in the cost of insurance is going to be under this? Roughly speaking, you may take an insurance at the present moment as being equal to the tax on a motor. How much more is the Minister putting on by a provision of this kind? Has he asked any insurance company what they would insure a motorist for under the new conditions which he is imposing?

Something like a rate of 7½ to 10 or 12 per cent. if you confine the car to one other person besides yourself.

This is a case where you are not confining the car to anybody. A burglar, according to the Minister, or any evilly disposed person—a joy-rider—may take your car. I think it was Deputy Finlay who said that the court would decide. He said if there was a lock on the car. If there is no lock, have we to take the tyres off the damn thing or will it be regarded as reasonable to take one of the cylinders away?

I put another point to the Minister, that his clause does not safeguard everybody who is hurt.

If the court holds that a man had taken reasonable precautions he would not be liable.

Certainly. If his car was taken without his consent and he had taken reasonable precautions then his policy is not liable, but whoever took the car is in the position that he can be proceeded against, and the question arises for the injured party is whether that person is a good mark or not. We want to institute an arrangement by which a person who owns a thing that may hurt people knows that under his contract with the insurance company he will have to pay so much. I have discussed the matter with insurance companies as to what is likely to be the effect of this. He enters into an arrangement with them by which he will pay so much if his insurance policy is covered in this particular way. We force him into that arrangement for the protection of all third parties. We must force him into a position in which he shall not be negligent in respect of the thing which he has got to insure. He must take reasonable precautions that the car will not be used by persons who are not covered by his insurance policy. The question is that Deputies find that they are unable to understand what reasonable precautions may be. I think it was Deputy Finlay who made the point that the question of reasonable precautions comes into nearly every case of negligence. I think in nearly every case of persons being injured through negligence on the part of an owner the question arises as to whether the owner took reasonable precautions against the possibility of accident.

One point that should be made clear, and the Minister has not made it clear, is that the car may not be involved in an accident at all; the owner becomes guilty of an offence immediately another person drives away with it, whether it is involved in an accident or not. If the car knocks down some person and injures that person, compensation has to be paid The question we are discussing now is that a car may be driven by a person who is not insured and the owner shall be guilty, the previous sub-section says, of an offence if he has not taken reasonable precautions, whatever they are.

That possibly is the case and I would be glad if it were the case because it ought to be made an offence on the part of an owner not to take reasonable precautions against the use of his car by persons not covered by insurance.

This is not my amendment. It is in Deputy Haslett's name. I do not want to press it to a division. I would much prefer that Deputy Haslett would have an opportunity of arguing his own amendment, and in those circumstances I shall, with permission, withdraw it. I may say I am utterly unconvinced by what the Minister says.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That Section 50 stand part of the Bill."

I take it that on this section the whole question of a scheme for third party insurance comes up for discussion.

When the Bill was before us on Second Reading some of us spoke strongly in favour of a State scheme of insurance. It seems to us quite logical and, in fact, only fair, that if the State is going to make it compulsory upon car owners to insure against third party risks, it should, at the same time, take powers to regulate insurance premiums or else itself undertake the insurance. The course that seems to us not merely practicable, but advisable, is that the State itself should conduct the insurance business, that it should arrange for the collection of insurance premiums in conjunction with the collection of licence fees and be responsible for the payment of any claims that may arise. If it is not thought desirable that the State should do that, there is certainly a very strong case to be made for imposing in this Bill some restrictions upon the premiums which insurance companies may charge. No guarantee is given that there will not be a combination amongst insurance companies to force up premiums, the companies knowing that car owners will have to pay once this measure is passed; nor, in fact, is there any guarantee that insurance will be given to motorists seeking it in order to be able to drive their cars. It has happened in the past that individual car owners have been denied insurance, and it may happen again. It means in effect that we place upon the insurance companies the obligation of deciding who shall or who shall not drive a car, an obligation which they do not want and which should not be imposed upon them.

This matter has been discussed elsewhere, but I think we should examine the question for ourselves in order to see if it is not possible either to adopt a different scheme to that contained in the Bill or else modify this scheme so as to avoid obvious dangers. A number of useful comments in this connection are contained in the addendum to the Inter-departmental Committee's report, appearing over Mr. J.E. Duff's name. I presume the Minister has read it. I think Deputies also should study it because he concentrates attention on the particular difficulties that will arise if this scheme is put through unamended. The difficulties to which I have referred are (1) excessive premiums may be charged, and there is no authority to deal with any attempt at profiteering on the part of the insurance companies, and (2) persons may be unjustly denied insurance and consequently deprived of the opportunity of driving a car.

On the Second Reading I dealt with the practice that exists between the insurance companies—what is known as the knock for knock system. If two cars are involved in an accident the insurance companies pay the damages of their own clients and they do not argue the question of responsibility at all. Under that system it could happen, and I am informed it has happened, that a completely innocent victim of a number of accidents would be denied insurance. If that is continued, he may be unjustly deprived of the right of driving a car. No method has been indicated by the Minister by which that right is to be restored to him or of any obligation imposed on insurance companies to accept any proposal for insurance submitted to them. I would like the Minister to deal with those particular difficulties and to state how he thinks they can be overcome.

Following the remarks of Deputy Lemass about insurance companies, I would like to say it is quite possible that when this Bill becomes law motorists will be refused insurance. Looking at it from the ordinary point of view, I would say that the motorist who is refused insurance does not deserve to be allowed to drive a car; that is, presuming the insurance companies are what they ought to be. We all know that insurance companies work together and that cases have occurred where they will deny insurance under certain conditions. I quite agree that if a man is of such a character that he ought not to be insured, the insurance companies are quite right not to facilitate him, but if it becomes a question of a right or a monopoly of insurance companies, I would like the Minister to give us an assurance that if such a practice were to become prevalent under the new Act he will take such steps as will ensure that motorists can get insurance, even if it came to a question of State insurance.

I would like to support the remarks of Deputy Lemass with regard to one matter. I know of a case in which a motorist was involved. A milk cart came out suddenly and the motor car was smashed up. The milkman's vehicle did not suffer very much damage. The insurance people had to pay for the doing up of the car without any reference whatsoever to the milkman, who was really at fault. The same motorist on another occasion drew up his car on the roadside and stopped the engine A two-horse vehicle was in charge of one man who was leading the second horse. The first horse swerved on the frosty road, crashed into the motor car and smashed it up. The insurance people paid for the repairs of the car. When the gentleman who owned the car went in subsequently to ask for a continuance of his insurance the company said to him: "We refuse to insure you because you have been in two accidents lately." He was in two accidents for which he was not at all responsible. The insurance company, without fighting either case and without making responsible the people who were really to blame for the accident, paid for the repairs to the car and then later refused to issue a new insurance policy. I think that is a very important thing to take into consideration. Deputy Lemass has pointed out where insurance people put their heads together and cover up whatever damage there may be without fighting the case in the ordinary way. That matter should also be seriously considered. I would stress those things and I trust the Minister will give them his attention.

In reply to Deputy Lemass's suggestion that this insurance ought to be State insurance, I have nothing to say at present except that we do not propose to put proposals before the Dáil that motor car insurance be made a State business. On the question as to whether insurance companies will refuse to insure certain people to the extent of creating an abuse, I can put no proposals before the Dáil at present forcing the insurance of motor drivers by insurance companies when they are inacceptable to them. I appreciate the remark of Deputy Myles that if a person cannot find among the number of insurance companies that there are to-day dealing with this particular kind of insurance a company to insure him, then it might be no harm to have him off the road for a while. But it is quite clear that we will have a definite duty to examine the matter if there is any serious number of complaints on the part of different people that they have been refused insurance, and I can assure the Deputy that we would take any steps that might be necessary, either to examine into or to deal in some other way with such circumstances, should they arise, that is, should any number of people be refused insurance by insurance companies.

As to what the insurance rates are likely to be, it is perhaps a difficult matter to deal with that. I have been in consultation with the most responsible people in the insurance business and with representatives acting on behalf of the Accident Offices Association. I have asked them to put before me what they think a policy under this Act, that is for the minimum requirements under this Act, would be, as compared with their present full comprehensive policy. I perhaps should admit, without being in a position to say definitely, that I have come across certain discrepancies between figures given here and figures in actual working practice. It may be that these have been special cases, and it is also the fact that I have not had full opportunity to examine the cases I have come across. But I can give the Dáil these figures which have been supplied to me on behalf of the Accident Offices Association. For a Ford private car 14.9 h.p. the full comprehensive policy normally issued at present would be £15 7s. 6d. An Act policy, that is full third party cover, personal injury unlimited, and property up to £1,000, would be £7 10s. That is an Act policy for the Ford private car of 14.9 h.p. would be £7 10s. 0d. as against the full comprehensive policy which they issue normally at £15 7s. 6d.

I do not think the Minister gets the point. There are additional liabilities over our present policy. What is the addition to the present policy of £15 7s. 6d. to meet the extra obligation?

A full comprehensive policy, as far as I can understand, would require no addition in order to meet the requirements of our Act. A full comprehensive policy, as I understand it, and as I say I should like further investigation into the matter, is a policy that covers the driver's own property, the driver's own life, and third party risks—an all-round policy. I do not drive a car and I have not a full comprehensive policy, but I feel certain that a full comprehensive policy will not require any addition to cover third party risks and property risks where put into this Act.

If some joy-rider is in possession of my car and does damage, it is not included in the £15 7s. 6d. What is the addition for that?

Neither is it included in the Act policy, if the person takes reasonable precautions that the joy-rider will not get off with it.

Is it the Minister's contention that we will have to pay more for insurance?

I am amazed.

It depends on what the Deputy is covering at present. If the Deputy at present is covering the things which we propose to cover in this Bill, subject to limits, say, under third party property, which I will say a word about—if he is covering third party injuries, and third party property to a fairly reasonable extent, why should there be anything added to his policy because he is by law made do a thing which he is now doing voluntarily as a matter of ordinary self-insurance? The figures I am quoting will be under the headings of type of vehicle, full comprehensive cover, full third party cover for personal injuries and property. I said property up to £1,000. It should be property up to £10,000. Although I have explained before that the Bill proposes unlimited property cover, I think I will on Report put in a reasonable limit as to property.

Does the Minister know that what is now called third party cover covers property?

It does to the extent of £10,000. A Ford one-ton lorry full comprehensive policy comes to £19 8s. 6d., and an Act policy would be £9 14s. 3d. A heavy goods lorry, exceeding 30 cwts. carrying capacity full comprehensive policy is £23 4s. 3d., plus £1 8s. for a trailer and an Act policy, £15 1s. 9d., plus 14s. for a trailer. For a small hackney vehicle (taxis, etc.), 15 h.p., four seats—that may be too small a number—a full comprehensive policy comes to £30 3s. 9d., plus £4 16s. for unlimited passenger risk. There is apparently some limit; it may be something like £250 passenger risk, but there is an additional £4 16s. for unlimited passenger risk. A full third party cover for a small hackney vehicle would be £12 1s. 6d., and I imagine there would be an extra £4 16s. for unlimited passenger risk. For an omnibus or charabanc (public service) exceeding 15 seats, the full comprehensive cover would be £49 10s., plus 12s. per seat for unlimited passenger risk.

Is that included in the existing policy, in the comprehensive policy?

The full comprehensive policy at present normally given to an omnibus or charabanc, exceeding fifteen seats, will cost £49 10s. That probably only covers individual passengers to the extent of £250, but if unlimited passenger risk is to be covered, then, in addition to the £49 10s., there has to be paid 12s. per seat for unlimited passenger risk. To provide an Act policy the insurance on the same omnibus or charabanc would be £24 15s., plus 12s. per seat for unlimited passenger risk. These are the main types of vehicles in respect of which I have got quotations from the Accident Offices Association. As I said, I have come up against cases of discrepancy between these figures, as far as the present full comprehensive policy goes, and figures which are being charged. I move to report progress.

Progress reported: Committee to sit again to-morrow.