Matters of moment, December 1964

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Hard Labour

Almost immediately after a Labour Government was elected in this country by a small majority, the motoring scene underwent some unhappy changes. A motoring journal should not be a political platform, but it is our duty to draw attention to matters which affect motoring and the Motorist adversely and which hamper the British Motor Industry.

The introduction of an additional 15% import duty in the middle of the London Motor Show, which was attended by a record number of overseas’ visitors, was, to say the least, tactless. The importation of foreign gimmicks for the home may deserve to be stemmed, but if we are to sell motor vehicles abroad we should not impose severe restrictions on the sales of foreign makes in this country. Doors may well shut in consequence, which will never reopen…

The very evening of the Labour Budget an extra 6d. a gallon was slapped on petrol and fuel oil, but the Budget “benefits,” such as free medicine and drugs and the commendable increases in old-age pensions have still to come into operation. The motorist always pays, and in this case paid first; this time non-motorists will be paying extra as well, when ‘bus fares, goods and the cost-of-living go up to meet the increased fuel charges…

Petrol tax exceeds the price of petrol itself and the extra 6d. a gallon, once imposed, is unlikely ever to be rescinded, no matter which party wins the next General Election. Note that beer, tobacco, spirits and wine remain at the previous tax levels—only motorists were called upon to pay more, immediately. With petrol tax up to 3s. 3d. a gallon motorists pay a very high proportion of overall taxation (which the Sunday Express sets as averaging no less than £1,055 7s. 6d. on an annual salary of £2,500 a year paid to a married man with two children!).

This being the case, we are entitled to fairer treatment in the Courts, where savage fines are regularly meted out for minor technical breaches of the very complex all-embracing motoring laws. Yet, as the Scottish motorist who was (vide the Daily Mail) asked by the police to leave his car in a no-parking zone while they investigated the death of a man who had collapsed by his car and was then fined for excessive parking, his first offence in 28 years’ driving, remarked “What can I do?” What, indeed! However, we are glad to see that a stockbroker driving a Rolls-Royce won his appeal against a radar speeding charge, Hampshire Quarter Sessions admitting that there was sufficient doubt as to the accuracy of the radar trap for the appeal to succeed. Be thankful for this one ray of sunshine in an otherwise sullen outlook!

The increased cost of motoring may for a time be offset by some motorists who tune their engines to run on the lower-octane-rating fuels, or by the greater employment of small, economical cars. In the end this will no doubt be met by the petrol companies increasing their charges, and the fact remains that, urgent though the need may be to raise revenue, once again it is the motorist who pays. Petrol, not tobacco, for instance, bears the brunt of the new tax, although the B.M.A. claims that lung cancer caused by smoking kills more than 60 people a day, or more than three times the number killed in road accidents.

So far the new Minister of Transport has offered no solution to the serious problem of inadequate roads and the ever-increasing glueing-up of road traffic. Unless, of course, the petroltax increase is a first step towards getting rid of private cars and putting more passengers on the Nationalised railways—although the current go-slow on the Southern Region of London’s railway network is unlikely to increase the public’s enthusiasm!

We motoring milch-cows will go along with Thomas Paine (1737-1800) when he said “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” A country gets the rulers it deserves but only those who condone a return to the return to pony-and-trap era will be heartened by the first two anti-motoring resolves of the Labour Party.

The eye of big brother

It is, quite rightly, illegal to have a TV set working in the driving compartment of a car, and at least one summons has been issued for this dangerous offence.

According to the Evening News and other papers, Mr. B. P. V. Elsden, a retired solicitor, of Sea Lane, Rustington, Sussex, has a camera with long-focus lens mounted on his car and operated by remote control from the driving seat. This has already secured a conviction against a lady driver who was forced to take evasive action to avoid a swerving milk-float and in doing so crossed a double white line—she was the victim of Mr. Elsden’s remote-control camera-eye.

Road safety is of vital importance. Surely playing with a camera while driving is just as distracting as glancing at a TV picture, perhaps while held up in a traffic tangle?