A change of face

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Sir,

I seem to remember that after the last war the Labour Government replaced the existing scheme of different rates of motor tax depending on the engine size with a flat rate irrespective of size.

It now seems that the present Government consider this unfair, and are seeking to reintroduce a differential rate.

Could someone please explain why what was right at first is wrong now?

Chesterfield.
D. P. Adams.

Towards the police state

Sir,

If my memory is accurate, there have been earlier references to the Buckinghamshire Police in your columns. You may be interested in an incident I had with one of their mobile drivers near Wendover when I was stopped without, so it seems to me; any legitimate excuse at all.

I came up behind this officer, who was driving a white 2.4 Jaguar, as we entered Wendower from Amersham. He was plainly not going anywhere in particular, giving the most exaggerated hand signals I have seen in 20 years’ completely clean driving, and taking far longer than a private motorist would to turn right into the town even when the road was clear. We then followed him through and out the other side where he continued steadily along, and, I thought, when this de-restriction sign just ahead comes up, I will be able to pass. I had two of my three small children with me. We had a picnic-hamper, were in good time, in no hurry at all, but the police car, obviously, was in even less hurry.

The de-restriction sign drew close to the front of the police car and I pulled out smoothly and overtook it. The road was wide, with room for four cars abreast, the police car was into the nearside, and there was no traffic approaching whatever. The whole thing was done easily, with no flamboyance, and in my opinion lawfully. However, immediately we passed, almost as if he had visualised the whole episode like the spider and the fly, the officer blew his horn. I drew up at once and both cars were then within the de-restricted zone by at least 100 yards. The officer asked if I normally overtook cars at 31 m.p.h. in a restricted area and I replied that, in fact, we had left the restricted area, and that my move had been perfectly safe, legitimate, and what any driver would do. In any case, having followed what was obviously a police car since before entering the town, I would hardly have done anything questionable right in front of it. We had, incidentally, just passed two cars very badly parked in an earlier, very narrow, section, neither of which aroused the officer’s interest at all, though both caused serious obstruction.

I was handed a booklet and told to study it and all the pictures of accident disasters in which people had been killed. I suggested that these could hardly have happened on a broad, straight road at 30-odd m.p.h. outside a speed limit and was referred to one which happened at 45. To this I replied that it had clearly been in pitch darkness from the photograph. I was told that if I was not prepared to accept a caution, though what for I can hardly say, the matter would be argued in the magistrate’s court. Living so far away, no one would choose that without a single adult witness to call on, so I shut up.

But in 20 years I have never known, or heard of, anything so extraordinary. All the particulars were taken down, occupation demanded, with as reproachful a manner as if I had driven through the town at 60 knocking down all the old ladies. I have owned Riley, Alvis, Aston Martin and Jaguars without any police clashes or a single accident and am over 40. For two years I have had what they call a careful driver’s insurance policy. I also took unkindly to the officer’s remarks about Jaguars, such as “all accidents in Jaguars are 200% worse than other cars” (even apparently at 31 m.p.h.) and “Just, because you have a Jaguar doesn’t mean you can do what you like.” It would be interesting to learn that the Coventry factory had asked the Buckinghamshire Police for an explanation of this hostile attitude.

It all seemed to me very belligerent and over-zealous and I can only repeat the circumstances of the incident which was safe, legitimate, but, so it seems, contrary to this officer’s private reaction to motorists and their cars.

[Name and address supplied—ED.]