HC Deb 27 March 1935 vol 299 cc1889-92

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement to the House upon the operation of the 30-mile speed-limit in built-up areas in the light of experience gained, particularly with reference to the increased traffic congestion in the London area and consequent tendency to drive passenger traffic from road to rail; and the number of prosecutions pending under the new regulations?

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Mr. Hore-Belisha)

I am glad to be able to inform the House from the information before me that the numbers of those killed and injured on the roads, which have shown a continuous decline in recent weeks, are likely to show a further fall for the first week in which the speed limit has been in operation. There has been no increase in traffic congestion reported in the London area or elsewhere; on the contrary, there is general agreement that traffic has proceeded more smoothly. The increase in the number of vehicles on the roads has, so far as I am aware, continued unabated. As the new speed limit does not affect motor coaches which were already subject to a 30 miles per hour limit, it was not to be anticipated that long-distance passenger traffic would be adversely affected. The number of prosecutions pending is of course a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.


Will my hon. Friend consider raising the speed limit in built-up areas to 35 miles an hour, so as to give better facilities for overtaking heavy traffic?


This was a decision of Parliament, and some of my hon. Friends appear to forget that fact.


I am speaking in the light of experience.


In view of the fact that the motoring public have met these new regulations so well and are observing them, will my hon. Friend do his utmost to urge the local authorities to decontrol those roads which were obviously not meant to come under the 30-miles limit and which are causing a great deal of annoyance? Will he do his best in these cases, otherwise the 30-miles limit may be disregarded?


Yes, Sir. That is my view, and I am doing all I can to induce local authorities to de-restrict areas which I do not think should be restricted.

19. Mr. HOWARD

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the altered conditions in regard to the speed limit now imposed in built-up areas, he can see his way to increase the speed limit for heavy motor vehicles from 20 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour?


Parliament in the same Act which imposed a speed limit in built-up areas, fixed the maximum speeds for all classes of road vehicles.

26. Captain STRICKLAND

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the need for concentration on the road ahead, he will consider the usefulness of having distinctive painted lines placed upon the roads to indicate to motorists that they are approaching, or about to leave, restricted speed areas?


The Departmental Committee on Traffic Signs recommended (paragraph 107 of their report) that, apart from white lines, no traffic signs should be marked on the carriageway with the exception of the following:

"Look Left" or "Look Right."

"Turn Left" or "Turn Right."

"Slow" (in exceptional cases).


Will not my hon. Friend consider the usefulness of this suggestion? Is he aware that the committee itself did not consider the particular speed limit or this method of approach at the time of its deliberations?


Yes, Sir. The committee did consider a speed-limit sign, and it was composed of a widely representative body of opinion, including all the motoring interests, and it deprecated any marking of signs, with the exception of those I have mentioned, on the carriageway. I feel it is my duty to be guided by so strong and authoritative a counsel.


But will the hon. Gentleman take steps to procure public opinion on this matter; and is he aware that it would be of great advantage to motorists to have these signs on the roads?


The motorists did not think so. If my hon. and gallant Friend thinks otherwise, perhaps he will stimulate the necessary public opinion.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will instruct the police that doctors on their way to attend urgent cases are not to be prosecuted for exceeding the 30-miles-per-hour speed limit; and whether the same exemption will be granted to veterinary surgeons?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Gilmour)

The question whether there should be an exemption from the speed limit in the case of vehicles used by members of the medical profession when attending urgent cases was discussed when the Road Traffic Act, 1934, was passing through Parliament, but it was decided that it would not be practicable to allow this exemption. It would be equally impracticable to place on the police the responsibility for assessing the degree of urgency when considering the question of instituting proceedings, and in my view the only satisfactory solution is to leave the matter to the courts.


asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the intention of Parliament to give the 30- miles-per-hour speed limit a fair trial is being prejudiced by the present police methods; and whether he will withdraw the decoy police cars from the roads and issue instructions that plain-clothes officers are not to be used in the enforcement of this limit?


I cannot accept the suggestion that the police methods which are employed are unfair, and would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to questions on the same subject on the 18th instant, in which I dealt with a number of points which had been raised.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some cases these police cars proceed along the highway, well out in the road, at 20 to 25 miles an hour, and that when a motorist behind hoots in order to pass, the decoy car speeds up to 30 miles an hour, and therefore definitely incites the motorist to break the law; and does he not understand the bitter resentment that is being caused by these methods, and will he not even now alter the law?


asked the Home Secretary whether it is intended to recruit a special force of police for the purpose of enforcing the new speed-limit regulations, or if the existing police are to be relieved of clerical routine by engagement of outside assistance?


No special force is being recruited for this purpose. The men, if not already on traffic duty, will be drawn from other duties in the way each chief officer of police may find most convenient.