HC Deb 17 February 1944 vol 397 cc347-9
55. Sir C. Edwards

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport if he is aware that the deaths and accidents on the roads show no improvement and that the number of children killed was higher than in pre-war years; to what extent it is estimated that a reduction of the speed limit below the 30 miles in built-up areas is advisable; what steps the Government are taking to reduce these figures; and whether plans are already being prepared for road improvements after the war.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport (Mr. Noel-Baker)

Yes, Sir, I am aware that accidents on the roads still constitute a serious social problem, and that the number of deaths and injuries which result is distressingly high. My right hon. Friend is, no doubt, aware that the permitted speed limit in built-up areas has been reduced to 20 miles an hour during the blackout, and I have no evidence to show that a further reduction would in present conditions promote the object which he has in view. The Government are, however, giving close and continuous attention to the whole problem of road accidents, and they are preparing a comprehensive programme of measures for greater road safety after the war. Among these measures will, I hope, be improvements in road lay-out and construction designed to segregate the different kinds of traffic which use the roads.

Sir H. Williams

Will the hon. Gentleman make representations, both to the British and Allied military authorities, about the dangerous driving by military personnel?

Mrs. Hardie

Is my hon. Friend aware that the speed limit is not in force in built-up areas and that in the suburbs, especially, drivers are driving at 70 miles an hour and nothing is being done about it? I saw a whole lot of children nearly mown down the other day.

Mr. Noel-Baker

The police are doing their very best, but, of course, they are short handed.

Sir H. Williams

Could I have an answer to my question?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We have the hon. Member's question very much in our minds and we are doing what we can.

Sir T. Moore

Could the hon. Member say how it is possible for the police to interfere with a despatch rider who is travelling at 70 or 80 miles per hour? He is away before they can see what damage has been done.

Major John Morrison

Is there not a complete lack of uniformity as regards the headlights of many vehicles?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Yes, Sir, and we are very much aware of it.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Are we to understand that the Ministry are taking no definite steps in war-time to reduce the number of accidents?

Mr. Noel-Baker

We are doing everything we can, although I admit it is mostly confined to propaganda about the dangers of the roads and education in schools and among parents. Anything to do with the reconstruction and redesigning of roads is quite impossible at the present time. Moreover, as I have said, the police are short handed.

Mr. Bowles

Can my hon. Friend say whether the civilian authorities in this country, including his own Ministry, have, in fact, any control whatsoever over the Americans?

Sir Dymoke White

Will the hon. Gentleman take stops to consult the Service authorities with a view to getting Service men not to walk on the left of the road at night, which is most dangerous, especially in the case of naval personnel, whose blue coats cannot be seen in the black-out?

Mr. Noel-Baker

If we could persuade both Service people and civilians to walk on the right of the roads either by night or by day, a vast number of accidents would be avoided. So far, every effort has failed.