HC Deb 11 May 1951 vol 487 cc2376-92

2.53 p.m.

Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)

I am glad to have this opportunity of drawing attention to the question of traffic congestion in our big towns, especially London. I feel sure that anyone who travels by bus, trolley-bus, or otherwise on the road surface around London will bear witness that this congestion is getting worse every day. It is not unfair to say that our traffic is constipated, is getting more and more constipated, and that some action must be taken.

In the past the remedy appears to have been to set up a committee, which has listened to evidence and has published a report, but so little is done as a result of their recommendations. We have recently had an admirable committee on London traffic congestion—the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee—whose report has been published by the Ministry of Transport. I hope the House will forgive me if I pick out a few of the points—it is impossible to cover them all—and add a few others which are not mentioned.

The cost of these delays which everyone suffers is difficult to estimate. It has been said by one authority that they are not less than £70 million in a year. It is worth while, therefore, to spend something to alleviate this trouble. There are 4,000 million passenger journeys per year on the surface transport around London, and if each of these people wastes 10 minutes going to, and 10 minutes coming back from, business, there is a colossal waste of time and money.

It was with some surprise that we learnt that the long-term scheme for an inner ring—the "A" ring, which was to go two miles round the centre of London and which, it was thought, would take some 30 per cent. of the central traffic out of London's most concentrated areas—has been abandoned. It is fully realised that perhaps we do not have the money to start the scheme now, but I cannot see why this enlightened idea should be thrown over completely. Cannot we have a reserve for the future, when we can afford the capital effort which is needed?

At present there is too much traffic on too few roads, and I want to draw atten- tion to possible ways of making the best use of the existing square feet of road. The report to which I have referred lays down certain minimum needs and deals with the question of through roads, with a one-way road in one direction and a parallel road in the other direction. I know that the Minister has initiated a scheme whereby Park Lane will be one-way southwards and East Carriageway, Hyde Park, will be one-way northwards. Then we will have the connecting roads between the two, so that traffic can go from one to the other.

That is admirable, but cannot we apply this principle a little more widely, without any very great cost and with a great saving in time to the travelling public? I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has studied the Griffiths-Jones plan, which makes very concrete suggestions, which are not expensive and which demand very small changes—merely in islands and in traffic light timings—and which furthers the very idea which the right hon. Gentleman has already accepted in one instance.

Secondly, I wonder whether the police are sufficiently attentive to the flow of traffic? I realise this is not the province of the right hon. Gentleman, but it is a matter, I am sure, in which he takes interest. The Traffic Commissioner at New Scotland Yard studies these problems, but one cannot help wondering whether operational research on traffic flow is carried out. Only two days ago I was waiting for some traffic lights which had gone wrong to turn right. The traffic was piling up behind, and for some 500 yards, buses, lorries and private cars blocked the road solidly while the light remained red. I saw a policeman come along, no doubt off duty, with his bicycle. He took one look at this traffic stream, and disappeared into a public convenience. I wonder whether the police are brought up to consider that one of their duties is to keep traffic moving and to take instant action if someone has parked or has broken down in one of the many bottlenecks which exist?

I suggest that someone, if not the Road Research Laboratories and if not New Scotland Yard, then perhaps an independent research organisation might undertake operational research on the working of the many traffic lights around London. First, there is the problem of maintenance. I think it is significant in this report that on 16 per cent. of the occasions the traffic lights were not working. That has the most serious effect on the even flow of traffic. Secondly, under this heading there is the question of light filters. Cannot we advance the idea whereby whenever there are two or more lines of traffic in a single direction the left hand line can filter to the left, after leaving sufficient time for the pedestrians to cross. It seems to me that with that arrangement we should gain without any possible disadvantage.

Thirdly, there is the question of lights at T-pieces. Are these really necessary? I should like to quote the case of Lisson Grove, which runs parallel to Edgware Road. It carries in the evenings and in the mornings a large volume of northbound traffic, and half way down there is a T-piece feeding across to the Edgware Road. I have never been able to understand why it was necessary to spend the capital outlay on a traffic light system at this point and why it is necessary to retain it at all.

Fourthly, could we not give attention to the question of switching the lights back automatically so that they give a green light to the main thoroughfare? This is important in London, and it is perhaps even more important on the arterial roads feeding out of London. Along Western Avenue or the Great West Road one frequently comes across traffic lights which have turned red in response to a signal from some traffic coming in from the side, and the lights have not turned green again automatically. Therefore lorries, buses, motor coaches and private cars have to slow down, hit the mat and wait for the fights to turn before proceeding. It is totally unnecessary, and these lights should automatically turn green again on the main roads to help the flow of traffic on the most important roads.

Lastly under the heading of lights, could not the Minister consider arranging for all lights after a certain hour—perhaps midnight or one o'clock in the morning—to become flashing yellow lights? It might be considered that this would lead to crashes, but that is not the experience in other countries. This procedure is followed very widely on the Continent, and traffic flows there, I should have said, with greater speed than it ever does in this country.

All these problems surely need some operational research, and I am not suggesting that highly trained men are necessary. Students from our technical colleges, science students, and so on, could well investigate the operation of the lighting system and learn much from it. In the meantime, a great deal of time is wasted by people when lights are not working and where a timing cycle is not operating to optimum efficiency.

I should like to say a word or two on the question of traffic propaganda. It is dealt with in this very good report, but I wonder if the Highway Code pays sufficient attention to the need for traffic, particularly slow moving traffic, to keep on the extreme left of the road. There is a tendency for traffic to keep three or four feet out. While our roads are so restricted and while we are not able to afford entirely new roads, we have got to encourage traffic to keep on the extreme left of the road.

I expect every hon. Member must have experienced a bugbear amongst drivers. One turns out to pass a car, having ascertained that there is ample space, and another car is coming towards you. Rather than give way, the driver of the other car will keep as near to the centre of the road as he can, lean out of his window and shout something rude such as, "Get over to your own side," or, "Get out of the way," or something even more abusive. It would seem to me that in qualifying for a driving licence, one of the points which should be brought home to applicants is the need to keep on the extreme left of the road and not to swing out or change course, so that we can have two or three lines of traffic running parallel without interfering with one another.

On this question of propaganda, the report also mentions the desirability of bringing to the notice of the public good practice in traffic flow and traffic control, and it suggests that more use should be made, through the B.B.C., of broadcasts. It particularly draws attention to proposals for television programmes. I can think of no better medium for illustrating how we can best make use of our existing roads than the television medium. I would ask the Minister whether he can perhaps bring this point to the notice of the B.B.C.

I turn briefly to the question of car parks. I know that it is a thorny problem which the right hon. Gentleman was talking about in this House some 16 hours ago. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell), if he is fortunate enough to be called, wishes to deal with this point. But what progress is being made with unilateral parking? It seems to many of us that London has been particularly slow in taking up this very obvious remedy. Big towns not only in this country but all over the world have adopted unilateral parking for many years, but I have yet to find one of the overcrowded streets in our city, particularly in the centre of London, in which this method has been adopted or even experimented with.

Also, what are the Government doing about providing car parks in connection with the new buildings they are erecting? This report brings out strongly the desirability of the Government setting an example. It points out that when new buildings are going up, such as the War Office in Whitehall, it is the Government's duty to make provision for cars to be parked either under or in those new buildings. One wonders whether provision has been made for that in the new Ministry of Civil Aviation. Perhaps the Minister could give us some assurance that consideration is being given to this matter, because if the Government do not set an example, they cannot expect private enterprise to respond.

I wish to say a word on the question, which is not mentioned in the report, of the design of our buses. All Members would agree that British buses are as good as any in the world; they would not be doing such a good export business if they were not. But I wonder whether we ought not to give consideration to the desirability of an entrance at the back and an exit at the front. At present at a bus stop perhaps 15 seconds are occupied, during a very busy period, by passengers alighting, and a further 15 seconds more are occupied while other passengers get on. If that 30 seconds could be reduced to 15 seconds by having what I might describe as a one-way movement along the bus we should have achieved a step forward in the flow of our traffic, which must be clogged as buses are forced to stop and pick up passengers. The shorter the stop the better the flow of traffic.

I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will confirm that the Government realise that in every phase of our life the efficient flow of traffic is essential. We have just heard the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), mention the question of costs in the distribution trade. We are all anxious to see those costs lowered. They can only be lowered if we effect improvements to our roads which match the improvements to our factories.

Throughout the years the productivity of our factories increases. We produce more goods by increased efficiency in the use of manpower and the increased efficiency of machines. More goods flowing out of the same premises means that more raw materials and semi-finished products have to flow into those premises. It is muddled planning if in keeping with that increased productivity, we do not improve our roads so that the finished products can flow out efficiently, and, with lower overheads, be distributed to the public in this country and to overseas markets.

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Russell (Wembley, South)

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) is to be highly commended on having chosen this subject. It is, in one sense, a pity that it should be raised on a day like this when there are few hon. Members present either to listen or take part in the debate. Perhaps at this stage I should declare an interest, so far as inner London is concerned, in that I happen to be a member of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee which is responsible for the report on London traffic conditions mentioned by my hon. Friend. I shall not criticise that report as I suppose I ought to take some small share of responsibility for it. I was not a member of the sub-committee which did all the work on the report—and a very great deal of work they did put into it. I am only one of those who approved the finished article when it came before the main committee.

A number of very important points made in that report have been touched on by my hon. Friend. There is, above all, one which offers a solution, or some sort of solution, to our problem, and that is in regard to car parking and taking cars off the streets of London. The report makes it clear that, for an expenditure of about £5 million, it should be possible to provide car parks off the streets for something like 5,000 cars. That number is more than the number which the survey on traffic has revealed are parked on the streets of London every day.

We happen, in one sense, to be living in a rather fortunate period of our history, when nature and Hitler between them have provided a number of sites on which these parks could be made. I know that there is a number of bombed site car parks now, but they are all single storey. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will press on with the recommendations made in the report that car parks consisting of a number of storeys should be built on bomb sites and under some London squares—Cavendish Square is a case in point—which would help to solve the problem.

There are many squares in which the London Transport Executive have forestalled any attempt at car parking, but there are many others where there must be plenty of room still for providing car parks. There is, for example, St. James's Square. Is there any reason why a car park should not go underneath the square in addition to the excellent park which already exists on the level? A car park in St. James's Park would relieve a great deal of the present congestion in the area around the Houses of Parliament and there are many other sites which might be mentioned.

I would refer also to the subject of the discussion last night, the no-waiting restrictions. I do not mean the restrictions as they are at the present moment, but as they were before the special regulations brought in for the Festival of Britain. I find, unfortunately, that quite often these no-waiting restrictions are not obeyed. On two recent Friday afternoons when I went from this House to Berkeley Square, to attend a meeting of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, going up Dover Street I counted no fewer than 12 vehicles on either side of the road which were parked there in defiance of the right hon. Gentleman's restriction. I know that some may have been loading or unloading but there were several vehicles whose owners had parked them there quite oblivious of the notice pointing out that there was no waiting.

I endorse what my hon. Friend said about unilateral waiting. There are many examples of streets outside the central area where unilateral waiting could be brought in to very great advantage. One which he mentioned is Lisson Grove, St. John's Wood. Early in the morning there is often a great deal of congestion there because of vehicles parked on both sides of the road. With a little ingenuity they could all be parked on the same side, without any great inconvenience to the drivers and that would save a great deal of the congestion.

That brings me to the question of propaganda. I think that a great deal of the congestion and traffic blocks that take place are caused by careless and thoughtless parking of cars and vehicles. Only one vehicle parked in the wrong position is enough to cause trouble, and I have seen that in West End Lane, Hampstead. A greengrocer's van was parked outside the shop, where legitimate loading and unloading is permitted, but the same van could have been parked in a side street round the corner without causing any congestion, and without causing any of those who had to do the loading and unloading to walk any greater distance than they would have had to do if the van was parked in the main street. That may be an exceptional instance, but I think there must be many others like it, in which, with a little education and propaganda, drivers could be persuaded to park their vehicles in side streets instead of main streets, without inconvenience to themselves.

There is the very excellent suggestion in the report to which reference has been made for the provision of arcades, that is to say for setting back the ground floor of a row of shops behind the building line and supporting the upper floors on pillars. There is an example of this in Piccadilly, but, if any hon. Member would like to see an example of the same thing on a large scale, he should go to Berne, the capital of Switzerland, where most of the main streets are built in that way. There is no pavement open to the sky at all, which would be another great advantage in our climate, because it would enable shop window gazers to look at the shop windows in comfort and without getting wet. It would also have the advantage of widening a number of our narrow streets at much lower cost than if it was necessary to pull down buildings or to set them back. I can think of several places where that might be tried out with advantage, but one in particular is New Coventry Street, where one side might be set back behind an arcade, and the street could be widened and the lane available to traffic broadened, without the cost that would be involved by setting back the whole building line and having to slice off a large chunk of the buildings.

Then, there is a vital improvement suggested in the Report, for which I hope the money can be found. That is in reference to Hyde Park Corner, which is rapidly becoming about the worst traffic block in the whole of Central London. At present, I find it a nightmare to drive round the Hyde Park Corner roundabout system at any time during the peak hours, and yet the Report reveals that, for the expenditure of only £1,250,000, which is not such a large sum in the light of the vast sums that are spent by the Government at present, the roundabout system could be extended over a wider area, and a very great deal of the present congestion be reduced.

On the subject of roundabouts in general, I think the system fails if the roundabouts are too small for the volume of traffic which they have to carry. Going slightly outside the inner London area, I can think of two such examples at present, both of them on the North Circular Road. One is at the Neasden Circus and the other at the Brent circus, where there are two small roundabouts, and the traffic congestion is so bad that, frequently, mobile police have to go there to stop traffic moving in two directions at once. With such roundabouts and the traffic as it is, one is no better off than if there were traffic lights, as is the case at another junction between the two roundabouts which I have mentioned.

There are very good examples in the roundabouts at the ends of York Road which have been provided in connection with the Festival of Britain, and where, by using side streets and making the roundabouts on a large scale, we do not find the disadvantages which accompany the smaller roundabouts, and traffic flows far more freely than it did at either end of the road before the new roundabouts were constructed. We ought to get away from the roundabout idea, and think more of the building of underpasses and road junctions of that kind, which have been developed so much abroad. I expect the Minister of Transport knows the main road from Paris to Le Bourget airport, on which there is a large number of underpasses where the traffic flows perfectly freely in both directions, and the only difficulty applies to anyone who wants to turn left.

I know many road junctions in this country, particularly in areas around London, where underpasses would be a great advantage, and one junction is the North Circular Road with the Watford and Barnet by-pass. As my hon. Friend pointed out, a great deal of money could be saved if traffic congestion could be eliminated, even at the expense of £55,000 or so, which was an estimate given to me a few months ago for the cost of constructing an average underpass.

I feel that if this problem is going to be solved we shall have to adopt bold measures. Half measures are no good. I do not think we should be afraid of expenditure on a fairly large scale in the hope that we shall save money by spending it. At any rate, if we do nothing, the problem will get worse day by day and there will come a time if nothing is done, when most of the traffic in central London will come to a standstill. Most hon. Members will support any steps the right hon. Gentleman takes to implement the report to which reference has been made, and any other measures which may be brought forward to remove the appalling traffic problem both in London and in provincial towns.

3.22 p.m.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)

The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) and the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell) have made two very practical contributions to the very complex and difficult problem of London traffic. The hon. Member for Hendon, North, opened quite rightly, by emphasising the enormous cost which traffic congestion represents. He gave the figure of £70,000. That may or may not be accurate, but I do not think that accuracy matters much here, because it is obvious what the cost of the traffic problem in London represents to the average citizen who travels about the streets of London. It is so considerable, that the accuracy of the figures do not really matter so much. Then, again, there is the irritation that it represents, the physical fatigue caused to people going about on their business or on other preoccupations, and, above all, in our great Metropolitan area, there is that grave and perplexing problem of road casualties as well.

I do not think there is any dispute anywhere of the need of expenditure in this direction, and if it could be isolated, I have no doubt that a large volume of opinion would support it. We cannot however isolate the problem of expenditure on the roads of this country from the current budgetary position, which Parliament considers from time to time. There is no dispute between my hon. Friends opposite and myself on this subject, and no one would be more pleased than I, to get on with many of the projects which have been suggested. From time to time the financial position and circumstances are stated to hon. Members and if the broad policy is endorsed by Parliament, there is no escape from the costs involved.

The Minister of Local Government and Planning and myself recently came to the conclusion that we should not proceed with the ring road project which has been mentioned today. In the first place, the cost would be enormous. The possibility of its being carried through even in a reasonable period appeared to be remote and the difficulties that it represented in holding up developments along any projected route eventually influenced us to a decision that, if ever the money were available, it could be spent to better purpose in other directions.

I am strongly in sympathy with the views expressed in the report of the London Home Counties Advisory Committee on the traffic problems of London, on the need to have at least one road from north to south and one from east to west as free as possible to facilitate the flow of traffic. There is also the question of parallel roads to produce in London something like the dual carriageway or bypass we have built in the country. I do not know whether hon. Members who have spoken in this debate took the opportunity to view the model of the reconstruction of Hyde Park Corner, the conversion of Park Lane and the carriageway through Hyde Park and the reconstruction of Marble Arch which I had exhibited for the interest of hon. Members, in a room off Westminster Hall a few months ago.

That plan would not only represent a tremendous improvement in the flow of traffic in that area, but it would also increase considerably the amenities of London. That plan is complete and the good will and support of all authorities concerned, even including the King and Queen, have been secured for that project. I would have welcomed very much an increased public interest in that very large and desirable project and I hope that before very long it will he possible to carry it through.

Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)

Can the Minister say whether that plan will involve lifting the 20 miles an hour limit on the carriageway in that section?

Mr. Barnes

That point is not settled. At the moment it is a minor one compared with agreement on the scheme itself, but, obviously, if the carriageway in the park was made into a thoroughfare for all vehicles, I assume—though I would not like to be tied down on it—that the limit now applying to vehicles in the Park would disappear automatically. I believe every hon. Member would agree that the association of the Ministry of Works and my Department in the reconstruction of Parliament Square has been a very good thing in itself and that the reconstruction is a very considerable improvement. The scheme to which I have referred would go a very long way to solve the problem of the terrific volume of traffic at Hyde Park Corner and, at the same time, improve the amenities there.

I can give a general assurance that the maintenance of traffic light installations is being steadily improved. My own Department are interested in developing closer association with local authorities throughout the country in giving technical advice to ensure a continuing improvement in the efficiency of our traffic light installations. Some mention was made of a 16 per cent. failure. One would wish to know the circumstances. Sometimes, of course, electricity cuts, which at the present are rather frequent, can very considerably affect such a factor.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point would he say whether any operational research is undertaken in connection with the lights to see not only that the timing is working correctly, but is working to the optimum efficiency for a particular flow of traffic?

Mr. Barnes

Yes, operational research of that description is carried out by both my Department and the police, though I would not suggest for one moment that it is as thorough and as continuous as probably, the hon. Gentleman and I would wish; but that kind of work is undertaken.

With regard to Lisson Grove, I have one or two figures here. I am not familiar with that particular spot myself, but I am assured that about 1,250 vehicles an hour enter this junction—that is a fairly heavy flow of traffic—from all three directions at busy periods, and of those vehicles about 130 an hour turn right out of Church Street into Lisson Grove across the main streams of traffic. I will undertake to have the matter specially looked at, but it may be that there is quite a sound justification for traffic lights at a point like that.

The hon. Member for Hendon, North, stressed that filters should be increased in numbers. Of course, the problem of the filter light must be judged in relation to the width of the road and the type of traffic using it. The tendency there is to study each particular junction on its merits. I can assure the hon. Member that there is no resistance to the idea of the filter system on our traffic signs. As far as my Department is concerned, we should wish to facilitate that as much as possible, but I do not think that we can generalise upon a matter of that kind. It does require the study of the junction to which it is desired to apply the system.

So far as I can gather our highway engineers do not favour the flashing yellow light that is prevalent on the Continent. I have an open mind on it myself. I must confess that, so far, I have seen no evidence that justifies that innovation in this country. As a matter of fact I am not persuaded that the flashing light is good in itself, but, nevertheless, we are continually experimenting, and our highway engineers are very familiar with traffic conditions on the Continent and there is a continual interchange of information taking place. However, I should not like to say that a proposal of that kind commends itself very strongly to me at the present moment.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

And the timing of the switch back to green on the main red?

Mr. Barnes

The vehicle actuated system appears to meet the greater part of that need. I think that it is seldom that the traffic from side roads is brought on on the red. I do not see anything particularly weak or inefficient in our system as it prevails at present.

The propaganda department is in touch with Sir William Haley, the Director General of the B.B.C., about the development of television. I myself was hoping to have proceeded more rapidly with the new striped pedestrian crossings. Negotiations with the local authorities often meet with delay in this country, for there are so many of them. I was very anxious that television and wireless propaganda should be used as effectively as possible in connection with the new regulations applying to pedestrian crossings. We have not overlooked the value of that kind of propaganda, and I daresay that everyone is anxious to use television and wireless, which is not at all an easy task. We are in touch with the B.B.C., the Press and publicity bodies of that character, and they are all very sympathetic towards this problem of road traffic. There is an enormous amount of good will, and it is only right that we should harness it so far as is possible.

I was asked whether the new Civil Aviation building has car park facilities. I confess that when the question was first put, I could not have told the House whether or not a car park was being provided beneath the building. I am assured, however, that a fairly adequate car park is being provided on the highway. I do not suppose my hon. Friend will mind whether the car park is under the building or not, so long as a car park is provided and the highways are not being further encumbered.

I assure the House that I shall approach this problem of unilateral parking with a good deal of personal interest and sympathy. I am aware that when we get away from Metropolitan London, the system is working fairly efficiently. It is true that in London, with its large number of commercial establishments so tightly packed together, we have commercial deliveries that are more intense than are to be found elsewhere. I shall pursue this point of experimenting with unilateral parking in London to see whether it can be extended more rapidly than hitherto. It will be agreed that it is quite easy to put remedies on paper, but it is an entirely different matter to put them into effect when we have to deal with the complexities of the problems which prevail in London.

The hon. Member for Wembley, South declared his interest in the London Home Counties Advisory Committee. When Members declare their interest it is usually for monetary or some other reasons. In this case it is not so. I should like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the very valuable assistance that I get from bodies of this character. The hon. Member has performed a very valuable public service as a member of that Committee.

Everyone recognises the necessity of solving this problem of car parking. I have been in continuous consultation with the Westminster City Council and other authorities on the matter. It was suggested that an expenditure of £5 million would garage 5,000 cars, and that a few experiments of this kind would go a long way towards solving the problem in London. The difficulty is to find the necessary money. As I have already said, if we go in for expenditure on one particular item, such as a road or a car park, then the money can possibly be found.

I wish to emphasise, and hon. Members know this is correct, that this problem exists all over the country. It is rather more acute in London; but I have not funds at my disposal for the purpose of building car parks of this description. The local authorities would be rather cautious in entering into an expenditure of this description, and I doubt very much if it would be a commercial proposition for any private company to undertake the capital cost of such work. The hon. Member for Wembley, South, and the hon. Member for Hendon, North, will, I am sure, be interested to know that I propose, in view of those difficulties, to appoint a small Departmental committee to take up the recommendation of this report on car parking in the London and Home Counties to study the matter speci- fically and give me some guidance how we can reach a solution of the problem.

Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing

Would the Minister give consideration to the changes necessary in the Building Acts as they now exist, because of the unnecessarily high standard of building that has normally to be assumed? I think the right hon. Gentleman will probably agree that garages can accept something a little less ambitious. Would he look at the Building Acts and see whether some amelioration can be made?

Mr. Barnes

That question had better be put to other Ministers. I do not in any way control the building laws. Bodies like the London County Council would also be involved in the matter. I believe, from general knowledge, that problems of this character are being examined at present from the point of view of economy in building materials. I regret that I am not able to make any contribution on that matter this afternoon.

With my next point I must end my comments. I give an undertaking that I will study each point carefully at my leisure and will discuss them with the Department to see how quickly they can be met. With regard to police supervision. I think we all agree that the police have an exceedingly difficult task in London. They are a very valuable help to my Department, but they are short-staffed, like many other Departments at the present moment. It is not possible for them to give the supervision that in normal and easier conditions the Home Department might wish to give. Therefore, I do not think that with the tasks and the problems that they have to meet I can encroach upon the Home Secretary to ask for additional police for supervision of this kind. However, I am in discussion with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary not only with regard to this matter, but for the increase of mobile police in connection with traffic conditions generally.

I want to conclude by thanking the two hon. Members who have raised this matter. It does not cause any difficulty or injury to have the problem ventilated in the House of Commons. Rather it assists me in a difficult task. I join with the hon. Member for Wembley, South, in regretting that we did not have a full House so that hon. Members generally could have associated themselves with the demand made by the hon. Member and his hon. Friend.

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