HC Deb 22 June 1953 vol 516 cc1452-8
7. Brigadier Medlicott

asked the Minister of Transport if his attention has been called to the increase in road accident figures during the first three months of this year, especially those involving children; and what special measures he will take to draw public attention again to the need for continual vigilance and care on the part of all users of the roads.

Mr. Braithwaite

We are seriously concerned at the recent increase in road accidents and I should like to take this opportunity of making a further earnest appeal to all road users to keep constantly in mind the need for vigilance and care. It is obvious, and yet too often forgotten, that the behaviour of road users is a vital factor in road safety. The new Highway Code now under active preparation should help towards this end, and the Departmental Committee on Road Safety has recently set up a special sub-committee to co-ordinate, and advise on, road safety propaganda. The problem of child casualties is receiving special attention, and despite the general alarming increase, it is gratifying to note a reduction of 12 per cent. in fatal casualties to children during the month of April.

Brigadier Medlicott

Is my hon. Friend aware—I am sure he is—that the figures for April at 18,000 show an increase of 1,200 on the figures for April last year and the figure for May is 21,000 accidents involving both killed and injured? Do not these figures show that there is hardly a national problem graver than this one? Will he summon all the resources, of Press, radio and teachers to see if a fresh attack can be made upon it?

Mr. Braithwaite

Yes, Sir, we are indeed very disquieted by the May figures, but I was pointing out that in the vital field of children there is at the moment an improvement.

Mr. Donnelly

Is not the real reason for the increase in casualties the fact that improvements to the roads are not keeping pace with the increasing volume of traffic on them? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he and his Department may very soon be sharing the fate of public opprobrium that the Minister of Education is experiencing at the moment? Is not the real cause of the problem the unwarrantable selfishness of the Minister of Housing and Local Government?

Mr. Braithwaite

I am sure that hon. Members in general would deprecate very strongly road safety being brought into the party arena. During the time I have been in the House, all Governments have done their best to grapple with the problem, with support from both sides of the House.

14. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the public concern at the growing number of road accidents; and what plans the Government propose to introduce to meet this situation apart from road safety propaganda.

Mr. Braithwaite

Yes, Sir. Apart from propaganda and education, the principal lines of action are improvement of roads and traffic conditions and enforcement and strengthening of the law. As rapidly as economic conditions permit we propose to eliminate or improve accident black spots and subsequently to embark on wider measures of road improvement and construction. We have been in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary about encouraging the more widespread use of motor cycle patrols, which we regard as a most valuable road safety measure, and he hopes shortly to take steps to this end. We shall take any possible legislative opportunity of improving and strengthening the Road Traffic law.

Mr. Dodds

While I appreciate that the Government seem to be going a little more deeply into the problem, can the hon. Gentleman state how he thinks any impression can be made upon this very serious situation without the spending of a little more money than is being spent at present?

Mr. Braithwaite

There are many methods. With wiser husbandry in previous years we might have been in a better position to spend the money now.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that the large-scale educational campaign by Press and poster carried out by the previous Administration about five years ago appeared to have immense success, judging by the statistical results, and, although it costs money, will he consider embarking on another such valuable and important large-scale campaign?

Mr. Braithwaite

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. The campaign had valuable results, and it was continued last year when there was an overall reduction of 10 per cent. The campaign is still continuing and the casualties are rising, which shows that there are other elements in the matter. However, I agree with him that education and propaganda are highly important.

Sir T. Moore

Would it not be better again to consult the Home Secretary with the object of having severer punishments inflicted upon those who break the law in these matters?

Mr. Braithwaite

I have already said that we propose to strengthen the road traffic law when occasion offers.

17 and 18. Mr. J. Rodgers

asked the Minister of Transport (1) if he will bear in mind the findings of the Report on the "Child on the Road," a copy of which has been sent to him, when the Highway Code is being redrafted;

(2) if he has considered the Report on the "Child on the Road," a copy of which has been sent to him, based on data supplied by his Department; how far he accepts the findings of the Committee; and if he will take steps to acquaint Road Safety Committees with these findings.

Mr. Braithwaite

The Report to which my hon. Friend refers, is being carefully studied within my Department and due regard will be paid to its findings in the preparation of the Highway Code and in road safety propaganda generally.

Mr. Rodgers

In view of the increase in casualties, in particular among cyclists, does not my hon. Friend feel that his Department should give consideration, firstly, to more propaganda among parents and, secondly, to the fact that cyclists should be required to take a test in the same way as motorists do and to show knowledge of the Highway Code? Does he not also agree that rear and front brakes should be required on all bicycles?

Mr. Braithwaite

My hon. Friend has asked me three supplementary questions. The Road Safety Committee have made certain recommendations to my right hon. Friend on the subject of bicycle brakes, and those recommendations are now before him. I certainly agree with the section of the report, to which he referred, dealing with child cyclists, which is of prime importance.

30. Mr. Snow

asked the Minister of Transport what system is used by his Department to allot funds for the specific purpose of removing dangerous conditions which may exist at traffic points where accidents have occurred or are likely to occur; and to what extent recommendations by local Road Safety Committees are referred to any Departmental section having funds at its disposal and which are separate from normal Departmental requirement funds.

Mr. Braithwaite

Highway authorities' proposals are submitted to us after consideration of the accident records and of any recommendations made to them by local Road Safety Committees. The only money at my right hon. Friend's disposal for assisting road works comes from the grant in aid to the Road Fund which is expended in accordance with the estimates submitted to Parliament annually.

Mr. Snow

While I should like to have time to examine that reply, may I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that some Road Safety Committees are feeling extremely disappointed that time after time their recommendations are turned down because of the lack of funds at the disposal of the Ministry? May I further ask him if, in his analysis of the expenditure on road maintenance, he has examined the possibility of substantial savings where the maintenance of certain second and third-class roads are not dedicated by county authorities to subordinate local authorities?

Mr. Braithwaite

As regards the first part of the supplementary question, of course there is widespread disappointment when money cannot be found. The Road Safety Committees communicate with us through the highway authorities so we may not hear all the complaints. With regard to the second part of the Question, all these matters are borne in mind.

44. Mr. Crouch

asked the Minister of Transport what has been the percentage increase or decrease in road accidents in Great Britain during the first five months of this year compared with the first five months of last year; what are the comparable figures for the county of Dorset; and what are the figures for the areas served by the Shaftesbury and Gillingham, the Sturminster Newton, the Blandford and the Wimborne Road Safety Committees, respectively.

Mr. Braithwaite

Casualties from road accidents during the first five months of 1953 show a 9¼ per cent. increase over the corresponding period for 1952. This increase has been concentrated to an important extent in the larger cities and comparisons with rural areas with lighter traffic are misleading. The figures for Dorset where the numbers killed have unfortunately rather more than doubled, show a welcome overall reduction of 14 per cent. The figures are not separately compiled for areas covered by individual road safety committees.

Mr. Crouch

In view of the encouraging results from the county of Dorset, how can my hon. Friend justify the statement he made in this House a few months ago when he attacked the Bland-ford and Dorset County Council Road Safety Committees and said: both these bodies have been less active than many of their contemporaries and somewhat lacking in enthusiasm in this particular important matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1953; Vol. 512, c. 1693.] Will he now withdraw that statement?

Mr. Braithwaite

That was an Adjournment debate raised by my hon. Friend, on a subject dear to his heart— the control of dogs—and it dealt only with that subject. May I say that while I am glad that Road Safety Committees should get any credit which is going, it would be wrong to let it go out that the number of casualties is the yardstick of their efficiency or inefficiency. Some of our most active and keen Road Safety Committees are in the most congested areas where accident figures are highest.

Mr. Crouch

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures for the Blandford Road Safety Committee show a fall of 20 per cent. in the first five months of this year?

Mr. Braithwaite

I am delighted to hear it.

Mr. Hargreaves

Would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that there would be more encouragement to Road Safety Committees if his right hon. Friend ceased to encourage the industry to hope for an increase in the speed limit on heavy goods vehicles?

Mr. Braithwaite

I thought we had passed from that question.

Mr. Nicholson

Does it not put road accidents in a truer perspective if the figures of casualties are given as a proportion or percentage of the number of vehicles on the road?

Mr. Braithwaite

That is worthy of consideration.

63. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the number of road accidents since Coronation Day in London in those areas where traffic congestion has been most marked, giving comparable figures for 1952.

Mr. Braithwaite

Information as to road casualties since Coronation Day will not be collated for some weeks and could probably not in any case be given in the precise form desired by the hon. Member. I will, however, see how far I can meet his request.

Dr. Stross

In the meantime, has the Minister not noticed that the remarkable patience and diligence of the police must have prevented innumerable casualties and that we ought to be very grateful to them?

Mr. Braithwaite

I would heartily endorse that. So, indeed, has the immobility of the traffic in London.