HC Deb 27 June 1962 vol 661 cc1141-2
24. Mr. Jeger

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to receive the results of the inquiry into the proposal to change from the left-hand to a right-hand rule of the road; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marples

The study to which the hon. Member refers was a purely domestic one, designed to discover the implications of a possible change-over. There would clearly be long-term financial savings to the vehicle manufacturing industry if all their production could be concentrated on left-hand drive models. A tentative calculation of the possible cost of changing over is that it might be as much as £200 million overall, given a warning period of five years, and £35 million with a 15-year warning period, but these figures must be treated with reserve, and I emphasise "with reserve". No more than a guess can be made at the possible increase in road casualties, but it might be of the order of 10 per cent. for each of the first three years.

Before I come to a final decision on this very complex matter I shall naturally want to have the fullest consultation with all the interested organisations; this I am now putting in hand.

Mr. Jeger

Has the committee of inquiry concluded its report and submitted it to the Minister or is he merely making an interim statement on it now?

Mr. Marples

It is not a committee but a Departmental study of what we think the possible effects might be. When we have arrived at tentative conclusions—and I say "tentative" because they cannot be final until we have consulted all the interests concerned—the next step is to consult the interests concerned and take the matter a stage further.

Mr. Russell

How many Commonwealth countries still have left-hand drive? Has that been taken into consideration in calculating the cost?

Mr. Marples

Three principal Commonwealth countries, India, Australia and New Zealand, are concerned and I intend to consult them too.

Mr. J. T. Price

Whilst the right hon. Gentleman is continuing to study this matter, may I ask whether he does not agree that, if conversion of the roads to the left-hand drive system will involve the fantastic figure of £200 million, it would be far more sensible for this country to plough that £200 million into new roads which are desperately needed in all parts of the country rather than fiddle about to deny us what still remains of the British way of life?

Mr. Marples

I hope that I shall not be misrepresented. I did not say that the £200 million was the cost of altering the roads. I said that that was the overall cost, and that includes far more than altering the roads. Every new road that is being designed is designed for left-hand or right-hand side driving.