HC Deb 01 December 1965 vol 721 cc1415-7
22 and 23. Sir R. Nugent

asked the Minister of Transport (1) what plans he has for a review of highway speed limits; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what steps he intends to take to improve observance by drivers of highway speed limits.

Mr. Tom Fraser

Speed limits are under constant review to ensure as far as possible that they are realistic. Possible future developments include the introduction of differential speed limits, which I now have under consideration. The results of the forthcoming trial of a 70 m.p.h. general limit will be reviewed as fully as possible before the experiment ends, and they will be taken into account when I decide, next Easter, on the measures to be adopted later in the year.

The importance of observing speed limits continues to be stressed in the Highway Code and in road safety publicity issued by the Ministry and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Enforcement is of course a matter for the police, and I am sure that, within the limits of their present resources this essential task receives every possible attention.

Sir R. Nugent

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comprehensive reply. As the speed limit is probably the most effective road safety measure ever introduced, provided that its imposition is correctly applied, and as it loses its effect the more speed limits are imposed and the less they are enforced, will the right hon. Gentleman consider an urgent review of the 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.h. limits with a view to drastically reducing their number together with more effective enforcement by more mobile police? Is not the reduction of the number of pedestrian crossings a very good prototype in this respect? Will the right hon. Gentleman please consider this suggestion?

Mr. Fraser

I must not mislead the House. I have no intention of greatly reducing the number of 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.h. speed limits. I would have thought that most hon. Members would recognise that that would make no contribution to road safety.

Mr. Orme

Has my right hon. Friend anything further to say on the question of minimum speed limits on motorways?

Mr. Fraser

I cannot say anything at this stage except that I will consider this along with other suggestions when I review the results of the general 70 m.p.h. limit which I announced last week.

Sir M. Redmayne

Will the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the fewer the speed limits the more easily they can be enforced? There is no point in adhering to a policy that speed limits have a virtue in themselves unless they are strictly relevant to the conditions to which they apply. Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear the position about the 70 m.p.h. limit? It seems to me, from my contacts with the Press, that, at the Press conference last week, he gave the impression that it was his opinion that the limit was permanent. Will he make it clear now that it is only a four months' experiment?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Sir M. Redmayne) should frame his supplementary questions more concisely.

Mr. Fraser

The 70 m.p.h. speed limit is an experiment. I made this clear at my Press conference. I also said that I would review the whole situation before the end of that period. I think that the police do all they can to enforce the existing speed limits. It would be monstrous a t this time if we were greatly to reduce the mileage of roads subject to the 30 and 40 m.p.h. limits.

Mr. Mapp

Since my right hon. Friend has legislation in mind, will he consult the Home Secretary with a view to having a separate traffic police force and separate courts for dealing with motoring offences? Is my right hon. Friend aware that continual legislation without real enforcement is a farce and that it is time we had real enforcement and deterrence in the courts?

Mr. Fraser

I did not make my announcement last week without consulting my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and having a conference with a great many of the chief constables concerned. Enforcement is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend, so my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) should address that supplementary question to him.