HC Deb 07 December 1965 vol 722 cc235-7
Q2. Mr. Bessell

asked the Prime Minister if he will publish his reply to the Automobile Association's letter to him dated 12th October regarding the high rate of accidents on the road.

The Prime Minister

I have arranged for the reply sent on my behalf by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the letter:

Ministry of Transport,

Southwark Street,

London, S.E.1.

27th October, 1965.

Before leaving for Rhodesia the Prime Minister passed to me your letter to him of 12th October, in which you argued on behalf of the Automobile Association that road construction schemes should be exempted from the Government's measures to slow down public expenditure on capital projects by postponing certain starts of work by six months. The Prime Minister asked me, in the circumstances, to reply on his behalf.

Your letter says that the Government "has decided to make a heavy cut back in road expenditure amounting in all to £55 million." This implies that roads have been singled out for some savage cut in expenditure. This is not so. The six months' postponement applies generally to all non-industrial capital projects except houses, schools and hospitals. Projects in development districts were exempted and I have subsequently announced that a large number of road schemes will be going on as planned without deferment.

The strength of sterling must be our paramount economic objective, underlying as it does the whole of our social and economic programmes. It is misleading, therefore, to dramatise the decision as indicating a callous disregard on the Government's part of the problem of road accidents. As you well know, road conditions are only one of the factors leading to road accidents. You would he doing poor service to the cause of accident prevention if you were to encourage the public at large and motorists in particular to shift the responsibility for the growth in accidents on to what you consider to be inadequacies in the road construction programme.

The Government is no less concerned—indeed is more pressingly concerned than any-one—about the mounting toll of road accidents and we are playing our part in tackling the problem. Over the period 1965–70, public expenditure planned on the road programme will be some £1,200 million. The deferment for six months of £55 million worth of road schemes must be seen against this background.

(Signed) TOM FRASER.

The Rt. Hon. Viscount Brentford.