HC Deb 06 February 1968 vol 758 cc233-4
Q9. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister when he will abolish the Winter Emergency Committee.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 12th December to a Question by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Sir J.LangfordHolt).—[Vol. 756, c. 208.]

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Are not Cabinet meetings one long emergency committee nowadays? With regard to the emergencies committees in which the Winter Emergency Committee has now been merged, can the Prime Minister say what effect the work of the Winter Emergency Committee and the main emergencies committees has had on the welcome improvement in the efficiency of many local authorities in the clearing of ice and snow?

The Prime Minister

I explained to the House two years ago why this Committee was necessary. The hon. Member will join with me in applauding the much larger margin of capacity both in electricity and gas as a result of the work of that Committee and the Departments concerned. In regard to local authorities we have always recognised that a sudden cold spell such as the one we had before Christmas is liable to create difficulties on the roads before local authorities can get working, and also on the railways. We had the same in January, I agree that many local authorities are getting more alive to what needs to be done in the first few hours of a snowfall.

Mr. Tilney

Will the Prime Minister tell us what is being done, because every fall of snow seems to produce chaos in all forms of transport?

The Prime Minister

Action on roads is a matter for the local authorities. Some were a bit slow off the mark in December, but much faster off the mark in January. Really bad road conditions are beyond the capacity of any early solution. As to rail transport, as the hon. Gentleman knows, if we were to equip every set of points, every part of the railway system, with heaters, underground or otherwise, it would be impossibly expensive in relation to the normal freezing up of points and other railway facilities in the course of an average winter.