HC Deb 26 April 1972 vol 835 cc1538-40
26. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further steps he intends to take to improve the standard of driving on motorways.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

A special campaign is to be mounted urging drivers to leave sufficient space between them and the vehicles ahead of them. We shall also give further guidance about driving in fog and stressing the need for good lane discipline.

Mr. Knox

Will my hon. Friend give special attention to the latter part of his answer, since it seems to me that the standards of lane discipline on our motorways has sunk to deplorably low levels recently?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. We expect to be spending not less than £200,000 on our publicity programme stressing that need.

Mr. J. T. Price

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that whatever steps he is taking, the best contribution that he and the Government could make for greater safety on motorways would be to take urgent steps to discourage the growing practice on over-crowded motorways where overweight and over-sized lorries drive at 70 m.p.h. in the middle lane to the discomfort and danger of ordinary motorists who can pass in neither the slow nor the fast lanes because the middle lane is turned into a motor-track by drivers earning high bonuses by exceeding speed limits imposed by the previous Government?

Mr. Griffiths

The hon. Gentleman's passion does him credit, but his recollection of what has happened in this House does him no credit. My right hon. Friend has introduced in this Parliament measures to prevent lorries travelling on motorways at speeds above 60 m.p.h., and I have every reason to believe that enforcement is increasingly effective.

Mr. Price

The hon. Gentleman should get on to the M1 and see for himself.

Mr. Hastings

Has my hon. Friend been able to make any progress with the gantry warning light system which I understand is to be installed on the M1 in Bedfordshire, where so many of these very serious accidents happen?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, Sir. I would like to see gantries installed more rapidly. As soon as they can be produced, they are being installed.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

Will the hon. Gentleman resist the temptation to put the blame on the lorry driver, who has to pass a very stiff test to get a heavy goods vehicle driving licence? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that in view of all the recommendations emanating from his Department and all the campaigns which have been mounted by the British Safety Council, ROSPA and the other organisations, £200,000 is a fleabite in this very important matter?

Mr. Griffiths

The total sum available for road safety publicity is at least 10 times that sum. That is the amount being directed specifically to separation distances between vehicles. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the great majority of our lorry drivers drive very safely.