HC Deb 23 January 1980 vol 977 cc421-2
20. Mr. Dormand

asked the Minister of Transport what further steps he is taking to reduce the number of road accidents.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Our immediate priority is drinking and driving, and in that connection we published a consultation paper last month. We are also concerned with the problem of motor cycle safety, and we expect to bring forward further proposals in due course.

Mr. Dormand

May I remind the Minister that the average number of road deaths per year in this country is 6,500? Does he agree that, if that many people were killed on the railways or in aeroplane crashes every year, the Government would be forced to take immediate and decisive action? Is he aware that, although the proposals that he mentioned are important, they are comparatively minor compared with the scale of the problem? Will he and his right hon. Friend shake off their complacency and take a major initiative to end the appalling slaughter on our roads?

Mr. Clarke

No one is complacent. The figures are appalling. They have improved, but that is no great cause for satisfaction. However, I do not accept that our proposals are irrelevant or unimportant. When one looks at the association between drink and road accident figures in this country, that shows that we are tackling the most important problem of all by dealing with defects in the breathaliser law.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Can my hon. Friend say whether mini round- abouts have proved more safe than traditional roundabouts?

Mr. Clarke

Such considerations are constantly under review with the Transport and Road Research Laboratory. To the best of my recollection—although I had better promise to write to my hon. Friend—the effect of mini roundabouts on road safety is fairly adequate. They certainly improve traffic problems at junctions, and we would not persevere with them if they increased accident statistics.

Mr. Haynes

How long must road safety committees, this House and the nation wait before the Minister makes up his mind what to do about motor cyclists, who can buy a motor cycle from a showroom and, without instruction or training, go immediately on the road? That practice is adding to the number of fatal road accidents.

Mr. Clarke

Not very long. The discussions that I am engaged in should be completed in about a month, and we can then produce a policy on motor cycle training and motor cycle safety generally. We had to wait for the report of the advisory committee set up by the previous Government, and we have had that for only a little over a month. It is a matter of great urgency, and we are dealing with it as such.