HC Deb 02 December 1985 vol 88 cc6-7
9. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will consider installing closed circuit television cover in fog prone sections of motorways, linked to more prominent warning signals.

Mr. Ridley

I have no plans to extend television surveillance to deal specifically with fog-prone locations.

Mr. Ross

Does the Secretary of State agree that there have been some tragic accidents in fog on our motorways in the past month or two, including one in the last couple of weeks? It is not time to experiment with more sophisticated closed circuit television systems, which I believe are available, or fog-sensing devices?

Mr. Ridley

I do not think that television is the answer because television cannot see fog in the dark for a start, and that seems to be a fundamental defect. I would even go so far as to say that the motorist is more likely to see the fog than are television cameras. However, we are installing experimental fog detectors. Some have been installed on the Mole valley section of the M25 to see whether they can detect fog in all conditions to alert the police, so that they can illuminate the speed restriction signs.

Mr. Roger King

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to look further at the installation of closed circuit television and advance warning signs, not just to combat fog but to control the increasingly dense traffic flows on the southern part of the M1, where the present signalling system is wholly inadequate?

Mr. Ridley

When high traffic flows result in regular congestion or queues, and where we have complex motorway interchanges, we instal closed circuit televison. That is the right use of it, not for fog.

Mr. Stott

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell), who tabled a question about speed limits, is the Secretary of State aware that one of the great problems on our motorways is people who drive at excessive speeds in fog? Is he aware, further, that on Saturday I was on the M1 between Leeds and Sheffield and that some drivers passed me exceeding 70 mph, without lights? Would it have been in order for me to take their numbers and report them to the police?

Mr. Ridley

I have never before been asked a technical and legal question as a Front Bench supplementary question to a question which has not been asked because the hon. Member who tabled it was not present. I agree strongly with the hon. Gentleman that the real problem on our motorways, and our roads in general, is that people drive too fast for the prevailing conditions. There is no subsitute for impressing on people the need for a higher standard of driving, which includes controlling their speed, not just to the limit, but to the conditions. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would be able to substantiate as evidence numbers which he took down while driving at 70 mph down a motorway last Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Maclean

Perhaps I could help my right hon. Friend. Does he agree that the answer to the problem lies not in new technology but in cracking down hard on the murderous maniacs who drive too fast in fog without proper warning lights? Will he encourage the police to prosecute on all occasions when they come across such dangerous lunacy on the motorways?

Mr. Ridley

I am sure my hon. Friend is aware that enforcement by the police of the speed limit and driving laws is entirely a matter for them. However, I agree strongly that we would have a better safety record and fewer crashes on our motorways and roads if people drove more carefully and considerately.