§ The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)
The signing of hotels in rural areas is becoming progressively more established, along with the further development of holiday route signs. I have recently introduced a system of white and brown signs where facilities such as fuel, meals and accommodation can be found off the main road. I have also begun a general review of direction signing, and I will consider any suggestions for improvement.
§ Mr. Beith
I am grateful to the Minister for her answer, but in that case why is it that services in Northumberland, on bypassed sections of the Al, face endless obstruction in their attempts to get reasonable signs? Is the Minister aware of the extent to which the county council claims to be acting as the agent of the Secretary of State in refusing those signs? Does she realise how difficult it is for small businesses which want to maintain the passing trade that is available?
§ Mrs. Chalker
I am well aware of how difficult it can be for small businesses which want to maintain the passing trade. There is no obstruction, I hope, in Northumberland or anywhere else to the mounting of signs. I know that there was a case at a place called Scremerston recently, but that is very much in its early days, and we are looking at it with Northumberland county council.
§ Mr. Neale
I thank my hon. Friend for the careful consideration that she always gives to the matter, and for her recent announcement of a review. Nevertheless, will she accept that small businesses and tourism in areas such as the west country would gain immeasurably if there were an early announcement of the principles on which approved signs can be constructed? Does she agree that the evidence obtained from the trials of the brown and white signs supports the introduction of such signs far more quickly in areas such as the west country?
§ Mrs. Chalker
My hon. Friend is right about the review of direction signs. It is much needed, and I hope that, as a result of new measures that I am taking, it will be finished much earlier than we originally predicted.
With regard to the use of brown and white direction signs for communities that are now bypassed, I shall be happy for any county council—Devon and Cornwall or any other—to have the brown and white signs if that can be agreed with the British Tourist Authority.