HL Deb 27 May 1952 vol 176 cc1449-51

2.37 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in ray name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when the replacement of wooden blocks with non-skid surfaces in Central London is expected to be completed, and whether they will give an undertaking to see that such repairs to main roads in and leading to the centre of London are completed before the Coronation.]


My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Leathers, I should like to inform the noble Lord that the metropolitan borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London, who are the highway authorities for these roads, replace the wood paving with non-skid materials as and when re-surfacing is necessary. I regret that I cannot say when all such replacements will be completed, and unfortunately I cannot give the undertaking asked for in the second part of the noble Lord's Question. Steps will, however, be taken, with the advice of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee and the Commissioner of Police, to ensure that selected routes are kept clear of road works during the period of the Coronation.


I thank the noble Earl for his answer. I appreciate that this is not a problem which can be solved in one year, but I believe that we should pay particular attention to the fact that the wood block surfaces near zebra crossings are a menace to public safety. Would the noble Earl give the highest priority to seeing that the wood blocks are replaced by non-skid surfaces at the zebra crossings as soon as possible?


My Lords, I am extremely pleased that the noble Lord has asked that supplementary Question, because I should like to express our opinion about these wooden blocks more fully than I did in answer to the original Question. We are fully aware that these wood blocks are very dangerous indeed, and liable to cause skidding. Any of your Lordships who has ever driven a car, or even ridden a bicycle—as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, told us the other day he does—must have found them dangerous. The need in the interests of traffic safety to permit or encourage highway authorities in London to replace wood blocks by non-skid surfaces is fully recognised. I assure the noble Lord that we fully recognise the danger of these surfaces. But with the economy in the use of capital resources which the Government have found necessary to impose for the benefit of the country as a whole, the Minister is obliged to limit authorisations under Defence Regulation 56A so as to keep expenditure on roads generally within the sum allotted by the Government.

I should like to remind the noble Lord—I am sure he knows already, but I have one or two facts which may help him—that in recent years wood blocks have been replaced on a number of important roads, such as Parliament Square, Park Lane, Oxford Street, the Strand and Hyde Park Corner. This year's programme includes the resurfacing of sections of Buckingham Palace Road, Grosvenor Place, Grosvenor Road, Pall Mall, Baker Street, Marylebone Road, Grace-church Street, King William Street, Bishopsgate and a further considerable stretch of Oxford Street. As I think the noble Lord will agree, it indicates that steady progress is being made, and we are fully aware of the urgency of the problem. Finally, I ought to tell the noble Lord that as it is impossible to foresee what rate of expenditure on road maintenance will be permissible in the years ahead no estimate can be made of the date when all wood paving will have been replaced. Therefore, I cannot say any more than that if present restrictions continue it will probably not be for several years yet.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl, when he addresses the House, not to turn his head, because we could not hear most of the things he said?


I am extremely sorry. I was attempting, as a matter of courtesy, to address my remarks to the noble Lord who asked the Question. If your Lordships would like me to repeat my observations in extenso I will—I am a glutton for punishment!

Forward to