HL Deb 17 April 1958 vol 208 cc812-42

4.50 p.m.

VISCOUNT GOSCHEN rose to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the unwisdom of seeking to apply special speed limits on trunk roads other than the normal 30 m.p.h. limit through built-up areas; to ask whether Her Majesty's Government are in a position to give any information as to the results of the recently imposed 40 m.p.h. limit on the above-mentioned type of road: and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I realise that I am delving into a very controversial subject. but fortunately it is not in any way, I think, a controversial subject so far as Party politics are concerned. It is a national problem, and one which I believe must be approached with common sense, as well as from technical and other angles. It is essentially a matter of common sense mixed with the safety and speed of vehicles and so forth. I must remind the House that if these problems had been taken up years ago by successive Governments, there would have been no need for me to introduce this Motion to-day.

I am not going to speak of the normal 30 m.p.h. limit in London and other cities, towns and villages, because I believe it is agreed by all that that works extremely well and has led to a reduction in casualties. I propose to speak chiefly on the principle of the matter and not on the particular merits of each trunk road. It would, of course, be impossible for me to do that, first because I do not know them, and secondly because we should be here all night. The example which I will take is the Great West Road, the one which I know best and use most, and the tributaries of that road which go off at the end of it. Before I go on to deal with the matter with which I am concerned—the 40 m.p.h. limit—I would say this. I hope that Her Majesty's Government, when making new highways, whether they be above buildings or similar to the new Birmingham motor road, will make absolutely certain that there will be no roundabouts or cross-roads, and that special arrangements will be provided for pedestrians to cross from one side to the other; for it really is time that we had in this country roads on which every form of vehicle can go without being slowed up every few minutes by various limits.

I am in no way convinced that the 40 m.p.h. limit on these trunk roads will increase the flow of traffic. I understand that one of the theories the police hold is that it will; and I understand that they would like traffic to go along all in one block, so that they can get rid of it more quickly. I cannot understand that theory, particularly when we have on our roads vehicles of such very different categories. We may have a donkey or horse cart; then one of the mutual friends of the noble Lords, Lord Mancroft and Lord Lucas of Chilworth—the abnormal load"; then heavy vehicles, and various types of motor car. I cannot see how all those vehicles can go along in one block unless they go at a very slow speed.

Since the 40 m.p.h. limit has been brought in as a trial, I have noticed, as I live down beyond the Great West Road, that the average speed of the traffic has dropped very considerably. I should like to know 'whether there is any record of the speed at which the traffic used to move before this new limit was introduced. On these roads one now sees a great deal more of what one noticed only slightly before—perhaps three heavy vehicles moving at the same speed, about 35 or 36 m.p.h. and all having a rather good race to get up to their 40 m.p.h. This means that no other car can pass them without breaking the law, for in order to pass a car or lorry doing 35 or 36 m.p.h. one has to go at over 40 m.p.h. Ono may then be able to maintain a speed of 40 m.p.h. until one comes to the next group of heavy vehicles. I. should very much like to go out one day with a police car. Then the crew could point out to me where I was wrong, or I could point out to them where they are wrong; because I really do not understand this matter. I wonder very much what would happen if, during Ascot Week a speed limit of, say, 40 m.p.h. were put on every road leading out of Ascot. How would people fare then and how would the Berkshire police contend with that issue? I honestly do not believe that the 40 m.p.h. limit increases the flow of traffic.

With your Lordships' permission I should like to refer to the Report on the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in the London Traffic Area, published by the Stationery Office in 1956. In the "Reservations on Differential Speed Limits" I should like particularly to read one paragraph on page 42: Roads now free from restriction. The number and severity of accidents would tend to be reduced but, because pedestrians and cyclists would be fewer than on roads with a 30 m.p.h. limit, the combined effect would be much less than in paragraph (a)"— which deals with the 30 m.p.h. limit. Traffic flow generally would be slowed, and the advantage of an even flow of traffic would not be obtained while certain classes of vehicle are restricted to lower speeds. Overtaking would be more difficult and dangerous. The restriction would be unpopular with drivers and voluntary observance could not be expected. At night we think that the limit would generally be disregarded. On roads returning to London the problem is slightly different, because one is entering into the narrow straits and it is not a question of getting traffic right into London and then getting it moving again: we come down to the 30 m.p.h. limit, which is not quite so important. But at the London end of these trunk roads having dual carriageways, even on days when there is heavy traffic, such as holidays, Saturdays and Sundays, it is not as a rule a question of doing 40 m.p.h. on the return journey, so that that particular speed limit would not be necessary. There are other types of trunk roads, as we all know, which do not have dual tracks but which are wide. Some have three tracks. I will take as examples two roads. The first is the road which leads from the end of the Colnbrook by-pass to Slough. A 40 m.p.h. limit has been imposed there. I maintain that that is quite unnecessary. The road is wide, and not in any way dangerous. At times the traffic becomes very heavy and one cannot go at much more than just about 40 m.p.h., so I cannot see why there is any need for a 40 m.p.h. limit there. The other example is the road from the end of the Great West Road to Staines. This is one which affects the homeward bound passengers and not the outward bound passengers. There are many people who say that they would rather drive an additional fifty miles to avoid going through Staines. But it is going to be bad for those who do use that road if a 40 m.p.h. limit is imposed—I am not certain whether it has yet been imposed; but I believe that it is intended—because there are appalling traffic jams in Staines. If this 40 m.p.h. limit is applied on this road, which is again a wide road, and almost straight, I do not see that the traffic will clear at all until it disperses among the streets of London.

I must say that I think I should have added to my Motion the words "except in special cases". I met one such case the other day—I think the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, knows about it. It is near St. Albans, where a limit was put on some time ago, and I am certain there are a few places where a limit must be imposed. But taking the question as a whole I do not see that special limits are in any way necessary. This speed limit, with its effect of slowing up traffic, may unnecessarily delay commerce and industry and the business of the country. We must remember that not all motor traffic on the roads consists of people who are driving for pleasure—in fact they are only a small proportion. Again, there are many people in this country to-day who say that it is no pleasure to drive. So from that point of view I think we want to get the traffic away as quickly as possible.

I should like to leave for a minute the word "safety", which of course is always in one's mind and which is one of the chief factors. Most drivers to whom I have spoken—and they are drivers in every particular range, and from different sections of the public—intensely dislike these 40 m.p.h. limits. In fact, I could not really tell your Lordships how they were described to me by the majority of motorists. The various signs are apt (and in this connection the motoring organisations agree with me) to confuse drivers, especially when some of them are not lit. Whether it is by mistake or by a "back-hander" I do not know, but when you come to the de-restriction signs, both on the Great West Road and on the road leading to London Airport, you find that they are not lit. I do not know whether or not it is through a mistake, but in some cases these 40 m.p.h. limit signs are not lit. I understand, however, that they should be.

Obviously, confusion is caused by the fact that there are too many signs on the roads nowadays. I should like to mention particularly the small signs beside the road. They are made of wood, and they spell out a sentence; and either one cannot see them, because one happens not to be on the same side of the road, or, if one is on the same side of the road, one is rather apt to "bet" on what the last word is going to be—and that may easily cause an accident through a driver running into the back of a vehicle in front. There are far too many signs. I have not been down the road myself, but I am told that the new road which goes past Gatwick Airfield is particularly bad in that respect.

Then, my Lords, it will be a very difficult thing to enforce this new limit. I think the police agree that the 30 m.p.h. limits are not really enforced and that it is impossible to enforce them. If that is so, the 40 m.p.h. limits will be even more difficult to enforce. And what about the position at night? This question has been brought up before. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has brought it up and perhaps he will speak about it later. But I consider that this 40 m.p.h. limit on big roads really tempts and provokes people to break the law; and a law such as that surely cannot be very good.

Safety, as I have said, is the chief factor. Accidents are not always caused by speed. I am not going to be one of those who say that accidents are never caused by speed, because obviously that is not true; but they are not always caused by speed. There are many accidents in London with the 30 m.p.h. limit; and I repeat, accidents are not always caused by speed. It comes down to the fact that accidents are caused, from the motorist's point of view, by just purely bad driving. To my mind, there are several types of drivers. There is one we all know—the hooligan, who will invariably drive too fast, whether there is a regulation or whether there is not. Whether he is in a fast car or whether he is in not such a fast car, he will always drive like a hooligan; but those drivers are a very small percentage of the population. Then there are drivers who drive fast within the regulations but who have experience and know the capabilities of their motor cars and of themselves.

Then we come down to the majority of drivers—those who keep within the rules, or nearly so, but who commonly go at between 55 and 65 m.p.h. or something like that. Some drive well and some drive badly. Then we come down to a category which I consider to be nearly the worst of the lot, and that is the driver of the very old car which one probably sees only on Saturdays or Sundays: the car is ancient; the people inside it are nearly always ancient, and they are extremely dangerous. They have every right to be on the road if their car is in good working order, but they have not the right to stay in the middle of the road or on the right-hand track of a dual carriageway, which they are rather prone to do.

In regard to accidents from other causes, principally to children crossing the roads, much has been done by lectures and television to educate school children, and the figures show that although the number of vehicles on the road has gone up considerably, the ratio of casualties to children has not increased. The word "safety" can often be misleading, because a motorist can have an accident, even whilst travelling slowly, either through pure and simple bad driving or bad luck, or because he is under the influence of alcohol; but I think that the majority of accidents are caused by bad driving. Many are due to pedestrians themselves, and though much has been done to educate children and parents, they do not seem to learn very fast. Only last night, at the first traffic lights in the Great West Road, when the lights were green and I was doing 40 m.p.h., a man walked across the road about 35–40 yards on the far side of the lights. That is but one simple case of what the motorist has to put up with. But the results of bad driving still remain. This is due to lack of knowledge of the rules of the road or to lack of understanding of the motorist's own capabilities and those of his car, or simply to the old fault of "cutting in''. I have seen that done since the 40 m.p.h. limit has been introduced, with one car doing 40 m.p.h. and another going at 41 m.p.h. and coming in on the left. I am not at all certain that the accident rate will fall a great deal as a result of the innovation of these limits.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists have issued a pamphlet on this question which reprints a message to them from Mr. Watkinson, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, who sends them his best wishes, saying that what the Institute stand for and what they are doing is of the greatest use. That is about all, I think, that is being done to help motorists. There are no Government schools for training motorists after their original testing. An enormous amount is spent on posters of all kinds, and I think that if schools to train motorists were given more money by the Government the standard of driving would go up. To my mind, the motorist's life is full of nothing but "don'ts." He is told "Don't do this" and "Don't do that". Most people look upon him with horror, and he is unwanted. If motorists were given more encouragement and fewer "don'ts", I am certain that the standard of driving would improve and that we should not see so many accidents.

My next point is one that has not been discussed—that is, the psychology of driving. Some people drive for business and others for pleasure; but for whatever reason they drive they should be in a quiet (I was going to say "happy", but that is possibly the wrong word) state of mind. If a motorist is always being held up by limits which he considers to be completely unnecessary, he is not likely to remain in that quiet state of mind; and when he becomes irritated he drives badly and probably breaks the laws, even if he does not have an accident. It is rather like riding a horse. If the rider becomes irritated, he rides extremely poorly; and the horse knows it and reacts accordingly. Of course, I do not mean to suggest that a car has an intelligence like a horse, but there is no doubt that a motorist will not drive well if he is in a bad temper.

The Government have stated that this limitation has been imposed for a trial period. I hope that it is only a trial period, and not a period of waiting for the inevitable. I hope that they will try out all the means they have at their disposal and not rest only on the idea of a 40 m.p.h. limit. I think that they should have another go at the laning of traffic, with the appropriate words written in large letters on the roadway at frequent intervals. This cannot be done as it is in America, because of the differences in the volume of their traffic compared with ours—for example, they have roads on which all vehicles drive at 40 m.p.h. All their vehicles are capable of doing the same speed and must do 40 m.p.h., whether they want to or not. Obviously, this kind of system cannot apply in this country because of our roads, but I think that on some trunk roads we could try more laning of traffic.

I believe that the police should be allowed, not to instruct but to advise motorists, instead of standing by and waiting for someone to break the law. They can patrol these roads, and if they see people obviously refusing to give way, they can advise them that that is the wrong thing to do. I asked a question—not in this House but of one of the motoring organisations—about the matter of putting traffic lights further back from the actual cross-roads. I was told that it was impossible, because a slow-moving vehicle—again, possibly a horse and cart, or any electrically propelled vehicle—would not have time to get across the distance between the lights before they changed. I am not certain whether the idea has been considered before, but I should like the Government to try out the idea of putting a yellow warning light some way back from the actual traffic lights, rather like they do on the railways. I see no reason why that should not work, and it would give the motorist more time to think and to pull up. I imagine that it would only be necessary on these really main roads.

I hope that the Government will try everything and will not just impose a 40 m.p.h. limit, because, as I have tried to explain. I consider it to be a bad innovation—in fact, it is a step back towards the age of having a man with a red flag walking in front. As to the second half of my Motion, if the noble Lord who is to reply says that everything is satisfactory, I shall have to ask him to whom it is satisfactory. I should also be grateful to the noble Lord if he could give us details about the twenty-five or thirty sites from which the investigations mentioned by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport in a debate in another place on March 24 will be made. My Lords, I fear that I have already taken up too much of your Lordships' time. I now beg to move for Papers.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not take up much of your Lordships' time. I was interested when I saw this Motion on the Order Paper, although I understood it to be concerned with differential speed limits and the advisability of having them or not, and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, will forgive me if I suggest that he has gone a good deal further than that this afternoon. As to differential speed limits, all your Lordships who have been abroad and driven cars in France will have experienced them. The only thing I have noticed about their operation is that, for the most part, they are completely disregarded. I should like to know from the Ministry of Transport—I hope that when the noble Lord comes to reply he will be able to tell us—what is the real policy of the Ministry. What does 40 m.p.h. represent, as against 30 m.p.h.? One cannot always tell when one is in a 30 m.p.h. speed limit, but the general surroundings do give a certain indication—there are houses, and we are told to look for street lamps and the like—and I think that that limit has been accepted as being a reasonable one. But now we are to have this 40 m.p.h. limit. What does it mean? Does it mean that 40 m.p.h. is safer than any other speed? Does it mean that the road on which a 40 m.p.h. speed limit is in operation is any safer than that with a 30 m.p.h. limit?

It seems to me crazy, when we study the problem of traffic as a whole, that we should spend millions of pounds making new roads, only to cancel out the good done. Only the other day the noble Lord opened the construction of the London—Birmingham motor way. Suppose that that motor way is completed in nineteen months, as I think it is due to be, it is possible that after another nineteen months somebody will say "Let us have a 40 m.p.h. speed limit over this stretch; it will only be a short stretch and it will not matter much". What is the good of spending an enormous amount of money on roads such as, for example, Western Avenue or the Great West Road, and promptly proceeding to nullify very largely the advantage of the means of access to and from London by imposing special limits upon them? Surely, the Ministry of Transport should try to avoid putting a limit on important arterial roads.

One has not been able to see a lot of the working of the 40 m.p.h. limit, but I have noticed a few roads upon which it is intended to place that limit. One such road that I know well—it may not be known to many of your Lordships—is a road running from Greenford to the iron bridge at Southall. It is a 50-ft. wide road, and I do not think it has a bad accident record. Recently 40 m.p.h. limit repeater signs appeared on the lamp posts, whereas previously it had been an unrestricted road. That happened one morning, but the next morning somebody—I do not know whether it was the Ministry of Transport or not—went along with a lot of brown paper and covered up the 40 m.p.h. limit signs. It is a road that I use often, and ever since then I have been watching for the disintegration of the brown paper and the re-emergence of the 40 m.p.h. limit signs. I do not know whether that road is intended to be restricted or de-restricted. But, in any case, it is absurd to have a 40 m.p.h. or even a 30 m.p.h. limit on it: it has never been restricted. As I say, I do not think it has a bad accident record and there are hardly any houses near it once you are clear of Greenford itself.

Take another case, that of the Western Avenue. There we have Northolt Aerodrome, which your Lordships know well. There is a twin-track road that goes through, with only one opening of any importance between the Hillingdon roundabout and the Northolt roundabout, and that is at the entrance to Northolt Aerodrome itself. That is an obvious road intersection and nobody can miss it; it comes in on only one side and does not go across to the other. The other day I noticed in the newspaper that somebody had suggested that a limit should be placed on this twin-track road that goes through open country for the whole of its course. The Minister, instead of treading on the suggestion, as one would imagine he would, because there is no possible reason for putting a 40 m.p.h. limit on that road—there is not one house along it, and nowhere can a child run across—has referred it to the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee. What on earth can be the advantage of doing that? Surely it is one of those cases where the Minister, with all the experience of his Department behind him, could make up his own mind without having to consult the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee, who have far more important matters to which to turn their attention in the central area of London itself—I mean matters besides parking meters, which seems to be one of their principal activities at the moment.

Can we be told how the various stretches of road that have been restricted to 40 m.p.h. have been selected? If one knew that, one would be in a much better position to avoid making rather absurd criticisms of the Minister and his Department. We should all be together with hint. But it is quite impossible to judge how those 40 m.p.h. sections of road have been selected.

There is one point upon which I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister. The repeater signs which have been put up in various restricted areas are really useful. There are a few in the 30 m.p.h. areas, and a few in the 40 m.p.h. areas. But they are not going up fast enough. If the erection of these repeater signs could be pressed on with, I believe they would do a good deal of good. As we all know, it is easily possible to find oneself in a restricted stretch of road without in the least knowing that it is restricted. As one who has motored through the length and breadth of the country, I have noticed that there are many areas in the Midlands and in the North where the local authorities have not been sufficiently diligent in seeing to the erection of these signs.

I have said as much as I wish to say, but I want to know what is the policy of the Minister with regard to the erection of 40 m.p.h. signs. How have the restricted 40 m.p.h. areas been selected? Is it an experiment, as we have been told, and if so how long will the experiment continue before the Minister expects to be able to tell us the result? I urge upon the Government to keep both the 40 m.p.h. and 30 m.p.h. restricted areas off the new main arterial roads. Keep those roads as free as you can. It is possible that if the Minister is able to give us a satisfactory reply to the various points I have ventured to raise, we shall be behind him in his effort. But let it be a common-sense effort, and not one promoted by such an organisation as the Pedestrians' Association or something like that.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Goschen for having raised this Motion to-day, and I should like to support his quest for further information from the Government. My approach to the question is that, whatever may be the result of this experiment, it is intensifying the already harsh lot of the private motorist. He is being made the central subject of a further Government road experiment. The private motorist may be responsible individually for various misdeeds, but collectively he is a good citizen, doing his best to obey the laws. He feels something like this: that if he goes too fast he is told he is dangerous; if he goes too slow he is told he is holding up the traffic; if he stops he is usually told to go on, and if he goes on he is usually ordered to stop. He is taxed for roads, but the money does not go on the roads; when he is given roads they are often too rough and too obstructed to go fast, and when the roads are smooth and straight he is restricted. I think the private motorist deserves a higher degree of consideration than Government Departments usually give him.

On this particular subject, on March 26 the Minister Without Portfolio said that this experiment had two aims. First, he said that it was a restriction on safety grounds; and then, in his answer to supplementary questions, we found there was a second purpose, which was to speed the flow of traffic. Both those objectives are admirable, no doubt, but I think we are entitled to know which is paramount—which is the primary purpose of this experiment—safety, or speeding the flow. If it is safety, then before this experiment is converted into anything permanent there should be published figures in relation to the particular sections of road on which the experiment is taking place which will convince, not officialdom, but the public, that accidents are being avoided, that injury is being reduced, and that life is being saved. If the Government can publish that in full, I am sure they will have the support of all the community, including the motoring public. But until they can show such figures I submit that it is quite illogical to build fast, straight roads which are not intended to have any speed limit, and then put a limit upon them.

On the second aim, that of speeding the flow, I find it somewhat difficult—and perhaps the Minister will throw some light on this point—to see how the 40 m.p.h. limit will speed traffic throughout the whole day, because there is always a variable load of traffic according to the particular road and the hour of the day. For instance, on the Great West Road it might be said that when there is much traffic a 40 m.p.h. limit will succeed in its purpose of speeding the traffic. But at lunch time to-day I came up from London Airport along the Great West Road, and I can assure your Lordships that keeping to a 40 m.p.h. limit in fact prevented one from getting to your Lordships' House with that speed which it was possible to do with complete safety. Again, speeding the flow of traffic is an admirable objective, but I submit to your Lordships that before this experiment is converted into anything permanent the public have a right to hear something more than just a Government declaration that the experiment is considered successful—that, if I may say so, the pedestrian in White hall knows what is good for the motorist better than the motorist himself. We want chapter-and-verse proof that the experiment in the secondary aim of speeding the traffic has justified itself. One thought occurs to my mind. Speeding private motorists in and out of London means more and more in, and more and more out. I was reading yesterday that Sir Brian Robertson, the Chairman of the Transport Commission, called for fewer and fewer in, and fewer and fewer out. I should like to have an assurance that the Government know in which vehicle they are riding—what I would call the "Mancroft" or the "Robertson" model.

This experiment has an important public relations aspect. It will be for the police in due course to enforce a 40 m.p.h. limit on roads which may be clear and take 60 m.p.h. with complete safety. I believe there is more bad blood made between the citizens of this country and the police through traffic work than any other single cause. What we want to build up is mutual confidence between the motoring public and the police, and not a feeling of mutual hostility, or at any rate on the one side a feeling that the aim of the police is to get at the motorist when he breaks the law, even though his offence is really a technical one. The citizen motorist must be convinced by figures, by information, that this experiment is a success. Otherwise, I submit to the Government that it would be wiser to drop it at the end of the initial experimental period.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, in the Report on the 30 m.p.h. speed limit in the London traffic area various views are expressed, very diverse views, on the increase or decrease of speed limits down to the 20 m.p.h. limit that is mentioned by the Pedestrians' Association. I should like to support the plea of the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, against the extension of the 40 m.p.h. limit areas. However, I should like also to support a higher limit of 45 m.p.h. for a great number of areas at the moment limited to 30 m.p.h. I think it is almost indisputable that speed limits are unenforceable unless they are constantly supervised by policemen who are visible to the motorist. Motorists will then slow down; but if they do not see a policeman or a police car very few take a great deal of notice of the limits—at any rate, few of the faster drivers, who are the people that matter in this case. They are: the people who will take little heed. The effectiveness of a speed limit depends primarily and almost wholly on the willing co-operation of drivers to obey that limit. Therefore, those limits must command the respect of drivers. Motorists must be "sold" the desire to keep to those limits, and they can be "sold" that desire only if those limits are sensible speed limits and relate to the density of the traffic and the housing.

The motoring organisations say that the 30 m.p.h. limit in the outskirts and on fast roads quickly becomes the minimum speed and not the maximum speed at which motorists in fact drive. These unjustifiable speed limits soon bring a tendency by most drivers to dis regard them altogether, and this, of course, brings the whole system into disrepute. I believe that this 40 m.p.h. limit, if it is instituted, is not fast enough on arterial roads like the Great West Road to be considered justifiable, and if those roads are going to be restricted at all the limit should be at least 45 m.p.h.; otherwise, the motorists will use their own discretion. I believe that the utmost care and restraint (and this has been fully stressed in these reports) must be used in the selection of areas, and there should certainly be no extension of the present areas but a reduction of them, if anything.

It is most necessary to avoid being led by local pressures, because many of the local councils consider that their piece of roadway is particularly dangerous, and from the national point of view this adds up to thousands of restricted miles for the long-distance motorist. May I give two examples? There is a road at Marton, in Yorkshire, where for miles there is an unbroken wall on one side and an unbroken hedge on the other; there are no houses. The limit ends only just before a rather dangerous crossroads, where you are allowed to go at any speed you wish. There is another road between Acklam and Thornaby, and the only possible human beings concerned—there are no houses—are the 10,000 or 12,000 who lie at peace and, one hopes, in safety, in the cemetery. The speed limits are not designed for the slow driver; they are designed for the driver who would go too fast. Therefore whatever limit is imposed must be fast enough to be acceptable to him as well as be safe for the other road users.

The county councils in their report say that 45 m.p.h. would command the respect of the motoring public. Therefore, again, if there must be a second speed limit, let it be 45 m.p.h. and not 40 m.p.h. Furthermore, a higher limit where it is at present 30 m.p.h. would reduce overtaking, which at the moment takes place a great deal on the outskirts of towns—people who are not prepared to go at 30 m.p.h. overtake and cause accidents. I think 45 m.p.h. is not excessive, because modern cars are much steadier. They have good brakes, and being fast cars people are more used to driving them at speed and do not consider 45 m.p.h. to be too fast for a great many of the roads at present restricted to 30 m.p.h. I feel that this restriction should be controlled on a more national plan, and should not be allowed to be extended by local authorities who, from sectional interests, might restrict too much roadway. It is far better to remove the dangers of road conditions than to impose new limits. One of the big dangers on the roads on the outskirts of towns, I feel—and I think many of your Lordships will agree—is parked cars, which compel drivers to pull out to get past them, and then if other people are coming up behind them there may be an accident. I think that kind of thing causes quite a lot of accidents.

The Pedestrians' Association have considerable worries over the speeds of motor vehicles and about the possibility of a 40 m.p.h. limit. I think there is little they need worry about, because at the moment the 30 m.p.h. limits are, to a great extent, not obeyed. It is more important for the Pedestrians' Association to start making plans to keep pedestrians off the roads by the provision of crossings acceptable to pedestrians, with no steps, so that perambulators, and so on, can be wheeled over or under the roads. It is to the mutual advantage of the pedestrians and the motorists that they should be kept separate. The London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee unanimously stressed the desire for complete separation of various classes of road users.

Furthermore those means should be physical means and not legal compulsion. I believe that the new Cromwell Road has a very effective fence down the middle, and this stops a great amount of jaywalking. Some of your Lordships know Newcastle. I would draw attention to Northumberland Street which is like driving down a market; people pay no attention to traffic and wander across throughout the whole length, and consequently the number of accidents is very large. What is very important, I think, is that no further development should take place on town approaches. At the moment, in spite of all the legislation against ribbon development a great number of houses are built along the main roads outside the towns. I feel that in a few years' time roads within twenty or ten miles of any large town will be restricted. This is going to have an appalling effect on those who work in the centre of those towns. I feel that more stringent legislation should be introduced to stop any further "crawling-out" of houses into the countryside. Council estates are normally set well away from the main roads, which is excellent planning.

There exists a rather odd idea in this Report that restriction to 30 or 40 m.p.h. would allow the maximum volume of traffic to go along a given road. This may or may not be correct in a peak period, but as the peak period lasts only about four hours a day, I cannot believe that during the remaining twenty hours this restriction to an even flow will in fact exist. To speed travel into the towns without actually increasing the speed of vehicles, the British Transport Commission have suggested a much greater priority to the main routes as against the intersecting routes. I think I am right in saying that at Slough there is a large number of traffic lights which have been put up in an attempt to phase the lights, so that one cannot go at more than a certain speed, and if one does one is stopped by the lights. This is only another means of frustrating the motorist, to make him lose his patience, as he certainly will do, however deplorable that may be; and it only disrupts the even flow of traffic. I feel, too, that roundabouts and lights on the main roads should to a great extent be reduced and that the sideways should be phased-in on the more modern system.

There is only one worry I have in regard to the 45 m.p.h. speed limit, wherever it may be, but particularly on the outskirts of towns—I must apologise to your Lordships for keeping you so long, but this is my last point. A large number of accidents occur on a certain type of road, which happens to be a T-junction. No less than 42½ per cent. of accidents involving two cars are caused by a car turning to the right. I wonder whether much consideration has been given to changing the Highway Code, or to some form of alteration of the system, so that these accidents caused by cars turning to the right may be reduced.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support the Motion of my noble friend Lord Goschen I think I may be accused by some of riding my pet hobby-horse. Be that as it may, I can only say that he is a very good horse—though he has one great objection; namely, to being reined in when it is totally unnecessary and unreasonable. Before I deal specifically with the matter in the Motion—that is, the 40 m.p.h. limit—I should like to make a few remarks about speed limits generally. There is a large body of opinion to-day which Molds that speed, per se, is dangerous. This is quite untrue, as has been proved by figures given by the motoring organisations, which show that only a small percentage of accidents can be put down to speed alone. Naturally, if there is an accident a higher speed will make it more severe. On the other hand, I think one must realise that accidents are more due to careless driving than to fast driving. One can get over that problem only by having a more critical review of our driving tests. I will come to that matter in a moment.

One constantly hears people say that there is a craze for speed to-day, and that drivers are rushing along madly seeing how fast they can get from one place to another. I have a strong suspicion that most of the people who say that are non-drivers. If speed is undesirable, why is it that we are spending such vast sums of money in speeding up our railways and our airlines? One has to remember that the pleasure motorist is in a small minority to-day. Most people drive to get from one point to another for business or other reasons; and the less time they spend in actual transit the better, both economically and otherwise. That being the case, I hold that the speed limits should be cut down to an absolute minimum. I should like to quote again the paragraph which the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, quoted from the Report of the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Sub-Committee, which says: A speed limit should never be imposed unless there is clear justification for it. The effectiveness of a speed limit depends primarily on the willing co-operation of drivers. If a speed limit is imposed without justification drivers tend to disregard it, and this brings the whole system of speed limits into disrepute. I can hardly agree more strongly with any words.

With regard to the 30 m.p.h. limit, I think most of us would agree that in the centre of a town it is probably necessary, although, as has been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, it is just as possible to do silly things at under 30 m.p.h. as it is at over that speed. However, I think we all agree that probably a limit in towns is desirable. But the point is that these 30 m.p.h. limits are not confined to built-up areas. A "built-up "area is defined as that which has lamp posts at certain intervals. If ever there was a piece of legislation which approached nearer to the point of inanity, I should like to know what it was. Why on earth should a piece of road which previously was uncontrolled, and along which it was perfectly safe to drive at 60 m.p.h., suddenly become unsafe because lamp posts have appeared along the side of it? I can think of many examples. I think, in particular, of one stretch of road, going south from Oxford, along which there stretches, I think for about two miles, a row of lamp posts with no houses in sight, and perfectly open country. It is a wide road—I should think a four-lane road; but there are lamp posts there, and so the 30 m.p.h. limit applies. Of course, many boroughs which have rather a bee in their bonnets (if I may put it that way) about this question of speed in relation to safety, have erected these lamp posts purely for that purpose.

I believe that the whole attitude that the road is primarily for the pedestrian must be revised very severely. I am not saying for a moment that a pedestrian has no place on the road, or that his safety should be disregarded; and nobody could be more anxious than I am to preserve road safety and to reduce fatalities. But one has to realise that to-day the road is primarily for the motorist, and that when the pedestrian goes on the road he must do his part to ensure the safety of the traffic. Many accidents are caused by people stepping off the pavement irresponsibly, without looking in one direction or the other, and thereby causing a motorist to swerve and possibly crash into somebody else.

Let us turn now to the actual stretches on which a 40 m.p.h. limit has been introduced. On the whole, the motoring organisations were not in favour of a differential speed limit, but they felt that on stretches in the London area where a 30 m.p.h. limit was unjustifiable a 40 m.p.h. limit would help to speed the traffic. What have we found? We have found that on some thirty miles of road which previously had a 30 m.p.h. limit the Minister has introduced a 40 m.p.h. limit, but that on more than twice that mileage a 40 m.p.h. limit has been introduced on roads which previously were decontrolled. What is the point of that? Will it increase safety? Is it justifiable in any sense of the word? Another question I should like to raise is: Should local authorities be the deciding bodies as to whether a 40 m.p.h. limit should be introduced? My answer to that is definitely "No". What would be thought of a railway system which had a different type of signalling and a different ratio of speeds over a certain stretch of its line, simply because it had crossed the county border? To-day our trunk roads have to be looked on in much the same light as the railways as a means of fast transport. In fact, so far as commercial traffic is concerned, we all know that the roads are rapidly taking the place of the railways.




My Lords, one point I would stress is that the trunk roads in and out of London, such as the Great West Road (perhaps the Great North Road is rather a sore point, as we all know its shortcomings) and other similar trunk roads, should not be subject to these limits. Where the roads are clear of the central built-up area they should be free of restriction. The good motorist is not going to drive faster than is safe. Of course one will always have the hooligan who is going to disregard any kind of regulations whatsoever. Here I should like to say a word about our present driving tests. They do nothing to eliminate the hooligan, because naturally the hooligan is on his best behaviour when he is taking his driving test. It is the psychological side that needs to be gone into much more, and I believe that a much more severe test—something in the nature of that given by the Institute of Advanced Motorists—should be considered, and that a motorist who wishes to obtain a licence should drive with an experienced member of some motoring organisation for a period of, shall we say, not less than one month, at any rate, over varying conditions of road before he is allowed to have his licence at all.

We are told that these limits are experimental. I should be very glad if the noble Lord who is to reply can give us some indication of when the experiment is to end, and also an assurance that when that time comes the limits will be removed until they have been further discussed in Parliament. Personally, I do not think very much will be discovered from them. If the accident rate has decreased slightly, there will be no proof whatever that it is due to the imposition of a 40 m.p.h. limit: it might have done so in any case. I believe that this idea that speed is the main factor in accidents must be exploded, and that careful driving with speed should be the maxim of the motorist.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords, I would say that most, if not all, the points that could possibly be raised on this Motion have been dealt with to-day. With our somewhat elastic Standing Orders, the debate has ranged far and wide beyond the terms of the Motion. There are, however, one or two points which perhaps I might keep the House for a few moments to emphasise. I have read very carefully the evidence placed before the London Traffic Advisory Committee, and I am certainly not impressed with the various reasons advanced for the introduction of a differential speed limit. We have debated this subject this afternoon without information as to the success or otherwise of the 40 m.p.h. limit trials which have been taking place recently on certain sections of trunk road, and I suggest that it would have been more helpful (I do not say this in a derogatory way) if the Minister who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government had spoken immediately after the noble Viscount who moved the Motion.

I cannot help feeling that if differential speed limits are introduced in a large way they will have the effect of confusing motorists and perhaps producing a dangerous situation. The experience of the 30 m.p.h. speed limit tends to show that the nominal maximum speed limit becomes the minimum speed limit, which under certain traffic conditions may be too high. The object of this exercise of a 40 m.p.h. limit is to maintain uniform speed, but I believe it is true to say that experience in America shows that if all vehicles are travelling at the same speed on any particular stretch of road a kind of mesmeric effect is produced on drivers, often with fatal results; and if a hold-up or accident occurs, numbers of cars pile up one upon another. Unless Her Majesty's Government have been able to obtain conclusive data during the recent trials proving the differential speed limit to be a success, I suggest that we should do well to retain the 30 m.p.h. limit on the present basis; and certainly I cannot help feeling that the trials have not yet gone on long enough.

I suggest that roads should be either restricted to 30 m.p.h. or entirely derestricted, leaving the appropriate speed to the discretion of the driver himself. I fully appreciate that the object behind a higher speed limit is to allow speeds greater than 30 m.p.h. on roads where conditions are suitable, but I cannot help feeling that because of the pressure from local authorities few of the existing 30 m.p.h. limits would be raised; rather would a differential limit be imposed on roads which are at present derestricted—indeed, as we know, this has already happened in quite a number of cases. I hope that where a speed limit of 40 miles an hour has been imposed, and there is a substantial improvement to that road, the speed limit will be reviewed. I am sure we should all be most interested to hear from the Minister the results of trials which have already taken place.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in some difficulty as I have not prepared a speech for this debate, but in view of the fact that this debate has widened itself beyond the terms of the Motion I feel it only right that there should be at least one speech from this side of the House. I personally believe that the noble Viscount who put this Motion on the Order Paper would have given a greater service to this House and to the country if it had been put down in. broader terms, so as to encourage more people to attend the House and to listen to the debate and to make contributions. I am thinking particularly of my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, who holds very strong views on this subject. Apart from the fact that the Motion appeared to relate to a purely technical matter, there was a reason why he might have found it difficult to attend; but if the Motion had been in wider terms I think he would have done his best to come.


My Lords, I spoke to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and it was entirely owing to his indisposition that he did not speak; and for no other reason.


My Lords, I still think that, if it had been a wider debate, it might have been possible for him to come.

On this question of speed limit there are quite a number of problems. I think we can all sympathise with the desire for people to move from A to B as fast as possible, but we must remember that the roads belong to the nation. Many different types of people drive cars. There are the young, and not so young, capable drivers who can drive fast cars. There are elderly people; there are infirm people who are using the roads; there are cyclists. We have many lorries; we have many coaches; and we must also remember the use of the roads by the pedestrians. When we start considering speed limits I think we have to consider all these people.

I myself would suggest that there is a greater case for more control of speed limits than for decontrol. I had an experience yesterday in driving on the A.5 road to Northampton: it was a hair-raising experience. There was a form of control, and that was exercised by the heavy vehicles. The cars were diving in and out in a most dangerous manner. I should have thought that, if there had been a speed limit on that road of 45 or 50 m.p.h., there would be a much more even flow of traffic, and one could have driven in a great deal more safety and comfort. I am not very happy about the 40 m.p.h. limit: I think it is too close to the 30 m.p.h. limit. When one has been driving for a long distance one starts to feel that 30 m.p.h. is crawling. There is very little difference between 30 and 40 m.p.h. I should have preferred to see those roads which demand a 40 m.p.h. limit given a 30 m.p.h. limit. But I believe that on many of our roads in this country a 50 m.p.h. limit should be instituted. That would permit traffic to move much more smoothly and with a great deal more safety.

I should like to make only two suggestions, since this debate has extended itself rather widely. As your Lordships know, one of the pleasant occupations of local authorities is to dig holes in roads, and this practice causes considerable danger and inconvenience. I should like to see a rule that, where road works are being carried out on a road which is normally uncontrolled, for some distance on either side of the road works a 30 m.p.h. speed limit should come into effect. I experienced a case only the other day when driving at a reasonably fast speed. I suddenly came across some little lights in the road. I thought it was positively dangerous. The other point I should like to make is this. if we are to have decontrolled roads, parking should be forbidden on such roads. There are to-day plenty of lay-bys, and I think that people should be forced to use them. If parked cars were taken off the road it would prevent a great deal of danger. I have spoken very briefly, and perhaps not quite correctly. As I say, I regret that this debate has not been in the presence of a fuller House, so that there could have been more support from this side.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, the Motion of my noble friend Lord Goschen refers to "special" speed limits. The 40 m.p.h. limit, which we have been principally discussing this afternoon, is, as your Lordships now realise, not so much a "special" speed limit as an experimental speed limit. It is an experiment, and, as my noble and gallant friend Lord Teynham has pointed out, a new experiment. I hope it is in the sense of an experiment that your Lordships will view the whole question this evening, because that is how I propose to regard it.

There will certainly have to be modifications to many of the proposals which are now being tried out. We do not suggest for one moment that these experiments are final and not subject to change. That is the point of an experiment. Your Lordships will ask, "What is the object of the exercise? What is the object of the experiment?" The answer is perfectly simple. We are frequently told, in nearly all debates such as this, up and down the country, that the accident rate upon our roads is nothing short of a national scandal. We are also told that unless something is done about the quantity and flow of traffic upon the roads of this country, particularly those near the big cities, traffic will soon grind to a standstill. The object of this experiment, therefore (and here my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye explained my remarks perfectly correctly) is to reduce the number of accidents that are due to speeding and overtaking; and, secondly. to try to get a more even flow of traffic on the busier main roads. I regard those two things as complementary. I think it is perfectly logical that if there is an uneven, spasmodic flow of traffic it will increase the incidence of accidents. My Lords, on that point the statistics bear me out.

The London area is the obvious place to start this experiment. Indeed, in starting the experiment in the London area my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is only falling into line with the wishes which your Lordships have frequently expressed. We were discussing this very topic on the Road Traffic Act. 1956. if this London experiment proves successful, as I hope it will, and if my right honourable friend receives Parliamentary sanction which he will seek in that case. I can assure my noble friend Lord Somers that the Minister proposes to apply the new speed limit to places outside London where, as in the London area, some speed limit is warranted but 30 m.p.h. is unrealistic. As we all know there are lengths of road leading into certain towns, before the 30 m.p.h. area is likely to be reached, which are suitable for a 40 m.p.h. limit. This is only an application of what is called the "fading" principle of speed limits, which has been widely and successfully practised in America.

This is a controversial subject, but unfortunately all traffic experiments are of necessity controversial, and Her Majesty's Government prefer the risk of controversy, into which we have inevitably run on this matter, rather than to stand still and do nothing. Your Lordships will remember the controversy there was during the debates on the Road Traffic Bill about the proposal to give the police power to tow away vehicles that were causing obstruction. We were told that we were encroaching on the liberty of the subject" and that this" was an unpardonable trespass". Nevertheless, after much controversy this became the law and we hear nothing about it nowadays. I regret that. I wish we heard more about it.


What about Harley Street?


My Lords, has the noble Lord forgotten the case reported in the papers of the Harley Street surgeon who complained that his professional work had been seriously impeded and possibly the lives of patients endangered by the fact that the police towed away his car, which had been left outside his consulting rooms?


I remember that case very well. I am sorry that the noble Lord interrupted me before I had concluded what I was about to say. We have heard nothing to-day of the type of objection that was raised during the passing of the Bill, and 300 vehicles are towed away a week—I think it is satisfactory that that should be so. I much regret the case of the doctor, but that was not the type of case which I had in mind when I started my sentence. That controversy ranged high and wide during the discussions in Parliament. The noble Lord, whose memory goes back farther than mine, will remember the controversy when the 30 m.p.h. limit was first moved in the 1934 Bill, which was in charge of the late Lord Hore-Belisha. That has contributed to the reduction of accidents: the statistics prove that. I am prepared to admit that there are probably logical objections to every scheme put forward to reduce accidents and try to speed the flow of traffic.

I would ask your Lordships to bear in mind for a moment the reason why these regulations have been put before Parliament. In November, 1954, the then Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation asked the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee to review the 30 m.p.h. built-up-area speed limit as applied to roads of traffic importance in the London traffic area, with special reference to whether the present law on the speed limit met modern conditions—faster cars, a different flow of traffic and wider roads. My right honourable friend announced in Parliament on May 9, 1956, that he had accepted most of the recommendations in the Report, including that relating to the 40 m.p.h. speed limit. What is more, the desirability of such an experiment is clearly implied in the Road Traffic Act, 1956. That Act also shows that Parliament envisaged the possibility of 40 m.p.h. becoming a second substan tive speed limit and not a special speed limit, as may be implied by the wording of my noble friend's Motion.

What is the correct figure? I think that my noble friends Lord Balfour of Inchrye and Lord Gisborough are right when they say that the correct speed limit is the one that can be enforced because motorists regard it as reasonable and see the need for sticking to it. If a large majority of careful drivers—and a large number of drivers, surprisingly enough, are very careful—stick to a speed limit on any stretch of road, then that limit is probably the correct one. In order to be able to answer this debate as best I could, I have driven over the entire range of roads in the London area which are included in this experiment and I have been surprised to find how often, even in the early stages of the experiment and before the plans are complete, the 40 m.p.h. limit turns out in normal conditions and at normal times of the day to be the right, or roughly the right, speed. The difference between 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.h. is often greater than is mathematically apparent. As the Highway Code tells us, at 30 m.p.h. a motorist can brake to a standstill in 45 feet at 40 m.p.h., he needs 80 feet.

I think that the Committee's conclusions are also worth looking at. In considering the case for a differential speed limit, the Committee took evidence from various interested organisations. Naturally there was a great deal of opposition and controversy, but the majority of the Committee concluded that the weight of evidence was distinctly in favour of a differential speed limit, and I am certain that my right honourable friend was right to accept that advice. While recognising that each case should be considered on its merits, the Committee thought that on main roads the 40 m.p.h., speed limit could be applied both in some built-up areas, which are usually subject to the 30 m.p.h. limit, and also in some partially developed areas where many roads were previously de-restricted but where high speeds had obviously been an important factor in the accident rate. That is the point I should like your Lordships to remember, and it is the governing factor. On most main roads leading into London, there exist one or more fringe areas where these conditions apply before the truly built-up area is reached.

We have discussed this afternoon whether the correct limit should be 30, 40, 45 or 50 m.p.h. The British Transport Commission were in favour of 40 m.p.h. as a uniform speed limit on the main traffic routes in the London traffic area. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, wants 50 m.p.h.


My Lords, I did not mean 50 m.p.h. in the London area. I suggested 50 m.p.h. on some of the trunk roads which have not the modern three-line traffic, and 40 m.p.h. for inner London.


My Lords, I am afraid the noble Lord will not endear himself to those noble Lords who think that the confusion between 30 m.p.h. and 40 m.p.h. is puzzling enough. The police were divided between 40 m.p.h. and 45 m.p.h. Some of the police were on the side of my noble friend, Lord Gisborough—not, I hope, for the first time in his life. On balance, the Committee favoured 40 m.p.h. as being in practice equivalent to an enforceable limit of 45 m.p.h.

The Committee gave careful consideration to all interests—pedestrians, cyclists, motoring organisations and so on. Most of the views that were put forward to the Committee have been voiced in the debate this afternoon. At the risk of wearying your Lordships, may I emphasise the care and consideration that was given to the data that was provided, to the statistics that were examined and the views that were heard, so that your Lordships should be quite convinced that the experiment which is now in operation was not just a whim, thought up by my right honourable friend and myself in our baths? This has been given the most expert consideration before it was launched. It was examined by experts who had all the data available to them, particularly the accident rates, before they suggested that the experiment should be carried out.

There have been one or two remarks about the 40 m.p.h. signs. Special signs have been prepared and I think that they indicate clearly where the 40 m.p.h. limit can be expected. As I have said, in the last few days I have driven over most of the roads on which the experiment is being carried out and I think that the signs are very clear. My noble friend Lord Goschen complained about the con fusion of signs in certain areas. I agree that in certain areas there is a prolificity and confusion of other signs, about which we have heard much, and I sympathise with these complaints, but I noted that my noble friend wanted a warning yellow light before approaching crossing lights. I think that rather defeats the argument he was originally advancing. I apologise to your Lordships for the fact that there has been some delay in getting all the signs up and that not all roads are fully signed, or yet satisfactorily illuminated. In general, signs are required to be lit by their own sign lamps, unless satisfactory illumination can be achieved by lighting from near-by street lamps or by the use of reflectors. I hope that these signs will be completed very soon.

All your Lordships have asked, quite naturally, what deductions we draw from this experiment. It is far too early to assess the effects of the experiment. It has only recently been implemented, and I should not like to suggest that any conclusions of importance can be drawn from it yet. The police tell me that the new speed limit is being fairly well observed. Here I cordially agree with my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye about the need for relations between the police and motorists to be as good as they can be; nothing is more likely to cause exacerbation than the frequent disobedience of a speed limit which the motorist believes is a silly one. That is why we want to make certain that this is the right figure.

Careful tests are being carried out. Accident statistics for all the roads before and after the imposition of the new speed limit will also be carefully studied. I think it will be necessary to allow at least six months to elapse before any reliable results begin to emerge; and as my noble friend Lord Selkirk told your Lordships when he and I were responsible in your Lordships' House for the Road Traffic Act, 1956, it will be more like two years before a final decision can be made. In the course of those two years, as I have indicated, modifications to the scheme will most certainly have been made. We shall have to study carefully the flow of traffic and the technical and complicated figures which show whether anything has or has not been achieved in the desired direction. We shall also have to study the reaction of the motorist to see how faithfully and sensibly motorists are or are not obeying the 40 m.p.h. limit.

So I cannot hold out any hope—and I see no reason to do so—of an early decision as to whether this scheme is working. All I can say is—and I ask the House to agree with me—that it is perfectly right for the Government to try the scheme. Time after time we are asked why we do not do something about accidents, speeding, better roads and so on, and whenever the Government suggest something as an experiment, there are about nine people who find ten different reasons for trying eleven different experiments. They may all be right; but let us get on with this one and see whether it works. As an experiment, it will require modification. I hope that it will work, and my own personal view is that it will. I think it is here to stay, and I say, "A good job, too!"


Perhaps I might ask the noble Lord a question, which I did ask in my speech; and if he cannot answer now. possibly he will send me a note. Is it the policy of the Ministry of Transport, so far as possible, to keep restricted areas off the main arterial roads?


I did not answer that question on purpose, because I was not certain whether the noble Earl was referring to trunk roads or new motorways.


There is the proposal I mentioned for the Western Avenue, near Northolt. I want to know whether the speed limits can be kept off the main arterial roads, so far as possible.


I can give my noble friend the assurance that my right honourable friend would like to keep as many roads as possible as free from as many restrictions as possible, commensurate with safety and an even flow.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for answering my Motion, although I cannot say that I altogether agree with what he has said. I agree that it is of value for us all to know that something is being tried out, but whether it is a good thing to try out only one method of reducing accidents and increasing the flow of traffic, I am not sure. I should have thought it was worth while trying every one. The noble Lord appeared to be rather critical of my suggestion of yellow lights, but there is a great deal of difference between a warning light and a traffic light. I appreciate that he has gone as far as he can at the moment, but I would ask him to speak to his right honourable friend the Minister of Transport about trying out the other methods to see whether they might: not work as well. In the hope that he will do that, and that whatever is done will eventually decrease the number of accidents, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.