HL Deb 23 January 1958 vol 207 cc181-216

3.35 p.m.

LORD HAMPTON rose to call attention to the diversity, and often the inadequacy, of lighting on trunk and through-traffic routes in and around London and other cities; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. I should like to preface my speech by reading two short extracts from an article on "Lighting the Roads" in the September number of the magazine, Road Tar, a magazine of which many of your Lordships may not have heard. This article was written by Mr. Granville Berry, who is the City Engineer and Surveyor of Coventry, a member of the lighting sub-committee of the Road Research Board, and prospective President of the Association of Public Lighting Engineers. I mention this because I am greatly indebted to Mr. Berry for much help given me, through correspondence, in preparing this Motion. After all, he is an acknowledged authority; I am very much a layman in this matter.

He writes, if I may read two short sentences from this article: Much of the economic justification of motor roads lies in the 'around-the-clock' use that can be expected of them, and such roads must be made as safe by night as they are by day. Then he says: The cost of completing the modernisation of our entire road lighting system is thought to be in the region of £6 million extra a year, which is a small price to pay for the increased safety it would give on our read system. I do not propose to comment on those two short extracts, because I understand my noble friend Lord Derwent has something to say on that aspect.

During recent years there has been more than one discussion, both here and in another place, on the inadequate road system of the country but, with the exception of a short debate on the Adjournment in another place just before the Christmas Recess, comparatively little has been heard about the better and more uniform lighting of our roads, particularly trunk roads, and the streets in and around London and other big cities. Yet it would be true to say, I imagine, that the more inadequate our roads are for the traffic they have to carry the more important it is that they should be as well lighted as possible. Although my Motion deals in the main with recognised through-traffic routes, the congestion of those routes is now so great that many streets not classed as such are so used; and this should be taken into consideration in planning improved lighting.

Just as our roads have evolved over the centuries, so has the lighting of them in built-up areas come into being, in many cases, with complete lack of co-ordination and planning between the many local authorities responsible. This is hardly to be wondered at when we consider that there are nearly 3,500 lighting authorities, as against about 145 road authorites. In addition, I understand that there are something like 5,000 parish councils which could become lighting authorities if they decided to adopt the provisions of the Lighting and Watching Act of 1833. I do not know to what extent our parish councils have availed themselves of this privilege, but I know that one has. That is told me by an extract from a recent issue of the Daily Telegraph which may interest your Lordships. It is headed, "Parish Keeps Road Dark: We will not be browbeaten". It goes on: A 200-yard length of the trunk road which the police say has the highest accident rate in Hampshire is to stay unlit because a parish council says 'We will not be browbeaten'. The dark patch is on the A 27 road which links Portsmouth and Southampton at a point where a hump-backed bridge spans the River Hamble. Fareham Urban Council has lighting up to the approach of the bridge. It is prepared to extend it to the middle, where its authority ends. But Bursledon Parish Council has refused to light the other half of the bridge and its approach. Nor will it participate in the approved sodium lighting scheme which is under way on the Fareham side. Mr. Alan Moody, a member of Fareham Council, who lives near the bridge, said yesterday, It is stupid that a parish council can hold up trunk road improvement'. I think further comment from me would be superfluous.

The result of all this is a complete hotch-potch, as your Lordships will all have noticed, in our lighting, wherein the driver of a motor vehicle may pass suddenly from the latest form of lighting into an area which has hardly emerged from the gas era, and which is all too often haunted, as we know to our cost, by unlighted vehicles parked at the side of the road, and by very badly lighted, or sometimes unlighted, pedal cycles. I am making no attack in this Motion upon lighting authorities as such. So far as possible it would appear that they do their job pretty well. Indeed, in the last ten years they have relighted with up-to-date lighting more than 5,000 miles of road.

I realise that the problem is a formidable one, and is indeed highly technical. My object in putting down this Motion is to find out what consideration Her Majesty's Government are giving to it. I am quite certain that there has been considerable consideration in ministerial circles, and I should be grateful if the noble Earl who is to reply could inform the House how far consideration upon this important matter has proceeded; for your Lordships will, I hope, agree with me that it is important, and of growing importance. It is a matter which affects every road user, and indeed may make the difference between the survival and non-survival of many of them.

I should like here to give a few rather interesting figures. For some time now, experiments have been going on in various countries in Europe, in our own country and in the United States, on what I may call the "before and after" principle—that is, taking two equal periods before and after the introduction of up-to-date lighting. Our own Road Research Laboratory selected eight traffic roads in the London area and, as a result of improved lighting, over these two equal periods recorded a 35 per cent. reduction in accidents during the hours of darkness for vehicles; and a larger reduction (I have not the exact figures) in the number of fatalities and accidents affecting pedestrians. In France, the lighting of the Paris Autoroute de l'Ouest shows a reduction of 30 per cent., very much the same as we have here. In the United States, the result of this "before and after" research, which took place over fourteen States, claims the saving of 273 lives in the year following new lighting, and the astonishing figure of a reduction of 60 per cent, in the accident figures. I rather gather that our own lighting experts do not quite accept that enormous figure of reduction; but that is the figure that we have from the other side.

My Lords, I have in my hand a publication issued by the British Electrical Development Association entitled, rather grimly, More Matters of Light or Death. It contains a series of photographs showing danger spots in our road system before and after the introduction of up-to-date lighting. I commend this publication to your Lordships, if you can obtain a copy, because the results it shows are quite remarkable.

Recently I had the opportunity of attending a lecture given by Mr. Berry, accompanied by a remarkable series of slides. From some of those slides I learned one thing against which our experts have to work—namely, that while some of this improved lighting is excellent when the road is dry, the results may be almost negatived when the road is flooded or in a very wet condition. I understand that research is going on by our very active body of electrical street lighting experts in regard to this particular problem. If I may quote from my own experience, I generally drive back from your Lordships' House along a route which takes me over Barnes Common. Only about eighteen months or two years ago that road, which is an important, though narrow, through-traffic route, was dangerously lit—that is the only phrase I can use—by low-powered lamps which cast great pools of shadow from the trees alongside the road. Now it has been lit with up-to-date sodium lamps, and one of my chief "headaches" has been removed.

In the comprehensive analysis of the road accidents statistics published by the Ministry of Transport and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, it is pointed out that the risk of accident is greater after dark, and that accidents which occur after dark are likely to be more serious. The numbers of deaths or severe injuries since 1945 show a 50 per cent. increase during daylight and a 100 per cent. increase during the night. This lighting problem is no new one; it has been exercising the minds of road associations, lighting associations, the Road Federation, and of course the Road Research Board, and many others up and down the country, for a long time past. To my mind, the trouble lies in the fact that there seems to be a great difference of opinion as to the best way of tackling the probem, and nothing approaching finality as to the best systems of lighting required for our roads.

I was interested to read the presidential address given at the Annual Conference of Public Lighting Engineers in Blackpool in 1956. I should like to quote a short passage from it. Mr. Carpenter, the President, said: A frequent plea today is for greater uniformity in street lighting, often without indication as to whether intensity, colour, or type of installation is in mind. The class and intensity of lighting should be of a similar standard and frequent changes of lighting avoided en through traffic routes, but it would be most unwise to impose general uniformity. In so doing improvements from new developments could inevitably be restricted and flexibility of design discouraged. Public lighting should be planned to suit the community, the locality, and the particular application, and it is important that lighting specialists should have freedom of choice in providing the best solution. My Lords, I understand his argument, but it seems to point to the fact that for the present, at any rate, there can be no finality, and that the great improvement in lighting systems introduced since the war may be still further improved in the future. And this, of course, we must accept.

There is, however, one comforting thought in this Report which is contained in a letter which Mr. Berry kindly sent to me. He said: You are right in assuming that once the columns have been erected, and electricity laid on, the changeover from one type of discharge lighting to another is relatively a simple matter. Although lanterns are not generally suitable for both sodium and mercury lamps, the cost of changing control gear from one type to the other is in the region of £200–£250 a mile, while the cost of new lanterns and gear would be about £800 to £850 a mile. In both cases the old gear and lantern would be re-usable elsewhere. But are we, in fact, likely to produce anything much better than the best that we have at present? As I have already mentioned, I personally cannot imagine that for through traffic routes we shall get anything very much better than sodium lighting. It is restful to drive by; it throws practically no shadows; it has excellent coverage, and is, I believe, endowed with a long life. But I agree with those who live in residential streets and squares, and around greens such as one finds in Richmond and Kew, who object, as your Lordships may have seen in the newspapers recently, to having this form of lighting thrust upon them. We shall all agree that these new concrete standards, useful though they may be on through-traffic routes, are not a suitable complement to the old houses which many of these greens and residential areas contain. After all, there is a large choice of standards available, and I understand that the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Council of Industrial Research have passed something like 300 standards as suitable for various forms of lighting in various streets.

Incidentally, I am informed that sodium lighting is preferred by the drivers of heavy vehicles. But whatever kind is employed, the nature of the road surface—whether it reflects or does not reflect—must be taken into consideration as an important factor, because the drivers of such vehicles, pursuing their way through the night when you and I are more comfortably engaged, find that one of the most trying factors that they have to face is the constant change of lighting, combined with constant changes in road surfact, two things which often coincide at borough boundaries. One can well imagine that the added strain of such changes on a man driving all through the night from one built-up area to another must be considerable.

One of the chief difficulties in getting uniformity on through-traffic routes or any others is that local authorities who have installed particular forms of lighting during the last twenty years find that neighbouring boroughs, who perhaps lagged behind a little, are now using different systems, in the light of subsequent and up-to-date experience. Naturally, taking into account the high cost of modern installations plus the fact that a proportion of it, at any rate, must fall upon the rates, one can sympathise with their hesitation to change over. On March 23 and October 26, 1955, and on July 25, 1956, a series of questions was put to the Minister in another place, all of them dealing with the diversity of lighting on trunk and through-traffic routes. To one question as to whether the Minister had considered prescribing standards of lighting as a condition of grant in order that there might be some degree of uniformity, the reply was that the Minister did not consider that we had yet reached sufficient agreement as to the methods of lighting for such a general laying down of standards to be sensible, but he thought it was a matter which we should have to consider before very long.

That was in March, 1955, and I should like to ask the noble Earl who is to reply whether Her Majesty's Government consider that the time is not now ripe for an improvement in this respect. In answer to a Question by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, on February 22, 1955, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said that the whole question of lighting administration was under consideration and that there were far too many lighting authorities. The Parliamentary phrase "under consideration" is a well worn one and not always convincing, but surely the reply of the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, is the crux of the whole problem. I should like here to quote once more from a letter from Mr. Berry to myself. He says: Although one has to admit that uniformity in lighting can be achieved in any of the types of electric light source available today, I feel that the future of lighting on main trunk routes lies in the direction of sodium lighting, and this is a tendency which I have found in several continental countries. The Road Research Board, on whose Street Lighting Sub-committee I also serve, has been doing much useful work in the street lighting field for some years, and recent researches indicate that an accident reduction of not less than 20 per cent, can be expected to follow the introduction of improved lighting, and so far as the re-lighting of main trunk routes is concerned the savings accruing due to accident reduction appear to be greater than the cost of providing the lighting itself, the estimated cost of road accidents today being in the region of £170 millions". And that, I am sorry to say, is still rising. Mr. Berry suggests that if the Minister could hasten the reorganisation of lighting administration and bring it under the improvement grants system—which I understand would mean legislation—it would quickly lead to the provision of more uniform lighting on our main traffic routes.

I believe that I have said enough, and there are other noble Lords who will no doubt fill in the gaps which I have left. We are almost at our wits' end, these days, to find means of checking the growing accident rate in the country. Here is one method by which this can be done: by better and more uniform lighting of our streets—not only the main traffic routes but other streets as well. I would urge that the problem is an urgent one and is growing more so, as we know, with the increased registration of vehicles, scooters and goodness knows what else which are coming on to our roads. I feel that the complete reorganisation of our lighting administration is overdue. I beg to move for Papers.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, we can all join in congratulating the noble Lord who has just sat down on the very comprehensive review he has given us of the problem and the amount of work that he must have put into it; and other noble Lords who are to speak are also great authorities on the subject. It seems to me, however, that the crux of the matter lies in the short debate which took place in another place before Christmas on this question of street lighting. The Minister replying to the debate said that he proposed to take two steps immediately. One was that officials of the Ministry and of local highway authorities were starting to make a survey of street lighting of all trunk and classified routes throughout the country. He hoped that this survey would be completed in four to six months. That, at any rate, is something that we hope is now under way, and I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply, and whom we all wish well on his first reply to a debate, will be able to tell us that this is in progress.

The second step that the Minister said he would accept was that lighting authorities should be invited to form a series of local joint advisory committees to coordinate street lighting in their whole areas. That would deal with the question of variation in types and standards of lighting in neighbouring areas, of which so many people complain. The accident figures have been quoted from a number of different sources, but I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that these figures are really reliable. It is well known that statistics can be used in a way to give highly misleading results, and the mere fact that the rates before and after the installation of lighting show great reductions may be due to a number of other factors for which allowance has to be made. It seems to me that there is a lack of really authoritative figures, and we shall be glad to know whether Her Majesty's Government intend that the Road Research Laboratory should produce those figures.

Admirable as it would be if all authorities could adopt the same kind of lighting, it is surely too early Ito standardise on one particular type. The noble Lord who moved the Motion has quoted some opinion to that effect. And, surely, until there is complete agreement on the ideal lighting for all types of road and in all conditions of weather, it would be premature to try to insist on a standardisation. After all, local authorities when they have to change their street lighting adopt the best available at the time. Some authorities which changed their lighting ten or fifteen years ago have probably not got what is considered now to be the best. Those authorities can hardly be expected to scrap the whole of their systems before the end of their useful life, certainly not without Government assistance.

From that, we come to the conditions under which grant can be paid for the lighting of roads, and I understand that it is in respect of trunk roads only that grant can be paid: no grant is payable in respect of classified roads other than trunk roads. That seems to me to be a wholly inequitable system. The through-traffic routes are used not by local traffic only, but by traffic from outside the area. It should not be for the ratepayers of an area to stand the whole cost of lighting improvements. Indeed, if they were asked to introduce better lighting, and that better lighting resulted in a decrease in the number of accidents, the saving from that decrease in accidents would not accrue to the local authority. So from every point of view it seems only equitable that the Government should introduce this change and permit the payment of some grant to local lighting authorities.

One or two other aspects of this question seem to be worth mentioning—perhaps they are not directly within the terms of the noble Lord's Motion, but in this House Rules of Order are generally fairly widely interpreted. One point that I think should be mentioned again and again is the confusion that arises in built-up areas owing to signs that are nothing to do with the street lighting system but can be very easily mistaken for that. One knows the enormous numbers of illuminated signs outside shops, business premises, and the like, which are often almost indistinguishable from red traffic lights. I think local authorities have powers to control—indeed, we know they have powers to control—outside lighting (planning permission has to be given); and it seems to me that local authorities should exercise those powers more widely than they do at present.

There is one other matter that affects the safety of driving at night, and that is the introduction now of "Stop" lights and "Turn" indicator lights on motor cars, which are so bright that they constitute a definite danger in traffic. Only when the windscreen is very clear is there no danger of actual dazzling. In conditions of rain, fog and snow, it is positively dangerous when cars sometimes cast a very large area of red or orange light in front of one. I think that that is a matter which motor-car manufacturers ought to bear in mind.

Finally, there is the question of the amenities. Many societies have raised the question of the modern type of lamp standard and the relation of modern lighting to existing towns, villages, and the rest. In the case of some residential areas, there have been very strong protests against the introduction of sodium lighting, and I think most of us would agree that for the street lighting outside one's own house sodium lighting is disagreeable. Possibly the solution that one metropolitan borough has arrived at is the best way of reconciling all conflicting interests, and that is that through routes will have to be lighted by modern sodium lighting, but in all other local streets the old type of lighting or some variation of it, such as fluorescent lighting or something of a similar type that is less objectionable to the residents, will have to be adopted.

It is inevitable that the old types of lighting and lamp standards are coming to the end of their useful life. Their maintenance is becoming too costly for the local authorities. In renewing them, local authorities naturally will adopt the most efficient and economical kind of lighting they can. That, I believe, entails replacing the old lamp standards by something of modern design. I hope all authorities ensure—and the electors of those authorities keep their councillors up to the mark—that the type of standards adopted are those most likely to conform with the general appearance and standards of the neighbourhood.

I hope the noble Earl will be able to assure us that the steps which the Minister outlined in the other place are being taken to survey all lighting on trunk roads; that lighting authorities will be asked to form local joint committees to try to co-ordinate lighting in neighbouring areas; and that he will give consideration to the payment of grants for through-traffic routes as well as for trunk roads.

4.9 p.m.


My Lords, in beginning the few remarks which I should like to make on this subject I am sure that some of your Lordships will think that I am completely out of order. The first matter to which I should like to refer is the statements that have been made by the Ministry of Transport about the work they are going to do on the London-Birmingham motor way. I should like to congratulate the Minister most sincerely on the announcement which has been made that that road will be completed in about one and a half years. As a road user, I watch road improvement going ahead, taking its tedious course, and it seems to me that on the whole it takes much too long. If only other schemes could be speeded up as this one has been, it would be of the greatest possible value to the country. If I was out of order in making those few remarks, I will now do my best to be back in order again as quickly as possible.

The London—Birmingham road will carry some of the heaviest traffic in this country, perhaps in the world. It will carry heavy traffic by day, and a much larger amount of traffic will travel on that road at night. I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply will be able to assure us that, whatever lighting system is installed, it will be a real model of what it should be on such an important road. I do not know whether any of)our Lordships has ever gone along the present day road, known as the A.5, at a peculiar hour—perhaps between three and four o'clock on a winter's morning, or some time like that. One meets a continuous flow of mixed traffic, an enormous number of "heavies" and also an enormous number of light cars all on their way to the docks for export. If you should happen to switch on your own headlights, the road, so far as it can possibly be seen ahead of you, lights up with what is perhaps the most tremendous display of lighting you have ever seen in your life. And heaven help you if you have to meet it! I hope that this new road will be a model, because I am certain that it will result in savings, both in time and money, that will astonish even the experts in the Ministry of Transport. If there are more projects coming along, I hope that they will be carried out with the same expedition, and I am certain that the savings will satisfy not only the Minister of Transport but also, in some way, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I approach the problem of road lighting entirely from the point of view of the road user. I do not pretend to have any sort of expert knowledge of the subject, nor have I been advised by anybody who has. I take it just as one always finds it. Surely the first, points about road lighting to be considered are its adequacy and character. I do not know whether the noble Earl who is to reply can tell us what system of lighting the Ministry of Transport thinks is the most suitable for trunk roads, which are probably the most important. If you talk to a heavy vehicle driver who has to go along these trunk roads, he will nearly always tell you that the principal devilry he has to tackle is the extraordinary diversity of road lighting systems. They vary in colour—blue, orange, white and so on.

He will also tell you that the siting of lights is important. So many systems in use on these important roads produce pools of light and also pools of darkness, and it is possible for the pedestrian, who cannot be expected to appreciate how inconspicuous he can become, to be almost hidden at times from the driver. The same applies to the cyclist. When I mention the cyclist, I would suggest that there is one thing that the Minister of Transport could lay down for cyclists which would be of enormous value—that is, "cat's eyes" on their pedals. They would be far better than any lights, which often go out and sometimes are not even lit, and far better than reflectors at the back, which are often dirty or covered with mud. I am certain that "cat's eyes" on the pedals would save a good many accidents.

There is another factor which lorry drivers will stress—that is, the colour of the main road surfaces. The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, mentioned the question of road surfaces when wet. That is most important. I have no doubt that many experiments have taken place. For example, I much prefer the colour of the Mall to the colour of Birdcage Walk. This is my personal view, and probably nobody will agree with me, but I am sure that the lighting of the Mall is better and that of Birdcage Walk not so good, because the nature of the surface of the Mall gives a lighter background, against which, even under bad conditions, a car has a better chance of being seen than on a dead black surface, which also, when wet, reflects the light.

We have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, that there are upwards of 3,500 lighting authorities in this country—3,435, to be exact. Was there ever such a case where so many cooks can perfectly easily spoil the broth? It is ridiculous to have 3,435 lighting authorities, presumably each one a law unto itself, and able to go in for any form of lighting, however inefficient it may happen to be. Surely the Minister should have overriding powers to secure uniformity and experiment. Is anything ever going to be done about this problem? Is the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, able to tell us anything about this, and about what the proposals are, or have we still to look forward to dreary years before something is done? Cannot we have it now, instead of having to wait for five or ten years before anything happens?

The question of a survey has been raised by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, and I cordially agree with him. I hope that the noble Earl who is going to reply will be able to tell us something about this survey: how far it has gone, what the results are, and when he expects to be able to give a full report; also, if he can, what is the view of that great body, the Road Research Board.

All this question of lighting no doubt has a background of cost. At the moment, for improved maintenance of varying roads, the Ministry assume 100 per cent. liability, in the case of trunk roads; 75 per cent. for Class I roads; 60 per cent. for Class II roads, and 50 per cent. for Class III roads. Could not the cost be settled on that basis for lighting as well? The lighting of a road is more or less complementary to the state of the road, and I should have thought that the cost might be divided up on that ratio.

I have said as much as I want to say on the subject of the lighting of roads, and I hope that the noble Earl who is to reply will be able to give us some information on those points. Now I want to turn to a subject which I regard as being of increasing importance; that is, the lighting of tunnels. We have at the moment the new Dartford Tunnel and other small tunnels of that sort—because the Dartford tunnel is not a big one, and it should be improved. However, that is not the sort of tunnel that I have in mind. The sort of tunnel that I have in mind is the Mersey Tunnel. Two more of these are in the offing, one under the Clyde and one under the Tyne, and both will be far bigger tunnels than the Dartford Tunnel.

Let me take the Mersey Tunnel. I submit that the lighting of the Mersey Tunnel is completely inefficient and inadequate—and I say that from personal experience. It produces in the tunnel a sort of subdued twilight. Before you go into the Mersey Tunnel you have to stop at a paybox and pay your toll (incidentally, it is our only toll road in this country, although I hope it is the first of more to come), and if there is bright sunshine outside you find, when you get a short way into the tunnel, that you suffer badly from dazzle and cannot distinguish object's. You are also in difficulty with the regulations. In the ordinary way, if you find yourself in a sort of subdued twilight near lighting-up time, naturally you switch on your sidelights first, and then, if necessary, your headlights. But you are not allowed to use your headlights in the Mersey Tunnel; and for some reason, that tunnel does not require the use of sidelights.

This state of affairs is completely at variance with what one finds abroad. I have here the report of the Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Works in France. This is what his report says about tunnels: The lighting is mixed, Fluorescent tubes and sodium vapour lamps were used. This lighting has three regimes: (1) By night: fluorescent lighting. (2) By cloudy weather: fluorescent lighting and sodium vapour lamps. (3) By sunshine: the same lighting as described above, to which are added axial apparatus with sodium vapour, at the entry of the underground passage. I hope that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (I have sent all this information to the Ministry, and of course I have had a charming reply from the Minister) will be carrying out some experiments with this system of lighting. The French authorities have constructed two biggish tunnels in Paris, and they have insisted on the installation of the sort of system of lighting I have just described.

Many of your Lordships may know the tunnel at Lyons, on the Route Nationale. That tunnel is perfectly straight, and you can see from one end or it to the other; but it does insist on the use of sidelights. Accidents have occurred in the Mersey Tunnel, due to the fact that sidelights are not required there, as I submit they should be. In the Mersey Tunnel you get a large amount of heavy vehicle and industrial traffic which is apt to let out big clouds of black smoke; and, the ordinary lighting not being too good, it is apt to be completely obscured. I think that in the case of the Mersey Tunnel they have had sufficient experience now to have brought out all these facts, and I feel that the Minister ought to be able to require the tunnel authorities to improve the lighting—and when they do that, they had better improve their ventilation, too. I have given your Lordships the French system, for what it is worth. It is a scientific system and is designed to prevent one of the dangers you get in the Mersey Tunnel—namely, the danger of dazzle.

There is little more that I have to say, but I should like to wind up on a note of congratulation to the Road Research Board. I am one of those who have been fortunate enough to go to the Road Research Board on one or two occasions, and I have been struck by the amount of expert study which is given to every question that comes before them, and also by the obvious extreme efficiency and courtesy of the staff. It is one of the best Government Departments that I have had the privilege to visit. In conclusion, may I say that there is one point made by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, with which I did not agree. He said, as I understood it, that until agreement is secured as to what can be done, and what is the best system of lighting, nothing can be done. I do not believe in the argument that until you have perfection you do nothing. I think there should be continuous experiment on the question of road lighting; and when that experiment takes place, do not let it be forgotten that the colour of the road surface is one of the most important considerations.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, in supporting my noble friend Lord Hampton, which I do wholeheartedly, I want to deal with only one of the matters which he mentioned, which, to some extent, is a matter on its own: that is, the question of the lighting, or, should I say, the future lighting on our new motorways. They present a special problem, because they are rather different in their nature. They are roads that are built under the Special Roads Act, 1949. It has been asked in America—and there they have the same sort of roads already, as there are also in most other countries—"Why bother to light motorways?" They say that many of the hazards one faces on other roads at night do not exist on these motorways. The argument goes that a large part of these motorways is through miles of open country, and that even where they are not going through open country, no pedestrians, no bicycles and no slow moving traffic are allowed. Therefore, they ask, why bother to light them? They suggest that headlights should be sufficient.

The answer to that question was first given in the United States when the casualty figures were published for 1956—that is, the "Deaths only" casualties. In the year 1956, 40,000 people were killed in road accidents in the United States, of whom 75 per cent. (that is, 30,000 people) were killed on rural roads. Of those 30,000, by day there were killed six people per 100 million vehicle miles—that is the way they put their statistics—but by night on the rural roads fifteen people were killed per 100 million vehicle miles; in other words, two and a half times as many. These were basically roads going through the country and on which there was no lighting. As a result, they are now starting to put modern lighting on the American motorways, and in the State of Connecticut they have already authorised and, I think, started, over fifty miles of special lighting on one of their main motorways.

In this country we have, as far as I know, no policy about how we are going to light these new roads—at least, I have not heard that there is a policy. This is becoming a matter of the most extreme urgency, because the first of these special roads, which is the Preston by-pass, will be finished very shortly. It is only a portion of a motorway, but it is constructed in the modern manner, under the Special Roads Act. Considering the speed with which my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport is now pressing ahead—and I must say that I, too, should like to congratulate him, considering the inadequate financial resources that are at his disposal; he is speeding the whole thing up and putting more and more work into the pipeline—it is in my view essential that the policy of lighting the motorways should be laid down as far as possible before the motorways are actually built.

My noble friend Lord Hampton said that it is essential to have these fast roads, on which there will be no speed limit, as safe by day as by night, and that the economic justification for these roads is that they shall be "round the clock" roads. It has been found abroad, and it will undoubtedly be found in this country, that an increasing amount of commercial traffic will use these roads by night in preference to by day, because it is likely that by night there will be fewer private cars on the road and, therefore, from the point of view of economics, it will be cheaper to run your vehicles with their full loads at fast speeds by night than it will be by day. Therefore, as my noble friend Lord Howe said, you may well get an increasing volume of this heavy commercial traffic by night—even, as I say, more than by day.

The danger of building a road and adding lighting afterwards has been shown in a road which has already been mentioned by one noble Lord, the motor road L'Ouest in France, which was built without adequate lighting. It was found that the accident rate was rather high—and I will come back to this—near Paris. It is as one comes out of the towns on to the motorways that one finds traffic is at its densest, because it has not had time to sort itself out and open up. After the road was built they installed proper lighting, and at once the accident rate went down by 30 per cent. Purely from the point of view of economics, that saving in accidents was an economic justification for installing the lighting.

The motorways in this country, so far as we know where they are to be, will run, as to 50 per cent. of the mileage, near large towns or cities. It is when one comes on to the motorways that one finds that traffic is dense. That, I think, is quite clear. A good example is the A.1 at the moment, where there are new dual carriageway stretches, followed by the old road, followed by another stretch. You come on to the motorway, and within a short space of time the traffic has sorted itself out according to the different speed of the vehicles, and their density is comparatively low. The same thing happens when you come on to another motorway. If these roads are not adequately lit—and as to how much they should be lit I shall go into in a moment—one finds this dense traffic coming out of a lighted area from the side streets or mainstreets of a town into the dark, and it will be some considerable time, if there is not proper lighting, before the drivers can get into their proper safe maximum speed. Therefore, the density of traffic will remain as a density for a much longer period than if there were lighting for the first portion of the road after the motorway. I do not know whether I have made myself clear. In those conditions a lot of the efficiency of a motorway is automatically done away with.

There has been a good deal of talk about cost. The Minister has just laid down the lighting of the new by-pass road for the Medway towns. It is a twenty-five mile stretch, and it is close to built-up areas almost throughout its length. It is, in my view, one of the motorways—as I so term it, although it is of a comparatively short length—that should be lighted throughout its length. Estimates have recently been given me that the cost of lighting this twenty-five miles would be £100,000—a very small figure in comparison with the building of the road—provided that the lighting and the mains were put in at the same time as the road was constructed. Most motorways pass through country where there are no main services. If you are going to wait until you have built a road, and then say that lighting is necessary, and then add the mains, the cost of installing the lighting is probably going to be two or three times as great as it would be if the mains and the lighting were put in at the same time as the rest of the construction.

Another case in point where, in my view, there should be lighting is the Preston By-pass—part of a larger motorway, but a part which will be completed on its own. It is entirely in a built-up area. It is only eight and a quarter miles in length. The whole of this road is, in effect, a built-up area, and the only lighting that is planned for it is at each end, and at a two-level intersection with A.59. Is that not wasting the road? You come on to it at one end from a brilliantly lit area, because it is entirely built-up, and then you come on to a dark stretch of road for a short period. None of the drivers will have his eyes accustomed to the new light. You then get into light again, because there is an intersection. You next go into the dark again for a short period, and then you come to light at the end of the road. Anything more likely to lead to accidents I cannot imagine, because it is a fast road. It was built as a fast road, and people will be trying to do their maximum reasonable speeds before they can see properly. May I mention one more point about this burden on the Minister? I do not think there is the slightest doubt that in the case of these motorways the lighting must be paid for 100 per cent. by the Ministry. I do not think there is any other answer to the question.

The last matter with which I wish to deal, and about which I think we have no policy, is the scale of lighting on these motorways. It could be argued in theory, of course, that to get the additional efficiency out of a motorway it should be lit to modern standards throughout its length. That is a perfectly arguable case, but I wonder whether the arguments against it are not perhaps more powerful. The arguments against it are, first of all, cost, and secondly, the question of amenity. In effect, in certain cases it means having high concrete lamp-posts through miles and miles of open country. I do not believe that that is necessary, and I think it would be extremely ugly. What I believe we must have laid down is a policy that proper lighting must be put on the motorways for a considerable distance after one enters them, giving time for fast moving traffic to sort itself out when it can really see. It is when the traffic density is less that the lighting can be cut out, provided that there is a sufficient stretch of darkness before coining to the next lighting. A driver cannot keep on changing from light to dark. Suppose that on the Yorkshire motorway there is a stretch of motorway of which not more than five miles is in a rural area, away from a built-up area, that should be lit. But suppose there is a twenty-mile stretch away from a built-up area, I believe it is unnecessary to light that stretch, because by that time the traffic density will have thinned.

My Lords, those are the only points I wish to put to my noble friend who is going to reply. Obviously, a policy will have to be laid down; but can be promise us a policy immediately, before the roads are built? It is almost too late to do it. A mistake has been made, I believe, at the Preston By-pass, and it will be repeated on the next section of the Birmingham motorway if the policy has not been actually fixed. It is essential that the scale of lighting put in on these motorways, and particularly for the first several miles, should be laid down now before any of the roads are started.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that everybody concerned with the improvement of roads in this country will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, for raising this important matter this afternoon. As he rightly said, it is no good building efficient motorways unless they can be efficiently and safely used at night. I should therefore like to support his proposals. and hope that the Government will, as the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has just said, lay down some policy quickly before we go any further.

I should like to say a few words about the actual system of lighting to be used. There are two types of lighting that are probably the safest. There is adequate lighting, by means of which drivers and pedestrians can see each other; then there is the system in which there is no lighting at all, when headlights are used (and they are very efficient nowadays), and pedestrians can see the cars and the drivers of the cars can see the pedestrians. The greatest danger arises from the borderline conditions when there are alternate pools of light and dark. The classic example of the disaster this can cause is the ease when the bus ran into the sea cadets. They were in a pool of dark and they were in dark blue uniforms. It is easy to understand, because, after all, in the jungle a leopard with spots may be camouflaged. A pedestrian wearing dark clothes is camouflaged on the dark road. Unfortunately, too many motorists in this country are inclined to look at the car coming towards them, instead of keeping their eyes on the road. You see them brake every time they meet another car coming towards them in the night. So I say that this system of pools of light and dark: is the most treacherous of all types, and one which should certainly be abolished.

The important thing is the evenness of the lighting of the road. The old Victorian street lights close together were very efficient. Now those lamps are being done away with and the concrete ones put up. The first thing that happens is that the local people, in many cases quite rightly, object to these hideous new monstrosities, and through their local councils they whittle away the estimates the engineers wish to have. As a result, fewer lamps are put up, and one comes back to the pools of light. To get over this the lamps are sometimes unshaded, which causes dazzle. I think everybody is agreed that sodium lighting is the hest type. I would make a very strong plea for the yellow sodium rather than the blue-white. Everybody knows the great glare the blue-white sodium causes. I am sure many of your Lordships have sat on a beach on a summer's clay or gone ski-ing and had to wear dark glasses to take away the glare. The sodium yellow, in fact, takes away the glare which the blue-white causes. It is much better for the eyes, because the pupil of the eye is large with the yellow light and can pick up more details.

I should also like strongly to support Lord Howe's plea for some investigation into the possibility of making the roads lighter in colour. The late Sir Henry Seagrave remarked once that if all roads were white there would be no lighting problem at night. Those who have travelled in the south of Italy on the white limestone roads know how effective white can be on such a surface. I am sure that if some research were carried out into the question of making roads lighter, it would, in the long run, be much cheaper than spending money on stronger light. Think of a living room completely pitch black, and of the number of lights required to light it compared with the number needed if it were white.

There is one suggestion I should like to make with regard to the new motorways where there are dual carriageways. At the moment, all lighting seems to be done from the top, and that is obviously the best way, but when there is one-way traffic on dual carriageways, surely some system could be devised of lights facing in the same direction as that in which the cars are going, so that the road is lit in the same way as it would be with car headlights along the road. As long as good shields were placed between the two carriageways there would be no question of dazzling oncoming traffic. This would be extremely cheap because the light would be continuous. There are obvious disadvantages to that, but on dual carriageways the idea is well worth going into.

With regard to double white lines which are in future to be made compulsory, I know that at the moment the Minister has not decided what to do about them at night. It is difficult to enforce the law if drivers are not able to see ahead what the double white line is doing. Perhaps the solid white line could have red cat's eyes facing one way and the dotted white line white ones, so that at night it would not be possible to cross the near-side red line. There is one very important fact about night driving, and that is the question of signposting. At night the ordinary shiny metal signposts only reflect the lights of cars. I am sure that many of your Lordships have had to get out of the car and look at the signpost. With the new systems of reflecting material, such as "Scotch Lite", this ought to be greatly improved. In large towns some system might be found similar to the London Transport Underground system; that is to say, having coloured lights for certain routes—red for Liverpool, blue for Manchester, and so on. This would be a much easier way of reading a sign at night. A driver just looks at a single sign which has a small red light on it and follows it.

I should also like to support Lord Derwent's suggestion about the gradual lighting up of areas, and avoiding going suddenly from one system of lighting into another. Very often, with the 30 m.p.h. limit being tied to lamp-posts, you find the end of the limit coincides with the last lamp-post. You are going along at thirty miles an hour in a lighted area, and suddenly come into pitch darkness with no limit. Drivers' all speed up before their eyes are accustomed to the light. We look forward to hearing the noble Earl's reply. I realise that all lighting systems depend a great deal on the question of money. But for too long in this country the motorist has been the scapegoat for all accidents on the road, and I think that, with efficient lighting at night, a great deal can be done towards road safety which every motorist in the country will appreciate.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, yesterday my noble friend Lord Mancroft suggested that practically every one of your Lordships would have a Road Traffic Act in his brief case. Noble Lords who have taken part in the debate to-day have indeed produced many novel and varied ideas on this subject of street lighting which my right honourable friend will be very interested to hear in the near future. In general, my right honourable friend is in sympathy with the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton. He recognises that, with the general growth of traffic since the war, it is important to light the main roads adequately in built-up areas, especially where there are a large number of pedestrians.

But the improvement of street lighting is a long-term problem, and no quick and easy solution may be expected. It is a straight question—this I am quite certain every one of your Lordships realises—of how much cash the taxpayer may be invited to subscribe. Street lighting is one form of capital investment; we know that the country's resources are not immediately adequate to meet all the demands that are being made upon them, and that we must in some way share the available capital between these competing demands. This consideration at present overrides all others, and operates no matter what authority is charged with the responsibility for the provision of street lighting. The debate in another place on our economic situation will make quite clear how serious and difficult it is at this particular time to give extra estimates for such subjects, highly though we may value them, as street lighting. Much money, however, is being spent year by year on street lighting. The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and those who have supported him in this debate would, I know, wish that it were much more. My right honourable friend is most grateful to the noble Lord for bringing his Motion to your Lordships' House to-day, so that propaganda may be issued on this vital subject; and anything that noble Lords may be able to do with authorities, especially the lighting authorities with which they are connected, will considerably help my right honourable friend in the future to improve street lighting.

I turn to total expenditure for 1955–56, which is taken from Table 1 of the Local Government Financial Statistics (England and Wales) 1955–56. I beg your Lordships' indulgence with regard to any figures that may be quoted, because it is difficult to assess them accurately, and they can give only an indication of what lighting authorities are able to do year by year for street lighting. However, in 1955–56 some £16½ million was spent on maintenance, loan charges and fuel for the maintenance of street lighting; and probably nearly £4 million on new or improved street lighting installations—that is, of course, not to do with trunk roads, but ordinary local authority expenditure. The rate of capital expenditure on street lighting has, indeed, increased year by year since the end of the war, as has the cost of street lighting for the capital work of installation. An estimate—again it must be an elastic one—of £3,000 a mile has been put forward.

Mr. Granville Berry, the City Engineer of Coventry, to whose work the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has referred (this, again, is a reason why my right honourable friend is grateful to the noble Lord, because it gives some more publicity to the work of this distinguished lighting engineer), has estimated, in a recent paper to the Institute of Highway Engineers, that since the war £20 million has been invested in new or improved lighting, covering 5,000 miles of highway. Some of these figures the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has already mentioned. Expenditure in 1955–56 on the running and maintenance of trunk roads—that is the trunk road grant from my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation—amounted to £113,300. The ratepayers also subscribed their 50 per cent., Which again, of course, amounted to £113,300. On an average, it costs £15 a year to run and maintain modern I sodium lighting such as we have heard I many noble Lords refer to. Therefore, in the year 1955–56 my right honourable friend has a half-share in the running of some 16,100 street lamps of the modern sort on trunk roads. That is, of course, completely apart from the roads which are entirely the responsibility of any particular lighting authority.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, referred specially to the amount of money which my right honourable friend was able to spend year by year on the maintenance of trunk road lighting schemes. Of course, as capital is expended that figure will go up year by year. As one travels about the country to-day—noble Lords must have noticed it at night as they drive—one is inevitably struck by the amount of new and improved lighting that has been installed in recent years. Undoubtedly much remains to be done, but it must be borne in mind that the existing street installations in the Metropolitan boroughs, especially, have been provided over many years by the local authorities responsible, and naturally they include many different and varied types of light, as the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, have said. Before undertaking to replace the present installations with the latest equipment, a local authority must consider the economic life of its present equipment and the terms of its agreements for the supply of gas or electricity from the nationalised boards concerned; and of course they have to weigh their capital commitments on behalf of their ratepayers in other directions.

Your Lordships—the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, especially—have given examples of the good lighting that is to be seen. I myself have been much impressed by the lighting that has been installed on the Cromwell Road extension. I think that the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, on the one hand, and the London County Council and the Borough of Brentford and Chiswick, who are the actual lighting authorities concerned, on the other, are to be congratulated. Similarly, the authorities concerned—Ealing, Willesden, Hendon, Finchley, Friern Barnet, Southgate, Edmonton, Chingford and Walthamstow—with the aid of the Ministry of Transport contribution of 50 per cent. of cost, have completed an excellent scheme for twelve miles of new street lighting over the whole length of the London North Circular Road. Incidentally, that provides an example of the number of lighting authorities there are in practice in but a short distance; yet through their co-operation we are given an idea of what my right honourable friend hopes for in the near future. My right honourable friend is satisfied that, in general, the major authorities are alive to the need for improved lighting, in the interests of road safety, and because of the economy of the modern systems.

However, merely looking round and praising work that has been done by certain lighting authorities does not give us a measure or an idea of what still has to be done. The Association of Public Lighting Engineers produced a useful survey showing detailed information about installations and lighting authorities who have submitted returns. Unfortunately, for our purpose, the survey does not cover more than one-third or so of the lighting authorities, so that it is of little use in telling us what still has to be done. The Minister has announced (this was referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan), through the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in another place, that he has decided to find out the true position. The highway authorities will be asked to make a survey of the classified roads within their areas, and to report the extent to which improvement or new street lighting is still needed. It is my right honourable friend's intention to go ahead and to obtain the report referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. He expects that he will receive it within four to six months of the start of the inspection. The Minister's own divisional road engineers will make a similar survey of trunk roads, but unfortunately the Minister does not expect that any startling new facts will emerge from those inquiries. They will, however, fill in the details of a picture already known in outline and enable priorities to be decided by my right honourable friend.

While the Minister has information on the trunk roads it is with regard to lighting authorities' own lighting schemes that the report will be of special value to my right honourable friend. Rightly or wrongly—and I know that my noble friend Lord Hampton has strong ideas on this—the Minister himself is not a lighting authority. He has no statutory power to provide street lighting on any public highway. He may, however, make a contribution of 50 per cent. of the cost of installation and maintenance of approved street lighting schemes on trunk roads, and that grant is given only if the street lighting scheme is of Group A standard, as recognised by the British Standards Institution.

In 1951–52 thirteen agreements between the Minister and lighting authorities were undertaken, but by 1956–57 this number had increased to ninety-one, and a total of 500 miles of trunk roads had been newly lighted or had improved lighting installations approved to which the Minister was contributing one half of the total cost. This may not seem very impressive. but it represents about one-tenth of the new or improved installations since the war. The extent of this work, expressed in monetary terms, can be seen in summary in Table 2 of Mr. Granville Berry's paper to which reference has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton. It should also be remembered that the Minister makes a contribution of 50 per cent. of the cost of maintenance of these trunk road lighting schemes and that financial provision is estimated for 1956–57 at £130,000 and for 1957–58 at £190,000. Again equivalent amounts will be spent by the local authorities themselves.

The power to provide street lighting, with but very few exceptions, is a power and not a duty, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has plainly indicated, it devolves on a very large number of local authorities. Much has been said about these difficulties, and there is no doubt that confusion does arise from the multitude of authorities in the country who are responsible for street lighting. It has been suggested that street lighting should now be regarded as a highway function and looked after by the highway authority as part and parcel of the highway. I can feel some sympathy for this point of view, especially as some of the smaller lighting authorities cannot afford to instal an adequate system of Group A lighting upon main roads that traverse their areas, even with the 50 per cent. grant which the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation makes for lighting trunk roads. That is largely the problem which exists on Route A.27, to which reference was made, where, unfortunately, the lighting area of one authority ends halfway across a bridge.

We must remember however that the right of the local authority to light the parish pump is proverbial, and my right honourable friend would hesitate to do anything which might lead to smaller local authorities losing their rights and responsibilities in this matter. We have heard of several cases where the existence of different authorities with dissimilar policies makes for ridiculous and dangerous conditions on some main roads, but we do not yet know how widespread or numerous are cases of this kind. The survey of trunk roads to which I have referred, which was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, will enable us for the first time to measure the extent of these cases and the inadequacy of the lighting, and will give us a guide as to whether further measures are essential and as to priorities for them. This, in the main, is the reason for the problems to which the noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Howe, especially, have referred. These problems arise from lack of co-ordination between neighbouring areas, particularly in the great Subtopias, and there is much to be said for the suggestion of Mr. Granville Berry, in his paper, that there should be some kind of joint body to look after and co-ordinate lighting problems, especially where trunk roads cleave through adjoining city outskirts. That problem is getting more pressing every day, as the overspill areas are built to one side or the other of a main trunk road.

My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary, replying to a debate in another place, said that he proposed to invite lighting authorities in the London area to a conference, with a view to setting up a consultative committee—a point especially referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Lucan. I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that invitations to this conference have been sent out to-day to the lighting authorities concerned within the area of London, and that letter (of which I have a copy which I will show the noble Lord opposite), is a start to the policy of some form of co-ordination of lighting systems. I know that the noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Lucan, will not consider that that is everything, but at least a start has been made and my right honourable friend will be able to encourage lighting authorities to cooperate on schemes for through roads in their area. Should any lighting authorities in other areas wish to consider having a similar committee, the Minister's divisional road engineers will be available to advise and assist; and each divisional road engineer has on his staff a qualified and experienced electrical engineer, whose services will be available to provide advice and assistance to consultative committees, reinforced if necessary by the senior electrical engineer from the Ministry's headquarters.

This advice and assistance is, in fact, already at the disposal of individual authorities, and the Minister feels that this arrangement has already gone some way towards mitigating the effects of diversity; but no doubt with some form of consultative committee in being, still more good work could be done in this direction. I must emphasise, however, that these committees must be voluntary organisations, and that there must first be a desire for co-operation if the idea is to prove successful. This is another reason why my right honourable friend is so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, for bringing forward his Motion, so that through this debate publicity may be given by noble Lords to lighting authorities with whom they may be connected.

On standardisation of street lighting I am advised that Group A lighting recommended for traffic routes is designed to provide lighting of sufficient intensity to make the use of motor headlamps unnecessary, and that this can be satisfactorily achieved by lamps of different colours. In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, I would say that no lighting system would be considered for grant on a trunk road unless it conformed to the standards of Group A. Under this code of standards the mounting height of the actual lantern must be twenty-five feet, and it is necessary to space the lamps at no more than 150 feet apart in what is called a "non-cut off" system—in other words, so that you can see the whole of the lamp, as you can the lamps in your Lordships' House. If a full cut off light is used the bulb or the source of light is not seen, and there is no dazzle to the motorist upon the road. That type of system is very much more expensive.


May I ask the noble Earl, in regard to what he has said about the Minister's contribution, whether that applies also to tunnels?


Tunnels have a special type of lighting system, to which the noble Earl referred, providing for a brightness at one end exceeding the brightness in the middle; and that is the most modern and up-to-date system which is being used in Paris and Brussels. I hope that my noble friend Lord Man-croft may well have seen some of those systems in his short tour there to-day. But I will say now that any future tunnel lighting schemes will, of course, use the latest principles. My right honourable friend has seen those systems himself and will be asking your Lordships for any advice and help that you may be able to give when they are to be put into effect.

I have a special assurance from my friend in the Scottish Office saying that the Glasgow authority, for the Clyde Tunnel, will be taking special care to see that the lighting is of the latest design, based on the Continental pattern and that used in America. I had the privilege of going through the New Jersey tunnel and of seeing the lighting and installations, both inside and out; and the engineers there, and the New York Port Authority, had a very high opinion of the Mersey Tunnel lighting, even though it may be out of date by modern standards. Also, the two existing Thames tunnels have been relit, and although the systems are not of the latest standard, they are much more adequate than they were in the past.

The principle followed in good lighting practice to-day is to illuminate the road surface in order that obstacles on the road should stand out in silhouette, which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, mentioned. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to use the light-coloured surface which so many of your Lordships have referred to. Mention has been made of the importance of the road surface in getting the best out of the Group A lighting. The highway engineers, who are responsible for the highways, have long been conscious of the lighting aspect of the road surface, but the choice of colour and texture is largely governed by the need for a non-skid surface. What is best for one purpose, that of lighting, is not always best for the safety aspect, which is another purpose, in weather which is wet or frosty. That is what my right honourable friend has continually to balance up. In order to get the best lighting it might produce what is a death trap for skidding, especially in wet weather. And, as has already been said, the Road Research Laboratory have that problem always in their minds.

In the interests of economy, technical progress and competition in local design, the Minister would not at this stage contemplate restricting lighting to one particular type or variety of lamp. That suggestion has been made in your Lordships' House by several noble Lords to-day. Competition and variation in new methods of lighting should be encouraged, and my right honourable friend is firmly of the opinion that local authorities should be encouraged to find for themselves the best and most up-to-date street lighting that is possible. The standard of lighting is the important thing, and not its colour, although colour always arouses strong feeling from those interested in amenities. If my right honourable friend were to suggest that yellow sodium lights should be used everywhere, I am quite certain he would bring a hornet's nest upon the ears of his Ministry and officials. The effect of street lighting upon local amenities is not to be lightly dismissed. A local authority, my right honourable friend believes, is the best judge of the local feelings and traditions and other things which play a part in this connection, and the Minister thinks he should limit himself to advice and consultation on technical matters for which his divisional road engineers are available.

The vexed questions of artistic design, which the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, especially, brought out, are a matter for the local people to decide, helped by such bodies as the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Council of Industrial Design; and the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, will be glad to hear that those old-fashioned (as they are now) concrete lamp columns, which have been described as looking like a dying swan with its neck broken, are, in fact, obsolete and will soon be appearing no more. All columns for both Group A and Group B lighting are, in fact, approved by the Council of Industrial Design. The Royal Fine Art Commission may be brought in to advise on any particular scheme for a trunk road. One instance of the results of the co-operation my right honourable friend is able to achieve with the lighting authority, the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Council of Industrial Design may be seen by your Lordships at West Wycombe, where a trunk road scheme, with my right honourable friend's grant of 50 per cent., has been carried through and is particularly admired not only by the local residents and the ratepayers but also by the motorists who use that area.

My Lords, many of the points and questions that noble Lords have raised in the debate to-day are already covered by the fact that my right honourable friend will be summoning in the London area, for a start, this committee to coordinate lighting on main roads. That will be a beginning.

The noble Earl, Lord Lucan, brought up the point of the flashing signals on motor cars, and I am told that my right honourable friend is, in fact, investigating this feature which has grown up in very recent years, and will no doubt be issuing a report thereon in the future. Personally, I should rather have a sudden flash in the front of a motor car than no sign, resulting from a broken, old-fashioned indicator. The noble Earl also raised the question of a white light. A white light is, of course, more expensive than either sodium or mercury vapour. Nevertheless, if a local authority wishes to have a white light there is no reason why it should not do so, and my right honourable friend can in no regard stand in their way. A white light is most likely to be required where a road runs through a shopping centre, because, although yellow sodium light is the cheapest and more effective from the motorists' point of view, a white light—especially the fluorescent type, which is still more expensive—will be most satisfactory for the shop owners.

I think I have covered most of the points which the noble Earl, Lord Howe, raised with regard to tunnels, and I give him my assurance that when these tunnels are ready for lighting my right honourable friend will be taking the most urgent notice of the latest practices that are available. The point the noble Earl brought up about reflectors on the pedals of cycles is most interesting and will be investigated in the near future. The question of colour I have already dealt with in reply to another noble Lord, and I pointed out the difficulty of combining all the requirements.

My noble friend Lord Derwent was specially concerned about motorways. I will put before my right honourable friend his most interesting point with regard to the Medway scheme. At present, any lighting which would be contemplated for motorways would have to be Group A system. At the present rate my right honourable friend is hoping that we can improve the lighting on trunk roads, and lighting on motorways will be pushed forward if and when finances are available.


My Lords, does the noble Earl mean that as yet there is no special policy for motorways, or are they to be treated like other trunk roads? Their problems are different.


My Lords, like many noble Lords, my right honourable friend would like every motorway lighted from start to finish; but at the present time the cost is quite impossible.


My Lords, I did not suggest that. I said that they should be dealt with separately. In fact, I made the point that motorways ought not to be lit throughout and where they are in rural areas, and not built-up areas, they should not be lit at all.


I am sorry: I have mistaken my noble friend's point because of his enthusiasm for lighting. At the present time Group A lighting would be the only kind considered. At present there is no special provision for lighting motorways, and the point about the Medway scheme which the noble Lord brought up I will put before my right honourable friend.

The cost of £175 million for accidents is continuously in front of my right honourable friend—indeed, it constitutes the most serious and depressing figure we have before us. My noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu introduced some novel and interesting ideas, which I will certainly put before my right honourable friend. It will be for the Road Research Laboratory to pronounce on tests of the system of lighting he suggests. I should imagine that there must have been some difficulties, otherwise such an idea, which seems admirable, would have been put into operation some time ago. With regard to his Tube station type of sign-posting, I suspect that the noble Lord is out of Order in raising that point on this Motion, but I will bring it to the attention of my right honourable friend, and possibly at some time the noble Lord will expand his ideas. If so an interesting debate may result.

I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Hampton for putting down his Motion, and to the noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting and productive debate. In spite of the economic difficulties facing us to-day, I hope that my right honourable friend will be able to make some of the progress which my noble friend Lord Hampton would like to see. I hope that I have put before your Lordships facts to show that an improvement, if only a gradual improvement, to our road lighting system is in fact taking place. Your Lordships will agree that the consultative committee which my right honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary is calling to-day will be a real step in the right direction. In the near future, too, there will be information from the whole of the country as a result of the Ministry's inspectors' survey. This has been a valuable debate, and, as I have already said, my right honourable friend welcomes this opportunity that has been afforded in your Lordships' House to give publicity to this serious and pressing problem, and one which grows ever more important as road traffic increases daily.


My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but, in thanking the noble Earl for his clear and well-reasoned reply to the debate, I should like to congratulate him on the admirable manner in which he has put it before us. I do not know whether it will be thought a good opportunity, but in view of the great interest that I hope this debate will arouse and the anxiety of so many of us to see continued improvement in our street, and especially through-road, lighting, I wonder whether the Minister would consider issuing a White Paper when the survey is finished. I do not know whether that is possible; I put it forward as a suggestion. I have no more to say except to thank warmly the noble Lords who supported me and to say that they have indeed filled many of the gaps which I left. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past five o'clock.