HL Deb 26 May 1960 vol 223 cc1291-3

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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give consideration to the calling of an international conference with the object of ascertaining how far it is possible to standardise all road signs in many countries.]


My Lords, it is not the Government's present intention to proceed on the lines suggested by the noble Lord. An international conference of the sort he has in mind would more appropriately be called under the auspices of the United Nations. Such a conference was, in fact, held at Geneva in 1949 and produced a Convention on Road Traffic and a Protocol on Road Signs and Signals. Progress towards a further international standardisation of road signs might take the form of wider adoption of the existing Protocol, or its revision following another United Nations conference.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that rather comprehensive reply, I am sure that he is aware that no fewer than 1,900 cars a day are being introduced on the roads in addition to those already there. What I asked was, how far it is possible to do what I have suggested. There are accidents all the time on account of the lack of uniformity. Could not some action he taken on this account?


My Lords, it is extremely difficult to see what action could be taken in addition to what I have already mentioned. There are in existence a Convention and a Protocol, and that Protocol has been supplemented by a European Agreement on a slightly less official basis. I think that to obtain standardisation a proper World Conference such as I have mentioned would be required. I should like to remind my noble friend that we do not stand still on these matters, and our policy on road signs, as we make improvements, is coming nearer to existing European practice, as I think he will see if he looks at the signs that have been produced, for instance, for the M.1.


My Lords, if the noble Lord finds it difficult to have international standardisation, could the Government make some move towards having national standardisation in this country?


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the Commonwealth Motoring Conference has this matter within its consideration at the present time; and also whether he is aware that, if he can persuade his right honourable friend to exercise a rather greater degree of enthusiasm in introducing international signs into this country, it would be of very great help?


Yes, my Lords. I think I am aware of most of these points. That brings me back again to the question of a World Conference. I think that the Commonwealth Conference is a most helpful thing; the Protocol which exists is a very good thing, and the European Agreement is a very good thing. Therefore we have three. To which are we to adhere?—because they are all likely, perhaps, to be different. Therefore, I think that the most progress will be made by a proper international conference. So far as standardisation in this country is concerned, which the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, mentioned, I think that things are getting more and more standard as we go on.


My Lords, while again thanking my noble friend for what he has said, is it not a fact that since 1949 the number of cars on the roads of this country has nearly doubled, and that we are getting accidents on a scale which nobody desires? Therefore, would it not be worth experimenting and trying to get somewhere, and not waiting indefinitely?


My Lords, we are well aware of the accident rate and every possible reason for causing accidents is investigated. That is why many new-type signs, in accordance with quite widespread and international feeling, have been, and are, being introduced all the time.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend very much for his Answer, I hope that he will give the matter most careful consideration.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord whether he does not agree with the fact that while not only the actual design of the signs but their application is in the hands of local government, there are bound to be a number of rather disconcerting discrepancies? I know of many. If the noble Lord were to come on a drive with me, I could show him some extraordinary ones. Does he not also agree with me that pictorial signs are far more efficient than word signs?


My Lords, I have already said that signs are getting more and more standard all the time, and it is for the reason that my noble friend mentions that we have been switching over to pictorial signs.

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