HL Deb 20 October 1966 vol 277 cc117-9

3.6 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent the 70 m.p.h. speed limit on motorways is being enforced.]


My Lords, the police take appropriate action to enforce the 70 m.p.h. limit; and preliminary figures show that in the first quarter of the year there were 170 prosecutions for exceeding the limit on motorways. The speed limit is in general reasonably well observed. The interim report of the Road Research Laboratory indicated that the proportion of drivers exceeding 70 m.p.h. but not 80 m.p.h. on motorways had approximately halved since the experiment began, and that exceeding 80 m.p.h. decreased by about three-quarters.


My Lords, I am much obliged for that Answer. But is my noble friend aware that when, a fortnight ago, I drove the whole length of the M.6 and the M.1 (and, being a law-abiding citizen, never exceeded 70 m.p.h.) about 170 motor cars passed me in the course of that journey? I did not see a single police car travelling either way. It is most frustrating to a law-abiding citizen. Might I ask my noble friend whether he will now see to it that we either enforce the law or scrap the Regulation?


My Lords, I think my reply indicated that we are most certainly enforcing the law. I would congratulate my noble friend on his wisdom in avoiding a summons, because the fact that he did not see the police does not mean that they did not see him. Noble Lords will appreciate that on the motorways it would be extremely dangerous always to chase and stop cars travelling at these high speeds. It does not mean that the offenders are not prosecuted.

I was interested to have my noble friend's confirmation of the accuracy of the figures I gave; he mentioned that in 120 miles of travelling at a mile a minute 170 cars passed him, which is just over 1 per minute. In relation to the number of cars, that ties in with the fact that the "over-80 m.p.h. merchants" have been reduced from 8 per cent. to 1½per cent. of the total.


My Lords, would Her Majesty's Government not agree that the average density of police patrols over a 24-hour period of one patrol car per 14 miles of motorway is inadequate? Are the Government satisfied that chief constables, as a whole, are deploying their manpower to best advantage?


My Lords, I am completely satisfied, not only that chief constables as a whole are deploying their manpower satisfactorily in this way to the best use of their resources but also that they take this matter very seriously indeed. I would emphasise that the fact that you do not actually see a white car (or, in Lancashire, a white and yellow one) does not mean the police are not on duty. I agree with the noble Lord that this matter merits constant attention. Indeed, a Home Office Working Party is now sitting, with representatives of the local authority associations and the police, to consider the basic scale of policing for motorways. That may meet the point that the noble Lord has in mind.