HL Deb 11 April 1967 vol 281 cc1159-61

2.36 p.m.


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 any alternative and less unsightly form of "Give Way" traffic sign exists which can be put up in villages of outstanding landscape value in Scotland, and whether it would be possible so to site such signs as not to destroy the aspect and amenity of such villages.]


My Lords, it is essential in the interests of safety that the form of traffic signs, including the "Give Way" sign, should be uniform, and that is the object of the detailed specifications which appear in the Traffic Signs Regulations 1964. It is also important that signs be erected where they are clearly visible. The Regulations provide, however, for some three different sizes of the "Give Way" sign. They are used according to the traffic speeds and volumes of the junctions at which they are placed. Highway authorities may also dispense altogether with the upright "Give Way" sign and provide only the "Give Way" road surface markings if they consider these to meet the needs of safety adequately. Advice is given on this subject in the Traffic Signs Manual of which a copy has been sent to all local authorities.


My Lords, following on that Answer, for which I thank the noble Lord, may I ask one supplementary question? Does the noble Lord realise that many of these villages of outstanding landscape value are designated on the local authority development plans as areas to be kept quite unspoilt, and that the erection of obtrusive signs is a complete negation of what the planning officers intended? May I therefore ask him whether he would put it to the honourable Lady in charge of the Ministry that some exceptions to the standard rules might be made for the Class II roads—that is, the roads which have to carry these large signs—where they run through the pretty places to which I have referred? The only other point I should like to put to the noble Lord is whether he realises that there is a sign in a rural village in the county of East Lothian which is about twice the size of a sign in Berkeley Square.


My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with the points the noble Earl has made, and I will certainly see that his request is conveyed to my right honourable friend. But I hope the noble Earl will appreciate that these signs are put there for safety, and that there is some legal significance in them (which is why they must be quite clear to the motorist), in the sense that if a driver coming from a minor road into a major road ignores a sign or any other indication on the road, he is clearly open to prosecution for careless or dangerous driving. It is therefore in the interests of motorists that these signs should be clearly visible.

The noble Earl, I gather, is particularly interested in the B.1407, which is a Class II road, and its junction with the A.198, which is a Class I road. There are no speed limits on either of these roads and there is a considerable traffic density. This is an example of a case where, I should have thought, in the interests of safety, no matter how it may spoil the village, the sign should be clearly seen by the motorist.


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that the type of sign and its siting is entirely a matter for the highway authority; that the highway authority is generally the same authority as the planning authority, and that therefore it is a local matter, with Ministry authority?


My noble friend is quite correct.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord why these signs to which my noble friend has been referring are so much larger than the "Halt" signs which they have largely superseded? Surely the possible penalty for not halting where there is a "Halt" sign is just as severe as the possible penalty for not giving way.


My Lords, the noble Lord's friends when in office were responsible for the legislation under which these signs have come into being, and I think those of your Lordships who are motorists will agree that they are a major improvement on the old, traditional signs in this country. There are three sizes of this particular one, the "Give Way" sign, and, as my noble friend Lord Lindgren has indicated, it is entirely a question for the traffic authority, taking into account the density of the traffic and its speed, to decide which type and which size of sign should be erected.


My Lords, the noble Lord said that the two roads to which he had referred had no speed limits upon them. Are they not subject to the 70 miles an hour limit?


My Lords, the noble Viscount is, on occasions, correct, but what I was referring to was the 30 miles per hour speed limit.


My Lords, may I point out to the noble Lord that the road to which he has referred is a Class II road leading into a Class I road that the Class II road leads through a pretty village and that there is practically no traffic on it during the course of the day?


My Lords, if we are going to discuss road signs, may I ask Her Majesty's Government whether the right honourable Lady will consider replacing the old school sign of the torch? In the case of the old torch one saw 150 yards away the black upright on a white background and said "School", and slowed down. The present school sign cannot be recognised as a particular sign until one is within about 30 yards of it.


My Lords, this is Question Time and therefore I do not think I should discuss the general question of signs. But I will take note of the question raised by the noble Lord.

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