HL Deb 02 December 1969 vol 306 cc5-8

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 what re-surfacing process has been used on the M.4 Motorway between the London Airport exit and the Colnbrook exit, how many complaints they have received about it and how many broken windscreens were reported as due to it during the past three months.]


My Lords, the surface dressing consisted of pre-coated stone chippings of high resistance to polishing with a tar binder containing a 1½ per cent. polyvinyl chloride additive. Since September 1 my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport has received 28 letters of complaint about loose chippings on this section of the motorway and 150 reports of broken windscreens.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his Answer to my Question. In view of this exceptionally bad record of complaint and of broken windscreens on this stretch of road, can the noble Lord tell us whether the Minister of Transport is intending to meet the claims of motorists who have suffered on the road?


My Lords, I understand that this is a matter for consideration of each separate case in which a claim may be made. At the moment this is under consideration.


My Lords, speaking as the 151st victim, I would ask: would not my noble friend agree that it is the unfortunate innocent party who is likely to suffer this damage, due to the carelessness of the driver in the car in front?


My Lords, in his supplementary question my noble friend has drawn attention to the advice that the police give motorists as to speed on this particular road. It is the people who disregard these warnings who create so much of the havoc.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what conditions determine whether the 50 m.p.h. flashing lights on this particular stretch of road should be used? Is the noble Lord aware that the lights were not in use last Monday, that they were in use on Tuesday, not in use on Wednesday, but again in use on Thursday? Is it the idea that this road is dangerous only on every other day?


My Lords, I understand that the loose chippings become more volatile, more dangerous, when we have had frost. This question is being examined at the present time. The decision when to put the lights on is a matter for the police authorities. I will try to find an explanation for the noble Viscount. I cannot answer him to-day.


My Lords, can the Minister say when the road will again be made safe?


My Lords, the road is perfectly safe to-day, if only motorists take into account the warnings that the police put up. The reason why this particular tar binder was put down was to deal with a marked increase in the number of accidents being caused by skidding, particularly in wet weather. Before this surface was put down I believe that the number of accidents caused by skidding was as much as 60 per cent., which is well above the normal average for a motorway. It was for this reason that the binder was put down, to make the road safer from the skidding point of view, particularly in wet weather.


My Lords, if the road is now safe, could the noble Lord tell us when the notices giving warning of loose chippings will be removed? They were there yesterday afternoon in large numbers.


My Lords, I wish the noble Lord would look at what I have said. The road is safe now if only people would take into account the speed limit put up by the police.


My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord's difficulties in this matter, but is he aware that the general volume of criticism about the standard of surfacing laid down here is very loud indeed? Will the noble Lord tell us what steps are being taken to rectify the standard of surface which is being put down there to make it satisfactory? Would the noble Lord give us an assurance that this type of surface, which causes such a great deal of trouble, will not be used again? Finally, is the noble Lord aware that a Government which has doubled motor taxation is peculiarly vulnerable to criticism from motorists?


My Lords, that remark is typical of what I would expect from the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, on the first day of the Parliamentary week. This particular dressing has not caused any problems on any other motorways. As the noble Lord knows, occasionally, according to the circumstances—the alignment, or the character of the area—the dressing has different effects. This is now being carefully considered by the Road Research Laboratory and by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, and I hope that we shall be able to put it right as soon as possible.