HL Deb 18 March 1982 vol 428 cc751-2

3.13 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

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 when they intend to introduce regulations to control the level of spray emitted by commercial vehicles or prescribe suitable spray suppression systems.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, there has recently been useful progress in devising methods to control spray from lorries, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport is urgently examining how this can be translated into a technical standard which could form the basis of regulations.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl for that encouraging reply. May I ask him whether one can assume that any regulations laid down will be under the construction and use regulations? Before that is done, will the widest possible consultation be carried out and investigations made into the new materials which are being used very successfully in other countries to suppress spray?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, there will be a lot of consultation before any such legislation can be introduced and the preparation of such a standard would naturally involve industry and other interested bodies. A result would not be ready, I am afraid, for some time.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that as far away in time as 1960 the Road Research Laboratory gave evidence to the Government on the urgency of this problem of spray? Secondly, is the noble Earl aware—and I am sure that, with his brief, he is—that on 26th February Southampton University delved into this problem of methods of controlling spray? Finally, is the noble Earl aware that, while I do not want to make a criticism of our lorry drivers, who I think are some of the best in the world, as a person who travels thousands of miles on the roads I would say that as we increase the weight of the lorries and the speed, the distance of the spray caused increases not in arithmetical progression but in geometrical progression? It is time that the Government did something about this because spray causes death on the roads.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks. I was aware of all the three points that he made. As to the latter point, I understand that vehicle weights depend on their aerodynamic qualities. I was not aware that Southampton University had done anything in this connection on 26th February, but I know that they have undertaken a research programme in which we are interested. What has highlighted this at the present moment are some very interesting new inventions which have been made.

Earl Howe

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that out of the many possibilities there is one very simple device which is known as the Monsanto Clear Pass? That is rather an unusual title but it is what it is called. It definitely suppresses spray when fixed to the side of a commercial vehicle. The spray comes out at the side and not at the back. This enables an overtaking motorist of a commercial vehicle on a freeway or motor road, such as we have in this country, to be able to pass the vehicle with a clear road ahead. Will the noble Earl look into this?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, indeed we are aware of that. One of the Ministers in the department has already looked at this particular system. However, if we are to legislate we must do so by reference to a standard which will allow a range of designs and products.