HL Deb 20 July 1983 vol 443 cc1151-3
Lord Kilmany

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware that, while motor-cars show commendable restraint at pedestrian crossings in St. James's Street. SW1, many riders of motor bicycles do not, much to the danger of pedestrians particularly at rush-hours; and whether they will cause action to be taken.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, enforcement of road traffic law in central London is the responsibility of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. I know that he takes a serious view of infringements of the Pedestrian Crossings Regulations, whether committed by motor-cars motor-cycles or other vehicles. I understand that in 1982 some 4,131 police prosecutions were brought for moving traffic offences at zebra or pelican-type crossings in the metropolitan police district.

Lord Kilmany

My Lords. in thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that not only the street I mention specifically in my Question but man other London streets have pedestrian crossings which motor-cyclists cross without any consideration for pedestrians? Is my noble friend not aware that if a crossing is supposed to be safe but is in fact not safe it constitutes a danger, and that something should therefore be done about it; and is he also aware that the figures which he mentioned do not look as if enough is being done at present?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the Government are aware of the dangers of being a pedestrian in any part of the street. In March 1982 the Government introduced a two-part driving test for motor-cyclists, whom the noble Lord considers to pose the greatest threat. The first part is conducted off the road and is designed to make riders safe and competent on the road. The second part of the test is conducted on the road and is very similar to the previous test. The Government also introduced. in October of last year, a two-year limit on the duration of provisional motor-cycle licences with the object of encouraging learner riders to take training and to pass both parts of their test early in their riding careers.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of my sympathy with my noble friend Lord Kilmany in so far as, on I think the crossing he has mentioned, about two years ago I was nearly killed for the reasons which he mentions in his Question, and that it is only by the grace of God that I am here to ask my noble friend this supplementary question?

Lord Elton

My Lords, your Lordships will all be thankful that my noble friend was spared. I might add that in the last two years there was one reported accident involving pedestrians on crossings. That was on 12th August 1982, when a minibus overtook a stationary vehicle at a pedestrian crossing and hit a 58 year-old man, causing slight injuries. I do not think that that could have been my noble friend.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, is it not desirable to protect the pedestrian from the alternative of "the quick or the dead"?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the House is aware that the noble and learned Lord is always quick in every sense of the word.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords. has the noble Lord any idea of what it would cost to make all pedestrian crossings controlled by lights?

Lord Elton

Not without notice, my Lords—and probably not then, either.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, would the Minister agree that, unless there is something special about St. James's Street, it is not only motor-cyclists who are discourteous; there is such an element in all road users whether they are in private cars or pedestrians, many of whom, do not know how to use the crossings properly; and that this can only be cured by the enforcement to which the Minister referred and also by education?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the police are diligent in enforcement and, as I have said, we are doing quite a lot to encourage education.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, is my noble friend really wise to dismiss the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, in that way? Is there not an example between St. Margaret's Church and the St. Stephen's Entrance to the Houses of Parliament of a pedestrian crossing which is never without a pedestrian on it, and where the traffic is seriously held up? Could not a serious case be made out for saying that lights would be safer?

Lord Elton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord John-Mackie, asked me what it would cost to convert all crossings to light-controlled ones. I think the answer is that it would cost a very great deal merely to discover the answer. If we are considering specific crossings, that is another matter. I will draw the concern of my noble friend to the attention of my right honourable friend.

Lady Saltoun

My Lords, would the Government consider introducing road-crossing tests for pedestrians?

Lord Elton

My Lords, having been a pedestrian, a motor-cyclist and a motorist in my time, I can see great force in what the noble Lady has suggested, although whether it is practicable is another matter.

Lord Polwarth

My Lords, will my noble friend consider advising the members of clubs in St. James's Street to exercise a degree of commendable restraint in approaching pedestrian crossings outside their clubs?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords who are members of clubs, and particularly those who are members of clubs in St. James's Street, always conduct themselves with very great decorum.