HL Deb 03 April 1996 vol 571 cc274-6

11.28 a.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have for the sponsorship of road signs by firms who would contribute to the costs of installing them.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the Government are looking at the possibility of encouraging the private sector to contribute to allow earlier upgrading or replacement of direction signs or provision of other information signs such as variable message signs. However, the display of messages acknowledging business sponsorship on traffic signs is not permitted under current legislation. Even a trial scheme would involve amending the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. It is too early to invite comment on specific detailed proposals.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply. If a scheme is adopted, will the logos or advertised names have to be approved to ensure that they will not dangerously distract drivers? Will firms be able to chose their areas? The Middlesbrough area, for example, might be appropriate for the chemical industry, and Northampton for the shoe manufacturers. On the other hand, there could be pitfalls. Yorkshire Water would probably not want to be identified with signs pointing to a nearby town called Leek; nor would the makers of Easter eggs want to be identified with signs to Nuneaton.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, I extend my seasonal greetings to the House. There would be strict controls on any such scheme. Any logos on signs would need to be discreet, carefully positioned and such that they would not distract drivers. We recognise that people might have concerns about any such proposals and careful controls will therefore be applied.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, in addition to the interesting points just made, is the department prepared to consider the correct location of road signs so that they are helpful to motorists and pedestrians? Road signs can be very helpful if they are properly located.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the noble Lord makes an extremely important point. The location, visibility and clarity of signs are of primary importance in these road safety issues.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that many roads signs—I refer to the brown and white tourist signs—are already sponsored? All of them have to be paid for by the tourist attractions on instructions from the local road authorities.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, my noble friend is correct. I understand that brown and white tourist signs are paid for by the attractions to which they relate.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in our view this idea should not be lightly tossed aside but thrown away with great force, as Dorothy Parker once said? Where do we go next? Will Ministers be sponsored? Perhaps we may start with Eurostar sponsoring Mr. Portillo or McDonald's sponsoring Mr. John Selwyn Gummer.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, the noble Lord tempts me far. I can think of all kinds of companies that may wish to be associated with the success of the Government. Of course, we would not wish to have any conflicts of interest whatsoever. Serious points have been made with regard to these proposals. We do not wish to do anything to undermine road safety.

Viscount Addison

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that some months ago a statutory instrument was passed by the House which was one inch thick and contained coloured photographs and descriptions of how each road sign had to be measured from various distances and roundabouts? Every road sign throughout the country is already specified in terms of size and position.

Viscount Goschen

My Lords, we believe that in this country we have very good and clear signing. The reason for it is that the dimensions, details, locations and types of sign are closely controlled in the rules laid down.