Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1969 Jul 14 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

HC PQ [Roads]

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: House of Commons PQs
Venue: House of Commons
Source: Hansard HC [787/1-30]
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Around 1430-1530. MT spoke at cc8, 21, 23, 27-28.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 10389
Themes: Public spending & borrowing, Taxation, Transport
[column 1]


Speed Limits and Road Signs (Metrication)

1. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now give an estimate of the total cost of changing speed limit and other signs relating to distances and dimensions when the metric system is adopted.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Richard Marsh)

I cannot at present add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member on 21st April. Until we have completed our consultations with interested bodies, I shall not be able to make a firm estimate of the total cost of converting these signs to the metric system.—[Vol. 782, c. 20–21.]

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister appreciate that there is some public feeling against the cost of changing the signs? [column 2]If his mind is made up over land miles, will he be certain that he does not introduce a system of metric nautical chart, which will further add to the cost and confusion?

Mr. Marsh

I am almost certain that the question of nautical miles will not be within my responsibility. The problem with road signs is that, given the background of the decision to go metric, it would be almost impossible to have one set of measurements in imperial measure.

Road Bridge, Defford

7. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware of the dangers to road traffic and pedestrians at the single line traffic road bridge carrying the A440 over the Birmingham-Bristol main railway line at Defford, Worcestershire; and, in view of the fact that improvement was approved for road double tracking and widening some while ago, whether he will now sanction the necessary expenditure for remedial works in 1969–70.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Bob Brown)

We are aware of the situation on this principal road, but the proposed improvement has not sufficient priority to be undertaken for some time.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that trains are now passing beneath this hump-back, single-track road bridge at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour and that there is very little protection to prevent vehicles [column 3]going over on to the railway line? Does he appreciate that unless he takes some remedial action pretty soon there may well be an appalling accident here?

Mr. Brown

I cannot go any further than I have already gone. The county council clearly feels that other schemes for road programmes for this vear are far more urgent than this one.

Hull-Beverley Trunk Road

8. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport why the Beverley ring road was included in the Humberside Feasibility Study; why the study did not cover the new Hull-Beverley trunk road which was originally planned some 20 years ago; and if he will make a further statement on his proposals for this trunk road.

Mr. Bob Brown

The Humberside Study prepared by the Central Unit for Environmental Planning took account of both the planned diversion of the Hull-Beverley trunk road and the related Southern bypass of Beverley. There have been no further developments on these schemes since my Answer to the hon. Member on 9th June, 1969.—[Vol. 784 c. 179.]

Mr. Wall

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the new trunk road from Beverley is not shown? Can he say when he expects this trunk road to be built, because without it a ring road is useless?

Mr. Brown

There is some misunderstanding on this question, because there was no ring road as such envisaged. A principal road link between A1079 and the A164 north west of the town is in preparation for the early seventies at an estimated cost of £400,000. Work will start on a short eastern bypass from Figham to Groveshill later this year at an estimate cost of £120,000. Both schemes are the responsibility of the East Riding County Council.

Humber Bridge

9. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a further statement on the development of preparatory work necessary prior to the start of the construction of the Humber Bridge.

Mr. Bob Brown

The Humber Bridge Board, which is responsible for [column 4]the design and construction of the bridge, met last week and decided to instruct its consulting engineers to carry out detailed design and prepare estimates.

Mr. Wall

While welcoming the Government's decision about the bridge and to re-examine the road network, could the hon. Gentleman say something about the financing of the preliminary work on the bridge and the construction of the bridge itself?

Mr. Brown

The bridge will be financed by a loan to be repaid from toll revenue. No Government grant is envisaged.

Sir C. Osborne

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Lindsey County Council is utterly opposed to the building of the bridge until the roads between Grimsby and Immingham to the Midlands have been completed? Would he please bear in mind the representations of this local authority?

Mr. Brown

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that we will bear these representations in mind.

North Orbital Extension


11. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects the public inquiry on the North Orbital extension in Hertfordshire to take place.

Mr. Bob Brown

Later this year.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that this inquiry should have been held last September? Does this delay represent a possible change of heart on the part of the Government, or will my hon. Friend honour the pledge given to me by the late Mr. Stephen Swingler when he was Minister of State, namely, that there would be no shelving of the project and that the North Orbital extension would be built in any event, whatever happened to the ‘D’ ring road?

Mr. Brown

I thought that I had made this point quite clear the last time I answered a Question on the subject. The reason for the delay is that we have had to await completion of a traffic survey. This data is now being analysed and evaluated. I emphasise that there is nothing which indicates that we have departed from our intentions.

[column 5]

M6 (Great Barr Interchange)

20. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Minister of Transport when the Great Barr interchange on the M6 will open; and when the full dualing and flyover schemes between this interchange and the Birmingham city centre on the A34 will be completed.

Mr. Bob Brown

The Great Barr interchange and the dualing of A34 from the interchange to Birmingham City boundary should be completed by mid 1970. Responsibility for the improvement of A34 from the city boundary to the city centre rests with the local highway authority. Much work on the provision of dual carriageways and of grade separation has either been completed already or will be completed during 1970; the remainder, apart from a length of ½ mile from Newton Row to Lancaster Place, is programmed but is unlikely to be ready before late 1971.

Mr. Price

Does not my hon. Friend realise that this road is already one of the worst congested in Birmingham at peak hours? When the whole of the south-bound traffic of the M6 is poured into it, this will make it particularly difficult. What is he doing to close the 18-month gap between the plans for the A34 and the M6 which he has now revealed?

Mr. Brown

We are proposing to absorb traffic off the M6 into Birmingham without an intolerable over-load on the A34 by three means. First, traffic for the north-west, west and south-west of Birmingham will be diverted at Ray Hall junction to convenient exits on the M5. Secondly, if the need is demonstrated, traffic for the city centre could be temporarily diverted via M5 and A41 to avoid congestion on the A34. Thirdly, further relief will be afforded about mid-1971 when the Gravelly Hill interchange and part of the Aston expressway are open to traffic.

Road Works (Disturbances)

22. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Minister of Transport if he will take steps to insert special provisions in contracts let for motorways in urban areas to reduce to a minimum disturbance to local residents caused by dust and alterations to the subterranean water level.

[column 6]

Mr. Bob Brown

As explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Horner) in reply to his Question on 6th March, all roadworks contracts let by or on behalf of the Department, already contain provisions covering these matters. Much as I regret it, roadworks of the magnitude now taking place in the Birmingham area must inevitably cause some disturbance. But if my hon. Friend has information that the degree of disturbance at any particular place is unnecessary I will gladly look into the matter.—[Vol. 779; c. 167–168.]

Mr. Price

Will my hon. Friend accept that “some disturbance” is a considerable under-statement when applied to what is happening in part of my constituency, where the speed at which lorries used in the construction of the motorways travel causes so much dust that many of my constituents have to wash their curtains and furnishing fabrics every other day in order to keep them clean? Will he look into this matter to see whether water-spraying could be tried to keep the dust down?

Mr. Brown

My hon. Friend and I have had considerable correspondence on this matter. It is my impression that the contractors are doing everything possible to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the residents, particularly near the “prefabs” in this area. I assure him that we will certainly have another look to see whether it is possible by water-spraying to minimise nuisance.

“Give Way” Signs

28. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the increase in the number of serious accidents now taking place at crossroads marked with “Give Way” signs where previously there were “Halt” signs; and if he will reconsider his general policy over “Give Way” signs.

Mr. Bob Brown

Preliminary results of a limited survey in Warwickshire indicated no worsening of the position at T junctions but a substantial increase in accidents at some crossroads. The sample was small and we are now looking carefully at the results and particularly the nature of the sites concerned to see whether other factors—such as siting of signs—are involved.

[column 7]

Mr. Smith

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it would be suicidal to do anything other than stop at most “Give Way” signs, as many people have unfortunately found to their cost? In the circumstances, can the hon. Gentleman say what are the advantages of the “Give Way” signs? Why cannot we go back to the older and much more safe “Halt” notices? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.” ]

Mr. Brown

If the survey is anything to go by, clearly motorists have not got the message that in many circumstances it is suicidal to do anything other than halt at “Give Way” signs. [Hon. Members: “Then why not say ‘Halt’?” ] I do not think that at this point in time, on this small survey, it is reasonable to talk about altering policy. Clearly we must have a lot more investigation of the subject.

Road Building Programme

32. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is now taking to ensure that the planned programme of road building in the current financial year will be implemented.

62. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement about progress in implementing the planned programme of road building.

Mr. Marsh

The greater part of this programme consists of schemes already in progress. The remainder, expected to start during the year, are subject to some factors not entirely under my control, such as the completion of statutory procedures or receipt of satisfactory tenders. Motorway and trunk road schemes are continuously monitored by critical path and other analytical techniques and any possible corrective action is taken. Principal road schemes are similarly monitored but responsibility for them rests primarily with the local authorities.

Mr. Taylor

Is the Minister aware that when I raised this Question on 14th April I drew his attention to the fact that over the last five years we had lost about £60 million of road building because of administrative slippage, and he referred to new controls being brought into effect? Can he say what these new controls are and how effective he thinks they will be?

[column 8]

Mr. Marsh

This is largely a question of critical path and road network analysis. As I said when the hon. Member asked the Question before, we do not think this has been a programme as overoptimistic as last year's was, and I have no reason to believe that it will not be met.

Mr. Ridsdale

In Essex the Government are spending half of what they spent on highways in 1964–65. Will he make sure, in implementing this year's programme in Essex, that there will be no delay?

Mr. Marsh

I am sorry indeed about the position in Essex. It may, of course, be to some extent due to the fact that the Government are spending twice as much nationally as the previous Government were in 1964.

Mr. Eadie

Would my right hon. Friend care to give the House the record of the building programme of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, compared with the building programme of this Government?

Mr. Marsh

I am sorry, but it is impossible to hear what my hon. Friend is saying.

Mr. Eadie

I asked my right hon. Friend if he would care to give the House the record of the road building programme of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite compared with the road building programme of this Government.

Mr. Marsh

I think it would be a source of depression for everybody here present to give the programme of hon. and right hon. Members opposite—[Hon. Members: “No.” ]—but the fact is that the present Government's record, compared with that of the party opposite, is that it is six times as large as that of ten years ago and twice as high as when that party left office.

Mrs. Thatcher

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept also that this Government's record on road taxation is that it is three times as much?

Mr. Marsh

Well, as the hon. Lady will be very well aware, there has been no real relationship between road taxation and road expenditure since a right hon. Member on the benches opposite changed the system—I think, in 1936.

[column 9]

Mr. Ridsdale

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply I give notice that I will raise the question on the Adjournment.

A229 Accidents (Chatham-Maidstone)

34. Mr. John Wells

asked the Minister of Transport how many accidents have taken place on the A229 Chatham to Maidstone road in the last two years; and how many of them were at substantially the same place as previous accidents.

Mr. Bob Brown

In the two years up to 30th April, 1969, there were 72 personal injury accidents on the A229 between Chatham and Maidstone. Fifty-one of them were at substantially the same places as previous accidents.

Mr. Wells

Is the Minister aware that this shows virtually no improvement since the time I asked this Question just over two years ago, and that the hon. Gentleman's predecessor at least had the grace to promise that there would be some improvement? This, surely, has not taken place. Will this Minister now take steps to do something?

Mr. Brown

I would remind the hon. Member that the highway authority for this road is Kent County Council. This is a principal road and the council is the responsible authority for it.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Tories wrong again.

Mossley Crossroads

35. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the numerous accidents at Mossley crossroads, if he will provide adequate warning signs at the junction.

Mr. Bob Brown

Signs and safety measures at this junction are primarily matters for Cheshire County Council as highway authority. Warning signs are already provided. I understand the Council is considering other improvements.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the Minister aware that what he said just now is not good enough? The town clerk of Congleton Council wrote to the Minister in January, 1967. There was a fatal accident at this crossroads as recently as Whitsun. What thought has he given to this? Will he consider realigning the [column 10]road, or having a one-way system, or traffic lights? How many fatal accidents have there got to be before something is done?

Mr. Brown

I will not refer to the recent fatal accident because that is sub judice. The Ministry's divisional road engineer suggested improvements to visibility at both corners of Reades Lane, and I understand that the county council is now considering possible major road improvements and an application of traffic management techniques.

A4 (Maidenhead-Reading)

38. Mr. van Straubenzee

asked the Minister of Transport what action he is taking upon recommendations made by the county surveyor of Berkshire County Council in relation to conditions on the A4 between Maidenhead and Reading.

Mr. Bob Brown

The county surveyor has reported on conditions on the A4 between Maidenhead Thicket and the Wiltshire boundary. Recommendations for improving signs and carriageway markings between Maidenhead and Reading will be implemented as soon as possible; consideration is being given to his other recommendations on this length.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, by common consent, this is an excessively dangerous stretch of a very dangerous road, and that this report deals with a number of very useful and practical things? Would he be so good as to speed up consideration of the recommendations, because the words “as soon as possible” do strike iron into the soul?

Mr. Brown

I would not disagree with the earlier part of the supplementary question. I would say of the report that it is extremely comprehensive and very detailed, and, clearly, it is going to be necessary to give it some careful consideration. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be no delay at all in taking a decision.

M1 (Safety Fences)

41. Mr. Dudley Smith

asked the Minister of Transport on what criteria crash barriers are being erected along a short section of the M1 motorway between Luton and Hemel Hempstead but not on other similar sections of the motorway.

[column 11]

Mr. Bob Brown

On that section of M1 the particular road conditions and high volume of traffic now justify the use of safety fences within the terms of our present policy. We are reviewing the criteria and will consider in due course whether safety fences should be installed on other lengths.

Mr. Smith

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there are far more accidents of the cross-over variety in the 7 miles north of the Newport Pagnell service area than there are between Luton and Hemel Hempstead? Does not he think that this stretch should be given greater priority than the area mentioned in the Question?

Mr. Brown

I cannot comment on the fact quoted by the hon. Member. We shall have to consider to what extent the new criteria are met before barriers are installed. We must, of course, be satisfied that this is the best possible use of our limited resources.

Trunk Road Schemes

(Intermediate Areas)

47. Mr. Hooley

asked the Minister of Transport what priority is to be given to intermediate areas, particularly the South Yorkshire coalfield, in the trunk road schemes which form part of the recently announced £200 million rolling programme.

Mr. Bob Brown

Schemes announced for preparation will be considered for a place in the road programme when their preparation has reached a stage at which their costs and benefits can be assessed in detail and their relative priority determined. This will apply equally to schemes in the intermediate areas, including those in the South Yorkshire coalfield.

Mr. Hooley

Does not my hon. Friend think that the intermediate areas deserve something more than “equally” , and will he consider giving them priority, since communications are an essential feature of setting up economic activity in these areas?

Mr. Brown

We can give priority only if the schemes in those areas attract high priority, taking account of all the benefits that they offer.

[column 12]

Motorway Fences (Home Grown Timber)

49. Earl of Dalkeith

asked the Minister of Transport what is the average price per cubic foot delivered of imported and home grown timber, respectively, currently being used in motorway fencing programmes; and what steps he is taking to assist the balance of payments problems by increasing the use of home grown timber above the level of 28 per cent. of the present consumption figure.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Neil Carmichael)

Current average prices per linear yard erected on site are 20s. 6d. and 22s. 6d. respectively. The aim of Government contracting is to obtain the best value for money. To discriminate against imported timber would be contrary to our international trade obligations.

Earl of Dalkeith

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that there is a considerable quantity of timber available for use for this purpose and that it would obviously be in the national interest to make further use of it than has been made hitherto?

Mr. Carmichael

Where the price is right home grown timber get preference, but when on a large outlay there is a difference of 2s. per linear yard and where international trade obligations apply it is difficult to discriminate totally in favour of home timber.


Channel Tunnel

2. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Transport if he will now make a statement on the selection of sites for the Channel Tunnel termini.

Mr. Marsh

I hope to do so soon.

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister appreciate that he wrote to me on 8th December last year saying he would hold an inquiry to settle not whether there should be a Channel tunnel but where the terminal would be should one be built? Does he realise that a good deal of concern has been caused by the lack of a decision?

[column 13]

Mr. Marsh

I appreciate the difficulties. On the other hand, with a decision such as this, it is important that various bodies are properly consulted. We have had helpful advice and consultations. That is why I say that we hope to make an announcement fairly soon.

Imported Motor Vehicles (Safety)

4. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of the public, in view of defects in foreign cars particularly those of Japanese makes; and if he will take steps to ensure that no new foreign cars are sold in Great Britain until they have passed a comprehensive road safety test and the makers assure his Department that adequate servicing arrangements are available to minimise accident risk.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to ensure that all Japanese manufactured cars imported into the United Kingdom conform with all United Kingdom safety regulations.

Mr. Bob Brown

All United Kingdom manufactured vehicles and those imported must comply with United Kingdom safety regulations. In the rare cases where they do not our engineers immediately take corrective action with the manufacturers. Other defects which only come to light after a vehicle has been in use for some time would not be detected by the tests suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. Friend agree that when defects are found very long delay is caused to the purchasers in this country because of the inefficient servicing of such cars? Does he not feel that far more stringent tests are necessary on imported cars to bring them anywhere near the standards normally accepted by British motor manufacturers?

Mr. Brown

There is no evidence which leads us to believe that Japanese cars in use in this country are any less safe than any other vehicle. In the past, defects have been found in vehicles made by various motor manufacturers throughout the world. These defects have been put right at source for future production, [column 14]and manufacturers' agents in foreign countries have dealt with the defects of the exported vehicles.

Mr. Hamilton

Is it not the case that in Japan a good many cars of Japanese make have been sent back to the manufacturers because they are unsafe? Has the Ministry given any special advice or guidance to owners or prospective owners of Japanese cars in this country to make sure that they are completely road-worthy and safe?

Mr. Brown

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to the Honda baby car. There are very few such cars in use in this country. No defects have been discovered in them in our spot checks. We are watching carefully the action of the Japanese Ministry of Transport and the manufacturers.

Sir G. Nabarro

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that British motor cars entering the United States must conform to very, very high safety standards? Can he give an assurance that Japanese cars entering this country must conform to equally high standards as those applicable to British cars in the United States?

Mr. Brown

We are considering this matter in relation to the general question of the international harmonisation of vehicle safety standards. I emphasise that there is no evidence to suggest that foreign vehicles are any less safe than United Kingdom manufactured vehicles. Any special measures aimed at foreign vehicles could bring retaliation against vehicles manufactured in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Would the hon. Gentleman explain why the Ministry is still only considering this matter when the United States has long since taken action enforcing high safety standards which could have had appalling effects on British exporters if they had not reacted as they did? Why should not Japanese exporters be expected to comply with similar regulations introduced in this country?

Mr. Brown

We constantly have this question under discussion with our E.E.C. colleagues. I have already indicated that we are considering this matter in relation to general harmonisation. I do not want to go any further than that now.

[column 15]

Breathalyser Tests

6. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is aware that the Sheriff Court of Falkirk and the Sheriff Court of Stirling recently gave mutually contradictory rulings in breathalyser cases; and whether, in view of the importance of drink and driving in motoring legislation, he will now introduce amending legislation to ensure that no motorist is formally arrested before a blood or urine test; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Marsh

I understand that these cases are both under appeal, so I am unable to comment on them.

Sir G. Nabarro

Would the Minister after three years of breathalyser legislation, of which I am a strong supporter, undertake to examine the inconsistencies and anomalies which have now arisen in all parts of the country—Scotland as well as England—with a view to amending legislation as necessary in the next Session of Parliament?

Mr. Marsh

The breathalyser at present is having a very good effect in holding down accidents and in making considerable reductions in the accident figures. If at any time I felt that it was necessary to change the law because it was being interpreted differently from the way in which the House intended, I would most certainly ask my colleagues to consider this.

British Waterways Board

(Boating Centres)

10. Mr. Berry

asked the Minister of Transport how many marinas are scheduled for construction by the British Waterways Board; what is the estimated cost of these; and which schemes at what cost have been approved by him.

Mr. Carmichael

The Board tells me it is in the early stages of planning the development of three major boating centres and that the furthest advanced of these projects may cost less than £60,000. No estimates have yet been settled for the others. The answer to the third part of the Question is “None, Sir” .

Mr. Berry

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that as these marinas are [column 16]urgently needed and private investors are keen to build them, and as the cost to the British Waterways Board would involve a loan and interest thereon, would it not be better to concentrate the Board's money on the improvement of the waterways themselves, such as the Ashton and Lower Peak Forest Canals?

Mr. Carmichael

The waterways are supported by very generous Government subsidies and any consequential opportunities for profitable business should, in the public interest, be open to public as well as private enterprise.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that if it is possible to raise private capital to finance these projects, as there is such desperate pressure on all forms of public expenditure, it would be wise to let private capital be used for such purposes?

Mr. Carmichael

Of course it would. The British Waterways Board is considering a number of joint ventures with private capital. There is no question of shutting private capital out. It is just that where there is an opportunity for public money to be increased by investment in such things as these marinas, then advantage should be taken of such opportunity.

Articulated Lorries (Jack-knifing)

12. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Minister of Transport how far research has progressed in the field of possible devices on articulated lorries to avoid jack-knifing.

Mr. Bob Brown

Research into possible devices on articulated vehicles to prevent jack-knifing is still being carried out. Such devices are at present undergoing trials in field conditions, but it is too early to say what the results will be.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will my hon. Friend follow up these researches diligently? Is he aware that there are an increasing number of accidents by jack-knifing of these articulated vehicles, many of them travelling greatly in excess of the speed limit? Would he at least assure the House that if this goes on he will consider legislation providing for far greater penalties than those at present?

Mr. Brown

The question of articulated lorries or any other vehicles exceeding the [column 17]speed limit is not one for me. I would add that a sample survey by the Road Research Laboratory shows that there is very little difference in terms of accidents between articulated vehicles and other large goods vehicles. The articulated vehicles are marginally better on motorways, while the situation is reversed on other roads. National statistics have not been kept separately, but we are keeping them now and will have them available later this year.

Vehicle Testing Station, Livingston

13. Mr. Eadie

asked the Minister of Transport what was the total cost of siting, building and equipping the vehicle testing station at the new town of Livingston, Midlothian; and how many are to be employed there.

Mr. Carmichael

The estimated total cost is £133,400; ultimately 20 are to be employed there.

Mr. Eadie

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that due consideration has been given to the expected build-up of population in the new towns and the consequential increase in vehicles serving the area?

Mr. Carmichael

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is speaking of the traffic difficulties or the capacity of the station. There are difficulties about recruiting staff in this area because of the vehicle factory at Bathgate, but once fully manned the station will have sufficient capacity to handle all the vehicles that will be coming. I am informed that there is not likely to be any noticeable increase in traffic on the roads.

Driving Tests (Midlothian)

14. Mr. Eadie

asked the Minister of Transport what is the waiting period involved for applicants in the county of Midlothian who desire to take a test of competence to drive a motor vehicle.

Mr. Carmichael

On average four weeks.

Mr. Eadie

Can my hon. Friend assure the House that Midlothian is not treated less favourably in these waiting periods compared with other parts of the country?

[column 18]

Mr. Carmichael

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. The national average is about five weeks. We have discovered that in practice most people like a period of about four weeks so that they have warning of the test. It is frequently possible to arrange an earlier test if that is urgently required.

Motor Cars (Safety Device)

15. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport what studies his Department has made of the device called the air bag designed to minimise the damaging effects of concussion in motor car collisions and other accidents; and what steps he plans to encourage its use.

Mr. Bob Brown

The Department is carrying out an assessment of the effectiveness of the air bag restraint system in motor car collisions. Whether we plan any steps to encourage its use will depend on the result of this assessment and of any further development of the system that may be achieved.

Mr. Hughes

Are these studies mentioned in my Question directed towards elaborating that device or towards substituting a different device? If it is the latter, what is that device? This is a matter of life and death to the people on the roads.

Mr. Brown

I cannot comment in detail on that, but if the additional advantages of the system justify the additional cost my right hon. Friend will consider the compulsory fitting of these devices.

Merseyside Land Use and Transportation Study

23. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Transport what are his plans for implementing the Merseyside Area Land Use and Transportation Study Report.

Mr. Marsh

I welcome this Report, and I am giving urgent consideration to the recommendations on immediate priorities for new highway and public transport construction. The initiative for taking up the bulk of the recommendations lies of course with the local authorities and other bodies on Merseyside.

Mr. Tilney

Will the Minister bear in mind that it is estimated the rail terminal [column 19]loop scheme would take 9,000 people from the buses on to the rail and, possibly, give a return of 17 per cent. on capital employed?

Mr. Marsh

I am anxious that preparatory work should go ahead as rapidly as possible. If the scheme goes ahead, a decision would have to be taken in conjunction with the passenger transport authority and British Railways.

24. Mr. Tilney

asked the Minister of Transport what are his plans for a bridge across the Mersey now that the Merseyside Area Land Use and Transportation Study Report is available.

Mr. Bob Brown

The Report proposes a bridge, but not as a first priority and it would be premature to be making plans now.

Mr. Tilney

Will the Minister bear in mind that instead of the bridge from Aigburth over to Bebington it might be cheaper to have a low-level one south-east of the Garston docks and rising over the Manchester Ship Canal?

Mr. Brown

Present indications are that the site of the bridge would probably be between Bromborough and Aigburth, but this of course would require further study.

Mr. Fortescue

In examining any proposal for a bridge from Aigburth, which is in my constituency, will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary take good care to consider the effect that it might have on the deep-water channel from the mouth of the Mersey to Garston docks, also in my constituency?

Mr. Brown

I assure the hon. Gentleman that provision for navigation will be duly taken into account in the design of the bridge.

Mr. Heffer

Is my hon. Friend aware that for many years people in Liverpool, through the city council and other bodies, have been urging the establishment of such a bridge? Is it not possible to erect such a bridge taking into account the point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Fortescue)? There are such bridges in existence at San Francisco and other places.

Mr. Brown

This brings us on to the programme. No decision is possible at this point in time. The scheme will even[column 20]tually be programmed for an appropriate year. This will be determined on the basis of traffic needs and the resources available for construction.

Goods Vehicles

(Safe Loading)

29. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce a code of practice to secure the safer loading of road goods vehicles, especially where bulky loads are concerned.

Mr. Carmichael

There are already general regulations on safe loading which are regularly enforced. We are currently participating in the drafting of a European code of practice which will give detailed advice to operators.

Mr. Atkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that, despite the regulations to which he refers, there are a large number of fatal accidents resulting from the insecure loading of lorries, including one last month in Maryport, Cumberland, where four people were killed when 15-ft. logs fell off a lorry on to a bus? Is it not shocking that this state of affairs should be allowed to continue?

Mr. Carmichael

That is one of the reasons why we are participating in the drafting of a European code. Bearing in mind the number of vehicles on the roads—I do not want to appear to be lacking in thought about this—the police seem to consider that the existing provisions are sufficient and that enforcement would be more difficult if methods of loading were specified in regulations. There are 5,500 convictions a year for unsafe loading of vehicles.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Would not my hon. Friend agree that, although 5,500 may seem a significant figure, many of us on this side would be happier if the figure were twice that, or 11,000? We can talk until we are blue in the face about the European code. Let us have a British code first and save lives.

Mr. Carmichael

There are British regulations. My hon. Friend seems to feel there should be more convictions. I think he should address his question to the Home Secretary, because he is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations; but we understand that the police are agreed that the existing codes are sufficient.

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Mrs. Thatcher

Could N. Carmichaelthe Joint Parliamentary Secretary say whether convictions have been increasing in recent years and give us some yardstick by which to judge last year's convictions?

Mr. Carmichael

I am sorry, but without notice I cannot give the hon. Lady that answer.

Transport Act, 1968


37. Mr. Gardner

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made with the implementation of those sections of the Transport Act, 1968, dealing with passenger transport and road haulage; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marsh

The sections of the Act dealing with passenger transport and road haulage contain a great many provisions and most of them are in course of implementation or have already been implemented.

Mr. Gardner

Yes, but is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite the rather silly views of the motoring organisations and the Road Haulage Association, and, indeed, of some hon. Ladies and Gentlemen opposite, the fact is that Britain, and particularly London, is very quickly grinding to a halt? Will he, therefore, seek to implement as quickly as possible those sections which will enable to take place the transfer of passengers to public transport and goods to rail?

Mr. Marsh

Well, of course, the public transport authorities provisions in the Act do not apply to London which is dealt with in a different way, in the London Transport Bill which is going through in another place at the moment.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

Would not the Minister accept the agreement of hon. Members on this side of the House with his failure to implement those parts of the Transport Act which were bitterly opposed by the Opposition, and particularly, what is quite right, his failure to implement the quantity licensing provisions?

Mr. Marsh

No, Sir. As I remember it, the Opposition opposed everything in the Transport Bill, including those things which were welcomed by most of the rest of the country. As to quantity licensing, it was always said, and it was said in the [column 22]White Paper, that we would not bring it in till the freightliners had developed sufficiently to justify its introduction.

V.T.20 Test Certificates

40. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the 88 prosecutions which took place in England and Wales during 1968 for the issuing of false Ministry of Transport V.T.20 test certificates, he is satisfied that the scheme is working effectively; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Carmichael

With over 23,000 approved garages issuing some 8 million certificates annually, there are inevitably some who do not measure up to the required standards. Measures have been introduced to raise standards, and we are keeping a close watch on the situation.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Although I appreciate the difficulties of discovering who issues false certificates and who does not, 88 prosecutions in England and Wales is a pitifully small number. I am concerned here with second-hand car buyers, and I wonder whether we need either more inspectors or a second-hand car test for cars that are put on sale. Has the Ministry thought about this?

Mr. Carmichael

I will draw the second point raised by the hon. Gentleman to the attention of my right hon. Friend. There are other methods besides prosecution; for instance, the withdrawal of appointment, which is a very severe punishment for many garages. Last year there were 195 withdrawals for the improper issue of certificates, and more than 2,300 withdrawals for other reasons.

Commercial Vehicles

(Parking Facilities)

42. Mr. Archer

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will take steps to ensure that there is provided in every industrial town parking facilities for commercial vehicles within reasonable distance of lodging accommodation.

Mr. Carmichael

The provision of parking space for commercial vehicles is a matter for the local authorities. We consider lorry parks highly desirable in the interests of local amenity and safety and are taking every opportunity of encouraging their provision.

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Mr. Archer

I thank my hon. Friend for the latter part of his Answer, but is he aware that the lack of facilities is not merely a serious inconvenience to lorry drivers but frequently leads to the parking of vehicles where they are a nuisance to residents? Has he no powers of persuasion in this matter?

Mr. Carmichael

My right hon. Friend has powers of discussion which frequently lead to the persuasion of local authorities. He is having discussions with local authorities at traffic seminars throughout the country. Local authorities are now I think fully apprised from the practical point of view of streets being overcrowded and of the necessity for having parking facilities for lorries.


(Rear Lighting)

46. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will now lay before the House revised regulations for the rear lighting of lorries.

Mr. Carmichael

Present lighting equipment is, in general, adequate and we have already made regulations requiring improved reflectors for new vehicles from next year. We are now completing proposals, in consultation with manufacturers and users, for conspicuous marker plates for larger vehicles in reflectorised and fluorescent material, and we shall lay regulations on these as soon as technical details can be settled.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Minister aware that when I asked this question about three months ago he said that consideration was being given to this matter and that new regulations would be laid? Would not it be a good idea for the regulations to be laid before the winter, because many lorries using motorways are inadequately lit and this leads to accidents?

Mr. Carmichael

Yes, this is a very important point. Difficulties exist in fitting plates to the large range of vehicles involved, and we are considering ways of resolving the difficulties before making final proposals.

Mrs. Thatcher

Will the regulations include compulsory brake lights, because many of us think these are as important as extra reflectors?

Mr. Carmichael

I would like notice of this Question. I was under the im[column 24]pression that this was the case. Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow me to write to her on this matter.

Advanced Driving Instructors


50. Mr. Hiley

asked the Minister of Transport if he will seek to amend the law so as to exclude from registration teachers of advanced driving.

Mr. Bob Brown

No, Sir. There is no justification on road safety grounds for excluding teachers of advanced driving from the registration requirements which apply to other driving instructors.

Mr. Hiley

Does the Minister realise the difference in function between a teacher of advanced motoring and an instructor who merely provides tuition for those who require a licence? Surely the fact that the advanced driver as such has already obtained his qualification should be sufficient to ensure that he will be allowed to carry on his job without further registration.

Mr. Bob Brown

The hon. Gentleman does not quite understand the situation. The existing driving instructor now giving advanced driving instruction has not necessarily the qualifications needed for registration. The object of registration is to improve driving standards through better tuition. The principles of road safety are the same for all drivers and instructors at whatever level. It is these that form the subject of the examination.


Fleet Line Extension (South-East London)

3. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has now received proposals for the extension of the Fleet Line into South-East London; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marsh

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend on 9th June.—[Vol. 784; c. 941.]

Mr. Moyle

Would my right hon. Friend confirm that when he answered the Question last time he said that proposals were expected in a few weeks? Can he give an estimate as to when the [column 25]proposals are likely to be laid before him, and can he give any idea of what is holding them up?

Mr. Marsh

I cannot make a statement at the moment as to when they will be put before me, because it is for the London Transport Board to put them before me. I do not accept that they are being held up. Very substantial investment is involved. The social benefits of the scheme must be shown to outweigh the cost. When very big investments are involved, it is important that the right decisions are made.

Advanced Passenger Trains

(High Speed Travel)

5. Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Minister of Transport what study he has made of the development of computer-controlled 400 miles per hour underground vacuum trains with special reference to their safety, cleanliness and economy and their ability to link the centre of London to airports and far-distant commuter areas; and if he will take steps to set up an experimental gravity-vacuum tube section.

Mr. Carmichael

We know of this proposal but have not mounted any detailed studies or experiments at this stage.

Mr. Roberts

Would my hon. Friend accept that it is essential that we spend far more money on high speed ground transport and perhaps less on high speed air transport if the majority of the community is to benefit? Would he agree that it is only with high speed ground transport of this type that people can be taken to pleasant places like Wales or the East Anglian coast, or commute to Birmingham and even London?

Mr. Carmichael

I do not know why Scotland was missed out of that list. This is an interesting proposal, but there are many technical problems involved. We believe that the United Kingdom effort on surface transport should be devoted to the advance passenger train. There are feasibility studies going on at John Hopkins University on this new idea, but I understand that one of the technical problems is that the track alignment and smoothness would need to be 25 times greater than the Tokaido high speed line in Japan.

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Sir Knox Cunningham

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that any method of speeding up land transport would be greatly appreciated by the travelling public? Is he aware that it is very frustrating, after a 50 minute flight, to wait 40 minutes for baggage and another 30 minutes before reaching London?

Mr. Carmichael

This is why we are concentrating on the advance passenger train. The second part of the question is rather more specialised. There are other Questions down on the Order Paper dealing with travel from London Airport.

Heathrow Airport

(Rail Link)

27. Mr. Berry

asked the Minister of Transport when he will make a decision about rail and underground links with Heathrow Airport.

31. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a further statement on the various proposals he has received for a rail link with Heathrow Airport.

36. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Minister of Transport when he will announce a starting date for the construction of a fast rail link between Heathrow Airport and Central London.

Mr. Carmichael

We have received proposals for a surface rail link from Victoria to Heathrow and for an extension of the Piccadilly Line west of Hounslow. The traffic will not justify both. There are points still to be cleared up about the links and about the future of the airport coaches. My right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade are studying these and will reach a decision as soon as possible.

Mr. Berry

Although that represents a slight improvement on previous replies, does the hon. Gentleman realise the urgency of the problem? Within 10 years 30 million travellers will be using Heathrow Airport and it is vital to have this rail link as soon as possible, particularly bearing in mind that many people who today use London as their entry to Europe will very soon switch to Paris if proper facilities are not provided for them when they arrive at Heathrow?

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Mr. Carmichael

We appreciate the urgency, but there are several interested parties—the British Airports Authority, the airlines and British Railways, as well as the Ministry of Transport. We must get agreement among them all, because only one link would be financially viable and, therefore, we must settle for one. I agree that it is a very difficult problem. It is also a very difficult decision to take.

Mr. Atkins

Would not my hon. Friend agree that a British Railways link with Heathrow would be the best means of dealing with large numbers of passengers during rush hours and also provide means of carrying goods by rail?

Mr. Carmichael

The second part of that question would appear to some extent to defeat the purpose of the first part—that is, an exclusive link between Heathrow and Central London. The British Railways link would just be viable if an agreement could be reached to withdraw the airport coaches. If, however, the airport coaches continue to be used, as many airline companies wish, the link would not be viable. Unfortunately, our examination shows that no juggling of fares between coaches and rail would make the link viable unless there were fairly exclusive use.

Mr. Whitaker

Can my hon. Friend say when the talking will stop and when the action will start, in view of the fact that travel between the terminal and Heathrow takes longer than many flights and traffic congestion will become immeasurably worse during construction of the link?

Mr. Carmichael

I would be only too pleased if I could announce that the talking had stopped, but there are real problems. I have tried to indicate that a number of parties are involved. The decision on the link is so vital that we must have agreement with the parties. It would be all very nice if my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade could come down one way or the other, but they must satisfy the people involved.

Mrs. Thatcher

We all agree that the link is vital. Can the hon. Gentleman therefore give some hope of a date when a link will be completed? Can he also say how the finance will be done? Would [column 28]it have to be done off British Railways' very slender investment budget?

Mr. Carmichael

In reply to the last point, an allowance has been made in the recent investment figures of British Railways for work on this link. In reply to the question about a date, I should say also that London Transport has, as the hon. Lady will be aware, put forward a scheme for the extension of the Piccadilly Line. These two schemes must be examined. Both of them have certain points in their favour and certain disadvantages. I repeat that we must get agreement with the people who would be using the link.

Mr. Whitaker

In view of the less than usually satisfactory answer which I received, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again.

Capital Expenditure

33. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Transport what will be the estimated total amount of capital expenditure by British Railways in 1969; and by what percentage this figure exceeds or falls short of the 1964 actual capital spending figure at constant prices.

Mr. Carmichael

Rather less than £80 million. As my right hon. Friend said in his reply to the hon. Member on 3rd March, any direct comparison with earlier years is affected by the transfer, under the Transport Act, 1968, of some railway activities to the National Freight Corporation and the Scottish Transport Group. After taking account of the likely investment in these transferred activities, the overall reduction is now expected to be of the order of 23 per cent.—[Vol. 779, c. 18.]

Mr. Taylor

Is not the Minister ashamed of these figures, in which we have seen year by year a reduction in the amount of capital available to British Railways? Does not the Minister agree that the figures are woefully inadequate? Does he consider they will be adequate to enable British Railways to increase traffic and to increase revenue and to improve reliability and punctuality?

Mr. Carmichael

In present economic circumstances the British Railways Board is getting a fair share of national investment. It may interest hon. Members to know that railway investment per route [column 29]mile is higher in 1969 than it was in 1964—that is, there is now a more efficient and more rational rail system. Investment per mile is higher than it was when hon. Members opposite were in power.



39. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Minister of Transport what were the average figures for punctuality of trains in the three months before the report of the Central Transport Consultative Committee; and what are the comparable figures in the three months following that report.

Mr. Carmichael

As the answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not it time that the Ministry devoted attention to the unpunctuality of trains? Is the Minister aware that this is causing considerable inconvenience, particularly to commuters on the perimeter of London, and also in the North-East. When I write to the Minister about these matters and I am referred to the British Railways I get unsatisfactory answers. Will the right hon. Gentleman give this matter his personal attention?

Mr. Carmichael

Punctuality is a management question for British Railways. My right hon. Friend is greatly concerned about it, and discussions with [column 30]British Railways are held. I am aware of the most unfortunate and annoying week which my right hon. Friend had when he was a passenger in five trains which were all excessively late, I have read the correspondence, and the Chairman of British Railways went to some trouble to give my right hon. Friend details of why the series of incidents caused delay. But punctuality has been improving.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Does the Minister realise how general this problem is? Does he appreciate that in 1968 44 per cent. of all express trains and over 22 per cent. of all other trains did not arrive at the scheduled time? The Minister says that the figures are improving, but does not he appreciate that during the last four years they have been deteriorating?

Mr. Carmichael

If the hon. Gentleman will wait until the figures are published in the Official Report, he will see that there has been an improvement, although I would not say the improvement is sufficient to show an absolute change of direction. In reply to the supplementary question about the London area which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), the difficulty is that the commuter network is carrying far more traffic than it was ever designed to carry.

Following is the information: