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Road Safety (Poster)

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1954

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asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that advice which he gave to motorists concerning the use of alcoholic beverages has, on the advice of a national advertisers' association, been forbidden from being displayed by poster; and if, in the interest of the further advertisement of plans and conduct to secure road safety, he will make representations to all parties concerned that it is essential that his advice should receive the widest publicity.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

I am aware of the circumstances to which the hon. Member refers, but the advice in question has already received wide publicity. It will in any case be repeated when the new Highway Code is published.

On a point of order. While I appreciate the humour of the situation—[Hon. MEMBERS: "It is not humorous."]—is it in order and in accordance with the rules of the House to have posters displayed here?

I have previously ruled on this matter. It is desirable that hon. Members should not introduce into the Chamber any exhibit that they do not find necessary to their case. But I have not yet heard what the hon. Member has to say.

In view of the fact that the posters complained about were forbidden to be displayed in Birmingham, New Street, Station as a result of the intervention of the brewers, Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler, will the Minister consider the necessity for his Department to submit to the British Poster Advertising Association, whom Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler approached, that they should not interfere with the important job of bringing home the danger of alcohol on the roads, which this poster illustrates?

I am inclined to think that in raising this matter in the form of a Parliamentary Question the hon. Member has done as much as can be done to draw attention to this undoubted danger.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable public feeling on the question of censorship by an advertising organisation? Is he also aware that there is deep concern about accidents caused through drink by motorists? Will the hon. Gentleman not regard it as his duty not to make appeals about road safety unless he is prepared to take action?

The hon. Member must draw a distinction between what my right hon. Friend is doing to draw attention to this undoubted danger and any question of interfering with the code of conduct of the advertising profession. My right hon. Friend has already drawn attention to the great danger of alcohol in causing road accidents. In a message issued last year, the Minister of Transport said:

"Remember that alcohol blurs your judgment and slows your reactions."
This advice will be repeated in the new Highway Code, which is already available to hon. Members, but it is an entirely different matter to suggest that my right hon. Friend should interfere with the advertising profession, which has a rule that while it is proper to advertise certain products it is improper to criticise others.

On a point of order. That statement made by the Minister is precisely the statement which was forbidden from being shown on New Street Station.

That is not a point of order for me. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue it further, he ought to give notice to raise it in some other form.

Is the Minister aware that the distillers, brewers and the wine merchants are as anxious as anybody else that alcohol should never be a contributing factor to accidents?

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that he is chairman of the Road Safety Committee, a job that many of us have held, and does he not think it would be within his powers to see the national advertisers' association to discuss this matter with them, as public opinion is overwhelmingly against those who drink and then drive? Should he not be pursuing that end?

I entirely agree that public opinion is much disturbed about the matter of accidents in which drink may be a contributory cause, but anything we can do properly to reduce accidents caused in this way we shall certainly do. I do not think, however, that it is my job to interfere or attempt to interfere with the rules of the advertising profession which have been applied in this case as they have been applied in every other case.

I beg to give notice that, on the first occasion that I can, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.