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Commons Chamber

Volume 708: debated on Wednesday 10 March 1965

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 10th March, 1965

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

New Writ

For Abertillery, in the room of Llywelyn Williams, esquire, deceased.—[ Mr. Short.]

Oral Answers To Questions

Roads

Intersections (Parking Restrictions)

1.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will arrange for the compulsory marking of all road intersections, with a view to preventing parking on areas so restricted.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport
(Mr. Stephen Swingler)

The need for such markings is being considered by a working party set up to examine the law of obstruction on roads. Its report is expected shortly, and we will consider this proposal in the light of it.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the marking of a limited number of intersections is not likely to discipline the whole motoring population into refraining from parking at intersections, the essential thing being to have every intersection so marked?

We recognise that the present position is not satisfactory and not consistent but, having a working party which includes representatives of the police, the Home Office and the Ministry of Transport, we feel that we should await the report, which is expected very soon and on which we shall take action.

East Anglia (East-West Route)

2.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has for the construction of a dual-carriage highway, following the general route of the A.45, east to west across East Anglia.

Our long-term plan is to improve the existing road generally to dual carriageway standards with bypasses as required.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that very little is to be gained by tackling this problem with a series of small bypasses to assist various towns along the way? What is really needed is for the Minister to think big in this matter so that we have a highway which will connect the industrial Midlands with the East Coast ports.

Our job is to think in terms of traffic volumes on the roads and the requirements in terms of modern transport needs. These roads are being brought up to standard in accordance with the evidence of traffic volume that we have. As the hon. Member knows, a considerable number of schemes are now in hand.

3.

asked the Minister of Transport if, in view of the congestion in the Port of London, he will improve the roads leading to Harwich, Ipswich, Yarmouth and King's Lynn, thus providing better facilities for Midlands industrialists to export and import to and from Western Europe.

4.

asked the Minister of Transport if, in view of the congestion in the Port of London, he will improve the road leading to Harwich to help Midlands industrialists and others who export to and import from Western Europe.

Improvements of these roads are being carried out as funds permit at places where the greatest benefit will be obtained.

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we have, in recent months, seen some of the difficulties that arise as a result of the funnelling of so much of our export trade from the industrial Midlands through the Port of London? Would not the hon. Gentleman consider that a great deal might be gained by diverting some of this traffic, particularly that which goes to the Common Market countries and into the valley of the Rhine? Would it not be an improvement if some of this traffic were encouraged to go on an east-west route through the developing ports of Ipswich and Harwich, which would ease congestion in London and make for much more effective shipment of our exports to the European nations?

We want to see a better distribution of traffic between the ports and also to see not only the roads but the railways better used, especially in East Anglia, to this effect.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the roads leading to Harwich are becoming a vital artery for our exports and that motor traffic on them, in terms of export value, has increased from £50 million to £300 million in the last few years? A lot of this traffic consists of caravans and car transporters, and we shall have a fatal accident very soon in our narrow country lanes along which this transport has to go. Will the hon. Gentleman's Department do something about it?

Something is being done about it. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that roadworks are in hand on the A.604 and the A.113 in order to improve them in relation to the volume of traffic.

In looking at the schemes to which these Questions refer, would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that competition between ports for traffic can be, as the Rochdale Committee pointed out, not only a safeguard to the consumer but an important stimulus to efficiency?

As I have said, we are in favour of a better distribution of traffic between ports and, therefore, in considering transport requirements, we are doing all we can to improve access to these ports.

Would the hon. Gentleman hold an inquiry—we could do with a few more—into the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths)?

6.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has for the construction of a central England highway connecting the Midlands with the ports of King's Lynn and Yarmouth.

Our plan is to improve the existing trunk route as necessary, and as the many other demands upon the road programme will permit.

Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that although earlier today the claims of the more southern routes have been stressed, if a road of this kind is contemplated it would be better to build it on the north route to Lynn because this would help not only Norfolk but Suffolk?

I should not like my hon. Friend to think that there was any particular proposal for the southern route. There are as many as 10 improvement schemes in hand or programmed on the A.47.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a policy which is based on the existing traffic will not help anyone and that his task as Minister is to contemplate the future and to recognise the growth which is taking place in the Eastern Counties? It is simply not good enough to fob us off with stories about what the existing traffic is.

Our problem is that we have to deal with the existing inheritance and improve upon it.

While bearing in mind the claims of the Eastern Counties and the North-East, will the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that other parts of England need the expenditure of money which has already been authorised.

There may be perils if each of these quasi-local questions becomes an excuse for travelling round the map.

A1 Road—Hull (Trunk Road)

5.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement about the new trunk road between the A.1 and Hull.

75.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has made a decision regarding the construction of a trunk road between Hull and the Great North Road; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer the hon. Member and my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend gave to them and to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. Solomons) on 3rd March.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that the proposed improvement in the east-west communications and the Humber Bridge project are not two alternatives but are complementary one to the other and that the whole development of the area depends on better communications, both east and west and across the Humber Bridge north and south?

We appreciate that these matters are inter-related and that is why my right hon. Friend is shortly to receive representatives of the Humber Bridge Board in order to discuss their proposals with them.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Hull has become the third port in the United Kingdom and the biggest fishing port in the world despite having these bad communications? Will he help to overcome what the citizens of Hull regard as comparative isolation?

I congratulate Hull on its progress. I am not aware of its comparative isolation. Quite a number of road schemes are in hand in this part of the world. But we recognise the major issue which is raised and not only is my right hon. Friend receiving representatives of the Humber Bridge Board very shortly, but my noble Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is visiting Hull to get views on the spot early next month.

Will the hon. Gentleman look at all the Humber ports as a whole, both north and south of the river, and make a decision in view of the needs of both north and south banks?

A63 Road (Elloughton Bypass)

7.

asked the Minister of Transport when a decision will be made about the line of the A.63 bypassing Elloughton village.

My predecessor proposed to proceed with a draft Order under Section 7 of the Highways Act, 1959, based on the southernmost of the alternative routes which had been under consideration. In the event, the East Riding County Council, the local planning authority, opposed this route. A different route between it and the northernmost of the alternatives is now being further investigated. I will publish a draft Order as soon as possible.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that of the three alternative routes being discussed, the northern route would have the grave objection that it would pin the people living in the village of Brantingham against the hills? As he has now rejected the southern route, will he give careful consideration to the compromise central route?

Buchanan Report

8.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied with the progress which is being made in implementing the recommendations of the Buchanan Report; and what specific action he proposes to take to improve matters.

20.

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals in the Buchanan Report he proposes to implement.

91.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made in his plans to implement the Buchanan Report.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I are jointly promoting comprehensive land use/transport surveys in the conurbations and some other towns; case studies on urban problems; research at universities; and a review of the planning and grant systems.

The latest bulletin to local authorities, giving advice on town centre parking, was issued last week. A further bulletin will be issued later this year giving guidance on applying the Buchanan principles in the light of the resources likely to be available.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a belief is growing up that the Buchanan Report will be corrupted by the usual Anglo-Saxon fault of all talk and no action? Will he adopt the recommendation in the Buchanan Report requiring each town development plan to have a transportation development plan attached to it?

As I have said, the latest bulletin gives some advice and a further bulletin will be issued later this year which will give the kind of advice which the hon. Member has in mind. I do not want to be guilty of shelving the Buchanan Report. Representations have been made to me which allege, rightly or wrongly, that my predecessor had done so, but I can assure the House that the Report is very much before me.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will apply the natural genius and energy of the Scots to overcoming the negligence and apathy of the Anglo-Saxons in the last 13 years in road construction and town development?

Will my right hon. Friend recall that in his Report Professor Buchanan says that many of the development plans which he examined showed that road proposals were quite inadequate for future requirements? Will he and his right hon. Friend see that these plans are revised and altered where necessary?

Yes, Sir. My right hon. Friend will have observed that in recent times Professor Buchanan himself has accepted invitations to go to a good many of these towns to give them some advice on the modifications required in their plans. We now have comprehensive surveys going on in a number of places, as I said. They are London, Manchester, Birmingham, Merseyside, Tees-side, Cardiff, Leicester, Plymouth and Reading. Case studies are being made in other towns and we hope to get a comprehensive picture which will be of great help in the preparation of a further bulletin to be sent to all towns.

Does the right hon. Gentleman envisage the introduction of proposals for the limitation of the volume of traffic in town centres?

This is essential. If traffic generally is to move, some limitation will have to be imposed on the amount of transport which can be allowed to stop, and remain stationary, in towns. In applying the principles laid down by Buchanan there is much to be done in this direction, to enable the main arteries to continue to be used as such and to seek to provide environmental areas which will be relatively free of traffic not destined for those areas.

Road Programme

9.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that the present road programme will be maintained, despite any increase which may take place in the cost of road building due to the fall in the value of money and the imposition of new taxation.

44.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that the present road programme, as previously announced, will not be cut.

52.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give an assurance that the road programme laid down by the previous administration will be maintained.

59.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give an assurance that economic considerations will not cause delay in the implementation of the road programme initiated by his predecessor in office.

The Government are proceeding with the road programme as planned. As in the past, the trend of road construction prices will be taken into account in annual reviews of the programme.

As we now know that the value of the £ has fallen to 19s. 8d. since October and, at that rate, will be 7 per cent. less in value by the autumn, may I ask whether in the forthcoming White Paper on public expenditure the right hon. Gentleman will press for an addition of 7 per cent. as well as the rolling programme which was outlined in the past?

My concern when the White Paper is being prepared is to ensure that the road programme is not diminished.

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the road programme will not be cut in real terms? Is this why the right hon. Gentleman for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) was left out of the Government, because when he was shadow Minister of Transport he always strongly advocated that the road programme should be greatly increased by the present Government?

I am not sure about this. I have been looking at the records and I think that a great deal of nonsense has been talked about rash promises of greatly increasing the road programme. Since the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) twice asserted during Question Time last Wednesday that we had made rash promises about the road programme, which I resisted at the time, I have consulted our election manifesto and discovered that we did not say anything about an increase in the programme.

Now that we have it clear that the Labour Party did not think that it could envisage any improvement in the road programme and road building record of the Conservative Party, may I invite the right hon. Gentleman to confirm that his pledge to me last week that he would maintain his predecessor's programme was in real terms?

The programme was worked out in real terms, taking account of changes in road construction costs from time to time. I have maintained all along that we will adhere to the programme which we inherited, and that will mean doing far better than the previous Administration did.

May I revert to the previous question and say that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) said at a Press conference with me when we came back from Vienna that the programme would be increased?

The programme which we are carrying through envisages an increase of 14 per cent. year after year. Therefore, my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall was right.

Is the Minister aware that I am informed that in the County of Cornwall there are 240 approved schemes in the pipeline which will take at least four years to carry out? Can the right hon. Gentleman do anything to increase the road programme so that the backlog can be overtaken?

That raises another question. The Questions which I have answered are concerned with the existing programme.

Can my right hon. Friend explain why there is so much yet to do if the previous Government did so much in developing a vast road programme?

I am afraid that my right hon. Friend will have to ask the Opposition that.

Clearways (Laybys)

11.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make it illegal for vehicles travelling on clearways to make use of laybys situated on the opposite side of the road to that on which the vehicle is travelling.

No, Sir. Some laybys or similar hardened areas on clearways are provided for the servicing of premises adjacent to the road and need to be accessible from both directions. The alternatives of pulling on to the nearside verge and walking across, or of making U-turns into and out of laybys, might be less safe and more disturbing to other traffic than pulling across the road.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, while stopping on clearways is not allowed, it is infinitely more dangerous to cross right over the oncoming traffic? Would he encourage the provision of laybys on both sides of clearways wherever practical and the removal of dangerous signs with arrows inviting motorists to cross right over clearways?

It is desirable that the crossing of clearways should be kept to a minimum. The practice is to place laybys alternately on either side of the road, but inasmuch as they are sometimes provided for the convenience of services nearby it is better, in some instances, to allow vehicles to cross the clearway to get to the layby adjacent to the services. But there is a responsibility on the driver to ensure that he does not create a hazard when he negotiates the crossing of the clearway.

Kenilworth

14.

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals he has to remove the heavy weight of through traffic from the streets of Kenilworth; and when he estimates that work on a project for this purpose will begin.

Bypassing seems to offer the best solution. Some investigation of possible routes has been undertaken, but we cannot yet forecast when construction will begin.

Will the Minister bear in mind, first, that considerable expansion is going on in Kenilworth, and, secondly, that the University of Warwick is beginning very substantial expansion indeed and that it is urgent that a decision should be taken about by-passing Kenilworth? When will that decision be taken?

It will be taken very soon. An origin and destination survey has been carried out and the results are now being processed. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, there are four proposed routes bypassing Kenilworth, all of which involve snags. But, on the basis of the origin and destination survey, we shall very soon come to a conclusion.

Huddersfield-Oldham Road (Snow)

16.

asked the Minister of Transport on how many days this winter the A.62 between Huddersfield and Oldham has been blocked by snow at Standedge; and what are the corresponding figures for the previous three winters.

At no time this winter or during the winters of 1961–62 and 1963–64. But during the bad winter of 1962–63 the road was blocked on four occasions by snow.

Whilst I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask if he is aware that I am informed that this road was blocked just a week ago? Is he aware that, even on the four occasions which he has mentioned, the only movement on this route was by rail, yet all the local stations are threatened with closure? Even the route which links Manchester and Leeds via Diggle, is not one of the trans-Pennine routes scheduled for development according to the February Report of the Railways Board. Will my right hon. Friend please bear in mind his Answer to me when he takes a final decision about rail transport in the Saddleworth and Colne Valley urban districts?

I will certainly take account of what my hon. Friend has said when a proposal to withdraw a railway service comes before me for decision. I am sorry if I am misinformed about the conditions a week ago. My hon. Friend's Question went down before the snowstorm of last weekend and I wondered whether we would have a blockage at that time to report. The result of my inquiry shows, however, that there was no blockage last weekend.

Does not the Minister regret that his hon. Friend was not prevented from getting to his constituency on 12th February and casting aspersions on part of this House?

M4 Motorway

18.

asked the Minister of Transport when he will publish the draft proposals for the M.4 Motorway.

30.

asked the Minister of Transport what further action he has taken in order to speed up the decision on the line of the M.4 motorway to be taken through Berkshire.

80.

asked the Minister of Transport, when he now expects to announce the route and the date for commencing the construction of the rest of the M.4.

It is unlikely that construction of the Tormarton-Liddington section could start before 1967 because of the time required for the statutory processes. Apart from this there is nothing that I can usefully add at present to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker) on 17th February.

Can the right hon. Gentleman estimate when that section of the motorway might be completed? When he announces the direction proposals, will he announce a programme of improvements to feeder roads?

I cannot say offhand when the section will be completed. My first concern is to get the line of the M.4 determined and then to get the work out to contract. I am sometimes criticised for allowing these motorway contracts to go out in bits and pieces—not that I have had responsibility for this for very long. As I see it, the responsibility of the Minister of Transport in a matter like this is to get the whole of the line determined as quickly as possible, and this is what I am endeavouring to do.

Motorways

21.

asked the Minister of Transport how many contracts have been placed for new motorway construction since 15th October, 1964.

CONTRACTS FOR NEW MOTORWAY CONSTRUCTION PLACED SINCE 15TH OCTOBER, 1964
Item No.Contract (1)Date let (2)Contractor (3)Tender Sum (4)
1Durham Motorway: advance earthworks, Ricknall Carrs.4th November, 1964Dowsett Engineering Construction Ltd.£293,527
2Durham Motorway: advance construction of bridges.30th November, 1964Reed and Mallik Ltd.£585,012
3London-Yorkshire Motorway: Contract LY/CP (Nuthall to Pinxton).3rd December, 1964Geo. Wimpey & Co. Ltd.£5,543,595
4Tinsley Viaduct5th February, 1965Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co. Ltd.Around £4,500,000 subject to negotiations

28.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give the number of miles of motorways that have been built for the years 1962, 1963 and 1964, and the estimated mileage for 1965, 1966, and 1967, respectively.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the complete programme of the previous Government was less than that of any Government on the Continent in comparison with population? Does he also realise that experts have

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of disquiet and concern in the country, because it is felt that the Government will allow the impetus of our motorway construction programme to grind to a halt? Can the Minister say, for example, whether, in particular, the section of the M.1 between Markfield and the River Trent, which is scheduled for opening in July this year, is up to date?

I do not know whether these rumours come from the country or from the hon. Member. They have no basis. This is exactly the same number as for the same period last year, but two of these contracts were together worth £10 million and during this time we have invited tenders for six more motorway contracts.

Do any of the contracts let since 15th October apply to the South-West and, in particular, to the A.38?

If the hon. Member will put that question down, I will give him the particulars.

said that over a period of 13½ years, slowly but surely, because of the delays to traffic, the cost to this country reached last year a total of £400 million? Will he make certain that the future programme by this Government will be adequate, so that we shall be proud of the Labour Government in this country?

It is the fact that most other developed countries in Europe have done better in the provision of highways than we have in this country for a number of years, and I do not think that there is any doubt but that we suffer a disadvantage to our economy because of the inadequacy of our highway system. Bearing these things in mind, it will be my endeavour to do rather better during my long term of office at this Ministry than any of my predecessors have done.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the mileage of roads in this country compared with a corresponding area in France?

I cannot, but that is another question. The Question that I was asked related to the building of motorways and the great new arteries which have been built in many parts of the world. We had built practically none until a few years ago.

Is not the question a little disingenuous, and would not an entirely different picture be presented if, instead of taking the calendar year, the hon. Member for the Dearne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), who asked the Question, had taken the financial year? That would have shown that many more than 8½ miles were built in 1964. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain how he is going to extend the programme beyond the programme laid down by the late Government when, at an earlier stage, he said that he hoped to do no better than that?

The trouble with the previous Government was that they laid down a programme but forgot to provide the resources to enable the programme to be carried out.

Dealing with the serious part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, it is true that if the financial year were taken it would show a different figure, because in January of this year 32½ miles of motorway were opened. That does not come into the calendar year 1964. If we take the financial year 1964–65, the mileage completed is 52.

Yellow Box Crossings

19.

asked the Minister of Transport whether the experiment with yellow box crossings has resulted in speeding the flow of traffic in the West End of London.

Generally the markings have improved conditions and reduced delays, particularly to the side-road traffic. The best results so far are at the busier junctions in Oxford Street and Regent Street.

More experience of the majority of the markings, which were put down as recently as January, is necessary before the value of the experiment can be properly assessed.

Is not this normal procedure under the Highway Code? Could the Minister take more steps to enforce the Highway Code so that this increased flow of traffic might be continued?

It is my responsibility to draft and publish the Highway Code, not to enforce it.

Would the Minister think of extending this experiment to certain other parts of the country?

This experiment was undertaken in London by the Ministry of Transport, as the traffic authority for London. As from 1st April the Greater London Council will become the traffic authority in London. If local authorities elsewhere in the country wish to try this experiment in congested towns, they are free to do so. It would, however, be wrong of me, before we have been able fully to evaluate the success of the experiment in London, to recommend other local authorities to undertake it.

Evesham Bypass

23.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in the light of the report to him by the Worcestershire County Council as to the routeing of the proposed Evesham bypass road, he is now able to announce his decision; and if he will make a statement.

The council's surveyor has reported on two possible routes for the bypass but the results of a traffic survey are still awaited. We are not yet able to announce a decision or make a statement about the route.

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that, if progress was not very rapid during the previous Administration, the much vaunted dynamism of the present Government is not showing itself in dealing with this problem? Can he give a clearer idea as to when he expects that a decision will be given by his Ministry, so that the citizens of Evesham can plan their town and be taken out of their present uncertainty?

An origin and destination survey is now in progress. It is a matter which is extremely complicated. We expect to have the statistical and other results of this survey in the spring. They will then be studied as quickly as possible, and we hope shortly after that to be able to announce the route.

I wonder if the Minister could make any statement in respect of Andover?

Multi-Lane Highways

25.

asked the Minister of Transport the total existing mileage of six, four, and three lane highways in England, Wales and Scotland, respectively; what mileage is under construction; and what is the additional mileage of planned construction estimated to be in use by 1970.

As the Answer involves a table of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Would my right hon. Friend consider that modern conditions indicate the speedy discontinuing of the construction of highways with the suicidal centre strip? Has he considered in the Welsh connotation that the extent in

TRUNK ROADS AND MOTORWAYS

Existing mileage

Mileage under construction

Additional mileage of planned construction estimated to be in use by 1970

6L4L3L6L4L3L6L4L3L
England204¾727¼766½*178½1041386276¼
Wales16½48¼*27¼37
Scotland1276429½57
Similar information is not available for classified roads.

* This figure is lower than that printed in the 1963–64 Report "Roads in England and Wales". The reason is that several stretches of road previously regarded as three-lane are now rated only as two-lane.

Note: The information about roads in Scotland was provided by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Toll Bridges

27.

asked the Minister of Transport how many toll bridges there are in the United Kingdom which were created before 1900.

mileage terms of these highways is minimal to a degree? Has he further considered the implications to be drawn from the statement of road development to 1984 as shown in map 21, page 94, of the February report of British Rail? Will he agree that construction of these roads in South Wales will help exports flow more speedily from South Wales ports? Is he aware—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—

I have already made clear at the Box that I am not very favourably disposed to three-lane highways myself, and very little three-lane mileage is under construction at present. As for highways in Wales to and from the ports, running up to 1984, my hon. Friend will be aware that the programming of the roads in Wales, beyond the programme which we now have in front of us, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

In considering construction of two-lane highways and planning for the period to 1970, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the very urgent needs of the South-West, particularly in view of the latest report of Dr. Beeching?

Yes, I will do so, but may I just remind the hon. Gentleman that the only roads not referred to in this Question are two-lane roads?

Following is the Answer:

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that one of these is in my constituency, that it has been there since the year 1766 and that Governments of all three parties have done nothing about it at all? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Would he now please consider this question rather more seriously than other Governments have done in the past, and, realising that one of the problems is that compensation has to be paid to the owners, will he, perhaps, consider fixing a term of years by when all these toll bridges should be ended?

I find it a bit difficult to do what the hon. Gentleman requests. Of these 24 toll bridges three are on trunk roads, and what to do with them is clearly my responsibility, but the toll bridge in his constituency, to which he refers, is, I understand, on a Class I road, and I think the initiative as to what should be done with that one really must come from the highway authority.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not only is the toll bridge in the hon. Gentleman's constituency 200 years old but that for 200 years the income from it has been completely tax-free, and that the same applies to the other five toll bridges in the country—that the income has been tax-free for 200 years? Can he say what discussions he has had within the Government to see how they can tackle this problem?

My hon. Friend will not expect me to say what discussions I have had with my right hon. Friends within the Government about this matter, but whether or not the income from these tolls should continue to be exempt from tax is, of course, a matter principally for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that even if the Chancellor in his forthcoming Budget should accede to the pressure being put on him to tax these tolls, that will not help the persons who use the toll bridges, and they are the people I am concerned about?

Non-Skid Surfaces

32.

asked the Minister of Transport to what extent the number of road accidents at specially dangerous points has been reduced in recent years by the use of non-skid road surfaces; if he will publish in HANSARD a statistical table illustrating such reduction; and what research is being done to ascertain the most effective of these techniques.

All approved road surfacing materials are designed to be resistant to skidding. Studies carried out by the Road Research Laboratory at selected dangerous sites show a marked reduction in the number of skidding accidents after resurfacing. I am circulating details in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Research is continuously in progress to achieve further improvements in the design of road surfaces.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the most effective of these surfaces may not necessarily be the cheapest to lay down, but may be cheaper in the long run because it needs less maintenance and repair? Will he reconsider this point, because I do not think that it is entirely accepted by his Ministry, as yet?

This is one of the difficult and complicated matters which we have to look at both from the economic and technological point of view. The Road Research Laboratory has been tackling this actively in order to give us advice, and we shall certainly take into account the point raised by my hon. Friend.

Will my hon. Friend consider holding an investigation into the causes of accidents, as opposed to merely relying on evidence given in police court proceedings? Will he consider holding investigations into road accidents, in the same way as his inspectors hold inquiries into rail accidents? Does not my hon. Friend think that the time has come when there should be an investigation into road accidents, rather than merely relying on the evidence of the police authorities?

This further investigation is going on, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that there is a considerable amount of trouble and labour involved in accumulating all the details of the unfortunately numerous accidents which occur. In fact, research is being extended all the time, and we intend to give all the support that we can to the Road Research Laboratory in its studies.

Will the hon. Gentleman be kind enough to consult his right hon. Friends concerning legislation on this point? After all, the law in respect of railway accidents is different.

Certainly we shall have consultations about that, but before we can consider any legislation, we must arrive at a technical solution to the problem. Although many experiments have been carried out, we cannot say that we have arrived at any final solution to the technical problems involved.

RESULTS OF "BEFORE AND AFTER" STUDIES AT 55* SKIDDING ACCIDENT SITES AVERAGE LENGTH OF SITE TREATED—¼ MILE
Accidents in period before treatmentAccidents in period after treatment
TotalAverage number per year per siteTotalAverage number per year per site
Accidents involving skidding on wet roads7236130*1
All accidents on wet roads1,02583212
Period covered2years 2 months2years 8 months

* This table includes results for all the sites known to the Laboratory during the period covered by the observations. At eight sites the skidding resistance of the road decreased to a low value again in less than two years after treatment: 68 of the skidding accidents included in the above table which occurred after treatment were at these eight sites.

Railways

Complaints

12.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will publish the number of complaints on every aspect of the service offered by British Railways during the 12 months ended 31st December, 1964; and if he will provide the figures for each region of British Railways.

Complaints about British Railways services are received by the Railways Board at headquarters, regional and local levels. Some are made to Transport Users Consultative Committees. Correspondence received by my Department on railways management matters and sent on to the Board also includes some complaints, not separately recorded. It is impracticable to compile from all these sources the figures requested.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that before any final solution is arrived at there is the closest consultation with the major local authorities concerned in this matter?

Of course the local highway authorities are very much concerned in this, as are a large number of scientists and researchers, and we hope to make available to the local authorities the results of the technical investigations now being carried out.

Following are the details:

him whether he is aware that there is very considerable disquiet about the number of complaints received, particularly by Western Region, about breakdowns in diesel locomotives, passenger goods, particularly small passenger goods traffic, and delays in the passenger service generally? Is any action being taken to correct this?

These are questions about management and they should be submitted in the first place to the regional management. If they are serious they should go to the T.U.C.C.s. However, if there is considerable disquiet, I will see what can be done if the hon. Gentleman will inform me about it.

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that many of my constituents would like the chance of complaining to the Minister, but, unfortunately, he is closing so many of our lines that they are denied this chance? Will he ask his right hon. Friend to reverse his decision on the Barnstaple-Bideford-Torrington line?

I think that we are coming on to the hon. Gentleman's lines in a moment. However, his constituents, as far as I know, have had a very full opportunity of going to the T.U.C.C.s.

Disused Sleepers (Sale)

13.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will give a general direction, in the public interest, to the British Railways Board not to enter into exclusive contracts for the sale of disused sleepers to large companies, thus depriving small farmers and others of the right to purchase these sleepers at goods depôts.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a great many small farmers are suffering considerable hardship as a result of the decision of the British Railways Board to sell disused sleepers to one large contracting company which is making a considerable profit which does not benefit British Railways and has the effect of causing real hardship to farmers who have depended on this source of supply for many years?

I am sorry, but this is a commercial decision for the Board, which has decided to sell disused sleepers en bloc by negotiation from its headquarters rather than on a local basis. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has taken up the matter with the Board. It is one which must be argued with the management of British Railways.

Would my hon. Friend care to sell some of the disused sleepers on the Opposition benches?

Transport

Road Accidents (Articulated Vehicles)

15.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the frequency of accidents caused by the jack-knifing of articulated vehicles; and if he will take steps to counter this hazard.

Yes, Sir. We are in touch with the vehicle manufacturers in their investigations into this complicated problem and are actively encouraging them to find an early solution.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the current Construction and Use Regulations which came into effect in August, 1964, are considered by the industry to be partly causing a lot of these jack-knifing incidents? Will he look into this point particularly?

I am not aware of that, and I will certainly look into it. Certain tests and experiments in brake distribution and load sensing devices are being carried out under the surveillance of a working party. We hope to have some technical proposals shortly.

This is recognised as a very real problem and the motor industry research association and the College of Automobile Engineering at Cranfield are doing a lot of research into suspension and so on.

It is recognised as a serious problem. There is a Ministry working party on the question of braking power which is investigating it. We are in close touch with the manufacturers trying to find a technical solution.

Bus Routes, Central London (Private Cars)

22.

asked the Minister of Transport whether, for an experimental period, he will ban the use of private cars during rush hours on selected bus routes in Central London.

We think that in the short term other traffic management measures, especially more urban clearways, offer better prospects for improving traffic flows generally. But we have also been considering various traffic measures, including some on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend, designed to enable buses to work more efficiently and faster. Some such measures are already in operation. I have no doubt that the Greater London Council, which takes over responsibility for traffic in London on 1st April, will want to consider wherever possible measures having the same object.

Is not my hon. Friend showing that the Labour Government demonstrate a fresher and more dynamic approach to the solution of these problems? Will he tell the House what has been done on the lines suggested in my Question?

Much has been done so far. The greater proportion of the credit should go—and I should like to take the opportunity of paying tribute—to the London Traffic Management Unit, which has done a great deal in introducing experiments, schemes in tidal flow and urban clearways and matters of that kind. We want to see more experimentation and the extension of these things. We shall undoubtedly be discussing them with the Greater London Council.

Does not the Minister agree that before he even thinks of banning private vehicles from Central London, there must be a vast improvement in the London Transport bus services?

We want to see a great improvement in public transport because, as those who have read the Buchanan Report know, this is a necessary part of the solution of the problem. That is why we want further experiments on these lines.

Vehicles (Direction Indicators)

24.

asked the Minister of Transport when the use of direction indicators on all vehicles will be made compulsory; and if he will make a statement.

97.

asked the Minister of Transport when the use of direction indicators on all vehicles will be made compulsory.

Most four-wheeled vehicles are now fitted with some form of direction indicator. New standards have been set by Regulation for indicators fitted to vehicles first registered after next August. We shall consider compulsory fitment when the effectiveness of these standards has been confirmed.

Will not the hon. Gentleman hasten these decisions as much as he can, bearing in mind the additional road safety which traffic indicators encourage, and also bearing in mind that this matter has for years past already been gone into by the last Government, who made great progress with its investigation?

We shall hasten it as much as possible, but we want to get a general agreement on enforcement of standardisation of construction of indicators. As soon as that has been reached and confirmed we intend to introduce compulsory equipment.

May I ask the Minister whether he is aware how much many of us welcome the announcement which he has made and his serious approach to this problem? Will consideration be given to the confusion often caused by indicators which are very similar to the signs for brakes, and will he see that conformity also includes the colouring as well as the size of the indicators?

Yes, that is the intention, to get standardisation both of colour and size, but of course, my hon. Friend will realise that there are at present many different types in use and this is not a process which can be introduced overnight. As soon as standardisation is agreed upon compulsory equipment will be introduced.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a minority of these indicators are far too bright and that they disconcert drivers following in cars behind and are liable to cause accidents? Will he, therefore, consider that aspect of the question, too?

Yes. I think the hon. Gentleman may have got something there. This is something which has had to be gone into very carefully. Precisely because there is still some uncertainty about the amount of standardisation, we are moving in these two stages, to establish standardised fitments and types, and then to introduce compulsory equipment.

Does my hon. Friend realise that traffic indicators are important not only to drivers but also to pedestrians, particularly at pedestrian crossings and at crossroads, and that at present pedestrians very often have no indication what a driver of a car may do? Many accidents have resulted because pedestrians have had no such indication. Will my hon. Friend take that aspect into account?

What my hon. and learned Friend has said is the strongest possible argument for standardisation, so that pedestrians will know exactly what the signals mean.

Drunken Drivers

26.

asked the Minister of Transport what study he has made of the invention at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh of a device that will prevent a drunken driver from starting his car; and what action he will take.

I understand that the value of this device has not yet been scientifically tested in the United States, but I am having further inquiries made.

Private Cars (Seat Belts)

33.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce legislation to make it obligatory for car manufacturers to fit safety belts to the front seats as part of his road safety campaign.

108.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will introduce legislation to make it compulsory for car manufacturers to fit safety belts into cars as a safety precaution.

In the first instance we propose to make anchorage points for seat belts compulsory for new cars. When that has been done we will then consider my hon. Friends' suggestion.

Meanwhile we strongly recommend the use of properly fitted seat belts. This can reduce the risk of serious injury to those in the front seats by nearly 80 per cent.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, and particularly the indication that anchorage points will be made compulsory. Is he aware that a great number of the accidents which have been caused in the past, particularly to drivers, could have been avoided if seat belts had been used? May I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware of the problem of the Purchase Tax anomaly? If a seat belt is fitted to a new car, Purchase Tax is charged, but if it is fitted to a car after it has been bought Purchase Tax is not charged.

The Purchase Tax point is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to seat belts, we wish to make as rapid progress as possible on this, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that new designs are still being introduced, and again it is a problem of trying to arrive at an agreed standard which can be laid down if we are going to adopt compulsion. That is what we are in pursuit of at the moment, and we think that the introduction of compulsory anchorage points is a step in the right direction.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government's majority may well have been reduced recently but for the fact that there were seat belts in the car in which I was travelling? This is therefore a matter of some political importance, as well as being of vital importance to the safety of the public.

I am mighty glad to have my hon. Friend's testimony as well as his support.

Can the hon. Gentleman say when he expects the next instalment of the Construction and Use Regulations to be put before the House? Will he give an assurance that as soon as he is ready to move forward on one of these points he will not hold up the Regulations in order to combine them with others?

There will be no holdup in the Regulations which are in the course of preparation, and will be ready very soon.

Will the hon. Gentleman pay special attention to the location of anchorage points so that the effect of the safety belt is not dependent on the structural integrity of the seats in which the passengers are travelling, to prevent compressive stresses being applied to the spines of the occupants of the seats?

This is precisely the kind of point which is being considered by the technicians at the moment, and is a matter for consultation between ourselves and the manufacturers; but it is in order to arrive at the best technical standard, and the best design, that we must have further consultations before the use of safety belts can be made compulsory.

Can my hon. Friend give some estimate of the extent to which the cost of seat belts will be reduced by the fact that their being made compulsory will increase the demand for them?

Can my hon. Friend speed this investigation? Is he aware that inquiries into this matter have been made by the authorities for three or four years past, and that we have constantly been told that until the inquiries are completed we cannot make any progress? Will he do what he can to see that the inquiries reach some conclusion before long?

We certainly want these inquiries to reach a conclusion very soon, but, as my right hon. Friend may know, new improvements in design are still being made, and we want these to be taken into account before we arrive at the kind of definition of safety belts that will be necessary when we introduce compulsion.

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether all motor cars under the control of the Government or the nationalised industries at this moment have safety belts?

Shipping

Docks (Technological Advances)

17.

asked the Minister of Transport what priority he is giving in Her Majesty's Government's plans for technological advances to technological advances which would improve operations in the London and other docks and thus assist United Kingdom overseas trade.

The Research Committee of the National Ports Council is formulating a programme of research. This will be pushed ahead with all possible speed.

Is the Minister aware that on 19th January, in this House, the Prime Minister spoke of the need for modernisation and the greater use of computers in the docks? While I recognise that this is only one aspect of the necessary improvement, will the Minister give this matter serious consideration in view of recent events?

Yes, Sir. I have been in close communication with the dock and harbour authorities and the National Ports Council on this matter. We will do our utmost within the resources available to us to apply to the docks all the advances in technology known to us with a view to speeding the flow of trade.

Does the Minister recognise that not less important than the problem of finding methods of handling on the docks is the problem of finding incentives to get the dock authorities to apply them? Secondly, when does the Minister expect that the preliminary statement on progress with the docks, which he foreshadowed in reply to me on 20th January, may be forthcoming?

I do not have before me a note of the promise I made about the docks on 20th January. I should like to look at it and get in touch with the right hon. Gentleman.

Does the Minister agree with the views reported in The Times yesterday by Sir Arthur Kirby for improving dock handling?

I have very close contact with Sir Arthur Kirby, but it would be wrong of me, in answer to Question No. 17 today, if I were to comment on a paper read by Sir Arthur Kirby two nights ago

Docks (Delays)

31.

asked the Minister of Transport what reply he is making to the Ilford and District Manufacturers Transport Group in connection with its letter to him of 3rd February complaining of hauliers' difficulties with delays in the docks as a result of which the group's export scheme is threatened.

I have nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) on 24th February.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this is not good enough? If we are going to bandy words about dynamism, this is a real example of dynamism by private enterprise in promoting exports. Will the hon. Gentleman, first, have consultations with his right hon. Friend about the labour delays in the docks, and, secondly, will he get his skates on?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not know that the position has eased considerably since the time about which he is speaking, and that several steps have been taken to deal with the situation. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that a meeting has been arranged between this group and the Port of London Authority for 25th March. It would, therefore, be unwise for me to say anything further.

London Airport (Soundproofing Of Private Dellings)

With permission, I will make a statement about the Government's proposals for alleviating the disturbance from aircraft noise.

After reviewing the measures currently being taken, we have come to the conclusion that some further assistance should be offered to residents in the vicinity of Heathrow. The volume of traffic, particularly jet traffic, at Heathrow is far greater than at any other aerodrome in this country and is bound to increase. We have, therefore, decided to accept the principle of the recommendation, made in the report of Sir Alan Wilson's Committee on Noise, about the soundproofing of rooms in private dwellings.

Grants of 50 per cent. subject to a maximum of £100, of the cost of soundproofing up to three rooms will be made available to householders in a defined area round Heathrow for work carried out with prior approval and to an approved design. The work must be completed by 31st December, 1970, when the scheme will come to an end. These grants will be payable in respect of soundproofing of existing private dwellings and those completed by 1st January, 1966, and will be confined to owners or residents in the defined areas on that date.

The area will comprise the Staines and Stanwell wards in Staines Urban District; Langley ward in the Borough of Slough; the parishes of Horton, Datchet and Wraysbury and part of the parish of Iver in Eton rural district; East Bedfont, Feltham North, Hounslow West, Hounslow Central, Hounslow South, Hounslow Heath, Cranford, Heston West, Heston East, Spring Grove and Isleworth South wards in the London Borough of Hounslow; and South ward and part of Hayes ward in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The area will be subject to review in the light of any changes in ward or parish boundaries before 1st January, 1966.

The Government consider that the cost of these grants should fall on those whose activities cause the disturbance, or those who benefit from such activities. We intend, therefore, to introduce an Amendment to the Airports Authority Bill at present before Parliament to enable these grants to be paid by the British Airports Authority under a detailed scheme which will be published by Statutory Instrument. It will be for the Authority to determine whether, and, if so, how, their revenues need to be increased to meet the cost of these grants. Local authorities around Heathrow will be asked to help the Airports Authority in administering the scheme.

The Government accept the view of the Wilson Committee that the amount of aircraft noise around Heathrow is unique in this country, and that a similar arrangement for the payment of grants in respect of the soundproofing of private dwellings is not required in the vicinity of any other airport.

It is gratifying to see the Government attempting to carry out at least some of the Prime Minister's election pledges, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this proposal raises two rather difficult problems? First, there is the question of cost. He did not tell us how much this would cost by way of grant, in all. Is he aware that the charges at London Airport are already the highest in the world, and that if this proposal is to result in the charge there being substantially raised we may find ourselves losing business to other terminals?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how the Amendment to the Bill is likely to work out from the point of view of enabling those whose areas are omitted from the Schedule to raise the question? If this proposal is introduced in another place, and then comes back to us in a Bill which has already left the House of Commons, the Amendment must be either phrased in general terms, to prevent the Bill becoming a hybrid Measure, or the Minister will have to reintroduce it into this House.

Finally, many hon. Members will wish to debate the question of the areas chosen for the allocation of grant. How can this be achieved?

On the question of this proposal fulfilling the indications of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, what my right hon. Friend said was that we would deal with this problem sympathetically and energetically. We have done so. We have accepted the Report of Sir Alan Wilson's Committee, which the previous Government rejected.

On the question of cost, on what we would regard as a realistic estimate—namely, that 40 per cent. of householders will choose to participate in the scheme—the cost will be £2½ million, and the annual cost of this to the Airports Authority will be £220,000. We regard that as manageable.

As for the method of procedure, we would propose to introduce a general Amendment in the Lords, which can be raised when the Bill comes back here, and to introduce the detailed scheme, including the areas interested, by Statutory Instrument.

My right hon. Friend has already shown sympathy for the residents around London Airport by reducing the number of night flights, which the previous Government also refused to do. His statement today confirms the sympathy of the Government for those residents who suffer through aircraft noise, especially at night. I shall be grateful if my right hon. Friend will give sympathetic consideration to the case of old or sick people who are unable to make any financial contribution towards the soundproofing of their dwellings.

I am aware of the great interest which my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) has taken in this difficult question. He had a Question down on this subject today. I will consider sympathetically the point that he has raised, but the Government accept the recommendation of Sir Alan Wilson's Committee that it is desirable that although we should proceed by means of a substantial contribution the householder should also make a contribution.

Is the Minister aware that his decision will please the people living round London Airport? I congratulate his Parliamentary Secretary on the hard work that I know he has done on this problem, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has completely ignored the sufferings of the people who live under the glide path into London Airport?

As his Department is well aware, and has admitted on many occasions, people living in Richmond and Barnes are suffering severely. Will he extend his present arrangements to cover the soundproofing of houses throughout the area of Barnes and Richmond?

I am very glad that the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. A. Royle) mentioned the Parliamentary Secretary, who has paid particular attention to this problem. I believe that the solution that I have announced will go a good way towards alleviating the problem for those living within the 55 Noise Number Index contour. That was the area picked out by the Wilson Committee. I hope that I will not be pressed to extend the area, because if that were done we would quickly get into a position in which we could not do anything without doing everything—and that is a recipe for doing nothing.

I agree completely with my right hon. Friend that the totality of noise at London Airport is greater than at any other airport in Britain, but would he agree that the intensity of noise from a jet is just as great at Prestwick Airport as at London? In view of the fact that considerable discomfort is caused to householders as Prestwick and Troon because of jet noise, will my right hon. Friend say whether he would keep the position of Prestwick in mind in view of its expected development there so that, if necessary, something may be done to help the residents?

Having had the pleasure yesterday of visiting Prestwick Airport I have had strong representations made to me to increase the number of jet movements into and out of Prestwick, which I am considering very sympathetically. I must say to the House that however sympathetically I consider them I do not think it likely that in the near future the problem there will approach that at London Airport.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the implementation of this proposal in the Wilson Committee's Report will bring great relief to those in the southern villages of South Bucks which he has mentioned, as in many other areas? Will he also bear in mind that this will not solve their problem, but will alleviate only one aspect of it? Will he please carry on most energetically in his Department the excellent work which I know has been carried on there for many years in tackling this problem at its source, and in all its aspects?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his question. We do not regard this important practical advance as having solved the problem of aircraft noise. We shall continue to endeavour to deal with it, so far as possible, at source.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about areas? This is a difficult problem. I know that he has to draw the line somewhere. He properly mentioned Slough and Datchet. May I ask for what reason Windsor has been excluded, as it is as close as the others and the noise is just as great?

It was excluded because it was outside the 55 N.N.I. chosen by the Wilson Committee, which went into this matter very thoroughly and reported that this was the best practical limit to set.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that he has not included part of the Borough of Twickenham? Is this a punishment to the hon. Member for Twickenham for "needling" the Prime Minister on this very point after the last election? Will the Minister bear in mind that the wards at Whitton and Heathfield, particularly, are very near to the airport, and are just as much affected as those of Hounslow, Cranford, and others?

I was, of course, very much aware that in bringing forward any scheme of this sort I should be bound to open myself to "needling" not only from the hon. Member, but many other hon. Members, about the problem on the margins. None the less, I thought it worth while to go ahead with the scheme by sticking to the delimitation brought forward by the Committee.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that soundproofing is one part of the problem and that the other part of the problem for the householder is air conditioning? Will it be possible to spend the grant on air conditioning?

Are the Government prepared to devote some resources to dealing with the fundamental source of the noise, by quietening jets?

I dealt with the latter part of the question in my reply to the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), when I assured the House that we do not regard this as solving the problem, but as a means of alleviation.

On the question of air conditioning I understand that a ventilating unit is part of the soundproofing scheme which we expect to be used.

May I ask a question about a procedural point? Under the arrangements about which the right hon. Gentleman has told the House there will not be an opportunity for hon. Members to put questions or discuss the districts included or excluded from the plan, if it comes up in the form of a Statutory Instrument which is not amenable to amendment. Will the Minister take this into consideration and provide an opportunity, if the House wishes, to amend the list of parishes?

No, Sir. In the Bill a general Amendment will be laid. I think that it would be inappropriate in the Bill to deal only with London Airport and not the other three airports whose noise generation was lower than the 55 N.N.I. of London Airport which is dealt with under the Bill. Details of the scheme will be brought forward by Statutory Instrument and no doubt matters about the limits could be raised.

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that no matter what he does he will not completely satisfy the House? Will he comment on the time limit of 1970, bearing in mind that those who purchase property in the area after that time may be at a financial disadvantage if the property purchased has not been developed in this way?

I should certainly beat in mind that anything I, or any other Minister do, is not likely entirely to satisfy the House.

On the point made about the period till 1970, I would expect by that stage that a prospective purchaser buying property in the area would do so with his eyes—or should I say his ears—open, and, to that extent, would know what he was doing. I should expect a certain amount of price differential to develop between houses which had been soundproofed under the scheme and houses which had not.

In view of the refusal of the Minister to extend the limit to Richmond and Barnes, I wish to give notice that I shall endeavour to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Bill Presented

Rating (Unoccupied Hereditaments)

Bill to provide for the rating of owners of unoccupied hereditaments; and for purposes connected therewith, presented by Mr. Lubbock; supported by Mr. Ivor Richard, Mr. Hugh Jenkins, Mr. Weitzman, Dr. David Kerr, and Mr. Lipton; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday and to be printed.[Bill 96.]

Highways (Straying Animals)

3.47 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the payment of compensation for injury or damage caused by animals straying on the highway.
I am encouraged to hope that on this occasion we shall be able to pass my proposed Bill through the House, particularly in view of the reference made to this matter by my right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio when he addressed the House recently.

The Bill I seek to introduce is for the purpose of removing an anomaly in our laws. Believe it or not, a medieval rule still exists by which horses, cows or sheep can stray on to a road by right, thus causing serious injury, and sometimes death, to road users, without the owner being liable for damages to the person injured or the dependent relatives of a person who may be killed.

The road user involved might be the most careful, experienced and reliable driver of a motor car, someone using every precaution, and yet may find himself in sudden collision with animals, due entirely to the animals rushing on to the road and making it impossible for him to avoid an accident. As a result the driver might suffer the most severe consequences, without any redress from the person through whose fault the animals were enabled to stray on to the road.

Lord Justice Omerod, in a case heard in the Court of Appeal towards the end of 1962—Ellis v. Johnstone—said that the rule which allowed sheep and cattle to stray on to the highway was of ancient origin. It went back through the centuries to the time when fields were not hedged or fenced and roads were merely tracks. He gave a very clear indication, as did a fellow judge—one who was highly respected in this House, Lord Justice Donovan—that it was time the law was changed by Act of Parliament.

This untenable position of the law of civil liability for damage done by animals has been the subject of concern to the community for very many years. Yet, although a committee set up as far back as 1953 which was presided over by the Lord Chief Justice of the time, Lord Goddard, gave its report in support of change, and although attempts have been made on a number of occasions to get a Bill on to the Statute Book to carry their recommendations into effect, including a Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) and several by myself, these have not been successful.

In another case, Lord Green, Master of the Rolls, said:
"The rule appears to be ill-adapted to modern conditions. A farmer who allows his cow to stray through a gap in his hedge on to his neighbour's land, where it consumes a few cauliflowers, is liable in damages to his neighbour, but if, through a similar gap in the hedge, it strays on to the road and causes the overturning of a motor omnibus, with death or injury to 30 or 40 people, he is under no liability at all. I scarcely think that that is a satisfactory state of affairs in the 20th century. If it should prove not to be open to the House of Lords to deal with the rule, the attention of the legislature might be directed to considering the whole position with a view to ensuring the safety of His Majesty's subjects when they are lawfully using the highway …
On any view we think it desirable that the rule should be modified to meet modern conditions of traffic where a road runs through enclosed country. It is remarkable that, whereas section 25 of the Highway Act, 1864, imposes a penalty on the owner of cattle 'found straying on or lying about any highway or across any part thereof or by the sides thereof except on such parts of any highway as pass over any common or waste or unenclosed land', the law gives no remedy to a person who is injured as a consequence. As already stated, we think liability should depend on negligence, and accordingly recommend that an occupier should he under a duty to take reasonable care that cattle or poultry lawfully on land in his occupation do not escape therefrom on to the highway, and that the occupier should be responsible for all damage caused to persons or chattels (damage to realty being already covered by the action of cattle trespass) by cattle or poultry which escape owing to a breach of that duty whether or not acting in accordance with their ordinary nature."
I was approached several years ago by Mr. and Mrs. Woodward, the parents of a very promising young woman teacher, who was involved in an accident caused by a straying animal. It was a heart-rending case—a loving daughter of ability and talent was taken from them by an accident of this nature. They were and are determined that this should not happen to others if they can possibly help it.

As I stated in the House when I applied for leave to introduce the Bill before I have received a petition containing about 600 names, from people in a small portion of the country, including my own constituency, for a change in the law. The Woodwards and I are confident that a vast number of further signatories to the petition could be obtained, but I am hoping that this will not be necessary, and that the House will now realise that a Bill of this nature is long overdue.

I have also received a very large number of letters from various parts of the country and I should like to read one or two short extracts, so that the House will readily realise the importance of this matter. From the Ferndale and District Motor Cycle and Car Club, I have received a letter which says:
"I enclose brief details of nine incidents involving animals on the road. My remarks to my wife on reading the paragraph were, 'At last this menace may be ended'. The nine incidents reported are a very very small percentage of incidents which all motorists in our area have been putting up with for years"—
this is in South Wales—
"and I do not honestly know of any incident where the owner of the animal has been made to pay the penalty.
The sheep in this area are a disgrace to all respectable farmers everywhere and despite the grand efforts made by the local authority to 'impound' them, they still wander the streets by day and night, and at night they simply cannot be seen until they are a few yards only away."
The writer then gives a number of incidents. He says that a Mr. Thomas, of 78, James Street, Maerdy, Rhondda, was involved in an incident, and adds the details:
"Sheep wandered from behind parked car, in avoiding sheep driver crashed into house wall. Brand new side-car written off, replaced by insurance company—lost no-claim bonus. Damage to animal nil. Damage to machine, rear wheel, front forks damaged. Personal injuries, bruised fingers, leg and shock. Lost two days' work. No compensation from owner of sheep."
He then gives similar illustrations of cases in which very much more serious damage was caused.

I cannot believe that anyone in the House would want an archaic law of this nature to continue. It may well be that, when the Bill comes forward—if I am given leave to present it—some Amendments will be necessary to cover exceptional cases. But one thing is 100 per cent. certain in my mind, and that is that this kind of position cannot be allowed to continue to exist. Indeed, so strong has the opinion of the public, as well as of the judiciary, been in respect of this, that I cannot believe that any hon. Member would wish to see a Bill of this nature stopped.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir B. Janner, Mr. Probert, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Steele, Mr. Ensor, Mr. Lipton, Mr. Alan Williams, Mr. Manuel, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Winterbottom, and Mr. Boston.

Highways (Straying Animals)

Bill to provide for the payment of compensation for injury or damage caused by animals straying on the highway; presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday 9th April and to be printed. [Bill 95.]

Orders Of The Day

Supply

[9TH ALLOTTED DAY]

Considered in Committee.

[Dr. HORACE KING in the Chair]

Defence (Air) Estimates, 1965–66

Vote A Number For Air Force Service

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That a number of Officers, Airmen and Air women, not exceeding 136,000, all ranks, be maintained for Air Force Service, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1966.

Air Estimates

3.57 p.m.

On a point of order, Dr. King. May I raise with you a point of order which refers to the proceedings which took place last Monday in Committee? It will be within your recollection that, on that occasion, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) made a speech in which the burden of the first part was that my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) had improperly altered the record in HANSARD of a speech which he made last year when he was Secretary of State for War.

Yesterday, this matter was raised in the House by the hon. Member for Buckingham, but Mr. Speaker, having been able to make his investigations, found that the alteration which had been made in HANSARD had been properly made and that no imputation whatsoever could be levelled against my right hon. Friend. Further, Mr. Speaker went on to say that, as far as he was concerned, whatever had been said in Committee was no concern of his, and, therefore, he resisted invitations made from this side of the House to ask the hon. Member for Buckingham to withdraw the remark.

Mr. Speaker said that he had no formal knowledge of what had been said, but he had understood from the hon. Member for Buckingham yesterday that he had made a general charge against this side of the House and no specific charge against any particular person, and certainly not against my right hon. Friend. I suppose that in those circumstances it would be common ground that the hon. Member for Buckingham would not be bound to withdraw a general charge, although, by implication, he would be bound to withdraw a specific one.

It will be seen from the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings on Monday that the hon. Member for Buckingham said:
"I do not want to kick the backside of the right hon. Member for Harrogate, but …"
I omit some words, and then the hon. Gentleman went on:
"there is evidence that they"—
meaning the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends—
"cooked the books to suit their party …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1965; Vol. 708, c. 72–3.]

By his applause at that statement, I imagine that the hon. Member for Buckingham is repeating that my right hon. Friend, as well as his other right hon. Friends, cooked the books.

In these circumstances, is it not perfectly clear that a specific charge was made against my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate, a very grave charge, indeed, which the hon. Member now knows to be untrue? Would it not, Dr. King, be in accordance with the customs of the House and in accordance with ordinary courtesy and the rules of order that the hon. Member for Buckingham should now be asked to withdraw that remark against my right hon. Friend?

Further to the point of order, Dr. King. Before you comment on the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw), may I make a submission to you? I submit that the representation which the hon. Member has given to the Committee of what occurred on Monday is completely inaccurate. I think that this is strictly relevant to the point which he has raised, because when the matter was raised on Tuesday I do not think all hon. Members in the House were fully aware of what had occurred on Monday. Now, those of us who have been able to check it find the situation entirely different.

Charges were made yesterday against my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell), some of the most odious kind, a charge, for example, like that made by the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir Rolf Dudley Williams), which is the kind of charge that we fully expect from a Tory gentleman but nobody else—

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will deal only with the point of order which has arisen, and that is about what happened in the Committee on Monday and not what happened in the House yesterday.