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Bilingual Road Signs

Volume 885: debated on Monday 27 January 1975

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12.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has now received protesting against his decision to give priority to English in bilingual directional signs in Wales.

Since announcing my decision to the House on 10th June 1974, I have received 135 letters of protest.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment stated, on 17th December, in a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) that no attempt had been made to establish the effect of reading speeds on road safety? Is the Secretary of State further aware that this makes nonsense of his requirement that Welsh place names be placed underneath those in English? The English place names are often corrupt forms of the Welsh. Was not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's decision based not on road safety but on political grounds?

I do not know what political grounds the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I take notice that this is the first oral Question tabled by the hon. Gentleman that I am answering since his re-election to the House. It is an odd sense of priorities, when the concern of most of the Welsh people is with jobs and homes.

The letter of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment must be read in the context of Table 5 of the Second Report of the Road Research Laboratory. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read the report. If so, perhaps he will tell us whether the difference of 137 ft or, perhaps, 100 ft, is a significant factor in safeguarding life over the distances that would be involved in adopting the course he suggests if a car were travelling at 70 mph. No Minister with the slightest sense of responsibility—I speak as a former Minister responsible for safety in the Ministry for Transport—would have taken any other course.