asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, in the light of the discussions he has had with local authorities in the United Kingdom, what information he now has on the reasons why local authorities were unable to grit the roads prior to the major snow falls which first fell on 27 December.
The first snow warnings were received in some areas on the 28 December and in others on the 29 and 30. The reports I am now receiving from the local authorities show that they either commenced operations immediately or did so within a few hours of the warnings. Salting and gritting operations suffered seriously in some cases from gale force winds and rain together with very low temperatures at night. The vastly reduced volume of road traffic resulting from the bank holiday was also an important factor in aggravating the situation.
I thank the Minister for that reply. In how many areas was gritting not possible because the unions refused to do standby duty?
I have no information of that happening at all over the bank holiday, which was the immediate crisis to which the hon. Gentleman referred. It is true that this has happened occasionally since the action by the public service employees, but it is not right to apply that situation to the Christmas and new year period.
Is my hon. Friend aware that Liverpool has experienced its worst period ever for the removal of snow and ice from the roads, due to the fact that the controlling Liberal Party, together with the Conservatives, refused to turn out the workers to make certain that roads were gritted properly and the snow cleared, which was always done under a Labour authority?
My hon. Friend is right that in certain parts of the country Conservative authorities changed the standby arrangement, which gave great offence to the men and aggravated the situation that existed.