Road Safety

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 2:06 pm on 3rd November 1989.

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Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock , Lewisham, Deptford 2:06 pm, 3rd November 1989

By leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker I shall speak briefly. I concur very much with what the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) has just said. The mother of one of my constituents was mown down in the street. She has suffered the same problems with the Crown Prosecution Service and feels deeply aggrieved.

This interesting debate has produced many ideas and suggestions and I look forward to the Minister's response. I hope especially that he will have time to respond on the issue of drink-driving offences and on what action should be taken. There are strong feelings in the House on the matter and, of course, on the other matters that the North report has drawn to our attention.

I was delighted to find that the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) joined us in our outright opposition to new road building in London. I cannot stress too much how strongly London Members feel about the proposals in the London assessment studies for new road building. We are joined, regardless of party, in seeking to persuade Ministers at the Department of Transport that those plans should not go ahead.

I was interested to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) on speed limits. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Neale) is not still with us. He was wrong when he said that speed was not a factor. There is substantial evidence to show that when speed limits are reduced, there is a corresponding decrease in accidents. Although much of that evidence comes from other countries, it is notable that when we reduced our motorway speed limits from 70 mph to 50 mph because of the oil crisis in 1973, there was a 33 per cent. decrease in the number of accidents. For those reasons, we very much agree with the sentiments of the hon. Member for Hornchurch and that is why we have said in our transport policy that we shall be prepared to consider reducing speed limits on major roads in certain cases. We should remember that someone who crashes at 50 mph is twice as likely to die as someone who crashes at 40 mph. The House cannot ignore the hard statistical facts.

Of other Tory Members' speeches, I commend in particular that of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) who made some interesting comments. He gave us much food for thought about the condition and safety of vehicles. His view accords with the Labour party's policy on the need to tackle the market in second-hand vehicles and the danger that they can present to the travelling and driving public. I hope that the Minister will respond to those remarks.

It will come as no surprise that there is unanimity on the Opposition Benches. We believe that there is a conflict between the general direction of Government transport policy and the Government's aim of reducing road casualties.