Mr Albert Murray: The provisional figure for reportable derailments on all railways in Great Britain for the first 10 months is 342. The comparable figures for 1967, 1965 and 1963 are 256, 207 and 190 respectively.
Mr Albert Murray: All sorts of steps are being taken by the British Railways Board on speeds, driver training and route knowledge. All of us want to see a reduction in these figures, but it should be borne in mind that in terms of millions of freight miles the figure is very low.
Mr Albert Murray: I think my hon. Friend will find that the passenger train derailments have kept fairly constant. Inthe first ten months of 1963 the figure was 34, in 1965 it was 20, in 1967 it was 23, and in 1969 so far it is 19.
Mr Albert Murray: Again, the number since 1945 is very low indeed. The Ministry is very much aware of this problem and is taking the necessary steps with British Railways.
Mr Albert Murray: We are arranging with the A.A. and the R.A.C. to resume checks at ports that such vehicles have third-party insurance valid for this country, and, if not, to offer temporary British insurance.
Mr Albert Murray: That is why we have asked the A.A. and the R.A.C. to resume the checks. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a statutory offence to drive a car on the road without at least third-party insurance.
Mr Albert Murray: I am not certain about that. The A.A. and the R.A.C. were unwilling to continue these checks because of the expense, and the Ministry will be contributing towards meeting the cost of the checks.
Mr Albert Murray: No, Sir. We have had no evidence from the Optical Information Council that a change in present arrangements is necessary.
Mr Albert Murray: The figures quoted by the hon. Gentleman are not quite accurate. The percentage given by the Optical Information Council was 2.44, and this reckons out at about 400,000 drivers. The law is clear. Drivers should have a minimum standard of eyesight, and, of course, it is an offence if they do not. But the point is that so far there is no correlation between bad eyesight and road accidents.
Mr Albert Murray: Environmental factors are taken into account in all road planning. These aspects will be examined with other issues arising from the road proposals in the Greater London Development Plan. A special study of Chiswick and Brentford would not be justified at present.
Mr Albert Murray: I think my hon. Friend will find that there is a letter for him in the post on this matter right now.
Mr Albert Murray: I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Chiswick (Mr. Barnes) for puffing my way into his speech. This was due to London's traffic problems, and I apologise sincerely. Every road scheme, however big or small, wherever it is, has implications for the environment. The particular difficulties will differ from scheme to scheme and from area to area. But they are always there...
Mr Albert Murray: I do not think that I can offer to do that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is responsible for the environment of the whole country. I do not think that we can set up any special study related to Brentford and Chiswick. But certainly I undertake to ask him that very point, and I promise to give my hon. Friend an answer about it.
Mr Albert Murray: As my right hon. Friend told the hon. Member on 22nd October [Vol. 788, c. 292], he hopes to make a decision shortly.
Mr Albert Murray: We should want notice of that question.
Mr Albert Murray: As I have said, my right hon. Friend hopes to give his decision on this matter shortly. I do not think at this stage the House will want me to go further than that.
Mr Albert Murray: I think that it might be helpful if I intervene on one or two matters. As the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) said, Clause 24 contains an enabling power for the provision of hovercraft terminals. It does not authorise the erection of one on any particular site. I understand that Blackpool Corporation has under consideration the possibility of establishing such a terminal, which...
Mr Albert Murray: I do not think I can be considered by the House as a critic of the Government, but I feel that some criticism can be levelled at them on the matter of the Press. This debate comes very relevantly at this time when we have just heard, this last week, that the Sun newspaper is to be closed on 1st January. The Sun is one of a long line of newspapers, daily, Sunday and national, which have...
Mr Albert Murray: I was hoping to build up a picture of the newspaper industry and then point to where the Minister could intervene and where the Government have some responsibility. I appreciate it is a little difficult for you to keep me in order, Mr. Irving, but if I can build up the jigsaw I hope that the Government will be able to insert the final pieces. The International Publishing Corporation not only...
Mr Albert Murray: I appreciate my right hon. Friend's problem about fitting in a debate on the Press next week, but can he assure the House that if there is a debate on the subject on the Consolidated Fund Bill we shall have a statement of the Government's intentions from the Front Bench?