§ Sir Michael McNair-Wilson
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if his Department will hold an inquiry into the causes of the multiple road accident on the M4 in Berkshire, between junctions 14 and 15, on Wednesday 13 March, including the significance of motorists ignoring the weather conditions; if he will indicate the weather conditions at the time and whether the fog/speed warning lights were switched on; and what consideration lie is giving to whether the fire which followed the collision suggests a need for manufacturers to look again at fire hazards on heavy goods vehicles and cars.
§ Mr. Chope
I offer my condolences to those who were injured and to the relatives of those who were killed in this tragic accident.
The police are still carrying out investigations and are not able to give a definite opinion on the causes of the accident. I have asked to see the report of the investigation as soon as it is available and shall consider urgently what lessons may be learnt including, as my hon. Friend suggests, lessons about driver behaviour.
There was blanket fog in the area and preliminary indications are that drivers were driving too fast for these conditions. I also understand that the warning lights in the area were not switched on before the accident. This was a decision by the police, which was in accordance with advice given to all police forces by the Association of Chief Police Officers, that they should be used only for hazards which are not readily apparent to drivers, and not for general adverse weather conditions. I have already spoken to the chief constables of Thames Valley and Wiltshire constabularies. We are arranging to meet to discuss this policy.
My Department continually seeks to reduce the risk of fires in vehicles and liaises both with manufacturers and with fire services on research into better design for this purpose.