Transport Philip Hammond has been slammed by motoring organisations after he falsely stated that winter tyres wear out quicker than normal ones.
"Winter tyres wear out very quickly on normal road surfaces and cause significant damage to those surfaces, so they would not be appropriate in the UK situation," said Hammond in the House of Commons yesterday.
He was replying to the question posed MP Gisela Stuart, who said: "I understand that once the temperature goes below minus 7 degrees, the tyres that we use on our cars are no longer appropriate and safe. Is the Secretary of State having discussions with car manufacturers and automobile organisations about encouraging people to change over to winter tyres, as they do on the continent?"
It would appear that Hammond was mixing winter tyres with studded tyres, as he said that these are not appropriate for light snow use. However, these are completely different to winter tyres, which do not feature studs, are made of the same materials as normal tyres and are designed to offer more grip through a more pronounced tread.
"Mr Hammond's comments show a complete lack of understanding about modern winter tyres which are the ideal solution to the type of weather we are currently experiencing," said Stuart Jackson, chairman of TyreSafe. "Studless winter tyres are designed to provide much better grip over the entire winter period, not just for when people are driving for long periods on compacted snow as he implied. They do not damage road surfaces in any way and are wholly appropriate for the UK situation."
Organisations are also concerned that insurance companies are dissuading motorists by charging a higher premium for fitting winter tyres.
Drivers have been contacting The AA to say that they have faced increased premiums for fitting the tyres and even been refused cover.
"Winter tyres have a particular benefit for drivers who encounter widespread snow on the roads in the places they travel or have to drive in these conditions because their work demands it. With minor roads largely ignored by snow clearance teams and the severity of snowfalls often leaving roads precarious, winter tyres have proven a godsend for many drivers," said Edmund King, the AA's President.
"Evidence in recent days shows that winter tyres may now have to become a recognised part of the armoury for drivers driving on persistently snowbound roads, in low temperatures and wet and icy conditions," he said. "Drivers should be encouraged to use winter tyres to improve their chances of making journeys safely."