Clause 2 - Application of surplus income from safety camera enforcement

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:30 am ar 21 Mawrth 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 11:30, 21 Mawrth 2006

I beg to move amendment No. 18, in clause 2, page 1, line 17, leave out ‘may’ and insert ‘shall’.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 19, in clause 2, page 1, line 19, leave out from ‘(2)’ to ‘to’ in line 20.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

We like the clause, but we think that it could be better. There are real doubts in the public’s mind about the present safety camera regime, and we want to toughen up the clause so that all surpluses have to go towards road safety.

The figures are quite striking. In 2000-01 there were only seven partnerships. They received £10.362 million and spent £8.985 million, leaving a balance of £1.367 million, which went into the Consolidated Fund, which, to be blunt, is the black hole presided over by the Chancellor. That balance was 13 per cent. of the funds in 2001. What is fascinating is that there has been a spectacular increase in income and in the number of partnerships—we are now up to about 35 partnerships. In 2003-04 there were receipts of £112.2 million and expenditure of £91.8 million, leaving an astonishing £20.4 million going to the Chancellor. Not only have receipts increased approximately tenfold, but the balance going to the Chancellor as a percentage   of total receipts has increased from 13 to 18 per cent. That means that a very substantial sum is not going towards road safety.

The issue has caused controversy in my own patch. In the autumn, the Minister kindly answered some parliamentary questions of mine. In West Mercia, £4.897 million was spent on speed camera running costs, but fixed penalty fines totalled £6.182 million, so more than £1.2 million from my area went to the Consolidated Fund. That is bitterly resented. The regime has to change. We have gone from about 200,000 speeding fines imposed about 10 years ago to about 2 million today, and very large amounts of the money raised are not being spent on safety. There are worse cases: six road safety partnerships have each made a profit of more than £1 million, with money going on to Whitehall. The biggest profit—£1.7 million—was made by the Northumbria safety camera partnership, with motorists in the county stumping up more than £4 million in fines.

The Secretary of State has announced that he will overhaul the programme and that the surpluses—about £110 million a year—will go to a new national road safety fund. That has to be done. There is an interesting quote from Edmund King, the executive director of the RAC Foundation:

“These figures show that there is a lot that can be spent on wider road safety improvements. Some cameras are money-making enterprises, some are not. I have seen a document from a road safety partnership warning that it was in danger of not breaking even and suggesting two options. One was to place cameras where they would catch more motorists and the other was to lower the speed threshold for prosecution.”

That is exactly what we should not be doing. That really is not the way to get the collaboration of the 34 million drivers whom I mentioned on Second Reading and touched on briefly in the debate on the programme motion. I believe strongly that we cannot coerce those drivers—we cannot just use a stick. The vast majority of drivers are hard-working, law-abiding people going about their daily lives and trying to get from A to B in safety and on time. Unfortunately, the way in which the safety camera regime has been set up has caused real alienation.

A case close to me, although not on my patch, has caused real controversy locally. I had a note from the Association of British Drivers about one of the earliest cameras. I have not had time to go into the details, but the association claims that a local council and a local camera partnership provided different detailed information on a camera at a location called Bennetts bank. The association says:

“When the information was analysed, it showed that not only did the camera partnership and the local council provide different data, but the partnership’s analyses of the figures were highly dubious and, quite clearly, there had been no accidents at the point where the camera was installed.”

The association claims that the camera was installed without the statutory number of accidents—at the time, four fatal accidents in a three-year period, I think—having occurred.

Last night, I received an e-mail from a Mr. John Evans, who wrote that Bennetts bank

“was an obvious place to trap drivers coming down from the M54 or coming from Wellington back up to Ketly Roundabout on a normally safe straight piece of road, spacious and walled on both sides except for some terraced houses at the top end.

An employee of the council seconded to the partnership agreed with me off record and admitted that the main reason for the placement was that it was a good place to catch the 7000 vehicles per day flow. It was necessary to kick start the abominable partnership in this way as this was the first such camera in Shropshire ... I assure you that I have no great interest in cars but hate it when both my intelligence and my pocket is abused. It is probable that tens of thousands of fines have been collected at this site alone. I know that countless people have been up in arms about this cynical ploy based on the narrowest interpretation of the law to meet the Exchequer’s requirements.”

We have to face the political reality that such opinions are out there and they are very damaging to the idea of collaboration. It is vital to implement speed limits that are respected and accord with drivers’ behaviour. In this case, there was a straight piece of road, where fatal accidents had not occurred. In fact, last night, a senior member of the Telford community told me that there were other places in Telford that really would have benefited from the installation of speed cameras.Vicky Cann, the assistant director of Transport 2000, said that

“the very high casualty criteria are a major obstacle to greater use of cameras along roads considered dangerous. It is unacceptable that where people have already died or been seriously injured in speed-related crashes further tragedies must occur before effective speed limit enforcement is undertaken”.

The current regime is being attacked from two angles. There is a strong belief that cameras are being placed unnecessarily, rather as the Bourbon tax farmers had free rein to raise taxes and to take a slice of the revenue themselves. To put it bluntly, the more a safety camera organisation can expand its operations, the more money it can raise and the more it can fund itself and pay its employees. That is quite wrong. We must get away from the concept that speed cameras are not helpful. We need to get back to the idea, promoted by Vicky Cann, that there are areas where a speed camera in the right place could reduce accidents.

I have referred several times to the example in Telford because it caused such bad feeling in the local area. A speed camera was installed on what is regarded a straight, safe road, where, according to those who have discussed the case with me, it is probably safe to travel at 40 mph. It is vital that we return to the idea that speed cameras are associated with road safety. They should be placed in areas where there are real dangers of very unpleasant and possibly fatal accidents. I received a very good letter from Roger Geffen, the campaigns and policy manager of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. He said that

“to kill off the criticism of safety cameras as “cash cows”, two principles must be followed:

1) The purposes of cameras must be transparently linked to road safety objectives and

2) That there is no risk that the Government might use camera revenue to replace other “mainstream” road safety funding, as delivered through the Local Transport Plan (LTP) process”.

Those principles are wholly admirable. We would begin to claw back some public confidence in speed cameras if people knew that all the money raised went toward road safety. That is black and white statement.   We should be able to tell all motorists and road safety campaigners that every bit of the surplus will be ploughed back into road safety. Such an approach might begin to win back some public confidence. The Minister might comment on that in his response.

As it stands, clause 2 states that some of the money may be spent on relevant

“local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measures”.

Can the Minister elaborate on what the Government have in mind? I ask because the Committee received an interesting note from RBS Insurance, pointing out that

“One area ripe for action is the framework for inspecting the quality of road repair work undertaken. At present local authorities only have a duty/right to inspect 30% of road works to make sure that their companies are meeting appropriate standards, a level that is surely inefficient”.

On what objectives is the money to be targeted?

Clause 2 would be improved greatly if amendments Nos. 18 and 19 were agreed to. The word “may” is wishy-washy—it allows the Government to park the issue for a year or two. The word “shall” should be used. It should be clear that all surplus revenue raised from the installation of speed cameras must be spent on road safety schemes. I am very interested to hear the Minister’s comments on that suggestion.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

I dread that I may one day have to tot up the amount of time I have spent in Committee debating whether the appropriate word to use is “may” or “shall”. I fear that if we did undertake that exercise, we would discover that we have contributed very little to the sum of human happiness. In fact, on this occasion, I beg to differ with the hon. Member for North Shropshire. By using the word “may”, the Government have got it right, because to compel the Government to make a regulation that changing circumstances may render unnecessary would merely lead to yet more unnecessary legislation.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Frankly, I do not care whether the word used is “may” or “shall”. I agree entirely that the clause is wishy-washy and badly drafted, but it was inserted in the Lords by Liberal Democrats and Tories.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport) 11:45, 21 Mawrth 2006

I am sorry, but I may have given the impression that I cared about whether the word used was “may” or “shall”. If I did give that impression, I accept that it was entirely misleading and I apologise unreservedly to the Committee.

I have some concerns, however, about amendment No. 19. Removing the words

“over and above such income as is required to cover expenditure on the operation of a safety camera scheme” would effectively enable any future Secretary of State to leave a camera partnership operating at a loss if he demanded a certain amount of money. I can see tensions arising there. The hon. Member for North Shropshire is right to highlight the amount of fines that will go to the Consolidated Fund, but his amendments,   which could mean that taxpayers, locally or nationally, ended up funding safety cameras directly, would not be helpful in any way.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Is the hon. Gentleman’s party happy that substantial sums are now going directly to the Treasury instead of being ploughed back into road safety schemes?

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

Of course I am not happy, although what the hon. Gentleman describes has for ever been the case, whether through fixed penalties or penalties imposed by the court. That is why he is right to highlight the fact that such an amount is going into the Consolidated Fund. Be they wishy-washy or otherwise, the provisions give us the opportunity to direct some of that money back towards local road safety improvements, which should be welcomed.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Gentleman may not care whether it is “may” or “shall”, but my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire is right to differentiate the two. He made several important points in support of the amendment. First, being the learned gentleman that he is, the Minister will know about the Shakespearean theme of appearance and reality. He may be about to argue that the reality is that too many speed cameras are not revenue-generating machines for the Government, yet most people perceive that a huge number of them are merely just that. Cameras should be there to reduce the speed of vehicles to make them comply with the law or to reduce accidents. The whole point of having “shall” instead of “may” is to reinforce that.

My hon. Friend spoke about the amounts that go into some general pot that can never be seen. I am surprised that the Minister does not want to support the amendment. If he did, there would be money for the experimental schemes that he talked about when we discussed clause 1. It would be helpful not to siphon such moneys off into general or non-transport areas. That is entirely consistent with what was said earlier, so the amendment is entirely consistent with the thrust of what the Government are trying to do. Surplus moneys from speed camera fines should be used for road safety improvements.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

The hon. Gentleman just called me learned. I hope that he was saying that I have learned something, rather than using the word in its formal sense and accusing me of being a lawyer. If he is accusing me of being a lawyer, I may have to black his eye for him.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

Frankly, I do not mind whether the amendments are agreed to. I shall leave it to the Government Whip to decide whether he allows them to be passed. He may wish to enhance the career of the hon. Member for North Shropshire by allowing him to be the first shadow Minister to move an Opposition   amendment that is agreed to, but I shall be seeking the support of my hon. Friends for removing the entire clause at stand part.

The clause is unnecessary. We considered these matters in December. The purpose of the clause is to make money raised through fine income from cameras available for purposes wider than the installation of cameras. In the current financial year, the rules are that camera partnerships that install cameras can keep the fines in order to pay their costs in maintaining the cameras and enforcement, after which only the surplus goes to the Treasury. We agree entirely that that gives the impression to drivers that cameras are self-proliferating and that people put them up in order to make money.

I say to the hon. Member for North Shropshire, who talked about a road in his constituency

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I stand corrected. The hon. Gentleman referred to a road that was straight and safe to break the speed limit on. Anybody who does not wish to pay a fine can stick to the speed limit. If a speed limit is there, one must assume that it is there for a purpose. That is why the Secretary of State said in his announcement in December that, as well as breaking the link between fine income and cameras, we would also ask all local authorities over the next few years to review every speed limit in the country and to make sure that the limits were appropriate. I have said publicly that I expect some speed limits to go up, perhaps where engineering has improved the safety of a road over the years, so the lower speed limit is no longer appropriate.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

That is an important point. I understand that local authorities can currently impose speed limits irrespective of whether they are necessary. There is no means by which a member of the public who uses a road can challenge the local authority’s decision or make it give reasons. Under the process that the Minister outlined, are local authorities given guidelines as to what they should look for, which tell them that if a speed limit does not meet the criteria, they must seek to raise it? Are they put under a duty to do so?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

We are certainly producing guidelines that we want local authorities to follow in assessing all speed limits. I have said publicly that I would expect them to start with the highest priority sites, which I would have thought they would identify through the accident rate, first and foremost. If there is a very high accident rate on a particular road, they must consider the possibility that the speed limit is set too high. Equally, if there is a low accident rate on a road, but a high rate of speeding, they might consider the possibility that the speed limit has been set too low. They should adjust the speed limit accordingly and, in doing so, win back the confidence of drivers.

What we must not do—this was implied in the tone of the hon. Member for North Shropshire, with which I take issue—is say to drivers that there are any circumstances in which it is okay to ignore the speed   limit. If somebody thinks that the speed limit is not right, they should make representations through their local council to have the limit changed. They should not think that they can make the judgment and simply ignore the speed limit.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

Has the guidance crystallised? In other words, is it in its final form, and if so, could members of the Committee please have a copy?

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I do not know whether the guidance has been finalised yet. It is within a short period of being finalised. If it is ready for dissemination, I shall certainly let Committee members have a copy. If not, I shall write to advise when it will be available, and copies will be put in the Library and sent out to all local authorities.

Photo of Lee Scott Lee Scott Ceidwadwyr, Ilford North

I have raised previously an issue concerning a speed camera at the bottom of the M11. The only thing proven by the evidence that has been supplied is that the camera has made accidents and road safety worse. In such instances, the word “shall” would at least tell the people who are fined for speeding that their fines will be properly used for road safety, rather than that the fines may perhaps be used in that way, although they may go to the Chancellor.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I do not know the particular scheme to which the hon. Gentleman referred; he may well have raised it or written to me about it, but it has slipped my memory. I can tell him, however, that wherever a speed camera is put up, the accident data and the reasons why it is there should be on the partnership website associated with that camera. Any member of the public who sees a camera that they suspect has been installed for money-raising purposes can go on to the internet and find out why it is there. It is the number of people who are killed or seriously injured, rather than just the number of fatalities, as the hon. Member for North Shropshire said, which governs where a camera should be located.

Until now, the rules have referred to whether a certain number of people have been killed or seriously injured over a period and whether there is evidence of speeding at the location. That is what a camera partnership should look for before a camera is installed. If cameras are installed other than in such locations, members of the public should talk to their local council and to the partnership about exactly why that has happened.

The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire said that members of the public could not challenge a speed limit that they feel is inappropriate for a particular road. Of course they can challenge it; indeed, we are just coming up to local elections, which is exactly when they should do so. When councillors or potential councillors knock on people’s front doors in local elections, if people occasionally raised such local issues and said that the candidates would be judged on them, I suspect that there would be a good deal more focus than at present on some of the things that irritate people. There is no specific right of appeal, however,   and speed limits are not subject to planning applications in the way that the hon. Member for North Shropshire might hope for.

We need to make camera partnerships more responsive, but I should first say that cameras work. We have now completed three studies during the four years for which camera partnerships have existed, looking at accident rates before and after camera deployment. There was some controversy last year about whether the so-called regression to mean effect might be distorting the data, but in the fourth study, we have examined not only whether the accident rate at camera sites has been reduced, but the impact of regression to mean on the figures. There is absolutely no doubt whatever that cameras save lives. They reduce people’s speed, and they reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured at camera sites.

As I have said on several occasions, however, we must strike a deal with the motorist whereby we make it clear to them that we are putting up cameras not merely to raise money, as some motorists perceive, but where there is no better way of making a site safe and when we have looked at the accident and speed record, along with alternatives such as engineering work, flashing signs and other information that might be made available to help slow motorists down. When there is no better solution for a serious blackspot than a camera, a camera goes in.

If we can convince motorists that that is what we are trying to achieve, I hope that they will respond. Their part of the deal will be to respect speed limits more than they do at the moment. We should start telling people who speed that their speed is not acceptable, in the same way as in the 1960s and 1970s, when people changed their attitude to drink-driving dramatically. Characters in television situation comedies used to get drunk and drive their cars and everyone laughed at them, but no one would laugh these days. By striking a deal with the motorist, we have to get the public to change their attitude to speeding, so that they start to respect speed limits and we will not have to fine them.

We have completely changed the rules that govern the camera partnerships so that there is no link between the fines they raise and the money they get. From 2007-08, all the money from fines will go to the Treasury. In return, the Treasury will give back £110 million—the amount currently being collected through fines—which will be used by local partnerships and authorities for road safety measures, which may include the installation and maintenance of cameras. The decision on the most appropriate way of using the money will be made locally. There will no longer be an incentive for people in camera partnerships to put up cameras because it will guarantee them an income. There will be no link between the fines raised by the local authority camera partnership and the amount that they receive. Where there will be a link is in how well they are doing on road safety issues. The local authorities that are successful in tackling road safety will benefit most.

I have described the mechanism that will operate in future. We do not need legislation to change it, because we have done it already. The Secretary of State made a statement in December about how the road safety partnership system was being changed. That makes clause 2 redundant and I hope that the Committee will vote against its standing part of the Bill. I am completely neutral on the amendments, although we might agree to them so that, for a few brief seconds, the hon. Member for North Shropshire can say that he has won something in Committee.

During the debate I have been reflecting on what the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire said. I can tell him that traffic authorities have to publish traffic regulation orders when they propose changes to speed limits. The public can object and their objections must duly be considered before the order is made. There is therefore a mechanism other than the local elections for people to object to speed limits.

Having said all that, I hope that the hon. Member for North Shropshire will again make the case for the amendments and that my hon. Friends will then remove the clause from the Bill.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:00, 21 Mawrth 2006

The Minister’s reply was a bit of a curate’s egg. We are delighted that he is happy to support our amendments, but if what he says is in line with Government policy, I am not sure why he will not support clause stand part. He appears to have said that there is an absolute guarantee that all surpluses raised by speed camera partnerships will go to the Treasury and then on to road safety measures. I wonder if that is a correct statement, because our amendments have the same purpose: we want all the surpluses—income in excess of expenditure—to go into road safety measures. That is a simple request, but an important part of the battle to regain motorists’ confidence.

The Committee’s views on speed cameras are not miles apart, but there has been a loss of public confidence. If we were able to say that all the fines would go into road safety it would have a major impact on people’s confidence. I am pleased that the Minister said he would support amendments Nos. 18 and 19.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 19, in clause 2, page 1, line 19, leave out from ‘(2)’ to ‘to’ in line 20.—[Mr. Paterson.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Greg Knight Greg Knight Chair, Procedure Committee

I think that we are shortly to find out what the words “hollow victory” really mean.

The whole Committee is grateful to the Minister for the way in which he responded to the amendments. I applaud what I perceive to be a change of tone from the Government and their recognition, which I have not heard before, that one needs to consider the law-abiding motorist. That is basic common sense, because if speed limits are respected those who flout them will   become just as ostracised as those who drink and drive are now. As the Minister indicated, that was not always so. When the drink-driving legislation was first introduced, in it was a field day for comedians, particularly because of the bag that one had to blow into in those days. I welcome the Minister’s change of tone, but I am not yet convinced that the Government have got the balance right. I hope that we will see the guidance that is to go out to local authorities before the Committee debate proceeds much further.

The Minister said that a speed limit notice can be challenged as inappropriate, but in reality they are not challenged because most motorists are not aware of them. Most motorists live in one local authority area and commute to another to work. If the speed limit is altered on the part of their journey that is in the local authority area where they work, they probably do not buy the local paper. Even if they do, they will have to look very hard in the public notices column, and if they miss the paper on the day when it is published, they will not know that it is happening until it is too late.

The idea that the imposition of a speed limit could be reversed during local elections was the weakest part of the Minister’s speech. Very often, if there is a tragedy in a village—for example, a young child is killed on the road—politicians of all parties unite to mirror the grief in that village. If the relatives of the child hold the rather blinkered view that a lower speed limit is the answer, there tends to be local momentum behind the view that that would solve the problem and prevent another young child being killed, so a campaign for a lower speed limit is launched. It needs somebody very brave in those circumstances, particularly if he is seeking election, to say to the parents of a deceased child, “A lower speed limit is not the answer. A barrier on the pavement is the answer, and perhaps more education in the local school or with parents to make sure that children are not running loose on the pavement.” In those circumstances, emotion tends to rule the roost and a campaign goes forward with all-party support. I will applaud what the Department is doing if, as the Minister has indicated, the guidance tells local authorities that there may be cases in which they need to raise the speed limit. By so doing, a local authority will have more credibility and public support when it seeks to introduced a lower speed limit.

I welcome the overall tone of the Minister’s remarks, which I hope will live on longer than the clause, as amended, will do.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s comments. We will make the guidance available to the Committee as soon as it is written.

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that people do not know about traffic regulation orders. I am the Minister of State and I did not know about them until a note was passed to me in the middle of that discussion, so how on earth can ordinary members of the public know that they can challenge speed limits in that way?

My point was that it is open to political parties to make a commitment in their manifesto for the forthcoming elections to review speed limits in their   area and decide whether they are right or wrong. I am pleased to say that in some parts of the country some parties’ manifestos say that they will review the speed limits around schools and use the powers that the Government have given them to introduce 20 mph zones. That is absolutely correct—every local authority in the country should examine the speed limit around every school and decide whether it is appropriate to have a 20 mph zone. It is a small leap from there for local authorities to say, “And while we’re at it, we will get on with the job of reviewing all the speed limits in our area, because we believe that some of them may no longer be appropriate. We shall join the Government in this battle to win over the hearts and minds of motorists.” They should commit to making sure that cameras are in the right places, that engineering is used where it is needed and that better signage and information is used where that is more appropriate. However, they will then make it clear to motorists that, having done their part of the deal, they will be tough with them: where there is a clear danger spot, the authorities will expect limits to be properly enforced. They will expect motorists to obey the law and not come whingeing that they have three points on their licence and that it will cost them £30 if they break the speed limit.

That is what we want to achieve. We have already changed the rules of the partnerships to achieve that. The Government have all the flexibility that they need to do that under existing legislation. That is why the clause is unnecessary. To be fair to their Lordships, when they inserted the clause in the Bill, they did not realise that the Government were on the verge of changing the rules without the Bill. I imagine that they would not have inserted the clause had they known that.

The clause is unnecessary. I hope that my assurances about the Government’s intentions in relation to road cameras and speed limits are sufficient to reassure hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and that Opposition Members will now allow the clause to be removed from the Bill, having had a short but, I hope, happy period in their lives when they thought they had won something.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport)

The Minister says that the clause is unnecessary. As long as he remains in his post, that will undoubtedly be the case. I have no hesitation in saying that he is a man of good faith. However, I must gently point out to him that the day may come when he is not in that job. The day may even come when the Labour party is not in government.

I know that there is much talk in Labour circles about legacies. I suggest that the clause could be the Minister’s legacy to future generations, so that if the day came when the Government were not minded to act in the exemplary and fair manner that he outlined, which seems to have won such approval from all parts of the Committee, there would be something in law, albeit secondary legislation, that would prevent that change from taking place. That is why the clause is necessary and why it should stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:15, 21 Mawrth 2006

Flushed with our victory on amendments Nos. 18 and 19, which we think significantly improve clause 2, I was very interested in the Minister’s comments. Like the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, I am pleased to see the way in which the Government have come round on this subject.

There are two extreme views on speed: there are those who think that cars will only be rendered safe if a man walks in front with a red flag, and there are others who think that the only really safe measure is to put a large spike, six inches long, in every steering wheel and to rely on the driver’s sense of self-preservation not to put his own life at risk while driving at any speed he wants. There has to be a happy compromise between the two. The Minister used absolutely the right word—“appropriate”—in his speech. That is the key. Speed as such does not kill. It is inappropriate speed that kills.

I have had a ton of correspondence on speed limits sent to me. One of the most extraordinary facts I learned was that when the speed limit in Park lane was 30 mph, the average speed was 41 mph. When the speed limit was increased to 40 mph, the average speed dropped to 39 mph. That struck me as a very good example of an inappropriate limit: people were driving with the imaginary spike pointing at their chests—driving with a sense of self-preservation. Against that, we have the case on which there seemed to be unanimity this morning—the question of having more flexibility on speed, particularly around schools. Interestingly, there seemed to be all-party support for that. I am therefore pleased that the Minister referred to “inappropriate speed” and not just “speed”. One cannot simply say that speed kills. It is inappropriate speed that kills.

My right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire might like to hear that on Sunday I spoke to a Yorkshireman who had been taking his son to a driving lesson through a windy little village in Yorkshire. The son was going about 28 mph in a 30-mph area, and the father really went for him, saying, “What are you doing? Look what’s happening. There are tourists around, people crossing the road. There are families and buggies. This isn’t sensible. Forget the sign. You should be driving appropriately, according to the circumstances”. I have been encouraged and pleased by the way the Minister has been talking this morning, although I am disappointed that, having happily supported the amendments and allowed clause 2 to be improved enormously, he seems unlikely to let it stand part of the Bill.

I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. We may trust the Minister—he has been talking a lot of sense this morning and we agree with him. However, he will move on, perhaps to greater things, so it would be nice to have this legacy firmly on the statute book as a memorial to his firm belief that all surpluses should go to road safety. I hope that he will reconsider in the next few minutes and that clause 2, as amended, will stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

There is common ground. We all want to establish motorists’ confidence that speed limits are appropriate and should therefore be respected. I would like Opposition Members to remember that recent opinion polls have shown that as many as 85 per cent. of motorists regard speeding as acceptable in certain circumstances. It is not. That is the battle that we are fighting. However, we have to fight it with both the carrot and the stick, as has been said. I think that the Government have got it right. The policy that we have proposed is the right one. We do not need new legislation, which is why the clause should be removed from the statute book.

Legacies have been mentioned. I can tell Opposition Members that the smiles on their faces when they won their amendment was sufficient legacy for me. However, one can have too much of a good thing, so I invite my hon. Friends to remove the clause from the Bill.

Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Rhif adran 1 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 2 - Application of surplus income from safety camera enforcement

Ie: 5 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 2, as amended, disagreed to.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Ceidwadwyr, Macclesfield

That was my first experience of that situation arising in a Standing Committee. Perhaps we have set a precedent.