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Mr. Kidney: I need only to show that there is a safety implication in allowing the police to have access to some of the money that comes from fines imposed for speeding. Results in Staffordshire tell us that the number of vehicles travelling at speeds in excess of the fixed penalty level has fallen by 98 per cent. Eighty five percentile speeds, on roads with speed limits of 30 or 40 miles per hour that are monitored by speed cameras, have reduced by between 6 to 40 per cent. Most important of all these statistics, the three-year personal injury records at county sites show a reduction in fatal and serious injuries of 60 per cent., and 24 per cent. for all injuries.
According to the Government's new safety strategy, which is called "Tomorrow's Roads--Safer for Everyone", speed is a factor in one in three of all collisions. With about 3,400 people dying on our roads every year, it can be seen that reducing excessive and inappropriate speeds can contribute greatly to meeting the Government's new challenging target for reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads by 40 per cent. by 2010. The target is 50 per cent. for children.
Reducing speed is only one element in making roads safer. Education, enforcement, road engineering and careful evaluation all have a role. In Staffordshire, the speed camera strategy is only one part of a comprehensive road safety strategy, and one that has been remarkably successful. Fatal and serious injuries have been cut from 628 in 1994 to 350 last year. We have performed well in Staffordshire to date. The local authority and the police have set themselves a target of meeting the 300 figure that the Government's new targets imply for Staffordshire by 2005 instead of 2010.
I have concentrated on road safety to show that more speed cameras nationally will be a means towards making roads safer. In this way, I hope that I can reassure those who fear that the measure is only a money-raising scheme.
Staffordshire's experience of the finances derived from speed cameras would contradict any critic who talks of a stealth tax. The local authority and the police have invested £2.5 million in speed cameras since 1995. In the same period, the sum of all the fixed-penalty tickets for speeding offences has been £2 million. That money has gone to the Exchequer, but clearly it has not even covered the investment.
A further reassurance can be gained by studying the criteria by which we decide on where to site speed cameras in Staffordshire. An assessment is made that is based on a points system. Points are awarded for various
To keep the public's confidence, the message must be that more speed cameras are intended to make our roads safer, not to raise more money. The message will be reinforced by expressly indicating that the siting of new speed cameras will be in accordance with objective criteria.
There is a financial benefit to the public purse in introducing more speed cameras, and one that we should publicise widely. Fewer fatal and serious injuries mean less expenditure to deal with the aftermath, fewer attendances by emergency services at the scene, less use of stretched health services and reduced social security payments. The Government estimate that the cost of one fatality on our roads is about £1 million. For a serious injury, the cost is about £100,000. Little wonder that Staffordshire reports a first year economic rate of return on its investment in speed cameras of l,200 per cent.
The answer to the allegation of a stealth tax is that the true purpose and effect of using speed cameras and traffic light cameras more widely is to reduce law-breaking and to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The overall objectives of the Bill--reducing vehicle crime and road casualties--should be welcomed by everyone.
Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): I am pleased that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) has returned to his place. His contribution from the Opposition Front Bench was the usual pessimistic and, at times, pedantic perambulation.
Mrs. Gilroy: I would prefer to make progress to relieve the pessimistic mood in which the hon. Gentleman left the Chamber. I hope to show that there is every reason to be optimistic about the Bill and that some of his worst fears will not come to light.
In contrast, the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary were restrained and responsible in referring to some of the tools that are essential for places such as Plymouth, which have been able to bear down significantly on car crime generally and on the theft of motor vehicles, about which the hon. Gentleman made a great deal. Places such as Plymouth, which have a significant track record, especially need the proposals that are set out in the Bill to continue to bear down on car crime.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred to the reduction of 17 per cent. in vehicle crime nationally since the election, and that achievement is even more marked in Plymouth, where we have been fortunate in being able to build on six years of partnership between the police, the council and the community to reduce crime and improve community safety. The Plymouth community safety partnership was set up during the time of a Labour-led council, and more than 100 partners have contributed to the success of the crime reduction strategy in Plymouth.
From the beginning, auto crime has been one of the key elements of that strategy. That is hardly surprising. Even with the lower level of vehicle crime in Plymouth, it represents almost one in four of all reported crimes. The success of the strategy in Plymouth has resulted in a fall from the initial audit level in 1994-95, the year before the partnership came into being, of 2,555 crimes--that is, theft of vehicles--to 1,300 in the past full year. That is a reduction of 50 per cent. in theft of vehicles. Car crime as a whole fell by 50 per cent. in the first three years and is approaching 70 to 80 per cent. for the whole period.
Plymouth's success is all the more remarkable when one considers the difficult background against which the partnership emerged. According to the 1995 index of local conditions, the St. Peter ward in Plymouth, Sutton was the poorest ward in England, with high unemployment. However, education, employment and health action zones have enabled us to pull together to address that effectively. The city now has unemployment at the national average for the first time in 20 years. Unemployment has plummeted from 12,000 to fewer than 4,000, and a further 2,000 people who were not even registered as unemployed are now in work.
Over the first three years of the community safety partnership, theft of vehicles fell by 29 per cent., and in the three years from the year of the election, such offences fell by a further 29 per cent. They have continued to fall but, naturally, after such successes, it becomes much more difficult to see significant results. A figure of 1,300 car crimes in Plymouth is still too many. Despite some success in prosecuting some of the individuals responsible for substantial amounts of such crime--
Mrs. Gilroy: Yes. I am happy to admit that CCTV has had some impact, but the greater impact has come from the people involved in the community safety partnership--the 100 partners from neighbourhood watch schemes and others, which I may mention if time permits.
The Bill will help us by making it much more difficult to profit from car theft, by licensing those involved in the salvage industry and controlling the supply of number plates. Both proposals will reduce the opportunities for criminals to disguise the identity of stolen cars, by preventing criminals from swapping the identity of a vehicle that they have stolen with that of a written-off or scrapped vehicle. They will take the profit out of stealing cars.
The Bill will also help to prevent unsuspecting purchasers from buying stolen cars, which in turn will bring benefits to the vehicle insurance industry and its customers. It will back up the work that the vehicle insurance industry is undertaking to develop the motor insurers database to prevent uninsured driving which, we know, costs each policyholder about £20 a year and the insurance industry more than £400 million.
I hope that the Bill will also help the work of trading standards officers. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) highlighted some interesting points. Some of the most difficult cases with which trading standards officers have had to deal entail spotting cut and shut
Re-investing money from speed camera enforcement in road safety will be popular with many of my constituents. We have in Plymouth one of 20 pilot home zones, and I know that all over the country there is huge demand for effective traffic calming, including the use of more speed cameras. Like many hon. Members, I have had to explain to too many constituents who fear for their own and their children's safety that speed cameras are not available for all the circumstances that might merit their use. The most recent discussion that I have had about that was at this time last week, when I was speaking to some young members of the Efford youth club. One of them asked me what we could do to stop speeding motorists like the one who had recently knocked down and injured his cousin.
I understand that the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), visited my constituency on Friday. I am delighted that she did so, and especially that she visited the St. Peter ward, which I mentioned earlier. I understand that she visited the Millfields police station, which was opened after a campaign in that community supported by local residents, their Labour councillors and myself, and which received a positive response from our then local chief inspector of police, Mr. Russ Mitchell.
I am delighted that the right hon. Lady viewed that important project, which has brought local policing back to an area that is still among the poorest in the country. I am only sorry that I did not know in advance about her visit. Perhaps hon. Members on the Conservative Benches will bring to her attention my remarks about aspects of vehicle crime and how we are tackling it in Plymouth, which I would have been delighted to show her.
For although the lives of my constituents are still spoiled by levels of deprivation and crime--including vehicle crime--that are far too high, the right hon. Lady could not have chosen a better constituency or ward to see how things are at last turning round, and how our policies are working to improve people's lives and give them back the feeling that they have some control over their quality of life.
The local community is working on a neighbourhood compact. The ward will get five more police with the extra funding from the crime-fighting fund and the Devon and Cornwall police budget, which will help to combat vehicle crime, using the new measures. The statistics for the eight months to October this year show an overall 8 per cent. reduction in crime in that ward, and 13 per cent. in Plymouth as a whole.
The impressive reduction in car crime in Plymouth is the more remarkable because it occurred against the background of deep-seated poverty, which was getting worse when we were elected in 1997. The people of Stonehouse showed early determination to deal with that appalling Tory legacy. The successful campaign to re-open a police station in the area was one early result. The work with an adjacent ward of Sutton produced some
If I were to pick out a project that illustrates why Plymouth has been so successful, I would suggest Treads, a training programme in which more than 500 young people have participated this year. It makes a special contribution to working with those who have a history of involvement in auto crime. The partnership is led by the Devon Youth Association and involves Plymouth city council and the Devon and Cornwall constabulary. Young people are referred to the programme by the youth offending team, and they learn responsible driving and car mechanics. The programme has Open College Federation accreditation.
Just last week, two young people from North Prospect received a Crimebeat award of several hundred pounds for a project to build a car from a kit. The award was made in the presence of Major Ranulph Rayner, Devon's high sheriff, who is backing such Crimebeat initiatives during his term of office, and Sir John Evans, our chief constable.
In May this year, the Tories took control of the council [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] Well, it is not "hear, hear", as far as we are concerned. Since May, there have been several worrying signs that the Tories do not fully understand the importance of putting time and money into the partnership work for which Plymouth has become well known. In the case of the crime partnership, they have cut the council's contribution to the youth offending team. Personally, I should have thought that that would be one of the last things that one would think of cutting. Even less would one expect the Tories to cut car parking charges within weeks or almost days of taking office. In fact, they did not just cut them, but abolished them on evenings and Sundays.
The car park that I am concerned about is inspected by patrols, which see whether cars have tickets. In doing so, those patrols provide a degree of security against theft from, and of, cars. The Tories say that they will maintain the patrols, but there are signs that crime in the car park is going up. The police have introduced dog patrols since December, which may help for the time being and over Christmas.
The idea is to create a partnership. The Tories on Plymouth city council, however, seem to think that people who can afford to come in and pay £20 for a theatre ticket and, often, have a meal out as well--but who do not even pay our community charge--cannot afford to contribute to the cost of car parking and security for their own cars.