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Mr. Shaw: It is gracious of the hon. Gentleman to give way. He mentioned the Medway scheme earlier, and said that it was wrong to prejudge a pilot. Do not his proposals prejudge what local authorities will be able to collect? As I advised him in Committee, officers from Kent county council and Medway council, which are both Conservative authorities, advised me that 90 per cent. of abandoned vehicles were untraceable.
Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman underestimates the significance of financial constraint as a means of halting or retarding the progress of local authorities in tackling abandoned vehicles. Our proposal is based on our belief that assistance is required. The hon. Gentleman accuses me and the Opposition of anticipating or second-guessing the pilot scheme. I disagree, because the approach that he commends--the final results of which we will be made aware of--need not be incompatible with the simultaneous pursuit of the national policy that the Conservative Opposition recommend. Let a thousand lights burn; let a variety of approaches be adopted, and
We developed the arguments clearly in Committee. I was sorry that the Minister and the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford were so unenthusiastic, because I believe that many people who live in areas where abandoned vehicles multiply by the day look to the Government to take decisive action. We recommend such action, but the Government resist it. We believe that we are right and that they are wrong.
Mr. Miller: New clause 7 grants a clear set of powers. They are welcome, especially to hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell), who have had the unfortunate responsibility of dealing with constituents who have lost a loved one through a road crash.
I have persistently and consistently nagged the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) and the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) on the matters that we are discussing. They therefore know that I believe strongly that we need to do much more about road safety. I agree with the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) that much wider measures are required. I want local authorities to use more widely their powers to reduce speed limits in urban estates. I support better driver education and more rigorous enforcement of the regulations that govern the substances that people may have consumed. I have discussed with the British Medical Association a range of ethical matters that relate to drivers who are hospitalised after causing a crash. Many issues need to be tackled.
I am especially pleased that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench are present. They accept that Parliament and the Government have a responsibility for dealing with those matters, even though some aspects are not popular with the public. That is shown by the failure of the hon. Member for Buckingham to support new clause 7 although he supports the removal of clause 37. Of course, people who believe themselves to be good drivers--we all do when we are behind the wheel of a tonne of steel--are frustrated if they come across too many lights. However, they are there for the good reason that speed kills. The evidence is unequivocal; a reduction in speed causes a reduction in deaths and serious injury.
As a result of much work, some of which I have mentioned, I want us to reach a position whereby the new clause becomes defunct. In an ideal world, we would educate our drivers, develop vehicle safety, road design and other aspects to the point where such technology became unnecessary. The hon. Member for Buckingham asked about the figures in five years and whether they would be balanced. I should like us to reach a point, through a wide range of measures, where the Government of the day--I am sure that my hon. Friends will remain on the Front Bench--can decide that the provision has achieved its objective and begin to devise other methods of using the resources.
Mr. Chidgey: The hon. Gentleman spoke of an ideal world in which road safety measures would be so successful that awful accidents would not happen. Has the hon. Gentleman considered that if the national programme for speed cameras is so successful that the number of offences is significantly reduced, the revenue will also be reduced? There is a law of diminishing returns. I am seriously worried about the ability to continue supporting the programme.
Mr. Miller: If we considered that argument in isolation, the hon. Gentleman would be right. However, when we take all aspects of death on the road into account he is wrong. It has been estimated that every death costs approximately £1 million. The hon. Member for Colchester agrees with that. We must consider the overall figure. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) presents an intellectual challenge, but he must consider the issue in the round.
A point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham sums up the difference between the Government and the official Opposition on the issues that we are considering. In debates on previous clauses, the hon. Gentleman described victims of vehicle crimes as potentially suffering emotional scars. I do not disagree with his view, but I should like him to say that he understands and commits himself to dealing with those who suffer more serious emotional scars after losing loved ones.
Mr. Miller: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman accepts that. It is vital for the House to take a lead with policies that are unpopular with the wider public. People do not like speed cameras, but when they consider the full facts, they take a different view. The Government have got the new clause exactly right. It will provide another opportunity for the relevant authorities to maintain the pressure on road safety. I hope that, with the many other matters that the House must continue to tackle, the provision will contribute to a reduction in the approximately 3,000 deaths that occur on our roads every year.
Mr. Bob Russell: It is an honour for me to follow the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), whose record on tackling the question of road deaths and crashes I admire. I concur with the points that he made.
I am disappointed that Conservative Members do not intend to force a Division on the new clause. Their language suggested that they were opposed to the new clause--or at least parts of it--yet they will not oppose it. In a way, I ought to be pleased that they will not, but there is nevertheless a conflict between their language and the lack of a Division.
I am also disappointed with the Government for not making it clear that all the moneys generated by the fines will be spent on road safety in the broadest sense. They are missing the opportunity to deal with road safety in the round by narrowing the proposal down to include only
The Government could have done more to spell out whether the money generated by the provisions of the new clause will be available in addition to what is currently spent. That was not said, and when something is not said, a degree of uncertainty can emerge concerning the Government's intentions.
Will the Minister give us a definition of a speed camera? Two kinds of camera could be described as income generators, in that their use can result in a fine--fixed cameras, and hand-held radar equipment. Recently, in a village in Cambridgeshire, I saw a different type of speed camera, whose use does not result in an offending motorist being fined. About two years ago, on the M25 in Kent, I saw a speed camera which flashed up a sign to inform drivers that they were breaking the speed limit. In the case of the camera in Cambridgeshire, if a car--or any other vehicle--exceeded the 30 mph speed limit, a sign flashed up "30 mph".
I understand, however, that the downside to those devices is that some motorists have been tempted to drive at speed to activate them. I suggest that we need a hybrid speed camera. If the object of the exercise is to reduce road deaths and improve road safety, rather than to generate income, we should ensure that vehicles do not speed in the first place. We need speed cameras that warn drivers that they are exceeding the speed limit. If they continued to do so, they would deserve a hefty fine, because they would have progressed from a yellow card to a red card, to use football terminology.
I urge the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and those who are gifted in the design and development of such technology to ascertain whether it would be possible to develop a speed camera that was both a warning device and a means of imposing a penalty.
Mr. Chidgey: My hon. Friend stirs the imagination with his concepts of developing the technology of speed cameras. Has it occurred to him that making speed cameras more visible might provide a greater deterrent? Perhaps they might attract attention more readily--and instil some caution into the motorists approaching them--if they were bright, fluorescent yellow, to continue my hon. Friend's football analogy.