Vehicles (Crime) Bill

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Mr. Miller: I beg to move, amendment No. 51, in page 21, line 11, leave out `may' and insert `shall'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 52, in page 21, line 23, leave out `may' and insert `shall'.

Mr. Miller: The purpose of the amendments, small though they are, is to ensure that money is recycled from the Lord Chancellor to the relevant authorities. Lines 12, 13 and 25 contain the phrase,

    whole or any part of the relevant expenditure.

There will be legitimate circumstances in which, however the process is operated, 100 per cent. of the ``claimed money'' would not be refunded, but legitimate and significant expenditures may be met by relevant authorities and my amendments are intended to preclude a payment of nil.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): For a number of reasons, I wish to say a few words in stringent opposition to the amendment. For the record, my constituency—indeed, the whole of North Yorkshire—has no pilot scheme. I make a plea to the Minister to consider amending the original formula. I will not advertise where it is, but one village has speed cameras at its entry and exit, but no film in them. Under the present formula, nowhere in North Yorkshire would qualify for film in the speed cameras. I heard that, on great authority—in fact, I shudder to say that I heard it from the chief constable of North Yorkshire—

Mr. Charles Clarke: I want to place on record my admiration for the chief constable of North Yorkshire, with whom I know that the hon. Lady has a good relationship. I have discussed these matters with him on occasion, and I respect his judgment. We listen to the Association of Chief Police Officers when developing such proposals.

Miss McIntosh: I join the Minister in admiration of the chief constable of North Yorkshire.

Mr. Fabricant: I wonder whether the Minister will take the opportunity to say how much he respects the judgment, at all times, of the chief constable of Staffordshire.

The Chairman: Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are listening to a speech by Miss McIntosh, not the Minister.

Miss McIntosh: I do not wish to be drawn into provocation. I would merely like to respond warmly to the Minister's remarks. I value the contact that hon. Members are making—in my case, with the current chief constable and his predecessor. That contact helps me to understand why the Bill, and especially the amendment under discussion, fails to achieve what it intends. I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to extend the pilot scheme or amend the formula, so that all eligible villages in North Yorkshire have not just a speed camera but one with a film.

I remind the Committee of my interest in the RAC Foundation for Motoring, and the benefits, which I have registered, of my membership of its public policy committee. Among motorists and motor cyclists, two powerful arguments are made against the amendment and the clause. The clause would extend an experiment, which is currently taking place in only 10 areas, allowing the police to hypothecate revenues from speed cameras. I am sure that the RAC would not object to my putting it on record that that sends out the wrong message to motorists and motor cyclists. Speed cameras were introduced to reinforce road safety, not to be a revenue-raising device. I want to lend my support to that point, which was made by the RAC. Motor cyclists would want to make the point that the Bill should be seen as a separate issue to what the clause and amendment are intended to achieve. Given the role of speed cameras in road safety, the intention behind the amendment and the clause is inappropriate.

Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): Is the object of the clause road safety or revenue-raising? If it is road safety, I support it and the amendments tabled to it.

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman will find that that is the subject of the next group of amendments, not this group.

Mr. Charles Clarke: First, I want to place on the record, for the avoidance of doubt, my respect and admiration for the chief constable of Staffordshire and for his judgment on many matters, some of which I shall not share with the Committee.

I hesitate to go beyond your ruling, Mr. Sayeed, about the subject of the debate. However, the purpose of speed limit and red light enforcement is to reduce death and injury on the roads. It is part of a road safety strategy. It may interest the Committee to know that it is too early to make a full assessment on the basis of the pilot areas—Strathclyde, Essex, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, South Wales, Cleveland and Thames Valley—but results already show significant advances. In terms of the reduction in personal injury accidents, Strathclyde is 22 per cent. down, Essex is 1 per cent. down, Nottingham is 6 per cent. down, Northamptonshire is 6 per cent. down, Lincolnshire is 12 per cent. down and Cleveland is 15 per cent down. Incidents in which people are killed or severely injured are 42 per cent. down in Strathclyde—an enormous reduction—4 per cent. down in Essex, 34 per cent. down in Nottingham, 15 per cent. down in Northamptonshire, 26 per cent. down in Lincolnshire, 5 per cent. down in Cleveland and 20 per cent. down in Thames Valley. Such reductions are significant. They are not conclusive because we have not yet concluded the pilot period, but they show a move in the right direction.

3.15 pm

Mr. Russell: Will the Minister comment on a letter by the Association of British Drivers, which stated:

    Unfortunately, the Speed Kills dogma...has the exact opposite effect.

What are his views on that statement?

Mr. Clarke: First, I do not understand that statement and, secondly, if I did understand it, I would disagree with it.

I believe profoundly that speed kills. The most dramatic illustration of that is a fact: if a child is hit at 20 mph, the child has a 19 in 20 chance of survival. If a child is hit at 40 mph, the child has a one in 20 chance of survival. Such dramatic differences are unanswerable.

The amendment deals with the funding approach. The legal basis for the current pilots is the annual Appropriation Acts, which allow short-term spending on certain pilot schemes. To find a vehicle for funding such schemes was an achievement of my colleagues in the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Treasury. Although it is a short-term approach, we were pleased about it because the schemes are important. The precise purpose of the clause is to remove the reliance on those Appropriation Acts and to establish a clear statutory basis for enabling not only the pilot areas to which I have referred but every force area in the country, including north Yorkshire, to operate such schemes if, after proper assessment of the pilot scheme, we decide that the initial results are beneficial. However, we cannot operate the pilot schemes, which are essentially short- term in character, on the basis of the Appropriation Acts. We are looking for a legal change whereby such schemes can be run on a long-term basis nationally in the event that the pilot schemes are judged to have succeeded.

Miss McIntosh: Am I misunderstanding the argument? Would a national formula need to be amended to permit the speed cameras to carry films in North Yorkshire?

Mr. Clarke: The position at the moment is that the way in which the Exchequer works—a way that was inherited from the evil Conservatives—means that money raised by such matters is sucked straight back into the Exchequer and cannot be recycled. My right hon. Friends the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor agreed with the proposition made by the Home Office, the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Lord Chancellor's Department that it would be far better for road safety reasons if the money were not simply sucked back into the Exchequer but reinvested in road safety measures such as more cameras, putting film in cameras, and so on. Their generous agreement to do that was predicated on the proposition that we should run pilots in a limited number of forces to see whether benefits would be accrued from such an approach. That was a major step forward.

The pilot, which the Association of Chief Police Officers was keen to agree to—I include in my praise of chief constables, Ken Williams the chief constable of the Norfolk constabulary, who chairs the ACPO committee on the matter—was predicated on our need to change the law to create a proper legal basis for such a provision. The clause is meeting what the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) wants. It will establish a legal base for the system that will operate in North Yorkshire and elsewhere, provided that it is judged that the pilot succeeded in its road safety ambitions.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): I would like to clarify the formula. Is the hon. Lady talking about the usual way in which the Government distribute money to police authorities throughout the country according to a national formula, after which time chief constables and the authorities then decide on their priorities? Perhaps the priorities in North Yorkshire do not extend to putting films in speed cameras.

Mr. Clarke: My hon. Friend is right. As always in such matters, we are trying to make money work to benefit the community as a whole. That is what is involved here. By raising a revenue chain from income that goes back into improved road safety arrangements—such as camera systems—we hope to establish a virtuous circle of continual improvement of enforcement of the legislation, based on the proposition that speed kills, and should be inhibited.

Miss McIntosh: I do not wish to labour the point, but it is appropriate to record that we do not have enough police officers in North Yorkshire. A better allocation of resources would have allowed us to put in more police officers and enable them to undertake traffic responsibilities in counties such as North Yorkshire, to carry out the additional responsibilities that they are given in the Bill.

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