Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)



  400. So you do a kind of cost benefit analysis that says, "We can afford to lose 20 people on this because it is cheaper than having a new set of signs"?
  (Mr Waddams) There may be other ways of enforcing those speed limits—speed cameras, other engineering methods, 20 mph zones and so on.

  401. So the Department did a scientific calculation on the introduction of yellow speed cameras before it suggested it?
  (Mr Spellar) The Department were very clear as to what the prime purpose of the—

  402. Please, Mr Spellar. You and I have known one another a long time; let us try answering the question.
  (Mr Spellar) I did. I said "No" right at the start which I thought—

  403. So you did no estimate of the effects and you do not know whether it is not more effective to have covert cameras than to have clearly marked ones?
  (Mr Spellar) We had a clear view that clearly marked cameras and clearly visible cameras were going to have a significant effect in modifying people's behaviour in those areas. We believe that that was far more likely than the possibility of there being cameras or hidden cameras. We also understood that we needed to maintain the trust of motorists and maintain public support, and we believe that, by having high visibility, we would modify behaviour while maintaining public support. That is enormously important to us and also the police.

  404. And you have facts to back that up? You have done experiments with covert cameras and with yellow cameras?
  (Mr Spellar) We have very clear evidence that there was very strong public opposition to covert cameras which, therefore, could have a detrimental effect on the relationship between the public and the police. It, therefore, could have weakened support from what we believe was an extremely useful tool in reducing accidents which was the use of speed cameras.

  405. Do you not think Government occasionally has the responsibility of taking difficult decisions and explaining to people that these are lives we are talking about?
  (Mr Spellar) I think we take difficult decisions quite regularly in this Department.

  406. Perhaps not with the regularity that some of us would like!
  (Mr Spellar) That all depends who "some of us" are. Some of us seem to have objections to some of the difficult decisions we take, but I believe that the evidence we have seen of having visible cameras changing speed levels has had the impact that we desired while still maintaining the broad support of the public. If you talk to the police forces as well, they are very concerned that they maintain that public support for their operations.

Helen Jackson

  407. When, therefore, are you going to issue from your Department an instruction to local authorities that they put in place a scheme on a mandatory basis of speed cameras throughout their authorities?
  (Mr Spellar) This is very much a matter of judgment for the local authorities—

  408. Can I stop you because you have just said to the Chairman that, in your judgment, that is the best way of instructing the public to reduce speed, therefore I am stopping you because I am querying whether the local authorities should overrule the judgment that your Department is making?
  (Mr Spellar) They are not doing that. A considerable number of police authorities and their related local authorities are already in your discussions with our Department. We can send you a schedule of how many police forces have already signed up and how many more are in the pipeline sorting out the details, and then we will be rolling out that programme.

  409. By which date would you expect every authority to have done this?
  (Mr Waddams) We are in discussions with every police authority. At the moment I can say that from April this year there will be something around 25 partnerships based on police authority areas operating under the netting-off scheme. That is April this year and I would think, within another year to 18 months, all those that wish to join—and I use the word "wish" because it is not compulsory—should be signed up within another year to 18 months after April.

  410. Why is it not mandatory?
  (Mr Spellar) Once we have the great number signed up we will then look at those that are not to see what particular reasons they have, and then look at reviewing the policy.

  411. In the interim are you likely, given the cost saving of reducing casualties, to present financial penalties on those authorities that are not prepared to put in place effective schemes?
  (Mr Spellar) A number of authorities have cameras but are not on the scheme, but there is a huge financial incentive for them to be able to deal with traffic management in their area and to pay for that by the netting off from the fines, and that is obviously of considerable advantage. Most of the authorities will, therefore, be covering the great majority of the population and then we will have to examine why any other authorities are not part of the scheme, recognising of course the discretion that chief constables have under Home Office discussions.

Mr Betts

  412. Following up on the hypothecation of these schemes, it is an interesting idea but what happens if the schemes are so successful that people are not caught speeding any more and the revenue scheme does not come in?
  (Mr Spellar) In that case the cost benefit to society let alone the reduction in human cost will be of enormous value. I would be delighted if we got to that position but we are certainly not there yet.

  413. Given a lot of savings then would fall under the government department centrally, are government departments going to fund the schemes if they are so successful that speeding fines do not get generated?
  (Mr Spellar) If that is the case and if the pot of money from fines from speed cameras reduces below the cost of maintaining the scheme, that would be extremely good news and I will deal with that problem when we get there. We are not there yet by any means, unfortunately.

  414. On the issue of the motorway speed limit, if there is a net cost, you believe, from considering raising the limit from 70-80 mph, does that imply there would be a benefit in reducing it to 60 mph?
  (Mr Spellar) Again, it is the balance of keeping traffic flowing and of enabling the system to operate consistent with safety, but I think that above certain speed limits it is very clear, within that balance, that the benefit is considerably outweighed by the risks, and also, of course, by the environmental cost of that extra speed.

  415. I am trying to find the answer in that! Was it that there probably would be a net benefit in reducing to 60 mph but you are not prepared to do it?
  (Mr Spellar) I think that the current speed limit is well understood: we have got the extremely safe motorway network which is probably one of the safest motorway systems in Europe—if not the world—and therefore that current system is working well.

  416. Is that because it simply is not enforced in reality? Could you give us the figures for people who have been fined for speeding up to 79 mph on the motorway in the last year?
  (Mr Spellar) We could do a you on a note on that from your figures or from the Home Office. We will see if those figures are available.

Helen Jackson

  417. What else can you do, though, to increase public awareness of the importance of speeding, and when these articles appear that downplay the importance of speeding in driving and casualties, what does the Department do to rebut them?
  (Mr Spellar) I think in a whole number of debates at conferences and, indeed, in general articles we try and get the facts of the situation across. I think also the Advertising Standards Authority keeps a careful eye on car advertisements. I know people think they are not entirely successful in that but I think there has probably been a considerable shift towards stressing, for example, safety features on cars as opposed to the sort of glamorous speed side of them. I still accept they could probably go further.

  418. Do you have a website through which you rebut false claims about speed?
  (Mr Spellar) We do. I am not sure whether we outline policy on a whole number of areas on that website. I am not aware whether we specifically rebut particular articles in the course of that.

  419. Would you consider using your website for that purpose, given the importance of this issue?
  (Mr Spellar) We can certainly look at that, yes.

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