Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500-519)|
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
500. Is that a published report, Mr Biddulph?
(Mr Biddulph) It is available, yes.
501. Perhaps you would be kind enough to give
us a note on where we can find that information.
(Mr Biddulph) Yes.
502. Were the pilot projects painted yellow?
(Mr Biddulph) No.
503. I see. So the evidence that you have does
not relate to the yellow cameras at all.
(Mr Biddulph) It relates to whether they were visible
or not, ie, not hidden behind trees or in bushes, but visible
on the roadside. The decision taken
504. That does rather negate the whole purpose
of what we have just been talking about, Mr Biddulph.
(Mr Ainsworth) When we set up the pilot schemes, as
I understand it, there was a desire to make absolutely sure not
only that the cameras were in places where there was a perceived
problem, but that they were visible. Now, at that point nobody
painted them yellow, but it was felt that if we actually want
to improve visibility and we therefore want to continue to enjoy
the support of the majority of motorists about the use of cameras
and the extension of the use of cameras, we should do everything
that we can to improve their visibility to convince them that
what we are about is reducing speed where it is necessary, saving
lives, preventing accidents and not just taking money.
505. So I will put to you Mr Betts' question
again. This was much more about getting the public on board than
about having an effect on the 3,500 people who are killed every
year from various forms of road traffic accident?
(Mr Ainsworth) No, I do not accept that at all. As
Geoffrey Biddulph has said to the Committee, the issue of visibility
was looked at. It was looked at in the pilot areas and the evidence
from the pilot areas was that it worked and that painting them
yellow was an improvement on that attempt at visibility. I do
not think that the Committee should dismiss the findings of the
report in this regard. I think it is very important that we try
to keep them on side and that we convince them as to our motives
in doing this. We will then continue to have their support and
they will run with us.
506. "We can, nevertheless, not use any
of our publicity budget in order to change their attitude because
that is the responsibility of the Department for Transport."
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, if the publicity budget for this
area were placed in the Department for Transport, Local Government
and the Regions, then they should be leading on it, but I will
look at this and come back to the Committee on this.
Chairman: You are a very tolerant and talented
507. Has there been any research done on public
attitudes or is it just a hunch that the Department has had?
(Mr Biddulph) There is research, yes. There is research
in the areas where the pilot studies took place and there was
research conducted by Direct Line, an insurance organisation,
which showed support for speed cameras used in this way.
508. Yellow speed cameras?
(Mr Biddulph) Support for them being visible. There
was a minority of those in the Direct Line survey that thought
they ought to be covert. The majority of the report was for them
to be conspicuous, visible, and the Association of Chief Police
Officers have said that they believe that they should be visible.
That does not rule out covert use on appropriate occasions generally
speaking. ACPO is also behind having them visible to motorists.
509. Would it not be better actually to have
had the yellow pilot cameras in first rather than making a national
announcement on something that has not been tried?
(Mr Ainsworth) This was a joint decision, first of
all, to set up pilots and then to expand the scheme nationally.
As has been said, this is not the Home Office alone who thinks
that visibility is important. The police share our views and the
Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions share
our views as well.
510. Would it not have been better to have had
the pilot projects on yellow cameras?
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, I was not around at the time
that the pilots were set up and I do not know whether or not the
colour of the cameras was considered at that time. It was just
felt, as I have said, as an evaluation of that that visibility
was important and the colour of the camera could assist.
511. What do you do about making sure that magistrates
give stiffer penalties?
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, we are consulting on the issue,
Madam Chairman, as you know, and we have already been questioned
about when we are going to be able to respond to that.
512. If you are concerned about the penalties,
what about actually getting fines in? Are not most motoring fines
a voluntary contribution and that about 70 to 75 per cent of people
pay up and the rest just do not bother?
(Mr Ainsworth) I am not aware of that. The Home Office
does not have responsibility for collecting fines and I am not
aware that there is a difficulty in this area. I certainly would
not have thought that the difficulty in this area was higher than
it is in other areas of collecting fines.
513. Is it not important, in collecting the
fines, that you actually know whether they are working or not?
(Mr Ainsworth) I am sure there are problems in collecting
fines in this area, but there are other areas, as I have said.
We would want it to be otherwise, but there are always those difficulties.
514. What about high-profile motoring cases?
There have been one or two footballers who have pushed the system
to its extent. What about looking at actually changing the fining
system and what about banning some of those people who drive in
high-powered cars? Would it not make much more of an impact if
one or two of those footballers were allowed to keep their licence,
but only allowed to drive perhaps a Mini or a Micra?
(Mr Ainsworth) The individual decisions are matters
for the courts and it is not appropriate to ask us.
515. In looking at the national system for punishments,
you could make it possible for the courts to impose those sorts
(Mr Ainsworth) We have a consultation document, as
this Committee is aware, and we are looking at the responses to
that and taking the framework forward.
516. Is inadvertently killing a child pedestrian
more serious than deliberately stealing a mobile?
(Mr Ainsworth) The consequences are a lot more serious.
517. So should the penalty system that we have
just been talking about be changed to reflect that and are you
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not want and, I am sorry, I am
not in a position to preempt the decisions that we are going to
take in response to the consultation document.
518. Obviously this question of addressing speed
and the speed limits is a sensitive area of policing and it has
been exposed here today and with other witnesses. I would like
to continue this question of the relationship of the Home Office
with the police forces and enforcement because we are advised
in the memorandum that the Home Office submitted to this Committee
that the Government or the Home Office published in March 2000
their Road Safety Strategy: Tomorrow's Roads Safer for Everyone
and it says, "The Home Office has particular concerns with
enforcement of road traffic law, including that relating to speeding".
Now, is that not a directive to the police to do that, to continue
to pursue that aim and objective? Is it not an unfair
directive to lay on them?
(Mr Ainsworth) Yes.
519. I was making that point because earlier
when the question was put to you about whether there should be
a directive from the Home Office to the police, you were reluctant
to say that that should be so and yet in the evidence you make
that point, so you accept that there is this need for a relationship,
a directive from the Home Office to the police?
(Mr Ainsworth) What I have tried to say was that I
was surprised when I heard the evidence of Chief Constable Brunstrom.
Yes, of course the Home Office take this issue seriously, want
the policing in this area and think that we are taking the necessary
measures and if we have not, we will continue to update on that
to do precisely that. What we cannot do and what I have tried
to indicate to you is what we cannot do is interfere with the
day-to-day operational decisions which are taken by the police