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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500-519)




  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 man, Minister.

Mr Betts

  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.

Andrew Bennett

  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.

Mr Betts

  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.

Andrew Bennett

  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 of conditions.
  (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.

Ms King

  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 considering that?
  (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.

Mr O'Brien

  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 force.

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