Road Safety Bill [Lords]


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Dr. Ladyman: It is the first I have heard of it, so if any such commitment has been given, it was by some other Minister.
9.30 am
Mr. Knight: I find that partly reassuring. I hope that when the Minister responds, with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), he will throw away his civil service brief and embrace the new clause. However, if he is not prepared to do that, I hope that the hon. Member for Stafford will be prepared to withdraw the motion and new clause with a view to returning to it on Report. On this subject, he will have friends in all parts of the House.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): It may surprise some people when I say that I also support the new clause, although for different reasons from those outlined by the hon. Member for Stafford.
Every year the clocks go forward, and as sure as they change, somebody in this House or the other place introduces a private Member’s Bill to embark on the same experiment as before—the sort that the hon. Gentleman outlined. Journalists go to the file marked “Time zones”, and they say, “Ah, yes. The Member for Orkney and Shetland is bound to feel concerned about this, because he lives so far away from the rest of us.”
Every year, as sure as the clocks change and the private Member’s Bill is introduced, I end up trotting down Millbank to the radio studios to explain my views on the subject. It is not because I live closer to Norway than London. That is where I take issue with the uncharacteristically ill-informed view of the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight). There is no north-south split; it is more east-west. I suspect that people in south-west Cornwall feel much more strongly about this than people in Orkney or Shetland, because no matter how extravagant the claims made by those who seek to visit the change upon us, nothing but nothing will make the days in Orkney and Shetland longer in the winter. I hope that nothing will change the fact that we enjoy almost continual daylight at the height of summer. I was going to say sunshine, but we are not always that lucky.
From a constituency point of view, it remains dark in Shetland in the depths of winter and does not get properly light until 9 to 9.30 in the morning. In the afternoon, it gets dark again by 3 to 3.30. The changes that the hon. Member for Stafford talks about will make no difference to that whatever.
However, there is some merit in the hon. Gentleman’s new clause, because it states that a report should be made to Parliament about the way in which we order our time zones, and the impact that it has on road safety. I fear that many claims made on behalf of change are somewhat inflated and overstated. If we had from the Minister and his Department a proper and rigorous assessment that was open about not only its conclusions but the modelling and methodology used to reach them, we would enjoy a much more informed debate. It would allow the drawing of clearer lines than those that I have witnessed over the past five years, trotting down Millbank every spring. We might all benefit as a result.
I am confident that my views are right. The report that would be produced as a result of the new clause would demonstrate as much in time.
Dr. Ladyman: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an important issue. As he observed, his proposed new clause calls on us neither to introduce nor reintroduce single/double summer time; it calls on us to do a piece of research each year and to report the findings of that research. My hon. Friend, who is a solicitor, knows that my background is that of a scientist, so as a Minister I am usually the first to leap at the opportunity to commission research, because I am occasionally given the opportunity to throw a few bob to the boys in the lab. The only reason to do research, however, is to provide answers to questions to which we do not have the answer, but we already have the answer to this question.
In my written answer to my hon. Friend’s parliamentary question, I said publicly, and I shall reiterate now, that changing to single/double summer time would have road safety benefits. It is not in doubt—the research has been done. It was done following the experiment to which the hon. Member for Wimbledon referred, and we have the report from TRL in 1998 that examined the impact of single/double summer time more closely. We know it will have road safety benefits—that is not in doubt, so there is no point commissioning any more research on it. I buy the argument and I have heard nobody either disagree with it or challenge the data.
How many lives and injuries would the change save? Something of the order of 100 lives, and something of the order of 400 people killed or seriously injured. One has to accept that, back in 1998, a slightly higher rate of people were killed or seriously injured. Since then the rate has been falling in general, so we must assume that a reduction is occurring too in the total number of people whose lives would be saved as a result of single/double summer time or who would not receive serious injuries. Nevertheless, I am prepared to accept that approximately 100 lives would be saved and approximately 400 people killed or seriously injured would be spared that fate.
However, as hon. Members said, it is not a matter for the Committee or the Road Safety Bill, nor indeed it is a matter just for the Department for Transport. It is a matter primarily for the Department of Trade and Industry, because it has things to take into account about the economic performance of the country. It is also a matter for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which represents the interests of agriculture, although I have never quite understood why farmers are always quoted as the reason why we cannot move the clocks forward, because I would have thought that farmers could get up whenever they wanted to get up, and I assume that those who deal with livestock get up with the cows, rather than when the Government say they should.
The matters go beyond the scope of the Department for Transport and beyond road safety. If my hon. Friend wishes to campaign with those Departments for a permanent change, however, he is welcome to do so. He can quote both me and the research, and say that I entirely accept that there would be significant road safety benefits. I hope that, having taken away my commitment to back up his lobbying expeditions, he will then accept that there is no point burdening us with the need to repeat and republish the research every year, when we already accept his argument.
Mr. Kidney: My hon. Friend’s contribution is helpful and I am grateful. I have one question. The TRL report that I mentioned was from 1998, so clearly it updated its thinking, and it would be desirable if they updated their thinking from time to time in future too. Will he assure us that it should do that if it were relevant?
Dr. Ladyman: Absolutely. If we came to the conclusion that for some reason the research was becoming out of date, I would certainly commission an update. I suspect that if my hon. Friend and his colleagues were to begin to convince Ministers in other Departments that we should change our clocks,there would be wide consultation and all Departments would have to pitch in and explain their attitude.I would expect, in the normal course of events, thatwe would want to update the evidence as part of that debate. In the meantime, we accept that there would road safety benefits, but that road safety is not the only issue to be considered and many other things must be taken into account. The Government must take a wide view of the subject and consider the difference throughout the country, north and south, east and west, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) said. Many more issues than road safety must be taken into account, but I accept that there would be road safety benefits in a change to single/double summer time.
Mr. Kidney: The debate has been helpful and has clarified many things. I shall accede to the request from the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire to withdraw the motion and new clause—it is not every day that he offers to stand with me under the red flag—and save the argument for another day.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister about the value of research. It is not only scientists who value research; politicians also like to make evidence-based decisions. He is right to remind us that scientists have a role to play in providing evidence from time to time.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, who agreed with the new clause for reasons other than the time issue. He reminded me why we should be hesitant about a change as big as altering an entire time zone by Act of Parliament. I shall be cautious about wanting to do that.
It seems odd that the Conservative Front Bench does not support my wish to consider the matter more deeply. On Tuesday, it argued for us to do more about level crossings. If we eradicated every death on a level crossing we might save 20 lives a year. At a previous sitting, I argued for a lower drink-driving limit, which might save 50 or 60 lives a year. The measure that we are discussing would save more than 100 lives a year. Important as the other measures are, they pale into insignificance compared with the one before us.
Mr. Hammond: We argued that we would not support another report because it would involve another set of costs.
Mr. Kidney: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support my argument that it is helpful to keep the research up to date so that decisions are based on evidence and fact rather than on prejudice and opinion.
I shall take the advice of my hon. Friend the Minister and lobby other Departments to try to obtain more general support for a change of time, which would have the helpful by-product of saving many lives on the roads every year. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 10

Motorcycles in bus lanes
‘All bus lanes in the adjacent vehicle lane shall be open to use by motorcycles when buses are moving in the same direction as traffic.'. —[Mr. Paterson.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair, Mrs. Anderson. Sir Nicholas was in the Chair and bursting with testosterone after the Easter break. I hope that you are similarly revived.
The Minister and I attended a meeting of the all-party group on motorcycling yesterday and there was agreement on the new clause, which simply proposes that all bus lanes should be open to motorcycles as long as they move in the same direction. I shall be brief because I am conscious of the time and also of the blood pressure of the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr. Roy). I shall not plough through the large report published by Transport for London on the interim results.
The bones of the report are that there is convincing evidence that the use of bus lanes by motorcycles reduces the vulnerability of motorcyclists without affecting the vulnerability of other road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists. It is common sense to move motorcycles away from other road vehicles such as lorries, heavy goods vehicles and so on—not mixing traffic seems to work. Motorcyclists would be more visible to other road users, and lack of visibility is often cited as the cause of accidents. I can find no studies that indicate that the risk to cyclists and pedestrians increased when motorcycles were allowed access to bus lanes.
Motorcycles pollute less on any given commuter journey because they do not get stuck in traffic and sit with their engines idling. They do not contribute to traffic congestion, as they keep moving. Allowing them into bus lanes recognises that they are an important part of commuter transport, which I believe reflects the Government’s motorcycle strategy to promote them as a mainstream transport activity.
9.45 pm
It is interesting to note that motor cycles in bus lanes do not slow up buses. The buses set the speed, and, as a result, motor cyclists tend not to speed. None of the local authorities that have allowed motor cycles to use bus lanes have reported safety problems, and the evidence in the Transport for London report is that there was an 8 per cent. reduction in powered two-wheeler collisions on the A23 and a 31 per cent. reduction on the A41. If we combine those figures—as a scientist, the Minister will agree with this—that is a 19 per cent. reduction in all PTW collisions. The reduction of such collisions in the control areas was0 per cent.
The Minister said on Tuesday that such a provision would be redundant because local authorities can already allow motor bikes to use bus lanes. The problem is that more oomph is needed to promote such change. The new clause would provide that oomph.
Some authorities allow motor cycles to use some bus lanes. In Bristol, the policy is city-wide, and there have been no problems. In South Gloucestershire, it covers the whole local authority area, and there have been no problems. In North Somerset, the policy again covers the whole local authority area, and there have been no problems. In Peterborough, it relates to one bus lane, and there have been no problems. In Hull, there is a trial involving one lane, and there have been no problems. In Swindon, the policy covers the whole borough, and there have been no problems so far. In Reading, all the bus lanes in the borough are covered and the problems that were expected by cyclists have not materialised. In Essex, the policy is county-wide, and there have been no problems. In Derby, where the policy applies to Nottingham and Uttoxeter New roads, there have not been any problems. In Kingston upon Thames, half the bus lanes in the borough are covered by it, and there have been no problems so far. In Sheffield, one bus lane is open to motor cyclists, but there will be two next year, and there have been no problems. In Richmond upon Thames, motor cycles are allowed to use three bus lanes, and there have been no problems. In Westminster, motor cycles can use eight bus lanes out of a proposed nine, and there have been no safety problems. That brief summary indicates that the measure does work.
The Minister will tell us that giving motor cycles access to bus lanes is allowed by legislation and is subject to local government decision. My contention is that this is a major safety measure. Also, it is a pity that part of our road capacity is underused—buses do not use the capacity the whole time. This common-sense new clause would allow all motor cyclists to use all bus lanes immediately, rather than wait for decision making by local governments. Until yesterday, I did not realise that local authorities had discretion on this.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): I am mandated to speak on the new clause by my office manager. If I were not to speak on it, I would not get the same excellent service that I have always had from her. She is a biker, and she has lobbied me on this matter continuously since I was elected to Parliament in 1997.
The main reason I support the new clause is that there is complete inconsistency across the country, as exemplified by the comments by the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson). We must seriously consider the use of bus lanes. For example, there are bus lanes on two parallel arterial roads into Bolton town centre. Motorists can travel on one of them outside peak hours but not on the other. For a motorist entering the town for the first time, it is complete confusion. They must read the signs very carefully, but, frankly, that is not easy in congested traffic.
The same argument applies to other vehicles using bus lanes. It is necessary to review how bus lanes are used across the country. In some authorities, taxis can use bus lanes; in others, they cannot. I am arguing for consistency in the use of bus lanes, which is currently confusing not only for bikers but for other vehicle users.
With the imposition of the congestion charge in London—it will no doubt come in in other cities—there has been a huge increase in the use of motor cycles, exemplified by the sales of them across the land. I occasionally drive in London, and it is frankly terrifying to see the way in which not only motor cyclists but cyclists zip in and out of the traffic. That must undoubtedly lead to collisions. I do not have any statistics and I have not studied the subject, but it is common sense to reach that conclusion. I therefore support the idea of allowing all motor cyclists to use bus lanes. I would go even further and impose on them the requirement to use bus lanes, to stop them going in and out between other vehicles, as we see in such an exaggerated way in our capital.
I hope that, even if the Minister urges us not to support the new clause, he will take our views back to his Department so that we can examine and rationalise the use of bus lanes.
 
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