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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I very much agree with the noble Baroness. We are deeply disappointed that we have lost this opportunity to take forward the process of liberalising world trade which is in the interests of the environment and of developing countries. We shall pursue this week with the European Commission and other member states our proposal for an early ministerial conference to reform the World Trade Organisation. Clearly our environmental concerns will be at the forefront of that pressure.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government interested in making the World Trade Organisation somewhat more democratic? People are very concerned about the lack of democracy.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Countess. In a sense the World Trade Organisation is too democratic. There are 135 member countries each of which has one vote. The outcome of a ministerial conference has to be achieved by consensus. It is precisely because it is governments,

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rather than multinational corporations or other organisations, who are the constituent members of the World Trade Organisation and who have to proceed by consensus that the ministerial conference had to be suspended rather than produce results. It is a matter of great regret, but it is not a failure of democracy.

Lord Elton: My Lords, were not the outbreaks of violence, not only in Seattle but also in this country, a worrying symptom of something which may grow larger? Is not the proper reaction of world governments to address the intellectual worry underlying those voiceless demonstrations so that they become no longer necessary? Is it not a function of the World Trade Organisation to render the world inhabitable by its environmental concern, and worth living in by its economic concern? Should not that debate be engaged in on newspaper front pages and in this Chamber rather than on the streets?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. I have tried hard to look for intellectual and moral coherence in the views of the protestors on the streets of Seattle. I know less about the protestors here. There appears to be a great conflict between those who hold the high moral objective of pursuing environmental issues and the problem that much of the opposition to improved environmental standards and conditions for liberalising trade comes from the developing countries themselves. That is in part due to their suspicion of the protectionism of the developed countries. The issues are complex and the noble Lord is right to say that they need careful exploration.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that genetically modified food, which was discussed at the WTO, arouses intense feeling among young people in particular? Can he assure us that during further consideration of such food and the Government's study of it, environmental issues will be carefully considered along the lines suggested by your Lordships' Select Committee?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, yes. The Government are not opposed to GM foods in principle, provided that they meet our strict regulatory requirements. Those include environmental standards.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, notwithstanding previous answers, the developing world has historically been marginalised in WTO deliberations. Does the Minister see that altering as a result of the events in Seattle and, if so, how?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Viscount is right; historically, the developing world has been marginalised. Despite the democratic structure of the WTO, there was an impression that the large developed countries, in particular the United States, were seeking to discourage developing countries from playing a full and active part in any future round. In the pressure we must exert to ensure that the WTO round of negotiations is revived, we must take care of the concerns of developing countries.

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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, will the Minister concede that while free trade is the best hope for prosperity and enables governments to invest in the environment, this Government are desperate to be popular with all the minority groups and liberals who do not understand that protectionism denies and stifles progress for poorer countries?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not believe that there is anything to concede. It is not true that this Government are desperate to seek the approval of any protectionist organisation. Our dedication to free trade and to the interests of the whole world, including the developing countries, has been consistent throughout. And it is not a party matter; I think that it was true of the previous government, too.

Speed Cameras

2.53 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are considering to make more effective use of roadside speed cameras and the penalties for driving at excessive speeds.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government are close to finalising the details of a funding mechanism which will allow the more effective use of speed cameras wholly to improve road safety. I hope soon to be able to make an announcement on pilot schemes to test the new mechanisms, for which a number of partnerships based on police areas, comprising local authorities, the police and court services, have applied for inclusion. The issue of penalties for speeding is being considered within the speed policy review, which is due to report early in the new year.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. He knows that I would support effective measures. As last month the media were briefed on such measures, reported to be announced soon, can he confirm the installation of hundreds of new, expensive cameras? If so, and presuming that they are kept in working order, which is not always the case, what will be the cost in addition to the sums produced in extra fines?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord's support for effective enforcement measures. The new funding system will cover the administrative costs of the cameras and road safety improvements associated with them. Cameras will be sited in areas of road safety difficulty and in areas with a potential for or a record of accidents. It is not the case that hundreds of cameras will appear all over the place, but it is one of the most effective forms of deterring those who ignore the current speed limits. Speed cameras have been shown

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substantially to improve accident records in the areas in which they are in place. The new financial regime will allow them to run continually.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while accepting the importance of speed reductions on accident figures, it is important that the word should not go out that the police are pursuing motorists simply in order to generate revenue? That would damage the police service.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. If the pilot schemes prove effective, the money that would be generated by the new financial regime would be recycled to cover the administrative costs. They would not be raising revenue for the police or local authorities. It is important that motorists understand that. They should also understand that the police are in the business of stopping accidents, not of raising revenue or catching out motorists.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, in the review that the Minister mentioned, will his department consider the white lines on roads which draw people's attention to the cameras? It is a purely subjective judgment that that increases the likelihood of an interruption in the flow of traffic because motorists break immediately before the white lines and accelerate away from them.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we are considering the various ways of signing the cameras. However, we know that the clearer it is made that cameras are in operation the greater the deterrent effect. After all, we are looking for deterrence rather than maximising the number of people who are caught.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I hope the Minister will accept the fact that many of us share the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in this subject and appreciate that at last the Government are taking it seriously and recognising the connection between speed, the rate of accidents--

Noble Lords: Question.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I did begin with a question. Are the court facilities sufficient to deal with an increasing number of cases? Can the Minister confirm that there is difficulty in processing current cases that arise from the use of speed cameras?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government are convinced of the connection between inappropriate speed and accidents. The process is designed to avoid accidents and to deter people from speeding rather than to maximise the number of cases. Nevertheless, the noble Baroness is correct in saying that there has been pressure on the courts in terms of costs and time. The new financial regime we are piloting should address the issue of costs. However, as regards time,

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the more effective use of fixed penalties may be part of the solution. We are examining that and hope soon to make an announcement.


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