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Lord Whitty: These amendments seek to extend the Secretary of State's ability to fund road safety measures other than those relating to safety cameras. The noble Baroness makes clear in the amendment that that could include road humps and other engineering measures and, indeed, publicity and education on road safety.

On this side of the Committee, we have some considerable sympathy with what is intended by these amendments. We should not rule out that possibility for the future. But my message is that we should take these matters one step at a time. A former Treasury Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has reminded us that my ministerial colleagues in the Treasury took the unusually and historically enlightened decision to allow fine revenue to be netted-off, which is the term that the Treasury prefers to use. It does not sound to me as nice as hypothecation but the Treasury has a horror of hypothecation. There is a possible expansion of that implied in the noble Baroness's amendment.

The existing funding system does not allow the recycling of any fine revenue. That means that any body or organisation involved in enforcement of safety through cameras must meet the costs of that through its own resources. Therefore, it is particularly important that we have provided that the netting-off proceeds should go back into funding not only the establishment of speed cameras but also the enforcement, administration and court procedures which result.

This clause gives legal effect to the roll-out of what we have achieved in the pilot studies which have been running very successfully in eight areas in Great Britain. It would allow us to roll out the provisions of those pilot schemes more generally across the nation. But those pilot schemes are based on a decision in December 1998 which made clear that any future funding under the rules would apply only to netted-off fine revenue. Under the Treasury Rules, receipts from fixed penalties must be offset against related departmental expenditure on enforcement activities; in other words, fixed penalty revenue from offences being used to fund camera-enforcement activity.

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I do not want to mislead the Committee in expressing general sympathy for the objectives of this amendment. Although the reference to prevention in Clause 38(1)(a) could notionally be interpreted as meaning the use of revenue from camera detection to fund measures such as road humps and traffic calming, although not for other non-speed offences or offences such as those relating to bus lane or box junction enforcement, at the moment, and under the provisions which we intend to roll forward, such expenditure would not be included within the Treasury Rules for those pilot studies and therefore for what we intend immediately under this Bill.

Having put on that limitation, we should not under-estimate the huge step that has already been taken by the Treasury in allowing that netting-off. For the reasons referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, generally speaking hypothecation is regarded as part of the pernicious path to financial disorder. If we use it judiciously and take one step at a time, it need not be that. It is important that local authorities, the police and the courts should be able to cover their costs in that way.

There is also the indirect effect to consider. Currently, local authorities use their local transport plans and some of their internal money to fund cameras and enforcement. That money will thereby be released and could be spent on other aspects of road safety.

Therefore, the message that I am giving to the Committee is that the Bill may allow some further extension at a later date. We do not intend to use the extension as broadly as these amendments would allow. We intend to limit it to the cameras themselves, the enforcement and court processes relating to those cameras. As I said, I do not rule out a later broadening of the system. But for now, for the national roll-out, let us take one step at a time. Therefore, I ask the noble Baroness not to pursue her amendments which I should otherwise have to oppose.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I wonder whether the Minister can tell me whether "netted-off" is a cognate expression to "hypothecation".

Lord Whitty: I think that it is a cognate expression stemming from the word "net", which means that you have to be caught first.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market: I thank the Minister for that reply. His commitment to road safety is well known and appreciated by all of us who work in the field.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for emphasising two points which I have been trying to make. The first is that there appears to be something of a gap between the intentions of the Bill and an understanding of how it will work in practice. That is something which we have seen over and over again and it is giving rise to concern around the Committee.

Secondly, the noble Lord referred to Lambeth where I also have the pleasure of living during the week. He made the point that it is not the imposition

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of the speed limit which makes the difference; it is the physical conditions of the road, either through conventional traffic calming such as road humps or, indeed, less conventional means such as parked cars. That is really the point I am trying to make. An over-reliance on enforcement through speed cameras or anything else will, in the end, undermine a road safety strategy. We need to look at that in the round.

However, I feel encouraged by what I have heard and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 65 not moved.]

Viscount Tenby moved Amendment No. 66:

    Page 23, line 30, at end insert--

"( ) The Secretary of State shall review the operation of speed cameras funded under this section.
( ) The Secretary of State shall publish a report of the review within 2 years of the day on which this Act comes into force.
( ) The Secretary of State shall lay a copy of the report before each House of Parliament."

The noble Viscount said: The terms of this amendment are self-explanatory. The purpose is to ensure parliamentary and, therefore, public monitoring of this important initiative.

On Second Reading, I made no secret of my wholehearted support for this development and I congratulate the Government on securing it. Excessive speed is a killer. But, despite all the available evidence, that fact has not been grasped by the majority of otherwise law-abiding motorists.

It has been said by some in another place and in the sillier types of newspaper that hypothecation or, as I shall call it, allocation--I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Cope, on his knowledge of these arcane Treasury matters--of speeding fines is in danger of becoming a form of stealth tax. I am trying desperately to think of a parliamentary phrase that I can get away with. What total balderdash; what a load of rubbish. In fact, it is a fine for a criminal offence, nothing more and nothing less. For example, is it seriously suggested that a fine for stealing soap powder from a supermarket is taxation by the back door?

I strongly believe that the hearts and minds of the motoring public must be addressed on this important point. People have to be won over and that will take time. That is why I want maximum publicity about how the initiative is working in reducing accidents and how it is working in increasing the number of loaded cameras in use.

Having read the proceedings of the Select Committee in another place, I am sure that the Government are not unsympathetic to the concern in principle. I am also aware that there is an undertaking to report back at the end of the pilot scheme, which will be in one year's time. I hope I am not giving the Minister the answer to the amendment I have tabled. Nevertheless, it seems that a more permanent reporting regime needs to be established, which is what the amendment seeks to do. I beg to move.

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5.30 p.m.

Viscount Simon: In the eight police areas where a pilot scheme for hypothecation is on trial, during the first nine months the cameras have proved to work in terms of saving lives and avoiding serious injury. Consequently, they have saved the NHS certain costs, too.

It is important that the results of the hypothecated speed cameras are publicly known, and therefore I support the amendment completely and utterly.

Lord Whitty: I fully understand the concerns behind the amendment and the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, and my noble friend Lord Simon. The move is not without some controversy and we must take the public with us.

Let us be clear about the pilot schemes. We shall soon have the results of the first nine months of their operation. As I indicated at Second Reading, they all look promising. By June we should have the full year's monitoring results and shall turn those into a report somewhat earlier than a year from now. That report will be made generally available and if the pilot schemes fulfil our expectations that will help when we advocate the rolling out of the system.

That is dependent on the Bill receiving Royal Assent. Once it does, the funding system will be put in place. That will require locally formed partnerships to work up acceptable operational cases and it may well take up to two years for all those who want to take up such funding to do so. It will therefore take longer than that for us to make a further meaningful report on the operation of the full national scheme.

Therefore, while I understand the psychology and politics of ensuring that we review the system and continue to make our case for it, tying ourselves to two-year intervals, especially starting immediately the Bill comes into effect, would not be appropriate. I can give an undertaking that we shall continue to make available information on camera funding and progress on the results of that funding on a regular basis, but I resist the commitment to a rigid timetable. I hope that noble Lords who have tabled the amendment will accept the Government's good will in that respect and recognition of the requirement to provide such information.

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