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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, unfortunately that is not at all what the Transport Select Committee in another place said when it looked at this issue. It said that
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if speed limits were raised to 80 miles per hour, casualties on motorways would rise by between five and 10 per cent. Based on 2002 casualty figures, that would suggest an extra 75 to 150 would be killed or seriously injured.
"But ultimately, the public as a whole needs to be persuaded that driving at inappropriate speeds is not a minor, technical offence that everyone commits, but a serious, dangerous and anti-social activity in which the speeding driver places his or her own convenience above the safety and well-being of other people".
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, on these Benches we have consistently opposed the notion that the speed limit on our motorways should increase. It seems extraordinary, given that our motorways are currently the safest roads we enjoy, that we should jeopardise that position by tacking such a complicated subject on to a Bill such as this, and taking such a drastic step with so little debate and evidence. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, does not push this amendment, because we will certainly not be supporting it from these Benches.
I have a fragment of sympathy with the noble Lord and his sense of frustration about general speed limit policy. It has become clear that we need a proper debatewhat I think people call a "mature debate", whatever that meanson the whole question of speed limits: how they are set, and whether they are enforced. In that context, I would be quite happy, and would support the Government looking at motorway speed limits again, but not in isolation from all other types of roads, and certainly not in the context of this Bill.
Lord Snape: My Lords, it would be extremely irresponsible if the amendment were pressed to a Division. The rules of your Lordships' House precluded me from speaking at an earlier stage in the debate and, despite being very new to this place, I am surprised that something so fundamentally important should be tagged on the back end of a debate in the way this amendment has been.
Like every other motorist, I have broken speed limits on a regular basis. I probably tempt providence when I tell your Lordships that the last time I was fined for doing so was in the mid-1970s. I feelhaving done 30,000 miles per year until comparatively recently, much of it on motorwaysthat an extension of the speed limits in the way outlined in this amendment would be grossly irresponsible.
We are all familiar with the dangers of driving on our roads. My own motorway experiences tell me that the problem is not so much speed but, quite often, driver reflexes. Even smallish modern motor cars are capable of speeds undreamed of 30 or 40 years ago, when I first got a driving licence. There are far too many vehicles being driven at 80 miles per hour by people with their brains firmly stuck at 30 miles per hour. Anyone who has seen the carnage on our motorways caused by excessive speed would feel that to pass such an amendment after so little debate would be grossly irresponsible.
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I notice from reading the national newspapers that there is an organisation called the Association of British Drivers, which seems to be one of the few bodies in favour of this measure. I do not know who it speaks for. It certainly does not speak for me, having held a driving licence for more than 40 years. It is supported by the Daily Mail. I have a simple rule of thumb: if the Daily Mail is in favour of it, I am, by and large, against it. The Association of British Drivers does not speak for the majority of drivers, I am sure. We all think that we are better drivers than we are, I suspect. It is a bit of a male characteristic, as one sees on the motorways. I know that if I catch up with a JaguarI used to drive one myself, so I am not picking on Jaguar driverswith a personalised number-plate, it will rarely move out of the outside lane. All too often, the driver appears to feel that heand it is invariably a "he"is somehow diminishing his masculinity by doing so.
If this amendment were accepted and that driver could drive legally at 80 miles per hourwhich, as we all know, would mean 90 miles per hourit would mean he was driving in exactly the same way, except that he would do so just that bit faster. We need not higher speed limits but better driver education. I know it is not, strictly speaking, a matter for this amendment. Despite the attacks on the proliferation of cameras, I am inclined to drive more carefully since their proliferation, for the reasonlike everyone elsethat I do not wish to risk my own driving licence.
Will the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, consult other Members of his own party before pushing this amendment to a vote? It strikes me as one of the populist and irresponsible measures that oppositions all too often introduce in the run-up to a general election. I rate it no higher than that. It is perhaps a measure best left to the counterparts of the noble Lord down the Corridor.
My noble friend Lord Rotherwick is quite right to draw attention to the fact that, at the moment, we have a totally unacceptable situation with a de facto speed limit on motorways of around 85 miles per hour, below which the police will not stop drivers in good weather. Anyone who drives regularly on motorways will see people driving quite happily at 85 miles per hour and not being stopped by the police. My noble friend is quite right to draw attention to the fact that this uncertainty about speed limitshaving a law that the Government know perfectly well is not designed to be enforced at the level set down in statuteis quite wrong. For the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Snape, my noble friend has already admitted that the Secretary of State has the powers to vary the speed limit without resorting to primary legislation. The purpose of this debate, I would suggest, is more to draw attention to the fact that the Government cannot just brush this under the carpet and pretend it is all too difficult to deal with. There does need to be a proper debate about speed limits. To the
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noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, I would suggest that the answer is to determine the appropriate speed limit, and for it to be agreed by Parliament and then properly enforced. At the moment it is not properly enforced, as the Government admit. That is an unsatisfactory situation.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, said that increasing the speed limit would get you there quicker. I would draw his attention to the report of the Transport Committee of the House Commons on the road traffic speed. It found that:
So you are not going to get there quicker. Yes, we need some enforcement, and if the Government are going to have a review of speed limits, I hope that they will consider reducing them as well as increasing them, along with enforcement.
Given the facts that my noble friend Lord Faulkner has given to the House, both in his letter and today, and many other facts that we have seen, I just cannot understand how the Conservative Party can be promoting a policy that will increase by many hundreds a year the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads. I cannot understand it. I strongly oppose this amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we had the benefit of this debate on Report and in Committee, although, as I recall, there were slightly fewer participants than today. My noble friend Lord Snape has got the perfect alibi for that: as he was not eligible to speak earlier in the Bill, he has taken his opportunity now. But I agree with him. His main point is that this is not the occasion upon which this debate ought to take place, because the amendment is misplaced in relation to this Bill. That is certainly the Government view on the broad issues, and I am going to speak very negatively on the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen.
The concept I find most difficult to accept is that if we legitimise those who are breaking the law by travelling at over 80 miles per hour now, we will consolidate it nicely around 80 by moving the speed limit up to that position. The obvious question is: why would not those who currently break the law by 10 to 15 mph and appear to get away with it increase their speed with considerable abandon by another 10 or 15 mph when we have the higher speed limit? It seems obvious
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