Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 452 - 459)




  452.  Gentlemen, we are delighted to see you here this morning. Could I ask you if you would like to identify yourselves for the record?
  (Mr Stevens)  John Stevens. Can I apologise on behalf of Sir Paul Condon. He is unavailable this week. I am the Deputy Commissioner and I come in his stead. Paul Manning is the Assistant Commissioner in charge of 24-hour responsibility and, as a result of that, traffic in London, but we are rather fortunate to have him as Chairman of the ACPO Committee on Traffic which, of course, makes him the service's leader in relation to that. Richard Brunstrom is Assistant Chief Constable at Cleveland and he also comes in the guise of ACPO Traffic.

  453.  Thank you very much indeed. Were there any general remarks you wanted to make?
  (Mr Stevens)  Only to say that I will be dealing with the London issues as far as I can, obviously on occasions looking to Mr Manning who has that specific responsibility. I believe Mr Manning will be dealing with the national issues in relation to traffic and traffic management and the like.

  454.  Let us kick off with the MPS report which has issued almost 127,000 "driver reported" fixed penalty notices in 1997 which was the unauthorised use of bus lanes. Have you made any estimate of the number of such offences that went unpunished during that year?
  (Mr Stevens)  There are a number of offences that have gone unpunished as far as the bus lanes are concerned. It is estimated by the bus companies that £17 million is wasted by the lack of enforcement on bus lanes. However, there is new technology coming on-stream in terms of cameras and which will allow us to make more enforcement of those bus lanes. In relation to enforcement there is a rule that says that perhaps one in eight cameras should be in use and should be used for enforcement. We have to say that we have got to a situation of one in 20 being used in London which perhaps should not be given for public consumption.

  455.  Believe me, Mr Stevens, everything that you say in this room is for public consumption and one in 20 is a pretty horrifying figure.
  (Mr Stevens)  It is, and that is in relation to speed cameras, but of course that relates to the picture as a whole. The reason for that is resources. We will be asking for some kind of administration charge in relation to that. So we have got to a situation where 30,000 cases are taken forward. If there was one in eight in terms of the speed cameras there would be 68,000 cases taken forward. There is some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of technology that is going to be used by the Metropolitan Police which will speed these things through. At the moment it is a manual system which takes some time, but it is something that obviously causes concern.

  456.  Has ACPO made any representation to the Home Office about that?
  (Mr Manning)  About the recovery of administrative charges? Yes, we have. We have requested this charge be available in order to recover the costs of processing the offender for a fixed penalty ticket. This is a technology issue and Mr Brunstrom leads on that but he will also bring us into the issues with regard to the disparity between proceeding with a fixed penalty ticket as opposed to taking the offender before the Magistrates' Court.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  I am the Chairman of the ACPO Sub-Committee that deals with traffic enforcement technology. The biggest problem that we face at the moment is our inability to recover our costs through the fixed penalty system. If we take the process through the Magistrates' Court we always have been able traditionally to recover our costs, so a fine is applied and conviction results and in addition to that we can request our costs. That makes the exercise effectively cost neutral to an enforcement agency, in this case the police service in a criminal matter. Unfortunately, the way in which the 1991 Act has been drafted and the regulations thereunder which encourage, quite properly, the police service to use the fixed penalty route—and there is a financial advantage to the offender of accepting a fixed penalty—means we are not able to recover our costs. That has the disastrous effect of haemorrhaging police resources. We cannot give the level of enforcement that we believe road safety deserves despite the fact that we have the technology. We do have the technology and it works extremely well. We have very very slick systems for processing, but the net result is that this costs the police service approximately £20 per fixed penalty.

  457.  Did you make that point when the 1991 Act was going through the House?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  I was not personally involved at that time, Chairman.

  458.  You must have evidence from ACPO that they did or did not.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Quite so, Chairman. The police service has been pursuing this point fruitlessly for the best part of a decade. Our particular role in traffic issues is road safety. We can demonstrate categorically that were we able to recover our costs without extra resources from the Treasury we would be able to deliver very significant reductions in road crash casualties, of the order of 25 per cent in a handful of years which we think at the moment means between saving one and two million hospital bed nights per year at a cost of £8,000 per night. You are talking about savings in the order of billions of pounds which we cannot deliver at the moment despite the fact that we know that we could because we cannot recover our costs.

Mr Donohoe

  459.  Is there not a new generation of camera coming on-stream? It is made in my constituency. I am told 14,000 of them are ready for use now. Your proposition was having cameras in these units will increase markedly and they will become more mobile to the point where they can be shifted very easily.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Absolutely. We have some superb technology and it is improving all the time and cameras are growing in number throughout the country because local authorities who fund the majority——

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