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

Examination of witnesses (Questions 480 - 499)




  480.  The Committee have just spent some time in Brussels. I would not test their temper on their view of European legislation.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  I hear what you say, Chairman.
  (Mr Stevens)  Just as well!
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Nonetheless, the problem is a domestic one and it is about how much resource as a society we wish to put into tracing the people who make life difficult. One can make a perfectly valid argument that the 91 per cent is successful. If you wish us to go further we will need a small change to the law.

Mr Bennett

  481.  It discredits the whole system if certain people get away with it regularly, does it not?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Yes.

  482.  Although you are blaming the registration of the vehicles, how far is it really the case that within the police force traffic is considered to be a second-class activity and real policing is something else? So when it comes down to enforcement of that nine per cent it is given a very low priority within individual police stations, is it not?
  (Mr Manning)  Traffic is an integral part of the general panoply of policing and that is reinforced by the Home Secretary's instruction and direction and ministerial priorities to chief constables which he has just issued. What we are realising increasingly is that the roads policing as opposed to traffic policing is a very effective weapon against a whole range of criminality and we do require officers to have certain skills and competence to enable them to be able to operate in that environment. So it is a very real part of the holistic approach of policing. Perhaps I could build on that with regard to casualty reduction. The recent Crime and Disorder Act has come in and we are currently conducting throughout the country with local authorities surveys to look at the crime disorder problems in an area. Again the Home Secretary has clearly stated that he sees road issues, collision issues, casualty issues, as being legitimately included in those crime and disorder surveys. That will require the local borough in London or the authority outside London and the police to draw together their policing plan which will then address those issues and then I hope that will get us to the point you were raising about local concerns about certain issues in areas.
  (Mr Stevens)  I speak as a Chief Constable in Northumbria for five years before becoming an HMI for two years and then this present job. I think there is a certain amount of disillusionment sometimes in traffic patrol officers that they are not specifically there to deal with traffic. That can no longer be the case. Traffic intertwines with crime and as Members of Parliament you would not be getting best value, neither would the public, if a traffic officer solely concentrated on traffic. The business of them being second class citizens, sir, I do not believe that is the case.

  483.  How much do you find that the person who ends up with the points on their driving licence actually is the driver and how far do you find that other people are coming forward to take responsibility for driving the vehicle at that particular point?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Provided we have identified the right person, the only person in those circumstances who can get points on their licence is the person who committed the offence. If the owner of the vehicle refuses to tell us who was driving then that is in itself a criminal offence but it does not result in the owner getting points on their licence. Only the person who drives through the speed camera or the road traffic light gets convicted and points on their licence. I do not have that figure to hand, but it would be very close to 100 per cent. We have very good systems for identifying who it was provided people comply with the law. The difficulty is the nine per cent of people who refuse to comply. 91 per cent is the figure and it is a strong position to be in.

Mr Olner

  484.  I want to follow up the Chairman's question about the White Paper. How serious an omission is it that the White Paper is not addressing integration within the existing priorities?
  (Mr Manning)  The environmental issues one recognises are of real concern and they are of very real concern to police officers who have to operate in that environment themselves. We understand very well the need to have proper control over those types of issues and what the police service would want to do is work properly in partnership with the agencies charged with controlling those aspects and provide them with the service that they wish to have in order to discharge their responsibilities.

  485.  Have you told Mr Prescott your concerns, that you have been omitted from the White Paper proposals?
  (Mr Manning)  I am sorry, I cannot answer that question.

  486.  Should not ACPO be doing it? The Chairman has identified that there is a real need there. You have also explained it. Should you not be telling somebody about it?
  (Mr Manning)  We have explained to the DETR our preparedness and willingness to work very much with the agencies. What we are then going on and saying to them is please give us that broader power to enable us to use police resources but not necessarily for constables to carry out that particular function.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  I think the bigger emission from the White Paper is the concept of integrated safety management. That is a substantial hole in the White Paper. 3,000 people die on the roads in this country every year. Any integrated transport policy ought to be addressing safety as one of the fundamental pillars. It is not there and it ought to be and ACPO has taken that up with the DETR and will continue to do so.

Mr Donohoe

  487.  If, for instance, a father who is a cripple has a clean driving licence and the son has got nine penalty points and he indicates as the keeper that it was his father that was driving, are you saying that you are able to track it down and convict the son?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Very often, yes, we would be. Do not forget that there is a photograph in these cases.

  488.  But the photograph is from behind.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Not necessarily. The photograph could easily be from the front. It is relatively simple to determine who is driving a motor vehicle in actual fact, particularly backed up with photographic evidence. I cannot pretend that people do not lie. If one does, of course, you area committing very very serious offences indeed and it takes it beyond the realm of being a simple motoring offence with a £40 fixed penalty—and I repeat most people are prepared to pay that—into very serious criminal offences for which people will go to prison. I know it does happen because we have recorded examples of people doing it and convicting them and they go to prison for perjury or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for several years. Very few people are prepared to take that risk when all that is at stake is £40 and three points on your licence. Clearly we do not catch everybody, but we do catch the very very large majority.

  489.  There is in these circumstances a fairly significant civil liberties element to that aspect which we have been assured in the past was not the case in that it was illegal to actually photograph from the front.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  No, that is not the case. We do photograph from the front and our experience so far is that that is no longer an issue with the public. We are not facing complaints from the public about the way that we enforce the law.


  490.  Is that because they do not know that you are doing it? Forgive me, but the Committee went to look at Scandinavian schemes, Norway particularly, and we were concerned about the implications because in effect, without being unkind, if you can identify the driver you can also identify who is sitting beside the driver.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Most photographs are still taken from the rear. Obviously for a red light offence it would have to be. We are talking here about people who have broken the law. A photograph is taken because the law has been broken. We are not talking about innocent motorists going about their business, we are talking about people who are dangerously exceeding the speed limit such that somebody else's life is at risk. One of the benefits, as Mr Manning identified, of the police doing this is that we are a publicly accountable agency responsible to the courts of this country and quite right too, so we should be. The photographs that are taken are available for the offenders to see and to challenge and so they should be. Nothing we do is done secretively. We have the support of the courts in the action we have taken. Clearly there is a civil liberties argument. I do not think that is properly one for me. I am satisfied that our ethical position is totally appropriate and it is not receiving any significant degree of public comment never mind opposition.

Mr Donohoe:  As the Chairman has said, that is the first time I have heard anybody say what you have just said in this country because we have had police officers here before who have said the exact opposite and for the first time you are telling me that there are photographs being taken of individuals for a Road Traffic Act conviction and that is new, it is fresh, it has never been something that has been said to me by any police officer before.


  491.  They have got the point. This is not the moment to pursue this, particularly if you are quite happy that you are an ethical police force——
  (Mr Manning)  We come into images now and ownership of images and a whole range of issues, of video cameras and those sort of things.

Chairman:  I think you have given us some interesting information the Committee will want to pursue.

Mr Brake

  492.  A couple of months ago I joined a beat officer from Wallington station. We went out on our bikes together. What do you think should be done generally to increase the number of journeys by bike?
  (Mr Stevens)  I used to be in Cambridgeshire and there was a fair amount of heat when roads were closed for bikes. I am a firm believer in bicycles myself, so I announce a personal interest. I do believe that the capital needs to have a far better way of travelling in and around it and I think bikes are that. My own view is that the advent of the Mayor, the GLA and a caucus group with a strong political steer will allow this capital to take on some of the major problems of traffic and I believe the cycling problem will be part of it. I do not honestly believe that there will be a real thrust to increase the quality of life for those people who are using bikes and walking within the centre of the capital because it needs political leadership to do that. So until that, sir, I think we have to wait.

Mr Brake:  Do you think there is anything more that can be done from an enforcement point of view? Certainly when I go out on a bike I feel extremely vulnerable. Car drivers are excessively aggressive. I tend to respond in an aggressive fashion to the drivers.

Chairman:  Surely not. Whoever heard of an aggressive Liberal?

Mr Brake

  493.  What more can the police do to make cyclists feel safer?
  (Mr Stevens)  In all honesty I think that is a difficult one. The only way that safety is going to be enforced is by having dedicated cycle lanes. I think you are putting yourself at peril if you are taking on big lorries and cars when you get cross. I do not think there is much we can do at the present time in terms of enforcement to make it any better.

Mr Brake:  It is safe in traffic jams to take them on.


  494.  Have you undertaken any cost-benefit analysis of giving increased priority to enforcing traffic management measures?
  (Mr Manning)  There are clear advantages with regard to enforcing traffic management measures with regard to the running of the economy and in London our road policing strategy actually recognises the police have got a role to play.

  495.  So you have not done a cost-benefit analysis?
  (Mr Manning)  No, we have not, but we recognise the benefits.

  496.  We all recognise the benefits, Mr Manning, that was not what I was asking you. Policemen on the whole like you to answer the questions that they ask you.
  (Mr Stevens)  It has been calculated by London Transport that the delays to operations and passengers by lack of enforcement of that particular part of the law costs London Transport £15 million a year.
  (Mr Brunstrom)  I am not quite sure whether I am addressing directly your question. There is a very substantial robust cost-benefit analysis for road safety issues for traffic cameras.

  497.  Which is whose?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  This was done by the Police Research Group under the Home Office.

  498.  And you will leave us a copy of this?
  (Mr Brunstrom)  Certainly. There are very substantial sums to be saved.

Mr Olner

  499.  The evidence you gave earlier was that you have not got the resources because the costs are not there to take all these things to court. For the record, are you saying that you would be able to do total enforcement if the fixed penalty fine was £60 instead of £40?
  (Mr Manning)  Not if the fine was £40 but if the fine was £40 plus an administrative charge. We do not want this to be seen as any form of income generation for the police service. This is something where we would want to legitimately cover the costs that we have incurred.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 22 February 1999