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Mr. Bob Russell: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as road safety is in need of major investment across the country, any revenues generated by speed camera fines should be in addition to what is provided by the Exchequer, not a replacement for it?
Mr. Bercow: Liberal-Conservative alliances are rare in this Parliament, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am grateful to him for providing ballast to my argument. He is right to make that point, and he probably would not have to do so if the Government had confirmed more explicitly that all the money would be spent on road safety, and that that money would be in addition to, not instead of, other moneys. I think that the hon. Gentleman is hinting, in his understated and polite fashion--and, in my slightly less understated and polite fashion, I am happy to take up the hint--that the Government have an appalling record on so-called additionality.
I know that you are familiar with the concept of additionality, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I have heard you expatiate on it in relation to Suffolk matters. The concept relates to whether Government spending is additional to, or a substitute for, what would otherwise be spent. Ordinarily, such argument arises in the context of lottery funding, but I shall not animadvert on that subject now, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you would probably get cross if I did so. I would not want that to happen as we approach the dinner hour of some hon. Members.
None the less, the hon. Member for Colchester made a fair point. Will the Under-Secretary confirm that the funds are additional to any other funds that might be spent? That is a fair challenge. [Interruption.] I wish that I could have heard the sedentary observation made by the Minister of State, Home Office, as I might have been tempted to reply.
Mr. Charles Clarke: My hon. Friend the Under- Secretary made an observation about dinner, and I remarked that the presence of only one Back-Bench Conservative Member suggested that the Opposition were
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the Minister, who can never resist an opportunity to point score--something that I never do, as he well knows. All that I can say in response is that I have no intention of going to dinner, although he would probably prefer me to do so. Apart from anything else, I am anxious to retain whatever element of a trim figure I currently possess. I am much more interested in discharging my obligations on Report and Third Reading than I am in consuming whatever the estimable House of Commons Refreshment Department has to offer.
As I have tried to emphasise, the Opposition are anxious that the Government are attaching a disproportionate significance to speed and that they are not attaching enough importance to other forms of dangerous driving. I know that the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston disagrees with that argument. His views will doubtless be informed or reinforced by his constituency experience, so I assure him that I am speaking not off the top of my head, but on the basis of representations made to me by my own constituents. I say in all sincerity that such representations have been made to a number of Opposition Members. I find it inconceivable that they have not been made to Labour Members also.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston does not agree with the validity of my point. He might think that the only people who make such observations spend their time driving around at extraordinary speeds. However, a lot of people feel that many accidents are caused by dangerous and inconsiderate driving. It is not true to argue that such driving consists exclusively of excessive speed.
Mr. Bercow: Yes. I have heard that point before and I know that it is correct. The hon. Gentleman's comments support the view that we should try to clamp down on speeding. I accept that view, but it does not mean that tackling speeding is the only method by which one should seek to improve road safety and reduce the number of accidents.
Mr. Bercow: The hon. Gentleman and I agree on that point and accept that speeding is not the only form of dangerous driving. We must therefore make a judgment on whether it is wise to use all the proceeds of fines for the exclusive purpose of extending dramatically the number of speed cameras throughout the United Kingdom. Although the spending of some money on that purpose might be justified, I am politely suggesting to the hon. Gentleman that I do not think it proportionate or wise to devote all of it--if, indeed, that is what the Government will do in practice.
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that observation. I was aware of the potential damage that bull bars can do, although I did not know about the important work done by the hon. Member for Newport, West. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for enlightening me on that point.
Conservative and Labour Members must agree to differ, both on the rationale for proposals to use fines for the funding of speed cameras and on their likely implementation. I refer to likely implementation as it is not clear whether the Government intend to stick in practice to the principles of ring fencing and total expenditure of fine proceeds on speed cameras, even though those are the principles that they appear to avow to the House.
We disagree not only about that point, but about payments to local authorities in respect of the obligation to secure the removal of abandoned vehicles. I should like to deal briefly with this matter, as the Minister of State and I disagreed about it in Committee. Indeed, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw) also disagreed with me. I listened with respect to the hon. Gentleman's remarks, as I know that he is attending closely to the pilot scheme in his area, but I was fairly unfazed by his comments on a multi-agency approach. Although I always listen to him with interest, I thought that the frequent restating of the need for a multi-agency approach was a substitute for a policy rather than proof of one.
Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend rightly indicates that the approach is still for the future. We are not even getting multi-agency co-operation now; it is to occur in the far-distant yonder. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford seems excited, so I shall give way to him.
Mr. Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford): I am not that excited, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. If he wants facts rather than proposals--that is my interpretation of his remarks--he should know about the pilot that has started in the Medway towns. It brings together the DVLA, the police, the fire brigade and the local authority. The Medway towns now have a minority Conservative-led administration, so no partisan point is at stake for me. However, he might like to know that, before the pilot began, on average, four abandoned and untaxed vehicles were removed each week from the streets of the Medway towns. Within the first week of the pilot, however, between 50 and 60 vehicles were removed. If he is talking about the proof of the pudding, he should know that the pilots are certainly working.
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. He speaks as a constituency Member of Parliament and I do not seek to gainsay him, but I point out that it would not be right to prejudge the outcome at this early stage. He will accept that it is only on the conclusion of a pilot, when all the evidence has been considered and submitted--this applies also to the public and other inquiries of which we currently hear so much--that one can draw a conclusion about likely effects.
I was a little disappointed that the Minister of State cavilled at our references. As he knows perfectly well from Standing Committee debates, the Opposition grounded our proposal on the requirements of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978. Under that Act, it is already an offence to abandon a vehicle in any place in the open air, and fines of up to £2,500 can be levied for such an offence.
A recent Royal Automobile Club survey found that between 150 and 200 cars were being abandoned each month in Islington alone. We must do something to tackle that problem. Although the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford was enthusiastic about how to deal with it in Medway or Chatham and Aylesford, he seemed baleful--nay, doleful--about the prospects of achieving progress elsewhere. Indeed, he suggested that pessimism was his middle name. He said that nothing could be done, that it was too much to expect, that the funds could not be provided, that local authorities would not deliver and that it was all very unfair. He suggested that we had to reconcile ourselves to huge numbers of abandoned vehicles while the Government engaged in a feeble display of collective hand-wringing.