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Speed Cameras

8. Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East): If he will make a statement on his policy on traffic speed cameras. [21564]

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar): Correctly deployed speed enforcement cameras reduce road deaths and serious injuries. A successful trial of a new funding system for cameras is now available nationally. To improve effectiveness and fairness, I announced on 3 December new conspicuity, visibility and signing rules for cameras placed in areas that are participating in the netting-off scheme.

Mr. Crausby: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he say something about the public perception that the siting of those cameras is far too often motivated by revenue collection rather than road safety?

Mr. Spellar: That is precisely why we announced that we want much greater visibility of those cameras and why

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we suggested that in most cases yellow is the preferred colour for them. We require them not to be sited behind trees or signs because the purpose is not to collect revenue but to change behaviour to deal with accident-prone stretches of road. In areas with cameras we are already seeing success; we now want to roll the programme out across the country and collect fewer fines because people are reducing their speed, thus reducing the number of accidents.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Does the Minister agree that there is a particular problem with drivers in 20 mph-zones? Why are police forces throughout the country extremely reluctant to use speed cameras in those zones?

Mr. Spellar: That is something that the hon. Gentleman needs to take up with the Home Office, which is responsible for police forces. We are creating a system whereby they can put in cameras, then apply for money to pay for them so that they can become operational. With that money come the visibility conditions that I have described. He needs to take the matter up with his local police authority and chief constable. At the same time, it would be useful if the Norfolk constabulary repainted its cameras in a more visible colour; I think that he is already dealing with that.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): Does my right hon. Friend accept that traffic regulations are meant to be complied with—especially speed limits, which save lives? Will he try to make sure that firm guidelines and opportunities are offered to local authorities and police so that cameras are used to ensure compliance with traffic regulations like bus lanes, bus gates and public transport priorities, which the police are often reluctant to enforce at all?

Mr. Spellar: I thank my hon. Friend. The schemes that I have described are based on local authorities and police working in partnership. We are also piloting schemes in the London area, looking at the enforcement of bus lanes. They must be applied with discretion because, obviously, a vehicle parked in them at the height of the rush hour is far more of a problem than one whose driver has temporarily stopped to pop to the shops mid-morning. Discretion is therefore needed so that traffic can flow but motorists are not persecuted.

My hon. Friend is right; we need to look across the board. Although we have the safest roads in Europe, along with Sweden, we can still do better; we are already making progress and intend to make more.

Angus Robertson (Moray): The Minister will be aware that officials have argued that speed cameras cannot effectively differentiate between Scottish European number plates. Will he confirm that that and all other arguments against Scottish European number plates are bogus, and that the Government are about to reverse their decision on them? Will he take the opportunity to

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apologise to Scottish motorists for threatening fines for displaying our national flag on our national number plates?

Mr. Spellar: The matter has been raised with me by Members of Parliament from all parts of the United Kingdom. We have been reviewing it and I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the Home Office local campaigns such as those in Mawdesley and other areas in the Chorley constituency, where residents want speed cameras to be introduced to reduce speed, and use his good offices to ensure that those voices are listened to?

Mr. Spellar: Such representations should be addressed to the local partnership between the local authority—which, in my hon. Friend's case, I assume is Lancashire county council—and the Lancashire police. I hope that his representations will be taken seriously in the interests of his constituents, whom he always represents so assiduously.

Rail Safety

9. John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): If he will make a statement on progress towards the implementation of recommendations made on rail safety by recent reports from the Health and Safety Commission. [21565]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Dr. Alan Whitehead): The Government have asked the Health and Safety Commission, the regulator for rail safety, to ensure that action is taken on all the recommendations from the four recent public inquiry reports. The commission's progress reports on recommendations from the Southall and the train protection inquiries are in the House Library. Progress reports on the two Cullen reports are due in the spring.

John Barrett: Following the Southall train crash and Professor Uff's subsequent recommendations, can the Minister confirm that by February this year, 81 of the recommendations should have been implemented, yet only 15 had been? By February next year, all 93 recommendations should have been implemented. Does he expect that they will be, and if not, why not?

Dr. Whitehead: Through the offices of the Health and Safety Executive, the Government are ensuring that the reports that have been produced on rail safety are implemented progressively. It is anticipated that those reports will be fully implemented in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath): Does the Minister recall that following the Paddington rail crash and Lord Cullen's first report, the Secretary of State specifically required the Health and Safety Executive to produce a report on implementation of those recommendations within six months—that is, by tomorrow? Can the Minister explain why that report has been delayed until spring next year? As 41 of the 89 recommendations were due to be implemented by tomorrow, including those on improved

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signal arrangements in the Paddington area and improved signal siting, can the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether they have been implemented, and if not, why not?

Dr. Whitehead: I will look at the details of the hon. Gentleman's question and write to him. He should be aware that the progress reports on recommendations from all the inquiries are either in the Library now or will be made available in the early spring next year. Those reports will demonstrate, I understand, that good progress has been made in implementing all the recommendations of those inquiries.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Is my hon. Friend aware that in the four years prior to the privatisation of Railtrack, the number of passenger deaths on the railways decreased from 30 in 1991-92 to eight the year before privatisation, and that in the four years after privatisation, the number rose from eight to 43 in the latest year for which we have figures? Despite the claim from the shadow Transport Secretary, the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), that Railtrack made the railways safer, does my hon. Friend agree that the figures show a worrying trend? Will he tell the House what the new regime for managing the track and signalling will do to improve rail safety and reduce fatalities?

Dr. Whitehead: My hon. Friend makes an important point concerning some of the perceived consequences of Railtrack privatisation, but he should be aware that rail remains one of the safest forms of transport—seven times safer than travelling by car. The Government are working hard with Railtrack plc and the administrator to ensure that safety on the railways is maintained. A formal direction was issued to Railtrack plc on 8 October for it to bring forward a new railway safety case after administration. That has recently been accepted by HSE. HSE has doubled the number of railway inspectors actively inspecting railway safety since 1999, and intends to double the number of inspectors again by next year.

Mr. John Taylor (Solihull): Is the Minister still actively in favour of road to rail in the overall context of safety? If so, will he comment on the proposal to construct a rail link between Land Rover in my constituency and the west coast main line?

Dr. Whitehead: The proposal is actively being considered, but obviously the question of ensuring that transport can move around the country in the most efficient way in terms of industrial productivity and safety is a very important part of any overall transport plan.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): My hon. Friend will be aware that the HSE does a fantastic job on rail safety, but is he satisfied that it has a sufficient number of trained engineers and inspectors? Is he even more satisfied that it has a sufficiently large budget to perform its necessary functions?

Dr. Whitehead: My hon. Friend is aware that a review was undertaken by the HSE—it was supported strongly by the Government—to look at the number of rail safety inspectors that it employed. She will be aware that, since 1999, the HSE has doubled the number of railway inspectors—there are currently just over 100—and that

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the proposal is to increase that number to 200 by next year. She will also be aware that the HSE is undertaking to do that within the budget limits set under the spending review for the last period. If it considers that it should receive an increase for this particular work, it is up to it to make a case for that. It is undertaking this increased safety regulation within the resources that it currently has, and, in my view, it is doing so very effectively.

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