Examination of Witnesses (Questions 400-419)|
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
400. So you do a kind of cost benefit analysis
that says, "We can afford to lose 20 people on this because
it is cheaper than having a new set of signs"?
(Mr Waddams) There may be other ways of enforcing
those speed limitsspeed cameras, other engineering methods,
20 mph zones and so on.
401. So the Department did a scientific calculation
on the introduction of yellow speed cameras before it suggested
(Mr Spellar) The Department were very clear as to
what the prime purpose of the
402. Please, Mr Spellar. You and I have known
one another a long time; let us try answering the question.
(Mr Spellar) I did. I said "No" right at
the start which I thought
403. So you did no estimate of the effects and
you do not know whether it is not more effective to have covert
cameras than to have clearly marked ones?
(Mr Spellar) We had a clear view that clearly marked
cameras and clearly visible cameras were going to have a significant
effect in modifying people's behaviour in those areas. We believe
that that was far more likely than the possibility of there being
cameras or hidden cameras. We also understood that we needed to
maintain the trust of motorists and maintain public support, and
we believe that, by having high visibility, we would modify behaviour
while maintaining public support. That is enormously important
to us and also the police.
404. And you have facts to back that up? You
have done experiments with covert cameras and with yellow cameras?
(Mr Spellar) We have very clear evidence that there
was very strong public opposition to covert cameras which, therefore,
could have a detrimental effect on the relationship between the
public and the police. It, therefore, could have weakened support
from what we believe was an extremely useful tool in reducing
accidents which was the use of speed cameras.
405. Do you not think Government occasionally
has the responsibility of taking difficult decisions and explaining
to people that these are lives we are talking about?
(Mr Spellar) I think we take difficult decisions quite
regularly in this Department.
406. Perhaps not with the regularity that some
of us would like!
(Mr Spellar) That all depends who "some of us"
are. Some of us seem to have objections to some of the difficult
decisions we take, but I believe that the evidence we have seen
of having visible cameras changing speed levels has had the impact
that we desired while still maintaining the broad support of the
public. If you talk to the police forces as well, they are very
concerned that they maintain that public support for their operations.
407. When, therefore, are you going to issue
from your Department an instruction to local authorities that
they put in place a scheme on a mandatory basis of speed cameras
throughout their authorities?
(Mr Spellar) This is very much a matter of judgment
for the local authorities
408. Can I stop you because you have just said
to the Chairman that, in your judgment, that is the best way of
instructing the public to reduce speed, therefore I am stopping
you because I am querying whether the local authorities should
overrule the judgment that your Department is making?
(Mr Spellar) They are not doing that. A considerable
number of police authorities and their related local authorities
are already in your discussions with our Department. We can send
you a schedule of how many police forces have already signed up
and how many more are in the pipeline sorting out the details,
and then we will be rolling out that programme.
409. By which date would you expect every authority
to have done this?
(Mr Waddams) We are in discussions with every police
authority. At the moment I can say that from April this year there
will be something around 25 partnerships based on police authority
areas operating under the netting-off scheme. That is April this
year and I would think, within another year to 18 months, all
those that wish to joinand I use the word "wish"
because it is not compulsoryshould be signed up within
another year to 18 months after April.
410. Why is it not mandatory?
(Mr Spellar) Once we have the great number signed
up we will then look at those that are not to see what particular
reasons they have, and then look at reviewing the policy.
411. In the interim are you likely, given the
cost saving of reducing casualties, to present financial penalties
on those authorities that are not prepared to put in place effective
(Mr Spellar) A number of authorities have cameras
but are not on the scheme, but there is a huge financial incentive
for them to be able to deal with traffic management in their area
and to pay for that by the netting off from the fines, and that
is obviously of considerable advantage. Most of the authorities
will, therefore, be covering the great majority of the population
and then we will have to examine why any other authorities are
not part of the scheme, recognising of course the discretion that
chief constables have under Home Office discussions.
412. Following up on the hypothecation of these
schemes, it is an interesting idea but what happens if the schemes
are so successful that people are not caught speeding any more
and the revenue scheme does not come in?
(Mr Spellar) In that case the cost benefit to society
let alone the reduction in human cost will be of enormous value.
I would be delighted if we got to that position but we are certainly
not there yet.
413. Given a lot of savings then would fall
under the government department centrally, are government departments
going to fund the schemes if they are so successful that speeding
fines do not get generated?
(Mr Spellar) If that is the case and if the pot of
money from fines from speed cameras reduces below the cost of
maintaining the scheme, that would be extremely good news and
I will deal with that problem when we get there. We are not there
yet by any means, unfortunately.
414. On the issue of the motorway speed limit,
if there is a net cost, you believe, from considering raising
the limit from 70-80 mph, does that imply there would be a benefit
in reducing it to 60 mph?
(Mr Spellar) Again, it is the balance of keeping traffic
flowing and of enabling the system to operate consistent with
safety, but I think that above certain speed limits it is very
clear, within that balance, that the benefit is considerably outweighed
by the risks, and also, of course, by the environmental cost of
that extra speed.
415. I am trying to find the answer in that!
Was it that there probably would be a net benefit in reducing
to 60 mph but you are not prepared to do it?
(Mr Spellar) I think that the current speed limit
is well understood: we have got the extremely safe motorway network
which is probably one of the safest motorway systems in Europeif
not the worldand therefore that current system is working
416. Is that because it simply is not enforced
in reality? Could you give us the figures for people who have
been fined for speeding up to 79 mph on the motorway in the last
(Mr Spellar) We could do a you on a note on that from
your figures or from the Home Office. We will see if those figures
417. What else can you do, though, to increase
public awareness of the importance of speeding, and when these
articles appear that downplay the importance of speeding in driving
and casualties, what does the Department do to rebut them?
(Mr Spellar) I think in a whole number of debates
at conferences and, indeed, in general articles we try and get
the facts of the situation across. I think also the Advertising
Standards Authority keeps a careful eye on car advertisements.
I know people think they are not entirely successful in that but
I think there has probably been a considerable shift towards stressing,
for example, safety features on cars as opposed to the sort of
glamorous speed side of them. I still accept they could probably
418. Do you have a website through which you
rebut false claims about speed?
(Mr Spellar) We do. I am not sure whether we outline
policy on a whole number of areas on that website. I am not aware
whether we specifically rebut particular articles in the course
419. Would you consider using your website for
that purpose, given the importance of this issue?
(Mr Spellar) We can certainly look at that, yes.