Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480-499)|
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
480. So why are the Association of Chief Police
Officers asking for it to be spelled out as a core responsibility
if it is part of their overarching responsibility, or do they
not understand "overarching responsibility"?
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, I do not know whether they do
not understand it. That is maybe a question you should have asked
Chief Constable Brunstrom when you had him in front of the Committee.
I said to you at the start of my presentation to you that I was
somewhat surprised by some of the comments that he made. He was
attempting to indicate, or he appeared to be attempting to indicate
that in some way the Home Office was not interested in this area
of policy. I do not believe that he has any grounds to do that
481. Surely, Minister, that is not good enough.
You have a responsibility to stop people from dying on the roads.
(Mr Ainsworth) Yes.
482. You have a responsibility, a direct responsibility
and you could take a decision which could be a directive given
to the police that you are unhappy about the numbers of traffic
cops that there are and that you want to see a transformation
in that area because of the number of children that have been
killed, particularly around schools, and that you are not happy
with the number of police. You have a direct responsibility, do
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, we have a finite resource that
is given to the police and we do not have the ability day to day
to tell the police how to conduct themselves.
483. This is not a day-to-day thing. This is
a management general policy trend that you could adopt and put
into force and have them have to accept.
(Mr Ainsworth) I do not know whether or not Members
of the Committee actually want me to try to answer their questions
or whether or not they want to try to interrupt me before I can
do so. If the former, then they should please allow me to do so.
I do not know whether
484. Please finish it.
(Mr Ainsworth) Maybe you would repeat the question
485. I am saying to you that it is for you as
the Minister responsible to be able to change the situation in
order for the police to have by far more traffic police, and you
could do that.
(Mr Ainsworth) We do not have the ability to instruct
the police from day to day where to apply their resources.
486. You do for the Met though, do you not?
(Mr Ainsworth) We do not have that ability from day
to day to
487. Why not?
(Mr Ainsworth) Will you allow me to answer the question.
We have given the police guidance as to what their priorities
ought to be and as part of that is one of their overarching objectives,
as I have repeatedly said, to contribute to this area. Now, we
cannot state the matter higher than that. There are issues within
the police reform agenda, some of which are controversial and
are resisted by the police, which would effectively give the Home
Secretary more say in how the police do their job in certain ways,
but the police do guard their operational independence. They are
concerned to continue to have that and we have no desire in large
part to take that away from them. I do not believe that it is
going on, as Mr Bennett throws in, "Well, we do for the Met",
but I do not believe that it is the job of the Home Secretary
to decide to tell the Commissioner on a day-to-day basis where
he ought to put his resources. We know that recently, because
of very serious issues that arose within the area of the Met,
that the Commissioner decided on a temporary basis to move resources
away from traffic and into other areas of policing. That is a
matter for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to make.
It was a decision by him. It was not a decision by the Home Office.
488. Just picking up on that point, I thought
the Home Secretary of the day did actually tell the Commissioner
that he wanted street crime cut. Was that not an instruction about
how he should conduct things?
(Mr Ainsworth) Yes and he has attempted to do everything
he can to encourage the Metropolitan Police to
489. So it is all right sometimes, but not at
(Mr Ainsworth)and to help them to cut street
crime. I would have thought that that was the priority of other
Members of Parliament as well as ourselves.
490. But not to deal with road accidents?
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, I am not aware that there was
a massive jump in the problem of road accidents within the area
of the Metropolitan Police. There was a problem on street crime
which was seriously concerning Londoners which the Commissioner
felt that he had to deal with and the Home Secretary supported
him in that. Can I just say that it was a temporary move of resources.
It was not a permanent move, but it was a temporary move of resources.
491. Can I go back to the 80 mph limit on motorways.
You did say that the Home Secretary was not in favour of increasing
the limit and was in favour of a continuous review. How is that
review going to be undertaken within the Department?
(Mr Ainsworth) Since the new team have been placed
in the Home Office since the Election, we have had discussions
with our colleagues in DTLR about the issues that we have and
about the problems that we have with regard to enforcement and
about the best way of addressing those. We are in agreement with
them and at the present time it is not appropriate that anybody
should seek to change that speed limit.
492. Should it continue to involve any further
(Mr Ainsworth) There is research that is ongoing,
as Mr Spellar just spelt out to the Committee.
493. So there is a particular programme of research
looking at the consequences of increasing the speed limit to 80?
(Mr Ainsworth) We will be looking at that and any
other representations that are made. We sit on a joint committee
with the DTLR and we look at all of the research that is available
and all of the information that is available and take decisions
in conjunction with them.
494. Is there anything specific going on at
(Mr Ainsworth) No.
495. Can I just go back to the yellow speed
cameras. Was the Minister not surprised to wake up one morning
and to find that all speed cameras were going to be painted yellow?
(Mr Ainsworth) No.
496. So that had been the subject of discussion
with Ministers in the Home Office before it was announced by the
Department for Transport?
(Mr Ainsworth) We were part of the committee that
looked at the netting-off scheme and as part of the netting-off
scheme, we wanted to make sure that the visibility of cameras
was increased. We fully agreed with that. We think that they need
to be looked at if the position is not right and we think that
they need to be coloured appropriately to give them a maximum
visibility. We are at the moment looking at how and how quickly
we can persuade the police forces to bring those cameras that
are not part of the netting-off scheme and which are currently
coloured grey into line with those when we have got the enforcement
ability because what we do not want to see are two different sets
of cameras, in different sets of colours and the confusion and
the potential undermining
497. But you said in response to the issue about
motorway speeds that you obviously wanted to sit down and look
at the research before you reached decisions, but on the speed
cameras, did anybody say that the research had been done about
the effectiveness of covert or overt cameras because the research,
as I understand it, from Victoria in Australia shows that covert
cameras are actually more effective? Was that not taken into account?
(Mr Ainsworth) We want to try to carry motorists with
us in the use of cameras and I think we are
498. So it is about public opinion then and
not about effectiveness?
(Mr Ainsworth) Well, it is not just about superficial
public opinion. It is about being effective as well and it is
whether or not this Committee or anybody else feels that the way
to be effective is to do the business without trying to carry
the motoring public with us. Now, one way of carrying the motoring
public with us is to convince them that the reasons for increasing
the numbers of speed cameras are to cut accidents and to improve
road safety and not simply to fine them. Now, that, in our opinion,
is very important and that is why we want them to be overt. We
think that we have evidence that where they are placed, they are
clearly visible, that people do reduce their speed not only in
the immediate area of the camera, but in the adjacent road space
as well, so we think that the policy will work.
499. And you have clear research evidence to
show this, have you?
(Mr Biddulph) There has been research which was conducted
in the evaluation of the eight pilot areas for the netting-off
scheme. We have the report on what happened as a result of the
introduction of the cameras in those areas which shows that they
are effective in reducing accidents, et cetera.