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9.20 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): I am most grateful to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) for allowing me to make one or two points in the remaining time available. I refer to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests—as a member of the RAC Foundation, I sit on the RAC public policy committee. I have also driven six hours from north Yorkshire to take part in the debate.

I greatly agree with what has been said about traffic officers on both sides of the House and I do not wish to repeat those remarks. My experience over Christmas was that traffic wardens are like London buses—one never sees them or they come in threes. When my husband's vehicle was rammed at high speed on Thirsk market square by another vehicle that disappeared without leaving the customary courtesy note with insurance details, there was no traffic warden in sight. However, on Christmas eve in Thirsk, three traffic wardens were handing out parking fines like sweeties.

I wish to echo the concerns raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) about uniforms for traffic officers and I am sure that the Minister will wish to address that issue. I am delighted to see him in his place, because we spent many a happy hour together on the Committee considering the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 a year ago.

The Secretary of State for Transport will decide the traffic officers' uniform for England and Wales, and it will be important to ensure that they will be easily

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identifiable and distinct from their counterparts in Scotland. Many people from the Vale of York, including me, use the A1 as the main artery to access our vacations in Scotland and it will be a problem if no clear distinction can be made between traffic officers in England and those in Scotland. It will also be necessary to distinguish traffic officers from traffic wardens and police officers.

Clause 13 will provide an extensive power to acquire land. Should there be a major accident or incident on the A1 at the border, it will be important to know if that power extends only to England and Wales or if it includes Scotland, and in what specific circumstances that power would be exercised and to what extent. Like the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), I think that too many questions remain unanswered by the Bill in its present form.

The Secretary of State for Scotland will recall from his experience at the Scottish Bar that road traffic incidents are some of the most difficult to deal with. I hope that the Minister will consider an amendment in Committee to ensure that witnesses of a crime on a road that they do not usually frequent are tracked down, even though they do not see signs placed on the road inviting witnesses to come forward. I hope that we can use the Bill to fill that gap in the law.

I was shocked—as I am sure other members of the Transport Committee were —to learn that the police have only recently drawn up a full handbook on how to deal with road accidents, like their handbook for murder cases. That is a welcome development, although it is long overdue.

I hope that it will remain the responsibility of uniformed police officers to inform family members that they have lost a loved one or that a loved one has been seriously injured in an accident. Uniformed police officers should exercise that duty. The highways authority should not be allowed to clear the road or take away evidence that could be used in the case.

Before my recent return to the Transport Committee, it issued an excellent report that drew attention to the fact that tensions could be created between the police officers who currently have responsibility in traffic accident cases and the new traffic officers. I hope that the Minister will explain how his Government imagine that such tensions will be eased.

Other tensions could arise between the existing breakdown services, which are operated by private firms, and any new procedures that the Government envisage under the provisions of clauses 5 and 9. The Minister shakes his head, but it is not good enough simply to empower the Secretary of State to introduce at a later date draft orders that can be approved by affirmative resolution of the House under clause 8(4). I entirely endorse the Select Committee's conclusions on that point.

The provisions are not good enough. On Second Reading and in the subsequent detailed scrutiny in Committee, it is the purpose of the House to tease out such details. In that regard, I should be most grateful if the Minister would lend us his ear and confirm the role of the national breakdown services. When the honest motorist has legally licensed and taxed his car, has fully comprehensive insurance and has subscribed at vast

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expense—normally well over £100—for a full motoring recovery service, will he have the option to call the motorway breakdown service of his choice? From the concerns expressed on both sides of the House, the Minister will realise that there is real anxiety that the new highways authority procedures would enable a traffic officer to nominate for such a motorist any national breakdown service, or even an authority's competing service, and charge the motorist for that facility. That could greatly undermine the excellent services that have been provided by well-established national breakdown services—for well over 100 years in the case of the RAC and the AA. Will the Minister tell us how he expects to ease the apparent tensions both between the new traffic officers and the existing traffic police and, more especially, between the new traffic officers and the national breakdown services? I hope, too, that he will respond to our points about uniforms.

I am disappointed that the Government have not seen fit to deal with the very real issue of child casualties. Only three weeks ago, before the House rose for the Christmas recess, we heard that child casualties, especially among child pedestrians caught up in accidents, are unacceptably high. I think that the Minister accepted that, so will he admit that it is not only speed that causes many of the injuries and casualties among child pedestrians but that we must also consider the role of fixed speed cameras and—something that has been overlooked for much of the debate—of mobile speed cameras, and vehicle design?

Although I am delighted that in comparison with the rest of Europe we have a good record on most types of road casualty, I hope that the Government will take the opportunity offered by the Bill to address the unacceptably high figures for child casualties.

I hope that the Minister will respond to those points and that the House will support the Opposition in our reasoned amendment. If congestion is the problem, the Bill in its present form does not necessarily provide the way forward but will lead to an unacceptably bureaucratic traffic management system.

9.30 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): We have had an excellent debate, and I emphasise the word "debate" because quite often we in the House have a dialogue of the deaf, but there has been a genuine discussion across the Floor this time. It would have been better if no hon. Member with a Scottish constituency had spoken and we had been confined to hearing Members with English or Welsh constituencies because this business affects only England and Wales.

The debate has also been adorned with first-class contributions from right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) used his wealth of experience as a former Secretary of State to ask some penetrating questions, such as who is going to pay the bill for all this? If the Government's cavalier approach to administration costs in the Department for Transport is anything to go by, they are not interested in the costs of anything these days. The new limit for administration costs in that Department is now no less than £379 million this year. That is just the bill for administration.

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My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) asked fewer questions but made a series of constructive and persuasive proposals—a shopping list that I hope he will be able to pursue in Committee. He should have received encouragement from the fact that the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), in a rather London-centric speech, agreed with many of his points.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key)—a former Minister for Roads and Traffic—talked about the role of cameras in snooping on road users. Later, I shall draw attention to the fact that the Government are failing to enforce the law, despite the number of cameras and notwithstanding all the snooping that is going on. He also spoke eloquently about the continuing Salisbury traffic nightmare and his support for the motorcycling fraternity.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh)—a member of the Transport Committee and the RAC—brought some interesting points to the debate, including her plea that we should try to reduce the carnage among children on our roads. Those hon. Members who have had the chance to look at tonight's Evening Standard will have seen a most horrific example of just that, where a six-year-old girl in, I think, Ealing or Southall was mown down and killed on Christmas day. That was perpetrated by someone who had stolen a car and was driving unlawfully in a bus lane—a reminder that it is a mistake to try to separate driving offences and criminal behaviour.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), as usual, spoke with authority and effectively damned the Bill with faint praise. The hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mrs. Lawrence) emphasised the importance of reducing congestion for the rural economy. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) brought to our attention his concerns as the chairman of PACT, and those concerns were echoed by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who emphasised his concerns about cyclists.

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