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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): We have recently received a number of representations on speed cameras, many from road safety organisations supporting the policy to enforce speed limits using cameras. Those opposed to the policy have expressed themselves mainly through the media. Safety cameras have shown repeatedly that they reduce accidents, deaths and serious injuries, typically by 35 per cent. at camera sites and 4 per cent. across whole areas where cameras are deployed.
Mr. Swire : Given that speed cameras now raise £17 million a year for the Treasury, will the Minister confirm that a further 3 million motorists are likely to be caught next year by the reduction of speed limits in some areas, and will he state how much extra revenue he hopes that will generate for the Chancellor's increasingly depleted Treasury?
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): My hon. Friend may be aware that in November 2002 digital cameras were fitted on a notorious road in my constituencythe Stocksbridge bypass. The report on the first six months indicates a very positive impact on driver behaviour. When the full-year report comes out this March will the Minister meet my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson) and me to consider the scope for further improvement on that road?
Mr. Jamieson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for underlining the role that cameras play in reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. The evidence is that the vast majority of lives saved are those of pedestrians, who are mainly children and elderly people. I look forward eagerly to the full-year analysis of the figures on cameras, and we shall examine it carefully to see whether any changes need to be made. I shall be happy to meet my hon. Friend at that time to discuss with him how cameras have contributed to the reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured on roads in his area.
Mr. Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): Last week, the other Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), said on "The World at One" that he would not dismiss out of hand my proposal for a national audit of the positioning of speed cameras. Last night, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) did dismiss it out of hand. There is clearly deep chaos and confusion in the Department about that issue. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm whether the common-sense approach of the hon. Member for Harrow, East or his own more hysterical approach is being taken?
Mr. Jamieson: We will look carefully at the analysis. It needs a cold, clear, objective analysis, not the more emotive approach taken by the hon. Gentleman. I do not know whether he is familiar with the A292 in his constituencythe Hythe road. Before the camera was fitted on that road, there were 27 crashes, in seven of which people were killed or seriously injured. Since the camera was fitted in May last year, there has been just one crash, resulting in a slight injury.
Mr. Green: It is interesting that the Minister wants a partial audit, but the Secretary of State and his Department admit that there are no proper full records of how many cameras there are or where they are. That is why we need the audit that I am calling for. The Government invited us last night to do the audit ourselves, so let us start with the camera on the A45 near Birmingham airport, which the police have agreed to
Mr. Jamieson: It is significant that the hon. Gentleman did not mention the camera in his own area and its success in reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured. He may want to talk to some of his councillors in Ashford, who apparently are campaigning to have cameras fitted where they do not meet the criteria that we set out. He mentioned the camera on the A45[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will listen for a moment and stop chuntering. I am familiar with the camera on the A45, near the airport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had a letter written to each of the partnerships, asking them to look carefully at each camera. On the strength of the responses to the letter, that camera is being removed. That leaves 3,999. Would the hon. Gentleman like to suggest some others?
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend make it clear that speed cameras are placed in any area only when there is clear evidence of accidents and deaths, and that those who disable speed cameras are contributing directly to the demise of people and should be made liable for that?
Mr. Jamieson: I can confirm that the cameras in the partnership arrangements are put only at sites where there is a record of injuries or serious injuries. There must also be a record to show that those are caused by vehicles speeding. The rather hysterical debate that there has been among a minority has given succour to those who wanted to destroy the cameras. If the cameras in the two examples that I have given were destroyed or removed, more people would be killed and seriously injured.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Kim Howells): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular meetings with the chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority and discusses a range of subjects related to the work of that body, including issues arising from a projected increase in passenger numbers.
Bob Spink : Is it not typical that the Government have a target to increase passenger numbers, at the same time as having a policy to restrict passenger numbers by increasing ticket costs? The cost of a monthly season ticket from London to Southend increased just this week by £17. Is it not time that the Government got together with the SRA and planned to increase capacity on the linefor instance, by considering a new station for Canvey Island?
Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): I was grateful that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met me before Christmas to discuss increasing the passenger numbers coming through Wembley Stadium station by resolving the issues between the SRA and Network Rail. Will my hon. Friend report on how the negotiations between the two bodies have advanced since then, and how close we are to resolving the issue of the bridges there?
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): When the Minister next meets the Strategic Rail Authority, will he ask it why it has been necessary to increase the number of staff employed in regulating the rail industry almost fourfold since privatisation? Will he also ask the SRA why it was necessary in nine months last year to spend £20 million on 26 outside contractors when it has so much in-house resource? Does that not show that the SRA has proved a costly and bureaucratic failure, and that we no longer need it as part of the rail regulatory industry?
Dr. Howells: I certainly agree that any increase in the number of personnel involved in regulation needs to be questioned. The figures have risen dramatically, and we have certainly asked for answers to our questions about that point, and especially to those about the increase in the number of consultants who are being used, which seems extraordinarily high.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): The housing growth planned in the Milton Keynes area needs to be underpinned by improved transport infrastructure. Will the Minister ensure that, in considering the current bid to reopen the Bletchley to Bicester section of the east-west rail route, the SRA takes into account the extra housing growth in the area and the need to provide for that additional potential passenger growth?
Dr. Howells: Yes, indeed. I would expect the SRA to look very carefully at projected growth in housing numbers, as well as economic growth, in those areas. There will certainly be an increase and we must have close regard to that issue in the way in which we serve the area with transport infrastructure.
Mr. John Horam (Orpington) (Con): Is the Minister aware that, in relation to numbers, one of the biggest problems in the country is on the London commuter lines, where severe overcrowding is practically a daily occurrence? Indeed, the Select Committee on Transport
Dr. Howells: This is a very important question. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know that we have just seen the largest ever orders placed for new rolling stock in the history of the railways in this country. We have also seen the difficulties of trying to run a lot of the trains on the existing infrastructure, not least because of the inadequacy of the power supply system, especially in the old southern region. He is right to raise the issue of lengthening platforms. We must look very carefully at that one. The information that I have received suggests that many of the associated costs relate to regulation that is very difficult to explain or rationalise and which should be slashed. It should be easier to build extensions to platforms, not more difficult, as that would increase capacity on the trains to which he referred.