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Chris Grayling: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Darling: In a moment. For six months, the hon. Member for South Suffolk dealt with health and education, and he was not afraid to make spending commitments. He attended the National Union of Teachers conference—and I suppose that he deserves a medal for that—and said that he was determined that the next Conservative Government would not only match Labour's spending commitments on schools but surpass them. Interestingly, he had the opportunity to say something on transport spending, but he did not. Perhaps he saw an interesting extract from Andrew Neil's BBC interview with the shadow Chancellor. Andrew Neil asked whether a Conservative Government would match Labour's spending on education, and the shadow Chancellor said, "No, we'll stick to our plan." When Mr. Neil noted that in his famous lecture—he was being funny—the shadow Chancellor had said that he would match whatever Labour spent on health and education, the right hon. Gentleman said, "No, I didn't. You can read my entire text. You will never read any words like that."

Whatever he turns his mind to over the next few weeks, the hon. Member for South Suffolk will find that he is stymied—if I can use that transport term—by the fact that his shadow Chancellor is not prepared to give him the money that he will need. Indeed, the shadow Chancellor actually proposes to cut the money that would go to transport.

Chris Grayling: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Darling: Yes, in a moment. I cannot wait to give way to the hon. Gentleman. All the things that the hon.
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Member for South Suffolk has said today, and all the hints that he has made, will come to nothing if the means to make them happen are not available.

The Government are increasing the amount of money going to transport by about 50 per cent. in real terms. The Conservatives want to cut that transport budget. It is therefore very difficult, if not impossible, to take seriously any protestations by the hon. Member for South Suffolk—or whoever the next Conservative spokesman happens to be, or the one after that, given that the average tenure under the new Opposition leadership seems to be rather shorter even than under the previous leadership.

At least two former Conservative Transport Secretaries are present today. They will know that transport needs consistent and sustained levels of spending beyond all else. All the grand plans for road building, for example, set out by the Conservatives at the beginning of the 1990s had collapsed by the time the former Government left office. The reason was that their boom-and-bust philosophy and the cuts that they had to make meant that they could not pay for those plans.

Chris Grayling: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. Given what he has just said, why do the figures on page 99 of the 10-year plan show that public investment in the railways in 2010–11 will be less than what it was 15 years previously, under the Conservatives?

Mr. Darling: We have just been listening to the Opposition belief that private finance must be brought into transport. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would agree with that. Over the period, £33 billion in public sector investment will be made, and that will bring in a similar amount from the private sector. I make no bones about that, and I thought that there was some agreement on it across the Chamber—although I know that the Liberals have changed their policy as well. However, it must be right to bring in money from both the public and the private sectors. I certainly do not apologise for that. It does not matter to the railways whether the money comes from the public sector or the private sector. What matters is that it gets there in the first place.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr. Darling: I shall move on to considering some of the elements in the motion before the House, but before that I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Turner: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. From his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), it appears that the right hon. Gentleman is proud of the amount of private sector finance going into transport. When they go to the rest of the UK, my constituents can only use transport financed by the private sector. There is no public sector subsidy for services from my constituency to any other part of the UK. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that private sector finance is more stable, when it comes to investment, than public sector finance?
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Mr. Darling: No, I think that we need both, frankly. We shall discuss the railways shortly, but I cannot see how any railway system in the world would not need money from both the public and private sector. The Conservatives privatised the railways, and they believed that they could move rail transport substantially into the private sector, rather as happened with aviation. That is not going to happen. It is impossible, as the sums of money involved are just too large. That is why I think that both forms of investment are needed.

I want to deal with a number of matters, the first of which—the role of speed cameras in road safety—is topical today. However, it is curious that the Conservative spokesman did not mention it, as the matter has been raised at every Transport Question Time since January. Today, the Government have published an independent report showing that the number of people killed or seriously injured at camera sites has fallen by almost 40 per cent., and I have published data in connection with every speed camera in the country. Those data show why each camera position was selected, and what has happened since. It is therefore curious that the Opposition have said not a word on the matter.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) said at the beginning of the year that the Opposition wanted a national audit of all the camera sites. At the time, all the controversy—[Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the figures are wrong?

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford) (Con): They are old.

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman says that the figures are old. He has spent most of the year giving the impression that all speed cameras are wrong and in the wrong place, but when confronted with the evidence, he has absolutely nothing to say.

Mr. Green: The Secretary of State has completely traduced what I said. I never said that all speed cameras were in the wrong place, although I did say that some of them were. The roads Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), has said constantly that no speed camera was in the wrong place. On the radio this morning, however, the Secretary of State said that some speed cameras were in the wrong place. I am delighted that he agrees with me, and not with his own junior Minister.

Mr. Darling: We should not get into a slanging match. However, I remember that the hon. Gentleman left the House with a clear impression, after the first Transport Question Time of the year, that he was against speed cameras, and that he thought that most of them were in the wrong place.

In light of all the controversy at the beginning of the year, I asked my officials at the Department to produce data for each and every camera site. In that way, anyone who has a question about any particular camera—why it was situated where it was, and what difference it has made—can now find out, as the information has been collected. That information is backed up by an independent study produced by University college London, which shows that the cameras save lives.
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The hon. Member for Ashford has said that some cameras need to be looked at more closely, and he is right—indeed, I think I said the same thing at the most recent Question Time. The vast majority of cameras appear to be having the right effect, and the number of accidents in which people are killed or injured has fallen. A small number of cameras—about 200-odd—were installed in the early 1990s. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) introduced the policy, and so will know something about this matter. In those days, it was not necessary, as it is now, to show that cameras led to a significant reduction in the numbers of people killed or injured. Therefore we will have to consider whether those cameras are justified. I suspect that people will say that many of them are justified, but some may not be.

About 200 other cameras do not appear to be having the effect that was intended, and I have asked that the local partnerships and the police consider their placement. However, there are something like 5,000 camera sites in the country. Most people believe that the use of cameras should be considered rationally. We hear a lot from people who do not like speed cameras, but a lot of others are campaigning actively for more.

Moreover, we must never forget that today, and every day of the year, nearly 10 people will be killed or seriously injured on this country's roads. We owe it to them to do all we can to improve road safety. That goes beyond concentrating on speed cameras, which are just one element of an overall strategy. The information published by the Government today is a major step towards ensuring that the debate has a rational basis. People do not need to believe any of us: they can look at the figures, and decide for themselves.

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