The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling):
Speed awareness courses are currently running in eight police force areas. The Association of Chief Police Officers will launch a national programme of courses in the New Year.
21 Dec 2004 : Column 2055
Mr. Pike: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He knows that I am a strong supporter of the Government's policy on reducing speed, recognising that it does reduce the number of accidents and injuries. Having recently taken a speed awareness course in Lancashire, I can assure my right hon. Friend that they are excellent on both the theoretical and the practical side. They could be an option available to all motorists instead of three points and a fine; I think that a course can do more to make motorists realise why they are going above the 30 mph limit.
Mr. Darling: I agree with my hon. Friend. Courses are an important part of educating drivers about the dangers of going too fast. I do not think that they could ever be a complete substitute for other penalties, because the message that speeding can cause serious injury and kill people must be reinforced, but the experience so far is that speed awareness courses are working.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): The Secretary of State is rather damning with faint praise; the success of the course in Norfolk that had its 500th client last week is renowned. Why does not the Secretary of State ensure that access to those courses is available throughout the country, particularly to those who have nine penalty points on their licence already? Why does he not agree that driver improvement courses are the thinking man's alternative to greed camera enforcement?
Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is rather, to quote back at him, "damning with faint praise" his courage in introducing speed cameras when he was a transport Minister 10 years ago. It is thanks to the hon. Gentleman that we have speed cameras.
Perhaps I might also say to the hon. Gentleman, without wishing to upset him too much, that had he listened to what I said just a few moments ago, he would have known that I actually said, "The Association of Chief Police Officers will launch a national programme of courses in the new year." In other words, these courses will be extended in the new year, and had the hon. Gentleman listened to all of my answer before he wrote down his supplementary, he might have been better informed.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend have urgent talks with the Department for Education and Skills to see whether these courses can be extended to young people? As he knows, it is young drivers who are more likely to speed, and at this time of year, when unfortunately we are looking ahead to a period when deaths will rise, it may be a moment to pause and consider that if we can convince drivers that speed does kill, we shall save many, many lives.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. At this time of year especially, when we know that a number of people will be killed or seriously injured on our roads, not just through speeding but as a result of people drinking too much, it is exactly the right time to get home to peopleyoung and older people alikethat if they drive too fast or drink and drive, they
21 Dec 2004 : Column 2056
can end up killing themselves or somebody else. I take the point that my hon. Friend makes about educating people while they are still at school, because the best time to get safety across to people is when they start driving, so that they understand from the moment they get behind the wheel that they are in charge of something as potentially deadly as any weapon that they might use.
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): Will the Secretary of State send an appropriately seasonal message to the idiots who tailgated me on icy roads through Broughton Hackett, Upton Snodsbury, Flyford Flavell and Gooms Hill on my way down here yesterday, simply because I had the temerity to obey the speed limit? Does he agree that if we are to win the hearts and minds of drivers in this case, speed limits must be enforced with a degree of sensitivity, speed limits must be appropriate to the road in question, and speed cameras must be located only where they obviously contribute to road safety, rather than acting as cash generators?
On speed cameras, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt recall that in June the Government published an analysis of the safety impact of speed cameras throughout the country, and it is pretty clear that they save lives. I have said that if there are cases where the presence of cameras cannot be justified, they need to be looked atbut they do save lives. We do not want people's cash; we want to save their lives. That is why speed cameras are there. It is interesting that, since June, much of the coverage, inside the House and elsewhere, in relation to speed cameras has been carried out in a rather more mature way, because people realise their potential benefits.
7. Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): If he will make representations to the relevant local authority and the Highways Agency to bring forward plans for the early construction of a north Luton bypass. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Charlotte Atkins): In July 2003, we asked Luton borough council and Bedfordshire county council to examine alternative options for a Luton northern bypass. Consultants have been appointed to undertake a detailed study, and they are expected to report next year.
I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. Indeed, this very morning, I have been in touch with Luton borough council myself. She will know that east-west transport links in the eastern region are very poor indeed, especially around the Luton and Dunstable conurbation. East-west traffic through Luton, including heavy goods vehicles, currently uses wholly inappropriate roads in residential areas. Will she do everything that she possibly can to ensure that that road is built as soon as possible?
21 Dec 2004 : Column 2057
Charlotte Atkins: I understand my hon. Friend's concern about the east-west links in his constituency; he spoke eloquently about them in an Adjournment debate in June. The northern bypass is a local scheme, not a Highways Agency schemeit is up to the local authorities to submit proposals for the bypass through the local transport planbut the feasibility study, which is funded by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, will provide some useful help in assessing the scheme.
Bob Spink: As I keep telling the House, we need an additional access road for Canvey Island, even without the additional thousands of houses that the Government are forcing on the island. The new road should go from the Northwick road area to the Manorway. The next time that the Minister visits south Essex, will he meet me and local borough councillorssuch as the excellent councillor, Ray Howardand councillors from Basildon and Thurrock, so that we can discuss the possibilities for that new road? If he manages to get there before Christmas, we will provide him with a mince pie and a glass of milk.
Mr. Jamieson: Tempting as that may sound, in the first instance, it would probably be a good idea for the hon. Gentleman to meet his local councillors and Essex county council. Although I appreciate that the A130 and the A1014 are difficult roads, particularly where they meet, and that the access is poor, such schemes must be worked up locally. Happy though I would be to have that meeting, with mince pies and whatever else, in the first instance, it would be appropriate for him to take his councillors to meet the portfolio holder in Essex, because its plans are more focused on bus and train improvements than on creating separate access.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): Does the Minister accept that there is considerable dismay in Essex at the latest announcement on the funding for road improvements in the county, which will result in a number of vital road improvements being cut because of a lack of funding, given the amount needed throughout the county?
I do not recognise those suggestions. The figure for local transport plan funding in the south-east was £179 million in 200203, and next year the figure will be £301 million. That extra funding is going to the area and is available for local authorities to use to good effect, and the Highways Agency is improving its contribution to the region as well.
21 Dec 2004 : Column 2058