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That will be one of the purposes of an audit. As I have stressed throughout, my approach is pragmatic. I want the siting of cameras to be based on evidence. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to search the country for examples of cameras placed solely to raise money, I have no doubt that my e-mail would be jammed within 24 hours with messages from people offering such examples, and I should be happy to forward any such messages to him.
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The benefits of a new approach to speed cameras would be enjoyed not just by responsible, safe drivers. The police would be pleased as well. The Police Federation has pointed out that current policy on the use of cameras has damaged relations between the police and drivers. The police would like to see a balance between automatic devices such as cameras, and properly trained policea balance that we wholeheartedly support. They point out that speed cameras do not detect drivers who have been drinking, uninsured drivers, under-age or unlicensed drivers. If our roads are genuinely to be made safer, traffic police cannot be replaced by cameras, as the Government seem to have tried to do in the past few years.
Mr. Yeo: I am not suggesting that at all. I should like drivers to be deterred from breaking the law, not just detected when they do so. I come back to the point about clause 17. I am puzzled as to why the Government think it is a good idea to outlaw a device that might encourage a driver to obey the law.
Clause 22 as drafted has the effect, in relation to mobile phones, of introducing a more onerous regime for motorists than for cyclists. Superficially, that may seem to be justified. A car can do a great deal more damage to pedestrians and other cars than a bicycle can, but that does not mean that cyclists do no damage at all. The growing frequency with which cyclists ignore red traffic lights or cycle along pavements means that for pedestrians, especially vulnerable pedestrians such as children, elderly people and disabled people, cyclists can be a danger. There is no logical reason why the provisions of clause 22 should not apply to cyclists as well as to motorists. It is questionable whether the clause is necessary, given that the existing law provides the opportunity to prosecute drivers who use their phones while driving.
Another aspect of this part of the Bill concerns me. No distinction seems to be drawn between using a mobile phone while driving and using a mobile phone while sitting in the driver's seat of a stationary car whose engine is switched off. I do not see why, in the latter circumstance, drivers should be exposed to the risk of prosecution. We will pursue the point in Committee.
May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that rather than having a go at cyclists, who cause very few accidents, he would do better to consider the
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research that indicates that using a hands-free mobile phone can distract a driver to the point where they are driving as though they had the legal limit for alcohol in their blood? Mobile phones are an important issue, but the hon. Gentleman should address the issue of hands-free mobile phones being used by drivers while driving, rather than taking a cheap shot at cyclists, who cause very few accidents. A cyclist using a mobile phone is foolish and much more likely to damage themselves than to damage anyone else. That is not the case with a driver using a mobile phone, who is much more likely to injure someone else than themselves.
Mr. Yeo: Fine. After the close of business in the House, I frequently walk home to my flat, which is about a mile. I do not think I ever complete that journey without being nearly knocked over by a bicycle at least two or three times. If the cyclist is using a mobile phone, they are even more likely to knock over a pedestrian. I do not believe that cyclists are universally responsible and remain off the pavement. There are about three traffic lights on that same journey, and it is unusual not to see a cyclist going through a red light. That is a danger to pedestrians. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) may say that cars are more dangerous. I acknowledged that before I made any reference to cyclists.
As I have said, the Bill contains several desirable provisions and for that reason we shall not divide the House on Second Reading. We believe that the Bill can be improved and we shall seek to make those improvements in Committee. It falls short of being a comprehensive strategy for cutting the number of casualties in road accidents but, given that we are probably at most only a dozen weeks from the start of the general election campaign, a more comprehensive strategy can be eagerly anticipated on the election of a Conservative Governmenta happy day for the nation, not long delayed. In the meantime, we shall do what we can, in co-operation with the Government and other parties who are ready to adopt our pragmatic, risk-based, common-sense approach to these important issues, to restore a downward trend in the number of people killed on Britain's roads.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): There can be few areas of life where we confront as many risks as those faced by pedestrians, cyclists and even motorists in their day-to-day contact with traffic.
It is strange that when death comes calling in what we persist in describing as traffic accidents, it is a very lonely thing for each family involved. Although so many
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people are killed every day, traffic-connected deaths are, somehow or other, seen as individual incidents, and the families who suffer the trauma and agony of having to come to terms with what has happened to them frequently feel completely isolated. They cannot understand how frequent such a terrible set of circumstances is in our day-to-day life. So when the House considers road traffic legislation we must remember that it is not a small part of the daily life of our people; it is something that has an impact on children and adults across the board.
I know of no other area where we would accept the death of 10 people every day. Day after day after day, we kill 10 people on our roadsquite apart from those we seriously injureyet there are still arguments in the House about the methods to restrict those who do not respect the necessary laws of the land, which are there to protect our people.
I welcome any Bill, such as this one, which specifically sets out things that will help us to improve the safety of our children and our people. If I criticise it and ask for more, it is not because I believe that it has been wrongly brought before the House, but because the fact that as a society we do not seem to have got our head around the enormity of what we do to our people every day concerns me so very deeply.
David Taylor: My hon. Friend refers to daily occurrences. One of the most moving and traumatic telephone calls that I have received recently was from the mother of a young man who was killed a few weeks ago by an articulated lorry, in a pedestrian accident on a fast road near Ashby-de-la-Zouch. She and his family simply cannot understand the present state of the law, which allows the charge against the driver to be restricted merely to one of careless driving, with a few points on his licence and a few pounds off his bank balance. They have had a son removed from their lives for ever.
The Select Committee on Transport looked carefully at the Bill, because we thought that there were several straightforward questions that the House should ask. Is road traffic legislation correct and appropriate? Do the police have the right priorities in their attitude towards the whole question of policing traffic? Is there sufficient priority in legislation for the needs of pedestrians and cyclists? Could we do more to deal with dangerous drivers before they become lethal? Are we convinced that we need changes in responsibilities that will, almost inevitably, impinge on the way that we police our roads? Are we sure that those priorities are correct?
My Committee looked carefully across the board. We found many good things in the Bill, but we are also concerned. Inevitably, the House of Commons ought to lead on such a subject. Frequently, when we frame laws, we give a general impression to the public about how we ought to deal with death and destruction that comes in the form of a road traffic accident.
If we make it clear that we are utterly against such developments and that the decisions that we take about management tools, such as speed cameras, are meant to cut deaths and if we make it even clearer that the law
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ought to be enforced very strongly against those who cause death by dangerous driving, we ought to have the support of the general public.
If, however, we frame legislation that appears somehow or other to underplay the importance of deaths in road traffic accidents and if we run campaigns that, for various populist reasons, seem to say that speed cameras are not instruments of care and protection but something that ought to be destroyed, the general public will think either that we are not serious or that we do not understand the full implications of what we are doing. So my Committee was concerned about what is missing from the Bill as much as what is in it.
We have already heard from many hon. Members about death by dangerous driving. I am not a lawyer, and I am prepared to believe that there are real difficulties in framing certain charges, but the reality is that if someone has lost a member of their family because of someone driving a car, they do not believe that justice has been done if that person receives either a small fine or some kind of restriction on their licence, and there is no genuine acceptance of the fact that that death was not only unnecessary, but unwarranted and indefensible.
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