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Motor-Cycle Accidents (Coventry)

10. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): How many accidents involving motor-cycles took place in Coventry in each year since 1997. [220411]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): In 1997, there were 81 accidents in Coventry involving at least one motor-cycle. The figures for subsequent years are as follows: in 1998, there were 85; in 1999, there were 80; in 2000, there were 81; in 2001, there were 80; in 2002, there were 88; and in 2003, there were 99. Figures for 2004 are not yet available.

Mr. Cunningham: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. How many deaths resulted from those accidents?

Mr. Jamieson: There were a total of eight deaths in that period. We are greatly concerned about the number of deaths of motor cyclists and the Government are doing a great deal to reduce it. My hon. Friend probably knows that, a couple of weeks ago, we launched the motor cycle strategy, which was welcomed by the motor cycle community as a major contribution—indeed, the first such contribution that a Government have made—towards recognising motor cyclists' needs.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): If the national statistics apply to Coventry generally, will my hon. Friend confirm that, although motor cyclists constitute one in 100 road users, one in five motor cyclists suffers death and serious injuries? Is not that a shocking statistic? What will the new motor cycling strategy mean in terms of reducing those deaths and injuries?

Mr. Jamieson: Those figures are correct and a concern to us, given that motor cycling is a good alternative form of travel, especially for people on limited or low incomes.

In the hazard perception test, we have introduced a section to deal with looking after motor cyclists and vulnerable road users. The advisory group on motor cycling, which we set up five years ago, has consistently given the Government good advice, which has resulted in a strategy with 44 different aims, to be fulfilled over a period of time.

The publicity material that we are producing for posters and magazines and on television will raise issues to do with motor cyclists, especially making motorists aware of each other's needs on the roads. It is an important matter—motor cycling should be part of the mainstream transport system in this country but we must make it safer.

East Coast Main Line

11. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): What representations the Department has received from members of the public about the east coast main line rail franchise. [220412]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling): My Department has received a substantial number of representations from members of the public regarding the InterCity east coast franchise.

Hugh Bayley: There is no doubt that GNER has performed substantially better than any other train
 
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operating company. The fact that 20,000 members of the public have written to support its bid is testimony to that. Given that GNER's current franchise ends in only a few weeks, does my right hon. Friend agree that the current uncertainty should be ended as soon as possible? Will he make an announcement about the outcome of the franchise competition shortly?

Mr. Darling: I hope to make an announcement about the franchise shortly.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): I concur with the comments of the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley). The vast majority of constituents who have written to me—I have forwarded their letters to the Secretary of State—are in favour of GNER's bid.

The franchise should not be awarded only on value for money but on customer service. Will the Secretary of State respond to a newspaper report that GNER is being asked to pay £100 million to the Department? On what basis would that happen? Should not the money go towards improving an already excellent service?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Lady is no doubt aware that the railways work on the basis that operators are invited to bid for franchises. At some point, we must get money from at least some of the train companies that operate the franchises because we pay large sums to other operators that are not in such a happy position. I find it odd that a Conservative Member advocates that we should not accept money from people who are taking on a franchise and running trains. If she did not accept such money, she would have to confront the problem of making up the difference.

I am well aware of the representations about GNER and people's feelings about it. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for City of York a few moments ago, I expect to be in a position to make an announcement on the franchise in the near future.

Trust Ports

12. Jim Knight (South Dorset) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the future of trust ports. [220413]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): Following publication of our review of trust ports, "Modernising Trust Ports—A Guide to Good Governance", trust ports have taken active steps to modernise their legislation and to render themselves more open and accountable to their stakeholders. The Government welcome the steps taken so far and will encourage continued progress.

Jim Knight: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. The Government's attempt to prevent the privatisation of the trust port at Poole has been formally objected to by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) on behalf of the official Opposition. The privatisation of Poole would be a disaster for the harbour, 75 per cent. of which is in my constituency, because the surpluses that are currently spent safeguarding the interests of walkers, sailors, anglers
 
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and fishermen would go to shareholders. Will the Minister promise to continue to resist the privatisation of Poole?

Mr. Jamieson: I can offer my hon. Friend a total assurance on that. Seven of the ports involved are currently pursuing harbour revision orders, but, sadly, six of them have been objected to by the hon. Member for Christchurch. That procedure is preventing ports throughout the country from planning for the future investment that they want to make. The difference between us and the Conservatives is that we want to modernise the ports, while they want to privatise them.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Does the Minister agree that the future of the trust ports is inextricably linked to the health of the British shipping industry? In that regard, does he share my concern—and the concern expressed by the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers, NUMAST—that the tonnage tax has not delivered much of the hoped for security of employment and training benefits? Now that the first cadets trained under the tonnage tax are qualifying, what steps will the Government take—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I did not even call that question. I call Mr. Chope.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): To return to the issue that we were discussing, may I ask the Minister whether he agrees that the former trust ports that have been sold are now thriving in the private sector? Why will he not support our policy of allowing the port of Dover to be sold, with the proceeds of the sale being used for vital transport infrastructure improvements? That policy was announced yesterday to acclaim in the port of Dover.

Mr. Jamieson: It would be more helpful if the hon. Gentleman would tell us why he is objecting to the harbour revision orders relating to six of the trust ports, which means that they cannot now go ahead with their investment plans. I believe that £6 million of investment is now being held up in Poole by the hon. Gentleman's objection. I am sure that the proposed privatisation of Dover will come as interesting news to the people of Dover in any future election, along with the spurious promises that the hon. Gentleman made about road and rail infrastructure improvements in that area. There is a clear difference between us: we want to modernise these ports and to see them thrive; the hon. Gentleman wants only to privatise them.

Speed Safety Cameras

13. Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): How many speed safety cameras have been removed in the past three months; and for what reasons they were removed. [220414]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. David Jamieson): The latest data from the safety camera partnerships indicate that two fixed speed and seven mobile speed camera sites were removed in the quarter ending December 2004, when
 
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they were no longer required. A number of temporary cameras were also removed when motorway repairs had been completed.

Bob Russell: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and I congratulate him on his resistance to those who wish to remove speed cameras, bearing in mind that it has been proved that speed cameras save lives and reduce the number of crashes. Will he give the House an assurance that he will put up equal resistance to the latest idiotic proposals to remove speed bumps from residential streets?

Mr. Jamieson: The safety camera partnerships have been extremely successful in reducing casualties—[Hon. Members: "And in raising money!"] Well, Opposition Members may say that, but many Tory authorities have been assisting the police in installing such cameras to reduce deaths and injuries on the roads in their area. In response to the point raised by the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), speed humps have also played a major part in reducing casualties, particularly on some of the side roads and minor roads in our cities. I find it quite extraordinary that the Opposition spokesman, who was on the radio this morning, should say that this vital safety measure—

Mr. Speaker: Order. We do not need to hear about that.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend confirm that, despite the lobby against speed cameras, the average speed of vehicles in most towns that have such cameras has been reduced, as has the number of accidents? It is better to face large numbers of people protesting about being fined for driving too fast than to face just one person who has suffered the tragedy of an accident caused by speeding.

Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. We set targets to reduce overall casualties by 40 per cent. over the 10-year period. To date, we have achieved a 26 per cent. reduction, while the number of children killed or injured in the past three years has dropped by 40 per cent. The desire of Conservative Members to remove cameras is inexplicable when all the evidence provided to us, even by some Conservative councillors, suggests that they are playing a major part in reducing the number of casualties, in particular the number of children killed and injured on our roads.


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