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|'Road Traffic Offenders Act Section 36(14).'.|
|1988 (c. 53)Mr. Jamieson.]|
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time. The Government are committed to reducing death and injury on Britain's roads. We have long had a strategy for achieving that and last year we updated it. We are making good progress towards our targets, but we take nothing for granted.
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In 2000, we set ourselves a target to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads by 40 per cent. and to reduce the number of children killed and seriously injured by 50 per cent. Overall, we have achieved a 25 per cent. reduction, but for children the result is better and we are more than three quarters of the way towards achieving our target. That has been due to the efforts of many people, not only the Government but local government, the police and the many voluntary organisations that contribute to improving road safety in many ways. Nor should we forget the engineers and others who design and build our roads. All those people have played a part in reducing casualties.
I am proud to say that we have done well in this country and that that is now recognised across Europe. We have one of the best records in this area, and other countries in Europe, and even in other parts of the world, are looking to us as a model on road safety. Our record compares with the best in the world, such as Sweden, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend the Minister is right in what he says about this country's record and I pay tribute to his contribution to that. The Bill will allow the Secretary of State to introduce graduated fixed penalties, and that is generally accepted. However, there is concern about the possible reduction from three to two points for speeding in a 30 mph area. That issue was raised in Committee and my hon. Friend agreed to reflect on it, so can he reveal his current thinking on the issue?
Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend has pre-empted some of the comments that I was about to make. As he knows, a discussion note was issued in September, inviting comments on some of the benchmark ideas for the graduated scheme. We made it clear thenand it is evident in the Billthat the structure will be the subject of further consultation and debate in the House. So far, the debate has largely concentrated on the argument that the two-point penalty should not be available to people who break the 30 mph speed limit. Views are divided on the issue and we want to hear further views from the statutory consultation before we lay further orders on the issue.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend's role in the progress that has been made should indeed be recognised. However, although the figures are heading in the right direction, some 100 people are still killed or seriously injured every day. Does my hon. Friend think that serious attention will be given in the future to lower alcohol limits, lower speed limits in residential areas, random breath-testing and other such initiatives? More progress could be made.
As my hon. Friend says, some 100 people are killed or seriously injured each day. The number of people killed on our roads has remained static for the past few years, but the rate is falling because we now have more traffic on the roads. The number of people who are seriously injured is falling dramatically and I am delighted that that is especially true for children. I am pleased with the progress that we are making on that issue.
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Interestingly, the static number of deaths has been a cause of concern in other countries with good records. The number of deaths a year has levelled off in the Netherlands and Sweden, and a similar trend is emerging in France and Germany. The figures come down so far, but it is then difficult to get them down further. The serious injury rate is falling, but we still face serious challenges in reducing deaths on the road. One concern is the number of deaths on two-wheelers. Had the number of deaths for people riding two-wheelers not risen, there would have been a reduction in overall deaths last year.
My hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) asks about the alcohol limit. My concern is not so much the 80 mg limit, but the small hard-core minority who drink well beyond that limit and then drive. They are the people who are causing the casualties, notas a rulethose who have drunk just over the limit. The overwhelming majority of people in this country take this matter seriously and are conscientious about not driving after drinking. That is true of the vast majority of younger people, as well as of those who belong to the older generation.
We want local authorities to reduce speed limits on their roads and to use engineering to make roads safer, especially in rural areas. Again, the number of casualties on those roads has reached a plateau. My message is that a lot is being done, but thatmy goodnessa lot more needs to be done.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend the Minister will recall that I raised the question of graduated penalties in Standing Committee. The House will know that the outcome when a personand especially a childis hit by a car travelling at 30 mph is very different from what happens when the car is travelling at 40 mph. The difference is so significant that we must not send out the signal that penalties will be reduced for people driving between 30 and 40 mph. In the consultation process, will he take the very strong message from me and my constituents that we must not give out that signal?
Mr. Jamieson: My hon. Friend repeats a point that he made very powerfully in Committee. We are very aware of the debate that is taking place on this important matter, both in this House and outside. Those who want to change the status quo must make their views known, but we need a sensible and vigorous debate in the next stage of the consultation so that we can get the matter right. We can talk and think about the issue, but the important thing is to get it right in the end.
I hope that we might even get some cross-party consensus on whatever is ultimately achieved in that respect. The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) perked up at those words, but the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) is still looking at his notes. We can read what we like into that.
New primary legislation has never been a prerequisite for road traffic laws, and other laws form an important part of road safety policy. Not all problems call for a legislative solution, but that is an element of the strategy whose time has come. The Bill presents a package of measures which, taken together, will make an important contribution to achieving our goal.
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Most of the measures in the Bill have been public knowledge for some time. They have been examined in some depth, not least by road safety experts and lobby groups. They have also benefited from careful scrutiny by the Select Committee on Transport, and I see that the Committee's Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), is in her place. We very much welcome the views expressed by the Committee, and I dare say that it will express further views in future. Moreover, the Joint Committee on Human Rights offered additional advice in its eighth report, which we are now considering.
Over the past year, speeding has been the subject of one of the biggest debates in connection with road safety, and the Bill contains various provisions to tackle the problem. One of them is educational, in the sense that speed offenders might, in certain circumstances, be referred by a court of law to undertake retraining courses. However, we need sticks as well as carrots, and the proposals for a graduated system of fixed penalties deserves careful consideration.
The focus on speeding may have caused some to overlook that fact that the graduated fixed-penalty proposals will apply to offences other than speeding. They will be especially useful in commercial operations, in which the police and the Department's vehicle inspectors, furnished with new powers by this Bill, will be able to enforce more effectively against roadworthiness offences.
Other provisions in the Bill contribute to better enforcement, in some cases through better or more streamlined administration. However, the modernisation of administrative practices is also behind many proposals governing licensing and testing. All the proposals help to plug gaps in the system, and will contribute to improvements in road safety.
The Bill has made positive progress through the House. We have had some very good and sensible debates both in this House and when the Bill went Upstairs. It has been an instructive process, giving us food for thought for the future in important areas, and I am grateful to Members from all parts of the House for their contributions during the Bill's passage. It is a good Bill and it should command support both in this House and outside it. I commend it to the House.
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