Road Safety Bill

[back to previous text]

Mr. Chope: I am still slightly perplexed. The next clause deals only with speeding offences.

Mr. Jamieson: May I help the hon. Gentleman? No it does not; clause 3 applies to all the offences and clause 2, which we are dealing with now, refers to the financial penalty. Clause 3 refers to the penalty points.

Mr. Chope: I am sorry; I stand corrected. This deals with the financial penalty and we have heard that, for example, somebody could be speeding at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, when there is hardly anybody about, compared with somebody driving at the same excessive speed but in more dangerous circumstances. The graduated penalties set out not only the penalty points, which will be dealt with in clause 3, but the fines. If the clause means anything, it surely means that somebody who, say, drives at 94 mph in conditions in which there is a lot of traffic will face a higher financial penalty than somebody who drives at 94 mph in the middle of the night. If that is not so, does that mean that the Minister does not take into account any of the criteria set out in (a) to (d) in relation to the speed at which a vehicle is travelling?

Mr. Jamieson: Perhaps there is a slight confusion here. It might be my fault for not having explained the position with sufficient clarity. The criteria that we have in clause 2(2)(a) to (d) would be those used to fix the penalties for certain offences. The same would be the case in clause 3 for fixing the penalty points. Almost certainly, those will have to come back before the House for consideration in relation to secondary legislation, in which the criteria would be used to formulate the fine levels for certain offences.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would accept that if one tried to introduce, as he does in his amendment, different times of day and night for the enforcement of, say, camera-operated speed limits, that would create almighty confusion. It would be almost unenforceable. The criteria would not apply to such offences. They would apply to the formulation of the penalty but not, once it was fixed, to the penalty itself. Once the criteria are fixed, the discretion goes out of the window.
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Mr. Chope: I am sure that it has nothing to do with the Minister's ability to explain things. It is my fault that I cannot understand things. Therefore, I am grateful to him for that further explanation.

Question agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Graduated fixed penalty points

Mr. Chope: I beg to move amendment No. 12, in clause 3, page 2, line 28, leave out from 'as' to end of line 41 and insert

    'set out in Schedule [Graduated Penalties]'.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss new schedule 1—Graduated Penalties—

Lower penalty points 2 points and £40 fineStandard penalty 3 points and £60 fine Higher penalty 6 points and £100 fine
Speed (mph) Speed (mph) Speed (mph) Speed (mph)
20 No lower penalty Up to and including 31 32
30 3940-44 45
40 50 51-56 57
50 61 62-69 70
60 72 73-81 82
70 83 84-93 94

Mr. Chope:: The amendment introduces a new schedule, which would put into the Bill the graduated penalties that would apply to speeding. I tabled the amendment because I believe that the Secretary of State accepted on Second Reading—it is apparent from the contributions to that debate and the wider debate outside—that this is a highly controversial subject. There are many different and sincerely held views. As we have a chance to consider primary legislation, we should debate, and put into the Bill, what we collectively, as parliamentarians, think is the right answer to what the graduated penalties should be for speeding.

The Government line is ''We know that, in our party, the Secretary of State takes one view, a number of his Back Benchers who spoke on Second Reading take another and outside interests take a third. We will sort it all out after we have had a little more consultation and we will introduce a statutory instrument that cannot be amended.'' I take the view that, if Parliament is to be taken seriously, we should collectively take responsibility for this issue ourselves, as Members of Parliament and particularly as members of the Committee. We have the chance to do that. Therefore, I have had a stab at putting down what I regard, and what the Minister and I think the Secretary of State regard, as the appropriate answer to this conundrum.
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Mr. Stinchcombe: Is it the hon. Gentleman's case that the Bill should contain a provision that reduces the penalty points for speeding between 30 mph and 39 mph, even though all the evidence indicates that that would lead to road deaths?

Mr. Chope: I am adopting exactly the same line as the Secretary of State adopted on Second Reading, and I do not doubt his sincerity. Certainly my view, subject to any arguments put forward in the Committee, is that the Government have started along the right lines. However, by tabling the schedule and the amendment, I wanted to start a debate around graduated penalties and seek agreement from members of the Committee, after proper discussion, that it is desirable that such penalties should be included in the Bill instead of being deferred to some stage in the future when we will not have a chance to amend the secondary legislation.

Mr. Stinchcombe: As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman's case is not the same as the Secretary of State's, who is simply saying that there should be an enabling provision and then consultation and consideration before the set of penalties is established. The hon. Gentleman's position is rather different: he believes that we should enact legislation now that would reduce the penalties for speeding below 40 mph, even though many children would be killed by such acts of speeding.

3.15 pm

Mr. Chope: I shall not get into a debate about whether the hon. Gentleman's last assertion is correct. He participated in the debate on Second Reading and heard what the Secretary of State said. The Secretary of State said that his view was that the right answer was as reflected in the table. I know that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) has tabled a specific amendment, which I can see some merit in. However, I thought that the best starting point would be to take what I understood to be the Government's line. The Minister will no doubt correct me if I am wrong. The danger, and indeed the suspicion, may be that the Government want to take this power on the basis of one set of ideas—to have both lower and higher penalties—but that ultimately they might propose something different from what is set out here, which the Secretary of State supported on Second Reading, and we would not have a chance to change it.

All the arguments are already apparent; the consultation is already taking place. Why can we not decide now what to put in the Bill? If the new schedule were incorporated in the Bill today, the hon. Member for Wellingborough and others could move amendments to it on Report, some of which might be supported by me and my hon. Friends, as well as by the hon. Gentleman's right hon. and hon. Friends.

I am not saying that the new schedule will be the final version, but, it was the best way to ensure that graduated penalties—this serious reform of road traffic law—were included in the Bill. I do not develop from my own background the arguments in support of each of these graduated penalties. I put them forward
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on the basis that they are the ones that the Government want. I did not want to make life even more difficult for myself as an Opposition spokesman by trying to get the Government on side. I thought that I would adopt those arguments supported by the Secretary of State.

Mr. Reed: I am grateful for that explanation. Clearly it is useful at some stage to start a debate. However, it would be helpful if, having tabled the new schedule, the hon. Gentleman spoke to it with support for the individual figures. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough, I would be horrified at the idea that driving at 40 mph in a 30 mph zone would be classified as the norm to get three points. I am not sure that we as a Committee, on behalf of the rest of the House of Commons, have the ability to decide something as substantial as that. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could talk to his new schedule. He has just said that he will not, but it would be useful if he set out in more detail why he believes that the figures would be acceptable to the Committee.

Mr. Chope: I am trying to ensure that we do not have two debates on a similar issue. As I said, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside will shortly introduce a debate on her proposition, and I look forward to hearing her arguments, because I suspect that quite a lot of hon. Members are sympathetic to it. My approach was to have a starting point that was overtly supported by the Secretary of State on Second Reading.

Mr. Stinchcombe: Will the hon. Gentleman respond to my hon. Friend's question with more clarity? He knows—the evidence shows—that 90 per cent. of pedestrians hit at 40mph will die. Yet he is proposing that even driving at 40 mph in a 30 mph district should attract only three points. Does he honestly believe that to be a good proposal?

Mr. Chope: The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), the Chairman of the Select Committee, made an interesting comment on Second Reading, when she said that there was 54 or 58 per cent. non-compliance—I have not looked up the original figures—with the 30-mph speed limit. Therefore, speed limits are broken to a considerable extent. It would be desirable, as I said on Second Reading, to have much more discretion in the prosecution of and penalties for those who break speed limits, because the range of circumstances is enormous. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman disagrees. In fact, earlier in this sitting he suggested that he was sympathetic to the proposition that circumstances are different on different occasions.

I am unhappy about the idea that there is a trade-off against injustice—for instance, people identified as speeding in light traffic by speed cameras suffering the same penalty as those who are caught when the traffic conditions are much heavier and, more importantly, the incidence of vulnerable road users is much greater. Concern has been expressed by some of the motoring organisations that there is some sort of trade-off: the Government realise that there is a great deal of rough
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justice, so the people who are just over the speed limit might get only two points, rather than a higher penalty. I am a bit suspicious about that. However, my purpose in putting forward the amendment was to engage the support of the hon. Member for Wellingborough and others for the proposition that the detail should be included in the Bill. Whether his idea, or that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside, or anybody else's, finally emerges, Parliament will have control over the process, rather than leaving it to the Executive. That is my primary concern, and my purpose in putting forward the new schedule. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough votes in favour of the new schedule, I can assure him that I shall not hold him to supporting every detail of it, because he will be supporting it in the knowledge that it will be possible to amend it to reflect other decisions of the Committee later on.

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