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House of Commons

Tuesday 2 May 2006

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Safety Cameras

1. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): If he will make a statement on the siting of speed cameras. [66801]

7. Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): If he will make a statement on the siting of speed cameras. [66807]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr.   Stephen Ladyman): The Department's handbook of rules and guidance for the national safety camera programme for England and Wales sets out strict rules and criteria for the deployment of safety cameras. The criteria ensure that cameras are deployed where there is a strong road safety need and where they can make a difference.

Michael Fabricant: But is that really the case? In 2003, prosecutions went up by 44 per cent., yet fatalities fell by only 2 per cent. The Minister says that so-called safety cameras—let us at least call them speed cameras—are placed in order to stop fatalities, yet often, where they are sited at the scenes of car crashes, those car crashes had nothing to do with speed. Will the Minister review where these cameras are sited?

Dr. Ladyman: The hon. Gentleman needs to keep up with events. We have just had a study of the first four years of the road camera partnerships, which shows a 70 per cent. reduction in vehicles breaking the speed limits at fixed sites and a 42 per cent. reduction in people killed and seriously injured at camera sites. No published work anywhere in the world suggests other than that cameras work in making roads safer. They are put where there is a history of speeding and of people being killed and seriously injured.

Mr. Scott: I thank the Minister for his letter to me of 24 April regarding the speed camera at the bottom of the M11 in my constituency. While noting the contents, may I ask whether that camera will at least be repositioned in an area where it may help safety rather than hinder it, because it seems that accidents have continued to rise there?
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Dr. Ladyman: Of course, the positioning of all cameras is kept under review. The camera that the hon. Gentleman mentions was put there to enforce a permanent speed limit on that particular part of motorway, where drivers were continuing to ignore the speed limit. The number of people being seriously injured on that stretch of road was not coming down, so a camera was necessary to enforce the speed limit. If it proves unsuccessful in reducing the rate of casualties, of course I would expect its position to be reviewed.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): In Staffordshire, there are no plans for any new safety cameras in the coming year, yet residents continue to come to me with requests for new speed cameras because of the dangers of speeding traffic. Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is still very strong public support for safety cameras and that there is no obstacle to new ones being erected where there is a need to do so on road safety grounds?

Dr. Ladyman: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He will recollect that, in December, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that, from next year, we would have new rules governing how cameras were sited, with local partnerships having greater flexibility in being able to site cameras where they perceived there to be a threat instead of having to wait until people are killed or seriously injured before they do so. My hon. Friend is right to say that there is very strong public support for speed cameras, especially in towns and near to where children are at risk.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): At the weekend, an eight-year-old girl was killed in north Wales as a result of a road traffic accident. Does my hon. Friend agree that a strong message should go out from both sides of the House that speed and traffic kill and is it not unfortunate that that seems to be becoming an issue on which opposing sides of the House do not agree?

Dr. Ladyman: First, let me express my sadness at the news of the little girl being killed in Wales. I am sure that the sympathy of the whole House goes out to her family.

It is very important that we recognise that all the evidence suggests that speed kills and that it is necessary to have strict enforcement at certain dangerous places to ensure that people are obeying the speed limits. If we do that, we will continue to drive down deaths and serious injuries on our roads, as we have over recent years.

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): The Department's research, to which the Minister referred, established that, in some 245 cases, there had been no reduction in casualties following the siting of road safety cameras. What has happened on those sites? In how many cases have the cameras been removed and nothing put in their place and in how many have they been replaced with other safety measures?

Dr. Ladyman: If the hon. Gentleman has specific examples about which he would like information, I shall attempt to get it for him. The Department's study
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showed significant improvements in the rate of casualties across most camera sites. The Department has requested the safety camera partnerships to review the siting of all cameras and ensure that they are in the best place, where they can be most effective.

I detect another example of the Liberal Democrats wanting to have it both ways. They appear to oppose safety cameras but, when they talk to some groups, they demand more and more of them.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister referred to community safety partnerships' ability to urge the placing of cameras when the strict criteria are not necessarily in place. Is not it true that, on several roads, the high speed and the amount of traffic travelling at excess speed discourage pedestrians and cyclists, and that it would, therefore, be reasonable to locate a safety and speed camera on such a road?

Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend is correct. Even under existing rules, road safety camera partnerships are entitled to 15 per cent. flexibility. They have some local flexibility to decide where to site cameras. Under the new rules that the Secretary of State announced in December, they will have much greater flexibility from next year, but they will also have to be accountable to local people for where they have decided to site cameras. They are entitled to do that to encourage pedestrians and cyclists if they wish but they must explain to local people exactly what they hope to achieve and their targets for the site.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): On 21 March, the Minister said in Standing Committee A on the Road Safety Bill [Lords] that

What practical steps has he recently taken to put that into practice?

Dr. Ladyman: As part of the package that the Secretary of State announced in December, we are publishing new guidance to all the safety camera partnerships, making it clear how we wish signage to be improved. It is vital that motorists can see a speed limit sign in the same field of view as a camera. For legal reasons, it is not always possible to put the speed limit on the camera. The notification of, for example, a 30 mph speed limit is done not by repeater signs but by a road sign when one enters the speed limit area and the presence of lamp posts in a built-up area. We therefore have to be careful about exactly how we proceed but the Department is issuing clear and good guidance about how it should make the signs available.

Rail Freight Interchange (Radlett)

2. Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): If he will make a statement on the proposed rail freight interchange at the former Radlett aerodrome. [66802]
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): It is for the private sector to develop proposals and progress them through the necessary approvals including planning consent. I understand that no planning application has yet been made for the proposal to which the hon. Lady refers.

Anne Main: Large consultation exercises are going on. Does the Under-Secretary agree that, if blight is put on houses—it has already been accepted by Helios and Lafarge, which offered to buy a house but have now rescinded the offer and said that there is no possibility of compensation—and the Government decide to push ahead and grant permission against the wishes of local residents, they should ensure that compensation is provided for any blighted properties?

Derek Twigg: The rules of blight are well established. As far as I know, we have not yet received a planning application. Normal planning procedures will apply and it is not appropriate for me to comment at this stage.

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