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That is inaccurate, and it could extend to income from offences detected by police officers as well as by cameras. The clause also uses several undefined terms such as “a safety camera scheme”.

The legislation is at a very late stage, and we are under an obligation to save a vital Bill. Given that their lordships are keen that the Government should have the power to make such regulations, we tabled amendment No. 1, which would be workable and is not technically defective, thus meeting their Lordships’ wishes. In the event that the powers were used, that would be contingent on having a mechanism to ensure that the regulations neither created incentives for partnerships to drive up the level of fines to secure additional income nor penalised partnerships that succeed in improving compliance with speed limits, thus reducing the income from speed cameras, by allowing them less money for other road safety purposes. None the less, I reiterate our obligation to this important Bill, and I therefore urge the House to support the motion.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): In recent years, there has been a spectacular increase in
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penalty notices. I received a reply to parliamentary question 95511 on 2 November that showed that offences detected by camera had increased from 288,600 in 1997 to 1,786,000 in 2004. There has been a commensurate increase in income. In 2000-01, seven partnerships received just over £10.3 million and spent just over £8.9 million, leaving a balance of £1.3 million for the Consolidated Fund. In 2003-04 receipts were £112.2 million and expenditure £91.8 million, leaving an astonishing £20.4 million for the Chancellor. Not only have receipts increased tenfold but the balance going to the Chancellor has increased from 13 per cent. to 18 per cent. of total receipts, so a substantial sum has not gone towards road safety.

Tiny sums can have a dramatic impact on road safety. I cannot resist giving the House some information that I received from Shropshire at the weekend, where the installation by Shropshire county council of only £12,000-worth of interactive signs at Sandford bends, where there is a mediaeval bridge, has had spectacular results. In the three years prior to installation, there was an average of three recorded personal injury accidents a year. Since the signs were installed, however, there have been no such accidents at the location. The average cost per accident is £106,710 and, in addition, the cost of repairs to the bridge was £120,000 in 2002 and £40,000 in 2003 and again in 2004. Furthermore, queues, which were sometimes a mile long, have been avoided.

7.30 pm

I am very pleased that the Minister has come round to the idea of handing the money to local agencies, which can spend the sums on small schemes such as that which I have mentioned. This afternoon, I had a very constructive meeting with my noble Friend Lord Hanningfield, who has done sterling work in the other place, and the Minister’s counterpart in the other place, Lord Davies of Oldham. He confirmed what the Minister said: that the intention is to reinstate clause 2, as the Government accept that they were defeated in the Lords, and that they intend to deliver the intended aims of the Opposition clause. We are pleased that the Government have made such a concession for, I think, the first time in respect of this Bill. However, it is ironic—I cannot resist pointing this out—that this is the one clause to which they let us make an amendment, before they withdrew it.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): I just want to say that the new arrangements announced by the Government for next April are clearly superior to the arrangements in the Lords’ desire. They are superior because of the certainty about the money that local authorities will get; that will not be dependent on the speeding-fine income that they collect in their area. It is better for public perception that people do not have to be fined for speeding in order for local authorities to get the central grant from the Government. I see this arrangement—which I hope will be approved in a few minutes by this place to satisfy the other place—as a supplement, so that in certain possible circumstances even more money can go to local authorities if there is a greater income from fines than people anticipated.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Those of us who have been involved in the debate on these measures in Committee and subsequently are pleased
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to note that the Minister has become more good-natured as the debate has progressed. In fact, I suspect that if our consideration of the Bill could have stretched over two years, we might have persuaded him to accept more amendments.

I think that the whole House will welcome his comment that he had no intention of driving up fine income in these provisions. But what ring-fencing will exist as a result of the Government amendment? Will it be the same as in the Lords’ original amendment, namely

Some of us would have concerns if the definition of “related environmental improvements” could include road closures. We hope that that is not the primary purpose of the amendment.

Dr. Ladyman: I am surprised that the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) thinks that I have not been good-natured throughout our consideration of the Bill—but we never see ourselves quite as others see us.

Mr. Knight: I did not mean to accuse the Minister of having been bad-natured at any stage. What I said was that, as our debate progressed, he became progressively better-natured.

Dr. Ladyman: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification.

The key point is that none of us wants cameras to be deployed simply for the purpose of raising money and increasing income. In order to stop that happening it is key that if the powers that we have introduced in this amendment, which the Lords wanted us to introduce, were used, it would be necessary for some other mechanism to be used in conjunction with them. The Government do not believe that the powers are necessary because we have already achieved the objective that their lordships wanted in the first place by different means. What we have done is to end from 1 April next year the so-called netting-off arrangements—the scheme whereby camera income could only be used for more cameras and any surplus went to the Treasury. We have said that the total sum of the fines which will go to the Treasury in future—approximately £110 million a year—will be paid back to the local authorities as road safety grants. Therefore, while the changes introduced by the Government are in place, it is correct that the money going back to the councils can be used only for road safety and measures relating to that.

As the Treasury has agreed to that amount of money for four years, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) is also absolutely right that what the Government have done is an improvement on what their lordships intended, because that income is guaranteed—and there are signs that the fine income is starting to go down. However, the Treasury will carry on paying—at this rate, for the next four years—for road safety improvements. Therefore, more of the sort of road safety improvements that the hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) mentioned will be able to take place than would be the case if we were to
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use the powers that we are accepting that their Lordships want us to put in the Bill.

Nevertheless, their Lordships were keen for this power to be in the Bill because they felt that that was necessary. To make sure that we demonstrate compromise in our willingness to get this Bill through, we are prepared to correct their Lordships amendments, and to accept them. I hope that, on that basis, the House can support our amendment.

Commons amendment No.1 disagreed to.

Government amendments (a) and (b) in lieu thereof agreed to.

Clause 16

Retro-reflective markings

Commons amendment: No. 5

Dr. Ladyman: I beg to move, That this House insists on Commons amendment No. 5, to which the Lords have disagreed, and disagrees to amendments Nos. 5A and 5B proposed by the Lords.

Perhaps this debate will be a little less good-natured than the last one. Use of retro-reflective tape is already permitted, and many heavy-vehicle operators have already voluntarily opted to fit it. We in this country are committed to making it mandatory, and we believe that the best mechanism for achieving that is to amend both European Commission and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe legislation. This route has been agreed internationally, and proceedings are now under way that will mandate it in both European and international law.

We do not believe that it would make good sense to try to introduce regulations covering only UK-registered vehicles in the run-up to the more universal requirement to fit the tape. In addition, the legal basis for making such UK-specific regulations before tape fitment is mandated by EC and UNECE law is, at best, uncertain. If we were to introduce regulations by the end of 2007, I cannot be sure we would not be open to challenge, and possibly to infraction proceedings.

Unilateral Italian requirements on this subject have been mentioned in previous debates.

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Ladyman: Let me make some progress, and than I shall give way.

I have also received correspondence in the past day or two from my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), who is in his place today, questioning statements that I have made previously about UK and other objections to the Italian regulations. Judging by the copy letters enclosed with that correspondence, there does appear to be some confusion over that. However, I can confirm that I have a copy of a letter from the secretary-general of the Commission to the Italians, advising them, among other things, of their obligation to include a mutual recognition clause relating to other member states or European Free
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Trade Association countries signatory to the European economic area agreement and suggesting that they reconsider their legislation. That seemed to me to be a likely precursor to infraction proceedings, although I gather that no action has, as yet, been taken.

In addition, I can confirm that the Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry website lists the Commission, Germany, France and the UK as all having commented on the draft Italian ministerial decree on retro-reflective materials for heavy vehicles and trailers. The UK view is that, because UNECE regulation 48 specifically mentions regulation 104 tape as “optional”, that reference establishes competence on this subject, taking it away from individual member states. I am not sure how any confusion has arisen: that might be something to do with the comments having been made on the legislation when it was in draft form, rather than after it had come into force.

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) still want me to give way?

John McDonnell: It would be nice to have clarity on this point. During the last discussion, the House was quaking in its boots at the risk of UN action and of EC infraction proceedings, and we were told that the Italians were going into the ring with the EU. We now know that in fact, all that they have received is a letter, so no infraction proceedings are taking place and there is no encumberance on the Government’s proceeding with the measure.

Dr. Ladyman: Well, infraction proceedings may have yet to start, but that does mean that they are not going to, and perhaps the United Kingdom takes these obligations slightly more seriously than even the Italians do. But I agree with my hon. Friend that the scenario of Hans Blix coming in and inspecting the retro-reflective tape on vehicles on UK roads is probably not entirely likely.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): This is most helpful and we are obviously making progress. So just to tape it up finally, does my hon. Friend honestly think that if we pass this measure tonight and put the tape on the trucks, any action whatsoever will be taken against us, or anybody else? Would we not be applauded for our foresight in making the roads of Europe safer?

Dr. Ladyman: First, we should ask ourselves what it is we would be able to do tonight. I take it that the Italians are applying their regulations only to Italian-registered vehicles that do not have regulation 48 approval; otherwise, I feel sure that aggrieved owners would have appealed on the ground that the law is being breached. Therein lies the answer to my hon. Friend’s question: even if infraction proceedings were not started, any lorry owner who did not want to fit the tape would have legal grounds for objecting to our forcing them to do so. So the sensible thing to do is to use the mechanisms that we agreed to a long time ago in an international treaty for mandating use of this tape. I am prepared to assure the House that I will do everything that I can to ensure that the process is as rapid as possible, that the tape is fitted as quickly as
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possible, and that people purchasing new trucks fit it voluntarily to as short a time scale as possible. That way, we will achieve the same objectives without having to break the terms of our treaty. My hon. Friends might think that that is not an important matter as it affects this subject. Perhaps so, but there will be times when issues arise that affect this country’s economy and competitiveness, and we will want to stand by such international treaties. We would be in a very weak position in doing so if it could be shown that we ignore such treaties when we think that they relate to trivial matters.

Jeremy Corbyn: Will my hon. Friend give way on that point?

Dr. Ladyman: Briefly.

Jeremy Corbyn: There is a difference between a treaty being broken and regulations in this country that merely require UK-registered vehicles to have reflective tape fitted to them in the interest of road safety. Surely we can make some progress here.

Dr. Ladyman: As I said, we will make that progress by mandating the tape’s use through the existing mechanisms and by applying, wherever we possibly can, voluntary pressure to establish its use. I know that there is the notion in the House that this tape will provide a major road safety benefit almost overnight, but that is not what the evidence suggests. Vehicles in countries where the tape has had a dramatic effect, such as America, did not have conspicuity aids fitted in the first place, so the comparison was being made between the conspicuity of vehicles fitted with retro-reflective tape and the conspicuity of vehicles with no conspicuity aids. However, in this country we have already mandated the use of a whole series of conspicuity aids on our existing vehicles. Bodies that have researched this issue, such as Loughborough university, have said that it is far from proven that the tape will have the great benefit that people are suggesting.

Nevertheless, I do accept that we want all vehicles coming into this country, and our own vehicles, to be fitted with retro-reflective tape. However, I believe that the correct way of achieving this is not to infringe the international treaties that we have already agreed to, but to use them and to work as effectively as we can to ensure that this is done to as short a time scale as possible. Because this is such an important Bill, and because we are now in the last-chance saloon and run the risk of losing the entire Bill, I hope that my hon. Friends, at least—and perhaps even Opposition Members—will agree that it is better to accept my assurance that I will do everything that I can to shorten the time scale for the introduction of this material, and to press the international mechanisms as hard as I can to achieve that introduction as quickly as possible. However, I must insist that we resist the Lords amendments and that we proceed as the Government propose.

7.45 pm

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): We are making glacial progress on this extraordinary issue. We are talking about £100-worth of sticky tape going on to trucks, which would have a dramatic impact. There is complete unanimity on the benefit of this
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measure and the urgency of the need for it. The most recent Department for Transport statistics show that fatalities from road accidents involving heavy goods vehicles increased by 8 per cent. in 2005 to 486—15 per cent. of the total number of fatalities from road accidents.

Research shows that this measure does work. Research by the university of Darmstadt found that 37 per cent. of all side collisions with trucks at night occurred because they were seen too late. The same study also found that adding retro-reflective contour markings reduced the number of accidents involving trucks and passenger cars in poor visibility conditions by 95 per cent. According to the European Commission road safety action programme for 2003 to 2010, one of the main causes of road accidents is poor visibility. The Minister has already cited the US statistics, but why is the European Commission determined to bring this measure in eventually? He contradicts himself. US statistics show that rear-impact and side collisions can be reduced by 41 per cent. The Loughborough report, which the Minister also cited, showed that ECE 104 markings would prevent 385 collisions each year, so if the Government hang around until 2010 to introduce this measure, 1,155 preventable collisions could occur.

There is pretty fair unanimity on this issue. The Minister said that this is a good idea and the other Opposition parties are also in complete agreement. We have strong support, moreover, from Labour Members, including the hon. Members for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), who offered strong support in Committee.

This is a phenomenon that I had never heard of before until I dug it out this weekend—one that the EU Parliament described as an

Let me explain it in simple terms. The UNECE agreement goes back to 20 March 1958, and regulation 104—I am trying to keep this brief—sets the technical standards. The regulation originated with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, on which sit 57 countries. I am watching the Minister carefully to see whether he is still with me. The regulation was made under the aegis of —[Interruption.] Well, the Minister, as I shall explain in a few moments, still does not have a complete grip on this issue. The regulation was amended on 5 October 1995, revised again—including via amendments that we will discuss in due course—and came into force on 16 October 1995.

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