Previous Section Index Home Page

21 Nov 2006 : Column 397

Mr. Alexander: The hon. Gentleman is factually correct: in 1986, the deregulation that took place everywhere else did not take place in Northern Ireland. That should act as a cautionary note to anybody who suggests that there is a single approach to the provision of effective bus services that will work in every community. That certainly has been one of the examples that we have considered while preparing our proposals, and it is on that basis that, in due course, we will bring them forward.

Speed Limits

4. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of measures taken to enforce speed limits. [100551]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The most recent assessment is the independent four-year evaluation of the national safety camera programme, which was published on 15 December 2005. It confirms that safety cameras continue to be a valuable and cost-effective method of enforcing speed limits. Cameras are, however, just one method that the police use to detect speeding.

Richard Ottaway: Given that the Minister’s own Department’s statistics show that only 15 per cent. of all accidents are caused by excessive speed, is it not time that he reviewed the extraordinary explosion in the number of speed cameras? Is he aware that millions of perfectly safe drivers are being banned for missing a limit— almost understandably, given the kaleidoscope of road signs on the road today? Will he confirm that one camera earned £750,000 last year, and is that not the real reason why we have so many speed cameras?

Dr. Ladyman: I could not agree less. The hon. Gentleman quoted the Department’s statistics wrongly, as they show that about a quarter of road fatalities involve speeding in one form or another. The deployment of safety cameras has had a pervasive effect on attitudes to speed on the roads, not just at camera sites but throughout the road network. The fact of the matter is that cameras work. We took steps last year to make sure that there is no possible financial incentive for those who decide whether cameras are installed. The hon. Gentleman said that £0.75 million was raised by one camera, which suggests that a heck of a lot of people were speeding in that area. If they stopped doing so they would not pay a penny.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend reconsider the Department’s proposal to reduce penalty points for speeding at over 30 mph in light of its effective safety poster depicting a child who says, “If I’m knocked over at 30 mph there is an 80 per cent. chance that I will live. If I’m knocked over at 40 mph there’s an 80 per cent. chance that I will die.”?

Dr. Ladyman: I very much understand my hon. Friend’s position, which she has expressed forcefully many times. The Road Safety Act 2006 gives us the power to vary the number of points on standing
21 Nov 2006 : Column 398
penalties that people receive for speeding, but that does not mean that we have to do so. We have undertaken to conduct a thorough consultation on proposals for variable penalties. I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to comment, and we will take account of the consultation when we make our final decision on how to move ahead.

Mr. Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): In many villages in my constituency, speed cameras cannot be justified under existing criteria. What are the Government’s plans to enforce speed limits in those villages for the safety of local residents?

Dr. Ladyman: We have told everyone responsible for speed enforcement and road safety partnerships around the country that they should only deploy cameras as a last resort, if other speed enforcement measures are not appropriate. Such measures include variable speed signs and changes to the speed limit in areas where a lower or higher limit is indicated as a result of the accident statistics on a certain piece of road. As a result of changes to the financing of road safety partnerships, local authorities will receive £110 million extra a year, some of which can be spent on appropriate safety measures in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend continue robustly to resist the considerable hysteria of the motoring lobby, which appears to suggest that people’s lives are less important than the fines that some motorists have to pay? Moreover, will he look carefully at the Transport Committee report, which provides various solutions, including the use of more enforcement measures, with effective tools such as old-fashioned policemen?

Dr. Ladyman: I have already read the report from the Select Committee, which my hon. Friend chairs. I agree with a large proportion of it, and we will make a considered response in the near future. She is absolutely right that old-fashioned road policing is not an alternative to cameras—both are needed. Cameras play a role, and can be extremely effective, but we also need effective road policing to do things that cameras cannot do.


5. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): What steps the Department takes to ensure value for money from the co-ordination of road schemes. [100552]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The Department for Transport recognises that overall value for money may be enhanced by co-ordinating the delivery of road schemes on neighbouring parts of the road network. Consequently, while having regard to budget constraints and regional prioritisations, every effort is made to deliver schemes to a cost-efficient timetable.

Andrew Selous: The Government are committed to building the A5/M1 link, which will require a new junction, 11A, on the M1. Building that new junction
21 Nov 2006 : Column 399
at the same time as widening the M1 would cost £14.6 million less than building it afterwards. Is it not a wholly unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money to build junction 11A after the M1 has been widened, as the Government intend to do?

Dr. Ladyman: I share the hon. Gentleman’s disappointment that the region chose to de-prioritise that road scheme and to delay it until 2013, rather than going ahead with it in 2008 as the Government originally intended. Starting the work in 2008 would have allowed us to build the junction at the same time as widening the M1. While we accept the region’s advice, we have written to its representatives to say that we intend to continue with the design work and the other work necessary to allow us at least to construct the junction at the same time as widening the M1. If there is any slippage in the regional funding allocation of moneys to allow us to do this, we intend to construct the junction at the same time as carrying out the widening, for the very reasons that the hon. Gentleman has outlined.

Road Transport Emissions

6. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What plans he has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from road transport; and if he will make a statement. [100554]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The Government have a range of policies across four areas to tackle carbon dioxide emissions from road transport. These policies aim to reduce the carbon content of fuel, to improve the fuel efficiency of vehicles, to encourage more sustainable travel choices, and to work with the EU to consider seriously the inclusion of transport in emissions trading.

Mr. Amess: The Minister knows that carbon emissions from transport have increased from 27 per cent. to 33 per cent. He also knows that the Mayor of London is going to tax 4x4s by increasing the congestion charge for such vehicles to £25. In the Queen’s Speech last week, we also heard about road pricing. Will the Minister now reassure the House that any increase in the taxation on motors will not just be used as a money-making exercise, and that it will go towards research and development to find alternative sources of fuel?

Dr. Ladyman: We already invest substantially in research projects to look for alternative sources of fuel. We are also working hard on the renewable transport fuel obligation, which will ensure that 5 per cent. of road fuel is obtained from renewable sources by 2010. That will present a great opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from land transport by 1 million tonnes a year; it will also be a great opportunity for the agriculture sector to provide the biomass to create that fuel. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that we need to work hard on these issues, but the Government are committed to doing so and are already doing so.

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): One way to reduce carbon emissions from road transport is to encourage greater use of rail freight. Tesco and Eddie
21 Nov 2006 : Column 400
Stobart have shown us that there is a place for rail freight in an integrated haulage strategy. Should not Ministers be talking to other supermarkets and road hauliers, and to organisations such as Royal Mail, to encourage them to transport more of their freight by rail over long distances?

Dr. Ladyman: I can assure my hon. Friend that we are having those conversations. In fact, I spent yesterday afternoon with two executives from Eddie Stobart, and they were telling me about the success of the scheme that they have set up with Tesco. The sustainable distribution fund also allows us to provide grant aid for schemes that take freight off the roads and on to either railways, waterways or coastal shipping as a way of reducing carbon emissions. These are matters for the private sector, but we are doing everything that we can to encourage it to do exactly as my hon. Friend suggests.

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): Has the Minister made any assessment of the 60-tonne, 25.25 m trucks that have recently been test-driven not only by members of the Select Committee but by officials in his Department? Such trucks are already operating on the roads of three European Union member states. Does he agree that deploying them on specific routes might well reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by road transport?

Dr. Ladyman: I looked at this matter last year and studied the issues carefully. I understand the economic and environmental arguments for 60-tonne trucks, but I came to the conclusion that I could not guarantee that they would be restricted to routes that were suitable for them. The reality would be that they would leave the main motorways and highways and end up in rural villages, many of which are represented by Conservative Members, who would soon be on their feet telling me that it was a bad idea to allow such vehicles on to the roads. On that basis, I decided not to move forward with any further tests on 60-tonne trucks at this time.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): I know my hon. Friend is aware of the levels of carbon dioxide that are badly affecting residents in Tinsley, in my constituency. When he met a delegation from the area recently, he gave us certain assurances which I hope he will be prepared to put on record. He assured us that the widening of the M1 would not go ahead if carbon dioxide emissions increased as a result, that wherever possible measures would be introduced to try to reduce them, and that there would be a full environmental impact study whose findings would be available for public consultation. Will he now confirm those assurances?

Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend has been vigorous in campaigning for the people of Tinsley, and specifically in drawing my attention to the concerns of schools on the route. I can assure him publicly that there will be a full environmental impact assessment. If we cannot mitigate the environmental consequences of the widening, it will not go ahead, so it is our responsibility
21 Nov 2006 : Column 401
to find ways of mitigating it. I can also assure my hon. Friend that I have noted the particular concerns of schools, and regard it as our responsibility to find an solution that is acceptable to parents and children and which will prevent them from suffering as a result of any widening of the road.


7. Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): What assessment he has made of bus services in Bournemouth; and if he will make a statement. [100555]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Gillian Merron): The provision of local bus services in Bournemouth is a matter for the bus operators and Bournemouth borough council. They have powers to subsidise non-commercial services. We will shortly set out detailed proposals on the direction of future bus policy, and legislative measures will be included in the draft road transport Bill.

Mr. Ellwood: I look forward to those proposals, but the Minister will know that the Liberal Democrat council recently sold off the local bus service, which angered many residents. Routes have been removed and reduced. Will the Minister remind the council of its duties under the Transport Act 1985? When there is a requirement to provide a bus service and there is a social need, the council should reach into its pockets.

Gillian Merron: I understand that network changes have taken place recently since the sale of the council-owned bus company, and that they have resulted in cuts in some services, although others are running more frequently. I have also been told that later this month Bournemouth borough council will consider replacing services that have been lost or reduced.

I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman that Bournemouth has received considerable support from the Government for bus services, not least through free concessionary bus travel for the over-60s and disabled people. More than a quarter of Bournemouth’s population fall into those categories. Moreover, the Government have provided some £3.5 million a year in bus service operators’ grant for Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset and local transport plan funding of over £2.6 million. Bournemouth borough council also receives funding for concessionary fares through its ever-increasing revenue support grant.

Night Flights

8. Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): What reduction he expects in night flight noise over the approaches to Heathrow as a result of the new night flights regime and the provisions in the Civil Aviation Acts. [100556]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Gillian Merron): New night flying restrictions at Heathrow will run until October 2012, retaining previous seasonal limits on aircraft
21 Nov 2006 : Column 402
movements between 11.30 pm and 6 am. There will also be a stepped reduction in the seasonal noise quota available, encouraging airlines to use the quietest aircraft. That will result in some gradual reduction in night noise by October 2012.

Martin Linton: Many of my constituents are woken at 4.30 am by jumbos coming in to land at Heathrow. They will welcome the new regime, which will result in a reduction of about 9 per cent. in the summer, although obviously they would prefer a complete ban on night flights. Is it not nonsense, however, for Wandsworth council, the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise and others to suggest that the Civil Aviation Act 2006 will result in less noise from night flights, given that a Lords amendment knocked out the clause that would have enabled Ministers to set noise limits that would have given airlines a powerful incentive to use quieter aircraft?

Gillian Merron: I am happy to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to bear down on night noise. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his immense diligence in representing his constituents’ interests in this important matter, and I am very sympathetic to the points he has made.

The Civil Aviation Act has no impact on current night restrictions, although, as my hon. Friend says, we hoped that it would make it easier for restrictions to be as stringent as possible in future. That was serially misrepresented by the Opposition. We were not trying to remove a statutory cap. What we currently have in statute is a power to set restrictions, not a duty, with a requirement that any restrictions must be expressed as a limit on aircraft movements. We were seeking to ensure, as my hon. Friend rightly said, that if better ways to set restrictions appear in the future, the legislation would permit them to be used. I emphasise again that the Opposition failed to recognise that.


9. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): If he will make a statement on the award of the South West Trains franchise. [100557]

11. Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): What the arrangements are for the award of the South West Trains rail franchise; and if he will make a statement. [100559]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): The Department announced on 22 September 2006 the award of the South Western rail franchise to Stagecoach South Western Trains Ltd for a period of 10 years from 4 February 2007, with the final three years dependent on service performance achieving pre-set targets.

Dr. Cable: How does the Minister reconcile the Department’s claim that the new franchise will reduce overcrowding on South West trains, especially for commuters, with the company’s explanation that it plans to increase the number of passengers by 20 per cent. by reducing the number of seats?

21 Nov 2006 : Column 403

Mr. Harris: I have to question that comment by the hon. Gentleman. Some £70 million has already been invested in new trains in the South Western franchise, providing an extra 4,500 seats, some of which are already in service. The new franchise will commit Stagecoach to a 21 per cent. main line peak seats increase by the end of the franchise and a 20 per cent. increased capacity on peak-time suburban trains.

Mr. Turner: Will the Minister congratulate the Conservative-controlled Isle of Wight council on introducing free transport for pensioners on all Isle of Wight railway services and a 50p flat-rate fare for under-19s in full-time education? Will he find out from Stagecoach why, in its most recent glossy publication, it is unable to point to a single benefit to the Isle of Wight railway of uniting the South West Trains and Island Line franchises?

Mr. Harris: In October 2004, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that the new South Western trains franchise would incorporate the Island Line unless it was decided that the needs of the Island Line would be better served by a form of community management as set out in the White Paper. Since then, the Island Line has been designated as a community rail line. I said in my written statement to the House:

Next Section Index Home Page