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Affordable Housing (West Midlands)

21. Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): What progress is being made on affordable housing targets in the west midlands. [123212]

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Ruth Kelly): The west midlands regional housing strategy identified a need for an average of 4,000 affordable homes a year. We estimate that more than 4,400 affordable homes were provided last year. Nationally, we are on course to reach our target of providing 30,000 social homes a year by 2007-08, and a further 160,000 households will be helped through public and private shared equity schemes in the three years to 2010.

Mr. Bailey: I welcome the commitment to helping 160,000 households through shared ownership in the next three years, but public awareness of such schemes is very low. What work can she do with developers, local authorities and funders to ensure that public awareness is raised and more people use that route?

Ruth Kelly: My hon. Friend raises an important point. As we try to achieve and even surpass our goal of 160,000 shared equity homes by 2010, we must ensure, first, that the product is simple, understandable and marketed to people in the best way. In October last year, we relaunched the open market homebuy scheme to bring all the different products on the market together under a single brand. Secondly, we must consider whether we can open that scheme to far more people: for example, should social tenants be able to buy a stake in their home as well as those in the private sector? One of the recommendations of the Hills report is that we think about how to rationalise our approach across the social and private sector.

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Points of Order

3.32 pm

Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance on how I might pursue a named day question to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from more than a month ago, which despite two reminders remains unanswered? It simply asked for the sale price of the Government’s much-trumpeted £60,000 house at the Renny Lodge site in Newport Pagnell? I understand the Government’s embarrassment that that turns out to be £189,500, but is it right that such a fair question should go unanswered to spare their blushes?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman is asking the question now. He knows that he can ask oral questions and further written questions. The Secretary of State has heard his concern.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I will take the point of order from the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) first.

Mr. Stuart: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The ex-Home Secretary and ex-Health Secretary are concerned that 10 years on, the Government lack both vision and policies. They have demanded a debate, and I wondered whether you could help them secure one.

Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for the Chair.

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Michael Connarty: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not being able to raise this matter with you before questions; I did not get the detail from Hansard until after Scottish questions . Yesterday, as is recorded at columns 715-16 of Hansard¸ the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) repeated an accusation, which he admitted had come to him anonymously, of interference with postal ballots during both council elections and the general election. He named a village, and indicated that the individuals involved were postal workers; as you know, I am the secretary of the Communication Workers Union liaison group. He indicated that they were councillors, and gave so much information that anyone could identify the persons accused. At column 717, he went on to attack the reputation of the candidate chosen to stand against him in the election, and admitted that he had not raised the matter with the police. Will you look at those columns and rule on whether, if not a breach of privilege, an abuse of privilege of the House has taken place?

Mr. Speaker: If any hon. Member had been in breach of privilege, or if there was an abuse of privilege, the Chair would immediately have halted the matter there and then. We in this House are entitled to free speech, but what I have always said to hon. Members is that they should use their free speech very wisely and cautiously. That is all I have to say on the matter.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker: I know that the hon. Gentleman is the hon. Gentleman concerned, but I have ruled on the matter and it will not be pursued.

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Speed Limits (Amendment)

3.35 pm

Mr. John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): I beg to move,

I am delighted to have the opportunity to introduce this ten-minute Bill. I came into politics to make a difference. When I had the opportunity to vote for a comprehensive smoking ban in public places, I supported that ban because I firmly believed that it would save lives by discouraging people from smoking and protecting others from passive smoking. However, I recognised that I was risking the wrath of thousands of smokers in my constituency. Having been given the opportunity to introduce a ten-minute Bill today, I wanted to introduce another measure that would save lives. My Bill will do just that, by reducing speed limits and cutting the number of fatal accidents and serious injuries on our roads. On this occasion, too, I am aware that I risk the wrath of some motorists in my constituency, who might see the Bill as an unnecessarily draconian attempt to cut speed.

I have been in politics long enough to recognise that any measures for improving road safety—whether they be speed cameras, traffic calming, one-way systems or speed restrictions—will always be controversial. That is partly because drivers are often unaware of the impact that different speeds have on an accident victim. A survey of 180 drivers carried out by the charity Brake and Green Flag Motoring Assistance showed that although motorists were able to predict fairly accurately the survival rate of accident victims hit at 40 mph, on average they believed that a pedestrian hit at 20 mph would have only a 32 per cent. chance of survival, whereas the figure is in fact 95 per cent. It is therefore little wonder that some motorists are against additional traffic-calming measures and are not persuaded to cut their speed, because they do not appreciate the impact that reducing their speed would have on the outcome of a collision.

My Bill would reduce the default speed limit on lit urban roads from 30 mph to 20 mph, making 20 mph the norm rather than the exception. My assumption is that the vast majority of residential streets would have the 20 mph limit, with local authorities having the discretion to raise the limit to 30 mph on roads where 20 mph is not appropriate or to lower it where 20 mph is still too high—for example, where home zones are introduced and pedestrians are prioritised over motorists.

Plans to reduce the default speed limit have attracted support from both sides of the House and from a number of organisations. They include the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, Brake—the road safety charity that provides support to the all-party group on road safety—the Cyclists Touring Club, which is the national cyclists organisation, and their partners in the Slower Speeds Initiative. They include groups such as Living Streets, formerly the Pedestrians Association, the sustainable transport campaign Transport 2000, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, and the road crash victims
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group RoadPeace, which all previously supported attempts to reduce the default speed limit during the passage of the Road Safety Act 2006. I should also like to thank Roger Geffen of CTC, Rachel Burr of Brake and Emily Crawford of PACTS, for their support and for providing valuable statistics about safety.

The status quo is unsatisfactory, and a decision to reduce the speed limit on a particular road is usually reactive, rather than proactive. There has to be evidence that the road in question is dangerous at speeds of 30 mph—usually in the form of accidents that have already taken place. However, I would argue that we should assume that 30 mph is a dangerous speed on all residential streets, and that on the whole, 20 is plenty.

One reason why I want to introduce this Bill is that I have been disappointed by Manchester city council’s lukewarm response to a request for a reduction in the speed limit on some residential streets in my constituency. When Chorlton residents on Brundretts road contacted me because they were concerned about cars driving at 30 mph or faster—despite the presence of parked cars on either side of the road restricting motorists’ visibility and that of pedestrians trying to cross a busy road—the council refused to take action. It refused not because it did not particularly want to take action, but because the road was not seen as a priority. Although it was accepted that 30 mph was not an appropriate speed on that road, the traffic department was unable to justify spending money to reduce the speed limit because other road safety schemes were considered a higher priority. By putting road safety first and having a lower speed limit, the Bill would turn the tables: local authorities would have to prioritise the roads on which they want to increase the speed limit, rather than needing to prioritise safety schemes.

All the evidence points to the fact that lower speeds make our roads safer not just for motorists but, more importantly, for the most vulnerable road users: pedestrians and cyclists. Safer roads will encourage more people to walk and to cycle, especially children travelling to school. One of the most common reasons that people give for not cycling is that they do not believe that the roads are safe for cycling. Reducing the speed limit will help to raise their confidence in the safety of roads, and therefore help to tackle congestion.

The first three 20 mph zones in the UK were implemented in January 1991. Five years later, the Transport Research Laboratory reviewed the results from 250 zones in England, Wales and Scotland. The average speed in these areas was reduced by 9 mph. The total number of crashes fell by 60 per cent., and the number of accidents involving children fell by 67 per cent. The number of crashes involving cyclists also fell, by 27 per cent. In 2003, the Health Development Agency called for a reduction in the speed limit to 20 mph on residential streets. It estimated that that would reduce child deaths and injuries by a massive 67 per cent.—or 13,000 children—each year.

One council that has led the way is Hull city council, which has introduced 20 mph zones on a quarter of its roads. There has been a 74 per cent. reduction in the number of crashes involving child pedestrians, and a 69 per cent. reduction in child cycle collisions in the three years since the zones’ introduction, compared with the three before the speed limit changed. The overall
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number of collisions in Hull has been reduced by 56 per cent., and there has been a 90 per cent. reduction in serious or fatal injury collisions.

The reduction in accidents is due at least in part to the effect that lower speeds have on vehicles’ stopping distances. A 50 per cent. increase in speed from 20 mph to 30 mph results in a 50 per cent. increase in the “thinking distance”, but the actual braking distance increases at a much faster rate. In fact, it increases in proportion to the speed squared, which means that driving at 30 mph instead of 20 mph increases the stopping distance by 134 per cent. That is why so many accidents could be avoided with a default speed limit of 20 mph.

However, the Bill is aimed at reducing not just the number of accidents but the severity of those that would inevitably still take place. If a pedestrian is hit at 20 mph, the victim has a 95 per cent. chance of survival. That is reduced to 80 per cent. at 30 mph, and where a motorist breaks the 30 mph limit by as much as 10 mph, a pedestrian has a 90 per cent. chance of being killed by the impact.

As well as Hull, other local authorities have also been proactive. Portsmouth, Newcastle and Southwark should all be congratulated on their decision to adopt 20 mph as the limit for most residential streets. However, Parliament should take the lead. The Government missed the perfect opportunity during the passage of the Road Safety Act 2006.

There is absolutely no doubt that reducing the default speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph would have the greatest impact on road safety and accident statistics. With more than two thirds of road casualties occurring on built-up roads, evidence from places such as Hull proves the clear potential for reducing casualties through lower speed limits.

This Bill is not about attacking the motorist, nor is it aimed at inconveniencing car drivers with unnecessarily longer journeys. Nor is it about imposing rules on local authorities: councils can choose to have a 30 mph speed limit where they consider 20 mph to be inappropriate. The Bill is about saving lives. The statistics speak for themselves: speeds will drop, the number of accidents will fall, and those who are injured will be more likely to survive, and not to be seriously injured. I am disappointed that we have had
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no help from the Minister, but I hope that the Bill will receive support from both sides of the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. John Leech, Mark Hunter, Bob Russell, Tim Farron, Dr. Evan Harris, Dr. Vincent Cable, Mr. David Drew, Mr. Andy Reed, Tom Brake, Paul Rowen and Dr. John Pugh.

Speed Limits (Amendment)

Mr. John Leech accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the reduction of the default speed limit in lit urban areas from 30 mph to 20 mph: and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 29 June, and to be printed [Bill 66].

3.47 pm

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have had great difficulty in obtaining a copy of the judgment by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission on the deportation order against Abu Qatada. I made inquiries in the Library all morning, but with no luck. There is an open version of the judgment, which was vetted before publication by the British security services. However, there is also a separate closed or secret version which contains details of national security, and that version is not available to us.

Can you take such steps as might be available to ensure that Members of Parliament have full information about matters of such importance and seriousness, especially given the statements by the Home Secretary—correct statements, which I endorse—about the balance that has to be achieved between human rights and public security? Is there any way in which, after consideration, you can give a ruling about whether the full version should be made available to Members? Justice must not only be done, but be seen to be done.

Mr. Speaker: This is the first time that I have heard of the matter, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman first contact the Home Secretary at his office to see what facilities can be offered to him. If he does not receive the information that he seeks, he is more than welcome to come back to me and I will endeavour to see what I may do to help him. Like the hon. Gentleman, I too must take security into consideration.

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Orders of the Day

Greater London Authority Bill

Not amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.

New Clause 14

The general power of the Authority: duty to have regard

‘(1) Section 30 of the GLA Act 1999 (the general power of the Authority) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (4) (exercise of powers: duty to have regard to effect on certain matters) after paragraph (b) insert—

“(c) climate change, and the consequences of climate change, so far as relating to Greater London.”.

(3) In subsection (5) (duty to exercise powers in ways best calculated to achieve certain objectives)—

(a) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “, and

(c) to contribute towards the mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change, so far as relating to Greater London,”;

(b) in the closing words (exception where action needed by virtue of paragraph (a) or (b) is not reasonably practicable) for “or (b)” substitute “, (b) or (c)”.

(4) After subsection (10) insert—

“(11) In this section—

(a) “climate change” has the same meaning as in section 361A below, and

(b) in relation to climate change, “adaptation”, “consequences” and “mitigation” have the same meaning as in that section.”.’.— [Jim Fitzpatrick.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Jim Fitzpatrick): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government new clause 15— Transitional provision relating to consultation.

Government amendments Nos. 8 to 17.

Jim Fitzpatrick: These amendments and new clauses clarify several provisions in the Bill and are largely minor and consequential in nature. I shall summarise each in turn.

Under section 30 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, the GLA has a general power to take action, within certain limitations. That general power enables the Mayor to do anything that he considers will further the GLA’s principal purposes—to promote economic development, wealth creation, social development and the improvement of the environment in Greater London. In determining whether, or how, to exercise its powers, the GLA is required, among other things, to have regard to the effect that they might have on the achievement of sustainable development in the UK. Where reasonably practicable, it must exercise its powers in the way best calculated to achieve that.

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