Road safety: Government Response to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2012-13 - Transport Committee Contents


The Government welcomes the Transport Select Committee's report on road safety. Road safety is an important issue and Government continues to focus on effective ways of reducing the risk of road accidents. Despite the increase in fatalities in 2011, provisional figures show that Great Britain and the UK remain the leading performers in Europe with regard to road safety.

Since the publication of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety last year, the Government has continued to focus on its vision of empowering local decision-makers, improving driver training and a more targeted approach to enforcement. Recent developments have included:

  • The introduction of legislation on drug driving to help improve enforcement;
  • Launching a consultation on introducing a fixed penalty notice for careless driving to enable more efficient enforcement;
  • Launching a consultation on a new Speed Limit Circular to improve local authorities' flexibility in setting speed limits;
  • Working with the insurance industry to develop policy opportunities to reduce risk to young drivers and in turn insurance premiums; and
  • Creating a £15m fund to improve safety for cyclists outside London by tackling dangerous junctions, alongside a £15m fund for the same purpose in London.

The Government's response to the Committee's recommendations is set out below.


The Department should provide a clearer explanation of the role of casualty forecasts in its road safety strategy. We recommend that it set out in its annual report whether road safety is improving each year in line with its forecasts, or, if not, explain what is going wrong. The Government should also state what action it will take if its road safety forecasts turn out to be inaccurate. (Paragraph 13)

DfT response: The casualty forecasts within the Strategic Framework for Road Safety set out a range of potential casualty reductions. As Government set out in the Strategic Framework, we believe that the central projection is achievable if everyone plays their part. However, Government believes that a more sophisticated measure of road safety performance is required. This is set out in the Outcomes Framework. Performance against the Outcomes Framework will be published as part of the Department's annual statistical release Reported Road Casualties Great Britain.

If the central projection within the casualty forecasts is not achieved, Government will consider carefully the statistical data underpinning this in order to understand which groups of road users are not experiencing the expected reduction in risk and will consider policy options for addressing those risks.


As part of its evaluation of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety, the Government should publish an analysis of the resources used for road safety at a local level to highlight best practice by local authorities, in particular noting innovative practices and multi-agency approaches to achieving road safety goals. (Paragraph 17)

The Government should explain how it intends to measure which are the worst performing local authorities and how it expects "naming and shaming" them will improve their performance. (Paragraph 18)

DfT response: The Government agrees that it has a role to play in sharing information on local authority performance and best practice. We have commissioned a local road safety comparison site that pulls together a number of metrics that will allow members of the public to be aware of their local highway authority's performance in the road safety arena. The site will provide a variety of metrics such as historic annual Local Highways Authority data (including capital and revenue spend on roads); and detailed casualty and collision data.

The data will be presented in a variety of formats including maps, charts, graphs and tables. Annual data will be available for 2006 onwards. Where appropriate, rates will be derived using an applicable divisor, for example the number of collisions against traffic volume or revenue spend against resident population. An overview of an authority's performance will be presented via a "dashboard", along with that authority's contact details.

The user will be able to select another authority to compare against after generating a selection of "most similar" authorities from a list of metrics, for example the 5 most similar in terms of road type mix.

The Government believes that making this information available will help the public; lobby groups; and council officers and members to identify where there remains room for improvement in performance, as well as highlighting those authorities with exemplar performance. Users will be able to generate URLs of the data they have found and these can then be sent to the authority with a plea for action. Council members, both in office and in opposition, will be able to see what issues are affecting their residents and campaign accordingly. Lobbyists will also be abler to gather data to support their causes and members of the public will, for example, be able to see how safe a journey is for their child to get to prospective secondary schools.

In addition, with the support of industry we are developing a web portal - the Road Safety Observatory, which will be an independent site and provide a wealth of online resources and evidence to local decision-makers. The Road Safety Observatory will be open to the public and will provide a set of research syntheses accredited by an evidence review panel from a pool of expert practitioners. Evidence will be distilled into key messages for those with a passing interest, an in depth summary of available evidence for more serious practitioners and links to the base evidence it has drawn upon. The Observatory will work in collaboration with the Road Safety Knowledge Centre, which has become a successful on-line library of road safety information and resources, and vetted at a superficial level. This is a different role from the Observatory, which will aim to bring different stakeholders together to give an overview, and indentify best practices by referring users to other resources including; the Knowledge Centre for wider information on themes and topics.

The Road Safety Observatory will be launched before the end of this year.

Young drivers

We recommend that the Department provides an update of the initial findings of the Learning to Drive programme with its response to this report. (Paragraph 24)

We recommend that the Government initiate an independent review of driver training to assess thoroughly the various options put forward to reduce the casualty rate for young drivers and make recommendations about which are likely to be most effective. We recommend this review be completed before the end of this Parliament. (Paragraph 29)

DfT response: Government notes that we are seeing faster reductions in casualties in the 17-24 age group than for drivers as a whole.  Following a further reduction in 2011, the number of young driver KSI's is now 40% below 2007 levels.

However, whilst our young drivers are amongst the safest in the world, we are not complacent and further improving the safety of young drivers remains a road safety priority. Using the underpinning new National Standards, we are looking to build upon the steps that have already been taken to improve both the learning to drive and testing process.

The results of research evaluating some of the measures will be available shortly.  This will be useful in our ongoing work with the insurance industry and other key stakeholders, including local authorities, to identify what further steps could be undertaken to ensure that newly-qualified drivers are properly prepared to be safe and responsible drivers so they are less of a road safety risk. Over the next few months, we will be speaking to young people to seek their views on policy options and to improve our understanding of their attitudes to driving and experiences of the current learning to drive process. The Government intends to announce further proposals to improve the safety of young drivers before the end of this year. Whilst this work is ongoing, the Government does not believe that an independent review of driver training would be appropriate.

The Government wants to see these improvements in young driver safety reflected in their insurance premiums. Through telematics, or in-car technology, insurers now have a real time data feed, which allows them to see an individuals driving behaviour, something which simply has not been possible in the past.  Research so far, has shown that use of telematics can significantly reduce crash rates, and levels of risky driving behaviours. We welcome the increasing number of insurers who are making use of this technology.

Cycle safety

The Government should consider how to encourage greater adoption of these measures [HGV sensors]. (Paragraph 32)

DfT response: The Government is supporting a number of initiatives to improve the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. These include improving the field of view from HGV mirrors; improving roadside infrastructure and improved driver training, for example in supporting the 'Exchanging Places' events for cyclists and drivers of HGVs and buses.

New technology has an important role to play in helping to improve the safety of all road users. We fully support the voluntary initiatives by some construction companies to fit their vehicles with additional safety devices including sensors and cameras but at this time we are not in a position to support mandatory fitment of proximity sensors in HGVs.

The mandatory introduction of any new vehicle technology would need to be agreed at EU level, it would require evidence that the technology is reliable and robust, and that the systems will deliver the expected benefit rather than simply imposing additional cost that could otherwise support more effective safety measures.

Whilst basic proximity sensors are widely available as parking aids, they might not be capable of reliably detecting cyclists along the full length of an HGV. To be effective sensors must be robust (e.g. not react to roadside railings) as repeated false warnings might actually distract drivers or lead them to turn the system off.

Sensor technology is developing rapidly and some advanced systems now combine input from both sensors and cameras to improve the detection capability. These systems are typically designed to detect pedestrians and are available on some top-of-the-range cars.

As this technology matures we would expect systems to become more affordable and to offer real opportunities to mitigate the type of accident involving cyclists and HGVs. We remain committed to improving the safety of cyclists but investment, whether in infrastructure, in training or in the designs of vehicles must be targeted to where it can be most effective.

We agree that joint working between departments will be necessary to achieve road safety outcomes. We recommend that the Government shows how its efforts to work in partnership with departments such as DCLG and local authorities have been effective in encouraging the provision of cycle infrastructure and outlines which problems in securing this joint-working have yet to be overcome. (Paragraph 37)

DfT response: The Government recognises that joint working between Departments is needed to help road safety outcomes. The Department uses positive working relationships with other Government departments as well as with key stakeholders to secure improved outcomes for road safety as a whole.

With regard to cycling, DfT is working with a number of other Government departments, and officials meet regularly. Furthermore, DfT is engaging with the Local Government Association to increase local awareness of the evidence and best practice on active travel.

DfT also supports local authorities in improving cyclist safety, including by producing guidance for local authorities on providing for cyclists in Cycle Infrastructure Design (Local Transport Note 2/08): The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, Volume 5, Section 2, Part 4, TA 91/05 Provision for Non-Motorised Users gives advice on the trunk road network: We have also just published updated advice on providing shared use facilities, in LTN 1/12: Shared use routes for pedestrians and cyclists ( This local transport note complements the advice in Cycle Infrastructure Design.

Given the Prime Minister's support for The Times cycle campaign, we recommend that the department issue a formal response to each of its eight points showing how they are being addressed and, if a point is not being acted on, what alternative action is being taken to address the matter. (Paragraph 38)

DfT response: Ministers responded in full to each of the eight points raised by The Times in the Westminster Hall debate on 23 February 2012 and this was followed up by a joint letter from Norman Baker and Mike Penning to Leaders and Chief Executives of local highway authorities on 28 February. This letter described the action the Government is taking to both promote cycling and to make it safer; it also asked local authorities for help in furthering these aims at a local level.

The issues raised by The Times campaign are relevant to a number of departments and organisations, including DfT and local authorities. There are also further barriers and opportunities for promoting safer cycling that we want to explore with partners beyond the eight points raised.

Last year, Government set up the Cycling Stakeholder Forum, which includes representatives from cycling stakeholders and local and central government. Government is working with the forum to both make cycling safer but also to encourage it. The forum is currently working on a list of ideas and actions to propose to ministers.

On 28 February 2012, the Government wrote to local authorities in England responding to the points raised in the Times. Since then we have made progress on a number of the points. For instance, in June the Government announced a £15m fund to improve safety for cyclists outside London, by tackling dangerous junctions. This was in addition to the £15m fund awarded to Transport for London in March for the same purpose. We have also given councils the power to use Trixi mirrors to make cyclists more visible to drivers, rather than asking them to come to the Government for approval. Until now, local councils need to get authorisation from the Government if they want to use these mirrors. The Government produces a wide range of statistics on cycling. With regard to monitoring the number of cyclists, on 30 August DfT released figures to show the prevalence of cycling at local authority level. This was the first time this statistic set has been released.

However, most cycling provision is provided by local authorities. The Government continues to provide significant amounts of funding to local authorities who have discretion to spend their allocations in line with their own priorities. As well as the Integrated Transport Block funding, we are also providing £600 million through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to support local authorities in their use of transport to lever growth and cut carbon at the local level. The majority of the 96 projects have a cycling element. This is in addition to the £15 million awarded to Sustrans and the Cycle Rail Working Group to improve cycle infrastructure mainly in and around railway stations.

Prior to The Times campaign on cycle safety it was difficult to see how the Government was showing leadership in cycle safety. There is now evidence of commitment, but, as Jon Snow said, leadership requires joining up Government. We are not convinced that this is happening and therefore there is much work still to be done. (Paragraph 40)

DfT response: The Government is committed to working with partners to improve cycle safety. In 2011, before The Times's campaign was launched, the Government set up the Cycling Stakeholder Forum. The first meeting was held on 13 September 2011 and comprised cycling stakeholders and central and local government. Subsequently sub-groups on safety and heath have been set up. The safety sub-group includes additional representatives with a specific interest in cycling safety issues. Good progress is being made and the forum is currently working on a list of ideas and actions to propose to ministers.

Motorcycle safety

We recommend that the DfT should, in its reply to this report, explain what lessons it has learnt from [the delay to revising the motorcycle test] and how it will go about implementing future European directives on the subject of driver or rider training without undue delay. (Paragraph 42)

DfT response: The Department always considers carefully how any European Directive would be translated into British law and would follow this process for any upcoming Directives on the subject of driver or rider training. This includes committing to consultation with stakeholders formally and informally and undertaking impact assessments to ensure we reach the most practicable solution for transposing the Directive. We will bear in mind the lessons learnt from implementing the Second Driving License Directive as we continue our engagement with Europe

We recommend that the department write to us on a quarterly basis to explain progress in this area. (Paragraph 43)

DfT response: As part of the Motorcycle Test Review research is being undertaken to evaluate the standards, suitability and safety of the proposed revised motorcycle manoeuvres to verify whether they can be done on the road and the kinds of location that could be suitable. We have completed phase 1 and phase 2 of the research, which was conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Phase 1 of the research involved holding independent off-road trials on mock road layouts with test level candidates and concluded in December 2011. The findings confirmed that the proposed new manoeuvres are feasible to be carried out on the road, with the exception of the figure of 8.

Phase 2 involved trials at on-road locations with expert riders, to establish feasibility and safety in real road environments and concluded in August 2012. The key findings from Phase 2 confirmed that, with appropriate control measures, it is possible to proceed with Phase 3 but only on roads that meet specific safety criteria.

Phase 3, will involve test ready candidates undertaking the manoeuvres at both off-road (in multi-purpose test centres) and on-road sites. Phase 3 will begin in September and conclude by the end of the year.

Following these trials, there will be a full public consultation on any proposals for changing the motorcycle test and, subject to the outcome of the consultation, a new version of the test could be introduced in April 2014.

The Department is unlikely to have anything additional to report to the Committee in three months time as Phase 3 of the research will not yet have concluded and no decision will have been taken about next steps. The Department will notify Parliament when a decision has been taken and a consultation is published.

Speed limits

The Government should encourage the development of inter-agency partnerships and include examples of best practice in securing joint working in its forthcoming guidance for local authorities. (Paragraph 46)

DfT response: The intent of the revised guidance on speed limits is to provide technical criteria for setting local speed limits rather than advice on partnership working and funding. The Department has launched a consultation on the revision of the speed limit guidance, which we intend to finalise by the end of the year.

In addition, the Road Safety Observatory (mentioned in response to Q2) will aim to bring different stakeholders together to give an overview of road safety policy, and indentify best practices by referring users to other resources including the Knowledge Centre for wider information on themes and topics.

We recommend that as part of its consultation the Government calculates the costs associated with stricter enforcement of an 80 mph limit and creating more variable speed limits on sections of the motorway network deemed inappropriate to see an increase to 80 mph. (Paragraph 47)

The possibility of increasing the motorway speed limit has been discussed since September 2011, it is now time for the DfT to publish its consultation document or to explain the reason for delay. (Paragraph 47)

The Government should ensure that any decision to increase the speed limit should follow a debate in the House on a votable motion. (Paragraph 48)

DfT response: The Department is developing proposals to trial 80mph speed limits on motorways in some areas, under certain conditions, where variable speed limits are currently in place.

In May the Government published its response to Alan Cook's review of strategic roads, in which we committed to produce a long-term strategy for the strategic road network and we wish to align the development of proposals for trialling an increased maximum speed limit with this wider work on a long-term strategy for the network.

As part of the development of proposals, the Department is considering criteria for identifying suitable sections of the motorway network to trial an increased speed limit, as well as for the circumstances in which the speed limit may be raised.

This includes what, if any, changes to enforcement requirements may be required for sections of the network where the trialling of a maximum 80mph speed limit is proposed. It will be for the police to consider their approach to enforcement in these locations and we will work with the Association of Chief Police Officers on this matter.

Alongside the development of proposals, the Department is carrying out work to assess the potential economic, safety and environmental impacts of trialling 80mph speed limits. This work will also need to consider any costs associated with changes in enforcement.

The Impact assessment is still being developed and no final decisions have yet been taken about which stretches of motorway would be included in any proposed trial or under what conditions an 80mph limit would be applied. We plan to bring forward detailed proposals and start consultation later in the year as part of the broader work on a roads strategy.

In order to carry out the proposed trial of an increase to the speed limit on motorways, the Department would need to amend the Motorways Traffic (Speed Limits) Regulations 1974. This would be achieved using the power to make regulations for special roads in section 17 of the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 ("the 1984 Act"). Regulations made under section 17 of the 1984 Act are subject to the negative resolution procedure in Parliament.

Technology and engineering

We recommend that the Government includes engineering measures in its outcomes framework, for example by providing EuroRAP assessments of road safety. (Paragraph 50)

DfT response:. The EuroRAP programme is a welcome contribution to the road safety debate and highlights the need for highway authorities to continually strive for improvement, as well as encouraging drivers and other road users to take greater care and to play their part in improving road safety. The Highways Agency recognises the value of this pro-active approach to road safety and works with the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) and the other organisations involved in the area of road risk mapping and road safety assessment to facilitate exchange of information and ideas.

Local highway authorities have a duty to maintain the public highways in their charge, but it is ultimately their decision as to how they use the funding which Government allocates them, including determining what safety standards and strategies should be applied, based upon their local knowledge and circumstances using a risk based approach. The Department encourages good practice in highway maintenance through channels such as Well-maintained Highways, the Code of Practice for highways maintenance produced by the UK Roads Liaison Group (available from The Code advises local authorities to establish an inspection regime for their highways and recommends inspection intervals for the various categories of highways. The Code also provides guidance on safety inspections and recommends that those defects that are likely to create danger or serious inconvenience should receive urgent attention.

We recommend that the Government provides an update on progress in those areas which it committed to developing at an EU level in the last road safety strategy and sets out forthcoming areas for prioritisation. (Paragraph 51)

DfT response: The Framework set out a range of areas to improve the safety of road vehicles including some that rely upon the development of regulatory measures through the EU processes.

On Motorcycles and associated small vehicles (e.g. quadricycles) good progress has been achieved since publication of the framework. The European Commission published a revised "Framework" regulation that updates existing type-approval procedures and includes new provisions to improve the safety of users of these types of machine/vehicle. A timetable has been set for the introduction of anti-lock braking for large motorcycles and combined braking for smaller types, and research suggests that once all vehicles have these technologies fitted, over 70 fatal injuries could be saved each year.

The workstream on advanced lighting has not made as much progress as anticipated when the framework was published. Investigative research into alternative front lamp layouts could not demonstrate a safety benefit over existing designs. Nonetheless, proposals emerging from the EU negotiations include the mandatory implementation of "automatic headlamp on (AHO)" switching, alongside measures providing flexibility for users to preferentially select AHO rather than using daytime running lamps.

The Government has also made noticeable progress in upgrading the standards for HGV mirrors based upon research undertaken at Loughborough University. The evidence from this research has been presented in the UN-ECE technical group and in April this year a UK-led proposal to change the regulation dealing with mirrors was finalised. We expect this to be adopted in November and then included within the type approval process for all new trucks.

Separately the Government has also taken a leading role in the UN-ECE developing technical specifications for automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning systems. These provisions were recently included within the EU type approval system for all new heavy vehicles (i.e. lorries and bus/coach) and will apply from 2016.

The research on heavy goods vehicles at EU level mentioned in the Framework was not pursued. The Government nonetheless, participates in the supervisory boards of three EU sponsored research programmes dealing with advanced safety systems, crash performance of vehicles, and human injury predictions.

Alongside the work required to implement the measure for motorcycles mentioned earlier, and other anticipated regulatory activity, the future priorities for improving vehicle safety will focus on the approach taken by the European Commission following a UN-ECE review of the current crashworthiness standards that are expected to apply from 2015. While this will require careful assessment of the costs and benefits of any new proposals, it also provides an opportunity to improve car occupant injury protection in frontal impacts, particularly regarding the protection of an ageing population and improvements for female occupants. Initial studies suggest that casualty reductions of 7% for female and 2% for older drivers could result from new requirements.

There has also been good progress on our transposition of the EU Directive on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and we are currently working closely with the European Commission and other Member States on the first set of specifications identified as priority actions in the Directive.


The period since the Coalition Government took office has seen the first increase in road fatalities since 2003, despite there having been no overall increase in road traffic. This is a worrying development and raises questions about the Government's road safety strategy. These casualty figures should be a wake-up call for the Government to step up and provide stronger leadership in the road safety field. The Minister, Mike Penning MP, told us that success of his strategy could be judged by seeing a reduction in road casualties. From the latest figures, it would appear there is a risk that the strategy is insufficient. In the response to this report, we recommend that the Government outlines why it thinks road deaths increased in 2011. (Paragraph 52)

DfT response: The success of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety should be judged against its impact on long term trends in road casualties, rather than statistical changes in a single year.

Since 2003, deaths in road accidents have fallen steadily, and 2010 saw the highest ever fall (17 per cent) in a single year. Despite the increase in fatalities in 2011 the annual total is below that of 2009, and is indeed the second lowest figure since the end of the First World War.

There are a number of factors that may have contributed to the year-on-year increase in road fatalities from 2010 to 2011. However, there is evidence that extreme winter weather conditions tend to reduce the number of road fatalities, as there is much less traffic than usual and those motorists who do venture out tend to drive more slowly and cautiously.

In this context it is particularly notable that there were two separate periods of sustained snow and ice across many areas of Great Britain during 2010 (one at the beginning of the year, one at the end), but no such periods on a comparable scale during 2011. This year-on-year difference would be expected to lead to a higher number of fatalities in the winter months of 2011 than in the winter months of 2010, holding all other factors equal.

The statistics bear this out: during the four winter months of 2011 (January, February, November and December) there were 81 more road fatalities than in the same months of 2010. During the remaining eight months of the year (March to October inclusive), which were not affected by extreme winter weather, there were 30 fewer fatalities in 2011 than in 2010.

The Government should update us regarding the development of new advertising campaigns for road safety, particularly on how it intends to engage with social media to help improve public awareness. (Paragraph 57)

DfT response: The Government's strategy for new THINK! road safety campaigns encompasses two elements: protecting the vulnerable and cracking down on the irresponsible.  Three priority issues were identified at the start of the year: drink driving, motorcycling and cycling.  These issues are being targeted because of relatively high and/or increasing killed and seriously injured (KSI) statistics and because communications are an effective means of changing the attitudes and behaviours that cause KSIs relating to those issues.  In addition, we seek to engage young and learner drivers to address risky behaviours.

A cycling safety campaign is being launched in September.  This will inform cyclists and drivers of the steps they can take to avoid collisions and seeks to engender a sense of shared road and shared responsibility amongst the two road user groups, by focusing on their similarities rather than differences.

A review of the motorcycle safety advertising campaign is underway to inform the development of a new campaign planned for 2014.

THINK! will continue to work with stakeholders such as local authority road safety officers and teachers to communicate road safety messages to children.

We will continue to target our campaign expenditure on the channels that provide the most impact in delivering our messages and helping to change behaviour.  Social media has been, and will continue to be, included in this approach, used alone or as part of a more integrated campaign where evidence shows it will be effective.  Social media is a useful tool, particularly when targeting a specific 'niche' group of road users, such as motorcyclists.  These groups already have a sense of community, which THINK! can tap into - they can also be hard to reach through traditional media and they can more efficiently targeted using social media.

THINK! has used social media since 2010 when a Facebook page was created to support the THINK BIKER motorcycle safety campaign.  This page created a community of motorcyclists and now has over 45,000 fans.  The page is used raise awareness amongst motorcyclists of advice on training, protective gear and defensive riding, as well as information from DfT agencies including the DSA.

All new THINK! campaigns are promoted through DfT's corporate Twitter feed to increase awareness of activity.  We are also exploring ways to engage young and learner drivers through social media this autumn.

THINK! has a dedicated You Tube channel for its adverts.  During the launch of the THINK BIKER campaign, this channel was branded and online users were interrupted and taken to the channel to engage in conversations about the campaign.

A year has now passed since the publication of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. The next version is due in September 2012. This provides an opportunity to include a number of areas insufficiently addressed in the original strategy - including engineering measures to improve road design and technological research. It is also an opportune time for the Government to publish an update of its progress against the action plan and outcomes framework, to clarify its vision, highlight areas of local authority innovation or best practice, and reassess the strategy in light of recent worrying casualty numbers. (Paragraph 59)

The Strategic Framework for Road Safety sets out the Government's long term vision for road safety. The road safety action plan contains measures which are expected to start between 2011 and 2015; and the Framework's casualty forecasts run until 2030. In this context, it would not be appropriate to alter the Government's vision for road safety after just one year.

In September 2012, the Government will publish its detailed report on road safety statistics, Reported Road Casualties Great Britain. The Report will include the latest figures for the Road Safety Outcomes Framework and is therefore an important milestone. The Report is a statistical publication and it would not be appropriate for the Department to use it as a broader policy document; however the Department will publish an update to the Road Safety Action Plan (at Annex A of the Strategic Framework) alongside Reported Road Casualties Great Britain.

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Prepared 26 October 2012