Business without Debate

Committee on Standards


That Sir Paul Beresford, Mr Christopher Chope, Mr Geoffrey Cox, Mr Dominic Grieve, Tommy Sheppard and Jo Stevens be members of the Committee on Standards.—(Anne Milton, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

Question agreed to.

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab) rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Mr Winnick, you have missed the motion, which is without debate.

Mr Winnick: On motion 3.

Mr Deputy Speaker: You have missed it. I have gone well beyond that. We are actually on the presentation of petitions.


Refugee Crisis

7.15 pm

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I wish to present a petition from 1,200 residents in the Hull area who have signed a petition in support of the Government providing more help to refugees. In particular, I want to thank Councillor Colin Inglis, Councillor Daren Hale and Councillor Rosemary Pantelakis and all the volunteers over the weekend at Hull’s Freedom Festival for their efforts in obtaining signatures.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of Kingston upon Hull,

Declares that there is a global refugee crisis; notes that the UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts; further declares that the petitioners believe that the UK should not allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe; and that Britain must do its fair share to help.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons calls on the Government urgently to increase its support for asylum seekers and refugees in Europe.

And the petitioners remain, etc.


Mr Winnick: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wonder if I could clarify the situation over motion 3 on the Order Paper. I would be grateful for your advice. I was sitting here and waiting for the opportunity to speak. Clearly, the matter went on without my being able to catch your eye. I wanted to object to the method

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of appointment, to point out the need for elections to that Committee and to put the case accordingly. In those circumstances, I wonder if you can advise me on how I can pursue this, since I was not able to make my remarks today.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): First of all, it was not that you did not catch my eye. You caught my eye after we had voted on it and we were on to the next part. I was at the petition when you decided to stand. It is not about catching my eye. You were not on your feet and unfortunately, as one of the most senior Members of the House, you know the rules quite clearly. The bottom line is there is nothing we can do now. It has gone through and I suggest that you take up through other channels the way you feel the Committee should be appointed. As we know, that is not prescribed in the House rules and the rules would have to be changed accordingly.

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Vehicle Speed Outside Schools

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Sarah Newton.)

7.18 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): I want to start this adjournment debate on road safety by reading from a letter written by one of my constituents, Lydia Morley, who is a 10-year-old pupil at Morley primary school in my constituency of Mid Derbyshire. She starts by recognising the two top priorities a school must have. It must provide

“an extraordinary place for developing the minds of young children”



for those who attend. Her next words summarise effectively what today’s debate is about.

“Not all motorists adhere to the speed limit outside our school, and some drivers don’t see the danger in driving over the 30 mph speed limit. This is such recklessness as this could cause a fatal accident. The evidence clearly shows that the proximity of the 40 mph sign is far too close to the pelican crossing which all the parents and children use on a daily basis.”

She says she strongly agrees with the campaign to move the 40 mph sign to the other side of Church Lane, Morley. Lydia ends with words I want everyone in this Chamber and the decision-makers at Derbyshire County Council to hear:

“Your actions could change the lives of the pupils at Morley School and we will no longer have to look left and right in fright.”

It is for the reasons raised by my young constituent that I am grateful to have secured this debate on road safety outside Morley primary school. After visiting the school in June and on several other occasions and after speaking to staff about the problem of speeding traffic and poor traffic safety measures, I knew that a debate was vital to ensure that something was done. I fear, however, that a child will be killed before any action is taken.

The problem is simple: Morley primary school is located on a busy A-road, the A608, which runs to and from the centre of Derby. I believe it is the only school in Derbyshire to be located on an A-road with no drop-off area on the school side. Parents have to park at the pub opposite, leaving children no option but to cross the A-road at the puffin crossing. As an added safety precaution, the school has purchased and installed safety railings near the puffin crossing, where the children wait for the beeping and the green man to appear, but they are still at severe risk given the speed of cars going past the school.

There is currently a 30 mph speed limit on the road outside the school, but it is ignored by a worryingly high number of motorists during the peak hours in the morning when motorists travel into and out of Derby for work. A survey of traffic speeds conducted by the casualty reduction enforcement support team, undertaken between 3 June and 18 June, showed that over half the vehicles driving past the school during the day did so above the speed limit, with 85% moving at an average speed of more than 36.3 mph. The total number of cars surveyed was 192,802, meaning that over 163,000 cars were speeding.

During the morning school run, between 8 am and 9 am, when we should be keeping children safe on their way to school, 85% of traffic travels at an average of

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33 mph, which, while not as fast as in the rest of the day, is still above the speed limit. It only takes one speeding car to hit a child for us to have a preventable tragedy on our hands. I do not want the death of a child on my conscience. All the county council can say is that there have been no fatalities outside the school so far.

Of course, the morning run is not the only time children have to cross the road. They do so when they leave school at the end of the day and for any outside activities, such as swimming lessons. That is a minimum of 200 crossings a day. The school, whose campaign I will get to shortly, has conducted its own checks. In a 40-minute period, while a police van was visible and children were using the crossing, one vehicle showed a maximum speed of 59 mph and four travelled in excess of 40 mph. I have been outside the school and witnessed the heavy traffic and the speed at which it travels. Some cars did not even stop at a red light, and parents had to grab their children to prevent a fatality.

The facts on speeding cars are stark. The risk of death from being hit at 30 mph is 50%. It is approximately four times higher at 40 mph. On rural A-roads, such as the A608, fatal accidents are four times more likely than on urban A-roads. These statistics relate to adults. Children are much more likely to die from being hit by a vehicle—even one travelling at 30 mph. The campaign I am supporting and wish to promote here calls for a reduction in the speed limit outside the school to 20 mph and an expansion of the 30 mph speed limit zone in the surrounding areas. Reducing speed limits to 20 mph has been shown to reduce the number of child pedestrian deaths by 70%, and 20 mph zones are now relatively widespread, with more than 2,000 schemes in operation in England alone.

A speed limit of 20 mph puts people, not cars, first, which is important when thinking about road crossings for young children. These zones are also low cost and high benefit. For example, Portsmouth converted 1,200 streets in the city to 20 mph zones, at a cost of just over £500,000, and here in London, Transport for London estimates that 20 mph zones are already saving the city more than £20 million every year by preventing crashes.

Vital to this plan is better signage leading up to and inside the 20 mph zone. At present, motorists travelling at 40 or 50 mph on the A-road do not have enough time or distance to reduce their speed safely. It is also confusing for motorists to see signs for 40 mph followed quickly by signs saying they have to travel at 30 mph. An increase in the size of the 30 mph zone before it goes into a 20 mph zone would go a long way towards reducing confusion and giving motorists enough time to reduce their speed.

The other necessary measure is better enforcement of the speed limits, with those going over them knowing that they will be fined. I think attitudes towards speeding outside the school would change very quickly if motorists knew they would be seen and fined. It is no good fining people after the event. Just as an unworn seatbelt is pointless, so an unenforced speed limit makes almost redundant any efforts to keep children safe. It will take only one child to be killed for this to go from a hypothetical problem to a conversation with a grieving parent to explain why we had done nothing.

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Derbyshire County Council recently promised it would look into installing cameras at school crossings to replace school-crossing patrols. The problem, as highlighted by my Conservative colleagues on the council, is that there is a big difference between people saying they will do something and actually doing it. The parents of pupils at the school who drop their children off in the morning and collect them are behaving very responsibly, parking away from the road to avoid congestion and giving children a safe place from which to exit their cars. The children are well trained on road safety, waiting patiently at the crossing for the beeping to start, but when the all clear is given, they understandably rush in excitement to get to the other side of the road and into school. If a car has not stopped by that point, they will run straight into it.

I reiterate that this is not a concern solely of parents and pupils at Morley primary school. A 2011 study by the campaign group, Living Streets, showed that speeding traffic scares over a third of children and young people walking to school, and that one in five is concerned about the lack of safety crossing-points on their journey. No change is going to stop the possibility of injuries completely, but let us reward the sensible behaviour of children and pupils with sensible behaviour on our behalf.

This Government have already led the way in focusing on encouraging children to walk to school and making provisions for that. In July, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), commenced the cycling and walking investment strategy, which will look at how to get more children walking to school. I look forward to seeing the results of that study.

A number of policy proposals are out there, including park-and-stride schemes, but the county council will really have to listen to what is happening in the area it purports to represent. There is another problem—this does not concern the school—because Broomfield Hall college is based further down the same road, and students have to cross it with cars going in excess of the speed limit of 40 mph. They are taking their lives in their hands as well. This road is very dangerous so I would like to force the county council to look at the problem again. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

7.28 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) on securing this debate on the important subject of vehicle speeds and speed limits outside Morley primary school. I thought she made a strong case, as indeed did the words of her young constituent. I should like to assure the House that we take the safety of children—and, indeed, all road users—very seriously. Road safety is a top priority for this Government, and I have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend’s points.

We have some of the safest roads in the world, and we should be proud of that record. Over the past 10 years, there has been a 35% reduction in the number of child pedestrians killed or seriously injured. However, even one death on our roads is, of course, one too many, and it is important that everyone plays their part to continue to improve road safety.

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As my hon. Friend noted, the Government want more people to choose walking, especially for shorter journeys, and that means encouraging more children to walk to and from school. Walking to school not only constitutes a healthy way to start the day, but helps to reduce congestion during the school run and improves air quality in our communities. Of course, while we want people to walk more, they will not do so unless they feel safe. It is important for roads outside schools to be safe, and part of that is ensuring that the speed for traffic is appropriate.

It may be helpful if I briefly outline the current position relating to local speed limits, and the role of the traffic authorities in setting them, before describing the broader work that is being done to improve safety on our roads.

There are three national speed limits: 30 mph on roads with street lighting—sometimes referred to as restricted roads—60 mph on single-carriageway roads, and 70 mph on dual carriageways and motorways. National speed limits can be applied to most roads, but in some circumstances they are not appropriate. Speed limits need to be suitable for local conditions, and councils are best placed to determine what those limits are, on the basis of local knowledge and the views of the community, and having regard to guidance issued by the Department.

Speed limits should be evidence-led, and should seek to reinforce people's assessment of what constitutes a safe speed at which to travel. They should also encourage self-compliance. Local factors, such as the presence of a school, shape the appropriate speed limit. In this instance, it was eminently sensible to reduce the limit to 30 mph. I know that the A608 is a very busy road, and is a major feeder into north Derby. Driver awareness of the additional risk factors that a school can present is vital, which is why good signage is such a useful tool. My hon. Friend made that point very strongly.

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con): The neighbourhood of Brympton, in my constituency, contains an estate where a school off Stourton Way was not provided with road safety protection and signage to slow traffic on a major and fast estate road. The Liberal Democrat council failed to address that at the time of approving the planning, and has failed to deal with it since. Will my hon. Friend please look into the issue, and tell the House what steps can be taken at national level to ensure that existing and new developments are subject to appropriate measures, including signage, near schools?

Andrew Jones: I shall deal shortly with the Department’s powers to enforce speed limits. However, the details of that particular case sound very worrying, and my hon. Friend is right to draw it to our attention. If he writes to me, I will certainly see what can be done to improve the situation. Safety is most important, and should certainly be a key consideration in all planning matters.

The Department gives advice on the spacing of speed limit signs in chapter 3 of the “Traffic Signs Manual”, which is a weighty tome. It covers transitions from one speed limit to another, and gives good-practice guidance on how often speed limit repeater signs should be placed. It is for local authorities to ensure that the guidance is applied appropriately on their roads. The visibility of signs is important, ensuring that drivers can

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see them in good time to act on them. Signs need to be in the right position, and need to be properly maintained to ensure that their visibility is clear. Over-provision of signs can reduce their impact—essential messages can get lost in a profusion of communication—and the Department encourages local authorities to de-clutter wherever possible to ensure that only the necessary signs are used.

Traffic authorities also have powers to introduce 20 mph speed limits that apply only at certain times of day. Those variable limits may be particularly relevant when, for example, a school is located on a road where a full-time 20 mph zone or limit is not appropriate.

The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire is primarily rural, and it was disappointing and sad to note that last year about two thirds of fatal traffic accidents happened on rural roads. Much of the rural road network is subject to the national speed limit of 60 mph on single-carriageway roads and 70 mph on dual carriageways. On many of these roads the majority of drivers are, of course, travelling below, and sometimes very significantly below, the speed limit because of the characteristics of the roads. Our guidance suggests that a local limit of 50 mph may be right where there is a relatively high number of bends, junctions or accesses, and that 40 mph could be considered where there are many bends, junctions or accesses, substantial development, or a strong environmental or landscape reason, or where there are considerable numbers of vulnerable road users.

Speed limits should be considered as only one part of rural safety management, but a very important part. The nature and layout of the road, including the mix of traffic, should also be considered. The guidance recommends a two-tier approach to rural roads which differentiates between strategic roads and those with a local access function. If high collision rates persist despite these measures, lower speed limits may, and should, be considered. Again, to achieve a change in motorists’ behaviour and compliance with the limit, supporting physical measures, driver information and publicity or other measures are likely to be required. Last year we ran a successful Think! campaign highlighting the hazards of country roads and we will be rerunning that campaign later this year.

Traffic authorities are asked to keep their speed limits under review with changing circumstances, and to consider the introduction of more 20 mph limits and zones, over time, in urban areas and built-up village streets that are primarily residential, to ensure greater safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The Department expects a 30 mph speed limit to be the norm in villages, but it may also be appropriate to consider 20 mph zones and limits in built-up village streets. Local authorities have been given a greater say in setting speed limits and have powers to introduce 20 mph speed limits and 20 mph zones on their roads if they believe it appropriate to do so. Traffic authorities also have powers to introduce 20 mph speed limits that apply only at certain times of day. These variable limits may be particularly relevant where, for example, a school is located on a road that is suitable for a 20 mph zone or limit for part of the day but not others.

My hon. Friend mentioned speed cameras. Speed safety cameras, in the right place, can help manage safety risks by encouraging drivers to conform to the speed limit. They can achieve substantial reductions in

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collisions and casualties. Local authorities have the discretion to decide where these cameras should be sited and how to use them, in discussion with the police and others. It is right that the local authority has agreed to consider the installation of a camera at the school crossing outside Morley primary school, and I hope the work on that can progress to a solution for the school.

My hon. Friend also talked about school route audits. In July 2014 the Department for Education published updated home-to-school travel and transport guidance for local authorities which recommends school route audits as good practice. A school route audit allows pupils, their families, teachers and local community staff to identify the barriers to walking to school that most concern them and then work together to find solutions. I wonder whether that process might be a useful tool in the situation raised tonight.

While it is surely right that local authorities are allowed to make decisions and develop solutions that are tailored to the specific needs and priorities of their own communities, there is still a crucial role for national Government in providing leadership on road safety; delivering better driving standards and testing; enforcement; education; and managing the strategic road infrastructure.

The Department for Transport plays an important and active role in promoting the safety of children. We have made available to all schools a comprehensive set of road safety teaching resources, so that schools have good-quality materials that they will want to teach. Think! Education—part of the Think! campaign that I mentioned earlier—is aimed at four to 16-year-olds and covers all aspects of road safety, from car seats for young children to pre-driver attitudes for secondary schools. It includes materials for teachers, pupils and parents and can also be used by out-of-school groups such as the Cubs or Brownies.

Many local authorities deliver road safety education to their schools. We provide educational resources for

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use by road safety professionals, including road safety officers and the emergency services. We provide a range of materials, free of charge, including posters, booklets and reflective tags.

As well as ensuring that children and young people understand how to stay safe near roads, it is important to ensure that we tackle unsafe drivers. In August 2013, the fixed penalties for a number of motoring offences were increased. For failing to wear a seatbelt, using a mobile phone while driving, failing to stop at a red light and speeding the fine was increased to £100. Careless driving was introduced as a fixed penalty offence, with a £100 fine and potential points on a licence, and the police continue to enforce against drink and drug driving.

Many initiatives have built on the success in tackling road safety issues nationally, but in no way should we ever be complacent. The Government are looking at the best ways to improve road safety during this Parliament and beyond, and local campaigns, such as the one that my hon. Friend has brought to the House this evening, play a vital role.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for introducing this debate. I consider child safety to be of paramount importance. Indeed, the first piece of work that I commissioned as a Minister was on road safety. I believe that that indicates my personal commitment to the issue. I will write to Derbyshire police to highlight the speeding taking place outside the school and ask them to take enforcement action. The point that my hon. Friend makes on that is eminently sensible and needs to be taken forward, and I hope that some of the suggestions that have been discussed during this debate may also help to do so. I congratulate my hon. Friend on highlighting this issue, and I wish her every success with the campaign.

Question put and agreed to.

7.42 pm

House adjourned.