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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I strongly identify with that sentiment. The HMIC report concluded that the 43-force structure is no longer fit for purpose and that in the interests of the efficiency and effectiveness of policing it should change. For that reason, we have invited police forces up and down the country to bring forward their ideas on how we might better restructure the forces so that they can deal with cross-boundary crime, which confronts our police service with many major challenges.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, in view of the recent analyses which have been carried out, are the Government entirely satisfied with the academic attainment of those entering the police force, and with their training thereafter?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, having visited several police training colleges in my time, I am always extremely impressed by the level of educational attainment by police recruits. They are a very fair reflection of our society. They do an extremely important job, they work hard and train hard, and of course the police service itself is always looking to improve quality and raise standards. I hope that the noble Lord supports that aspiration.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to establish a committee of inquiry into the implications of a withdrawal by the United Kingdom from the European Union. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
"APPLICATION OF SURPLUS INCOME FROM SAFETY CAMERA ENFORCEMENT
In section 38 of the Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 (c. 3) (unified power for Secretary of State to fund speed cameras etc.), after subsection (5) insert
"(6) The relevant national authority may make regulations to permit in specified circumstances income from the enforcement of offences under subsection (2), over and above such income as is required to cover expenditure on the operation of a safety camera scheme, to be used in connection with the provision by the relevant local transport authority of local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measures.""
The noble Lord said: My Lords, before I begin I should first declare an interest as the leader of Essex County Council. Noble Lords will recall that this new clause is designed to enhance local road safety measures by permitting the hypothecation of surplus income from safety camera enforcement for expenditure by relevant local transport authorities on road safety measures. In short, it is intended to provide a source of funding that will enable local expertise to be translated into local road safety initiatives in a manner that is both responsive to and commensurate with the character of local problems.
My noble friend Lady Hanham moved a similar amendment in Committee and its considerable merits were duly debated. However, in the intervening period my attention has been drawn to an article published in the Times on 5 November entitled:
The article went on to state that these reforms would abolish the current practice of recycling speeding fines into the funding of new speed camera installations. Instead they would enable safety camera partnerships to use surplus revenue generated from enforcement,
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" . . . in all aspects of road safety. Rather than being restricted to erecting more cameras, the partnerships would be able to use the money to make junctions safer and to improve the visibility of signs and road markings".
Those proposals sound remarkably familiar. I assume that the Minister has taken on board the logic of the original amendment and, if that is the case, I commend him on his farsightedness. However, as I have been unable to locate any official comment, documentation or amendments to that effect, I ask him to make clear the Government's intention on this important road safety issue. I beg to move.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. The Minister should be aware that there is a huge deficit in the amount of money available for local authorities to fund road safety schemes and there is always a waiting of list of schemes to be carried out. There is also a huge deficit in the amount of money needed for road safety education. The number of offices devoted to this task is very small indeed and the task is very large.
It would make people much more appreciative of speed cameras than they are if they could see that, as a result of the fines paid, money was being spent on schemes which everyone knows are needed. If, as they were under way, schemes displayed a notice saying "This scheme is being funded by the safety camera partnership" it would change many people's attitude towards speed cameras. It is the fact that this money is known to drop into the maw of the Treasury that makes people so resentful. I hope that in his reply the Minister will have some good news for us.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I support the amendment. As I read it, local authorities will be able to use this money to fund free bus travel, which has been declared recently as the Government's policy. I strongly support the amendment not only on the grounds already put forward but on those additional grounds.
Viscount Simon: My Lords, the amendment makes a great deal of sense. However, it is a sad reflection on our times that if people obeyed the speed limit at all times this debate would not be taking place today.
Viscount Tenby: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. I offer my apologies to the House for not being able to be present for the Committee stage. I shall not fall into the trap of an endless repetition of Committee stage, and certainly not into the trap of a Second Reading speech.
The amendment makes sense. At the moment we have a somewhat callous and mechanistic formula in regard to speed cameras which requires that there have to be so many deaths and so many serious injuries before you can even install one. Where there is surplus moneyand here the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has stolen my argument because I was going to refer to the maw of the Treasury and the money disappearing into itit must make sense that it is put into safety
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measures which everyone can see and understand. Who knows, perhaps it will make people more amenable towards the whole theme of speed cameras.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I recognise that the amendment is honourably intended to improve road safetywhich is, of course, also one of the objectives of the Billbut, as I said in Committee when we debated this issue, I do not think the amendment is required. I reiterate those arguments because they still hold.
The safety camera programme is delivering positive results under the current rules on what this money should be used for and there is no reason to change the rules to determine what can be funded by such income. Local authorities and the police are already funded by other revenue streams to enable them to fund local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measuresalthough I recognise, of course, that there will always be a demand from such sources for extra resources because there are always useful ideas that can be implemented.
I should mention to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that we intend fully to fund bus passes through other sourcesthat is, through the £360 million already scheduled for them. So that money is already to be made available and ought not to come out of road safety provision. I am at one with both Front Bench spokesmen about these resources being directed towards road safety.
I reiterate that the road safety programme is not there to raise revenue but has a distinct and different functionto strengthen the detection, enforcement and deterrence of speeding. My noble friend Lord Simon is quite rightwe would welcome a decrease in resources and revenues from this base, as it would be an indication that law-abiding driving was taking place and fines were not being imposed.
It has been suggested that these resources go elsewhere and that this is some form of stealth tax. I made it as clear as I could in Committee that the present legislation demonstrates that that is just not so. It provides that the programme can be applied only to the deployment of cameras. That means that the police and local authorities have no incentive to deploy cameras for any reason except road safety-related to speeding.
It is important to maintain public confidence that that is the objective of the cameras and that the resources generated by the cameras are directed solely to that end. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, in his usual persuasive way, that we ought to look at revenues in general. We will be undertaking a stock-take of the road safety camera programme so that we can learn from existing and past experience to develop the programme for the future. No decisions on this review have yet been taken, but I hear what the noble Lord says and we will take that into account when conducting the review.
I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the principle is very clear. The cameras are there not to raise revenue but merely to ensure that drivers abide by
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the law. It is important that we maintain confidence in that respect, which is why I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
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