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Written Statements

Thursday 24 July 2014

Heavy Good Vehicles: Speed Limit

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Honourable Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, (Claire Perry), has today announced that the Government is proposing, following a public consultation, to increase the national speed limit for heavy goods vehicles of more than 7.5t on single carriageways from 40 mph to 50 mph.

This change will be implemented via a change in the law to be put to Parliament during the next few months, with implementation scheduled for early 2015. The existing 40 mph limit continues to apply until the change has been put into effect. The amended speed limit will cover single carriageway roads outside built up areas in England and Wales, unless specific lower local speed limits are in effect.

The Government is also announcing:

the start of a six week consultation closing 5

th

September to seek views and evidence about increasing the national speed limit for HGVs on all purpose (non-motorway) dual carriageways from 50 mph to 60 mph. The intention would be to implement this at the same time;encouragement to English local authorities to take up the flexibility and policies contained in the speed limit circular issued last year related to local 40 mph speed limits in particular;our intention to encourage and increase the greater use of vocational driver conduct hearings, with new guidance from the Senior Traffic Commissioner likely for consultation later this year; andour intention to specify and then procure a major study about rural road safety

The change to the national speed limit on single carriageway roads will modernise an antiquated restriction, which is not matched in most other European countries, including some of the other leaders alongside the UK for road safety (eg the Netherlands and Norway). The current speed limit just does not work – it is broken by about three quarters of HGV drivers at any particular time when they are not constrained by other traffic or the road layout. It is implausible that it could readily be made to work without a disproportionate effort.

This package allows our roads to be used better and more effectively. It will reduce delays and congestion, particularly on busy single carriageway A roads. It will remove a 20mph differential between the lorry and car speed limits on single carriageway roads, cutting dangerous overtaking and bringing permitted lorry speeds into line with other large vehicles like coaches and caravans. Assessed benefits to business are £11.8m per year.

The Government is determined that any potential risks higher speeds bring will be managed effectively. This change will reduce speed differences between

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different types of traffic which is likely to reduce risks. The Government is also bringing forward associated measures so we continue to improve safety.

For example the change to the HGV speed limit will allow us to set up tougher procedures and sanctions for lorry drivers caught exceeding the new speed limits. It will also reinforce the credibility and importance of other safety-critical laws with similar sanctions, including the prohibition on hand held mobile phones and the 30 mph limit in towns and cities.

This change is founded on a longstanding trend of improving road safety, which we have committed to build on. So we will be introducing a new offence of driving with a drug in the body over specified limits and tightening up drink drive enforcement early next year. Last year we increased by two thirds the fixed penalties for many traffic offences and we are consulting on changes to improve enforcement against tired HGV drivers, including those based abroad.

We will be supporting the speed limit increase by promoting the advice we updated last year to highway authorities about local speed limits. Local authorities can restrict all traffic to 30, 40 or 50 mph where this is needed because of the use of roads by pedestrians and cyclists, settlements on roads, high air pollution or safety risks. Finally all drivers, but particularly the professional drivers of HGVs, need to be aware that the speed limit is a maximum not a guideline.

The Department for Transport is publishing the summary of single carriageway HGV speed limit consultation responses, the consultation document for dual carriageways and impact assessments for both measures.

Copies of these documents will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Waste Management: Radioactive Waste

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma) (Con): I am today publishing a White Paper on implementing geological disposal of higher activity radioactive waste.

The White Paper—Implementing Geological Disposal (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/implementing-geological-disposal)—follows a public consultation that my department carried out during 2013 on potential amendments to the existing siting process established in 2008 for a geological disposal facility (GDF) and reflects key messages from that consultation, as well as lessons learned during the previous siting process.

The UK Government remains committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the long-term, safe and secure management of higher activity radioactive waste. We already have a legacy of waste from decades of enjoying the benefits of low-carbon electricity from nuclear power. We must manage this material responsibly and, in doing so, we can also support the development of new, clean, low-carbon nuclear electricity generation in the UK by ensuring there is a safe, modern facility for permanent disposal of waste. Alongside renewables

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and clean oil and gas, nuclear energy will help us build a home-grown, low-carbon energy mix that will ensure energy security for the UK.

The UK Government also continues to favour an approach to identifying potential sites for a GDF that involves working with communities who are willing to participate in the siting process.

Construction and operation of a GDF will be a multi-billion pound infrastructure initiative, which will provide skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades. Hosting a GDF is likely to bring significant economic benefits to a community. It will contribute greatly to the local economy and wider socio-economic framework. There are likely to be further infrastructure investments and positive impacts on local service industries associated with the development. In addition, Government has also committed in the White Paper to provide additional investment to the community that hosts a GDF.

The White Paper outlines an approach based on working with interested communities, beginning with two years of actions overseen by Government and intended to address issues that the public and stakeholders have told us are important to them.

These actions include: bringing GDF development in England within the definition of a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ in the Planning Act 2008, including the production of a National Policy Statement and accompanying Appraisal of Sustainability; a national geological screening exercise, which will consider what level of information is already

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available about geology across the country and how this could be usefully related to the safety case for a GDF to help the developer engage openly with interested communities on their prospects for development; and further engagement to develop the detail of community representation mechanisms in the siting process, including a test of public support prior to final decisions on facility siting.

All of this is intended to happen before formal discussions between interested communities and the developer begin, so that any community wanting to engage with the process can do so with more information and greater clarity about the nature of a development.

With regard to new nuclear power, UK Government policy is that, before development consents for new nuclear power stations are granted, I will need to be satisfied that effective arrangements exist or will exist to manage and dispose of the waste they will produce.Government has considered these conclusions in the production of this White Paper and continues to be satisfied that they apply.

The White Paper is issued jointly by the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. The Welsh Government is currently considering a wider review of its higher activity radioactive waste management policy. The Scottish Government has a separate higher activity radioactive policy.

Today I am also publishing the latest annual report on the geological disposal programme, covering April 2013 to March 2014. These documents will be deposited in the Libraries of the House.