Thank you for inviting me to give evidence to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee on 11 January 2022. I am grateful to the Committee for its time and its important scrutiny of the Department’s legislation.
I am writing to provide you with the further information that I committed to send during the session.
STATS19 data is used as the basis for the Department’s road safety statistics. Currently, provisional statistics are published in November (covering the first six months of the year) and the following June (annual figures). After further validation, the final annual statistics are released in September. Underlying data is made available in November (provisional data for the first half of the year) and September (final validated dataset).
Therefore, in terms of STATS19 data available for monitoring changes in the B+E regulations in the first year, a provisional dataset to June 2022 will be available by November 2022, with final data for the whole of 2022 in September 2023. The provisional data may be sufficient to flag any clear impacts of the changes though, as I said to the Committee, several years’ data is likely to be required to properly analyse and understand the impacts.
The Department continually reviews the timeliness and frequency of the publication of road safety statistics, based on an assessment of user needs set against resource constraints and data quality. Statistics published previously on a quarterly basis were withdrawn as consultation found that they were not well used. However, should there be sufficient need for more frequent statistics then we will seek to address this.
The current timescales for data availability reflect the challenges in compiling a complete, national level dataset. For context, final data for 2020 was not received for all police force areas until July 2021.
The Department shares the Committee’s wish for more frequent and timely data and is progressing work towards this, including through the roll out of the Collision Reporting and Sharing (CRASH) system. CRASH is a cloud-based system which allows forces to capture and upload collision data from the roadside in real time, improving the accuracy and reducing the work required to collate and validate data for these forces. The lag in receiving data for CRASH forces is smaller (around 90 days) though some time is still required for data validation.
CRASH is currently only used by around half of police forces in Great Britain. We are promoting the further take-up of CRASH through events and demonstrations; and supporting forces by understanding their business needs and addressing their concerns in making the transition from their legacy systems. However, the decision on whether to use CRASH for collision reporting ultimately remains the responsibility of each individual force.
We are currently exploring whether more frequent, timely statistics could be produced for forces using CRASH, with a view to considering whether this could be applied to data from 2022 onwards.
Finally, it should be noted that even with better systems, real time data for road safety is unlikely to be easy to produce at a national level as; for example, 30 days are allowed for incidents to be reported to the police which means a lag of at least one month is always likely to be required.
The most recent review of STATS19 has recently been completed, and the final recommendations published. The main changes resulting from this review do not cover towing or trailers specifically, but will improve the quality of the data in many areas including:
Work is now in progress to implement these changes, with data collected to the new specification from the start of 2024 onwards.
As I referred in my evidence to a programme of other things that could be used to reviewing the road safety impacts of the changes in regulations, I would like to provide some additional information on work the Department is doing to develop the wider road safety evidence base, aside from the STATS19 data.
We have recently consulted on the creation of a new Road Collision Investigation Branch (RCIB) and we are currently analysing the responses to the consultation. We hope to be able to set out next steps over the coming months.
An RCIB would be an independent, safety-focused investigative body which would conduct primarily thematic investigations to analyse and better understand the causes of road collisions to identify trends and emerging issues. This would go beyond the scope of police investigations, which are primarily focused on liability and any potential criminal activity.
We envisage that the analysis undertaken by an RCIB, should one be established, would increase the data landscape around understanding collision causation and help better inform road safety policy and interventions.
While the subject of a Branch’s investigations would be a matter for the Branch’s Chief Inspector, we would expect it to identify any significant emerging issues in collision cause and investigate those accordingly.
Further to Lord Hutton of Furness’ question, I committed to write explaining the role of the Department’s SI Minister, Trudy Harrison MP, and her involvement in the delivery of these regulations. I would also like to reiterate what I said to the Committee when I appeared before you - these regulations are mine in my capacity as Roads Minister, so they are my responsibility.
The SI Minister has a strategic role, overseeing the programme, identifying trends and risks and taking steps to ensure the delivery of the overall programme. In that capacity, Trudy Harrison MP is overseeing the SI Delivery Reform Programme and overhauling the current processes for SIs. She is also working with the Department’s senior responsible official, Louise Morgan, to ensure there is appropriate upskilling of staff working on SIs with regular access to training. The SI Minister is also responsible for agreeing the Department’s SIs proposed for laying in Parliament. However, I should stress it is the role of the Minister with the policy responsibility to shape and deliver the SI; the SI Minister’s role is to provide challenge to the programme as a whole and address common issues.
While the programme is in its infancy, we are making good progress, particularly around capability building, programme management and reporting. Louise Morgan works with a dedicated team in the Department championing the work of SIs. The SRO ensures appropriate governance is in place for the programme, as well as overseeing the management of the programme in terms of delivering improvements to the system, an example of which is the Explanatory Memoranda Peer Review system which I mentioned. The SRO is also the Chair of the Department’s Legislation Board, a member of the Department’s Executive Committee and the Department’s Strategy Director - providing a valuable and vital cross cutting view of issues within the Department. To that end, I can assure the Committee that this is a role that is taken very seriously.
On these particular regulations, Trudy Harrison MP was closely involved in their passage through Parliament: leading the debate for the Government in the Commons, first on 8 November 2021 with the No.2 Regulations, then again on 12 December 2021 for the No.5 Regulations. However, as I said to the Committee, I recognise that there was more I could have done to update and improve the quality of the Explanatory Memorandum as part of this process. It is these lessons that Trudy Harrison MP will take forward as part of her work on the SI Delivery Reform Programme.
I hope this reassures the Committee that we are committed to ensuring that the Department’s regulations can be developed and evaluated against sound evidence and are taking steps to improve the timeliness and quality of the road safety data available.
19 January 2022
40 Department for Transport, STATS19 review: Final recommendations, (25 November 2021): [accessed 24 January 2022].