HC Deb 11 January 2000 vol 342 cc143-4
13. Mrs. Helen Brinton (Peterborough)

What measures he is taking to increase safety on the roads. [103264]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Ms Beverley Hughes)

I acknowledge my hon. Friend's work in promoting home zones and other general road safety measures. Of course we want to see significant reductions in the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on our roads. We shall shortly be publishing a new road safety strategy, which will include new casualty reduction targets for 2010.

Mrs. Brinton

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does she agree that reducing speed limits would considerably improve road safety, especially on rural roads? Is she aware of a recent MORI poll that showed that the majority of Great British motorists support the reduction of speed limits, especially on country lanes? Does she conclude with me that by reducing speed limits we shall improve safety not only for cyclists and pedestrians but for the British motorist?

Ms Hughes

We recognise that speed is a major road safety and environmental issue in rural areas. It is perhaps the most crucial determinant of overall levels of road safety. In addition to a range of road safety measures that we have instituted since the general election, at the end of 1998 we introduced a major 12 months' review of speed policy. A report will be published shortly, which will include specific proposals for speed limits in rural areas.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Does the Minister recognise that newer drivers are involved in a greater percentage of accidents than other motorists? Will she consider the use of green probation plates on cars and perhaps differential speed limits for newer drivers, to ascertain what impact that that could have in reducing road accidents?

Ms Hughes

Certainly. Issues relating to improving the safety performance of drivers will be included in the road safety review. They will arise also from the speed review. We have already introduced a number of measures, including improving the practical driving test, the theory part of that test, implementing the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 and revising the highway code. Those measures acknowledge that drivers have a role to play in improving road safety, and especially in reducing speed.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

Unlike the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), I do not want another inch of road to be built in my constituency at present. However, I want maximum priority to be given to investment in road safety improvements. That issue should be the top priority of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions when determining whether roads should be built. Will my hon. Friend the Minister give an assurance that that will be the case and ensure that local authorities are given all possible support in promoting investment in road safety?

Ms Hughes

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. In addition to identifying new targets for reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries, the road safety strategy that we shall soon publish will address child safety, safety of other vulnerable road users and motorcycle safety—the whole range of road safety issues. As for his final point, we have already given local authorities considerable additional powers, including the ability to reduce speed limits to 20 mph without Government consent. We shall encourage local authorities to integrate safety policy in their local transport plans.

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