HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc141-3
8. Mr. David Crausby (Bolton, North-East)

If he will make a statement on his policy on traffic speed cameras. [21564]

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar)

Correctly deployed speed enforcement cameras reduce road deaths and serious injuries. A successful trial of a new funding system for cameras is now available nationally. To improve effectiveness and fairness, I announced on 3 December new conspicuity, visibility and signing rules for cameras placed in areas that are participating in the netting-off scheme.

Mr. Crausby

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he say something about the public perception that the siting of those cameras is far too often motivated by revenue collection rather than road safety?

Mr. Spellar

That is precisely why we announced that we want much greater visibility of those cameras and why we suggested that in most cases yellow is the preferred colour for them. We require them not to be sited behind trees or signs because the purpose is not to collect revenue but to change behaviour to deal with accident-prone stretches of road. In areas with cameras we are already seeing success; we now want to roll the programme out across the country and collect fewer fines because people are reducing their speed, thus reducing the number of accidents.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Does the Minister agree that there is a particular problem with drivers in 20 mph-zones? Why are police forces throughout the country extremely reluctant to use speed cameras in those zones?

Mr. Spellar

That is something that the hon. Gentleman needs to take up with the Home Office, which is responsible for police forces. We are creating a system whereby they can put in cameras, then apply for money to pay for them so that they can become operational. With that money come the visibility conditions that I have described. He needs to take the matter up with his local police authority and chief constable. At the same time, it would be useful if the Norfolk constabulary repainted its cameras in a more visible colour; I think that he is already dealing with that.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that traffic regulations are meant to be complied with—especially speed limits, which save lives? Will he try to make sure that firm guidelines and opportunities are offered to local authorities and police so that cameras are used to ensure compliance with traffic regulations like bus lanes, bus gates and public transport priorities, which the police are often reluctant to enforce at all?

Mr. Spellar

I thank my hon. Friend. The schemes that I have described are based on local authorities and police working in partnership. We are also piloting schemes in the London area, looking at the enforcement of bus lanes. They must be applied with discretion because, obviously, a vehicle parked in them at the height of the rush hour is far more of a problem than one whose driver has temporarily stopped to pop to the shops mid-morning. Discretion is therefore needed so that traffic can flow but motorists are not persecuted.

My hon. Friend is right; we need to look across the board. Although we have the safest roads in Europe, along with Sweden, we can still do better; we are already making progress and intend to make more.

Angus Robertson (Moray)

The Minister will be aware that officials have argued that speed cameras cannot effectively differentiate between Scottish European number plates. Will he confirm that that and all other arguments against Scottish European number plates are bogus, and that the Government are about to reverse their decision on them? Will he take the opportunity to apologise to Scottish motorists for threatening fines for displaying our national flag on our national number plates?

Mr. Spellar

The matter has been raised with me by Members of Parliament from all parts of the United Kingdom. We have been reviewing it and I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the Home Office local campaigns such as those in Mawdesley and other areas in the Chorley constituency, where residents want speed cameras to be introduced to reduce speed, and use his good offices to ensure that those voices are listened to?

Mr. Spellar

Such representations should be addressed to the local partnership between the local authority—which, in my hon. Friend's case, I assume is Lancashire county council—and the Lancashire police. I hope that his representations will be taken seriously in the interests of his constituents, whom he always represents so assiduously.

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