HL Deb 16 July 1998 vol 592 cc380-2

3.25 p.m.

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Following publication of vehicle speed data that speed limits were exceeded,

  1. (a) by 54 per cent. of cars on motorways and 70 per cent. of cars on urban roads,
  2. (b) by 91 per cent. of articulated lorries on dual carriageways and 70 per cent. of articulated lorries on single carriageways,
what action they are taking to enforce speed limits more effectively.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, police enforcement is at an all time high. A total of 761,400 speed limit offences were dealt with by prosecution or fixed penalty in 1996. Chief officers of police target their resources on locations where they can most effectively reduce road casualties and where excessive speed contributes to dangerous driving conditions.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I very much welcome my noble friend's answer to that question. It is obvious that he is aware of the connection between excessive speed and the seriousness of any accident. However, I am sure he is concerned at the figures mentioned in a report two years ago. Has he considered handing over some of the basic enforcement to local authorities, which could then find the money to put the videos in the police cameras—apparently the police cannot afford to do so—use the revenue to offset some of the costs and spend the remainder on public transport investment plans?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I think there are two questions here. One concerns the handing over of the enforcement of the criminal law in this area to local authorities, which I think generally would not be a good idea. The second concerns hypothecation of the revenues from those who have been unfortunate enough to be caught on camera while speeding. This is a deeply complex area which is presently under consideration.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, further to the point the noble Lord has just made, will the Minister confirm—he may well not wish to do so—that only one in seven speed cameras is operating at any one time? Is there not therefore a good case for allowing the police to keep at least some of the revenue from the fines to enable them to make more of the cameras operative? Does not the noble Lord agree that as regards motorways and dual carriageways, the 70 miles an hour limit as presently enforced is just about right?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I think the 70 miles an hour limit as presently enforced—or evaded, as the case may be—seems to be about right when I travel on the M.40 myself. As regards film in the cameras, it is not known to the approaching driver whether a camera contains film. Therefore a camera with no film existentially has quite a useful role to play.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I, and I am sure a number of other people, will be puzzled by the fact that 91 per cent. of articulated lorries on dual carriageways and 70 per cent. of articulated lorries on single carriageways exceed the speed limit, because there is a law in force which obliges that kind of lorry to have a speed limiter? Why and how is it that if the speed limiters are installed and in working order those lorries exceed the speed limit? Are not the police enforcing the law as regards the installation and maintenance of speed limiters?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I think not, because a speed limiter simply limits the speed to a particular mph. However, not all roads in the United Kingdom are subject to the same speed limit. I think the police do a good job of enforcement bearing in mind the balance they need to draw between public co-operation and the prevention of speeding offences.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

My Lords, does the Minister accept that there is a good deal of dispute as to whether speeding should continue to be a criminal offence? Are the Government giving consideration to that matter? Will they consider enabling local police services to fine speeding motorists on the spot?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, speeding is an offence. It ought still to be a criminal offence. An enormous number of people lose their lives or are seriously injured as a direct result of speeding. It is not a case of allowing the police to impose fixed penalties; such penalties can already be imposed. Someone can be fined up to £40 on a fixed penalty, with three penalty points; 12 points means that a driver is liable to be disqualified. The police already have those powers.

The Earl of Erroll

My Lords, will the Minister consider the needs of those people who want to get moving and do things in life and not only the desires of those who are happy to dawdle along achieving less?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, yes. I have travelled on the A.5 to North Wales. My peregrinations on that journey always follow a man in a cap, driving a Morris Minor pulling a caravan.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, are foreign motorists who are caught speeding on camera fined in court?

Noble Lords


The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard)

My Lords, I think it is the turn of this side.

Lord Randall of St. Budeaux

My Lords, on the question of speed limits, will my noble friend tell the House what steps the Government are taking with regard to high-speed driving in villages? Will they give consideration to introducing low speed limits such as 15 or 20 mph, as exist in the United States?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, consideration is being given to lower speed limits of 20 miles an hour. However, they are quite difficult to enforce, and there is need for a whole spectrum of speed calming measures in small villages, where many people believe that even 30 miles an hour is too fast. The noble Lord is right. In 1996, for example, no less than 65 per cent. of accidents happened on roads where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, how do the Government ensure that fines are collected from foreign drivers who are caught speeding—

Lord Carter

My Lords, the time has already exceeded 30 minutes.

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