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Road Safety

Volume 519: debated on Thursday 2 December 2010

7. What assessment he has made of the effects of reductions in road safety grants and the ending of Government funding for speed cameras on the number of road traffic (a) accidents and (b) fatalities. (27888)

No assessment has been made about the effect on road accidents that may result from changes to road safety grants. The Government continue substantially to fund local transport in local authorities, including for road safety. Speed camera operations can still continue if the local authorities decide that they wish them to do so.

Frankly, I am shocked to hear the Minister say that no assessment has been made regarding the consequences of significant cuts to capital and revenue funding and the ending of specific ring-fencing for local authority road safety grants at a time when local authorities are going to be under unprecedented financial pressure. I urge the Minister to think again about the dangerous consequences of the lack of priority that the Government are giving to road safety.

Especially as an ex-fireman, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that road safety is paramount for this Government. That is why I am taking this forward in such strong ways, particularly with local authorities. It is for local authorities, not central Government, to decide what is best for their communities. Speed cameras have been beneficial in some parts of the country, but they have also been seen as cash cows. It is for local authorities to decide, and we will work with them.

May I draw the Minister’s attention to early-day motion 1084, tabled by me and co-sponsored by two former road safety Ministers, one Labour and one Conservative? The EDM welcomes a report from the RAC Foundation which confirms that each year the presence of speed cameras prevents 800 people from being killed or seriously injured. In the light of that, will the Minister give more credit to speed cameras, because they do save lives?

I pay credit to the work that my hon. Friend has done over many years on road safety. The truth of the matter is that some speed cameras do fantastic work, and some do not. In local authority areas such as Swindon, where speed cameras have been stopped altogether, there has been no indication of an increase in accidents since they have gone. It is for local authorities to decide, and we will work with them, but the public must be with them when it comes to speed cameras. The public must, whatever happens, be confident that speed cameras are there for the right reason.

The Minister has said:

“We would expect that road safety would remain a priority for local communities and that local spending would reflect that.”

The RAC calculates that speed cameras save 70 lives a year. Can the Minister tell the House how it is supposed to ensure that road safety remains a priority when his Government are cutting funding to local government by more than 30%? Is not the truth that ending Government funding for speed cameras is nothing to do with dictating priorities to local government but all about them making cuts to vital road safety measures that he does not wish to defend?

The shadow Minister is better than that; he knows full well that some speed cameras work very well and some do not. The pre-2004 speed cameras in many areas, including my own, where the money was hypothecated straight back to the local authorities, were there to raise cash, not necessarily to prevent accidents. It is up to local authorities to use the money that has been given to them by central Government for their communities. It is for them to decide, not central Government.