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Speed Limits

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 28 February 2013

In January 2013 the Department for Transport launched new guidance for local authorities on setting local speed limits, including guidance to help them assess the full costs and benefits of proposed speed limit changes. We have also taken steps to make it easier for councils to introduce 20 mph limits and zones where they believe this is appropriate.

Many of my constituents would like to see 20 mph speed limits, particularly near schools and in sensitive areas. Will the Minister explain what is being done to adapt the localism agenda and give local authorities in Northamptonshire and elsewhere the devolved power in this respect?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s support and that of his constituents for what the coalition Government is doing. Following on from the document “Signing the Way”, which I launched in October 2011, we have provided every English authority with a traffic sign authorisation to use speed limit repeater signs in place of physical measures in 20 mph zones, and that will reduce the costs for local authorities in Northamptonshire and elsewhere. This authorisation also enables local authorities to place advisory part-time 20 mph speed limit signs in the vicinity of schools without the need for central Government approval. Councils can also now use roundels on the road to replace some upright signs.

Many of us involved in transport safety welcome the ability to have 20 mph limits, but if they are not done in the context of targets for national performance, they will come to nothing in terms of reducing terrible road casualties, which are rising steadily in this country. Most other progressive transport safety countries have targets and they work. Why is the Minister abandoning them?

If I may say so, the important thing is the measures we take to make roads safer, rather than the arbitrary targets that the hon. Gentleman seeks to introduce. The Secretary of State has made plain, since his appointment to office, the significant importance that he attaches to road safety, and that runs through the Department.

A previous coalition Secretary of State suggested that an increase in 20 mph zones could be a trade-off with 80 mph limits on some of our motorways. Doing a U-turn at 80 mph would be crazy and dangerous; may I invite the Minister to do a U-turn here safely, and formally announce that the coalition will not proceed with 80 mph trials?

I have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point. The matters about 80 mph are being carefully evaluated and the Secretary of State will make a statement on that in due course.