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Road Safety

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 13 June 2019

In June last year, the Department issued a written statement to Parliament that reported progress on the actions from its road safety statement. The statement also outlined more actions, such as putting £100 million into improving 50 of the most dangerous stretches of A roads in England and committing to a refreshed road safety statement and a two-year action plan to address four priority groups: young people, rural road users, motorcyclists and older vulnerable users.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but last year 157 people were sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving. The average length of the sentence given was just over six years. Does he agree that if this Government had introduced life sentences for that crime, as they promised to do in October 2017, we might have seen a consequent improvement in road safety and fewer of those dreadful crimes occurring last year?

The Department and the Secretary of State take these matters extremely seriously, and a great deal of work continues to be done on the subject of road safety. Any deaths or injuries via drink-driving are of course totally unacceptable, and we will do everything we can to continue to mitigate that. The fact is that the Department has doubled the penalty points for improper use of a mobile phone while driving, and we have also been investing via Facebook in the Think! campaign. We continue to work across the board to mitigate these issues. We are in constant contact with the Home Office and the police service on this issue, and that will continue.

In August 2017, 22-month-old Pearl Melody Black from Merthyr Tydfil was killed after a runaway car hit a wall, which fell on top of her. The current legislation did not allow the Crown Prosecution Service to bring justice to my constituents, Paul and Gemma Black. I have written to the Secretary of State, to the Department and to Ministers and previous Ministers to request a meeting to see whether we can work together to bring about a change in the legislation so that other parents do not have to endure this in future. Will the Minister agreed to meet me to see what can be done?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that tragic case of the runaway vehicle. The decision to prosecute lies with the Crown Prosecution Service. It would be inappropriate for the Department for Transport to comment on its decision, but I would be happy to meet him. I can say that DFT officials have been in discussion with the CPS and the Ministry of Justice about the case and dangerous driving offences more broadly, and we will continue to monitor the situation.

Last summer, I welcomed the Government’s announcement of a moratorium on shared spaces—road designs that remove the physical divides between the road and footways. Those cause considerable danger for blind and partially sighted people, including me, even turning some roads into no-go areas for people with sight loss. Concerns remain about what will happen to current shared spaces and the Government’s plans for the future. Can the Minister confirm that the Government recognise that such shared spaces are unacceptably inaccessible, and will funding be made available to make sure that they are made accessible for blind and partially sighted people?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising the point, which the Department is cognisant of. Research is being done in Scotland on this subject, and we hope for some results from that in the next several months.

19. I welcome the Minister to his place. One of the best ways to improve road safety, improve air quality and reduce congestion is to get on with the major roads network fund. Cornwall Council has prioritised the Camelford bypass as its main contribution to this scheme, and I would welcome a meeting with him to discuss it. (911337)

May I take this opportunity to say how much I enjoyed my visit to my hon. Friend’s constituency while I was responsible for another portfolio some time ago? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been to see the local challenge for the Camelford bypass and is therefore visibly sighted on it. It has much merit, and I am happy to meet my hon. Friend. My officials are working with Cornwall Council to assess the scheme so that a decision can be made as soon as possible, and I hope that it will get on and submit it.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s mention of improvements to A roads. The most problematic A road in my constituency has had several visits from the Secretary of State. There are detailed plans for improvements to what is known as the Sainsbury’s junction in Mansfield with the Department: can the Minister update me on progress?

I welcome the Minister to his new role. I hope that he will bring the same enthusiasm, especially for cycling and walking, as his predecessor, and I am sure that he is looking forward to appearing before the Transport Committee. Yesterday, our Committee was told that the Government need to change their approach to public education on using a mobile phone while driving if they are to fulfil the Prime Minister’s ambition of making that offence as socially unacceptable as drink driving. Will the Minister commit to taking action to increase public awareness of the risks of driving while using a mobile phone, whether handheld or hands-free, which we were told reduces motorists’ capability to that of a brand-new driver. It is the equivalent of being at the drink-drive limit and makes a road traffic collision four times more likely.

It is very kind of the hon. Lady to invite me to appear before her Committee: I think that something is already in the diary. On cycling, I have already spoken to Transport for London about that. I have been on a bike several times this week and will be again later. On the important issue of mobile phone use while driving, the Department has been working extremely hard: we have increased the penalty points from three to six, and we have put a lot of investment into social media to warn users of the dangers and we will continue to do so.