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Road Humps and 20 mph Speed Limits

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2023

I beg to move,

That this House has considered road humps and 20 mph speed limits.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. The issue that I am raising today affects a much wider group than just my constituents, but I am raising it on behalf of my constituents because of their particular concern that they are not listened to when they raise the problems that they face.

Let me be clear from the outset that this debate is not about a blanket opposition to traffic-calming measures, or even to road humps per se. It is, instead, about the unnecessary blanket use of traffic-calming measures in residential areas where they are not necessary. It is not about opposing traffic-calming measures anywhere where they are vital, such as outside schools or hospitals, where, properly applied, they are about safety. That is not the issue. Some are concerned that this is about blanket opposition. It is not; it is about an opposition to the way in which these measures are applied, the rationale behind them and the effects on constituents living in houses nearby.

I am concerned about the roll-out of 20 mph zones and the associated traffic-calming measures in residential areas. There are serious unintended consequences for residents that need to be considered if fairness is to be in the mix. Those consequences include significant vibrations. I have sat in a number of houses next to what I call the higher road restriction tables, where even at 20 mph, large, heavy lorries hitting the humps create enormous vibrations through the houses beyond. The attempt to brake as they go into them creates more emissions. The unintended consequences—the vibrations, damage to property, noise and interruption to sleep, as this is often at night—of vehicles going over these significant speed humps are why I believe that the 20 mph zone should be considered road by road, not on a blanket basis. It is vital to have local consent in these instances, rather than just having blanket measures.

Local authorities have the authority to set local speed limits, given their knowledge of local needs and priorities. They have the power to implement 20 mph speed limits: the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (Amendment) Order 1999 enables local authorities to introduce 20 mph zones without, it appears, having to apply for permission. However, the Department for Transport has made it clear that any changes to the speed limit should be proportionate—that is an important word—and based on circumstances. I will come back to that point, because it appears that it is certainly not being applied in many areas where residents have concerns.

My right hon. Friend is making a very strong argument. A great many people in Pembrokeshire and elsewhere have a lot of sympathy for slower traffic speeds, particularly in built-up areas outside schools, for example. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that the Welsh Labour Government have made two mistakes? They have got themselves into such a mess with their default, blanket 20 mph policy in Wales. First, they do not understand that what people want more than anything is proper enforcement of the existing 30 mph zones. Secondly, they are not trusting the local councils, which know their communities best, to come up with appropriate schemes in their local areas.

I am a long way from Wales, but I take my right hon. Friend’s point about decisions being taken in an arbitrary manner and sometimes in pursuit of a wider political objective. I simply say that his comments have been noted, and I am sure that the Minister will consider them when he winds up the debate. I agree about making sure that local authorities—and even wider authorities such as the Mayor of London or the Government in Wales—consult properly and discuss with local residents their needs and concerns. Their consideration is important in the application of these measures in their areas.

Too many Londoners in my constituency and elsewhere are struggling on main roads that have rapidly been brought down from 40 mph to 20 mph. The lower speed limit means that there is almost invariably some focus on the speedometer rather than on the road, because people are concerned that they cannot afford the fine. This may seem apocryphal, but taxi drivers are saying that they are moving out of their line of work simply because it is becoming impossible for them to navigate this process, especially taking into account some of the calming measures that have been over-instated throughout the city, where some of the roads they use are now blocked, even for some of the residents.

The important point, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) raised, is that enforcement can be lawfully carried out only by the police. The police are already under pressure, so it is difficult to see how the measures will not be abused, even when they are so little applied. The cost of the cameras alone is enormous. The extension of the 20 mph speed limits on main roads is affecting police workload.

I turn to a major issue in my constituency and, I believe, elsewhere. Speed bumps can be useful traffic-calming measures at times, but they are also extremely disruptive for residents, cyclists and emergency service vehicles in places where they may not necessarily need to be applied. My constituents have been genuinely affected by the roll-out of the 20 mph speed limits, combined with speed humps and the associated speed reduction measures in London. I know that I am not alone; many colleagues experience similar constituency issues.

Since the implementation of speed humps in residential areas, constituents have regularly raised with me the damage done to buildings by vibration transfer, such as cracking, possible subsidence, the long-term effects of the obstructions on local infrastructure, the increase in poor air quality, and emissions from vehicle engines, tyres and brake pads. Transport for London reports that in 2018, 75% of road transport particulate emissions came from tyre and brake wear. It is worth pointing out that many drivers naturally accelerate away from a speed hump, brake hard when they arrive at another, go over it and carry on. The emissions from brake pads and heavily used brakes are much greater than those coming out of the tailpipe of a diesel or petrol car. In a way, in the over-application—I stress the “over”—of these kinds of speed reduction measures, we are slightly contradicting our efforts to get pollution down.

Emissions are a subject that has been debated widely by London MPs and others in London, particularly because of the ultra low emission zone. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the increasing traffic that has resulted from a range of schemes—such as the low-traffic neighbourhoods that have closed off many side roads in London—carries a risk of increasing emissions? London is now officially the slowest city in the world to drive in.

I very much accept that point. I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention, because I was going to come to that issue. It is not an issue particular to London, but in London we have the problem that traffic-calming measures are causing higher emissions in parts of the city where the measures are applied, and at the same time traffic is being funnelled with no escape routes.

We also need to take into consideration the increase in noise pollution during the day. Conversations are being drowned out in many houses near the humps, and the effect of the additional noise on residents living in the vicinity of a hump—not forgetting that the traffic goes up and down such roads all through the night—is that sleep is disturbed.

I have been in a number of houses and have stood and watched as commercial vehicles have gone over large 20 mph tables. I could hear the equipment in the back leaping up and down and the thump as the vehicles hit the tables—and they were not going over the speed limit. That is the point. When I have raised it with the council, it has dismissed it completely on the basis that it does not agree that the measures cause any problem whatever. The effects of additional noise on residents living in the vicinity include disturbed sleep and the stress resulting from sleep deprivation.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. Does he agree that another issue arises when road traffic-calming measures have been put in place where there are suitable diversionary routes for some motorists to avoid the speed humps and traffic-calming measures? There is increased traffic on those roads as a result. People complain on the routes where the humps are, but people living on adjacent roads also complain because of the increased traffic that has resulted from the humps.

Yes, I agree. The funny thing, which I raised the other day, is that if we are moving towards low-emission or zero-emission vehicles, electric vehicles, hydrogen-propelled vehicles and so on, which is the generally accepted plan for where we want to be, are we now aiming for road usage by low or net zero vehicles, or is it just a blanket anti-car problem? That is an issue that I never settle. In a way, we will be defeating ourselves as we head towards that process. Will the measures be lifted as more people have zero-emission vehicles?

The question is: why are the speed humps there? They are there, in essence, because in areas where they are necessary, no one objects to the idea of proportionate use. However, when they are combined with low-traffic neighbourhoods, it becomes a major problem. People are forced on to roads, which means that the poor residents who live near them get even further increased levels of noise pollution, vibration and brake pad wear. That is toxic anyway, and is made more so than if those drivers had been able to use other routes to get out of those areas.

I return to the point about disturbed sleep. I have talked to residents who are genuinely deeply stressed by what has happened since heavy speed bumps have been put in place in 20 mph or even higher speed zones. As for the effects on the public’s mental health, some residents now genuinely suffer from some kind of clinical depression.

There is also damage to people travelling in vehicles, including buses, that traverse humps. Even if someone is doing less than 20 mph, they hit those things and they know it. For cyclists and others, as I mentioned, that is a major issue. I happen to be a motorcycle rider, and I must say that there are significant problems. Some of the tables are so high that riders have to stand up off the bike, making it less manoeuvrable. I have some sympathy for all those other road users, whom we rather forget about but whom we are encouraging to use those methods of travel more because they pollute less or not at all.

Research has been undertaken with bus drivers on the effects on their health of the constant impact damage on the spine and neck from the rocking motion. If we are asking for more buses and more public transport, we should recognise that those are bigger vehicles, and the effect on them and on neighbourhoods is significant.

Let me move on to the damage done to vehicles as a result of poor maintenance and the design of speed hump installations. In my borough, speed humps and calming measures on residential roads are the responsibility of the local authority, as they are everywhere else. The humps in the London Borough of Waltham Forest have been poorly maintained, with road surfaces on the exits dipping because of the impact of vehicles. Along with the scrape marks on the crown of the hump, which give some indication of the existing problem, vehicles grounding on the top of the humps when passing over them would suggest that those humps are not really fit for the purpose originally intended.

The authority installed the speed humps because of research generated by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory in 1981 and 1990, but the research data in those reports, astonishingly, dates back to 1958, the 1960s and at the latest the 1970s. That is my main point about the whole process: it uses data that is completely unrelated to traffic use today, the nature of cars, the size of vehicles and all the consequences. We rely on data that does not encompass any of that or the change in how cars and vehicles are used.

The old research data—on which my local authority and, I am sure, others rely heavily—was gathered using one double decker bus on a small section of one road in Lytham in Lancashire in 1977, where buses were scheduled to run once every 30 minutes. We then have data from 1978 from a small section of one 302-metre road in Winchester, which had only three houses on it, and one 438-metre road on the Isle of Wight. It cannot be fair or right that there is a blanket rejection of all concerns, as is happening in my local authority area, which refuses to look at the matter carefully because it says that its measures are based on studies. Those studies are irrelevant to traffic usage today.

The final study, which really threw me, looked at a 280-metre road in Rotherhithe, comprising very few houses. That was in 1978. I am not quite sure what they were studying at the time, but it certainly has nothing to do with my constituency or borough. This is not a Labour or Conservative issue; it is about residents and citizens who live in such areas trying to get to work and use their cars for different reasons. We need to consider the wider consequences.

None of the research data or reports is therefore relevant to east London or to 21st-century traffic. The traffic in the 1960s and 1970s was very different from today’s: the dramatic increase in the volume, frequency and weight of all traffic, especially heavy goods vehicles and electric vehicles, means that it is not comparable with the data that is now being used to justify what is going on. To date, the council has not conducted an investigation of speed tables in my constituency or borough. It simply rejects the idea that it should do so or that there should be an independent study.

In October, councillors—they happen to be my Conservative group—proposed a motion that called on the local authority to carry out an independent review simply to monitor suspected vibrations and the nature of the traffic-calming measures. It was rejected out of hand. Unfortunately, there was no other recourse. That is why I secured this debate: it seems that there is no other way for my local councillors or me to raise the issue. My residents, regardless of where they live, are frustrated and unable to find any other recourse.

I ask the Minister: what are the consequences for a council that fails to comply with the statement contained in the Department for Transport’s letter dated 26 April 2023? It states:

“Local councillors are responsible for ensuring that local decisions about street infrastructure take account of the needs and opinions of local people.”

That is simply not happening. It is a wider issue. It does not matter whether it is a Conservative or Labour council; that statement is being thrust to one side in the desire to put the calming measures, as they are called, in place.

I want to quote from one or two of my residents who have raised the matter, because it is important. Tony Thorne said:

“My wife suffers with arthritis of the spine and we recently had cause to travel in Waltham Forest going to visit our son in Whipps Cross Hospital and when we got home she wanted to cry with the pain”,

as a result of the constant jerking. He goes on:

“We now have to plan our journeys to avoid certain areas due to the speed humps which even when you travel over them at 10 mph there are still problems with the bounce on exit.”

I have seen that for myself, by the way. He goes on:

“I have spoken to a number of bus drivers who drive the roads of Waltham Forest who all mention the problems these obstructions cause including drivers being off work sick with back and neck pain and additional stress due to having to negotiate these structures.”

Lee Gilbert said:

“We suffer sleep deprivation and I suffer from anxiety and fear that the movements may cause the house to collapse whilst in bed. There are 20 mph signs although they are not adhered to. We have been trying to seek a solution to this major problem since the Speed Hump was installed in July 2022 with no results.”

Tracey Gauld said:

“I was injured when my car was hit by a drunk driver which left me requiring surgery on my collar bone. Still to this day, going over humps is uncomfortable due to the seat belt”.

Andrew Mckinley said:

“Since the speed humps have been installed outside my house, I have not had a full night’s quality sleep…I do believe in a safer and clearer environment for all. I would normally cycle 12 miles to work each day but have been unable to do so as it would be unsafe as I’m very tired due to lack of sleep. This is having a big negative impact on my mental and physical wellbeing”.

Finally, Adam Thackeray said:

“Since a speed bump has been installed on Station Road”—

that is in my constituency—

“my house judders when busses and large vehicles go past. The house, mainly the top two floors shake, the windows vibrate, and this has resulted in cracks appearing around the house on various walls, with the top floor suffering the most. It’s also difficult to get to sleep on the top floor, due to the vibrations causing furniture to rattle and sash windows shake”.

To some people, those issues may appear unimportant, but if we are elected to do anything at all, it is to represent the concerns and interests of our constituents when they spot a significant problem that affects their lives. That is why I make no apology for raising the matter. It is not a minor issue. It is becoming a significant issue where these things have often been imposed without any proper discussion or any sense of what is required on our streets and what the issues are in respect of traffic calming and speed.

As things stand, the Mayor of London provides funding to boroughs for the implementation of traffic-calming measures. I have been assured that, if successful, the new Mayor after the mayoral contest will ask the boroughs to ensure that all measures are examined so that the most appropriate are put in place; implement a review of all Transport for London-owned roads that have 20 mph speed limits; and, where appropriate, make changes. That is a natural position to take. I hope that the present Mayor of London will adopt the same policy, because it is clear that people living in houses near traffic- calming measures and people who drive public transport are suffering unnecessarily.

I am calling on the Department for Transport to carry out, where local authorities and others will not do so, a full independent inquiry to review roads with 20 mph speed limits, on a road-by-road basis, and to consider the impact of traffic-calming measures such as road humps and the speed tables that are even higher. Such a review could help to limit the unintended consequences of vibrations from ill-applied traffic-calming measures by finding out relevant information and up-to-date data.

I remind the Minister and others that the Department for Transport has made it clear that any changes to the speed limits and to traffic-calming measures should be proportionate and based on circumstances. Right now, there is no up-to-date independent review of how such measures should be applied, and no up-to-date independent analysis of what the effects are. The council in my area is therefore able to dismiss all requests for independent reviews. My residents, and residents all over the country, would feel better assured if the Department for Transport carried out a review to get the matter properly settled so that we can bring peace of mind to residents whose lives are being disproportionately damaged by bad implementation and ill-thought-through traffic-calming measures.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, Mr Robertson. I thank the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) for leading today’s debate. He is right to highlight the problems of people who are affected by the measures. I will give some examples from my constituency—which the Minister is not responsible for, by the way, so he will not have to talk about the speed bumps in James Street in Newtownards that are causing concern to local people or about the cracks down the gable wall. That is not the Minister’s responsibility.

I just want to put it on the record. I feel it is important to give a Northern Ireland perspective. I will refer to examples of 20 mph zones where cameras have been put up, and where local endorsement and agreement were key to making that happen. If that happens, the problems by and large do not impact directly on those who live close by.

As always, some of the matters raised today are devolved, but I am here to give a Northern Ireland perspective to the debate and share some thoughts on where we are in Northern Ireland. In London, for example, there are many 20 mph zones and cameras that are used heavily to detect any form of speeding. Back home, the News Letter reported that a new study had found that lower limits cut accidents and reduce serious injury. One of the few 20 mph speed limits in Northern Ireland is in Belfast city centre. It makes sense to have it there. The impact is not on local residents who live close by, because not many do; it is on the shopping centre, which is very big with a pedestrian walkway. It is important to have that speed limit in Belfast city centre. Researchers have found that the measure led to a 2% reduction in crashes.

In 2021-22, we worked incredibly hard to push the then Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, to include Grey Abbey Primary School in phase 2 of the part-time 20 mph speed limit zones for schools in Northern Ireland. That included me, my Strangford MLA and councillor colleagues, and the principal of Grey Abbey Primary School, Mr Derrick—he taught some of my boys at school, so he has been there a long time. I make this point because that is an example of where 20 mph speed limits around schools save lives and make people aware of what they are doing.

After months of emails and chasing the issue up, it was fantastic to hear the announcement in September 2021, in the middle of covid, that phase 2 of the part-time 20 mph speed limit scheme would be rolled out to 106 schools across Northern Ireland, including Grey Abbey in my constituency. It was, and it has made a difference. It has definitely slowed traffic in that area, and it was the right thing to do at a place where students are going to school early in the morning—from half-past 8 to half-past 9, say.

My office would send numerous emails about traffic calming and speed limits each day. The right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green said that he gets an enormous volume of constituency mail about this; I do, too. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that it is one of the biggest issues that constituents have with the roads. While there is an understanding that enforcing speed limits and introducing traffic-calming measures is a long and costly process, there must be an acceptance that some areas are simply more dangerous than others, especially around schools.

Loughries Integrated Primary School is another example in my constituency of where introducing a 20 mph speed limit around a school has made a difference, as it has at Kirkistown Primary School in Main Road in Cloughey. Again, these are examples of where, even though the road may be wide—in Kirkistown it would be very wide—there is a real need to slow people’s speed. Before Loughries was awarded a part-time 20 mph speed limit, it was on a national speed limit road on the Ballyblack Road. I drive on that road frequently back home, and I know many constituents who live on it. I find it quite incomprehensible that a national speed limit road, which posed such a danger to students, could have been allowed so near the school.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman again for raising this issue. Although we all have different guidelines for different parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we are all taking about the same thing: public safety. This is about agreement with the input of local people, especially around schools, where safety is critical. For some high-congestion areas, additional traffic management and a 20 mph limit have been proven to work. I have to say that, from my observations, looking towards London from the outside in, there are areas where it is critical that it happens. However, for the schools in my constituency, the introduction of 20 mph speed limits has gone a long way in protecting the students who attend school there, and moreover it will be a reassurance to the parents to know that this step has been taken.

I commend the right hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. I hope that my contribution from the Northern Ireland perspective has been helpful. This is all about making safety a priority and about the input of local residents. If we can get them on our side and agree that, then we do not have the impact. In fairness, where damage to property resulting from a high volume of lorries and cars has been highlighted to the roads service back home, the response has always been positive: to try to reduce the volume and avoid that damage.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I must begin by congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) on securing this debate. As ever, his finger is on the pulse of what people are thinking in his constituency and across the country, and his determination to respond to that is undimmed. I echo his clear statements that this is not about opposition to the proper application of speed limits for reasons of safety or health. I should add that there is an important debate to be had about the balance between private and public transport, but that is for another day.

Even a short while ago, I would not have guessed that transport and the politics of urban speed restrictions would be an issue to energise the public at large. I can only assume that this was the view of the Labour Government in Wales earlier this year, when they swept such a restriction—a presumption that 30 mph limits would become 20 mph limits across Wales—through the Senedd. How wrong they were. Within 24 hours of the new restrictions being imposed, a petition to abolish them became the most signed in Senedd history—that is 25 years. Since then, some half a million aggrieved residents have put their names to the call to axe this limit. That is more people than who voted for any political party in the last Senedd election.

Indeed, polling today reveals that Welsh voters now back repealing the new restrictions by two to one. When we dig into those figures, we see that opposition outweighs support in every age bracket, every income bracket, every language grouping, every regional grouping and even every 2019 voting group. If anyone were to ask me what political issue unites the people of Wales today, it is opposition to the speed restriction.

That also raises the question: why? The Welsh Government have claimed that this restriction is moderate, even trifling, and is driven by concerns for safety. So why are voters so upset about it? Are voters in Wales foolish? Are they all careless petrolheads? No and no. We have strong communities that feel as deeply as any other when one part is hurting. We see plenty of tragedy on our roads each year—innocent, often young, lives cut short through road accidents where speed is a factor. But the truth is that the effects of this legislation are real, and its impact on services for households, families and businesses runs deep.

Already, businesses that make regular call-outs or that offer delivery services have complained that the 10-minute delays for normal journeys is impacting on the service they can deliver. I have had tradesmen come up and tell me they are losing an average of one job a day because they cannot move quickly enough between contracts. We have also heard of bus services having to skip stops to keep to the timetable for the services they are contracted to deliver.

I want to dwell on care services for a moment. Some 27% of people in my constituency of over Aberconwy are over 65 years old, compared with a UK average of 18%. One might therefore suspect, correctly, that the care services and agencies supporting vulnerable people in their own homes are vital; but the tens of thousands of visits made each year all take time and cost money. Extending that time by just a few minutes per call imposes a substantial cost on an already stretched public purse.

For a rural area such as Aberconwy, let us assume a very modest three-minute delay per round trip. That suggests an additional cost of over 1,000 hours of fuel and wages per year—that is eight-and-a-half to 10 wasted work weeks. If we also assume average UK engine efficiency, current fuel prices and the minimum wage, it is at least £3,500 in additional fuel costs alone, and £11,000 in wages. That is an annual penalty in the region of £15,000 for doing the same work—more than any business can afford, and further than many budgets can stretch.

Costs will, of course, be higher if the pay is above the minimum wage or uses less fuel-efficient vehicles such as vans, trucks and minibuses. Most such businesses and public services will simply be forced to cut back on provision where they cannot charge more or pay their workers less, and those already struggling to break even will go under. In short, these new rules could almost have been designed to diminish services, reduce wages and increase the fatigue associated with running a business or a complex public service.

But what about other workers, parents and families? The vast majority of people in Wales rely on cars to go about their daily lives; for example, 83% per cent of Welsh residents rely on such vehicles to get to work. Similar proportions use them to visit friends and families, to shop, or to take their children to school. For such people the slower journey times are not trivial. Long journeys represent lost time at home with the children, with a partner, with friends, or less time out enjoying the things that bring meaning and enjoyment to our lives. In many cases, restrictions will mean that some weekend visits to friends and family will simply no longer happen. At the margins, the restrictions mark the difference between a home being a commutable distance from work or not. In other words, these speed restrictions take away what the car provides: an ability for many rural constituents to maximise the good things in life.

I will turn briefly to the subject of lost opportunity. The Labour Government in Wales have assessed the potential impact of this policy. They concluded that there would be a “substantial” economic disadvantage to car-based communities, with costs to business and households of up to £8.9 billion, and a central estimate of £6.4 billion. The total cost to the public so far has been £34.4 million. If we applied a simple cost-benefit analysis, we would conclude that, for the cost of this policy, we might have employed hundreds of nurses or doctors, or invested in vital transport upgrades that communities across this country are crying out for.

The suspicion across Wales is that this rule was not passed because it represents a good return on investment, or because Labour leaders believe it would improve the lives of Welsh residents. No, I suspect that at the heart of this move is a general disdain for cars, exuded by those who do not have to rely on them for their daily lives. For my rural community, cars are essential. They dramatically expand our choice of where we can live and work. They expand our social spheres, bring us closer to people we love, and save us valuable time for the things that really matter to us. They are indispensable to the economic and social life of Aberconwy communities. At a fundamental level, they also embody an ideal of Conservative politics: empowering the individual.

As has been pointed out throughout this debate, there are appropriate roads on which to restrict car speeds to 20 mph, for reasons of health and safety and the environment. The sweeping restrictions we see creeping into parts of the UK, however, appear to be the vision of a managerial minority without heed to the expanse of the majority. It is for this reason that I, too, must urge a roll-back of these restrictions. I started by commending my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green for his awareness of what people were thinking. This Saturday, two mums from my constituency, Tina and Debbie—the two people, if I might say, least likely to arrange a protest—will be holding a rally of “Conwy against the 20 mph limit”, in Llandudno. I will be there to support them.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Robertson. Where to begin on this particular issue? I am glad that the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) brought it before us, because while in some regard it is a very simple area to deal with, it is also a very complex area. I start from the principle of subsidiarity—namely, that the people best able to make the decision at, for example, a local government level, are the best people to make the decision at a local level: a determination by them of the needs of their community. I completely accept that should be in full consultation, as the right hon. Gentleman mentioned.

I was chair of a highways committee when we started to introduce speed humps, bumps and tables over 25 years ago. That was because there were so many people who were sick to death of their residential areas being used as rat runs. They wanted us, the council, to do something about it, so we started that process. However, this is also part of the wider issue of, for want of a better phrase, speed awareness. Speed bumps, humps and tables are one way that we can start changing the culture of people speeding.

Only in the last few days, one of my local schools, St Oswald’s Church of England Primary School, asked me to be a judge of posters made by children in reception to cut speed; I would like to announce the winner, but I do not think the school has announced it yet. The point is that people do recognise the need to cut speed. The figures are there. Starkly, there are 1,700 deaths and 29,000 serious injuries a year on our roads. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the cost of it, but the cost on the human side is absolutely dreadful. The figures from a Statista report show costs of £3.5 billion a year. Where is that factored into this? That has to be taken into account as well.

On the issue of subsidiarity, Parliament is here to set out a framework for how we operate at local government level, for example. I do not think it is for us to tell local government and local councils what they should be doing. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman is not necessarily saying that. However, it is worth pointing out that we give them the responsibility to do this, and it is also the responsibility of the electors in those areas to hold them to account and challenge them.

I welcome that challenge, as I always did as a member of the local authority, but this also has to be part of the wider traffic issue. For example, I understand that no pavement parking is permitted in London, but it is rife in my constituency. It is dangerous: people park on pavements all the time, blocking them, and obstructing elderly people and women and men with prams and wheelchairs. That is also an issue, and it is part of the whole question of traffic calming. There are issues with people parking on cycle lanes, for goodness’ sake, and blocking them—they do not care about anybody but themselves. That is not acceptable either.

In my view, the issue is all about trying to get people to understand that speed kills, whether in a pedestrian area, on a motorway, on an A road or on a B road. It is important that people understand that. Speed humps, bumps and tables—there are variations on themes—do help to control speed on roads. The evidence is there for that. They do reduce accidents, help to regulate traffic and ensure the safety of pedestrians. They are also relatively easy to construct. We know that speed humps are highly effective and important for avoiding road accidents.

If the Government, of whatever party, want more significant research into the issue, I welcome that. Neither I nor anyone else has anything whatever to fear from a full, unambiguous, substantive review of these proposals. I completely accept that that should be evidence-based and that we should learn from the evidence, but that does not detract from the fact that I do not want to tell people in any other constituency, or any Member in this room, what their local traffic-calming plans should or should not be—this should not be by diktat. Whatever assessment the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting, it cannot be a way for the centre here to tell local authorities what to do—where they can or cannot put speed humps or how far apart those should or should not be. That should be a matter for local determination.

The point I was trying to make was that if local residents have concerns about what is happening to them, their houses and so on, they have no ability to benchmark what the council is determined to do. If we want local decision making—yes, absolutely—that needs to be fair and on the basis of the best evidence available so that councils can understand when these things should be applied for best effect, rather than just making arbitrary decisions based on very old measures that actually did nothing at all. The request today is for better independent inquiry into what works, what does not work and where any measures should be. That would be far better. Councils could then discuss that with their electors.

As I said, I do not disagree with that. I am all for it being evidence-based. There are road bumps outside my house. They do not particularly bother me, I have to say, but that is my view. I do not think they particularly bother my neighbour either. They were introduced before I moved into the house over 25 years ago, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson). It was called the village entry scheme, because people in the village got sick to death of people speeding through at 60 or 70 mph. The price that we as residents pay for that, to some extent, is road humps outside our houses. If that is the way we want to dress this up, that is the consequence. The alternative consequence is people speeding through, which is more dangerous and more disruptive than the speed humps.

That is my personal perspective. It is a perspective as a Member of Parliament, as a councillor and former chair of highways, and as a resident. I want to take this in the round. I welcome the debate introduced by the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green; I just hope that we deal with it in the spirit in which it is intended and, as he said, that we do not politicise it. When we start to politicise things like road humps, speed humps or pelican crossings, there lies—excuse the pun—the road to perdition.

The hon. Gentleman makes some strong points, and subsidiarity is key to this issue. The point is that those road humps are there because of decisions, and those decisions are taken by politicians, so how does he suggest that this is not a political matter?

There is a difference between a political matter and a party political matter. I felt that a bit of party politicking was coming into the debate with talk about the Welsh Government, or this council or the other. I accept that it is a political decision; almost every decision we make is political, but when we make them, we have to balance them in the round.

Without repeating myself, I completely acknowledge what the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green said. But when we get the evidence—and we have been here many times in this place—we do not like it, so we try to ignore it. We ignore facts and we do not like experts. I exhort people: if we have a full, clear, unambiguous, independent examination of this matter, once we get the results and the evidence, in my view, it is for the local communities to have their say as part of the consultation process about when particular traffic-calming measures come into place, and whether they be 20 mph speed limits, 10 mph speed limits or whatever they might be.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) for securing this important debate. He has made some excellent points, particularly on local decision making, which I am also concerned about. I represent a number of villages in Meon Valley that are unsuitable for high-speed traffic. Some are on the A32, which is one of the worst roads in the country for people being killed and injured, but everywhere in our villages the problems of speeding traffic are a menace to the people living, working and going to school.

I was an MP in Portsmouth when it had recently become one of the first cities to introduce 20 mph zones. The evidence very quickly showed a reduction in the number of incidents because the average speed was brought down, and the change made drivers think more carefully about their behaviour. Everywhere that has done the same has seen a similar reduction in casualty figures. I am pleased that Hampshire County Council is now looking at allowing communities and parish councils to ask for 20 mph zones. I have been calling for that for a long time and residents have been asking for help, particularly along the A32. I hope that the council will allow communities to move forward when it takes a decision in January next year.

Hampshire County Council is considering a report mostly based on conditions in Winchester, as my right hon. Friend said, and other largely built-up areas. But in our rural Meon Valley communities, things are very different. Narrow roads pass right outside people’s front doors, and in many places there are narrow or even no pavements, including on the A32. Residents feel vulnerable because of the speed of traffic. Many notice the return to high-speed traffic after covid—if anything, they saw even more of it as people returned to the countryside. As my right hon. Friend mentioned, we have to recognise, too, that the average modern car is much bigger and heavier than those in the past. Pedestrians are feeling the squeeze, and so are cyclists, horse riders and even other motorists who might not feel so confident as the drivers barrelling along a village at above 40 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The hon. Lady will be aware that 60% of all road fatalities happen on rural roads. Would she agree that we must do something about that?

Yes. That is exactly why I am so concerned, particularly about the A32. People have to walk along that road. There is no pavement and cars go very fast through villages. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.

My constituents are delighted that we have recently installed average speed cameras on stretches of the A32 and the A272, which have been abused by speeding drivers for far too long. The cameras will save drivers’ lives and improve the lives of residents in the surrounding villages. They have already told me what a difference those have made.

Cutting speed saves lives. I welcome the support of the Hampshire police and crime commissioner, Donna Jones. She backed the calls that I and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds) have made to her to fund the cameras. I will continue to support my constituents across Meon Valley who want safer roads and safer lives for their families, so I hope that Hampshire County Council will let us have the choice of having 20 mph zones in those areas where residents want them.

I also hope that Ministers will look at what the Government can do to empower people to take control of roads in their communities, including through the use of acoustic cameras and properly enforceable noise limits on motor vehicles. This has been a blight on many communities, and I hope that the pilot schemes will soon show that they work and we can roll them out across the country, but especially in Meon Valley.

It is an honour to serve under your chairship, Mr Robertson. I agree with several right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in this debate: traffic cameras and speed limits should not be applied in a blanket fashion. I am a liberal partly because I believe in individual responsibility and partly because I believe that the state should not have overweening power and should not dictate what every single person must do.

I am grateful for the invitation. I think back to the new liberals at the beginning of the 20th century, who were very proud of the notion of the independence of the individual. However, they also recognised that there were times when the state does have to intervene to protect citizens. I want to talk about that sort of notion.

I would like to start with an anecdote. Ken Cooper lived in Newton Poppleford. During the Christmas period of 2020, he tried crossing a dark road; imagine a dark Devon rural road where the speed limit is 30 mph. He was walking across, in admittedly dark clothing. A car came along doing no more than 30 mph, and it killed him. It killed him on 23 December, which made for an absolutely tragic Christmas period for his family. If the traffic on that road had been travelling at 20 mph, he might have survived. His local councillor, Councillor Chris Burhop, pointed out to me last week that a collision with a pedestrian that occurs at 30 mph has a 47% likelihood of fatality or severe injury, but a collision that occurs at 20 mph has a 17% likelihood of fatality or severe injury.

That is just one illustrative example, but there are many others in my constituency. Since 2019, there have been 971 collisions in my constituency in which someone was hurt, including 246 this year alone. As a result, 12 people have lost their lives and 168 were seriously injured.

I did not anticipate this being an issue that was agitating many of my constituents until I went on a summer tour of village and town halls. I spoke to lots of residents and was struck by just how many villagers independently raised the matter with me. I represent a part of rural Devon where the towns and villages are on the coast or nestled in among the green countryside. Members will appreciate that Devon has one of the largest road networks in the country, and we use our cars every day to get around. It is false to distinguish between the interests of pedestrians and those of car drivers, or between those of cyclists and those of van drivers. We are one and the same—we use all modes of transport. As we do not tend to have facilities on our doorstep, we might drive to the supermarket rather than be able to walk to a local shop. If we commute, there probably will not be a bus for us, so we have to drive. Getting to school also often requires the use of a car. I do not like the idea that this is somehow a wedge issue where we pit urban pedestrians against rural car drivers, as it is just not that simple.

Obviously, on subsidiarity, local authorities should be trusted to rule on this issue. Clearly, local government is far better suited than national Government to weigh in, provided it has the resources to do so. Let me illustrate the point by referring to Devon County Council. In May, it announced that there would be six new 20 mph zones across the county, but 105 parishes applied to have a zone. It was reckoned that it would take £25,000 to introduce a zone—a change of speed limit—and Devon County Council could afford only six. When I went on my village hall tour, I spoke to villagers in Wilmington and Kilmington who have tried to cross the A35 and have found it next to impossible even just to get a bus on the other side of the road. These people are not typical agitators or rebellious people, but they are really cross about this. I had to get out to the villages and go to those village hall meetings to see the issue for myself.

What solutions are available? The one currently offered to residents in my part of Devon is Community Speedwatch. Although it is helpful to have local residents trying to enforce the speed limits that exist at the moment, that is sometimes just not enough. I have been out there with the Community Speedwatch group in Dulford, pointing speed cameras while receiving gestures from passing car drivers or van drivers who are perhaps pushing 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. This is partly about enforcement, but it is also partly about having a lower limit, because if someone is going to exceed a 30 mph limit, they might push it to 38 mph or 40 mph, but if they are going to exceed the limit in a 20 mph zone, that is more likely to result in their pushing it out to 26 mph or 28 mph. As we have heard, the survival chances improve markedly for every 1 mph reduction. Of course, we would like more enforcement of the zones we already have, such as the one at Dunkeswell, where residents do not feel the 20 mph zone is enforced by the police enough. However, the sheer existence of the zone means that people are driving less fast through that village, so if collisions happen, lives will have been saved.

I ask Members to note that I have deliberately not used the term “accident” in this debate, as there is no such thing. These things do not happen by sheer happenstance. This is about mistakes made, mostly by those involved in the collision—often, not by the pedestrian —but we also have a part to play in this process. It will not be an accident if we can intervene and give county councils like Devon the resources that they require to have proper speed limits in place.

To give another couple of examples, I went to the village halls in Colyford and Chardstock. I am proud that there are people in those villages who have a sense of civic duty such that they want to get involved in making their communities safer and more liveable.

To finish on a more optimistic note, last month, I joined the headteacher of Honiton Primary School at the school after he had spoken to his pupils and invited them, as a council, to come up with ideas for what they might like to do—their school council was allowed to put forward ideas. One bright youngster called Eleanor said that a speed hump ought to be put in outside the school. It was therefore a privilege to lobby the local council to introduce the speed hump and to join Eleanor and the headteacher at its opening. The speed hump will make a real difference to children and families at drop-off time at Honiton Primary School.

I thank the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) for securing this debate. I am grateful to have been able to present the views of the people I represent in Devon.

This has been a very interesting debate, not least because we have heard a variety of opinions about the different approaches in different parts of the United Kingdom. Those demonstrate the vital importance of local decision making to reflect the different needs in different parts of the country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd), as he confessed, is a constituent of mine. He has speed bumps outside his house, in one of the villages in my constituency, but he made a point about his constituency, which is urban. Over the years—this also happens in the more urbanised parts of my constituency—people have used urban and suburban roads as rat runs and, in some cases, racetracks. For many people in residential areas where such things happen, it is entirely appropriate that road safety measures are introduced, and I am sure that nobody here today would disagree with that statement. He also made the point about there being 1,700 deaths a year and that thousands more people are seriously injured.

I spoke at length about the situation in Wales. The hon. Gentleman talks about statistics and the impact of these measures. Does he agree with what the Labour Government in Wales have done with their blanket imposition of the presumption of a 20 mph limit?

The hon. Gentleman will know that compared with the Welsh Government’s approach, our approach in England as the Opposition—I will come to this in more detail—is to allow, enable and support local decision making and subsidiarity. Actually, that is also true in Wales, where local authorities can reinstate 30 mph zones, and my understanding is that that is happening. So the situation is not quite as simple as it has sometimes been portrayed in the media, as he well knows. However, it is for Parliament to set the framework that my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle discussed, and it is not for Parliament to tell local authorities what to do.

I thought that the hon. Member for Meon Valley (Mrs Drummond) made a very important case for local decision making, with her description of the rural roads and the A32 in her constituency. In contrast, I think the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Richard Foord) managed to mention every single village in his constituency during his speech. I cannot imagine why he might have done that, but I am sure that there is a very good reason. Nevertheless, he powerfully made the point about the difference in the likely outcome if somebody is hit by a vehicle travelling at 20 mph as opposed to one travelling at 30 mph. The likelihood of someone dying is five times greater if they are hit at 30 mph than if they are hit at 20 mph. He touched on the point that drivers are also pedestrians, and sometimes cyclists and bus passengers, too. This is not a straightforward situation.

Our approach as a Labour Opposition and, hopefully, as an incoming Government is that it is for local communities to decide where 20 mph zones are implemented. I agree that local authorities and the people in their areas are best placed to know what works and what does not. It should not be the job of officials or Ministers in Whitehall to meddle.

It is disappointing that the Government seem determined to undermine democratically elected representatives and their communities. That is the reading of what they set out in October 2023 in their proposals, which included phrases such as taking steps “to stop councils”. The removal of local authorities’ access to DVLA data, vital for enforcement through the use of cameras, is among measures that undermine and intervene in an unhealthy and divisive way.

The irony of what the Government set out in their proposals, as the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) said in his opening speech, is that it was a Conservative Government in the late 1980s and early 1990s who first gave local authorities the power to implement road safety measures, because they knew that people wanted to protect schools and some residential streets.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way; I do not wish to hold him up for any length of time. We have heard this quite a lot so far, and people have talked glibly about road humps not being or being a problem, but there is a massive difference in what we mean by road humps. The scale is enormous. In some areas, they literally just remind drivers of the speed limit and there is a slight movement in the car. In other areas that I referred to, such as outside residential homes, there are significantly high humps and they are implemented without any regard for what actually works or does not work. When traffic hits them, it causes all sorts of problems. That is the point that I am making: yes, local authorities have to decide, but they need to do so based on what works and what does not work. Right now, they can do almost anything they wish, and residents have no say in that.

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention. He called for a review, and I gently say to him that I hope he is also calling for a review of the state of road repairs. The bumps in the road from the excess number of potholes are also creating the kind of problems that he mentioned earlier. There is also an argument for a change in the design of buses, and the introduction of buses that can cope with whatever modern roads have, including physical road safety measures.

The role of the Westminster Government should be to support sensible decisions to boost active travel, reduce congestion and improve communities. That is the Labour view of where we should go on this issue. In Government, we would leave decisions on over 20 mph zones with locally elected leaders.

What do people think about the road safety measures that are in place? Let us look at a report that the Government published, which shows strong support for the 20 mph limits that have been introduced. A Government study found that 75% of residents and 67% of non-resident drivers found the speed limits that have been introduced appropriate. Even certain Ministers seem to recognise that these decisions are best made locally. The Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie), said recently:

“Where there is local opposition to 20 mph low emission zones, then the Government has a duty to look and see what we can do to support those local communities…but to begin with, absolutely, it’s the local authorities to determine where a 20 mph zone should be placed.”

The Minister without Portfolio, the hon. Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden), was Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for roads and local transport until a few weeks ago. He said in November last year:

“The Department has no remit to intervene in matters of local democratic decision making. Decisions on what traffic management measures to provide, including low traffic neighbourhoods such as the one that my hon. Friend talked about in Latchford—specifically in Westy—are entirely a matter for local authorities such as Warrington to make.”—[Official Report, 14 November 2022; Vol. 722, c. 492-493.]

That would have the support of the hon. Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), judging by the answer that that Minister gave at the time.

What of the Prime Minister? Even he admitted that councils will still be able to implement 20 mph limits, as long as they have consent from local residents. This really is a non-debate, as 20 mph zones have already been introduced, with local support, by local councils. The Government admit that the people who are best placed to make decisions on these traffic restrictions are local authorities, so let us take a look at some local authorities.

One council that has taken the Prime Minister at his word is Cornwall, which is controlled by the Conservative party. Cornwall Council is investing £3.8 million on a county-wide roll-out of 20 mph speed limits in built-up areas; it says that that will make roads safer for everyone. Where else is that enforced? In Conservative-controlled Kensington and Chelsea and in Conservative-controlled Scottish Borders. It is really no wonder that those Conservative councils have introduced 20 mph zones, given the guidance from the Department for Transport, which states that traffic authorities should

“consider the introduction of more 20 mph limits and zones, over time, in urban areas and built-up village streets that are primarily residential.”

Let us call out these announcements from the Government for what they are: meaningless political posturing without any substance to back them up.

Instead of being distracted by divisive posturing from the Government, we should look at the real issues that drivers face up and down the country. The cost of car ownership soared by 34% between 2018 and 2022. Car insurance costs have gone up by 58% in a year. Our roads have been left in a sorry state, with a one-time cost to the pothole backlog climbing to an eye-watering £14 billion. The charging infrastructure roll-out for electric vehicles is still years off track. Ordinary families will be left to pay thousands of pounds in hire costs due to the Prime Minister’s delay to the new petrol and diesel car phase-out, which, in turn, will result in fewer cheap-to-run electric vehicles reaching the second-hand market in the coming years. Meanwhile, data from Tusker shows that servicing an EV is 65% cheaper than servicing a diesel car and 37% cheaper than servicing a petrol car. And long-term plans to create more road space and reduce congestion by moving freight from road to rail have been cut by this Government, with the scrapping of the northern leg of High Speed 2.

The next Labour Government will support drivers, regardless of what type of vehicle they drive, by acting on their real priorities, such as cost of living pressures that they face each and every day. On 10 October, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) announced Labour’s plan to support drivers, which will save drivers hundreds of pounds by cracking down on unfair car insurance costs; reduce traffic on our roads by providing better public transport options; remove planning barriers to ensure that upgrades to our transport infrastructure are actually delivered; accelerate the charge point roll-out to give drivers confidence, no matter what type of vehicle they drive—

I am very glad that the Minister asked me that, because I am about to make exactly that point. Combined, those changes would save drivers hundreds of pounds a year in lower insurance costs and cut journey times by reducing traffic on our roads. What a contrast that is with what the Conservative party offered at its conference, where, instead of taking steps to support drivers through the cost of living crisis, the Prime Minister was reduced to parroting bizarre conspiracy theories about so-called 15-minute cities. It is increasingly clear that he has nothing left in the tank. With the Conservative party becoming more and more detached from reality, it is clear that only Labour can be trusted to focus on the real concerns of drivers.

Order. I have to bring the hon. Gentleman back to the debate, which is on road humps and 20 mph speed limits. I hope to bring in the Minister in a minute.

I am grateful for that, Mr Robertson. This is my final paragraph.

Labour’s credible plan means taking action on car insurance costs, removing barriers to transport infrastructure improvements being delivered, reducing the traffic that is clogging up our roads—which is what this debate is all about—and boosting the charge point roll-out. That is a plan for drivers, and it is a plan of action that will change driving for the better.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) on securing the debate and all colleagues on a constructive, positive and engaging cross-party debate. Politics aside, that was sadly missed in a speech in which 95% was written by a very enthusiastic staffer and about 5% was on the subject matter of the debate.

I will come to the hon. Gentleman in a second, but I want to start with a few key points.

Clearly, road safety is a priority for us all. It is a priority for Government, Opposition, all political parties and all local authorities. Clearly, all road deaths are tragedies for all affected, and injuries can cause suffering, economic loss and life-changing misfortune. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green was entirely right to mention the individual circumstances of his local constituents, whether that was Mr and Mrs Thorne, Mr Gilbert, Mrs Gauld, Mr Mckinley or Mr Thackeray. Their upsets and concerns are legitimately raised and rightly brought forward, as are those of the constituents of other Members.

I should declare that 23 years ago, a young, much thinner barrister was asked to do a rather important case in the Court of Appeal: the case of Marina Vine v. London Borough of Waltham Forest. I was the retained counsel—that thinner barrister—on behalf of the Automobile Association. I was lucky enough to change the law in respect of wheel clamping and the actions of individuals, particularly in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which was the test case of the time that subsequently changed the law in this country. This debate therefore brought back great memories of individual people facing problems from local councils that had not necessarily undertaken the right degree of consultation, because in that case, the lovely Mrs Marina Vine, who had had to stop because she was recovering from a cancer operation, was unfairly clamped.

I was also a criminal prosecutor who prosecuted many death by dangerous driving cases, and I fully understand the consequences of all aspects of road safety in difficult circumstances. Like other constituency Members, I have residents who would be very upset if I did not mention their concerns about speeding in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Henshaw and other places. My first campaign as a candidate, let alone as the Member of Parliament, was to bring in a 20 mph zone outside Queen Elizabeth High School, whose students I welcomed from Hexham today.

I think we all agree that 20 mph zones, particularly in the right place, at the right time and with the right consultation, are a good thing. The obvious example, which we can all get behind, is near schools. I do not think a single Member or council struggles to bring in such changes, which are surely a fantastically good thing, but the key issue is having the right restrictions in the right place and at the right time.

Let me set out the national picture and the local picture in a little detail, before coming to the individual points raised. Clearly, central Government’s role is to set the enabling legislative framework, set national policy objectives, provide good practice guidance—I will come to that point in a second—and then provide funding. Central Government have no remit to intervene in the day-to-day running of local roads. Local traffic authorities are responsible for managing roads and traffic in their areas. They have a high degree of autonomy in how they do so, with powers granted to them through enabling legislation, but legislation also places a duty on them to manage roads safely and efficiently for the benefit of all their communities, whether that means local residents, drivers, or people cycling and walking.

I think it is accepted that traffic calming measures, including road humps, can play an important role in improving road safety. They must meet the requirements in the Highways (Road Humps) Regulations 1999, which set out minimum and maximum dimensions. There are also requirements for signing and lighting. There are statutory requirements for local authorities to consult on proposals for new road humps. It is for local authorities to ensure that any measures they install comply with legislation and that due process is followed.

There is no specific requirement for a minimum distance to be maintained between road humps and private dwellings. However, during the development of the road hump designs, the Transport Research Laboratory carried out some research into road humps and vibration. That looked at the vibration generated by traffic travelling over humps and led to advice on predicted minimum distances between road humps and dwellings in order to avoid the possibility of vibration exposure. This is reflected in the guidance in “Local Transport Note 1/07”.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green made a very fair and compelling point. I am certainly going to ask the Department for Transport—working with the Transport Research Laboratory—to do a fresh review and further research, given that it is patently obvious that the evidence basis on this is decades old and the world has moved on considerably. That does not predetermine anything in any particular way, but at the same time, what is surely self-evident from this debate is that we need a more updated attempt to understand the situation. I entirely accept my right hon. Friend’s point that—without being too trite about it—there are road humps and there are road humps, and local communities are affected in different ways.

If ever we needed an example of where local consent is key, then, with great respect, the example in Wales is fantastic. That started as a positive attempt to influence certain things, but it cannot be a good situation when approximately one in three or one in four of the population are rising up to oppose a particular change. That would imply to anyone—and to all of us who have held elected office at a local level—that the pitch has not been rolled and consent has not been established.

The hon. Member for Bootle (Peter Dowd)—he knows, to his regret, that he is a friend of mine—has great experience, and not only as a local councillor with regard to highways. If we do not have local consent for the changes we are bringing in, whether that is through the entirety of Wales or in a local community or street, we will always struggle with acceptance and democratic accountability. The issue will become a political football, which is not what we want. Surely we want to avoid that.

I endorse the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar) that there must be proper consultation and subsequent enforcement if an individual or council is going to introduce these changes. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) used his amazing abilities to bring Northern Ireland matters into this debate. I can tell the House that I have visited Newtownards not once, but twice, and have experienced the speed bumps he referred to in his speech. Notwithstanding the fact that I have no influence or ability whatever to change them, his point is fairly made and stands on the record. As always, it is a joy to have him in these debates.

Much of what the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) said did not have to do with this debate. He raised the issue of road repairs; £8.3 billion has been given to local authorities for that. That is a record sum, over and above the previous sum for road repairs and potholes, and I sincerely hope local authorities will be held to account for its use. The hon. Member mentioned many different MPs, and I sincerely hope he gave notice to them. He certainly did not give notice to my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (Andy Carter), my Parliamentary Private Secretary, who has asked me to point out that the low-traffic neighbourhood in the Westy area of Latchford has since been removed by Labour-run Warrington Borough Council. It was not supported locally, nor was it supported by my hon. Friend, because it increased congestion and emissions. Again, my hon. Friend was not given notice.

The situation in respect of—

On a point of order, Mr Robertson. I seek your guidance. I have been accused of something by the Minister and not been given a chance to respond. How might I go about setting the record straight?

Moving on, in respect of the situation in Wales, the hon. Member for Sefton Central appeared to say, “We do not endorse the approach in Wales”, but paused at the end of that.

I will make a couple of final points. My hon. Friend the Member for Meon Valley (Mrs Drummond) is right to make the case for campaigns for cameras. I say with great respect, as the Minister for drivers, for walking and cycling, and for road safety, that it is not just a question of road humps or speeding drivers. There are cameras and other ways to slow traffic down. I endorse my hon. Friend’s approach. There has to be an alternative way forward, working with the police to ensure that we look at this properly. I will take on board her point about acoustic cameras and will do some more research.

On enforcement, the Department for Transport’s guidance is clear about what factors should be considered by local authorities when setting speed limits, including consultation with the police and that the limits set should be capable of being enforced. That is crucial. If changes are to be imposed, whether it is national in Wales or super-local on Acacia Avenue, there has to be consultation, and the police should be capable of taking action against drivers who break the speed limit.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green for securing the debate, which colleagues have addressed constructively. We understand and appreciate that there is a problem. I promise that the Department for Transport will look at it and review the situation. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on conveying his constituents’ concerns in a typically doughty way.

I genuinely appreciate the tone in which this debate has been conducted. Everybody has their own view about their local area and wide variations have been exposed. Speed is a very big issue for the residents of rural constituencies with small villages on major roads. I am astonished by how often motorists do not realise that once they enter an area that has lighting, they are automatically, without signage, restricted to 30 mph. They think that there is no speed limit, but there is. Therein lies the issue.

I do not want decisions to be taken away from local authorities. On the contrary: I want local authorities to make decisions, but they should make them on the basis of a proper consultation and an understanding of what residents want and need. They should not impose measures on the basis that they know better. I think that was the tone of the debate.

We have had a good debate. I want to come back to the issue of road humps. We talk about road humps as though there were a national standard, but they can be any height. The question is: are they there to remind motorists that there is a speed restriction and they should therefore watch their speed, or are they there in some cases as a kind of punishment for motorists being in their cars in the first place as they wallop into these things that are very steep and very high? That is the issue that I really wanted to raise today. I think that in my area, they are a punishment to drivers. They do not really warn them; they just make it a nightmare to drive a car, or to ride a bicycle or a motorbike.

I thank the Minister for saying that he will ask the Department to look at the standards, and at what works and what does not. That will help councils in their consultations so that they can make decisions in the best interests of local people. That is good government, and it will enable councils to have good local government. At the moment, there is so little evidence about the effectiveness of road humps, which are often put there rather lazily instead of having other measures. I find the signs that remind us of our speed to be often far more effective than anything else because most motorists, as I think was pointed out earlier, are pedestrians as well as drivers. The speed sign shocks motorists into lowering their speed, because they suddenly realise that they are over the limit. They react positively to that sort of thing. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister, who will now look at this matter, and I think my constituents will thank him as well.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered road humps and 20 mph speed limits.