Skip to main content

Roads: Speed Cameras

Volume 693: debated on Monday 2 July 2007

My Lords, with deepest shame, I confess that I have an interest in this matter. I have been caught by these cameras on a couple of occasions and have several points upon my licence.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

How much revenue was raised by speed cameras on major roads in the United Kingdom during the last convenient 12-month period; and for what purpose those funds were used.

My Lords, fine receipts in the financial year 2005-06 for the 38 safety camera partnerships operating in the national safety camera programme for England and Wales apparently totalled £114,625,360. Under the then netting-off funding arrangements, safety camera partnerships reclaimed £99,542,900 in expenditure, which was directly attributed to the prevention, detection and enforcement of offences. The surplus of £15,082,460 was returned to the Consolidated Fund.

My Lords, I am greatly obliged to the noble Lord for that reply. What contribution does that have to the maintenance of road safety? Is this money usefully spent in that regard, or is it better going back to the Consolidated Fund as he described?

My Lords, the sole purpose of speed cameras is casualty reduction. Cameras are not cash-driven. The impact of cameras is clear. The national safety camera programme evaluation report, based on four years’ experience and published in December 2005, found a 42 per cent reduction in people killed or seriously injured at camera sites across the 38 partnership areas. That means about 1,745 fewer people killed or seriously injured per annum, including 100 fewer deaths. The value of the cameras is self-evident from those data.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the main concern lies not with the use of speed cameras, with which I agree, but in the reduction in recent years in the number of officers in traffic divisions across the United Kingdom, as recently reported in the press? This results not only in a diminution of the discretion available in the prosecution of speeding offences, but in the fact that rank bad drivers, who daily do things like tailgating, dangerous overtaking and driving while holding a mobile phone, are not dealt with. Would he pass on to the chief officers of police the anxiety in this country on the matter? As the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, did, I declare an interest in this matter—on the other side of the fence, being a retired magistrate.

My Lords, one has to look at this conundrum in the round: enforcement cameras are only one of the tools available for enforcement. We—the Government—are clear that dedicated traffic officers and technology both have a vital part to play in reducing excessive speeds. There can be no doubt—the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, gave full voice to this—that speed cameras are effective. They operate as a continuous deterrent, freeing up police time for other duties, including, in particular, dealing with the precise problems that the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, referred to. I share the noble Viscount’s concerns about tailgating and so on. However, more people are being monitored for speeding. The approach is very effective and is clearly reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads, particularly among the most vulnerable—young people.

My Lords, I hope that the Minister will allow me to repeat the figures from Thames Valley, which are much more up to date than his. They show that 60 per cent of the money collected goes to the police to run the system, 30 per cent goes to road safety and 10 per cent goes to the courts; virtually nothing is left over for the Consolidated Fund. Does he agree that a lot of the publicity generated in this regard comes from people who do not like speed cameras, to whom the simple answer is, “Don’t speed”?

My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord: the cameras are highly effective—they are doing their job—and that is why people do not like them.

My Lords, my noble friend said that there had been a 42 per cent reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured over four years. Is that not an argument for having many more speed cameras so that that reduction continues?

My Lords, it is obviously up to the partnership areas to determine whether they feel that it is appropriate to have additional speed cameras, which are a very effective tool. Partnership areas simply make the case; if they put the cameras in place and they are effective where there are particular problems, we should all be pleased.

My Lords, why is it that the Minister has a national figure and the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has a figure for the Thames partnership, but when the then Road Safety Bill was debated we were told that no local cameras could be identified individually? The local press in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire—I have never had a ticket there, so I am not declaring an interest—was told that, under the Freedom of Information Act, it is not entitled to information about the income generated from a camera. That camera does not satisfy local people—they consider that its positioning is not to do with road safety.

My Lords, my guess is—I do not know for sure—that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, gets his information via his local authority and police authority. I see locally produced data; it is beneficial to have them published locally because they help to crank up the deterrent effect.