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House of Lords Hansard
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Motoring Offences Review
07 July 2016
Volume 773

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government why their review of motoring offences and penalties announced two years ago has not started.

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My Lords, the review of offences and penalties relating to driving is taking place within consideration of a wider sentencing framework. We intend to commence a public consultation before the end of the year.

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I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I remind him, if he does not know already, that in May 2014—that is over two years ago—the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, announced,

“a full review of all driving offences and penalties … over the next few months … expected to be implemented in early 2015”.

Twenty-five months later—stretching the definition of a “few months” a little bit—the Minister says that the review has started, but when will there be public consultation, for how long and when will the Government publish something that we can read? I know that we have a caretaker Government at the moment but, unless they were going to use European legislation, this kind of thing could go on.

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The noble Lord makes a fair point about the delay. We do, however, intend to move to a public consultation before the end of the year, with a view to bringing forward any legislative changes that are necessary later in this Session.

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My Lords, two years ago the Justice Secretary said that this review was necessary in order to make our roads safer. Is that still the purpose of the review, and will it apply to careless drivers as much as to other road users?

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This is a difficult area. The distinction between careless driving and dangerous driving, although long established, does not please everybody. There are always difficult balances between assessing the culpability of driving and the effect of driving. Relatively minor episodes of careless driving can cause serious injury; very dangerous driving can sometimes not cause much in the way of harm. It is a difficult matter. It is also important to establish some proper correlation between the sentencing for driving offences and sentences, say, for dishonesty or assault cases and that sort of thing. It is a difficult matter, but we are proceeding.

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My Lords, has the abolition of the requirement to display a tax disc made enforcement of motoring offences more difficult? Have the Government made any assessment of the loss of revenue as a result of that change?

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I am not aware of any assessment of the loss of revenue. I will certainly write to the noble Lord if such information is available. But it is of course perfectly possible to trace by the individual registration number, through computers, exactly who has the car and who should have the car.

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My Lords, will the Minister tell us whether the concept of the driver’s duty of care towards vulnerable road users will also be included in the consultation?

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The question of vulnerable road users—cyclists, pedestrians and the like—is something that courts should and do take into consideration when sentencing anyway, but it is a matter on which consultation will evoke appropriate responses. The noble Baroness makes an important point.

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My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister look particularly in this review at the prosecution of those who park in the so-called boxes for advance stop lines for cyclists? As a cyclist, I find that the lines are ignored extremely often and I do not think that there have been any prosecutions at all.

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I am not aware of any prosecutions. My noble friend makes an important point. Safety for cyclists is a priority for the Government, and we have been investing a considerable amount in this. The plan is to invest £300 million in cycling and walking over the next five years, including £100 million from the Highways Agency to improve the existing infrastructure for cyclists on the strategic roads network.

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My Lords, will my noble friend agree to include cycling offences among motoring offences? Will he review the penalties for cyclists using pavements? Why are they not being apprehended and brought to justice?

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I am sure that a number of noble Lords will be sympathetic with that observation, and I agree with my noble friend. The answer is that the consultation will provide the basis of the review that we have carried out and it will invite all sorts of observations which will be most valuable.

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My Lords, Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 covers the civil enforcement of moving traffic offences, but the Government have never introduced the necessary secondary legislation. London and Welsh local authorities already have these powers, and they find them very effective at reducing congestion and enabling buses to run smoothly. Can the Minister explain why the Government are so unwilling to give local authorities the powers they need to do the job and whether they have any plans to do so in the future?

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I am afraid that I do not have an instant answer to the question put by the noble Baroness, but I will look into the matter and write to her about it.

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My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Road Safety Foundation. It is all very well having clearly defined offences and sentences, but all of them have to be enforced. In that context, will the noble Lord dissociate the Government from the populist demand for switching off and removing speed cameras, which have actually contributed substantially to improved driver behaviour and to saving lives?

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The noble Lord makes an important point, because enforcement is critical; simply having an offence and a penalty is not enough. Of course, these issues are for local authorities with budget restraints, but nevertheless the point is an important one.

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My Lords, what is the position of two cyclists who crash into each other head-on in a cycle lane, as happened in London on Monday?

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Not a happy position is probably the case, I think. Of course there are all sorts of potential offences that they may or may not have committed, depending on the facts of the case, and no doubt they might even consider some kind of civil action, depending on the conduct of the respective cyclists.

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My Lords, am I right that road deaths have been falling pretty steadily over the past few years, and will this be taken into account in the review?

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My noble friend is quite right that road deaths have been falling very considerably, although interestingly whiplash injuries are increasing, notwithstanding not only the decline in road deaths but the decline in all forms of accidents in cars. I am glad to say also that the number of cyclists who have been killed or injured has also decreased. However, we are always conscious of the importance of preserving safety, and of course we will take the statistics into account.