To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on road safety of the increase introduced at the end of 2016 in the number of penalty points imposed under a fixed-penalty notice issued for drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone or other similar device while driving.
My Lords, Britain has some of the safest roads in the world, but we are determined to do more to reduce casualty figures. Since the increased penalties were introduced in March 2017, over 15,000 drivers have been fined and issued with six penalty points. However, it is too soon to assess what impact the change is having on road safety. We are conducting a roadside observational survey on usage of mobile phones and expect the results in the new year.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend the Minister to her debut at the Dispatch Box in her new role. Will she join me in congratulating Thames Valley Police on the work it has done in seeking to change driver behaviour and make driving while using handheld mobile devices socially unacceptable? A video it recently produced has been requested by companies across the UK to help raise awareness of the dangers. This Thames Valley Police campaign won a national safety award in June. Anecdotally, it says the message is starting to creep through. What assurances can my noble friend give the House and all police authorities throughout the UK that the Government will do what they can to assist in the campaign to make this dangerous behaviour socially unacceptable?
I join my noble friend in commending the Thames Valley Police for the work it is doing raising awareness of this issue. I have seen the video she mentions, which features the families of the tragic victims of the A34 crash. As well as tougher sanctions, we have been running a dedicated national THINK! campaign since March to highlight the dangers of using a mobile phone. One of the highlights of this campaign was a new film launched last month to target young drivers, which has been a great success on social media, with more than 3 million views on Facebook alone.
As a former member of the Thames Valley Police Authority and someone who specialised in road safety, I endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, just said, but regulations on parking are ignored throughout the area. Some very dangerous parking is taking place in town centres. Does this not indicate a lack of respect for the law? What are the Government doing about it?
My Lords, I agree that everyone who uses highways has a responsibility to behave safely. A number of offences can cover cycling behaviour, such as fixed penalty notices, or officers can report the road user for prosecution. The Government announced last month their cycle safety review, which will involve a consultation on these issues. We are working with stakeholders for their input and we will publish fuller terms of reference next year.
My Lords, statistics show that young people aged between 17 and 29 are more likely to use mobile phones and other hand-held devices. What are the Government doing to take action against this, especially relating to further education for that group?
My noble friend is right to highlight the important issue of addressing young drivers. Around 20% of new drivers will have a crash within the first six months of passing their test, so any novice driver caught using a mobile phone while driving in their first two years will have their licence revoked. We have announced changes to the practical driving test that will come into force in December. I mentioned the THINK! campaign, which targets young drivers. We have also produced a provisional licence mailing insert, which is estimated to reach nearly 1.7 million new drivers annually.
The Home Secretary recently told police and crime commissioners to stop pointing out the pressing need for more money for our underresourced police and instead concentrate on those who are breaking the law. That outburst was clearly an admission by the Government that they will let down the police yet again in the forthcoming Budget by not providing the resources that PCCs and the police need to do their job. What representations, if any, have Transport Ministers made to the Treasury that on increasing numbers of occasions road traffic offences—including vehicle theft and using hand-held mobile phones while driving—cannot even be pursued by the police, let alone see perpetrators brought to justice, due to the continuing squeeze on police budgets and continuing reductions in the number of police officers? Can I take it that the Department for Transport, despite the recent publicly expressed concerns of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, has remained utterly silent on the issue of inadequate police resources?
My Lords, we are very sensitive to the pressures which police face. We recognised the importance of wider police spending in the 2015 spending review, which protected overall police spending in real terms. It is of course up to police and crime commissioners and chief constables of each police force to decide how they deploy resources. As my noble friend Lady Pidding highlighted, as well as working closely with the police to support enforcement action, police forces across the country are doing valuable work in the campaign to reduce hand-held mobile use and we should commend them.
My Lords, is there not a problem with traceability when it comes to issuing cyclists with fixed penalty notices? There is no obvious sign, as there is with a car and its registration plate. Cyclists can give a Mickey Mouse name and address. What is the effect of the fixed penalty notice in this case?
On cycling, as I mentioned earlier, there are a number of measures which officers can use, including verbal warnings and fixed penalty notices. However, I acknowledge that there is a problem with traceability. That is something that the cycle safety review, which we will publish next year, will address.
My Lords, will the Minister join me in condemning local Conservative associations such as Kensington and Chelsea, which has written to ask me to sign a petition condemning the attempt of the police authority to live within its budget by reducing a service to local people? Does she agree that such dishonesty is giving politics a bad name?
No, I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Baroness. Obviously I will look into the case to which she refers, but I know that Kensington and Chelsea and all local authorities work closely with the police to ensure that they are able to deliver the services which we require.