The Government are not setting national targets and are not considering reinstating them. We do not believe that targets will provide further persuasion on the importance of road safety; it is already at the heart of departmental thinking.
Is the Minister aware that between September 2015 and September 2016 there was a 2% increase in deaths on roads, and a 6% increase in casualties? The rate of casualties in my constituency of Blackburn is 49% higher than the national average and, shockingly, child casualties are 102% higher than the national average rate. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of dedicated road traffic police officers in England and Wales, outside the Met, has fallen by over a quarter from 5,338 to 3,901. Does the Minister see a direct link between reduced capacity to enforce road laws and the annual increases in road deaths and serious casualties?
I have obviously considered this matter. I look at road safety data on a quarterly basis and an annual basis. On enforcement, how the police use their resource is a matter for individual police authorities and police and crime commissioners, but as Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has made clear, there is no simple link between officer numbers and crime levels. The key is the output achieved, rather than simply measuring how many. It is important to point out that in 2015 we had the second lowest road safety data for those killed or seriously injured in British road history. That is positive and we are working to make our roads even safer.
Cyclists in Stroud—and for that matter in Sefton—are crying out for more road safety measures to ensure they can go around roundabouts and across junctions in safety. Will the Minister take that into account in national transport planning?
Most certainly. I am acutely aware of the impact of cycling infrastructure on road safety. It is clearly part of our consideration. We hoped to launch our cycling and walking investment strategy last week, but for very obvious reasons there was a change to the timetable of Government announcements.
Following on from that question, what plans does the Minister have to address the issue of cyclists ignoring not only traffic lights but pedestrian crossings? This has now become a major problem in central London.
That comes down to activity undertaken to enforce the rules and to educating cyclists about the importance of following road safety directions. I am aware of cyclists who go through red lights. It is unsafe. It is part of our THINK! education campaign to help cyclists to know what is good behaviour on our roads.
Two people died in November on the A52 in Bramcote, a suburban part of my constituency. There was another accident just a few weeks ago. In both of those cases, and after many complaints from residents for many years, there is clearly a real problem with people racing at very high speeds. Would the Minister be so good as to meet my constituent Tony Smith, who organised a petition, presented in this place only last month, of 1,600 people calling on Highways England to introduce speed regulation measures? We would be very grateful for that meeting in order to advance the campaign.
I meet local road safety campaigners on a regular basis, in particular families who have lost loved ones in incidents on our roads. They are difficult meetings, but I would of course be very happy to meet my right hon. Friend and her constituent.
National road safety targets were introduced by the Thatcher Government in 1980 at a time when deaths and serious injuries on our roads were at horrendous levels. The numbers fell consistently until 2011, when the coalition Government abolished targets almost at the same time as they abolished the grant for speed cameras. Surprisingly, the numbers have started to increase. I accept that we are nowhere near the levels of 1980, but if it is your loved one or your child, that is matterless. The last time the Minister was asked about this he said that he was open to any useful ideas on how to turn the trend, so is it not time to accept that road safety targets decrease the numbers of deaths and injuries on our roads? They worked, and at the moment nothing the Government seem to be doing is reversing that trend.
I simply do not accept that policymaking is as simple as setting targets. If we look at all the action the Government are undertaking—the changes to the statutory option on drink driving, drug driving legislation, the THINK! campaign, the increase in penalties in relation to mobile phone use and so on—we see that our efforts to take road safety further are significant. If policymaking was as simple as setting targets, Gordon Brown would have left us a very well-run Government and nobody pretends he did that.