Road Safety

Oral Answers to Questions — Transport – in the House of Commons at on 14 February 2019.

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Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What recent steps his Department has taken to improve road safety.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As the House will know, I issued a written statement to Parliament last June that reported very good progress on the actions from the road safety statement. Those actions included £100 million for our safer roads fund to improve 50 of the most dangerous stretches of A roads in England, a refreshed road safety statement and a two-year action plan to address priority groups including young people, rural road users, cyclists and older vulnerable users.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

Yesterday, I had the privilege to support my hon. Friend Matt Western in his application to bring in a Bill to limit working hours for bus drivers, in response to the tragic bus crash in my constituency in October 2015. Will the Minister commit to backing that Bill and allocating proper parliamentary time for us to discuss the issue?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I absolutely recognise the hon. Gentleman’s point. The incident in his constituency was indeed a tragic one. We look closely at the issue and will continue to do so.

Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives

The A30, which runs down to Penzance, is a main route in and out of Cornwall. It is not a safe stretch of road, as countless accidents and incidents have been happening along it for some time. Will the Minister commit to improving this road and dualling it, as local people want?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As my hon. Friend will know, the Government are already transforming connectivity through the south-west by creating a continuous dual carriageway along the A30, from the M5 through to Camborne. In due course, we aim to extend this to Penzance. My hon. Friend has been a strong campaigner on this issue and I recognise his concerns, particularly for his constituents in Crowlas.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

My constituent Frances Molloy lost her 19-year-old son Michael in a coach crash caused by a 20-year-old tyre bursting on the coach that he was travelling on. Two other people lost their lives and others suffered life-changing injuries. Will the Minister now commit to allowing my Bill—the Tyres (Buses and Coaches) Bill—to pass through this House, instead of getting his Whip to shout “Object” at every opportunity?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am very glad that the hon. Lady has raised this question because if she has paid close attention, she will know that we issued a written statement only a few days ago setting out a clear pattern of actions ever since Mrs Molloy raised these serious concerns with my predecessors. Those actions include guidance that has reduced the number of infractions to very low levels. We have also commissioned new research, on which my officials have met with and briefed Mrs Molloy and the hon. Lady. There really can be no question that we have to make policy based on evidence; when that evidence is in, we will make the policy.

Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

In the area I represent, Dover, Deal and east Kent, illegal lorry parking is a major road safety problem—[Interruption]—unsurprisingly. Does the Minister agree that councils should have more powers to tackle illegal lorry parking so that the police are more able to go and fight serious crime such as county lines drugs gangs?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question on an issue that we have met on and discussed on many occasions. He will know that the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency already has powers in Kent, on a trial basis, to take action on this. Those are proving effective, and we continue to look at whether such powers can or should be extended to local authorities.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

In the last debate on road safety, I raised with the Minister the concerns of many horse riders across my constituency, including the very large number of riders who are killed on the roads because of drivers’ poor awareness of how to deal with horse riders. Will he set out what steps he has taken since that debate, perhaps saying that all the changes that I, and many other Members, asked for will be added to the highway code to protect horse riders and horses?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the highway code already mentions horse riders in several of its provisions. At the end of last year, as he will recall, we published a safety review aimed at all vulnerable road users, including horse riders. It included, specifically, work on close passing, on which, as he will be aware, West Midlands police have taken a lead. That review contained 50 actions to be undertaken over a two-year period, and we are still in the middle of that, but I absolutely recognise the concern that he has.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Far too many road traffic collisions are caused by uninsured drivers, and there are far too many uninsured drivers on our roads. What is the Minister doing to tackle this issue?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

Of course, that is a serious question. As my hon. Friend will be aware, we have very vigorous enforcement action being undertaken not only by the police but by the DVSA and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to try to crack down on this problem.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Minister aware that only seven people were killed in the St Valentine’s Day massacre? Yet in this country, we will shrug our shoulders when 1,700 people die on our roads this year, as they do most years. When is he going to do something about investigating every death on the roads thoroughly, with a good centrally directed and well funded unit, and when is he going to do something about the 1.4 million people a year who are being killed on the roads worldwide?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

The hon. Gentleman regularly raises this issue, but I have rarely had a Valentine’s Day present as generous as that one. As he will know, contrary to his imputation, we take every road death and injury with great seriousness. As he also knows, since he will have done his homework, this country has the second-best record in the EU for road fatalities, and we stand by that record.

Photo of Karl Turner Karl Turner Shadow Minister (Transport)

In his statement last week, the Minister again delayed taking effective action on dangerous old tyres on public service vehicles. I pay tribute to Frances Molloy and Tyred, who have campaigned vigorously on this very important issue. The Government’s record on road safety, I am afraid to say, has been disappointing. So will the Minister now do the right thing and support the private Member’s Bill promoted by my hon. Friend Maria Eagle, which is due back here on 15 March and which would rid our roads of dangerous tyres on buses?

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Minister of State (Department for Transport)

I am afraid that my answer to Maria Eagle still stands. The fact remains that we will take action, and vigorous action, when we have evidence on this. Actions we have already taken have reduced rates of infraction to very, very low levels, although we take seriously everything that has happened. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that action taken—[Interruption.] This may be a signal of the behaviour of a future Labour Government, or the previous one, but we act on the basis of evidence—and, if we did not, we would be subject to legal challenge from those who were adversely affected.