My Lords, the Government are close to finalising the details of a funding mechanism which will allow the more effective use of speed cameras wholly to improve road safety. I hope soon to be able to make an announcement on pilot schemes to test the new mechanisms, for which a number of partnerships based on police areas, comprising local authorities, the police and court services, have applied for inclusion. The issue of penalties for speeding is being considered within the speed policy review, which is due to report early in the new year.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. He knows that I would support effective measures. As last month the media were briefed on such measures, reported to be announced soon, can he confirm the installation of hundreds of new, expensive cameras? If so, and presuming that they are kept in working order, which is not always the case, what will be the cost in addition to the sums produced in extra fines?
My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord's support for effective enforcement measures. The new funding system will cover the administrative costs of the cameras and road safety improvements associated with them. Cameras will be sited in areas of road safety difficulty and in areas with a potential for or a record of accidents. It is not the case that hundreds of cameras will appear all over the place, but it is one of the most effective forms of deterring those who ignore the current speed limits. Speed cameras have been shown substantially to improve accident records in the areas in which they are in place. The new financial regime will allow them to run continually.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, while accepting the importance of speed reductions on accident figures, it is important that the word should not go out that the police are pursuing motorists simply in order to generate revenue? That would damage the police service.
My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. If the pilot schemes prove effective, the money that would be generated by the new financial regime would be recycled to cover the administrative costs. They would not be raising revenue for the police or local authorities. It is important that motorists understand that. They should also understand that the police are in the business of stopping accidents, not of raising revenue or catching out motorists.
My Lords, in the review that the Minister mentioned, will his department consider the white lines on roads which draw people's attention to the cameras? It is a purely subjective judgment that that increases the likelihood of an interruption in the flow of traffic because motorists break immediately before the white lines and accelerate away from them.
My Lords, we are considering the various ways of signing the cameras. However, we know that the clearer it is made that cameras are in operation the greater the deterrent effect. After all, we are looking for deterrence rather than maximising the number of people who are caught.
My Lords, I hope the Minister will accept the fact that many of us share the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in this subject and appreciate that at last the Government are taking it seriously and recognising the connection between speed, the rate of accidents--
My Lords, the Government are convinced of the connection between inappropriate speed and accidents. The process is designed to avoid accidents and to deter people from speeding rather than to maximise the number of cases. Nevertheless, the noble Baroness is correct in saying that there has been pressure on the courts in terms of costs and time. The new financial regime we are piloting should address the issue of costs. However, as regards time, the more effective use of fixed penalties may be part of the solution. We are examining that and hope soon to make an announcement.
My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the Minister's assurance that the fines will be used only to cover administrative costs and not as a general revenue-raising power by the police or local authorities. However, will the Government consider the reasonableness of the new speed limits? They are acceptable to motorists only if they see them as being reasonable. Does the Minister agree that, for example, the speed limit on the elevated section of the M.4 was satisfactory at 50 miles an hour, particularly when there was less traffic about? Is it really reasonable to have a lower limit?
My Lords, the whole question of the appropriateness of limits in various circumstances is being addressed in the speed review. In general, detailed decisions on speed limits are matters for local highways authorities. In the particular case to which the noble Lord refers, the roads are under the remit of the Highways Agency. The speed limit on that road seems to be the most appropriate for the volume of traffic involved at various times. However, I ask the noble Lord to await the outcome of the speed review to see the totality of our policy within that area.
My Lords, I appreciate the noble Viscount's concern. He initiated a debate on that very subject which was very informative to your Lordships. On the timing, the position is that publication will be early in the new year. I hope to interpret that fairly robustly.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern in some quarters that the administration of those cameras may be taken outside the direct control of the police and be operated by some agency, or even privatised? Will the Minister please reassure the House that that is absolutely not the intention of Her Majesty's Government?
My Lords, in the pilot schemes that we are running there is no implication of any change in the control of the cameras.