Road Safety Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:07 pm on 22nd November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 3:07 pm, 22nd November 2005

My Lords, I recognise that the amendment is honourably intended to improve road safety—which is, of course, also one of the objectives of the Bill—but, as I said in Committee when we debated this issue, I do not think the amendment is required. I reiterate those arguments because they still hold.

The safety camera programme is delivering positive results under the current rules on what this money should be used for and there is no reason to change the rules to determine what can be funded by such income. Local authorities and the police are already funded by other revenue streams to enable them to fund local transport facilities or related environmental improvements, including road safety measures—although I recognise, of course, that there will always be a demand from such sources for extra resources because there are always useful ideas that can be implemented.

I should mention to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that we intend fully to fund bus passes through other sources—that is, through the £360 million already scheduled for them. So that money is already to be made available and ought not to come out of road safety provision. I am at one with both Front Bench spokesmen about these resources being directed towards road safety.

I reiterate that the road safety programme is not there to raise revenue but has a distinct and different function—to strengthen the detection, enforcement and deterrence of speeding. My noble friend Lord Simon is quite right—we would welcome a decrease in resources and revenues from this base, as it would be an indication that law-abiding driving was taking place and fines were not being imposed.

It has been suggested that these resources go elsewhere and that this is some form of stealth tax. I made it as clear as I could in Committee that the present legislation demonstrates that that is just not so. It provides that the programme can be applied only to the deployment of cameras. That means that the police and local authorities have no incentive to deploy cameras for any reason except road safety-related to speeding.

It is important to maintain public confidence that that is the objective of the cameras and that the resources generated by the cameras are directed solely to that end. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, said, in his usual persuasive way, that we ought to look at revenues in general. We will be undertaking a stock-take of the road safety camera programme so that we can learn from existing and past experience to develop the programme for the future. No decisions on this review have yet been taken, but I hear what the noble Lord says and we will take that into account when conducting the review.

I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that the principle is very clear. The cameras are there not to raise revenue but merely to ensure that drivers abide by the law. It is important that we maintain confidence in that respect, which is why I ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.