Motoring Offences Review - Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:05 am on 7th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour 11:05 am, 7th July 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government why their review of motoring offences and penalties announced two years ago has not started.

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

My Lords, the review of offences and penalties relating to driving is taking place within consideration of a wider sentencing framework. We intend to commence a public consultation before the end of the year.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Labour

I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I remind him, if he does not know already, that in May 2014—that is over two years ago—the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, announced,

“a full review of all driving offences and penalties … over the next few months …expected to be implemented in early 2015”.

Twenty-five months later—stretching the definition of a “few months” a little bit—the Minister says that the review has started, but when will there be public consultation, for how long and when will the Government publish something that we can read? I know that we have a caretaker Government at the moment but, unless they were going to use European legislation, this kind of thing could go on.

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The noble Lord makes a fair point about the delay. We do, however, intend to move to a public consultation before the end of the year, with a view to bringing forward any legislative changes that are necessary later in this Session.

Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector)

My Lords, two years ago the Justice Secretary said that this review was necessary in order to make our roads safer. Is that still the purpose of the review, and will it apply to careless drivers as much as to other road users?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

This is a difficult area. The distinction between careless driving and dangerous driving, although long established, does not please everybody. There are always difficult balances between assessing the culpability of driving and the effect of driving. Relatively minor episodes of careless driving can cause serious injury; very dangerous driving can sometimes not cause much in the way of harm. It is a difficult matter. It is also important to establish some proper correlation between the sentencing for driving offences and sentences, say, for dishonesty or assault cases and that sort of thing. It is a difficult matter, but we are proceeding.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice)

My Lords, has the abolition of the requirement to display a tax disc made enforcement of motoring offences more difficult? Have the Government made any assessment of the loss of revenue as a result of that change?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am not aware of any assessment of the loss of revenue. I will certainly write to the noble Lord if such information is available. But it is of course perfectly possible to trace by the individual registration number, through computers, exactly who has the car and who should have the car.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, will the Minister tell us whether the concept of the driver’s duty of care towards vulnerable road users will also be included in the consultation?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The question of vulnerable road users—cyclists, pedestrians and the like—is something that courts should and do take into consideration when sentencing anyway, but it is a matter on which consultation will evoke appropriate responses. The noble Baroness makes an important point.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister look particularly in this review at the prosecution of those who park in the so-called boxes for advance stop lines for cyclists? As a cyclist, I find that the lines are ignored extremely often and I do not think that there have been any prosecutions at all.

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am not aware of any prosecutions. My noble friend makes an important point. Safety for cyclists is a priority for the Government, and we have been investing a considerable amount in this. The plan is to invest £300 million in cycling and walking over the next five years, including £100 million from the Highways Agency to improve the existing infrastructure for cyclists on the strategic roads network.

C

£300 million over 5 years, whereas £15 billion is to be spent on motorists - obvious where the priorities of this government are.

Submitted by Chris Beazer

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Chair, Licensing Act 2003 Committee

My Lords, will my noble friend agree to include cycling offences among motoring offences? Will he review the penalties for cyclists using pavements? Why are they not being apprehended and brought to justice?

C

Perhaps we should look at the penalties for driving on pavements. between 50 and 80 people are killed by drivers on pavements each...

Submitted by Chris Beazer Continue reading

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am sure that a number of noble Lords will be sympathetic with that observation, and I agree with my noble friend. The answer is that the consultation will provide the basis of the review that we have carried out and it will invite all sorts of observations which will be most valuable.

Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Shadow LD Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

My Lords, Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 covers the civil enforcement of moving traffic offences, but the Government have never introduced the necessary secondary legislation. London and Welsh local authorities already have these powers, and they find them very effective at reducing congestion and enabling buses to run smoothly. Can the Minister explain why the Government are so unwilling to give local authorities the powers they need to do the job and whether they have any plans to do so in the future?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am afraid that I do not have an instant answer to the question put by the noble Baroness, but I will look into the matter and write to her about it.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Road Safety Foundation. It is all very well having clearly defined offences and sentences, but all of them have to be enforced. In that context, will the noble Lord dissociate the Government from the populist demand for switching off and removing speed cameras, which have actually contributed substantially to improved driver behaviour and to saving lives?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The noble Lord makes an important point, because enforcement is critical; simply having an offence and a penalty is not enough. Of course, these issues are for local authorities with budget restraints, but nevertheless the point is an important one.

Photo of The Countess of Mar The Countess of Mar Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, what is the position of two cyclists who crash into each other head-on in a cycle lane, as happened in London on Monday?

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

Not a happy position is probably the case, I think. Of course there are all sorts of potential offences that they may or may not have committed, depending on the facts of the case, and no doubt they might even consider some kind of civil action, depending on the conduct of the respective cyclists.

Photo of Lord Hamilton of Epsom Lord Hamilton of Epsom Conservative

My Lords, am I right that road deaths have been falling pretty steadily over the past few years, and will this be taken into account in the review?

C

Road deaths have been falling overall, but only because people are now using cars to travel...

Submitted by Chris Beazer Continue reading

Photo of Lord Faulks Lord Faulks The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

My noble friend is quite right that road deaths have been falling very considerably, although interestingly enough whiplash injuries are increasing, notwithstanding not only the decline in road deaths but the decline in all forms of accidents in cars. I am glad to say also that the number of cyclists who have been killed or injured has also decreased. However, we are always conscious of the importance of preserving safety, and of course we will take the statistics into account.