New clause 21 - Development of rural road hierarchy

Railways and Transport Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 11th March 2003.

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'(1) There shall be a new classification of speed limits for rural roads to be known as a Rural Road Hierarchy.

(2) The hierarchy will set maximum speed limits for different road types, and include speed limits no higher than—

(a) 20 mph for rural roads in the vicinity of schools and roads designated as Quiet Lanes under the Transport Act 2000;

(b) 30 mph for rural roads passing through villages;

(c) 40 mph for rural roads which have been classified as Country Lanes;

(d) 50 mph for poor quality single carriageways;

(e) 60 mph for high quality single carriageways; and

(f) 70 mph for dual carriageway roads.

(3) For the purposes of this section, a Country Lane is any road which is primarily used for local access, where there is no white centre line, and which has been designated as such by the local transport authority.

(4) Local transport authorities shall have the power under this section to review any restricted and unrestricted non-urban road or roads for which they are the traffic authority and reclassify them as part of the rural road hierarchy.

(5) Local transport authorities may amend the existing speed limit for a road or roads within that classification, taking into account guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

(6) As soon as is practicable and no later than six months after the coming into force of this Act the Secretary of State shall issue guidance as to the way in which a transport authority shall exercise its powers in developing a rural road hierarchy.

(7) Guidance under this section shall include guidance on—

(a) the function of the rural road hierarchy;

(b) definitions of different road types and areas, including country lanes, quiet lanes, and villages (subject to the requirements in subsection 4 and the Transport Act 2000) and how the assessment of road quality is to be made;

(c) the procedures for reviewing the classification of roads and reclassifying them, including the use of appraisal;

(d) requirements for public consultation;

(e) appropriate speed limits for different road types within the hierarchy, subject to the requirements in subsection 2;

(f) the procedures for applying speed limits on an area basis;

(g) how the rural road hierarchy will link to requirements under the Transport Act 2000 for the production of Local Transport Plans; and

(h) the relationship between the rural road hierarchy and urban roads.'.—[Miss McIntosh.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I shall say why we believe that there is a need for the development of a rural road hierarchy, and why the Government might be minded to follow up the research that has been done on that subject. It would be appropriate to give some statistics on the impact of speed, as opposed to alcohol in the blood, on driver behaviour. The Library figures, which are the most recent that are available, I imagine, show that the number of fatalities caused by speed justify the Government wishing to take action in that regard.

I am not sure what the reporting period is but accidents on built-up roads result in some 20,000 serious injuries a year. We touched on the matter earlier but, regrettably, I do not know whether the Minister can say that we are any further forward in judging how many road accidents involve drugs. However, in response to a parliamentary question, one of the Minister's predecessors, who is now Deputy Chief Whip, touched on the fact that a fifth of drivers killed had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit, and went on to say that

''The Department has undertaken specific research into the incidence of drugs in road accident fatalities. This found that there was a presence of illegal drugs in some 18 per cent. of driver fatalities of which cannabis accounted for about two thirds. However, traces of cannabis remain in the body for some time after any impairing effect, and in general the presence of drugs is not evidence of impairment or accident causation.''—[Official Report, 22 January 2001; Vol. 398, c. 461W.]

I do not know whether the Minister can show how much further on we are with those figures.

The Committee may recall that between 1865 and 1896 locomotives on the highway had to be preceded by a pedestrian carrying a flag and were subject to a speed limit of some 2 mph in populated areas and 4 mph elsewhere. That maximum speed limit was increased to 14 mph, and in 1903 to 20 mph. In 1930, speed limits for cars and motor cycles were abolished. In 1934, roads in built-up areas, which are defined as those with street lighting placed not more than 200 yd apart, had a general limit of 30 mph. Other roads had no speed limit at all until 1965, when a general national upper limit of 70 mph was introduced for all roads including motorways. Since 1977, the speed limit for cars has been 70 mph on dual carriageways and 60 mph on single carriageways. The speed limit on an unclassified road, assuming that it is a single carriageway, is 60 mph.

The speed limits on rural roads have been the subject of discussions and research, not least in the Department for Transport's strategy document, which was published in 2000. Paragraph 34 states:

''The relationship between speed and safety is a complex one. But from the national and international literature there is overwhelming evidence that lower speeds result in fewer collisions of lesser severity.''

Some interesting conclusions can be drawn, which are listed. It also refers to new research that is being examined, particularly the scope for reducing collisions through speed management. The study concluded that

''each 1 mph reduction in average speed is expected to cut accident frequency by 5 per cent.''

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North

May I seek clarification? Is that a 1 mph reduction from a particular speed? Clearly a reduction of 1 mph from 100 mph would be different proportionately from 1 mph from 30 mph.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I shall come to the speed limits that the Government research has in mind. The report states:

''Broadly each 1 mph reduction in average speed is expected to cut accident frequency by 5 per cent. This is a robust general rule, but now we have a much fuller picture which indicates that the reduction varies according to road type as follows: about 6 per cent. for urban main roads and residential roads with low average speeds; about 4 per cent. for medium speed urban roads and lower speed rural main roads; and about 3 per cent. for the higher speed urban roads and rural single carriageway main roads.''

The research concluded:

''About 40 per cent. of pedestrians who are struck at speeds below 20 mph sustain non-minor injuries. This rises to 90 per cent. at speeds up to 30 mph . . . The change from mainly survivable injuries to mainly fatal injuries takes place at speeds of between about 30 and 40 mph . . . Elderly pedestrians are more likely to sustain non-minor injuries than younger people in the same impact conditions . . . It is the combination of speed and lack of protection that makes motorcyclists vulnerable.''

The Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions, of which I had the privilege to be a member, concluded in a report published in June 2002 that the Government had been slow in carrying forward their road safety strategy with few of their key proposals being implemented and many others being dropped altogether. Perhaps the Minister can explain precisely why that was. The Select Committee affirmed that the Government's principal task should be to ensure that all local and police authorities give reducing road traffic speeds the same priority. It also said that the Government should provide the funds to enable that to be done. It concluded:

''Specifically, the Government should:

—improve the National Safety Camera Scheme by allowing local and police authorities to decide where to site cameras; and ensure that the whole country is covered by 2004

—issue the promised revised Guidance to local authorities about speed limits; this should include a number of changes, in particular, that 30 mph should be the speed in villages

—re-engineer the roads to ensure that speed limits are obeyed and to make roads safer and more pleasant for pedestrians

—ensure that the funding of Local Transport Plans is dependent on measures to reduce speeds; and

—make road safety a priority for the Ten Year Plan and provide specific funds for a national programme to re-engineer and re-design our roads.''

The rural road hierarchy has become a cause celebre for some organisations, not least the Council for the Protection of Rural England. I pay tribute to the work done by the CPRE in my constituency and throughout the length and breadth of the country.

At the last election, the Conservative party pledged to reduce speed limits on roads outside schools. We were minded to make a commitment in our manifesto to reduce speed limits on rural roads, especially in the vicinity of schools, to 20 mph. We encapsulated that in the concept of a rural road hierarchy, which we submit to the Committee in the form of new clause 21. There would be a

''new classification of speed limits for rural roads to be known as a Rural Road Hierarchy''

and a limit of

''20 mph for rural roads in the vicinity of schools and roads designated as Quiet Lanes under the Transport Act 2000''.

Photo of Ms Linda Perham Ms Linda Perham Labour, Ilford North 4:00 pm, 11th March 2003

Subsection (7) of the new clause refers to guidance. One of my constituents has written to me about her concern that a rural roads agency might be set up. Will the hon. Lady confirm that guidance from the Secretary of State is proposed rather than a separate agency?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

The hon. Lady will be happy to hear that, having pledged our opposition to the creation of a plethora of agencies, the Conservatives would not create any willy-nilly. That will disappoint the hon. Member for Bath, on whose support, I am delighted to record, we are relying for the purposes of new clause 21. This is an historic occasion. I do not think that it is the start of something big, but the Minister is looking uncomfortable.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Before the hon. Lady moves on from talking about the Council for the Protection of Rural England, is she aware that, in one of its statements, it said that the environmental damage caused by motoring should be reflected in the cost of motoring. Does she agree?

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I will write to the Minister about that matter, because it is not quite within the confines of new clause 21 or the Bill. Perhaps I will discuss the matter with him when I come to Plymouth for my excursion on the chain ferry, although I may have the opportunity to write to him before then.

There is a rather pretty and not insignificant village called Huby near Easingwold in the Vale of York—not to be confused with Huby near Leeds. I am sure that villagers would wish me to plead their case for having a quiet lane, especially the Tollerton road from Tollerton into Huby. A speed limit of 20 mph may be too low for that road, but we would like to see such a limit for rural roads in the vicinity of schools and roads designated as quiet lanes.

We would also like to see a 30 mph limit for rural roads passing through villages and 40 mph for rural roads classified as country lanes. Tollerton road into Huby falls precisely into that category. The Minister might like to make a pledge to designate that road as the first country lane for the purposes of the rural road hierarchy. The Tollerton road into Huby is enjoyed by horse-riders, pedestrians, pedal cyclists and motor cyclists, as well as cars and other vehicles. I plead the case for the reduction of the speed limit to, say, 40 mph, especially in the interests of pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders.

I am sure that the Under-Secretary will say the police will argue that it will be difficult to enforce speed reductions on quiet lanes or country lanes, and that they are therefore loth to encourage them. However, it is better for a lower, more appropriate speed to be written into legislation, as the Government argued in their own road strategy document published three years ago. We know that whatever the speed limit, most drivers will drive at that speed plus, say, 5 per cent. That is in the nature of things, which is regrettable. Does the Under-Secretary not think that that strengthens the argument for having a lower, more appropriate speed limit? I know that the Government have noted that concern, as we did when in government. Two sorts of speed limit are of particular concern—those in villages and those on certain rural roads—which I learnt from the paper prepared for the Road Transport Bill tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire.

The village speed control working group was set up in July 1991, and comprised members of the County Surveyors Society and the Department of Trade and Industry, including the Transport Research Laboratory. Its purpose was to examine the problem of speeding traffic in villages and to investigate the costs, benefits and effectiveness of various ways of controlling the speed of vehicles. Its final report was published in June 1994. It concluded that low-cost schemes secured only small reductions in speed, and that the more comprehensive the proposals, the more effective they were.

Will the Under-Secretary say whether the Department of Trade and Industry has commissioned or investigated further research? Its road strategy document was published three years ago. It is disappointing that there has been little progress. I am delighted to report not only that the CPRE feels strongly about our rural road hierarchy, but that the safer streets coalition—an alliance of some 25 organisations from across the environmental and social voluntary sectors—has also expressed support for our new clause. I am sure the Under-Secretary will appreciate that I will need to consult that coalition before I can write to him in response to his question this afternoon. Writing to some 25 organisations is an expensive exercise.

The Prime Minister, no less—I am sure that the Under-Secretary will wish to express his esteem for his own Prime Minister—committed the Government to introducing such a rural road hierarchy when the road safety strategy was launched on 3 March 2000, which is exactly three years ago last week. I support the contention that this is an ideal opportunity to incorporate our rural road hierarchy in primary legislation.

Among the 25 members of the coalition, the following organisations have a well-recorded interest in road speed and road transport: the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety, Road—Peace, the UK national charity for road victims, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the National Federation of Women's Institutes. The following

organisations also offer their support: the National Parks Forum, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Health, the Children's Play Council, Age Concern, Help the Aged, Royal National Institute of the Blind, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, Transport 2000, the London cycling campaign, Sustrans, Living Streets, Cyclists Touring Club, the national cyclists organisation, Whitby Bird and Partners, and the Institution of Civil Engineers. There is considerable support for new clause 21. We firmly believe that it is worthy of the Government's support and it is entirely in accord with the philosophy set out in their road strategy document. I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to pledge his support.

Photo of Ms Linda Perham Ms Linda Perham Labour, Ilford North

The hon. Lady read the names of the many supporters of her new clause. I would like to mention the motorcycle action group, which has written to other Committee members. While I do not aspire to be a leader of a pack, there are some active members of that group in my constituency, some of whom I met a while ago. That group believes that the new clause would have a detrimental effect on road safety, that the proposed 40 mph limits would not be appropriate for such occasions on rural roads, and that they would be artificially low at other times. Reducing the speed limit on rural roads to 40 mph would run counter to expert road safety advice given in roads circulars 1/80 and 1/93. Those circulars argue that speed limits are not an effective way to reduce speed.

My constituent, who is concerned about the rural roads agency, claims that rural roads have less than 0.5 per cent. of all road incidents and less than 1 per cent. of the 0.5 per cent. are speed-related. With reference to the new clause, he says, in typically robust Essex person fashion, ''Get this sorted and removed.''

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Whip

May I say as an aside that I am disappointed that the Under-Secretary has not invited me to his constituency? However, even if he were inclined to do so, I would have to decline the offer, because I had a near miss with his ferry when I was a child. I was in a speedboat and the motor had packed in; we were being drawn back towards the ferry.

I am in favour of new clause 21, the purpose of which is to set a clear road hierarchy. What purpose would that serve? I do not want to repeat the detailed statistics mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath. Suffice to say that we know that around 100 times as many people die on the roads as in rail accidents. Therefore, the issue of roads and road safety must be given priority. The opportunities to improve road safety are few and far between and we must make the best use of them.

As the hon. Member for Vale of York has said, it is not as if a large number of organisations and individuals do not support a rural road hierarchy. She has listed the range of organisations that have pledged support and I will not repeat that list. The Prime Minister, when launching the road safety strategy in March 2000, said:

''We are therefore proposing to develop a new hierarchy of roads defined by their function and quality, which would combine flexibility at local level with consistency nationally''.

That sounds like a road hierarchy. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State said in response to a debate in Westminster Hall that the Government have

''already begun to consider the merits and the practical implications of introducing a rural road hierarchy''.—[Official Report, 14 January 2003; Vol. 397, c. 208WH.]

Clearly, if he thought that it was worth considering the merits of such a system, there must be some validity in the new clause.

There are other statistical reasons why we need a rural road hierarchy. For example, in the past year, there has been an increase, notwithstanding the improvements that are being made in road safety, in the number of people killed on rural roads. Furthermore, 65 per cent. of people feel threatened by speeding traffic when they use country lanes. The Government's ambitious cycling targets that we support are unlikely to be met unless cyclists can feel safer on country lanes.

A rural road hierarchy would enable road traffic speeds to be dealt with in a holistic and consistent manner. It is important to give clear message to all road users about what traffic speeds should be expected in certain locations. I should point out that there is not universal support for such a proposal, and the motorcycle action group contacted us to express its worry about it. It is worried that reducing rural road limits to 40 mph would introduce an artificial speed limit. It believes that, in certain parts of the country, drivers could drive considerably faster, thus making them less likely to observe speed limits. I do not agree with the group's point. The road safety strategy states that

''it is clear that on some rural single carriage roads and country lanes, vehicle speeds of 60 mph are too fast''

The Government's road safety strategy clear sets some parameters about speed limits and says that lower speed limits are more appropriate.

The motorcycle action group has also expressed concern about the need for enforcement of such speed limits and the visual impact that cameras may have in a rural area. That is a worry, but it can be resolved by the use of mobile cameras to stop the visual impact. Its worries could be addressed. Even if the Government are not minded to accept joint new clause 21, at least it should serve the purpose of drawing their attention to a matter on which more focus could be applied.

I hope that matters have moved on since the Government's road safety strategy and its implementation progress report covering the period to the end of September 2002, which was published in November last year. Let us consider the commitments that were made about road safety. For example, there was action to revise the guidance on setting speed limits and to approve and issue guidance on speed-activated signs and so on. Not all the actions have yet been delivered on, but this may be an opportunity for the Under-Secretary to update us on the implementation progress report and show what progress is being made on rural roads. Perhaps he can convince us that such overwhelming progress has been made that there is no need for new clause 21. I

hope, of course, that that is the case. Our new clause sets out clearly the reasons why a rural road hierarchy—

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Whip

If the hon. Lady would prefer me to be more accurate, the new clause that she tabled, to which we added our names and with which we have great sympathy sets out the reasons why a rural road hierarchy could make a significant difference to road safety in rural areas. It is the Under-Secretary's duty to set out why he thinks that there are measures in place that do away with the need for such a hierarchy.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge

I am happy to have put my name to the new clause, but I rather hope that it is a probing new clause. We have had a useful debate on speed and speed limits. All members of the Committee would welcome any measures to reduce death and injury on the roads, and we know the important role that speed plays in that. One point that interests me is that we are wedded to having speed limits on the tens—of 30, 40, 50 mph and so on—but perhaps it would be more appropriate to talk about 35, 45 and 25 mph. The most important thing with speed—

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

It sounds dangerously like my hon. Friend is going to propose that speed limits be given in kilometres. Will he clarify his point?

Photo of John Randall John Randall Conservative, Uxbridge

I should prefer to go down the chains and furlongs route myself.

I have sympathy for any Government trying to set limits. One problem is that it is a matter of appropriate limits with regard to weather conditions and the time of night and day. I know from going into rural areas that some cars travel incredibly fast. I am used to pootling along on the suburban highways and byways of west Middlesex, but I dare say that some people from rural areas find the number of cars in my constituency rather frightening. I was going to say that it is horses for courses, but obviously horses are not quite appropriate. We have to consider the problem, but it will be very difficult to solve. At the moment, we do not have enough facts and figures at our disposal to be definite, but I look forward to the Under-Secretary's response.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

Underpinning our thinking on speed is the issue not of reducing speed in itself, but of reducing the casualties caused by people who speed. If we decide that reducing speeds can reduce those casualties, it is a question not of reducing the speed limit, but of reducing the speed of vehicles, which is a different matter.

There is concern about the number of casualties on rural roads. I do not want to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Linda Perham), but she will find that the number of casualties on rural roads is disproportionately high. We have put a lot of work and effort into reducing casualties on urban roads, but she will find that, given the amount of traffic that travels on rural roads, there is a disproportionate number of casualties.

To pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge, inappropriate speed is very often the

problem. On occasion, it may be totally inappropriate to travel at 30 miles per hour in the 30 miles per hour zone—for example when children are coming out of school, if the road is wet or if there is limited visibility. The speed limit is not the only issue; there are many other issues as well. On some occasions, a much lower speed limit may be appropriate. Late at night, when there are few people around the 30 mph limit may be perfectly appropriate for that stretch of road.

My Department published a report in November 2001 that considered the possible future development of a rural road hierarchy. Subsequently, my Department appeared before the Transport Select Committee inquiry into traffic speed. That inquiry specifically asked:

''What is being done to combat the effects of inappropriate and excessive speed, particularly in rural areas?''

The Government responded to the Select Committee in October. We made it clear that we were aware of the need to address the problems of inappropriate and excessive speeds on rural roads. We recognised that the very successful measures already adopted in urban areas, such as road humps, are not always appropriate in rural areas. As our response to the Select Committee made clear, the Department is working very hard to redress that imbalance.

The speed limit definitions, as listed in the new clause—from all the hon. Members involved—are already available to local authorities should they wish to introduce them. However, we do not feel that such prescriptive limits are necessarily the way forward, partly because rural communities differ enormously from county to county. What may be suitable in one area may not be suitable in another, and such defined limits would undoubtedly cause difficulties.

I say to the hon. Member for Vale of York that if the people of Huby feel that they would like a reduced speed limit, it is a matter for the local highways authority, which has power to do something now. I do not know the current speed limit in the village, but putting a sign at either end of the village that says 30 or 20 miles an hour will probably not be very effective in reducing the speed of vehicles going through the village. However, it may work if it is associated with other works, such as a different-coloured road. A safety camera might be appropriate or some sort of engineering of the roads on the approaches to the villages may help, but reducing the speed limit alone is probably unlikely to be highly effective in achieving what I said at the beginning, which is that it is not just about putting a different speed limit on the road but actually reducing the number of casualties and the effect that speed has.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has been very helpful, but can he explain why his Department has not come forward with follow-ups to its paper of 2000?

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport

I was just coming to that. Members will be interested to know that we are working on the development of a framework to assess what speeds are appropriate together with what speeds are actually

being driven on rural roads. We expect the first results of that work to be available some time in the middle of this year. That work will feed into our plans to revise the guidance on setting local speed limits more appropriately. We also plan to publish advice on village entry signing later in 2003 to assist local authorities in introducing more 30 mph speed limits in rural villages.

The problem of inappropriate speed in rural areas is a real concern. Vehicle spends that are below the speed limit but are considered too dangerous for a particular road cannot be tackled by the use of more conventional and highly successful enforcement cameras. However, we have finished trials on devices that we believe will help enormously in that area. Trials of vehicle-activated signs as a measure to curb inappropriate speeds, especially in rural areas, by warning drivers of potential hazards ahead or reminding them of the speed limit in force, were very successful.

The Committee will be pleased to know that the revised Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 contain much more flexibility in allowing their use. My officials are also currently preparing guidance in the form of a traffic advisory leaflet, which we hope will be available by the end of this month. We are committed on the issues and are taking appropriate action.

The hon. Member for Vale of York talked about cameras and where they are placed. The partnership scheme between local authorities, the judiciary and the police can bring in the use of a camera in certain areas. Where there have been trials, the overall effect of reducing casualties has been dramatic at certain sites that had had a poor road safety record that involved speed. The difficulty is that we do not want to see a plethora of cameras in rural areas where they will not have any effect in reducing casualties, nor do we want a plethora of signs that can be deeply intrusive. We must consider that issue, not least because of the cost of installing such cameras that might have only a minimal effect. We need to focus our energies and finite resources on creating safer environments.

The hon. Lady asked about the number of road accidents in which drugs had been a factor. It is quite difficult to estimate that. Alcohol is far more common and easier to detect, although research has shown that drugs are present in about 18 per cent. of road accident fatalities. However, that does not mean that the drugs are a causal factor in those incidents.

I am sorry that the last time the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington visited Plymouth he had such an unpleasant experience with a speedboat and the chain ferry bearing down on him. I believe that there was an occasion many years ago on which the chain ferry had a slight altercation with a frigate—the chain ferry came off worse, but I am pleased to say that nobody was hurt. I hope that I am not putting the hon. Member for Vale of York off her trip. One or two large, grey ships with guns on them go up and down the Tamar, and if the hon. Lady behaves herself, I might even see if we can get her on one of those as well.

So that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington can be certain, I tell him we are not doing away with the rural road hierarchy, but putting into place something that is realistic, based on good advice and appropriate to reduce the casualties on those roads.

The hon. Member for Uxbridge made some good points, but I am not quite about speed limits in gradations of fewer than 10 mph—a speed limit of 35.6 mph might not be immediately understood by road users. Nevertheless, local highways authorities may reduce the speed limits where they think that that is appropriate. However, as I said earlier, that must usually be associated with other measures as well, to make it effective.

There is widespread consensus that we need to do something about safety on rural roads. Unfortunately, I am not convinced that the new clause and the way in which it sets out a rather rigid hierarchy of speed limits would give us what I said earlier was our ambition, which is to reduce the number of casualties on the roads. I shall therefore ask that the new clause be resisted.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Transport) 4:30 pm, 11th March 2003

I am upset and disappointed that the Minister cannot support the new clause and is asking that it be resisted. I have not been put off by my visit to his constituency, and, having driven a frigate—HMS Cumberland in the Gulf—I hope that the Minister can organise it so that I can drive the chain ferry as part of my visit. Perhaps I could drive the ferry and the captain could have the afternoon off, as long as I do not go over a particular speed.

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his comments to the hon. Member for Ilford, North. Those of us who represent rural constituencies are deeply vexed about the incidence of traffic and accidents, fatalities and casualties on rural roads. The figures show that North Yorkshire is second only to Lincolnshire in having the highest number of road accidents on rural roads. For the benefit of the Committee—in particular, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington—the road accident casualties by road-user type horrifyingly show that the number of motorcyclists and passengers killed in 2001 reached 583, which surpasses the figure for child pedestrians although it is not as high as the figure for adult pedestrians.

I should like to put at rest the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge: the amendment was meant as a useful probing exercise. I am grateful for the benefits of a good debate, a good discussion and a thoughtful response from the Under-Secretary.

We have a number of speed cameras in North Yorkshire. I know that it will not go any further than the Committee when I say that not every camera has a film in it, although as we speak, I am sure that most cameras have a film. To provide a deterrent, one would hope that most cameras would record the evidence. I was trying to elicit the point—the Under-Secretary's remarks have been most helpful—that the costs of putting up a road sign are considerably less than the costs of fitting and manning a camera and

scrutinising film. Even changing a road surface can lead to considerable expense.

I do not know whether the Under-Secretary necessarily responded to my points on enforcement, but he will be bringing forward further provisions in the middle of the year. I entirely support his remarks that the issue does not concern only reducing vehicle speed. We are united in wanting a reduction in the number of casualties on all our roads, and in particular on rural roads.

In response to the adverse reaction from the motorcyclists action group, I support the motor cyclists as road users and hope that they will use the roads as sensibly as they possibly can. Aggressive motor cyclists occasionally use roads in rural areas such as North Yorkshire and Cumbria and impair the enjoyment of other road users such as horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians. I hope that we can all use the roads with equal regard for others. I am grateful for the Under-Secretary's comments and assurances, and we shall watch out for the provisions, which he has assured us will come forward in the middle of this year. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.